You are currently viewing archive for September 2007
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Rex Humbard, the first televangelist, is dead at 88. At his height he reached 8 million viewers weekly. Comparing him to the folks on television today, described by Will Campbell as "electronic soul-molesters," makes me long for more like Rex. RIP Story here.
Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the more brilliant thinkers born in the U.S., is fashionable again. Story here.

Niebuhr's social thought may be summarized as follows. Human sin permeates all social structures and human actions. While an individual has the capacity for the self-transcendance that leads to repentance, social institutions do not. Therefore social change must involve conflict, pressure, and even the use of force. Pacifism is an irresponsible stance in the world because it ignores the need for justice. We must not, however, think that we are absolutely righteous when working for justice. All human actions are infected with sin; even good actions will be mixed with self-interest and complex motives, not all of them good. We must not, as well, think that we will achieve perfection. At best, human action can achieve approximate justice, not absolute justice. Indeed, the delusion that we can create a perfect world leads to monstrosities as we delude ourselves into believing we are absolutely righteous and our cause is absolutely righteous. With such assumptions we justify doing anything for "the cause."

While often thought of as a social "liberal," Niebuhr was fiercely anti-totalitarian against both Nazism and Communism. Theologically, he was "Neo-Orthodox" rather than "Liberal," because of his stress on a reinterpreted doctrines of "Original Sin" and "Depravity" rather than denying these doctrines.

Niebuhr and his "Christian Realism" inform my social thought.
It's on.

World Anglicans have given their American brethren, the Episcopal bishops, until Sept 30 to change policy on practicing gays and lesbians in church office. In its current meeting, the Episcopalian bishops have refused. Stay tuned. Story here from NYT.
Category: Courts
Posted by: an okie gardener
I am behind in blogging. Here's a report from a Constitution Day forum I attended at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. The panel consisted of 3 judges(J) and one state legislator(L).

Q: what is the most striking feature of the Constitution in your opinion?
J: it is enforcable against the government
J: it is adaptable and flexible
J: its balance between liberties and police powers
L: it is a guarantor of rights , not a grantee of rights

Q: what is the role of states today, given their decrease in power?
J: there are natural ups and downs in the relation of power, someday the states will be up again
J: there is a balance in the system
J: Rehquist began a continuing process of moving power back to the states
L: we in the states are addicted to Federal $, and until that changes, the Feds will be supreme

Q: what about illegal immigration?
J: the situation is "total lawlessness" and we cannot long stand lawlessness in such an important area of our nation's life
J: we cannot stand the undermining of the rule of law; the rule of law is why people come here in the first place
J; how do we enforce immigration without upsetting the balance of police power and liberty in favor of police power?
L: by the Constitution it is a Federal problem, not a state problem

Q: what about terrorist wiretaps under the Patriot Act?
J: an established illegality, being delayed in reaching the Supreme Court
J: be afraid
J: ?
L: a Federal government authority, but I don't want our children to get blown up
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
President Clinton made news on Anderson Cooper (CNN video here) last night defending Democrats who would not condemn by attacking "Republicans" as "disingenuous" for their "feigned outrage" regarding the General Betray Us ad.

President Clinton, evidently, thinks it inconceivable that politicians could actually get mad about scurrilous accusations of treason meant to dishonor a no-nonsense, straight-shooting military commander.

When we cry the blues about the "politics of personal destruction," we don't really mean it, right? This is how the game is played.

Even as he criticized the opposition for "feigning outrage," he worked himself up into an angry performance. President Clinton's talent for getting red in the face is impressive--but I think he has started to go there too often. He reminds me of Pacino. How many more times can I watch another variation of: "I should take a flame thrower to this plaaaaaace!"

President Clinton stoked his righteous indignation by retelling the increasingly mythological tale of Max Cleland, who "lost half his body in Vietnam," the President asserted, only to be compared to Saddam and Osama by dastardly Republicans. Ironically, that overly simple and distorted Democratic narrative can only be described as disingenuous. The ad was crude—but accurate.

FYI: see the ad here via YouTube.

The bottom line: if Max Cleland wanted special status accorded to him for his sacrifice and service, he should have avoided politics. Unfortunately, and Bill Clinton has as much to answer for in this regard as any other American politician, American political life is a street brawl.

As for President Clinton, known and praised the world over for his incisive ability to explain events in a nuanced way, regrettably, he chose to broadly assail congressional Republicans and the President as liars and scoundrels. Not very subtle or conciliatory.

A disappointing performance from the President--but not especially out of character. We are likely to have plenty of opportunities to watch him reprise this role over the course of the next nine years.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I haven't blogged lately, so I missed posting on the actually birthday of George Gershwin.

September 26, the birthday of Jacob Gershovitz, better known as George Gershwin.

America has been blessed with great popular music. For my money it's hard to beat the Great American Songbook. Contributing as much as anyone was George Gershwin. Think Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, George and Ira's collaboration on Porgy and Bess. Here is the official website for George and Ira. You can listen to some of the music the brothers created.

The Gershwins demonstrated that "popular" and "high quality" can go together.
We do well to commemorate the heroism of the Little Rock Nine. No group of Americans stands any more deserving of our national commendations and gratitude.

However, too many stories this week, and even some statements emanating from the heroes themselves, identified remnants of segregation and re-segregation as the unfinished work of the Civil Rights Revolution. This far too convenient, conventional, and timid analysis misses the greater tragedy and current crisis:

Too many African American students are far less-prepared to succeed in school and society in 2007 than the Little Rock Nine were in 1957.

Some history:

For fifty years, sometimes ignorantly and sometimes purposefully, we have mischaracterized the goal of school desegregation. In truth, desegregation was never designed primarily to improve education. Rather, court-ordered integration of public schools was always a much larger social experiment designed to break down racial barriers within American culture.

In reply to the plaintiff's evidence presented to the Supreme Court in the storied Brown v. Board case, Justice Robert Jackson privately dismissed the argument as "sociology rather than law."

An aside: I might have added "bad sociology" to boot--but that may strike too many as redundant (something syntactically akin to "cold Vichyssoise").

Not too far removed from his role as the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, Justice Jackson understood that second-class citizenship in America based on race was no longer tenable in the post-World War II world. Moreover, Jackson understood that the moment for amelioration had arrived, and the Court was the proper venue for initiating drastic change. The famed jurist set his considerable talents toward cajoling his cohorts into making good law out of a necessary and worthy social goal. And, while reasonable people continue to disagree, for the most part, the Court accomplished its mission in a transcendently sublime way.

Brown inaugurated a social revolution. Thanks to the Supreme Court, Jim Crow fell away. Thanks to Brown, America came to grips with 350 years of oppression, discrimination, and mistreatment. Thanks to the "Washington Nine," the United States redeemed its troubled racial soul.

The Bad News

On the other hand, the pretext for Brown, as a remedy for inferior education for African American citizens, was misleading then and has played out over time as a much less happily successful story. In truth, the state of American education today lies in critical condition. More to the point, the state of education for African American students seems perilously unacceptable.

One of the most under-reported elements of the Little Rock Nine story has always been the scholastic aptitude of the young people tapped to integrate Central High. As Ernest Green asserted recently, the black kids were superior intellectually to vast majority of their 2,000-plus white schoolmates in 1957.

The black students were extremely well prepared to compete at Little Rock's model white high school. The Nine were already poised to excel in post-secondary education long before they attended the big school. They had attended black schools in the Little Rock area where they learned with inferior materials (hand-me-down books) and studied under teachers paid less than their white counterparts. Nevertheless, the Nine emerged from the experience academically disciplined and well-educated.


They had the support of talented black educators and tight-knit families and communities.

Watching the archival footage of the Nine--and comparing them to the students of today—I am in awe of their courage, demeanor, and sophistication.

What happened?

We lost sight of what makes for good education. Somewhere between then and now, we decided learning revolved around technology, impressive buildings, newer editions of school books, and the shibboleth of self esteem.

This crisis threatens all American students, but African Americans are especially at risk.

The challenge of 2007 is to somehow move beyond political correctness, therapeutic education, and our understandable awkwardness and guilt concerning historic racial injustices. During the first half of the twentieth century, talented and dedicated black educators prepared black students to accomplish great things. Selfless and optimistic black families supported their children and held them to high standards of conduct and achievement.

We won a great battle during the Civil Rights years. However, if we don't find some way to save families and restore discipline in schools, we are going to lose the war for American survival.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
News flash from the Hill via Drudge:

"House overwhelmingly condemns MoveOn ad."

This is a smart move. Was it sincere? Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men? I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless, mark one down for Democratic leadership. They are clearing the decks in preparation for the impending storm over SCHIP. Regardless of principle or specifics, the President et al find themsleves in a particularly vulnerable place on the "insurance for children" bill. Expect an all-out blitzkrieg from the Democrats and their allies.

The "General Betray Us" controversy is at the sunset of its political viability. As I have said previously, I doubt that the Petraeus-MoveOn tempest impacts the political landscape in a long-term meaningful way.

On the other hand, if the President sticks to his guns, the Children's Health Insurance Program veto likely marks the beginning of an extended season of uncomfortably hot and devastating political rhetoric directed at "heartless Republicans."
Category: Environment
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Tocqueville directs us to this jeremiad against the temptations of modernity from the conservative's conservative, Wendell Berry.

This short paragraph is emblematic of Berry's thinking and writing:

"The conservationist indictment of Christianity is a problem, secondly, because, however just it may be, it does not come from an adequate understanding of the Bible and the cultural traditions that descend from the Bible. The anti-Christian conservationists characteristically deal with the Bible by waving it off. And this dismissal conceals, as such dismissals are apt to do, an ignorance that invalidates it. The Bible is an inspired book written by human hands; as such, it is certainly subject to criticism. But the anti-Christian environmentalists have not mastered the first rule of the criticism of books: you have to read them before you criticize them. Our predicament now, I believe, requires us to learn to read and understand the Bible in the light of the present fact of Creation. This would seem to be a requirement both for Christians and for everyone concerned, but it entails a long work of true criticism--that is, careful and judicious study, not dismissal. It entails, furthermore, the making of very precise distinctions between biblical instruction and the behavior of those peoples supposed to have been biblically instructed."

