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Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Friend of the Sky

Saturday was the first anniversary of my mother's passing. On the first of this month, she would have been 75. I know of no better tribute than the words a very young poet of my acquaintance, Emily Hunerwadel (eleven at the time), penned to honor her--the first to express what my mother made her think of, the second to describe her final flight from pain and sickness--and express her lifelong connection to other "friends of the sky."

My Garden

New leaves come and new leaves go
Like trees in the wind swaying to and fro
Drop a stone into the well
And here my garden will always dwell
My temple’s here, my sacred place
Leaving it I’ll never face
So come into my garden here
And see the flowers I hold dear

Friend of the Sky

Free from everyone, everything except the above
Free from the ground and all her heartbroken love
She was free to the sky, her arms stretched in flight
The way the wind blew her hair back felt just right

Her heart filled with joy as she soared through the clouds
The earth was much different: unqueit and loud
She soared through the air all day and night
Getting stronger each day as her heart filled with delight

She was free to herself, to do as she would decide
She was happy with what she chose, like a child on a ride
Her joy will live forever, it will never end
For this was her life task and the sky was her friend

I know she flew from the pain and hardship she knew in her life, from the weakness and discomfort she knew in her last few years, to a joy we here can glimpse only through a glass darkly--but her, I hope, face to face.


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Yo Yo! Baptists Git They Freak On

JayCee's in da house an' dat's fo shizzle.

Git down wit' it here.

Peace - out,


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Monday, March 28, 2005

Easter at the Movies

Easter passed quietly with us this year.

Sunday school, Easter service, family meal with no guests, some measuring for furniture and experimental painting in the new house. A real Sabbath for a change.

Watched every cheesy movie ever made about Christ, it seems: King of Kings, with a particularly unconvincing Jeffrey "I Was a Cardboard Jesus" Hunter in the key role. This is the Revised Standard Version of Bible movies--lacking the beauty of King James (Zeffarelli?) and the realism of the NIV (Mel Gibson?). If Jesus had been this wooden, Peter and Andrew wouldn't have followed Him, they'd have made a boat out of Him.

The Greatest Story Ever Told--oh dear. Max von Sydow playing an Aryan Jesus in Arizona's Monument Valley. This movie must please that region's neo-Nazi survivalists for a variety of reasons, none of them closely related to the story the movie purports to tell. Whoever's in charge simply shouldn't let a German play Jesus. The incongruities are just too great. It's like listening to a Mariachi band trying to render Miles Davis. For my part, I keep expecting to hear the Beatitudes morph into Teppichfrescherung: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall FILL THE STREETS OF BERLIN WITH THE BLOOD OF THEIR OPPRESSORS! BLESSED ARE THE STOSSTRUPPEN, FOR THEY SHALL INVADE POLAND!!"

The Robe, which casts a piece of clothing in the role of Jesus--pretty good casting, considering the competition. Not a bad movie, either.

Ben Hur--well, it's great, of course--it's the best gladiator-meets-Christ movie yet, but its not as good as Spartacus or Gladiator. Can we get Ridley Scott to do a remake, d'ya think?

Ah, yes. Jesus of Nazareth. I know Zeffirelli takes a liberty or two with the textus receptus, but it's beautiful! And it was my favorite until Mel did Passion. It may still be. I had forgotten how much I liked it. It had been at least ten years since I'd seen it on TV. I now need to get it on DVD. Robert Powell's Jesus is still aloof (and Aryan), which I definitely think Jesus was not, but he has a certain piercing magnetism that carries off the role better than anyone else had to that time. His portrayal may not be "authentic" (will that ever be possible?), but he conveys a sense of controlled power in Jesus' presence that we can only guess at. Not everyone does, but I like his portrayal. And did I mention that the film is beautiful? It may be more of a Tuscan sunset than a West Bank son-rise, but I like it. A lot.

Didn't watch Passion this year, despite having it on DVD. We were too busy on Good Friday and it's a Good Friday, not Resurrection Sunday, movie. Perhaps next year. Someone with Mel's talent, drive, and faith now needs to tell the rest of the story. Christ ain't on the cross any more, Mel, and the Resurrection is at least as important as the Crucifixion.

Just a thought.


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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Thirst, Hunger, Montesquieu, and the Law

Well, Terri Schiavo will soon be gone and nothing further can be done on her behalf save by illegal means, which is not something that anyone on either side of this issue should encourage.

Regardless of your political leanings, there are two sides to this issue. Even among conservative pundits there is a fairly substantive and reasonable divide, with compelling arguments on both sides of the fence. Arrayed on one side are those like Glenn Reynolds who seek to uphold the rule of law, prevent executive and legislative abuse of constitutional original intent, and discourage bills of attainder and ex-post-facto lawmaking (which conservatives were extremely vocal in denouncing, for example, during the Iran-Contra "scandal"--made the latter in part by a Democratic Congress' similar abuse of the law). Reynolds makes cogent points:

I'm quite astonished to hear people who call themselves conservatives arguing, in effect, that Congress and the federal courts have a free-ranging charter to correct any injustice, anywhere, regardless of the Constitution. And yet my email runneth over with just those kinds of comments. And arguing that "it's okay because liberals do it too" doesn't undercut my point that conservatives are acting like liberals here. It makes it.

Every system generates unjust results. This may (or may not) be one of them, but there's no reason to think that Congressional action on an individual legal case is likely to improve things.

And here:

I do think that process, and the Constitution, matter. Trampling the Constitution in an earnest desire to do good in high-profile cases has been a hallmark of a certain sort of liberalism, and it's the sort of thing that I thought conservatives eschewed.
Points granted, professor. Is this the most important consideration, however?

Among conservatives on the other side are those, like Hugh Hewitt, who worry about the power of the courts and the emblematic nature this case may have for a certain stripe of activist judge. Hewitt:

The staggering judicial indifference to Congress's action early Monday is a display of judicial arrogance that, combined with other recent displays of judicial imperium, should trouble everyone interested in separation of powers and thus the limiting of government authority that occurs as a result of that balancing.
This point resonates with me, even if Congress' opposite tack is also an abuse of the system. I believe today's greatest threat to the rule of law is the very priesthood established to uphold it: the court system and the appointed-for-life scribes and Pharisees of our secular humanist state religion. I believe the law is like math--merely a language, a medium of communication, built for a set of specific purposes. Like in math (especially statistics), gifted minds can turn it to support any position or normative framework they want. But unlike math, there are no absolutes in the law. It may be the perfect vehicle for persuading others to any position by seeming use of logic. The logic is very slippery and context-specific, however. And the more complex the law becomes, the closer it gets to perfection. There is probably a precedent somewhere defending any act a villain would want to commit. And the villain will get away with it as long as he can recruit the more persuasive lawyer to his side. Murder? O Jay's gloves wouldn't fit. Child buggery? Jocko was just sleeping with the tykes. Slavery? The black man has no rights the white man is bound to respect. And so on...

The law is useful as an engine and facilitator of liberty only and entirely to the extent that its advocates in various camps are held in check by one another--the knavery of one set balanced against the equal or worse knavery of every other. Our founding fathers understood this. That's why they could "recite the central points of Montesquieu's doctrine as if it had been a catechism," as Forrest McDonald had it. Montesquieu*, the great apostle of checks and balances, advocated a form of government that looks almost exactly like ours today--the most stable form of republican government ever devised--except for one aspect: "The judiciary should not be a permanent body, but should be one whose personnel are frequently changed, and the judges should be 'no more than the mouth that pronounces the words of the law.'" Montesquieu was worried that a permanent judiciary would become too concerned with its own perogatives and interests--in effect, become very much like the priesthood of an established state church; like England's Lords Spiritual. Hmmmm....

