You are currently viewing archive for January 2007
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Last week, workers discovered an elderly woman dead in an outdoor heating and air conditioning unit at a local middle school here in Waco. The paper reported that she was "clothed in her bathrobe and slippers," and "huddled up in the corner of the unit." Initially, local authorities were unable to identify the body, labeling her Jane Doe.

Excerpted from a
Waco Tribune-Herald story by Erin Quinn in the Wednesday, January 31, 2007 edition (full article here):

"Claire Conger died tormented and alone in a very public way.

"Sadly, she lived her life much the same."

"[Daughter] of former Waco mayor and famed historian Roger Conger..., little was known or said about the girl who was once pretty and popular but later was pulled from Waco High School because of a terrible mental illness."

"Investigators are still looking into what caused her death and why she apparently took refuge inside the [heating and air conditioning] unit."

"Several days passed before Waco police could even identify the woman with the famous roots. Her father was dead. So was her brother. Her husband. And daughter. All that remains of the once-powerful Congers is her 93-year-old mother, Lacy Rose Conger, who resides in a Waco condominium."

"Dental records finally confirmed [Claire Conger's] identity Tuesday."

"But in its heyday, [the Congers were] a prominent Waco family."

"A businessman and one-time mayor, Roger Conger was most revered as a Texas and Waco historian."

"[Conger's wife], Lacy Rose [also belonged to a well-to-do family]. Her father owned a laundry equipment business that Roger Conger eventually took over.

"Roger Conger died in 1996.

"Claire Conger's brother, Roger Lacy Conger, died in a car accident at a young age."

"Claire Conger is remembered as well-liked in high school. Up until her junior year...."

"'She was a straight-A student and one day she was just gone,' said Barbara Martin, a family friend. 'She had a lovely, lovely family. And she was a very nice person. But she was tormented.'"

"Claire Conger was diagnosed with schizophrenia...."

"Medication helped, but the illness often battled back."

For the last two decades of her life she lived alone, unknown and unloved by those who lived nearby.

"To the residents of the complex of townhouses[in which she lived], [Claire Conger] was simply known as an eccentric old woman..., [who] bought expensive cars, drove erratically and often walked around in her nightclothes and slippers."

They had no idea that she once belonged to a celebrated local family.

"[However], they say that none of her neighbors were surprised that she was found dead in such an unlikely place."

Too often we forget how fragile are the threads of family, community and soundness of mind.
I spent part of mid-day at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City. On my way there the roads began to get icy in the city. I saw one wreck (a pickup pulling a trailer jacknifed on an overpass) and fish-tailed a bit myself. (I was driving the smaller church van, a 1989 Ford Aerostar that looks like it has driven every one of its many miles.)

Leaving the hospital about 1:30, the drive out of the city was bad. Every overpass had at least one wreck; occasionally fellow drivers would fishtail or even slide sideways. It took me about an hour to get out of town. (I followed a plan of bypassing overpasses by using service roads.) Then, we had icy conditions for the next 30 miles; I had to stop once to bang the ice off the windshield wipers so that they would function properly. The last 30 miles were OK. Glad was I to get home.

The majority of vehicles that wrecked seemed to be 4WD pickups. We do, of course, has a lot of pickups on the roads (maybe not quite as high a percentage as Texas). But four-wheel-drive pickups seemed over-represented in the wrecks. I think I know why. (cont. below)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
My wife and I saw the new Will Smith movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, this past Friday. Interesting and well done. Based on a true story.

In a nutshell: Will Smith's character is a down-on-his-luck salesman. He and his wife have purchased into a plan to sell portable bone-density scanners, new technology at the time. He is not selling the machines fast enough to recover his costs and pay rent. His wife works double-shifts at her job to try to provide for them. Eventually she tires of the struggle and leaves him. Smith's character insists that their son remain with him. He desires to rise in the world. Observing the car driven by a stockbroker, he decides to apply for an opening in the internship program at a brokerage house, and gets a position. Then he discovers that the job pays nothing during the internship. Driven to be the one person hired from the 20 interns, he pushes himself to succeed. As he is trying to do this he loses his apartment, then a run-down motel room, winding up sleeping in a shelter with his son. But, he perseveres, selling the remaining bone scanners on weekends, creatively building relationships with potential clients, and taking care of his son. In the end, he gets the job.

(my reaction below)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Toqueville suggests we read and discuss this article on conservative Christians and support for the Republican party. The author's thesis is that such support may be dwindling. (It'll be a couple of days before I can respond myself)
When Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis speaks, it is a good idea to listen. Here is a summary of recent remarks.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
My pastoral work this week has me thinking about life and death and modern medicine: when to fight death and when to accept it.

Here is my view, for what its worth.

If I were diagnosed with cancer, and told I needed extensive chemo and radiation, I would ask the following questions: what are the odds that the treatments would bring me to a state of being cancer free? if I take the treatments, how much longer would I live than if I refused treatment? if I take the treatments, what would the extra time be like?

If I were told that the treatments would give me a better than even chance of becoming cancer free, then I would accept treatment. If I were told that the odds were good that treatment would add years to my life, years that could be productive, then I would accept treatment. On the other hand, if I were told that there was almost no way treatment could make me cancer free, that treatment probably would add minimal time to my life, and that this time would not be productive, I would refuse treatment. These decisions I would make as a Christian.

(my reasoning below)

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
"Of course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, public buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."
~~Noah Cross (John Huston) to Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), Chinatown

Former-President Jimmy Carter is now eighty-two years-old. He has survived Southern birth, a failed presidency, and a two-decade exile from any public role within his party. Notwithstanding, in his dotage, rather miraculously, he has ascended to the top of the "greasy pole" of public esteem. Give him credit. No previous or subsequent president worked harder during his post-presidential years to redeem his calamitous turn in office.

» Read More

Many in the West seem to think that Islam is simply reactive. That is, the motivation to war with others simply is a reaction to actions or characteristics of non-Muslims. While reactive motivation probably is present, it is simplistic reductionism to believe militant Islam is purely reactive. Similarly, here in the mostly secular West, many disbelieve in religious motivation. The actions of militant Muslims are explained simply in terms of social and economic factors. This also is simplistic reductionism. Islam, in all its forms, is a life-and-belief system with its own inner dynamism. To ignore this inner dynamism is to misunderstand. To prove my point, this BBC interview with a Taliban leader. Here is a portion of the interview. Link from Jihadwatch.

With a black-dyed beard, 34-year-old Baitullah greeted us in a big room with several of his armed men beside him. We sat on a new colourful quilt spread on the ground.

Baitullah seemed a man with only jihad (holy war) on his mind. During the interview he quoted several verses from the Koran to defend his stance that foreign forces must be evicted from Islamic countries.

"Allah on 480 occasions in the Holy Koran extols Muslims to wage jihad. We only fulfil God's orders. Only jihad can bring peace to the world," he says.

The militant leader on several occasions in the past had openly admitted crossing over into Afghanistan to fight foreign troops.

"We will continue our struggle until foreign troops are thrown out. Then we will attack them in the US and Britain until they either accept Islam or agree to pay jazia (a tax in Islam for non-Muslims living in an Islamic state)."
As I mentioned earlier, the afternoon workshop I attended last week at the Cook school went to see the movie Freedom Writers one afternoon. The film is based on a true story.

In a nutshell: a young idealistic first-year teacher from a privileged background receives the cold smack of reality when she meets her Freshman English classes in Long Beach, California. The students have no interest in English literature, nor in being in school. Most of them have bigger problems. The community is divided into warring factions of black, Latino, and Cambodian, with drug use and gang violence common. Many families are broken. But, the teacher perseveres, eventually reaching her students when she has them start writing about their own lives in journals. She succeeds in creating a family, a safe and caring community, within her classroom. The students learn and grow as persons. (cont. below)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I don't know why, but I am fascinated by the series of insurance commercials featuring "cavemen." Evidently I am not the only one, as evidenced by the link to analysis with comments via Instapundit.
I'm late with this for some reason, but here are the Top Ten Religion Stories in 2006 according to the Religion News Service.

1. Muslim rioting in response to publication of Muhammad cartoons in Europe.

2. Muslims infuriated by remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI and his subsequent apology and trip to Turkey.

3. Problems in the Episcopal Church related to the elevation of Katharine Jefferts Schori to the denomination's top position. She is the first woman to hold the post, and openly supported the consecration of an openly homosexual bishop.

4. Ted Haggard resigns as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and is dismissed from his congregation, following exposure of his drug use and same-sex relationship.

5. Defeat of many Republican candidates backed by the Religious Right in the fall elections.

6. Religious voices grow louder in regard to situations and events in the Middle East.

7. Murder of five Amish girls in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse and the subsequent highlighting of the community's ethic of forgiveness.

8. (tie) The movie The Da Vinci Code and related controversy.
8. (tie) Same-sex marriage issue in New Jersey and on ballots.

10. President Bush's veto of a bill expanding stem-cell research.

my take below

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Friday morning on C-SPAN's Washington Journal:

Steve Scully moderated a discussion between Marcy Wheeler and Byron York in studio, both of whom are covering the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby perjury trial related to the Valerie Plame-Joe Wilson controversy.

York is a correspondent for National Review covering the courtroom action, not surprisingly, in a way overtly friendly to the administration in general and Scooter Libby in particular.

Wheeler is a prolific and increasingly popular personality on the left-wing blogosphere. She sometimes blogs as "emptywheel" (you may read a sample of her reportage here via Daily Kos).

She is author of Anatomy of a Deceit, the product of her investigation of the Plame affair, which is due to be released during the next few days. You may buy it here from Common Language, "a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Feminist bookstore," and the self-described "sole remaining GLBT/Feminist store in the State of Michigan." The site urges "support of us... [which] will help us survive and ensure that the NEXT book by Marcy Wheeler will have a place to be sold."

