Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, August 31, 2007

Beethoven Redux

With its thunderous, soaring highs, its sweet, subtle lows, and its glorious cry of praise and wonder to God, who could imagine the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven was composed by a deaf man?

It is perhaps the foremost wonder of the world of art. Forever, man will ponder the heart of Beethoven as he confronted his deafness, and confronted his God in light of his deafness, and then went on with his gift by simply (and most likely angrily) listening to the sounds within.

In today's WSJ (subscribers only), Janet Adamy tells a modern parallel story that leaves one breathless:

A year after chef Grant Achatz opened Alinea [in Chicago] in 2005, Gourmet magazine named the restaurant the best in the country, and the prestigious Mobil guide gave it its highest rating of five stars. The young chef's exotic, lavishly presented creations -- a mango duck dish is served on a deflating pillow that releases lavender-scented air -- have connoisseurs lining up to book meals that cost an average of $240 a person.

But last month, doctors gave Mr. Achatz, 33 years old, devastating news. A cancerous tumor was growing inside his tongue. The disease was so advanced that three doctors told him the only way to cure it was to cut out part of his tongue, leaving one of the world's most celebrated chefs to ponder life without the ability to taste.

Achatz (pronounced ACK-etz) is feeling not only intense pain, but certainly must also feel the intense irony of his disease. His tongue is so swollen and painful, he can't eat. Already a trim young man, he has lost ten pounds.

Let's take a moment, though, to consider the Beethovenesque creativity of Achatz:

In 2004, Mr. Achatz detected a tiny sore growing on the side of his tongue. A dentist told him it was probably from unconsciously biting at the spot, and fitted his mouth for a night guard. That year, he left Trio to open his own restaurant in Chicago's tony Lincoln Park neighborhood.

He decided to call it Alinea, after the name for a typographical symbol that indicates a new train of thought. His ambition wasn't only to present his food as art, but to make the entire dining experience into a form of theater that would appeal to all of diners' senses and elicit emotional responses. For instance, Mr. Achatz had an architect design Alinea's entrance so that people would walk in, not be able to see the dining room and briefly think they were someplace other than the restaurant, creating a moment of tension.

As soon as Alinea opened in 2005, critics began heaping praise on the hypermodern cuisine and eclectic dining experience. Meals consist of as many as 30 small courses and have taken diners more than seven hours to consume.

To evoke autumn, Mr. Achatz served a piece of pheasant breast on an oak-tree branch lit on fire so it would be smoking as it arrived at the table. For a dish called "Hot potato, cold potato," Mr. Achatz skewered a marble-size potato and suspended it over a paraffin wax bowl of chilled potato soup so the palate would sense the temperature contrast.

One can imagine a parallel tension, like the one he created in his restaurant's doorway, as Achatz dealt with the increasing pain at the doorway to his sense of taste. As his success and fame grew, so did his inability to, quite literally, taste the fruits of his success.

Adamy only quotes Achatz twice in her story, once on the discovery of the tumor, and once on his one day of brooding before setting out for an alternative to surgery.The alternative is questionable, involving new chemo medications and radiation, but if it works, he'll return to Alinea with all his senses, including taste, about him.

Even if he doesn't, those who know him think he could become the Beethoven of chefs:

Dr. Vokes says it's too early to predict exactly what might happen if doctors removed the tumor from Mr. Achatz's tongue. Typically, removing a significant part of the tongue leaves a patient unable to taste and interferes with his or her ability to speak and to swallow. The sense of smell isn't usually affected.

But other senses contribute to Mr. Achatz's talent. Much of his acclaim derives from the way his dishes look. Before he cooks a new creation, he writes down the ingredients he wants to use and how he'll manipulate them. Then, he sketches what it might look like on the plate before discussing it with the chefs who work under him.

"He has such a spiritual connection with food and the visuals, and the taste is just a part of it," says Rick Tramanto, executive chef at Tru in Chicago. "He's way too connected to what he's doing to have [a loss of] one of the elements deter him at all."

God grants us gifts, but does not guarantee them. Whether the gift is a talent like Achatz's, or a child, or a fortune, we must always remember that they may be temporary. Losing them may destroy us or may make us stronger, more resolute, more directed, more able to create our smaller personal version of the Ninth.

Will Achatz be gifted with a lifetime of taste, or will the sense be like the puff of lavender air from one of his creations, here for a moment, then gone as a fragrant memory?

That is not really the question. The question is, will Achatz, will we, keep our will strong in the face of adversity? Will we focus not on our pain, but on the wonder that we had the gift in the first place?

Photo: Janet Adamy, WSJ

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When Liberal Lovers Break Up

It was quite a romance. World famous, a streaming strutting of stuff before our eyes day after day, hour after hour.

They didn't care what the facts might be; why bother with piddling little facts? They were soul mates, birds of a feather, destined by the deepest molecules of their very being to be One.

How lovely it was. One fed the other delectable morsels of spun sugar, the other told anyone who would listen how delightfully tasty and self-satisfying the delicious tidbits were. It was the best of relationships, symbiotic; it seemed one simply could not do without the other.

And now, shockingly, suddenly, the romance is ruined, the relationship is ... kaput:

NEW YORK -- CNN is telling its staff it will not renew its contract to receive news from Reuters Group PLC and instead plans to bolster its own newsgathering resources.

In an internal memo to employees Wednesday, CNN International's Managing Director Tony Maddox said CNN is "making significant investments in our own newsgathering" in a move to help "manage the continually rising costs associated with acquired assets."

The company's current contract with Reuters expires Friday. CNN didn't disclose the cost of the contract or the amount it plans to spend on its own news division.

A Reuters spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment. (Wall Street Journal)
One can just picture Reuters alone in a darkened room, Kleenex crumpled and wet in trembling hand, shoveling down pint after pint of chocolate ice cream, disconsolate and inconsolable.

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Worthy Winners

While I (deservedly) got skunked in this week's Watcher's Council critique of some of the best posts in the blogosphere, I am certainly not disappointed in the results. Put good posts and good judges together and you get worthy winners.

Amoung the Council members, my #2 pick was #1 an my #1 was #2:

Big Lizards' NYT: Analogies Are Meaningless (Unless They Favor the Left) came in first. I found this one delightfully nasty -- a solid and biting analysis of how desperately the leading paper of the left struggled to discount Bush's recent analogy of Iraq to Vietnam.

Also criticizing the media was Soccer Dad, whose Separate But Unequal, that looked once again at the NYT, this time at the differences in its coverage of an Islamic charter school and a Hebrew one.

Over on the non-Watcher side, exposes of bogus, anti-war news stories took the top two honors.

Do, if you haven't already, click over to Dissident Frogman's Like a Suppository, Only a Bit Stronger and be sure to click the video link. You'll howl as he sardonically destroys AFC for allowing itself to be duped by its ignorance and anti-Americanism. What a bunch of rubes!

Confederate Yankee's Misfire: AP's Bogus Ammo Shortage Story is something we don't see enough of from Conservative bloggers: Real reporting. CY found a flaw in a story about the war's effect on police ammo supplies and actually reported it, talking to ammo manufacturers to get to the bottom of the story -- which was just another case of laziness and bias competing as the major feature of MSM reporting.

I also really liked Dr. Sanity's Anticipation and Denial, which came in third.

See all the winners here.

As always, thank you Watcher for stirring this pot of tasty stew.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mayhem In Mexico

Here's a story that's just breaking and worth following:
Thousands evacuate Latin America's tallest building

MEXICO CITY -- More than 10,000 people were evacuated from Latin America's tallest building on Thursday after a bomb squad found a device in the parking garage that possibly could contain explosives.

