You are currently viewing archive for December 2007
No, really. Faced with aging congregations, the Unitarian-Universalist "church" is turning to advertising and some congregations are even encouraging their members to speak with others about faith. Story here.

Reminds me of the old joke: What do you get if you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah's Witness? Someone who knocks on doors but has no idea why.
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few kind words for a man I admire before he departs from the arena.

Rudy Giuliani is in trouble. Even as friendly doctors came forward this week to assure us that the indefatigable candidate for the Republican nomination is in good health, we are increasingly aware that his political pulse is failing.

As the curtain falls on this particular act in his intriguing life story, let me say a few parting words in praise of this fine American:

The Rudy detractors would have us believe his political life began on 9-11. This is patently false.

As U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Giuliani transformed crime fighting as a federal prosecutor, boldly confronting and defeating the mafia and white-collar criminals with thoroughly innovative tactics and strategy.

Rudy's success as a law man set the stage for his incredibly successful tenure as mayor of America's most important and difficult city, an office he held for eight years prior to the events of September 11, 2001.

In a recent interview on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Ridley Scott, director of the 1982 science fiction classic, Blade Runner, talked about the film, which prophesied a dark, dangerous, and filthy Los Angeles in the year 2019. Scott revealed that the New York City trajectory of the late-1970s and 1980s provided the inspiration for his squalidly oppressive cinematic vision of the metropolitan future; he also good-naturedly admitted that his nightmare had not proved at all prescient (not yet, anyway).

Neither the interviewer nor the guest initially offered any praise to the former mayor, but, in actual fact, Rudy deserves significant commendation for revitalizing and securing the future of Gotham. Looking back, his eight-year stewardship stands out as truly remarkable. His tenure as mayor also represented a high point in the conservative resurgence of the 1990s, as he brought order to the ultimate untamable town relying on common sense and traditional values.

Was Rudy Rudy before 9/11?

Although detractors are quick to portray Mayor Giuliani as an unpopular figure while in office, this distorted memory willfully disregards Rudy's overwhelming re-election by the citizens of New York in 1997. More importantly, the convenient recollection necessarily ignores the reality of 2000, which offered a triumphant mayor as the only viable candidate to challenge then-First Lady Hillary Clinton's bold bid to win election to the United States Senate. All observers understood early that the New York Senate contest was a high stakes race that would automatically mark the winner as a potential candidate for president. Giuliani was the only New Yorker of sufficient standing to compete with Mrs. Clinton, and, when Rudy stepped aside for a multitude of complicated reasons both personal and political, a potentially historic contest between two titans died in the cradle. Rudy's departure then cleared the path for Hillary’s ascension, and the rest we know well.

An aside: a battle finally fought between Rudy and Hillary in November 2008 would have proved especially satisfying, sweetened with eight years of anticipation. But, once again, this looks wholly unlikely.

2008 and beyond

As I have averred numerous times previously, Rudy is not a good fit for the Republican nomination. Having said that, he is a good man who possesses a thoroughly American story. He is worthy of our gratitude and our imitation. More importantly, the upcoming conclusion to his drive to be president of the United States should not end his career as an important and ultra competent public servant.

Well done, Rudy.
Posted by: an okie gardener
The story.

According to the Daily Mail, Pope Benedict XVI has ordered bishops to have in place trained priests in their dioceses ready to perform exorcisms.

Some time ago, I posted comments on the observation by Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's Chief Exorcist, that Hitler and Stalin were possessed by demons. (The article commented on also contained the news that Pope Pius XII had attempted a "long-distance" exorcism of Hitler.)

The current Pope has encouraged exorcists in their work before, but now appears to be forcing action by all bishops. This move should please Father Amorth, who has complained of the foot-dragging bishops.

The Daily Mail article also reports that the pontiff wants to restore the prayer to St. Michael at the end of mass, dropped in the 1960s. Text here.

So what do I make of all this? As an historian, this news is consistent with the actions of Benedict XVI, and John Paul II, in giving a conservative direction to post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. As a Christian, I think the Church needs to engage in the apostolic ministry of exorcism, with care and discernment.

But wait, the Vatican is apparently denying this story. We'll see what tomorrow's news brings.
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Sometimes the very thing you're looking for
Is the one thing you can't see

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes round the moon
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

Do you believe in miracles?

Stories depicting John McCain as the ultimate "Comeback Kid" are everywhere.

Even stolid conservative columnist, Robert Novak, supremely connected and not given to flights of fancy, waxed sanguine yesterday, as he pronounced McCain the "GOP's Last Man Standing."

Novak writes: "canny Republican professionals [view McCain] as the best bet to win the party's presidential nomination. What's more, they consider him their most realistic prospect to buck the overall Democratic tide and win the general election."

Novak praises the candidate for his sublimely rugged constitution, which McCain demonstrated in spades "during his six years of torture in a communist prison camp," but also more recently in his "personal determination" to carry on his presidential campaign long after all rational observers (read "canny professionals") had given him up for dead.

You don't have to convince me of McCain's character or his November viability. Way back in March of 2006 (only my sixth post on this blog), I sang his praises and endorsed his candidacy. Based on the specific challenges we currently face, I remain convinced that McCain was the absolute right choice for this cycle.

But (dramatic pause) it is not going to happen.

Conservative opposition to McCain remains deeply entrenched, bitter, and potent. Twenty-one months ago I underestimated the resistance to McCain. Fool me once...and...I won't get fooled again. McCain remains deader than a doornail.

The McCain comeback scenario hangs on a number of contingencies
(which are improbable when taken together):

1. Huckabee holds on to Iowa. Not impossible--but not likely in my view.

2. McCain "finishes strong" (third place) in Iowa. Not likely--McCain has never run strong in Iowa. Among other problems, his "straight talk express" is not ethanol-compatible.

3. Independents in NH abandon Obama and other attractive fruitcakes and come out for McCain. Again, not likely. Why would they?

4. At the crucial moment, the GOP establishment (conservative talk radio, blogs, non profits, etc.) experiences an epiphany, suddenly embracing "Maverick McCain" and admitting grievous error. Not in this lifetime.

5. Fred Thompson proves as lifeless as advertised. I am not so sure.

What actually could happen:

Dean of Iowa political pundits, David Yepsen, averred this week that third place in the Hawkeye State equals death for either Obama, Clinton, or Edwards in the greater Democratic contest; however, the three-spot in the GOP caucus offers new life for the lucky Republican also-ran (I agree).

I continue to believe that Romney will buy first place in Iowa, Huckabee will finish a respectable second, and Fred Thompson may well take third--showing himself the surprise of the night. Romney would emerge from Iowa battle-tested and victorious--but not invincible. Assuming McCain's surge in New Hampshire is not completely manufactured by the media, Romney, Rudy, and McCain should fight it out in the Granite State—with Romney again emerging victorious but not dominant.

During all this, Fred continues to enjoy an opportunity to emerge—and make his stand in South Carolina and on Super Duper Tuesday.

My contention for months has been that Fred Thompson is a taller and statelier version of McCain without the "independent" baggage (tax cuts, Kyoto, and immigration reform). It is not surprising that many conservatives are re-evaluating McCain during this desperate moment—but, once that reconsideration proves unacceptable, Fred likely emerges the most suitable (perhaps the only viable) alternative.

I continue to believe that it is not too late for Fred. We'll see.

Disclaimer: This message paid for by “Fred Thompson for President” (just kidding).
The jolting martyrdom of pro-American, pro-democracy Pakistani leader, Benazir Bhutto, at the hands of Islamist killers, proved an inconvenient bump in the road yesterday for Democratic frontrunner, Barack Obama. The jarring news broke just as Obama stood ready to deliver a much-trumpeted speech in Des Moines, in which the candidate, with his usual panache, explained why he was the one true agent of change.

The address was appropriately personal: "I walked away from a job on Wall Street to bring job training to the jobless and after school programs to kids on the streets of Chicago."

The speech was brilliantly eloquent at times: "I chose to run because I believed that the size of these challenges had outgrown the capacity of our broken and divided politics to solve them; because I believed that Americans...were hungry for a new kind of...politics that favored common sense over ideology, straight talk over spin."

"Most of all, I believed in the power of the American people to be the real agents of change...because we are not as divided as our politics suggests; because we are a decent, generous people willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations; and I was certain...there was no problem we couldn't solve--no destiny we couldn't fulfill."

For the most part, the fresh-faced candidate concentrated on "tried and true" Democratic Party "bread and butter" domestic issues, enumerating a long list of anecdotes to illustrate popular woes that he would repair as president: hard-working Americans displaced by foreign workers, teachers working extra jobs to pay for school supplies, victims of Wal-Mart, sick people who could not afford health care, seniors betrayed by greedy CEOs and the federal government, and much more.

Of course, he also scattered a few anti-Bush foreign policy crumbs:

"I've spoken to veterans who...question the wisdom of our mission in Iraq; the mothers weeping in my arms over the memories of their sons; the disabled or homeless vets who wonder why their service has been forgotten."

"I've spoken to Americans in every corner of the state, patriots all, who wonder why we have allowed our standing in the world to decline so badly, so quickly. They know this has not made us safer."

"They are ashamed of Abu Graib and Guantanamo and warrantless wiretaps and ambiguity on torture."

The solution?

"We can't afford the same politics of fear...that invokes 9/11 as a way to scare up votes instead of a challenge that should unite all Americans to defeat our real enemies."

Why him and not his opponent?

"[Y]ou can't at once argue that you're the master of a broken system in Washington and offer yourself as the person to change it. You can't fall in line behind the conventional thinking on issues as profound as war and offer yourself as the leader who is best prepared to chart a new and better course for America."

Aware of the breaking news on the Asian subcontinent, Obama decided to deliver the above-referenced speech as written with a brief prefatory tribute to Benazir Bhutto.

An aside: the speech appears on Obama's website without the tacked-on preamble.

Frankly, the brief prologue (view here via YouTube) lacked the usual fire we have come to expect from the candidate; he demonstrated no special knowledge or understanding of the situation in Pakistan, as he haltingly pledged support for democracy in Pakistan in general, while taking something of a fallback position and predicting that more information would surface as the day and week progressed.

Perhaps he favors an investigation?

Later senior Obama adviser, David Axelrod, spoke with more certainty when he blamed Hillary for the death of Bhutto.

Axelrod: "She [Hillary] was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit is one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and al Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today."

Huh? How long are we going to blame America for the completely irrational violence of inhumanly compassionless terrorists?

Tell me again: are you really sure these guys are ready for prime time?
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
We live in a dangerous world. We are blessed, indeed, to live in the United States, but Fortress America is not impenetrable. There are malefactors outside our gates who would do us harm. There are, in fact, "evil doers" in our international community, who, if given the chance, would inflict great violence and damage on our happy circumstances.

