Living in Terror
By Fred Thompson
Let me ask you a hypothetical question. What do you think America would do if Canadian soldiers were firing dozens of missiles every day into Buffalo, N.Y.? What do you think our response would be if Mexican troops for two years had launched daily rocket attacks on San Diego -- and bragged about it?
I can tell you, our response would look nothing like Israel's restrained and pinpoint reactions to daily missile attacks from Gaza. We would use whatever means necessary to win the war. There would likely be numerous casualties on our enemy's side, but we would rightfully hold those who attacked us responsible.
More than 1,300 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since Palestinians were given control two years ago. Israelis, however, have gone to incredible lengths to stop the war against them without harming Palestinian non-combatants. But make no mistake, Israel is at war. The elected Hamas government regularly repeats its official promise to destroy Israel entirely and replace it with an Islamic state. Hamas openly took credit for killing one woman and wounding dozens more last week alone.
The Palestinian strategy is to purposely target and kill Israeli civilians. Then, when Israel goes after those launching the attacks, Palestinians claim to be the victims. If Palestinian civilians aren't hurt in the Israeli attacks, they stage injuries and deaths. Too often, they garner sympathy and support from a gullible or anti-Semitic media in the international community.
Israelis, themselves, are often incapable of facing the damage they inflict in self-defense. Knowing this, Islamic extremists are using their own populations as human shields.
I'm beginning to wonder how much longer this vicious plot will work though. International sympathy for Palestinians has diminished as the same Islamofascist extremists have brought havoc to Madrid, Bali, Somalia, London and elsewhere. More importantly, Israelis themselves are suffering so badly, they may be on the verge of losing their sympathy for the people who have sworn to kill them.
Imagine what it would be like to live, knowing that a rocket could fall on you or your children at any minute. Half of those who live nearest to Gaza have fled their homes. Those remaining are traumatized by daily warning sirens and explosions.
The irony is that Israel has the military might to easily win the war that is being waged against them today. They haven't used that might, in the past, out of compassion for Palestinian civilians and because it could trigger a wider regional conflict.
That balance of power is about to change, though. If Iran develops nuclear weapons, the very existence of this tiny nation of Israel will be threatened. The Iranian regime has left little doubt that it intends to see Israel "wiped off the map.” Hamas is using the same language, not coincidentally, and has announced it will begin launching missiles into Israel from the West Bank too.
If the world doesn't act to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, it must be prepared for the consequences of Israel defending itself.
Fred Thompson is an actor and former Senator. His radio commentary airs on the ABC Radio Network and be blogs on The Fred Thompson Report.
My mother grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and I spent plenty of time visiting my grandparents down there when I was a small child. Several times a week, decade after decade, my grandmother and her pals would eat lunch at Ollie's Barbecue, and I always looked forward to eating there during visits.
This restaurant was the classic, time-warp-style place that never, ever, ever changed. The employees never changed either, in the way that the employees of The Apple Pan in West L.A. never change. You got the impression that the waiters and waitresses started out in about 1920 as young apprentices and delivered pork plates and chocolate pie to the tables until they dropped dead seventy years later.
Here's a photo from 1964:
Well, Ollie's itself is no more, but they continue to make and sell the special barbecue sauce that made them famous! It's the thin, vinegar-based version of barbecue sauce, and I like it so much that sometimes I fill a water bottle with it and guzzle it instead of water after a bunch of sweaty Vinyasas at yoga!
You can order this stuff at 877-822-7375. Enjoy!
. . . "Demagoguery Beats Data."
A War of Words: Part II
By Thomas Sowell
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
With gasoline prices rising, political rhetoric is rising even faster. Liberals in Congress and in the media have launched a war of words, whose net result may well be a demand for some form of price control.
Price controls are not a new idea. There have been price controls in countries around the world. There were price controls during ancient times in Babylon and in the Roman Empire.
Whatever the hopes that may have inspired price controls, economists have studied their actual consequences, which have been remarkably similar from one place to another and from one time to another -- and almost invariably bad.
That history has even included higher prices in places with price controls. For example, New York and San Francisco have severe rent control laws -- and some of the highest average rents in the country.
But those pushing for price controls on gasoline are not likely to go into facts about the consequences of price controls, much less go into the economics that explains why such bad consequences have repeatedly followed price controls.
This issue, like so many others, is likely to be settled on the basis of rhetoric. And, on that basis, the left has always had the advantage. As former House Majority Leader Dick Armey -- an economist by trade -- has put it: "Demagoguery beats data" in political battles.
The demagoguery in this case is that "price gouging" and "greed" explain rising gasoline prices -- and that price controls will put a stop to it.
It is an exercise in futility to try to refute words that are meaningless. If a word has no concrete meaning, then there is nothing that can be refuted. "Price gouging" is a classic example.
The phrase is used when prices are higher than most people are used to. But there is nothing special or magic about what we happen to be used to.
When the conditions that determined the old prices change, the new prices are likely to be very different. That is not rocket science.
How have conditions changed in recent years? The biggest change is that China and India -- with more than a billion people each -- have had rapidly growing economies ever since they began relaxing government controls and allowing markets to operate more freely.
When there are rising incomes in countries of this size, the demand for more petroleum for both industry and consumers is huge. Increasing the supply of oil to meet these escalating demands is not nearly as easy.
In the United States, liberals have made it virtually impossible, by banning drilling in all sorts of places and preventing any new refinery from being built anywhere in the country in the last 30 years.
Prices are like messengers carrying the news of supply and demand. Like other messengers carrying bad news, they face the danger that some people think the answer is to kill the messenger, rather than taking steps to change the news.
The strongest proponents of price controls are the strongest opponents of producing more oil. They say the magic words "alternative energy sources" and we are supposed to swoon -- and certainly not ask any rude questions like "At what cost?"
Then there are the famous "obscene" profits of oil companies. Again, there is no definition and no criterion by which you could tell obscene profits from PG-13 profits or profits rated G.
There is not the slightest interest in how large the investments are that produced those profits. Relative to the vast investments involved, oil company profits do not begin to approach the rate of return received by someone who bought a house in California ten years ago and sells it today.
Oil company executives make big bucks incomes, almost as much as liberal movie stars who are never criticized for "greed." And if Big Oil CEOs worked for nothing, it is unlikely to be enough to bring the price of a gallon of gas down by a nickel.
But facts are not nearly as exciting as rhetoric -- and the role of most political rhetoric is to be a substitute for facts.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.
Umm, Senator Clinton, they've tried this, and it's called Socialism. . . .
It Takes a Socialist Village
By Cal Thomas
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has unveiled her economic vision. Should she be given the power to implement it, we can say goodbye to the prosperity and opportunity we have enjoyed since the Reagan years.
In a speech at Manchester School of Technology in New Hampshire, Clinton said it's time to replace President Bush's "ownership society," which she called an "on your own" society, with one based on shared responsibility and prosperity.
Clinton said she prefers a "we're all in it together" society: "I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none."
Doesn't such a society already exist elsewhere? It's called socialism, where government has sought to make all things economically equal and the only equality is that all are equally poor. Wasn't defeating such a society precisely why we fought and won the Cold War? Why does Senator Clinton wish to embrace the principles of the losing side?
Clinton has merely updated the old and discredited (except among socialist dictators) Karl Marx saying: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
Clinton's remarks came before students at a school whose purpose is to train high school kids for careers in the construction, automotive, graphic arts and other industries. She told them, "We have sent a message to our young people that if you don't go to college . . . that you're thought less of in America. We have to stop this."