Terrorists? Just usual Mexistrife? Who knows? I got the feed from the Sacramento Bee; there's nothing up yet on Breitbart.

Union Says, "I Like Mike"

The more I read about Mike Huckabee, the more I like him; he's no longer just the guy who lost a lot of weight, he's a good candidate, if not exactly a heavyweight.

Today, he picked up big new cred, becoming perhaps the first GOP prez candidate to get a union endorsement:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One of the biggest U.S. trade unions made an unusual dual endorsement in the 2008 White House race on Thursday, backing Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Mike Huckabee for their parties' presidential nominations.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which has about 720,000 active and retired members, backed a candidate from each party for the first time after a recent survey found about one-third of union members voted Republican and two-thirds Democratic.

More impressive than Huckabee winning the endorsement is the IAMAW actually listening to all its members and not acting like a Dem machine. Hopefully other unions will follow suit, and hopefully IAMAW and any others who follow will make their campaign contributions accordingly.

I can think of no better action by a labor union to give it continued relevance than to acknowledge that the Dems do not speak for all their members, all the time.

The union's prez explains why Huckabee:
"Mike Huckabee was the only Republican candidate with the guts to meet with our members and the only one willing to figure out where and how we might work together."
The big rap against Huckabee is that he's too nice to skewer Hillary. Keep an eye on him; he might continue to surprise us.

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Yawn! GAO Report Slams Iraq Progress. Yawn!

About 10 years ago, we thought we'd won a big victory when we forced a Government Accountability Office audit of the Carlsbad office of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. There was a lot wrong with that office, and we thought a GAO audit would make it obvious.

It didn't. GAO audits, we found out, often are set up to get the results that are desired; in this case, that an overworked staff was doing its best, despite some small mistakes that were primarily due to bad paperwork processing. Not a word about renegade field officers and unsupportable decisions.

So, it is with a yawn and a trite ol' "been there, done that" that I review news that a GAO report is going to say the war in Iraq is going badly. Even before I got beyond the headlines, I knew what I would read, because I knew that the Dem controlled Congress would set parameters that would have to yield a bad headline.

And it's true.

In paragraph 10 of the WaPo story, well below the paragraph that says the government scum official who leaked the report did so because he was afraid it would be "watered down in the final version," we find:
The May legislation imposed a stricter standard on the GAO, requiring an up-or-down judgment on whether each benchmark has been met. On that basis, the GAO draft says that three of the benchmarks have been met while 13 have not. Despite its strict mandate, the GAO draft concludes that two benchmarks -- the formation of governmental regions and the allocation and expenditure of $10 billion for reconstruction -- have been "partially met." Little of the allocated money, it says, has been spent.
AP did much better, mentioning the criteria in paragraph three, basically part of the extended lead to the story.

I wonder if Congress would be happy with a GAO report that measured its performance on the same scale. Since Nancy Pelosi is the speaker, let's apply a little GAO-think to the platform NanPo laid out for her first 100 hours. Our criteria is simple enough: Did what she promised become law?

If you honor Democratic candidates with your vote today, in the first hundred hours of a Democratic Congress: We will restore civility, integrity, and fiscal responsibility to the House of Representatives. NO

We will start by cleaning up Congress, breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation and commit to pay-as-you-go, no new deficit spending. NO

We will make our nation safer and we will begin by implementing the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission. NO (Remember, partial success is no success under the rules.)

We will make our economy fairer, and we will begin by raising the minimum wage. We will not pass a pay raise for Congress until there is an increase in the minimum wage. YES

We will make health care more affordable for all Americans, and we will begin by fixing the Medicare prescription drug program, putting seniors first by negotiating lower drug prices. NO We will also promote stem cell research to offer real hope to the millions of American families who suffer from devastating diseases. NO

We will broaden college opportunity, and we will begin by cutting interest rates for student loans in half. NO

We will energize America by achieving energy independence, and we will begin by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil. NO

We will guarantee a dignified retirement, and we will begin by fighting any attempt to privatize Social Security. NO

So NanPo, who supposedly has full control of the situation and certainly has no GOP militia blowing up cars in her neighborhood or beheading her allies, was able to succeed on one measure. If you're thinking I'm too tough and the criteria should be passing legislation through the house, she'll go three for ten.

Of course, you hear a lot less about that than you'll hear about the GAO report.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Tutorial On The Ills Of Regulation

I heard a new phrase today: The informal economy.

It's a lovely turn of phrase, sounding much more pleasant and legal than "'the black market economy," but it means the same thing

It was used on a BBC broadcast -- not surprising, given their use of gentle, forgiving terms for everything but American foreign policy. I don't believe it's their term, though; it's from Brazil, where the informal economy makes up about half of the national economy. And yes, the other half is called the formal economy.

Those in the informal economy don't get business licenses, get paid in cash for their services and don't pay taxes.

How could Brazil, the dead sleeping giant, come to lose so much of its legitimate economy? It's a one word answer, and it's a word America should hear with fear: Regulation.

Business is heavily regulated in Brazil, from the permits you need to start a business, to the paperwork you have to file to stay in business, to the fines you have to pay if you get crosswise with the regulations. The social bureaucrats in Brazilia have placed such a high penalty on business success, many opt simply not to be successful.

A successful informal economy entrepreneur knows that if he is successful and grows his business, he'll be mired down in a regulatory quagmire, so many opt to just stay small. Imagine the impact on America's economy if Bill Gates had decided it wasn't worth all the hassle to get big, and had continued providing BASIC programming for Altair 8800 computers. Or if Henry Ford had kept turning out Fords one at a time instead of developing the assembly line.

What happens when half of a nation's economy is under the table? Obviously, the Brazilian government receives much less tax revenue because half of its economy is all cash/no taxes. And just as obviously, a country that created this mess because of its propensity to regulate will address the subsequent economic problems with more regulations, more fines for violators ... driving more people to stay away from the whole mess by working for cash on a small scale.

Brazil's problem is repeated in economies around the globe when government thinks it has all the answers.

As yet, the problem hasn't hit America, where most of our economy remains formal, legit, tax-paying and regulated to some extent. But if the trend towards more government, and more government intervention into our lives continues, it could happen here.

If you suddenly start reading about the growing "problems" presented by the informal economy in the U.S., you'll know it's probably already too late; the tipping point has been passed and we're on our way to becoming a sleeping giant.

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One Quarter Million

Wow! The little counter says 249,959! That means sometime very soon, probably just after I leave for the airport for a day in Sacramento, it will click past 250,000.

That's a bit of a milestone, so I'll take the opportunity to thank all my regular and periodic readers for all those clicks. It really boggles my mind that so many folks drop by here regularly to read what I've got to say.

Lest I get too uppity in the moment, it's good to remember that Technorati currently ranks me at #41,355 (and dropping), and Truth Laid Bear ranks me at #5,154, a Flappy Bird. I seem to recall being #4808 a while back. Ugh.

StatCounter tells me that my recent average is 573 page-loads a day, up about 100 from a month or so ago, from 578 unique visitors, also up about 100. That's quite amazing to this Flappy Bird. It's more people than most college professors reach in a few years of teaching, more than most pastors reach every Sunday ... and more than I ever imagined would come by to visit.

Here, have some cookies and milk on me, and enjoy yourselves!

Thanks for dropping by, and come back again any time!

More Real Big Problems For Dems ...

... Unless, of course, they're Dem patriots or Dem soldiers in Iraq. James Clyburn, polish up your talking points:
BAGHDAD (AP)- Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, and it will no longer attack U.S. and coalition troops, aides said Wednesday.

The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to "rehabilitate" the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.

"We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued," al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.

In Najaf, al-Sadr's spokesman said the order also means the Mahdi Army will no longer launch attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces.