The various courts' pronouncements this week certainly sounded Olympian enough. What the petitioners were asking was humane and reasonable--a mere re-examination of the case based on finding of fact, not Talmudic hermeneutics, and a stay of brutal execution until that was accomplished. There was significant reason to doubt some aspects of the initial judgment. For instance, there are obvious factual errors in the medical findings that are central to the case:

She has never regained consciousness and to this day remains in a comatose state at a nursing home in Largo.
This was written at Michael Schiavo's intial petition to have feeding tubes removed in 2000. Of course, this is not true. As has been widely reported, for instance in this detailed chronology sympathetic to Schiavo's doctors, she was comatose for only about a month after her heart attack. She remains severely brain-damaged, of course, but is not comatose and was not when this brief was filed. Her husband / guardian's actions have called his motives into question. I pass no judgment myself on whether he is the villain some in the press have made him out to be, but there is enough doubt to at least warrant a check upon his potential knavery and get a fresh set of eyes on a fresh set of facts. That was not enough for our Lords Legal, however. The rabbit's entrails didn't indicate that a humane solution was warrented. They had to uphold "The Rule of Law"--never mind that the auspices only showed what the judges wanted them to, no more and no less, because that's all that was behind their pronouncements--the judges' own agendas (leftist, conservative, or whatever), dressed up rhetorically, clothed in precedent. Only a humane solution, whatever ultimately irrelevant precedent dressed it up, would have spoken to something truly absolute and immutable. But most of our judges have excercised their craft so long and so well that they do not believe the absolute exists.

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess."

I only hope the judges and doctors are right about Terri Schiavo's condition; that her frontal lobes really are just wells of CSF. I would hate to think even of a retarded person dying the sort of death she is. Hunger such as hers has made people in famine-ravaged lands devour their own children. Here is a good first-hand account of the sort of thirst she must be suffering from. I pray the doctors are right, for their sakes and hers.

Update: Reader Deb Stevens sends a link to related sentiments here. I agree: Procedural fairness has been served in this case and procedural fairness is 'safer,' but 'justice,' in a larger but more ambiguous sense, has not been served. Thanks, Deb.

Update: Another good perspective on the economics of the original ruling here. This is an important aspect that I haven't seen comment on before.


* Okay, okay...Bollingbrooke too--I realize that he influenced Monty and the founders heavily

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Friday, March 25, 2005

What Kind of Dog Are You?

Here's a quick dieversion from today's rather unpleasant news:

What Kind of Dog Are You? [click on the link toward the bottom right]

It seems I'm a Briard -- a kind of French (!) sheepdog, famous in a more virile era in Frogdom as a Red Cross rescue dog and as an ammo carrier in World War I. That's more like it. In fact, the picture does kinda look like my old passport photo (taken at age 18)...


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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

It Depends On What the Meaning of the Word 'If' Is

At the risk of giving over entirely to glurge on this issue, I reproduce another excellent thought piece in its entirety. It puts things in appropriate perspective:


If Terry Schiavo had only starred in "Superwoman", we'd find a way not to kill her.

If she were a corporation, we'd indict the Chief Financial Officer--her HINO (husband-in-name-only).

If she were a killer, she'd be protected under the supreme court's ban on executing the retarded.

If she were a terrorist, Teddy Kennedy would be making blistering speeches on the Senate floor condemning her torture-by-starvation.

If she were a teen-aged murderer, she'd be spared execution under the 'Cruel & Unusual' clause.

If she were Scott Peterson, she'd get an automatic appeal...and 20 more years of life.

If she were a beached dolphin, we'd demand not just her feeding, but that heroic measures be taken.

If she were in Guantanamo, we'd see to it that she had appropriate meals and medical care.

If she were on another Death Row, her parents and her priest would be allowed visitation.

If she were the truly brain-dead Ward Churchill, we'd riot at the attempt to silence her.

If we do this, then let's Free Dr. Kevorkian; he's in jail for less.

If she were Nicole Brown Simpson, would we let OJ and the 9th Circuit decide her fate? Did I say "If"?

And if we hadn't been desensitized by three decades of the Death Culture...would we even ask "If"?

Terribly sad, but true.

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Progress and Starvation

I forward this short essay by Andrew McCarthy at NRO without further comment and in its enitrety (...your trusty Monk says as he sips his latest dose of caffeine, takes an acid reducer to overcome eating too much at breakfast, and waits for a cold remedy to take away his stuffy head...)


AS WE PASS 100 HOURS OF STARVATION AND DEHYDRATION ... it is worth remembering that the excruciating slowness of the execution here, the incremental-ness of death, is designed by its champions to inure us to it. After the first hour, the second passes with far less fanfare, and the third less still. I've been following this closely, and I needed to remind myself today how many hours Terri Schiavo has actually been without sustenance by counting the days since Friday afternoon and multiplying by 24. How much more easily the time passes, and the world around us changes, for those following only fleetingly, or not at all.

Why should we think this is intentional? Consider, say, a month ago, before Terri's plight took center stage, if you had asked someone in the abstract: "How would you feel about starving and dehydrating a defenseless, brain-damaged woman?" The answer is easy to imagine: "Outrageous, atrocious -- something that wouldn't be done to an animal and couldn't be done to the worst convicted murderer."

But then it actually happens ... slowly. You're powerless to stop it, and ... you find your life goes on. There are kids and jobs and triumphs and tragedies and everyday just-getting-by. An atrocity becomes yet another awful thing going on in the world. After a day, or maybe two, of initial flabbergast, we're talking again about social security reform, China, North Korea, Hezbollah, etc. A woman's snail-like, gradual torture goes from savagery to just one of those sad facts of life. As is the case with other depravities once believed unthinkable, it coarsens us. We slowly, and however reluctantly, accept it. We accept it. The New York Times no doubt soon "progresses" from something like "terminating life by starvation," to "the dignity of death by starvation," to "the medical procedure that opponents refer to as starvation." And so the culture of life slides a little more. The culture of death gains a firmer foothold.

Of course, the physical needs of the body are not limited to food and water. There is also air. But no judge, even in Florida, would ever have had the nerve in Terri's case to permit "the medical procedure that opponents refer to as asphyxiation." Too crude. Too quick. Too obviously murder of a vulnerable innocent. Brazen, instant savagery might wake us from our slumber. For the culture of death, better that we sleep.

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Prof. Bainbridge Sums It Up last foray into the Schiavo issue before she dies and is forgotten to all except the family that wants her alive, damaged as she is, and leftist lawyers for whom she presents a living precedent, a foot in the door for unrestricted euthanasia of the weak and inconvenient.

Professor Bainbridge, infinetly wiser in the ways of the law than I am, summed up the issue admirably a few days ago. He boils things down to four areas of Constitutional first principles of concern to conservatives and libertarians. A few choice extracts:

The culture of life...When another's life becomes inconvenient, we seem increasingly willing to end it. Abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. What next? Solving Social Security's woes by putting the old folks out to sea on ice floes?

Limited Government...If government does not have a legitimate role in protecting someone so vulnerable, of what use is government at all?

Federalism...If Appomattox proved anything, it proved that the national
government can (and should) override state's rights to protect the basic human rights of the weak and vulnerable.

Rule of law...Terri was denied effective representation because of her husband / guardian's conflict of interest.... If so, the rule of law was compromised by the presiding judge. The solution to such judicial errors, however, is an appeal within the judicial system. Ex post facto laws limited to a single case are not an appropriate solution.

Conclusion. In sum, the culture of life and the rule of law appear to be in unavoidable conflict. Both are central values of a free and just society. All of which makes it extremely difficult to decide where one stands on this issue.

What he said. (Read, as they say, the whole thing.)

I can understand the perspective of those on both sides of the political fence who are concerned that Congress' action constituted a bill of attainder and ex-post-facto law-making. Even apart from the recent law, though, there is substantial room for doubts about motive and even procedure in this case. Not being a Carreli-suited, machiato-sipping Talmud-sifting parasite (that is to say, not being a lawyer), I think that the law should err on the side of life in doubtful cases like this.

Perhaps that is a key difference between the Christian and the non-Christian, regardless of poltical leanings: the non-Christian (even the faithful Jew) sees the law as larger than life. The Christian sees life as larger than the law. That was, after all, the whole reason that Christ came. But then, what do I know, in my benighted, RedState, Bible-thumping simple-mindedness?

I know that true justice, apart from the law, would let Terri Schiavo live.

Update: CodeBlueBlog has some very interesting medically-informed opinions concerning Terri Schiavo's mental condition. You should read them. Here's a sample:

If you starve this woman to death it would be, in my professional and experienced medical opinion, the equivalent of starving to death a 75-85 year old person.

Well, yes. That's kinda the idea behind this whole case from the kill-Terri crowd's perspective, isn't it?


