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We have had a few interesting exchanges lately (some of them in the comments section) regarding the MSM (mainstream media) and liberal bias. Here are a few assertions:

1. No rational observer can credibly deny a liberal bias in the mainstream media (MSM).

2. However, bias should not be confused with orchestrated advocacy. There is no "vast left-wing conspiracy" in the MSM. There is no master plan to bring Democrats to power or put Republicans out of business. The MSM bias for liberal candidates and causes is real, and it is systemic and institutional, but it is not concerted.

3. For the most part, the MSM does not see itself as slanted. Most members of the MSM see themselves as adherents to a strict code of objective journalism. Objectivity equals professionalism for most mainstream reporters; therefore, they view charges of bias as vile insults. (If you call Dan Rather biased, he will probably want to "take you outside").

4. The MSM is not wholly defined by its liberal worldview. The MSM's cynicism acting in conjunction with its other biases for conflict and sensationalism are also essential in explaining its political coverage.

5. Although vastly outnumbered, the new conservative media has emerged a powerful counterweight to the MSM. For the most part, the conservative media makes no pretense of "objective" journalism. "Fair and balanced" means something different to conservative journalists than it does to the MSM. The new media value honesty and a free exchange of ideas, but they are much more unabashedly partisan than their counterparts in the MSM.

Defining my terms:

MSM: NYT, Washington Post, LA Times, CBS News, CNN, ABC News, NBC News, Time, Newsweek, etc.

Conservative Media (my term--most conservatives prefer "alternative media" or "new media"): Fox News, Talk Radio & the conservative blogosphere.

Liberal Media: While some conservatives see MSM and liberal media as synonymous, with this term I actually refer to the partisan liberal media such as the Nation, Mother Jones, Pacifica Radio, Michael Moore & other Hollywood friends, etc.

NPR and PBS: A category unto itself. Generally, NPR and PBS provide a much more intellectual and restrained presentation of the news. For example, NPR and PBS are not nearly as scandal-driven as the MSM. For the most part, the public radio and television audiences are liberal (with the occasional conservative intellectual); notwithstanding, no matter their political affiliation, NPR and PBS news consumers are much more apt to have their world views fully formed. As a result, while NPR and PBS are more ideologically pure in their liberal worldview than the MSM, they are much less influential in shaping public opinion.

C-SPAN: another category unto itself. C-SPAN attempts to show all points of view without editorial comment. C-SPAN is fundamentally conservative in the ultimate Jeffersonian libertarian sense ("give the people light and they will find the way"), but the relatively unwatched mother lode of political information remains the only completely pure source of unvarnished news.
Born this day in 1874.

November 30
Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England to Lord Randolph and Lady Churchill (Jennie Jerome).
December 3
"On the 30th Nov., at Blenheim Palace, the Lady Randolph Churchill, prematurely, of a son." (The Times)

Link to the Churchill Center.

Churchill entry at the Nobel Literature site (he won in 1953).

Link to Blenheim Palace site, Churchill's birthplace.

Link to the Churchill exhibit at the Library of Congress.

Link to the Churchill Society, London, which has audio of Churchill.

Link to the Churchill Museum.

Link to picture of Churchill's grave at Bladon.

Tribute at GayPatriot.

Churchill was the epitome of English bulldog courage and tenacity, an indispensible man for Freedom in the 20th century. Let's remember that Courage (or Fortitude) is a necessary republican virtue for the preservation of liberty. Three cheers for Sir Winston.
Gateway Pundit is still on AP like a pitbull. Here. The Mainstream Media failure to provide clear and accurate news from Iraq is a scandal.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
In Ray Bradbury's novel, Farenheit 451, published in 1953, a future America is a nation in which books are banned. While it is the government which searches for and burns books, it has merely institutionalized a popular movement. In Bradbury's alternate history, book burning began as a popular movement. Americans came to believe that each had the right not to be offended. Since any book will somehow offend someone, ergo burn the books.

Books are not as important to Americans as they once were. (Is there an author from whom our culture eagerly awaits the next book, as in years past we awaited the next Updyke, Bellow, Hemmingway, Steinbeck?) But, Bradbury may prove a prophet yet for other forms of expression. This article covers fascist-style denial of free speech on college campuses. And this essay by Victor Davis Hanson on the loss of will in the West to defend free speech.
An interesting essay from the NYT. Thanks to Tocqueville.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The slow schism in the American Episcopalian church may be picking up speed. This report from the Modesto Bee covers the upcoming decision of the San Joaquin diocese (area ruled by a bishop) on whether or not to remain in the denomination. Denominational support for same-sex sex is the stated reason for unhappiness.

Several parishes have left the Episcopalians while remaining within world-wide Anglicanism under the authority of a foreign bishop, usually third-world. We'll see what happens in California. (would Farmer use his California insight to tell us about the political leanings of this area of Ca.?)
I want to pose a question that many will regard as heretical, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line, and that may render me unable to return to Texas. Question: Can a Christian remain faithful and participate in or watch football?

I know that lots of players and coaches at all levels are outspoken Christians. I know that many football games in the south are opened with prayer regardless of the courts. But the question is not Do Christians participate in and watch football, but rather can we do this and be consistent in the Faith?

Raised in Missouri, I grew up a Chiefs fan and a University of Missouri fanatic. On Saturdays I lived and died with MU and on Sundays I rooted for Len Dawson and company as though the fate of the world hung in the balance (and hated the Raiders as if they were the forces of the antichrist). In elementary school we played football at recess (tackle if we could get away with it, touch if the teacher on duty was paying attention). I was not and am not particularly athletic, but enjoyed playing football when I got to Jr. High and on for a while.

So, what causes me to ask this question? (more below)

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Sylvester Stallone is reaching out to the churches to publicize his new movie. As he does this he is sharing his story of faith and redemption. A report and response to a conference call with Stallone here from Focus on the Family. Link from Drudge.

Is Stallone for real? Of course I don't know. But, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. His Rocky movies had a Roman Catholic sensibility about them (think of the priest and the statue of Jesus, etc.), probably reflecting Stallone's own upbringing. But his private life went downhill into self-absorbed hedonism.

Has Stallone had a spiritual experience, calling him back to the faith of this childhood? I hope so. We'll have a better idea a few years from now. Jonathan Edwards, the colonial preacher and theologian, wrestled with the question of how to distinguish genuine from spurious religious experience. He was well aware that people can be caught up in emotional experiences and mistake them for spiritual. But he also believed profoundly in the reality of God's grace. Edwards' answer was "Wait and see." Genuine spiritual experience has staying power, leading to a Christian life over the long haul. Spurious experience fades and disappears.

In his assessment this New England pastor was echoing his Master, who told the story of seed sown on various sorts of ground. Some sprouted and looked good for a time, but eventually withered in the heat. The seed falling on good soil endured and produced a harvest.
The problem is not that we invaded Iraq. The problem is that we are currently losing the fight for stability in Iraq.

Just for the record, one more time, here are the reasons that going into Iraq made sense at the time:

1. Saddam was bad. He deserved ouster, capture, trial and execution. Twenty-five million Iraqis deserved an opportunity to take control of their lives free of Saddam's oppressive regime.

2. Saddam was at war with the United States and a threat to regional security. For more than a decade, we flew combat missions over Iraq and drew anti-aircraft fire everyday. Our forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia to neutralize the threat Saddam posed to the region. Our presence in Saudi (part of our essential commitment to preserving the peace) irritated the international Muslim community. In fact, Osama bin Laden cited our presence in Saudi Arabia as the casus belli for war against America in general and 9-11 specifically.

3. Saddam was contained--but only as a result of the costly military commitments cited above. In addition, Saddam was contained as a result of a United Nations sanctions regime. Before the war, several human rights organizations charged that the heartless US-driven sanctions policy had killed upwards of 500,000 Iraqis through malnutrition and lack of adequate medical attention. Later, we learned of massive corruption on the part of the UN in administering the sanctions against Saddam's Iraq. Moreover, by 2002, the flagging resolve of the French and other European powers threatened the entire sanctions program. Containment was a leaky policy taking on more water every day.

4. Saddam unbound meant a return to the status quo ante bellum in which he had threatened his neighbors and worked assiduously to manufacture and deploy weapons of mass destruction.

5. All of that seemed no longer tenable in a post-9-11 world. Why? Saddam was connected to 9-11 in that the insecurity he created in the region contributed to the greater instability and discontent, which facilitated terrorism. If Saddam could be deposed, many of us believed that a new Iraq would emerge, which would begin a process that might lead to an era of reform in the Middle East, which might ultimately make Islamic terrorists as rare and irrelevant as Ku Klux Klan terrorists.

All that to say, Iraq was a war of choice--but it was not a frivolous choice. Granted, now we face potential crises in the region of our own making that dwarf the old inconveniences. However, while it is tempting to view the past through the knowledge of the present, we must remember that the Iraq policy emerged from a long list of terrible choices. Doing nothing was an extremely unattractive option in the post-9-11 world.

The Bottom Line: all of that is unalterable history. Now What?
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
We are about to enter one of the most crucial periods in our national history. What happens in Iraq is vital to our future. There is a cacophony of voices on where we went wrong, who is at fault and what to do now. We should not panic. We must be careful not to succumb to our collective depression. There are answers to be found. Troubled times call for steady hands and an understanding of and a recommitment to who we are as a nation.

Although I offer no solutions in this post, here is a word or two in re perspectives, which go along way in determining how one views the predicament. In essence, there are three main camps regarding the present crisis in Iraq:

1. Those who were against the war from the beginning. They see Iraq as doomed from the outset and an egregious and unnecessary mistake. They blame the President, the neo-cons, the media, and all the other echelons of less-adamant citizens who were inclined to trust American institutions and support the war. They tend to want out at any cost, honestly believing that the price of withdrawal (no matter how high) is less onerous than a continued military commitment.

2. Those who favored the war initially, but who, at some point, soured on the action as a result of the failed reconstruction. They see Iraq as a defensible war of choice, disastrously prosecuted by an inept Bush administration. They are bitter and humiliated, and they blame the President and his men for making them look like fools. They also blame the MSM for reporting the war in a way that limited American options and facilitated the popular disgust that exacerbates the current dilemma. Most of them are hoping that James Baker and the return of the realists will somehow blaze a path to "peace with honor;" that is, cutting our losses and surviving to fight another day.

3. Those who continue to support the war and our original objectives. They believe that staying the course will eventually bring peace to Iraq and the greater Middle East. They have not given up and believe that the policy will work, if given enough time. Generally, they are loyalists by nature: loyal to party; loyal to country; loyal to their President. Mainly, they tend to lash out at the media and blame the "disloyal" Democratic opposition for most of our ills, although they are quietly frustrated with the administration as well. However, even these optimistic stalwarts are composing the rationale for failure in Iraq.

An important point: None of these groups are particularly objective; their perspectives are altered by, respectively, inordinate skepticism, excessive vanity and uncritical fidelity.

An important related point: how you view the war today, in large part, depends on how you felt about the war in the spring of 2003.

Disclosure: I am mostly a hybrid between groups two and three. I am a frustrated loyalist; I wax between complete despair and cautious optimism.

Truism: Success has many authors; Failure is a bastard.