"It also includes suspending the taking up of arms against occupiers as well as others," Ahmed al-Shaibani told reporters.

Just a guess here, but perhaps al-Sadr has come to realize that the wholesale killing of other Muslims in the name of Allah, and attacks against our troops who are trying to stop wholesale killing of Muslims in the name of Allah, does not really conform with his ideological image for his organization.

The Mahdi Army was blamed for the killings in Karbala during a Shi'ite holy festival. Fifty-two Muslims, including mostly pilgrims going to a shrine on a holy day, died during the fighting between, get this, the Sadrs and the Badrs. (The Badr Brigade was guarding the temple.) The count of injured surpasses 300.

Shi'ite vs. Shi'ite fighting is just one of many components of Iraq's instability. Sadr's move today will help to stabilize that -- and it doesn't hurt that the announcement comes just before Gen. Patraeus' update.

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Wednesday Reading

It looks like a fascinating and educating bunch o' blog posts this week, thanks to the Watcher's Council's far-ranging reading and the Watcher's fantastic organizing skills. Here are the week's nominees; the Council will vote Thursday and you'll see the results here Friday.

Council links:

  1. They Don't Understand the Incentives (Updated)
    The Glittering Eye
  2. What, Do You Think?
    Done With Mirrors
  3. "Sanctuary" Cities
    The Colossus of Rhodey
  4. Victor Davis Hanson -- Why We Must Study War
    ‘Okie’ on the Lam
  5. Lotsa Dead Terrorists!
    Cheat Seeking Missiles
  6. Separate But Unequal
    Soccer Dad
  7. The New Conspiracy Theorists
    Bookworm Room
  8. Local Blogger, Democrat Leader, Urges Jasper-Style Truck-Drag of Jewish Republican
    Rhymes With Right
  9. Iraq As Vietnam... Or Vice Versa
  10. Washington Watch: Another Hypocrite Exposed
    The Education Wonks
  11. NYT: Analogies Are Meaningless (Unless They Favor the Left)
    Big Lizards
  12. Jesus, Lord! Are They All Hypocritical Bastards?
    Right Wing Nut House
Non-council links:
  1. Like a Suppository, Only a Bit Stronger
    The Dissident Frogman
  2. Misfire: AP's Bogus Ammo Shortage Story
    Confederate Yankee
  3. King Monument Criticized Over Artist
    Booker Rising
  4. Roger L. Simon: Not Blogging the Beijing Olympics
    Pajamas Media
  5. Watching Al Jazeera, Part III
    Seraphic Secret (my nominee)
  6. Watching Al Jazeera, Part I
    Seraphic Secret (2)
  7. God's Jewish Warriors -- CNN's Abomination
  8. CIA Missed Chances to Thwart al-Qaida
    Texas Fred's
  9. A Recurrent Theme: On Moderate Muslims
  10. Anticipation vs Denial
    Dr. Sanity
  11. What Exactly Is the Crime?
    Captain's Quarters
  12. Why Mike Huckabee Can't Be the Conservative Choice for President
    Say Anything
  13. This Is What Sadness Looks Like
  14. Treat Addicts Like What They Are... Losers


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Words By Which He Will Be Judged

When the devoutly Christian W. was elected, many thought he would work to create a Christian nation, as opposed to a nation that's made up primarily of Christians. Of course he didn't -- although you'd never know it from the diatribes of the anti-religious Left.

So yes ... no surprise ... here in America we can have a Christian president without fear -- not that I'd fear it, but I recognize that some would.

Now comes an interesting question: Can the same thing happen in secular Turkey, now that a president with, as the media coyly says, an Islamist "background."

Abdullah Gul took office today, and the Times of London points out two significant absences: Gul's wife whose Islamic headgear has ticked off the secularists, and the military, who have made it pretty clear they won't tolerate a slide into Islamist shenanigans.

Against this backdrop, Gul took office:

Pledging his allegiance to the Constitution and the reforms of Kemal Atatürk, the secularist founder of modern Turkey, Mr Gül said: “I will embrace all my citizens without discrimination and carefully guard my impartiality.”

Mr Gül used his speech to emphasise the importance of democracy, the rule of law, social justice, individual freedoms and human rights. He said that Turkey should rejoice in its social diversity and defined secularism as a safeguard of religious freedom and guarantor of social peace.

Let's keep those pledges in mind. If Gul can stay true to his word, it will establish a great precedent for the Muslim world ... but can he stand up to pressure from his Islamist allies? It's anyone's call says LonTimes' Bronwen Maddox:

Gül’s reputation abroad is that of a moderniser. He led Turkey’s pursuit of talks with the EU, and has sidestepped with aplomb the provocative assertion of France, under President Sarkozy, that membership should never be granted to Turkey. It is fair to take him at face value, as a modern Turk committed to reform.

But it is impossible to forget what he represents: the desire of many ordinary Turks to have more of a voice in politics and in the country’s institutions than they have done. That authentic voice of many Turks is conservative and Islamist, albeit so far, in an undemonstrative way. Turkey’s policies may change little under Gül, but his election still marks a deep change from the vision of Atatürk.

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Ruskie Base Goes Dark

Vlad the Impaler Putin can rattle his saber all he wants, but it might be more productive for him to rattle his panhandling can instead:
The Russian garrison at an air base in Kyrgyzstan has been left without power after failure to pay the bill, local electricity company Severelectro said Tuesday.

The company said the barracks for 300 servicemen at the Kant base, near the Central Asian country's capital Bishkek, were cut off on Monday, but added that the air strips were not affected.

The Russian military promised that the unpaid bills of 13,000 dollars (9,500 euros) would be paid by the end of the week. (AFP)

You can bet George Bush is paying the electric bill for our base in Kyrgyzstan.

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Turkey: Back To The Past?

Lefties who do the phony fret that Bush Republicans want a theocracy best keep their eyes on Turkey, as there's a very good chance that 70 years of secular government there is about to fall away, replaced with what we're really talking about when we're talking theocracy.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a theocratic Muslim, appears unstoppable in today's presidential election. With a close ally Recep Tayyip Erdogan as prime minister, a majority in parliament, a wife who wears a head scarf despite bans against headgarb in government, and an Islamist platform, what's to stop Gul from being the next Ahmadinejad?

One thing: The military. Every time the Islamists have threatened to destroy Turkey's' secular government, they've stepped up with a handy threat or a swift coup, and they're still talking that talk:
"Our nation has been watching the behavior of those separatists who can't embrace Turkey's unitary nature, and centers of evil that systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic," Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the military, said in a note on the military's Web site Monday. (AP)
But here's the rub: Is the Army itself free enough of Islamism to stand behind Buyukanit and against Gul? Chances are all too good we'll find out soon enough.

A question I wish I didn't have to ask but must is this: Is the U.S. prepared for a Turkey that's stepping back into the 17th Century? What would happen to our alliance, our key bases and our strategic interests? I found little solace in this passage from a recent State Dept. press briefing a couple weeks ago:
QUESTION: Abdullah Gul's announcement earlier this week, that he's going to renew his -- that he's renewing his bid for the presidency in Turkey, was followed by the head of the army saying that the next president would have to adhere to democratic principles in Turkey. How concerned are you that the head of the army is making pronouncements on the workings of a democratically elected government in Turkey?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, any decision about who's going to be the next President of Turkey is going to be one for the Turkish Parliament and the Turkish people to make. And we have confidence in Turkey's democracy. We have confidence in Turkey's secular democracy. And there are going to a variety of -- there are going to be a variety of different points of view within Turkey. That is the nature of democracy. But any of these questions need to resolved within the confines of Turkey's law and Turkey's constitution. And we have full confidence that the Turkish system will come to terms with whatever differences there are within that system to produce a result that is democratic, that is consistent with Turkey's history, and consistent with Turkey's laws and constitution.

