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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
On Saturday night The University of Missouri Tigers will play The University of Oklahoma Sooners for the football championship of the Big 12. Missouri comes in ranked number 1 in the nation, coached by Gary Pinkel.

This is what he had to say this week about the Sooners. From The Columbia Missourian.

"Our players and staff have tremendous respect for Oklahoma,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said during Monday’s teleconference. “You have to. They’re a first-class program. They’re well coached. They recruit well. And they’re accomplished. That being said, that’s also great motivation to play your best game. So I think that (our) focus and intensity is directly because of the great football team that they are, the great program they are.” Pinkel also knows that Oklahoma has the upper hand in playing big-stakes games. “Oklahoma has been in the national championship, and they’ve been through all those experiences,” Pinkel said. “This is just another game for them.”

Here is an observation from Don Borst of Fox Sports: You know what we like about Missouri's Gary Pinkel? That he doesn't overshadow his players the way so many other successful coaches do. Yes, he's in some ways a vanilla guy, but his teams have never played like that.

And from Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star: Two Saturdays past, with fewer than 5 minutes left in Missouri’s blowout victory at Colorado, Tigers starting quarterback Chase Daniel stood on the sideline, watching Gary Pinkel squirm. Missouri wasn’t about to lose a game it led 48-10. The Tigers had the football on the Colorado 3. But Daniel looked at a coach who seemed to be in agony as reserve MU tailback Derrick Washington slashed into the end zone for a touchdown. “Man, Chase,” Pinkel said. “I feel really bad about even scoring 55.” “Coach,” Daniel responded. “We’re running the football (almost) every down. We can’t just take a knee.” The thing was, Pinkel almost would have preferred he’d ordered that ploy. While he again went out of his way Monday not to criticize Kansas for hanging 76 points on Nebraska or Nebraska burying Kansas State with 73 points … Pinkel said he had friends in the coaching profession who did that. Well, Gary Pinkel can’t ever see himself doing that. “I’m just telling you what I believe,” Pinkel said. “I believe we’re not here to humiliate coaches and opposing players.”

And if I read the tables on the latest NCAA graduation-rate data correctly, the entering Missouri freshmen football players of 2000-01 (the latest group for which data is available) had a 65% graduation rate. The rate for all MU students in that cohort was 69%. Pinkel came to Missouri in 2001, so this class was under his leadership beginning their second year. The Missouri football program's graduation rate is right at the national average for D-1 programs. Their Saturday night opponent, the Sooners, have a 44% football graduation rate. (Baylor has an 84% football graduation rate., The University of Texas 44%, and Texas A&M 62%)

Working through the difficult years of life demonstrates and develops character. Pinkel has had some tough times while at Mizzou, but has persevered.

If Missouri is ever stupid enough to fire Pinkel, I hope Baylor can get him.

Here is his official biography from the University of Missouri website.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Both Farmer and I have a soft-spot for the Rocky movies and for Sylvester Stallone. As we have pointed out, the theme of redemption figures strongly in the Rocky series.

See this excellent review of Rocky Balboa by Farmer, which contains this paragraph on the original Rocky movie:

But this is a story of redemption. The opening shot frames the story under a giant wall painting of Jesus, who stares down upon a fight matching a hulking Rocky, sleep-walking through another bout, on the way to his twenty-first career loss, against a less-gifted opponent, Spider Rico. But Rico makes a mistake. In control of the fight, he intentionally and gratuitously head-butts our hero, which brings Rocky alive to quickly pummel the offender into a stupor.

I wrote about Stallone's recent return to the Roman Catholicism of his upbringing in this post. The opening paragraph: Sylvester Stallone is reaching out to the churches to publicize his new movie. As he does this he is sharing his story of faith and redemption. A report and response to a conference call with Stallone here from Focus on the Family. Link from Drudge.

Now comes word that another Stallone character, John Rambo, may be seeking his own redemption. The Daily Mail (UK) summarizes the upcoming Rambo movie thusly.

In the latest instalment, Rambo finds himself recruited by a group of Christian human rights missionaries to protect them against pirates, during a humanitarian aid delivery to the persecuted Karen people of Burma. After some of the missionaries are taken prisoner by sadistic Burmese soldiers, Rambo gets a second impossible job: to assemble a team of mercenaries to rescue the surviving relief workers

Story here. I look forward to Farmer's review of this movie when it comes out. We'll see if John Rambo finds peace.
It used to be a saying in my Reformed tradition that if someone in a Reformed Church said, "Full-time Christian Ministry," and meant by that only full-time pastors and missionaries, that person had forgotten our theology. We believe all Christians are full time ministers, and that our most significant ministry consists in being good fathers and mothers, gardeners and bakers, political officeholders and janitors. All work is Kingdom work if done for Christ according to Christian principles. We are part of God's work of reclaiming the fallen world, of bringing godly order into the chaos of sinful fallenness, of extending God's Kingdom (God's Kingly Rule) into human life, which will find its fulfillment in the world to come.

The Lutherans believe also that our vocation, our work in the world, is our major service to God. They embed this understanding in the Lutheran Two Kingdoms teaching, but the outcome is pretty much the same as in the Reformed teaching. Here is a very good presentation of the Lutheran position on work, from Christianity Today.

American evangelicals have fallen away from a major Protestant principle when they view pastors as somehow having a higher calling than dogcatchers. We all are priests to God, and exercise our priestly function whether we are handling the bread and wine of the eucharist, or bedpans.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Here is a brief rundown from "The Campaign Spot" on NRO, but by now everybody knows that the fix was in at the CNN/YouTube debate.

1. CNN should be mortified. Say it aint so, Ted; say it aint so. It is more than fair to ask what sort of reaction a similar incident involving FOX News and Democratic candidates (if Democratic candidates had consented to appear on FOX News) would have elicited. The answer: major coverage--and of the "final proof" variety: "there you have closed."

On the other hand:

2. So what? We have proved once again that the mainstream media leans left and has absolutely no clue as to what makes conservatives tick. Yes. It was dishonest. Yes. These were cheap shots. Now what?

3. There was nothing wrong with those questions. Why shouldn't our candidates answer hostile questions from the other side? Do we think we can avoid those questions between now and November 2008? Let's get over ourselves. Let's stop whining about the biased media and play ball. We've got a smaller strike zone than the other team. The ump is the opposing pitcher's cousin. So what? Let's get out there and out play them.

4. In case you didn't notice, for the most part, our guys hammered those spit balls over the left-field fence.
Former Representative from Illinois, Henry Hyde is dead at 83. Story from Fox News.

Former Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde, a strong foreign policy and anti-abortion voice in Congress and a leader of House impeachment proceedings in 1998, died Thursday. He was 83.

Jayson Javitz at Wizbang has this tribute.

Javitz's concluding paragraph: At a time when conservatives tend to look at former sportscasters and spoiled academics for guidance, Hyde was a man of action who accomplished more than cheap talk. Hyde retired on his own terms and personally chose his successor.

Here is the tribute given by Rep. Daniel Lipinski, Illinois 3rd District, on Hyde's retirement. Here is the conclusion: Henry is willing to work together to reach consensus and to reach important goals for our country. No matter what you thought about where he stood on issues, you listened to Henry Hyde because you knew when he spoke he would be eloquent, he would have good arguments, and you should listen to him. Now, I am very happy that I had this opportunity to serve with Henry. He has served our Nation so well. He has served the State of Illinois so well, and I know that his legacy will certainly reflect his commitment to Illinois, to his district, and to our Nation. His insights, his passion, and his presence will deeply be missed. He truly was also a man of faith, which he brought here and always used that; it was always important to what he did in the House. We wish Henry all the best in his retirement. And we are all truly grateful for his service.

Hyde will be remembered, with affection and with dislike, for the Hyde Amendment, which limited the provision of abortions by Medicaid. Here is a reasonably evenhanded description of the amendment from the pro-abortion perspective:

The Hyde Amendment

After Roe v. Wade decriminalized abortion in 1973, Medicaid covered abortion care without restriction. In 1976, Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL) introduced an amendment that later passed to limit federal funding for abortion care. Effective in 1977, this provision, known as the Hyde Amendment, specifies what abortion services are covered under Medicaid.

Over the past two decades, Congress has debated the limited circumstances under which federal funding for abortion should be allowed. For a brief period of time, coverage included cases of rape, incest, life endangerment, and physical health damage to the woman. However, beginning in 1979, the physical health exception was excluded, and in 1981 rape and incest exceptions were also excluded.

In September 1993, Congress rewrote the provision to include Medicaid funding for abortions in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. The present version of the Hyde Amendment requires coverage of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.

His political career, including personal information, may be found here at Congresspedia.

After his retirement, President Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom. News release including text of President Bush's remarks.
Huckabee: smooth. He is clearly the most articulate, clear-headed public speaker of this crew. No one in public life explains the interconnectedness between faith, politics, and culture better than Huck.

Romney: slippery. His refusal to answer the planted "gays in the military" question was tortuous. He has a tough time explaining his Massachusetts past. Anderson Cooper's pointed follow-up was as devastatingly illustrative as Hillary's notorious stumble in Philadelphia.

Rudy: straightforward. The guy has no capacity to tell anything but the truth. He has no filter. He will answer as honestly as possible any question you ask of him. I love Rudy--but can a man with this fatal political flaw ever win the presidency?

Ron Paul:
haunting. In your heart you know he is right. If it wasn't for Iraq, we would love him. If it wasn't for Iraq, the media would hammer him, and we would have never heard of him.

Fred: halting. He is a rough speaker. Good on the issues (and tall)--but still not ready for prime time. Is he getting better? Maybe a little? Or do I just want him to be getting better?

McCain: tragic. He is a great American--but if "he keeps on talking to the people who don't listen, who does he think is going to hear?" I like McCain. The great mass of Republicans disagree with me. Next.

Duncan Hunter:
unfortunate. He deserves better than this. Too bad.
Hell is not popular in contemporary American Christianity. In this post Frederica Mathewes-Green explains and tries to revive Christian belief in hell.

Before reading: Mathewes-Green is Eastern Orthodox and so her approach and explanation reflect the Orthodox understanding, not the Western. In the East, sin and salvation are not primarily understood in forensic terms, never have been. Rather than the law court being the dominant conceptual framework (as in the West, at least since Anselm), the dominant concept for understanding sin and salvation is the family. Also, depravity (fallen and sinful human nature) in Orthodoxy is usually more understood as a "tarnishing" of the image of God, rather than the severly distorted almost beyond recognition image of God in fallen humanity as understood in the West at least since Augustine.

btw, I find it interesting that Orthodoxy, which is a patriarchal form of Christianity--males only as priests and bishops, God is Father and Jesus is the incarnate Son, etc--has recognized some strong women as saints. I'm not nominating Mathewes-Green for sainthood, but she is a strong woman whose writing is usually featured on Orthodox websites.
In our recent discussion of Cormac McCarthy, Bosque Boys reader(s) "Bob and Merrill" expressed reservations about calling No Country for Old Men "literature."

I have not read McCarthy--but I can tell you that Shelby Foote was a big fan. Of course, the brilliant Foote was also a huge fan of William Faulkner, which I am not, and a big fan of Marcel Proust, whom McCarthy reportedly detests.

Literature is subjective, to say the least...

One item on which we can hopefully all agree, however, is that Stephen King, while entertaining at times, ranks well short of the greats of American letters.

But you wouldn't know that from listening to him.

From TIME Magazine this week (which Drudge posted yesterday), King explains why he is more valuable and relevant than Britney Spears:

"Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan aren't cultural. They aren't political. They're economic only in the mildest sense of the word."

"Britney Spears is just trailer trash. That's all. I mean, I don't mean to be pejorative. But you observe her behavior for the past five years and you say, here's a lady who can't take care of her kids, she can't take care of herself, she has no retirement fund, everything that she gets runs right through her hands.

"And yet, you know and I know that if you go to those sites that tell you what the most blogged-about things on the Internet are, it's Britney, it's Lindsay."

TIME interjects: "[but] Britney Spears...[is] still fairly young. When you were young, fame sort of screwed you up a bit, didn't it?"

King again: "The difference is that Britney is now famous for being famous. Her sales have gone down with almost every album, bigger and bigger jumps, so that nobody really cares about her music anymore. They care about the tabloid headlines and whether or not she's wearing panties. I mean, is this an issue that the American public needs to turn its brainpower on? Britney Spears' lingerie, or lack thereof?"

Does Stephen King have himself confused with William Shakespeare?

For the entire tragically self-important and self-deluded exchange, view here.
Apologies to James McPherson.

This story illustrates the unresolvable nature of the dispute in Mainline Christianity over same-sex marriage, and the role in the Church of those practicing same-sex sex.

Janie Spahr, a lesbian or perhaps bi-sexual, is a Presbyterian minister who for the last several years has dedicated herself to changing the Presbyterian Church, and others, into an institution that welcomes same-sex practice and same-sex marriage. She has been supported by two Presbyterian congregations. In her mind, she is an advocate for the LGBT community and an advocate for God's truth and love. She has violated Presbyterian rules, openly and repeatedly, in pursuit of her goal.

For Spahr, marrying lesbians and gay men is a matter of conscience. "We don't do marriages to defy the church," she said recently, sipping red wine while entertaining in her living room a couple she married. "We do marriages because it's the right thing to do.