We stand at a precarious moment in our national history. We must be sober and vigilant in our solemn mission to provide for the common defense and secure the blessings of liberty.

Many have commented in recent weeks concerning the qualifications and experience of leading Democratic Party candidate for president, Barack Obama. Several pundits have reminded us that Obama's recently vocal detractor, Bill Clinton, ironically, ascended to the White House at a similarly young age, forty-six, with a similar lack of seasoning concerning world affairs.

The logical conclusion? Obama will be just fine--just as Clinton was fine.

On the other hand, perhaps we should consider an alternate deduction: we made an incredibly foolish decision in 1992, and we barely dodged a bullet.

An aside: or maybe not; many would argue that the bullet found us eventually. Perhaps, all things considered, we paid a terrible--albeit delayed--collective price for Clinton's callow world view.

Regardless, there is no guarantee that we will dodge a bullet this time around. On the last occasion on which we elevated a neophyte to the White House, we enjoyed a luxuriously indulgent moment of relative peace. Not this time. We currently face a scenario in which our backs are up against the wall.

Can we afford a foreign policy novice in 2008?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few weeks ago I described Ron Paul as "haunting."

Why? In your heart you know he is right. I observed that "if it were not for Iraq, we would love him."

An aside: it is also true that, “if it were not for Iraq, the media would hammer him, and we would have never heard of him." Case in point: today NBC's Meet the Press led off with an exclusive interview with Ron Paul. With the Iowa Caucuses less than a fortnight away, Tim Russert chose to feature a candidate with no chance whatsoever of winning that race or any race. This is remarkable.

This week respected conservative columnist John Derbyshire penned an essay entitled, "Liberty! Liberty! Why I’m for Ron Paul."

In brief, here is why I cannot support Ron Paul:

From Paul's website:

"Brief Overview of Congressman Paul’s Record:

* He has never voted to raise taxes.
* He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
* He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
* He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
* He has never taken a government paid junket.
* He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
* He voted against the Patriot Act.
* He votes against regulating the Internet.
* He voted against the Iraq war.
* He voted against NAFTA and CAFTA.
* He votes against the United Nations.
* He votes against the welfare state.
* He votes against reinstating a military draft.
* He votes for conservative principles.
* He votes to cut government spending.
* He votes to lower healthcare costs.
* He votes to end the war on drugs.
* He votes to preserve civil liberties.
* He votes to secure our borders with real immigration reform.
* He votes to eliminate tax funded abortions & to overturn Roe v Wade.
* He votes to protect religious freedom."

What's not to like?

Paul is a man of simple solutions. For example, see his statement on foreign policy (again from his website):

War and Foreign Policy

"The war in Iraq was sold to us with false information. The area is more dangerous now than when we entered it. We destroyed a regime hated by our direct enemies, the jihadists, and created thousands of new recruits for them. This war has cost more than 3,000 American lives, thousands of seriously wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars. We must have new leadership in the White House to ensure this never happens again.

"Both Jefferson and Washington warned us about entangling ourselves in the affairs of other nations. Today, we have troops in 130 countries. We are spread so thin that we have too few troops defending America. And now, there are new calls for a draft of our young men and women.

"We can continue to fund and fight no-win police actions around the globe, or we can refocus on securing America and bring the troops home. No war should ever be fought without a declaration of war voted upon by the Congress, as required by the Constitution.

"Under no circumstances should the U.S. again go to war as the result of a resolution that comes from an unelected, foreign body, such as the United Nations.

"Too often we give foreign aid and intervene on behalf of governments that are despised. Then, we become despised. Too often we have supported those who turn on us, like the Kosovars who aid Islamic terrorists, or the Afghan jihads themselves, and their friend Osama bin Laden. We armed and trained them, and now we’re paying the price.

"At the same time, we must not isolate ourselves. The generosity of the American people has been felt around the globe. Many have thanked God for it, in many languages. Let us have a strong America, conducting open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations."

Again, what's not to like?

Every word of the above statement is true on its face. But Congressman Paul's truth is simplistic and impractical.

How can we expect "open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations," if we, as Dr. Paul suggests, bring all our troops home? The American military presence all over the world for the last century has been necessary to protect American business interests. Spouting libertarian rhetoric concerning free trade and travel--but not acknowledging the reality of power politics--is ill-considered at best.

While Congressman Paul advocates trimming the government back to constitutional proportions, in truth, we cannot turn the clock back to 1787, for we are unwilling to forego the luxuries of the modern world.

There is beauty in the ideal--but oftentimes the perfect ignores reality.

I would be healthier if I ate brown rice and pinto beans exclusively for the rest of my life.

As automobiles are merely depreciating hunks of metal, I would be better off opting for a minimalist vehicle that reliably gets me from place to place with the least fanfare and cost.

But I continue to eat sumptuous foods and drive more car than I need. As a people, we continue to want to live in the most powerful nation in the history of the world. As a national community, we are unwilling to give up our comfortable lifestyles and our security--even if for most of us, in our hearts, we know Paul is right (at least in the long term)--and our "empire of liberty" must fall someday.

But not today.
If I Were the King of the Sports World--(to the tune of If I Were the King of the Forest).

Major League Baseball:

[1] Random, unannounced, year-round drug tests on all players, majors and minors; one full season suspension for a failed test, lifetime ban for two positive tests; draft penalties for franchises with more than two players testing positive in a year. I might need to break the Players Union to do this, but so be it.

[2] The Major-League season goes to 154 regular season games. The world series must be over before October 20. The season may not start any earlier than it does now. Figure it out.

[3] All stadiums must be natural grass by 2020. Figure it out.

[4] All bats must be wooden, till the end of time.

[5] No designated hitter, ever again.

[6] Salary caps per team, to be negotiated. Hiring a Free Agent will require a cash payment to the former team.

[7] Each team must play at least 40 day games at home per regular season.

[8] Each major-league team must have a bleacher section seating at least 300 priced at no more than $5 per ticket.

[9] Each team must provide adequate security, including arrests by uniformed officers of serious troublemakers. One arrest results in a ban the rest of the season. The second arrest bans the offender from stadium for two consecurive full-seasons after the season in which the offense occurs. Three strikes and the ban is lifetime.

[10] All World-Series games will be day games.
Gateway Pundit this morning has a roundup of the increasing restrictions being put into place on the Iranian population. This latest may the the step too far: banning smoking in public places, including water pipes. This ban is a direct affront to one of the chief social centers for Iranian men: the coffee and tea shops. We may now see working men joining with Iranian students in resisting the increasingly oppressive regime.

Maybe these guys can do some music in Farsi and smuggle bootleg copies into Iran.

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the AP today (compressed):

Consumer Spending Surges in November by Largest Amount in 3 1/2 Years

"The Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending...nearly triple[d] the October gain...the biggest one-month jump since a 1.2 percent rise in May 2004 and was significantly above the 0.7 percent analysts had expected. Incomes were also up last month, rising by 0.4 percent, double the October increase but slightly below the advance that had been expected."

"Many economists believe that overall economic growth will be at a barely discernible rate of 1 percent in the current quarter, as the country struggles with the fallout from the housing downturn and a spreading credit crisis that has made bank loans harder to get for individuals and businesses."

"After-tax incomes were up 0.3 percent in November, but after adjusting for inflation, incomes actually fell by 0.3 percent after a 0.2 percent drop in October. Democratic presidential candidates, hoping to make the economy an issue in next year's contest, have been stressing the weak gains in incomes as an example of failed Republican policies."

"With spending rising at a faster rate than savings, the nation's savings rate dipped into negative territory in November at 0.5 percent. That meant that households spent all of their incomes and either dipped into savings or borrowed to finance the higher level of spending last month."

This report is fairly typical of approximately one million similar stories filed in major newspapers across America since January 21, 2001.

They often follow the same formula:

1. Good news (in this case wildly incredibly positive news).

2. Deeper analysis of why the news, on second thought, is not really that good.

3. Prediction of Impending Doom.

GDP up 4 percent. Larry Summers pens a powerful essay explaining the coming crisis.

Employment is nearly full and steady--but these are all bad jobs. Recession looms...

Wall Street up--but...

Growth is high; personal income is high--but only for rich Republicans...

The long slow upward-sloping decline began with the presidency of George Bush, and it accelerated during the election year of 2004. The long slow upward-sloping decline seems ready to explode once again.

Granted there is an oppressive sense of dread palpable in the nation today. We are all expecting something bad to happen. In part, this is merely the human condition exacerbated by modernity--we have been waiting for the world to come apart at the seems for several generations now. But I too sense something wicked coming our way.

No matter, for all those experts who prophesy that we are approaching a significant downturn to this economy, undoubtedly, they are absolutely correct. Rather, like Chance Gardener (from Being There) who predicted "growth in the spring," they will be correct eventually. What goes up (and we are riding high) must come down. Economics 101. But am I paranoid to believe that this constant drumbeat in the mainstream media might be different during a more favored administration?
With a lot of help from my friends at the Council on Foreign Relations, here is a short list of the things that make me uncomfortable regarding Barack Obama:

Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

Obama wants Guantanamo closed and habeas corpus restored for the detainees. He voted against the Military Commissions Act.

Obama: "While we're at it, we're going to close Guantanamo. And we're going to restore habeas corpus. ... We're going to lead by example--by not just word but by deed. That's our vision for the future."

Domestic Intelligence

Obama opposed the nomination of Michael Hayden as DCIA because of his role in the warrantless wiretapping program, which he railed against for avoiding FISA oversight.

War on Terror

Obama is highly critical of the Bush administration's emphasis on "military solutions." As a result of our belligerent actions in Iraq, in his view, the world hates us.

Obama: "The Bush administration responded to the unconventional attacks of 9/11 with conventional thinking of the past, largely viewing problems as state-based and principally amenable to military solutions. It was this tragically misguided view that led us into a war in Iraq that never should have been authorized and never should have been waged. In the wake of Iraq and Abu Ghraib, the world has lost trust in our purposes and our principles."

How do we win?

Obama: "A crucial debate is occurring within Islam. Some believe in a future of peace, tolerance, development, and democratization. Others embrace a rigid and violent intolerance of personal liberty and the world at large. To empower forces of moderation, America must make every effort to export opportunity -- access to education and health care, trade and investment -- and provide the kind of steady support for political reformers and civil society that enabled our victory in the Cold War. Our beliefs rest on hope; the extremists' rest on fear. That is why we can -- and will -- win this struggle."

Come on y'all, can't we all just get along.

Note: the above "how do we win" quote is actually fairly okay with me--but I threw this in for the Okie Gardener, as I guessed it might make him see red.