QUESTION: How concerned are you that there are fears in Turkey that their whole step may lead to another showdown with the secularists, thus undermining the stability of the political system in Turkey?

MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to political scientists who are better versed in Turkish domestic politics than me. But look, what you are seeing, as far as we can see, is a debate about Turkey's future course; a debate about Turkish politics and how Turkey's values manifest itself within a political system. That is the functioning of a democracy, as it -- I think anybody would recognize it's a debate that we would have here in the United States or in Western Europe or elsewhere. But ultimately, the Turkish people are going to have to wrestle with these questions and figure out how to deal with them within the confines of their political system.
A friend who's a missionary in Turkey emailed a prayer request out yesterday. Pray for secularism in Turkey (even missionaries aren't hot on theocracies, it seems); pray that if Gul wins, a door will remain open for missionaries in Turkey, and pray that the military won't have to stage a coup.

The first prayer and third may be contradictory, but I'm going ahead with the prayers as he requested.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Kartoonistan, Round Two?

Angry Iranian officials (are there any other kind?) summoned Sweden's charge d'affaires to the foreign ministry today for a drubbing. It seems a Swedish cartoonist and newspaper didn't remain sufficiently intimidated following last year's Kartoonistan riots, embassy torchings and bloodthirsty fatwas.

They went and published cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed (Bless His Apparently Very Touchy Feelings). The artist in this case, Lars Vilks, has taken to drawing Muhammed's head on the body of a dog. You can view plenty of examples at his blog, but I think this Vilks drawing is much wittier:
The Drawing of the Prophet Muhammed in Invisible Ink captures perfectly the absurdity of the Muslim's position. One senses its subtlety will be lost on this crowd:
The Örebro local newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published one of the drawings on August 18 to illustrate an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of religion.

"The editorial was critical of the fact that so many had turned down Vilks's drawings for fear of the reactions they would provoke," Nerikes Allehanda's chief editor Ulf Johansson told AFP.

On Saturday, a week after the publication, a group of about 60 Muslims held a demonstration outside the newspaper's office to protest against the publication of the sketch. (source)
Uh, guys? Did you read the bit about freedom of religion? Go ahead and demonstrate -- it's your right. But it's also Vilks right to draw Muhammed if he wants to, and Nerikes Allehanda's right to publish it.

If this bothers you so much, my Muslim friends, I can suggest any number of repressive, freedom-hating countries you can return to.

hat-tip: memeorandum

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A Caitlin Upton Moment

Who hasn't heard the hapless answer of Miss South Carolina, Caitlin Upton, to the question, How can it be that a survey found that 25 percent of Americans can't find the U.S. on a map? [See comments for a more accurate rendering of the question.] If you haven't, you can watch it here, or read it here:
I personally believe the U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh ...; people out there in our nation don't have maps, and, uh, I believe that our education like such as South Africa and, uh, the Iraq everywhere like, such as and ...; I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., err, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future ... for us.
Three thoughts:

First, pity on the poor girl. She is no doubt at least somewhat brighter than her answer would have you believe. She just choked ... big time ... nationally. For the rest of her life, she'll hear, "Are you the Caitlin Upton, the 'South Africa and, uh, the Iraq' Caitlin Upton?" She'll just have to overcome it, and overcoming it will make her a stronger, smarter person.

Second, I don't know what survey it was that found that 25 percent of us can't find the U.S. on a map, but I can tell you what the right answer to the question is, the answer Caitlin should have come up with:
I personally believe that the only way a survey could report such a finding is that it was a biased, left-leaning tool, not a truly scientific survey. I would be willing to bet my crown, which I sure hope you will place on my pretty blond head soon, that the survey was doctored by a National Education Association in order to dupe Congressmen and Congresswomen into sinking even more money into the bottomless pit of our failing public education system. Americans are smarter than that, but the NEA apparently knows members of Congress aren't.
But I wasn't on the spot like Caitlin was, so who can fault her?

And third, if you haven't ever had a "Caitlin Upton moment," it's probably because you've never had the courage to step out in front of a crowd of people and accept a spotlight.

My Caitlin moment came when I was emceeing an annual awards ceremony for our professional association -- a big deal, hundreds in attendance. The night had progressed well, and it was time for the big award.

What I meant to say was, "This is it ... hold your breath ... the winner is..."

What I said was, "This is it ... hold your breasts ...."

There was no point in even trying to get to "the winner is," because the laughter was so loud and I was so mortified. Fortunately, I don't remember then next few seconds, I just have vague sense that somehow the award was announced and a recipient -- who no doubt holds a grudge against me to this day for spoiling his or her big moment -- came up and accepted the reward.

Have you got a Caitlin moment? Want to share it?

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Legions Plan For Massive U.N. Climate Push

Only the UN would attract 1,000 people to a meeting to plan for a meeting (this particular one about global warming) -- a pretty darn clear indication of how efficient the UN's proposed solutions to climate change will be.

Here's the agenda:

This week’s meeting will take place in two segments. The first, running from 27 to 29 August, will focus on the theme “Dialogue on long-term cooperative action to address climate change,” while the second, taking place from 30 to 31 August, will concentrate on negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol.

Pause for a moment and think about 1,000 people from 150 different countries or organizations mulling over that. Ya think there's any chance they'll get something done?

The UN is definitely old school on climate change; no counter-current here:

At the start of today’s session, Austria’s Federal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Josef Pröll, characterized climate change as a “huge challenge” that must be addressed at the global level and through an integrated approach.

“Each year without mitigation measures is a year which drives the human and financial cost of adaptation steeply upwards,” Mr. Pröll said.

It's a horse race, folks: Can the U.N.'s slow-moving, inept, action-adverse bureaucracy move slower than the march of science and the diminishing proof of warming, so their effort becomes moot before our money vanishes into yet another dark U.N. hole?

And to those of you who see the whole Warmie movement as a cover for massive fundraising to employ buckets of bureaucrats, here's a hint:

Tomorrow, UNFCCC will present a new report that underscores the major changes to patterns of investment and financial flows required to tackle climate change in the next quarter century.

The study analyzed both existing and potential investment and financial flows relevant to developing an international response to climate change, and found that the additional amount of investment and financial flows in 2030 will amount to between 1.1 and 1.7 per cent of global investment. Another key finding of the study is that $200 to $210 billion worth of additional investment and financial flows will be necessary to return greenhouse gas emissions to current levels.

Do you, like me, see a major disconnect between "$200 to $210 billion" and "1.1 and 1.7 percent of global investment?" Either they have no idea how much money to ask for, or they're afraid to tell us yet ... waiting until the meeting that 1,000 people planned to take place, with the ensuing raft of papers and days of speeches to provide sufficient cover to roll out the sum they're really asking for.

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Quote Of The Day: History Lesson Edition

The lesson of Vietnam is much different from the one the President apprehends. The lesson is this: if you fail to fight a war in a manner calculated to win it decisively, you will lose it inevitably.
-- Jed Babbin

Jed Babbin's got a very good piece this a.m. at Human Events, in which he argues that the NeoCon scheme of using Iraq to build democracy throughout the world is flawed, and the president should abandon it in favor of fighting a war that's designed to win in Iraq and contain Iran and Syria.

Babbin carves out an aggressive stand: Wrap up Iraq militarily while turning "our military and intelligence establishments’ attention to the nations that surround it." He believes that will lead to the reform of Islam that's needed if we are to ever find peace.