"I feel we have a responsibility in the church to be welcoming because the founder of this church was," Spahr says. The gray-haired minister wears a purple pants suit and dangling abalone earrings and speaks in a hushed voice that invites listeners to feel as though they are her intimate friends. She sits in her modest living room in the Bret Harte neighborhood of San Rafael surrounded by photographs of her sons, her granddaughter and couples she has married. When the conversation ebbs, her blue eyes dart around the room and land on an image that evokes a story. It is the stories of folks in what she calls her LGBT—or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender—community that she wants to tell.

"Come and hear the Annies and Cheryls, the Jeffs and the Davids. Listen to their love. Listen to their dreams and come be transformed. I feel like I'm inviting the church to be the church. Who do we think founded the church? He was blasphemous. So our job is to be blasphemous, to challenge the church to be welcome for all," she says.

"And the church must do this. The church must do this because if they don't, they are betraying the one who founded it. And I must be in that church that says 'yes' to people no matter what their color, no matter what their sexual orientation. Now that's what I know, and that's the God I know. So maybe we're talking about a different God."

Spahr, and others like her, seem to define the word liberty or freedom to mean the uninhibited self-expression of the individual's inner identity. When she was 12 and captain of her softball team, the Rev. Janie Spahr intentionally picked the players usually chosen last. Even as a child, she reached out to the disenfranchised and preached that everyone deserves a chance. "When you're not picked, you know how you feel," the 65-year-old Presbyterian minister says with trademark tenderness. "Everybody has within them greatness. My greatest wish is that people will see their own greatness and believe it." Spahr's belief in the girls on her childhood softball team not only boosted her players' self-esteem. It led them to a surprise victory. Her belief in the rights of all people to be free to be themselves—regardless of their sexual orientation—led the lesbian pastor from San Rafael to become a traveling evangelist relentlessly advocating for the church to open its doors to everyone. Her belief in the rights of homosexuals to marry prompted her to perform wedding ceremonies all over the country. . . . "This really isn't about me," she says. "It's about people being free. It's about these couples, and it's about their story. It's about them, honey. It's about all the couples I've been honored to be asked to be with. And there have been so many. Being in the LGBT community has been such a great honor for me.

Conservatives and Orthodox Christians define "liberty" or "freedom" differently. "Liberty" is ordered Liberty, the freedom found in Christ that only can be experienced in obedience to the commands of God. To disobey God is to participate in the world of sin, which is equated with "slavery," the opposite of freedom. See Romans 6:5-23, for example.

Spahr, et al, and Conservatives also seem to be working with different definitions of "justice." Spahr seems to define justice as allowing individuals to give expression to their inner identities, in other words, to allow people "freedom" in the sense explained above. "I want the church to come along. When you see how oppressive systems work, you're not only challenging the system. This isn't about gay people. This is about how people treat people of less power. It's about justice." She also appears to work with a Liberation Theology definition of justice in which those lower on the power ladder are presumed to have a just cause, and those above them on the power ladder who frustrate those desires are presumed to be acting unjustly.

Conservatives, on the other hand, define "justice" in terms of God's expressed will in Scripture, especially as codified in Law and expressed by prophets. "Justice" means personal and social conformity to God's expressed intent.

Given such fundamental disagreements over basic concepts, I have little hope that the Mainline Denominations will survive the current sexuality controversies.

Category: Campaign 2008.7
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In my last post forecasting how the Republican nomination race might unfold, I once again articulated my expectation that Fred might break out in time to win the upcoming Southern primaries in South Carolina and Florida. But I also admitted my worry that I might be waiting for a broken-down bus.

The irony has not escaped me that I am predicting Hillary in the Democratic canvass, on the strength of her superior organization, while I look for Fred Thompson to somehow prevail in the GOP race completely lacking that same attribute.

Why? Too long an answer for this brief post, but in a nutshell: the GOP is a heart and soul party (more so than the Dems). And the GOP field in this particular cycle is so flawed (politically) that almost anything is possible.

But tonight is an important night. As we saw in the Democratic debate in Philadelphia almost a month ago, we are definitely at the stage of the campaign in which these events matter--just ask Hillary. Tonight's CNN-YouTube debate may very well set the tone for news coverage during the next month--depending on what transpires.

All that to say, if Fred is for real, he probably needs to show us something on TV this evening. Either he needs to break through a bit, or, barring that, he needs to stand visibly rock steady while one of his important rivals stumbles.
The movie, No Country for Old Men is based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same title. I confess I have not yet read him, but make a premature New Year's Resolution to do so. He perhaps is the current most important American novelist. (yeah, I know, that title doesn't mean as much as it did) Biography here. Harold Bloom regards him as one of America's most important contemporary writers.

McCarthy's novels look unflinchingly at human evil and violence, but not in ways that glorify these things. So say the critics.

His latest novel is The Road, and I recommend this review, by the consistently good James Vanden Bosch.

Other movies made out of Cormac McCarthy novels-- All the Pretty Horses, as well as Blood Meridian and The Road, both in production.
Category: Campaign 2008.7
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I'm not saying I invented Mike Huckabee--or even that you heard it here first--but I was impressed with the smooth-talking former Arkansas governor before many in the MSM gave him much of a chance. I like him. I think he is interesting. I don't believe all the ugly things his fellow evangelicals or conservative gatekeepers keep saying about him.

However, we ought to be realistic about what Huckabee is likely to accomplish. Can he win Iowa? Maybe. Although I think he is more likely to score a respectable Pat Robertson-like second place finish. And that would be a major accomplishment for the little campaign that could.

But where does he go from there? He is likely to come in second in Iowa because Romney is going to buy first place. Rudy and McCain just don't play there, and Fred is just too disorganized to make a move for that fairly complicated Midwestern prize. With all the GOP confusion swirling around this contest, Huckabee is a good vehicle for Iowans to register their dissatisfaction and frustration.

However, New Hampshire is something completely different. Huckabee is unlikely to run in the money in NH, which means Florida and South Carolina become all important. Without a win in FL or SC, Huckabee gets swamped on Super Tuesday.

Could Huckabee do well in Florida and/or South Carolina? It is possible--but that depends on Fred. At some point--and I am starting to wonder if I am waiting on a broken-down bus--I expect the Thompson campaign to put things together enough to win the two Southern primaries. In fact, Huckabee taking the bloom off the Romney rose in Iowa helps Fred a lot. If Rudy can mount an effective challenge against Romney in New Hampshire, the Massachusetts governor will not head South with enough momentum to roll through Dixie. However, if Fred is completely dead in the water in FL and SC, and Romney does not have things wrapped up, and Rudy fails to win the hearts of the Palmetto and Sunshine States, and Huckabee is the remaining viable red-state candidate, then Pastor Mike has a shot at making a real run for the nomination.

But that is a lot of ifs.

Nobody Knows Anything--but my guess is that the Huckabee candidacy is nearing its peak. I would be very surprised if Huckabee won more than 25 percent of the vote in Iowa, and I would be even more surprised if any subsequent state total exceeds his tally in the Hawkeye State.
Tuesday in the Washington Post :

Bush Meets Al Gore: Effect On Permafrost Unknown

"It must be the season. President Bush tried yesterday to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And he tried to make peace with Al Gore.

"For the first time since Bush moved into the house Gore coveted, the two adversaries from the tumultuous 2000 presidential election sat down to talk."

"The official purpose of the historic summit was not the Middle East peace conference Bush is also hosting this week but the normally more prosaic photo op the White House typically schedules each year with the latest American winners of the Nobel Prize."

This particular Post story by Peter Baker (in full here) represents a plethora of semi-serious reporting this week noting the Bush-Gore meeting in the Oval Office.

How would the President respond to Al Gore? Would this be an uncomfortable moment? Would the President look nervous? Or make a scene?

No. In fact, the president went the extra mile.

Baker: "[he] decided to go a step beyond duty by meeting with Gore in the Oval Office for 40 minutes before the formal picture-taking. [T]he two reportedly talked about global warming...."

Does this tell us anything about President Bush?

Let Al Gore tell it:

"He was very gracious in setting up the meeting and it was a very good and substantive conversation."

The former-veep is not that spot-on correct very often--but he is exactly right in this particular characterization of events.

Is this a surprise (Bush's behavior, I mean)?

Hardly. We hear constantly that the President is dense, bull-headed, and Manichean in outlook. Gore himself often calls the Bushies "Mayberry Machiavellians," and the list goes on--but there are never any stories about Bush as petulant. No one ever asserts that he is ever anything less than gracious in his personal affairs--even when he has a right to take some revenge.

Peter Baker puts it mildly: "Gore has evolved into one of the [P]resident's toughest critics, condemning the war in Iraq, warrantless surveillance, harsh interrogations and other policies of an administration his team believes was illegitimately installed by the Supreme Court."

Baker should have thrown in a few choice adjectives to better describe the level and volume of Gore's withering criticism--but you get the point.

How has the President responded to the myriad Gore calumnies? He has not. It would be beneath the office. No one can contest his record for executing the duties of his office with great respect and dignity. This meeting is just another example of that pattern of behavior.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving my wife and I traveled to northwest Arkansas to the home of one of her sisters and husband. On Thanksgiving Day her siblings and spouses assembled at Branson, Missouri, for fun and fellowship. My wife and I returned to Oklahoma City on Saturday evening so as to be in church with our daughter and her fiancee Sunday morning.

The Interstates were busy: $3.00 gasoline did not seem to deter many people. Branson was crowded with visitors. New construction is under way there. And the Disney corporation has purchased a big chunk of acres near Branson to develop into some sort of tourist attraction.

We seem to be in good economic times, whatever the MSM say.

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
By now you've probably seen the stories concerning a possible lesbian affair between Hillary and her constant companion and aide Huma Abedin. The speculation concerning Hillary Clinton's sexual orientation is old news (as well as a downer for males given to lesbian fantasies). But the questions that focus on the sex, or lack of it, in this relationship miss the important point.

Jihadwatch wants to know how Huma's opinions on jihad and militant Islam affect Hillary's views. Now this is the right question. From the JihadWatch post,

An Indian Muslim scholar [Huma's father] who relocates to Saudi Arabia [where Huma grew up] and founded an institute there is most likely a Wahhabi. The article also says that Huma Abedin herself is "a Muslim” and “very conservative” -- and that she rarely leaves the Senator's side.

How can Huma possibly qualify for the Security Clearance I hope is needed to be a U.S. Senator's aide? And can she qualify for the clearance needed in the White House?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Very briefly:

The storyline today concerning background for the Annapolis summit has been the Bush administration's complete lack of interest in the Middle East peace process for the last seven years.

Much of the "expert" analysis has come from former Clinton administration officials (often not identified as such), who portray their boss as an engaged and talented diplomat in contrast to the current president, whom they paint as clueless and lazy.

Two things wrong with that commentary:

1. If Bush accomplishes absolutely nothing regarding the Middle East in eight years, that makes him even with nearly all of his predecessors (Clinton included). No points for heartbreakingly close calls. No points for kidding yourself that almost succeeding has anything in common with actual success.

2. Bush has not sat idly by for seven years. The mainstream media chorus today had it absolutely wrong in that mindless oversimplification. Bush met with the current leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and the then-PM of Israel, Ariel Sharon, back in 2003. He was the first president of the United States to call for a two-state solution (a Palestinian state), which is a big deal. He was the first president to take an active role in sidelining Yasser Arafat, which he accomplished for the most part. He was instrumental in bringing democratic reforms to Palestine (which, granted, has not worked out all that well). And, most importantly, for good or for ill, Bush committed United States blood and treasure to "remaking" the Middle East into a less hostile more modern place. The decision is still very much in doubt whether he will have one bit of success on the bigger plan--but it is pretty facile to begin every news story today with the premise that President Bush is not/has not been deeply involved in the Middle East peace process.

25/11: Men in Church

For about a century and a half now, women have outnumbered men in American churches. Look over the average American congregation on Sunday morning--more women than men. Even if you mentally remove the widows--women do live longer--and concentrate on the middle-aged and younger the results are the same in most churches.

Why? Perhaps no one answer can be given, but certainly a major reason is the "feminization of Christianity." Beginning in the 19th century, Christianity was feminized: emotion was valued more than reason, hymnody reflected a female perspective ("I Come to the Garden Alone"), and Jesus was portrayed in a feminine manner (Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling). The God of Wrath and Judgment was eased out he back door, to be replaced by the God of Compassion and Acceptance. The Augustinian/Calvinist God of Command was replaced by the Divine Lover. The "Hard Sayings" of Jesus were not highlighted in devotional literature.

This morning I attended an Antiochian Orthodox Christian church. My daughter and her fiancee were received as catechumens. He was the one first attracted to Orthodoxy. As I looked around at the congregation I noticed at least as many men as women attended. Why? This essay offers some answers.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

In a time when churches of every description are faced with Vanishing Male Syndrome, men are showing up at Eastern Orthodox churches in numbers that, if not numerically impressive, are proportionately intriguing. This may be the only church which attracts and holds men in numbers equal to women. As Leon Podles wrote in his 1999 book, "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity," "The Orthodox are the only Christians who write basso profundo church music, or need to."

Rather than guess why this is, I emailed a hundred Orthodox men, most of whom joined the Church as adults. What do they think makes this church particularly attractive to men? Their responses, below, may spark some ideas for leaders in other churches, who are looking for ways to keep guys in the pews.