Read the entire essay here via Crosscurrents.

24/09: The War

A few reflections after two nights (4/15ths) of The War, a film by Ken Burns:

So far so good. Perhaps it is not the Civil War--but, then again, it is not 1990, Ken Burns no longer has the advantage of surprise, and this war is full of moving images, which makes the narrative much harder to control.

Having said that, I am enthralled--waiting breathlessly to see how it all ends. Well done.

An obvious comparison between then and now is the role of public sacrifice during the time of war. If we did not know already, we see clearly how the WWII generation practiced self-denial and sacrifice on the home front as well as the battlefield. A critique of the Bush administration centering on this divergence has become so ubiquitous in recent days as to seem cliché.

For that reason, I have refrained from making the following observation in print, on the blog, or on other electronic media (until now). Long before I knew what a blog was, the Okie Gardener and I would converse over lunch in a mom and pop Mexican restaurant in Waco during the weeks following 9-11, agreeing that the President must address the nation and ask for sacrifice. Thinking as students of the American past, the reasons were obvious: to win we needed investment of body, soul and mind. Today, among the President's many errors in prosecuting this war, none looms larger than his incapacity to connect the citizenry to the military and the mission in a meaningful way.

However, the exclamation of exasperation most often hurled against President Bush, "instead of sacrifice, President Bush asked us to go shopping," while understandable, is patently off the mark. Quite frankly, America did need to go shopping after the attack. Consumer spending drives the twenty-first century economy, and a robust economy really is the key to keeping this war afloat.

Watching the Burns documentary reminds us that the United States did not prevail in the Second World War because of the wisdom of our leaders, the bravery of our soldiers, the genius of our generals, or the sincerity of our people. Undoubtedly, all those things were true--but they were also true of Germans, Italians and the Japanese.

We persevered and emerged victorious in the long and destructive war because we out-industrialized the great industrial powers of the twentieth century. In the simplest terms, the American economy was key to the American triumph. Shopping was not the basis of our economy during that war--but it may be now.

We are one economic downturn away from crisis—and one crisis away from defeat. That is, a major recession would make further prosecution of the war in Iraq, already unpopular, completely untenable.
My first instinct:

Let him talk.

What could Iranian frontman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad possibly say at the Distinguished Lecture Series at Columbia University that could have a serious impact on our culture? Moreover, what possible impact could his mere appearance on the campus of Columbia University do for him and/or to us?

Reasonable people disagree about this. But I say:

Let him talk.

The most vociferous handwringers in all this are generally East-Coast intellectuals who put too much stock in the power of Ivy League universities to influence America and the world.

Let him talk.

True, Columbia President Lee Bollinger believes in free speech only as long as it does not extend to American conservative speech, but that is beside the point.

Let him talk.

For the most part, the Ahmadinejad speech went the way of all Ahmadinejad speeches.

Some things I expected:

Ahmadinejad would be boring.

Ahmadinejad would obfuscate, stonewall, and generally ignore the questions.

Ahmadinejad would not be attractive (although I was relieved not to see the Members Only jacket).

Ahmadinejad would prove incendiary (like a fox) and banal simultaneously.

Something I did not expect:

Columbia President Lee Bollinger, who spent the week sanctimoniously preaching free speech, the merits of open-mindedness, and fair hearings, would cravenly try to save his reputation by excoriating Ahmadinejad in a ten minute rant disguised as an introduction.

Something else I did not expect:

That I would agree with Ahmadinejad, when he pointed out that the prefatory remarks were insulting, inhospitable, and hypocritical:

“In Iran, tradition requires that when we invite a person to be a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment and we don’t think it’s necessary before the speech is even given to come in with a series of claims and to attempt to provide a vaccination of sorts to our faculty and students.”

Amen. Undoubtedly, we all agree with the substance of Bollinger's comments--but what was the point? Why invite the little creep (or, to quote Bollinger, the “petty and cruel dictator”), if only to dress him down in front of a forum dedicated to civil exchange. What was the point?

One other question: if John Bolton had offered a similar introductory challenge and hypercritical assessment of Ahmadinejad prior to his distinguished lecturer speech--would Lee Bollinger have thought it appropriate?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am right now watching just a snippet of Alan Greenspan on C-SPAN2.

I cannot help but think that Vice President Dick Cheney miscalculated in his Wall Street Journal retort to the "maestro." A better strategy might have been embracing him. It seems to me that the former Fed chairman is much more upset about profligate spending than he dislikes the Bush tax policy. I keep hearing Greenspan say tax cuts are okay. Giving back the surplus was a good thing. The war debt is no big deal. But he is really mad at George Bush for 1) allowing (encouraging, instigating) big spending and 2) not attacking some of the massive entitlement programs looming as economic time bombs.

An alternative strategy for the White House might have gone something like this: "Alan Greenspan is absolutely right. A free-spending Congress and its unwillingness to eschew politics and solve the serious problems confronting the next generation has done great damage to the nation." A more politically adept Bush team could have used the moment to frame more favorably for history the President's failed attempt to reform social security.

On Friday I caught up with the Terry Gross interview on Fresh Air from earlier in the week. I was struck by her palpable disappointment with Greenspan’s vaunted comments on Bush failures. The always cryptic Greenspan does not tarry long on those much ballyhooed disagreements. In fact, if you keep him on those subjects long enough, he offers up assertions quite troubling for the Bush lynch mob. For example, he is not shy about affirming that he viewed the ouster of Saddam as absolutely necessary at the time. But, in the most general way, his selected comments move forward the anti-Bush drumbeat; therefore, Greenspan is getting a friendly reception from the MSM and usual suspects.

Moreover, the libertarian sage fits in with a favorite storyline: even smart Republicans and conservatives think Bush is an idiot, and they don't like him personally.

Another example of this re-emergent template a la Fresh Air again:

Terry Gross also interviewed Jeffrey Toobin last week. Toobin’s latest book, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court , explains how Sandra Day O'Connor, instrumental in making Bush president through judicial fiat, came to regret her perfidy as she got to know the wild-eyed Texan and come to understand his assault on the Constitution. When asked how he knew this to be true, Toobin responded: "You're just going to have to trust me on that one."

As for the bigger picture, is there a kernel of truth in this increasingly popular Bush-bashing MSM convention? Are Republicans really deserting the sinking ship? Only those who can read a poll. Are GOP Washington insiders saying they knew all along this guy was no good? Every minute of the day.

Is that surprising? Does it mean a whole lot? Not really.

This is life on the Potomac. Outsiders infuriate insiders. When things go bad, like in the case of Jimmy Carter, the insiders pound on the country bumpkin for a lack of sophistication and a reliance on his crude and boorish cronies. By the way, when things go bad for insiders, like the first George Bush, your friends pretty much desert you then as well—although they are forced to come up with different explanations for your failings and be more creative as to why they are not connected to you.

On the other hand, the Beltway “smarties” had to bite their tongues during the Reagan and Clinton administrations. They would have deserted Clinton and Reagan too, with gusto--but those outsider presidents succeeded grandly, and enjoyed protection as a result of high popularity, overwhelming reelection, and savvy communications operations.

Nobody said being president was going to be easy.
This morning on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, Tulane-trained historian and former-speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, offered a succinct, reasonable, and balanced piece of analysis regarding the presidency of George Bush.

Peter Slen asked Gingrich to respond to a brief clip from the news conference yesterday, in which a reporter asked the President to assess whether he was an asset or liability to the 2008 Republican campaign. The President smiled, winked, and said forcefully with mock certainty: "Strong Asset! Next Question."

Newt chuckled and asserted:

"First of all, the President is a fact [of life for Republicans running for office in 2008].

"He is an honorable man who has worked very, very hard on very hard problems. He has succeeded more than some people want to give him credit for. We are safer than we might have been, if someone with less character had been president during this trying period. On the other hand, he did not recognize how deep and how hard the problems were. As a result, the nation is deeply dissatisfied with him and a government that seems supremely incompetent."

Well said. This struck me as a savvy summary, which I think will prove fairly close to the future consensus among open-minded historians.

Related (sort of):

Writing in the current issue of Imprimis, the monthly publication of Hillsdale College (view here), Amity Shlaes offers an unorthodox and critical account of the New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt, and the Election of 1936.

Her narrative bemoans the end of traditional American federalism and the beginning of interest politics, which she ascribes to the baser motives of the first Roosevelt campaign to retain the presidency (1936).

Read the article and decide for yourself.

An aside: if you are not a subscriber to the unabashedly conservative and eminently erudite Imprimis, which is absolutely free, I encourage you to sign up now.

My larger point: history is argument. We often speak to one another about the present through conversations about the past. This is a valid function of history.

Amity Shlaes takes the same set of facts employed by a generation of historians who admired FDR and made us admire him, and she turns them on their head. Perhaps she has a point. Perhaps she misses completely. Either way, she has every right to throw her interpretation into the academic arena and see how it plays.

My caution: history is, by definition, subjective. No matter how hard practitioners attempt to avoid prejudice and "presentism," history is always filtered through the personal, the political, and the present. That is, we cannot write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about any historical subject. We can only write what we know, which is limited, as viewed through our lens, which is colored, delivered in language that will be subject to further interpretation by future recipients.

Having said that, May God Bless the Historians.
Adding to my earlier post, I reiterate my main point:

Speech, even hateful and threatening speech, does not excuse violent retaliation.

The question in Jena today:

How much punishment should six African American teenage boys receive from the justice system for their particular offense?

If we are going to argue about proportionality, then we should also examine the disproportionate response from the six teenagers who beat another teenager for being the friend of a racist.

Where is the righteous indignation over that?

I am amused that commentators and reporters keep speaking of the "alleged" victim of the beating. I have heard that phrase all day today.

Exactly what does alleged modify?

Do people question that there really was a beating?

Or do people question that the recipient of the beating was a victim?

Once again, is it implicit that friends of racists who receive beatings get what they deserve?
Last month I commented on the developing drama in Jena, Louisiana. I am re-running that post below, which concentrates on a Newsweek article from the Aug. 20-27, 2007 issue.