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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Munz's Onion

Hugh Hewitt has been blogging extensively today on the Terri Schiavo case. A little research into Ninth Circuit case law on his part shows that endangered vegetables and insects in California garner more legal protection than does the young Florida woman liberal judges and a philandering husband so ardently want to kill:

One such category of special cases is the case where harm is alleged to be imminent to an endangered plant or animal, like the Riverside Fairy Shrimp, the Delhi Sands Flower-loving fly, the Stephens Kangaroo rat, or, yes, Munz's Onion--a genuine vegetable as opposed to the horrific term that has been thrown around in this case.
I admit I didn't follow this case closely at first. But then I began listening to those advocating Mr Schiavo's case and was quickly convinced of its profound perversity. The husband is bad enough, but his motive in this judicially-sanctioned "euthanization" (nee "murder") is as old as time: the old squeeze is crimping his style and he needs her out of the way. How many movies with this basic plot have been shown on Lifetime? (However, the fact that he seems to be a "liberal," excoriating the "religious right" and so on, is disturbing.)

The motives of his allies in the courts and the media are far more mendacious and far more frightening. As Ed Morrisey pointed out, only one Florida Judge, George Greer, has ever ruled on findings of fact in her case. All other (appellate) rulings have been on procedure only. This was what motivated Congress to pass a law yesterday requiring a de novo look at the evidence in the case. A federal judge, Clinton-appointee James Whittemore, today flouted the collective will of our elected representative assembly and our elected president and chose not to re-examine her case on its merits. Instead, he spent an hour hearing arguments and a couple more reviewing the paperwork. His Olympian pronouncement: She must die.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media has been on the case, spreading its usual propaganda thinly disguised as news. One of the most egregious lies told was the NYT's contention that "ending feeding can lead to a gentle death." This one's worthy of the Soviet propaganda mills: "Why no, Comrade Ivan Denisovich, we no longer shoot political reprobates--we will send you instead to a mental institution where your thought crimes can be corrected humanely."

From the data that is available, it is not a horrific thing at all," said Dr. Linda Emanuel, the founder of the Education for Physicians in End-of-Life Care Project at Northwestern University. In fact, declining food and water is a common way that terminally ill patients end their lives, because it is less painful than violent suicide and requires no help from doctors.
Those who believe this kreyp need to read this remarkable post. It should rend the propaganda veil. Interestingly enough, it also points out Dr Linda Emanuel's connection to uber-lefty George Soros' pro-euthanasia Project on Death in America. She's not precisely a bystander in this debate. Woulda bin nice for the NYT to have told us that.

The agitprop also included a deceitful poll that asked the central question concerning Ms Schiavo thusly:

2. Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her husband and her parents disagree about whether she would have wanted to be kept alive. Florida courts have sided with the husband and her feeding tube was removed on Friday. What’s your opinion on this case - do you support or oppose the decision to remove Schiavo’s feeding tube? Do you support/oppose it strongly or somewhat?
Only one very slight problem--Schiavo is not on "life support" and never has been. True, she cannot feed herself, but then neither can Stephen Hawking. She is severely brain damaged, true, but her family and other observers have attested that she is "still interactive"--she can laugh, say a word or two, and swallow if fed carefully. Perhaps the left intends an expansive new definition of "life support" that can give them legal precedent for "euthanizing" folks whose eating habits they don't approve of (like, say, most RedStaters). After all, that's really what this case is about: Terri is the left's poster child for euthanasia--for a "right" to death that will eventually lead to something like the Dutch program.

And this also opens the door for our life-tenured High Priests of the Secular Humanist State Church to pass judgement on which lives are worth living and which are not. This is the real crux of the matter and this is something that every American--liberal, conservative, or whatever--should be concerned about.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Inconvenient Life

Cap'n Ed at Captain's Quarters has some of the best reporting on the Terri Schiavo case. Here is perhaps the best summary yet of the MSM's treatment of the case. Go read it. It's not long.

There's further excellent coverage here for those who favor erring on the side of life and/or oppose giving judges the power to declare death sentences on people who've broken no law, but whose lives the judge deems inconvenient. I've blogged before about how the loss of moral compass inclines those in power to act subserviently toward the more powerful and mercilessly toward the weak. I expect to see this sort of moral cowardace in Europe, which lost its soul to collectivism and anomie over a century ago. I suppose I should not be surprised that BlueState America has also taken Terri Schiavo's inconvenient life up as a cause celebre. Underpinning the left's moral cosmology is the idea that man's nature is clay--infintely maleable; moldable into any pose with the right sort of sculpting--and that individuals derive any value they possess from the groups they belong to or the causes they symbolize. Both ideas are products of moral relativism and both are fundamentally God-denying. Terri has no more intrinsic value to leftists than a Tutsi had to a Hutu in 1994, but she is important to them in death because her case allows them to further distance mankind from any absolute value--to further "liberate" manind from a true nature they find too confining and, well...inconvenient.

There may not be much left of Terri Schiavo on which to hang a cause, and doing so may seem foolish, but God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.

I'd be curious to hear a liberal opinion on this issue. Chefjef, you game?


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"There Is No United Nations"

Charles at LittleGreenFootballs links to a video prepared by, which opposes President Bush's nomination of John Bolton to be UN Ambassador. The video is supposed to horrify us with Mr Bolton's extreme views, but I agreed with everything he said:

...There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world--and that's the United States--when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.
Watch the whole thing. We haven't had anyone make this much sense concerning the UN since Daniel Patrick Moynihan stalked Turtle Bay. We need this breath of fresh air today more than ever. Everything that Moynihan warned us about has come to pass: The UN is now little more than a propaganda arm for every anti-American force in the world, obsequiously pandering to tin-pot dictators and the tinfoil hat brigade of professional leftist internationalists. And there's worse besides: rampant corruption touching every facet of the organization, bumbling ineptitude in handling international problems, persistent accusations that UN "peacekeepers" routinely trade relief supplies for sexual liaisons with minors, and so on.

The United States represents the aspirations of the world's oppressed far better than the UN ever has or ever could. Today, only US power can bring about the kind of changes many of the world's poor need if their lives are to be permanently improved, as we are witnessing in Iraq. So Bolton is right--the UN is useful only to the extent that the exercise of US national power makes it so. If it ceases to be useful to our ends, we should bypass it (as, for instance, President Clinton did in the war with Serbia) or eject it from our soil.

It's about time we had an Abassador who is not afraid to speak the truth.


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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Self Defense Against Fresh Fruit

I listened to the following NPR story this morning on the way to work (the car is the only place I can escape the evil mind rays of Karl Rove and the Borg Mothercube):

Morning Edition, March 17, 2005 · Even granting that the man was trying to commit a robbery, you still have to feel just a little for a British man named Robert Downey. He's been sentenced to seven years in prison after he tried to rob a bookie. Downey claimed he had a gun inside a plastic grocery bag, but the intended victim noticed that it was really a banana. When police arrived, they caught the suspect while he was distracted trying to pull off his uncomfortably tight ski mask.
I was intrigued, so I, your intrepid and ever-accurate reporter, dug deeper. I thought the situation sounded familiar and I soon found out why: Clearly, the intended victim received his self-defense training from these tough lads:

Sgt. Major: Right. Bananas. How to defend yourself against a man armed with a banana. Now you, come at me with this banana. Catch! Now, it's quite simple to defend yourself against a man armed with a banana. First of all you force him to drop the banana; then, second, you eat the banana, thus disarming him. You have now rendered him 'elpless.

Palin: Suppose he's got a bunch.

Sgt.: Shut up.

Idle: Suppose he's got a pointed stick.

Sgt.: Shut up. Right now you, Mr Apricot.

Chapman: 'Arrison.

Sgt.: Sorry, Mr. 'Arrison. Come at me with that banana. Hold it like that, that's it. Now attack me with it. Come on! Come on! Come at me! Come at me then! (Shoots him.)

Chapman: Aaagh! (dies.)

Sgt.: Now, I eat the banana. (Does so.)
Poor Mr Downey. He never had a chance.


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Scoop? Coup in Syria? first attempted scoop of major media:

A Coup d' Etat took place in Damascus late last night. Intelligence reports coming from within the Syrian Military Command indicate the following: A rebellion split The Syrian Army in two factions . Since yesterday , Damascus is under the de facto control of the Syrian Army, under the command of Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan, and supported by Syrian Intelligence General Rustom Ghazaleh, Syrian military General Ali Safi, and Firas Tlass son of former Minister of Defence, Mustafa Tlass. The group rebelled against the decision of President Bashar el Assad to withdraw from Lebanon and seized the Damascus military yesterday.