Her assertion is bunk, but it is the typical class warfare bunk that comes from rich white liberals who want to take money from one group of people and give to others who didn't earn it in hopes they will become loyal Democratic voters.
This is not the philosophy that made America what it is. This is not a land of equal outcome, but of equal opportunity commensurate with one's talents, interests and drive.
In his "The Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith wrote: "It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense. . . . (Kings and ministers) are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will."
I am not robbed by people who have more money than me. I am robbed by a government that wants to penalize my industry and give increasing portions of what I earn to people who do not emulate my principles, morals and ethics.
What have we come to? We once taught our young people the virtues of hard work, saving, personal responsibility and accountability for one's actions, chastity before and fidelity and commitment in marriage, honesty, integrity and virtue - not to mention the Ten Commandments (especially the one about not coveting that which belongs to your neighbor). We now teach them entitlement, victimhood, class envy and rights to other people's money. When one robs a bank, it's a crime. When government takes our money, it's called a tax. Same result.
There is something else about Clinton's speech that offends. She suggested that students at a technical high school are inferior to those of higher social rank. This, too, is typical white liberal bunk. Has it occurred to her that many students prefer technical careers - and some make an excellent living at them - to the jobs held by the elites and that some of those jobs (like politician) fit them for nothing of value and turn them into professional snobs?
Senator Clinton should consider the wisdom of a former president, who said, "The collection of any taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny. . . . The wise and correct course to follow in taxation is not to destroy those who have already secured success, but to create conditions under which everyone will have a better chance to be successful." (Calvin Coolidge inaugural address, March 4, 1925)
Now there's a real economic vision!
Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist and co-author of Blinded by Might.
May 24, 2007
SACRAMENTO — Sports fans nationwide reported feelings of surprise, amusement, and grudging admiration after discovering that the Detroit Shock and Sacramento Monarchs of the Women's National Basketball Association met Saturday in what seems to be the first game of the WNBA's 11th season. "Hey, if these ladies want to try and go for it one more time, more power to them," said basketball fan Theresa Jacobsen, who came across an advertisement for the game while checking ESPN for news of the basketball playoffs. "You really have to respect their persistence, going out every year like this no matter what." Details such as the final score of the Shock–Monarchs game, the times and locations of other WNBA games, or the names and locations of other WNBA teams, were unknown as of press time.
What planet do these people live on? The last time I checked, the purpose of establishing a company is to make profits, preferably ones that Chuck Schumer might call "obscene." It means you're doing an excellent job.
No Such Thing as Obscene Profits
By Michael Medved
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
That’s certainly the case with the words “obscene profits” --- regularly applied to the recent success of the big oil companies.
We’ve all heard the protestations by various poseurs and politicians, who want to investigate or restrain or regulate or apply punishing taxes to the “obscene profits” of big oil.
The best response to these demagogues and lunatics would be a flat-out declaration: profits are never obscene.
Losses, on the other hand, can be obscene – disastrous, damaging, deadly to employees, stockholders and, ultimately, the public.
Auto companies have suffered major losses --- obscene losses, if you will – so does that make them more virtuous than oil companies?
Profit isn’t a shameful accident for corporations --- it’s their very reason for being. Big profits help them do more of what they did to make the profit in the first place. In the case of oil companies, that means more exploration, development, drilling, pumping, refining, transporting and marketing of the oil that fuels every aspect of our economy. Their profitability indicates that they’ve done an excellent job of doing what the public needs and wants, just as the losses by American auto makers suggest that they’ve done a terrible job at giving the public cars we want to buy.
Why should commentators and politicos abuse companies that do an outstanding job, and call for more support for those corporate citizens that do a lousy job? If we punish success and reward incompetence, that constitutes a sure-fire formula for more incompetence and less success.
Of course, some leftist might say that the profitability of oil companies is no more praiseworthy than the success of drug dealers, tobacco companies, the makers of fattening junk food, and other enterprises that feed damaging addictions.
But sane citizens ought to laugh at the ridiculous idea that the organizations that produce fossil fuel to feed our cars and our industrial base deserve derision as “oil pushers.” Energy companies provide an essential service for the entire society, and for all its members who happen to enjoy the highest standard of living, with the greatest freedom of choice, in the whole history of humanity.
Of course, at the moment it’s frustrating to pay more at the pump, but oil profits aren’t the culprit, nor would punishment of the energy companies help to bring down the cost of fuel. When businesses pay a heavier burden in taxes, it doesn’t make prices go down; it generally forces prices to go up, whenever companies can pass on the cost to the consumer. The idea that “windfall profit taxes” would cause oil companies to charge less flies against every rule of economic reality. If you add to the cost of production with new levels of governmental taxation or regulation it means that either prices go up or else profits go down – meaning less incentive for production, less production and, inevitably, higher prices.
Moreover, any attempt to “cap” the price of gas at the pump in the US would prove massively counterproductive. If oil companies receive less money for their products from American consumers than they do from consumers in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, isn’t it obvious that they’ll divert most of their production to those economies where they receive the best prices? In other words, if energy companies couldn’t sell their products in the US for market prices, they’d send them to hungry, surging markets in the rest of the world for top dollar, creating a US gas shortage that would prove far more damaging than even $3.50 a gallon.
Despite the disruption of war and hurricanes and capricious government regulation, big oil companies have managed to insure the steady, uninterrupted supply of energy that fuels every aspect of our personal and business lives. The profits they’ve generated while answering these needs hardly count as “obscene.” The only real obscenity involves the inane liberal conviction that companies or individuals engaged in legal, constructive endeavors should ever feel ashamed or apologetic about their success.
Michael Medved is a film critic, best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk show host.
The dedication will take place at the Memorial site at the intersection of Massachusetts Ave., N.W., New Jersey Ave., N.W., and G St., N.W., two blocks from Union Station and within view of the U.S. Capitol.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization, was established by an Act of Congress to build a memorial in Washington, DC to commemorate the more than 100 million victims of communism; to honor those who successfully resisted communist tyranny; to educate current and future generations about communism's crimes against humanity; and to pay tribute to those who helped win the Cold War. [from the site]
I sat right behind the Red Sox dugout tonight at Fenway Park and bellowed emboldening, energizing, uplifting cries of support for the home team, thereby helping them beat the Cleveland Indians 4-2 and solidify their place as the best team in all of Major League Baseball! "Friend of Grotto" Marney C. supplied the top-notch tickets to the Editorial Board.
Here's Manny Ramirez showing his affection for Dice-K Matsuzaka (left) and Julian Tavarez (right):
Batting sensation Kevin Youkilis after his homer tonight:
Josh Beckett got the win tonight, improving his record to 8-0:
Team mascot Wally (the Green Monster) came and sat with us for a bit, shamelessly angling for exposure on the Blue Grotto, read by baseball-mascot enthusiasts the world over!
Solid-as-a-rock third baseman Mike Lowell:
Manny trying to find his way back to the dugout:
Wally singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with some lucky young fans:
Manny moving about as fast as you'll ever see him move:
Wally lending support to the Blue Grotto cheering section:
Manager Terry Francona and first baseman Kevin Youkilis discussing their favorite Grotto posts:
Wally looks like he hasn't hit the yoga studio in quite some time. I recommend a lot of Chatarangas-into-Crow, and maybe a Suptabadokanasana or two in between. Namaste, Wally!
The victorious Sox congratulate one another on a job well done:
Team captain Jason Varitek (who homered tonight) being interviewed by NESN reporter Tina Servasio. Tina: "Jason, what's your favorite blog?" Varitek: "Are you crazy? The Blue Grotto, of course!"
