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Hillary Clinton is still the most likely person to be elected the forty-fourth president of the United States in 2008 (see Part I). If she is elected, America will endure (see Part II); perhaps, we will even prosper.

Clinton-44: Part III. Why it might even be good:

1. We have reason to hope that Republicans will better inhabit the role of loyal opposition than the erstwhile players.

2. Most importantly, if Mrs. Clinton remains faithful to her record and rhetoric, her election will commit the Democratic Party en masse to the global war on terror. Just as Harry Truman and the Democrats owned the Cold War until Dwight Eisenhower came along and embraced the policy, the War on Terror at this moment is a unilateral Republican policy. It is vital for American survival that the Democrats have a partisan interest in our success in the larger war on terror.

A crucial time. Mrs. Clinton is at a crossroads right now. Does she stand pat on her Iraq position? Or should she hedge her bet? During the next few days, President Bush will reaffirm his commitment to winning in Iraq, and he will announce a "surge" in troops (very likely a number larger than many of us are prepared for). Will Mrs. Clinton support the President? Or will she join John Kerry and John Edwards, who have both repudiated their 2002 support and are vocally advocating for an expedited withdrawal? Hillary's choice will be the most important decision of her political career, and not merely vital for her personally; her determination goes a long way toward shaping our future as a nation.

Her political calculation: To win the general election, Mrs. Clinton must cast herself as a moderate Democrat, tough on terror, strong on defense, realistic on taxes and sane on the cultural issues. She has steadily constructed this political persona for almost a decade. For the most part, she has succeeded grandly. As a result, most of the other moderate Democrats are fleeing the field, leaving the canvass to Mrs. Clinton.

An aside: Most handicappers have this race down to Hillary and Barack Obama (the candidate who has burst onto the political scene from nowhere to become a viable choice with astonishing momentum). Not invested in the original decision to invade Iraq, Obama has made the safest bet: he opposes increased troop levels (his statement here ). This is clearly the best route for him, as it highlights his original opposition to what has become an incredibly unpopular military action. His compelling answer to the inevitable question of experience: "My opponent may have a few years on me, but I have enough common sense to avoid a debacle." Notwithstanding, there are weaknesses in this strategy (see below).

Back to Clinton: Although she wobbled a bit this week, significantly, Mrs. Clinton has not laid the predicate for supporting a precipitous exit from Iraq. Why has she remained firm thus far? She understands that success in Iraq is in her interest. Best case scenario for candidate Clinton in 2008? A passive Iraq quietly building strength below the media radar. In fairness to her, she also understands that wresting a stable Iraq from the current chaos is in America's vital national interests, comprehending the catastrophic consequences of a humiliating withdrawal.

The Politics: Mrs. Clinton is the frontrunner. She is a superstar; she sits atop the best organization in the contest; she has unlimited access to money, and she (in partnership with her husband) has spent a lifetime locking in endorsements, racking up favors and collecting promises from all the key players in the upcoming primary battle. But she has a dilemma. If a volatile Iraq continues to deteriorate through January 2008, her opponents in the Democratic primary will inflict monumental damage depicting her as George Bush's enabler. Can she survive that? Impossible to say.

On the other hand, staying the course may be the wiser political move. She is not in a desperate position like John Edwards, who must publicly and repeatedly repent to resurrect his 2008 viability. She does not need to appeal to the most radical elements in her party, who detest the war. A degree of hawkishness and faith in American good intentions helps her in the heartland.

The McCain factor: More significantly, if she abandons ship, and the plan to increase troop levels succeeds, she is in real trouble in the general election. Surprisingly, John McCain seems now in position to secure the Republican nomination. Increased troop strength is John McCain's recipe for success. He has been sounding this call for three years. If this last gasp works, John McCain (with the willing aid of President Bush) takes full credit for the change in tactics. If Hillary deserts the cause at this late date, and the new plan works, she cedes the foreign policy high ground to her Republican opponent. On the other hand, if she stays true to her previous commitment, she fights McCain on even ground in November of 2008.

This is an extremely vexing political decision. But it is momentous. If she holds firm, the Democratic Senate leadership in the Senate will back her. With the support of Mrs. Clinton, Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman, the United States gets one more chance to snatch victory from the awful struggle in Iraq.

Dick Morris wrote an insightful piece a few weeks ago (read it here courtesy of Jewish World Review).

He begs us not to elect Hillary Clinton and enumerates a long list of reasons why she would be a disaster. Undoubtedly, he has a lot of this right. I agree with much of his unflattering character profile. Morris is a canny operator and an insightful observer with expert knowledge of the Clintons. Having said that, Morris's analysis is always flavored by his hatred for them (especially intense for Hillary), which clouds his judgment.

Even so, Morris points out that Hillary, in contradistinction to Bill, is rigid and stubborn, inclined to make up her mind and "charge ahead and do what she thinks needs to be done, the torpedoes be damned." Morris sees this as a horrendous flaw, and I would agree with him in ordinary circumstances; however, in this case it may work to our national benefit. We need stubborn more than practical right now.
Category: Campaign 2008.1
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Does the Ninth Ward in hurricane-devastated New Orleans prove John Edwards's "Two Americas" thesis?

He thinks so. There he was today, against a backdrop of African American young people, calling for "action" and "responsibility" and announcing his candidacy for Activist in Chief.

Intent on "transforming" America, Edwards could have been reading from candidate George Bush's playbook, when he praised "faith-based groups, charitable groups and volunteers" for taking action and making a difference in New Orleans. Holding forth in his blue jeans and open-at-the-neck dark blue button-down, Edwards exuded youthful energy and earthy common sense: "don't wait for government. The people know what to do. Let's take action and responsibility now."

His Platform:

1. Leave Iraq NOW! No escalation.

2. "Take the lead on genocide in Sudan and Darfur."

3. Stop Global Warming by conserving energy.

4. Universal healthcare for all Americans (to start).

5. Eradication of Poverty.

My Analysis:

Edwards is an interesting person. The attending media, however, seemed cynical about his chances. I am too. I think he turned out to be a dud in the 2004 general election campaign, and I concur with the conventional wisdom that the race is already down to two candidates (and he is not one of them).

On the other hand, Edwards is attractive. He connects. He artfully blends his stolid progressive political menu with conservative rhetoric and personal charisma. Watching the C-SPAN coverage of him after the press conference reveals a candidate who has a Bill Clinton-like ability to press the flesh. He was the great surprise of the 2004 campaign. He could certainly exceed expectations again.

Having said that, Edwards is more likely the Gary Hart of this campaign (Monkey Business aside). He is the guy who seemed so fresh four years ago, but you cannot quite remember why exactly you were so impressed back then.

His main problem is that aside from his charm and winning smile, he doesn't offer much in the way of new ideas. As Walter Mondale asked of Gary Hart in 1984: "Where's the beef?" How exactly do we go about eradicating poverty and curtailing global warming? How do we pay for universal healthcare?

Well, we are going to raise taxes on the wealthy and shut down the government largesse to the oil companies. That is a big applause line--but is it a real solution? Since Edwards kicked off his campaign in South Louisiana, I suppose it is appropriate to remember Huey Long, who promised to make every man in America a king. When numbers crunchers, scratching their heads, asked him how he would pay for it, Long replied: "You don't have to understand it; just shut you damn eyes and believe it."
“I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers."
— On becoming president, August 1974.

Ford pic

From the Washington Post: "Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., 93, who became the 38th president of the United States as a result of some of the most extraordinary events in U.S. history and sought to restore the nation's confidence in the basic institutions of government, has died..." (read the full obit from the Post here).

From the New York Times: "Former President Gerald R. Ford, who was thrust into the presidency in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal but who lost his own bid for election after pardoning President Richard M. Nixon, has died....

"He was 93, making him the longest living former president, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who died in 2004, by just over a month" (the full obit from the NYT here).

The Okie Gardener offered this insightful remembrance of Ford last month, when he eclipsed Ronald Reagan as the longest living former president. The Gardener also included this excellent tribute from Gleaves Whitney courtesy of National Review Online.

My Recollection:

Gerald Ford was the first president to whom I actually paid attention. I was nine years-old when he assumed the position. The media were merciless in their derision of the unelected president who pardoned Richard Nixon. I remember well the Chevy Chase bit on SNL in which the "president" oafishly stumbled around the oval office, speaking nonsense, wearing his football helmet and trying to receive snaps from his stuffed dog, Liberty. I don't think I realized at the time that Ford was the most decorated athlete of the presidents (1934 MVP of the Michigan football Wolverines); he was also a ten battle-star Navy veteran of WWII, and he graduated from Yale Law School with a B average (back when that was an impressive accomplishment).

After falling in love politically with Ronald Reagan during his campaign for the GOP nomination in 1976, I realized that I would be a Republican come hell or high water when Gerald Ford ascended the stage triumphant in Kansas City. Watching from my home in Southern California, on a tiny early-model color TV (at one point my cousin observed: "look the President is green"), I came to understand unequivocally that these were my people.

The Ford presidency was brief but mature. He was honest. He was forgiving. His later rapprochement with Jimmy Carter, who defeated him in 1976, was an example of his character. Like Adams and Jefferson or Bush-41 and Clinton-42, I give the credit for this famous reconciliation to the loser (it is much easier to be gracious in victory); it is the vanquished who must overcome the sense that they were defeated through unprincipled ambition and injurious machinations on the part of their opponent. Ford emerged eventually from 1976 with no public bitterness.

As Henry Kissinger observed: "Providence smiled on Americans when, seemingly by happenstance, it brought forward a president who embodied our nation's deepest and simplest values."

Jerry Ford was unabashedly the quintessential American.

I invite you to post your own thoughts and tributes.

24/12: Our Mission

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
We are engaged in a conversation about American life through the lenses of history, culture, politics and religion.

The Okie Gardener and I envisioned this blog as an electronic salon where reasonable and earnest people might come and exchange beliefs and impressions regarding important issues. We understood that we would not agree with one another all the time nor would we always agree with the greater community we hoped to create. No matter, we envisioned ourselves arguing with conviction and disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Language is an imperfect form of communication. For a conscientious historian, clarity is paramount. Notwithstanding, even with attention to detail, written communication provides endless opportunities for misunderstanding. In that regard, we have embarked on a journey fraught with risk. Truly, the essence of communication is not in what you say, it is in what people hear. For that reason, I ask my friends, family, and our reading community to hear us kindly.