I'm not sure how far Babbin would take the "military" part of "military and intelligence establishments," and there is certainly plenty of room for dumb mistakes if we go down that road. There's also the opportunity to de-quagmire ourselves and actually win the War on Terror.

It all depends on the conviction of the president, the will of the Congress, and the support of the people. In other words, before we fix the Middle East, we've got some fixing to do at home. If Petraeus can continue his winning ways on the ground, we may be able to take care of the rest, and then consider taking Babbin's course.

hat-tip: Real Clear Politics

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Attorney General Antonio Gonzales joins the junk heap of failed Bush nominees. Or so thinks the Left, anyway.

The Left is making much of the resignations of Rumsfield, Rove and now Gonzales, seeing them as connected by their incompetence, but AG AG stood out alone in the incompetence field.

The war is going better since Rumsfield left, but that's more the nature of war than the nature of defense chiefs. Trying to find a course between the needs on the grounds and the demands of Washington, stymied by faulty intelligence, Rumsfield could have done better ... but he could have done worse, too.

His main fault, in the Left's eyes, was that he was too outspoken in favor of the war and against its critics. They hounded him out.

Rove was the domestic policy chief and things went pretty well on his watch, well enough to justify staying through 'til the end. But to the Left, he was forever the architect of the stolen 2000 election, so they attacked using Plame and the federal prosecutor angles until it just became too stupid for a brilliant guy to stay.

Gonzales was different, a man not capable of carrying out the mission he was given. He might have survived his incompetent management style -- we've had plenty of similar AG's in the past -- but he had three things going against him.

Most palatable was that he was the front man for increased intelligence for the War on Terror. To the Left, that made him the point main for infringements on personal freedom; infringements no one really felt personally, but infringements, nonetheless, that they couldn't tolerate.

Less palatable reasons to drive out Gonzales were that he was a long-time friend of Bush and that he was a minority conservative Republican, something the Dem machine absolutely cannot tolerate.

But in the end, it was the flagrantly incompetent handling of the federal prosecutors case that cost him his job. He allowed a molehill to become a mountain, a teapot to house a tempest, and in politics, that'll cost you.

It should have cost him sooner.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

"A Real Big Problem" For The Dems

House Majority Whip James Clyburn might need to brush off his infamous phrase -- that moves toward victory would be "a real big problem for us" -- in light of this news, out of Iraq tonight:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key measures seen as vital to fostering national reconciliation.

The agreement by the five leaders was one of the most significant political developments in Iraq for months and was quickly welcomed by the United States, which hopes such moves will ease sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands. ...

"I hope that this agreement will help Iraq move beyond the political impasse," Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told Reuters. "The five leaders representing Iraq's major political communities .... affirmed the principle of collective leadership to help deal with the many challenges faced by Iraq."

Maliki's appearance on Iraqi television with the four other leaders at a brief news conference was a rare show of public unity.

The Dems have convinced themselves that Iraqis are incapable of self-government, in their typical "I'm not a racist" racist style. They must convince themselves of this because should Iraqis actually govern themselves democratically, George Bush was right. It is no consolation to them if the Hussein violence, the sectarian violence, the infringement of liberties all stop, if George Bush being right is part of the deal.

Of course, announcing reconciliation and reconciling are too different things. The Dems, for all their short-sightedness, have succeeded in scaring the bemuhammed out of the Iraqis, so go ahead, Reid, Pelosi, Murtha and Clyburn, say what you will.

It's stupid and dangerous stuff to say, but it actually seems to be helping move the needle in the direction of us staying in Iraq until our work is done.

hat-tip: memeorandum

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Iran's Terrorist Hydra

Imagine the NSA, CIA and FBI rolled into one, with broad powers to do whatever they felt necessary to protect and maintain the administration. Now give them exclusive responsibility for the engineering and construction of all civic projects from airports to highways, so they access to a huge and steady flow of cash, both legitimate and under the table, and are therefore not beholden to Congress for funding.

Frightening, eh?

Little wonder then that President Bush wants to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization -- because I've just described their structure.

Kim Murphy writes in today's LATimes:
Iran's Revolutionary Guard has quietly become one of the most significant political and economic powers in the Islamic Republic, with ties to more than 100 companies, which by some estimates control more than $12 billion in business and construction, economists and Iranian political analysts say.

The Guard was created in 1979 as a military and intelligence force to protect the ideals of Iran's Islamic Revolution. But the 125,000-strong force has used the massive military engineering capability it developed rebuilding the country after the 1980-88 war with Iraq to take over the strategic highlands of the Iranian economy.

The legendary people's army now has its hand in a broad and diverse variety of activities, such as dentistry and travel, and has become the dominant player in public construction projects across the country, say businessmen and economists in Tehran and analysts abroad.

Under the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former Revolutionary Guard commander, the force also has extended its reach in the Cabinet: 14 of 21 members are former Guard commanders. Former officers also hold 80 of the 290 seats in the parliament and a host of local mayorships and local council seats. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, is a former Guardsman.
The Bush administration's possible naming of the Guard a terrorist organization therefore would have a much more profound effect on Iran than, say, naming Hezbollah a terrorist organization would have on Syria or Lebanon. Hamas in Palestine, on a much grander scale, is a more on-target comparison.

The Guard has the contract to build Tehran's subway, and the contract to build Iran's nuclear facilities. It has a partnership with Mazda to build cars in Iran, and it runs Tehran's hospitals.

It also ships arms into Iraq and trains jihadists there, making it responsible for the deaths of scores of U.S. troops.

It is, in short, a unique Hydra of Islam, its arms reaching everywhere in the Islamic Republic, with no care as to whether its actions are legal or moral; it cares only about consolidating its power and furthering (now globally) the Islamic Revolution that created and sustains it.

Exactly how we can treated it like other run-of-the-mill terrorist organizations is unclear; that we would avoid attempting to do so is unfathomable.

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Greens With Green (Space Edition)

Following up on my earlier Greens With Green post, here's the ultimate Big Carbon indulgence:
Virgin Galactic is a company owned and established by Richard Branson's Virgin Group to undertake the challenge of making private space travel available to everyone and bycreating the world's first commercial spaceline.

Virgin will own and operate privately built spaceships, based on the history making SpaceShipOne . These spaceships, which are currently under construction, will allow affordable private sub-orbital space travel for the first time in history and give you the opportunity of being amongst the very first private astronauts.

Our goal is to provide you with the most incredible experience of your life. The trip will be intense, approaching sensory overload and the more that can be simulated beforehand, the better the real thing will be! (source)
Ay, this will give the Greenies a brutal round of cognitive dissonance. They love the Earth Mother and would be positively orgasmic with the chance to see the Earth from afar -- but getting there is a bit of an energy whore, a massive, useless, self-indulgent smudge on the very Earth Mother they're all paying $200,000 to go see.

That $200,000 would go a long way in Dafur. It would install photovoltaics on a lot of houses. It would put stilts on a lot of houses in the Seychelles, which are supposedly at risk of raising seas. But Virgin's Richard Branson is confident he'll find a uh, shipload, of self-centered souls who will buy a ticket.

Yeah, but would a true Greenie ever consider such a thing? Yeah, you bet! The opponent of one of our projects is a Greenie par excellence, who has used global warming arguments (among hundreds of others) against our project. He's also a techno-geek and recently paid thousands of dollars to experience zero gravity in a dropping airplane.

He's not a Green with Green; he's just green DINK (dual income, no kids), so we probably won't see him going into space, but we will see many with fervent Greenism belief systems throwing all those beliefs away for a massive carbon smudge and temporary rush.

And they won't even have to go to confession in the morning.

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Here's Something To Riot Over

Let no good deed go un-rioted against by demanding, strident Muslims.