Today Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and other Civil Rights leaders and organizations converge on the town to protest the perceived disparate race-tainted justice dispensed in this town.

I am also linking today's NPR coverage here, which gives more background.

The orginal post:

Is the system racist?

From a recent Newsweek exposé:

A Town In Turmoil

"As the new school year approaches, Jena, La., is struggling to move beyond the racial strife that ripped it apart and left the futures of six students in disarray."

Full article here.

The crux of the story: Six black teenagers are charged with beating a white teenager. Authorities have already tried and convicted one of the Jena Six for "aggravated second-degree battery."

UPDATE: On September 6, a Louisiana judge vacated the conviction on the grounds that the accused, a minor at the time of the crime, should not have been tried as an adult.

The back story: According to Newsweek's reporting, a black student violated the "school's unspoken racial codes" and occupied an "area reserved for white kids."

More Newsweek :

"Some white students didn't look kindly on the encroachment: the next day, three nooses hung from the oak's branches.

"That provocation, which conjured up the ugly history of lynch mobs and the Jim Crow South, unleashed a cycle of interracial strife that has roiled the tiny town of Jena. In the ensuing months, black and white students clashed violently, the school's academic wing was destroyed by arson and six black kids were charged with attempted murder for beating a white peer."

On the web photo gallery, a Newsweek caption reads:

"Justin Barker, 18, a friend of the students who hung the nooses, is the alleged victim of a beating by six black students at Jena High School."

Alleged? Wasn't there a conviction? Are we waiting on the appeal before we presume that the beating victim was actually beaten. Is Newsweek intimating that this might be a hoax?

Provocation? Do inflammatory symbols really excuse violent retribution--even if the target was a friend of the racist noose-hangers?

Another caption:

"Jena was 'entirely bypassed by the civil-rights movement,' says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. African-Americans continue to be concentrated in an area called 'the country,' a mix of tidy brick homes and rusted trailers. Whites tend to live in 'Snob Hill,' a middle-class neighborhood with tall pines and manicured lawns."

Wow! The de facto segregation rings true, but my experience with small towns in the South is that most whites are not wealthy and living in genteel surroundings. My hunch is that this glaring and likely erroneous generality (undisputed anywhere in the story) is emblematic of similarly slanted reporting and facile conclusions.

What should we make of all this? What is behind all this turmoil in Louisiana?

"The D.A. is a racist. There's just no other way to explain it," charged one of the parents of the accused. Newsweek does not quibble with that assessment.

On the other side of the country in Palmdale, California:

A black teenager, who attacked and killed another young man (who was white) in 2005, won a reduced conviction (from second-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter). As a result of the reduced conviction, an appellate court ordered the black youth resentenced. Last week, a judge sentenced the perpetrator to four to 11 years (reduced from a seven-year minimum) in a California Youth Authority facility.

The background: The black teenager, 13 at the time, attacked and killed Jeremy Rourke, a 15-year-old white youth after losing a PONY League baseball game.

The reaction to the reduced sentence (which, after considering time already served, will make the convicted teen-killer eligible for release in two years)?

From the LA Daily News:

"[T]he parents of defendant Greg Harris Jr. decried the punishment and accused the judge of racism.

"'Something has to be done about this judge. This is ridiculous,' Greg Harris Sr. said after the hearing. 'Eleven years - c'mon. Adults don't even get that. Personally, we feel he's racist.'"

Full story here.

My Conclusion?

I feel for parents who are quick to defend their children and slow to face the enormity of their trespasses. Certainly we still face important questions regarding race and justice in America--and we should take those matters very seriously.

Having said that, racial insults are NEVER justification for physical assault.

Even more importantly, we must resist the temptation to see racism as a default motivation even when there are more compelling reasons to explain the workings of the justice system.

That is, a boy was killed; it was due to the purposeful actions of another boy. This is a tragedy, but, inarguably, the perpetrator deserves punishment. That is not essentially a story about race.

Note: I intend this essay as part one of a longer conversation regarding race and responsibility. My next installment will feature more hopeful signs (the good news) rather than the mournful stories related above.
Category: Campaign 2008.5
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Dick Morris blistered Fred Thompson in his column today, calling the great GOP hope from Tennessee "ill-informed, inarticulate, badly briefed and downright lazy."

Not quite sure what Morris really thinks of Thompson? Consider this line: "Thompson seems to lack the interest, energy, will, ability and stamina to compete at this level."

I am always ambivalent about, and skeptical of, Dick Morris. He is unquestionably a brilliant political operator. However, it strikes me that Morris is often right about today but wrong about tomorrow. That is, no one is better at sensing and explaining the politics of the moment, but he is often way off in terms of long-term strategy and future predictions (and by long term I mean next week, next month or next year).

My other reservation concerning Morris is his petulance and vindictiveness. Although he was an insider, I am reluctant to accept much of his analysis or history of the Clintons, as it is filtered through his palpable hatred for Bill and Hill. Whenever I read scathing analysis from him like this, I always wonder if the target of the essay might have insulted Morris at some point and this is payback.

Having said all that, much of what Morris asserts rings true to me, especially this graph:

"Hillary is probably the next president anyway. But there is only one way to defeat her -- to nominate a candidate whose anti-terrorism credentials are so deep that if Americans return to their senses and grasp the nature of the dire and continuing threat we face, he can prevail in November. There are two candidates who fill that bill: Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Neither Thompson nor Romney approach it."

Read in full here via RCP.

I remain open-minded and cautiously optimistic about Fred; nevertheless, clearly, he needs to kick things into gear over there at "Thompson 2008."
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
George Bush is often described by his opponents as the dumbest human on the planet.

But, once again, the President is in the process of proving himself the dumbest human on the planet--except for Democratic Party leadership and the New York Times.

In the drama to replace the sufficiently scorched Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, the President signaled that he might elevate Ted Olson, former solicitor general and counsel of record for the Supreme Court case that ended the election of 2000, Bush v. Gore.

Oh, the howls that nomination was set to elicit. Democrats were sharpening the long knives, painting their faces for ritualized torture, and preparing for a long and painful non-confirmation hearing.

But, then, out of nowhere, the imbecile president emerged on Constitution Day to nominate straight arrow, non-friend, non-politician, experienced, competent, and all-around nice guy, Michael Mukasey.


From this Washington Post article: Mukasey is an Orthodox Jew from the Bronx, and the son of a coin laundry operator. Mukasey graduated from Columbia and then Yale Law School during the 1960s, practiced law for 20 years in New York, met and befriended Rudy Giuliani, and accumulated an 18-year brilliantly conservative record at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Is he conservative enough?

I love this quote from the Post attributed to Mukasey: Civil libertarians who criticized the detention campaign as an unprecedented or unauthorized use of federal powers were spreading "breathless half-truths and outright falsehoods."

Notwithstanding, Mukasey's record and endorsements are so stellar and unimpeachable that he keeps appearing on New York Senator Chuck Schumer's list of acceptable Republican nominees for various top legal posts.

The rub?

Somebody forgot to tell Patrick Leahy and the New York Times.

The senior senator from Vermont, chair of the Judiciary Committee, is threatening to block the President's nomination until he is allowed to extract a pound of flesh off the acrid political corpse of the former Attorney General.

As for the New York Times, they find the nominee "troubling." Evidently, quotes like the one above give the editorial board at the NYT great pause, calling him "too deferential to the government" and finding him not nearly obsequious enough to the American Library Association in their courageous mission to save unsuspecting readers from an inchoate police state.

So, the President now occupies the enviable position of presenting a nominee every one in the legal universe seems to admire personally and professionally (even the proudly liberal, Chuck Schumer), while a cranky but powerful senate Democrat and the unofficial party organ of the DNC attempt to head him off at the pass.

Bring it on.
From the Washington Post:

Blackwater Faulted In Baghdad Killings

"BAGHDAD, Sept. 17 -- The Iraqi government on Monday said it had revoked the license of Blackwater USA, an American security company involved in a shootout in Baghdad that killed at least nine people, raising questions over which nation should regulate tens of thousands of civilian hired guns operating in Iraq."

Get ready to hear a lot about Blackwater.

Blackwater is one of those unfortunate names that just seems to scream out dirty deeds done in the service of the darker side of government. Thus far, Blackwater has surfaced mainly among anti-war zealots as a line in the litany of mysterious but sinister elements linked to the war in Iraq.

Get ready to hear a lot more about Blackwater.

The Washington Post story in full here.

Thinking Out Loud:

I have not formed a fully developed opinion on Blackwater, as I have not spent much time reflecting on the private security firms employed in the theater. In fact, for years I have done my best to avoid this nagging question:

Why are we spending $10,000 per month per copy on individual hired guns, when we could spend one third of that on a United States Marine?


In the Rumsfeldian rush to light and agile (and un-Vietnam-like troop numbers), did we paint ourselves into a corner in which we are paying way too much for personnel in addition to forfeiting military expertise and control?

Is this really the best way to do this thing?

Get ready to hear a lot about Blackwater.
In honor of Constitution Day, 17 September 2007, I am re-running an essay from July of last year bemoaning the miserable treatment accorded to one of my contemporarty heroes, Joe Lieberman. The good news is that this story ended quite happily, and democracy proved much wiser than I feared on my less hopeful days. Nevertheless, I am convinced that some of my observations are worth revisiting.

8 July 2006

On one hand, the trial of Joe Lieberman in the upcoming CT primary, August 8, is a perfect example of American democracy in action (click here for some bg and context from the Wash Post). "Throw the bums out!" has been an effective rallying cry for frustrated voters since the earliest moments of American self government. James Madison et al constructed the federal government of the United States to be responsive to the desires of the people. Joe Lieberman has offended a core constituency of the citizenry of CT; therefore, Joe Lieberman must go.

However, the framers divided government into departments, and the departments into distinct institutions, making some sections of the government more responsive to the people than others. For example, the House of Representatives is elected directly by the voters every two years. That keeps representatives in the lower house on a very short leash. The House is rightly the people's conduit to government. Congressman ought to be taking polls and monitoring their phone calls and email, fittingly hyper-sensitive to the will of the people.

