You are currently viewing archive for June 2009
Category: US in Iraq
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have posted this essay many times over the years, but, on this momentous day, perhaps it is once again appropriate to reconsider this restatement of WHY WE WENT TO IRAQ:

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

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

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

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

5. Saddam and 911. It is a long held article of faith in the mainstream media that "911 and Iraq were not connected." This is nonsense. What they mean to say is that Saddam and his regime were not complicit in the terrorist attacks of 911. Those two statements are not the same. Conflation of these two distinct ideas belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the task that confronts us.

Although there is very little patience for a nuanced discussion of Saddam and the dangers he posed in the Middle East, here is a review in a nutshell:

Saddam was our sworn enemy. We know that he supported terrorist networks in the Middle East, and he may or may not have been harboring al Qaeda operatives (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) [6-30-09: IT IS CLEAR NOW THAT THIS RELATIONSHIP WAS NOT INTENTIONAL]; either way, his regime, inarguably, contributed to the continuing turmoil in the region. More importantly, our state of war with Saddam's Iraq, and the continued vendetta with him presented an insurmountable obstacle to progress in the region.

Saddam was connected to 9-11 in that the insecurity he created in the region contributed to the greater instability and discontent, which facilitated terrorism. The relationship between Saddam's Iraq and the cauldron of hostility that produced 911 was so obvious and internalized for so many of us that public opinion polls have consistently revealed a significant portion of Americans who connect Saddam and 911. Of course, many have taken those numbers as evidence that the Bush administration merely deceived the simple-minded. But that conclusion, once again, flows from the mistaken but foundational premise that 911 and Iraq cannot be connected; therefore, any person who makes that connection is: 1) wrong; 2) deficient in intelligence and 3) under the spell of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

The bottom line: If Saddam could be deposed, many of us believed that a new Iraq would emerge, which would begin a process that might lead to an era of reform in the Middle East, which might ultimately make Islamic terrorists as rare and irrelevant as Ku Klux Klan terrorists.

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

All of the above is unalterable history. Now What?
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I received this email today:

Hi, Prayer Warriors,

How are you?

President Obama, according to this article, has picked a church and personal spiritual advisors.

Whether we agree with his politics or not, let's pray that he is surrounded with God's truth and His love.

Thank you.

May the Lord bless you,

I like the tone of this note. Thanks, Philip. In my view, it is much more Christian than an "imprecatory prayer" against the President.

Allow me to associate myself with this invitation to pray for the President of the United States.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From VDH via National Review:

"[Barack] Obama plants soft questions at news conferences, lies about earlier promises of posting pending legislation on government websites for public perusal, feigns populist unease with his radical government expansion, fires public auditors who uncover liberal transgressions, and in general adopts a hardball politics that the Left claimed was innate to George W. Bush. These again are lies that are noble, in that they facilitate progressive politics that help the people — and they are presumably indiscernible by a fawning media and an unaware electorate.

"So why does President Obama so often get history wrong, so often call for utopian schemes he would hardly adopt for himself, and so often distort by misinformation and incomplete disclosure?

"Partly the culprit is administrative inexperience, partly historical ignorance. But mostly the disconnect comes because Barack Obama believes he is a philosopher-king, whose exalted ends more than justify his mendacious means."

I recommend you read it all here. Insightful analysis and a helpful mini discussion of Plato's Republic. Can't beat that combination.
Powerline links to The Washington Times for the story.

Vietnam's "hidden" war on Christianity just rumbles along, and on March 13, the communist authorities demolished one of the first Christian churches built in Vietnam's Central Highlands. While religious persecution is nothing new to Vietnam, the significance of this demolition is particularly symbolic because the church was more than a historical landmark. The large stone Church at Buon Ma Thuot for the last 34 years had been deliberately closed by Vietnam's security police, and yet, all those years, the church remained a powerful symbol to the local indigenous Christians. Unfortunately, the church was also an unwelcome reminder for the communists who had murdered a number of Christian missionaries near the grounds in 1968, and a reminder of the very movement the government is trying to eliminate. This movement, so hated by Hanoi, is nothing other than "independent" Christian house churches.

The story also reminds us that our abandonmnt of South Vietnam meant abandonment of our Montagnard allies to the tender mercies of the victorious North Vietnamese.
He could dance. He could sing. He could do both at the same time and make it look effortless.

But, he has been dead only a few hours and already I am sick of the eulogizing.

The dude had serious problems.

He did not want to be a black man. He spent umpteen dollars on surgery and treatment to look more and more white, and more and more feminine. He lived in a theme park like a 12-year-old who became rich.

He preferred the playtime company of children. Was it all none-sexual? Hard to believe.

He made the artist formerly, and now again known as Prince seem normal.
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: an okie gardener
Joke, from Theo.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Amazing if true. According to this news report, the Ethiopian Patriarch will allow public viewing of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ethiopian Church has long claimed to be hiding the Ark, formerly kept in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Link from Breitbart.

I've posted before on the Ark in Ethiopia.

24/06: For Freedom

Brits at Their Best reminds us that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

On June 24th 1314, Robert the Bruce and the forces of Scotland defeated the forces of Edward II at Bannockburn and established Scottish independence. Six years later, on April 6th 1320, in the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scots said exactly why they had fought -

"It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."


The American Revolution did not spring fully-formed from the earth. Our ancestors stood in a long line of those seeking to live by their own laws and customs, not under those of an arbitrary tyranny.

Farmer wondered if Obama tears up during Casablanca. I wonder if he is moved during Braveheart.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I agree with the President on the basics:

"Health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it's a fiscal imperative."

"When it comes to health care, the status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable. So reform is not a luxury. It's a necessity...."

So far so good.

Where we part company. Why I cannot support his current plan.

The President often engages in sloppy thinking and lazy rhetoric in pursuit of his political goals. Perhaps he does this because he holds his audience in low esteem. Perhaps he does this because he can. Perhaps there are other more compelling explanations.

No matter, the President loves the straw man, and he loves the false choice.

Quoting the President:

"We also know that there are those who will try and scuttle this opportunity no matter what - who will use the same scare tactics and fear-mongering that's worked in the past. They'll give dire warnings about socialized medicine and government takeovers; long lines and rationed care; decisions made by bureaucrats and not doctors."

I hate it when those guys show up. They are always up to no good. Their goal is always the same: work against the public weal for the special interests. Seriously, and forgive me for the repetition, this president engages in this brand of straw man sophistry way too much. This is a continuing disappointment for me. He should abandon this low road of public discourse.

Does he have a point?

True, conservatives worry that this massive government intervention into health care is the first step to socialized medicine (better known under the euphemistic umbrella of a "single-payer system").

Is this just another example of the paranoid strain of American politics? Are conservatives merely blurring the real issue with scare tactics concerning an unlikely eventuality?