This seems a fitting time to extend our thanks to all of you who participate in this discussion in that spirit. We appreciate the myriad gifts you bring to this table. We wish you the blessings of the Christmas season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

May God bless our endeavor and protect us all in the coming year.

Note: I have modified this statement slightly since I originally posted it as a Christmas and New Year greeting.
I missed observing Stalin's birthday yesterday. What a colossus of evil. For an accounting of the deaths for which he is responsible see this post on Old War Dogs. Link from the Rott.

The 20th century showed the range of human potential. Poe was right--the human heart and mind hold terrors. What things someone will do with genetic engineering.
Gateway Pundit has the story on the recent executions in Iran, with links.

23/12: Making Soil

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Yesterday was sunny and mild here in Southwest Oklahoma. Some of our hardy plants were greening a bit, after 3-4" of rain several days ago. December came in with sleet and 4" of snow followed by cold temperatures, but now we are mild again.

Late in the afternoon I turned my compost pile. Using my garden fork I moved the blackened, crumbly, hard-to-tell-what-it-was-before-rotting bottom of the heap to the top, and the leaves, grapefruit rinds, zinnia stems, coffee grounds to the bottom, with some mixing throughout.

I enjoy making compost. I get a deep satisfaction from improving the soil in my garden. Of the basic elements necessary for life--sunshine, water, air, soil--only rich, black soil can I make. When I work the compost into my garden early this spring, along with some manure, I'll feel like a partner in creation. (more below)

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The Final Solution reached into Arab and Muslim lands. Some of this I knew, some I did not. From an op-ed by Max Boot in the LA Times here. Link from LGF. Portions of the essay:

POINTLESS though it may be to argue with a madman, it is worth noting that Muslims were not as blameless in the genocide of the Jews as Ahmadinejad and his ilk would have it. Arabs were, on a small scale, cheerleaders and enablers of the Final Solution. The most famous example was Haj Amin Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem (and uncle of Yasser Arafat), who took refuge in Berlin in World War II. A rabid Nazi, he personally lobbied Hitler to kill as many Jews as possible and even helped out by recruiting Bosnian Muslims to serve in the Waffen SS.

Robert Satloff, one of the world's smartest Arabists, reveals other links between the Arabs and the Holocaust in his groundbreaking new book, "Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach Into Arab Lands." He shows how the Nazis set up the machinery of death in North Africa. Although "only" 4,000 to 5,000 Jews died before the Allies liberated the area in 1943, many more were consigned to forced labor camps in hellish conditions.

"Arabs played a role at every level," Satloff wrote. "Some went door to door with the Germans, pointing out Jews for arrest. Others led Jewish workers on forced marches or served as overseers at labor camps."

. . .

Even worse, while Europe has disowned its terrible history, the Nazis continue to be glorified in the Middle East. ("Mein Kampf" is a perennial bestseller in the region.) Nowhere else in the world is Holocaust denial so prevalent. Ahmadinejad deserves thanks for calling the world's attention to this pervasive sickness
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Earlier A Waco Farmer challenged us, partners and readers, to articulate a coherent political philosophy. I am easing into the challenge first by stating what I am not, and why not. Libertarian. Socialist.

In a nutshell, I am not a Libertarian because I perceive that political philosophy to have a faulty view of human nature: it thinks of humans essentially as isolated atoms without an appreciation for the social aspect of our nature. And, it tends to see sin only in structures like government, not in the hearts of individuals.

In a nutshell, I am not a Socialist because I perceive that political philosophy to have a faulty view of human nature: it thinks that humans can behave altruistically for the common good, and, not have their virtue corrupted by dependency.

Today Fascist, Nazi, or Communist. While these may seem diverse political philosophies, in my view they are foxes tied together at the tails, capable of burning down all that is good in life (let's see which commentator can recognize the biblical reference).

First, all of them put a nearly absolute priority on the collective, the social, over against the individual. In other words, they are the mirror image error of Libertarianism. If the latter system absolutizes the individual, these three absolutize the state. They misread the human situation, that of social individuals.

Second, all of them are totalitarian systems. That is, they are philosophies and ways of life that seek to explain and to govern every aspect of human life. They therefore make the claim of omnicompetance for human systems, and try to exert omnipotence over individual life. If Libertarianism is individual hubris, this is social hubris.
New in Print: Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide. Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why It Matters
By Arthur C. Brooks
(Basic, 250 pages, $26)

Bosque Boys favorite Wilfred M. McClay offers a very fine review of the book in today's Wall Street Journal.

McClay writes:

"If Mr. Brooks is right, our era's common sense of the matter -- that the political left is more compassionate than the political right, and that America is a remarkably ungenerous nation by world standards -- is demonstrably inaccurate. In fact, Sen. John Edwards's repeated claim that there are "two Americas" turns out to be correct but misstated: The line of separation runs most saliently not between the haves and have-nots but between the gives and the give-nots, between those Americans who respond to social needs with their own money and time and those who do not."

"The correlations are strong and unmistakable. For example, people who attend houses of worship regularly are 25% more likely to give and 23% more likely to volunteer, and the religious give away four times the amounts of money that the secular do. Working families without welfare support give three times as much to charity as do welfare families with the same total income. Conservative households give 30% more to charity than liberal households. Redistributionist liberals give about a fourth of what redistributionist skeptics give. And perhaps most interesting of all, in states in which George W. Bush got more than 60% of the 2004 vote, charitable giving averaged 3.5% of income, as compared with states in which Mr. Bush got less than 40% of the vote, in which the giving averaged a mere 1.9% of income. So much for the idea that red states are red in tooth and claw."

I agree with McClay's articulate backhand to sociology as a discipline: "The social sciences even at their best do nothing but restate the obvious in obscure language." However, he heartily recommends this effort as a "lucidly written, carefully distilled and persuasively cogent work, a tidy time-bomb of a book whose findings will, if they are taken to heart, transform much of what we thought we knew about charity and the social good in America...."

We'll see. If nothing else, we can expect a needed conversation and perhaps reevaluation of some hackneyed negative stereotypes regarding conservatives.

Bill McClay's review online in full here (registration may be required).
From Jay Winik, "The Day Lincoln Was Shot," in I Wish I'd Been There, Byron Hollingshead, ed:

"Throughout his wartorn years, Abraham Lincoln had been pilloried by his critics as a duffer, mocked as poor white trash, criticized for ignorance of everything but Illinois politics. And as he steered the Union around one obstacle after another, eduring generals who wouldn't fight and Northerners deeply opposed to the niggers, Lincoln was often criticized by the press (there is a cowardly imbecile at the head of the government), scorned by Washington society, branded a dictator, and even defied by his own military men. If that weren't bad enough, he had to repeatedly weather a storm of antiwar protest arrayed against him--that is, when he wasn't being accused of shredding the Constitution."

George Bush is no Abe Lincoln. He is no Harry Truman. But he is president of the United States during a time of war; it is a tough job.

Press on, Mr. President. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.
The New York Sun has this story on Sandy "Oops" Berger stealing classified documents. Link from Powerline.

We may never know what materials he destroyed. Good guess--things reflecting unfavorably on Bubba and terrorism. Do we really want the Clintons and company back in the White House?
I am easing my way into Farmer's challenge to articulate a coherent political philosophy by first stating what I am not and why. Earlier I wrote Why I am not a Libertarian.

My Christianity makes Socialism attractive to me. In the Old Testament one sees that the people of Israel were to have a strong sense of community, that greedy individuals who took advantage of others were condemned, and that there were regulations on economic life (e.g. no charging interest to a fellow Israelite, no harvesting the corners of the field and allowing the poor (landless) access to those corners and to glean from the whole field. In the New Testament those who heard Christ's teaching thought that communal living was the natural expression thereof--the first church in Jerusalem practiced community of goods at least to an extent. Early capitalism was opposed to numerous practices of the Church, and even the Puritans were critics of capitalism at least in its laissez-faire form. And, Christian politicians, especially in Europe, have tended toward Socialism.

So, why am I not a Socialist? Human sin. Sin makes us naturally self-centered and self-seeking. Even Christians struggle with sin. Socialism may be a great theory if everyone behaved in an altruistic manner. But, the reality is that relatively few will work for the good of all. We are better motivated by self-interest. And, many will take advantage of a socialist system by not pulling their own weight, allowing others to do their share of production. Socialism as a social/governmental system makes shipwreck on the reef of human sin.

Socialism as practiced in Europe also has tended create an unhealthy dependency upon the state government, to the detriment of individuals, families, and non-governmental organizations.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
What would happen if the President held a press conference (which, by the way, are becoming more and more regular), and he repeatedly spoke of working with the new Congress, agreed in principle to an increase in the minimum wage, admitted that his Iraq policy was not successful and committed to changing tactics through a calm and studied process?

Would the headlines read?

Bush Extends Hand Across the Aisle to Democrats in Congress.

Bush Admits Mistakes in Iraq, Listening to All Voices in Attempt to Craft Successful Policy.

Citing Strong Economy, President Agrees to Minimum Wage Increase and Commits to Tax Policy to Promote Continued Growth.

Or how about this one?

President Bush Stalwart on Iraq Despite Setbacks.

Well, he did give a press conference (transcript here) in which he did all of the things cited above. And here are the real headlines:

Washington Post: President Confronts Dissent on Troop Levels: Bush Indicates Military Won't Dictate Numbers; Top General to Retire.

Time Magazine: Bush and the Generals: A Growing Split?: In his press conference, the President said he would "listen" to his commanders. But they're starting to talk back on Iraq.

Columnist Margaret Carlson for Bloomberg News: US Losing Sleep Over Aimless Bush.

Actually, two national newspapers not known for objectivity when it comes to George Bush actually did very well in capturing the import of the moment:

LA Times: Bush acknowledges 'difficult year' in Iraq: President acknowledges sectarian violence but says victory is possible.

NYT: Bush Says Victory in Iraq Is Still Possible.

Note on NYT: the above headline and story have disappeared. The front page video story as of now: General [John Abizaid] Opposes Adding to Forces (which conforms better to the storyline of the day). Although a complete viewing of the Abizaid video yields the commanding general much more in agreement with the President's goals than the headline would suggest.

There are alternatives to the MSM for field reporting. Bill Roggio has been emedding with troops for a while and reporting back through the internet. He depends on donations to continue his work. I recommend his reporting. A recent post is here.