The President. Elected by the people every four years (albeit indirectly through the somewhat arcane institution of the electoral college), the president, traditionally, is the one person in the government empowered to represent all the people. The rest of the executive branch works for him and answers to him (or his management team) directly; the enormous executive department, sworn to uphold the Constitution and abide by federal law, answers to the people only indirectly through congressional oversight.

The Courts. Intentionally removed from the election process, judges are nominated by the President and approved by the Senate for life terms. Federal judges are only grazed by the consent of the people--and only once, during the process of nomination and confirmation.

Why all this variation?

» Read More

September 17 is Constitution Day, honoring the date of signing of the proposed Constitution in 1787. Fly the flag.

I am impressed with our Constitution for many reasons. One which has struck me this fall, as I've taught American Government, is the way the founders dealt with the issue of stability versus responsiveness.

For a people truly to be self-governing, government must be responsive to the will of the voters. But, the will of the voters can swing wildly in short periods of time, making pure democracy unstable. Stability is needed to avoid anarchy. On the other hand, even though government needs to be stable, too much stability means that the will of the people is ignored, until it explodes in rebellion.

Think of the Legislative Branch. Two houses.

The House of Representatives is designed to be RESPONSIVE. Representatives are elected by the voters. They serve two year terms and the whole body must face the voters at once. Theoretically, we could have a 435 seat turnover every two years.

The Senate is designed to be STABLE. Senators originally were chosen by their state legislatures, which presumably know their interests with greater stability than the voters. Senators serve 6 year terms with only 1/3 of the terms expiring on the two-year election cycle. At most a 1/3 turnover is envisioned every two years, not counting the occasional resignation.

Stability and Responsiveness built into one branch. Of course, the House of Representatives is not complete democratic chaos, the terms are for two years, not monthly or weekly turnover.

The Executive Branch seems geared to Stability. Chosen by Electors, chosen by their states, and assumed to be more stable in their opinions than the average voter. And, 4 year terms. More stable than annual or every two-year elections. But, some responsiveness, mandatory election every 4 years.

The Judicial Branch: Stability. Once confirmed by the Senate, lifetime tenure on good behavior.

The Amendment Process. Responsiveness in that there is a process of amendment. No revolution needed to alter the Constitution. But, Stability is affirmed by the difficulty of the amending process. After coming out of Congress (by 2/3) or out of a Convention when requested by 2/3 of the states, then 3/4 of the State Legislatures must approve the amendment. Very stable, but still responsive to the will of the people.

A thinking out loud: is the responsiveness the Founders wanted for the House of Representatives eliminated by the creation of "safe" districts when State Legislatures do redistricting? It seems so to me. As it now stands, an incumbant Senator has a somewhat greater chance of being voted out of office than a Representative. You can't gerrymander a state.

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
What's wrong with initiating the next presidential election in earnest immediately after the last one concludes?

Joe Biden.

I am guessing that most of our reading community does not understand my admiration for Joe Biden. You see the grandstanding, bloviating, self-absorbed senator always mugging for the cameras. I see that Joe Biden too, of course. But I also see the Joe Biden who is talented, diligent, and dedicated to good government. I admire the America-loving public official who has spent almost his entire career learning foreign policy and the judiciary in order to be a constructive element of the solution. He is, in fact, quite good at and what he does, and he oftentimes offers incredibly astute analysis on the topics to which he had dedicated his life.

But then you wave the White House in front of him, and he contracts a classic case of "Potomac Fever," which causes him to froth at the mouth.

Today on Fox News Sunday (see note below on FNS), when asked to comment on John McCain's assertion that congressional control of the military was unconstitutional, Biden launched into a tirade against George Bush (not McCain): "The President doesn't understand the Constitution."

Biden further allowed that the President held a "unitary" view of executive power in relation to the other branches, cleverly using a phrase (unitary executive) that has become a code word for calling the President an inchoate dictator.

Why do that? Clearly, Candidate Biden hoped to make a little headway with the most strident and adamant Bush-haters.

"Did you hear what Biden said about Bush?"

"Yeah. That was fantastic."

Next Topic: "General Betray Us" and

Biden said: " was wrong." Give him some credit for admitting the obvious. Many of his colleagues could not summon the courage to go that far. But Biden went on to qualify his statement: The Move-On folks are good Americans whose frustration got the better of them. The wanton misleadership of the President drove his patriotic opponents to do this unsavory thing--but come on fellas--this is no "capital offense."

So, while gently criticizing MoveOn, the senator made clear he was with them all the way .

My beef with the system? Biden is better than that. If he were not under intense pressure to please the unhinged wing of his party, he would certainly offer words and actions more in keeping with his desire to bring positive change. This current election cycle is the logical extension of the Clinton (42) brain trust’s innovation to American politics: the "permanent campaign." If a sitting president must campaign constantly while in office, the opposition must campaign constantly to counter the President, and the would-be presidents must campaign constantly, forming a shadow government.

Accountability is good for the system--but ultra-democracy snuffs out republican statesmanship. Sometimes the people's representatives must do necessarily unappetizing things (remember the sausage analogy) in order to make the system work. The twenty-four hour news cycle and the permanent campaign threatens good government by shining too much light on the system. In essence, modern politicians are all public performance now.

More to the point, if Joe Biden weren't out running for president and courting the most destructive element of the American electorate, he might be in the Senate helping to lead our nation through one of the most treacherous moments in our long and proud history.

One more thing: Will the "General Betray Us" ad affect the election of the next president?

John Edwards never saw it.

Hillary and Obama ignored it.

But all three embraced it tacitly.

Does it matter?

Only if the war turns around. If the war continues to flounder a year from now, David Petraeus will be as despised as George Bush. The ever-present but lightly used Westmoreland comparisons this time around will be the unquestioned template a year from now--if the current direction fails. Therefore, a year from now (under the gloomy scenario) castigating the dirty dog general will have seemed the appropriate reaction.

However, if the war turns around (the biggest "if" there ever was), then perhaps the Democrats will pay a price with a few (but important) reasonable voters whose support will be up for grabs.

Note on Fox News Sunday: this unique program continues to be the best network Sunday morning talking-head show. Partly a result of the ideologically "balanced" team of news analyzers, and partly because of its conservative perspective on the issues, FNS consistently delves into topics of interest to me that all the other Sunday shows miss completely. Special kudos to Chris Wallace for his steady leadership.
This week, Newt Gingrich asserted with some fanfare that the Democrats were 80-20 favorites for winning the presidency in 2008. His prediction existed in the midst of a wave of analyses with similarly gloomy prognostications.

Welcome to the party. With all humility, I can say that I postulated that scenario on my very first week online (March 2006)--and I have consistently warned my fellow Republicans that this presidential election cycle presents a battery of difficult obstacles, which we are unlikely to fully overcome.

Republicans, previously comforted by the image of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, are now realizing that only about 30-35 percent of the electorate view her as a hideous monster so evil that she is automatically disqualified for the presidency. While the high negatives make for a promising start, the next 15.1 to 20.1 percent required to win remains a very tough nut to crack.

For a number of reasons stated previously ad nauseam, this is a Democratic year.

However, if we had any doubts before Appalachian State, we understand fully now: on any give Saturday (or Tuesday) any kid with a slingshot can take down a prohibitive favorite. So strap on your pads boys and girls, and let's go out there and win one for the Gipper.

What can we do to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?

1. Hang tough in Iraq. In addition to a cataclysmic mistake in terms of American foreign policy, surrendering Iraq is bad politics. If we break ranks now and allow the "defeat America caucus" to win, we will also flee the political battlefield in complete disarray, and our opponents will turn retreat into rout. We may find ourselves unable to regroup for a generation.

On the other hand, standing firm is thoroughly American, manly, and appealing. Will things get better in Iraq if we stay? There are no guarantees, although it is hard to imagine things getting much worse. But, even if they do deteriorate, we have lost nothing politically.

For all the GOP congressman and senators facing close races for re-election, I have this advice: you cannot change the course of your next canvass by changing your stance on the war at this late date. If you are a Republican who has supported the war thus far, you are committed to the war and your fortunes are pinned to the war. Recanting will only expose you as spineless and shamelessly unprincipled. You have one option: do everything in your power to help us win in Iraq. Everything looks completely different in November of 2008, if we can point to real gains on the war front. Trust me. This is your only chance.

Most important, we must make a decision to do all we can to save Iraq--and let the political chips fall where they may. Eventually winning in Iraq is much more important than winning in 2008.

2. Repent and Remind America we are them. We screwed up once. Give us another chance. The repudiation in 2006 was more about corruption, arrogance, and incompetence than it was about Iraq.

Red-state America trusted us, and we let them down. They voted for us believing that we shared their values. We dishonored them and exposed them to ridicule. We created a scenario in which the axis of American liberalism (Hollywood, academia and the mainstream media) can gleefully assert that fast-talking GOP hucksters flimflammed "fly-over country" like they were so many dopey rubes at the County Fair.

We need to admit our mistakes and go to back our constituency on our knees and ask forgiveness. Can we please have one more chance? We will do better next time, and we will never make the same mistakes again. And here is our plan...

And we should mean it. Groveling is the very least we owe our former loyalists.

3. Be Republicans. Be the party with whom America fell in love. Be strong, certain, patriotic, God-fearing and common-sense oriented. Pick the most Republican candidate available.

I love Rudy (seriously--I would vote for him in a New York-minute), but his pro-choice position and apostate Catholicism does too much damage to the Republican coalition. I am warming to Mitt Romney, but his erstwhile Massachusetts-style Rockefeller Republicanism makes him a problematic standard bearer. I have advocated for John McCain for two years, but his inability to win over core conservatives continues to plague his candidacy.

Fred Thompson? Perhaps Fred will work. He has some baggage--but it is of the more regular variety.

Mike Huckabee? Who? Huckabee is actually the candidate best-suited to beat Hillary Clinton next November. He is solidly conservative, quick-witted, telegenic, and most likely to make heartland voters feel comfortable about giving Republicans another chance. Regardless, the former governor of Arkansas remains a long shot. If he cannot work his way into the top tier on guts and logic by January, he is irrelevant.