Here is one very personal reason I think not: EVERY thoughtful liberal I have ever met has eventually admitted to me that European-style or Canadian-style national health care is exactly what they wanted--if not now, eventually.

Why? In general, my liberal friends tend to see government-guaranteed universal health care as the "smart" and humane solution. In fact, I hear plenty of discontent that the President is not asking for the "whole enchilada" right now. The grousing is often tempered by the consolation that this half-measure is merely what is politically possible at this moment. But, rest assured, they tell one another, we're gonna get there eventually. This is no secret. National Health Care has been a staple for Democratic Party platforms and public policy since FDR.

The President, who fancies himself an honest man steeped in nuance, ought to deal with this question more frankly. But don't blame conservatives for viewing this latest installment of a long running national drama in the context of a much larger philosophical-political discussion.

President False Choice.

"So the notion that somehow we can just keep on doing what we're doing, and that's OK, that's just not true. We have a long-standing critical problem in our health care system that is pulling down our economy. It's burdening families. It's burdening businesses. And it is the primary driver of our federal deficits. All right?

"So -- so if we start from the premise that the status quo is unacceptable, then that means we're going to have to bring about some serious changes."

Translation: either you are FOR my plan or you are against reforming health care. My way or the highway.

Sound familiar?

Either you are for my $787 billion stimulus bill or you are for doing nothing to combat this recession.

These are false choices. There are other options.

True enough, we are in a health care crisis--and it is a crisis of sustainability. True enough, the health care debate has shifted beneath our feet.

Why? The Party is Over.

One day, we will look back wistfully on this moment and recall our privileged status regarding health care in America. Although we have NOT spent a lot of time appreciating the wonder of the current system, the vast majority of us have been privy to the best-trained physicians, the most advanced medical technologies, and the most comprehensive network of doctors and facilities ever assembled in the annals of medical history.

Those days are necessarily coming to a close. WHY?

Not because of the humanitarian impulse. For decades, we have been very close to totally deaf to the sad refrain of "forty-something million uninsured" fellow citizens. Why so unresponsive?

Two Reasons: the claim is mostly a distorted and transparent political manipulation; and, more importantly, the vast majority of us were thriving under the status quo. We are not a blindly utilitarian society, but when the great bulk of the citizenry are prospering under a given regime, they are loath to sacrifice their advantage for a disadvantaged minority. In that regard, nothing has changed. Collective compassion will not be the impetus for the massive change in the offing.

What is different this time?

The UNSUSTAINABLE rising costs.

Ironically, we are victims of our own success. The wonders of medical research and development and production have outdistanced our financial resources. Most of us assume we are inherently deserving of the very best and most-advanced medical care. Ironically, conservatives even more than liberals seem to have swallowed this sense of entitlement when it comes to health care. Unlike products in our consumer culture where we make choices commensurate with our ability to pay, most of us assume that we are due the very best health care available regardless the cost.

In this way, the one-payer system is completely disingenuous. As a society, we CANNOT afford to pay for health care through government agency anymore than we can afford our current system of health care as an employee benefit. It is just not credible to believe that we are going to provide coverage to fifty million extra people and pay less money through the magic of bureaucratic streamlining. Something has to give. The obvious solution is cost control, which means rationing care, which means the Golden Age of carte blanche health care is concluding--no matter which road we take.

How we get there remains undetermined, but the ultimate destination is certain.

We can no longer enjoy unlimited health care regardless of our ability to pay. Socialized medicine is one way to combat this economic problem. In fact, socialized medicine is probably a less painful way to inaugurate the era of limits than doing nothing. Socialized medicine means a lot of changes that we will not view as positive--but this may be unavoidable. However, it would be nice if Democrats would be straight with us about the real problems and their actual proposed solution.

Having said that, I still cannot support this framework at this time. The planned Obama-Pelosi cram-down is an impending disaster; it is bad politics for them and for us. It is a drastic and irrevocable step. We would be better off defeating this attempt at social revolution and waiting for a moment when there is more political equity and, therefore, more honesty and more bipartisan buy-in. Also, the crisis may not be at a point in which the sense of urgency is such that partisans are actually willing to come together for the common good. This is one of those cases in which both parties need to come to terms and go forward with a compromise solution. There are better ideas out there. We need to wait for an atmosphere more conducive to positive change.
Quoting the President of the United States, Barack Obama. from his press briefing today:

"The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days."

"I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost."

"In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests of justice. Despite the Iranian government's efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers. And so we've watched what the Iranian people are doing."

"We've seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands of Iranians marching in silence. We've seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and that their voices are heard.

"Above all, we've seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history."

"If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion. That's what Iran's own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government."


While I have not had time to go through the entirety of the press conference, in my mind, there is no question that this is a strong condemnation of the Iranian government from the President of the United States. It is much more in line with what I was craving over the past few days. In fact, it is a wonderfully penetrating critique. I would be a hypocritical ingrate not to acknowledge and appreciate this gesture.

Having said that, I have a few admittedly impertinent questions:

1. Does the President still entertain delusions that we can negotiate with these people?

2. I first READ online those first few graphs concerning Iran--and I punched my fist in the air a couple of times. YEAH BABY! SOLIDARITY! Then I caught the video and watched him deliver those lines. LACKLUSTER. Will the President ever register a similar contempt in his voice for the brutal and oppressive Iranian regime that he regularly musters for the Republican opposition and the previous administration? The words were adequate--but where was the emotion? The outrage? Was his heart really in this?

Blasting an anti-U.S. power just seems to go against his basic wiring. The closest he gets to real pique is when he chastises the Iranians for employing the "tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries." My hunch is that this staple of Obama speak proved close enough to his regular stump speech against the GOP that it activated some muscle memory impulse of manifested ire. Otherwise, he never really gets up a full head of steam until he starts talking about the impending showdown over health care and mendacious insurance companies who have erroneously charged that government has a history of inefficiency. Now there's some real dastardly behavior that the President can sink his teeth into.
The invitation to Iranian diplomats to celebrate the 4th of July with us is still on. From the State Department transcript of today's press conference. Full transcript.

QUESTION: This isn’t a frivolous question, really. Do you think it’s still appropriate to have Iranians come to these July 4th parties under the circumstances? I mean, is there any thought being given to like, rescinding invitations?

MR. KELLY: No, there’s no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats.

QUESTION: It’s appropriate to have a social dialogue with them if they come?

MR. KELLY: Well, we have made a strategic decision to engage on a number of fronts with Iran, and we tried many years of isolation and we’re pursuing a different path now.

The Obama Adminstration is absolutely flat on its feet in responding to the ongoing crisis in Iran. The regime is openly crushing its own people, and we are inviting tyrants to watch fireworks on the 4th.