Click on a name below to view a closeup of the playing card!
|A||Jacques Chirac||Martin Sheen||Sen. Robert "KKK" Byrd||Dan Rather|
|K||Vicente Fox||Michael Moore||Sen. Teddy Kennedy||Gore Vidal|
|Q||Jean Chretien||Barbra Streisand||Katie Couric|
|J||Kofi Annan||Chrissie Hynde||Rep. Jim McDermott||Bill Moyers|
|10||Vladimir Putin||Susan Sarandon||Rep. Charlie Rangel||Peter Arnett|
|9||Gerhard Schroeder||Tim Robbins||Helen Thomas|
|8||Hans Blix||Sean Penn||Sen. Patty Murray||Mary McGrory|
|7||Bashar al_Assad||Janeane Garofalo||Rep. Marcy Kaptur||Robert Scheer|
|6||The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei||Natalie Maines||Ramsey Clark||Leslie Stahl|
|5||Moammar Gadhafi||Woody Harrelson||Rep Dennis Kucinich||Walter Cronkite|
|4||Hugo Chavez||George Clooney||Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee||Jane Fonda|
|3||Fidel Castro||Ed Asner||Rep. Jim Moran||Ted Turner|
|2||Kim Jong-il||Jessica Lange||Howard Dean||Harry Belafonte|
|All Rights Reserved © NewsMax.com|
The other day my friend Letti offered me an artichoke dip that was so delicious I almost poured it all over my own head for lack of a worthy response! It reminds me of a comment that Grotto reporter CFC IV made to me more than ten years ago while we were enjoying creamed spinach at one of the NYC steakhouses. He said that if he ever made a billion dollars, he'd build a special swimming pool, fill it with creamed spinach, and dive in. I feel the same way about this artichoke dip:
Here's a pleasing photo of some artichokes:
If there's a hungry, naked homeless person languishing in the street outside of my house, I am called upon to feed and clothe that person. However, I am not free to walk into YOUR house, rifle through YOUR coat closet, and take YOUR food to help the person. That's called stealing.
Here's a good column on the topic:
The Good Samaritan, Generosity and Illegal Immigration
By Frank Pastore
Sunday, May 27, 2007
How should a Christian view illegal immigration?
I’ll assume you’re already familiar with how the debate frequently goes. Basically, both sides toss verses at one another. Those who favor amnesty cite “alien-stranger-hospitality” passages. Those who favor legal immigration cite “law” passages.
Perhaps the story of the Good Samaritan can help:
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”
And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25-37)
What can this teach us?
The Samaritan is honored as “good” for showing mercy to the beaten man because he used his own time, effort and resources to do so. It was he that took the time to bandage the wounds. It was he and his beast that transported the beaten man to the inn. It was his money that paid for the recovery.
There are a number of important lessons to be learned here. First, I cannot be generous, compassionate or loving by giving your property away. I cannot fulfill the commandment to “love my neighbor as my self” by using your land, your property, your house or your money to do so.
The Good Samaritan is good because of his generosity with his own resources. Why then are so many Christians eager to spend my money or the resources of others (through tax revenue) on what God is calling them to do?
Why are they so insistent that I should give more money to the poor, when they are free to give all that they own without restraint? Why do they want to raise my taxes—seize my property—as they portray themselves as compassionate and caring? Have they forgotten the commandment not to steal (Exodus 20:15)?
There is at least one more lesson we can derive that is valuable for the immigration debate: Private property is secured and protected by our ability to lock our doors and close our gates. Locked doors on private homes can be compared to secure borders to the national economy. Both protect the private assets that are on the other side; both elevate the value of the rule of law.
“Christian” supporters of open borders and amnesty using carefully-selected Bible verses need to be honest. Call your attempt to be generous with the property of others what it is: a form of theft. And call your socio-economic political public policy what it is: socialism.
And, if you—in effect—raise your own taxes by freely choosing to donate more of your own money to the poor of the third world, you might come a little closer to actually becoming…
My cousin Ken, a Delta pilot for many years, sent me this:
If Airlines Sold Paint
. . . that the Council of American Islamic Relations would accuse someone who happens to oppose slavery, the raping of female war prisoners, and other Medieval-style acts and customs endorsed by Sharia Law of being an Islamophobe. . . .
Here's a column by a former terrorist:
Islamic organizations regularly accuse non-Muslims of "Islamophobia," a fear and disdain for everything Islamic. On May 17, this accusation bubbled up again as foreign ministers from the Organization of the Islamic Conference called Islamophobia "the worst form of terrorism." These ministers also warned, according to the Arab News, that this form of discrimination would cause millions of Muslims in Western countries, "many of whom were already underprivileged," to be "further alienated."
In America, perhaps the most conspicuous organization to persistently accuse opponents of Islamophobia is the Council of American Islamic Relations. CAIR has taken up the legal case of the "Flying Imams," the six individuals who were pulled from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis this past November after engaging in suspicious behavior before takeoff. Not long ago, CAIR filed a "John Doe" lawsuit that would have made passengers liable for "malicious" complaints about suspicious Muslim passengers.
In an interview at the time, CAIR spokesman Nihad Awad accused Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) of being an "extremist" who "encourages Islamophobia" for pointing out what most people would think is obvious, that such a lawsuit would have a chilling effect on passengers who witnessed alarming activity and wished to report it. We can only assume that Mr. Awad believes flyers should passively remain in a state of fear as they travel and submissively risk their lives. In this case, Congress is acting appropriately and considering passing a law sponsored by Mr. King that would grant passengers immunity from such lawsuits.
It may seem bizarre, but Islamic reformers are not immune to the charge of "Islamophobia" either. For 20 years, I have preached a reformed interpretation of Islam that teaches peace and respects human rights. I have consistently spoken out -- with dozens of other Muslim and Arab reformers -- against the mistreatment of women, gays and religious minorities in the Islamic world. We have pointed out the violent teachings of Salafism and the imperative of Westerners to protect themselves against it.
Yet according to CAIR's Michigan spokeswoman, Zeinab Chami, I am "the latest weapon in the Islamophobe arsenal." If standing against the violent edicts of Shariah law is "Islamophobic," then I will treat her accusation as a badge of honor.
Muslims must ask what prompts this "phobia" in the first place. When we in the West examine the worldwide atrocities perpetrated daily in the name of Islam, it is vital to question if we -- Muslims -- should lay the blame on others for Islamophobia or if we should first look hard at ourselves.
According to a recent Pew Global Attitudes survey, "younger Muslims in the U.S. are much more likely than older Muslim Americans to say that suicide bombing in the defense of Islam can be at least sometimes justified." About one out of every four American Muslims under 30 think suicide bombing in defense of Islam is justified in at least some circumstances. Twenty-eight percent believe that Muslims did not carry out the 9/11 attacks and 32% declined to answer that question.
While the survey has been represented in the media as proof of moderation among American Muslims, the actual results should yield the opposite conclusion. If, as the Pew study estimates, there are 2.35 million Muslims in America, that means there are a substantial number of people in the U.S. who think suicide bombing is sometimes justified. Similarly, if 5% of American Muslims support al Qaeda, that's more than 100,000 people.
To bring an end to Islamophobia, we must employ a holistic approach that treats the core of the disease. It will not suffice to merely suppress the symptoms. It is imperative to adopt new Islamic teachings that do not allow killing apostates (Redda Law). Islamic authorities must provide mainstream Islamic books that forbid polygamy and beating women. Accepted Islamic doctrine should take a strong stand against slavery and the raping of female war prisoners, as happens in Darfur under the explicit canons of Shariah ("Ma Malakat Aimanikum"). Muslims should teach, everywhere and universally, that a woman's testimony in court counts as much as a man's, that women should not be punished if they marry whom they please or dress as they wish.