Newt? Mr. Republican. If the GOP decided to throw caution to the wind, put forward an intrepid champion, and fight out the Election of 2008 purely on the strength of ideas—then clearly Newt Gingrich would be the best choice. Pundits have already wondered if losing with Newt might sow the seeds of a more permanent victory a la the 1964 Goldwater campaign. This possibility keeps emerging as an intriguing option. Moreover, I am not certain that Newt is an automatic loser. Anybody remember the 1972 Robert Redford movie, The Candidate ? Perhaps fearless sincerity might work.

The bottom line: Let us win or lose being genuine Republicans.
Story here.

Tell me again, why are we supporting the economy that supports the ambitions of an enemy?
A roundup of the recent examples of the terrorist threat to the American homeland.

An Al-Qaeda Linked Iraqi, and companions, arrested in Peru trying to enter the United States on false papers. From Gateway Pundit.

A man on the FBI Terrorist Watch List questioned by local police after taking pictures of bridge. Released before the locals found out he was on the watch list. From Gateway Pundit.

Muslim medical student arrested near park in Dearborn, Michigan, carrying AK-47 and wearing camo. From Little Green Footballs. And also From Little Green Footballs.

Perhaps not on our soil, but maybe so. Terrorist arrested in Canada for plotting bombing. From Little Green Footballs.

Pakistani woman arrested crossing Mexican border into Texas has terrorist ties. From JihadWatch.

Pentagon official states that the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood has established front groups in the U.S. From JihadWatch.

Report released on contents of trunk of Muslim students arrested in South Carolina. From via Instapundit.

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Freedom. Think about it as you consider your 08 vote.
The Washington Times has this editorial on the political problems in Belgium that may lead to that nation splitting into two: the Dutch-speaking, wealthier Flemings, and the French-speaking, poorer Walloons. Although the Walloons are the minority, at 30% of the population, the Belgium constitution guarantees them 50% of the government. In practice this has made the socialists and their Francophile agenda dominant. Now, months into a political impasse, the future of country as a united nation is in peril.

The Washington Times editorial warns the EU to take note:

It is Belgium's business whether it chooses to split in two, and certainly any observer who sympathizes with the right to self-determination would see Flanders' point. It seemingly cannot escape from the harmful policies of its central government. A split would likely send Flanders packing to join the Netherlands, while Wallonia would be pressed not to join France. What becomes of the bilingual capital, Brussels, is a devilish problem with no easy solution.

Let us hope for the European Union's sake that Brussels' E.U. leaders learn the right lessons here. Sooner or later, the will of the people must be respected. A government which aims to herd people for its own selfish purposes, or for the purposes of an overempowered minority, risks eventual destruction. As a courageous band on the other side of the pond once put it: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it."

From The Times of India this story.

NEW DELHI: Shahid Bilal, accused of masterminding the twin blasts in Hyderabad, was reportedly killed by ISI in Karachi on August 30.

According to Indian intelligence sources, Bilal was shot dead primarily because he had overstepped his brief. By acquiring a strong media profile, Bilal's actions, particularly in masterminding terror operations, was slowly squeezing the deniability argument ISI has maintained for years while overseeing terror activities in India.

In other words, killed by Pakistanis not because he was a terrorist, but because he had become too high profile and therefore had to be eliminated by the Pakistani intelligence service before his connections to them became obvious. This is the Indian take. The truth . . .hard to tell in this shadowy world, but certainly plausible.
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Stipulation: Cass Sunstein, the distinguished professor of law from the University of Chicago, is a brilliant legal mind, and I generally appreciate his reasoning even when I disagree with his conclusions.

However, his column this week in the American Prospect,

"The Myth of the Balanced Court,"

is surprising and disturbing for its absolutely fallacious premise.

Sunstein's Assertion (condensed and slightly rearranged):

"The mainstream media promotes a conceptual scheme concerning the current Supreme Court, the Myth of Balance Between Left and Right, which makes it utterly impossible to understand either the Court's current makeup or its recent history."

"The Myth of Balance holds that the Court has a liberal wing (Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer) and a conservative wing (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito) with Justice Anthony Kennedy serving as the swing vote, or the moderate."

Not so, says Sunstein. Conservatives have achieved a "stunningly successful" revolution on the Court, which has been so successfully hidden by the shills in the mainstream media "that most people have not even noticed it" (of course, Sunstein is a notable exception).

According to Sunstein, "[Ruth Bader] Ginsburg and [Stephen] Breyer [two so-called liberals] are...far more moderate than those of the great liberal visionaries of the Court's past, such as William O. Douglas and William Brennan." Moreover, in Sunstein's book, David Souter and John Paul Stevens are essentially conservative.

What gives?

Sunstein admits that all this nonsense (my characterization) is filtered through his formative experience of clerking for the Court in 1980 during the William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Byron White, John Paul Stevens, Lewis Powell, Potter Stewart, Warren Burger, and William Rehnquist years.

Sunstein: "Believe it or not, this Court was widely thought to be conservative."

Actually, I am incredulous. Who thought that exactly?

FYI: That 1980 Court is essentially the same "conservative" Court (switching Stevens for Douglas) that voted 7-2 in favor of Roe v. Wade.

The slight of hand: he uses the Burger Court, arguably one of the most liberal Courts in the long history of American jurisprudence, as the standard against which the political make-up of all courts must be judged. If that Court was conservative--then by comparison, this Court is far right.

Come now, Professor. Sunstein's entire argument collapses like a house of cards if we choose another famous court as the preferred point of reference.

What if we use the Roger B. Taney court as the standard? The Roberts Court would seem pretty left of center. What if we used the William Howard Taft Court? Or the Court headed by Melville Fuller or Edward O. White. Again, would not the Roberts Court look ultra progressive in comparison?

But, for Professor Sunstein, constitutional history seems to begin with Earl Warren.

His second to last paragraph attempts to give some "balance" to his essay by finally addressing (albeit indirectly) the obvious fallacy:

"Nor am I saying that the liberals of the Court's past were correct in their view of the Court's role. On the contrary, the Court does best if it proceeds cautiously and incrementally, with respect for the elected branches of government. Marshall and Brennan, no less than Scalia and Thomas, tried to use the Constitution to impose a contestable political vision on the nation. For the future, the preferable route was charted by underrated justices such as Felix Frankfurter and Byron White -- excellent lawyers who worked within established categories and were reluctant to strike down acts of elected officials, above all Congress."

But it is too little too late.

Sunstein is a vocal proponent of "incremental change" concerning constitutional interpretation. That is, he views conservatives who want to roll back liberal innovations as radicals; however, he has little contempt for historic liberals who radically altered American jurisprudence. Morevoer, he champions the current liberals (and lauds them as conservatives) because they seek to protect the radical departures of the recent past.

UPDATE: A thoughtful and extensive commentary on Sunstein's essay here from Rightlinx.
The VA now is recognizing the benefits of traditional ceremonies for returning Indian soldiers. Story here from The Christian Science Monitor.

Native Americans enlist in the military at a rate higher than the general population.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Washington Post:

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Bush of effectively signing off on a 10-year "open-ended" commitment [to Iraq]."

I actually agree with the Speaker (in part).

A few weeks ago I suggested that the mission to transform Iraq likely remains a ten-year project.

The calculus must not be how to get us out of Iraq as soon as possible. Rather, the fundamental challenge is how we adjust our strategy to drastically reduce the strain on American soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq, while we simultaneously support vigorously an inchoate nation whose success is inextricably linked to American security.

In arguably, the President made grievous errors from the very beginning, which continue to haunt every aspect of this operation.

The President disastrously underestimated the scale of the task in Iraq, tying the vital interests and future of the United States on an extremely difficult long-term mission. His initial fumbles place high stress on the military, the treasury, and American hegemony. His perceived weakness makes him (us) vulnerable to malefactors domestic and external. We find ourselves in a decidedly precarious national fix.

On the other hand, none of those past mistakes are reversible at this juncture. The issue at hand: what now?

The United States must stay and outlast our enemy. We cannot fail in Iraq. If we do, we will not have a place to hang our hat in the Middle East for a generation. Our perceived weakness will open us up to endless attacks. We cannot abandon our investment at this point. We must hold our ground.

What to do?

1. Re-commit to staying as long as it takes to finish the job.

2. Develop a real strategy that lessens the burden of US troops.

3. Take the necessary measures here at home to replenish and sustain the deteriorated military (more money, a larger force, more down time, less dependence on National Guard and reserves, and more diffused sacrifice).

4. Dig in.

Parting Thoughts:

--Baghdad will not be built in a day.

--The race is not always to the swiftness but, rather, to the runner who perseveres.

--Success is trying one more time than you fail.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Death Notice from Downbeat magazine of Joe Zawinul:

Keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who played with Miles Davis and won wide acclaim for his work with Weather Report, died Tuesday morning in an Austrian hospital, the Associated Press has reported. He was 75. Zawinul died from a form of skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma, according to a statement from his record label, Heads Up. He had been hospitalized in his native Austria since last month. Zawinul was on the cutting edge of the electric jazz movement, playing with Davis on pioneering albums Bitches Brew and Live-Evil, among others. Along with Wayne Shorter, he founded Weather Report in 1971. The group became the definitive jazz fusion outfit, reaching extraordinary heights in popularity and charting new territory in jazz with the use of synthesizers and electric piano. Zawinul's other accolades include a Grammy Award for his composition "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," which he played with Cannonball Adderly during the 1960s, and praise for such later groups as the Zawinul Syndicate, his post-Weather Report combo. This past spring, Zawinul toured Europe to mark the 20th anniversary of the Zawinul Syndicate. He sought medical attention when the tour ended. Zawinul's wife, Maxine, had died earlier this year. He is survived by his sons Eric, Ivan and Anthony.

To mark the passing of keyboardist, composer Joe Zawinul, this video performance from YouTube. Joe is with his band Weather Report and the chart is Birdland which he wrote. See also the other links on the page to performances. I especially recommend the joint Weather Report, Manhattan Transfer version of Birdland.

Powerline has this memorial.

Here is an early Weather Report performance from 1971.

Here is the Joe Zawinul Syndicate performing in Paris, 2002. Joe had been into world music for30 years by this time.