In this case, US forces thought it would be a nice idea to give Afghan kids a soccer ball to play with, so balls like these were dropped by helicopter in Khost province. Well, screw you, America, said the recipients:
A demonstration has been held in south- east Afghanistan accusing US troops of insulting Islam after they distributed footballs bearing the name of Allah. ...

Some displayed flags from countries all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, which features the shahada, one of the five pillars of Islam - the declaration of faith.

The words, which include the name of Allah, are revered, and Muslims are very sensitive about where and how they can be used. (BBC)
The Afghans should be rioting against Saudi Arabia for putting the name of Allah on their flag, or against the World Cup Federation, for not removing the flag when Saudi Arabia asked them to, but the do-gooders from America are always the target du jour.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Inside The Crazed Mind Of Bill Maher

Bill Maher doesn't pretend to be an objective journalist; he's a TV columnist who's hung his shingle on the far left side of the street and makes no effort to balance his shows -- the sort of guy who would not look favorably on the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine.

Even so, it's shocking to hear the questions he asked of New York Times correspondent Damien Cave, who was answering questions from on location in Baghdad. Here are Maher's questions, courtesy of Noel Sheppard at
  • "What is the morale of our troops, because I know President Bush always says that the troops are steadfastly all behind him - uh, I have my doubts. What is your view?"
Not a bad question, really. But when the answer wasn't a shrieking screed against Bush, he posed this one:
  • But what about the morale of the insurgents? Is there any doubt among these people that we are not going to outlast them? I mean we do have debates on how long the surge will last. It seems to be a debate about a matter of months, sometimes a matter of years. Come on...these guys are gonna wait us out for as long as it takes. Isn't that the bottom line in Iraq?
If you ever wanted a stetement in the form of a question that the goal of the Left is our defeat, this is it. Turn it around and Maher is saying, "If we can just force our troops out quickly enough, the other side will win, right?"

Once again, Cave wasn't going Maher's way, but Maher didn't give up Instead, he just changed directions:
  • If Saddam Hussein were alive and running for president right now, and he used the old Reagan line, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago," do you think that would attract voters?"
Sheppard thinks this question is disgusting, but I think it's fair enough. Stupid, impatient, premature perhaps, but legitimate enough. Again,Cave answered straight instead of Leftist hurl, so Maher wrapped up with:
  • Do we have a moral obligation, you think, to this country that we're not living up to now that we've pretty much wrecked it?
What a window in the convoluted mind of a dedicated leftist! Here's Maher questioning the morality of leaving Iraq after asking question after question that sets up his position that we should be leaving. Leaving Iraq would be the ultimate immorality, putting the political comfort and political anger of the impatient anti-war set ahead of the moral obligation we do have to do it right.

Kudos to Cave for refusing to give Maher the answers he wanted. As a NYTimes reporter you might think he'd go along, but he's there, he's seeing what he's seeing, and he's reporting it.

You'll want to read his answers at NewsBusters.

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Quote Of The Day: Paint It Black Edition

"I believe that black artists have the right to interpret ourselves first. If nobody steps up to the plate to do that, then certainly pass it along to someone else."
-- Black artist Gilbert Young

Gilbert Young is so angry that he's started a protest Web site (King Is Ours) where he attacks another man because of his race, and attacks his brothers for making a decision that was not made on racial grounds.

Granted, it's a humdinger of an eyebrow-arching decision: The artist selected by the MLK Memorial Foundation to sculpt the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington DC is not black, not even American -- he's Chinese.

The foundation defends its selection:
The memorial foundation directing the project seems surprised at the criticism. Ten of the 12 people on the committee that chose the sculptor, Lei Yixin, are black. Lei is working closely on the design with two black sculptors in the U.S., organizers said, and the overall project is being directed by a black-owned architecture firm. (USAToday)
Lei Yixin apparently won the competition fair and square; he is after all, one of only nine artists in all of China who are considered "masters" by the government. As such, his commissions have included hero-statues for very unheroic men, men who have oppressed in the name of Communism.

I understand where Young is coming from because it would have been an uncontroversial decision to pick a black artist for the job, and we would have been treated to a great symbolic gesture as one of our most hallowed pieces of real estate -- between the Lincoln and Jefferson monuments -- was entrusted to the hand of a black artist.

Certainly, Young (see here for more samples of his work like the one above) has an easy point to argue and he argues it very well:
Is it that Alpha Phi Alpha, one of the country’s oldest African American fraternities, and the executive staff of the King Memorial project—also all black, and the Memorial Foundation Leadership, could not find one African American sculptor good enough to create a likeness of King? That’s crazy. You best believe, there is not ONE national memorial, not ONE monument to a leader or historical event in China, Russia, France, Italy, India, Germany—go ahead and name them all—that has the name of an African American artist engraved in its base. It’s probably not that they don’t like us or appreciate our abilities. It’s that a commission of such importance is a legacy for a country and its countrymen. Why should the King Monument be any different?
But his position ultimately is untenable against the teachings of Dr. King, who preached that America should be race-blind (among other less laudable positions).

More resonate than Young's are the complaints of Ann Lau and her comrades who push for human rights in China. Pointing to Yixin's statues of Mao and the fact that the MLK granite will be cut from a mine where worker's rights and safety are likely not high priorities, she said,
The whole thing is wrong. We are going to be permanently connecting Dr. King with someone whose ideology is totally opposed to Dr. King's ideology.
And that's where I settle on this: I would have preferred if the foundation had accepted a black artist, but given Dr. King's teachings, I can't fault them; and I understand that many blacks won't care one bit what one pampered white man has to say about it; and I think their judgment wouldn't score too high on Dr King's scale, and I believe in my heart that it is very wrong to do anything to glorify the current regime in China.

It would have moved Dr. King greatly if somehow the Communist functionaries were moved to change their ways when they first see Yixin's statue, but that most certainly is not going to happen, so the MLK Memorial Foundation ultimately has wasted a very important opportunity for positive symbolism.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Bin Laden Beaten ... By Bad Mortgages

Osama bin Laden might be one bad dude, but he's not as tough as a crummy mortgage:
NEW YORK (AP) - Bad credit has supplanted terrorism as the gravest immediate risk threatening the economy, a key national research group reported Monday.

Borrowers' withering ability to pay their bills and the subsequent fallout in the credit markets this summer topped the list of short- term risks on peoples' minds, according to a survey of 258 members conducted by the National Association of Business Economics.

Of course, the key words here are "short-term risks," which are certainly not good qualifiers for jihad-risk. Jihad-risk did rate number one when NABE last surveyed its members back in March when things were going along a bit more swimmingly in the economy.

Despite the economists' pessimism about the current lending-fueled economic heebie-jeebies, they do believe it's a short-term situation and things in the housing market should be back to normal in five years (my sources in the building industry say four years; I hope it'll be less) .

Unfortunately, unless things take a miraculous turn, jihad will still be a threat to our economy and our safety then.

Very cool illustration: Jan Op de Beeck

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Another Black Victim Of Dog Prejudice

This just in from the "whites have deer hunting, blacks have dog fights" school of black racism*:

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies removed 12 distressed pit bulls from the Phoenix area home of rapper-turned-actor DMX in a raid that also found a number of firearms, police said on Friday.

Sheriffs' office spokesman Capt. Paul Chagolla said DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, 36, was not at home during the raid.

"We served an initial search warrant for animal neglect, and 12 pit bulls were removed," Chagolla told Reuters by telephone.

DMX is not a quick learner. In 2002 he pled guilty in New Jersey to criminal neglect of 13 pit bulls, leading to a sentence of producing an apparently not too heartfelt public service announcement denouncing animal cruelty.