Another Truism: Things are never as bad as they seem.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I'm a white guy who speaks English as my native language. Living in the US I have not had much experience at being a member of any minority group. (Though the city of Cincinnati does prohibit discrimination against people of Appalachian ancestry. My people, however, left Appalachia about 140 years ago.) Now I find myself a member of a minority--married folks. And, I suppose I'm in a shrinking demographic--married nearly 28 years and never divorced. A member of a minority group, how did that happen?

The following are the unscientific thoughts of this one 50-year old, not based on sociology, just close observation of the latter half of the twentieth-century. One more fact before I begin, the average age of first marriage now has risen into the late twenties. (more below)

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28/11: Irony in Oslo

This year's Nobel Peace Prize entertainment has been set. One of the performers is the singer formerly know as Cat Stevens. Now, following his conversion to Islam, he supports censorship and the death penalty for "blasphemy." Among other things. Here. Only a well-educated elite could miss the irony. Hattip DhimmiWatch.
The Washington Times has this article. Thanks to Tocqueville.

Here are the opening pargraphs:

Muslim religious leaders removed from a Minneapolis flight last week exhibited behavior associated with a security probe by terrorists and were not merely engaged in prayers, according to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials.
Witnesses said three of the imams were praying loudly in the concourse and repeatedly shouted "Allah" when passengers were called for boarding US Airways Flight 300 to Phoenix.
"I was suspicious by the way they were praying very loud," the gate agent told the Minneapolis Police Department.
Passengers and flight attendants told law-enforcement officials the imams switched from their assigned seats to a pattern associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks and also found in probes of U.S. security since the attacks -- two in the front row first-class, two in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle and two in the rear of the cabin.

At the very least, the actions of the imams was provocative. Let's assume for the moment that the above report is exaggerated. And the behavior was innocent. In that case, problems probably could have been avoided by speaking to fellow passengers beforehand in a friendly way--"Hi, my name is Ahmad and I'm flying to Phoenix. How are you? By the way, it is almost time for my friends and I to pray, please don't be alarmed. We hate the radicals who pervert Islam into terrorism."

But, that probably will never happen because Islam teaches its own superiority, and the inferiority of infidels, in such as way that it would be a rare imam indeed who would show a good deal of consideration for a nonbeliever in a public place.

And, I suspect that this incident was intended to generate a move in the Democrat controlled Congress after Christmas to prohibit all profiling.
The Mainstream Media is failing in Iraq. And its failure is having serious consequences here at home. The Democracy Project has a discussion plus a partial listing of bogus stories reported by the MSM. A big problem is the reliance on local stringers, some of whom turn out to be associated with anti-coalition forces.

Flopping Aces has been doing good work exposing false reports out of Iraq. Here

Tony Snow is a nice guy, but I wish he or a subordinate would hit the MSM hard and consistently on this issue.
Arab Christians continue to flee the Palestinian controlled Holy Land, raising the possibility that Christianity will have no presence in parts of the region of its birth. From AP via The Tulsa World. Article here.

There have been Christians on the West Bank since the days of the apostles. Until the Arab conquests it was a Christian region. Now, after centuries of dhimmitude*, the increased violence against them is driving more and more Christians abroad.

*The prescribed condition of Christians within Muslim controlled lands: second-class citizenship, restrictions, special taxes.
Category: American Lives
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Last week, I posted a few oblique comments related to the perilous condition of education at our institutions of higher learning. The inspiration for my pessimism was the so-called Coyote Ugly Manifesto, an anonymous declaration of grievances emanating from a coterie of disgruntled Baylor law students.

The post in full here (scroll down for the "Manifesto").

The vital issue at the core of the relatively insignificant controversy is the changing culture of American education, which ultimately will determine who we will be as a people. My worst fear is that the local incident is symptomatic of a dangerous national trend. On the other hand, I can hope that the "Coyote Ugly" abomination is merely an aberration; I can certainly testify that those sour sentiments do not characterize the Baylor lawyers with whom I have been acquainted over time. In fact, much more representative of the spirit of Baylor Law is...

My favorite Baylor lawyer:

Portia, Baylor BA, 1998; Baylor JD, 2002.

Roots. Portia grew to maturity in a single-parent, working-class home in red-state America. She lived in a series of apartments, where she and her older sister shared a bedroom. Portia began working after school and on weekends when she was fifteen, earning spending money and enough extra cash for teenager essentials. She would not have a car of her own until she was twenty-one, when she could contract for one with her own money and credit. Early in her life, her mother often worked overnight shifts at the hospital as a phlebotomist, and Portia's extended family became important caretakers and role models. The village proved instrumental in raising the child.

Education. In public school, she found a welcomed venue to demonstrate her exceptional talents. Nevertheless, from K-through-college, she felt intense pressure to make grades; she was working without a net. Good marks meant better schools, which would mean a good college, which meant a good law school, which meant a better life and more opportunity. Failure at any level equaled unwanted additional limits to who she wanted to be. She went to every class; she did her homework every night; she aced every test. She made her way to Baylor, where she fell in love (first with the institution and later with an extremely fortunate history grad student). She completed her BA in history in four years, working part time during the school year, fulltime during the summers. But she will tell you that the most important thing she learned at Baylor was how little she knew.

Not surprisingly, when she matriculated at Baylor Law School, she did not complain about the work load. She was wise enough to understand that her opportunity to learn was golden and much more than she had a right to expect. One of her profs would later describe Portia as a student willing to receive instruction rather than argue that her untaught instincts were correct.

A young married woman, she began her tenure as a law student with a three-month-old infant. As a third year, expecting another child, she did not ask for special consideration, save for the opportunity to take two final exams a few days early. She had not complained the day her PC prof kept her standing at her seat for most of the hour. She was not "offended;" she saw no malice in the encounter. To the contrary, she valued that moment immensely and understood completely why that brand of equality was essential to her experience. She scheduled the birth of her second son two days after completing the winter quarter and Practice Court II.

What did Baylor Law School produce? Although she did not lose any of her humanity (some of her admirers might call it her "sweetness"), Portia emerged a force. She understood the value of hard work, accuracy and personal responsibility. She learned to speak softly and carry a big stick. Pity the less savvy observer who commits the fatal error of underestimating her fire and ability. Woe to the unthinking boob who crosses her or attacks some less-equipped person under her protection. Her causes are generally not flashy--but they are always worthy, and they enjoy a skilled and vigorous advocate.

Baylor Law School cannot claim complete authorship of Portia. In addition to her will to succeed, much of who she became was the product of good fortune and sacrifices and encouragement from a host of important loving influences in her life. However, the rigor, discipline and tradition of Baylor Law School provided an essential component in the formation of her character. If we as a people are to survive the horrific hurdles that our future holds, we must eschew the temptations of therapeutic education and commit ourselves to strenuous learning and the yield it produces. We need more Portia's and far fewer "Coyote Ugly" bomb throwers.

26/11: Chavez

Chavez of Venezuela may be a popular big-mouth abroad, but he may not be overwhelming popular at home. (And there are serious questions about the honesty of the last election there.) Gateway Pundit has pictures of a massive anti-Chavez demonstration in Caracas.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The newest growth area in sports stadium food? Kosher food stands. The business began at Shea and Yankee stadiums in New York and now is spreading. America, what a country. Article here.
Check out this website. Its title is ATLAS DES ZONES URBAINES SENSIBLES. It is a French Government site listing urban areas (with links to maps) into which it is not safe to go. (Officially these are sort of Economic Development Zones, not forbidden zones.) Last count there were 751 such neighborhoods. Hat tip DhimmiWatch.

The major riots by "Immigrant Youths" (aka young male Muslims) of the recent past were triggered by French efforts to reestablish the rule of French law. These efforts have not come to much. On an average night in France about 100 cars are set ablaze, mostly in these neighborhoods. And some of our politicians look to Europe for answers to our problems?

In case you encounter some loon this week who asserts that all Islamic terrorism would stop if Israel or the US would do this or that, more news from Thailand.

7 Killed in Muslim South Despite Thai Peace Bid here

Islamic Jihadists in Southern Thailand Burn Teacher Alive here

Jihad Against Education: 300 Thai Schools to Close Amid Attacks here.

Hat tip Jihadwatch. Islam has almost always had bloody borders.

25/11: Oops

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
As regular readers know, Cardinal George Pell is one of my intellectual heroes. But even a wise man needs to be careful before writing. In a recent column he commented on "Bill Gates' 11 Rules. But, according to Urban Myth-busters Snopes, this list has been mistakenly attributed to Gates and does not appear in the book cited as a source.

These rules, whatever their source, are worth reprinting. Here from (below)

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The Baltimore Sun is reporting that many chain retailers such as Walmart and Target are reverting to "Merry Christmas" this year rather than the generic "Happy Holidays." I guess most Americans were not yet ready for an all-inclusive, politically-correct, post-Christian holiday.

It still disturbs me, though, that the Holy Day of celebration for Jesus' birth has become an orgy of Mammonism. I don't think Jesus approves of our materialistic consumer Christmas habits.

Neither does the Church, really. We soon will begin the season of Advent with its purple cloths on pulpit and table. Traditionally Advent was a season of self-examination and repentance (every feast day had its penitential prelude, best known being Lent before Easter). (more below)

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The YMCA gradually is returning to its Christian mission. YMCA stands for Young Men's Christian Association, and was founded originally as an evangelical ministry to young urban men. Somewhere along the way the focus was lost and YMCAs became simply family health clubs. The LA Times has this article on the rediscovery of Christian mission by various local YMCAs. Bravo.

23/11: Giving Thanks

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Guest Blog

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a...war of [significant] severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to...observe...a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

A. Lincoln
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Give thanks to God today, and not just in pious generalities, but in specifics.

For holiday cybertravel here is the official website of Plimoth Plantation which includes a virtual tour. And here is a copy of the Mayflower Compact. Here is Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. This site has presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations up to this year's by President Bush.

My earlier Thanksgiving Day post.
A few days ago, I summarized and linked to an argument by Joab on his blog in favor of legalization of marijuana and prostitution. I agreed with him on marijuana, arguing as a Christian citizen here.

Regarding prostitution. I understand the points Joab made regarding the continuing demand for prostitution, and that the social cost of prostitution being less if all states used the Nevada model. But, I have decided I cannot support legalized prostitution.

It seems to me that a bedrock belief of American culture is that each individual has a inherent dignity. (Yes, I know as well as you the history of how we have denied dignity top various groups, but, that has been/is being overcome through appeal to this core value.) The belief in intrinsic human dignity means that the human person never can be reduced simply to a commodity, without injustice being done. Even if one does this to oneself, it is still injustice to violate one's own intrinsic dignity and worth.

That means that I believe in limits to capitalism. The worth of workers must be respected. (I am pro-union as an ideal, and both pro and con in real life.) I also think it is to treat a human being merely as a commodity to allow the poor to sell one of their duplicate organs (say, a kidney) to the wealthy, or to allow a suicidal person to sell all organs.

Exchanging sex for money differs from exchanging your time and talents for money by doing accounting or picking up trash. There is an intimacy, a link to the deepest self, in sex. Selling sex is more like selling yourself than hiring out your time. It is to reduce yourself to a commodity.

I think legalized prostitution goes against a core value of our society. And, if you assert that this core value has religious roots and so should be banished from the public square, I will argue that you are making an illegitimate claim. Religion, considered as a system of beliefs, is indistinguishable from philosophy considered as a way of life.
Several days ago I posted some material on US foreign policy from Tocqueville and A Waco Farmer here. Then I asked this question: "Question for discussion: In 2006/2007, should the United States follow the policy of George Washington as expressed by John Quincy Adams?"