From 1987-1994 I served as pastor of a rural Reformed congregation that was traditional Dutch. We had about equal numbers of men and women on Sunday mornings, including complete families--husband, wife, children. What we had in common with the Orthodoxy of the essay was a conservative theology that emphasized God, strong expectations for the Christian life, relatively little emphasis on the trivialities of pietism (several of our men gathered outside the building to smoke, many of them drank beer at home), male leadership of the congregation, and worship that focused on God and God's Word.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Over the Thanksgiving weekend I spoke with an Iowa political officeholder and Democrat. This person and spouse will caucus for Edwards, as they did in 04.

Some observations:

Clinton and Obama have support, but may not have snowy-night depth of commitment. (In the Iowa caucuses, you must show up in someone's living room or community building on the appointed night in order to caucus. Weather can play a factor. Snow, ice, twenty below with a wind, will test the heartfelt commitment of a caucus-goer.) My source thought Clinton's supporters were more the products of organization and money, not genuine enthusiasm; and that Obama's supporters tended to be young and might not actually show up in the strength of their numbers. Conclusion: if the weather is good and the night mild, Clinton and Obama probably will fight it out for the Iowa win. If the weather is bad, then Edwards.

Speaking of Republicans. My source thinks that the Romney and Guiliani probably are leading and may win on a pleasant evening. In case of bad weather, then Huckabee. The reasoning is the same as for Clinton v. Edwards above.

btw, in and otherwise sane and stable person, my source's depth of Bush-hatred is troubling
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the New York Times:

In U.S. Name Count, Garcias Are Catching Up With Joneses

"Smith remains the most common surname in the United States, according to a new analysis released yesterday by the Census Bureau. But for the first time, two Hispanic surnames — Garcia and Rodriguez — are among the top 10 most common in the nation, and Martinez nearly edged out Wilson for 10th place."

Later in the article:

"Generations ago, immigration officials sometimes arbitrarily Anglicized or simplified names when foreigners arrived from Europe.

'"The movie studios used to demand that their employees have standard Waspy names,' said Justin Kaplan, an historian and co-author of 'The Language of Names.'"

"'Now, look at Renée Zellweger,' Mr. Kaplan said."

Tocqueville observes:

"There's a bit of unintended humor here. The NYT assures us that, until recently, the movie studios insisted on Anglo-Saxon ("Waspy") names. As a sign of progress, look at the success of Rene Zellweger. Zellweger being, well, uh, German. This is obviously a real advance from the days when Otto Preminger, Zero Mostel, Maximilian Schell, and Marlene Dietrich were forced to call themselves Otto Preminger, Zero Mostel, Maximilian Schell, and Marlene Dietrich. Think of the case of poor Yul Brynner!"
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few weekends ago, my sons and I went to see Bee Movie. I have a few brief thoughts on the film eventually, but first a thought or two about fatherhood:

In many ways, I was "born again" (again) on May 12, 1999 (the birthday of my first son).

The act of being a father to my two boys fundamentally changed my perspective on life.

I am a history teacher by vocation--and an historian by avocation. However, I did not truly understand the interconnectedness (the true power) of history until the birth of my sons.

An example: in the Stephen Spielberg film, Amistad, slavers fall upon the protagonist of the story, (we know him as Joseph Cinqué). The kidnapping proves violently disturbing--but, for me, the most bone-crushingly brutal shot is the one in which Cinqué's son, who does not witness the scuffle, sees only an empty frame where his father should be. They boy registers a slightly confused expression as to why his father is no longer visible; he is unaware that dad is gone for good. But we know, of course, what he does not.

The boy's face never fails to hit me like a sledgehammer. True, Cinqué has lost his freedom--but the much more profound tragedy is that a son has lost his father. Who will protect, teach, and love this boy? In that one scene, we begin to comprehend the enormity of the slavery holocaust, the catastrophic hole in the fabric of West African society that greatly exceeded the mere loss of individual liberty.

One other example: understanding the love of God.

The metaphor of God the Father is ubiquitous throughout the Bible. However, the analogy has virtually no meaning to anyone who has not experienced parental love, which is quite impossible to understand fully from a child's point of view (the object of the love). While I knew all my life that my parents loved me, I had no idea what that all-consuming, self-sacrificing, life-giving brand of higher love meant until I experienced fatherhood.

"What father when his son asks for a fish would hand him a serpent instead?" Before parenthood: a pretty bad one? After parenthood: Ah, I understand now. The Parable of the Prodigal Son: my voice cracks, my throat constricts, and my eyes fill with tears reading aloud the story, as I imagine the unspeakable joy of the father when he first catches a distant glimpse of his lost child coming home.

What does this have to do with Jerry Seinfeld?

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
This past Saturday afternoon, November 17, about 100 members of our community gathered in the warm fall Oklahoma sunshine to dedicate the new Veterans' Park on the north edge of town, at the highway intersection.

Led by the Chamber of Commerce, and involving other organizations, our town of Apache chose to observe the Oklahoma Centennial by building a new park in honor of our veterans. The county brought in fill dirt to create a circle perhaps 40 feet in diameter at the level of the highway. A contractor poured concrete, then memorial bricks were laid to form the surface, each containing the name of a veteran with dates of service. A stone memorial was placed in the center, inscribed with the names of 30 sons of our town, and the surrounding countryside, who either died in service, or were POWs. The population of Apache is less than 2000.

The first name is that of CPL Roy L. Rinker, U.S. Army, World War 1, Died of Wounds Oct. 5, 1918. The most recent death inscribed is that of CPL Joshua J. Ware, U.S. Marine Corps, War on Terrorism, Killed in Action Nov. 16, 2005. (I posted about his funeral here.) Also on the stone, LT Pascal C. Poolaw, Sr., U.S. Army, Vietnam War, Killed in Action Nov. 7, 1967. He remains the most decorated Native American to have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Among the POWs, SSG Bruce W. Klinekole, U.S. Army, World War II, POW Apr 9, 1942 to Sep 1, 1945. He survived the Bataan Death March and was liberated from a Japanese prison camp in Manchuria. A complete list of names is below the fold.

A week or two before the dedication volunteers spent most of a Saturday laying sod, planting bushes and trees, erecting two flagpoles, and installing lights.

We gathered on the 17th as an Army brass quintet from Ft. Sill played. A welcome was given, a prayer offered, the National Anthem sung, guests introduced, participating organizations recognized, and the history of the project related. Then Lanny Asepermy, a member of the Comanche Indian Veterans' Association and retired Army Sergeant Major, read the names of those on the monument. As he does whenever he speaks on behalf of veterans, Lanny said: "Only two defining forces have offered to die for you--one is Jesus Christ for your soul. The other is the American soldier for your freedom." A gun salute was fired, and taps played. Two state legislators and a National Guard Brigadier General spoke briefly. Then we adjourned to the Community Center for refreshments.

As I sat in the crowd, two voices ran through my mind. I heard Merle sing in his voice at once common and profound:

We don't our burn draft cards down on Main Street
'Cause we like living right and being free

I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down by the court house
And white lightning's still the biggest thrill of all

And I heard words from another November day, at another dedication; words delivered in a high-pitched voice that carried the sound of Kentucky in it, spoken on a ridge in south-central Pennslvania decades before I was born.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

May God grant us strength so to resolve in our generation.

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Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
Archealogists in Italy think they may have found the cave ancient Romans regarded as the place where Romulus and Remus, the mythic founders of Rome, were suckled by the wolf. It has been known that the Romans regarded a cave as the sacred Lupercale and conducted worship there. What has been unknown to modern scholars was the location of the cave. Now we may know. The Adventure Continues. Story here.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Tuesday on Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed Washington Post correspondent Thomas Ricks.

Gross tasked Ricks, the author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, with explaining how the much-ballyhooed "surge" is, in fact, failing miserably.

He was the right man for the job. In essence:

Technically, the Anbar Awakening, the "new life in Baghdad," the decreasing levels of violence against American servicepersons, and the plummeting incidents of sectarian violence in Iraq are all positive signs. But the real truth is that none of that matters. The real problem is the "intransigence of the Shia-dominated government."

That is, George Bush said the surge was designed to provide "breathing space" to bring about a political solution. The political solution (at least at the national level) has not materialized; therefore, the surge has failed. Which means Harry Reid was right: "the war is lost" (and a Fiasco, for that matter).

Nothing like some objective analysis from an expert reporter with no axes to grind.

Actually, Ricks merely voiced the opposition talking points already making the rounds. I have avoided this phrase: "Democrats are invested in defeat." However, the utter refusal to accept the objective reality that the surge has worked and opened up new possibilities in Iraq leaves me little choice.

The most pressing question in American politics today remains whether Democrats are willing to forego political advantage to save the country.
From the Washington Post:

"The top three Democratic presidential contenders remain locked in a close battle in Iowa, with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) seeing her advantages diminish on key issues, including the questions of experience and which candidate is best prepared to handle the war in Iraq, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Poll."

The Latest in Iowa:
Obama 30
Clinton 26
John Edwards 22
Bill Richardson 11

What does it mean?

First a few things to keep in mind:

Iowa has always been an obstacle for Hillary. So much so that she even considered bypassing the caucus; as a result, she was late in committing to contest Iowa. Why? Bill did not run a campaign in Iowa back in 1992 because Tom Harkin was running for president, so the exceptionally talented Clinton brain trust lacks experience in the Hawkeye State. The Edwards campaign, on the other hand, ran strong there in 2004 and opened the 2008 contest with a significant organizational advantage. Exciting newcomer, Barack Obama, hails from a neighboring state.

Perhaps more problematic, the polling data suggests a personal distaste for the candidate. Iowans question her honesty, perceiving her as guarded and calculating. For some anecdotal evidence from the Bosque Boys archives, you can review the Okie Gardener's on-the-ground reporting from Iowa early this summer (within a conversation we had back then) here. In a nutshell: Iowa is not a good fit for the Clinton candidacy. Iowans seem especially unimpressed, suspicious, and unfriendly to her personally.

Something Technical. There is always a lag time in polling. Any sampling represents merely a snapshot of opinion from a certain period, in this instance, November 14-18. It is reasonable to surmise that Hillary's poor debate performance two weeks ago and her subsequent scramble influenced that data, while her comeback performance in Las Vegas had little impact on the poll. So, for the next week, we are going to be talking about what 500 Iowans thought last week. In the back and forth of a year-long presidential nominating campaign, one set of those numbers is not especially significant.

The Real Danger for Clinton

Having said that, while the poll reflects merely a tiny ripple, the real import of the poll will be in how much it accelerates a potentially hazardous trend. Hillary Clinton is at risk while this storyline dominates the news cycle. Nothing has changed in real terms--but her campaign is in danger as long as the interested public consciousness perceives a contest in flux or, even worse, a momentum shift.

What does all this mean nationally?

To reiterate, not much has changed. Candidate Clinton can overcome a modest loss in Iowa, because she has the best organization. She is prepared to compete in every state primary following Iowa. Of course, a win in Iowa would be huge for her. A win would come very close to clinching her aura of inevitability and set in motion all the elements needed for a landslide victory.

This poll is another installment of the same sobering story for John Edwards. Iowa is make or break for him. If John Edwards does not win Iowa, he is finished. He is not gaining ground. To a lesser extent, this poll is bad news for Bill Richardson as well, who remains flat. He broke 10 percent in late summer, but he seems stuck there.

The poll is obviously good news for Barack Obama, who has proven himself a dynamic campaigner in Iowa. His performance there has confirmed the notion that he is a real political force on the national level. A win in Iowa gives him a real boost and makes him the only alternative to Hillary in the ensuing contests.

However, if the Illinois senator, a favorite son from a neighboring state does not win in Iowa, he will be damaged. He will still have plenty of money with which to dust himself off, get back in the race, and go on to New Hampshire--but he will need to draw an inside straight from there to pull out the nomination.

For more on Obama's dilemma, my post from last week: The Power of Obama is palpable, but, then again, he is no Jack Kennedy.


I will recycle this old one, quoting myself from July (full previous post here):

"Right now Mrs. Clinton holds a comfortable lead. Most likely, Obama will continue to rise in the polls until he is even with Clinton, possibly even surpass Clinton, and then peak. These will be tense moments. Both camps will develop a deep dislike for the other. Then Mrs. Clinton's experience and superior organization will take over, the adults in the Democratic Party will exert their influence, Clinton will pull back ahead of Obama, and then pull away from him down the stretch. Then Mrs. Clinton will extend a gracious hand of friendship to Obama and offer him the VP. Obama will seize the opportunity to further his political education and prepare for his ultimate elevation to the Chief Executive. And they both shall live happily ever after.

"On the other hand, so much can go wrong. If Obama catches fire, and wins the nomination (still an entirely plausible potential outcome), all bets are off. Obama is the one viable candidate of inexperience."

As Tom Patterson likes to say, "I wouldn't bet my house on anything right now," but, even with that hedge, Mrs. Clinton's organization is going to be very difficult to beat. One thing is certain: it is definitely "crunch" time; the long pre-campaign season is quickly drawing to a close, and it is "now or never" for this whole slate of candidates.

