You are currently viewing archive for May 2007
One of the almost mythically important figures in the history of British/American Liberty is the yeoman. The small land-owner ready to defend his family and community with bow or musket or rifle. Joining with his neighbors in militia units, these citizen soldiers have been seen as the backbone of Anglo-American freedom from tryants both foreign and domestic.

More good news from Iraq as shown by this headline "Iraq Residents Rise Up Against Al Qaida." More and more of this seems to be happening, often with direct action by the Iraqis. Three cheers. A people who will not defend their own liberty themselves will not keep it, nor deserve it.

Picture of the Minuteman statue. May the people of Iraq someday raise their own statue.
Category: Immigration
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This comment from Tocqueville regarding my previous post (read here) in re NRO and WSJ and their feud over immigration deserves a closer look. He takes umbrage at the ill-considered calumnious comments directed at the anti-immigration camp. Again, my point is that we ought to take care what we say (and how we say it) to one another in this debate.

Guest Blog: Tocqueville:

Of course, the WSJ has been inexcusably superficial, self-delusional, dismissive of history, dismissive of the both the objections and the opponents ("...anyone who calls this approach 'amnesty' has twisted the definition."), and, perhaps most stunningly, painfully naive in its reliance on the government to enforce the provisions of an immigration law, when the failure to enforce the last immigration law brought us to the present dilemma and the last immigration law was, in turn, a panic reaction to circumstances brought on by the failure to enforce the earlier predecessor law.

I wince at the insincerity and naivete explicit in the WSJ's reliance on the supposed voluntary return home of immigrants to wait in line to return. Right. Sure. The payment of fines and the learning of English. Right. Sure. Border security. Right. Sure. Biometrics-based employment. Right. Sure. Verfication. Right. Sure. (Did the WSJ not notice that the bill gives Homeland Security exactly one business day to conduct this verification and, failing that, the requirement vanishes?)

Not a word about the political reality that only 26% of the country favors the bill and over 50% flatly oppose it. Where is the "will of the people?" Not a word condemning the government for standing by impotently for decades while border security and immigration policy adulterated.

I would think that the 2006 US Sentencing Commission statistics would interest your readers and inform this issue. Last year in the Middle District of Florida 26.6% of the offenders were white, 27.7% were black, and 43.9% were Hispanic (pg. 188). In the Southern District of Texas 5.9% were white, 4.8% were black, and 88.7% were Hispanic. And etc. Not a word about who these illegals are and what they are doing. Just platitude and whitewash and delusion.

But I am not disappointed in the WSJ editorial page; it is what I expected. Anyone who applauds John McCain, the premier political opportunist of our time, for his supposed political courage obviously neither has nor even recognizes political courage.
Category: Immigration
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Wow! Andrew Jackson could not have said it any plainer.

From the Editor's of the National Review:

We hereby challenge the [Wall Street] Journal’s editors to debate the immigration bill in a neutral venue with a moderator of their choosing — two or three of us versus any two or three of them. We propose to do it in Washington next week so it will have the maximum impact on the Senate’s consideration of the most sweeping immigration reform in decades (time and place to be worked out in a mutually satisfactory fashion).

Read the entire piece here.

My prediction: WSJ accepts the invitation to meet on a modern-day field of honor, and we will have a great debate.

I can't wait. God Bless America.

One other vitally important thought to keep in mind: for those of us who see the anti-immigration conservatives as fundamentally misguided, we should understand that they are our brothers and, on this issue especially, are acting and speaking from the depths of their heart-felt, core convictions and love for America.
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
My reflexive reaction to the mini-drama over yesterday's Supreme Court of the United States 5-4 decision in re Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

Read the story from the Washington Post here.

A lot of buzz on this today.

Quick Reaction:

1. If the law passed by Congress to ameliorate salary discrimination based on race and/or gender clearly stated a time limit of eighteen months for redress (which is what our side claims), then it seems a poorly thought-out law. Unless salaries are a matter of public record (which they rarely are), the time limit places an unreasonable obstacle to challenging unfair labor practices. Off the top of my head: Congress should change the law.

2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and friends should abide by the law. If Justice Ginsburg had succeeded in carrying the day for her side, the ruling would have been a perfect example of legislating from the bench.

Simple Rule: Follow the law. It is not within the province of the judiciary to change the law. In this case, doing the wrong thing for the "right reasons" is still wrong.

I am flying by the seat of my pants on this, as it is not my specialty. Ergo, I welcome some informed commentary. Tocqueville?


Tocqueville wrote:

Your instincts as usual are sound (although I'm not as convinced as you that the Congress's policy judgment is so patently "unreasonable"). The best commentary I've seen thus far is by David Bernstein over at The Volokh Conspiracy: read here.
A marvelous essay in First Things by Joseph Bottum.

This is a long and thick essay. My suggestion, allow yourself a good half-hour to read it all at once. Read it with the discipline of trying to understand Bottum, and not allowing your mind to take off in arcs of thought inspired by his comments or allusions. Then, after thinking about it for a while, read it again slowly, in parts, with periods of silent contemplation, allowing your mind to reflect and critique.

Good stuff. Especially to those of us who think the turn away from metaphysics was bad, and who think that reflection upon traditional practice and literature is good.
This story from the Washington Post on the efforts of Archbishop Raymond Burke in St. Louis to enforce doctrinal norms.

These United States have been a challenge for Roman Catholicism since our founding. People living in a society of participatory government tend to move that assumption into church and want a voice. People living in a modernizing, and now postmodernizing, culture tend to bring that culture into church. People living in a society glorifying individualism tend to bring that attitude into church.

Of course, Roman Catholics are not unique in this. Christians around the world say that there is a reality called "American Christianity." We just have trouble seeing it here for the same reason that fish do not notice water.
I don't have enough context to comment, but this story is interesting--protesting to declare New Zealand a Christian Nation. Link from Instapundit.
Once again, the United Nations has shown itself incapable of living up to the hopes of FDR, and earlier Woodrow Wilson. The UN has proved incapable of stopping the genocide in Darfur. So, President Bush has announced that we will begin to take actions, beginning with economic sanctions. (Link from Gateway Pundit.)

As a general rule, nations operate by the law of the jungle--self-interest determines actions. The UN is a collection of nations each serving its own self-interest. (China has announced that they will continue to support the genocidal regime; they want oil and influence.) The surprise is not that the UN has been unable to stop the genocide in Darfur, the surprise is that the UN has ever accomplished anything positive.

The exception to the self-interest rule are democracies. If the voters possess some sense of idealism, then those nations may act in ways outside (rarely in contradiction to) their own self-interest. We have no real national interest in Darfur; our economic interest is served best by stable oil prices; our national self-interest probably would lead us to support the oil-producing government of the Sudan. The actions President Bush has announced are idealistic, not pure self-interest.

The time has come for us to move forward away from the United Nations, and toward a consortium of democracies. Most of the UN member states represent governments not accountable to their own people. Read the Declaration of Independence again, and the preamble to the Constitution.

By the way, the ongoing genocide in Darfur also demonstrates the humanitarian impulses of Arab governments (alert for the sarcasm impaired), and the inability of Europe to act in concert beyond its boundaries. (Though if The Sudan were a former French colony, action probably would have been taken unilaterally by France before now.)
Last Sunday I just walked in
To hear some Mainline preachin'.

Eloquent preacher sure enough,
seminary educated an' such.
But all I heard was politics and metaphor,
no hope beyond an' no Rock of Ages that was sure.

Chorus. Mainline churches goin' down. Mainline churches goin' down.
Sad news, sad news. I got them disappearin' Mainline Blues.

Other verses here , here , here.

Today I want to highlight two related causes of Mainline decline that are not directly related to liberalism.

First, a high value placed on education. The Presbyterian Church in my hometown now is a small congregation of mostly older members. When I was in high school in the early 70s it was a bit larger, with a high school youth group numbering 8-10. I think every one of these young people left our small town to attend college, and never came back. By the look of things, this church will close in about ten years. Members of mainline churches tend to value education for their families. As a consequence there are small town and working-class neighborhood congregations whose youth will not become part of their home churches as adults. They will have gotten a degree and moved to the suburbs. (In seminary I served a year as the youth pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church in Kearny, New Jersey, a working-class Scots-Irish town in north Jersey. The pastor and I joked that we were training tomorrow's suburban church leaders today.) Some of the mainline churches that will close in 2007 will be small-town or working-class churches whose children are no longer there.

Second, smaller families. Since mainline members tend to be middle-class and up, they have been choosing to have smaller families for the last couple of generations. I suspect that mainline churches have a less-than-replacement rate of births. Call it Shakerism at a slower rate.

Like roaches, Islamic terrorists pushed out of one place will pop up in another. This story on Bangladesh as the new exporter of terrorism.
My Great-Uncle Elmo was a WW1-era veteran. Armistice occured before his unit shipped from the States. Each Memorial Day he made it his mission to place small American flags by the grave of each veteran at several cemeteries near his rural home. (He was active well into his 90s.) As he grew older, he worried about who would place the flags after he was gone.

This weekend the American Legion Post in the county seat of his home county had its annual breakfast meeting at Hardees. Over coffee the men divided up cemeteries among themselves, then left in their cars and pick-ups to place flags by the veterans' graves.

I am not aware of any connection between my great-uncle and the current practice of the Legion Post, but I like to think he rests easier.

I call these people the Armies of Memorial Day. Citizen volunteers who see to it that local veterans are honored, not forgotten. Like so much of what is good about America these are not government employees doing a job; these are citizens doing what needs done.

America will be great so long as this spirit of citizenship is strong. My great-uncle did not sit back and complain that someone should do something--he simply, without fanfare, got it done. The Legion members traveling the streets and roads of their county, without reimbursement, are not waiting for a government program, they are getting it done.

Next time you think, "Why doesn't someone do something?", just get it done.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Disgusting Fight for Political Position on the War continued yesterday (Saturday) with the President's weekly radio address and the Democratic response.