Wheeler earned her PhD from the University of Michigan in 1995 (although I was unable to discern in which discipline she attained her degree). On the net, she is often described as a consultant in Ann Arbor. According to her extremely sketchy unofficial bios, she has been a Democratic Party official in Michigan and was a staffer for Howard Dean in 2004.

Two moments in the conversation struck me:

1. Identifying himself as a citizen of "fly-over country," a caller wondered if Wheeler, in the event that Libby won acquittal, would then spend as much time and effort helping him to clear his name as she had asserting his perfidy.

She refused to admit any possibility of Libby's innocence, but, perhaps more telling, she took offense at the assumption that she was not from "fly-over country." The caller had mentioned "Katie Couric and the Washington establishment." Wheeler insisted she was from Michigan--not Washington.

Evidently, she did not understand that an academic from Ann Arbor was as foreign to this Heartlander as Katie Couric. In the mind of Red-State America, Wheeler is part of the Washington establishment.

2. At the conclusion of the segment, Scully asked the two guests to identify their favorite president. York, an Alabama native who doesn't seem quick to advertise that fact, picked Abraham Lincoln.

Wheeler seemed nonplussed by the question. "My favorite president?" she twice repeated. "I don't have a favorite American president," she finally said in a dismissive and disgusted tone. "My favorite president is the first woman president. My favorite president is the first African American president."

Evidently, all those white guys had been the agents of patriarchy and racial oppression and unworthy of her admiration. I can only infer that she impatiently awaits the revolution. Power to the people.

For background: What's Wrong With the Democratic Party: Part I.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
As before, ""This week I am attending workshops in Tempe, Arizona, on topics related to leadership and ministry in Native Christian Churches. (Saying "Native American Churches" means another thing.) Here are a few random thoughts from today." Previous ruminations: Day One, and Two, and Three.

1. In the workshops I often am the only white person. Other participants tend to make remarks that assume that everyone in the room is tribal. "On our reservations . . .", "Our people", etc. I'm not offended. But it is educational to be a minority once in a while. Everyone should try it. (fyi, I'm a blue-eyed white boy with greying reddish-brown hair and a ruddy complexion)

2. Afternoons I've been in the session on Meth and Youth Gangs. Even the remote rez's are seeing gang recruitment and meth abuse. You can run but you can't hide. The toxic aspects of the dominant culture are corroding every corner of our country. There are no simple answers because there are no simple explanations. But, nothing will get better without involvement. If our lives are work, play, sleep, without community involvement, we are doomed. The government cannot save us from this one, though there are ways in which it might help.

3. One former gang member in the workshop said that gangs now are using the internet to recruit, including myspace.

4. One motivation to join a gang is the need to belong, to have a family. The former gang member I mentioned above said that he needed someone to want him, to appreciate him. He found this in a gang. He also said that though he would not have said it this way at the time, he also needed discipline in his life and the gang gave him discipline, a structure with its own rewards and punishments.

5. To end on a more positive note. This former gang member was not the leader of the workshop. He was an attendee from an Indian Presbyterian church on the West Coast. God's grace had changed his life. He and his wife brought their infant son along with them. Both were abused as children, and are determined to break the chain between their generation and the baby's. Things do not always go from bad to worse. Sometimes they go from bad to better. God bless.
I think these items need to be a bigger deal on the American media

Here. Shia kill and threaten Palestinians in Iraq, prompting exodus. From Gulfnews. Link from Instapundit.

NIBRAS KAZIMI in the New York Sun, points to evidence that "staying the course" may have reached a tipping point against the insurgency in Iraq. Here.
As we turn to the business of electing a new president, we can not help but note that an African American candidate, for the first time in our history, enters the contest as a serious contender to win the biggest prize in American politics.

Britt Hume asserted this week on Fox News Sunday (transcript via RCP) that, "Barack Obama's race was an asset." Is that true? Is Hume right that Obama's race is the key component in his portfolio that explains his meteoric rise? In other words, can you imagine the Obama juggernaut if the candidate presented identical credentials sans his race?

What role does race play in our culture today?

Consider this wire story via Drudge, which highlights a college party on the campus of Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, in which white students held a "Martin Luther King Jr. Day party that mocked black stereotypes by featuring fried chicken, malt liquor and faux gang apparel."

Are we in danger of losing our balance between two positive values: protecting and pepetuating free and reasonable discourse and embracing racial sensitivity?

An aside: In college, I once attended a "come as your favorite dead celebrity" party in which one of my fraternity brothers arrived as the crucified Christ. It was tasteless, and I was offended. But it didn't make the papers.

The right to free speech generally includes the right to be wrong, imbecilic and vulgar.

Michael Richards. He could have called a white heckler a m-f-ing, a-hole, son of a whore from Hell, and I wager there would not have been any repercussions within the room, much less a national reaction.

Is it rational that certain words elicit such disproportionate reflexive cultural responses?

Should it bother us that the Congressional Black Caucus reserves the right to refuse entry to white representatives?

The Duke Rape Case?

The intense coverage of two black coaches in the Super Bowl?

Joab's House of Blog wonders if the intense focus on race doesn't perpetuate racism:

"When I see Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy I see the head coach of the Bears and the Colts respectively. I do not see two black men, unless someone points out that they are black. Then my focus is directed toward their skin color. Doing that is what keeps race an issue in our society" (read entire post here).

I am not ignorant of the historical realities that bring us to these questions. Notwithstanding, considering the American past, and looking toward a harmonious future, is our present racial reality healthy and just?

These questions only scratch the surface. Please accept this brief post as notice of my intentions to consider this broader topic in greater detail in the weeks and months to come. I welcome your comments and your ideas.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
As before, ""This week I am attending workshops in Tempe, Arizona, on topics related to leadership and ministry in Native Christian Churches. (Saying "Native American Churches" means another thing.) Here are a few random thoughts from today." First day. Second day.

1. I had a glimpse tonight of the World to Come. Some of us attended Prayer Meeting at the Gila Crossing Presbyterian Church on the Gila River Reservation near Phoenix. The members there were mostly Pima. In our group from the Cook Training School were Nez Pierce, two bands of the Dakota/Lakota, Puyallup, Winnebago, and I think one or two more, plus a couple of us Anglos. We sang together, prayed together, listened to Scripture together, and ate together. In the Book of Revelation we are given a vision of the World to Come in which members of every tongue, tribe, and nation, unite in praise to God. We need to do it more now.

2. Jesus promised that those who left all to follow him would receive a new family--fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters in Israel. I met one of my brothers this evening, a member of the Gila Crossing church. He was an older man (an "elder" not necessarily in office, but according to the respect given in tribal churches to older members) who told me of the history of the Pima and Maricopa tribes: the Pima farming and fishing along the Gila and Salt Rivers (the rivers had flowing water even in his memory, today they are used so hard that the water rarely flows), joined in confederation by the Maricopa who moved into the area from California after conflict with other tribes there, the confederated tribes defending their homeland against other tribes such as the Apache who would raid down from the mountains after harvest (war seems a human universal), coming under white rule, enduring, living now on the Gila River Reservation. Official website. "We are a desert people," he said, "and always will be." He spoke somewhat of his service in the Korean War. Then, he talked of Scripture, and of the Christian life. My family is big.

3. When Jesus promised us a new family, he did not promise us a perfect family. The downside of family life is that you do not get to choose your family, and some of the characters are odd, or even abrasive. So too my Christian family. We've had some friction among us at the conference. Some members of the family are easier to like than others. But, who am I to complain. I ain't always easy either.

4. One of the workshops I am attending this week is on Gangs and Meth. Perhaps more on that later. This afternoon our class went together to see the movie Freedom Writers. I recommend it.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Some thoughts on what I know about playing poker...

1. One of my favorite axioms: “if you can’t figure out who the sucker is in the game—get out; it is probably you” (famously quoted in Rounders).

2. In essence, the law of averages says that everyone at the table with a modest amount of ability will win the same amount of hands over the course of the night; therefore, the key to winning at poker is to maximize the hands you win and minimize your losses on the ones you lose. Sounds simple—but there is great art to this.

3. A corollary to this is the Kenny Rogers advice: “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” Don’t chase good money after bad. Get out early on bad hands. Drive up the pot on good hands.

4. A poker face is essential—but the whole art of “bluffing” is much overrated; it is very Hollywood—but unlikely to make you a consistent winner.

Now you know everything I know about playing poker.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Some quick not-necessarily-connected thoughts on the State of the Union:

1. Great drama: a President at war in the midst of historic low public approval numbers facing a newly crowned majority in Congress opposed to almost everything for which he stands.

2. The President's domestic agenda is nearly irrelevant. He has lost the initiative. He may get some of the things he wants, but they will be mostly on Democratic terms.

3. American institutions are so very powerful. I loved the civility and the respect for the offices and the history. The President's tribute to Nancy Pelosi was first class. He seemed sincere, and she appeared genuinely moved.

4. The expectation was that the speech would have no impact. I think that is basically correct, although the President gave his partisans a moment to be proud of and something to stick in their gas tank. The speech was the best and most articluate I had seen from this President in a long time, but does it matter at this point?

5. Kudos to the new speech-writing team. I like Michael Gerson--but, perhaps, it was time for a change. Although the punditry proclaimed it subdued, that stale analysis gives the wrong impression. The call to arms was a low roar that played powerfully eloquent on TV.

Instantly classic lines:

"The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour -- when decisions are hard and courage is needed. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies -- and the wisdom to face them together."

"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory."

"We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way."
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
As I said yesterday, "This week I am attending workshops in Tempe, Arizona, on topics related to leadership and ministry in Native Christian Churches. (Saying "Native American Churches" means another thing.) Here are a few random thoughts from today." To read yesterday's thoughts see here.

1. Tonight we are having ( I left early) a "cultural night" in the auditorium. A sort of mini-pow-wow. The evening began, as do all pow-wows I'm familiar with, with the posting of the colors done by veterans. We all stood as the honor guard presented the flag, then pledged allegiance to the United States of America. I feel humbled whenever I stand among Native peoples who demonstrate their patriotism, peoples who could rightfully hate this country, but instead serve as proud citizens. I've written of Indian patriotism before here and here and elsewhere. The color guard was from American Legion Ira Hayes Post No. 84, a racially mixed post including Native Americans.

2. Following the flag ceremony a WW2 veteran and member of the Legion Post gave a talk on his life. He was of Japanese descent. His father immigrated to the US in 1900, his mother in 1916. They were prohibited by law from becoming naturalized citizens, though their son and his siblings born here were citizens. When the draft was activated he was processed, but not inducted because he farmed. Following Pearl Harbor his father was arrested by the FBI, though never publically charged, and held in North Dakota. He continued farming until FDR signed the relocation order. Then, given only a few days to sell the farm, livestock, etc., he was processed as a detainee, being sent to the camp on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. (His draft classification, like that of other citizens sent to the camps, was reclassified as "Undesirable.") He was quite clear that he regarded this action as unjust and a violation of his rights as a citizen. However, the military soon realized its need for Japanese readers and speakers in the Pacific theater, and asked for volunteers from each camp to join the military as translators. He did. For the rest of the war he served in India and Burma assigned to the British, then with American forces in China. Finally, he finished his service in occupied Japan. Returning home after the war he found he had to start over. A kind neighbor to the family farm had allowed the family to store some machinery in his barn which he sold on behalf of the family during the war shortages. This money provided the nest egg to begin again. Eventually the family owned a farm in Arizona. He now is retired, and a proud Legion member. And, a patriot, who expressed his loyalty and love for America tonight.

3. He provided us a key to understanding the mystery of his patriotism by telling the story of the return of the highly decorated 442d to the United States after WW2. He told that President Truman, honoring this unit, told them that they had shown the country courage and loyalty. He then challenged them to continue the fight to hold America to its own highest ideals. For this citizen of Japanese ancestry, and I think for the Native American veterans, America is ultimately not a region of territory, nor a particular government administration, nor simply the sum of past injustice; America is an ideal to be defended and fought for against all enemies both foreign and domestic.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
This week I am attending workshops in Tempe, Arizona, on topics related to leadership and ministry in Native Christian Churches. (Saying "Native American Churches" means another thing.) Here are a few random thoughts from today.

1. You can learn a lot about a town by riding city busses. To save money I and the person I traveled with took a city bus from the Phoenix Airport to the Cook Conference Center/School (founded years ago to serve Indian Churches). Phoenix folk were very friendly and helpful, driver and passengers. My opinion of this town now is higher.

2. Have I ever mentioned I am frugal? I refer to myself as a true conservative--I read all restaurant menus from right to left.

3. Our dominant culture is crazy. Along University Avenue I see grass planted, with sprinkler systems installed. You have moved to the desert, people! It is dry here. Go with it, don't fight it. Adapt, change. Instead we usually seek to dominate our local environments. As the Phoenix area grows, where will the water come from to water this turf?

4. I am one of the few Anglos here. Most of the attendees are tribal. In conversation I find that tribal governments are universally despised as crooked, incompotent, etc. I ask why so? One of the more intriguing explanations I heard today: democracy is an alien imposition on tribal cultures which have other ways of raising up leaders; democratic processes tend to reward politicians (in the bad sense of the word) rather than raise up leaders. Ironically enough, the Founders of the US would have understood. By "tribal governments" we do not mean the Bureau of Indian Affairs, etc., but rather the self-government structures of each tribe.

5. Another explanation of the above: since friendship and kinship ties matter so much for tribal people (as they do in all traditional societies), then people in power necessarily reward their friends and relatives. In another context, (a discussion of gang activity on reservations), one man said--our tribe has found we have had to federalize gang-related law-breaking. They are not afraid of the tribal police or jails, they say, "go ahead, put me in jail, my aunt ----- will bring me food I like and my uncle ----- will let me out nights."

6. National gangs are a growing problem even on reservations. Perhaps more on this later.
Category: Films & Ideas
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have long argued that the decade of the 1970s was a golden age for filmmaking. Think about some of the Best Picture winners during the decade: Patton, both Godfathers, The Sting, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Annie Hall. Even more astounding, think about some of the films that did not win Best Picture: (a mere sampling) The Way We Were, The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, The Last Detail, Jaws, M*A*S*H, Dog Day Afternoon, Chinatown, Love Story, and the list goes on. In 1976 alone, the non-winners included: All the President's Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and The Omen (the latter two were not even nominated for Best Picture).

Why were the 1970s so golden? It was a fortuitous end of an era. For years, great talents learned and labored under the efficient but stifling studio system. In addition, these artists operated within the restrictive Hays production code, which policed motion picture content to insure "wholesome entertainment" (read the code here). When old Hollywood collapsed, the restrictions evaporated and a new generation emerged. These screenwriters and filmmakers, generally trained under the discipline of the ancien regime, felt free to experiment outside the old envelope, and their genius flowered. The results are the plethora of masterpieces cited above.

An aside: What happens when a generation emerges without training and no deeply embedded sense of propriety to which they must conform and against which they must inevitably rebel? Now appearing at your local video store. Sadly, there is a big difference in the ability to bend and/or break through the old standards and having no standards at all. Our current generation of filmmakers suffers from too much freedom and a palpable lack of cultivation.

I mentioned the non-winners from 1976. Do you remember the winner? Rocky.

Rocky was not an especially rebellious film. Of course, there is coarse language and implicit sexual intimacy outside of marriage; there are sympathetic criminals, and there are times when right and wrong is not clearly defined. But, in its essence, Rocky is the classic underdog narrative; it is a plot that goes back to the beginning of story telling and the halcyon days of Hollywood. In fact, in an almost quaint fashion, Rocky tells the utterly contrived tale of a club fighter who gets a title shot and, more importantly, an opportunity to reclaim his life.

» Read More

Historiography is the history of history. We are becoming accustomed to the notion that the recording of history is an intellectual battle with winners and losers. Here is an extremely brief note on how the history of the "Cause" developed over time:

With a few notable exceptions, the historiography considering the causes of the war consistently identified slavery as the main artery of conflict. That is, the issues of Constitutionalism, sectionalism, state rights, et al revolved around slavery and drew their emotional power from slavery. To some extent the debate over causation mirrored the sectional conflict and even the course of the actual war—with the Southern revisionism eventually succumbing to the numerical superiority of northern scholarship.

Northern explanations of the hostilities, from the near-contemporaneous account written by Henry Wilson to the initial scholarly discussion offered by turn-of-the-century historian James Ford Rhodes to the mid-century work of Allan Nevins and Arthur Schlesinger, revolve around the immorality of slavery. Transplanted Westerners David M. Potter, Don Fehrenbacher and Kenneth Stampp provided later affirmations of the centrality of slavery.

The three great twentieth-century divergent explanations occurred during the first fifty years. The Dunning School, named after a pioneer historian from Columbia University, unleashed a swell of Southern and Midwestern scholars, U.B. Phillips and William E. Dodd foremost among them, who defined the system of slavery as benign and justified the South’s actions leading to the war.

After the Dunning heyday of the 1920s, the second wave of revisionists declared that a “blundering generation” of politicians mishandled the sectional crisis of the 1850s. The post-World War I generation of historians accused the ante bellum generation of politicians of stumbling into a devastating war that could have been avoided through skillful statesmanship. The underlying premise, of course, was that slavery was not something over which a nation should have fought a civil war.

The other great threat to the “primacy of slavery” explanation came from the Charles and Mary Beard thesis, also offered during the 1920s, in which the Progressive historians pronounced the war to be the “Second American Revolution,” the product of economic transformation, and the ultimate triumph of capitalism over agrarianism. While economic determinism captured the imagination of radical historians and enjoyed a brief revival among some prominent Marxist historians during the 1960s and 1970s, in the end, even Beard himself repudiated this notion.
From my files on the CW, here is a bit more nuanced approach to why the war came and what it accomplished.

For a brief discussion on the who and the when of causal analysis, you may also be interested in "Civil War Historiography 101" (here)

Participation, Equality and the Constitution:
The Issues of the Civil War Era

During the restive middle decades of the nineteenth century, a series of disparate political fevers swept across the national landscape. Two separate but oftentimes complementary impulses, the Age of Democracy and the Age of Reform, produced a national crisis of identity in the form of a sectional division. The Civil War, the point at which the fever of sectional strife reached a near-lethal level, proved to be a defining moment for the American experiment in popular government. Hastened by the question of slavery in the western territories, the war preserved a unified nation and resolved several fundamental questions concerning the nature of the Union. The violence also marked a crossroads in the way in which citizens perceived their political leaders and interacted with their government.

» Read More

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Tocqueville attached this essay to the prior post, and, in response to off-line requests, Iam featuring it as a stand-alone post:

It's the Demography, Stupid
By Mark Steyn

"Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There'll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands--probably--just as in Istanbul there's still a building called St. Sophia's Cathedral. But it's not a cathedral; it's merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West."

Full essay here.
Gaypatriot has a link to this site on Terror-Free Oil. That is, a list of gasoline companies broken down into those whose product contains oil from countries of the Persian Gulf and those who do not. Here is the list.

Who are we funding when we fill up?
Worth Looking at: Martian Mariner takes exception to the Okie Gardener's post (read here in its entirety), which featured S. K. Malik's The Quranic Way of War. In conclusion, The Gardener commented: "We are not in a War on Terror. We are in a war with radical Islamists. This is not a new war. We are in another hot period of the nearly 1400 year-long war of Islam against everyone else. We need to understand the enemy in order to defeat him."

Guest Blog Rebuttal: Martian Mariner

"Understand the enemy."

Pakistan and its army is an important ally of our current War on Terror, misnamed as it may be. The reason that every Arab government, and most Islamic governments, are cooperating with us is because radical Salafism is as threatening to their regimes as it is to us. I'm certain that these secular but assuredly Muslim leaders do not consider themselves in the midst of a 1400 year-long war against the West.

My point here is that you're giving the Salafists more credit than they are due, by granting them the point that their brand of Islam is the true Islam. This point is not decided within Islam, and we shouldn't help legitimitize the side which would be most harmful to us.

I for one am not looking for a fight, and to claim that we're in the midst of an epoch-long war can have no benefit in a search for peace.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Psssst! Heh, want to see some real babes? This gallery will send you into roaring lust.

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This excerpt from Pat Buchanan's latest requiem for our Iraq policy is no surprise in terms of theme or tone, but the unvarnished assessment is nevertheless jarring in its logic and ring of inescapable impending doom:

"Even should the surge succeed for a time, it may only push the inevitable into another year.

"And consider what it is we are asking Maliki to do.

"We want him to use Sunni and Kurdish brigades of the Iraqi Army, in concert with the U.S. Army, to smash the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the most popular Shia leader in the country and the principal political support of Maliki. We are asking Maliki to turn on his ruthless Shia patron and bet his future on an America whose people want all U.S. troops home, the earlier the better.

"For Maliki to implement fully the U.S. conditions would make him a mortal enemy of Moqtada and millions of Shia, and possibly result in his assassination. Whatever legacy Bush faces, he is not staring down a gun barrel at that.

"The truth: There is only one U.S. policy guaranteed to work if we are resolved to keep Iraq in the U.S. camp. That is to send an army of 500,000 to 750,000 U.S. troops into Iraq for an indefinite period, to pacify Baghdad, retake and hold Anbar and secure the borders against jihadis. Even that kind of commitment, beyond the present capacity of the U.S. Army and Marines, would not secure America's position, once the inevitable withdrawal began.

"It is over. What we need to face now are the consequence of the folly of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice in launching this unnecessary and unprovoked war, the folly of the neocon snake oil salesmen who bamboozled the media into believing in this insane crusade to bring democracy to Baghdad in the belly of Bradley fighting vehicles and the folly of the Democratic establishment in handing Bush a blank check for war out of political fear of being called unpatriotic."

Read the entire piece here--courtesy of RCP.
This may be the biggest current under-reported news today. From iTWire here

The seizure of some crucial diaries and papers from people arrested in connection with the attack in Bangalore and Hyderabad led the police to alert IT companies in India to be more security conscious because they had found out that some militants had surveyed IT and call-center companies, to zero in on potential targets for future attacks.

Stratfor has a recent article on the threat, the full-text requires subscription, but this lead is free On Jan. 5, [2007] Indian police arrested a suspected militant near Jalahalli, a village just north of the important high-tech center of Bangalore. The arrest, the latest in a series of incidents connected to the high-tech industry, demonstrates the increasing militant focus on this vital sector of the Indian economy.

Terrorists appear to be targeting India's high tech and information centers. Success against these targets would be devastating for the Indian economy.

Important to America? Yes, India now is linked in with our own economy. India may be our staunchest long-term ally against Islamic terror. India is an important military ally as China expands its power.
SMU appears to be the location for the future George W. Bush Presidential Library, much to the dissappointment of Baylor University, Waco.

Recently some faculty, and other United Methodists have objected to locating the library at the Southern Methodist University. I've spent a little time this morning at the website of the UMC protestors, here, which has as its mission statement

We the undersigned express our objection to the prospect of the George W. Bush library, museum, and think tank being established at Southern Methodist University. As United Methodists, we believe that the linking of his presidency with a university bearing the Methodist name is utterly inappropriate. We urge the Board of Trustees of Southern Methodist University and the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church to reject this project.

On the site, however, I cannot find much justification for the objection. Specifically, there are no arguments or rationales offered as to why United Methodists should object to such a linkage. There is a list of references, but most of those appear to be the usual denunciations of the Bush administration over the "War on Terror", the War in Iraq, and the Federal government's handling of the Katrina aftermath. Nothing specifically Methodist.

I miss rational discourse.

Looking at the Southern Methodist University website: I do not even see the word "Methodist" on the front page. The university is referred to simply as SMU. In the "About Us" section SMU describes itself as

A private university of 11,000 students near the center of Dallas . . . And at the bottom of the page Founded in 1911 by what is now The United Methodist Church, SMU opened in 1915 with support from Dallas leaders. The University is nonsectarian in its teaching and committed to freedom of inquiry.

Doesn't sound like SMU is especially Methodist, so I have trouble believing that the opponents of the library wish to preserve the integrity of "Methodism".

19/01: Ali turns 65

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Happy Birthday, Champ.


May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young.

~~Bob Dylan

From the 110th Congress:

Resolved, That the House of Representatives honors Muhammad Ali, global humanitarian, on the occasion of his 65th birthday and extends best wishes to him and his family (read all here).
Golden Ages happen, generally, when a series of unconnected events come together in a fortuitous way to form an extraordinary moment. For example, we often view the late-1950s and early-1960s in America as a Golden Age.

Of course, many will note that we whitewash much of the ugliness of the fifties in our mind's eye, remembering the era through the prism of black and white television series in which Father always knew best and problems evaporated every thirty minutes. The social critic's question in a nutshell: "Happy Days" for whom?

Notwithstanding that critique, the period stands out for so many of us (even, perhaps especially, those of us born after the fact) as a shining moment in our national story when so much was right with America. Why were the 1950s so grand? The Golden Age materialized, at least in part, as a result of the deprivation of the Great Depression, the sacrifice of the Second World War followed by the relief of victory and the great surprise of collective affluence.

On a personal scale, think of a typically rural American, raised on a farm somewhere in the heartland during the Great Depression, growing to maturity in an environment in which “want” was a perpetual state--but making do. Coming of age during our all-out national struggle to defeat fascism, this typical American joined the battle (if male, most likely went to war). For veterans of the fight for survival during the 1930s, defeating Hitler and Tojo seemed light duty (at least a fellow got three squares a day).

Returning home victorious, America's warriors were rewarded with the opportunity to attend college and buy homes on the G.I. Bill. For so many Americans, higher education, a tried and true path to upward mobility, proved the unexpected but hilariously happy consequence of their war service. America went to college in droves and emerged in the post-war world with the best educated most resourceful workforce on the planet. Born into deprivation, tested by war, the Greatest Generation understood the post-war opportunity and made the most of it. Happy Days.

One wonders if great success is possible without severe trials. How long can a golden age last? How long can a people maintain a level of excellence without a great cultural crisis to motivate them to higher achievement?

Are we in such a crisis? Or, more accurately, are we descending into such a period of crisis? Will this coming crisis mark the downward turning point in the great American drama—or will the next test mark the beginning of a cycle of renewal?

Or as Benjamin Franklin purportedly asked 220 years ago: "Is the sun rising or setting on the American experiment?"
A must read for anyone striving to understand the current conflict, this review of S. K. Malik's The Quranic Way of War. Malik is/was a Pakistani military officer. From Jihadwatch.

An excerpt:

The Quranic Concept of War

The Quranic Concept of War, by Brigadier General S. K. Malik of the Pakistani Army provides readers with unequalled insight. Originally published in Pakistan in 1979, most available copies are found in India, or in small non-descript Muslim bookstores. One major point to ponder, when thinking about The Quranic Concept of War, is the title itself. The Quran is presumed to be the revealed word of God as spoken through his chosen prophet, Mohammed. According to Malik, the Quran places warfighting doctrine and its theory in a much different category than western thinkers are accustomed to, because it is not a theory of war derived by man, but of God. This is God’s warfighting principles and commandments revealed. Malik attempts to distill God’s doctrine for war through the examples of the Prophet. By contrast, the closest that Clausewitz comes to divine presentation is in his discussion of the trinity: the people, the state, and the military. In the Islamic context, the discussion of war is at the level of revealed truth and example, well above theory—God has no need to theorize. Malik notes, “As a complete Code of Life, the Holy Quran gives us a philosophy of war as well. . . . This divine philosophy is an integral part of the total Quranic ideology.”

(Okie again) We are not in a War on Terror. We are in a war with radical Islamists. This is not a new war. We are in another hot period of the nearly 1400 year-long war of Islam against everyone else. We need to understand the enemy in order to defeat him.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Let's give credit where credit is due.

The Democrats in the House are off to a good start. Nancy Pelosi is taking advantage of friendly media to soft-sell herself as a sensitive and efficient Speaker of the House.

The 100 Hours Agenda is being implemented:

Tuesday, January 9: Implement the 9/11 Commission Recommendations

Wednesday, January 10: Increase the Minimum Wage

Thursday, January 11: Expand Stem Cell Research

Friday, January 12: Allow Negotiation for Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Wednesday, January 17: Cut Interest Rates on Student Loans

Thursday, January 18: End Subsidies for Big Oil and Invest in Renewable Energy

Here is the "Countdown Clock." If you are interested in checking the progress of the program, they are right on schedule.

These bills are passing, by the way, with large Republican votes in support. They are generally innocuous but ring with common sense and populist appeal.

Defying many of the predictions of wild-eyed Jacobins tearing down the fabric of the republic, the new majority has not moved to impeach the President, initiate a draft, defund the war, dismantle domestic surveillance of suspected terrorist supporters or even push through an agenda of San Francisco-style social revolution. Perhaps those things are in the offing, but, for now, the Democrats appear mild-mannered, competent stewards of the people's interest.

Despite some harsh rhetoric, they have opted for caution in dealing with the war and the President's plan to add troops in Iraq. They are allowing the Senate to take the lead in opposing the President, where some high-profile Republican Senators are set to abandon the President and give cover to the expected collapse of support among House Republicans. Instead of dusting off the War Powers Act, or moving to cut off money to troops in the field, the Democratic leadership is quietly setting the stage for a grassroots revolt against the President's authority to conduct the war.

The bad news for the GOP is that this leadership team is likely here for an extended period of time. It is unlikely that the electorate will eject this newly elected majority in 2008. Why would they?

An aside: In the Senate the prognosis is even worse in the near term. Eighteen incumbent Republicans senators are up for re-election in 2008. Those will be tough races. Why are conservative Republicans running for cover? George Allen, Jim Talent and Rick Santorum. Why are moderately conservative Republicans in swing states running for cover? Mike DeWine. This explains why the Republicans in the Senate are in full retreat.

The good news is that the Senate, in the long view, looks good for the Republicans. Since 1980, control of the Senate has changed hands repeatedly; that trend will likely continue. Barring complete disaster, we can expect the GOP to contest for the Senate as early as 2010.

When can we expect a GOP majority to return in the lower house? Perhaps if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, the traditional difficulties for the majority party affiliated with the sitting president will help the Republicans to fight their way back in 2010. But don't count on it. We may be talking about Speaker Pelosi in 2012 and 2014 and 2016.
Category: Campaign 2008.1
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The question of the day on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this morning (January 17, 2007):

Is Barack Obama experienced enough to be President of the United States?

Not surprisingly, Democrats assured us that he is. Republicans hooted at his brief career in national politics.

The truth is that winning the presidency is a combination of timing and likeability. That is, the timing must be right for your brand of change. If you are running against a popular incumbent, the record indicates that a challenger, no matter how smart, no matter how articulate, no matter how handsome, does not fare well. Think Dwight Eisenhower is 1956; Ronald Reagan in 1984; Bill Clinton in 1996. Was there a challenger anywhere in America capable of diverting those landslide reelection victories?

On the other hand, if you are running against a failed incumbent, and the collective sense of the American people is that change is necessary, almost any candidate, no matter how formerly unknown or inexperienced, can win on the first Tuesday in November. After twelve years of Democratic Party rule, any candidate could have beaten Martin Van Buren in the aftermath of the Panic of 1837. Similarly, any candidate could have bested Herbert Hoover, broken on the wheel of economic depression, in 1932.

Much more fluid are elections in which there is no incumbent or heir apparent to an administration in power. We are approaching just such a rare election in 2008.

In these elections (this election), timing will be an important factor; that is, what is the zeitgeist of the American electorate? Does the economy drive the decision? National security? The national debt? Taxes? Integrity? These are all important factors.

But in this election in which there is no incumbent and no heir apparent, all things being equal, likeability will be an extremely strong determinant in the contest.

Do Americans care about experience? Not especially. Al Gore was much more experienced than George Bush, but Bush won the likeability contest by a wide margin (and, of course, John Kerry was incredibly unappealing). Jerry Ford was eminently more experienced and qualified to be president than Jimmy Carter--but Americans were ready for a change.

Henry Clay was the most qualified American statesman to never be president--but his accomplishments did not matter to Americans in 1844 when they elected virtually unknown James K. Polk over the Great Compromiser. J.Q. Adams boasted perhaps the finest record of public service in all our history--but he lost the popular vote in 1824 to the charismatic war hero, Andrew Jackson. JFK and LBJ in the Democratic contest for the nomination in 1960. JFK and Nixon in the general in 1960.

Moreover, add into the 2008 equation friendly media coverage of an Obama campaign, and you can easily envision how his inexperience could be an advantage. Voters tend to project their own views on fresh faces. In fact, during the modern era, extensive voting records have proved debilitating handicaps in media-driven elections.

I make no definite prediction here, but in answer to the question of whether Americans will elect an inexperienced person whom they like and to whom they can attach their optimism and desire for a change? Or can Barack Obama be elected? Bet the farm on it.

Note: Thanks to Citlalli for her consultation in the development of this post.
The government makes life for Christians in Nigeria increasingly difficult. From Dhimmiwatch.

So what will happen when Muslims achieve majority status in some Western European nations by the end of this century?
We have touched a nerve here at Bosqueboys with Farmer's postings on the Confederate flag, and on the justification arguments for secession, and on the causes of the Civil War. Lots of passion.

I cannot believe that this emotional response simply relates to an event a century and a half ago. Indeed, Rue-Mur talks much of the present.

May I open a related thread? I invite you to comment on why the Confederate flag, and the Civil War, etc., is an emotional issue for you today. What gives you the fire that you've shown in your comments?
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
I am a sucker for an underdog-chasing-his-dream story, especially if the story has a happy ending. Here, from Breitbart, the story of the son of Jamaican immigrant parents to Britain who pursued his dream of owning a farm, has realized that dream, has contributed to the social well-being of the nation, and now is standing for Parliement as a Conservative candidate. Three Cheers!
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Powerline has this list of questions for those of you who still may think that the mainstream media is unbiased. The questions are rational in tone and content, and concern coverage of the UN scandals.
We had so much fun with this yesterday, let's recap and start again with a more honest focus on one of the most resilient and fertile questions of American history: Was the Civil War fought over slavery?

My thesis (and this is key): The North did not begin the war to end slavery, but the South began the war to protect slavery.

The Election of 1860, in which the Republican Party swept 18 out of 18 free states, relegated the South to minority status. For several decades, a vast majority of Southerners had agreed that Northern rule was the end of “liberty” as they knew it. The new regional party, unlike the national parties that had come before, was so far removed from Southern sensibilities that it was not even on the ballot in most Southern states in 1860.

The election of Abraham Lincoln was an earthquake. Even as Lincoln promised that he would leave slavery undisturbed in the places in which it already existed, the South could not afford to accept that pledge. For at least a decade leading up to the watershed election, the South had asked for assurances, and, now, instead, they got Lincoln. The man who saw slavery as a great evil that must eventually be extinguished. “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.” The Party of “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men” was now ascendant, and “Spot Resolution” Lincoln was at the crest of the wave.

The secession crisis of 1860-61 was not unlike previous standoffs between the two sections. Ten years earlier, the South had conducted furious preparations to leave the Union over the disposition of the slave question in the newly acquired territories in the West. The result of the turmoil then was the Compromise of 1850, on which the South reneged four years later, when Southern leaders demanded slavery be extended into the Kansas territory, in violation of the thirty-four year-old Missouri Compromise.

But the election of Lincoln, and more importantly the unprecedented regional majority, proved the final straw. As a last gasp, the South demanded that Lincoln agree to the extension of slavery into the West. Lincoln refused. And the War came.

Lincoln did not bring the Union into the fight to end slavery. He is famous for saying:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."

Having said that, the war did end slavery.

Was the South's fight merely to protect state rights? Again, the great question: What right were the seceding states defending? The right to secede? What right was in danger in the winter of 1860-61? What had changed? What was behind the secession at that moment?

Ironically, the failed secession was the end of state sovereignty as a viable counterweight to the power of the central government. Ironic, that is, because, in effect, state rights theory committed suicide. From the Civil War, the federal government emerged ascendant. No one would ever argue that the states were co-equal seats of authority again. No one would ever entertain the notion that secession was a possibility again.
Michael Yon is doing the best reporting, in my opinion, from on the ground in Iraq and other places. Here is the start of another series. Here is the webpage. Make it a Favorite.
What to make of these reports recently out of Iran? (I am late with this, but between a visit from my son in the service and the stomach flu, I'm behind on everything.)

From Gateway Pundit: Iranian Cellphone Users Report Eruption of Navy Clashes With US. Apparently Iranian cell phones displayed this news, which was later denied by the governor of the southern province.

Also from Gateway Pundit: More on the ... "Iranian UFO Mega-Blast" and here : 3 Explosions In the West & 1 MASSIVE UFO BLAST In Central Iran! The Fars News Agency (official) reported the blasts and the UFO.

What conclusions may be drawn? One freak-out news story could mean nothing, two in short succession could mean something. (1) There may be more tension within Iran over the possibility of conflict with the US than we have thought, in those circumstances rumors become "news" quickly. This is, I think, the most likely explanation. (2) The US government has begun a psy-ops campaign to raise the tension level in Iran. We sometimes forget that the Iranian regime is not inherently stable. The dominant ethnic group within Iran makes up not much over 50 percent of the population and so the nation may be susceptible to destabilization. I don't this it likely, though, that we have started psy-ops on Iran since I don't think it likely that we are about to start an "Iranian project" with support slipping for our Iraq project. (3) The war against Iran has started and the US media just do not know it yet. The UFO was really a US missle. Least likely explanation, I think, see (2) above.
Programming Note: Thanks to all of you who have contributed to this vibrant discussion. I invite you to read my latest post, which confronts the question of slavery as a cause of the Civil War in a more direct maner: "Re-Waging the Civil War."

In honor of MLK, evidently, Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, two candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, attended an NAACP rally in front of the South Carolina statehouse in Columbia. Both senators agreed that the Confederate flag, which formerly flew over the capitol dome but still remains on the property, has no place on the capitol grounds (read the Washington Post story here).

The actions of Senators Dodd and Biden strike me as pure demagoguery. Was this the most meaningful message they could have imparted on MLK day? Or was this their best shot at getting on TV and touching a hot-button issue with a vital constituency?

Back over at the Liberty Papers, Kevin makes an argument for dumping the Confederate flag (and the monument to Confederate veterans as well) because "the Confederacy existed for sole purpose of allowing the enslavement of other human beings."

Those Liberty Boys sure are hard on the Confederacy. Lighten up fellas.

Having said that, for different reasons, I agree that the public display of the Confederate flag is problematic and ought to fade into the sunset.

My comment I attached to Kevin's post:

Sadly, the honorable history of the Confederate battle flag is largely irrelevant.

The flag is a negative symbol in the South for two reasons:

1) it was co-opted by the Klan and became a symbol of violence toward African Americans; and

2) it was adopted by the massive resistance that emerged during the post-Brown Civil Rights years in the South. The Rebel flags found their way onto Southern state flags as a symbol of modern defiance rather than an homage to the tradition of bravery among a mostly non-slaveholding force of fighting men during the Civil War.

Too bad–-but that is the reality. There is a time-honored Christian principle of laying down non-essential symbols and practices that offend others.

Southern whites need to forego the flag as a measure of their desire to live in harmony with their neighbors.
LGF has links to the documentary in which undercover reporters go inside UK mosques to see if what is said on the inside inside matches what is said to the outside. (It doesn't) To quote LGF, evidence of Islamic supremacism, shocking misogyny, and support for violence at a number of Britain’s leading mosques and Muslim institutions.
Selected passages from, "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," King's greatest public pronouncement:

"But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

"Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..."

"So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."

» Read More

In case anyone is interested:

I have engaged in a conversation on the "Liberty Papers" concerning the right of the South to Secede.

Here is the post and thread of comments that followed.

Also, a related post on "Wake Up America" entitled the "War of Northern Aggression" argues that the South was right to secede, the war was never really over (the last 150 years was interlude), and Southerners might well walk away again--perhaps in the near future.

Here is my first post on the Liberty Papers thread, which sums up my view in a nutshell:

A Right to Secede?

Yes and No.

The lack of clarity in re secession allows enough gray area for lawyers and constitutionalists to make persuasive arguments for either position.

The right to secede flows from the original process of ratifying the Constitution. That is, if South Carolina voluntarily entered the Union through the process of a ratification convention, they ought to have the right to voluntarily exit the Union through a de-ratification convention.

Lincoln’s answer: South Carolina had entered into a perpetual union contract. Once in–they could never leave. How many perpetual union contracts have you entered into in your life? They are pretty rare. The Mafia comes to mind: “you walk in; you are carried out.” We generally do not view those sorts of arrangements as humane.

The Election of 1860, and the emergence of an entirely regional party (the GOP), signalled the end of the South as an equal player in the national government. At least, that was the argument.

True, Lincoln and the Republicans promised not to disturb slavery where it existed, which should have been enough–for we all know that politicians don’t lie or change their minds or shift their rhetoric later when it suits their needs.

In the end, I agree that the secession was about slavery. From the Northern point of view, the war not about slavery until much later. But the South attempted to bolt the Union in order to protect slavery. From our perspective, there is no defending that motivation.

Read the entire post and comment thread here.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I remain optimistic.

Irrespective of all the posts I have written, and will write in the future, chastising the President, moaning the blues and screaming in pain, I am committed to following the President on this latest wrinkle.

I think he is merely buying more time toward his basic operating theory that good things happen if you come to work everyday. Good guys win in the end. Succeeding is trying just one more time than you fail. Never give in! Never give in! Never ever give in!

I remain optimistic because I am infected with the same contagion as the President: Evangelical Americanism. We are a people of hope. We are a people operating under the delusion that all things work toward good for those who love God. We are a people convinced that freedom is not just right--but our birthright.

None of the above statements are logical. Smart people the world over can explain why only a complete ignoramus would believe these things. No matter, I continue to believe in the goodness and necessity of our mission in Iraq. I continue to believe there is a recipe for success out there, and it is our challenge to discern it.
I spent Saturday morning reading Eric Foner's account of the collapse of Reconstruction following the American Civil War.

In many respects, at least in the short term, the Congressional Reconstruction efforts in the American South following the bloody War Between the States enjoyed great success. For a brief moment, the liberator-occupiers installed public education for all Southerners, built public hospitals and policed free elections. In so many ways, the vast majority of Southerners had never been freer or enjoyed more opportunity to improve themselves.

Northern proponents of "free labor" ideology optimistically weaved an enchanting plan for a new South in which public schools, railroads, small towns and independent farmers would prosper and proliferate. However, as the promised economic progress failed to materialize in the South, a backward-looking white insurgency gained momentum. A "reign of terror" against the occupying army, the new government and its civilian supporters made the South an increasingly dangerous place for citizens working toward the "free society" vision.

Although the violent insurgency was deadly and ubiquitous by 1870 and 1871, President Grant decisively responded with determination and vigor to crush the Klan by 1872. For a year or so, the project to reform the South moved forward in relative peace. But victory in the former Confederacy was not secured. The occupying Northerners had problems of their own at home. A faction of Republicans objected to the ruling party on grounds related indirectly to Reconstruction; they also believed that the former slaves, freed and given political rights, should now take the lead in maintaining their newly acquired status. It was time to draw down; it was time to focus on problems nearer to home.

After a devastating economic downturn in 1873, and the mid-term elections of 1874 in which the Democrats captured the House of Representatives for the first time since before the Civil War, President Grant observed that the public was worn out by Reconstruction.

By the election of 1876, the insurgency was back--and more brazen. This time, four years later, President Grant lacked the will to respond. Most of the Northern visionaries who had predicted a successful, dynamic and peaceful reformation were long gone. And the people of the North were mostly fatigued with the ten-year project. They had done their best. They had offered the South an opportunity. High minded and well-intentioned people had professed the ability to remake a distinct culture in their own image--but they had failed.

Note to readers: this is a simple telling of a complicated story from an occupiers point of view. I am hoping that my unreconstructed friends will accept it as that and not argue the finer points of Reconstruction historiography; that was not the point of my yarn--but, if it happens that way, I will engage in that conversation.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Rott has this moving essay on CPL Jason Dunham, the Marine killed when he covered a grenade and saved other Marines. For his action he has been awarded the Medal of Honor.
Early in the short life of this blog, I observed that George W. Bush acts upon a sort of postmillennial theology, a belief that the power of God working now in history will usher in an age of peace (millennium) prior to the return of Christ. This observation led to other posts that have explained and defended postmillennialism and amillenialism and their relation to politics through our attitudes toward the future. For the previous posts, see here and follow the links.

For background, I recycle some material from previous posts:

Premillennial: believing that when Jesus Christ returns he will usher in a long period of peace and justice (the millennium). In other words, there is a radical discontinuity [the return of Jesus] between present human history and the evident reign of God on earth in human history (Shalom). After the millennium comes the fulfillment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is a brief survey of Premillenialism and its relation to politics.

» Read More

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
Photognome calls our attention a couple of interesting items.

First, to Judge Robert H. Dierker, Jr., and his book The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault . I've not read the book, nor heard of Dierker, but like the title. Anyone out there read this book?

Second, to the website Ralph the Sacred River, who combines Christianity, erudition, and humor.
From my office window tonight I see very few vehicles on the highway (US 62 & 281). Here in southwest Oklahoma we are coated in ice and expecting more. Plans have had to change. The local TV station crawls cancellation after cancellation for tonight and tomorrow across the bottom of the screen, including our church. We have bowed to the necessity of bad weather.

"Bad weather" is relative. The congregation I served in NW Iowa would not have thought of cancelling for these conditions, at least the morning service. But, we had a few evening cancellations there also. Sometimes you just have to change your plans.

Winter reminds us that we do not have total control. The world and life are bigger than us, and our desires and plans may be thwarted. Robert Burns said it best, (cont. below)

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Elizabeth Williamson has this article in the Washington Post on religious affiliation in the new Congress.

The article has its most extended discussion on Jewish membership and Jews in politics.

A few bits: more Jews in this Congress than ever before; first Muslim in Congress; Harry Reid highest ranking Mormon ever in Congress.
From the Washington Times, this piece on the financial ties of the Saudis to Carter and especially his pal Bert Lance. Link from Wizbang who also has some interesting commentary re: Billy and also Saudi success.

Takes some shine off the halo of St. Jimmy of Plains.

On a related Carter note, this financial revelation follows the self-centered, churlish behavior of Carter over the last few years. One common-sense theory of human behavior as we age is that we reveal more clearly who we are as we have less success manipulating the persona we have created to present to the world. Jimmy is not aging gracefully.
I appeared on KWTX (local TV) three times in less than twenty-four hours this week. I talked a lot, but I did not say anything worth repeating here.

However, here is what I am hearing around town:

At the Wal-Mart this morning around 6AM:

One employee to the other: "How come you are not wearing your [support the troops] badge?"

"I don't support the war."

"I know but you support the troops, right?"

"I don't support the killing."

"I know. It is just like Vietnam. But you should wear your badge."

"I don't support all that killing."
OneFreeKorea has excellent commentary on and a link to an op ed by the US Special Envoy for Human Rights Jay Lefkowitz. Link from Gateway Pundit.

In a nutshell, the North Korean government is hiring out groups of its citizens to various nations as laborers to earn hard currency (for the government, not the workers). Countries are named. North Korea helps put the Evil in Axis of Evil.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This reader comment attached to the previous post comes from one of our most thoughtful cyber neighbors and merits a spotlight.

Evrviglnt wrote:

"8. To do nothing different is to fail. To send more troops with a plan to hold ground and effect some semblance of peace is an attempt to show Iraqis that it can be done, life need not be simply one bombing after another. We need momentum in the right direction; there are few options now, including surrender. This is the right choice by the commander in chief.

"That is not to say I am not terribly disappointed in my president, I am. For years now I have defended his decision to invade Iraq because I understood his long term plans, recognized the advantage of having a foreign battlefield with which to engage fanaticism, and I agreed with his optimism that freedom is a natural yearning of the oppressed. I am less idealistic now, and find myself on that cusp where one side demands total and overwhelming military domination, the other - bringing our soldiers home. I am not a violent man, but if we will not change the rules of engagement so our soldiers can do their jobs with withering ferocity and efficiency, then bring them home..."
Quick Thoughts:

1. The President admitted errors in judgment--but he remains unrepentant. He is staying the course, with adjustments.

2. The President did not change one mind in America last night.

3. The President is isolated. Congress cannot stop him, but they can make his life difficult via resolutions and hearings. The Democratic leadership strategy now is to foment debate and discontent in hopes of bending the will of the President.

4. As Democratic Party strategists admit, there is no political advantage to be gained through investing in this policy.

5. The "bi-partisan working group" to which the President referred consists of Joe Lieberman, a Senator from Connecticut and a former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee--just to name a few.

6. The Democrats have no alternative other than "redeployment" and striking a deal with Iran and Syria.

7. This "new plan" is a long shot. In fact, it is mostly a way to buy time. But what are the other options?

Transcript and video here.
Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
Continuing the discussion from this post, photognome sends these links on ethanol and the rural economy.

Ethanol Boom Divides Farmers and Ranchers from WashPost

Rise in Ethanol Raises Concerns about Corn as a Food from NYTimes

Animal Fats Touted as Future Fuel Source from WashPost
From GayPatriot, this "report" from Denver. Bravo community self-sufficiency.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Powerline guys have done good coverage on Keith Ellison since before election day. Their reaction to his appointment on the House Judiciary Committee is a must read.
The President addresses the nation tonight. What does it all mean?

The Bad News:

1. Our army is in terrible shape. There is reasonable doubt as to whether our armed forces can even mount a sustained surge in Iraq.

2. The President's credibility is in terrible shape, and it is his own fault. The President is responsible for the state of the military. He is responsible for squandering the greatest surge of patriotism since Pearl Harbor and frittering away public support for the war. He is responsible for squandering three years, more than 3,000 American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to achieve very little.

3. A majority of of the people of the United States and the United States Congress are no longer unified in support of the war (this too is the President's fault; see above).

4. The United States cannot win a war that the people and their elected representatives do not support.

5. For of all the reasons enumerated above, the President is now forced to throw a "Hail Mary" pass (low percentage option) to save our mission in Iraq. The temptation is to skimp on force level, which will leave no room for error. The surge probably cannot survive the first catastrophe.

6. A humiliating retreat out of Iraq is the beginning of the end of the American hegemony. The next world order may be far less to our liking.

The dim light in the darkness that must pass today as Good News:

1. The President has one more chance to make his case before the American people and sway statesmen in Congress.

2. The American military wants to win, and they are so talented and determined that they have the capability of overcoming the odds.

3. Necessity is the mother of invention; dire necessity (survival) is the most powerful motivation within the human psyche.

May God bless the United States of America.
On this day in history, January 8, 1815, an Andrew Jackson-led force routed the mighty British Army on the outskirts of New Orleans-- winning arguably the most important military victory in all of the American past.

It seems an appropriate moment to recycle these musings on Democracy and Providence:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can only wait and see where Providence comes down.

The piece in its entirety here.

A significant addendum: January 8 is also the birthday of Elvis Presley, born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gaypatriot shows Edwards for a hypocrite simply and devastatingly. Here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few months ago I threw out a few quickly composed thoughts about Republican "common sense." Thinking Out Loud through the question of why college-educated, white, religiously oriented Americans, in general, more often than not, vote Republican, I suggested:

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

You may review the full post here.

Important Disclaimer: Let the record show that I believe wholeheartedly that the party of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Paul Tsongas, Paul Wellstone, Joe Lieberman and Russ Feingold does not hate America. The Democratic Party has played a vital and positive role in shaping American history and political culture. I sincerely hope that tradition continues in perpetuity.

Having said that, the Democratic Party has some exigent problems in terms of public perception and, more importantly, policy making, which are rooted in real structural and systemic weaknesses in basic Democratic Party DNA.

What is wrong with the Democratic Party?

A related sub-question: Why do so many regular Americans see the Democrats as oddly out of step with their values?

Mostly, it is the result of the complicated make-up of the Democratic Party coalition.

Take Michael Moore (please). Moore is a radical thinker (talker) on the outskirts of the Democratic Party mainstream. As you may remember, Moore supported Ralph Nader and the Green Party in 2000. He felt guilty for contributing to the Bush presidency, so he came back into the fold in 2004. Democrats were very happy to have him (intent on making him feel at home), famously seating him next to former-President Jimmy Carter in a privileged box for dignitaries at the Democratic National Convention.

Does Moore hate America? He is definitely cynical about our history and our system. Granted, he is more anti-Bush, anti-Republican and anti-wealth than "anti-American." On the other hand, if you follow his line of reasoning, you find it pretty difficult to see the United States as anything less than a malevolent power, insensitive to its own citizens and a danger to the world (too many evil Republicans in power for too long). Is this an America-hating position? Reasonable people will disagree, but we can safely say that his views are certainly not an America-loving perspective. Many Americans find that fine distinction difficult to maintain.

Am I picking on an extremist who is unrepresentative of his party? I don't think so. I know literally scores of rational Democrats who went to Fahrenheit 911, laughing and applauding and praising Moore for his high art and insightful contemporary history. I have friends who quote Moore (often unknowingly) and build points on his interpretation of history (once again, often unknowingly). My point: Moore is not an isolated case.

Why do Democrats put themselves in such a vulnerable position? As I say above, many agree with him in principle. More importantly, politics makes for strange bedfellows; the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Bush and the Republicans are the enemy. The Democratic Party cannot afford to lose Michael Moore (and his ilk) to radical third parties; that is, the Democrats cannot win national elections without the Michael Moore fringe in America. Therefore, they are stuck with Michael Moore as a valued ally and celebrated spokesman.

The Democratic Party has several other problem constituencies within its coalition, including but not limited to American academia, old guard feminists and the so-called civil rights organizations. I intend to discuss these other factors in the days to come.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
The WSJ, as part of its continuing series of "Five Best," has this piece by Clive James on the best volumes of poetry. God bless him for extoling the Masters: Yeats, Frost, Auden, Wilbur, Larkin. I now have a New Year's Resolution to gain weight to complement my resolution to lose pounds.
For three years of war, the Bush administration deluded itself into thinking that they sat atop a generational political realignment. Karl Rove et al saw George Bush as a McKinley-like figure who had inaugurated a decades-long Republican dynasty.

What is wrong with dynasty? Dynasty lacks accountability.

No pressure in Iraq guys, we have a compliant Congress. Don't bother selling this to the American people, they understand GOP means patriotism, peace through strength, and a no-nonsense view of the world; we speak the same language; the electorate is in the bag.

Now George Bush is operating within a new model. The administration understands all too well today that the American people are fed up with where we are in Iraq, and we want to quit. This past election saw crushing defeats for the President and his policy, and the next election, if we are in the same position in Iraq, will be much worse.

An aside: At least one of two things is true: the President and his brain trust badly misjudged the obstacles in the Middle East, and/or the President failed miserably in articulating what was ahead of us and preparing us as a nation for the long siege against Islamism, history and fifty years of American foreign policy in the region that works against us.

What can Bush do? He can give up. He can pack up the troops and bring them home. He can say he made a huge mistake. He can ask forgiveness and reach across the aisle for help in shutting down military operations. He can say his heart was in the right place, but events overwhelmed him. We wish the people of Iraq the best, and we hope that the Middle East finds the right path on the long highway of life--but we are done.

Or he can say damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. I am certain that the President is going to give this project one more shot. The President must understand, finally, that he has used up all his “political capital.” For a very brief period, he can stand against an electoral mandate and a hostile Congress--but not for long. He must make decisive progress, and it must come quickly.

With the clock winding down, President Bush is putting the ball in the hands of Lt. Gen David H. Petraeus. Is victory still possible? Stranger things have happened. Generals Grant and Sherman turned the tide for President Lincoln during desperate times. Has President Bush found himself a fighting general? Perhaps more importantly, is George Bush ready to be a fighting president?

Here is a New York Post column from Ralph Peters, who argues that Petraeus is capable but possibly not belligerent enough.

A profile of Petraeus from the Washington Post here.
A regular attender at an Episcopal congregation described in the Washington Post writes to criticize the coverage. Here.

For most reporters churches are strange and foreign lands beyond their know world and so illustrated with mermaids and dragons.
Here's something else I learned recently. My source in industry shall remain anonymous, but I will vouch for him.

Because Wal-Mart drives such hard bargains with suppliers, it is not unusual for suppliers to alter their specs so as to sell to Wal-Mart with a profit. I'm talking major manufacturers selling goods through Wal-Mart that are not as well-made so as to fit into the price structure. So what's the problem? Nowhere on the labels will it say that the specs differ from what one might purchase elsewhere.

That sounds fraudulent.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
While back up in the home country of northern Missouri between Christmas and New Year's, I saw two things I never imagined.

First, the local paper carried a picture of a mountain lion taken in Livingston County, not too far from home. The cat had activated a camera left along a deer trail to count deer. The big cats are starting to move back into Missouri, preying on the deer. Wow. Mountain lions back in Missouri after all these years. Resulting from a tremendous increase in the number of deer compared to 50 years ago, protected status, and also (I assume) from the depopulation of rural Missouri. Like much of the Midwest, most rural north Missouri counties peaked in population between 1900 and 1920.

Second, I saw fresh sign of moles at work in late December on the family farm. Never before have I seen that. Even the warmer winters I remember left the ground too cool. Those who try to deny climate change are whistling in the dark. See this earlier post.
Category: Same-Sex Marriage
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Mirror of Justice: A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory:

"January 03, 2007

"A "Shameful Reversal of Rights"?

"Today's Boston Globe carries as its lead editorial a commentary on the Massachusett's legislature's permitting the continuation of the legal process to define constitutionally marriage as the union of one man and one woman. HERE The title of this editorial is: "A Shameful Reversal of Rights." But, is the action a true reversal of any "right"; moreover, is the action of the legislature "shameful"? The answer to each of these questions is no."

Read the entire post here.

Thanks to Tocqueville, who, at my request, recommended this recent post as an insightful analysis.
Category: Campaign 2008.1
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Biden disappoints:

From Glenn Kessler and the Washington Post:

"Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that he believes top officials in the Bush administration have privately concluded they have lost Iraq and are simply trying to postpone disaster so the next president will "be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof," in a chaotic withdrawal reminiscent of Vietnam."

You may read the entire article here.

I was holding out much hope for Joe Biden. My sincere wish was that the Senator would choose statesmanship over grandstanding. There are two Bidens. Most of us are familiar with the blowhard-Biden of the judiciary committee, spewing gibberish and comically attempting to match wits with great legal minds. But there is another Biden. A thoughtful, pragmatic and experienced Senator who loves his country more than himself.

I was hoping for the statesman Biden--but got the clown. The demagoguery above also serves as his unequivocal signal that he seeks the Democratic Party's nomination for president in 2008. Only Joe Biden with a bad case of Potomac Fever would be addled enough to display this degree of wanton foolishness.
The list is out of those eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

Going in on the first ballot I think should be Cal Ripkin, Jr. and Tony Gwynne. I think Lee Smith also deserves in. Mark McGwire is on the list for his first year of eligibility, but I cannot lobby for him, as much as it breaks my heart (I'm a huge Cardinals fan). He has been evasive regarding performance-enhancing drugs. For my opinion on this issue see here.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
We spent the day New Year's Eve with family near Des Moines. The year ended in central Iowa on a gray day with rain, falling termperatures, and finally snow. Driving away from the church hall, through the grey hills with blowing snow darkening the already dim light of late afternoon, we were in Winter.

Garrison Keillor, in one of his monologues, said that winter in Minnesota reminded us of our place in the universe--prey. I'm sure Garrison has read Jack London, the writer who can make you feel the searing cold of a Yukon night as temperatures plunge to 70 below. Life is always under threat in a Jack London story: Unable to kindle a fire, hands stiffening with cold, hope that if I can kill my dog and put my hands into his warm body I yet may live, but my dog will not come close to me, eventually leaving my stiffening body. Winter is death. Death always pursuing life: wolves howling about the dog sled hurrying across the frozen waste, with too few bullets for the gun. Death is what happens to humans in the Wild, death is what ends life; death freezes our foolish attempts to find meaning in the snowy vastness. This is London's message. (cont. below)

» Read More

An excellent essay at Blackfive on a comprehensive strategy for the Long War with Radical Islam. Well worth reading. It is long enough to take some time to read, and more time to reflect upon. Link from Instapundit.
From Robert P. George in National Review:

"The Story of a Well-Lived Life:
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, R.I.P.

"Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was a scholar as notable for her bravery as for her brilliance. After what she described as her “long apprenticeship” in the world of secular liberal intellectuals, it was careful reflection on the central moral questions of our time that led her first to doubt and then to abandon both liberalism and secularism. Needless to say, this did not endear her to her former allies."

Read the entire essay here .

Should the Federal Government subsidize American agriculture?

Here are a few reasons to answer "yes."

1. No nation can achieve national security if it is a net food importer. A nations's "agricultural infrastructure" must be maintained. So long as "free trade" results in the importation of cheaper food products from abroad, then some sort of subsidy may be needed. We could, of course, use import controls as a sort of indirect subsidy.

2. Excessive concentration in any one sector of the economy is bad, be it monopoly or oligarchy. Allowing a situation to develop in which a handful of agribusiness corporations create an effective oligarchy (say, 80% of one production area) could allow many bad things to happen. We can all boycott Detroit for a year if we wish, postponing car buying; we cannot boycott food production for a year. Regulation can only go so far. Subsidies, specifically targeted to small, independent producers, can help prevent this.

3. Within the U.S. we have a system of inspections to try to achieve safe food. We also ban numerous pesticides and herbicides. We also have regulations regarding feed additives for cattle. These safeguards are not present in many of our trading partners. Rather than a direct subsidy, of course, we could use import controls as an indirect subsidy.
Watching the funeral yesterday for President Ford, I was struck several times by Henry Kissinger's eulogy. At least twice in his speech, it seemed to me that Kissinger might be speaking as much or more to two ex-presidents as he was speaking about Gerald Ford. For example, he spoke of how Ford did not exhibit an obsession with his place in history, and, how Ford did not undercut his successors. I hope they were listening.
From Nazareth: it appears that Muslims are trying to intimidate the dwindling numbers of Christians in the boyhood home of Jesus into leaving. Here

From Cordova: the Christian bishop has rejected Muslim requrests to conduct prayers in the cathedral, a former mosque. Here. Good for him. Notice the history of this church: He was quoted as saying that joint use would not help relations and that in any case the church was there first, as the eighth-century Córdoba Mosque from the Moorish rule of Spain had been built on the ruins of a church erected by the Visigoths. In the Muslim mind, your holy places deserve no respect and once Islamic always Islamic.

From Thailand: two Buddhist teachers killed and bodies burned. Here

From France: 400 cars burned on New Year's Eve. Here

From Iran: Christians arrested. Here.

Links from Jihadwatch, Gateway Pundit, and Wizbang.
I had known about Ford's Episcopal membership and worship attendance. And, anecdotes over the years had convinced me that he probably was a sincere believer. I did not know some of the history revealed in this TIME article.

We apparently had two very devout men representing the major parties in the presidential race of 1976: only one made a big deal of it.
Mainline Protestant denominations, which have declined sharply since their heyday in the 1960s, lost hundreds of congregations during 2006 and possibly are poised to lose even more in 2007.

Three of the denominations – the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church (USA) – lost nearly 300 congregations after their national governing bodies began abandoning their historic ban on ordaining practicing homosexuals.

The largest loss occurred in the United Church of Christ, a congregationalist denomination that – unlike the PCUSA and ECUSA – allows its churches to leave with their property.

Read the entire article from the Layman.
Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
Recently I had a wide-ranging conversation with frequent commentor photognome. He raised some questions regarding hybrid cars. [typically cars that use both internal combustion engines and batteries, running sometimes on one, sometimes on the other].

He questions the actual environmental benefits from the hybrids. Batteries tend to be high impact on the environment, both in manufacture and beyond. [We and Europe have good environmental and OSHA regs in place for the manufacture and disposal of batteries, but where are the batteries being manufactured?]

And in case of wrecks? photognome reported that emergency responders he has talked with have expressed concern over the chemicals and current they may be getting into.

With new high-efficiency automotive diesels getting about 50 mpg, are these not a better choice than hybrids?

[Yes, I do think the question WWJD applies here. I cannot see Jesus tooling down the interstate at 80mph, by himself, in an SUV. How we relate to the environment is a Christian concern.]
I am convinced that most people believe what seems plausible to them. That is, made aware of an idea or assertion, most people will believe what fits with their previous experience and world-view. Truth rarely is considered in social isolation.

In the most recent issue of The Princeton Seminary Bulletin (my seminary alma mater), James Edwards reviews the book Above All Earthly Powers by David Wells (the 4th volume of Well's critique of "modern Western culture"). In the book Wells argues that the Church cannot accept the tenets of postmodernism. According to Edwards, Wells discusses the social factors involved in pluralism. The social setting for multiculturalism and postmodernism. His book points to the Immigration Act of 1965 as having had a tremendous impact on the American religious landscape. I knew this, but the statistics cited by Edwards got my attention. To quote:

Of the 35 million immigrants to the United States between 1820 and 1964, 82 percent were European, 3 percent Asian, and 15 percent were Canadians or Latin Americans. Of those immigrants, 94 percent considered themselves Protestants, Catholics, or Jews. With the Immigration Act of 1965, however, the country opened its doors to the world and the picture was virtually reversed. The total number of immigrants to America since 1965 has been lower, about five million, but Europeans now account for only 15 percent, with the remaining 85 percent coming from around the globe and bringing with them every religion, from Animism to Zoroastrianism. The United States is now the world's most religiously diverse nation.

more below

» Read More

02/01: Worth Reading

Writing from the Middle East, Michael Yon has a post worth reading on the world situation. Here. Link from Instapundit.

Some excerpts:

This war has a thousand faces. A couple weeks ago in Singapore, an opportunity arose to speak with a clutch of field-grade officers, most of whom were foreign veterans of the worldwide war. These officers were from countries such as Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. A common theme among our foreign allies is a concern that we Americans seem to think we are standing alone against a world teeming with enemies. Our military leaders of course know that we are not alone and that enemies do not lurk in every cave or under every rock. They know, too, that we have more allies than enemies, and even more who fit into neither category.

This war is strange. I never hear soldiers worried about their own morale sagging. Contrary, the war-fighters here are more concerned to bolster the morale of the people at home. Here in Kuwait, where the dining facilities are bedecked in Christmas decorations, soldiers stream in from Iraq on convoys and stream back north along those bomb-laden roads. The service members here are not all rear-echelon people who never see fighting or blood. Yet their overall morale obviously is high. Few of them know I am a writer, and so they speak freely at the tables around me. In Qatar, from which I’d just departed, I spoke with troops taking four-day R&R passes, some having just returned from the most dangerous parts of Iraq, and others heading straight back, and their overall morale was also very high. The morale at war is higher than I have ever seen it at home; makes me wonder what they know that most Americans seem to be missing.

01/01: Happy 2007

According to this report, with links, the official web site of the nation of Iran is proclaiming that the return Mahdi is near, possibly by the spring equinox.

For those of you who have not kept up, in Shiite apocalyptic, this means the end of the present world order with lots of bloodshed in Armageddon style. Given that the Iranian government has spoken of itself as an agent of the Mahdi's return, this announcement makes me wonder if the Irananians expect to have usable nuclear weapons by spring equinox. Peace on earth postponed again. For previous posts see here.