Joe Zawinul belongs in a category unto himself — a European from the heartland of the classical music tradition (Vienna) who learned to swing as freely as any American jazzer, and whose appetite for growth and change remains insatiable. Zawinul's curiosity and openness to all kinds of sounds made him one of the driving forces behind the electronic jazz-rock revolution of the late '60s and '70s — and later, he would be almost alone in exploring fusions between jazz-rock and ethnic music from all over the globe.
The China Post has this transcript of an address by Thomas J. Christensen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, stating the official U.S. position on the security of Taiwan. (When you click on the link, you will be asked to install a language pack. Click cancel, you do not need the language pack, the Post is in English.)

In a nutshell, we want a democratic Taiwan, make vague noises against agression by China, but very much warn Taiwan not to do anything that might annoy China.
We have recommended Michael Yon before, and do so again. He is embeds with the troops and reports professionally. Here is a link to the start of his latest series.
September 30 is the deadline the Anglican global bishops gave the Episcopal Church to repent of its endorsement of same-sex practice. In advance of that deadline, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has begun a process that could enable it to maintain ties to world-wide Anglicanism even if the Episcopal Church fails to repent. Story here from the American Anglican Council.

American Christianity has always had a certain arrogence toward third-world Christians. Perhaps Pittsburghers will show some humility. See earlier post.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Bishop Han Dingxiang, a Chinese bishop who maintained loyalty to the Pope even through 19 years in labor camps and more years of house arrest and jail. He died in police custody. His cremated body was buried within 6 hours of death with little notice given. Newsmax has the story.

Though I myself am Protestant, I stand to honor one whose loyalty and faithfulness to his Christian beliefs shames my easy circumstances.

Brother Han, RIP.
Category: Bush Hagiography
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have had C-SPAN on TV 24-7 (literally) for the past few days.

This morning, during the moment of silence at the White House, my five-year old (born five months after 9-11 and carrying the middle name Walker) sauntered through my bedroom and paused in front of the television screen. Momentarily interested in the long angle of the Bushes and Cheneys striding out onto the South Lawn, my son asked: "who is that man who looks like John Wayne without his cowboy suit?"

You guessed it; my son had spotted the President.

It reminded me of one of my favorite Bush lines (from his acceptance speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention):

"Some people say I swagger. In Texas, we just call that walking."

I know plenty of folks who don't like Texans. And, I know plenty of Texans who hate George Bush so much that they deny his "Texasness." In truth, regardless of where Bush was born or educated, I know no one who is more thoroughly Texan than our 43rd president.

Even more to the point, he is thoroughly cowboy. Perhaps he would be clueless on a horse--but he has internalized the code of the West: he is slow talking, straight shooting, loyal, sometimes stoic, sometimes tender, not easily intimidated, slow to anger, but a powerful force when finally fully riled.

And them that don't know him won't like him
And them that do sometimes won't know how to take him
He ain't wrong he's just different
but his pride won't let him do things to make you think he's right

Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em [be president] and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such

In truth, many of the unkind observations regarding George Bush are absolutely correct. He is often a painfully poor public speaker. He is stubborn. He is loath to admit error. He does have a "high noon" worldview. His loyalty to friends is often misplaced and muscular to a fault.

Specifically, the President "misunderestimated" the scale of the task in Iraq, which led him to stake the vital interests and future of the United States on an extremely difficult long-term mission. As a result, his Iraq policy has placed high stress on the military, the treasury, and American hegemony.

Having said that, much of the ugliness concerning him is egregiously exaggerated and completely unfair. For me, 9-11 is a day that summons the images of the President at his most gallant, standing up to lead a fearful nation with vigor and vision after an attack that might have debilitated a less confident and less grounded man.

No man is entirely good. No man is entirely bad. But, all things considered, I continue to support this president and continue to believe we have been well-served by his decisive leadership. Faced with a menu of unappealing options fraught with peril in the post 9-11 world, the President pursued the best hard choice to the best of his ability (review here). Perhaps over time, history will vindicate him--or perhaps not. Regardless, if we prevail ultimately in Iraq, inarguably, it will be principally a testament to this President's true grit.
Gates of Vienna has the scoop on the police reaction to today's demonstrations in Brussels against the Islamification of Europe. Water cannons, dogs, batons, mass arrests. Link from Instapundit.

Which party's candidates want us to become more like European culture and governments?
Had you told me on 9/11/01 that we would not be hit hard on our own soil for the next six years, I would not have believed you. And yet it is true. The Bush Administration has accomplished a difficult task on a level with the great governmental achievements of any nation at any time. Three cheers.
1. We live in a dangerous world in which there are people who want us dead.
2. The most sophisticated spy satellites will not replace human intelligence gathering.
3. We must not make a god of Political Correctness. One of the ticket agents thought about notifying authorities regarding one of the hijackers who seemed dangerous, but did not do so for fear of being labeled a racist.
4. The best defense is a good offense. We have not been hit hard in our homeland because we are not passively waiting another attack.
5. We cannot make American security a hostage to the attitudes of European elites.
6. Islamic ideology is the driving force behind the jihad against us. We are in another hot phase of the nearly 1400 year-long war of Islam against everyone else.
7. Expensive weapons systems will not replace human soldiers in the dangerous alleys of the world.
8. The war against Islamic radicals is not a police action that can be carried on under the rules of law enforcement. Those who declare themselves to be our enemies by their actions and words must be treated as enemies. "Ride with outlaws; hang with outlaws."
9. Killing individual jihadis is like swatting mosquitoes. We must take on the ideology of radical Islam like we took on the ideology of Marxist-Leninism during the Cold War.
10. Forget the corrupt and ineffective U.N. We must make common cause with nations that share our values and have their own reasons to fight Islamic radicals. Nations like Britain, Australia, India, Israel.
11. Nations that support attacks against us, like Iran, must pay a heavy price.
12. We must realize, and act upon the knowledge, that two incompatible world-views are in conflict. The winner will determine the future. Our freedom, and existence, are on the line.
13. We must not forget that the world is more complicated than us versus the Islamic radicals. China will take advantage of the situation to gain power in the world; Russia will pursue the old dream of being a Great Power. The world is a dangerous prison yard--to the unaware comes the shiv.
14. If we maintain our freedom, it will be because of the triumph in our nation of the Great Values: courage, self-sacrifice, honesty, commitment to the Common Good, honor.
15. We must wean ourselves from foreign oil: we are paying for our own destruction.
Five years ago, I delivered a public address to commemorate the first-year anniversay of 9-11.

September 11, 2002:

“ALWAYS REMEMBER.” We are not likely to forget. The images of that day are seared into our national memory. September 11th is one of those exceedingly rare universal moments of history, in which all Americans, for as long as they live, will recall with absolute clarity where they were and what they were doing when the reports of the attacks first reached them. So many of us were on campus when we first heard the news, first viewed the startling pictures, and grappled to make sense of the tragic spectacle as it unraveled before our eyes.

Our initial reactions differed. Many of us reached out to loved ones via the telephone. Some of us paused in silent meditation. Or perhaps we could only watch in stunned silence. But then, after that, we turned to each other for solace. It is appropriate that we congregated again not only to honor the heroes of September 11th but also to reflect together on our world then and our world now and the world that we will make.

Today our students presented selected historical readings, which included Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Daniel Webster, Franklin Roosevelt, Barbara Jordan and John Kennedy. It was especially moving to hear the collected wisdom of our past proclaimed in such powerful fashion by the caretakers of our future. They emphasized the words of Lincoln as he addressed the crowd at Gettysburg so many years ago. I am struck by Lincoln’s poignant and forceful appeal to Americans of his generation, exhorting his listeners to complete the work left undone by the valiant warriors who sacrificed their lives at Gettysburg.

Today we placed a memorial wreath, the Marines fired off a salute, we shared a moment of silence and we read a poem to honor our countrymen lost on that catastrophic morning one-year ago. During the moving memorial many of us shed a tear in their memory. All of those gestures were good and fitting and necessary. We do well to commemorate our fallen citizens in that way.

However, those emotions alone are not sufficient. The honored dead deserve more; they demand more. Lincoln was right. Webster was right. Kennedy was right. Those honored dead don’t cry out for our sympathy, they call out fervently and surely for our commitment. The distinct and compelling voices of our past entreat us to act boldly, and they remind us that our sacred obligation of citizenship is now due.

"Always Remember." Certainly, we will remember. We will remember the tragedy and terror and chaos of that day. We will remember the heroism of New York City, the brave men and women of Flight 93, the heroes of the Pentagon, and countless other acts of valor that summon hope and lament simultaneously. We will always remember them. We will construct monuments of steel and stone so that future generations will remember them also.

But will anyone remember us? Will we respond to this defining moment with humanity, brotherhood, resolve and dedication? Will our reply to this test of national and individual character be worthy of our heroic past? Our answer must be yes. Invoking the “better angels of our nature,” we will defeat the external threats to our freedom, fight tenaciously in defense of our domestic liberty and continue to strive toward fulfilling our “national purpose.” In the end, total commitment to those ideals offers the most profound memorial to our fallen brothers and sisters. May God rest their souls and bless our efforts.

September 11, 2007:

Today we stand at a significant crossroads in American history. Unfortunately, in this hour of decision, whether we are up to our defining moment of collective responsibility remains an open question.
Category: Something Personal
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
To my recollection, we have never endorsed a political candidate on the Bosque Boys. However, I received word today that one of my old schoolmates and good friend, Jamie Johnson, is running for a seat in the Iowa House of Representatives. This development makes me optimistic about the future of our political system.

I know Jamie to be a person of exemplary character and a stalwart patriot with a heart for public service. He personifies the best traditions of citizen-driven democracy. I wish him success in his campaign and call on friends of the Bosque Boys to extend their prayers and support to him and his family during this campaign.

His campaign website here.

God speed.
Ed Morrissey's Captain's Quarters reports that Mike Huckabee has challenged Fred Thompson to a Lincoln-Douglas style debate. This week Thompson made clear his disdain for the superficial format currently in use, and Huckabee moved quickly to become the first candidate to challenge Fred to put his money where his mouth is. Good move on the part of the Huckabee campaign. The former governor of Arkansas is funny, a good debater, and he does well on TV; nevertheless, he has not penetrated the consciousness of GOP voters. For Huckabee, a debate with Thompson would be a ticket to the big leagues.