Washington had called for the US not to get involved in the political/national struggles in Europe. JQA, writing in the context of the breaking-up of the Spanish Empire in Latin America wrote:

America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion only of her own. She will recommend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assumed the colors and usurped the standards of freedom.... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

Since I posed the question: I suppose I should offer a few thoughts. (below)

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Anybody out there who in elementary school put your hand on a piece of paper, traced around it, then colored in the Thanksgiving turkey? I thought so. Remember the construction paper Pilgrim hats, bonnets, and Indian headdresses we made and wore? Then we'd hear the story of the FIRST THANKSGIVING again: how the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, nearly starved to death, lost half their number, and were saved when local Indians brought them food and helped show them how to raise corn, etc. Then, in 1623 the feast of Thanksgiving, with red and white enjoying the bounty.

Like a lot of simple stories, this one is both false and true. The false part is that it was not the first Thanksgiving. The original landing party on the James River in what became Virginia had a Day of Thanksgiving in 1619, beating the Pilgrims to become the first Thanksgiving. But, the true part is that it was the tradition of the Pilgrims that spread throughout New England and eventually across the northern states observed on various days. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. (FDR moved it forward a week to give a longer Christmas shopping season.)

(more below)

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Recent reports and polls indicate that an increasing number of Americans and Europeans have a negative view of Islam. Part of the reason can be found below from this article. Found on

Six Muslims were removed from a plane after a passenger reported suspicious behavior. This is the Muslim reaction:

"They took us off the plane, humiliated us in a very disrespectful way," said Omar Shahin, of Phoenix.

The six Muslim scholars were returning from a conference in Minneapolis of the North American Imams Federation, said Shahin, president of the group. Five of them were from the Phoenix-Tempe area, while one was from Bakersfield, Calif., he said.

Three of them stood and said their normal evening prayers together on the plane, as 1.7 billion Muslims around the world do every day, Shahin said. He attributed any concerns by passengers or crew to ignorance about Islam.

"I never felt bad in my life like that," he said. "I never. Six imams. Six leaders in this country. Six scholars in handcuffs. It's terrible."

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed anger at the detentions.

"CAIR will be filing a complaint with relevant authorities in the morning over the treatment of the imams to determine whether the incident was caused by anti-Muslim hysteria by the passengers and/or the airline crew," Hooper said. "Because, unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airports, and it's one that we've been addressing for some time."

Not a word about the legitimate fears Americans have about a group of Muslims on an airplane. Not a word reported of condemnation for the terrorists that kill in the name of Islam. Not a word, apparently, to their fellow passengers ahead of time that it was time for them to pray, but please do not worry. I would also suspect that there was no shaking of hands, introductions, and greeting of fellow passengers on boarding.

And CAIR. What a CROCK. If the IRA or the Aryan Nation begins bombings in the US, I will expect to be searched at airports (I am of Scots-Irish ancestory with fair skin, a rudy face, reddish-brown hair turning gray, and blue eyes). I will turn my anger toward my fellow white folks who are causing the problem. If CAIR expended as much energy at rooting out terrist sympathizers in U.S. mosques, we would have a more positive attitude toward Muslims.

21/11: Going Big

From yesterday (Monday):
Tom Ricks in the Washington Post:
"Pentagon May Suggest Short-Term Buildup Leading to Iraq Exit:

"The Pentagon's closely guarded review of how to improve the situation in Iraq has outlined three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, according to senior defense officials.

"Insiders have dubbed the options "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home." The group conducting the review is likely to recommend a combination of a small, short-term increase in U.S. troops and a long-term commitment to stepped-up training and advising of Iraqi forces, the officials said."

Read the full story here.

Here is a review of my prediction from a few months ago. I am not sure if I stand by it today (and some of it is already flat wrong), but it may be a jumping off point for discussion:

Quoting myself from June 29:

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What goes without saying, of course, is that no future president, Republican or Democrat, will be invested in this war like George Bush. No successor to Bush will feel the press of history in the same way that the President copes with that oppressive sense of urgency and necessity every day of his administration."

The post in full here.

Today's addendum: One thing that seems to have changed since then is the basic threat. Many observers see the insurgency as mostly under control but view the civil unrest and sectarian violence as the current insoluble problem. We'll see.
Over at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler is this post on the power of firearms training to curb violence. Very thoughtful. Recommended reading.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
For Whom the Bell Tolls
by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

As many of you know, a few years ago, Baylor University committed to moving up into the "elite" circle of American institutions of higher education. Many of us who loved and valued Baylor as it was, assumed that the transformation would entail a facelift and an increased commitment to research. We believed that an "improved" Baylor would continue to be what it had always been: a vital institution shaping the lives of Texans in a positive way; we believed that Baylor would continue to offer high standards in all facets of student life and a call to rigor and sacrifice in the name of human improvement and Christian obligation.

However, in its quest to woo the best scholars in the nation (as measured by GPAs and the LSAT), the law school may have succeeded in recruiting too many students who know it all already. The anonymous manifesto below comes from a group of unhappy law students, who posted this message on various blogs connected with the institution. What does John Donne have to do with this? My suspicion is that these sentiments are not unique. As a party invested in the future of American education, I read this particular declaration of independence, equality and hostility, and I worry that the bell tolls for all of us.

The Coyote Ugly Manifesto:

"I am really getting tired of the god-syndrome running around the Baylor Law school faculty. Teachers, you get paid to teach and that is all. You are not our parents, so please stop trying to give us life lessons. Frankly, most of us have been successful in our undergrad institutions and that is why we got to this "fine institution" where the "best belong." The faculty need to realize that we are the heart of this school not them. This school was created for the students not as a tool for the faculty to pick up outside consulting gigs...

» Read More

Guest Blog

We are rising to a discussion regarding fundamental principles regarding American policy regarding international relations. This comment from "Tocqueville" appeared in the comments section of a previous post. It deserves featured consideration:


The Republican Party now presents itself as the party of Hard Wilsonianism, which is no more plausible than the original Soft Wilsonianism, which balkanized Central Europe with dire consequences. No one has ever thought Wilsonianism to be conservative, ignoring as it does the intractability of culture and people's high valuation of a modus vivendi. Wilsonianism derives from Locke and Rousseau in their belief in the fundamental goodness of mankind and hence in a convergence of interests.

George W. Bush has firmly situated himself in this tradition, as in his 2003 pronouncement, "The human heart desires the same good things everywhere on earth." Welcome to Iraq. Whereas realism counsels great prudence in complex cultural situations, Wilsonianism rushes optimistically ahead. Not every country is Denmark. The fighting in Iraq has gone on for nearly four years, and the ultimate result of "democratization" in that fractured nation remains very much in doubt, as does the long-range influence of the Iraq invasion on conditions in the Middle East as a whole. In general, Wilsonianism is a snare and a delusion as a guide to policy, and far from conservative.

Practically everywhere we look around the world, U.S. foreign policy is in a shambles. Long-sought objectives – stability in Iraq, peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the demise of terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, the spread of democracy in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union, the end of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the end of the Iranian nuclear program – seem less attainable today than they have in many years.

Surveying the wreckage, the American public is frustrated, and fearful. This is not isolationism; the belief that the United States can wall itself off from the rest of the world is roundly, and rightly, scorned by people across the ideological spectrum. Rather, these “mind our own business” sentiments reveal a keen appreciation that even the most powerful nation in the world needs to be more discerning about where, when and how it chooses to deal with challenges to U.S. security and threats to U.S. interests. And yet, even as dissatisfaction with the current course of U.S. foreign policy mounts, Americans are confused as to the available alternatives that would allow the United States to remain engaged in the world. They seem prepared to spend money, and put American troops in harm’s way, when vital U.S. interests are at stake, but they balk at paying those costs, and incurring those risks, when they are not.

The godfathers of realism, men like Hans Morgenthau, Reinhold Niebuhr and George Kennan, would have been hard pressed to explain the logic behind the Bush Doctrine. Those realists still alive have likewise tried, and failed. It should be possible to assemble an alternative to the Bush Doctrine, one that draws adherents from both the political left and the political right, and all points in between, and that cannot therefore be dismissed by one side or the other as a political ploy.

This piece by Andrew Basevich is a useful start to help frame the discussion.

From the Cato Institute, this essay with more on the "Isolationism Canard."

How much do the cheap "Made in China" items really cost? Gateway Pundit on recent repression in China here.
Joab, a frequent commentator on this blog and writer of his own Joab's House of Blog, has a provocative post in favor of legalizing marijuana and prostitution. Lest you start labeling him a liberal degenerate (no, that is not redundant), realize that he is a self-described Christian Libertarian and a law-enforcement officer.

He makes the case that marijuana is much less harmful to society than is alcohol; and the penalties seem excessive given the social harm that results from use. Regarding prostitution, he argues that it is going to happen, the way that it happens now has several bad features, and that the social cost would be less if all states followed the Nevada model.

In response: I have gone back and forth on marijuana legalization over the last couple of decade. I oppose the recreational use of marijuana, but it does seem to me that we should legalize it for the following reasons: (1) what Joab said; (2) if at least a significant minority of the members of a free-society are determined not to obey a law, that law cannot be enforced adequately and remain a free society; (3) a significant number of people in a free society chossing to break a law that is not adequately enforced results in a loss of respect for The Law as The Law (see Prohibition); (4) if a significant number of people create a demand that cannot be met legally, they will subsidize a lucrative criminal economy that creates a powerful criminal element.

As a Christian I have distinguished in a previous post between moral issues that should, and should not be, addressed through law (governmental public policy). Some issues are better left to cultural witness by Christians, rather than law. To quote my previous post:

First, while culture and politics are related obviously, they are not exactly the same thing. A Waco Farmer has observed that we do not implement the entire Ten Commandments as public policy. I would add, nor should we. For example, the command not to covet is better conceived as an issue of culture rather than of government. Culture is best shaped by passive and active witness. By Passive Witness I mean the Christian community living according to this commandment for all the world to see. By Active Witness I mean the public articulation of this command in a persuasive way. Even those commandments that have an obvious governmental aspect, such as not bearing false witness, have a limited relation to government in issues such as fraud or perjury. The broader issue of truthfulness is more of a cultural issue (I would never seek prosecution for lying about the size of the fish that got away) and should be promoted by Witness within culture.

I think marijuana is best left as a cultural issue, rather than a governmental. I am now thinking over the prostitution issue.

17/11: Had Enough?

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Evidently, not. GOP re-elects leadership (Washington Post story here).

As I kept saying, our leadership elections were much more important to us and the nation than the Democratic canvass. Sure enough, while we watched the Pelosi follies and rubbed our hands together with glee (check out the spate of articles this morning predicting doom for the Dems), we quietly opted against reform in our own party.

What were we thinking?
Traditionally America followed a policy of Political Isolationism. We were active in the global economy with American ships sailing the oceans to trade, but refrained from political involvement abroad. Recently one of our frequent commentators, Tocqueville, gave us an important historic statement of this policy in the context of current political discussion.