UPDATE: The Bosque Boys welcome Slate readers. Thanks to Laurel Wamsley for noticing us in her "Today's Blogs: The Latest Chatter in Cyberspace" column.
"It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism." G.K. Chesterton in "Three Foes of the Family" found in the collection of his essays The Well and the Shallows.

To many American evangelicals, or other conservative American Christians, the above quotation may sound strange. This sense of strangeness occurs because by the early 1800s most American evangelicals were embracing capitalism. Earlier Protestants had some initial reservations about capitalism, for example the Puritans insisted that all human relations, including economic, were subject to God's righteous morality, so that prices, for example, should be fair rather than simply what the market would bear. Even over a century after the Puritans, debates were conducted in some Protestant papers during the Panic of 1837 between those who thought Christians should pay living wages and not take advantage of the troubles of others to buy land too cheaply, and those who advocated following the market. Those who embraced the capitalist market economy won in almost all denominations. The changes involved were not limited to economic transactions. By the mid-to-latter 1800s most evangelical churches had begun to act like other parts of the capitalist market economy, seeing people as consumers who needed to be targeted, and tailoring their approaches and product so as to appeal to the largest market segment. Today's mega-churches, the Box Stores of Christianity, are the culmination of this trend: consumers come for the most personal value for the cheapest price. In addition, the Red Scares and the Cold War pushed many American denominations into supporting the American Way of Life against "godless Boshevism" or "atheistic Communism." Capitalism was regarded as an essential part of the American Way. Therefore, any criticism of capitalism, implied or explicit, falls on ears of American Christians like a foreign language.

I have been approaching this quotation at a glacial pace precisely because Chesterton's words will sound strange to many. In the first post, I presented some brief biographical information on G.K. Chesterton. In the second and third posts I tried to introduce Chesterton's economic preference, Distributivism. My hope is that today's post has created an awareness that Christianity has not always and everywhere seen Capitalism as a godly system. Next, G.K.'s Roman Catholicism and economics.

If you have not already done so, I recommend you take a look at the American Chesterton Society website, and also that of Gilbert Magazine.
For years, Reagan detractors have tenaciously clung to a memory that portrays the "Great Communicator" not so subtly appealing to white racists by kicking off his 1980 presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi, the infamous scene of the horrific murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.

Last week in the New York Times, columnist Bob Herbert asserted that Reagan "was elbow deep in the same old race-baiting Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon."

Herbert's analysis (in full here):

"Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans — they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew.

"He was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about 'states’ rights' to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you."

In an op-ed piece in the Times today (Sunday), long-time Ronald Reagan chronicler, Lou Cannon, rejects "the notion that...Reagan defeated President Jimmy Carter in 1980 by a coded appeal to white-supremacist voters."

Cannon writes:

"The mythology of Neshoba is wrong in two distinct ways. First, Ronald Reagan was not a racist. Second, his Neshoba speech was not an effective symbolic appeal to white voters. Instead, it was a political misstep that cost him support."

The article (in full here) is worth the read. No one knew the real Ronald Reagan better than Cannon as a reporter and subsequent biographer. In addition to his testimony to Reagan's character, Cannon makes an important point that the appeal to race (such as it was) in Neshoba County played no positive role in the election. He also reminds us that the negative publicity surrounding the incident emanated from the Carter campaign, which quickly seized upon the embarrassing appearance immediately and spun the incident into a long-lasting negative Reagan myth. Cannon also reminds us that Reagan was not born a candidate with perfect political pitch; rather, the "Great Communicator" grew into the job.

An aside: Gordon Wood tells a story about George Washington in which his contemporaries imagined that he was born into this world fully clothed and, upon arrival, quickly executed a flawless gentlemanly bow before his audience. It is sometimes hard to keep in mind the human limitations of our heroes

Having said all that, Cannon does not completely exonerate Reagan in my mind. The question remains: ultimately unsuccessful or not, what message was the candidate attempting to convey with this clumsy stop so near to the tragic events of the summer of 1964?

Important Item: The well-argued defense of Reagan at Neshoba by David Brooks earlier in the month here.
Josef Pieper, the Thomist philospher and professor at the University of Munster, wrote

As we all know, under [the conditions of tyranny] no one dares to trust anyone else. Candid communication dries up; and there arises that special kind of unhealthy wordlessness which is not silence so much as muteness. This is what happens to human intercourse under the peculiar pressures of dictatorship. Under conditions of freedom, however, human beings speak uninhibitedly to one another. How illuminating this contrast is! For in the face of it, we suddenly become aware of the degree of human closeness, mutual affirmation, communion, that resides in the simple fact that people listen to each other.

Every healthy community puts some boundaries on free speech: no incitement to riot or shouting of fire where there is none. Such restrictions are not tyranny, rather they are the protection of liberty against anarchy. Similarly healthy communities have protections against libel, and requirements for truth, such as in court proceedings. Again, these are not hinderances but aids to ordered liberty. Communities may even hold some words and phrases to be slanderous in and of themselves, offensive to human dignity, and not to be used, such as the N word. Again, restrictions such as this are not tyrannical, but safeguards of true liberty, for their use historically has been to restrict the freedom of those so termed.

But, for healthy community to flourish, as Dr. Pieper points out, people must be free to speak and willing to listen. Conversely, an unhealthy muteness replaces genuine community when under tyranny people are afraid to speak. I think he here specifically refers to our own testimony to events, experiences, perceptions, and especially to ideas.

Of the many bad effects the tyranny of "political correctness" brings, I think the worst is the destruction of human community as we lapse into unhealthy wordlessness over certain issues. Farmer recently pointed out the Cost of Free Speech. What he meant, of course, were the consequences of raising forbidden perceptions and ideas: censure, career damage, labelling. Because of these consequences, most simply do not speak about certain things, becoming mute. And certainly those who are "enlightened" will not listen to another human being if forbidden perceptions or ideas are spoken. Human community is destroyed. Trust is lost.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I first called Mitch McConnell the "new master of the senate" on February 9, 2007. Ten days later, the headline atop a Fred Barnes piece in the Weekly Standard enshrined the moniker publicly. Of course, I am not looking for credit. We all borrowed the label from Robert Caro's LBJ biography, the third volume of which chronicled Johnson's Senate years.

My point: Mitch McConnell and his leadership brings something very special to the Republican Party (for review: this thread includes three of my earlier posts concerning the Minority Leader).

Listening to McConnell on Hugh Hewitt's show last night, I was reminded that the senior senator from Kentucky is in a real race for reelection in 2008. Democrats are going to run strong across the nation with plenty of money, enthusiasm, and momentum. Moreover, they are gunning for McConnell.

We lost three great Republican senators in 2006: Rick Santorum, Mike DeWine, and Jim Talent. Those were tragic, epic losses.

The GOP may not return to the majority in 2008, but we will someday. And when we do, we are going to need the leadership of Mitch McConnell.

Here is his campaign website: Team Mitch. Join Team Mitch today!
Category: Campaign 2008.6
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Some quick notes on the Democratic debate in Las Vegas (the rebroadcast of which I watched beginning at 5:35 this morning on C-SPAN2):

1. When Barack Obama finally had to answer the "driver's license for illegals" question, his position proved even more confusing and seemingly half-baked (even with two weeks to think about it) than Mrs. Clinton's now famous hiccup.

2. All candidates seem to agree that if we just get the federal government MORE involved in education, everything will be coming up roses. Most of them don't like "no child left behind," which up until now has been the most extensive federal intervention in education ever. Why? The current program is tainted by Bush fingerprints. No surprise there. One thing on which they all agree: the President has never done anything right. But they all promise to get a centrally managed national education infrastructure off the ground and correctly supervised, which will solve all current problems. By the way, they also agree that the teachers unions are doing a heckuva job.

3. Bill Richardson said (in essence, twice) "democracy and human rights" in foreign lands trumped vital national interests. Obama and a few others said we could do both. The adults (Hillary Clinton being one of them) explained that our hallowed American principles should drive foreign policy, and they are not necessarily mutually exclusive with national interest--but, sometimes, they diverge. When this happens, a president takes an oath to protect national interests (not promote democracy and human rights abroad). It was a telling exchange.

4. Richardson, Kucinich, and Obama all called the "surge" a failed strategy and called for an immediate withdrawal of US troops in Iraq. Mercifully, Clinton was not asked to comment on the obvious success of the surge. I would have liked to hear her answer.

5. Hillary nailed the "gender card" response. Wolf Blitzer asked if anyone else wanted to follow her. Everyone but John Edwards wisely stayed mum. Edwards, the most feminine candidate on the stage, prattled on a bit about equality and fairness and then tailed off. Did I hear a niner in there?

6. Hillary is back. Obama and Edwards are where they have always been (number two and a distant third, respectively).

7. CNN was okay. Wolf Blitzer is not nearly as talented as Tim Russert or Brian Williams, but he is a pleasant fellow. The audience participation portion was worthless. Anyone want to talk about questions that are stiff and staged? They were all out of central casting in terms of what Democrats think Americans look like.
Nobody Knows Anything--but here goes nothing:

The Party of Jackson:

There are four people in this world who might possibly win the Democratic nomination for 2008. One is too fat physically, mentally, and socially. One is too green (the wrong color to be when up against a lean, mean, fighting machine). One is too light (if he were a Republican running for president in 2000, we would have said, "he lacked gravitas"). That leaves the most manly competitor of the Democratic field, Hillary Clinton.

FYI: I know nothing of the debate tonight. History is unfolding as I write, which may be making my predictions obsolete.

The Party of Lincoln:

Rudy is out. Forget about the polls. I love Rudy. I really do. But every passing day makes it clearer and clearer to me that Rudy is not the kind of fellow who takes the GOP nomination. He is too New York. He is too lawyerly. He is on his third marriage. His kids don't seem to like him. Bernie Kerik. Judith Regan. Gun Control. Pro Choice. Not going to happen. Rudy for AG. Rudy for DHS. But never on a GOP ticket.

John McCain is still out. He is a fighter. He would have been a great president. He is smart. He is tough. He understands the art of the deal. But he is a non-starter at this point.

Mike Huckabee is the fresh-faced wild card. He will make an impact--but he probably doesn't have the foundation for a legitimate run at the big time. He will be exciting, but, in the end, he probably falls well short.

Mitt Romney has a great strategy and a lot of money. Although he is nowhere in the polls right now, his campaign is the smartest and best funded. He could take off in Iowa and New Hampshire, gain momentum, and stampede the competition. The Mormon thing is a minor nuisance. I continue to believe his religion is a non-issue for most people. Would it come up eventually? Yes. If nominated, Democrats would make sure every evangelical in America knew Romney was Mormon--and we would find out more about Mormonism between Labor Day and Halloween than we had learned over a lifetime. Remember how John Kerry and John Edwards both took great pains to interject Mary Cheney's homosexuality into the national debates? We would see a plethora of Mormon stories from all angles, all the while bemoaning the fact that so many Americans were still so closed minded. Double prizes. Submarine the GOP candidate while spreading ugly stereotypes about GOP voters. But I don't think it gets that far. Romney is too Massachusetts. He has too many center-left skeletons in his closet. I can see how he wins the nomination--but my gut feeling is that he will not.

This leaves Fred. He has a horrible organization and he his currently running the worst campaign. But he is the best candidate. That is, he is the most convincing, most likable, most consistent conservative in the race. He very likely wins by default. After everybody else craters, Fred takes the part.

I hate to mention this--but things are so crazy this year, I think it is actually possible, for the first time since 1976, to have a convention in which the winner is not apparent going in. Things are so murky that several candidates might emerge and split votes in the front-loaded primaries, leaving several candidates with healthy delegate totals but not a majority. If that unlikely eventuality comes to pass, then the convention would be a throwback to something from the last century, and some other prominent Republican might likely emerge as the GOP standard bearer. But that's probably just wishful thinking from the historian in me.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Ohhhh yeah. Muscle cars. I know lust is wrong, but man oh man what beauties. And if I were a rich man, duh duh dee dee dee dee duh, I'd have this baby, a '56 T-Bird. Or, maybe this one, a Jaguar XJ12 (the 12 means 12 cylinders.) And I want this one too, a 1954 GMC pickup.
Category: Texas 17
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Washington Post:

House Approves Bill Linking War Funds, Troop Withdrawals

"The House yesterday approved a war funding bill that directs President Bush to withdraw most troops from Iraq by the end of next year, escalating a feud between the White House and congressional Democrats over spending priorities in wartime.

"The measure...passed 218 to 203...."

The Senate is likely to torpedo the bill this week. In the event something miraculous happens and the measure passes the Upper Chamber, the President will quickly veto and the process will restart.


Republican Mike Pence offered a succinct summary to this increasingly tiresome charade:

"With unambiguous evidence of progress on the ground in Iraq, the Democrats in Congress have seemed to add denial to the agenda of retreat and defeat."

Fifteen Democrats with good sense and an extra integrity chromosome decided NOT to participate in this latest Nancy, John, and Rahm tea party. Unfortunately, my congressman (George Bush's congressman), Chet Edwards, was not one of the stout-hearted few.

You would think Chet could throw us a bone on a vote this meaningless.

This session has proved incredibly disappointing (perhaps humiliating is a better word) for Chet's erstwhile Republican backers.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Here in Oklahoma we are celebrating our centennial. (Well, white Oklahoma is, but that's a different story.) As part of the festivities many towns are writing local histories, some even performing plays and pageants based on their stories. One such community is Ada, in south-central Oklahoma. Here is an excerpt from the Ada Evening News.