The President hit the usual and expected notes: "From Valley Forge to...Baghdad...."

In what is becoming SOP for them, the Democrats trotted out an unknown soldier and activist (Elliot Anderson, this time) to testify passionately against the war and the President and all the uninformed Americans who think they are supporting the troops by supporting the President:

"But I know I speak for many of my friends overseas when I say that the best way to honor the troops is to responsibly end our involvement in Iraq's civil war. As long as President Bush stays committed to the same policies that aren't working, it won't be easy. But I am proud to see Democrats and now some brave Republicans standing up to him."

Coverage from CBS News here.

This "old wrinkle" is becoming tiresome. Moreover, straight reporting of soldiers against the war and for the Democrats who want to end it conveys a message that the troops have soured on the war. Is this true? That is not what I hear, but I cannot know for sure. Shouldn't the mainstream media follow up on this?

My suspicion is this: if it were true, we would see an avalanche of these stories on every MSM outlet--not just some random politically interested fellow every once in a while on special occasions.

I know there are servicemen out there in our reading community--let me know your thoughts, if you can.

Another View.

I am inclined to think that the soldiers and marines in harm's way in Iraq are more like the ones Pam Hess described to Brian Lamb on C-SPAN back on 9 March, after she returned from a tour with the troops (back then I called it the "most remarkable piece of reportage and analysis I [had] seen in years").

With her voice breaking and fighting back the tears, Ms. Hess, the UPI DOD correspondent, described the "incredible idealism" and "incredible humanity" of our soldiers in Iraq. Trying to explain their "optimism and dedication," she described the "incredible savagery and violence" they confronted. Describing the shooting of a twelve-year-old boy, her emotions overcame her. Apologetic for her "unprofessionalism," she blamed the fatigue of the trip. "But you have to understand," she said, "they guys are up against real evil."

For these guys, she said, this was no longer about US national security, it was about the sense of personal responsibility our men felt for saving humans one at a time, one day at a time.

Pretty damn heroic.

I stand by my original characterization of the clip. It is available in part on YouTube here. I recommend you watch.


The President here.

Elliot Anderson here (transcript via Fox News, which was the only one I could find).
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer

Explanatory Note: I am on the road and working from a laptop. Fat fingers. Small keyboad. Short sentences.

Plenty of stories on the departure of Rosie. Good Riddance.

Big Picture: Virtually no meaningful impact on the View or outside the View. Notwithstanding, it will be nice to have Rosie off her bully platform for a few days.

One telling point: I contine to see stories like this one from ABC News (here), which merely alludes to a statement that Rosie made, "when O'Donnell commented on the number of Iraqi deaths and was accused of insinuating U.S. troops are the real terrorists in Iraq -- a claim she vehemently denies."

Obviously, ABC News has a vested interest in this--but come on.

For the record, here is the question Rosie asked and refuses to answer:

"I just want to say something. 655,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. Who are the terrorists?"

Deal with it.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Arlington Cemetary is too far away for most of us to visit in person this Memorial Day Weekend. But, thanks to the internet, we can make a virtual visit. Official Arlington Cemetery Site.
More poison exported from China. This time its toothpaste. An alert from a listserve. Original source NYT.

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Tue 22 May 2007
Source: The New York Times [edited]

[As more contaminated toothpaste, including some made for children,
has turned up in Latin America, Chinese authorities are investigating
whether 2 companies from the coastal region of Danyang exported the
tainted toothpaste.]

A team of government investigators arrived [in Danyang] on Sunday
afternoon [20 May 2007], and closed the factory of the Danyang City
Success Household Chemical Company, a small building housing about 30
workers in a nearby village, according to villagers and one factory
worker. The government also questioned the manager of another
toothpaste maker, Goldcredit International Trading, which is in Wuxi,
about an hour's drive southeast of Danyang.

No tainted toothpaste has been found in the United States, but a
spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said yesterday
[21 May 2007], that the agency would be taking "a hard look" at
whether to issue an import alert.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic said they seized 36 000 tubes of
toothpaste suspected of containing diethylene glycol, an industrial
solvent and prime ingredient in some antifreeze. Included were tubes
of toothpaste with bubble gum and strawberry flavors marketed for
children and sold under the name of "Mr. Cool Junior."

Toothpaste containing the toxic solvent was also found in Panama and
Australia in the last week.

(rest below)

» Read More

John McCain has a list of books for Memorial Day reading at OpinionJournal.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
My Grandfather Taylor called Memorial Day, Decoration Day. He, like most of his generation, visited local cemetaries where relatives were buried, taking flowers and checking on the condition of the graves. Rural cemeteries in north Missouri like Owasco, Bute, Baker, and Mt. Zion.

Although my grandfather probably had never heard of Simone Weil, he would have understood her assertion that one of the great needs for modern life was for Roots. Modernity cuts one off from the roots of family, place, and nature. Decoration Day reaffirmed Roots past, and Roots present. (Various relatives dropped by the house as they visited cemeteries, or were encounted among the graves as they laid flowers. Neighbors too.)

This past week I visited these cemeteries with my father: Owasco with its abandoned church and view overlooking a small creek; Bute small on a ridge over a mile off the paved road; Baker, nearly twenty miles from any town with a population over 1000; and Mt. Zion, across the road from home, animals living under the decaying former church and peonies blooming among the graves. I stood at the graves of my mother, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and my great-great-grandparents. Numerous great and great-great aunts and uncles. The headstones in these small cemeteries gave evidence of community inter-relatedness through marriage over the last century-and-a-half. Birds sang and flowers bloomed.

I heard stories and history from my father, whose 80th birthday was a week ago. Once more I reconnected, with family, with the land, with my roots.

Don't let your children grow up rootless; don't be rootless yourself. Happy Memorial/Decoration Day.
Drudge today links to this article critical of a new trend--women choosing plastic surgery on their genitalia. Three thoughts from this excerpt:

Patients who sought genitoplasty "uniformly" wanted their vulvas to be flat and with no protrusion, similar to the prepubescent look of girls in Western fashion ads, they found.

"Not unlike presenting for a haircut at a salon, women often brought along images to illustrate the desired appearance," say Creighton and Liao. "The illustrations, usually from advertisements or pornography, are always selective and possibly digitally altered."

First, notice that these women want their genitalia to have a "prepubescent look." Can anyone maintain that it is healthy for society to make the standard of feminine beauty the prepubescent girl? No real woman can look like she is eleven. The only non-surgical ways to attempt this are self-starvation, and shaving the genitalia. Once more the media are messing with women's heads, telling them they are inadequate.

Second, this surgical trend testifies to the disturbing reality that our society is sexualizing young girls. The prepubescent look in "advertisements or pornography" trains men to arouse sexually at the sight of younger and younger females. We rightly punish those men who prey on young girls, but I think we should punish those who facilitate their crimes as well.

Third, one of the evils of pornography is that it trains men to have unrealistic expectations regarding the female body. Pornography provides a fantasy such that some men are rendered incapable of appreciating reality. "The illustrations, usually from advertisements or pornography, are always selective and possibly digitally altered."

Farmer, we need to revisit the expansion of the "free speech" guarantee to cover anything and everything.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Anchoress has a must read article separating fact and fiction on the Bush Administration. Cleverly written as well.

As most propagandists, and attornies, know, repeate something often enough and people will start thinking it is true.

Speaking of repeated lies, Gateway Pundit has the info on executive salaries then and now.
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
freak show n. A sideshow in popular entertainment, featuring grotesquely developed people or animals.

It is my habit to listen to NPR and watch C-SPAN during my early morning hours. However, I usually shift to one of the Network Morning Shows at 7:00 EDT and catch a few minutes before I leave the house.

Social commentators long ago designated the network news collage of "human interest" stories and sensationalistic snippets the "FREAK SHOW."

A few random thoughts on the human menagerie this morning that was the Today Show on NBC:

The Lead Story. Blake and Jordin: Congratulations to Jordin, American Idol Winner. I watched Idol for the first time this season. I enjoyed it. And I am happy to finally understand why the show is such a phenomenon. It is high human drama--although not high art.

Kudos to Blake for being gracious and gentlemanly in defeat. It is rare and always refreshing to see that brand of civility, especially so when exhibited on a TV reality show. Nicely done.

The Big Story. The Rosie and Elisabeth smack down on the View. Rosie O'Donnell characterized her debate with Elisabeth Hasselbeck as "big, fat, lesbian, loud Rosie attacking dear, sweet, innocent, pure, Christian Elisabeth." Perhaps she was being sarcastic; nevertheless, it is cogent analysis.

I do not watch the View. But I have taken a passing interest in the ongoing wrestling match between Rosie and Elisabeth, and I have caught several of their exchanges on YouTube. My heart goes out to Elisabeth for the following reasons:

1. She is out there on the limb all by herself. She faces a hostile anti-Bush, anti-war and anti-Republican studio audience everyday.

2. Not only does the crowd yell over her--but her cohosts do as well. She is ally-less.

3. Often times I feel that she is not quite up to the task of swimming up that stream. In fairness, it is a mean and nasty piece of water. Playing before that sort of unfriendly crowd day-in and day-out must be hell.

Yesterday, however, Elisabeth brought the hard stuff and hammered the home team. She stood her ground and kept asking the unanswerable question: what did you mean to say? In the end, Rosie's bluster and misdirection were not enough to distract any reasonable observer from Rosie's disingenuousness. See for yourself here.

Human Interest. Sixty-year-old mommies. Modern technology makes it possible for women past traditional child-bearing years to give birth. The list of geriatric moms is growing. Is this a good thing?

A doctor says: "who are we to judge?" Gray-haired mom says it is about "empowering women." No mention of what the kindergartner (or his friends) will think of his retirement-aged mommy on the first day of school. You have to love the "ME" Generation. What will they come up with next?

Read more here and vote as to whether you think women in their sixties having babies are irresponsible. I love democracy-TV.