Cuba Policy

From the CFR: "Obama has called for travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban-Americans to be lifted. In an op-ed in the Miami Herald, Obama also said he would engage in bilateral talks with Cuba to send the message that the United States is willing to normalize relations with Cuba upon evidence of a democratic opening there."

"He has voted twice to cut off TV Marti funding."


Obama wants to talk to Iran, thinks we can prevail upon them to "play a more constructive role in Iraq," and wants us to stop "saber-rattling" in their direction, as threats of war are extremely unhelpful. He has castigated Senator Clinton repeatedly for voting in favor of the resolution that designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

United Nations

Obama sees the United Nations as vital and necessary and voted against the Bolton nomination.
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Not much left to say about Iowa. For the record, here are my predictions:

The Party of Jackson:

Hillary wins a squeaker. Obama second. Edwards a close but, nevertheless, terminal third.

The Party of Lincoln:

Romney pulls it out. Huck hangs on for a respectable second place. Fred surprises with a third-place finish and emerges, finally, as a serious candidate.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Frequent commentator and occasional poster Tocq sends this link to an article from The American Thinker on Hillary and Truth-Telling.

This article points to my fear/anxiety regarding a Hillary presidency, she has become Ambition, a drive to power supported by Hate and Pride: a woman with a badly shriveled soul.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Six more Democratic County chairs have endorsed Barack Obama for president. The list includes Sioux County Democratic chair Carl Vander Meulen. In all, 20 county chairs in Iowa have endorsed Obama. Story here.

Iowa has 99 counties.

I see this as a serious setback for Hillary, who has spent years insinuating herself into the Democratic Party organization.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here from Compass Direct News: some excerpts:

After the government destroyed its church building in 2001, a Church of the Brethren in Nigeria congregation bought the Bight of Benin Hotel for 5.5 million naira (US$46,610) as a place of worship. But the Rev. James Zoaka said his church’s 13-year-old struggle to survive is far from over. “We still have the fear that we may not survive this ordeal, as we are yet to get approval for us to continue to use this place as a place of worship,” said Rev. Zoaka. “The Kano state government may decide at any time to declare this place illegal and then demolish it.” The Kano government offered Rev. Zoaka no explanation for the previous demolition, much less compensation.
. . .
The sanctuary the state demolished had been rebuilt, Rev. Zoaka said, after Muslims burned it down – for the third time. “We first had our church building at the Brigade area of this city,” he told Compass. “But in the 10 years that religious conflicts have engulfed Kano state, our church has been burnt down three times by Muslims.” Barrister Haruna Isa Dederi, Kano state information commissioner, declined to comment on the onslaught on Rev. Zoaka’s church by the government and other Islamic agents. A Christian source in Nigeria told Compass that persecution “is becoming high” in all 44 local government areas of the state.
. . .
The anti-Christian policies in Kano state came atop the violence the church suffered in Muslim rioting that erupted in 2001. Emmanuel Bappah, a church elder, recalled how 11 members were killed defending the church on October 11 of that year. “We heard that Muslims in the city of Kano were rioting,” Bappah said, “and sensing that our church could be set on fire as they rioted, some of us in the church decided, ‘We should go and be on the premises of the church in case they come, then we can try to defend the building from being set on fire,’ as was done twice previously.” As soon as they entered in the building, he said, a crowd of Muslims came up against the church chanting, “Allahu Akbar [God is Great]” and wielding weapons such as guns, machetes and cudgels. “We remained quiet, and then suddenly they began to attack us,” he said. “We tried repelling them, but it became impossible to fight back with our bare hands. They set the church on fire while we were trapped inside.” Those who tried to escape were chased down like animals and killed, he said. Bappah said he received four machete cuts on his back, and one of his ears was cut off.

Religions of Peace, yeah, right.
Category: US in Iraq
Posted by: an okie gardener
Some time ago, I posted that what Iraq needed was Iraqi Minutemen, armed citizens banding together to defend their liberty. Now they have them, and they are making the difference. These armed citizen groups will make it more difficult for any aspiring dictators, and for terrorists.
This article in the New Republic briefly and lucidly explains China's role in facilitating the genocide being conducted by the government of The Sudan. Military equipment, economic aid, preventing action by the United Nations, China is the best friend of the repressive National Islamic Front government. Why? Oil. In China's case it really is blood for oil.

Explain to me again why we treat the Chinese government as somehow legitimate, and have opened our markets to their shoddy and unsafe products.
Posted by: an okie gardener
In spite of the growth of secularism in the last hundred years, the human race remains a religious species, overall. One of the ways our thirst for the transcendent expresses itself, is in pilgrimage: travel to a sacred destination.

This article from MSNBC on the top religious travel destinations.

Top sites five sites in estimated order:

*Sensoji Temple, Tokyo, Japan
*Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, Mexico City, Mexico
*The Vatican/St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy
*Tomb of Imam Reza, Mashad, Iran
*Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain
Range, Japan

The website Sacred Destinations provides information on "religious travel."

Any readers ever go on pilgrimage, or visit a holy site?

19/12: Irony Bites

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
From The Sidney Morning Herald (Australia):

Two men have died and six have been injured after a minibus carrying members of a heavy-metal band tour crashed down an embankment of the Pacific Highway. The booking agent for Geelong-based heavy metal band The Red Shore has confirmed two of the band's members died. An employee for Pan Studios in Geelong has confirmed the company's received news the band's lead singer Damo, 22 , was killed along with the group's driver and merchandiser, Andy, 27. The minibus was in a convoy carrying The Red Shore and All Shall Perish "deathcore-metal" bands on their Christmas Carnage tour. A spokeswoman for the tour organiser said that members of the Califorinia-based All Shall Perish were not involved in the crash.

Full story.
For the previous posts on this series click here.

"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.

Today's post: Chesterton's religion and his economics.

G. K. Chesterton converted to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism, and he took the doctrines and practices of his faith seriously, including their implications.

His explanation "Why I Am a Catholic" is reprinted here. Some excerpts:

The difficulty of explaining "why I am a Catholic" is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true. I could fill all my space with separate sentences each beginning with the words, "It is the only thing that . . ." As, for instance, (1) It is the only thing that really prevents a sin from being a secret. (2) It is the only thing in which the superior cannot be superior; in the sense of supercilious. (3) It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. (4) It is the only thing that talks as if it were the truth; as if it were a real messenger refusing to tamper with a real message. (5) It is the only type of Christianity that really contains every type of man; even the respectable man. (6) It is the only large attempt to change the world from the inside; working through wills and not laws; and so on.

Or I might treat the matter personally and describe my own conversion; but I happen to have a strong feeling that this method makes the business look much smaller than it really is. Numbers of much better men have been sincerely converted to much worse religions. I would much prefer to attempt to say here of the Catholic Church precisely the things that cannot be said even of its very respectable rivals. In short, I would say chiefly of the Catholic Church that it is catholic. I would rather try to suggest that it is not only larger than me, but larger than anything in the world; that it is indeed larger than the world. But since in this short space I can only take a section, I will consider it in its capacity of a guardian of the truth.

If you wish to pursue Chesterton's attraction to the Roman Catholic Church, see his work The Catholic Church and Conversion which can be found here.

One of the truths, or perhaps better, one aspect of the Truth, that Chesterton wrote he heard in the Roman Catholic teaching, was economic truth. To quote at length from The Catholic Church and Conversion:

We did not really like giving up our little private keys or local attachments or love of our own possessions; but we were quite convinced that social justice must be done somehow and could only be done socialistically. I therefore became a Socialist in the old days of the Fabian Society; and so I think did everybody else worth talking about except the Catholics. And the Catholics were an insignificant handful, the dregs of a dead religion, essentially a superstition. About this time appeared the Encyclical on Labour by Leo XIII; and nobody in our really well informed world took much notice of it. Certainly the Pope spoke as strongly as any Socialist could speak when he said that Capitalism "laid on the toiling millions a yoke little better than slavery." But as the Pope was not a Socialist it was obvious that he had not read the right Socialist books and pamphlets; and we could not expect the poor old gentleman to know what every young man knew by this time--that Socialism was inevitable. That was a long time ago, and by a gradual process, mostly practical and political, which I have no intention of describing here, most of us began to realise that Socialism was not inevitable; that it was not really popular; that it was not the only way, or even the right way, of restoring the rights of the poor. We have come to the conclusion that the obvious cure for private property being given to the few is to see that it is given to the many; not to see that it is taken away from everybody or given in trust to the dear good politicians. Then, having discovered that fact as a fact, we look back at Leo XIII and discover in his old and dated document, of which we took no notice at the time, that he was saying then exactly what we are saying now. "As many as possible of the
working classes should become owners."

Continued below.

» Read More

Although I reserve the right to come back later and revisit these issues after some reflection, here are a few more thoughts/shots from the hip:

1. I tend to root for Obama with my heart and pull for Hillary with my head. Why? Hillary is a certain continuation of the past with all its woes. Obama equals an optimistic hope for a future full of change. The Gardener asked me to flesh out Obama's positions based on his light voting record. I am convinced, as David Brooks said today in his column, that what you see is what you get. I am convinced that there is almost no guile to the man. He actually believes what he says (sort of like George Bush in 2000). This is scary, as he is a liberal idealist who believes with the help of God he can make the world a much better place. The downside: these folks seem to do more damage than good more often than not.

2. For all those who think (and have asserted for years) that the mainstream media works for the Clintons, we finally have proof: you are wrong. The mainstream media is killing Hillary right now. The feeding frenzy and increasing momentum is proof that the MSM thinks she is toast--but that doesn't mean a whole lot because they are wrong as a group more than they are right. She is not over. She is in a tight spot--but the Clintons and their armies are not defeated. What we too often forget is that Clinton (like Reagan) had to beat the MSM to gain power. Of course, the comparison ends there--but the Clintons are experienced at by-passing the media when necessary.

3. I am enjoying the trials and tribulations of Team Clinton as much as you are; they deserve this much and more--but my schadenfreude is tempered by my belief that her departure opens the way for something that may prove much worse (or much better). Rolling the dice...
I have been on the road for the last five days and fairly oblivious to politics. But I have two quick reactions to Bill Clinton's comments in re Barack Obama and his inexperience, which I heard about only last night (Monday).

1. "Hello kettle; this is pot."
Ron Fournier beats me to the punch on this obvious analysis (read his excellent piece here); he once again has it absolutely right in re the Clintons. Of course, Clinton was an incredibly inexperienced 46-year-old governor from a minor state when he miraculously won the Democratic nomination in 1992 and inexplicably bested the most experienced president of the twentieth century, who was actually doing a fairly bang-up job of things.

2. Clinton is absolutely right.
Of course, electing Obama is "rolling the dice." We know almost nothing about him other than we like him. This phenomena is not completely unprecedented in American politics--but I cannot think of an instance in which we (the people) have elected a lesser-known, less-experienced president than Obama--but the nation is still young (some earlier thoughts on this subject here).