On the other hand, Thompson has nothing to gain from facing Huckabee, who may be the most charming and quickest of all the Republican candidates, even as he is virtually unknown.

What could happen in a head-to-head encounter between Thompson and Huckabee? Thompson could very possibly lose, which would likely kill the long-awaited campaign in its cradle. At the very least, a first-tier player gives an opening to a nobody, who, if given a chance, might turn out to be the somebody who wins the whole ballgame.

Fred is a nice guy. Mike is a worthy fellow. But Fred is playing for keeps, and he is not stupid. I will be shocked if this debate comes off. The advantages are too sparse--and the downsides are potentially devastating.

Fred needs to be debating Rudy head-to-head Lincoln-Douglas style--not Huckabee. A more substantive debate (or series of debates) is probably in the offing with several combinations of candidates--but a Thompson-Huckabee face-off, if it comes, will not be before Thompson squares off against Giuliani or Romney.
The Sidney Morning Herald has this video of Australian troops in a firefight in Afghanistan. We need to remind ourselves that we are not alone in this fight. And, we need to remember that over the last 100 years Australia has been our most dependable ally.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Tying up some lose ends. Last Saturday, I drafted a sub-heading for this post:

"It is finished. The Ordeal of Larry Craig is Over."

But this week contradictory signals continued to emanate from the senator's camp. At week's end, however, the long, strange journey of Senator Larry Craig seems to be nearing its terminus.

Who is responsible for the tragic demise of this career public official?

1. Larry Craig. From any angle, the Senator from Idaho committed egregious errors in judgment and/or conduct.

2. Republicans. At the heart of this matter is the deportment of Craig, but give the panicking Republican Party a big assist. So frightened by polls and the upcoming elections, GOP politicians abandoned loyalty and compassion in the rush to throw an embarrassing friend overboard post haste.

3. The Axis of Liberalism. The shameless inconsistency of Democrats and the so-called progressives was even more revolting than Republican cowardice. The shock troops of "tolerance" declared open season on Craig. Formerly fastidious mavens of open-mindedness tossed aside all previous protestations that the sex lives of public officials should be off-limits to scrutiny and inquiry from the unsophisticated mob.

Craig was not just fair game for these erstwhile sophisticates, they ravaged the wounded senator with a sense of righteous entitlement and a palpable giddiness.

Why was it suddenly appropriate to delve into the private sexual affairs of public figures?

» Read More

Rolling Stone once called him "the most influential evangelical you've never heard of." The Miami Herald has this story on his legacy. Despite a somewhat negative tone, it is worth a read.

A leader of the schism that created the conservative Presbyterian Church in America in 1973, Kennedy co-founded the Moral Majority, the Coalition on Revival and the Alliance Defense Fund, which files lawsuits in church-state issues.

. . .

Kennedy once declared it his followers' ''job'' to ``reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise Godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.''
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
My American Government class has an assignment for next week. Perhaps you would like to do it as well.

• Internet Project 1. Visit the official websites of the Democrat and Republican parties, plus one other party of your choice. Answer these questions: 1. the frontpage of the site creates what impression, takes what tone? 2. what issues are most important to the party? 3. what are the party positions on major issues? 4. what solutions to national problems does the party propose?



More below for those of you who can't/won't visit the sites.

» Read More

Decades ago, Baptists sent their children to public schools without giving thought to alternatives. Roman Catholics, Missouri-Synod Lutherans, and Christian Reformed folks, established parochial schools, some Episcopalians sent their children to private schools--sometimes with a Saint's name--, but Baptists and others supported public schools.

But things changed. In the nineteenth century American public schools supported a generic Protestantism. This situation continued, perhaps in a milder form, through the early 1960s. When I was in first grade in my public school we began each day with prayer and a Bible verse over the intercom. Then two things happened. First, overt religious expression by the school itself was banned by the Supreme Court. Second, as American culture became more secular and more diverse, an increasing number of teachers, administrators, and parents, pushed an agenda that challenged traditional Christianity. As a result, conservative Christians began feeling more and more uncomfortable sending their children to public schools. Combine this discomfort with increasing perceptions that public schools are not doing a good job educating students, and evidence that student culture is becoming ever more sexualized and prone to violence, it is not surprising that more parents have become willing to spend the money for parochial education.

This story (link from The Layman) covers the phenomenon of Southern Baptists establishing parochial schools. This practice began during desegregation in the South with the establishment of "private academies," but now is accelerating fueled by religious concerns.

More below.

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Fred is in, and I see a glimmer of hope.

I have said many times, for a number of reasons, the Democrats own this election: 2008 is theirs to lose. While I stand by that assertion, I am less gloomy today than usual.

Why do I see a slim band of sunlight far off on the dark horizon?

Like the vast majority of Americans, I did not watch the Republican debate in New Hampshire on Wednesday night. However, I did watch Jay Leno.

Fred is in, and he looked good.

Joining the chorus of sour handicappers, I had worried earlier that Fred might have missed his window. But seeing and hearing him over the last few days does much to alleviate my anxiety.

Fred Thompson may not be the perfect conservative--but he does a great job of playing one on TV (much better than the other actors vying for the role).

Is he Ronald Reagan? No. But he is closer than I thought he might be. He is tall and tough and solid. When Jay Leno questioned his Iraq policy on hostile territory (a soundstage in Los Angeles, California), Fred dug in and stood tall and told the truth. No sugar coat. No stuttering. No excuses. Bravo.

Of course, the pundits are not convinced. Reliable fount of conventional wisdom, ABC analyst, George Stephanopoulos, speaking for the pack, opined on Good Morning America Thursday that Fred had three big problems getting in so late:

1. He leaves himself no room for error; he cannot make a mistake (perhaps George was thinking of something like enlisting criminals as important campaign financiers).

2. He has no money.

3. He arrives in a disappointingly second place.


All that is completely wrong.

--It is not really very late. No one is following this race yet. While the Democratic canvass has a distinct character already, the GOP contest is still completely formless. To be sure, he is going to make some mistakes--but he will have ample opportunity to overcome them.

--He is millions of dollars ahead of the game with his Leno appearance alone. This guy is funny, media savvy and the camera loves him. Mitt Romney has a lot of money, but he needs every penny of it to market himself. Fred is a softer, easier sell. Last night I found myself laughing and nodding my head a lot. That brand of natural appeal is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

--Finally, second place is just fine for now. In fact, it may be a blessing. Emerging a few lengths behind the frontrunner in a horse race and charging hard for the wire is a much better narrative than arriving as the presumptive nominee.

But there are some remaining worries:

Health. Today Hugh Hewitt raised the nagging cancer question (here). Ironically, I was discussing Thompson with an unabashed booster a few days ago when the Fred fan worried that his candidate looked sickly. This is a serious question. Paul Tsongas?

Resilience. How will Fred respond to the barrage of pointed scrutiny and animosity awaiting him. Can Fred keep his cool under the intense pressure of an unfriendly mainstream media? We'll see.

Background. What is in Fred's past? With certainty, the opposition will manufacture a series of phony and/or exaggerated scandals and rumors of wrongdoing. If he is clean as a whistle, he will take a tremendous beating. If he is dirty at all, the mainstream media and Democratic war machine will crucify him.

Having said that, we may have a player here. For the first time in a long time, I've got that delicious feeling that we might have a chance.
Powerful and influential pastor, writer, and leader D. James Kennedy is dead at 76. He had been in ill health since late December. Kennedy was an important leader in evangelicalism, a strong and active voice and activist on the Christian Right, and a force in the resurgence of Calvinism in the U.S.

The Sun-Sentinal has a good article on his death here. Link from Layman Online.

Kennedy was almost the only popular radio and TV preacher I would listen to. I did not always agree with him, but he was worth paying attention to.

My previous post, musing about referring to God, prompted this response from Loy Mershimer that I think deserves posting. (Any friend of Barth is a friend of mine.)

Great questions.

I believe the discussion distills to this issue: to what degree does one trust divine Revelation over one's personal revelations [and declared self-need in defining the Other]?

Barth framed this issue in the nature of God [unknowable except by self-revelation] and the nature of that divine Revelation as salvific. I've yet to hear a good answer to his objection to renaming God...

Here is Barth’s argument in a nutshell: To arrogate to oneself the ability to subjectively rename the Trinity is to assume that one apprehends the objective essence of the revelation itself, the ‘infinite and spiritual essence’ of the One being named -- a categorical impossibility.

Barth thus reveals the human renaming of divinity [re-imagining, etc.] a failure of human arrogance: mere postmodern idolatry.

All we know of God is what God graciously self-reveals. And that revelation is the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit: relational, integral ontology.

Regarding the pronouns of God and the images of God, James Torrance notes that there are zero feminine metaphors for God in Scripture; there are three similes which are feminine.

Of course, the linguistic value of such distinction is simple: metaphor is used to show something of essence, simile something of function.

Perhaps the whole discussion would be more simple if people understood that God is Spirit -- not male or female -- and that reasoning back onto Him from flawed earthly fathers is faulty 'theology from below,' with self as the arbiter of right [subjective epistemology].

It is deeply regretful that hurtful masculine models have apparently wounded a generation of sensitive sons and daughters from receiving God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit...

George MacDonald, in his sermon "Abba! Father" describes the whole of human misery in the inability of human children to call God Father:

The refusal to look up to God as our Father is the one central wrong in the whole human affair. The inability to do so is our one central misery. Whatever serves to clear any difficulty from the way of the recognition of the Father will more or less undermine every difficulty in life.

He goes on to say that the very key of healing for those wounded by earthly fathers is in the recovery of God as their real Father: Provocative, practical considerations of this whole discussion!

Great thoughts! Thank you...

p.s. Torrance has a little book entitled Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace -- it might be worth a read!