Reaction has started around the conservative blogosphere.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In the midst of his humiliation and desperation, the prodigal son experienced an epiphany: his father's hired men had a better life than he did. He resolved to go back home and say, "Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand."

He picked himself up and went home to his father.

When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, his father ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: "Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again."

But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, "Quick. Bring him clean clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Kill the fatted calf. We're going to feast! We're going to celebrate! My son has come home! My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, but now is found."

I have viewed the Parable of the Lost Son through the prism of at least three different life perspectives.

1. As a child, I understood the protection and the power of my father. Fathers are fearless and wise--fully capable of insulating little boys from the cruelties and meanness of the world. When trouble was on the horizon, his face turned to a stony mask of determination and deadly force, intimidating evil doers back into the shadows. Two young punks at the Van Nuys post office, carelessly menacing a citizen with a small child for some kicks, quickly came to understand that the game had suddenly turned sour--and the air was now thick with danger. In the face of his terrorizing scowl, they backed down. What would have happened if they had not? Later--but not too much. My dad sitting in his big American sedan at the top of the hill, with a baseball bat on the seat and his .357 literally strapped to his leg. Absolutely crazy and scary to think back on it now. But no one was going to insinuate that a neighborhood street was not safe for his son to ride his bike on. A bad bunch that did not fear the law would understand force. The head of a bullying clan had miscalculated. A foolish individual was on the edge of bringing a knife to a gun fight. They backed down. I rode my bike without incident.

Like John Wayne, "he wouldn't be wronged, he wouldn't be insulted, and he wouldn't be laid a hand on. He didn't do those things to other people, and he expected the same from them." "If the world was not black and white, why the hell not?"

As a child, I understood perfectly why the prodigal went home. Home was safe. Dad was strong. Dad was powerful enough to save him. The real question: why would you leave in the first place?

2. There was a moment when my dad stopped being John Wayne and became Gene Hackman--still bigger than life and blustering, but now balding, paunchy, and flawed. No longer was he inerrant or bullet proof. His black and white world suddenly turned upside down. He was now confused and battered, flat-out wrong sometimes--but still counter-punching and looking desperately for vindication.

As a young man, I understood why the prodigal left. It was time to make your mark outside of the old man's shadow. Too much advice--not all of it good, really. Too much pessimism. Too much bitterness. What the hell did he know? How hard could all of this really be?

When I was a young man, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But as I matured, I was astonished by how much he had learned in a just few short years.
~~my apologies to Mark Twain

3. I have said this before, but I was born again, again, on 12 May 1999. That is the day I became a father. It was the day I saw the world anew. It was the day I lost control of my life and my emotions, and it was the best-slash-most important day of my life. It was not until that moment that I understood the true import of the story of the prodigal.

The utter sublimeness of the parable of the Lost Son is the reaction of the father. When I think about him looking down that road and seeing his son, I can feel the absolute rapture of the moment. Can it be? Is it really him? How many times, I wonder, had this father seen his son walking down that road in the happy recesses of his imagination? How many times had this father caught a glimpse of someone walking down this road and been carried away with the momentary sanguine hope that it was his son? No, it's him this time! It really is him this time! This boy was gone. Gone forever. But there he is! Praise God! There he is!

The absolute perfection of the metaphor is that God the Father might actually love us as much as we love our sons. This is the way God feels about me? Wow! This truly is a loving God. Yes. He let me go. Yes. He let me make my mistakes. But there he is, weeping with joy at my return and all is forgiven. It didn't matter why the boy left; it didn't matter what the boy did while he was gone. The only thing of real consequence was that the son was back. The strength of that metaphor was completely lost on me before I experienced fatherly love for my two sons. Now it is the most powerful illustration in the Holy Book--the very heart of the Gospel.

An Aside: for me, this is strong evidence that Jesus really was divine, or really had a family somewhere, or someone other than Jesus imagined this parable.

So, my third life perspective on this story, in addition to my added comprehension of God the Father, is the view of my own father as only another father can know him. As a father, I can now fully understand the true power and scope of my father's love for me.

It's a love without end, Amen.

I don't say this nearly enough. Thanks, Dad. Happy Father's Day, 2009.
In my previous post, I briefly considered the official White House reaction to the Iranian Protest.

In a nutshell, I am not altogether offended by President Obama's caution. By eschewing the traditional American harsh and unequivocal response in similar cases, the President wisely passes up the temptation to make the United States a center of attention in this internal struggle.

Even more importantly, as I intimated, and the Okie Gardener better articulated, we are "not giving unrealistic expectations to the demonstrators." On a macro moral level, the instances in which freedom-loving dissidents rise up, propelled by the false hopes of a decisive United States intervention, have too often concluded with heartbreaking and cruelly tragic misfortune.

On the other hand, by staying mum while the multitudes bravely take to the streets in pursuit of life, liberty, and peaceful change strikes many of us as craven--or at least quite peculiar. It is in our nature to stand up and yell out our support for and solidarity with our brothers in arms across the seas. As I said before, we have been doing this for more than two hundred years.

However, Obama Americanism is not quite that reflexive (at least not in the same direction). It is a studied skepticism for notions like "natural rights" and the inherent benevolence of American-style democracy. Barack Obama is the first president from a generation of Americans educated in the nation's finest institutions of higher learning transformed during the 1970s and beyond by the advent and establishment of a New Left ethos. At Columbia and Harvard one learns to appreciate cultural relativism and give great weight to the murky and sometimes inconsistent history of American foreign policy and the sometimes hypocritical struggle for freedom at home. President Obama comes to us steeped in nuance, irony, and cynicism.

Is that Enough?

Sometimes we want more than the detached cool of the knowing academic. Sometimes we want and need an official cri de coeur from the President of the United States. Sometimes we need some Daniel Webster.

A Thought Experiment:

When I watch the scene in Casablanca in which Freedom Fighter Victor Laszlo orchestrates the public singing of "La Marseillaise," drowning out the Nazis and "Die Wacht am Rhein," I cannot help myself: I tear up (watch here via You Tube--if you have never seen it, seriously, do yourself a favor).

Vive le France!

Vive Michael Curtiz!

God Bless America!

Godspeed to the brave souls in the streets of Tehran!

My Question:

I wonder, does Barack Obama cry when he watches that scene?

Do you get weepy watching that scene?