We Muslims should publicly show our strong disapproval for the growing number of attacks by Muslims against other faiths and against other Muslims. Let us not even dwell on 9/11, Madrid, London, Bali and countless other scenes of carnage. It has been estimated that of the two million refugees fleeing Islamic terror in Iraq, 40% are Christian, and many of them seek a haven in Lebanon, where the Christian population itself has declined by 60%. Even in Turkey, Islamists recently found it necessary to slit the throats of three Christians for publishing Bibles.
Of course, Islamist attacks are not limited to Christians and Jews. Why do we hear no Muslim condemnation of the ongoing slaughter of Buddhists in Thailand by Islamic groups? Why was there silence over the Mumbai train bombings which took the lives of over 200 Hindus in 2006? We must not forget that innocent Muslims, too, are suffering. Indeed, the most common murderers of Muslims are, and have always been, other Muslims. Where is the Muslim outcry over the Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq?
Islamophobia could end when masses of Muslims demonstrate in the streets against videos displaying innocent people being beheaded with the same vigor we employ against airlines, Israel and cartoons of Muhammad. It might cease when Muslims unambiguously and publicly insist that Shariah law should have no binding legal status in free, democratic societies.
It is well past time that Muslims cease using the charge of "Islamophobia" as a tool to intimidate and blackmail those who speak up against suspicious passengers and against those who rightly criticize current Islamic practices and preachings. Instead, Muslims must engage in honest and humble introspection. Muslims should -- must -- develop strategies to rescue our religion by combating the tyranny of Salafi Islam and its dreadful consequences. Among more important outcomes, this will also put an end to so-called Islamophobia.
Dr. Hamid, a onetime member of Jemaah Islamiya, an Islamist terrorist group, is a medical doctor and Muslim reformer living in the West.
. . . that the U.N. itself is a giant, masterfully-orchestrated Candid Camera prank. I mean, when I read stuff like the following piece, I feel like some relative of Allen Funt is going to spring out of a closet and tell me I've been had!
May 15, 2007
By Peter Brookes
The U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development last week elected Zimbabwe as its chair. It's obscene: The panel is supposed to facilitate economic growth as well as environmental integrity - while Zimbabwe's government has transformed Africa's breadbasket into Africa's basket case due to gross economic mismanagement.
And this week at the U.N.'s theater of the absurd, the Human Rights Council is likely to choose as its chair Belarus - one of the world's most repressive states.
The United Nations has a long record of disappointing - but what's next? One can only imagine. . . . As such, it might be a good time to reconsider the U.S. contributions to these disgraceful U.N. bodies.
First, let's look at the U.N.'s lunacy on Zimbabwe.
The former British colony was once an outstanding example of African development. But then dictator Robert Mugabe began to fear losing his grip on political power - setting out to destroy domestic threats to his rule through land seizures and redistribution. The result? The once-prosperous country's economy has shrunk 40 percent since 2000 - with no end in sight. Years of consecutive negative growth and inflation (at over 2,000 percent annually) are the world's highest; 80 percent of the populace is unemployed and/or lives below the poverty line.
And a nation that used to be Africa's prime food exporter now faces widespread hunger. As many as 4 million have left the country, mostly for South Africa, putting Zimbabwe on par with Sudan's Darfur in refugee terms.
Life expectancy has plummeted - where once the average newborn would live into his or her 60s, that infant now survives only to his or her 30s. A population that should be 18 to 20 million is just 11 million - with a reported 1.3 million orphans.
Genocide? Depends on your definition. But it seems obvious that Zimbabwe is the last country you'd want to make chair of any body that has anything to do with economic development.
Of course, such logic carries little weight at the United Nations, which regularly awards positions and chairs based on quotas or a country's influence in Turtle Bay rather than how members act and perform in the real world.
What about Belarus, set to lead the U.N.'s Human Rights Council?
Well, the country is so repressive that a coalition of 40 top human-rights groups have called on the United Nations to keep it off the human-rights panel altogether.
They'll probably fail - the U.N. quota system gives Eastern Europe two seats, and the only other candidate is Slovenia. A majority of U.N. member states would have to take an unprecedented moral stand to reject Belarus. Most states just don't care - or have horse-traded their votes for Belarus' support on issues they do care about.
But the coalition is still right on the merits: The government of Belarus' president, Alexander Lukashenko, is "supremely unfit" to help monitor human rights around the globe. The State Department's annual human-rights report called Belarus' record "poor."
And Freedom House warns that Lukashenko's dictatorial rule is getting nastier - moving to "eradicate the remaining spheres of political and social autonomy that could potentially challenge Lukashenko's aspirations for unlimited and lifelong rule."
This sort of insanity is same-old, same-old for the United Nations: Libya was elected chair of the old Commission on Human Rights in 2003; Iran got named vice-chair of the Disarmament Commission, a body charged with preventing nuclear proliferation, last year - and was re-elected last month.
What to do?
Well, the United States can refuse to play along. Because of past U.N. human-rights farces, we've already declined to take a seat on the Council. We could resign the one we have on the development panel.
Or we could refuse to pay. We gave $439 million to the regular U.N. budget last year; some $4 million of that went to the Human Rights Council. As a statement of principle, we could deduct that amount from what we fork over next year. . . .
But Congress would have to actively choose to withhold that portion of our U.N. dues - which means convincing a lot of congressional Democrats to send a "tough" message to the United Nations. Realistically, unless U.S. human-rights groups (and the relevant activists on sustainable development) come out strongly in favor of the move, it won't happen.
Which means that the United States will wind up conferring legitimacy on rogue regimes - and more moral squalor at Turtle Bay.
Here's a brief excerpt from Thomas Sowell's May 15th column on the weirdness of the lather of rage those on The Left work themselves into over almost everything:
. . . However, the question here is not why the left has different arguments, but why there is such anger.
Often it is an exercise in futility even to seek to find a principle behind the anger. For example, the left's obsession with the high incomes of corporate executives never seems to extend to equally high — or higher — incomes of professional athletes, entertainers, or best-selling authors like Danielle Steel.
If the reason for the anger is a feeling that corporate CEOs are overpaid for their contributions, then there should be even more anger at people who get even more money for doing absolutely nothing, because they have inherited fortunes.
Yet how often has the left gotten worked up into high dudgeon over those who inherited the Rockefeller, Roosevelt or Kennedy fortunes? Even spoiled heirs like Paris Hilton don't really seem to set them off.
If it is hard to find a principle behind what angers the left, it is not equally hard to find an attitude.
Their greatest anger seems to be directed at people and things that thwart or undermine the social vision of the left, the political melodrama starring the left as saviors of the poor, the environment, and other busybody tasks that they have taken on.
It seems to be the threat to their egos that they hate. And nothing is more of a threat to their desire to run other people's lives than the free market and its defenders.
40-ish - 49
Average looking - Ugly
Beautiful - Pathological liar
Contagious Smile - Does a lot of pills
Emotionally secure - On medication
Feminist - Fat
Free spirit - Junkie
Fun - Annoying
Open-minded - Desperate
Outgoing - Loud and Embarrassing
Passionate - Sloppy drunk
Professional - Bitchy
Voluptuous - Very Fat
Large frame - Hugely Fat
Wants Soul mate - Stalker
1. Yes = No
2. No = Yes
3. Maybe = No
4. We need = I want
5. I am sorry = you'll be sorry
6. We need to talk = you're in trouble
7. Sure, go ahead = you better not
8. Do what you want = you will pay for this later
9. I am not upset = Of course I am upset, you moron!
Here's an excerpt from Mary Anastasia O'Grady's column in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Venezuela gives us an excellent real-life case study that we can follow as it unfolds!