More Human Interest. Some indicted person now maintains a website "that it has identified more than 4,300 informants and 400 undercover agents."

Why isn't this story on ABC?

The kicker: the entire interview was conducted with the "exposer" in shadows. Evidently, he did not think it safe to reveal his countenance to the world.

And that was just the first half hour...

Equal Time: I often watch Good Morning America. GMA is generally just as freakish...
This weekend I spent some time with old family friends. One man was stationed in Germany in the early 60s with the Army. He reported that along a straight stretch of fence between the Germany's, the troops from both sides drag-raced each other.

When no officers were present, troops of the opposing armies would drag race using jeeps versus Soviet block vehicles, and sometimes even tank against tank. On opposite sides of the fence the young men would line up vehicles, wait for the sign, then roar along the divide.

I am thankful these men were not forced to fight and kill each other.
Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Remember my mantra? When it comes to Campaign 2008, nobody knows anything. But here goes nothing:

This race for the presidency gets "curiouser and cusiouser."

The latest polls show Romney and Edwards ahead in Iowa. Admittedly, Romney is a minor surprise for me, although it probably should not be. McCain begins in a hole, as he by-passed Iowa in 2000, and Giuliani is just not a great fit for the Hawkeye State. As for Edwards, he has been running hard in Iowa for four years. If Edwards is not strong there, he is not a viable candidate anywhere.

The question of the day, however, is this:

Does Iowa matter?

Some things to think about: Although Iowa Democrats have a respectable record of selecting their eventual party nominee, the Republican straw poll has been much quirkier. The GOP caucus in Iowa is the same group that passed over Ronald Reagan in 1976 and 1980, selected Bob Dole and Pat Robertson over George H.W. Bush in 1988 and made a contender out of Pat Buchanan in 1992. I defy anyone to find a pattern in all that, other than kooky randomness. The Iowa GOP is not impressive as a bellweather even under normal circumstances.

And these are not normal circumstances. Iowa has even less meaning for 2008. As important delegate-rich states rush to move their primaries forward to the earliest possible dates, we are on the verge of having a national primary over a fortnight. That is, over a few nights in January and early February, all the candidates will be competing in a large number of states for all the marbles.

To reiterate, we are talking about a national primary, which means the winner will be the candidate who builds the best national organization, proves the most adroit at manipulating the national and local media and raises enough money to keep all these balls in the air.

Iowa has always been mostly psychological and momentum building, but that is especially true for this election cycle. Iowa (and more accurately the pre-Iowa polls) are mostly about creating the aura of electability.

Having said all that, I still would rather be on top in Iowa at this moment than running second or third there.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Amid all the noise in Washington, the President just hit the shot heard 'round the world.

As I noted last Friday, the President has out-maneuvered the Speaker and the Majority Leader and the anti-war, anti-Bush industrial complex. Nevertheless, I did not see any of the end-of-the-week rap-up shows even mention the Iraq funding impasse. The mainstream media are at a loss on how to cover this huge story, as it is so dramatically at variance with the prevailing template of a discredited President in free fall.

Of course, if the standoff had gone the other way, the MSM would have known exactly how to play it (in big, bold type): BUSH CAVES. Troops to Come Home.

As it is, for most of the day, the MSM have been reluctant to cover the impending announcements (hoping for a miracle, I suppose).

The news this morning: No Confidence Vote on Attorney General, THE IMMIGRATION BILL, the immigration bill-inspired conservative insurgency, Michael Moore Is Back, Jimmy Carter Pronounces Bush Worst Ever, AL GORE (and perhaps the Iraq funding bill may be approved without timelines).

Finally, after the formal announcement this afternoon, the NYT and the Washington Post ran front page articles and NPR led with this Harry Reid quote: "For heaven's sake, look where we've come. It's a lot more than the president ever expected he'd have to agree to."

Bottom Line: this is the most important moment of the year in politics thus far. Kudos to the President for standing firm. He is still in the cellar in terms of popularity. He is still opposed by two houses of Congress who want his scalp. He still has miles to go in the Middle East. But, having said that, he could have given up the ghost and lost everything on this showdown. He didn’t. Perhaps we only forestalled disaster, but, thankfully, today we did not lose everything.

22/05: Common Sense

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
You have heard all this before. In fact, I have written all this before--but It is always nice to hear some plain sense from someone you don't expect.

Excerpts from Bob Kerrey's MUST READ op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today:

The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were "over there." It was our nation and our people who had been identified by Osama bin Laden as the "head of the snake." But suddenly Middle Eastern radicals had demonstrated extraordinary capacity to reach our shores.

As for Saddam, he had refused to comply with numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions outlining specific requirements related to disclosure of his weapons programs. He could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.

No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.

Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."

This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified--though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.

Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn't have lasted a week.

The American people will need that consensus regardless of when, and under what circumstances, we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.

The article in its entirety here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
On Saturday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that former-President Jimmy Carter characterized the Bush White House as the "worst in history." Today, Carter seemed unable to make up his mind whether his disrespectful remarks were "careless or misinterpreted." According to his recollection, he merely said Bush was worse than Nixon, but, evidently, the audio record confirmed the accuracy of Carter's quote, which indeed emphasized that the Bush administration was "the worst in history" (AP story here).

An aside: is any one else fatigued with the MSM-Democratic drumbeat to couple the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Bush-43? Never mind the irony of one of the worst presidents in history piling on the current President during his current trials.

My thoughts on former-President Carter's prowess as an historian?

It takes great humility to be a great historian, which is a quality the former-president lacks in massive quantities. More importantly, it is supreme folly to write history as it unfolds and/or in the future tense, but the grievous error in judgment further speaks to Carter's hubris. Needless to say, I do not hold great stock in former-President Carter's predictions.

Why is former-President Carter so determined to take broadsides at President Bush?

As I have said before, Jimmy Carter believes he drew a raw deal from the American people, who lacked the vision to recognize his superiority. Combined with his evangelical sense of obligation to share his wisdom with a less-enlightened and mostly unappreciative American public, Carter’s need for vindication propels him into the arena time after time. Waiting for the day that Americans will come to see him (as his friends in the international community do) for the great man that he really is, Jimmy Carter takes every opportunity to remind us of his discernment.

For many years, the memory of President Carter's inadequacies remained fresh in our minds. During the Clinton administration, he made something of a comeback--but, even then, the former president seemed uncomfortable sharing the spotlight with a current president. He was sidelined once again. He had still not come into his own as elder statesman.

Then, with the advent of George W. Bush, former-President Carter found the perfect foil. He had always sniped at his successors--but, generally, no one had listened very much. However, his pronouncements against the plan to invade Iraq brought Carter new life as an oracle. Suddenly, the Sage of Plains, Georgia, was alive and well, speaking truth to power and winning Nobel Peace Prizes. Where had this humble visionary been for so long? Carter was back enjoying a revival, even speaking at a Democratic National Convention (in 2004) for the first time since his embarrassing defeat of 1980.

Former-President Carter has an insatiable appetite for public acclaim and veneration. Regrettably, he has found a hallelujah chorus regarding his willingness to lambaste the current president. One could imagine that the former-president's Christian compassion might compel the famously born-again Baptist to offer a helping hand to, or perhaps a silent prayer for, the struggling current president. One might assume his own experience as an embattled Chief Executive might lead him to a more empathetic pose toward the current occupant of the office that reduced him to ignominy. On the other hand, for those of us who have watched Jimmy Carter over the last quarter century, his lack of humanity comes as no surprise. In fact, despite my stated reluctance to predict the future, I think it is safe to say that former-President Carter will continue to exhibit this behavior for as long as he has a public platform.

Until the next time.


Note: Part of this post was drawn from previous offerings on former-President Carter. My reaction to an earlier swipe at the President here and his battle with Alan Dershowitz here.
Category: Immigration
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Tocqueville and I disagree sharply on immigration. He has been sending highlights from the discussion on the web, which are noteworthy:

1. This powerful video.

Tocqueville says: The people in this video don't look like they are interested in compromise or consensus on the issue of amnesty for illegal immigrants:

Watch and hear the chilling images here.

2. From Fred Thompson:

"Most Americans know that we have an illegal immigration problem in this country, with perhaps as many as 20 million people residing here unlawfully. And I think most Americans have a pretty good idea about how to at least start solving the problem - secure our nation's borders.

"But there's an old saying in Washington that, in dealing with any tough issue, half the politicians hope that citizens don't understand it while the other half fear that people actually do. This kind of thinking was apparent with the "comprehensive" immigration reform bill that the U.S. Senate and the White House negotiated yesterday."

Read in full here.

3. Tocqueville says everyone should read this account of the legislation from Mark Steyn (read here).

Thanks Tocqueville.

UPDATE: Tocqueville continues to add resources to this list in the comments section. I invite you all to keep an eye on this link for the latest and most provocative commentaries (read here).
Category: Immigration
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Where Are We Now?

1. Our system of regulating immigration (especially immigration from Mexico) is so dysfunctional as to be non-existent.

2. We have no idea how many illegal aliens we are currently hosting in our nation, but most credible estimates indicate somewhere around 12,000,000 undocumented persons.

3. If we do nothing, immigration will continue to exist as an unrestrained force of nature, disturbed only by market variables.

4. The hard-line stance of many conservatives (an impermeable fence, massive deportations, an army on the border capable of maintaining complete security, etc.) is not politically possible in the foreseeable future.


The Democrats control both houses of Congress. They are content to allow the current system to continue unmolested.

The Republicans are divided on the issue between nativists and market-oriented, Wall Street Journal type conservatives, who believe that a large segment of the undocumented (illegal) population are essential to our economy.

The rest of America is mostly divided, ambivalent or apathetic; there is no national consensus for action at this moment.