Wilsonianism has run amuck in the GOP, which is a far cry from Bush's 2000 campaign for an end to peace-keeping and nation-building. The most thorough and persuasive critique of the Wilsonian strain in American history is Walter McDougall's "Promised Land, Crusader State." McDougall's guiding spirit is John Quincy Adams, who, by way of refuting the heretical doctrine of a crusader America, formulated once and for all the orthodox dogma of American Exceptionalism in his July Fourth address of 1821:

"America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion only of her own. She will recommend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assumed the colors and usurped the standards of freedom.... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit."

A Waco Farmer then added some context:

JQA speaks as James Monroe's secretary of state (according to Samuel Flagg Bemis, and others, the very best to ever hold that position). The context is the unraveling Spanish Empire in Latin America. The other component is Henry Clay, who, outside the administration, is calling upon the government of the USA to lend military assistance to the fledgling republics. Henry Clay, in fact, takes a Wilsonian position nearly 100 years prior to Wilson. And JQA is promoting a rock-ribbed realism that he inherited from his political hero, George Washington.

Question for discussion: In 2006/2007, should the United States follow the policy of George Washington as expressed by John Quincy Adams?
The slow schism in the Episcopal denomination continues following denominational endorsement of same-sex sex. From Virginia this news.

Leaders of two of Virginia's most historic Episcopal parishes have voted to split from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, a move that could spark a legal battle over millions of dollars' worth of property.

And from Ohio this story. Two more Presbyterian congregation vote to leave the PC(USA), which has been in turmoil for over two decades because of several issues, including same-sex practice.

Two area congregations have voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The pastors of Stow Presbyterian and Hudson Presbyterian churches said the decision to break away from the denomination came after much prayer and deliberation.

Mainline denominations (by million members) Statistics from Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, via USA Today.

United Methodist Church
• 1995: 8.5
• 2004: 8.2
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
• 1995: 5.2
• 2004: 4.9
Presbyterian Church (USA)
• 1995: 3.7
• 2004: 3.2
Episcopal Church
• 1995: 2.5
• 2004: 2.3
Disciples of Christ
• 1995: .93
• 2004: .74
American Baptist Churches
• 1995: 1.5
• 2004: 1.4
United Church of Christ
• 1995: 1.5
• 2004: 1.3

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
What does the Pelosi defeat today mean?

1. Nancy Pelosi is not going to be an intimidating all-powerful Speaker.

2. Nancy Pelosi is not a very good vote counter.

Both of those things augur well for President Bush and a center-right 110th.

More basically, today's events are not important in themselves. Right now, K-Fed is still better known to most Americans than Nancy Pelosi. Specific scandals and this kind of misstep will not play a large role in the next election. Remember: our leadership elections are much more important for us politically than anything Nancy Pelosi will do this week.

Just for kicks: Why did she do it?

Speaker Pelosi attempted to reward a loyal friend, knock out an old rival and, most importantly, appeal to her anti-war base. Murtha was an anti-war rock star on the scale of Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan. The anti-war zealots were unanimous in their support for Murtha, and I am betting that they appreciate Pelosi's overture.

16/11: Newt Again

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today, Newt is in the Wall Street Journal arguing for a Ronald Reagan-esque coalition of conservatives that transcends party lines:

"[T]he Democratic victory makes it possible to re-establish the conservative Democrat and House Republican coalition which made the Reagan legislative victories of 1981-82 possible. Tip O'Neill was the liberal Democratic speaker when Reagan became president, but he did not [actually control] a liberal majority in the House. [D]espite a seemingly liberal Democrat lock in a 242-192 majority, they lost control of the floor on the most important bill [tax cuts] of Reagan's first term.

He has this exactly right. President Bush needs to employ Reagan's "boll weevil" strategy of 1981. Read the op-ed in full here.
From the Washington Post, this article on three groups and same-sex sex.

(1) The Roman Catholic bishops continue to affirm that homosexuality is a disordered condition since it goes against the natural purpose of sex. And they affirm that Roman Catholic leaders are not free to ignore this teaching. (2) The North Carolina Baptist Convention (the Southern Baptist Convention congregations are organized in state conventions) moves to ensure that no congregations affirming same-sex sex as good can remain within the Convention. (3) The Presbyterian Church (USA), the mainline Presbyterians, are conducting a trial of a minister who performed a same sex wedding.

The action by the bishops is significant given the history of American Roman Catholicism: there has been a tendency in our country on the part of some to ignore official teaching. The NC Baptist action is no surprise. The Post is behind in reporting on the events on the Presbyterian case: charges have been dismissed because a filing deadline was missed. Article here from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
From the Telegraph, hat tip Jihadwatch. Full article.

Opening paragraphs:

Iran tried to obtain uranium from Somalia in return for supplying weapons to the anarchic country's Islamist movement, the United Nations said yesterday.

A report compiled for the Security Council found that Iran is one of seven countries breaking a UN arms embargo by providing weapons to the Islamic radicals who control most of southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu.

This influx of weapons increases the chances of a new regional war in the Horn of Africa. It also underlines the close ties which Somalia's Islamists, who style themselves the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts, have forged with radical regimes across the Muslim world, notably Syria and Iran.

The report found that 720 Somali fighters were sent to Lebanon in the summer to aid Hizbollah during the war with Israel. In return, Hizbollah dispatched five advisers to Somalia to provide advanced military training.

I wonder what Iran wants with uranium? (sarcasm alert)
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
For several weeks I have resisted commenting on the Jane Harman-Nancy Pelosi-Alcee Hastings triangle of intrigue story, which involves the chairmanship of the extremely important House intelligence committee. Mainly, I have been doing my best to follow my own advice and give Speaker Pelosi some latitude in the opening moments of her leadership. However, the reportage and analysis from Ruth Marcus, a Washington Post columnist, merits attention.

Two weeks ago, Marcus discussed Pelosi's potential choice between Alcee Hastings and Jane Harman within the context of enmity between Pelosi and Harman, partisanship, racial politics and other considerations (read "An Unintelligent Choice" here ).

Today, Marcus fired on Pelosi once again. This time taking aim at her decision to support John Murtha over Stenny Hoyer for majority leader. Judging Murtha "Unfit for Majority Leader" in light of his "grainy" ethical past, Marcus proclaimed:

"I wrote a few weeks back that Pelosi's first test as speaker would be whether she picks Florida's Alcee Hastings -- who was removed from his federal judgeship for agreeing to take a bribe -- to head the intelligence committee. As it turns out, I was wrong. Pelosi's first test was how to handle Murtha. Whatever happens tomorrow, she flunked. Whether she'll get another failing grade on Hastings remains to be seen."

Today's (Wednesday) column in full.

Also in the Post today, media critic, Howard Kurtz offers thorough analysis concerning the evolution of this story from non-issue to above-the-fold event. He asks an important question: "So why didn't the media jump on this earlier?" And Kurtz also confronts the role of the Post as Hoyer booster and chief Murtha accuser (read here).
Some in high places are beginning to catch on that our problems are not just with bin Laden or Al Qaeda. We are threatened by a much deeper mindset within the Islamic world. The NYT has this article on the recent report of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. I suggest you read the whole thing, but a portion is below. Hat tip Jihadwatch.

As radical Islam spreads globally through online forums and chat rooms, a group of obscure Arab religious thinkers may come to exert more influence over the jihadist movement than Osama bin Laden and other well-known leaders of Al Qaeda, a research group at the United States Military Academy has concluded.

In a study billed as the “first systematic mapping” of an ideology sometimes called jihadism, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has found that Mr. bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, have had a relatively minor influence on the movement’s intellectual foundation. Among the network’s ideologists, they have come to be seen more as propagandists than strategic thinkers.

And while the two Qaeda leaders have released a flurry of video and audio messages to their followers over the past year, the study found that the scholarly work of a group of Saudi and Jordanian clerics — most notably Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a Jordanian — seems more likely to influence the next generation of Islamic militants.
. . .
The report found that radical Islam, sometimes called Salafism, is so deeply embedded in the Arab world that Salafis now constitute a “majority or significant portion” of the Muslim population in the Middle East and North Africa.

Historically, we are in another hot period in the nearly 1400 year-long war by Islam against everyone else.

15/11: Man Bites Dog

Yesterday, I caught a few minutes of the Sean Hannity radio show. He was interviewing (debating is a better word) Charlie Rangel.

File this under things I never thought I would hear myself say: Rangel won hands-down.

In addition to relying on the host's advantage of talking over his guest, Hannity was rude and unfocussed and determined to present Rangel with a series of false choices. Nevertheless, Rangel kept making the salient points.

But here is the wildest part: by the conclusion of the engagement, it was clear that Hannity was totally committed (rhetorically, at least) to a Wilsonian ideal while Rangel articulated a classic conservative realism. How did we get here?
Every so often, just as I am about to think that all spunk and fortitude has died in the UK, someone speaks up. Recently the second-ranking Anglican, The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has spoken truth to power.

Here he accuses the BBC of anti-Christian bias.

Here he declares that multiculturalism has betrayed the English.

The Archbishop is black and became a refugee from Idi Amin's tyranny in Uganda.
It is not too hard to know what the Islamist agenda is if you pay attention. But, if you watch only the MSM you may be in the dark. Tonight on CNN Headline News Glenn Beck is doing a special that shows lots of clips from Arabic and Farsi television (translated) in which Islamists lay out their agenda in their own words. More here.

The Iranian president is calling for a Final Holocaust and pushing forward rapidly to gain nuclear weapons with which to accomplish his stated goal. And as the recent Iranian military exercises demonstrated, they have the delivery systems capable of reaching Israel. Basically the Islamists want to bury us also, or at least to incorporate us into their system as subservient peoples.

I happened to catch part of the Glenn Beck radio program this morning while in my van. He told of the steps the network required in order to ensure accuracy. (Would that Dan Rather had had such oversight.) He has been trying to get this special on since August, but has just now succeeded. On the segment I heard he did not speculate as to the timing, but I do not think it a coincidence that the network delayed broadcast until after the election.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
1. The Democrats seem intent on a swift withdrawal from Iraq (I will refrain from calling that "cutting and running" because it makes some people so mad). The key for President Bush has always been to win--and win quickly. In the words of Al Davis: "Just win, baby." Winning takes care of everything. If it is a matter of patience or a minor adjustment, perhaps the next two years holds redemption for the President.

If the tide turns in Iraq in a noticeable way before 2008, the public will repudiate this historic midterm election. They will be asking "who were those guys," and the Democrats will have repeated the Federalist Party's mistake at the Hartford Convention. If not, and we really are in a morass, thank God for the Dems and the restless American electorate.

2. For the GOP, right now, their own leadership contests are much more important than the Democratic leadership canvass. I meant to say this yesterday, and Tocqueville hinted at it this morning. The GOP needs honest and courageous and intelligent leadership. The same-old-same-old is not good enough right now.
Back in March, I explored my own mind in re John McCain. I am more convinced today than I was then that McCain is likely our man. Below are my thoughts then.

My post from 13 March:

Today New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (and the Democratic party) officially declared war on John McCain, calling him "slippery and evasive" and a "right-winger." Although I fought hard against McCain's candidacy for the Republican nomination in 2000, for the last several months I have been telling my friends that I think McCain may be our guy for 2008.

First of all, why was I so dead-set against McCain six years ago? Frankly, it is hard to remember exactly, but I came to genuinely dislike him for a time. I started out an Orin Hatch supporter, and then I reluctantly settled on George Bush because he looked like he could win and I liked his family. He also struck me as an unpolished but authentic and sincere man ("I believe in grace, because I have seen it ... In peace, because I have felt it ... In forgiveness, because I have needed it"). On the whole, George Bush has not disappointed me.