Chavez and pal. . .
The article excerpt:
Here's how Chávez economics "works." As petro-dollars pour into state coffers, the government takes them to the central bank to get new bolivars printed, which are then pumped into the economy through government spending. Mr. Chávez has also been regularly increasing wages. The result is a consumption boom. Under free prices, too many bolivars chasing too few goods would produce inflation that would show up at the supermarket checkout counter. But price controls make that impossible. Instead, serious shortages are emerging.
Free prices are to an economy what microchips are to a computer. They carry information. As Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises explained in his legendary treatise 60 years ago, it is free prices that ensure that supply will meet demand. When Mr. Chávez imposed price controls, he destroyed the price mechanism.
And so it is that the Venezuelan egg is now a delicacy, the chicken an endangered species, toilet paper a luxury and meat an extravagance. White cheese, milk, tuna, sardines, sugar, corn oil, sunflower oil, carbonated drinks, beans, flour and rice are also in short supply.
The reason is simple: Producers have no incentive to bring goods to market if they are forced to sell them at unprofitable prices. Ranchers hold back their animals from slaughter, fisherman don't cast their nets, food processors don't invest in equipment and farmers don't plant. Those who do produce find it makes more sense to take their goods across the border to Colombia or to seek out unregulated (black) markets.
On January 9, 2006, John Edwards charged taxpayer-funded UC Davis $55,000 to give one speech entitled "Poverty, the Great Moral Issue Facing America." It's a nice way to furthur his presidential campaign educational policy urging that "every financial barrier" be removed that might prevent kids from going to college. UC Davis will be raising its tuition by 7% this year.
Here he is with a friend:
Having an abnormally long narrow skull.
[Greek skaphē, boat + –CEPHALIC.]
"Um, ah - we can't really say it in so many words, but we really cannot use Miss Upchurch in this ad. She's scaphocephalic."
Also, I think my own head is shaped a little bit like a not-so-seaworthy boat.
Here's some common sense from Walt Williams' May 16th column:
What do Virginia Tech's 32 murders, Columbine High School's 13 murders, Jonesboro Westside Middle School's five murders, Germany's Gutenberg High School's 16 murders, the murder of 14 legislators in Zug, Switzerland, and the murder of eight city council members in a Paris suburb all have in common? Answer: All the murders were committed in "gun-free zones." So a reasonable question is: Does legislation creating gun-free zones prevent murder and mayhem?
In 1970, Israel adopted a policy to arm teachers and parents serving as school aids with semi-automatic weapons. Attacks by gunmen at Israeli schools have ceased. At Appalachian Law School in Virginia, a gunman who had already murdered three people was stopped from further carnage by two armed students. Gun possession stopping crime is not atypical, though it goes unreported by the media. According to various research estimates, from 764,000 to as many as 2.5 million crimes are prevented by armed, law-abiding people either warning a criminal that they're armed, brandishing their weapon or shooting a criminal. In the interest of truth in packaging, I think we should rename "gun-free zones" to "defenseless zones."
On this day in …
* 1939, the foreign ministers of Germany and Italy, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Galeazzo Ciano, signed a "Pact of Steel" committing the two countries to a military alliance
von Ribbentrop with Hitler:
Ciano with Hitler:
* 1947, the Truman Doctrine was enacted as Congress appropriated military and economic aid for Greece and Turkey
* 1968, the nuclear-powered U.S. submarine Scorpion, with 99 men aboard, sank in the Atlantic Ocean. (The remains of the sub were later found on the ocean floor 400 miles southwest of the Azores.)
* 1969, the lunar module of Apollo 10 flew to within nine miles of the moon's surface in a dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing
My pal Juan told me recently that he doesn't like to date overachievers. I told him I know what he means, having come about as close to marrying a member of that species as two fighter planes negotiating a hair's-breadth near-miss at an airshow.
Well, Juan, if you were gay, you would definitely NOT be interested in the following guy I came across in the latest Exeter Bulletin class notes (I remember him; he was a class behind me).
I love the way that they refer to his career as "straightforward." I can also relate to his college career, where his Exeter experience allowed him "to explore independent research in engineering and pursue topics outside of [his] engineering major." Sounds just like me at Georgetown! Yeah, right. . . .
Here's an excerpt:
"My handler Bob helped me call a friend of mine at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago."
Test-Driving the New Smartphones
By Flappy the Dolphin
May 16, 2007
If you're on the go, doing three shows a day at a marine park, it's hard to keep up with e-mail, and text messaging can be a real time-suck. Thankfully, with the prices of smartphones coming down, these all-in-one cell phone PDAs aren't just for business travelers anymore. Over the last week, I put three of the hottest models to the test to see how well they combine form, function, and aquatic versatility.
First up is the offering from Palm, the grand-daddy of smartphone manufacturers. The Palm Treo 680 ($199, Cingular/AT&T only; H) is lighter than its predecessor, but some say it's still a little clunky. Personally, I don't need a phone to be tiny. If it's too small, it's more difficult to hold in your elongated jaws. Plus, I find that the small keys on Treo's QWERTY keyboard make precise typing difficult.
So far, not so good. But how does it work underwater?
Terrible. The Treo 680 fizzled and died as soon as I dove down three feet. I didn't even get a chance to test its web-browsing capabilities before it shorted out completely.
It's easy to get complacent when you've been one of the big kids on the block, and Palm has done just that. They have to learn to adapt to the needs of their diverse customer base, not the other way around.
We all know the BlackBerry Curve 8300 ($TBA, Cingular/AT&T only; HHH) is going to be good at e-mail—that is, after all, how the BlackBerry became a complete necessity for 21st-century business—but how does it work as a phone? My handler Bob helped me call a friend of mine at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The reception was good, although to be fair, that's more a function of the network than the device. And due to the small speaker in the earpiece, some of her high-end clicks and squeaks were lost, making communication less than ideal.
But what happens when we take it to the bottom?
Disaster. It only worked for 40 seconds before it quit altogether. Another disappointment from the narrow-minded engineers at Research In Motion, who have left themselves very vulnerable by focusing so singularly on their current target market.
Like everyone, I got seriously geeked the moment I saw Steve Jobs introduce the Apple iPhone ($599, Cingular/AT&T only; HH) at Macworld. It seemed to be what every gadget-obsessed dolphin is looking for in a next-generation handheld: sleek, stylish, and multi- functional. And what's more, it had a delightful wallpaper with a placid marine setting.
In the four months since its unveiling, I've been swimming back and forth, just waiting for my chance to try it out. Then, out of the blue, I was contacted last week and asked if I wanted to give it a test run. Does a tuna taste delicious? When the Apple rep arrived, I was so excited that I did a double backflip and splashed Bob.
The touch screen handled surprisingly well. I could easily toss the phone into the air and bounce it off my nose to dial, so calling can be fun. Let's be honest, though: It may be called the iPhone, but no one I know is interested in it just as a phone. It's the widescreen video iPod functionality that has the tech nerds excited.
Frankly, I was disappointed by the pedestrian offerings by iTunes. I was looking for episodes of Flipper, or The New Adventures Of Flipper, or the movie version of Flipper, but I settled for the Mel Gibson action film Ransom. I had to wonder if it was really worth my time and $10 to watch it on such a small screen, where a lot of the nuance of Gibson's performance was lost. I suppose it's better when you hook it up to your large-screen TV, but that's another connector and another $20.