PREDICTION: For the record, I think the pressure is mounting for the President to come out strongly in support of the protesters. Regardless of whether he feels solidarity in his heart for their cause, I expect an eloquent statement identifying our history with the democratic yearnings of the masses in Iran.
1. I am not convinced that the recent election in Iran was "stolen." First of all, Iranian elections are NOT "free" elections (as we generally understand that notion). As a result of the unorthodox nature of an Iranian canvass, it is nearly impossible to obtain much perspective on what exactly happened there. Moreover, there was some polling prior to voting that indicated incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really was the overwhelming choice of the electorate. Evidently, there is a very large constituency of hardliners in the Iranian electorate who are just as nutty as their fearless leader. Maybe he really won. Maybe he cheated. Who knows? Does it matter? Not Really. Why?

2. Whether the election was stolen is beside the point for at least two reasons.

--The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran is a position of very limited authority. Under the Iranian constitution, the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has final authority over all internal and foreign policies (including the judicial system), control of all of the armed forces (internal and external), and control of all state media. Khamenei has served as Supreme Leader since 1989, when he replaced the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (remember him?), whose term commenced with the Revolution he orchestrated (1979), and lasted until his death in 1989. There are no popular elections or term limits for the Supreme Leader. Get the picture?

--Just as there is very little significance to the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is very little difference between the incumbent and the chief challenger. Mir Hossein Mousavi is not the Lech Walesa or Vaclav Havel of Iran (at least not until this election).

So, who cares if an election for an office that has little meaning--between two Mullah-approved candidates who do not differ in any significant way--was stolen?

What is important?

3. The West is seeing the real Iran. George Bush and his 2002 "Axis of Evil" declaration seems much less kooky this summer. It will be exceedingly hard to refer to Iran as the "Islamic Republic" without irony ever again.

4. Even More Important: Right now, the election is NOT the thing. Right now, the Revolution is the thing. Regardless of whether the election was legitimate or fraudulent, the Islamic Republic of Iran is at a crossroads. Ironically, it does not take a majority to have a democratic revolution. You will recall the famous observation from John Adams in which he estimated that 1/3 of the colonists were for revolution, 1/3 were loyal to the Crown, and 1/3 were waiting to see which way the wind blew.

Revolutions are often accomplished with an inspired or infuriated coterie of believers, while the vast majority of citizens stand on the sidelines agape. There is almost certainly a city-country divide here (conservatives versus moderns). This may be much more of a "Tehranian" Revolt than a greater Iranian Revolution. However, that may not be so important. Something may be happening here that has very little to do with the late election or the will of the majority—but that does not mean that this massive action might not be the beginning of transformation.

What Should Obama Do?

5. To an extent, I am NOT completely disgusted with the President's response (or lack of response). In fact, I am glad he did not stake American prestige on an assertion that the election was rigged. As I say, I am not sure anybody knows that right now—or will ever know.

The silence on the unrest is more problematic. On one hand, the traditional saber-rattling and gnashing of teeth on the part of the United States in these situations is never determinative. We huff and puff--but we never blow anybody's house down. In a way, the President's decision NOT to employ that set piece of American foreign policy is somewhat refreshing. It is something of a relief to admit that we are merely bystanders in this internal Iranian drama.

On the other hand, it feels a bit un-American not to cheer on a people's revolution in the heart of an oppressive regime hostile to the United States. We love this kind of thing. We have rhetorically supported the fight for liberty in places all over the globe for more than two-hundred years. We should also note that we have myriad evidence that statements of support provide much appreciated comfort to the lonely dissident.

It really says something about the President that his heart does not override his rigorous New Left intellectual training. Once again, Barack Obama Americanism is almost the polar opposite of the flag-waving Reaganesque patriotism conservatives like me love so much.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Recently my wife and I drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and toured the Gilcrease Museum. Built around the art collection of an Oklahoma oilman, the Gilcrease houses an astounding collection of American art. Well worth the time and expense of a trip to Tulsa.

I first became aware of this museum several years ago when I noticed that many of the paintings printed in the American history textbooks I used were housed there.

The collection includes

James Madison (1792) by Charles Wilson Peale

Black Hawk and His Son, Whirling Thunder (1833) by John Wesley Jarvis

Boone's First View of Kentucky (1849) by William T. Ranney

And many, many more, including sculptures.

The art collection includes over 10,000 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures by 400 artists from colonial times to the present. Some of the important, non-western artists featured in the Gilcrease Collection include Thomas Eakins, Robert Feke, Charles Wilson Peale, Daniel Chester French, John Singleton Copley, James McNeil Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, John James Audubon, William Merritt Chase, and N. C. Wyeth. Among the Western artists for which Gilcrease is renowned are the following:

Albert Bierstadt
William M. Cary
George Catlin
Woody Crumbo
William R. Leigh
Alfred Jacob Miller
Thomas Moran Frederic Remington (including 18 of his 22 bronzes)
Charles M. Russell
Olaf Seltzer
Joseph H. Sharp
Willard Stone
Charles Banks Wilson

16/06: Manipulation

Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
There are no windows in any casino I've ever seen. No clocks either. Casino managment wants to control the game-room enviroment absolutely, so as to separate the player from external reality. Cut-off from any external reference, plied with alcohol, over-stimulated with electronic lights and sounds, given enough wins to sustain the illusion of beating the house, the player becomes a Pavlovian animal with a twist: when the bells ring the players feed the house.

In American politics, if the media do not maintain an objective independence, the voters can lose touch with any external reality, and be manipulated by whomever controls the house. The media infatuation with Obama frightens me. May it end soon.
Brits at their Best reminds us to celebrate the Magna Carta, an important early step in the development of British Liberty, which put limits on the power of the king. The post contains links to the full text and other information. Some rights protected in the Magna Carta:

The right to trial by jury.

The right to habeas corpus. —We cannot be arrested and kept in prison without trial.

The right to own property, which cannot be taken from us without due payment or process of law.

Too bad that many of these basic rights in Britain are in jeopardy today because of membership in the European Union in which too much power is given to unelected bureacrats.

Our own liberties in the U.S. are a development of British Liberty, or, The Liberty of Englishmen. We would do well to guard them jealously from encroaching government power.
We have criticized the National Organization of Women on this blog before. We worry that they are more concerned with promoting a political agenda than speaking out for the general well being of all women. However, they deserve kudos for their response to the Letterman-Palin abomination.

This trenchant statement from their website is a welcome condemnation:

NOW Analysis: After two nights of "jokes" at the expense of Palin and her family, Letterman tried to explain himself and offer something of an apology. On his June 10 show, Letterman said he was referring to Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol -- not the 14-year-old daughter who actually accompanied Palin on her New York trip. Letterman said "I recognize that these are ugly" jokes. NOW agrees. Comedians in search of a laugh should really know better than to snicker about men having sex with teenage girls (or young women) less than half their age.