Why is it that the even the most obvious statement about Obama can stir up such a firestorm of controversy? This imbroglio is reminiscent of the Biden controversy nearly a year ago (my thoughts back then here).
Posted by: an okie gardener
The United States is not the only nation in which Christianity and politics mix. This report from the Pew Forum on the upcoming presidential election in South Korea highlights the growth and power of Christianity in ROK.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Time magazine, evidently anticipating a quiet Christmas season, has released its list of Top Ten Religion Stories in 2007.

Their list.

1. Release of Mother Teresa's letters.
2. Democrats embrace religion and Mitt Romney Channels JFK.
3. Jerry Falwell Dies
4. The Pope's Moto Proprio
5. The Episcopal Church at Odds over Gays
6. The Greening of Evangelicalism
7. The Roar of Atheist Books
8. The Trials of New Life Church
9. The Creation Museum Opens
10. South Korean Christian Missionaries Kidnapped in Afghanistan

As usual, I beg to disagree. I really do not think their number one story will matter much in 100 years, except to scholars. I think Falwell's death is rated too high: his national influence was highest in the 1980s. The papal permission to celebrate the Latin Mass without a bishop's permission is ranked too high. And, though indicative of the continuing strength of Fundamentalism in the U.S., the opening of the Creation Museum does not deserve a top ten.

My list.

1. The continuing Islamic jihad against the rest of the world. We are in another hot spell of the nearly 1400 year-long war between Islam and everyone else.
2. The continued decline of Christianity in Europe, and growth of Islam.
3. The continuing consolidation of power in Russia under Putin, a practicing Russian Orthodox Christianwho seems to be trying to bring back the situation of the Czars, including a close relationship between the Church and the State.
4. The issues of religion in the U.S. Presidential primaries.
5. Pope Benedict XVI's conservative pontificate, which coming after Pope John Paul II, moves the Roman Catholic Church away from any liberalizing trends Vatican II may have engendered.
6. Troubles in the Anglican Communion caused by the U.S. Episcopal Church's positions regarding same-sex practice.
7. Related to number 1, but deserving its own space, the moves into international power by Iran; the government of which is propeled by apocalyptic expectation.
8. The continuing suppression of Tibetan religion and culture by the Chinese government, as well as the continued persecution of Falun Gong.
9. The growth of underground Christianity in Iran.
10. The "Quiet Revival" of conservative Christianity in the Boston area.
I eulogized the late Dr. Thomas Torrance in this earlier post. He was a brilliant theologian, a faithful churchman, family man, and folower of Christ. In constructive theology he wrote especially on the nature of God, and on religion and science.

He recently was honored by Presbyterians Pro-Life. This notice also links to Torrance's booklet The Being and Nature of the Unborn Child.

Here is a direct link to Torrance's address. Scroll down to view the unedited version.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
This morning Instapundit links to this post by Clayton Cramer entitled What's Gone Wrong in Oakland.

Some quotations from the the San Francisco Chronicle given in the post.

The body count is woven into the civic consciousness here - a number chased by homicide inspectors, studied by criminologists, lamented in churches, reported by journalists. Every mayor leaves City Hall on broken promises to quell the violence, and the killings continue. An additional 115 have been killed this year, putting Oakland on pace for another gruesome record. In the last five years, 557 people were slain on the city's streets, making Oakland the state's second-most murderous city, behind Compton. Most victims are young, black men who are dying in forgotten neighborhoods of East and West Oakland. A handful of their killers, speaking from prison, describe an environment where violence is so woven into the culture that murder has become a symbol of manhood. The inmates say the only difference between these neighborhoods and prison is the absence of walls. The same hierarchies apply - the meanest rise to the top. It's a survival skill that ensures ownership of drug corners, a sense of self-worth, female attention and protection from attack.

Experts fear that the neighborhoods are only getting more violent. There are entire blocks without a single two-parent family, where drug dealers have become the predominant male role models, and children fend for themselves in crowded, chaotic homes where they are routinely exposed to drugs, sex and guns. Criminal families are on their third and fourth generations. Grandparents - the ones who have historically stepped in to help raise fatherless boys and instill a sense of right and wrong - are dying off.
Increasingly, the young murder suspects coming to the station for questioning seem to lack basic morality, said Sgt. Tim Nolan, who has been investigating Oakland homicides for 17 years.
"There are more and more families where there's less and less structure," he said. "Talking to these suspects day in and out, there's a higher percentage today with no sense of right and wrong. It's frightening, but we are creating super-criminals." All it takes is a look, a put-down or a lost fight, and bullets fly. Disrespect has become the No. 1 reason to kill.

Without parents to help them mature, the mental world of these young killers stays stuck in an infantile, egotistic state, said forensic psychologist Shawn Johnston, who has conducted more than 15,000 court evaluations of adult and juvenile criminals in 15 Northern California counties. "What keeps us from killing each other is empathy, and we learn it from bonding with parents who pick us back up when we get hurt or teased as children," Johnston said. "Without it, you get guys who live in a constant state of protecting the fantasy that they are the most important thing this side of the Milky Way. And because they don't have empathy, they will shoot or stab to protect their illusion."

Cramer, the author of Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform (Praeger, 1999), points to the parallel with the Southern culture of honor and violence in the antebellum South: the concern with honor (how do I look to others, am I being treated with respect and deference, I must maintain my place and keep others below me in their place) that is defended with violence. But, the differences are what strike him: in the Old South dualists and brawlers were a large minority, not majority; by and large the court system worked. By contrast, in the neighborhoods described by the Chronicle those who use violence have intimidated witnesses to the point that the entire community will not hold murderers to account.

(more below)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The summer of '75 I listened a lot to the band Spirit. I am not sure why. In the '70s I was even more into jazz than I am now, and I remain a huge fan. But, a friend turned me on to Spirit, a band described in enotes as

Beginning in one of the most fertile periods of American rock music, Spirit created some of the most memorable music of the past three decades, outlasting many pop music trends along the way. With its eclectic musical mix of rock, jazz, blues, and folk influences, Spirit was one of the premier West Coast rock bands to emerge during the late 60s. Although the band never reached superstar status, it has maintained a dedicated following. Spirit's musical activities came to a premature and tragic end with the accidental death of leader and guitarist Randy California in 1997.

One of the reasons they "never achieved superstar status" was a management decision to send them on a tour of radio stations instead of to play Woodstock.

Some clips from YouTube, listening to them I have '70s flashbacks:

Fresh Garbage one of their earliest songs, and Taurus


Nature's Way

Mr. Skin

Spirit: The Video History, Part 1
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
Every technological advance the human race has made, has been used to kill and enslave fellow human beings.

The invention of the bow and arrow made it easier to kill deer to feed the family: and to kill members of the neighboring tribe. Mastering the use of iron gave us better and more durable tools: and swords and armor superior to bronze. Roman engineering prowess built roads and aquaducts that still stand: and enabled them to destroy the walls of any city that resisted them. Dynamite made road building easier: and battlefields much more deadly. Nuclear technology provides low-cost electricity: and bombs that destroy cities. Computer technologies make the internet, and this blog, possible: and create precision-guided weapons and data systems for police-states.

This pattern of human history is one reason I am not thrilled-to-death by the developing genetic technology illustrated in these stories.

Mice with no fear of cats.

Cloned kittens that glow.

Somewhere, perhaps China, I bet a group of scientists is even now experimenting with genetic engineering of humans with the intent of creating ideal soldiers, or ideal mine workers. Bacteria and viruses never before seen in nature, for which humans would have no defense: right now someone is thinking what wonderful weapons these would be.

Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The worst ever? Charles Krauthammer thought so. Maybe.

"Thank you, thank you," the monotone moderator repeated time and time again, lamely signaling that the allotted thirty-second period for candidate responses had concluded.

Two asides:

Nothing irritates me more than a disingenuous "thank you."

Nine people on a stage, only three of whom have a serious chance at being president of the United States, all of them confined to thirty-second sound bites, strikes me as a recipe for a worthless eighty two minutes.

Having said that, the debate offered two big revelations:

1. Alan Keys is running for president again? Seriously?

2. Fred may have finally found his stride. Was this a breakthrough for him? I hope so. While Romney delivered another sharp and optimistic performance, Fred was the story. Like an all-star athlete who skipped spring training, Thompson has looked sluggish and out of sorts for the first few debates. But last night he finally showed up with his game face on.

Too little too late? Maybe. Maybe not. This race still seems very fluid to me. Because the field is so weak, it may not be too late for Fred.

What did Fred do that was so great?

1. He had a mini Ronald ("I paid for this microphone") Reagan moment, when he refused to comply with the "show of hands" on global warming.

--He was right to point out that this issue is more complicated than a "yes or no" answer to a politically driven "trap" question.

--As a Republican, skepticism about global warming hyperbole and hysteria plays well with a whole slew of target voters. McCain and Rudy clamoring to agree with Al Gore did not do them any good with the GOP base.

--And taking on a not very attractive and incredibly annoying media stiff is always a popular thing to do for a Republican candidate.

2. Fred also scored with two humorous retorts: still ostensibly on global warming, Alan Keyes delivered an impassioned speech about everything and about nothing all at the same time, all the while neglecting to address the actual issue explicitly. At which point, Fred interjected: I agree with Alan's position on global warming," which elicited a big laugh from the audience. The other case, which has made all the highlights, Thompson made light of Romney's wealth and his "acting ability." More good laughs.

3. Fred looked presidential and tough. "We can't stand for that," he said once in relation to our friends taking advantage of free trade agreements. I believed him. He clearly wanted to set himself apart from (above) the mad scramble for votes, and he did that (at least for a moment).
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Huckabee: still dead man walking; review here--but, in a nutshell, the diverse forces of conservatism have united to destroy him: NRO, Drudge, Rush, Hugh Hewitt, et al. I restate my previous prediction: Huck comes in second in Iowa and goes down from there.

Rudy: still dead man walking; he is a good guy--but not GOP nominee material. His pro-choice stand--believe it or not--is forgivable; his anti-gun stand is less so--but, even worse, too many scandals and too many wives. He will never be the Republican standard bearer.

John McCain: still dead man walking. Too bad and unfair--but popular conservatism buried him long ago. He is absolutely right on many issues, and he is by far the best candidate to lead an embattled America. But he is not viable.

Romney: definitely on the upswing. His College Station speech was the most presidential moment of this year-long campaign. He is well-funded and better organized than his opposition. He has a plan. He has powerful friends. He is well positioned to take off coming out of Iowa. But I still have my doubts. The Republican Party has never nominated a presidential candidate from Massachusetts. I think the streak continues. Romney wins Iowa and New Hampshire (and Michigan), but I think he finds big trouble down South and out West. This is mostly an inarticulate hunch--but I just don't think red-state America buys what Governor Romney is selling. I like him personally--but he does not energize me.