5. Doing nothing means the continuation of a regime all of us (conservatives) can agree is bordering on disastrous.

6. We cannot get everything we want. We cannot even decide on what it is exactly that we want.

For the record, here is what I want:

--secure borders (as much as that is possible)

--national ID cards

--tough penalties for employers who employ illegal workers

--some humane system for allowing workers from Mexico to work for American employers as the need arises

--some humane system for allowing a larger percentage of those workers to become American citizens, recognizing our special relationship with Mexico and other neighbors to the South

What to do?

Join the process with reasonable expectations and honest intentions. Let's get in the game and help solve the problem.

An aside: Senator John McCain has shown himself an intrepid statesman on immigration--but a deaf, dumb and blind politician. His principled stand makes his already challenged campaign to win the Republican nomination even tougher. Nevertheless, I admire his grit.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Some bad news:


No confidence vote and other embarrassments brewing for Gonzales and Justice.

On the other hand, this week offered some much-appreciated bright spots for the President.

1. The economy continues to hum along. The predicted Depression has yet to materialize. New records on Wall Street this week.

2. The President is getting closer on an immigration bill. He has worked long and hard for something substantial in this regard. He sees progress in this area as key to his presidency.

3. He is winning the battle with Congress over Iraq. Once again, the village idiot is out-generaling the Democratic brain trust. I cannot imagine that delicious scenario ever getting old for him--no matter how many times it happens.

4. Tony Blair visited this week.

It is nice when an old and loyal friend comes to town. It must be some comfort to the tongue-tied President that the most articulate man on the world scene today has the same approval rating in Britain as the President has in the USA.

It must be comforting to discuss the future of the world from the perspective of the TRUMAN balcony.

It must help to hear the following words.

Blair on Bush:

"Thank you also for the strength of your leadership over the past few years. You have been a strong leader at a time when the world needed strong leadership. You've been unyielding and unflinching, and determined in the fight that we face together. And I thank you for that."

More personal:

"I've admired him as a President and I regard him as a friend."

A Blair Observation:

"[P]eople understand that there is a battle that we are fighting around the world today. [I]t's a battle about the type of values that govern the world in the early 21st century. You don't win those battles by being a fair-weather friend to your ally, you don't win those battles by being hesitant or withdrawing support for each other when the going gets tough. You don't win those battles by losing the will to fight if your enemy's will to fight is very strong, and very powerful."

Bush on Blair:

"What I know is the world needs courage. And what I know is this good man is a courageous man.

"Thanks for coming."

Amen to that.

Press Conference transcript here.

AFTER THOUGHT: And, don't forget to catch the "George and Tony Show," which the players have down to a high art now, finishing each other's sentences and playing the straight man for one another:

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: In Europe...if you want to get the easiest round of applause, get up and attack America, you can get a round of applause if you attack the President, you get a --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Standing ovation. (Laughter.)

Category: Immigration
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Last September (read original post here), I chastised Republicans for eschewing the opportunity to craft meaningful immigration legislation; instead, they chose to cast themselves as hardliners on immigration, portraying Democrats as soft-headed multiculturalists in favor of an open-border. The problem with that strategy, I said back then, was that it was a low-percentage gamble on an unpredictable future.

What if the 110th was the last Congress in which a GOP majority ruled both Houses with a Republican president holding forth at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue? Eschewing a thorny compromise in favor of a short-term boost of political adrenaline risked that nothing got done on immigration, for a long time. Back then, as well as now, doing nothing meant de facto amnesty and affirming a status quo that almost all of us agree is unacceptable.

As I predicted, the vaunted immigration gambit as a defining and motivating difference between the parties turned out to be 100 percent impotent as a political strategy. Bad politics and bad policy.

Now the Democrats are in control of Congress, and we are getting a fairly weak immigration bill; nevertheless, as Senator Jon Kyl points out, a flawed bill is better than nothing).

So, looking back, the Republican House and the conservative grassroots declined the opportunity to create an imperfect but necessary law through a process that they controlled. Today, they wake up to find themselves on the outside looking in, befuddled and angry.
This story from the BBC.

After the Bolsheviks took power in Russia, and set about creating the Soviet Union, they had to consider the problem of the Russian Orthodox Church. After initial attempts to crush Christianity failed, they adopted the strategy of exerting control over the Church (the Bolsheviks were, after all, totalitarians) and hoping that through continued indocrination in the schools Christianity eventually would wither away.

Some Russian Orthodox, fearing State influence over the Orthodox Church, formed a Russian Orthodox Church in exile. Today good news. The two churches are reuniting. Another Cold-War era wall comes down.

It gets better.

At the ceremony on Thursday the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II, joined the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitan Lavry, in celebrating Mass at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral. It was blown up by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and rebuilt after the collapse of communism.

Tempering the celebrations are memories of suffering under communism.

On Saturday, the two will jointly consecrate a new church on a site in southern Moscow, where the Soviet secret police shot thousands of Orthodox priests.

As always, the Christian church has survived its oppressors. Thanks be to God.
A must read article from the New York Sun by Efraim Karsh. The Long War.

Link from JihadWatch.
The British government has given the go-ahead for human-animal embryos. Story here.

Paging H.G. Wells. We need you to write an update of The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Let me belatedly associate myself with Senator McCain's remarks from the debate this week:

"Spending is out of control. We didn't lose the 2006 election because of the war in Iraq; we lost it because we in the Republican Party came to Washington to change government and government changed us. We let spending go out of control. We spent money like a drunken sailor, although I never knew a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination of my colleagues."

Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Dana Milbank's column in the Washington Post today considers the potential for a Chuck Hagel campaign for President as an independent (read here).

As Milbank notes, Hagel keeps hinting he will run. More puzzling is the fact that pundits keep reacting to this flirtation as if the question had some relevance to the 2008 race.

A better question: Who would vote for Hagel?

Hagel is currently vying with Ron Paul for the dubious distinction of Republican least-likely to succeed with Republican voters. Paul is on top right now as a result of name recognition following this week's debate--but, if Republicans knew Hagel better, there is no doubt that they would despise him just as much.

And then there are the Democrats, who, for the first time in a generation, feel confident that they are on the brink of a fortuitous electoral swing back in their direction. Why would they embrace Hagel? True enough, Democrats enjoy his attacks on the President, and he is something of an anomaly as a defeatist Republican, but given the opportunity to vote for John Edwards or Barack Obama or any number of truly retreat-oriented Democrats, Hagel immediately loses his uniqueness.

There are no votes out there for Hagel. Why do we keep talking about this guy?
I Got Them Disappearin' Mainline Blues (lyrics in progress by Okie Gardener, music needed)

Today I took a walk aroun'
the center city downtown.

Big church buildin's sure enough,
Methodists, Presbyterians, and such.
Lot's of space, but empty pews,
What's the cause of this distressin' news?

Chorus. Mainline churches goin' down. Mainline churches goin' down.
Sad news, sad news. I got them disappearin' Mainline Blues.

Fifty years ago American Protestantism was dominated by the "Mainline Churches": Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, American Baptist, United Church of Christ. Today these formerly mainline churches now are on the sideline. Why?

In this series of posts, I have endeavored to uncover the "root causes" of Mainline Decline. Verse 1. Verse 2.

Today, verse 3 (more below)

» Read More

Almost every day we kill Islamic terrorists and their supporters in Afghanistan and Iraq; daily, weekly, or monthly in Chechnya, Thailand, the Philippines, India, north Africa, the Middle East, more are killed. But, body counts should offer us small comfort; we cannot win a war of attrition as presently conducted. New jihadists arise daily.

On a regular basis jihadis are arrested in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere. But, imprisoning Islamic terrorists or their supporters should offer us small comfort; we cannot imprison all those active in terrorist causes. And, new jihadists arise daily.

We have made some progress against the infrastructure of the Islamofascists: Afghanistan and Iraq and Somalia are denied them, finance networks have been disrupted, and communication has been made difficult. On the negative side, Western money for oil continues to provide immense funding. But, even if the money were to be cut off, jihadists would continue to arise. (more below)

» Read More

Looking back on the era in which evangelicals and political conservatives came together to reshape the American political landscape, Jerry Falwell praised Ronald Reagan as his “Christian hero.” Recalling their first meeting at the White House, “early in [Reagan’s] first term,” the minister departed the Oval Office convinced the newly elected President was “an answer to prayer.” Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority and a key apostle of the newly mobilized “Christian Right,” rushed “to tell the evangelical world that a new day had dawned in America,” spreading the good news that the President of the United States not only valued the evangelical community, but he viewed them as indispensable allies in forestalling the “nation’s moral collapse."

Over the next two decades, the exultant glow of Falwell’s recollection and his faith in Ronald Reagan remained unshakable. Examinations of Reagan and his relationship with religious conservatives often commence with a form of this question: how did a divorced, moderate-drinking, former movie star turned politician come to epitomize the perfect American statesman for so many evangelicals? Falwell’s comments illustrate at least a partial answer. Reagan appealed to religious conservatives because he embraced their issues and was comfortable speaking their language—and, most significantly, evangelicals found him authentic.

The rise of Ronald Reagan and the revolution that bears his name coincided with the resurgence of conservative evangelicalism in the latter half of the twentieth century. Born (or reborn) in the early moments of the Cold War, both movements shared a compatible worldview: religious conservatives and Cold Warriors each regarded their cause as part of a cosmic struggle, employed a similar oratory of good and evil and expected apocalyptic consequences if they failed in their task.

Coming to personify the “new conservative” political movement, Reagan espoused a set of “timeless” values, “rights and wrongs” and absolutes. His message resonated with a swelling evangelical political activism during the 1970s and 1980s. Reagan, often called the “Great Communicator,” went to evangelicals and effortlessly connected with them, speaking their language; even more significant, he oftentimes employed the vernacular of evangelicals in the secular world. During the Reagan era, and beyond, the rhetoric of conservatism and the rhetoric of evangelical Protestantism was often the same.