The sexualization of girls and women in the media is reaching new lows these days -- it is exploitative and has a negative effect on how all women and girls are perceived and how they view themselves. Letterman also joked about what he called Palin's "slutty flight attendant look" -- yet another example of how the media love to focus on a woman politician's appearance, especially as it relates to her sexual appeal to men. Someone of Letterman's stature, who appears on what used to be known as "the Tiffany Network" (CBS), should be above wallowing in the juvenile, sexist mud that other comedians and broadcasters seem to prefer.

I associate myself with these remarks.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
David Brooks, the rational voice of the NYT, articulates his version of "the party is over."

It is a near flawless concise history and analysis of where we are, how we got here, and our dilemma:

"Over the next many years, Americans will have to save more and borrow less. The American economy will have to transition from an economy based on consumption and imports to an economy with a greater balance of business investment and production. A country that has become accustomed to reasonably fast growth and frothy affluence will probably have to adjust to slower growth and less retail fizz."

"The economic challenges will be hard...But it’s the political challenges that will be most hellacious. Basically, everything that a politician might do to make voters happier in the near term will have horrible long-term consequences."

Amen. Read it all here.

However, there is one massive head-scratcher in the otherwise brilliant piece.

Brooks writes:

"The members of the Obama administration fully understand this and are brimming with good ideas about how to move from a bubble economy to an investment economy. Finding a political strategy to accomplish this, however, is proving to be very difficult. And getting Congress to move in this direction might be impossible."

Huh? Of course, true enough, getting Congress to face our perilous circumstances with integrity and courage is the impossible dream. But the sentence about the Obama administration's willingness to grapple with reality just drops down from outer space. It is so January 20th. I would love to know what gives Brooks hope, at this late date, that anyone affiliated with President Obama has any inclination toward making the politically inexpedient choices and speaking the cold hard truth to the American people (and, more importantly, the Democratic Party interest groups). From what I have seen so far, I expect the President to keep telling those constituencies exactly what they want to hear.
Category: Farmer's Favorites
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The latest uncomfortable encounter between the media and Barney Frank (view here via RCP video) illustrates an ongoing challenge in American politics: how to speak civilly to one another.

This post (reissued below) from last November seems to me quite relevant still--maybe even more so today:

19 November 2008

I heard a fairly cantankerous interview with Barney Frank this morning.

In response to a request for clarification from the interviewer, Frank testily responded: "Right, I'm trying to explain to you how it works." Congressman Frank went on to chastise the reporter on several more occasions, continued to interrupt and talk over him incessantly, and then began his concluding statement by declaring: "you seem determined to kind of distort this."

Another encounter with Bill O'Reilly? No. This was an NPR segment with Steve Inskeep.

Barney Frank is a man so combative that he cannot even seem civil with NPR.

What are we going to do with this fellow now that he is in charge of overseeing our financial system?

The cranky exchange this morning concerned Frank's insistence that we bail out our struggling domestic automobile companies.

Frank is not bashful about telling you what he thinks:

--the car companies should be rescued to save workers and remedy the "white collar/blue collar divide,” fight against the rampant and systemic "anti-union activity," and attempt to address "income inequality in this country."

--we seem to be willing to spend "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions for a war that we never should have been in [Iraq], but we don't save an important industry and protect workers from having gains that they fought hard for taken away."

--we live in "a wealthy country. If we spend things well, we can spend them."

With the fundamental problems with labor and health care costs, is any of this even spending on the Big Three likely to help?

--the x factor seems to be health care. "if they have to stay with health care the way it is now, yeah, that's bleak. But what I am hoping is that we will get a change in the health care system that will reduce the burden that we put not just on the American auto industry, where it's more expensive to build a car in America than in Canada because of health care."

The Frank Plan:

1. Save the UAW at taxpayer expense.

2. Ditch Iraq and spend the peace dividend on reducing inequities.

3. Universal healthcare.

The Okie Gardener asserted earlier today that Barney Frank presents a real obstacle to Barack Obama's success as president. Finding a way to keep Barney in his cage will be an ongoing problem for the new administration. I wish them well.

I agree with the Gardener, the way the Auto Bail Out shakes out will tell us a lot.

JUNE 2009 ADDENDUM: I no longer believe that this president actually has any substantive policy disagreements with Barney Frank; therefore, an Obama-Frank conflict does not actually present many problems for the administration.
The more exposure I have to Barak Obama, the more I dislike him, and the more I distrust him as a person. To my somewhat trained eye, he sends out disturbing signals. I have been contemplating a post on my thoughts, but instead, for now at least, direct you to Powerline and this guest post from history professor Paul Rahe.

In the first of the autobiographies that he claims to have written, Barack Obama frequently speaks of himself as being in the grips of rage. We would do well to take him at his word.
As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.
~~George Washington
(with some help from Alexander Hamilton)
in GW's Farewell Address, 1796

Classic Republican Simplicity.

1. Public Credit is essential.

2. Spend public money frugally--but don't be penny wise and pound foolish. Spend it when you must (to ensure national security).

3. Pay your own way. Don't mortgage the future. Don't burden future generations with your profligacy.

4. Elective government is responsible for holding the line on spending, but, ultimately, expenditures will reflect the popular will.

5. To pay down debt, government must tax. Taxes are inconvenient and unpleasant--but necessary.

6. Good government is responsible government. Government must be worthy of our taxes.

Back to Basics. The Party is Over. While this may be contemporary GOP heresy, it is time to reclaim Classic Republican good sense.

We need to get serious about taxes--for two reasons:

1. We desperately need the money. We are amassing a national debt that poses an existential threat to American independence. The only way to protect our liberty is to RAISE REVENUE and CUT EXPENSES--and do both of those things in a meaningful way.

Brace yourselves: this is going to sting.

2. We need to tax everyone until it hurts. We need to tax George Soros, Warren Buffet, Steven Spielberg, AND YOU AND ME until we all feel the pain of taxation and cry out for a more responsible government.

The tax burden ought to be such that even rich liberals come to understand that there is a price to pay for a government that aspires to be all things to all people. Most importantly, we must tax all citizens of all socioeconomic ranks so that all Americans are invested in good stewardship. For those who pay no taxes, every government program is a good one.

We must face reality. Our current president won election promising 98 percent of America a tax cut. We must overcome the sophistry that the masses will benefit from a tax structure that only "inconveniences" the fortunate few. Those numbers do not add up--and we should disabuse ourselves of such foolish notions. They defy common sense.

The Party is Over. Twentieth century "tax and spend" liberalism yielded the stagflation, systemic insolvencies, and malaise of the 1970s. As a well-intentioned alternative to over-taxation, the market conservatives offered what tragically amounted to "borrow and spend," which produced a generation of high times but ultimately led us to this desperate moment of reckoning. Let us return to our Classical Republican roots.

Let us commit ourselves to frugality and moderation. Let us understand that sustainability, living within our means, is our primary national priority. But first we must take drastic measures to meet this moment of crisis. The transition back to fiscal health will not be pleasant--but it is time to change our indulgent habits forever--or die.