Fred: and Fred does? As crazy as it sounds, Fred Thompson gives me hope. He is obviously a slow starter, and his campaign, in addition to being horrendously inept, is completely lacking in imagination. As I have said before, he is running the worst campaign, but he is the best candidate. Fred is big and tough and ready to rumble. I have only seen the highlights of the Iowa debate today--but, evidently, he showed that side of himself in Iowa this afternoon. More hope.

Personality, viability, and affability aside, though, Fred is the kind of candidate, win or lose, who represents the ideas and principles of the Republican Party. We need a guy like Fred. He still strikes me as the most authentic choice of our realistic options.
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Washington Post Tuesday:

Sentencing Guidelines for Crack Cocaine Offenses to Be Made Retroactive

"The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted today to make retroactive its new federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses, raising hopes for reduced prison terms among thousands of mostly black federal inmates and defying stiff opposition from the Bush administration" (full story here).

Stack that on top of the Supreme Court news from Monday (again via the Post):

Justices Reinforce Leeway on Sentences:
Cocaine Disparity At Heart of 1 Case

"The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that federal judges are not bound by federal guidelines calling for tougher penalties for those who sell crack rather than powder cocaine, giving them broad discretion in drug and other criminal cases" (full story here).

Note: This was a 7-2 ruling in which Justices Scalia and Roberts sided with the petitioner.

This is a huge week for the 100:1 crew (see previous post here for background), who took quite a beating getting to the Supreme Court. Special kudos to Mark Osler, who argued several of those cases at the circuit court level, filed an amicus brief on behalf of the petitioner on this case, and attended the Supreme Court hearing this fall. His post-ruling expert analysis on SCOTUSblog and some celebratory pictures of a severed Goliath head and an exultant Chewbacca on his blog.

Well done. Congratulations. This is a story of perseverance in the pursuit of a righteous cause.

The title of this post is borrowed from James Brewer Stewart's 1976 monograph about the American abolitionists of the nineteenth century, Holy Warriors.

Mark Osler, a professor of law at Baylor Law School, has several causes about which he is passionate. The other night at the Law School, I attended a Baylor Federalist Society-sponsored debate concerning "Faith and the Law," focused on the death penalty.

The Question: Is the Death Penalty compatible with Christianity?

Professor Osler took the negative.

During the course of the program it suddenly occurred to me that the modern proponents of abolishing the death penalty, especially those like Osler who are motivated by their particular Christian worldview, have much in common with the storied abolitionists of old.

More on that comparison in the days to come.
This strikes me as huge. Although I am not in a place to agree with it entirely, it is well said and well reasoned.

In full, from National Review Online :

Romney for President

By the Editors

Many conservatives are finding it difficult to pick a presidential candidate. Each of the men running for the Republican nomination has strengths, and none has everything — all the traits, all the positions — we are looking for. Equally conservative analysts can reach, and have reached, different judgments in this matter. There are fine conservatives supporting each of these Republicans.

Our guiding principle has always been to select the most conservative viable candidate. In our judgment, that candidate is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. Unlike some other candidates in the race, Romney is a full-spectrum conservative: a supporter of free-market economics and limited government, moral causes such as the right to life and the preservation of marriage, and a foreign policy based on the national interest. While he has not talked much about the importance of resisting ethnic balkanization — none of the major candidates has — he supports enforcing the immigration laws and opposes amnesty. Those are important steps in the right direction.

Uniting the conservative coalition is not enough to win a presidential election, but it is a prerequisite for building on that coalition. Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country.

Two other major candidates would be able to keep the coalition together, but have drawbacks of their own. John McCain is not as conservative as Romney. He sponsored and still champions a campaign-finance law that impinged on fundamental rights of political speech; he voted against the Bush tax cuts; he supported this year’s amnesty bill, although he now says he understands the need to control the border before doing anything else.

Despite all that and more, he is a hero with a record that is far more good than bad. He has been a strong and farsighted supporter of the Iraq War, and, in a trying political season for him, he has preserved and even enhanced his reputation for dignity and seriousness. There would be worse nominees for the GOP (see above). But McCain ran an ineffectual campaign for most of the year and is still paying for it.

Fred Thompson is as conservative as Romney, and has distinguished himself with serious proposals on Social Security, immigration, and defense. But Thompson has never run any large enterprise — and he has not run his campaign well, either. Conservatives were excited this spring to hear that he might enter the race, but have been disappointed by the reality. He has been fading in crucial early states. He has not yet passed the threshold test of establishing for voters that he truly wants to be president.

Romney is an intelligent, articulate, and accomplished former businessman and governor. At a time when voters yearn for competence and have soured on Washington because too often the Bush administration has not demonstrated it, Romney offers proven executive skill. He has demonstrated it in everything he has done in his professional life, and his tightly organized, disciplined campaign is no exception. He himself has shown impressive focus and energy.

It is true that he has less foreign-policy experience than Thompson and (especially) McCain, but he has more executive experience than both. Since almost all of the candidates have the same foreign-policy principles, what matters most is which candidate has the skills to execute that vision.

Reminder, this is the text of a National Review Online editorial.

Like any Republican, he would have an uphill climb next fall. But he would be able to offer a persuasive outsider’s critique of Washington. His conservative accomplishments as governor showed that he can work with, and resist, a Demo­crat­ic legislature. He knows that not every feature of the health-care plan he enacted in Massachusetts should be replicated nationally, but he can also speak with more authority than any of the other Republican candidates about this pressing issue. He would also have credibility on the economy, given his success as a businessman and a manager of the Olympics.

Some conservatives question his sincerity. It is true that he has reversed some of his positions. But we should be careful not to overstate how much he has changed. In 1994, when he tried to unseat Ted Kennedy, he ran against higher taxes and government-run health care, and for school choice, a balanced budget amendment, welfare reform, and “tougher measures to stop illegal immigration.” He was no Rockefeller Republican even then.

We believe that Romney is a natural ally of social conservatives. He speaks often about the toll of fatherlessness in this country. He may not have thought deeply about the political dimensions of social issues until, as governor, he was confronted with the cutting edge of social liberalism. No other Republican governor had to deal with both human cloning and court-imposed same-sex marriage. He was on the right side of both issues, and those battles seem to have made him see the stakes of a broad range of public-policy issues more clearly. He will work to put abortion on a path to extinction. Whatever the process by which he got to where he is on marriage, judges, and life, we’re glad he is now on our side — and we trust him to stay there.

He still has some convincing to do with other conservatives. Romney has been plagued by the sense that his is a passionless, paint-by-the-numbers conservatism. If he is to win the nomination, he will have to show more of the kind of emotion and resolve he demonstrated in his College Station “Faith in America” speech.

For some people, Romney’s Mormonism is still a barrier. But we are not electing a pastor. The notion that he will somehow be controlled by Salt Lake City or engaged in evangelism for his church is outlandish. He deserves to be judged on his considerable merits as a potential president. As he argued in his College Station speech, his faith informs his values, which he has demonstrated in both the private and public sectors. In none of these cases have any specific doctrines of his church affected the quality of his leadership. Romney is an exemplary family man and a patriot whose character matches the high office to which he aspires.

More than the other primary candidates, Romney has President Bush’s virtues and avoids his flaws. His moral positions, and his instincts on taxes and foreign policy, are the same. But he is less inclined to federal activism, less tolerant of overspending, better able to defend conservative positions in debate, and more likely to demand performance from his subordinates. A winning combination, by our lights. In this most fluid and unpredictable Republican field, we vote for Mitt Romney.
The Episcopal Church is rocking the world-wide Anglican communion by its endorsement of same-sex practice and marriage. Third-world Anglicans have demanded the U.S. branch (the Episcopalians) repent. The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the communion (with far less powers than the pope) is trying to hold things together.

The Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire is now giving the Anglican communion the bird, announcing that in June he will wed his same-sex partner. Story here.

Previous posts.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the great difficulty for many in converting to Roman Catholicism is accepting the idea that someone else may know more than you do. The Episcopal Church is having real trouble accepting that the world-wide communion, and especially the third-world primates, may know more than the church of one nation.

Chesterton also wrote that many people perceived a conversion to Roman Catholicism as a narrowing of perspective. On the contrary, he asserted, one becomes broadened by entering into an international Church spanning the eras. Conversion liberated one from the shackles of the culture of one nation. Methinks the Episcopal Church is too captive to modern Western culture and thought.
Shelby Steele:

"[T]he cultural and historical implications of [Barack] Obama's candidacy are clearly greater than its public policy implications...his candidacy itself asks the American democracy to complete itself...."

I vigorously recommend Steele's essay in last week's TIME Magazine (here), which proved tremendously useful as I continue to wrestle with my ongoing ambivalence concerning Obama and his unlikely campaign.

As I have admitted previously on several occasions, I am strangely attracted to the notion of Barack Obama.

Why is this odd?

The candidate and I are diametrically opposed on almost every substantive issue--several of which I see as absolutely crucial to the future of our nation.

But still...I grow frustratingly fonder.


What is it about this forty-six year-old freshman senator, who can point to absolutely no uniquely heroic deed that recommends him to the presidency? What else could there possibly be about Barack Obama that makes him special?

Indisputably, obviously, it is race; or, more precisely, the mesmerizing combination of race, charisma, and potential.

Shelby Steele again:

" an opportunity for whites to think well of themselves, to give themselves one of the most self-flattering feelings a modern white can have: that they are not racist."

An obvious point. But this plays much bigger than the personal. The election of Barack Obama will forcefully declare that America is not racist. Obama can prove the self evident truth that all men are created equal in this storied "land of opportunity," where, regardless of race, all persons are free to enjoy liberty and justice and for all.

Obama can be the person in our lifetimes who transcends (even redeems) our tortured past and accelerates a national healing process.

Moreover, I dream that Obama will be the ultimate role model for African Americans who will come to apprehend, finally, that the game is not rigged. For I believe that believing is half the battle. Obama can personify the notion of unlimited possibility, which will encourage children of color to work hard and expect success in an America where we all benefit from one another's successes.

But I also have my doubts. Will Obama be a "sellout"? Not in the traditional sense of betraying the black community for a place at the white man's table. No, I worry that Barack Obama will "sell out" the vision of racial transcendence, opting instead for the "tried and true" Democratic Party message of historic and continued oppression, benign paternalism, and quid pro quo.

Once again, I strongly recommend Steele's insightful essay, "The Identity Card," which suggests that Obama is unlikely to choose (perhaps incapable of choosing) a path that leads us beyond the toxic politics of black and white.