When I was satisfied that it seemed to work well on dry land, I took it straight to the bottom of the pool. After five seconds, the screen went black and the device became unresponsive. I was so furious I leapt out of the water and hurled the iPhone at the poor Apple rep, who made a rather sheepish exit.
Once again, the aquatic mammal sector has been completely ignored by the major cell phone manufacturers. Given their track record, I shouldn't be surprised.
Drop by next week when I kick the tires of the new 2007 toasters.
May 16, 2007
AUSTIN, TX — University of Texas professor Thom Windham once again furthered the cause of human inquiry in a class lecture Monday, as he continued his longtime practice of finding connections between things and other things, pointing out these parallels, and then elaborating on them in detail, campus sources reported.
"By drawing parallels between things and other, entirely different things, I not only further my own studies, but also encourage young minds to develop this comparative methodology in their own work," said Windham, holding his left hand up to represent one thing, then holding his right hand up to represent a separate thing, then bringing his hands together in simulation of a hypothetical synthesis of the two things. "It's not just similarities that are important, though—the differences between things are also worth exploring at length."
Fifteen years ago, Windham was awarded tenure for doing this.
CFC IV submitted this strange but true story, which could only have happened in America.
A Charlotte, NC, lawyer purchased a box of very rare and expensive cigars, then insured them against fire among other things. Within a month having smoked his entire stockpile of these great cigars and without yet having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the lawyer filed claim against the insurance company.
In his claim, the lawyer stated the cigars were lost "in a series of small fires." The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason: that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion.
The lawyer sued....and won! In delivering the ruling the judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous. The Judge stated nevertheless, that the lawyer held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable fire," and was obligated to pay the claim.
Rather than endure lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid $15,000.00 to the lawyer for his loss of the rare cigars lost in the "fires."
NOW FOR THE BEST PART... After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of ARSON!!!! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000.00 fine.
This is a true story and was the 1st place winner in the recent Criminal Lawyers Award Contest.
Amo sends these in, with the following usage example: "Grotto reporter CFC IV is both atrabilious and splenetic."
Etymology: Latin atra bilis black bile
1 : given to or marked by melancholy : GLOOMY
2 : ILL-NATURED, PEEVISH
Pronunciation: spli-'ne-tik, archaic 'sple-n&-(")tik
Etymology: Late Latin spleneticus, from Latin splen spleen
1 archaic : given to melancholy
2 : marked by bad temper, malevolence, or spite
. . . through central planning, judicial activism, and the nanny state.
Presumptions Of The Left
By Thomas Sowell
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Radically different conclusions about a whole range of issues have been common for centuries. Many have tried to explain these differences by differences in conflicting economic interests. Others, like John Maynard Keynes, have argued that ideas -- even intellectually discredited ideas that political leaders still believe in -- trump economic interests.
My own view is that differences in bedrock assumptions underlying ideas play a major role in determining how people differ in what policies, principles or ideologies they favor.
If you start from a belief that the most knowledgeable person on earth does not have even one percent of the total knowledge on earth, that shoots down social engineering, economic central planning, judicial activism and innumerable other ambitious notions favored by the political left.
If no one has even one percent of the knowledge currently available, not counting the vast amounts of knowledge yet to be discovered, the imposition from the top of the notions favored by elites convinced of their own superior knowledge and virtue is a formula for disaster.
Sometimes it is economic disaster, which central planning turned out to be in so many countries around the world that even most governments run by socialists and communists began freeing up their markets by the end of the 20th century.
That is when the economies of China and India, for example, began having rapidly increasing growth rates.
But economic disasters, important as they are, have not been the worst consequences of people with less than one percent of the world's knowledge superimposing the ideas prevailing in elite circles on those subject to their power -- that is, on the people who together have the other 99 percent of knowledge.
Millions of human beings died of starvation, and of diseases related to severe malnutrition, when the economic ideas of Stalin in the Soviet Union and Mao in China were inflicted on the population living -- and dying -- under their iron rule.
In both cases, the deaths exceeded the deaths caused by Hitler's genocide, which was also a consequence of ignorant presumptions by those with totalitarian power.
Many on the left may protest that they do not believe in the ideas or the political systems that prevailed under Hitler, Stalin or Mao. No doubt that is true.
Yet what the political left, even in democratic countries, share is the notion that knowledgeable and virtuous people like themselves have both a right and a duty to use the power of government to impose their superior knowledge and virtue on others.
They may not impose their presumptions wholesale, like the totalitarians, but retail in innumerable restrictions, ranging from economic and nanny state regulations to "hate speech" laws.
If no one has even one percent of all the knowledge in a society, then it is crucial that the other 99 percent of knowledge -- scattered in tiny and individually unimpressive amounts among the population at large -- be allowed the freedom to be used in working out mutual accommodations among the people themselves.
These innumerable mutual interactions are what bring the other 99 percent of knowledge into play -- and generate new knowledge.
That is why free markets, judicial restraint, and reliance on decisions and traditions growing out of the experiences of the many -- rather than the groupthink of the elite few -- are so important.
Elites are all too prone to over-estimate the importance of the fact that they average more knowledge per person than the rest of the population -- and under-estimate the fact that their total knowledge is so much less than that of the rest of the population.
They over-estimate what can be known in advance in elite circles and under-estimate what is discovered in the process of mutual accommodations among millions of ordinary people.
Central planning, judicial activism, and the nanny state all presume vastly more knowledge than any elite have ever possessed.
The ignorance of people with Ph.D.s is still ignorance, the prejudices of educated elites are still prejudices, and for those with one percent of a society's knowledge to be dictating to those with the other 99 percent is still an absurdity.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.
On this day in …
* 1804, the French Senate proclaimed Napoleon Bonaparte emperor
Houses of Worship
An evangelical converts to Catholicism, and everyone remains friendly.
By David M. Howard, Jr.
Friday, May 18, 2007
(Wall Street Journal)
Last month, Francis Beckwith--president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), noted evangelical philosopher, "God-blogger" and professor of church-state relations at Baylor University--was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Shortly after, he resigned his presidency and membership in ETS, sending shock waves through the religious blogosphere and parts of the evangelical community.
The ETS executive committee--of which I am a member, as a past president of the society myself--released a statement thanking Mr. Beckwith for his many contributions to the society and expressing its desire to maintain cordial relations with him. The committee also noted that his resignation was appropriate, since the ETS affirms that "the Bible alone . . . is the Word of God written."
The phrase "the Bible alone" in the ETS context refers to the 66 books in the Old and New Testaments of the Protestant canon and thus rules out Mr. Beckwith's continued membership, given that the Roman Catholic Church accepts additional books in the canon, commonly referred to as deuterocanonical or apocryphal books. Mr. Beckwith maintains that he can still sign the ETS statement with full integrity because it does not enumerate the 66 books, but he voluntarily withdrew his membership in the interests of avoiding a rancorous debate in the society.
Responses to Mr. Beckwith's conversion run the gamut. A small number of evangelicals have reacted as if he committed an act of betrayal. Among many more, including us on the executive committee, the response has been one of cordial disagreement on some critical matters, accompanied by an acknowledgment that we nevertheless have much in common as fellow Christians.
Mr. Beckwith's conversion did catch many off guard, though. Not since the 1985 conversion of Thomas Howard, a graduate of Wheaton College, evangelicalism's flagship school, had a scholar of such high profile made the journey "from Wheaton to Rome." A professor of English literature and prolific author, Mr. Howard was widely read among evangelical intellectuals, and his conversion sparked a similar reaction to Mr. Beckwith's, including a 14-page spread in Christianity Today.