Acknowledgement: this is not especially original thinking on my part. Among other influences, the Okie Gardener offered a compelling essay on this subject last Octber.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer's sustainability.

Unemployment is high. The Recession has not abated. The Stimulus is a failure.

This is good news for Republicans, right? We all know that a bad economy (although inconvenient for some) is the proverbial silver lining for an opposition party.

Not so fast. It is election season on the other side of the Atlantic--but not in the good old USA.

By the fall of 2012, NOBODY is going to remember the unemployment numbers for June 2009. We are quite possibly at the nadir of this recession. Digging in and making our case against this president on a momentary economic indicator is tantamount to building our house on sand. It is much MORE LIKELY THAN NOT that the landscape will have shifted completely beneath our feet in three years.

An Aside: political tides can turn in a lot less time than that. Does anybody remember last summer when "drill here, drill now" emerged as the surefire recipe for our electoral success in the fall? We had good reason to be optimistic. The longtime hostility of the Democratic Party toward oil exploration, drilling, and refining suddenly looked like a lethal liability. But all that vanished in the blink of an eye when the bottom fell out of the oil market, and prices at the pump nosedived seemingly overnight.

We are foolish to predict that a trillion-dollar stimulus (no matter how wasteful and lacking in focus) is NOT going to contribute to, or at least coincide with, a revived economy.

We stand up NOW and say the stimulus hasn't worked--and we know this because the economy is flat. However, when the economy finally turns around--as economies almost always do--the President will look out across the land and laugh his hearty laugh and point in our direction and say, "oh ye of little faith...why hast thou doubted the wisdom of the New Day?" And the mainstream media will dutifully report the most amazing and most ingeniously engineered recovery in the whole of American history.



Much more detrimental, we are enabling the President's dangerous mischaracterization of the REAL PROBLEM. The President too often intimates that overcoming the current recession provides the key to continued prosperity. This is a perilous and disingenuous conflation of the actual threats to our general welfare and, perhaps, over time, even our very survival as a nation.

The FACTS: the President inherited three distinct (although not unrelated) economic challenges. One is discomfiting but manageable. Two is super scary but seemingly under control presently. Three is Armageddon.

1. Recession. While recessions can be hazardous to the political health of presidents, in the big scheme of things, they are not so unusual or daunting--and not an existential threat to life as we know it. Recessions come and go. At the end of every downturn is an upturn.

Nevertheless, in ordinary times, a deep recession would be the top priority for any chief executive. In the face of a downturn, modern presidents must act (and act quickly). Graded on the recession alone, I give the President "passing marks" (with reservations) on his response. He acted quickly, yes, but his trillion-dollar stimulus was unprecedented overkill as well as embarrassingly revealing in its sloppiness. He also used the "crisis" to accomplish some political goals--but abuses of that sort are so commonplace as to be almost forgivable.

2. Banking Crisis. Much more serious. The potential meltdown of the financial sector portended catastrophe. We have all weathered multiple recessions (I have lived through nine of them)--but most of us have never experienced a bank panic. The collapse of the financial sector would have precipitated Great Depression 2.0.

Happily, we may well have averted this instrument of RUINATION. We are not out of the woods yet, but, if we make it, thanks be to Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner, George Bush, and Barack Obama. I include the President in this list for having enough sense NOT to get in the way of an unfolding plan already in place that offered our best chance for reprieve in the face of looming disaster.

3. Structural Unsustainability. On this count, however, the president is courting a massive calamity. On this count, the President insists on doubling down on a gamble in Keynesian theory that may very well cost us our hard-earned American inheritance.

The President seeks to borrow more money than we can ever hope to pay back--and he wants to provide more government services to more citizens than we can ever afford. This president, as well-intentioned as he may be, intends to be everything to everyone with no concrete plan to pay the bills.

He possesses a fundamental misunderstanding of economic reality. If he is somehow right, frankly, conservatives are obsolete (and good riddance). If President Obama can actually do what he promises, we will all walk hand-in-hand to that golden shore of Progressive Kingdom Come happily singing songs of praise for an American Messiah.

If he is wrong, however, we need to be firmly rooted in reality and there to pick up the pieces. We need to be thinking ahead--and not just to the next election. Most importantly, we ought not to fall into the trap of arguing over this transitory recession. Whether we arise from this particular downturn in our economy (and chances are we will--just in time for the Election of 2012), we need to be fighting the good fight everyday in terms of fiscal sustainability.

Conservative Solutions must include a plan to financial solvency and independence. Leave discussion of the unemployment rate to the screaming heads.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Stuart Rothenberg writes today:

"Like most of the evening programming on MSNBC and the Fox News Channel, Hardball has become a partisan, heavily ideological sledgehammer clearly intended to beat up one party and one point of view."

"I don't mean to single out Matthews for criticism because he actually understands politics and I believe that he would prefer to do a serious political show. Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and the newest addition to MSNBC's unfortunate lineup, Ed Schultz, are far worse than Hardball."

"When I surf the channels and pause for a moment on O'Reilly or Hannity [FOX News], I rarely see guests who aren't openly partisan. But MSNBC's left-leaning shows do use political reporters and columnists who would bridle at the notion that they are ideologues or favor one party over the other."

Read it all here via RCP.

I agree with Rothenberg. These shows are fun, but they are also addictive and poisonous (and, for the record, I include Hannity and O'Reilly in that assessment).
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Looking for the first trenchant political satire of the Age of Obama at the expense of Obama?

Look no more: read this PARODY OF NEWSWEEK from NRO.

It is brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny. It is what Jon Stewart and SNL should have been doing for months. Hats off to NRO.

Please report back on whether you laughed out loud.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Pat Buchanan today: "the Anti-Reagan."

"Obama is the anti-Reagan. Where Reagan ever spoke of the greatness and glory of America, her history and heroes, her capacity to make the world all over again, Obama is like a dismal parson, forever reminding us — and everyone within earshot — of our own and our fathers’ sins.

"Obama is not only demoralizing Middle America, he is driving away the God-and-country patriots who are sick of hearing this rot from professors and journalists, and prefer not to hear it from their president. He is ceding moral high ground to regimes and nations that do not deserve it."

If you are a mind, read the whole essay here. I am unconvinced by Pat's macro-psycho-historical explanation behind this difference in RR and BHO (it strikes me as a bit too facile)--but the two graphs above get at something that is worth investigating and defining. We all sense a different set of moral coordinates for this president. What does that mean for us?

Buchanan makes some serious assertions here that deserve consideration.
Both Farmer and I have posted on Obama's Cairo speech.