My mixed emotions continue to swirl...
Category: Campaign 2008.7
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
David Freddoso on NRO lays out a complicated but compelling scenario in which the Republican primary process might not yield a presumptive nominee:

Convention Wisdom:
A Minneapolis floor fight is not so far-fetched.

I speculated on this possibility in brief a few weeks ago (here and here).

Moreover, I agree with Freddoso that a meaningful and/or raucous convention could be a great advantage to the Grand Old Party.

UPDATE: Fodder for a future post perhaps, but is has also occurred to me recently that an inconclusive primary season might tempt the relevant players to make a deal (or alliance) during the long interval following the voting but before the convention begins.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
In past wars, we would have read the story of Joshua Chiarini in the papers. Now the blogosphere must do the job for the MSM. Chiarini is a Navy Corpsman attached to the Marines. On February 2, 2006, his actions in Anbar province earned him the Silver Star. Read the story here.

My searching has found no mention of this story in the New York Times or Washington Post.
Not every Episcopal member, congregation, or diocese, is going quietly into the bad night of liberalism. Story here.

This week the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin decides whether to remain within the Episcopal Denomination, or leave. This is the second vote. The first vote to leave passed overwhelmingly, but a second vote is needed. The immediate issue: the Episcopal Church's affirmation of same-sex sex, and opening of church leadership positions to those so practicing.

At this point the main tactic of the Episcopal denomination is to threaten dissident congregations with loss of their property if they leave, and threats of action against opposition leaders. My conclusion, if a church is reduced to legal threats it has lost spiritual authority.
I think every U.S. state has a motto. Most are not that memorable. My favorite, far and away, is New Hampshire's:


Powerline has some background on this bold declaration.

It comes from a quote by New Hampshire's greatest Revolutionary War hero, Gen. John Stark. Stark reportedly gave a toast in 1809, when poor health led him to decline an invitation to a reunion of veterans of the 1777 Battle of Bennington: "Live free or die; death is not the worst of evils." . . . General Stark had a way with words. Before leading his troops to victory in the battle of Bennington, which set up the decisive defeat of the British at Saratoga, he told his men, "Tonight, the American flag floats over yonder hill, or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!"

That motto is an in-your-face assertion of liberty in the face of tyranny; the essence of Revolutionary republicanism in four words.

Some other great state mottos:

SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS (Thus Always to Tyrants, i.e., Death to Tyrants) Virginia
QUI TRANSTULIT SUSTINET (He Who Transplanted Sustains) Connecticut

Powerline has this picture of Tehran University students, demonstrating against the regime and on behalf of imprisoned fellow students, with a sign reading LIVE FREE OR DIE.

Once more we face threat from tyrants. This time from those who would impose Islam. LIVE FREE OR DIE.

Category: Campaign 2008.7
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
After watching the Oprah and Obama spectacular in Iowa yesterday (live on C-SPAN), Tim, a Bosque Boys reader, wrote:

"He was loud, talked about 'Change' and at least one person in the audience fainted. What I saw was a lot of 'Look at me I am charismatic,' but not a lot of substance. I compare that with Mitt Romney's speech, and they are on two different levels. Mitt Romney talked about the substance of America, Obama shouted about change. I think Obama is drawing a lot more people to him, but many of those people may not really be able to give a good reason why."

Well reported, Tim. This observation, for the most part, squares with what I saw. I am more impressed with Obama, and less taken with Romney, but, in essence, Tim's analysis is spot-on.

Undoubtedly, Obama has won the coveted mantle of "the agent of change." Conventional wisdom focuses on this element as the key to winning--but I have asked before: "Do Americans Really Want Change in 2008?" I am not convinced we really do this time around. At least, the changes we seem to want are not of the revolutionary variety.

Obama's appeal is not rooted in dynamic proposals that set him apart from other contenders. In truth, Obama doesn't say anything different than any of the other Democratic candidates. He promises a compassionate administration and a society in which all God's children are cared for by a benevolent entity--the federal government.

Having said that, the freshman senator offers something entirely different. What makes Obama unique is his ability to cast himself as a liberal messiah.

Knee deep in the Advent season, Oprah Winfrey asked (and answered): "Is he the One?" "Yes!" Oprah assured us. This is the one on whom we have hoped. This is the one for whom we have been waiting. The long period of anticipation is over. The moment has arrived. Joy to the World! Peace on Earth! Goodwill toward Men!

And while his rhetoric is boilerplate, the real danger in Obama is that he may actually mean what he says. Why my alarm? He is a uniquely magnetically charismatic candidate. He can win the general election in November--and win in a big way, painting the map blue. His success will likely hinge on his personality and gifts--but he will then interpret his victory as a mandate for "change."

Many Hillary detractors castigate her as a socialist. Maybe that characterization fit during her idealistic young adult years during the heady atmosphere of the early 1970s. But Mrs. Clinton's journey--which began as the daughter of a suburban Chicago Republican--and now finds her playing the role of a center-left, establishment senator from New York, places her squarely in the "status quo" block of American politics. For a lot of reasons (political and personal), Hillary's America will never be any more radical than Bill's America.

On the other hand, Barack's America may very well mean a return to a pre-Ronald Reagan sensibility and an unabashed neo-liberalism. Are we ready for that? Can we survive that?
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the Daily Telegraph (UK) interesting lists with a British twist of things, events, and experiences for Christmas.

One of my favorites:

Immaculate projection
In the first week of December, the Jesuit fathers project a giant full-colour image of the Nativity on the Mount Street side of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in London's West End. It's a glorious rebuke - both spiritual and aesthetic - to the commercial tawdriness all around. This year it will be a Madonna and Child by the Roman Baroque painter Carlo Maratta. RD
Although "Obama Fever" has paled somewhat in the wake of "Huckabee Hysteria," the new "Hillary is finished" bandwagon has not lost much momentum this week.

A few thoughts:

1. Obama can win. You read it here first (back in January).

2. But he has some very tough sledding ahead. As I laid out here last month.

3. Keep in mind, all the media know-it-alls who are predicting the imminent demise of Hillary Clinton this week are the same experts who were mindlessly parroting her inevitability last month.

The real story: Nobody Knows Anything. We are still almost one month out from a canvass. The story is going to shift several times before then. It is going to be wild--but the race in Iowa, as it has been for six months, remains too close to call. Nationally, Hillary still holds the upper hand.

4. Oprah? If we allow Oprah to pick our next president, I fear we will get the government we deserve. A thought: Oprah helps Obama most where he is the strongest: upwardly mobile white women. Hill is still strong with working-class women and minorities. But here is the great irony: I have a hunch that Democratic men will save Hillary, seeing her as their most pragmatic and hard-headed option in a troubled world.

With the aid of Oprah, Obama becomes the candidate of the tender-hearted. Edwards keeps the incorrigibly soft-headed. And Hillary remains the choice for the tough-minded. Of course, this leads to an obvious question: are there still enough clear-eyed men with calloused hands, stout hearts, and good old-fashioned horse sense in the Democratic Party to influence an election?
Category: Campaign 2008.7
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The reviews are in--and they are mostly raves.

The plaudits are usually followed by this statement: "it is just too bad that he had to do it."

In truth, I am not convinced that the speech Mitt Romney delivered was actually necessary. I remain skeptical that any significant bigotry, skepticism, or even interest in Mormonism was playing much of a role in this campaign. The address in College Station, however, offered a golden opportunity to address the nation in a statesman-like way regarding an issue of purported magnitude and historical significance—and champion a cause with which we all agree (at least all us Republicans).

More than a necessary defense of religious liberty and personal principles, the Speech, more accurately, was a brilliant public relations coup for a somewhat beleaguered campaign stalled and in need of attention, a morale boost, and a rallying point.

Mission Accomplished.

As Pat Buchanan wrote yesterday:

"If Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination, it will be due in large measure to his splendid and moving defense of his faith and beliefs delivered today at the George Bush Presidential Library."

Mitt is at the top of every page today--and he deserves to be. Well done.
All cultures are equally valid and must be respected and affirmed. No culture is superior to another culture. To suggest otherwise is intolerance and bigotry, and will not be tolerated. Here in the United States we should create a multicultural society in which all groups may practice their own culture freely.

(pause for a brain gargle rinse and spit after writing the above)

So, pc multiculturalists, you want a U.S. where all groups are free to express their cultures. Are you ready for hangings of accused gays in Detroit and Jersey City? Are you willing to live in any country in the world and raise your children there? Say, Iran?

Consider this story from Iran on the execution of a man accused of same-sex sex. From Gateway Pundit.

So how come ActUp is not in the streets protesting radical Islam?

And, this story from The Times Online (UK) about a Muslim imam's daughter in Britain who converted to Christianity and now lives in fear of her life under British police protection. The threat to her life comes from her own family. Link from JihadWatch.

I don't think Islam understand the concept of multiculturalism.
This story, from ABC News, reports that one of the preachers under investigation by the Senate Finance Committee is refusing to cooperate. Creflo Dollar (yes, that is correct), has told Senator Grassley to either get a subpoena or refer the matter to the IRS. Other preachers/ministry groups are dragging their feet. At issue is whether these groups are meeting the Federal requirements to maintain their tax-exempt status. Previous post here.

Is this investigation a breach of the Separation of Church and State? Is it an abuse of Federal power? While I am uncomfortable with government investigating religious groups, and understand the possibility of a "chilling effect," it seems to me that the Senate Finance Committee is not overstepping its bounds by conducting this investigation. If a group wants tax-exempt status there are requirements to be met. And just as a non-religious non-profit must follow guidelines on accountability, salaries and perks, etc., so also a religious group.

So long as no Senator either explicitly or implicitly questions doctrines, or any other matter not related to non-profit regulation, I am comfortable with this inquiry.

06/12: Buy American

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
My new winter coat arrived this morning. It is a well-made brown "barn coat," or "chore coat" as we call it up home. Warm and lightweight, a cotton-duck shell and blanket liner, it looks good and is sturdy, And it was made in America, in Bristol, Tennessee. Customer service was great. Looking at the web site, I could not tell the chest size and arm length of the XL, 2XL, etc. So I called the 800 number. A very nice lady told me the chest measurements off the top of her head; when she could not remember the arm length, she had me wait while she sent and got one my size and measured the sleeves. One of the nicest retail encounters I've had in a while.

The internet is a great way to shop if you are looking for "Made in the USA" items. For many things, a search will turn up something you can use. My coat is a Pointer Brand.

And it cost me $65 with shipping. If I didn't need an X size it would have been a few dollars less.

Buy American. We have workplace safety rules. Environmental regulations. Right to organize. Child labor laws. Minimum wage. All hard-won accomplishments that give us a good quality of life.

For American Union Made, see All American Clothing.

This site lists many sources of American made products.