Precise Intelligence reports coming from Syria indicated massive army troops deployment around the capital Damascus. Most of the military Barracks of the Syrian Army around Damascus gave allegiance to the dissidents: Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan and General Ali Safi. These people in the Syrian Army were against the withdrawal from Lebanon.
If true, it does not bode well for the forces of liberty in Lebanon or Syria, but much remains to be played out. If the coup's instigators take a hard line, it could be the opening many of us have wanted to justify military action against Syria. Stay tuned.

Heh! If this is true, it looks like I beat you, Glenn Reynolds! You too, Drudge!

Update: Untrue! Damn! From Joshua Landis of Syria Comment in Damascus:

Someone has a rich imagination. All is normal here as far as I can tell. Sunny
spring day and everyone is bustling about happily. The military attaché at the
US embassy just emailed me about what he should wear to dinner tonight - casual
or formal? Didn’t suggest bullet proof vest, so I assume all is normal.


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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Cultural Moment

Herewith, a short cultural digression at Vita ab Alto.
Anyone who is a fan of jazz or country will appreciate the sites of these talented young musicians:

Darden Purcell

Shawn Purcell

Darden has a number of mp3s available for download. She has a distinctive country style--I especially like "Two More Bottles of Wine." Fans of contemporary Christian (like me) will also enjoy her Lifesigns cuts.

Her husband Shawn is an up and coming guitarist. It seems his greatest musical love, like mine, is jazz, but he also plays rock and country (and is available for Bar Mitzvahs, from what I understand). He has some great cuts here. The first four are from his January performance on Nashville Public Radio.



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Welcome, Hanoi Jane!

Here's one story I overlooked in the midst of the general info fog spread by the MSM. This is one that the MSM probably has no use for:

Jane Fonda always appeared to be trying to please somebody else--whether it was as the sex kitten "Barbarella" for first husband Roger Vadim, as "Hanoi Jane" for her activist second husband Tom Hayden, or as the nipped and tucked trophy wife for her egregiously creepy third husband, Ted Turner.

Now we learn she may have a new cause: Christianity. The Academy Award-winning actress is said to have been driven to faith by her chauffeur. He reportedly began sharing his beliefs with her several years ago.

I sincerely hope her conversion is genuine, rather than just a celebrity fad like Madonna's foray into Jewish mysticism or the Jesus Freak phase of Tom Wolfe's Man Who Always Peaked Too Soon. If it is true, we as Christians should rejoice in it and accept Hanoi Jane back into the fold of humanity (vice the species Homo Plutocratus Brachycephalus that she has belonged to most of her life). Understandably, most observers are not reacting favorably:

But when a conservative Christian website called reported that Fonda had embraced Christianity, nobody rejoiced--neither the conservatives who have been appalled by Fonda all these years, nor her friends on the left. Perhaps people are just being cautious; we haven't heard from Jane herself and maybe the news accounts are exaggerated or wrong.

The Left will despise her for it, of course, since Leftists see Jesusland as their principal enemy and the main source of "evil" (if such a thing can exist in their Weltanschaung) in the world. The Right will have trouble getting past her past treason--and yes, Chefjef, her actions were treasonous by any reasonable definition, but then treason is no longer even a misdemeanor. Nonetheless, if she is serious, we should forgive her.

Two things are encouraging indices of her seriousness: she was reportedly converted by her chauffeur and nostalgie de la boue doesn't seem her style, and she has to know how much this will cost her in the crowd she hangs with, not least of whom is her erstwhile husband Ted Turner, the man who said, "Christianity is a religion for losers."

The author of the BeliefNet article has more encouragement:

Still, since reading about Fonda, I've heard the words of another religious seeker echoing in my mind. He, too, sampled a number of contemporary intellectual fads before embracing Christianity. I refer, of course, to the man from Hippo--St. Augustine.

Augustine had dabbled in all sorts of trendy isms of the day. The father of an illegitimate child, Augustine famously arrived at Carthage "burning, burning" with sexual desire. He asked God to make him good "but not yet."

Finally, God could wait no longer.

I don't expect her to become Augustine, but I do hope her turning is real.

Update: More here, here, and here, including an appeal to pray for Ted Turner, whose latest kick seems to be to earn his way to heaven through good behavior:

"So I'm living like a Christian," [Turner] said later, after recounting highlights of his charitable giving. "I guarantee you I'll see you [in Heaven]. I'll be like the guy who has the last two tickets in the stadium. I've lived a really good life. I'm going to say, 'Hey, St. Peter, remember Gods & Generals? This movie is a final bit of insurance that I get in."

Yuk. That's so wrong on so many levels that it's hard to even deal with it. You might just find, Mr Turner, that those tickets you scalped aren't real, regardless of how much you paid for them.


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Sgrena Gets Her Way

Italy announced yesterday that it will pull its troops from Iraq starting in September.

[Speaking of the withrawal, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan] emphasised that Italy's withdrawal "will be based on the ability and capability of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi government to be able to assume more responsibility". But he rejected suggestions that Italy's decision was due to strained relations after secret service agent Nicola Calipari was shot dead by US troops in Baghdad on 4 March.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi expressed no such qualifications, however. Still, this is not alarming news, since Italian troops fulfilled their primary purpose during major combat operations back in 2003: teaching the Iraqi Army how to surrender.


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Monday, March 14, 2005

Subvertising, The Christian Way

This is cool:

What's interesting is not so much the messages that the hoodies, belt buckles and other items carry, but rather their graphic style, which looks more suited to a skate or surf boutique, or perhaps the goth-ish mall chain Hot Topic.

The Not of This World logo, for example, looks like something from an old Led Zeppelin album cover. On one T-shirt, it's paired with a skull and what look like flames, plus the slogan "Bad Company Corrupts"; look more closely, and you can read what's written around the edge of the design, a passage from 1 Corinthians: "Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good character." . . . The approach is reminiscent of anti-corporate "subvertising" -- manipulating a familiar logo or style to carry an oppositional message -- except that this time the message is not anti-brand but rather pro-Christ.

I like the logo. Must get me some. GetReligion adds further perspective:

As a news trend, this subject can probably be filed in the post-Contemporary Worship folder along with all of the stories about the "emerging church" movement. But this story is certainly not out of date. It might even be timeless. Note this wonderful quote that Walker uses, from the American Tract Society in 1834: "The young demand something more entertaining than mere didactic discussion."

World without end, amen.

& Selah. Follow the "emerging church" link, by the way. I have seen a number of manifestations of this aspect of the Visible Church and agree about its "subapostolic" character. I'm seeing growth of this kindf in my own church and am convinced of the Holy Spirit's inspiration.


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Lutchye Pazdne chem Nicogda

"Better late than never," as the Russians have it (forgive the crude transliteration--I have not yet learned how to insert Cyrilic text in Blogger).

The Left is catching on--at least among a few:

The invasion of Iraq was the equivalent of a bucket of freezing water thrown in the face of an Arab world in deep slumber... There is a way to talk about the effect of the Iraq war on the rest of the Arab world without actually supporting that war. This time last year and the year before, I marched in demonstrations in New York against the war on Iraq, which I did not believe was launched in the name of democracy and freedom. But we would be lying to ourselves if we didn't acknowledge that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a major catalyst for what has been happening lately, be it in Egypt, Lebanon or Saudi Arabia.
Amazing. And a most apt metaphor. That Ms Eltahawy is also Egyptian is interesting. Of course, the rest of her article is a "but" to the statement above. But she's also right in a sense she doesn't mean on one topic: There is a way to talk about the effect of the Iraqi campaign on the rest of the Arab world without supporting "the war*:" that "way" is variously known as "fantasy," "denial," and "delusion." Lefties can jump on the bandwagon now--and good on 'em if they do--but to understand what is starting to happen today throughout the muslim world and in other tyrranies like North Korea and Cuba, they must understand that the use of military force in Iraq was necesary and that none of the miraculous openings we have seen recently would have happened at all had the anti-war crowd had its way. None. Ever. Period.

Whether recent events will turn out to be a Prague Spring or a Fall of the Berlin Wall for islam remains to be seen. But we (the US and its few true allies like Britain and Israel, that is) must stay on a course that could entail further military action as well as diplomatic, economic, informational, and cultural initiatives. Military power is just one instrument of overall national power, appropriate in some situations and not in others. The morality of its use depends on the ends for which it is used and on the degree to which it is waged with moral restraint. The ends in Iraq were overwhelmingly moral in every sense--including dreaded "oil"--and the campaigns fought by US and British military professionals (that is, from the Falklands and Grenada on) have been the most morally restrained in human history, Italian claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Belgravia Dispatch has more:

"[Bush's] talk about democracy is good," an Egyptian-born woman was telling companions at the Fatafeet (or "Crumbs") restaurant the other night, exuberant enough for her voice to carry to neighboring tables. "He keeps hitting this nail. That's good, by God, isn't it?" At another table, a Lebanese man was waxing enthusiastic over Bush's blunt and irreverent manner toward Arab autocrats. "It is good to light a fire under their feet," he said.