As I read it, I was jarred by some of the historical assertions, but had other fish to fry and did not pursue all of them. For example, Obama credited Islamic civilization for printing and for the compass. My memory said that China usually is credited. Someone has now done the checking and Gateway Pundit has the story. The comments also contain much good information.

Bottom line: Obama's speechwriters need a better researcher. Many of these historical assertions are wrong, others are dubious. I wonder what CNN's reaction would have been had GWB given this speech?
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Two hundred years ago Baptists were not organized into a national denomination. Instead, the Baptist movement, in two or three streams, had no national structures, local churches organizing into Associations. Baptists were, in general, not wealthy nor especially educated. They were not "high society." But, as the American nation grew and developed, so did Baptists. The majority organizing a national denomination (the Convention). But, the minority of Baptists remained outside this endeavor, for various reasons. They looked back to older, traditional ways. And among the treasures kept, was the real old-time music. Even when newer hymns were adopted, they were sung without instrumental accompanyment.

Much of this Baptist minority became the Primitive or Old School Baptist movement. Here is some of their music:

Audio, with a still picture of the Meeting House.

Last week I introduced you to Sacred Harp singing. Here is more, in a PB church.

This video sound a lot like the Primitive Baptist churches in which I grew up.

Another group of the Baptist minority is the Old Regular Baptists, found mostly in the Appalachians. Now they have preserved the real old time singing. Listening to them is like time traveling to a Baptist meeting in 1800. Some Primitive Baptist churches also sing like this, mostly in the mountains.

When Shall We Meet from the Smithsonian Folkways recording.

At a baptism, listen to the singing at the beginning of the video.

I Am a Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow another Smithsonian Folkways recording.
A Tale of Two Speeches

I watched President Obama this morning at Colleville-Sur-Mer (and I have read the text of his remarks once through). It was an adequate speech. The President appeared stately and properly reverent behind his teleprompters. He hit the requisite notes in praise of bravery and sacrifice.

Having said that, it is safe to predict that no one will ever place this address on a "Barack Obama's Greatest Hits" ipod collection. For me , the remarks were not especially resonant. He did not "hook" me--as he so often does when operating at full power.

But, then, of course, there is a gold standard by which all D-Day remembrances should and will be judged--and, through the magic of the internet, that shining moment in presidential oratory is everywhere you look this morning: Ronald Reagan's outstanding 40th Anniversary commemoration to "the Boys of Pointe du Hoc" and the fight for democracy.

If you have not seen it lately (watch it here via RCP and courtesy of the Reagan Library). Watch it. Seriously.

It is easy to forget the majesty of Reagan. It is easy to forget the dignity of the man. It is easy to forget that he did not work off a teleprompter. Rather, he carried the text of his speeches on 3X5 cards, which he would transport in the front pocket of his suit coat. It is easy to forget the passion with which he delivered a speech about the United States of America and the larger fight for human freedom.

Along with individual bravery and collective sacrifice from the democratic nations of the world, Ronald Reagan suggested strongly that the hand of Providence affected the outcome of the Longest Day. He unabashedly seemed to believe that God was on our side. Without apology or equivocation, he boldly asserted that the United States was on the side of the angels in 1944 and 1984.

It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

Barack Obama also emphasized individuals coming together to stand up to EVIL embodied in an "ideology sought to subjugate, humiliate, and exterminate...and perpetrate murder on a massive scale, fueled by a hatred of those who were deemed different and therefore inferior."

But he stopped short of drawing too many grand conclusions. The meaning of D-Day?

For you remind us that in the end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control. You remind us that our future is not shaped by mere chance or circumstance. Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man or woman. It has always been up to us.

Yes we can?

In the end, RR placed the great challenge of his time, the Cold War, in the context of a long and righteous struggle for freedom. BHO, on the other hand, alludes to but fails to identify the "hardships and struggles of our time," and he consciously avoids any macro value judgments about righteousness.

To put it mildly, these two leaders perceive their respective historical moments in fundamentally different ways.
Although I hate that is has become so cliche, for a long time my watchword for the American future has been sustainability.

1. Of course, I advocate "Going Green." While "environmentalism" is much too often merely a nebulous catch-all talking point designed to score political advantage, we must move away from our plastic disposable society.

2. More fundamentally, I also advocate sustainability as an essential element of domestic economic policy. We can no longer promise what we cannot afford. We can no longer count on borrowing money on the strength of our prodigious economic history, while our economic future is increasingly at risk and enfeebled as a result of our profligate present. We can no longer rely on the illogical assumption that sustained deficit spending ensures perpetual prosperity. In essence, our government cannot be all things to all our citizens. To survive, our government must learn to say "no." As I have said before, we must understand that the Keynesian Interlude is coming to an end.

3. Perhaps most importantly, I advocate sustainability as a governing principle in terms of foreign relations. Idealism and pure humanitarianism regarding foreign affairs are luxuries we cannot afford in light of my second proposition. We must be much more circumspect in defining our vital interests. To put it bluntly, we must be much more frugal and selfish in wielding our military power. The era of Pax Americana is no longer tenable in the age we are about to enter. The argument over the intentions or benefits concerning the projection of American power is now moot. Rather, our new economic realities dictate a more humble and realistic approach to the world.

Ironically, I have a strong sense that the new post-America world order will be a tragedy for humanity in terms of security and quality of life. Notwithstanding, we stand at a crossroads in which our basic needs and vital interests must trump our evangelical impulse to ameliorate the human condition.

We are a long way from facing up to this inevitable radical change in our status. I firmly believe that we will not come to grips with these new facts of life until we are absolutely forced to. But I am increasingly convinced that they are out there waiting for us--like it or not.
Here is the full text of Obama's Cairo speech. I want to look at a few falsehoods in this speech, and ask the question if perhaps they may be useful.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

"Mutual respect." Islam (meaning here the Q'uran and the sayings of Mohammad) does not teach mutual respect between Muslims and non-Muslims. Instead, Muslims are to make no friends from among those on the outside, and are to view those on the outside as being in the Realm of War, adversaries to be converted or conquered.

"progress" Islam, by its nature tends to be backward looking. The life of Mohammad, and the first Muslim society created during Mohammad's lifetime, are regarded as the exemplars of human life for all time. Historically, Islamic societies have not been at the forefront of modern science and technology.

"tolerance and the dignity of all human beings." No, Islam does not teach this. Muslims and Muslim society is held to be superior. Christians and Jews are "People of the Book," but within Islamic society are to have a circumscribed existence as dhimmis--second-class citizens with fewer privileges and a special tax. Others, pagans or Hindus, have roles as either converts or slaves (or dead). Although during Islamic rule in India Hindus were given a dhimmi status. Also, Islam, from the Q'uran forward, stresses male-superiority and female inferiority.