I like the phrase used by some for the new possibilities made possible by electronic communication: An Army of Davids.
Under-Reported News Story of the week so far: polls in Afghanistan show strong support for Karzai government and also for allied troops. Optimism that Taliban will not return to power. Story covered by Gateway Pundit.

19/12: New Book

New to my Christmas wish list, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 by Mark Moyar on Cambridge University Press, 2006. The buzz on this book has me interested. It seems to be revisionist at several points, and interestingly, is a major history of that war (2 volumes planned) by one who did not live through that time. Maybe we are now far enough removed from Vietnam to gain good historical perspective. Anybody out there read this book yet?
Here is a link to LGF that will link you to a video expressing the anger toward jihadis that we need more of. Language warning.
To judge from CAIR press releases, one would think that Muslims were being hounded, harassed, and hung all over the US and in Europe. Not so. As I earlier pointed out, in the US it is much, much more dangerous to be a Jew.

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

The same is true in Great Britain. This article from the Telegraph on persecution of Jews. A major culprit seems to be Muslims.

Jewish people are four times more likely to be attacked because of their religion than Muslims, according to figures compiled by the police. One in 400 Jews compared to one in 1,700 Muslims are likely to be victims of "faith hate" attacks every year. The figure is based on data collected over three months in police areas accounting for half the Muslim and Jewish populations of England and Wales. The crimes range from assault and verbal abuse to criminal damage at places of worship.

. . .

Rabbi Alex Chapper, 33, was the victim of a "faith-hate" crime in July last year. He was returning from a synagogue in Ilford, Essex, with three Jewish friends after conducting a service. All were wearing skull caps. Seven Asian teenagers followed them down the road shouting "Yehudi", which means Jew in Arabic. One of them shouted, "We are Pakistani, you are Jewish. We are going to kill you", before punching Rabbi Chapper in the face and hitting one of his friends over the head with a bottle.

"It was very frightening, we were all very shaken," said the rabbi. "I thought we were going to get seriously hurt but someone threatened to call the police and they ran off.

"We identified the youths and told the police but they were never prosecuted. They just did not seem interested. I feel very let down."

A Waco Farmer has challenged us to lay out our political philosophy. I am easing into that challenge. Today: why I am not a Libertarian.

For readers of this blog, you knew already that I favor some restrictions on personal behavior. In this post I argued against legalization of prostitution (following a post arguing for legalization of marijuana).

As a pastor I work with lots of families. Over my thirty years of ministry I have seen accelerating disintegration of families. More and more children are simply growing up, not being raised.

Our culture creates a toxic environment for children. They are exposed to explicit sexuality in every imaginable form. They are exposed to violence through every medium at capitalism's disposal. There are few positive role models in entertainment, and very many poor models. Immature and violent and misogynistic messages are transmitted by MTV and rap music.

It is not enough to say that parents must monitor what their children watch or participate in. Too, too many of our children are in dysfunctional family situations. Their lives chaotic. They have no effective parental control.

And why should those raising children do so under siege? Is the production of healthy citizens a social good? Then why is society not organized to support positive child raising, instead of arrayed against it? This is not a problem that can be solved through free markets.

I am in favor of social policy that facilitates the raising of healthy citizens. That means that I am in favor of censorship. I am, therefore, not a Libertarian.
Last week, in a post I eventually deleted ("Project Big Rock Candy Mountain"), I weighed in on how ridiculous and cruel the world of partisan politics can be to a sitting president. I chose irony as my primary method of expression. On many levels, the piece failed.

ANOTHER TRY: hard, cold and incontrovertible facts as to why much of the criticism leveled at President Bush is the product of political myopia, partisanship and flat-out disingenuousness.

1. George Bush is not dumb. He is one of the best-educated men to hold the office of President of the United States. Every objective measure indicates that he is a man of well-above-average intelligence. Moreover, he is surrounded by the best and the brightest advisors our nation has to offer.

An aside: it should go without saying, of course, that brilliant men often conjure up plans that are not fool proof. And no one will deny that brilliant men are capable of making dumb mistakes. When this happens we should hold our leaders and decision makers accountable.

However, there is a notion that slinks around in these discussions that smart people (Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore for example) could easily solve the dilemmas that the President faces. This is a ridiculous and insidious political conceit. Those who contribute to or condone this destructive calumny should be ashamed.

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Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today, Real Clear Politics features Charles Krauthammer's address to the Foreign Policy Research Institute from November 14, 2006 (full address here).

Some highlights:

"We are now in a period of confusion and disorientation, almost despair. I think it is worthwhile to look back historically to see how we got to where we are today."

"The Bush Doctrine held that besides attacking the immediate enemy who had perpetrated 9/11, it would have to engage in a larger enterprise of changing the underlying conditions which had given birth to this idea of Islamic radicalism, and to change the conditions that had allowed it to recruit and breed, particularly in the Arab world."

"Unless it [the Arab world] was somehow encouraged and brought along on that march [economic and political modernization], it would remain recalcitrant, alienated, oppressed, tyrannical, and the place from which the kind of atavistic attacks on America and the West that we have seen on 9/11 and since would continue.

"That's why the entire enterprise of changing the culture of the Arab world was undertaken. It was, as I and others had said at the time, a radical idea, an arrogant idea, a risky idea. But it was also the only idea of any coherence and consistency that anyone has advanced on how to change the underlying conditions that had led to 9/11 and ultimately to prevent the kind of conditions that would lead to a second 9/11."

"What we have seen [after three years of great successes], however, in the last almost two years now is what I think historians will write of as the setback.

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Understanding someone means attempting to discover what that person means by his or her speech. Not what you first think the utterance might mean. Take the word "innocent." Here is a link to a video of a BBC interview with a radical Muslim. In the interview he affirms that non-Muslims are by definition not innocent since they have rejected Islam.

So, therefore, please be aware that in the mind of a radical Islamist, no Western civilian is really an innocent life. What you mean by "innocent life," is not the same thing that a radical Muslim means by "innocent life."

In commenting on this video, Jihadwatch observes "Choudhury can and no doubt does easily support his view from the Qur'an, in which Jews and Christians are under Allah's curse (9:30) and unbelievers are the "vilest of creatures" (98:6)."
Tagging on to the previous post on topic, this link is to a 2004 note in Middle East Quarterly on the supposed influence of the book The Arab Mind on Neocons. The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist, is a book first published in 1973 with very politically incorrect conclusions.

The 2002 edition contains a forward that summarizes the book. Full text of the forward is at the above link. A portion is below, though I encourage you to go to the link and read the entire forward.

» Read More

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
A great, great Hanukkah story from Natan Sharansky, courtesy of Powerline. May God bless us all.

Two days ago Real Clear Politics featured Timothy Garton Ash's blistering analysis of where we are in Iraq:

"What an amazing bloody catastrophe. The Bush administration's policy towards the Middle East over the five years since 9/11 is culminating in a multiple train crash. Never in the field of human conflict was so little achieved by so great a country at such vast expense. In every vital area of the wider Middle East, American policy over the last five years has taken a bad situation and made it worse."

Sobering observations from a voice not unsympathetic to the United States and George Bush. You should read the full essay (linked here).

However, after you read the essay--and have given it serious consideration--come back in off the ledge. Things in Iraq are bad, but with a little luck we will avoid Armageddon. Just as the graveyards are filled with indispensable men, history is littered with impossible situations--but here we are. And we are likely to survive this troubling time as well.

George Bush is no worse off than Harry Truman was in December of 1950. After suffering humiliating losses at the hands of the Republicans in the midterm elections that fall, Truman woke up one morning in late November to the news that hundreds of thousands of Chinese had crossed the Yalu River and completely turned the tide of the Korean War. American forces were in full retreat. The President's commanding general counseled that a wider war was the only option, and he seemed intent on not taking "no" for an answer. On the other hand, the joint chiefs warned that a wider war in Asia was unwinable. The President faced a cataclysmic crisis in which there were no good answers; moreover, the entire post-war strategy of containment and commitment to fighting communist aggression hung in the balance.

Truman did not find a way to win the war in Korea. He could do no better than a bloody two-year stalemate that cost more than 30,000 American lives and a swath of destruction and despair for the residents of the Korean peninsula. In the end, Truman could not even find a path out of Korea (he would leave that to a Republican administration swept into the Oval Office in 1952). More than fifty years later, Korea is still a festering sore.

There are some, undoubtedly, who would say that Truman erred in not following the advice of Douglas MacArthur and taking on the Chinese and Soviets in one final horrific battle between good and evil.

I am of the opinion that Truman did the right thing. He hung tough. He did not panic. He spent the next two years "suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," as well as dealing with the consequences of his own decisions that had turned sour.

Truman played it tough but safe. He did not bet it all. He took the long view, understanding (maybe hoping is more accurate) that the American system, over time, would win the all-important bipolar contest of ideologies.

We must hang tough--but we need not be reckless. We are embarked in an extremely long-term battle of ideologies. The race is not always to the swiftest--but to the one who endures. We must endure.
A question I have raised before. See this piece by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the LA Times. A portion of the article.

ONE DAY IN 1994, when I was living in Ede, a small town in Holland, I got a visit from my half-sister. She and I were both immigrants from Somalia and had both applied for asylum in Holland. I was granted it; she was denied. The fact that I got asylum gave me the opportunity to study. My half-sister couldn't.

In order for me to be admitted to the university I wanted to attend, I needed to pass three courses: a language course, a civics course and a history course. It was in the preparatory history course that I, for the first time, heard of the Holocaust. I was 24 years old at that time, and my half-sister was 21.

In those days, the daily news was filled with the Rwandan genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. On the day that my half-sister visited me, my head was reeling from what happened to 6 million Jews in Germany, Holland, France and Eastern Europe.

I learned that innocent men, women and children were separated from each other. Stars pinned to their shoulders, transported by train to camps, they were gassed for no other reason than for being Jewish.

I saw pictures of masses of skeletons, even of kids. I heard horrifying accounts of some of the people who had survived the terror of Auschwitz and Sobibor. I told my half-sister all this and showed her the pictures in my history book. What she said was as awful as the information in my book.

With great conviction, my half-sister cried: "It's a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed or massacred. But I pray to Allah that one day all the Jews in the world will be destroyed."

She was not saying anything new. As a child growing up in Saudi Arabia, I remember my teachers, my mom and our neighbors telling us practically on a daily basis that Jews are evil, the sworn enemies of Muslims, and that their only goal was to destroy Islam. We were never informed about the Holocaust.