In 1909, Ada was a thriving little town of 5,000 that had the reputation of being one of the toughest places in the whole Southwest. The west end of Ada’s Main Street was lined with bootlegging dives, and the town had 36 murders during 1908. Crime went unpunished, for the most part. Moman Pruiett was a brilliant criminal lawyer in Pauls Valley who had defended 343 persons charged with murder and, with his flamboyant way of charming juries, had succeeded in gaining acquittals for 303 of them.

The town was full of gunfighters employed by one of two factions that had long been feuding. On one side was Gus Bobbitt and on the other side were Joe Allen and Jesse West. Constant warfare went on between the two sides. Ada was a frontier town trying to resolve itself into some semblance of law and order, and though there were some who were determined to have respectability prevail, they were in a tough spot.

Gus Bobbitt began to curry favor with the law-abiding element and was successful in gaining a better reputation. He had served as a U.S. Marshall during the Cleveland administration, and he was a Mason, a strong organization in Ada. Bobbitt’s wife, three sons and a daughter had the approval of the social set, which was a big point in Bobbitt’s favor.

. . . When Bobbitt was assassinated
Further investigation indicated that Bobbitt’s old enemies, Joe Allen and Jesse West, had hired Miller to kill Bobbitt. Miller was caught near Fort Worth and brought to Ada by George Culver, Ada’s police chief. Allen and West were arrested shortly thereafter along with a man named B.B. Burrell who had acted as an intermediary between Miller and his employers. They were all in the Pontotoc county jail.

Miller laughed at the nervousness of Allen and West who, knowing Ada, were concerned about their fate. Miller continued to dress well and to eat well, having food sent over from the Elite Café. He wanted all to know that they had hired the Pauls Valley lawyer, Moman Pruiett, and that they would be exonerated of charges.

On a Sunday night in April, Ada’s electricity and telephone service were cut off and a group of between 40 and 50 men came into the jail, overpowered and tied up the guards and took out the four men being held for the Bobbitt murder. They took these prisoners to the old Frisco barn about 30 feet from the jail and hanged them with ropes from the rafters in the barn. Then the group of nameless citizens who had their bellies full of lawlessness in Ada dispersed down an alley to their homes. No news ever leaked about their identity.

Vigilante Justice was common on the frontier, as ordinary means of law enforcement proved inadequate to the challenge. And this during the days before "criminal rights", when bounties sometimes were placed on the heads of wanted men, dead or alive. Perhaps the most famous example of the rewards put on outlaws was the $10,000 offered for Jesse James by Missouri governor Crittenden, which prompted a member of James' own gang to shoot him for the reward. After the Civil War violence plagued my home state of Missouri until bounties were placed on wanted men, dead or alive.(more below)

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Tom Friedman has a bizarre column in the NYT today:

"Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda"

He posits:

"On Sept. 11, 2001, the OPEC basket oil price was $25.50 a barrel. On Nov. 13, 2007, the OPEC basket price was around $90 a barrel."

Ouch. You have my attention.

More Friedman:

"In the wake of 9/11, some of us pleaded for a 'patriot tax' on gasoline of $1 or more a gallon to diminish the transfers of wealth we were making to the very countries who were indirectly financing the ideologies of intolerance that were killing Americans and in order to spur innovation in energy efficiency by U.S. manufacturers.

"But no, George Bush and Dick Cheney had a better idea. And the Democrats went along for the ride. They were all going to let the market work and not let our government shape that market — like OPEC does."

As Friedman notes, obviously the President's path proved rocky. But then Friedman makes this outlandish series of counter-factual claims based on the assertions of two economists:

If the feds had instituted a one-dollar per gallon tax on gasoline back in late 2001...

1. We could have replaced the current payroll tax with a gasoline tax. Middle-class consumers would have seen increased take-home pay of between six and nine percent, even though they would have had to pay more at the pump.

2. A stronger foundation for future economic growth would have been laid by keeping more oil revenue home, and we might not now be facing a recession.

3. As a higher gas tax discouraged oil consumption, the price of oil would fall in world markets. As a result, the price of gas to [U.S.] consumers would rise by less than the increase in the tax.

4. The U.S. consumers would have known that, with a higher gasoline tax locked in for good, pump prices would never be going back to the old days, so they would have a much stronger incentive to switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles and Detroit would have had to make more hybrids to survive. This would have put Detroit five years ahead of where it is now.

Run that by me again.
I am no economist--but I want to know why a one-dollar tax increase would have initiated market forces, but a two-dollar increase in the actual price has not. Moreover, why would another dollar increase at this point stimulate us toward a wiser energy policy when the two-dollar increase we currently bemoan has made almost no impact on our culture or politics?

On the other hand, if we want to play the "what if" and "crystal ball" game, we might also speculate that a one-dollar tax increase in 2001 or 2002 very likely would have exacerbated the recession we were actually in back then. We might never have had a recovery to lose. We might also assume that China and other emerging economies would have continued to expand at the same rate of growth. We can safely assume that we would have faced the same impasse in Congress in re expanding refining capacity, and surely we would have suffered Katrina even with a tax increase. It is hard to see how a one-dollar per gallon tax increase would have been the magic elixir as advertised by Tom Friedman.

I am all for energy independence. But I'll pass on the snake oil.
Democrats claim that under the Bush administration America has lost standing with the rest of the world. I wonder who, exactly, they are talking about. Voters in Germany and France have elected leaders who support U.S. policy. Great Britain still does, though not as vocally as under Tony Blair. And now Denmark has re-elected pro-U.S. Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen. Story here on Gateway Pundit. Meanwhile several Eastern European nations would like U.S. NATO forces based in their countries.
Tenured faculty members have passed a No Confidence resolution on President Richard Roberts. Story.

Oral Roberts University is significant in American Christianity because it an attempt to fuse pentecostalism with the institutional structure of a liberal arts university (as opposed to small Bible Colleges) and a modern medical center.

Pentecostalism has tended to favor personalities over structures and established procedures. It seems like Richard Roberts inherited the presidency because he was Oral's son. In this case, leadership change suffered from the pentecostal prediliction toward personalities and away from structural procedures.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here. The story speaks for itself.
Another product with dangers; and this goes beyond lead paint in toys.

VIRUS: Investigators say the tainted Maxtor portable hard disc, made by Seagate, uploads information saved on the computer automatically to Web sites in Beijing

Buy an external hard drive, have your data sent to websites in China. Just great. Why do we still have open free trade with these *ssh*l*s?

Post on Wizbang with links. The quotation above from the Taipei Times. (It is in English so click no if asked to install language packet.)
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The thought of Hillary in the White House frightens me. And I am not talking about Bill roaming the halls at night in search of young interns.

1. Hillary is an internationalist. She favors international organizations over national interests. To see what such a mentality leads to, look at the EU: rule by unelected burearcrats. She does not seem to prize the hard-won liberties of our Anglo-American heritage.

2. Hillary is duplicitous, ruthless, and believes herself to be above the law. See Whitewater, FBI files, and character assassination.

3. Hillary's vision for America includes a much larger and more powerful central government, leading to the continued decline of localism, individualism, and the family.

4. Hillary will nominate judges who share her views. We will be living under the rulings of these jurists long after 4 or 8 years.

Do the other Democratic candidates share her views? In part they do. But no other one candidate brings quite the same package she does.
Story here, with link to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

The Ft. Worth, Texas, man had the DVD playing in his vehicle when police spotted it. He was arrested for obscene display, not having a drivers' license, and for an open alcohol container.

Should the police have acted when they saw the images on the screen? Was this an invasion of the man's privacy?

I think it was a good arrest. A car is not private space, but at best semi-private space; which means semi-public space. In order for a driver to see out, others will be able to see in. I think the same would even hold if a person watched pornography near enough an uncurtained window for someone to see in.

The argument that if you don't like it don't watch it, has only limited merit. We also do not want our children exposed to it. Watching pornography in automobiles exposes our children to the images.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
According to an AP story linked by Drudge:

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney said Saturday his political advisers have warned him against giving a speech explaining his Mormon faith.

This morning I heard Mark Davis, the excellent WBAP talk-show host, urging Romney to make the speech, to explain his religion in order to win evangelicals. I now reprint my earlier post on the question, explaining why I do think giving the speech would backfire.

The other morning I heard a radio talk-show host opine that for Romney to break out of the low poll numbers, he would need to address the fact of his Mormonism head-on. The host said that Romney should give the nation a short-course in Mormonism. Perhaps he meant that conservative unease with the thought of a Mormon president was due to fear of the unknown.

But fear of the unknown is not the problem. Southern evangelicals are in a battle for converts with Mormon missionaries, the nearly ubiquitous pairs of neatly dressed young men and women who can be seen walking or bicycling through suburbs everywhere. In the South especially, Mormons present themselves very much as the church of God and country, patriotism and traditional morality. Local Southern Baptists feel the Mormon missionaries are stealing their best lines. In Sunday School classes and from pulpits conservative church-goers are warned against "the cults;" that list includes Mormonism.

For Romney to address his Mormonism explicitly in a high-profile way carries a great political risk. So long as conservative Christians don't think about his religion, Romney could seem an attractive candidate. But if he were to address his religion in an attention-getting fashion, tens-of-thousands of evangelicals will get the heebie-jeebies. They have been primed to react this way.

And, there is another reason for Romney not to give the address the radio host called for. Trying to explain Mormonism, even in a short course, will involve the now-you-see-them, now-you-don't Golden Plates, the belief that "God" is Adam-become-the-god-for-this-world, that any male Mormon potentially can become a god with his own world, that there are a potentially infinite number of gods, that women reach a place in paradise based on the achievements of their man, etc. The buzz generated by a Romney Mormonism speech will bring up not just polygamy, but also holy underwear, the former ban on black priests, and the "history" of North America that contradicts everything anthropology and archealogy teaches. He would risk alienating many beyond the evangelical base whose reaction might be, "that's just plain weird."

I don't think Romney has a snowball's chance to capture the 08 Republican nomination.

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
If you close your eyes at an Indian pow-wow, you can imagine yourself anywhere, or anywhen. The men beating the drum in the center of the circle keep up a complex rhythm that sounds on the surface deceptively simple, boom boom boom. The men singers and lady singers do songs in which rhythm and pitch seem to matter as much as the words. While the drummers around here mostly use Southern Style, if you close your eyes, you could be in Oklahoma, or New Mexico, or Texas. With a little imagination you could be anywhere in the world people gather round the drum to sing and dance. Or, you could be anywhen, now or the last century or 3000 years ago. The drum, the singing, the dancing.

Tonight at the Veterans' Day pow-wow put on by the Comanche Indian Veterans Association veterans were honored individually, called into the place of honor during the dance, one at a time. Between dances they were called to the east side of the circle, in small groups, and given gifts. Warriors honored for their service. It does not take much imagination to see other places, other times--the drums and dancing and honor given to warriors: red skin or white skin or black skin or yellow skin or brown skin.

War has been a constant of human history. Before there were nations to defend, there were tribes, clans, families. Apaches in the old days lived in temporary brush shelters, resembling brown igloos with a long entrance passageway. The man slept in the entrance passage, the woman and children in the main body of the shelter. Anyone entering had to get past the man, the warrior.

Tribes and peoples of any and all times and places honored their warriors, for the survival of The People depended upon the courage and tenacity of the men.

We modern Americans tend to think peace is the normal state of humanity, interupted by occasional war. Many Americans even think that wars somehow will not involve us if we give no provocation. Perhaps, we dream, with enough food and education and the spread of democracy or construction of international organizations wars will cease. So we dreamed in 1918, when at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month The Armistice took effect. But, we learned differently on December 7, 1941. And Armistice Day became Veteran's Day to include those who fought in another war after The War to End All Wars.

So it continues. Our nation will remain free only so long as we have courageous and tenacious warriors, men who will put themselves between those who sleep and danger. Men who think that home and family and country are worth dying for. In the case of the United States, that liberty is worth dying for. G.K. Chesterton, criticizing the descent of England into merely commercial enterprise, wrote: Men must in the last resort love it; for the simple reason that men must in the last resort die for it. No community or constitution can survive and retain its identity at all, that has not in the minds of its subjects enough of an ideal identity, to appear to them in certain extremes of peril as the vision of something to be saved. It is on that ideal, inhering in the reality, that every state will depend when there is a struggle of life and death. And we will have such warriors only so long as warriors are honored, and remembered.
Norman Mailer is dead. AP story here. Author of many books including The Naked and the Dead, The Executioner's Song, The Armies of the Night, and Harlot's Ghost.

He was An Important Novelist back when that phrase meant something, when people expectantly awaited the next book from Mailer, or Vidal, or Updyke. Novels no longer have a big place in contemporary culture. People await movies, or television shows, or video games. I do not think I am simply being a Luddite or curmudgeon when I say it is a shame.

A good novel immerses the reader in a slice of the universe, real or imagined, in a way that a movie cannot. Movies are flat. The nature of their medium prohibits the kind of richly detailed characters, events, and issues that one can find in a rich novel. Compare Moby Dick to any movie made from it, or read Rabbit, Run then watch the movie (to take nothing away from James Caan). Read a James Joyce novel and try to write a screenplay.