Loy's website is here.
I was trying to reclaim my garden this afternoon from the grass that benefitted from our rains and the trip to Georgia. Our stony southwest Oklahoma soil is remarkably fecund if enough rain falls. Of course, I've added from my compost pile, and purchased manure, to build up the soil. As I was grubbing with my mattock (too rocky for a regular hoe still, maybe someday I'll get all the rocks out) I got to thinking about goddesses and the problem of referring to God.

Interesting, and perhaps not surprising, that so many cultures have an earth goddess, not an earth god. The rain from the sky, compared to semen in many belief-systems, falls upon the waiting earth, like a fertile womb, and new life comes forth. Fertile rolling hills, with some imagination, can remind one of the female form. The earth goddess and the sky god, uniting to bring life.

I am, as regular readers know, a Christian. And a preacher. So I refer to God a lot. Sometimes I use sexless terms: God saves because of God's love; God's actions glorify Godself. Theologically, this terminology is not wrong, because traditionally Christian theology has taught that God is without gender. But, sexless terminology works by not using pronouns; that makes for awkward speech, and sounds too impersonal.

When I use pronouns for God, I use the masculine. God himself, The Lord called and he said. I do so because Scripture usually does so. Perhaps you may say that I am using the inclusive "him" to mean both male and female. OK. But then, why is "she" not as acceptable as "he?" Why not an inclusive "she?" While there is a little bit of feminine imagery for God, overwhelmingly the imagery in the Bible is masculine: Lord (not Lady), King (not Queen), Shepherd (not Shepherdess). And, Jesus, now alive and living in heaven thence to return, is a man. Was the choice of a male incarnation accidental? Could God have taken human form as a woman, so that we worship Ruth the Christ? Speculation on this gets us nowhere. God chose to be incarnate as a man, with a Y chromosome, penis, and testicles. For now, at least, I'll use masculine imagery predominately, and masculine pronouns for God.

This afternoon in the garden I was contemplating another reason. Sky gods tend to be associated with power and action, and perhaps are more easily understood as transcending time and place. Earth goddesses are receivers, active in giving life indeed, but tied into the natural cycles of months and years, returning again and again, more easily understood as immanent, that is, within time and place. If we adopt feminine language for the Christian God, will our conception of God be altered, more tied up in Creation? I don't know.

05/09: Add Joke Here

Washington D.C. groups giving away free condoms report that demand has dropped radically since the MADE IN CHINA prophylactics have packaging that tears easily, sometimes in a pocket or purse, giving the product a shoddy and defective appearance. Story here.

I'll refrain from immature jokes, though I'm tempted to list possible advertising slogans.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
It struck me at the time of his announcement--but I forgot to note publicly--that Alberto Gonzales is resigning as Attorney General effective September 17.

So what?

September 17 is the official birthday of the Constitution, ceremoniously signed on that date in 1787 in Philadelphia.

So what?

Perhaps it is coincidence, or perhaps the Bushies enjoy subtle practical gags--but even as the chattering classes continue to denounce the Bush administration as the most tyrannical regime since James II, the personnel come and go, serving and fading away. And, finally, on January 20, 2009, the much-maligned current President of the United States will walk off the American political stage and retire to his ranch in Texas, performing the most important ritual in all of American government: the peaceful and voluntary renunciation of ultimate power.

Hat tip to George Washington.

So what?

While I am not unconcerned by claims of an imperial presidency and/or the stealthily encroaching "unitary executive" theory, one must keep in mind our deep-seated tradition of public service above individual power accumulation. A whole host of pundits, partisans and scholars are convinced that George Bush and Dick Cheney set out to permanently alter the balance of power in favor of the executive.

Check out this scary title: Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. More info on the plot from reporter Charlie Savage here via NPR.

But I wonder, how long can this cottage industry of calumnious drivel survive?

For all those who posit that Bush is Hitler, when are they going to contend with the notion that all this alleged power accumulation, if true, profits him nearly nothing—but stands to offer his likely Democratic Party successor a tremendous boon?

UPDATE: Welcome to Hugh Hewitt readers. We are honored.

The Bosque Boys invite all Hugh fans to browse the site and make yourself at home.

Previous thoughts on the signing statements controversy from 2006 here and here.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
MSN lists and describes the 10 best donut shops in the U.S. I love America.
Once more the Left shows us their definition of "diversity." The new panel empowered by Vermont to evaluate the possiblility of same-sex marriage in civil society has no members espousing traditional marriage. It does however, have a member living in a same-sex union. Story here, from Anglican News via The Institution on Religion and Democracy.
Perhaps the Chinese are hoping that if we have enought of these stories, we will stop noticing. AP is announcing that Mattel will recall more toys MADE IN CHINA because of lead. Story from The Times of India.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
If the Republicans had this sort of scandal going on, cable-news would have wall-to-wall coverage.

Gateway Pundit brings together the latest information here and here.

Farmer once said that Bill's downfall always would be women; Hillary's downfall always would be money. Interesting couple.
Well Merle, we made the trip from Oklahoma and back in a '98 Ford that had 167 thousand miles on it when we started. It gave us no problems and did just fine in the fast lane of the interestates. Maybe the good times are not really over for good.

Here. From the New York Sun. Link from Instapundit.

Pete Seeger, folk-singer legend and member of the Old Left, now acknowledges the evil of Stalinism and sings about it in his new song The Big Joe Blues.

"I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe," the lyrics read. "He ruled with an iron hand / He put an end to the dreams / Of so many in every land / He had a chance to make / A brand new start for the human race / Instead he set it back / Right in the same nasty place / I got the Big Joe Blues / (Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast) / I got the Big Joe Blues / (Do this job, no questions asked) / I got the Big Joe Blues."

Better late than never. I think it was Susan Sontag who wrote that it should discomfort New York liberals that subscribers to The Readers' Digest were given a truer understanding of the Soviet Union than subscribers to elite journals.

We left Georgia by way of Chattanooga. Just south of the city we visited the Battle of Chickamauga historic site. Visiting Civil War battle sites is always a moving experience for me; I think of the men who died for Liberty and their suffering. Ironically, both sides fought for Liberty, each side defining it differently. I am glad the Union won, for its definition of Liberty, by the end of the war, made possible today's multiracial nation.

We drove around the site, following the tour map. I knew very little about this battle, other than it was part of the campaign by the Army of the Cumberland to secure Chattanooga for the Union. The tour map, and the signs at each stop, gave the story. The battle event that struck me most was the near rout of the Union forces. General Rosecrans was informed that a gap had opened in his lines. He ordered units shuffled to fill the gap. However, there was no gap, faulty information. Shuffling the other units created a real gap that Longstreet immediately exploited with his Confederate troops, driving Union forces back and threatening to turn the battlefield into a killing field for the Army of the Cumberland. Even Rosecrans fled. The remaining Union ranking officer on the field, Thomas, moved the troops who remained into a defensible position and held off wave after wave of Confederate assaults until after dark, then withdrew. His actions allowed Union forces to regroup and hold Chattanooga.

American voters need to know more military history. We expect today, and our media heighten this expectation, that everything will go according to plan in military operations. Never has. Never will. War is the most complex of human undertakings. Whether called the "fog of war" or the "friction of war" or by some other name, plans and decisions are based on limited information, sometimes wrong. No plan survives intact the first contact with the enemy. Armies must improvise under fire, when clear heads and stout hearts count most. Our modern media is too quick with hysterical reporting when things do not go perfectly in America's modern wars. Learn some history.

A brief summary of the battle is here. The website for the Chickamauga & Chattanooga Military Park is here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Flopping Aces has a helpful timeline and information here.

Gateway Pundit offers historical comparison between Democrat and Republican scandals here.

Wizbang has a list of New England Democrat politicians who received money from Hsu here. Federal politicians were not the only ones.

Wizbang raises the essential question: where did Hsu's money come from?
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gateway Pundit remains your one-stop source for information on the Democrat fund-raising scandals specifically involving Hillary. Information and links. I wish the MSM were covering this wall-to-wall like they do much less important stories.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The cases of Larry Craig and Mark Foley are fundamentally different.

Writing last fall about the "Foley Mess" (within the context of the then-coming election of 2006), I asserted:

"A case of perversion and arrogance. I had never heard of Mark Foley before Friday night, but he was an important person in the GOP hierarchy. And he was also a sexual (homosexual) predator whom the GOP leadership allowed to roam the halls of Congress and solicit underage pages unchecked. Once again, the party of morality faces a moral crisis."

Back then, I was disgusted and demoralized. And I was mad. I was angry at Republican leadership. Foley's bent toward sexually harassing and pursuing young men was an open secret on Capitol Hill. The passivity of GOP leadership in the face of such egregious conduct equaled complicity, and that was shameful.

I was especially infuriated at Dennis Hastert, whom I greatly admired prior to the Foley revelation. In truth, I have yet to fully forgive the former-Speaker for allowing Mark Foley to hustle teenagers entrusted to the United States Congress, presumably under the protection of the hulking, grand-fatherly, former wrestling coach and history teacher.

For me, the Foley revelation was the moral nadir of the modern Republican Party.

I do not feel the same way about Larry Craig. Although it looks increasingly likely the friendless senator from Idaho is finished politically (evidently, a tearful resignation is imminent), I feel only sympathy for him as a human being.

Unlike Foley, who evidently flaunted his sexuality within the circles of Washington power, Craig took great pains to conceal his secret desires from his colleagues, his family, and, perhaps most pitiably, himself.

The Senator's tortured protestations of innocence, "I am not gay; I have never been gay," strike me as ardently hopeful exclamations from a troubled soul. That is, while me thinks he protests too much, I cannot shake the sense that his toughest and principal audience is his own conscience.

The double standard among the Republicans is embarrassing. The GOP readily forgave David Vitter's heterosexual peccadilloes--but they are united in their disgust for Craig's "disgusting behavior" (which, according to the police report, was cryptically signaling his interest in an undercover officer of the same sex in a bathroom stall in an airport in Minneapolis).

The shame of Republican leadership in this instance is not that they allowed a "pervert" in their midst; rather, the moral failing of the GOP leadership in the matter of Larry Craig is the rush to abandon a troubled friend in need.

Still to Come in a Future Post: The worst hypocrisy exhibited in this whole sordid affair actually comes from the Democrats and the shock troops of "tolerance."