All brought to you by your friends in the US Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, with substantial help from the armed forces of Great Britain and Australia. Please...please--hold the applause.


*By which Leftists always mean "the Iraqi campaign" when spoken of in this context--they believe that Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the global campaign against al-Qaeda, etc., are separate "wars" rather than differing facets of the same war against the same enemy. But then, the Left does not have a good record of understanding strategy; witness the Democrats' choice of party chairman, for instance.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Yet More Reasons to Dislike Europe

…as if any more were needed…

Here is a charming little foray into Nazi-style eugenics from our friends in the Netherlands and France:

Dutch doctors estimate that at least five newborn mercy killings occur for every one reported in that country, which has allowed euthanasia for competent adults since 1985.
Captain’s Quarters summarizes:

The problem, according to the AP, isn’t limited to the Netherlands. In fact, the French may be the worst offenders, with a whopping 73% of all physicians surveyed having euthanized at least one infant with drug overdoses, the preferred method. That’s 30 points higher than the Dutch, who still report almost half of all physicians have killed newborns. Other countries in Europe report much smaller percentages, between 2-4%.

How can almost three-quarters of French physicians have run across that many instances of infants requiring death? Do they have a high percentage of birth defects in France?
Of course, from a certain perspective, being French is a birth defect, but let’s leave that aside for the moment…

There is a considerable moral difference between removing someone from extraordinary life support and actively “euthanizing” (that is to say, “murdering”) them, but this distinction has apparently been lost upon our infinitely nuanced friends in Europe. Decades of living without a moral compass, in order to preserve their lives of unproductive, decandent privilege without guilt, have left them unable to make reasonable moral distinctions.

Three generations ago, Western Europeans appeased Hitler, hoping he would ignore them if they gave him what he wanted. They looked on in dumb surprise from their sidewalk bistros as the Wehrmacht goose-stepped into Paris. Two generations ago, Western Europeans would have surrendered to the lean and hungry Soviet barbarians to the East but for the "unsubtle" strength of America's armed forces and "cowboy" foreign policy. Today, Western Europeans are just as anxious to surrender to islam's lean and hungry barbarians to the South, thinking that by doing so, islam will ignore them and go elsewhere for entertainment. In their hazy, Campari- and Galoises-induced comfort, however, they have forgotten that weakness is an incitement to the cruel.

Spain's example is instructive, especially when compared to America's. Today is the first anniversary of "Spain's 9-11"--the Madrid train bombing. Both Spain and the US suffered horrific terrorist attacks, each of which killed roughly equivalent proportions of their respective country's populations. America responded by attacking its attackers like a cornered Pit Bull. Spain responded by rolling over and letting al Qaeda scratch its belly. ("Ah yais, but Espana had just had eet's nail's cleeped and eet's pom-poms trimmed and pomaded! And thees was not cheap! Such artistry must not be deesturbed by violence!") Spain's new master will not always want to rub its belly, however. He is cruel and demanding. By comparison, the US struts down Atlantic Alley with bloody jowls, gnawing a gristly muslim bone (and provoking grunts of disgust from Europe's well-coiffed dogs). No one messes with him. No one. In fact, he's the alley's alpha male. He's driven off Spain's new master for the moment, but the other dogs do not like to acknowledge his superiority. Our Pit Bull is too dirty, too unkempt.

And yes, there is a connection between Western Europe's cowardly appeasement and the original topic of this post. Appeasement proves a lack of a moral compass. Lack of a moral compass can be manifested in ways other than weakness. In fact, it's fairly typical of individuals who lack a true moral sense to be fawning toward those perceived as stronger and cruel toward those perceived as weaker. Everyone has seen an example in a bully's behavior. Since islam teaches no morality other than cosmic self-aggrandizement--earning one's own salvation through blind adherence to ritual--this sort of behavior is common to muslims and typical of islamic societies. America is not cruel toward the weak--quite the contrary. This is why Europe knows it can get away with its carping. If America were really an empire like Germany and France have ruled in the past, Europe would have been long since forced to shut up.

We see the proof of Europe's moral weakness manfiested in its fawning, submissive behavior toward its immediate enemies and its wanton cruelty toward the weak and defenseless. In the summer of 2003, over 20,000 died when the All-Europe Air Conditioner Workers Union went on vacation to Majorca's nude beaches together and a heat wave hit Europe's cities. The reaction was a collective shoulder shrug and a dismissive, "eh?" Hey, the appeasers were happy: the deaths freed up a bunch of tenement apartments for new muslim immigrants! A week ago, the Italian government paid between 1 - 8 million Euros to free a propagandist who has made a career out of aplologizing for tyrrany and generally being on the wrong side of history. The Netherlands is being overrun as we speak by the lean and hungry--nearly a quarter of its population is now immigrant muslim. Last year, muslim extremists killed prominent artist Theo van Gogh because he dared to speak out against islam's barbarism and the Dutch government did........nothing. A few hushed words were heard mumbled in protest, but none dared speak them too loudly. Wouldn't want to know........ And now we learn that the Euros "euthanize" the babies they think won't grow up able to enjoy pate and eiswein. Is this really very surprising?

How long will it be before we hear the following exchange between a muslim overlord and a French doctor with an armband inscribed with a large black da'al (for 'dhimmi'): French doctor: "Why, yes. Of course, Malik, I agree that the child can have no meaningful life in our society as a 'Christian.' It's life would be one of constant disapppointment. What is that? I cannot understand you through the ski mask. Oh, yes. I shall adminsiter the procedure immediately. This one will not trouble you further..."


PS: I do like Europe's cathedrals...not that anyone's used them for the intended purpose in about 200 years...

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Tell It To the Marines

Here's a little "grab a cuppa joe & read" kinda post--one that should warm the cockles of any rifleman's or pilot's heart. Herein, a young forward air controller gets a taste of life among the grunts. The youngster proves unfamiliar with some Marine nomeclature. it doesn't come back to bite him, fortunately.

Speaking of nomenclature, I need to straigten Blackfive out on a couple of topics:

1. "Zoomies" (aka "Zooms," "Zoombags," "ringknockers," "assholes who usually abandon their Service after the minimum possible stint," and "sons of Generals who will be Generals themselves and know this going in") in Air Force parlance are graduates of the Air Force Academy. This is not a term to use when referring to any AF officer who got his commission from a real source after attending a real college in real America. It is certainly not a term to ever use when referring to an AF enlisted person (unless you want a fight).

2. The "it shows the zoomies are doing their part" bit... Agree, but... Y'know, back in early 2003, when you guys were pinned down during that sandstorm after encoutering your first real resistance from the Iraqis? And the sandstorm lifted and there was nothing left between you and Bagdhad but smoking hulks and the ruts of vehicles headed north at high speed? Remember that? Remember that the Republican Guard just sorta disappeared? Didja ever wonder what happened to them?

Ask the Air Force (and Marine air...and Naval air...)

Don't let this deter you, dear reader--enjoy the whole thing.


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Buh - Bye.

Dan delivered a deathless (and breathy) farewell to his loyal listeners (both of 'em) last night (transcript here). He 'bout got as choked up as a leftist newsman tryin' to talk his way out of a false documents scandal.

G'night Comrade Blather...and don't let the screen door hit ya on the ass on your way out!


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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Advance of Hope in the Middle East

President Bush delivered an important and brilliantly written speech at National Defense University yesterday:

The advance of hope in the Middle East requires new thinking in the region. By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future; it is the last gasp of a discredited past. It should be clear that free nations escape stagnation, and grow stronger with time, because they encourage the creativity and enterprise of their people. It should be clear that economic progress requires political modernization, including honest representative government and the rule of law. And it should be clear that no society can advance with only half of its talent and energy -- and that demands the full participation of women.

As usual, it reads better than it sounded. But read the whole thing. As Hindrocket* at Powerline says, "Bush makes more important and coherent arguments in his major speeches than any President in my lifetime." Well, at least since Ronald Reagan.