Later, as a teenager in Kenya, when Saudi and other Persian Gulf philanthropy reached us, I remember that the building of mosques and donations to hospitals and the poor went hand in hand with the cursing of Jews. Jews were said to be responsible for the deaths of babies and for epidemics such as AIDS, and they were believed to be the cause of wars. They were greedy and would do absolutely anything to kill us Muslims. If we ever wanted to know peace and stability, and if we didn't want to be wiped out, we would have to destroy the Jews. For those of us who were not in a position to take up arms against them, it was enough for us to cup our hands, raise our eyes heavenward and pray to Allah to destroy them.
Copied from the Presbyterian Church (US) Washington Office

Religious and Party Affiliation
Thirteen members of the 109th Senate identified themselves as being Presbyterian (10 were Republicans and 3 were Democrats). Nine members remain after the November elections for the 110th Senate seats (seven are Republicans and two are Democrats). Presbyterians now hold nine percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate down from 13 percent).

Thirty-Eight members of the 109th House identified themselves as Presbyterian (26 were Republicans and 12 were Democrat). There are now just 32 Presbyterians in the 110th Congress, a combination of new and returning members (18 are Republican and 14 are Democrat).

Overall, the 41 Congressional Presbyterians make us the fifth most represented faith group in the Senate and the House. We trail the 126 Catholics, 57 Baptist, 50 Methodist, and 40 Protestant–Unspecified2). Following Presbyterians are 30 Jewish, 26 Episcopalian, 15 Lutheran, ten Mormon, six Unspecified, five Christian Scientist, five Eastern Orthodox, four Pentecostal, three African Methodist Episcopal, three United Church of Christ, two Buddhist, two Christian Reformed Church, two Seventh-Day Adventist, one Christian Church, one Community of Christ, one Disciples of Christ, one Muslim, one Quaker and one Unitarian. For the first time, a member of the Muslim faith has been elected to the House — Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Why I love the Grand Old Party. Part III.

"And that is the issue of this campaign that makes all of the other problems I have discussed academic, unless we realize that we are in a war that must be won.

"Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us that they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers."

"Let's set the record straight. There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace--and you can have it in the next second--surrender.

"Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson in history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face--that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender."

--Ronald Reagan, "A Time for Choosing," 1964

Foreign Policy: Peace through Strength.

This is certainly an area in which my big-RR Republican world view trumps my little-r republicanism. Recently, a reader of this blog struck a little-r republicanism cord, when he denounced:

"a 'strong defense,' which [is a euphemism for] a gigantic world-wide military infrastructure. I find it a violation of the principle of small government to have a military which spends more than the rest of the world combined, and which not only makes our government bigger, but seeks to become or control the government in foreign countries such as Iraq."

This is not unlike Pat Buchanan's famous "republic not an empire" sentiment. These dissenters have a point. Lower-case republicanism inveighs against standing armies. Why? Standing armies tempt despots to employ force to threaten the liberty of the people. Moreover, standing armies allow rulers to make war on foreign enemies, causing destruction and deprivation for the many in pursuit of wealth for the few.

Therefore, when the framers eschewed the republican principle of a solely defense-oriented militia, and empowered the federal government to "raise and support Armies" and "provide and maintain a Navy," they rejected a fundamental assumption of their Revolutionary ideology.

Why did they do it?

» Read More

15/12: Islam Update

I have mentioned before that we are seeing Muslims in Muslim lands converting to Christianity in unprecedented numbers. Although still small, the fact this is happening at all is extremely significant. Part of the motivation for the violent radical Islamic reaction to the West is that Islam perceives correctly that it is challenged from two sides--on the one hand the freedom and hedonism of the West, on the other from Christianity.

This article, copied by Dhimmiwatch, on the growing numbers of evangelical Christians in Morocco. Due to that famous Islamic tolerance, they must meet clandestinely.

Below is a portion of the article, and remember, Morocco is one of the most tolerant Muslim countries:

» Read More

A quote from the opening of Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign, 1941-45 by Evan Thomas:

In 1943, American sailors and soldiers entering the harbor at Tulagi, the front-line U.S. Navy base in the South Pacific, passed a billboard telling them to

Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill more Japs!

The billboard was signed by Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr., their commander.

Whatever the political goal of war, the form of war always is the same: kill the enemy. Inflicting death is the harsh essence of the conduct of war. Somehow between 1943 and today the American public seems to have forgotten this elemental truth. Wars cannot be clean and neat. They of necessity will be bloody, messy, and painful.

When we went into Iraq, war was the reality we chose. We should not be surprised. No amount of precision munitions will change the basic reality: people will die. Ours and theirs. We want to kill many, many more of theirs, and must to win. Any attempt to lay down Rules of Engagement based on legal conventions will endanger our troops and victory itself. We will, as a nation, accept the risk of certain basic conventions--no execution of those who actively surrender or who are wounded beyond ability to fight--but cannot please "world opinion," whatever that means, by accepting more restrictive conventions. War is what it is. See the earlier post on Rules of Engagement in Iraq.

In a previous post, I pointed out the work of CAIR in portraying Muslims as victims of civil rights infringements, and linked to an earlier post with some statistics to refute CAIR claims. In the comments section, Farmer seemed to dismiss CAIR's efforts.

Katherine Kersten, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, presents the reason we should be concerned--legislation to prohibit security personel from paying any more attention to Muslims than to Jehovah's Witnesses. Story here. Link from Little Green Footballs.

Here's a portion of the article:
One piece of legislation in the works is the End Racial Profiling Act. It is an important priority of Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, whose district includes one of the largest Muslim populations in the country. Conyers introduced the bill in 2004 and 2005, but it went nowhere. Now the alignment of forces may be changing. Conyers will probably be chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when the new Democratic-controlled Congress convenes next month. Nancy Pelosi, who called herself a "proud" cosponsor of the Profiling Act in 2004, is the incoming House speaker. And in January, Ellison, who represents the district where the imams incident occurred, will take his seat in Congress. The act, although it doesn't as yet impose large penalties, would bar any federal, state or local law enforcement agency from "relying, to any degree, on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion in selecting which individuals to subject to routine or spontaneous investigatory activities." That would include questioning, searches and seizures.

One of the act's central features is its definition of illegal profiling. Under it, if airport security personnel question passengers who are disproportionately Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent, this alone would constitute a presumptive violation of the law. Law enforcement agencies would bear the burden of proving that discrimination was not the cause.

Get this? Security personel would be forced to regard Muslims as no more likely to bomb anything than Buddhists would be. I must have forgotten how ecumenical the 9/11 terrorists were, or how many Sikhs have flocked to Al Qaeda, or the growing number of Hindus in Hamas. This is politically-correct b*llsh*t that any 5th grader would be able to see through.

So, what will Pelosi and company do? We know where her heart is. She was a cosponsor of this legislation in 04. But, if she has any political sense, she will listen to her head and prevent this legislation from seeing the light of day. If the Dems are not perceived as strong against terrorism, then 08 could be a problem. I suspect that Hillary will not want to see this legislation making headlines, even if it fails.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Farmer had an earlier post devoted to "America's Iron Lady." I would like to call your attention to this tribute by Bob Tyrrell on Jewish World Review. I especially was intrigued by this paragraph.

It was at Jeane Kirkpatrick's funeral this week that I finally heard of some good achieved by the United Nations amidst all its dithering and graft. According to Jeane's pastor, during her momentous tenure as our U.N. ambassador, Jeane was so wobbled by the international body's cynicism and moral emptiness that she forsook years of atheism and became a person of faith. Mind you, she had always had an abundance of secular faith before President Ronald Reagan tapped her for the United Nations. Her faith in the American way of life, its freedom, democracy and equality was as ardent as it was intelligently conceived. But after leaving the house of hustlers on the East River, she became deeply Christian; and religion gently informed all she thought and did thereafter.

I am reminded of others whose journeys of faith were undertaken because of rigorous intellectual honesty. ( Including the surgeon general Everett Koop, who finally agreed to attend a church one of the nurses kept inviting him to, just so she would stop the invitations. Attending this Presbyterian church he sat through the sermon disbelieving everything said. But, he could not figure out why he thought the sermon untrue. So, he went back, and back again, and eventually became a believer.)

Simone Weil, the French existentialist writer of the 1930s, wrote that to find God it is necessary to hold firmly to two disparate truths: the world does not make sense, and, we want the world to make sense. Both are true, but we tend to abandon one or the other. She wrote that by holding to both we create Space for God, into which he will come, if we wait. See her essay Waiting for God.

For more information on Weil, link from an admirer, and Susan Sontag's brilliant essay here.

13/12: UN Legit?

Question: Do you believe "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed?" Do you also believe "that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it?"

If you answer yes, please read the next paragraph. If you answer no, then how much of the Declaration of Independence do you affirm?

Question: does it not follow that many, many of the governments sending representatives to the United Nations are unjust and deserving abolition?

Question: that being the case, in what sense is any vote of the United Nations morally legitimate?

I think it is time to seek alternatives to the corrupt morass of despotism that is the United Nations. Kofi Annan has no more moral standing to lecture anyone than the average prison inmate, and maybe less.
We have had some discussion here and here about Muslims in the US playing the Victim Card. Organizations such as CAIR certainly understand how to use the rhetoric, and the courts, to portray themselves as victims of discrimination, attempting to put themselves into the line that includes freedom riders. Farmer has pointed out that such a policy will backfire with the American public, but apparently CAIR does not take advice from this website.

From Jihadwatch: linking to The Washington Times:

Muslim pilgrims urged to complain
By Audrey Hudson
December 13, 2006

American Muslims making a religious pilgrimage to Mecca are being encouraged to file civil rights complaints if they feel discriminated against by airlines.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), citing what it called the "airport profiling" of six imams removed from a recent flight, yesterday said Muslims traveling this month to the holy site in Saudi Arabia need to be aware of their rights.
"Given the increase in the number of complaints CAIR has received alleging airport profiling of American Muslims, we believe it is important that all those taking part in this year's hajj be aware of their legal and civil rights," said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR spokesman.

Full article.

Jihadwatch has a great response:

The Council on American Islamic Relations, apparently oblivious to the public relations disaster that their trumped up Flying Imams controversy is becoming for them, is pressing on, asking Muslims flying on their way to Mecca to lodge complaints against airlines if their complementary pretzels are stale.