And right here in Apache, Oklahoma, we have Mo Betta, a small business that makes western shirts right here to custom order. There customers include pro-rodeo cowboys and country singers (including Garth Brooks), but you can get a fairly simple shirt made for about $55.

And, of course, if you buy food grown outside the United States, you do not know what kinds of pesticides or herbicides were used, or how near to harvest they were used. Many, many countries have little pesticide or herbicide regulation.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Barak Obama is now under pressure from LGBT groups because he is reaching out to traditional evangelicals and other conservative Christians. We'll see if Obama will be able to withstand the pressure and include Christians of different views within his campaign. If he can win the Democratic primary, he certainly will need to have broad support to win the general election. LGBT "leaders" seem not to realize that.

Obama's own faith journey certainly resonates with evangelical experience, even if some of his views differ from their own.

. . . And this restlessness – this search for meaning – is familiar to me. I was not raised in a particularly religious household. My father, who I didn't know, returned to Kenya when I was just two. He was nominally a Muslim since there were a number of Muslims in the village where he was born. But by the time he was a young adult, he was an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was one of the most spiritual souls I ever knew. She had this enormous capacity for wonder, and lived by the Golden Rule. But she had a healthy skepticism of religion as an institution. And as a consequence, so did I.
. . .
And it's around this time that some pastors I was working with came up to me and asked if I was a member of a church. "If you're organizing churches," they said, "it might be helpful if you went to church once in a while." And I thought, "Well, I guess that makes sense."

So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called "The Audacity of Hope." And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany.

Story from the Biblical Witness website, a group within the United Church of Christ pushing for traditional Christian belief. Obama is a member of a United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago. The UCC officially supports marriage and ordination of those who practice same-sex sex. Earlier post on Obama's religion and the UCC.

Story here on Gateway Pundit. There is a downside to Civil Service job security. And to getting news from headlines.

Bottom line: we don't know any more hard intelligence data than we did in 2005 when it was concluded the Iranians were working on the bomb. The authors of the 2007 report, who concluded that the Iranians are not working on the bomb, are trying to read the mind of the mullahs, and probably not doing a very good job.
The Okie Gardener asserts that Mitt Romney's Mormonism makes his attempt to capture the 08 Republican nomination nearly impossible.


1. Evangelicals and Mormons are unfriendly competitors for souls in the suburban neighborhoods of the South. More precisely, "conservative and evangelical churches view Mormonism as a non-Christian religion, even terming it a 'cult.'"

2. Any potential explanation of his faith (the "speech") by the candidate will only exacerbate the problem, awakening less vigilant evangelicals to a whole litany of startling idiosyncrasies integral to Mormon worship.

My colleague, the Okie Gardener, is a scholar of American religion, published and respected in his field. On almost all matters in this area of scholarship, I happily defer to his erudition.

However, in the case of Mitt Romney, and how his religion will play in this particular race for the Republican nomination (and his potential subsequent run for the presidency in the general election), I see things a shade differently. Although I expect a candidate other than Romney to win the nomination, I think hostility to his religion will play only a minor role in this contest.

The Speech may work to Romney's advantage.

1. I agree with the assertion that a speech explaining Mormon worship would not be productive, but Romney is assuring us that this speech will not be of that variety. Evidently, tomorrow's address will spotlight the "common cause" among Americans of faith and our "history" of religious tolerance. Evangelicals today are much more accommodating to Catholics and Jews in terms of political partnership. I think Romney can make a strong case for admitting Mormons as full members into that conservative social-political coalition. In a nutshell: clean-cut, straight-arrow Mormons make good neighbors and good partners in conservatism.

2. The speech will be a major political story, with the potential to be a minor cultural event. This address will place Romney's name and campaign front and center for all interested voters. Romney will enjoy a rare opportunity to hold the attention of the very people in America who are most likely to decide the nomination. There is great risk in this gambit; it is a "make or break" outing--but most politicians would love a chance to take this gamble, viewing the potentially huge payoff as well worth braving the less appetizing downsides.

3. How serious is his Mormon Problem? I am disinclined to think an evangelical backlash could ever reach a point to which it will determine the outcome of any primary election in the South. No matter, even if that happened, the Deep South is not the kingmaker in this race. Romney can win this election without winning the South. And, after the primaries, where are evangelicals likely to go? Will they vote for their co-religionists Hillary Clinton and/or Barack Obama in November? The hatred in the hearts of most conservative evangelicals for the Clintons far outpaces their skepticism and antipathy for Mormonism.

I see the whole issue as a minor nuisance, a non-issue for most (non-evangelical) Republicans, who have been conditioned to treat religion in the warmest and fuzziest of terms. We (the people) seem to desire some brand of nebulous morality and spirituality--but rarely do we require much more than that.

Having said all that, where does Mitt fall short?

Mitt Romney's campaign is the smartest and best funded. He has a great strategy, which may have included arriving at this notable juncture in American political history at a most propitious moment. Almost certainly, he will win in Iowa and New Hampshire. Propelled by his enviable war chest and his superior organization, these early marquee victories could allow him to gain enough momentum to stampede the competition.

But maybe not. Romney has other more intractable obstacles. He is too Massachusetts. He has too many center-left skeletons in his closet. While I can certainly see a path to the nomination (and I think his chances may actually improve following the speech), my gut feeling remains that he will not emerge victorious in the 2008 Republican canvass. I think it likely that he will fall eventually to a more orthodox candidate.

No matter, Governor Romney deserves enormous credit for running an immensely well-executed and heady campaign, and I expect The Speech will give him a boost.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Mitt Romney is to give a speech addressing his Morminism tomorrow. We'll see how it is received. I have been warning him that such a speech is not a good idea. For Republican candidates support from the evangelical base is crucial; or, at a minimum a lack of hostility from evangelicals. But, according to Pew research white evangelical Protestants who attend church weekly are 45% less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate. Conservative and evangelical churches view Mormonism as a non-Christian religion, even terming it a "cult." Voting for a non-Christian is not an option if a person holds a "Christian America" view, common among white evangelicals. Romney is not going to get much support from this group whatever he does. But, by avoiding direct mention of his Mormonism, Romney has escaped actual antagonism.

And, I am not sure that the general voting population will be impressed by a direct address of Mormonism by Romney. According to the same Pew research cited above, only 53% of the voting population has a favorable view of Mormons.

So why is Romney making the speech, against the advice of some of his advisors? He is not a sure bet in Iowa anymore, and he needs that early victory to build momentum. We'll see if this speech helps or hurts him. My money is on hurting him.
From Peter Baker and Robin Wright in the Washington Post, Tuesday, December 4, 2007 (Page A01):

A Blow to Bush's Tehran Policy

"President Bush got the world's attention this fall when he warned that a nuclear-armed Iran might lead to World War III. But his stark warning came at least a month or two after he had first been told about fresh indications that Iran had actually halted its nuclear weapons program.

"The new intelligence report [National Intelligence Estimate] released yesterday not only undercut the administration's alarming rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush's effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency."

What does all this mean?

1. Let me borrow a phrase from myself: Nobody Knows Anything. I use that as my mantra and caveat in handicapping the upcoming presidential primaries. But my record for picking winners in Iowa and New Hampshire over the last twenty years is much more impressive than the intelligence community's demonstrated ability to give us reliable information concerning weapons of mass destruction in the hands of our enemies. This particular NIE and four dollars will buy you a tasty cup of coffee in your local Starbucks.

2. Assuming the report is right, however, and the Iranians put the quietus on their program in 2003, is there anything significant about that moment in history? I think so. The Iranians were properly intimidated by American military prowess and resolve. The sentiment of the hour: "Oh sh-t! This SOB is crazy." If the report is right, it is extremely instructive concerning the efficacy of George Bush's foreign policy in 2003.

3. Assuming the report is right, the Iranians were working on a nuclear weapons program up until 2003. This means they might decide to resume the program at any time.

4. Assuming the report is right, and the Iranians halted the weapons version of their nuclear program as a result of US intimidation in 2003, it is reasonable to assume that they are a lot less fearful of the United States today. With the clock running down on Bush, and the nation divided, I am extremely reluctant to celebrate this report as an "end to the threat." I am with the Israeli's on this one. We need to be vigilant.

5. As for Peter Baker's speculation that military action is off the table, I agree. But I have said that for more than a year. Military action is off the table because of the Iraq situation. In fact, this report gives the Bush administration some cover to do nothing militarily concerning Iran--a choice for which they had no other realistic option.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
"And the irony is, Rudy Guiliani, probably the most under-qualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency here talking about any of the people here...Rudy Guiliani...I mean, think about it...Rudy Guiliani, there's only three things he mentions in a sentence, a noun, a verb, and 9-11..I mean, there's nothing else, there's nothing else...and I mean this sincerely, he is genuinely not qualified to be president."
Joe Biden (on YouTube here)

Is Rudy qualified to be president? This has become a recurring theme (you might even say "talking point") for Democrats and pundits on the Campaign 2008 trail. In truth, this is a misleading and irrelevant conversation.

Qualifications are not paramount to the making of a president. Traditionally, the question of qualifications has always presented a fairly low threshold to overcome for presidential aspirants. Biden's incessant raving about qualifications is mostly wishful thinking and strategy in an attempt to frame the debate in a way he fancies better disposed to his candidacy. And, for the record, by "qualified," Senator Biden simply means which candidate has served the longest in the United States Senate.

Of course, even operating under a more reasonable definition, we have had plenty of "under-qualified" presidents--some of whom have done just fine. More importantly, the public doesn't care much who is the most qualified. No one voted for JFK in 1960 because they thought he was more qualified to be president than Richard Nixon. Or Bill Clinton over George H.W. Bush in 1992. Or George Bush over Al Gore in 2000. This is not the element upon which most elections pivot.

True, without 9-11, it would be impossible to imagine Rudy running for president in 2008. But so what? Ike was viable in 1952 as a result of WWII—but, as in the case of Rudy, his heroic role was merely a starting point. Douglas MacArthur was a non-starter as a presidential candidate in the post-war climate—as was George Pataki in the post 9-11 world.

Ironically, Barack Obama has questioned Mrs. Clinton's credentials: Hillary is only viable because she is the wife of a former president. Is he right? Yes and No.

First No: If it were that easy, why didn't the GOP run Barbara Bush in 1996? Nancy Reagan in 2000? Laura Bush for 2012? Obviously, Mrs. Clinton is uniquely gifted and experienced among first ladies--and her uniqueness is the reason she is where she is today (forgive the circular reasoning--but, hopefully, you take my point). Having said that, is she there as a result of her connection to her former-president husband? Obviously, yes. But, again, so what? That is only a starting point.

Every presidential candidate needs a “hook.” If aspirants don't have a hook, they end up Duncan Hunter or Dennis Kucinich.