* Hindraker needs a new nom de blog; "hindrocket" sounds a bit too Fab Five for my taste.

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A Study in Higher-Order Effects

This news item is disturbing:

Jim Murphy is a "counter-recruiter," one of a small but growing number of opponents of the Iraq (news - web sites) war who say they want to compete with military recruiters for the hearts and minds of young people. (Related story: For guard recruiters, a tough sell) "I don't tell kids not to join the military," says Murphy, 59, a member of Veterans for Peace. "I tell them: 'Have a plan for your future. Because if you don't, the military has a plan for you.' "

On first blush--within the first order of the effects of Mr Murphy's actions, if you will--his "counter-recruiting" seems openly seditious. Again, I must ask, as I have many times lately, at what point does active opposition to our government's war policies become treason or sedition? I don't have an easy answer to that one. I'd like to hear from liberal friends on this.

Considering the possible "higher-order" effects of "counter-recruiting," however, there may be reason for conservatives to be cheered. Most of those the story highlights are Left Coasters--groups like "Ragin' Grannies" out in the People's Democratic Republic of San Francisco. One was from Houston and another from Chicago, but I suspect these folks will have less influence over kids than Mr Murphy will in Los Angeles. The Marines say that "counter-recruiters" are having a miniscule effect overall, but even if they become very effective, this will be felt disproportionately in the Blue States. And this means that an ever-growing proportion of those serving in the military will be from Red America--the Midwest and South. You know, from Jesusland. On reflection, do we even want Blue Staters in the military? The US military provides the world's highest-quality training in weapons, tactics, and organizaztion. Draw what conclusions you will, but I just don't see many drawbacks to having fewer military-trained Blue Staters and more military-trained Red Staters in this country.



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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Left--Standing Astride History and Yelling 'Stop!'

While the real-world consequences of the Bush-Condi-Rummy-Wolfy "neocon" foreign policy ripple through closed, authoritarian systems around the world, proving the wisdom of W's proactive militant interventionism on behalf of liberty, all the Leftist press can do is carp on America's latest "outrage," whatever that happens to be. This week, it's the "attempted assassination" of Italian "journalist" Giuliana Sgrena by US troops. Leftists everywhere are fawning over her like teenyboppers over an 80s hair band. After all, to the ethpresstho-sippers on the Upper West Side and in Le Monde's editorial offices, she's more intellectually sympatico than Bush. The fever swamp Left is all abuzz with talk! of!! conspiracy!!! (Do the evil schemes of the evil Rove know no evil bounds?)

[Never mind that the US troops who fired on her car say they shot it because it refused to stop when challenged at a checkpoint. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini says that his version of what happened "differs" from the US account. My guess is that this is based on first-hand accounts from the dozens of Italian and other Euro-troops who were helping the US man the checkpoint. We need their perspective as a counterweight to imperialist US cowboy simplisme.

What's that you say? There weren't any Italian (or French, German, Belgian, Dutch, Luxembourger, Andorran, Monacan) troops there with their American brothers-in-arms? Well then, I guess you don't have a rat's ass of an idea what went on, do you Mr Fini? In fact, the only ones who probably did have SA are the troops who did the shooting. I, for one, am inclined to trust their judgment. After all, theirs were the lives that were on the line out where change was actually happening, while Euro-troops were back sipping Asti on Lake Como or complaining to their union bosses about the poor quality of the pate in the battalion mess.]

But all this is not finally the point. Leftists spin assassination conspiracies because they have nothing else to say. The policies they abominate are working and people they abominate brought those policies to life. The Left has nothing concrete or constructive to offer--just the tired bromides of failed theory, outmoded pseudo-science, and vauge feel-good internationalism. Bush's policies are putting decades of failed liberal foreign policy in stark contrast--accomodationist "realpolitik," pandering to a fatally corrupt UN, acting only through "alliances" as resiliant as tissue paper, holding US action hostage to effete, decadent European interests, and preaching outright defeatism. This is a record of policy failure unrivalled since the British parliament decided that merchantilist jingoism was the right way to handle the American colonies.

Many on the Left will never be able to accept the truth of what's happening. They will be silent for a time and then make vague noises that try to grab some of the credit, much as they did after Ronald Reagan's policies "tore down that wall." To most of them, Leftist politics is their religion--it fills the God Hole in their souls. They have too much of who they are invested in their political positions, regardless of what is happening in the real world. For them, it is more important to be anti-American than to be on the right side of history.

Fortunately, some within own MSM and Britain's are beginning to "get it." I hope the whole Liberal Establishment proves my last paragraph wrong.

Further, our old Iraqi media nemisis al-Jazeera and other usually anti-American outlets are performing a valuable service to the cause of liberty in the islamic world by honestly reporting what's happening and by not taking the road that so much of the Euroweenie press has.

Update: It appears that the Italians may have paid a hefty ransom to free Giuliana Sgrena. We also now have pictures of the car Sgrena was shot in--the one she claimed was hit by "300 to 400 bullets" from an "armored vehicle."

Update to the Update: Michelle Malkin has excellent commentary on the ransom issue and the lack of outrage attendant thereto.


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North Korea -- The Rockin' Vacation Destination!

Entertainment site Boing Boing has fun with a new tourism ad from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

It's everything you could hope for in a confrontation between 19th century pseudo-scientific philosophy and 21st century technology. It has a definite Python vibe to it, as almost everything that comes from our friends in the DPRK does.

When BB linked to the NK site, traffic volume caused a crash that elicited this delicious little rant. I absolutely love,

"This kind of careless linking to high-profile sites is typical of the internet where people no longer respect that such links could make free content less available."

What a perfect summary of what's wrong with leftism in general (American lefitsm most definitely included): the world responds to their stimulus in some manner that they didn't anticipate and can't control and they rail against it in shrill tones, like some blue-haired Women's Christian Temperance Union biddy* yelling at drinkers in a beer hall. Ward Churchill and Hollywood take note: for morally agrieved whinging, y'all have a lot to learn from your comrades in the DPRK.


* Let's call her "Miss Ann." Chefjef--you'll get that one.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

Nobody Expects the Pythons On Broadway!

Indeed, the boys have not (with one exception) shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to joint the choir invisible. This should be a joy if it ever comes touring my way (not that that's very bloody likely!)

Good review here.

Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfernschplendenschlittercrasscrenbonfrieddigger
dankerkalbsfleischmittleraucher von Hautkopft of Ulm

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Hittite Hoties

Please bow to Dave LeBoeuf of Logical Meme for performing this public service:

Have you noticed how many attractive Lebanese women there are in the various newswire photos of Lebanon's anti-Syria demonstrations?

Indeed. I've become accustomed to a somewhat different image of Middle Easterners. This perspective is very refreshing. Makes you understand why the Syrians stayed so long.

Glenn Reynolds has more.



Down the memory hole--if you try to google images of "lebasese babes," or "lebanese protestors," or "cedar revolution protestors" or any such now (as of the middle of May 05), you get only porn sites or pix of islamo-cockroach pro-Syrian deomnstrators. It's like the Cedar Babe Explosion never happened. The lefto-nerds in charge at Google don't just censor news....

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The subscriber edition of National Review tells the following:

The United Nations, of all places, might be an ethical step ahead of us on human cloning. In mid-February, a U.N. panel declared its support for a ban on all forms of human cloning. At around the same time, the president of the Massachusetts state senate introduced legislation, backed by eager Harvard researchers, that would allow the cloning of human embryos for research. Current law requires local district attorneys to sign off on embryo research. The Republican governor, Mitt Romney, is willing to let the law be changed so as to allow research on “surplus” embryos from fertility clinics. But he has pledged to fight any attempt to legalize cloning. His interest in compromise has not been met by a comparable spirit from the biotech enthusiasts. The story we were told in 2001 — that research would proceed only on embryos that were “doomed anyway” — has once again been proven false. If Romney and likeminded legislators fail to hold the line at cloning, we can only guess at what new ethical horrors will follow.

But then, aren't we all doomed anyway?