Memo to Ibrahim Hooper: I hereby volunteer to fly to Mecca. I promise you I'll keep close tabs on the airline service, Ibrahim, and will give you a full report as soon as I get back. What's that? As a non-Muslim, I am forbidden to enter Mecca? Any practice of faith by a non-Muslim in Saudi Arabia could land me in a Saudi Arabian prison? What are you, some kind of a kafirophobe?

I mention the fact that non-Muslims cannot enter Mecca to put CAIR's civil rights mau-mauing into perspective. In no majority Muslim country in the world today do non-Muslims enjoy full equality of rights with Muslims; at very least they are forbidden to proselytize, while Muslims are not so forbidden. But CAIR, although it has not hesitated to speak out about affairs in other countries, has never spoken out against that fact. It is in this light that its persistent attempts to gain victim status for Muslims in the U.S., with all the privileges that come with that status in this politically correct and silly age, should be evaluated.
I don't think the Arab world understands compassion, civility, restraint, the same way we do. It seems that Arab culture interprets restraint as weakness. And, what it cannot respect it cannot befriend.

The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler links to this post on Blackfive by a NCO in Iraq on the negatives of our current Rules of Engagement.

I think we need to remember that on our own Western Frontier, the rule of law was not established among white settlers by late-twentieth-century-judicial procedure. Cow Towns and Mining Towns were tamed by "Wanted Dead or Alive," armed posses who shot first, and quick rope justice.

In the history of the English language, "outlaw" meant one who lived outside the rule of law and therefore outside the protection of the law; in other words, one who could be killed with impunity.

Paging General Sherman.
In the recent past I have taught US History Survey courses at a community college on the banks of the Bosque. (I still teach for them online, but now only do a course on Christian History and Traditions).

And I think I left out something important. In a two-semester survey course, I covered politics, territorial and economic expansion, arguments over and expansions of the concept and practice of "liberty," foreign relations (especially in the second semester), some cultural history, and probably a few other things. But, I hardly ever lectured on military history. I did hit a few basics for each war, but let the assigned reading (with lists of required People, Places, and Things for each chapter) carry the load. And, I knew full well that most of my students would read the main textbook haphazardly, if at all. They soon figured out that attendance on and attention to the lectures could earn them a B, without reading the main narrative text (with a bit of lucky guesswork, they might even manage an A).

I think I was wrong. (more below)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Rush links to this BBC story that healthy newborn babies in the Ukraine may have been killed in order to harvest stem cells.

We'll perhaps know eventually if the story is accurate. But it is certainly possible. Once we view human beings as commodities, then anything becomes possible. See my earlier post.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Please consider this brief biographical essay in aid of our discussion of modern Republicanism. Perhaps this will jar my thinking into the twentieth century. Originally published as an entry in American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia earlier this year.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1890-1969.

Immensely successful and popular as Supreme Allied Commander during the Second World War, General Dwight Eisenhower vaulted onto the political stage after his homecoming and won a landslide victory in 1952 to become the thirty-fourth president of the United States (1953-1961). Affectionately called “Ike” by millions of Americans, Eisenhower secured an even more lopsided victory in his 1956 bid for reelection. President Eisenhower presided over a period of robust growth and “happy days” at home, and he steered American foreign policy through a series of global crises in an increasingly perilous bipolar postwar world. His statecraft cemented the strategy of “containment” as the fixed American response to the threat of Soviet expansion during the Cold War world.

Although he cast himself as a Republican committed to less government and more local control, Eisenhower drew sharp criticism from conservatives before, during and after his presidency. His low marks emanated from what detractors called his acceptance of “New Dealism,” his cozy relationship with big business, and a “deficient understanding of Communism.” Eisenhower supported two massive national public works projects, the Interstate Highway System and the St. Lawrence Seaway Act, both of which poured billions of federal dollars into internal improvements designed to promote commerce. For many conservatives, the Eisenhower circle was blindly committed to a market-based economy and society. They were gratuitously materialistic and far too willing to sacrifice tradition on the altar of capitalism. He also appointed arguably the most liberal Chief Justice in the history of the United States Supreme Court, Earl Warren (although he later called it a “damn fool mistake”). In 1957, he boldly and unequivocally asserted federal supremacy over state rights when he dispatched the 101st Airborne to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce a federal court order desegregating Central High School. Eisenhower also ran afoul of the staunch anticommunist-wing of the Republican Party.

» Read More

In response to Gossenius's critique of the Republican Party:
Why I love the Grand Old Party. Part II.

Judicial Restraint: The Republican Party came to prominence railing against one of the most shameful Supreme Court decisions in American history: Dred Scott. Abraham Lincoln did not call the Taney court "activist" (according to one scholar, Arthur Schlesinger coined the term in 1947), but the Illinois Republican deemed the ruling unacceptably political and a vast overreach into policy making. When the Dred Scott decision seemed to extend the Constitutional right to own slaves into all federal territories, Lincoln charged that the Court usurped the democratic process. The Republican Party of today continues the tradition of advocating judicial restraint.

Of course, the courts are not apolitical or completely independent, and there are notable historical instances of Republican actions that seem to contradict "restraint" as a guiding principle. The Lochner era (roughly from the late-nineteenth century until the FDR appointees gained control of the Court) serves as an example of a Republican-dominated federal judiciary aggressively protecting business interests. A more recent example, the Republican majority on the Rehnquist Court ruled in favor of the plaintive in Bush v. Gore in 2000, which struck many as egregiously unrestrained. However, for the most part, the Republican Party prefers legislative solutions to major national questions rather than judicial interference in the democratic process, favoring local control via popular rule whenever possible. For example, consider issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and public religiosity. On the occasions when the Republican Party seeks to nationalize those sorts of issues, they tend to offer Constitutional amendments requiring super majorities of the American electorate rather than legal actions custom-designed to appeal to a judicial aristocracy.

Judicial Restraint is an important component in the Republican view of individual freedom and the role of government.

Please allow me another pause. In subsequent installments, I intend to reconcile the GOP small-government rhetoric with its penchant for internal improvement projects and assistance to business interests. Next up: Republican foreign policy. But you are invited, once again, to comment on my musings thus far.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Wow! It turns out Sean Hannity has not been making this stuff up. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really does deny the Holocaust, and Iran really did host a scholarly conference investigating the conventional wisdom that six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis during WWII. They even invited my old neighbor and eminent scholar, David Duke, who praised Iran for its courage to facilitate a free discussion of this volatile issue.

How do I know Sean was right? I read it in the Washington Post (full story here) and heard it on NPR (listen here).

Does this mean that Okie Gardener's coverage of Iran, the 12th imam and Mr. Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic world view might be true as well?

You may review one of his earlier posts on the subject here.

What does all this really mean? Iran is a nation whose foreign policy seems akin to "waving its hands in the air like they just don't care." Iran is playing to a different audience. They are playing by their own rules. Negotiate with Iran? Negotiate with Hitler? Negotiate with Stalin? Sure. Why not? What do we have to lose? But keep Ronald Reagan's advice in mind: Trust but verify.
In response to Gossenius's critique of the Republican Party:
Why I love the Grand Old Party.

Allow me this preface:

As Gossenius challenged GOP advocates to defend the party through positive argument only, I will not mention the Democratic Party in this essay, except to say: I admire the party of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Paul Tsongas, Paul Wellstone, and Joe Lieberman. The Democratic Party has played (and hopefully will continue to play) a vital and positive role in shaping American history and political culture.

Having said that, let me take issue with an element of Gossenius's argument. He notes the irony of Republicans citing instances in which "the other side doesn't live up to the values...Republicans espouse and then betray" [my emphasis]. On the other hand, in an imperfect world in which we all fall short of exemplary, the standards we set for ourselves are an essential measure of who we aspire to be, which is extremely instructive in getting at who we are.

History. Formed to fight the spread of slavery, the Republican Party of the 1850s castigated the insidious institution for a number of reasons. Of course, Republicans absorbed a strain of heroic humanitarian anti-slavery thinking. Southerners labeled the Republicans the "Black Republicans," denoting that the despised abolitionists were especially fond of and optimistic about the new party. However, pure abolitionism was not the most important component of the early Republican ethos. In truth, the Republican Party was a big tent, which claimed within its ranks as many moderate and pragmatic racists as unadulterated abolitionists.

More significantly, fidelity to the market economy animated the early Republican Party. In his monograph Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men! (the title taken from the first GOP campaign slogan), Eric Foner argues early Republicans viewed the relatively new market ideology as the key to America's future success. Republicans like Abraham Lincoln saw slavery not only as a violation of founding ideals but at odds with vital economic principles. Lincoln et al saw the ability to work freely and succeed and ascend the socio-economic ladder as basic to individual freedom and national strength, and he saw slavery as inimical to the wondorous engine of equality and fortune that free labor offered. Born into rural deprivation, Lincoln understood the value of a system that allowed (or, even better, promoted) social mobility.

Republicans and the Market: A modern observer might ask why Abraham Lincoln was such a "toady" for big business? He saw the market economy as the great equalizer. Lincoln favored an economic and cultural system that rewarded persons of character, determination, and skill. That some entities would prosper and become very powerful (maybe inordinately powerful) seemed a reasonable, if not altogether agreeable, price to pay for individual opportunity. Lincoln favored a "just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all, gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition of all." In a nutshell free labor equaled national progress and individual freedom.

Market-oriented Republicanism is alive and well today. Think about the Wal-Mart debate. Although traditional conservatives and liberals alike find fault with Wal-Mart, wishing it would go away, market-oriented Republicans continue to defend Wal-Mart as an institution produced by the marketplace providing low cost essentials for millions of families of lower socio-economic rank who are working to move up the ladder, looking forward to the day they can shop at Dillards.

Granted, there are excesses and inequalities in the market. After a period of great growth in the American economy, another Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, inaugurated the era of government regulation. Republicans generally inveigh against a regulatory state (opting for deregulation whenever possible), but there are no laissez-faire Republicans. Republicans are unabashed supporters of capitalism--but none of us are so ideologically driven that we favor unrestricted capitalism.

We concede that the market is not always right. The market can run amok and cause economic, cultural, and political misery. Just as Madison argued that too much liberty was a danger to liberty, an unrestrained market-driven economy is fraught with peril. Nevertheless, I remain a big fan of liberty and market principles. On the whole, the market is a positive force in American culture, in part because market theory operates on such an honest and practical reading of human nature. It is up to us to balance the tensions inherent in a market economy.