Jerry Falwell, with a genius for political engagement based on religious principles, like Reagan, understood the emerging common cause. Falwell transcended the world of "televangelists" to bring together two powerful and historic currrents of American society and help refashion our political culture.
As Jerry Falwell is remembered this week, I am sure that someone will bring up his suspicions of the civil rights movement during the 1960s. Among other things, he seems to have believed some of the rumors about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Communist Party circulating in the South.

No man completely transcends his time and place. Falwell was a white Southerner during a time of momentous changes. Changes so profound that those of us from farther north perhaps cannot fathom the dislocation felt by those who went through them in Dixie.

But, a man should be judged by the legacy he leaves from over a lifetime of work. Falwell's most lasting legacy is Liberty University. According the the official website of the school, of its 9,558 residential students in 2005-2006, 79% were white and 10% were African American. Of the distance learning students, 69% were white and 17% African American. Liberty would not appear to qualify as a racist institution.

And speaking of hate, would you rather be a conservative speaker at Columbia or Harvard, or a liberal speaker at Liberty U.? Which audience do you think would behave most respectfully toward you?

I am not a Falwell fan on all counts, but give the man his due.

Earlier posts here and here.
In my earlier post I attempted to take the long view, giving what I think will be the paragraph or two devoted to him in the history books a century from now. In doing so I omitted some of his more controversial aspects.

Gateway Pundit has coverage of the anti-Falwell blogosphere reaction, including comments being added to his site.

I now want to address three controversial aspects of Falwell's career.

1) His anti-homosexual-practice stance and preaching. While Falwell usually was condemning the practice of same-sex sex, and the political activity of groups like ActUp, his own rhetoric could be heated. It is indisputably true that he advocated, over and over again, hating the sin but loving the sinner. It is also indisputably true that his rhetoric sometimes seemed harsh and loveless on the topic. I think the explanation lies in the nature of conservative Southern preaching. Populist rhetoric in the South, whether preacher or politician, has as one of its necessary motifs "the enemy" who is condemned harshly and made fun of. (Think George Wallace and the "pointy-headed intellectuals who can't even park a bicycle straight.") Falwell did not overcome this aspect of his background.

2) His initial comments following 9/11 that God was punishing our nation. While offensive to many people, Falwell was in the direct line of preachers going back to New England Puritans and beyond them to English Divines who interpreted historical events in light of the actions of a righteous God. Disaster, to these preachers, always called for self-examination to see what sins God was punishing. Days of Prayer and Fasting following setbacks always included confession of sins, individual and corporate. Cotton Mather would have made comments similar to Falwell.

3) His involvement in the PTL ministry after the fall of Jim Baker. I am unaware that a full and unbiased accounting has yet been made of Falwell's actions in what may have been an attempt to "save" PTL. Baker himself remains bitter over Falwell's involvement and thinks it was a power play over assets. Perhaps a biographer in 40 years can sort it all out.

More on Falwell and race here.

Earlier post on Falwell and history.
A must read by Christopher Hitchins. God save Britain.
Jerry Falwell is dead. Story here.

Pastor Falwell was an old-fashioned evangelical. By that description I do not mean your grandparents' conservative Christianity. No, he was a throwback to the evangelicalism of the mid 19th century. Evangelicals 160 years ago were busy founding congregations and gathering a growing America into them. Falwell founded a new congregation in an old bottling plant in Lynchberg, Virginia, and grew it into the 20,000+ member Thomas Road Baptist Church. Evangelicals 160 years ago were founding institutions to improve and Christianize America, such as schools and colleges and orphanages. Falwell founded a college, now the 7000+ student Liberty University, Christian schools, a treatment center for alcoholics, and a home for unwed mothers. Evangelicals 160 years ago were politically active, pouring lots of energy into partisan politics, mostly on the side of Whigs and later Republicans, hoping to create a Christian America. Falwell helped found the Moral Majority and was its spokesman as it helped Ronald Reagan win the presidency.

Perhaps his most noticable contribution to U.S. history was the way he led Southern evangelicals into politics. The 19th-century evangelicals I described above were overwhelmingly northern. Southern evangelicals, succumbing to the social pressure to preserve slavery and later segregation, tended to preach an individualistic, heaven-when-you-die salvation, and leave the social order and politics alone. (Most Southern Baptist deacons of old put their political energies into the Klan and the Democrat Party, but the churches as churches were not political.) Falwell changed all of that. Alarmed by secularization, free-speech turned into a defense of pornography, and elites hostile to traditional values, southern evangelicals rallied to Falwell's banner. He helped change things.

Rest in Peace, Brother Falwell.

See also my later post on Falwell and controversy.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
One of my favorite contemporary thinkers is Cardinal George Pell of Australis. I have posted from his thought several times. (search this site for Pell) Here are excerpts from his address on Muslim immigrants in Australia.

All those who choose to come to Australia come as immigrants, not as colonists i.e. they should be committed to freedom and democracy, refrain from advocating violence or indulging in hate speech, while their political allegiance must be to Australia, not overseas. All immigrants, Christians, Muslims, non-believers should meet these criteria.
. . .
Obviously I speak as a Christian and a Catholic, committed to one version of the principle of reciprocity. Not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but commitment to the principle that the rights we justly offer to all citizens here, including Muslim minorities, should be rights that are enjoyed by non-Muslim minorities in the Muslim world. This is not the case as I believe this conference could not be held in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia! In fact Christians are being harassed and even persecuted in many countries ranging from Nigeria, through Sudan, where some are being sold as slaves, and the Middle East to Pakistan and Indonesia. I would like to know where our friends stand on these matters.
. . .
In a pluralist and free democracy every group is criticized at some time or other. As Prime Minister Howard remarked last year, if Catholics rioted every time they were criticized there would be regular riots! It is not appropriate that Muslims regularly reply to criticism with insults, denigrations and evasions, while avoiding the point at issue. We have seen too much of this from some Muslim personalities.

Within a secular democratic society harmonious integration of minorities is achievable because all citizens, belonging to the majority culture, or minorities, are acknowledged to be equal in the eyes of the law. Equal rights, however, carry with them equal responsibilities. Problems arise when minorities demand special consideration that places them outside the law as it applies to all other citizens. Flexibility and adaptability are called for when refugees and immigrants arrive in a host country. But there is a limit [in adapting to minority demands] beyond which a democratic host society cannot go without losing its identity.

Here, Here. Immigration must not be allowed to become colonization, in Australia or in the United States. By any group.

Japan has taken its first step toward revising its U.S. imposed Constitution. The current Prime Minister wants to change the "pacifist" provision so as to enable Japan to have a fully capable military. Story here. (ignore the request to install Chinese character pack, the story is in English from the China Post of Taiwan)

This is a realistic step. Their neighborhood is growing increasingly dangerous with a belligerent Korea and an expanding China. They also must be asking themselves if the U.S. would go to war to protect them. And, given the Japanese dependence on imports, a blue-water navy makes sense for them.
The Amazing Emotive Power of Music.

Friday evening traveling south down Highway 6 along the Brazos River bottom. North of Bryan I pick up NPR and Terry Gross and a twenty-year-old interview with Sam Charters, the musicologist. He is talking about traveling the South as a white man during the middle of the twentieth century buying and recording the music of African Americans. In many Southern communities, the mere incident of a white outsider seeking black artists made them objects of suspicion for the local authorities. Charters is an old radical, but his account rings true. He even seems to understand that the cultural chasm was so wide and deep that he never really knew or truly connected with the people he recorded.

I am rolling by old towns, farmland and ancient houses that date back to when cotton was still king during the early twentieth century in Central Texas. As the echoes fly by me at seventy miles an hour, Charters tells the story of his re-discovery of Texas native, and blues legend, Sam Lightnin' Hopkins during the 1950s.

Lightnin' picks and moans:

Mmmmmmmmmm, the blues come down on me
Lord, have mercy, child
Po' Lightnin' can't hardly keep from cryin'
Yes, the blues'll make you cry, I know how you feel
Whoa, Lord have mercy,
po' Lightnin' can't hardly keep from cryin'
Well, I'm just wonderin' will I ever make it back,
to that old native home of mine?
Please, take me with ya when you go, Lightnin'
Lord have mercy

I know a lot of old white guys who will tell you that the way things were back then wasn't right, even as they remain frustrated with the way things are now. Too much freedom now and not enough responsibility.

Our racial history is depressing. Darkness moves over the rolling hills. Was every white person in the South a bastard?

Twenty-four hours later. Same piece of highway. On the way back home. Same country, different musical genre--but not unconnected: Hank Williams and Johnny Cash CDs provide the audio ambience inside my fuel-injected, climate-controlled, junior class SUV.

An oppressed and lost Alabama man moans the blues this time:

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I'm so lonesome I could cry

I've never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind a cloud
To hide its face and cry

So many of the same problems. Perhaps they weren't monsters. The countryside is springtime green and bright again. I am headed north. Getting closer to home. Sam Charters, raised in a different culture, could not hope to understand the black experience down South back then. What about me? "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there" (L.P. Hartley). Can I ever hope to understand the complexity of race in my ancestral home?
I know a woman who has three children. From the time she was a young girl she wanted to be a mother. By her teens she had added to motherhood the goals of becoming a science teacher, and a pastor's wife.

She first became pregnant at 21, when her husband was in his first year of seminary. After the birth of a daughter, she went back to work in the accounting department of a savings and loan. Leaving the daughter with a sitter. That lasted about six weeks. She just could not stand to have someone else raising her child. So the young couple worked on their budget: with some changes--making meals from scratch, sewing her clothes and the baby's, her husband taking a new position as student pastor of two small churches as well as working some evenings as a night watchman--they were able for her to be a stay-at-home mom.

The second pregnancy began during the last year of seminary. She stayed home with the two children the next year while her husband worked as a school teacher and a pastor. Then she went to work part-time as a bank teller to help them afford a new car, but her main energy went to the children. Then came the third child, three more years as a stay-at-home mom, then part-time as a bank teller again. Her career decision took second-place to her children

Finally, when the youngest was in second-grade, she began teaching high school science full-time. But the children always were first, and no matter how busy she was, or how she felt, she made time for them.