And, novels can provoke sustained thought in a way movies cannot. We can pause a novel any time by lifting our eyes from the page. We can reflect on a word, a phrase, an idea for a moment, a cup of coffee, or an entire day, and lose nothing. Good reading is an active interaction between reader and author, beyond the experience of a movie.

Authors like himself, he said more than once, had become anachronisms as people focused on television and young writers aspired to screenwriting or journalism.

When he was young, Mailer said, "fiction was everything. The novel, the big novel, the driving force. We all wanted to be Hemingway ... I don't think the same thing can be said anymore. I don't think my work has inspired any writer, not the way Hemingway inspired me."

Category: Campaign 2008.6
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Does the best candidate win? Sometimes--but raw political sex appeal is not everything.

Slate's John Dickerson is doing splendid work covering Campaign 2008. This week he reports from Iowa:

Barack Obama is "funny and passionate," regularly "connecting with his big audiences," leaving them on their "feet...chanting with [for] him." In contrast, Hillary Clinton continues to deliver "solid performances in front of enthusiastic audiences," but her outings don't enliven, empower, and inspire the way they do with Obama.

Dickerson relays this question he found to be increasingly prevalent in Iowa: "Why isn't he killing her?"

The Slate article in full here (and an NPR segment from Friday featuring Dickerson's observation here).

The Power of Obama: more personally.

A few weeks ago, my five-year-old and I were watching (via C-SPAN) an Obama campaign appearance in Boston (video archives here). My young son is a fairly astute political observer (see his previous assessment of George Bush here). His reaction? By the end of the speech, he was jumping up and down on the bed, pumping his arms in the air, and screaming: "I want to be an American." Intermittently he would ask, "What's his name, Daddy?" And then: "I want him to be president."

Fire it Up! Ready to Go!

Let's go change the world.

Can this guy win a national presidential election? You bet!

Obama is still relatively unknown and a rookie, but those who see him as the most dynamic young face in American politics since John Kennedy have it exactly right.

Now for a dose of reality. Does the best candidate always get the job? No. Can this man be stopped? Yes.

In some important aspects that transcend natural talent, Barack Obama is no Jack Kennedy. JFK had the backing of his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, who was a very rich and powerful person with plenty of political experience and connections. The Kennedy organization attracted the best people money could buy and employed a dedicated, energetic, and skilled immediate family. JFK's main obstacle for the nomination in 1960 was Hubert Humphrey, who was a Democratic Party stalwart and a nice fellow. Nevertheless, he proved relatively easy to steamroll in West Virginia (the "Super Tuesday" of that campaign).

Obama? He has Dick Durbin and Oprah Winfrey. And Hillary Clinton is no Hubert Humphrey. Hill has Bill, an asset of mythic proportions, and, more importantly, the incredibly experienced, talented, savvy, and ruthless Clinton brain trust.

John Dickerson answers his own question with great insight. When it comes to the complicated Iowa caucus system (as well as the daunting national primary campaign), the Clintons are pros while the Obama team looks comparatively amateurish.

In other words, organization, name recognition, and money, more often than not, determine the difference between winning and losing in the primaries. Clinton holds the advantage in all three of these categories.

Can Obama still catch fire? Yes. But he needs to do it quickly. Remember, this fellow has been running for president for more than ten months. However, as I have said before, Republicans looking toward November should not indulge in too much schadenfreude at the expense of Hillary Clinton. If nominated, Hillary can (and probably will) win in November. But Obama is a juggernaut, who can not only win--but also bring about a massive realignment of American politics.

Another question for another time: Why doesn't Obama try harder? That is, what is holding Obama back from a launching into a full-out assault on Hillary Clinton? Stay tuned…
From the Waco Tribune-Herald :

"Jarrell McCracken, 79, pioneer of the Christian entertainment industry, died Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease."

"McCracken founded Word Inc. in Waco in 1951 and turned the company from a one-man operation into one of the world’s largest makers of religious recordings and publications."

"The company that began in McCracken’s Waco kitchen burgeoned into a worldwide operation employing more than 400 people. Names such as Amy Grant, Sandi Patti and George Beverly Shea dot Word’s roster of recording artists. The publishing division boasts prominent names such as Billy Graham, Ruth Carter Stapleton, Dallas Cowboys great Roger Staubach and legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden."

"In 1974, ABC bought out McCracken’s share of the company. He remained on as president, however, until 1986, when he resigned amid differences of opinion regarding management style and direction."

McCracken will be remembered for his love for family, the people he met, Baylor Univeristy, and his church.

Jarrell McCracken, rest in peace.

Category: Campaign 2008.6
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Things are so bad for Hillary Clinton right now, even NPR is taking cheap shots.

NPR correspondent David Greene reported yesterday that the Clinton entourage recently descended upon an Iowa restaurant, sucked a heart-wrenching story out of a working-mother waitresses, quickly added it to Hillary's stump speech, and then "stiffed" the waitress.

"No Tip!"

The story was picked up everywhere, and even made it to the top of the Drudge Report (an unusual occurrence for an NPR story, to say the least).

But today David Greene is craw-fishing. Maybe there was a tip. The Clinton Campaign says there was definitely a tip--and a big one, $100. Already Team Clinton has proven some inaccuracies in the NPR story. They have credit card receipts and eyewitnesses who remember a big tip for the entire staff. The plot thickens, and this morning, on air, David Greene admits his lack of due diligence. Maybe he should have done a bit more investigating, he admits. Interesting.

An Aside: Last March I offered a post commenting on NPR coverage of a George Bush event, which began:

"Today, however, Morning Edition's David Greene orchestrated a gratuitously misleading characterization of the President's press conference yesterday that deserves notice."

I went on to detail several noteworthy inaccuracies and disingenuous representations of what transpired. I was the only one, evidently, who pushed back on that story.

My full post here.

One lesson from all this: David Greene seems a bit sloppy in his zeal for a good story.

Another lesson: you can take a shot at the Bushies and get a good laugh out of it without much fear of reprisal. Not so for the Clintons. If you go into battle against Hillary and company, you better be loaded for bear and well-girded.

The Clintons push back.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
We Americans are blessed that we inherit the hard-won liberties of the Mother Country. For the story of a step on that road, see this post from Brits At Their Best. Anselm's life and work alone demonstrate that the "Dark Ages" are a misnomer.

Of course, no people's saga is spotless. Ask Wales, Scotland, and especially Ireland about their history with the English. But in terms of our inheritance, we benefit from what our Founding Fathers called their Rights As Englishmen.
In 1962, Richard Nixon organized his autobiography around Six Crises, understanding his life up to that point as the product of six trials during his public life that defined him as a person. Nixon's basic assertion was absolutely right to the extent that all successful public figures must overcome the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" (as well the slings and arrows that are justly deserved). This is especially true of American presidents, who must run a political marathon, survive the gauntlet of public inspection, the vagaries of press coverage, and withstand the temptations of accumulated power and celebrity.

A Time of Crisis for Hillary Clinton. For the first time in a long time, Mrs. Clinton finds herself under intense scrutiny from her opponents and the mainstream media. Are they "piling on"? Of course. Is it fair? This is a query unworthy of an answer; it is merely what it is. Welcome to the race to be president of the United States, Mrs. Clinton.

A much more pertinent side question: what took so long for genuine media scrutiny?

For some reason, Hillary Clinton enjoyed extraordinarily positive press coverage for the last eight years. Why? I have no satisfying explanation. Had the left-leaning mainstream media been cultivating her and protecting her as their favored candidate? Not likely. This hypothesis is deliciously inviting, but it seems far too facile and "breathtakingly" conspiratorial. Perhaps the media felt genuine sympathy for the famously humiliated wife of the most celebrated philandering husband in all of American history? Or perhaps the media believed that they went too far during impeachment, and they owed the Clintons a "pay-back call" or two. Maybe. The Beltway press corps is not completely amoral; that is, they conform to their own set of ethics and an esoteric code of fairness. No matter, the facts are more important than the explanation. The undeniable truth is that Mrs. Clinton glided above the fray for a long time.

However, the gravy train now appears to be over--or, at the very least, on hiatus. For most of the day, Matt Drudge featured Hillary stories at the top of the page. Unusual? Not in itself, but, if you followed the links, the reporting agencies were extraordinary (no FOX News, no Washington Times, and no Dick Morris columns). From NPR to Ron Fournier to ABC News, the mainstream media was (and is) in hot pursuit, smelling blood, and moving in for the kill. This qualifies as a full-fledged media feeding frenzy.

An aside:
Last week, as I listened to a Sean Hannity tirade on the media, I considered a post entitled: "Who are they and what do they want?" For all those who equate the mainstream press with the Clinton News Networks, this week has been very confusing.

However, there is precedent for this hostile coverage of the Clintons. Think early 1998. In fact, things have not looked this bad for the Clintons since Sam Donaldson, on This Week, predicted Bill was finished as president back in January of that year. Suggesting that the President might resign by the end of the week, Donaldson led a stampede of reporters breathlessly anticipating the complete disintegration of the Clinton presidency as a result of the Monica Lewinsky revelation.

What happened? The Clintons dug in and stone-walled. Defying all the conventional wisdom that cover-ups (rather than misdeeds) kill administrations, the Clintons covered up, shut up, and put 'em up. Miraculously, they fought their way out of an extraordinarily desperate situation. The mainstream media relented. Would the Washington press corps have given up so easily, if they had George Bush or Ronald Reagan in similar circumstances? Probably not. But that is irrelevant. What matters for our discussion here: Team Clinton weathered the storm.

Will Hillary and company fight their way out of this crisis? For a long time, I have referred to the Senator from New York as Clinton-44. Why? She is tough. She is fearless. And she has assembled the best political talent available. They are veterans. They have been to "Hell and Back." Nobody in the Clinton camp is likely to panic over bad press or a bad week. They have been through much worse and survived.

An irony. One great advantage the Clinton machine had during impeachment was the silence of Bill Clinton. He went underground and let his special forces cut throats and blow bridges in the dead of night. In the most counter-intuitive, disciplined act of his lifetime, the President stayed mum for nearly a year. No press conferences. No public comment outside of heavily scripted and insulated state events. No wandering through McDonalds. Absolutely no access.

Evidently, Bill doesn't remember that part of his triumph. In his mind's eye, I am almost certain that he recalls himself as a silver-tongued devil with a mischievous smile who charmed his way out of a tough spot. This is unfortunate for Hillary. Who caused the most problems for Hillary Clinton in the aftermath of a poor performance in last week's debate? Bill Clinton. We are tired of the red-faced finger-wagging. We are tired of Clinton's moralizing and seeming ignorance of his own political history and penchant for skullduggery. We are tired of his ridiculous accusations.

Bill is much more effective as myth. Let him strut and smile and wink--but the truth is that the charming bad boy of politics is not nearly as rakishly seductive as we remember. The stem-winding political sorcerer is not nearly as articulate or mesmerizing as advertised.

What to do? Tell Bill to shush (although he may be more effective with the Democratic base than I think). Dig in. Hand the ball to the Clinton KGB. Stay on message. Keep raking in that cash (money covers a multitude of political sins). Keep on working out (Mrs. Clinton has never looked better--fodder for another post--but very telling). Keep on smiling, shaking hands, and acting like you are president.

Can Hillary survive this inevitable time of troubles?

Nobody Knows Anything--but time will tell.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
In an earlier post, I explained one reason I am not a Democrat. "When it comes to Domestic Policy, the core value of the Democratic Party is simple to state, simple to understand, and has predictible policy implications. In a nutshell, the Democratic Party core value is: The Federal Government Is Responsible for the Well-Being of American Citizens." This Core Value, and the policies that result from it, create dependent instead of independent individuals, take responsibilities from families and communities, and starve voluntary organizations of money because of high taxes, and render both families and voluntary societies without significant purpose.

Another reason I am not a Democrat has to do with the core assumptions on Foreign Policy by the party. In a nutshell, the Democratic Party believes that world problems usually are the fault of America, a basically evil country, and the solution to conflict in the world is more international organization.

Regarding the first assumption. I readily admit that we have, and do, cause problems in the world. Our culture does it, spreading immorality and materialism through film and television. Our economic policies do it, market capitalism tending to destroy small farmers and village life. And our political policies have done it, for example supporting tyrants when we feared communism. But, automatically assuming that any world problem is somehow our fault is simplistic and egoistic. We are incapable of influencing everything in the world, for bad or good. And, other nations and peoples can be forces for change in their own right, both good and bad. In addition, the assumption that America is basically an evil country and a force simply for evil is simplistic thinking, reducing everything to black and white. Nations are grey, usually. And nations are not the same shade of grey. In comparative terms, we have done more good than most nations: feeding the hungry, preserving freedom, maintaining some semblence of law and order. (The carnage in the Balkans stopped, for example, only when we acted. When we have refused to act, as in Rwanda or Darfur, the carnage continued/es.)

Regarding the second assumption. International organizations usually cannot accomplish squat (re: the UN) unless we take a leading role, including military force or its threat. And, as I argued in a previous post, most world governments are not legitimate expressions of the will of their people. Why should we regard them as having the same moral status as a freely elected government? International organizations, for example the EU or the UN, tend toward rule by unelected burearcrats, the will of the people be damned. We did not fight a revolution to give up our liberty to international bureaucracies.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Wednesday night little Gardner-Webb college beat the winningest Division 1 basketball program in history, Kentucky. In Rupp Arena. By a wide margin. On paper it never should have happened, but it did. Story here.