Hillary is a restoration candidate. Barack Obama's viability, at its heart, is the product of a well-timed speech. Rudy is Rudy because of 9-11. Mitt Romney is viable because he wanted to be president, and he had enough money, guts, and brains to get him this close (very much like John F. Kennedy). Fred Thompson is viable because of a TV show. Mike Huckabee did it the "old-fashioned way"—but he is the exception that proves the rule.

Bottom Line: Creating an atmosphere of viability is qualification in itself. The public requires no more than that. Of course, qualifications, viability, and positioning do not speak to the much more important element, at least in the long term, of capacity and aptitude.

Who will actually be a good president? On that score, your guess is as good as mine. God save the President!
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Thomas F. Torrance has died. One of the theological giants of the latter half of the 20th century. In constructive theology, he will be remembered for his writings on the Trinity, and on the relationship of science and Christianity. He was a minister of the Church of Scotland, a Reformed theologian, a Barthian, a scholar.

A remembrance here on the Faith and Theology blog.

Here is the Widipedia entry; the first paragraph of which reads:

Thomas Forsyth Torrance (30 August 1913 - 2 December 2007) was a 20th century Protestant Christian theologian who served for 27 years as Professor of Christian Dogmatics at New College, Edinburgh in the University of Edinburgh, during which time he was a leader in Protestant Christian theology. While he wrote many books and articles advancing his own study of theology, he also translated several hundred theological writings into English from other languages. Torrance edited the English translation of the thirteen-volume, six-million-word Church Dogmatics (germ. "Die Kirchliche Dogmatik") of celebrated Swiss theologian Karl Barth. Torrance's work has been influential in the paleo-orthodox movement, and he is widely considered to be one of the most important Reformed theologians of his era.

This scholarly organization studies his work, and does constructive theological reflection in dialogue with Professor Torrance's writings. The Torrance biography on that site does a very good job of presenting his contributions in theology.

Professor Torrance was a hero of mine, the kind of person I want to be like when I grow up. He was a churchman, the son of missionaries in China who himself served two parishes in the Church of Scotland; he had courage and a sense of duty, as war threatened in Europe in 1939 he left the United States, walking away from a job offer at Princeton University, in order to serve as a military chaplain with the British Army in the Middle East and Italy; he was a family man, married with three children whose welfare he valued, turning down an offer to serve as Karl Barth's handpicked successor at Basel because he did not want to uproot his children and transplant them into a foreign culture and language; he was an academic of amazing productivity, rigorous thought, who did theology not to impress other academics, but to help the Church understand its beliefs; he was a man of faith, a devout Christian. Brother Torrance, R.I.P.
It is all over for Mike Huckabee. Today, Rush Limbaugh anointed him the "candidate the media wants to win." So long, Mike. We hardly knew ye. Do not let my light-hearted tone mislead you. I am 100 percent serious. Mike Huckabee's candidacy is now "deader than a door nail." Nobody comes back from this kind of pronouncement at the hands of Rush Limbaugh, the king of all conservative media. John McCain is still working (tragically and without any real hope of success) to overcome Rush's negative designation from back in 2000.

Even before this lethal blow, Huckabee was swimming against an arrestingly strong tide of resistance. Ironically, Huckabee's evangelical background is even more problematic for a Republican running for president in 2008 than Mitt Romney's Mormonism.

What's wrong with being an evangelical Republican in 2008?

1. To put it mildly, the axis of liberalism (Hollywood, the mainstream media, and the academy) looks askance at this particular religious persuasion. In a tight general election, this tradition opens up gaping holes for the opposition.

2. More importantly, a vital element of the conservative movement has soured on evangelicals. Traditional conservatives (many of whom are Catholic) are generally much more staid in their religious traditions than the evangelical variety. For many of the paleo-conservatives, George Bush represents much of what went wrong with evangelical conservatism (what Bush called "compassionate conservatism"). They see the Bush administration as disastrously unorthodox--even dangerous. Think of these examples: an evangelical foreign policy (saving the world through the gospel of democracy), using government to ameliorate the human condition ("no child left behind" and prescription drugs for seniors), and his "traitorously bleeding-heart" immigration proposals.

Traditional conservatives see the Arkansan preacher-turned-pol as more of the same, and they are coming out of the woodwork to throw cold water on the Huckabee boomlet.

3. Ironically, even evangelicals are divided. The traditional evangelical political leadership has not embraced Huckabee. While Pat Robertson et al probably do not speak for many evangelicals anymore (if they ever did), their reluctance to support this ordained Baptist minister speaks volumes about the emerging rift among born-again Christians.

Some of the division is generational. The older evangelicals are more conservative politically and more Southern than the new crop (think Rick Warren), who take a softer view of social conservatism. Huckabee's concern for environmental issues, his willingness to pursue social engagement, and his position on immigration is very much in line with an emerging composite of modern rank-and-file evangelicalism.

No wonder the paleos have had enough.

In all seriousness, the brief affair between Southern-based evangelical churches and the GOP may be approaching a dramatic rupture. Of course, in the general election, where exactly do these Mike Huckabee evangelicals have to go?

As for the rest of the party of Lincoln, where are we now?

For the moment, the race remains a fairly static contest. The following is a review of some of my earlier thoughts from the middle of last month, which seem more true today than three weeks ago.

» Read More

From TIME magazine:

A new tool to evaluate governments' humanitarian spending can help countries get aid out more efficiently to those who need it, say former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Spain-based non-profit DARA. Their Humanitarian Response Index (HRI), launched Thursday in London, ranks Sweden as the world leader in humanitarian aid. Norway comes second, followed by Denmark, the Netherlands and the European Commission. The U.S. scores a lowly 16th out of 23. (See the full rankings below).

Full story.

Can you spot the problem with this story, especially the headline? America does not contribute most of its humanitarian aid through the U.S. government. U.S. citizens contribute through a variety of private agencies, many of them Christian.

This essay puts things in better perpective.

Some excerpts:

The European claims about stingy American foreign aid are easy to dispense with, because they ignore the enormous private gifts that characterize American generosity (such as donations following the tsunami), and therefore greatly understate true American humanitarian assistance. The U.S. Agency for International Development notes that official U.S. development assistance, at about $10 billion, is roughly 0.1 percent of GDP, but this amount is accompanied annually by about $50 billion in aid from private sources, including foundations, religious congregations, voluntary organizations, universities, corporations, and individuals (in the form of remittances to friends and family). All told, American overseas aid—mostly private, not public—comes to about 0.5 percent of GDP (approximately $200 per American). And this does not even count more controversial aid sources, such as military aid and private investment abroad by American businesses.

What world elites tend to ignore is that America has a thriving private sector, including religious organizations, through which most aid money is given, and through which most voluntary work is done.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Pay no attention to the pollsters on the Iowa Caucuses. What counts is who shows up on a January night in a northern state to caucus. What counts is good organization that gets out the caucus goers (favoring Romney and Clinton) and passion (?perhaps Huckabee, Obama, and Edwards?), but, the passionate must be motivated enough to brave ice, snow, and below-zero weather if that is the situation.

I lived in Iowa 8 years, 1986-94.
Slavery is not a thing of the past. Around the world, including in the USA, slavery continues. When teaching US History leading up to the Civil War, my college students usually have the attitude of "how could those people not see slavery was wrong?", and assume they would have been abolitionists. The room gets really quiet when I challenge them with the facts on modern slavery and ask them if they are in the modern abolition movement.

From The 2007 U.S. State Department Report on Human Trafficking:

The Scope and Nature of Modern-Day Slavery

The common denominator of trafficking scenarios is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for profit. A victim can be subjected to labor exploitation, sexual exploitation, or both. Labor exploitation includes slavery, forced labor, and debt bondage. Sexual exploitation typically includes abuse within the commercial sex industry. In other cases, victims are exploited in private homes by individuals who often demand sex as well as work. The use of force or coercion can be direct and violent or psychological.

A wide range of estimates exists on the scope and magnitude of modern-day slavery. The International Labor Organization (ILO )-the United Nations agency charged with addressing labor standards, employment, and social protection issues-estimates there are 12.3 million people in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor, and sexual servitude at any given time; other estimates range from 4 million to 27 million.

Annually, according to U.S. Government-sponsored research completed in 2006, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders, which does not include millions trafficked within their own countries. Approximately 80 percent of transnational victims are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. The majority of transnational victims are females trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. These numbers do not include millions of female and male victims around the world who are trafficked within their own national borders-the majority for forced or bonded labor.

Human traffickers prey on the vulnerable. Their targets are often children and young women, and their ploys are creative and ruthless, designed to trick, coerce, and win the confidence of potential victims. Very often these ruses involve promises of a better life through marriage, employment, or educational opportunities.

The nationalities of trafficked people are as diverse as the world's cultures. Some leave developing countries, seeking to improve their lives through low-skilled jobs in more prosperous countries. Others fall victim to forced or bonded labor in their own countries. Women eager for a better future are susceptible to promises of jobs abroad as babysitters, housekeepers, waitresses, or models--jobs that traffickers turn into the nightmare of prostitution without exit. Some families give children to adults, often relatives, who promise education and opportunity, but sell the children into exploitative situations instead.

Some sources of information for modern abolitionists:

Anti-Slavery International here.

For all the criticism I have made of the mainline Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), they are becoming aware of this issue.

The Christian relief group, WorldVision is active on this issue, especially with child slavery.

This documentary, Lives for Sale, should be shown in every possible venue.

The U.S. State Department's 2007 Human Trafficking Report has been released.

The Report lists countries by groups termed Tiers based on their efforts against, or lack of efforts, to eliminate slavery. Tier 3 are the worst countries.

Tier 3

The Tier 2 Watch List is made of of countries that are currently of interest to the U.S. regarding slavery. It is like being on probation. In future reports they may move up to Tier 2, or down to Tier 3.

Tier 2 Watch List

Keep these countries in mind as you Christmas shop.

Previous Bosque Boys posts on modern Slavery:
Slavery Today
Islam and Slavery
North Korea's Human Slavery Traffic
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
This past Sunday afternoon, once we had said goodbye to our daughter and her fiancee, we stopped at a department store in Oklahoma City for some Christmas shopping. I have been having problems with a foot and a knee lately, so for the first time in my life I used one of the wheelchairs provided for customers. An interesting experience.

I have two observations. First, once getting off the main traffic aisles the merchandise was almost too congested for easy passage (I was in a simple wheelchair pushing myself along). I wonder if the layout of many stores would pass muster on a ADA challenge. Second, in the space of about an hour of shopping, four people ran into me. No, I did not run into them. These folks were not looking down enough to see me and bumped into me, usually when I was sitting still. btw, I'm not a little guy. They would quickly apologize and move on. And, I guess I have three observations; more people than normal made eye contact and smiled at me, usually women. I am still trying to figure that one out.