As it happens, I am Mr. Howard's nephew and thus watched his conversion from close range. It was anything but sudden. His (and my father's) family of origin embraced a robust Protestant fundamentalism in the 1930s. But in the 1960s, feeling an aesthetic as well as theological longing, he became an Episcopalian and finally in the 1980s a Catholic. He retains some of the best of his fundamentalist upbringing (a vibrant, personal piety and commitment to historic orthodox doctrine) even as he embraces the full teachings of the Catholic Church.
Mr. Howard was among the first of what has become a steady stream of evangelical converts to Catholicism in the past 20 years. Three who achieved prominence after their conversions were the singer John Michael Talbot, now the No. 1 Catholic recording artist, Scott Hahn, a best-selling Catholic author, and Joshua Hochschild, a professor at Wheaton fired for his conversion in 2006.
A common element among these converts is a strong commitment to the Catechism and papal encyclicals. These Catholics are not generally in sympathy with the theologically liberal wing of the American Catholic Church but are enthusiastic supporters of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI's emphasis on orthodox teaching and practice. In short, they have more in common theologically with evangelicals than with liberal Catholics, and evangelicals themselves, in many respects, have more in common with traditional Catholics than with mainline Protestants. Especially on social and political issues, there is much room for common cause.
Evangelical-Catholic relations have not been this cordial in the past, of course. History is littered with the corpses (sometimes literally) of past conflict, and conversion from one camp to the other was, for a long time, almost unheard of. The Second Vatican Council (1962-65), however--with its more ecumenical outlook--changed the landscape, and relations between Catholics and Protestants in most parts of the world have improved greatly since. In the U.S., one encouraging development is Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), an enterprise that began under the leadership of Charles Colson (an evangelical) and the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus (once a Lutheran minister and now a Catholic priest). Since 1994, the ECT has issued position papers highlighting "important areas of agreement and disagreement among us."
Francis Beckwith's conversion to Catholicism should be seen in this same light. In an email he states: "My academic work . . . has always dealt with issues and questions that concern all Christians--Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox. My return to the Catholic Church will not change that project." For myself, I can say that I have lost a valued colleague in the ETS, but I remain his brother in Christ and wish him well in his new spiritual home.
Mr. Howard is the dean of the Center for Biblical and Theological Foundations at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn.
May 17, 2007 - Onion Sports
COOPERSTOWN — Mothers of current major-leaguers lost their 10th consecutive Mother's Day game by a score of 24-2 Sunday, the most resounding win by MLB players in the yearly matchup since 1999. "My mom and I haven't gotten together in a quite while, so it was so nice to see her, especially when I blew a 95 mph fastball past her to win the game," Josh Beckett said following the game, in which he recorded 13 strikeouts and one walk. "We always go easy on them, but when A-Rod's mom was showboating after she hit a double in the sixth, I had to plunk her the next time she got up. Just a part of the game." Though the mothers' team put up subpar numbers, Mrs. Weaver's solid seven-inning pitching performance caught the attention of Mariners' GM Bill Bavasi, who is reportedly considering her as a possible replacement for struggling starter Jeff Weaver.
gres·so·ri·al /grɛˈsɔriəl, -ˈsoʊr-/
Pronunciation Key - [gre-sawr-ee-uhl, -sohr-]
|adapted for walking, as the feet of some birds.|
I think that before each episode of 24 they should put one of those amusement-park-ride warnings up telling pregnant mothers and people with heart trouble to avoid watching the show!
Jack's back - and on board to save the world at least two more times.
Fox has ordered two more seasons of "24," keeping the Emmy-winning drama on the net through the 2008-2009 TV season. . . .
Exec producers for "24" have already told several publications that they plan to make some changes on the show next season - but the twist will remain the same: Each episode covering one hour of real time as special agent Jack Bauer races against the clock to stop something bad from happening.
20th Century Fox TV and Imagine TV are behind "24," which winds down its sixth season Monday with a two-hour finale.
"24" is coming off an Emmy win for outstanding drama series, as well as outstanding lead actor in a drama (for star Kiefer Sutherland). Show has scored 51 Emmy noms throughout its existence, including five for best drama.
On this day in. . .
* 1770, Marie Antoinette, age 14, married the future King Louis XVI of France, who was 15
* 1960, a Big Four summit conference in Paris collapsed on its opening day as the Soviet Union leveled spy charges against the U.S. in the wake of the U2 incident
* 1960, a Big Four summit conference in Paris collapsed on its opening day as the Soviet Union leveled spy charges against the U.S. in the wake of the U2 incident
I don't know about you, but I can spot the guy a mile away who seizes on some topic as a way to present himself as a brilliant thinking person, a person who has surveyed the landscape and come up with some really good stuff. Next time you're at a cocktail party, right after suffering through the "Not This Again" episode of having to smile as the boyfriend or husband of a previously-cool female friend starts to drone on about the financial markets, beware! You'll manage to extract yourself from the boring guy's clutches (you hope without having to directly state "You've grown tiresome. I'm going to go stand over there now."), but you might easily fall into a conversation in which somebody pipes up that they've formulated a new theory that today's U.S. is doomed to fall, given all the striking similarities with Ancient Rome.
Well, maybe, maybe not. Here's a Victor David Hanson review of a new book on this topic. Whatever happens, it's good reading:
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON
In the last decade, and especially after 9/11, it has become popular once again to compare the United States to ancient Rome. The pop analogies almost always appear in the pessimistic context of an American colossus betraying its origins and ideals — and, like Rome, facing the deserved end of its empire.
Those on the left warn about America’s hard imperial hand on the “Other” abroad. Meanwhile, our contemporary conservative elder Catos lament the corruption of the old, small, agrarian republic into an empire. Both predict — almost gleefully, and sometimes in apocalyptic terms — American “exhaustion,” “decline,” or something similar to a Roman “fall.”
Of course, there are a number of similarities between the two superpowers, ancient and modern. Both were practical, inclusive societies that rapidly incorporated foreigners. They alike unexpectedly achieved global stature and influence — at first through astounding feats of arms in filling the vacuum of eroding empires (the end of the Hellenistic East in the 2nd century b.c. was perhaps analogous to the postwar breakup of the British Empire).
Soon each upstart nation won further adherents by an insidiously efficient way of doing things, based on merit rather than mere class, that offered material prosperity to millions not to be found through local indigenous cultures. Likewise, brilliant Roman and American writers have left thoughtful observations about the ironies — and pathologies — of their seemingly unstoppable societies that changed the world abroad and, in the process, their once-traditional citizenry within.
But for any valid comparison, some basic ground rules of this old game of “America as Rome” are to be followed. First, keep in mind that the idea of a monolithic “Rome” is a sort of construct — reflecting 700 years of Italian republican government, followed by another half-millennium of imperial Mediterranean rule. What “Rome,” then, do we of infant nations evoke? Is Rome to be the rather small, agrarian republic trying to stop Carthage in the first Punic war? Or Edward Gibbon’s 2nd-century a.d. hundred years of bliss? Or the chaos of a perennially tottering empire yet another 200 years later?
Second, recognize that Roman literature, usually written by disaffected elites, is as consistently reactionary as it is moralistic in nature. Juvenal, Livy, Petronius, Sallust, the younger Seneca, Suetonius, and Tacitus, all knee-deep in the luxury of their times, all nevertheless deplored the supposed decadence of their respective eras. They can be fine witnesses to Roman decline and the corrosive effects of luxus, but their pessimistic — and often hypocritical — genre of “things going to hell in a hand basket” needs to be weighed carefully against concomitant evidence from mute numismatics, epigraphy, and archeology that reflect a booming culture often at odds with what the cynical said about it.