The children are away from home now. They've turned out OK. I married well; this woman is my wife.
From the China Post (in English, just hit cancel if it asks you to install a Chinese pack):

Christians in northwest Pakistan are fleeing after threats to convert to Islam or else. This ultimatum follows bombings of music stores for selling CDs (strict Islam is against any music), threats to barbers if they shave beards, and pressure to close girls' schools.

Progress certainly is not inevitable.
Iran and Syria. It should have been obvious to someone in the decision-making circles that Syria and Iran would not remain neutral in our effort to build a free society in Iraq--they have too much to lose. While I think the Vietnam analogy is false in many ways, in one way it has a bearing. We are allowing the enemies of a free Iraq to oppose us without penalty. See this video that is linked by Powerline.

What will we do?
The Pope recently reaffirmed traditional Roman Church teaching that certain actions disqualify one from receiving communion. Among these actions are support for abortion. The context of his remarks is the practice of some politicians trying to be both pro-abortion and Roman Catholic at the same time.

My view. You belong to the club, you abide by its rules. If your bowling league says you have to make 14 out of 16 Thursday nights to remain a member, then that is what you do. If the Lodge says you must wear an apron, memorize esoteric jargon, and be regular at the ceremonies, then that is what you do. If you want to belong to a Baptist Church they will put you under water for baptism and will not baptize your infant son. If you want to be Roman Catholic, you may not support abortion.

If you don't want to abide by the rules of the organization, then quit and find a more congenial group. Kennedy and Kerry, have you checked out the UCC?
In response to Martian Mariner's prompting for me to talk about the causes of the Mainline Blues, instead of pointing out symptoms only, I now offer this second verse. For Verse One.

The nineteenth century also saw two separate ways of thinking influence Christianity that would help lead to the modern mainline predicament.

First, the elevation of experience over tradition and the plain sense of Scripture. America's involvement with revivalist religion helped lead to an emphasis on experience that could cause doctrine to take a secondary place. This tendency was reinforced by the holiness/pentecostal movement of the 20th century. One can see this tendency in operation in the opening of pulpits to women. Among the first groups with women preachers were the holiness groups. In spite of NT prescription that a woman was not to have authority over a man, and the example of the NT church, women were admitted to the pulpit in large measure because congregations experienced their preaching: obviously if they could preach then they were called to preach. Those verses that seemed to count against female preachers were explained away in light of the experience of women preaching. Similarly today experience becomes a standard for interpretting Scripture: if I know, or think I know, a gay or lesbian who seems like a nice person and who seems sincerely to be a Christian, then I conclude that some Scriptures need reinterpretted.

Second, the influence of "higher criticism" mostly from Germany. This method of study treated the Bible texts in exactly the same way that other writings were treated with the same presuppositions. One of the presuppositions was naturalism: miracles were explained as "folktales" or such. Another assumption was that historical material in the Bible was no more accurate (maybe even less accurate) than any other historical material. In other words, the Bible contains writings like any other human product. In that case, Science, whether psychology or whatever, can be used to weigh the claims of Scripture.
As George Bush's popularity ratings plummet, I am reminded that in a democracy sometimes strong leadership is necessary to save the people from themselves.

For reasons that I will explain later, I recently read Ronald Reagan and the Triumph of American Conservatism, 2nd edition, by Jules Tygiel, edited by Mark C. Carnes for the LIBRARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY series, Pearson Longman, 2006.

The following passage struck me.

Detailing Reagan's woes during his first two years in office, Tygiel wrote:

Meanwhile, a grass roots Nuclear Freeze Movement, calling for an end to the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons, had taken shape in Europe and the United States. Despite Reagan warnings that a freeze posed a threat to national security, 70 percent of Americans supported the concept.

For the Record: Tygiel omits "unilateral" in his description of the Nuclear Freeze Movement. Remember, the movement asked that the Americans shut down a crucial element of our nuclear deterrent on the assumption that this sign of good faith would convince the Soviets that we meant them no harm and they would, in turn, reciprocate with love and good will.

70 Percent? I am not clear how Tygiel obtained that particular number; it sounds high, but I imagine that there was actually some poll on some day from some organization during the height of the frenzy that reflected that sentiment.

Regardless, it is a fact that the vast majority of Democratic politicians back in the early 1980s, sensing (expecting, hoping for) a popular wave of skepticism toward Reagan's hawkish posture, embraced the movement as a cudgel with which to beat the administration. Morton Kondracke (and other pundits) have offered this analogy already, warning Democrats not to repeat the "nuclear freeze" mistake: "Democrats vied with each other to claim first authorship of the...idea...which was utterly discredited when then-President Ronald Reagan succeeded in winning a Soviet stand-down..." ( the Kondracke piece in its entirety here).

My real point: Perhaps as much as 70 percent of America, in a frenzy of confusion, partisanship and unfriendly media coverage, were willing to throw in the towel on the Cold War, after 35 years of effort, even as we were literally on the verge of one of the most magnificently noble victories in the history of our nation.

Tygiel again: Yet, Reagan, ever the optimist, seemed unfazed. He retained faith in what, to many people, increasingly seemed yet another failed presidency. All will turn out well, he urged Americans, if we simply "stay the course."

The lesson: 28-percent approval be damned. Do the right thing!

We are told that the President takes great solace in the experiences of Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln. Add Reagan to your list, Mr. President.

Housekeeping note: I am working on a longer review (for this blog) of the brief Reagan biography, as a way of addressing a few of the broader questions and contradictions concerning Reagan, the press and the academy.
Story from the Washington Post here. While the Post does acknowledge the special pressures facing women in Islam, they do make a mistake in trying to separate Islam and culture on this issue. In the Quran women are regarded as male property, and wife beating is advocated. And, in Islam interpretation is considered to be now closed: in other words, new intepretations of the Quran are disallowed.

While the Post states that spouse-abuse is found in other cultures, which is true, nowhere in the Bible is wife-beating advocated. And, while the Bible is patriarchal, women are not lowered to the level of property.
More news here on the slow schism of the Episcopal Church.

The installation of a local minister who recently broke with the Episcopal Church and will now oversee other breakaway congregations was a unique and historic event and one that the Nigerian Anglican leader called "just the first step."

Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Anglican Church of Nigeria makes remarks after his installation of Rev. Martyn Minns (standing, L) as the Missionary Bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America by in Woodbridge, Virginia, May 5, 2007. The convocation represents a group of congregations who have broken from the Episcopal Church over various social and church issues and have now officially become part of the Nigerian church body.

In the West the Anglican Communion is withering away. Here in the U.S. the Episcopal Church (Anglicans in the US) fights among themselves, primarily over stands taken by the U.S. bishops on same-sex practice and marriage, and fidelity to Scripture. In Africa Anglicanism is growing and is conservative. Perhaps we have here a blessed irony, the children of the Western missionary movement returned to save the parent church.

Here is the letter Episcopal Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori sent to Archbishop Akinola. (from the official Episcopalian website) I want to highlight this paragraph from her letter:

First, such action would violate the ancient customs of the church which limits the episcopal activity of a bishop to only the jurisdiction to which the bishop has been entrusted, unless canonical permission has been given. Second, such action would not help the efforts of reconciliation that are taking place in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion as a whole. Third, such action would display to the world division and disunity that are not part of the mind of Christ, which we must strive to display to all.

What a howler! What unblessed irony. "violate ancient customs of the church . . ." that is exactly what the Episcopal church in the U.S. is doing with regard to same-sex practice and Scripture; "would not help the efforts of reconciliation" the Presiding Bishop herself has said that the Episcopal church would not back down on same-sex ordination and marriage, and condescendingly predicted that the rest of Anglicanism eventually would catch up; "would display to the world division" well, who started the division? not Nigeria.

Why are liberals always so irony-impaired?

08/05: More Romney

Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Dan Gilgoff's insightful column today supports Tocqueville's recent prediction that Romney will secure the Republican nomination:

Gilgoff (regarding Republicans and the Christian Right):

Republican presidential candidates who fall on either end of the continuum, who either embody the Christian Right (Pat Robertson in 1988) or who reject it (Texas Senator Phil Gramm in 1996) lose the nomination. The two most electorally successful Republican presidential candidates of the last 30 years -- Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush -- took a different path, embracing the movement even though they were outsiders to it. If the next Republican to occupy the White House must follow that same strategy, Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, may be in much better shape than polls suggest.

What Reagan and Bush knew was that the Christian Right was too small a force to nominate its own nonestablishment candidate but too large a force to ignore or offend. This year, Romney is acting likewise, attempting to persuade the Christian Right that he has seen the light on abortion and gay rights. At last week's debate, Romney went furthest in speaking the language of the Christian Right, declaring he "won't apologize to anybody for becoming prolife" (unlike Giuliani), that he opposed federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (unlike McCain) and that he thinks the American family is "the heart of the Republican Party" (unlike Giuliani or McCain).

Of course, Romney's Mormonism makes him a tougher sell to the mostly evangelical Christian Right. But with the two other Republican front-runners staking their independence from Christian conservatives on some key issues and the true Christian Right candidates stuck at 1 percent in the polls, Romney sees his opening. And if it is another candidate who winds up winning the Republican nomination, he will need to prove that, when it comes to the Christian Right's role in presidential politics, the math has changed.

Read the entire Gilgoff piece via the Boston Globe here.
The media portrayal of the recent May Day protest and police response has tended to blame the police for the violence. A counter-portrayal here. I do not accept the MSM picture.
From Australia this news article. Lead paragraph

The senior cleric of the biggest mosque in Canberra has been ordered not to attack fellow worshippers after an outbreak of violence split the city's small Islamic community.

This essay, from the current Chronicle of Higher Education, points to one of the great challenges facing our nation, the loss of civil cohesion.

But, more and more, I think the student culture of incivility is a larger impediment to their success than anything they might fail to learn about Western civilization or whatever it is I am teaching.