Why my dislike for McCain? Once committed to Bush in the early months of 2000, McCain was the enemy. I disagreed with McCain-Feingold, which was one of the cornerstones of his campaign. Perhaps most importantly, I was spooked by his boosters. Looking back, I was very suspicious of someone who courted the MSM and appealed to my hardcore Democratic friends (although I predicted back then that McCain's liberal admirers would desert him in the general election). Moreover, I felt he was playing to the Beltway press corps (and we are supposed to hate the Beltway press corps). In retrospect, my distaste for McCain based on his association with reporters who flocked to his bandwagon on the "straight-talk express" was unfair and not quite rational.

Why does McCain appeal to me today? McCain self-identifies as a Reagan Republican (as he has throughout his career). He is a Westerner. He is rock-solid on conservative issues (today Paul Krugman asserts that McCain's voting record is currently ranked the third-most conservative in the Senate). Krugman (who is not linked here; my policy is to not link the Times) has it just about right: McCain is not a radical opponent of tax cuts; McCain has a long history of toughness against rogue states (Krugman makes the important point that William Kristol supported McCain over Bush in 2000; McCain's foreign policy would have been similar to Bush's, only stronger). Krugman also fumes that McCain is now friendly with the Religious Right and positioning himself as "an extremist on abortion."

Krugman makes a lot of sense to me (did I really say that?).

Moreover, McCain, who had the power to derail Bush in 2000 and 2004, rallied around the flag and proved his loyalty to Republican ideas. McCain set aside any personal animus and did the right thing for the right reasons. He had every opportunity for revenge, and he passed. You must admire that kind of discipline. McCain has supported the war on terror unflinchingly. Although he balked on the torture question, and he called consistently for more troops in Iraq during 2003 and 2004, arguably, he was right on both counts.

Added comment: McCain drew near-unanimous condemnation from conservatives for his leadership role in the "Gang of Fourteen" (aka "The Mod Squad"), but that seems somewhat misplaced and wrong-headed now that the compromise netted us Roberts and Alito and broke up the logjam of conservative Circuit Court nominees.

Why now? In brief:

1. McCain will run as a Reagan Republican, but he will not carry the baggage of the Bush administration. The GOP faces tough times in 2006 and 2008. The next election will be a referendum on President Bush (35 percent approval). But no Repubilcan candidate can succeed running away from George Bush. Republicans cannot nominate an "outsider," anti-Washington governor (it just won't fly). Having said that, there needs to be some distance. McCain will run on his record of integrity and independence and fiscal responsibility, at the same time promising to stay the course where it counts.

To that end, McCain is an articulate spokesman for conservative common sense. The winning candidate will need to connect with the public. The GOP candidate will need to sell a program that is not very popular right now. McCain is a great communicator. His vaunted appeal to "moderates" (much criticized in some conservative circles) really means that many regular Americans perceive McCain as a good man and wise leader.

2. McCain is battle-tested and up to the challenge. The next presidential election will prove devastatingly cruel and heartless. Think Hillary Clinton and James Carville and Paul Begala and Paul Krugman unleashed. This is no time to learn as you go along. The Republicans need a tough guy for this very tough upcoming race. McCain's life experience and his sense of humor will help him navigate the ugliness.

3. Lindsey Graham. Graham is the brightest shining star on the Republican horizon and a long-time McCain supporter. Graham will be a floor leader in the Senate in a McCain presidency, positioning him for bigger and better things to come. McCain and Graham represent the future of the party.

What say you? What are your reasons for and/or against McCain?
Most Americans are merely consumers: we consume food, entertainment, clothing, etc but do not produce any. Not enough gardens, not enough home guitar or piano playing, not enough sewing. We take that consumer mentality and expand it into all other areas of life: sitting back and consuming political choices without becoming involved in politics ourselves, shopping for the church that "meets our needs" without ever teaching Sunday School or leading a youth group or sweeping the floor, complaining about social problems without working to produce solutions ourselves.

Want to change your life and to change the world around you? Become a producer, not just a consumer. From the Dallas Morning News comes this inspiring story of a Producer of Positive Change. Hat tip Powerline which points out that this man works outside governmental and civil rights bureaucracy.

14/11: More on Newt

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few days ago I noted that Newt Gingrich was busy making a lot of sense, offering ideas and offering himself as a figure around which conservatives might rally. All of these things, by the way, are things that Newt does very well. He is arguably the most under-appreciated figure in the conservative political movement.

Here are some bullet points from his piece in Human Events Online today:

The political problem:

"Republicans, in two short years, gave up the advantages on taxes, balancing the budget and controlling spending that they had spent three generations earning.

"On Katrina, controlling the border and Iraq, Republicans gave up the advantage as the party of management that could get things done -- an advantage they had held since the 1950s."

The political solution:

"[Be more conservative.] We should appeal to the Blue Dog Democrats who claim to be conservative. We should appeal to their voters and their supporters back home. Even more, we should appeal to the majority of the American people by returning the Republican Party, once again, to the party of reform, ideas, solutions and common-sense conservatism.

"We should rebuild the grassroots conservative movement. From the Reagan Revolution of 1980 through the Contract with America in 1994, it was this movement from outside Washington that carried us to the first center-right majority governing coalition in more than 60 years."

Take Heart:

"This was not a realigning election as 1994 was. Voters did not vote "for" the Democrats but "against" Republicans. Now, it will be up to us to see that the results of the 2006 election serve as a temporary but necessary corrective interruption in our goal of getting to a conservative governing majority. Take heart, while there is much to be done, I believe if we are focused, disciplined and we work together, we will Win the Future for America."

An epilogue:

"Just yesterday it was reported that incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is supporting Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) for majority leader. This is a sign that Pelosi, despite all her talk of moving to the center and reaching out to conservatives, will govern from the left. It is a direct assault on the moderate wing of the Democratic Party and a deliberate break with the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.). The next test for whether Pelosi will govern from the left or the center will be if she appoints Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), the impeached former federal judge, to chair the Intelligence Committee. No national security supporter will be comfortable with Hastings' having oversight of the nation's secrets, but the pressure on Pelosi to appease the Black Caucus is immense. Stay tuned."

The article in its entirety here.

As I said earlier, Newt emerged last week as the conservative candidate for 2008. Mitt Romney may have something to say about that--but I am on record as skeptical of Romney's ability to win the Republican nomination this time around. We'll see.
I turned 16 in 1972. Although growing up in a rural area far from cities, I had a sense that America was coming apart at the seams culturally. Also, as I grew closer to 18, I assumed that Vietnam and the draft somehow were in my future. I observed the '72 election closely, and favored Nixon over McGovern. Nixon, it seemed to me, represented the people I knew, rather than the strange goings-on I saw on television. And, I trusted Nixon to bring an honorable conclusion to the Vietnam War, rather than the retreat I imagined McGovern would bring about.

I was still too naive then. I knew we had local government corruption, which my outspoken and plainspoken grandfather railed against. But, somehow I thought of the men in Washington as made of different stuff, as statesmen. The last couple of years of high school were disillusioning because of Watergate. I was not too confident about the American future.

In 1974 Nixon resigned, and Gerald Ford became president. He helped my view of things by being who he was--an open, honest man. Ford was the Un-Nixon, what you saw was what you got. Because of his leadership, including his humility and obvious sanity, I regained some confidence. Thank you Mr. Ford.

Ford recently became our oldest living ex-president. Here is a great tribute to him written by Gleaves Whitney in National Review.
A Waco Farmer mentioned in a previous post that several faculty in his building has posted signs reading "Happy Days Are Here Again." I worked out of that building for several years and can guess whose offices he means.

The Bush is bad and evil and stupid, and Republicans are bad people, and Rush is a big fat idiot cartoons and postings on the bulletin boards outside these faculty offices always bothered me. Students of all political persuasions had to pass this material on the way into those teachers' offices. I suspect that conservative students felt unwelcome and on the defensive when entering those spaces. This is not right.

My own view is that a faculty office is not personal, private space in the same way a home is. It is a space provided by the institution to facilitate the education of the students: a semi-public space. My political views are known through this blog, which I have yet to mention to my students whom I now teach online. When I did face-to-face education and had an office on campus, I kept a politically and religiously neutral office and bulletin board. I wanted all students to be equally at ease; plus, the taxpayers of the state of Texas were not paying me to do political indoctrination.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Several of my colleagues in the faculty office building, in response to the historic election, posted signs outside their offices that read: "Happy Days are Here Again." I hope so.

There are some that make a compelling argument that the GOP, long a quite successful loyal opposition party, failed as a ruling party. By the same token, one can make the argument that the Democratic Party failed as a loyal opposition party.

Frankly, if a Democratic Party-controlled Congress means long-term security and prosperity, I am happy for the GOP to maintain a minority status for the next generation. I would gladly surrender power for unity and strength.

Many of us noted that many Democrats suffered from what we laughingly called "BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome)"; that is, no matter what the President said, some automatically responded in a negative and emotional way. Now the worm has turned.

The new reality. The American people have spoken. It is now time for Republicans to model mature behavior and engage the new congressional leadership. It is our duty to accept that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the duly elected, legitimate voices of the electorate.

We should argue for our principles. We should represent our constituencies. But we should not go out of our way to exaggerate the faults of the opposition. Speaker Pelosi may be a "San Francisco liberal," but she will lead a Congress that is center-right. Her challenge is to represent all the people in a way that reflects a broad consensus. If she does not, we will not need to wait long for our chance to set things right.

In short, let us give the new leadership a chance to articulate their vision. What do they think this past election meant? If they get it right (with our help), we all win. If they have it wrong, if they attempt to misread the mandate, the American people will have another opportunity for correction in two years.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gateway Pundit has a look at the squeaky clean (sarcasm alert) Democrats now taking control after voters rejected the "culture of corruption.
Overlooked by me in the run-up to the election, this report on China and North Korea by Bill Gertz. Gertz, I think, has the best sources in defense of any reporter in Washington. A portion of the article

China helped North Korea develop nuclear weapons and in the past year increased its support to Pyongyang, rather than pressing the regime to halt nuclear arms and missile activities, according to a congressional report.
The final draft report of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission also says that Chinese government-run companies are continuing to threaten U.S. national security by exporting arms to American enemies in Asia and the Middle East.
The report is based on public testimony and highly classified intelligence reports made available to its members and staff. It indirectly criticizes the Bush administration for failing to pressure Beijing into joining U.S.-led anti-proliferation programs and calls for Congress to take action to force the administration to do more

This report supports the contention made earlier on this blog in a guest post (below). It is a very dangerous world, and Dems in control of Congress does not reassure me. Although, in fairness, the Bushes have been too pro-China for my way of thinking.

» Read More

From the New York Sun, this story about a Bangladeshi journalist facing a death sentence, accused of writing articles "praising Jews and Christians." Portion of the article below. Hat tip Powerline.

Mr. Choudhury, a Bangladeshi journalist, is accused, he told us, of "praising Jews and Christians," "spying for Israel," and being "an agent of the Mossad" -- because he advocated relations between Israel and Bangladesh. He's also accused of being critical of Islamic radicals, which is considered blasphemy. He committed these crimes by writing articles favorable toward Jews and Christians.