As a public service to you, dear readers, I have delved more deeply into this story and have uncovered some of the new uses the foregoing story mentions. It seems the governments of Massachusetts and several other Northeastern states, in the interest of preventing another blackout like 2003's--and following serious research into human power generation, have begun to use "surplus embryos" to supplement the New England power grid. When I interviewed them, Desginers Lawrence and Andrew Wachowski claimed they are "ushering in one of the real revolutions in power production." Andrew Wachowski told me, "I think there's a great deal to be gained by adding human BTUs to the electrical matrix. Just think--a power source that will never have to be reloaded!" They have hired Mr Smith, an agent of the US Department of Energy, to superintend their project. "He's a bit of a hothead," said Lawrence Wachowski, "but no one is better connected." The brothers offered me a couple views of thier work. Massachusetts "Republican" governor Mitt Romney favors the project. "I can't see any drawbacks" he told me. Senator John Kerry (D - Mekong) also strongly favors it: "We've heard some objections from Neo-cons and the Zionist element, but most of these embryos would just grow up to be Red State Jesuslanders anyway."


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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Pervasive Outrage and the Left

"Native American" "Professor" Ward Churchill, the man best known for calling the victims of 9-11 "little Eichmanns," is widely regarded as a moonbat--a member of the Left's ideological finge. Our own liberal correspondent Chefjef agrees.

Is it true, however, that his views are so far "out there" that they represent just the rantings of a tiny minority? Or are his views more widely shared--are they becoming part and parcel of the Left's "party line?"

It's hard to say exactly, but this link may help put things in perspective. It's to a "podcast" of one blogger's comments on Churchill's appearance a couple of nights ago on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect. It includes audio of most of Maher's interview with Churchill. I don't link to this to feature blogger Jeff Jarvis' commentary, but to get you to listen to what Maher and Churchill are saying. Maher has said some outrageous things over the years, but he is not widely regarded as a moonbat or member of the fringe Left. Nonetheless, it is Maher who feeds a reluctant Churchill most of "party line" in this interview.

If Maher's words (and a signifcant part of his audience's applause) are to be taken at face value, then the idea that America earned 9-11 because of the "blood on its hands" is a widespread liberal notion. And if this is true, then how much further do we have to go before it's okay to question these people's patriotism, or even--scandaluse!--think of invoking the "T word?" It's one thing to express loyal opposition to the war: "don't like it, don't agree with it, but I won't take action that undermines our troops overseas and will salute smartly and go if called." It's quite another to say, "I'm happy about 9-11; it's victims deserved what they got; America is a viper pit of corrupt, deadly exploiters who have earned what's coming to them." Such thought sits perilously close to a line--perhaps not over it, but perilously close to it--between free expression of political thought and....something else.

I will be very interested to hear a liberal's perspective on this topic.


(Incidentally, I just love the way leftists casually tell the Big Lie--just throw outrages out there as if to say, "well everyone knows that, don't they?" For example, the throw-away line about "30 - 60 million slaves dying in the Middle Passage." Horrible though it was, there weren't even 30 million people living in West Africa's slave coast in the 18th century. 30-60,000 I'll buy--maybe even a couple hundred thousand--which is bad enough, to be sure (of course, not all the slaves went our colonies--many died on the way to Carribbean, Central, and South American destinations--South American jungle clearers and miner workers had it much worse than North American field hands). 30-60 million is a patent absurdity.)

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Friday, March 04, 2005

And This Year's Walter Duranty Award Goes To...

...Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times staff writer, for her splendid defense of North Korean Dear Leader, National Father, Brilliant Commander and Beloved Party Chairman Kim Jong Il's heretofore insular and besieged Communist regime. Excerpts from her award-winning piece:

[The North Korean representative] believes that Americans have the wrongheaded notion that North Koreas are unhappy with the system of government under Kim Jong Il. "We Asians are traditional people," he said. "We prefer to have a benevolent father leader."

The most important point the North Korean said he wanted to convey in the conversation was that his nation was a place just like any other."There is love. There is hate. There is fighting. There is charity. People marry. They divorce. They make children," he said."People are just trying to live a normal life."

Bravo, Barbara! You've succeeded in capturing the soul of that much misunderstood country and its benevolent father-leader. We salute you, Comrade!

The Walter Duranty Award ("The Walty") was established in 2005 to honor the memory of one of the America's most revered defenders of socialism's vision for humanity. He won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 1932 for his insightful reporting on the so-called Ukrainian terror famine, and on the efforts of the international bourgeoisie to exagerate this necessary and benevolent expression of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. True keepers of the flame worldwide owe Mr Duranty, and all those who follow in his footsteps, a deep debt of gratitude.

Update:Ms Demick may well be the best since Duranty himself. We had a crowd of left-leaning journalists carrying the banner of true communism forward to the new dawn back before the Evil Warmonger Reagan and his sinister cabal of bourgeois exploiters and international financiers destroyed the Soviet Union--that last, best hope of mankind. Sadly, there are very few such journalists left today. But Ms Demick deserves a Lenin Medal for her consistent walk down the Shining Path. Her story today is another fine example, faultlessly portraying the world as the Maximum Leader and Dear Father himself sees it. And then there is this remarkable piece, from Harvard's Neiman Reports last fall. A few nuggets should prove her usefulness to the Cause:

What might be written from inside North Korea could hardly be worse than what’s now written from the outside. In some cases, journalists might actually be helpful. Iraq, which I covered in the late 1990’s as Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Inquirer, used to se-lectively admit journalists with the hope that they would publicize the impact of U.S.-imposed economic sanctions. Indeed, the sanctions had contributed to rising deaths of young children, and journalists dutifully reported this, which led to the easing of sanctions. Similarily, the dire lack of electricity in North Korea could make for a moving feature story that might lend credence to Pyongyang’s pleas for foreign energy assistance.

I try to interview as many of the aid offcials coming through Seoul as possible. They tend to present a more positive and less caricatured portrait of North Korea than outsiders. If I were to generalize, I would say they describe not an "axis of evil," but a flawed country trying to cope with a failed ideology and economy, desperately seeking a place for itself in the world.

Again, kudos, Comrade Demick!

Comrade Monk

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Just Wait 'Til My Fwend Biggus D**kus Hears of This!

Classic. Python fans will get a kick out of this:

“All right, all right. But apart from liberating 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, undermining dictatorships throughout the Arab world, spreading freedom and self-determination in the broader Middle East and moving the Palestinians and the Israelis towards a real chance of ending their centuries-long war, what have the Americans ever done for us?”


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Roper and Juvenile Justice

Chefjef is dead spot on, I think, and the juvenile justice problem he highlights is a significant part of the backstory to the Roper decision. Say what you will about the death penalty itself, it is disproportionate if it is the first real punishment imposed on a young malefactor. I do not oppose the death penalty per se, for much the same reason I am not a pacifist, but I do think there would be much less need for it if limits were imposed earlier and consistently. I hope you are right, counsellor--some real benefit could come of the decision. Nonetheless, I still oppose it, and would even if I agreed with its arguments entirely. I shall try to be consistent in this and show equal dudgeon when Scalia or Thomas pull similar krep. Of course, my opposition and 37 cents (soon 39) will buy me a stamp. No one's opinion matters now that our appointed gods have handed down their edict from Olympus. --Monk

Chefjef: You're right, Monk. The S.C. is, in many cases, dictatorial. It has been for a long time, and, unfortunately, there is not a Justice among the current 9, nor the previous 11 or so, who are not repeat offenders. Unfortunately, due to partisanship, their extreme ruminations are only recognized 50% of the time. Lefties will agree with the Majority, and not see the flaws in their argument. When the majority is conservative, the same is true. [By the way, among the several typos in my last comment, I stated "1788" as a year of reference for policy cases. It should be 1798. Sorry about that.]

If you've ever wondered why lawyers are the way the are - cynical, always playing with words, believing everything is gray and a matter of "persuadable perception," why there is no respect for the legal system as an institution - it is because after spending three years reading cases (with some exceptions, of course), there is not much left to respect. This is one of the reasons I opted not to practice law after my internships. I don't want any part of it.

Nevertheless, some good may come out of this opinion. Personally, I am ambivalent about the opinion itself. But first, I should admit that I am against the death penalty. Before I accepted Christ, I was pro-death penalty. Since becoming a Christian, I am pro-life; I am against the death penalty as well as abortion "rights."

The good I speak of is in the juvenile justice system. I'll use Alabama as an example. In Alabama, juveniles are RARELY punished for serious crimes. I have arrested countless juveniles for serious felonies, and they receive probation, fines, community service, maybe some time in a boot camp or juvenile "facility."

I'll give you an example that is NOT [just] anecdotal. I once arrested a 15 year old for armed Robbery. He was a suspect in several others. He was convicted of the one Robbery, as well as a felony theft charge and a narcotics charge. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Well, the first 3 years was amended to probation (this is because he could not go to an adult jail; he would have to be certified as an adult to go to adult jail, and this is such a tedious process that prosecutors only do it for high profile cases or homicide cases).