PR tip to dumb celebrities: If you suddenly see a celebrity being ravaged by the media for doing something you also do, best take immediate action, since the media love nothing more than a trend. This trend: Stupid celebrities who abuse dogs.

* Here's the Today Show transcript for anyone who was passed out on crack in a van and missed it:
LAUER: Dennis Courtland Hayes is the interim president and CEO of the national chapter of the NAACP. Ingrid Newkirk is the president and co-founder of the animal rights group PETA.

Good morning to both of you.

Ms. INGRID NEWKIRK (President and Co-Founder, PETA): Good morning.

Mr. DENNIS COURTLAND HAYES (Interim President and CEO, NAACP): Good morning, Matt.

LAUER: Mr. Hayes, let me start with you. When we heard the comments, raised some eyebrows. The head of the NAACP in Atlanta saying that he just wants Michael Vick to be treated fairly, suggesting he has not been treated fairly thus far. Do you think Michael Vick has gotten a fair shake? And do you think there's been a racial element to his treatment so far?

Mr. HAYES: Well, let me say, Matt, that the NACP***(as spoken)***, its national board of directions, its national office, is not taking an official position on the Mike Vick matter. We're made of up of tens of thousands of members, over 2,000 affiliate units across the country, including Europe and Jam--and Japan. And they often speak to issues that are substantiative, local in nature. And...

LAUER: Well, let's take Mr. White out of it for a second then, and just personally, do you think that Michael Vick has gotten a fair shake so far, even before he pleads guilty on Monday?

Mr. HAYES: Let me be clear, the NACP***(as spoken)***does not condone dogfighting. This is a situation involving Mike Vick. I understand he has admitted wrongdoing. Michael Vick is not a victim in this situation. He was in control of his actions and he's not a victim.

LAUER: And would you be of the opinion, Mr. Hayes, that if Michael Vick were a white quarterback, star athlete, a Peyton Manning, that we would see the same amount of attention and the same amount of negative comments and the same amount of protests from people like PETA? And we'll talk to Ingrid in a second.

Mr. HAYES: Well, that's speculative. What we have to understand is the backdrop. We have to understand that what we're hearing expressed by some African-Americans is their anger and hurt, distrust in a criminal justice system that they feel treats them like animals. No dog deserves to be mistreated. And blacks and Hispanics don't deserve to represent a majority of our prison population in this country while blacks and Hispanics represent only one-third of the population.

LAUER: Ingrid, let me--let me, again, specifically talk to you about the dogfighting aspect of this. We've heard some people say that this is a sport, albeit behind closed doors. Stephon Marbury, as you just heard, compared it to deer hunting and said he doesn't know that it's any worse. How does--I think I know, but how do you come down on that?

Ms. NEWKIRK: Well, of course, the majority of Americans have spoken out very clearly. And we all know that it's illegal to be cruel to animals in any state in the union. PETA, of course, opposes deer hunting. Only 7 percent of the US population goes deer hunting. But you don't dowse deer in water and then electrocute them and beat them to death and slam them into the ground and you don't build pits in your backyard for deer to fight. So, if somebody is so mad as to say that there's an absolute comparison, they're wrong. They're both cruel sports or can be if you're not a good shot...

LAUER: Well, let me ask...

Ms. NEWKIRK: ...with deer hunting. But dogfighting is a world unto itself. It is bloods--blood and guts.

Take note: This is the first time in recorded history that Newkirk has been the least bit fresh and witty in one of her rants. That "... or can be if you're not a good shot" was pretty good.

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Greens With Green

Can you be green when you've got lotsa green?

It used to be that being megawealthy meant being able to burn through resources with gay abandon, and shopping at the Big 'n Tall store for your carbon footprint. Just check out this handy table, courtesy of The Wealth Report in today's WSJ:

Boats 186-Foot Yacht 20-Foot Boat,
150-HP Motor
Fuel Used Per Hour at Cruise Speed 224 gallons 4 gallons
C02 Generation 2.3 tons/hour 0.04 ton/hour
Jets Gulfstream G400 Boeing 777
Fuel Use Per Passenger Per Hour 100 gallons 6 gallons
C02 Emissions Per Hour one ton per passenger 0.06 ton per passenger
Sources: Estimates by Carbon Fund, Boston Whaler, V1 Jets, Carbon Fund, Boeing

Oh, ouch, Bunny! Do you think we should ask the servants to dial it back a bit?

Some wealthy just blow off the guilt and leave the greening to the little people, while others make a stab at correcting for their indulgences, buying carbon offsets, using their yachts to gather ocean temperature and salinity data for scientists, and building houses like this:
The U.S. Green Building Council has certified at least three mansions for being leaders in environmental design, including one owned by Ted Turner's daughter, Laura Turner Seydel, and her husband, Rutherford, in Atlanta. [How can you not be rich with a name like Rutherford Seydel?] The 7,000-square-foot-plus house, called EcoManor, is equipped with 27 photovoltaic panels on the roof, rainwater-collecting tanks for supplying toilet water, and "gray water" systems that use water from the showers and sinks for the lawn and gardens. The top of the house is insulated with a soy-based foam that is more efficient than fiberglass. The home has 40 energy monitors and a switch near the door that turns off every light in the house before the family leaves.

Mr. Seydel says the couple's energy bill is about half that of comparable homes.
All this is commendable because we are told to be good stewards of God's gifts to us, and there's a host of new businesses forming to salve the guilt of Greens with Green. But we are so off-base on all this.

The Greens with Green aren't the problem; the little people are the problem. In this case, the societies that are still dependent on wood, coal, charcoal and low-grade petroleum products for most of their fuel -- that would be China, India, most all of Africa and South Asia and lots of South America.

That's where the pollution comes from, that's where the carbon gets pumped into the atmosphere. The way to solve the problem is to make it possible for the people in these societies to make money and have a political voice.

Greens with Green, however, are usually too busy funding the groups that are working to stop the development of third world countries in the name of the environment -- from China's massive Three Canyons Dam to small hydroelectric and industrial projects in off the beaten track countries -- not seeing that holding back progress is holding back the process of moving to more efficient fuels.

Funding the industrialization of the third world would be a fine way for the rich to offset their massive carbon burns, but chances are, their offsets go to plant more trees there, which will eventually be cut by poor villagers who either will be thrown in jail for trying to survive, or will burn the wood, the least efficient, most carbon-generating fuel of all.

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Watcher's Winners

The Watcher's Council has spoken and the Watcher of Weasels has posted.

Among the Council, Right Wing Nuthouse's Is the United States an Imperialist Power and does it Matter was a run-away winner. I voted for this one because it challenges the Lefties and their foolish rhetoric about our imperialist nature.

Then followed a very interesting piece, the sort of piece I like the Watcher's listing for since I wouldn't have read it or thought much about it otherwise, but am the better for it: Done with Mirrors' St. Nietzsche. Here's how it starts:
Roger Scruton, philosopher, points to a pair of unlikely archangels -- Nietzsche and Wagner.

Were they heroes of religion in the late 19th century? That struck me at first as odd, since they perhaps are better known as icons of the brutal Germanic secular religion of the 20th century. But you can't always blame a saint for how people behave later in the shade of his stained glass.
Nice, eh?

Thereafter, a war post that I voted for, Horrific Nineveh Bombing Shows Counterinsurgency Working from Big Lizards, flowed by a quartet in fourth:
Over on the non-Council side, some very good stuff too.