In honor of this event, I repeat a post from early in the life of this blog: Life Is Unpredictable.

A couple of weeks ago I had to be out and about in my car for a few evenings. Listening to a geezer rock station I heard a nationally syndicated program hosted by Alice Cooper. What a trip! Rock music, anecdotes, Bible lessons, and occasional libertarian/conservative political commentary. In the 1970s who could have imagined Alice Cooper on the radio explaining the context of a New Testament story? Or warning against the dangers of excessive drinking? Life is totally unpredictable.

For much of my life, from childhood until about fifteen years ago, I had a recurring dream: I was standing in the back yard of my paternal grandparents. I looked to the southwest and saw the top of a nuclear mushroom cloud (the direction of Kansas City), then I looked to the southeast and saw the top of another mushroom cloud (in the direction of St. Louis). I assumed, given the talk of those days, and later given my own analysis of the world's political situation, that nuclear war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was inevitable. (Boy did I feel that in the early 80s). I also recall, growing up in the 60s, having the feeling that America was doomed by enemies without, and by problems within. The same thoughts recurred in the late 70s with oil shortages, strong inflation, and the hostages in Iran. But, the U.S.S.R. is no more, the United States is still here, and my premonitions/predictions did not come to pass. The future is unpredictable.

For me this unpredictability gives me hope. Traditionally Christianity has regarded Despair (not to be equated with depression) as a sin. Despair is the rejection of hope. It is a sin because it is a form of pride, an assumption of omniscience. The person who chooses to despair assumes that he/she knows all the facts of the present, and knows what will happen in the future. We never know enough to declare that life is hopeless.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Waco Trib:

"Hank Thompson, Waco native, died Tuesday of lung cancer at his Keller home; he was 82. Thompson shaped country music in the 1950s and 1960s with his “honky tonk swing,” a danceable sound that made his Brazos Valley Boys the No. 1 country music band from 1953 to 1965. He pioneered much that is standard in the music industry, from lighting and sound systems to stereo recording, live albums and Las Vegas concerts."

"Thompson’s death came only days after spokesman…had announced the country star was retiring after more than 60 years as a performer. Fittingly for some Waco friends, his last public performance came Oct. 8 at the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo, a day proclaimed as Hank Thompson Day by Gov. Rick Perry and Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy."

I am linking Carl Hoover's excellent obituary here--but I am also adding the tribute in full under the "read more" section, as the Trib does not permanently archive their stories on the internet.

Country Music Hall of Fame link here.

Via YouTube, Thompson's first hit, "Whoa Sailor," and a retrospective montage to the tune of "Six Pack to Go."

Perhaps his most famous lyric (from the "Wild Side of Life") and one that embodies a dominant motif for a generation of country music artists and fans:

I didn't know God made honky tonk angels
I might have known you'd never make a wife
You gave up the only one that ever loved you
And went back to the wild side of life

The glamour of the gay night life has lured you
To the places where the wine and liquor flows
Where you wait to be anybody's baby
And forget the truest love you'll ever know

Perhaps the quintessential "somebody done somebody wrong song."

From the Bosque Boys: Hats off to the leader of the Brazos Valley Boys. Rest in Peace.

For the Trib article in its entirety:

» Read More

As posted here before, the Episcopal church has alienated much of the Anglican Church by actions supporting same-sex practice. The Episcopal Church (the U.S. branch of Anglicanism) essentially gave the rasberry to the call for repentance issued by the Primates of the Global South. These Third-World national Anglican leaders had demanded The Episcopal Church repent by September 30.

Now, at a recent meeting, the Global South Primates have issued another communique, dated October 30. Here are some interesting excerpts:

3. Since the colonial past, no consolidation of the essence of communion has been made on the part of the Mother Church and of the churches in the West. What is at stake is the very nature of Anglicanism – not just about sexuality but also about the nature of Christ, the truth of the Gospel and the authority of the Bible. We reject the religion of accommodation and cultural conformity that offers neither transforming power nor eternal hope.

6. It is clear to us that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church (TEC) has not given an unequivocal response to the requests of the Primates at Dar es Salaam. Therefore we affirm the conclusion that the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) has reached in the communiqué of their meeting in Mauritius in October 2007 that “a change in direction from our current trajectory is urgently needed” because “we want unity but not unity at any expense”.

Can these Anglican Primates save the U.S. Episcopal Church from itself. I am not optimistic.
When Senator Grassley thinks he smells something rotten, there probably is a problem. Grassley is not motivated by any anti-religious bias, and has not been a grand-standing publicity seeker. He currently is leading an investigation into the finances of several televangelists.

Story on Joyce Meyers from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I think my favorite detail is the marble-topped commode.

This story depends on the work of the Post-Dispatch, but also carries the list of other evangelists being investigated. These are

Creflo and Taffi Dollar of College Park, Ga., whose "Changing Your World" broadcasts are seen in 150 countries, owns two Rolls-Royces, private jets, a mansion in Atlanta and a $2.5 million apartment in Manhattan.

-Benny Hinn of Grapevine, Texas, whose daily television program, "This is Your Day!" is seen in more than 100 countries.

-Eddie Long of Lithonia, Ga., who preaches anti-gay themes and says God blesses people financially as well as spiritually.

-Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Newark, Texas. He is a practitioner of the Word of Faith movement which believes that faith will reward people spiritually and financially.

-Randy and Paula White of Tampa, Fla., who founded the Without Walls International Church, and listed as their possessions a $1.9 million jet and $3.5 million condominium in New York. In August, they announced their divorce.

Some days I despair of American Protestantism. One problem, while Protestants traditionally have criticized Roman Catholicism as "man-centered" because of the primacy of the pope, they have been quick to elevate leaders into celebrity status with no oversight. Look at the newspaper ads this Saturday for churches in your community. Notice that the pictures of the pastor appear in the Protestant ads, not the Roman Catholic, or Orthodox.

07/11: Pat for Rudy

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Pat Robertson has endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president. Here is the transcript of Robertson's statement, from Rudy's website. Neither the 700 Club website, nor Pat Robertson's website have statements yet.

This should help Rudy, and may prevent a massive defection of social conservatives from the Republican Party in a year.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Back in June, when Lionsgate Films released Michael Moore's Sicko, I predicted an "anemic performance." I suppose "anemic" is relative. Fact: Sicko has grossed $24,540,079, which makes it the third highest grossing documentary of all time. It is just ahead of An Inconvenient Truth and tens of millions behind March of the Penguins and Moore's own Fahrenheit 9/11. On the other hand, Sicko did not take the nation by storm like the other three fore-mentioned films.

This week, Sicko hits the DVD racks. We'll see what happens next. Here is my original non-review from June:

"At least one source is already calling the early box office for Sicko "healthy" ($1.3 million in 441 theaters on Friday).

An aside: these numbers are approximately five-times weaker than the opening for Fahrenheit 9/11--but still very strong for a documentary.

“Considering the pre-opening publicity for the film, which began in earnest a month ago, the high profile of the filmmaker, and the plethora of positive reviews, no one should be surprised at the initial interest in Michael Moore's latest offering.

“Having said that, my hunch is, in the end, Sicko will fall well short of expectations (however, even if my prediction comes to pass and the picture goes South, don't hold your breath for much critical press coverage).

“The feature-length documentary is receiving a big push from the studio and a first-class ride from the film-reviewing fraternity, many of whom are big fans of Michael Moore's politics and like-minded in their basic assumptions about America, big business and evil Republicans.

“However, my prediction is that Sicko will not have legs. Once the usual suspects see the film (and go back and watch it again a few times for the team), who else is really going to care about this film?

“In general, American filmgoers are not fans of the documentary genre. In terms of style, if you have seen one Michael Moore film, you have seen them all. Why would Joe Sixpack and family spend thirty-some dollars to go see a serially angry and malcontented demagogue deliver a heavy-handed and patronizing harangue dripping with sarcasm and a depressingly redundant deep-seated cynicism?

“In the bluntest terms, it is unlikely that the work will ever appeal to anyone other than the axis of American liberalism (Hollywood, the mainstream media and academia). One great irony is that the biggest fans of this film will be an elite echelon of Americans who actually enjoy the best health care in the world. Even more ironic, there are actually very few of these ostensibly compassionate humanitarians who will be willing to give up their own premium personal care to stand in line in some national health system so that the "unfortunate" might have more access. In the most practical sense, they are as much against "leveling" as William F. Buckley.

“In the end, the hype around Sicko will prove to be another self-indulgent exercise of the American Left. Without seeing the picture, I can already tell you that it is a frontrunner for an Academy Award. Barring a late entry from Al Gore, Michael Moore should have a clear path to another statuette. On the other hand, Moore, who too often listens to his own press and the retinue of fools who encourage his antics, is still not a major player in American politics. He is a major player in Hollywood--but he carries very little weight (no pun intended) in fly-over country.”

Orignal post here.

06/11: Flashback

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
For some reason, the music in my head this evening is from the early 70s--specifically some of the groups that tried to put jazz and rock together: Chicago, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and Chase. The last group is not well known, turning out three albums. For a year or so in high school, I got the juices flowing with a shot of Chase in the morning, cranked up.

From Youtube, a cut from their first album. For those of you too young to remember, the thing you are seeing in the video is called a turntable and the round piece of vinyl going round and round was called an album.

My favorite album is the second, Ennea, because of side two, a retelling of Greek mythology of the gods.

The Wikipedia entry on Bill Chase, the group's leader, and the band. A great bio from Trumpetgig that includes some great clips. (Does anyone but me, think captions for the last two clips are switched?)
This evening I listened for a while to a radio interview with the author of a new book on the experience of people who survive disasters. She termed the psychological reaction "shock," and stated that it included a regression to a child-like state in which one looks to "adults" for help, such as the government. This state of "shock" she said, happened because those affected by the disaster could not mentally process what has occurred to them; they could not fit it into their mental narrative of their life and the world. She offered as examples survivors of Hurricane Katrina and the nation in the aftermath of 9/11.

Hmmmmm. OK. Some folks appeared to behave in ways that support her thesis, like Ray Nagin and much of New Orleans, some did not, like the NYFD.

Assuming her central idea to be true, how can we prevent our going into "shock" following a disaster? If the cause is a lack of ability to process the experience into our narrative of the world, then perhaps we need to start with our world-view. As a professor of mine used to say, "If you find yourself becoming disillusioned, perhaps you had some illusions you needed dis-ed from."

Start by accepting the idea that bad things happen. If you live on the Gulf Coast or Southeast Coast of the U.S., you will get hit by hurricanes. Here in the Midwest, tornadoes; the Plains, blizzards; California, earthquakes and fires. Think about that fact. Imagine that fact.

Then, act like an adult. Make plans and take steps. Insure yourself and your home. In tornado alley, have a cellar or know where the nearest public storm shelter is. In California fire country, keep brush cut back near your house, use fire-resistant shingles. Along the coasts and in fire and flood country, choose carefully where you live.

Make plans. Talk to your family about your plans. Keep a supply of canned food and water in the house in case of utility outages. Make sure your local community has emergency plans, even if you must run for the city council to get it done.
The Pope met this week with the King of Saudi Arabia. Story here. and here. At his meeting Benedict XVI raised the issue of the lack of rights for the Christians in Saudi Arabia, mostly foreign workers. Good for him.

But what may be good to remember, is that there were Christians in Arabia before Islam. (And Jews.) These were conquered by the followers of Muhammad.

And on a related note, for those who think that Africa is somehow more naturally Islamic than Christian: Egypt and Nubia (Sudan), and north Africa were Christian before Islamic conquests. Some Christian Berber groups held out until the Middle Ages. Christian Ethiopia never submitted.

And for those who think the problems between Christianity and Islam started with the Crusades, I have old news. In addition to the lands above, the Middle East was Christian before the Islamic conquest, as was Iberia. Religion of Peace my infidel *ss.
Category: American Lives
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Quoting the President of the United States:

"For nearly 30 years, the proceedings of the House of Representatives have been televised -- unfiltered, uninterrupted, unedited, and live. For this we can thank the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, or C-SPAN. And for C-SPAN, we can thank a visionary American named Brian Lamb.

"C-SPAN is not what you'd call exciting TV -- (laughter) -- though some of the call-in shows do have their moments. (Laughter.) It is, however, a tool that enlivens democracy, and informs and educates citizens of all ages -- at all hours.

"C-SPAN channels fill 17,000 broadcast hours a year. But you can watch for years and never hear anyone say the name Brian Lamb. Even Brian never says it.

"With his low-key manner, this native of Lafayette, Indiana likes to stick with substance. He's not there to provide commentary, or give much reaction either way. Yet vast numbers of Americans consider themselves fans of Brian Lamb. A writer from The Washington Post called it a "cult of non-personality." (Laughter.) The truth is, we've all seen him, and he's conducted some of the most fascinating interviews we have ever heard. As one C-SPAN watcher said, when you listen to Brian "You feel like he's just like you, only smarter." (Laughter.)