Okay, so at 18 the boy should go to prison. NOT! The remaining 7 years of his sentence were suspended, which means that for felony Robbery, theft and cocaine possession charges the boy got 3 years of county probation. Last year that boy killed someone, and know he is on death row.

The running joke in law enforcement is that juveniles get probation and boot camp for shoplifting through Robbery, but the death penalty for murder (this isn't always the case, but it occurs with regularity). The juvenile justice system seems to have a difficult time with anything in between.

Perhaps this S.C. decision will force the juvenile justice system to deal more sternly with serious crime, so that young juveniles are not classically conditioned, through consistently not being APPROPRIATELY punished for criminal behavior, to think they can also get away with serious felonies. As it stands now, at least half of the serious felonies committed in Montgomery (which has a crime rate twice that of Los Angeles) are committed by serial offending juveniles. It is, if not by actual definition than at least practically, an epidemic.


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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Soderberg a la Mike's America

Welcome to Mike of Mike's America!

Concerning Nancy Soderberg's appearance on Jon Stewart's Daily Show, Mike posts the following:

When trying to understand Soderberg's outrageous comment, we need to consider the source:

She was on the staff of Senator Kennedy before joining the Clinton Gore Administration. As number 3 on the staff of the National Security Council, she was at Clinton’s right hand during much of the malfeasance we witnessed during that time.

When she remarks about something going wrong in North Korea, she ought to know. Sec. Albright and Soderberg were among the cabal of America apologists that thought they could buy good will from Kim Jong Il… Didn’t work DID IT?!

Now, Bush is cleaning up the mess these people made and all they can do is hope he does not succeed…Very sad… Politics used to stop at the water’s edge… But power and personal bitterness seems to be more important to these folks than their own nation’s success in making the world a freer, more peaceful place.

If Kerry had been elected, she would no doubt be back in office. God forbid!



Incidentally, Mike and I have something in common: I also cut my political teeth in Ohio, havng done my first volunteer work on the Ohio Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 while attending OSU. It was a thrilling time of hard work, much beer, great looking girls, and victory! It's vaguely possible that I met Mike back then, depending on when he was organizing college Republican clubs. If so--Mike, I'm sorry! I really didn't mean to hurl on your shoes! Too much Rolling Rock, y'know?


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Your Agonizer Please

NewScientist, one of the Left's forums for enviro-correct "climate science," "socially responsible" scientists, and serious research into pyramid power, has its precious little GLBT panties in a wad over this news:

"The US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture."

Well, duh. Sounds like more fun than my old, now-rusty cattle prods. Me, I want one of these things real bad. The day I get it, I'm driving around Montgomery: "Tailgating, huh? Take that! [zap!] Heh! Cut me off, did you? Get some! [zap!] Bwahahaha!" Friends will ask, "how can you shoot women and children?!" To which I will answer, "you just don't lead 'em so much!" 'Merka, what a country! Ah, but there's more cool stuff coming:

"One document, a research contract between the Office of Naval Research and the University of Florida in Gainsville, US, is entitled "Sensory consequences of electromagnetic pulses emitted by laser induced plasmas". It concerns so-called Pulsed Energy Projectiles (PEPs), which fire a laser pulse that generates a burst of expanding plasma when it hits something solid, like a person. The weapon, destined for use in 2007, could literally knock rioters off their feet."

Set phasers on stun, Mr Sulu. I could use one of these too. [Irresponsible neighbor, walking favorite rat-dog:] "It's okay, fluffy; go ahead and shit on his yard. Everyone let's dogs do it down he...[whammo!] What the hell was THAT!! DAMN, that hurt!" [from front door:] "Bwahahahaha!"

And, of course, since I am a paid tool of the Military Industrial Complex, I will get access to these new toys long before they are available to you mere peons! Perhaps Karl Rove will have an experimental sign-out program. "Sure, kid, take it home! Have fun!"

Be careful what you say to me from no on....


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Our Brilliant High Priests

Chefjef posts in response to "The Supremes and Planet Liberal."

Chefjef: To answer your question,

"Is it usual for the Supremes to invoke a "national consensus" of states' positions to justify a Federal court ruling?"
...Yes it is actually an established practice, in this type of case, to refer to a "national consensus." Also, to answer a rhetorical question you asked, Justice Kennedy WAS writing policy, but it was appropriate in this case; further, the latter is related to the former.

This case is what the legal community refers to as a "policy" case. That is, the question before the court is a policy question, it is not a strict legal question. The first Supreme Court, presided over by several of our Founding Fathers, established the precedent of "policy issue" cases in situations where a question may arise, de facto, in the law, but the resolution can only lie in deciding policy (e.g. the problem that led to litigation is partly related to the fact that just merely analyzing the black letter law doesn't provide any help in resolving the problem) but it must (for whatever reason) be resolved in the judiciary. The Supreme Court has been deciding purely "policy" cases since 1788, which is why I said Kennedy writing policy is appropriate (as a matter of established judicial practice. Whether or not the practice is reasonable is a separate question.)

Monk: Hmmm. Interesting. That part about the Supreme Court writing policy must be somewhere in the emanations of the penumbra of the corona of the solar wind of the Constitution. I don't see it in Article III, but it sure seems to happen a lot these days.

Chefjef: Anyhow, policy issue cases are tricky, and are a constant source of consternation in law school.

Monk: Gee, I wonder why?

Chefjef: Furthermore, your quote from Scalia's dissent is, essentially, the same dissent every judge uses. When conservative judges prevail in a policy case, the liberals say "the majority has based their opinion on their own judgment.....blablabla." When the liberals prevail, the conservatives say "the majority is supplanting their own judgement for the intent of....blablabla." They ALL do the same damn thing in policy type cases (for the most part; there are, of course, occasional exsceptions).

Monk: Ah, yes, but not all do so with the style of Scalia!

To return to Monk's first question, in policy cases judges do refer to to ALL manner of extraneous sorces. State supreme courts, foreign courts, lower federal courts, philosophers, the Founding Fathers, executive branch government name it. Basically, in many policy issue cases the judges already have a policy; not necesarily just as partisan politicians - regardless of your opinion of the individuals on the Court, they are all brilliant, extremely erudite and have developed, over the decades, intellectual positions on a host of "policy" issues. So, what they do in these cases is refer to all sorts of extraneous sources to slowly weave a philosophical justification for their decision. I still remember one case in law school (a unanimous decision) where the Supremes spent 20 pages discussing the land management techniques of feudal Lords in deciding a policy issue case involving an easement granted by a City to a housing developer. It was a Constitutional case, but there was no "strict construction" answer; they had to make up some policy to resolve the case and they did it by examining medieval European land management practices.

Monk: I don't for a moment question the intelligence or qualifications of the Court's members. But I do question the judgment of the majority in this case. You have two things fundamentally correct here, though: their citation of foreign law in this case was "extraneous" in its most commonly meant sense of "having no relevance." Further, you have it right to say they had to "make up some policy." No check and no balance here. No intervention of democratic-republican process either. Just five black-robed high priests of the secular humanist religion proclaiming policy on their own whim.

O,BTW, appealing to their "brilliance" or "erudition" to partially justify their drawing from extraneous BS is to lean in the direction of the emanations of the penumbra of the corona of the solar wind of an 'argumentum ad verecundiam' logical fallacy. I don't give a rat's ass about how many years it took Kennedy to come to his brilliantly assinine conclusion, but I do care that he called upon absurd sources to make an absurd judgment (thereby commiting a False Analogy logical error himself, I believe).

I know that answer is not appealing, but (in a broad, general, brief stroke) it is the judicial way of things. Hope it answers your query.


Monk: Thank you, counsellor, it does answer my query. And you are right that the answer is not applealing. In fact, it sucks. Having the Supremes dictate policy from empyrean reaches subverts the lawmaking functions of our government. I admit there are times it is necessary, as when the legislature and executive have consistently failed to act on a moral imperative--a la Brown vs Board of Education*--but these times should be as rare as they are necessary. The Roper opinion was the dictatorial fiat of an imperial court, and I mean that last term literally: they have conquered part of the law, they keep their right to policy-making jealously to themselves, and they rule our nation far more than they should.


* This perogative can be abused. For every Brown, there is also a Dred Scott.

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