Leading the pack by a long shot was Pajamas Media's How The New Republic Got Suckered, that gave us gossipy detail on the inner workings of the Baghdad Diaries Boondoggle, followed by a three-way tie for second:
  • Beijing Wide Open's The Technology of Our Dissent, which I nominated not because I thought it would win, but because I thought as many people as possible needed to read this piece about the Commies' powerlessness in the face of New Media
  • City Journal's very scary portrayal of the objectives of the professional peace movement, The Peace Racket.
  •'s Israel and the Double Standard, about, you guessed it, Israel's poor treatment at the hands of the MSM.
See all the winners here. And thanks again, Watcher, for pulling this circus train.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reid Screed

I love this photo of Harry "We Can't Win"' Reid showing the netroots at the KosKonvention the proper posture for surrendering. That's why I wondered yesterday what Reid might have to say upon hearing that we're killing Iraqi terrorists at a 1,500-a-month clip.

He was mum on that, natch. But today he spouted off about the latest National Intelligence Estimate, which said we're making military gains but the Iraqi government is still troubled.

Take it away, Harry:
Responding to the assessment, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), said that "as today's NIE makes clear, a political solution is extremely unlikely in the near term. Further pursuit of the administration's flawed escalation strategy is not in our nation's best interests."
Does it seem as odd to you as it does to me that a man who can't get a single anti-war resolution through the Senate he supposedly leads feels comfortable questioning someone else's efficacy as a leader?

Hillary went even further, calling for the removal of Maliki if he doesn't straighten up an fly right. What a fine model of Democracy that would be -- from the party that says of Bush every time he does something they don't like, "What kind of role model for Iraqi democracy is he?"

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Here Come The Atheists

I know not all atheists are silly; in fact some of the smartest people I know are smart without acknowledging the helping hand of God on their shoulder.

But when I posted about the CNN special, God's Warriors, and its efforts to equalize Islam, Christianity and Judaism as warriors all, equal opportunity zealots, I was introduced to a few polite but less thoughtful atheists/agnostics, Nathan, Reema and Brian.

Nathan started it off:
You are right about the incompleteness and superficiality of CNN's report, but some of this is due to CNN's production style rather than Amanpour's reporting. Dramatic music, flashy video techniques, interview bites, rapid scene and topic changes. Ordinary TV stupidity. And you are dead wrong in your judgment. This isn't only about terrorism. It's about religiously sanctioned violence. Think George Bush, his crusade, the right-wing Christian support of it, and the 100s of thousands of dead Iraqis--oh, yeah, and the tortured and maimed and raped and homeless ones, too. A little clash of civilizations. And Amanpour also covered Israeli state violence against Palestinian and Lebanese people--also supported by the religious right in Israel and by the Christian and Jewish right in the U.S. "God's Warriors" is about some people believing that God has given them sovereignty over other peoples lives, bodies, freedom, dignity. Islamic warriors tend to do this without the instrument of a state or its army, just because God tells them to. Chrsitians and Jews tend to work through states, the ones God has chosen to do this purifying, this unspeakable work.

Nathan misses the point entirely. We are not fighting a religious war; we are fighting against religious warriors who attacked us. George Bush's "crusade" is for democracy, not for Christianity.

His compassion extends, apparently, only to the dead Iraqis attacked by our very secular military, not to those killed by the fundamentally religious Islamist jihadists. This is anti-Americanism, not anti-religion-ism.

Then Reema:
It seems sad to me that people (so easily I might add) defend their own religion as though there is nothing wrong with it. Cruelty is equally suggested by all three religions in their supposedly HOLY book. When you're going to comment about a religion that you don't know anything about it's probably best to be conservative on your views. In the eyes of Arabs; Muslims and many other people every Jewish "God Warrior" in the occupied lands is a terrorist. I am an Atheist and I'm proud that I have outgrown such superstitious beliefs. But as much as it's stupid to you when Muslims talk about jihad It's stupid among them when Christians talk about Muslimification of Europe or Jews right to the holy lands because it has been said so in the old testament. The root of all three religions are the same and each of them is as dangerous to the science and reasoning as the other one. I suggest you watch Richard Dawkins - The Root of All Evil; Not because it will change your view but because it will give you a new perspective.
The roots of Islam are quite different than those of Judaism and Christianity. It came later, the revelation of one man. He borrowed lightly from the established religions of the time, but built his own framework above them which is fundamentally different -- from the definition of his god on.

Reeba's points about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are interesting, if old. Yes, Israel sees a Biblical right to the land, but beyond that there is a very real-world process of getting it -- of U.N. resolutions, of purchases of land from the people who lived there, of ancient roots to the land that were disrupted by brutes who kicked them out. All that is forgotten.

The Muslimification of Europe is a real demographic issue. In secular Europe it is not seen as a religious issue but a cultural issue, so Reeba's point is off.

Now Brian, the most confused of all:
Thought [God's Warriors] was excellent. I'm sorry, but all 3 religions have been responsible for most of the wars in the world and yes I am saying that as an agnostic and a sceptic of religion, which I consider superstitious, resistant to science, and divisive. I also say it as a European of Catholic upbringing.

The Old Testament is full of wars fought on the basis of religions. The Christians all the way back to Charlemagne fought "Crusades" against first European Pagans (he massacred thousands of Saxon Pagans) and then Muslims and so-called "heretics" like the Cathars in southwestern France. The Catholic Inquisiton burned thousands at the stake for being of the wrong religion or saying the world was round. Galileo was locked up in his home for life for the latter 'offense'. After the Reformation, Catholic and Protestant European countries fought countless wars - up to 13 million may have died in the German Thirty Years War. Catholic and Protestant European countries passed penal laws to oppress their religious minorities. It was not until 1788 that France lifted its persecution of Lutherans and 1791 was when the general toleration for Protestants and Jews stopped. In Ireland, Catholics were denied parliamentary representation by the British until 1829.

You may argue I am going a bit far back in mentioning this. But depending on your viewpoint of issues like the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it could be argued - despite the denials - that these also constitute wars fought in the name of religion. When I hear US politicians constantly citing "God" to justify such wars, I get suspicious of some of their motives. We in the West have to find a way of living in peace with the 1.1 billion people in this world who are Muslims. And with our Christian history on this matter, I think it is a bit rich for us to start giving lectures.
Brian's history, like the history of many anti-religious zealots, is trite and dangerously distorted. In recent history, and probably throughout all history, it was the atheists that did most of the killing. Pol Pot was not a religious man, nor was Adolf Hitler; neither fought religious wars, yet both were responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of souls.

Roosevelt routinely asked for God's help in fighting the Germans, which is a good thing for the president of a nation primarily of Christians to do, but he never posed these prayers as a call to God for victory in a Holy War; he just prayed we would win, and our fighting men would be protected.

If Brian's theory of the religious basis for war were right, he should be able to point to the great atheist nations of the 20th and 21st centuries and show them as beacons of what man can achieve if he is not burdened with a cumbersome God.

He can point to Stalin and the Soviet killing machine, which killed millions of Russian Christians and Central Asian Muslims in the name of the Godless state. He can point to today's North Korean and Chinese deliberately Godless governments that carry out killing on a massive scale in the name of the atheist state.

There are no "Christian wars," and have been none since the Crusades (a defense against Islam's bloody expansion into the Holy Land) and the executions of the various convulsions of the Inquisition era. Northern Ireland's troubles were economic much more than religious.

Today's religious wars brought by the Islmaists against all non-believing societies is an aberration in modern times. If we are to learn from history, it is the atheists and agnostics that the world has to fear.

These commentors appear to have accepted wholeheartedly the teachings of our fiercely secularist, anti-Faith universities. It is a sad thing to see, the spouting of their religiously anti-religious doctrine, just as they got it from the pulpit in the front of their classrooms.

Rather than laugh at us for our faith, I pray they look within and find the emptiness of their faith. There is still time for them to find the Joy that comes from humble surrender to our compassionate God.

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