I often hear a lot of talk about the academic weaknesses of new freshmen. Even at a relatively elite college, it's not uncommon to find 18-year-olds who have problems with reading -- so much so that almost no incentive can persuade some students to spend an hour with Shakespeare, Kant, or Gibbon.

Writing is an even bigger problem for many students. Most have never produced anything longer than a few pages. A serious research paper -- involving sources, citation, and maybe eight pages of thoughtful analysis -- has become almost entirely unknown before college. The fundamental skills that used to qualify students for admission have been eroded to the point that nothing can be assumed anymore.

But those deficiencies don't bother me all that much. I am here to help them become better readers and writers, as well as to learn the particular content of my courses. Even more than that, I want to cultivate in them a sense of pleasure in learning that will enrich their lives.

Of course, I think it is a serious problem that many public schools -- and private ones -- have just about given up teaching many of the academic skills that were once considered basic for every high-school graduate, not just the ones going to college. But what really troubles me is that schools -- no doubt, mirroring the broader culture -- have given up cultivating the ordinary courtesies that enable people to get along without friction and violence.

Emphasis mine.
In response to this post in which I begin to offer some hypotheses on the causes of decline of the mainline, Martian Mariner posted

Are you saying that the decline of the mainline denominations started at the time of the abolitionist movement, or just that a path of thinking had been started which would eventually lead to the decline?
Also, the issue of slavery obviously split the American Church as it split the nation. How was this split viewed by congregants at the time, and how has that continued cultural difference between Northern and Southern churches (PCUSA/PCA; AmBaptist/SBC; etc..) affected the views of congregants in more modern times?

The decline of the mainline denominations did not start at the time of the abolitionists. My point was that a "path of thinking" did indeed start which had as one of its indirect outcomes mainline decline. When the story of the growth of liberalism in American denomination is told, I think the story of abolitionists is overlooked, but very important.

Regarding regionalism in American Christianity. Southern Christianity during the antebellum period viewed itself as the preserver of biblical Christianity in the face of the heretical abolitionists. In my research in religious periodicals of the period I have found Lincoln often referred to as "that godless Lincoln." The southern churches locked into a literal reading of Scripture. Some of this attitude continues today.
Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I saw it again today in Ken Walsh's U.S.News piece on the ever sinking fortunes of President George Bush (here):

"[0]nly McCain [among the Republican candidates] has made [standing firm on Iraq] a frequent talking point, which is considered one reason why he has faded from front-runner status."

Wrong Again. Republican primary voters are not deserting John McCain because of his courage in the face of declining support for the American mission in Iraq. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

What explains John McCain's troubles?

Part of it is the erroneous context in which his campaign is habitually framed: the fallen front runner. Many months ago, some beltway media types named John McCain the front runner. He wasn't. There was no election going on back then. There was some public opinion polling that asked voters to pick between John McCain and a lot of guys they had never heard of. Surprise, they picked McCain. At the same time, in the same rounds of meaningless polls, McCain showed that he would win in the general against Hillary.

What do the polls say now? The polls say that the Republicans are disoriented and looking for a Messiah. Giuliani? Thompson? And there will be others.

The same beltway types now characterize McCain as the guy who blew the big lead, which is preposterous.

By the way, McCain still bests Hillary in the national polls (as does Rudy).

Cautionary Aside: Take absolutely no hope from those canvases; those surveys are still absolutely meaningless. The Democratic candidate will kick off the campaign with a 20 to 30 point lead on Labor Day. Then things will tighten significantly.

A year ago the large contingent of McCain haters in the Republican Party went to great pains to reject the bogus pronouncements from the mainstream media that McCain was the front runner for the nomination. However, now that a fallen front runner story serves them well, most of the same anti-McCain people are quietly accepting or gleefully adopting the storyline.

Why are the MSM so down on McCain? He betrayed them. They loved him when he was the straight-talking maverick who was always a thorn in the flesh of George Bush. Now, to hear them tell it, he has made a politically motivated decision to support the President and inherit his base. And, irony of ironies, there is no base to inherit.

This is a fallacy, for the most part. McCain (like Joe Lieberman) could have gained much more by deserting the President and the policy, but he (they) proved more intrepid than expedient. McCain (and Lieberman) are great Americans; either one would make a great president. PERIOD.

The other obvious MSM reason for antipathy: the fallen McCain story advances the anti-war story.

Why do the Republicans hate McCain? That is a more complicated question to which I do not have a compelling answer. But here is an overly simplistic nutshell-type explanation: For many hardcore Republicans, they also feel betrayed: Tax Cuts, McCain-Feingold, the deal on filibuster, etc. None of that strikes me as altogether fair--but that's life.

The McCain Paradox: The Bush base doesn't like him to begin with. Therefore, fidelity to the President and the nation doesn't help him with the people who would most likely admire his courageous stand. However, his convictions on Iraq alienate all the folks on the periphery who once were inclined to follow the maverick McCain. If it was an attempt at a master political stroke, it was a poorly drawn strategy.

An Epilogue: McCain is down but not out. His great advantage is his tenacity. He will be there in Round 15 throwing punches. You never know, one might land. You can't count a McCain out until they carry him away.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few days ago, the Okie Gardener posted concerning "Bush Derangement Syndrome" (review here). An occasional reader, "JC" took issue with the Gardener's tongue-in-cheek consideration of "liberalism as a mental disease." In the comments section, JC identified herself as a "52-year-old mom, definitely left-leaning." In the process of making her point, JC characterized the Bush administration as the "most dishonest and immoral in my lifetime." To which, the Gardener disagreed with her assessment of the administration as the most corrupt of recent times and asked that she explain her evaluation.

In an off-line conversation, JC made her case in part. This was not originally intended for public consumption; she expressed a desire not to rant. But with her grudging permission, I am including this excerpt as a thoughtful albeit unpolished look into the heart of the Bush opposition. There are several good points here and there are also some things with which I disagree fundamentally, but I see it is a sincere expression of love and concern for our nation and our system. Listening to the other side...

Guest Blog: JC

The Bush Administration has a penchant for bewildering actions. I tend to blame Karl Rove for much of it, but perhaps that is too easy. Maybe Rove is not responsible for all of these terrible things that are attributed to him. Things happen up there. No one takes responsibility. Bush knows nothing, and it makes you wonder who is in charge? Anyone? Attempts to avoid responsibility make one look either dishonest and/or incompetent.

The Bush team possesses an intense ideology that propels decision making without considering all relevant facts. Evidently, the process includes suppressing facts when they do not support Bush policy. We continue to hear reports referencing the muzzling of government scientists and editing of agency reports by the White House. For leaders of the most militarily powerful nation on earth to behave in this manner is frightening. Policy should be supported by evidence...fact, science, expert opinion... not ideology.

I certainly believe that the Bush Administration purposely misled the American People and the Congress in order to get approval for the Iraq war. We were manipulated... treated as fools. I cannot forgive leaders who would treat America this way.

I also hate what this war is doing to innocent Iraqis. I read what they write online, and so many are leading lives that we can not begin to imagine. Just last night I read the blog of an Iraqi teenage girl (14 or 15 years-old) who wrote of seeing the body parts of a suicide bomber on her way home from school, a friend who was having sleepless nights after seeing a headless body, an explosion damaging their home, and on and on. Reading these things can bring me to tears... and Bush tells us "we're fighting the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them at home". It makes Iraqis so angry to hear that. Me too.

I should add that the above-mentioned Iraqi girl sent an email Christmas greeting to her Christian friends around the world; she raises money for sick children and so on, in spite of the scary life she leads. I don't want anything to happen to her. To keep her safe, I'd be willing to live with some fear of my own.

I agree with you that there is a reflexive disgust among those on the Left for Bush and his crew, and it may be overblown on the little things.... but I don't believe it applies to important policy issues. Speaking for myself, I think about issues, and I do not oppose Bush ideas solely because they are his.

For example, I'm not opposed to his "surge" policy; however, it is not likely to work unless he does some heavy lifting on the diplomacy end, which he appears unwilling to do. And the Iraqi government needs to be accountable for some of their disastrous policies as well, which is why the Democrats are right to apply deadline pressure.

Thanks for the link to your post [refers to my post: America Perseveres]. I agree with much of it... although I think you are a bit more optimistic than I am that our system of government is holding up. I worry about hackable voting machines, money buying just about everything, TV smear campaigns, and lots of other things that give advantages to the worst among us and facilitate the wrong people leading our country.

Having said all of that (and I did start ranting, didn't I?) the Left and Right have got to find a way to join forces for the common good. I wonder if that is possible, and who might lead us there?
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Mitt Romney will not be the Republican presidential nominee for two related reasons.

1. Conservative Christians do not regard Mormons as Christians, instead terming them a "cult."

2. Conservative Christians believe the United States to be a Christian Nation, needing Christian leadership.

Therefore, since Mitt Romney is not Christian, he cannot be allowed to lead a Christian nation.

If, contrary to my prediction Romney does become the Republican nominee and faces off against Hillary, then Conservatives probably would vote for Romney. He may not be Christian, in their thinking, but is not seen as Anti-Christian in the same way Hillary is. (more below)

» Read More

Watching Fox News Sunday this morning:

Chis Dodd: The American people are so far ahead of Washington on this issue. They want a change in policy, a change in direction (full transcript here).

Dodd is only half right. Not to belabor an old point, but there is no polling data that indicates that a majority of Americans want to lose the Battle for Iraq.

Here is what America really wants:

Substitute "progress" for change and insert "right" before direction, and I think you have it.

Americans desperately want progress in the right direction.

Americans want peace, freedom, and prosperity for Iraq and its citizenry.

Much more importantly, Americans want to stop thinking about Iraq. Americans want a cessation to the killing of American servicemen in Iraq.

But, to repeat, we the people are not actually calling for surrender, regional chaos, and Iranian hegemony, all of which would likely follow our retreat out of the Middle East.