Are these useful falsehoods? Maybe. But only to Muslim audiences, if and only if, they can be persuasive to Muslims who wish to remake their religion. For Westeners these falsehoods are dangerous since they confuse our view of the historical reality.

"As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality."

"The light of learning" was taken over from the Greeks as Islamic forces conquered the Greek and Christian Byzantine Empire, not generated by Muslims. We also should give credit to the refugee scholars from conquered areas who migrated to the West, especially after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

"Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality." No it has not. See above on the relation taught, and practiced between Muslims and non-Muslims. Regarding race, Muslim societies normally have looked to black Africa for their slaves. Arabs today tend to look down upon blacks.

"I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson - kept in his personal library."

"Treaty of Tripoli in 1796" was negotiated after the siezures of American ships in the Mediterranean by the Barbary States. The treaty was broken by these states which led to the armed conflict between the U.S. and these piratical regimes. When John Adams wrote, the U.S. had no hostile designes on any powers in the Old World that would leave us alone.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

See above. Indonesia in the days Obama was there was a different sort of place. The Islam of Indonesia was fairly tolerant not because it was true to its Islamic roots, but because it ignored them. Syncretism and coexistence are a departure from traditional Islam, and the Islamic revival today in Indonesia in returning to the roots of Islam is resulting in far less syncretism and tolerance.

I second Farmer in noting that there is much in this speech that is very good. But, I also believe that truth is the only way forward.
Off the top of my head:

When Texas A&M plays my beloved Baylor Bears, I am completely comfortable demonstrating my frothing hatred for the dreadful Aggies. When A&M plays Missouri or Nebraska, I almost always root for the Aggies. When A&M plays Ohio State, I love the Aggies.

When a sitting President of the United States travels to a foreign land and delivers a speech on behalf of US, regardless of party affiliation, I am totally "USA! USA! USA!" I just can't help myself.

AND THIS PRESIDENT CAN DELIVER A SPEECH!!! Hot damn, son, you really did sell your soul to the Devil.

Of course, not everyone agrees. When GMA asked conservative commentator Sean Hannity for his immediate reaction this morning following the speech, Hannity recited the same criticism he delivered on his radio show yesterday afternoon in advance of the speech (virtually word for word). Suffice it say that the President's address did not change Hannity's mind.

Some thoughts:

1. I have said similar things before, but thus far this president is absolutely stellar at representing the United States of America. He is suave and articulate. He exudes confidence and style. He fully comprehends the potent symbolism of a President of the United States traveling abroad. On a purely superficial level, he is Reagan-like in his capacity to command the world stage.

2. The content of this speech was almost identical to the policies of the last administration. Nothing new here. Aside from the perhaps gratuitous admission of "torture," followed by a quasi justification-slash-apology for the practice, George Bush or Condi Rice could have given this speech.

An Aside: having said that, I have no doubt that Barack Obama forever will be known in popular history as the president who first suggested a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. So it goes.

3. It is good for American presidents to go through the motions of articulating a rational case for peace and goodwill in front of audiences traditionally hostile to those public virtues. Based on past performance, it seems unlikely that his eloquence will transform the hearts and minds of the Middle East. Time will tell. But anything is possible. Stranger things have happened. There are other forces at work (some of them set in motion by the previous administration) that may combine to form a "complicated web of contingency" that moves history.

4. Good Cop; Bad Cop. With a few exceptions, American foreign policy since World War II has remained essentially consistent over time regardless of presidential elections. In terms of goals and interests, very little has changed since January 20th. However, this president has the advantage of being a very popular and charismatic president following a president who lacked those assets. We will have to wait and see how President Obama makes use of these slightly improved circumstances.

One thing worth noting: his adoring audience in Cairo went wild when he told them what they wanted to hear (America and Israel were not without faults)--but there was a deafening silence in the auditorium when he explained how they could be the "change they sought." This president has his work cut out for him. But I wish him well.

BOTTOM LINE: big political triumph for the President (at least in the short term).
Robert Samuelson thinks not:

The Obama infatuation is a great unreported story of our time. Has any recent president basked in so much favorable media coverage? Well, maybe John Kennedy for a moment; but no president since. On the whole, this is not healthy for America.

Read the whole thing here (via RCP). For what it's worth, Samuelson is exactly right. Now what?

In all seriousness, there is literally nothing WE can do to change this reality. In fact, our initial petulant reaction to our loss of power (and credibility) has exacerbated our decline and our irrelevance.

My advice: hunker down and ride out the storm. We need to be introspective--not obnoxious. We need to be thoughtful--not provocative. We need to be getting our conservative house in order. Distractions like Sonia Sotomayor are small potatoes. The coming existential crisis will require a healthy conservatism. The survival of our nation as we know it probably depends on our preparations during this nadir.

It is time to get serious and start thinking long term.

Let us begin...
The standard story on the Roman Catholic Priest Abuser scandal is that the priests were committing child abuse. But I wonder if that is the correct template for understanding the story.

Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who resigned under pressure from Milwaukee, has a memoir coming out shortly. In the memoir he will reveal, reportedly, that he is homosexual. His involvement in the Milwaukee misdeeds was not limited to covering up for fellow priests.

Weakland, 82, resigned as archbishop in 2002 after admitting the archdiocese secretly paid $450,000 to a man who accused him of sexual abuse decades earlier. Weakland admitted an "inappropriate relationship" but denied abuse.

Story here.

Most of the victims of the abuse scandal were not "children" in the sense of pre-adolescent boys. About 51% were between the ages of 11 and 14, and about 27% were 15 - 17. Statistics.

These statistics have led some to conclude that rather than pedophilia, the scandal is really more about homosexuality in the clergy.

To begin with, it took a non-Catholic to point out that the term "pedophile priest" is largely a misnomer when applied to all cases of sexual impropriety. Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, wrote Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis in 1996. Yes, some priests have engaged in pedophilia — exploitation of children below the age of puberty — but their number is very small. By and large, the scandals have involved sexual relations between priests and adolescents — mostly boys — which suggests that homosexuality is involved in most cases.

Simply paranoia?

Among the conclusions of an academic study done about 10 years ago on attitudes toward marriage, celibacy, and homosexuality among Roman Catholic priests was this:

Our conclusion, based on these data and on our focus groups, is that homosexual subcultures increased in visibility, and probably also in numbers, in recent decades.

A search of the web reveals lots of conversation on this topic. I assume my ignorance comes from not being Roman Catholic.

All of this makes the Boy Scout policy seem very reasonable.
Gateway Pundit has the story on the Muslim convert who gunned down two "hometown" recruiters in Arkansas.

My guess is that he, like the four recently convicted in the synagogue bombing plot, is a convert to Islam who is taking his duties seriously of extending the Realm of Submission by any means possible, just like the Q'uran and Muhammad teach.