"Brian Lamb has spent most of his life in broadcasting, in a career that has taken many turns. The first program he ever hosted, back in the Midwest, was called "Dance Date," -- a side we haven't seen much of. (Laughter.) Brian Lamb is a Navy veteran; a former social aide here at the White House. In fact, when Brian was here a few months ago to interview a historian in the Lincoln Bedroom, the maitre d' of the residential staff of the White House remembered him from those days.

"The network Brian Lamb created has been called "scrupulously nonpartisan, [and] inherently patient." Committee hearings, and campaign events, and conferences, and rallies are shown from beginning to end, without editorial comment or interpretation. C-SPAN has no agenda, and only one assumption: that interested viewers are intelligent, and can make up their own minds about what they see and what they hear.

"An informed citizenry has been the strength of America since the days of the New England town hall. C-SPAN has revived the town-hall spirit for a modern, continental nation. For his enormous achievement and his personal modesty; for his high standards, and his contribution to our democracy, America is grateful to Mr. Brian Lamb. (Applause.)"

The Presidential Medal of Freedom citation reads:

"Brian P. Lamb. As the driving force behind the creation of C-SPAN, Brian Lamb has elevated our public debate and helped open up our government to citizens across the nation. His dedication to a transparent political system and to the free flow of ideas has enriched our civic life. He has helped empower Americans to know and understand their government and hold it accountable. The United States honors Brian Lamb for his efforts to ensure that his fellow citizens are well-informed participants in the American system of self-government through reflection and choice."

My thoughts: Amen.

Transcript from the ceremony via the White House website in full here.
Anyone for an outlandishly premature prediction?

Hillary vs. Fred in a national campaign that comes down to the wire, with Clinton clipping Thompson by a nose.

The nominees:

Why Hillary? You have heard me on all this before: she has the organization, she is surrounded by the best and brightest brain trust, she is partnered with the ultimate Democratic Party rock star, and she has grit. That is, Mrs. Clinton is more manly (in the nineteenth century, Harvey Mansfield sense) than any of her opponents.

Clinton is NOT the most electable general election candidate in the Democratic primary race. Barack Obama would be virtually unstoppable next November. He is a nearly perfect general election candidate: handsome, fresh, charismatic, and the most credible agent of change. Edwards, too, would have a good chance at winning, as he is appealing, approachable, and telegenic. Under the protection of a mainstream media desperate for a Democratic victory, both of those men would be incredibly difficult to defeat.

But the Democrats don't see things that way. They are awfully hung up on Obama's race, wondering if America can elect a black man as the "Great White Father." As for Edwards, he has not been able to penetrate the two-person duel. At this point, it seems more and more a two-horse race, and Hillary is still the odds-on favorite.

Why Fred? Thompson is not the most conservative of the GOP hopefuls--but he is plenty conservative. He is not the most articulate of the candidates--but he is certainly affable and persuasive. He is not the most handsome man in the race--but his is a stately and sturdy countenance. He is not the most red-state Republican of the nomination contestants--but he speaks fluently the language of the heartland. No dramatic knockout here, but once primary voters add up their scorecards, Thompson wins easily on points. My guess is that Thompson emerges with the nomination as the realization spreads over the Republican faithful that he is the candidate with whom they are the most comfortable.

One cautionary note: no Southern candidate ever won banking solely on the South. The South always comes through for its favorite sons, but the victories down South have often come too little and too late. Think Al Gore in 1988 and John Edwards in 2004. Successful Southerners must necessarily score dramatic wins early in the contest outside the South (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George Bush). Bottom line: Fred cannot wait for Super-Duper Tuesday to make his move. He must have momentum (more than merely South Carolina) before February 5.

November 4, 2008? After a plodding race, with Hillary playing conservatively trying not to blow her advantages, and Fred inching up consistently over the course of a methodical and laconic campaign, the final weeks turn frantic. So much on the line. So close.

In the end, like Jerry Ford in 1976, Fred Thompson falls just short: 49.9 to 49.1. Hillary wins Ohio and a comfortable electoral margin of victory.

No guarantees here. But today that's my vision. We'll see what tomorrow looks like.
Belgium still is without a new coalition government after June 10 elections. The problem? The nation is composed of two distinct groups speaking two languages and having two cultures: French speaking and Dutch speaking. Story from Breitbart.

Do we here in the U.S. really want to create a nation without a common language and a shared culture? What sort of glue would hold us together then?
"It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism." G.K. Chesterton in "Three Foes of the Family" found in the collection of his essays The Well and the Shallows.

I want to continue stalking this quotation. First post. Second post.

Chesterton thought the Industrial Revolution to have been a tragedy for Britain and humanity. He not only objected to the noise, smoke, and ugliness of industrialization, but also to the commercial impulse behind it. He was the foe of Capitalism and of Communism.

Here is a long quote from his essay "Reflections on a Rotten Apple."

In all normal civilisations the trader existed and must exist. But in all normal civilisations the trader was the exception; certainly he was never the rule; and most certainly he was never the ruler. The predominance which he has gained in the modern world is the cause of the disasters of the modern world. The universal habit of humanity has been to produce and consume as part of the same process; largely conducted by the same people in the same place. Sometimes goods were produced and consumed on the same great feudal manor; sometimes even on the same small peasant farm. Sometimes there was a tribute from serfs as yet hardly distinguishable from slaves; sometimes there was a co-operation between free-men which the superficial can hardly distinguish from communism. But none of these many historical methods, whatever their vices or limitations, was strangled in the particular tangle of our own time; because most of the people, for most of the time, were thinking about growing food and then eating it; not entirely about growing food and selling it at the stiffest price to somebody who had nothing to eat. And I for one do not believe there is any way out of the modern tangle, except to increase the proportion of the people who are living according to the ancient simplicity.

To Chesterton, treating the world and the products derived from the world, merely as commodities for trade or sale, alienated society from its God-given human nature. Chesterton's economics was a part of his religious outlook. In the next post, Chesterton's Roman Catholicism.
An AP story from the New York Daily News.

MOSCOW - Alexander Feklisov, the Soviet-era spy chief who oversaw the espionage work of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and helped mediate the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, has died, a Russian official said Friday. He was 93.

Feklisov died Oct. 26, said Sergei Ivanov, a spokesman for the Foreign Intelligence Service, one of the successor agencies to the KGB. He gave no cause of death.

. . .

Years later, he published an autobiography, "The Man Behind the Rosenbergs," in which he described his work guiding the intelligence-gathering work of the couple. The Rosenbergs were executed in 1953 after being convicted of supplying the Soviet Union with top-secret information on U.S. efforts to develop the atomic bomb.

Feklisov said Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet sympathizer who handed over secrets on military electronics, but not the atomic bomb. He said Ethel Rosenberg played no part in spying - claims that were consistent with declassified U.S. intercepts of Soviet spy communications.

He was later dispatched to London, where he made contact with Klaus Fuchs, the German-born scientist who worked at the U.S. atom bomb project as well as at Britain's Harwell nuclear research laboratory. Information passed to the Soviets by Fuchs and another spy, David Greenglass, gave the Soviets crucial new information on a new way to ignite an atomic bomb.

In 1950, Fuchs was sentenced to 14 years for disclosing nuclear secrets.
Full Story.

Contrary to the Liberal Orthodoxy of the 70s-90s, there were rational grounds for the Red Scare of the 1950s. The Soviets were active in spying and other activities in the U.S. McCarthy was still a power-hungry demogogue, but there was a bear on the prowl.
According to information compiled by insurers of pastors, things have changed for the worse.

Clergy experience over 90 percent more stress-related disorders than other people of a similar age. Stress and stress-related illnesses are primary factors for the deterioration of health in the clergy population. Thirty years ago the clergy profession ranked as one of the healthiest in the U.S. Today the reverse is true; clergy are experiencing some of the worst health trends in the nation.

In a related development, compared to past generations, clergy today are leaving their jobs in significant numbers, even those in mid-life.

As regular readers know, I am a member of the clergy--an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America. I pastor a small, primarily Native American, congregation and teach college courses to help support our family. So I take this news personally.

But, my point is not to whine. Instead, I have two things to say. First, if you are a Christian, pray for your pastor(s) and think about how you can be supportive. Second, I wonder what this information says about modern American culture, both within and without congregations. Future posts to follow.
Some Perspective: At this point during the last election cycle four years ago, the talking heads were anointing Howard Dean as the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president. But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation.

Is Hillary the latest Howard Dean? I doubt it. Dean was an insurgent nobody from an out of the way state who caught fire unexpectedly and then flamed out just as suddenly. Dean embodied "flash in the pan."

Hillary Clinton is a second-term senator from the Empire State. She is the wife of a popular and incredibly powerful former president. She has been a mega public figure for sixteen years, thoughtfully charting a path to the Oval Office for nearly that long. She is loaded with cash, she has assembled the best campaign organization in recent memory, and she is the most disciplined candidate of my lifetime.

An aside: The Okie Gardener has previously compared Mrs. Clinton to Richard Nixon. No comparison to Nixon is ever favorable, but RN had some notably similar attributes necessary for success in politics. Like Mrs. Clinton, Nixon was not a naturally talented politician, but, like Mrs. Clinton, he made up for his lack of innate skill with hard work and tenacity. "You gotta want it to win it," and he usually wanted it more. Mrs. Clinton is a hard-charging, take-no-prisoners, tough-minded steamroller. She is a lot like Nixon in that regard.

What happened in the debate on Tuesday? Tim Russert and Brian Williams hammered her, and she staggered for a moment. Her stonewalling on the library question, her decision to pander to the ACLU-liberals rather than the working-class, rank-and-file Democrats on immigration, and her tendency to go overboard on sisterhood combined to leave her uncharacteristically dazed, confused, and momentarily vulnerable. Arriving at the debate intent on pounding the frontrunner, her desperately frustrated opponents saw an opening and pounced.

Nobody Knows Anything
--but I think that those who are expecting Mrs. Clinton to fold like a house of cards at the first sign of trouble are reading her wrong. Hillary never craters. She never backs down. She never apologizes. She comes out swinging and plays through the pain, always pressing forward.

Hillary's Dilemma: Of course, her primary problem--the one that actually poses the biggest threat to her campaign for the nomination--continues to be her moderation on foreign policy.

Ironically, Mrs. Clinton's biggest obstacle in the Democratic primary is her sanity. For all of us who are rubbing our hands together with glee this week, we are not thinking very strategically. Of the Democrats who have a chance to win the nomination, Hillary is the one we have the best chance at beating. More importantly, of the Democrats who have a chance to win the nomination, Hillary is the one who is least likely to radically alter the course of American politics if she wins.

Hillary Clinton, like Richard Nixon, is a hard-boiled realist, who understands national vital interests as well as political necessities. She will throw rhetorical bones to the left but govern in the center, because she will want to be reelected. She will employ all the usual suspects of the American foreign-policy making establishment and pursue a moderate-to-firm course in international relations. She, like her husband, will accept the necessity of "torture" under certain dire circumstances. She will not be what we want, but neither will she rock the boat very much. No socialist revolution. No unilateral retreat from American interests abroad. No Pollyannaish, Jimmy-Carter-like naiveté.

John Edwards is fairly close to reality when he says a "vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for the status quo."

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers. We are honored. Please make yourself at home.

02/11: Buddy Rich

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
My 8th grade year I walked into the bandroom before school one morning and heard music playing that changed my life. Someone had a Buddy Rich album on the stereo and I stopped dead in my tracks, spellbound. From that moment to this, my favorite music has been jazz.

From YouTube, a clip from 1978 of Buddy and his band playing in the Netherlands, a good introduction to his style.

By 1978 Buddy was already 61 years old, but you noticed in the video clip that his sticks were a blur, and life on the road had not worn him down. Biography here.

Here's Buddy and his band again. He proves that snow on the roof don't mean the fire's out in the stove. Notice how most of the band members are young. Buddy had a good ear for young talent, hired it, and trained it. He was a hard task-master demanding self-discipline, constant attention to detail, and absolute professionalism in performance. His temper was legendary when he thought a member of his band was giving a half-hearted effort. But, the Buddy Rich Big Band was a great training ground for any young player who wanted a career in the business.

This is a Buddy Rich drum solo, from 1970. The tape is not speeded up nor overdubbed. This is a sample of what you could see at any gig he played, from New York club to college campus to Las Vegas to a high school gymnasium in Dubuque. He kept a Big Band on the road long after almost all had died. In this clip the 53 year old man shows the rock boys how it's done.

Many think this is the greatest drum solo every caught on film.

But what always impressed me most was his skill in leading and driving a big band. For example, here on this medley from West Side Story. Buddy crafted his skills as a drummer and leader over decades of disciplined work. Here he is in 1949.

Finally, from Berlin, Buddy and the band doing Mercy, Mercy, a tune that could lift me up any time I was down during those sometimes long nights of high school.

Buddy died April 2, 1987. Frank Sinatra gave the eulogy.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
It's here, numbers 1-20 of The Telegraph's (UK) lists of 100 most influential American liberals and conservatives. Lots of wth's, but a good set of thumbnail sketches to help keep track of the names in the next year.

The rankings sometimes make me wonder how British journalists define "conservative" and "influential."
Read this article combining interviews with six evangelical thinkers if you consider yourself an evangelical, are curious about evangelicals, or have never thought about evangelicalism. From Touchstone.