But Lincoln was right. The free market is essential to American prosperity and security; it is also fundamental to the promises of the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ronald Reagan, another Illinois Republican born into mean circumstances, heard, understood, and preached this gospel of self improvement to an entire new generation of Americans.

Morality. Born during a period of spiritual and religious revival in American history, the Republican Party inherited a large constituency of evangelical Christian reformers. For 150 years, the GOP has welcomed the mantle of "the moral party," consistently leading to charges from opponents that the piety of the Republican Party was a false morality and hypocritical (an accusation often justified in its particulars).

True, the Republican Party has not been immune to scandal. Having conceded the obvious, however, I am happy to report that the Mark Foley's, Bob Ney's and Bob Sherwood's of the party don't last long after their sins are revealed. Not that Republicans don't believe in redemption--but they are inclined toward discipline first (usually exile from public service), repentance second, and rehabilitation later in private life.

The most perfidious of all American presidents, Richard Nixon, found that he could not count on Republicans in Congress to lock arms and defend him in partisan allegiance. His fellow party members proved essential in the fall of Nixon, investigating and leaking and breaking faith with their titular leader. And it was Republican stalwart Barry Goldwater who made the final call on the President to tell him that the jig was up.

In short, the constituency of the Republican Party is especially demanding. Scandals come and go--but the Republican rank-and-file has a very low tolerance for less-than-upright leaders. With the aid of an often hostile news media, the Republicans are in the constant process of self cleansing.

Please allow me to pause here. In subsequent installments, I intend to reconcile the GOP small-government rhetoric with its penchant for internal improvement projects and assistance to business interests. I also intend to touch on judicial restraint and Republican foreign policy. But you are invited to comment on my apologia thus far.
Category: Courts
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Federalist Society now has the video (or audio only if you choose) available of the debate between Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia. Link here.
I am posting Gossenius's thoughtful reply to my call to articulate a political philosophy (I continue to encourage you all to add your voices to that discussion). The following essay is provocative. Gossenius asks sincere and penetrating questions that demand honest introspection from Republicans and conservatives. As I am the most upper-case Republican within our community, I will take it upon my self to defend my Republicanism. You may expect my response forthwith.

Guest Blog: Gossenius

I agree with much of what Farmer says [from the comments section of the aforementioned post], and all of paragraphs 6 and 8-10 describe me as well. However, I would never consider myself conservative or Republican, and see the Republican Party and self-described conservatives being hostile to most of the values articulated there: Republicans in office seem to favor top-down moral control, big government, and a wholesale rejection of the restraint and humility expressed in Farmer's last paragraph. The reaction of Republicans to these charges seems to be often the same: But look at what Democrats do! A strange response on its face-- to say that 'the other side doesn't live up to the values we Republicans espouse and then betray.'

» Read More

11/12: 1938 Alert

According to this article on an unreleased UN report, the UN has determined that Iran is looking for uranium in Somalia, in exchange for arms. Also, that Al Qaeda has a presence there. Link from Instapundit.

We seem to be seeing the establishment of a Taliban-like Islamist state in Somalia. Unlike Afghanistan, however, Somalia is not landlocked, is close to vital sea-lanes, and near both the Middle East and Africa. Lots of potential for deadly mischief.

And, Iran and the Palestinians agree, on to Jerusalem. Here. Links from Gateway Pundit.
Muslim violence is causing Buddhists to flee southern Thailand. Story from AP. Here. Link from Jihadwatch.

Thailand's Muslim insurgency has prompted hundreds of Buddhists to flee their homes in the restive south, creating refugee-like communities of Thais in their own country. So far, the migration is limited to a handful of villages, but it has alarmed Thai authorities who fear the daily violence of the three-year-old rebellion could provoke a larger Buddhist exodus and leave the three southern provinces exclusively Muslim. Buddhist monks have been beheaded, Buddhist teachers slain, and leaflets distributed around Buddhist villages warning that raising dogs and drinking alcohol are offensive to Muslims.

I am sure that if the US withdraws from Iraq, and Israel dissolves itself as a nation, then all this Muslim violence will end. (alert for the irony impaired)
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
This headline and opening from the Telegraph: article here

Adopt our values or stay away, says Blair

Tony Blair formally declared Britain's multicultural experiment over yesterday as he told immigrants they had ''a duty" to integrate with the mainstream of society. Tony Blair yesterday: 'We don't want the hate-mongers' In a speech that overturned more than three decades of Labour support for the idea, he set out a series of requirements that were now expected from ethnic minority groups if they wished to call themselves British. These included "equality of respect" - especially better treatment of women by Muslim men - allegiance to the rule of law and a command of English. If outsiders wishing to settle in Britain were not prepared to conform to the virtues of tolerance then they should stay away. He added: "Conform to it; or don't come here. We don't want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed.

Bravo. I hope that concrete and consistent steps will be taken. And, that the center can hold on our side of the Atlantic.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Tocqueville recently directed me to this link (interesting blog) and issue, which he suggested was an "important discussion taking place across the blogosphere."

The post discusses an essay by Brink Lindsey entitled "Liberaltarians" (on the Cato Institute website) and a discussion of the essay from the American Spectator.

What is a Liberaltarian?

According to Lindsey, libertarian-leaning voters are increasingly unhappy with the conservative-dominated Republican Party over so-called big-government conservatism and the growing influence of evangelical Christianity in GOP policy making. That is, libertarians favor small government and less regulation in business and personal morality. The current Republican Party seems perfectly content to allow (facilitate) the growth of government and runaway government spending. The other gap is on moral issues (values): "The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government."

What is a libertarian-Republican to do? The old fusion of libertarians and traditional conservatives appears more and more tenuous. As the original blog post points out, most traditional conservatives are more than ready and willing to show their erstwhile Cold War allies the door. Lindsey suggests that the libertarians ought to start thinking about a new alliance for progress and freedom with liberals.

My real question today, however, is how would you define your own political philosophy? In the comments section a few days ago, the Okie Gardener took renewed umbrage at a remark I made years ago, when I observed that he was not a pure conservative--but a Midwestern populist. Frankly, after reading the Gardener on a daily basis, he writes much more conservative than I originally believed him to be when I made that statement, but I would not back off from my assertion that populism and regionalism play a significant role in his worldview.

As the piece on "liberaltarians" argues, there is great difficulty in fitting one's political philosophy into one category. Gossenius labels himself a small-government liberal. I see myself as an evangelical-conservative-libertarian. Joab claims to be a libertarian-conservative. Steinway is a Goldwater Republican. Tocqueville is the most orthodox conservative I know. What about Martian Mariner? Photognome? Bear-Tex? Evrvglnt? And others?

So, my question: how would you define your political philosophy? How did you get there? Where do you want to go? Feel free to comment on the Liberaltarian article--but I would also really enjoy hearing about your intellectual journey.

Note: Obviously, I should lead by example, but I may not be able to offer my story for a few hours or days.

Update: I have now posted some of my thoughts in the comments section
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The latest Peggy Noonan column is terrific. Speaking of George H. W. Bush (41) and his propensity for choking up, Noonan reports and speculates on a recent episode in which he was unable to hold back his tears:

"Barely more than a day after he spoke, the Iraq Study Group's report would be issued. It was chaired by his old friend, the one with whom he'd discussed serious things years ago only after the kids, George and Jeb and the others, left the room.

"Surely Mr. Bush knew--surely he was first on James Baker's call list--that the report would not, could not, offer a way out of a national calamity, but only suggestions, hopes, on ways through it. To know his son George had (with the best of intentions!) been wrong in the great decision of his presidency--stop at Afghanistan or move on to Iraq?--and was now suffering a defeat made clear by the report; to love that son, and love your country, to hold these thoughts, to have them collide and come together--this would bring not only tears, but more than tears."

On the emotional differences between Ronald Reagan and his successor:

"Afterwards I thought about the two presidents I had known. Ronald Reagan was emotionally moved by American history and the Founders, by the long sweep of history. Personal issues and relations left him more dry-eyed. His successor was enormously moved by personal relations, by his love for his children and parents and friends. But to him the sweep of history was more abstract; it didn't capture his imagination in the same way. It left him dry-eyed.

"Different strokes, different folks."

Memory, emotion and growing old:

"Age exposes us, if we're lucky enough to be given it. Some say it makes you softer, some tougher, some a mix of both. Some say it just leaves you more so--whatever you were, you are, only more."

"[G]rowing older can leave you more exposed to the force of whatever it is you're feeling. Defenses erode like a fence worn by time. But what you feel can surprise you.

"You're thinking about what was, and suddenly apprehending for the first time how important it was. You think of your son, age 3, on the lawn when you drove up that time. Once that memory touched you in some way you don't fully understand, but now it makes your throat constrict because you realize that of all the things that ever happened to you, none was as important as how he looked on the lawn when you drove up that time.

"Age reorders. The order is expressed by the mysterious force of a fragment of a moment. And there you are at the podium, mugged by a memory."

An aside: the tag of the piece is much less charitable to the current President Bush. It pains me and alarms me that Peggy Noonan has given up on the President.

Read the piece in full (here).
We have lost one of the great heroes of the international relations side of the Reagan Revolution.

From the Washington Post:

"Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, a conservative political scientist who became the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, died at her home outside Washington late Thursday, colleagues announced today. She was 80" (full obit here).

We will add obits and tributes as the day progresses. You are invited to comment on the life of Kirkpatrick.

From the New York Times: “When she put her feet under the desk of the Oval Office, the president listened,” said William P. Clark, Mr. Reagan’s national security adviser during 1982 and 1983. “And he usually agreed with her" (full obit here).

Norman Podhoretz, in the Weekly Standard, offers this tribute to Kirkpatrick and a defense of neo-conservatism.

From the famous "Blame America First" speech at the 1984 Republican National Convention.
A Thought:

Most observers agree that the best analogy for the War on Terror is the decades-long, multi-faceted Cold War. Assuming that is true, we should take some solace in that we did not win either of the two major military conflicts (Korea and Vietnam) during the Cold War--but we still won the greater struggle in the end.
Islamic demands for Western humility and tolerance have all been one-way, us to them. How about a two-way street? It'll never happen, Islam is too wrapped up in its own superiority. Here is an excellent essay on what the Pope should have said in Turkey by Bruce Thornton from the Victor Davis Hanson website.

Would that the Pope had stood in Hagia Sophia and asked the Turks to restore this Christian monument to the Orthodox Church, as a sign that Turkey is sincere about entering the modern world and accepting its canons of reciprocal tolerance, not to mention showing the sort of regret for its ancestors’ crimes that the West is continually dunned to show.
Some interesting numbers on deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, etc., courtesy of The Mudville Gazette.
Once again China leads the world in the number of jounalists imprisoned. Cuba is a trailing second. This article includes information and links on the Chinese government's moderately successful efforts to shut down free speech on the internet, a project they are receiving help with from American companies (the last two capitalists . . .). Link from Instapundit.

I cannot understand the logic of those who claim that increased economic liberalization of China will automatically lead to increased political freedom. Even Milton Friedman, if I understand him correctly, argued that economic freedom was a necessary but not a sufficient condition of political freedom.

Philosophically, I am not a fan of any theory of Determinism, including Economic Determinism.

08/12: Say What?

Bette Midler, the Divine Miss M, diva of bawdy bathhouse humor, is now telling Brittney Spears and Lindsey Lohan to quit being such "sluts." File this one under things I never thought I would hear. From The Daily Mail, link from Drudge.

So, in a scathing, no holds barred attack, the 61-year-old actress has branded the pair 'wild and woolly sluts'. The singer turned Oscar-nominated actress hit out at the duo who have been repeatedly photographed enjoying a string of wild nights out - missing their underwear. 'I've been on the other side to these wild and woolly sluts that we are seeing around our lives these days and I've taken the other side,' she said. 'I started my life out as pretty wild but I have decided, after much growing and living, that it's time that we got nicer.'

Perhaps wisdom does come with age.

According to the article, even Courtney Love is telling Brittney to slow down and take care of her children. Wow, that's like having Keith Richards take you aside and say "slow down the partying, man."
Who would have thought that the biggest fool of an ex-president would be James Earl Carter. In 2000 I would have taken big bets with odds that William Jefferson Clinton would have won that title by now. Life is unpredictable.

Now, following Carter's latest book on the Mideast, a former aide and genuine Middle East expert, has distanced himself from Jimmy. Article here from the NYT. Hat tip Dhimmiwatch.

First 3 paragraphs:

ATLANTA, Ga., Dec. 6 — An adviser to former President Jimmy Carter and onetime executive director of the Carter Center has publicly parted ways with his former boss, citing concerns with the accuracy and integrity of Mr. Carter’s latest book, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.”

The adviser, Kenneth W. Stein, a professor of Middle Eastern history and political science at Emory University, resigned his position as a fellow with the Carter Center on Tuesday, ending a 23-year association with the institution.

In a two-page letter explaining his action, Mr. Stein called the book “replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions and simply invented segments.” Mr. Stein said he had used similar language in a private letter he sent to Mr. Carter, but received no reply.

Since World War 2 the Christian population in Muslim lands has been declining. In the Palestinian Administration area the drop has been from 20% Christian to less than 2%. By contrast, the Christian population in Israel is growing. Yet some Christian leaders (heirs of the apologists for Russia & Co. in the Cold War) want to blame Israel for the decline. See this post from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Link from Dhimmiwatch.

Some Religion of Peace and Tolerance, huh.
I have problems with Keith Ellison, but they are unrelated to his plans to take the oath of office on a Quran. See Powerline and look for all the posts in the archives on Ellison and you'll understand my discomfort with him.

A bit of perspective on swearing-in on Bibles from the Pew Forum. According to this article, Ellison will not be the first to forgo a Bible for his swearing-in. John Quincy Adams used a "law volume," and Theodore Roosevelt used no Bible in his first swearing-in.

Swearing on a Bible is a time-honored custom, but I think that reasonable people can have objections.

My bad. I did not reason this issue all the way through. Ellison will become a member of the House. Those folks (see the linked article) do a mass swearing in without any Holy Book. They have an option to stage a "swearing-in" later that is merely a photo-op with the flag, Bible, etc. Ellison will not be sworn in with his hand on the Quran. He'll have his after-the-fact photo-op with a Quran. Sorry, busy busy week.
A great editorial on Islamic arrogance from the LA Times. The author is Raymond Ibrahim, a research librarian at the Library of Congress. His book, "The Al Qaeda Reader," translations of religious texts and propaganda, will be published in April.

Islam demands to be respected in non-Islamic countries, yet has a history of desecrating, destroying, or turning into mosques, the churches and temples of lands Muslim armies conquer. Not to mention demanding equal treatment in the West while relegating Christians and Jews to second-class citizenship in Muslim lands.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Dick Morris has some concrete suggestions for real reform in Congress, if anyone is serious. Here. From Jewish World Review.

I especially like banning immediate family members from lobbying.
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Apropos to our recent discussion of Justice Stephen Breyer and his judicial philosophy, I am pleased to offer a sneak preview of this review, which will appear in the upcoming Winter issue of Modern Age.

Judicial Immodesty
by Cory L. Andrews

Active Liberty: Interpreting our Democratic Constitution, by Stephen Breyer. Alfred A. Knopf, 161 pages, $21.00.

Resulting from Harvard Law School’s distinguished Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Justice Stephen Breyer’s Active Liberty: Interpreting our Democratic Constitution is a remarkably unprincipled book. In its pages, Breyer proposes the substitution of judicial for legislative initiative as the primum mobile of national government, advances the primacy of a formless but catchy abstraction (the giddy but elastic nostrum “active liberty”) over the particulars of constitution and statute, and promotes a presumably democratic ideal (his own ethereal one, of course) over the rigors of public deliberation and consensus. In Breyer’s eager hands, the Constitution is transformed from a foundational document of enduring fixed principles into the breezy platitude that “democracy is good,” thereby granting judges a roving commission to do “democratic” things as they see fit. (Never mind that the architects of the Constitution actually sought to mute popular democracy rather than accentuate it.)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
In an earlier post I wrote:

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)

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Wizbang has this post arguing the affirmative. Seriously? We link, you decide.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
My favorite new show of the season is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It is crisp, rich, clever, and smart. Aaron Sorkin is a brilliant writer and producer who always tells compelling stories and presents multi-dimensional magnetic characters.

However, Sorkin is an artist with a political edge. In the midst of his artistry is always the message. Message is okay. Art is the product of creative people communicating messages to wider audiences. But sometimes the message overpowers the art.

My beef with Sorkin in the past has been that he perverts the facts to make a better case for his political points. For example, in aid of his mission to defend Bill Clinton, he and Rob Reiner made a movie entitled The American President. Incensed that mean-spirited Republicans criticized President Clinton's sex-life as a way to attack his politics, Sorkin created a fictional Democratic president, Andrew Shepherd, a widowed dad morally upright in every way. President Shepherd falls in love with a beautiful idealistic liberal lobbyist. When they start dating, the despicable Republicans pounce on them for having sex out of wedlock and other harmless revelations from her distant past. Oooooohhhhhh! Why are Republicans so mean?

My objection then: if you are going to defend Bill Clinton, then do it honestly. Make the fictional President a philanderer. Figure out how to make the betrayed wife unsympathetic and the tryst with the intern in the Oval Office an honorable encounter.

I stayed away from the West Wing (aka the Left Wing) for similar qualms.

But Studio 60 has been surprisingly subtle in the message department thus far and pleasantly packed full of great entertainment. But then tonight happened. Sorkin created a ridiculous storyline to shame the FCC for their crackdown on profane speech. Instead of featuring a rock star who shouts the f-word on live TV or two rock stars who stage a sexual assault during the halftime show at the Super Bowl, Sorkin created an incident in which a soldier in Afghanistan under attack ejaculates the f-word on a live news broadcast. The reaction of the FCC? A heartless multi-million dollar fine and the threat of extinction.

Oooooohhhhhh! Why are Republicans so mean?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am grieved by the news today that partisanship and petulance forced the resignation of John Bolton as UN Ambassador. I fear that all the talk of a new tone in Washington is altogether disingenuous. The opposition to Bolton purportedly centered around alleged past incidents of incivility and similar breaches of decorum, which raised doubts about his ability to perform in the sensitive diplomatic post. However, his sixteen-month tenure at the UN seemingly trumps any of those speculative worries. Notwithstanding, no one seemed very interested in a review of his job performance and/or a public discussion of the question. Today's events confirm that that the accusations of ill temperment were merely a facade for mindlessly destructive partisan politics.

I agree with President Bush:

"I am deeply disappointed that a handful of United States Senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up or down vote he deserved in the Senate," Bush added. "They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time. This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation."

I also agree with Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, who opposed the Bolton appointment sixteen months ago and had this to say today:

"John Bolton has risen to the occasion and done a good job under the harshest of circumstances," Voinovich said in a statement. "I'm extremely concerned with him leaving since he's been so deeply involved with the situations in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and North Korea and has been working in concert with fellow ambassadors toward true U.N. reform."

Shame on Senate Democrats and outgoing Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee.

The above quotes come from the Washington Post story (linked here).
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: an okie gardener
For the judicially inclined among us. This post from Balkanization on matching the SJs to rockers with similar aesthetics. Hat tip Instapundit.
This report on Niger from Jihadwatch. The Islam in this African nation formerly was of the syncretistic variety, easy-going toward non-Muslims. In the last few years Saudi money has been supplying hard-line imams who are transforming the religion/culture of Niger.

When you drive alone, you drive with the sheiks. SUV Drivers for Wahhabism. Freeway Speeders for Radical Islam. Accountants Driving Big Pickups for Terrism.

In the words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
“I saw the light I saw the light
no more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.”
~Hank Williams

We are waiting in a world that often appears barren and devoid of light. In the anguish of our emptiness, we hunger for justice and peace. Awash in our imperfection, we cry out for forgiveness and healing. In the depths of our abject loneliness, we await God. Where are you beloved Savior? Emanuel?

We are not alone. We have seen the light, yet darkness and sorrow have not passed away. We are anticipating a more joyous time, but we are no longer expecting only bright glorious days in the Garden. We have been chastened by the black and lifeless night of the Cross. Nevertheless, we are assured that there is “a light that keeps shining in the darkness.” Even as the earth experiences nighttime, we understand that the sun continues to keep us in precise cosmic order and warm our world. God is with us during our long night.

Welcome darkness. In the coldness and darkness of life is truth. The dark of winter is a reminder of our limits and our need. The delicious hunger in our souls during the long night confirms our dependence on God. We are the created. We need not search for God. Even as we wait for God, we know that God is here. God has come already, and He has not abandoned us. God is with us in the midst of our sorrows.

Life is beautiful and rich and multi-layered, but we will not easily and painlessly solve the puzzles of our existence. Spring will come again; we will laugh again—but not tonight. Tonight we wait in the stillness. The promise of victory is real and assuring, but darkness is our present reality.

Welcome darkness. Winter is upon us. But welcome also a candle in the night (and another; and another). In the midst of the darkness, light and meaning are in us even as God was in the Christ. “We are truly blessed. The Lord is with us.”

Note: I originally wrote this meditation last Advent season for an internal publication at my church. My inclusion of Hank Williams's famous praise hymn to God struck many learned readers as a curious coupling with Advent. Undoubtedly, they were right. Blame my curiously organized mind. Here is what I was going for: Hank Williams, I suspect, was articulating a "holiness" theology, a tradition prominent in some denominations of Christianity in the American South. The holiness tradition teaches that Christians may reach a level of righteousness at which they are almost immune to sin or distress. Traditional Advent thinking, obviously, denies such a belief. Instead, the lesson of Advent is "light in the midst of darkness" as opposed to "no more darkness."
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Earlier this week, Chris Wallace interviewed Justice Stephen Breyer. The exchange aired this morning on Fox News Sunday (full transcript here, scroll down for Justice Breyer).

When queried about his 2003 vote to uphold the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, Justice Breyer responded:

"I think what I said was, when you get a case like that, you start to look to slogans to decide the case. It won't work.

"The First Amendment itself, "the freedom of speech," doesn't tell you the answer. Nor does a slogan.

"If you want to use the slogan, "Money is at stake, not speech," that seems to work. That means they can regulate anything. But if you think about it for two minutes, you realize that money is very important to speech, because no one can run for office and have his message heard without money. So the First Amendment is involved.

"Then if you think the opposite, "Well, wait a minute, these campaign finance limits, what they're doing is they are telling the person who wants to give $20 million that he can't finance all the speech he wants. Doesn't that violate the First Amendment?" I'd say that's a slogan. Why? Because think about that First Amendment. It was done, enacted, passed, to help our country of now 300 million citizens run fair and free elections.

"The very point of speech in an election is to get a message across. And that may mean, in part, that you don't want one person's speech, that $20 million giver, to drown out everybody else's. So if we want to give a chance to the people who have only $1 and not $20 million, maybe we have to do something to make that playing field a little more level in terms of money. If you accept that at all, you've suddenly bought in to the proposition that there are First Amendment interests on both sides of this equation [empahsis added].

"And once you're there, you see this problem is complicated. And once you see it is complicated, you begin to factor in to what extent do we defer to Congress. And the answer is going to be quite a lot but not completely."

"I used that word, "purpose," to help me in a case where the language isn't clear, where the history isn't clear, where the tradition isn't clear, where the precedents aren't clear, that we have to decide how in that realm of ambiguity to apply the value that's permanent and always there, free speech, to a modern, difficult situation."
I am not sure if this article reporting on an interfaith dialogue represents sloppy reporting on the Christian theologian, or sloppy thinking on his part. Whichever the case, between his comments and those of the Muslim leader what is obvious is that Christianity and Islam in their traditional and historic forms are mutually incompatible. Moreover, they are necessarily competitors because they each make universal claims that are mutually exclusive. Each claims a revelation that supercedes all others.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Our church had its first Christmas Program rehearsal this morning during the Sunday School time. Squirming kids, hyper kids, talkative kids. (I loved the blurted question part-way through from the 2nd grade girl who asked, if Jesus was born king, who was the queen?) 5th-grade Isaiah the prophet coming down the aisle to declaim his prophecies doing what I can only describe as a pimp-walk. The girl who can do Native American sign language absent. The high school narrator giving a very low-keyed reading of the miracle of the Incarnation. Mary not wanting to stand close enough to Joseph to touch him. The ranks of the heavenly host depleted by a few absences. 7th grade Elizabeth not sure she wanted to wear a costume that simulated a pregnant woman. The special-effects boy pretending to shine a flashlight at one point because the real one must have been elsewhere. In other words, a typical first rehearsal of a Sunday School Christmas program. Controlled chaos that by the end of the hour was beginning to take recognizable shape. I'm confident that on the night of the 17th we'll have a respectable presentation of "Three Gifts for Jesus," written by one of our members. And in the midst of this morning, God's grace. The 2nd-grader with the question giving me a piece of paper after the children's sermon to "give to Jesus:" a marker drawing of Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus in the manger between them and all surrounded by red hearts. Nevermind that she had squabbled with another girl during the early part of the service over the markers. Somehow the reality of the miracle of God's love for us had touched her, prompting this response.

Paul said that God puts his treasure into earthen vessels, into clay pots. That's the church. That's us Christians, the people of God. Clay pots. Controlled chaos, AWOL Sunday School students, missing flashlights, and strutting prophets. Yet somehow, God's love comes through. Have a blessed Advent.

As part of the discussion following my post, "What Liberal Bias?" Gossenius and I went back and forth over my classification of Fox News.

Gossenius argued that Fox News more logically should be classified with the MSM:

"My biggest disagreement with your list is in not putting Fox News in with the mainstream media-- they are simply a different infection of the same illness for which people berate those others. If conservatives choose to critique mainstream media as biased, why not include Fox in that critique?"

Gossenius asks a fair question. Why can't conservatives admit that Fox News is merely the flip side of the MSM coin (conservative-leaning versus liberal-leaning)?

In large part, I agree with the heart of his analysis.

It is similar to the point Joab made a few days ago:

"I stopped listening to Rush long ago as he is, IMHO, a Republican partisan hack. And as for Fox News, they are no more biased to the right than CNN, MSNBC and the 3 major networks are to the left."

So, why I am so stubborn in arguing the point with Gossenius?

The Fox corporate ethos is significantly different from the MSM culture. Here are the key distinctions:

1. Fox is an upstart swimming against the "mainstream." No instructive analysis can ignore the fact that Fox came into being (and succeeded grandly) as a counter balance to the MSM. Fox filled a vacuum.

2. Fox is not under the delusion of "objectivity." The liberal MSM labors under the self-serving certainty that they are reporting the news of the day in an objective way.

An aside: it does not really matter how genuine MSM reporters may be in their faith; for what it is worth, I think they are quite sincere (albeit self-deceived).

Has anyone ever seen this exchange on C-SPAN? A caller presses an MSM reporter to reveal his political affiliation; the reporter responds that his political affiliation is irrelevant. Pressed further, the reporter tells the caller that he is registered as an independent. Later, he will point desperately to the occasional left-wing wacko who accuses the MSM of a corporate bias and tell you that he gets hit from all sides.

Even as a study in the late-1990s showed that over 90-percent of "Beltway" reporters voted for Bill Clinton in 1996, MSM reporters continued to argue that their personal politics did not impinge on their ability to report the news in a detached manner.

As I asserted in the comments section of the first post:

the storied Fox News slogan, "fair and balanced," was partly a parody of the MSM tortured self-perception.

What do I mean by that?

Most of the Fox pioneers were veteran reporters and producers from the MSM (think Britt Hume formerly of ABC News). They had toiled in the fields of their oppressors for years. When they broke free and raised their own flag, they signaled their independence and defiance with a series of slogans like "We Report, You Decide" and "Fair and Balanced."

Moreover, they knew well that the competition would see Fox as conservatives reporting the news through a lens of conservatism. But they also knew that their liberal counterparts would not see Fox as their mirror image; the established media would continue to see themselves as faithful adherents to the sacred calling of objectivity; they would see Fox News as unwashed infidels desecrating the holy temple of objective journalism.

The Fox News brain trust fully expected that their conservative cable news network would make the MSM apoplectic. Pretty funny really. I bet Roger Ailes still gets a chuckle when someone like Keith Olberman, frothing, breaks a big story uncovering Republican bias at Fox News. It is a great joke that continues to pay great dividends.

By the way, I suggest that Fox News gladly would accept a statement from the MSM that read: "we charge Fox with being just as biased as we are!"

As for Gossenius's worry that the Fox viewers are not "in on the joke," he probably does not give the Fox regulars enough credit; they are not being misled. Most of them merely wanted a network to read the news in a way that did not make them feel stupid or evil for seeing the world the way they saw it. They are grateful.

I am glad that Fox News exists as a voice to speak "truth" to the power of the MSM.

For personal disclosures in re my viewing habits:

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Over the past months, I've posted several times on the ongoing problems within Mainline American Christianity. For example here and here and here. (The term itself is now out-of-date since these denominations have been losing strength both in relative and absolute terms since the 1960s.) Those in favor of liberalization of the church, which means for the mainline denominations those in the power positions, tend to refer to all fervent opposition to their agenda as schismatic. That is, they accuse their opponents of rending the Body of Christ by causing splits. But, who are the real schismatics? I would argue that it is those who break faith with historic Christianity who have split the church. Expressing this idea better than I can is the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, Episcopal, +John-David Schofield here. Read also the letter of support farther down the page from the Moscow Patriarchate.
To honor the noble dead, and once more to refute the calumny that those who join the military are somehow "losers," this tribute to the late Sgt. 1st Class James D. Priestap. From Wizbang
Tocqeville urges a reading of this essay by Andrew J. Bacevich in Commonweal. In it the author urges us to consider our nation and its history realistically and truthfully, in order to make our way in the world. Bacevich offers a sober assessment for our consideration. Guaranteed to provoke, stimulate, and enlighten. Well worth the read, I think.
I feel ambivalent toward Starbucks. On the one hand, I really like their coffee/on the other, spending that much on coffee seems self-indulgent. On the one hand, they are a national chain and on principle I favor small independent businesses/on the other hand, they offer good benefits even to their part-time employees. On the one hand, I really like their coffee/on the other hand I believe we would be better off in many ways doing more for ourselves, including brewing coffee at home. On the one hand I'm ambivalent about Starbucks/on the other, my wife is a big fan.

The other night my wife and I did some Christmas shopping and finished the evening at Starbucks, and they did something to help win me over. They gave me free used coffee grounds, maybe 5 or 6 pounds. At least at this Starbucks they'll do it for anyone; they are saving their grounds and have a small sign on the counter offering free used grounds. For those of you who are not gardeners, coffee grounds make good compost material.

Good for them.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
Thanks to the internet, you no longer need to go to prison to learn esoteric housebreaking skills. Now there are instructional videos for opening any lock with simple tools and simpler technique readily available. Info from Wizbang with links.