An Aside: The Democrats in Washington and on the far left are united in their rhetoric that we must leave Iraq. President Bush and his supporters remain steadfast in their mantra that we must win the Battle of Iraq.

An Obvious Compromise Solution: win and leave.

Embedded in the hearts and minds of most Americans, at least on some level, is the realization that they we must mete out a defeat to the forces of Islamism in Iraq. If Islamic holy war against the West emerges victorious in this theater, American interests suffer a debilitating blow. American defeat will bring disastrous consequences.

The Democrats are playing a dangerous and destructive political game building their future on American failure in Iraq.

The Good News for George Bush, the Republican Party and the United States of America: all the President needs to do to save us all is win. Winning has always been the key; it still is. A win in Iraq saves the Bush legacy, the Republican Party, and America.

The Bad News: The President has known this equation for four years, and we are where we are.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
On this day in 878 Alfred the Saxon defeated the Vikings to preserve an independent Britain. This victory also preserved Christian culture in England. After the battle, instead of putting the Viking leader to death, Alfred baptized him and catechized him before releasing him. I urge you to read the story, a small band of men eventually preserving the liberty of their people against foreign invaders. A fine hour for Britain. Official history site.
In April several house church leaders were arrested while meeting with American Christians. The Americans also were detained. Story here.
We took note of the dog food with a lethel ingredient from China. Be sure to read Photognome's comment.

Now the NYT is exposing poison in medicines from China. Link from Instapundit.

The intent is not to poison, but to make money. Chinese society as a whole after Mao has no bedrock morality from Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, or Christianity. Anything for a buck. Oh the joys of Free Trade. The Progressive reformers and the union activists made progress in bringing justice and safety to America and we are pissing it away, drunk on cheap imports.
This succinct and insightful Tocqueville comment from a recent thread merits attention:

Guest Blog: Tocqueville

People of faith should acknowledge that the countervailing force of secular thought has been an important corrective to the excesses and blindnesses of religious believers. But ardent secularists have their own blindnesses and excesses, among which is their failure to see how much their own conceptions of justice and human dignity rely upon the very religious traditions they reject. Secularism alone cannot suffice to address the largest questions about human existence.

Accordingly, secularists should aim at a reasonable modus vivendi with the believers around them, rather than to invest themselves in pointlessly polarizing struggles over the Pledge of Allegiance or faith-based initiatives and in complaining, absurdly, that America is becoming a theocracy. If they save their criticisms for the things that matter, they will be heard.

The ever astute Martian Mariner commented on my previous post on mainline turmoil and decline thusly:

I know you've posted extensively on the decline of mainline Protestant denominations in America. Most of the posts seem to be displaying the symptoms and warning signs. I was wondering if you could give us some of your analysis as to the causes of this decline. The disconnect between the leadership and congregants seems to be a major part of the decline, but what caused that disconnect in the first place?

I now will begin a series of posts trying to answer his questions. (Caveat--while I am a scholar of the interactions of religion, culture, and politics, my period expertise is the U.S. between the Revolution and the Civil War.) I think the state of the (formerly) Mainline Churches results from multiple causes. Please regard what I say as informed hypotheses, rather than definitive answers. (Blogging is a lot easier than writing books and articles in this regard.) Where to begin? (more below)

» Read More

The Okie Gardner notes that today is the National Day of Prayer. He offers an instructive scholarly summary of how Christian a nation we are (here).

Recently, in my Sunday School class at Church, we have been discussing the proper role of the Ten Commandments in the life of the church, the nation, and in our own personal spiritual journey. Here are some thoughts from that discussion:

I have two basic assertions in re the Ten Commandments:

1. In reality, public deference to the Ten Commandments as a symbol does not pose a significant danger to our national political-legal culture.

2. In reality, fidelity to the Ten Commandments within our Christian community and individual lives does not deter us from reaching our potential as Christians in God’s service.

Part I: History and Politics: The United States of America has always been a very Christian place. While it is true that the Constitution is one of the most secular public documents ever written, the secular government hammered out in that famous compact has always rested upon a very Christian culture. There has always been a tension in this arrangement. For example, the Bill or Rights forbade the establishment of a national religion, even as the national politicians understood that local entities would continue to support state-sanctioned churches for presumably generations (the last state with an established church, Massachusetts, disestablished of its own accord in the 1830s).

Back to the tension: We (the people) are responsible for preserving a healthy balance between secular government and American culture with its heavy Christian influences. We (the people) must take care that the church never hijacks the government, but it is also in our interests to prevent the government from sanitizing the culture of its religious underpinnings.

Where are we now? Are the nutty fundamentalist theocrats really a threat to take over?

W. Lee “Pass the Biscuits, Pappy!” O’Daniel ran for governor of Texas in 1938 on the platform of “the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule and increased old-age pensions.” With the help of God and the "Light Crust Doughboys," O’Daniel won comfortably.

However, with all due respect to the historical impact of “Pappy” O’Daniel, rarely has the Decalogue played a prominent role in American politics. Currently, there is no significant movement on our national political scene that seeks to impose a Christian version of “sharia” law on the public square. That is, even the most radical proponents of displaying the Ten Commandments in public spaces do not advocate implementation of the Decalogue as public law. For example, even the famous Alabama Ten Commandments judge, Roy Moore, does not propose to sentence adulterers, coveters, idol worshippers, and Sabbath breakers for crimes against God’s law.

So, let us be clear; a campaign to install the Ten Commandments as a binding code of public law is not a surging political movement on the march. To insinuate otherwise merely clouds the issue with scary hyperbole.

Then, what is this discussion about?

Consider the two most celebrated Ten Commandments cases in recent years:

1) Van Orden v. Perry, a ruling hailed as a great victory for the Ten Commandments, in which the Texas State Capitol won the right to keep its monument to the Ten Commandments on public grounds;

and 2) McCreary County [Kentucky] v. ACLU, in which the Court held that display of the Ten Commandments in two county court rooms violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, ordering two Kentucky counties to remove the display.

Writing as a dissenter in the Texas (Van Orden) case, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:

"The adornment of our public spaces with displays of religious symbols and messages undoubtedly provides comfort, even inspiration, to many individuals who subscribe to particular faiths. Unfortunately, the practice also runs the risk of "offend[ing] nonmembers of the faith being advertised as well as adherents who consider the particular advertisement disrespectful" (full opinions available here).

We are back to a balancing act: inspiration, comfort and acknowledgement for the majority versus offense and alienation to a minority.

This is a significant question. As Americans we are dedicated to protecting the rights of minorities. As Christians, we ought to be sensitive to the feelings of others. The question (to paraphrase Justice Stephen Breyer in the aforementioned cases) becomes one of judgment.

How much injury does a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol do to citizens who are not Jews, Christians or Muslims?

It is a public discussion very much worth having. Let’s have it at some point.

Part II: The Ten Commandments as Profitable Moral Precepts:

Within our own community (church, Sunday School class, my home), I further suggest that we should have a discussion framed around questions like these:

• Do these injunctions conflict with or support our sense of what Christ wants from us?

• Do these principles of conduct conform to the Sermon on the Mount?

• Do these exhortations flow toward making us better citizens and neighbors?

• Do any of these commandments do us harm?

Below is the inscription on the celebrated monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds:

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Tocqueville draws our attention to an article that compares and contrasts two important figures in the modern conservative movement: Francis Schaeffer and Russell Kirk. Worth a read.

I must confess that neither speaker and writer was much of an influence on me, due in part to my ignorance I'm sure. I've never read Kirk. Twenty-five years ago I read a bit of Schaeffer. Perhaps some of you (Farmer, you paying attention?) could comment on these two and their influence on you.
Today is the National Day of Prayer. Groups all over this nation have and will gather to offer prayers for our nation. In out town we had a prayer breakfast this morning in a church basement, and will have a prayer gathering in a park at noon.

Lot's of claims will be made today that America is (or was) a Christian nation. My own view (brag alert, informed by PhD studies and scholarship) is that the situation is complicated. Was America founded as a Christian Nation? To answer with a simple yes, or a simple no, is to be wrong, I think.

» Read More

Category: Bush Hagiography
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Being President of the United States has always been a lonely job, but it becomes increasingly more difficult and frustrating with the passage of time.

I have a whole list of serious complaints against our president. On the other hand, I would not want his job. I continue to believe that George Bush has been faced with a series of horrific problems to which there are no clear or painless solutions.

No matter, he moves forward step by step. He shows up at his job every day. He continues to love and respect his family, his nation and the office he occupies. He remains optimistic about the nature, history and the future of the United States of America. No matter how egregious the verbal assaults against his character, intelligence and motives, he never breaks faith with the system of self government and civil liberties that ensures that his persecutors will be heard.

I am not sure that we can ask for anything more from a Man.

I am convinced that one day history will credit him for his patience and faithfulness. For now, as his public approval rating hovers in the 30s, I am reminded of the timeless Rudyard Kipling poem:


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

What can we do? Pray for George Bush and the United States of America.

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
This is cool. Exploring in Nepal and finding lost Buddhist cave murals. Story here from The Times of India.
From the NYT today:

Study of N.B.A. Sees Racial Bias in Calling Fouls

"An academic study of the National Basketball Association...suggests that a racial bias found in other parts of American society has existed on the basketball court as well.

"A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that...white referees [call] fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players."

"[The study] went on to claim that the different rates at which fouls are called 'is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.'”

Read the entire story here.

Not until the internet jump page (22 graphs into the story) does the Times acknowledge the obvious but pertinent fact that black players, according to the study, played 83 percent of the minutes on the floor during the period analyzed.

Even after the acknowledgement, the Times never takes the time to analyze what this might mean for the study.

By the way, the first online commenter (4:11 AM) makes this same seemingly manifest point; then, the sentiment is repeated often and enthusiastically among the commenters.

Why did that not occur to the Times?

Why did it not occur to the social scientists?

Stay Tuned...