He did so, he says, because while he was born and raised in a Muslim country (Bangladesh) where he was taught a "religion of hatred" and a "religion of Jihad," his father "told from an early age not to listen and to learn for himself." He did and became friends with Jews, realized the lies he had been taught, and wanted to end "the culture of hatred." He says that if "Muslim countries want peace they need relations with Israel."

Mr. Choudhury says he holds no hope of getting a fair trial. The judge, he says, is a radical Islamist who has already made clear his view that Mr. Choudhury is guilty. "In open court ... he made comments that by praising Christians and Jews I have hurt the sentiment of Muslims ... which is a crime," the journalist says. Other comments made by the Judge have made it clear, Mr. Choudhury tells me, that the judge's goal is a conviction and a death sentence. Mr. Choudhury describes his judge as a "one man judge and jury," and Mr. Choudhury cannot even present witnesses in his own defense.

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I just returned from the Veterans' Day Pow-wow sponsored by the Comanche Indian Veterans Association (CIVA). I've described pow-wow's before, and have written on the patriotism among the tribes around where I live, and on the way veterans are honored.

Today I just want to note that one of the WW2 veterans honored was a survivor of the Bataan Death March. Think about him the next time your civic duty seems burdensome.

11/11: Veterans' Day

Fly the flag. Attend a ceremony honoring veterans. And read this article on the latest Medal of Honor winner.

Thank you to all our veterans.
My grandfather Taylor always referred to November 11 as Armistice Day. He had fought in Europe in WW1, one of the thousands and thousands of young men dislocated from their farms and dispatched to France.

Born in 1896 in the house built by his father, who had homesteaded 80 acres of north Missouri prairie, my grandfather's early life took place a few miles from home: the country school a mile and a quarter south down the dirt road that ran in front of the house; his parent's Primitive Baptist church about 4 and 1/2 miles north and west; the local Methodist church with its revivals and suppers less than a mile away; the nearest train station about six miles distant; a country store about a mile and a 1/2 west; and the county seat 10 miles away. No radio. All national and international events were old news by the time they reached the community. Then, with the entry of the United States into the Great War, my grandfather and those like him moved into military life, and were transported to France. I can't imagine the culture shock or sense of displacement those young men experienced.

» Read More

The North Texas Association (NTA) of the United Church of Christ (my old association when I served a conservative UCC church near Waco 94-05) has voted to receive into membership the 4300 member Cathedral of Hope. The official UCC site has a postive report.

The Cathedral of Hope touts itself as "the world's largest liberal Christian church with a primary outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." Briefly, the congregation is open and affirming of same-sex sex and marriage.

The NTA had been a conservative hold-out in the denomination, but the dwindling numbers of conservative rural congregations gave priority of leadership to a few congregations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area strongly supportive of same-sex sex and marriage. Now the transformation is complete, since Cathedral of Hope will be far and away the largest congregation in the association, indeed the 4th largest in the denomination. Some of the congregations in central Texas, and a few in the Metroplex probably will consider leaving the denomination.

Prior to the vote, the national office of Biblical Witness Fellowship, a network of conservative UCC congregations, expressed reasons to be hesitant in admitting Cathedral of Hope (in addition to their theology). below

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
1. Newt Gingrich is making the rounds and, as usual, has a lot of this right. He emerges as the conservative candidate for the 2008 nomination. Assuming Rudy stays out, it looks like a two-man race between Newt and John McCain. Volumes more on that in the next two years.

2. John Bolton. President Bush gave up Don Rumsfeld. If the Democratic leadership is serious about engaging in the new tone of cooperation, they can confirm John Bolton. Or, at the very least, they can resolve to discuss his nomination on the merits of his tenure at the UN as opposed to something he might have said in the 1980s or his alleged propensity to yell at subordinates. See this as 1) a test of good faith on the part of Democrats and 2) the skill of the President in obtaining compromises. Long shot: I predict the President wins Bolton's confirmation.

3. Robert Gates comes in as a DOD secretary as a member of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. In essence, Gates embodies the new bipartisan direction. Here is a full list of the members:

James A. Baker III
Lee H. Hamilton
Robert M. Gates
Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.
Edwin Meese III
Sandra Day O'Connor
Leon E. Panetta
William J. Perry
Charles S. Robb
Alan K. Simpson
Once again we learn what liberals really think of democracy. A sufficient number of voters in Massachusetts signed petitions to begin the process of amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. By Massachussetts law, the legislature is now to meet in Constitutional Session to vote up-or-down on the initiative. If 1/4 of the legislature votes in favor of the petition, then the process moves on to step three. But, the leadership of the legislature is trying to delay a vote in order to avoid passage. Story here from the Boston Globe. Background from Wizbang (warning, strong language).

Liberal's Slogan: We Know Better Than You. So sit down, shut up, and let us build our ideal secular state.

Somewhere the ghosts of John and Samuel Adams are restless. Bostonians, how about another Revolution.
Some preliminary findings are in from Tuesday's election on religion and voting patterns. It looks like evangelicals stayed with the Republicans, while Democrats were able to pick up votes among Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants. From the NYT here.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Last Sunday afternoon I drove from Waterloo, Iowa, south down US 63 to New Sharon, then west to Pella. Clear fall sky, fields on the rolling hills in the late stages of harvest--soybean fields greyish-brown stubble, most of the cornfields rows of harvested stalks bent to the earth in the direction the combine had passed, a few fields of yellow ears of corn on brown stalks awaiting the move to bins. The sun fairly low in the southern sky (the short dark days approaching) bathing the hills with gentle golden light. It was a Grant Wood fall day.

Grant Wood, the Iowa artist known as a "regionalist," because he painted the landscape at hand; not the south of France but the farms and people of the Midwest. Last Sunday afternoon was his painting "Fall Plowing" in real life (with combine-bent stalks instead of hand-stacked shocks of corn).

Art critics have observed that the hills in Wood's Iowa landscapes resemble the female body. No accident I am sure. Mother Earth in her fecundity, the soil a fertile womb for seed and rain and sunshine to combine into life-giving life.

Last Sunday on the Iowa hills, the fall of maturity and harvest following the summer of growth which followed the spring of fertility. And soon, the apparent death of winter will coat these same hills in ice and snow. Until spring. Then the cycle of planting, growth, and harvest again. As in years past, centuries past, millenia past.

I'm 50 years old. Odds are I've lived over half my life. And that's OK. I've seen the older generations of my family in their fall years, and have lost them to winter. My own children follow after me a season behind. Someday for me it will be winter.

I've stood at two gravesides this week; we committed the bodies into Mother Earth--ashes to ashes, dust to dust. In sure hope of the resurrection of the dead. We confessed the Christian faith in the words of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, the the life everlasting. Amen"

Winter for me is coming, but I believe that afterward, spring; not because of the fertility of Mother Earth, not because of something inherently immortal in me, but because of the miraculous power of God, who promises resurrection and life everlasting to his people through Jesus Christ. An eternal spring and summer in God's glorious golden light.

Enjoy spring, and summer, and fall, and don't fear winter.
The President on Rumsfeld (abridged):

"Few will forget the image of Don Rumsfeld as he helped rescue workers carry the victims from the rubble of the Pentagon on September the 11th, 2001. Under his leadership, U.S. and coalition forces launched one of the most innovative military campaigns in the history of modern warfare, driving the Taliban and its al Qaeda allies from power in a matter of weeks.

"In 2003...he led the planning and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom, [which] drove Saddam Hussein from power and helped the Iraqi people establish a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East. [On] Rumsfeld's watch, the men and women of our military overthrew two terrorist regimes, liberated some 50 million people, brought justice to the terrorist Zarqawi and scores of senior al Qaeda operatives, and helped stop new terrorist attacks on our people.

"America is safer and the world is more secure because of the service and the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld. He undertook the most sweeping transformation of America's global force posture since the end of World War II. Don's work in these areas did not often make the headlines. But the reforms that he has set in motion are historic, and they will enhance the security of the American people for decades to come.

"As the Secretary of Defense, he has been dedicated to his mission, loyal to his President, and devoted to the courageous men and women of our Armed Forces."

The press conference in its entirety here.

All of the above is true. The parts left unsaid are more damning.

A few months ago (August), I offered these thoughts, although I could have just as well written them in the summer of 2004:

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

It was more than time for a change, but that does not diminish the fact that Donald Rumsfeld is a good American. He is a bright and charming guy. Thank you for your service, Secretary Rumsfeld.

More some other time on the significance of the change and what to expect from Bob Gates.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
A lot of talk on the radio and posting on the blogosphere that the Republicans lost the election because they did not keep faith with their basic values. Voters then punished them for this apostasy. We'll know later perhaps just why the results went the way they did.

I want to bring up the question suggested by the comments referred to above: how do you change the direction of a political party? One way, suggested by pundits today, is that you punish them at the polls. OK. That might or might not work. It is a quick action that can make a person feel good for a time. But, it seems to me that this is the wrong way to go about changing a party, whether that change is a new direction or a return to core values.

The longer, slower, much harder way to influence a party is to work from within the system: join the party, become active in local elections and local committees, network with other likeminded activists who also are burrowing away within the party structure, encourage and work for and contribute to candidates you can support. Pay attention to local boards, especially school boards. Run yourself. Eventually become a county chairperson, or support someone for that position who shares your vision. Pay attention to platforms and their creation. Think of yourself as part of the process, not simply as a voter who may choose to stay home or something to "punish" a party for going astray. Don't think of yourself simply as a consumer, choosing and rejecting products; think of yourself as a producer.
Victor Davis Hanson has, as usual, wise words for today, if not exactly encouraging words.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gateway Pundit has this material on Libertarians and this election, crediting them with providing the Dem margin of victory in Montana and Missouri.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
1. The Cook Political Report. Charlie Cook and his organization are awesome. Right on target once again. Three cheers for Jennifer Duffey and Amy Walter; they were right on the money.

2. Me. I got pretty close on the House and went 8/10 on the Senate (which would be a pretty good batting average in baseball), but I missed the big pick: loss of control in the Upper Chamber. Although I had Virginia as the key race, I had Allen squeaking by. I am still surprised that he lost--granted, I was one of the few surprised by this. (A review of my Senate picks here).

3. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are losers for all their cheerleading in advance of the election--and their sudden about-face "I told you so" recriminations the day after. (For another post on another day: Rush and Sean have it all wrong on immigration and minimum wage.)

4. Karl Rove and the theory of "turnout over persuasion" are losers (a review of my post considering the two schools of campaign strategy here).

5. Joe Lieberman is a big winner (a review of my posts on Joe Lieberman here). (FYI: Kos is a big loser--but not significant enough to merit his own number).

6. Mike DeWine and Jim Talent are major losses for the Senate and the United States. They are statesman of the first rank. So much of politics is timing. It is always a tragedy when good men get swept up in the zeitgeist of an election. Claire McCaskill may prove a great senator; we will wait and see. Sherrod Brown is in the Ted Kennedy-John Kerry class, and he will prove much too liberal for Ohio.

7. Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Minimum Wage win (see this post for a review of those issues as campaign levers). The Democrats wrecklessly gambled minimum wage on the election, which was risky, but they got away with it. Good for us. More on immigration and minimum wage as the debate unfolds.

8. The conspiracy theorists who assured us that diabolical Republican forces would rig the election through electronic voting machines lose again; my prediction: they are beat but not broken. They are silenced for now--but will be back soon.

9. The biggest loss in my book, however, is the Senate. I really hate to see the Senate turn over. I am happy that the GOP lost the House; we deserved to lose the House; the country is better off for the GOP losing the House. The Senate is a different story. The Upper Chamber is the more dignified body; the council of wise men. The "saucer that cools the fiery hot liquid of democratic-representative government." The Republicans are great at running the Senate.

More to the point, I hate to see the Republicans lose control of the Judiciary Committee. The Democratically controlled Judiciary Committee gave us the Robert Bork hearings and Anita Hill and the ultra-politicization of the judicial branch (not that the GOP did not return fire during the Clinton administration). But this all started when the Democrats won the Senate in 1986 and decided to teach Ronald Reagan and conservatives a lesson.

The change in chairmanship from Arlen Specter to Patrick Leahy is not a plus. We will see if the claims of a new tone and the end of partisanship are for real, but I have my doubts. One other thing: I trust Joe Biden as chairman of Foreign Relations (in fact, I have very high hopes for his leadership). However, trading John Warner for Carl Levin on Armed Services is not a happy development.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
1. I hate to see Santorum leaving the Senate. Perhaps, though, this will free him up to take a presidential run in 08. The other Republican names most talked about are not that exciting to conservatives.

2. I also hate to see Talent go. He was an able Senator.

3. We'll see what Pelosi & Co. do in the next two years, but if the left demands payment for services rendered, then it could become harder for Hillary or whomever to run as a Democrat in 08.

4. I see this election as being more about rejection of the Republican incumbants than than an affirmation of a Democrat message: they basically offered no message except that Bush and the Republicans were bad people. If Democrats start acting like they have a mandate for a liberal turn in government, then they will overplay their hand.

5. A victory for Big Biotech in Missouri with the narrow win for the amendment that guarantees patentable, profitable opportunities for biotech companies. (Not that the amendment was marketed this way.) One firm provided 97% of the funding behind this amendment.

6. John Kerry is probably sleeping off a very satisfying drunk: had the Dems not done as well as predicted, he would have become the scapegoat. As is, he can continue to entertain presidential fantasies.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Quick Thoughts:

1. Back to work for the GOP. Losing is a painful but necessary and constructive part of life.

2. We need to "dance with who brung us." The Grand Old Party of this election was not the party of Ronald Reagan. We need to be the party of morality, frugality, patriotism, integrity, compassion and vision. We were not that party this time around. We don't deserve to win--until we embody those ideals again.

3. Gridlock is good. Irrespective of what the mainstream media says, the country is actually in pretty good shape. The best thing that could happen for the nation right now is for Congress to go on a two-year hiatus. God protects small children, drunks and the USA (de Gaulle? Bismarck?). Wall Street agrees.

4. Nothing passes without the consent of George Bush.

5. Oversight is back in vogue.

6. Immigration and Minimum Wage are in play.

7. Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman are personally invested in our success in Iraq. That is good news for the USA.

07/11: Exit Polls

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
One of these days the exit polls are going to be accurate.

Is that day today? We will see.

Here are some of the exit numbers floating around:

Casey 61 - Santorum 38
Cardin 51 - Steele 48
McCaskill 53 - Talent 46
Webb 55 - Allen 45

For a moment, let's be optimistic and assume they are skewed in favor of the Democrats (as they have been in the past), which would mean:

If the Talent-McCaskill race is dead-even (50-49), let's adjust the rest of the races by three points:

Casey 58- Santorum 41
Cardin 48- Steele 51
Webb 52- Allen 48

That is a bit better. On the other hand, the VA race seems the bell-weather. If the GOP is going to lose VA--it is going to be a long night, most likely.

More importantly, let's see what the big turnout numbers mean.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gateway Pundit is on top of the Missouri races. Turnout today looks like it will be huge, perhaps 70% in some areas of the state. The thinking is that the larger the turnout the better for Talent.

Update at 4:51. From Gateway Pundit. Turnout in the City of St. Louis looks to be high, perhaps 60%. High turnout in the city is good for McCaskill since the vote usually goes Dem. (And this figure would not count the cemetary vote which also goes Dem in St. Louis.)
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
I have been too busy to think politics for several days. (Pastoral duties including a funeral yesterday and one tomorrow, plus preaching in two churches in Iowa over the weekend.) So I now offer some comments that are not completely thought out.

1. I was in the 1st Congressional District in Iowa Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Yard and roadside signs were about even between Braley (D) and Whalen (R). I was somewhat surprised to see a large number of Braley signs in farm yards. Over Sunday lunch in Waterloo with a group of people from the church I asked for predictions. One woman was active in Republican politics and answered that she thought the outcome would depend on voter turnout. I think this race is too close to call.

2. Sunday late afternoon I was in Pella at a family home when the phone rang. It was a prerecorded call from Rudy Guilliani on behalf of the Republican candidate for governor Nussle. While this race is close, I am going to predict Culver (D). The Pella area has been a Republican stronghold in Iowa for several years, and if the Repubs are still paying attention to their base areas on the Sunday before the election, then things are not good.

3. Missouri, my home state. I listened to some Missouri radio stations while driving the rental car from Des Moines to Waterloo Saturday evening. What I mostly heard were McCaskill ads and they seemed pretty strong. The race appears to be so close that I am going with McCaskill (D) over Talent (R). Democrats will win close statewide elections in Missouri until fraud and corruption in St. Louis, and some other places, are cleaned up.

4. My general sense is that the Republicans have the momentum going into today. I think they'll hold the Senate and keep the Democrats to a narrow control of the House.

07/11: Election Day

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Not much left to say. Today America speaks.

Having said that, I will have commentary throughout the day.

Some things to talk about:

1. George the lion-hearted. Although the conventional wisdom seemed to argue against it, President Bush personalized and nationalized the election over the last two weeks. Even more courageous, as every poll indicated that Iraq was a losing issue, the President took to the stump and preached Iraq. For all of us who believe that elections should be about major issues, we must give the President credit for that decision.

2. Anything less than a "wave election" will be a demoralizing failure for the Democratic Party in the light of the great expectations.

3. My prediction: the system will work, and democracy will prevail.

4. May God bless America.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
On Fox News Sunday today, Mara Liasson noted that Harold Ford and Michael Steele have run the best campaigns for the Senate this cycle. She is absolutely right. Ironically, they are both likely to lose. Of course, they are both African American. Interestingly, one is a Democrat running in a center-right upper-South state (Ford in Tennessee). The other is a Republican running in a solidly Democratic mid-Atlantic state (Steele in Maryland).

Most likely, they will both run close races--but fall short. Ford has been tremendous, but Steele has been the biggest surprise. As the red-hot Democratic superstar, Barack Obama, stumped for Steele's white opponent in Maryland this week, I could not help but think that Steele had proved himself the most articulate and dynamic of the new generation of African-American politicians.

The Democrats need a fifteen seat gain (or sixteen--depending on Gene Taylor) to win control of the House, which they will achieve. The House will change hands as a result of what happens on Tuesday. The only real argument is about margin. I do not dismiss the predictions of a 30-seat swing (or more)--but a spread of that magnitude strikes me as improbable. The word on the lips of every pundit this last fortnight has been "wave election." A 30+ margin would mean a tremendous wave. I am not convinced that this midterm presents that sort of political storm. On the other hand, a message that strong is not impossible. We will see.

For the Democrats to win control of the Senate, they need to net six seats on Tuesday. Baring a political tsunami, however, the GOP should beat back the late Democratic charge:

Rhode Island: Lincoln Chafee, America's most liberal Republican senator, will lose RI, which has not generated more than 40 percent of the popular vote for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. This very blue state will elect a blue senator (+1 for Democrats).

Pennsylvania: Two-term GOP incumbent Rick Santorum has run ten points behind Bob Casey for months. No reason to expect anything unexpected (+2 for Democrats).

Ohio: As much as I hate to see it, all the polling indicates that Republican incumbent Mike DeWine, an excellent senator, will fall to unabashedly ultra-liberal Sherrod Brown. Although I am still hoping for a miracle here, it looks like curtains for the center-right DeWine (+3 for Democrats).

Maryland: Although Steele has run a great race in Maryland (and I give him a slight chance for pulling off a huge upset), he is unlikely to win the seat vacated by Democrat Paul Sarbanes in the rock-sold blue state (no change, +3 for Democrats).

New Jersey: The other state in which a Republican candidate, Tom Kean, Jr, seemed in position to potentially pick up an opposition seat looks increasingly secure for the short-tenured Democratic incumbent, Bob Menendez (no change, +3 for Democrats).

Arizona: Republican incumbent Jon Kyl holds (no change, +3 for Democrats).

Montana: Scandal-plagued Republican incumbent, Conrad Burns, looked all but out of the race two weeks ago. He has come back. Montana is a strong red state. The President has campaigned for him. This is a true toss-up, but Burns has yet to hit 50 percent in any of the polls. Most likely, Burns falls just short. Tester wins by a nose (+4 for Democrats).

Which leaves the most important three races:

Virginia: I predicted a month ago that Allen would hold. Frankly, the contest appears much closer than I thought it would be at this point. No matter, I continue to pick VA for Republican incumbent George Allen (no change, +4 for Democrats).

Note: Many observers have called Missouri the bell-weather state--but Virginia is the state that Republicans really cannot afford to lose.

Tennessee: Although this race seemed extremely close even a week ago, the inherent Republican advantage seems to have caved in on the impressive Democratic candidate, Harold Ford. Bob Corker should hold the Republican seat vacated by retiring Majority Leader, Bill Frist (no change, +4 for Democrats).

Missouri: GOP Republican incumbent Jim Talent, who won election four years ago with a razor-thin margin, faces a dead-heat against an attractive Democratic challenger, Claire McCaskill. This contest may be the closest of the cycle. Both of these candidates have won and lost statewide elections by fractions of a percentage point. This race is impossible to call with any certainty, although there are some indications that the vote may be breaking against the stem-cell amendment and for McKaskill. On the other hand, if my calculations hold up to this point, this state will not determine control of the Senate. Having said all that, I pick Talent because he is an excellent senator, and I want him to win (no change, +4 for Democrats).

Republicans hold (51-49).
The list of Christian leaders who have fallen because of a sex scandal is too, too long. Today we add another name: Ted Haggard. Haggard is a nationally prominent figure, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and a leader against same-sex marriage. He also is pastor of New Life Church in Colorado, a megachurch.

The accusations come from a male prostitute who works as an "escort." He claims a three-year relationship, including sex and methamphetamine use. Haggard has admitted to buying meth, but claims he never used it; and admits to receiving a massage from the accuser, but not sex. He has resigned from the presidency of the NAE and is on adminstrative leave from his church. See this article.

Forget about the timing of the accusations. Since I have trouble believing in terrific coincidences, I suspect the accusations were timed to impact the elections, especially the same-sex marriage issues on the ballot. But that is not the important issue. The truth and integrity of the Christian ministry is the more important issue.

Haggard's claims so far sound much too lawyerly to me, rather than truly Christian contrition. He admits to the massage but not to sex: what was he thinking when he hired an escort and had a massage? He admits to buying meth but not to using it: again, what was he thinking when he bought it? Brother Haggard, you've done damage. Come clean publicly because you are a public figure; then, after repenting, leave the public eye and your big church. Go work in a Rescue Mission, Soup Kitchen, or some other non-glorious place.

Why do we have these scandals regularly? And why do we have so many, more even than make the national press? (thoughts below)

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The New York Times reveals today that IRAQ CLOSE TO NUCLEAR WEAPONS PRIOR TO INVASION that removed Saddam Hussein. Here.

Of course, that's not their headline, which reads: U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer (spinspinspinspin)

Here are some relevant paragraphs

But in recent weeks, the site [posting in English captured documents from Saddam's regime] has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

And, deep in the article

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

The Times, surprise, focuses the entire article on the release of the documents, which it describes as a major mistake that could help countries such as Iran build weapons themselves.

Big-time hat tip to Wizbang, and the sites linked to from there.

Kinda puts a crimp in the whole "Bush lied" thing.
btw, this morning I listened to world news while in my car twice from two different networks: not a peep about this article.

02/11: Mental Recess

When I was a kid, my favorite part of school was recess. I find I still need it today. So, in the midst of my crazy life, and this crazy election, and this crazy world, let's do recess.

Wizbang, in a similar mood, has posted a list of all-time favorite TV theme songs here. My list is below. Add yours in the comments if so inclined.

1. Mr. Lucky
2. Peter Gunn
3. Miami Vice
4. Ironside
5. The Mod Squad
6. Secret Agent
7. Beverly Hillbillies
8. Dukes of Hazard
9. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
10. Twilight Zone
In the context of talking about something else, Jihadwatch has these paragraphs

In 1948, the Armenian-American journalist Arthur A. Derounian, who infiltrated Nazi groups in America and wrote about his adventures in the bestseller Under Cover (published under the pseudonym John Roy Carlson), traveled to the Middle East, where he used the Nazi connections he had made to get in with Arab groups preparing to destroy the nascent State of Israel. He met the pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem (the one who met with Hitler and raised an SS squadron of Bosnian Muslims), Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna, and many other pivotal and fascinating figures -- all chronicled in his absorbing book From Cairo to Damascus.

And along the way he meets with German Nazi soldiers who have come to the Middle East to pursue their maniacal Jew-hatred. They expressed to him on several occasions their exasperation with the Muslim soldiers they were trying to aid: "These Arabs make big talk," one told Derounian, "but do not fight like an army. They are not trained. They do not know discipline." Derounian encountered Arab warriors who would fire their guns into the distance indiscriminately until their ammunition was all gone, and then retire from their positions; others who stormed a kibbutz and settled down to gorge themselves on the chickens there, only to be overwhelmed by a surprise counterattack. Read the book and you'll find many other such examples.

I had known about the Baath Party (Syria and formerly Iraq) origins among Arabs influenced in the 1930s by European fascism. (Syria sheltered one of the last Nazi war criminals on the lam). And, I knew a bit about the Jerusalem Mufti and Hitler. This is the first I've heard of Nazi soldiers winding up in the Mideast after the war.
The Washington Times carries this UPI story here. A portion:

A foiled British terror plot to blow up 10 passenger aircraft with liquid bombs was meant to occur over U.S. cities, a senior FBI official says.
Mark Mershon, head of the FBI's New York field office, made the observation at the Infosecurity 2006 conference in New York on Oct. 24. The conference was reported on this week by Government Security News.
"The plan was bring them down over U.S. cities, not over the ocean," Mershon said, adding the plotters' goal was to maximize damage and loss of life.

Ironic perhaps, frustrating certainly, that success has led to complacency by many regarding the threat we live under.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
I do not think I ever have linked to an Ann Coulter essay. Usually I am in agreement with her, so its a matter of style rather than of substance. As I hope you've noticed, this blog aims for an even-handed, thoughtful tone.

But, her recent column in Jewish World Review is worth reading, if only for one question she poses: will any Democrat gains next week match historic patterns for 6th year presidential terms?

In other words, the proper context in which to understand any shifts in seats next week is not merely the change from one Congress to another, but how well the party out of power has done in off-year elections, especially 6th year elections.

And, it is beginning to look like even if Dems make gains, they will fall short of historic patterns. So, what's wrong with the Democrats? And if they pick up seats, is it really a mandate?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A wonkish debate is going on right now among campaign insiders: Will the GOP turn-out machine pull this rabbit out of the hat? Because Karl Rove insists that he is supremely confident that the GOP will hold the House, he has a lot of people in-the-know (who probably should know better) very nervous. Is this guy really going to beat us again?

An aside: on the lunatic-fringe side of the ledger, a debate is going on right now as to whether Karl Rove and Halliburton can steal the election through "rigged" voting machines. This debate among conspiracy theorists presents a very real problem, if, somehow, the Republicans were to hold the House. That is, we could very well see an irate splinter of the Democratic Party's most radical element take to the streets in mass protest.

Back to the more sane debate: the debate is really between the forces of "turn out" and the adherents of "persuasion." A few years ago, we heard non-stop chatter about "swing voters." Remember that? Those voters who could be persuaded regarding issues like the economy, health care, deficit spending, national defense, etc. The "independents."

However, for the last few election cycles, the buzz word has been turn out. The new conventional wisdom held that Americans had basically made up their minds about politics. They could not be persuaded; they could only be mobilized to vote or depressed into staying home. So we have heard statements like this: "Hillary energizes the Republican base;" and "the Gay Marriage issue is designed to mobilize evangelicals" (who, if they come out, will vote Republican).

Well, which is it: persuasion or turn out? The answer is "YES." It is both. This is why the GOP is in trouble. Americans are extremely unhappy with Iraq, the Bush administration and the Republican Congress. For all the talk about turn out and party infrastructure, policy and character still matter.

The GOP forgot that Ronald Reagan beat the media and the awesome Democratic infrastructure (without the help of a friendly conservative alternative media, conservative think-tanks or Karl Rove's ground forces). How did he do it? Ronald Reagan brought a cogent message to the American people with style, sincerity and wit.

The only saving grace for the GOP this time around is that the Democrats are just as lost as the Republicans. Neither John Kerry, Howard Dean or Nancy Pelosi approaches the sublime political artistry of Ronald Reagan.

The silver lining: we may be on the verge of a new cycle in which policy and results matter to politicians once again.
More Islamic tolerance on display in Iraq. The Mandaeans are experiencing severe persecution at the hands of Muslims. The Mandaeans are a small religion that claim descent from John the Baptist. Cardinal George Pell speaks here on behalf of more being admitted as refugees to Australia.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Incontrovertible evidence that we dodged a bullet in 2004:

"I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended."

--From the tortured soul of John F. Kerry (the brief statement in its entirety).

Caution: this story has run its course. Republicans should not hang their hats on this Kerry debacle, which will not turn the tide of this election.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Charlie Cook (courtesy of National Journal):

"The bottom line is that at this stage, Republicans should consider themselves lucky if their net losses stay in the 20-25 range in the House, four or five seats in the Senate, and between five and eight governorships. It would be a tough election, losing their majorities in the House and governorships, but it would fall short of the devastating losses that are possible. But the chances of this thing going bigger -- far bigger -- still exist, and there are quite a few veteran Republican strategists, people who have done tons of races in all kinds of states and districts for many years, who are bracing themselves for that distinct possibility."

The analysis piece in its entirety.

Remember: Charlie Cook is the best (and he generally leans Republican).

Free Republic has posted the text of Rick Santorum's new speech online here. I believe this speech is Churchillian in its open-eyed honesty. Once again the clouds are gathering.

Here are a few portions below:

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Six days out.

The Kerry misstatement is a gift. I am convinced that Kerry did not mean what he said; just as I am convinced that George Allen had no idea what macaca meant. But there they are: on tape; both running off at the mouth. We are definitely living in the "You Tube" world. For Kerry, as it was for Allen as well, there is justice in this massive misunderstanding. The intended joke that misfired was a shot at President Bush's education, which, ironically, is very similar to Kerry's--only better. Kerry in his own inimitable and humor-challenged style blew the line. Once again, who's the dummy here? Who is the king of the malaprop?

An aside: part of the problem for Kerry on this PR disaster is that what he actually said (as opposed to what he really meant) resonates with a sub-set of commonly held beliefs among some of his adherents. The Kerry advocates on C-SPAN this morning were divided between callers explaining what he actually meant and those defending him on the merits of the assertion that the army was for the poor and uneducated.

But I am not sure how long this story can play. Without the Washington Post and/or NYT behind it, this moment will lose its momentum fairly quickly. This will not hang around in the MSM like the Allen story. Admittedly, I am surprised at the attention it has garnered already--due, in part, to the astuteness of the White House (and the helpful assist from John McCain) and, more importantly, to Kerry's clumsy and bombastic denials and non-apology.

Again, the irony is thick: "Bush is a dummy; I am smart." But here I go again falling into the pit I built for my idiotic opponent. "I can't believe I am losing to this guy."

For the record, an aggressive NJ state supreme court ruling in favor of same-sex coupling was also a gift. But if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound? That story does not seem to have any traction.

Bottom line: Don't count on either of those missteps to save the GOP.

There was a story making the rounds yesterday that indicates that the election coverage this cycle favors the Democrats. And we are fairly sure that cigarettes are bad for your health. I understand the psychological need for stories that confirm what we already know (see: we're not crazy), but we need to get beyond that.

For a long time we have known that no GOP candidate can win nationally without finding a way around the mainstream media. Just do it!

Disturbing thought on early voting: All the good voters have voted. The voters, who are left, for the most part, are the ones who care the least and are the least informed. If they are "guilted" into voting, they will make their decisions based on which candidate moves them the most emotionally with the most effective television ad or some other campaign tool.

One last thing: Who's going to win? Still too tough to call. The Cook Political Report is suggesting a 30-vote swing in favor of the Democrats in the House and perhaps loss of control in the Senate as possible-to-likely. That is bad news for the GOP. Cook doesn't go off half-cocked.

The President is amazing. I love that he and Rove have defied the conventional wisdom and attacked. The Democratic Party dared him to make this about him, and he accepted the challenge (after this is all over, we may say he "took the bait"). You would think that a president with an approval rating in the high-30s would be foolish to nationalize a congressional election--but the truth is that he had little choice. If the option was talk about Foley, corruption and the abominable Republican Congress or talk about Bush, the President and Rove were right to pick Bush.

No one who understands what is happening right now on the ground in 435 congressional districts is talking about demoralized cultural conservatives. The GOP base in now on the march. Rove touts the structural advantage of the Republican campaign apparatus and incumbency, and he is right, but it remains to be seen if that is enough.

We will see. We do not have long to wait. This time next week.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
With the Kansas City Star reporting the Missouri Senate race between Talent (R) and McCaskill (D) a dead heat at 49/49, perhaps a relatively small thing could tip the scales. Gateway Pundit has this report of the emerging scandal in which a McCaskill ad uses an Iraq veteran making what more and more appear to be false claims.

I am a Missouri native. For some context: there are lots of veterans in Missouri, including large numbers of folks who have served in Iraq through the Guard. Sullivan County, my home, has a small population (Milan, the county seat has less than 2000 people and it is far and away the largest town) but a large billboard on the courthouse lawn with the names of those who have or are serving in combat zones since 9/11. Its a long list for a small population county. Anything that a veteran and/or service member could take offense at is potentially big.

And, I'm sure Missouri Dems want to bind and gag John Kerry until after the election.