For the once-great families, it might have been a seminal moment to see respected Roman matrons increasingly covered with blood and dust in the first row of the amphitheater, oohing and aahing the abs of the gladiators. But most in North Africa or Eastern Europe — who with Romanization at last had clean water and habeas corpus — could not have cared less. Petronius (Nero’s own arbiter elegantiae) saw the crass nouveau-riche upstarts as proof of imperial decadence. But some of the novelist’s gauche characters, like the Jewish buffoon Trimalchio and the rag-collector Echion, are more likely welcome evidence that millions by the 1st century A.D. were succeeding in a global system increasingly based on merit, not class — anathema to Petronius’s old Italian upper crust.
Third, there should be an up-front recognition that common Rome/America comparisons, from Oswald Spengler’s to Pat Buchanan’s, are rarely meant to be laudatory. Instead, they are admonitory in nature, warning that the “bread and circuses” of the United States, too, will — and should — soon end. Key is the superficiality that both Romans and Americans were somehow malevolent, forgetting that in comparison with the alternatives of the times, most of the “Other” voted with their feet to get within the imperial borders by any means at their disposal.
Cullen Murphy (editor at large at Vanity Fair and co-author of Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage) does not draw extensively from the evidence of the ancient world, other than selected quotes in translation from the usual grim Roman moralists. That paucity of ancient evidence is buttressed on the modern side by a plethora of references to contemporary culture. So evocation of everything from Abu Ghraib, the Green Zone, Halliburton (but of course), and Blackwater USA to Ahmed Chalabi, Ken Lay, and the Cheneys is used to hammer home the preordained point that our selfish right-wing elites have become like Suetonius’s vulgar Julio-Claudians in devouring public resources, eroding our freedoms, and ruining our name and influence abroad. But even the non-classicist will finally bristle at such simplicity, replete as it is with references to the movies Spartacus and Gladiator and the video game Rome: Total War.
The predetermined conclusions govern the presentation of evidence. Murphy perhaps tips his hand at the very beginning by reminding us of a trip by George W. Bush to Europe to consult with allies. For Murphy, it was reminiscent of a Roman emperor on a visit to the northwest provinces — “a meeting, in other words, with the leaders of allied or subsidiary nations.” Yes, Europeans may voice such unhappiness with their postwar subordinate roles. But the idea that they are clients like Caesar’s conquered tribes doesn’t work too well in the classical sense because the autonomous EU has a larger population and economy than the U.S., and often acts collectively to thwart American ambitions and visions.
Murphy selects several areas for comparison — the capitals, the legions, the fixers, the outsiders, and the borders — mines his ancient and modern popular cultural referents, and then offers the cookie-cutter results. That Murphy is witty, writes well, is well versed in irony, and understands the excesses of American popular culture still does not mean that his conclusions are not mostly as superficial as they are predictable: “Rome displayed the attribute of any great capital with more hubris than humility: the overweening self-regard, the presumption that it knew better than others, the surprising ignorance about foreign cultures, the languid arrogance, the competitive displays of wealth . . .”
In truth, Rome knew far more about foreign nations than any one of them did about Rome. There was simply nothing comparable in Numidia, Parthia, or Germany to the anthropology evident in Caesar’s Gallic War, Sallust’s Jugurtha, Pliny’s Natural History, or the Germania and Agricola of Tacitus, which all reveal Rome’s near-obsession with the political and natural history of its neighbors.
When we get to the American side of that equation we unfortunately reach the same reductionism: “Dick Cheney’s travel requirements became public in 2006, revealing that when he entered a new hotel room he wanted all the television sets already turned on and tuned in to the ideologically congenial Fox News.” But that tidbit about the cause and effect between insular news and blinkered politics has about as much relevance to the notion of America as Rome as the fact that media spinners like Chris Matthews, Bill Moyers, George Stephanopoulos, and Tim Russert all came to their glamorous media craft from prior partisan-political careers.
Murphy’s military comparison should be more fertile, since — like Rome — we have an army that is relatively small, professional, and voluntary. Yet here too we get the same simplification — e.g., the observation that such nicknames of Roman legions as “Thunderbolt” (Legion XII Fulminata) conjure up our own “Iron Horse” (the 4th armored division), or the profound statement that “yesterday’s Conan the barbarian is Conan the contractor.”
About this last, it should be observed that all large militaries contract out services. The Ottoman fleet was run by renegade Italian admirals. The British 19th-century military ruled the world with a tiny force supplemented by indigenous hires. The French Foreign Legion is not much French. In fact, purely mass-conscription civic militaries — whether the Roman army that beat Hannibal or ours that defeated Hitler and Tojo — are rare in civilized history. More important, the current education level of the U.S. military now exceeds that of the general population. Its private contractors are subject to a level of official and media scrutiny unknown in Roman courts. The Pentagon operates under oversight unimaginable among Roman proconsuls.
For the similarities to Roman “fixers” we get most prominently Jack Abramoff and “the Republican contribution hierarchy” — again with not enough recognition that there is a tradition of criminal prosecution of such malefactors in the U.S. (of a kind unknown in Rome). Nor does Murphy stress enough that the contemporary problem of influence peddling inside the Beltway is bipartisan in nature — as we saw with the serial renting of the Lincoln Bedroom during the 1990s, the Department of Commerce–sponsored overseas junkets, or the pardoning of shady high rollers by the Clinton administration.
Oddly, in a far more introspective conclusion, Murphy settles down somewhat, and offers some thoughtful reasons we need not become an imperial Rome. Here, sounding more like a reverential Livy than a Petronius or Juvenal, he is absolutely right that the amazing American trait of self-reflection and criticism can correct the current malfeasance at home and lapses abroad in a way the imperial bureaucracy of Rome in its last centuries could not — if we remember how and why Americans are not, and should not be, Romans.
Mr. Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.
I used to love the Tintin books when I was little, in which the odd Belgian boy detective and his little dog travel the world, solving mysteries in exotic locales. Now, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson will be directing and producing these books for us, using "performance capture technology" and full 3-D! Here's an excerpt from the Variety article:
Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are teaming to direct and produce three back-to-back features based on Georges Remi's beloved Belgian comic-strip hero Tintin for DreamWorks. Pics will be produced in full digital 3-D using performance capture technology.
The two filmmakers will each direct at least one of the movies; studio wouldn't say which director would helm the third. Kathleen Kennedy joins Spielberg and Jackson as a producer on the three films, which might be released through DreamWorks Animation.
Tintin has long been a passion project for Spielberg; he and Kennedy have held various film rights to the comedic adventure book series off and on for more than 25 years. With the rights in place, Spielberg, Jackson and DreamWorks began quietly developing the project. Jackson has also long been a fan of the comic books.
Jackson's New Zealand-based WETA Digital, the f/x house behind "The Lord of the Rings" franchise, produced a 20-minute test reel bringing to life the characters created by Remi, who wrote under the pen name of Herge.
"Herge's characters have been reborn as living beings, expressing emotion and a soul which goes far beyond anything we've seen to date with computer animated characters," Spielberg said.
"We want Tintin's adventures to have the reality of a live-action film, and yet Peter and I felt that shooting them in a traditional live-action format would simply not honor the distinctive look of the characters and world that Herge created," Spielberg continued. . . .
Here are some of my favorite Tintins: