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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Saturday, December 30, 2006

THE DEAD TYRANT SKETCH

Apologies to Monty Python.
Jacques Chirac enters the UN

Mr. Chirac: Bonjour, I wish to register a complaint.

(The General Secretary does not respond.)

Mr. Chirac: 'Ello, Miss?

Kofi Annan: What do you mean "miss"?

Mr. Chirac: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!

Kofi Annan: We're closing for New Year's.

Mr. Chirac: Never mind zat, Mr. Secretary. I wish to complain about zis dictator that I purchased not long ago from zis very boutique.

Kofi Annan: Oh yes, the, uh, the Saddam Hussein...What's,uh...What's wrong with him?

Mr. Chirac: I'll tell you what is wrong with 'eem, he's dead, zat is what is wrong with 'eem!

Annan: No, no, he's uh,...he's resting.

Chirac: Mon cher, I know a dead tyrant when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Annan: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable fellow, the Baathist Thug, eh? Beautiful uniform!

Chirac: The uniform is of no consequence. 'e is stone dead.

Annan: Nononono, no, no! he's resting!

Chirac: Very Well zen, if 'e is restin', I'll wake 'eem up! (shouting at the body) hello, Mister Hussein! I've got a lovely fresh shipment of weapons-grade plutonium for you if you show...

(Kofi Annan bumps the body)

Annan: There, he moved!

Chirac: Mais no, 'e did not, zat was you nudging 'eem!

Annan: I never!!

Chirac: Yes, you did!

Annan: I never, never did anything...

Chirac: (yelling and nudging the body repeatedly) 'ELLO SADDAM!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! Zis is your nine o'clock alarm call!

(Thumps Hussein's head against the counter repeatedly, lets go and he slumps to the floor)

Chirac: Now zat is what I call a dead parrot.

Annan: No, no..... (thinks of something) No, he's stunned!

Chirac: STUNNED?!?

Annan: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Baathists shock and awe easily, Prime Minister.

Chirac: Um...now look...now look, General Secretary, I've definitely 'ad enough of zis. Zat tyrant is definitely deceased, and when I purchased 'eem not so long ago, you assured me zat 'es total lack of cooperation was due to ze Americans!

Annan: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the plastic shredders.

Chirac: PININ' for ze SHREDDERS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is zat?, look, why did 'e fall flat on 'ees back ze moment 'e was invaded?

Annan: The Baathist prefers lying on it's back! Remarkable fellow, isn't he? Lovely uniform!

Chirac: Look, I took ze liberty of examining zat dictator recently, and I discovered the only reason that 'e had been in dealing with me in ze first place was that it 'e was under your sanctions.

(pause)

Annan: Well, of course he was under sanctions! If we hadn't nailed that tyrant down, he would have been buying nuclear weapons, selling them to terrorists, you know the lot! Why, if he wasn't pining now he'd be off building WMD right now, Voom!

Chirac: "VOOM"?!? Mon cher, zis bird wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'e is tres demised!

Annan: No no! he's pining!

Chirac: 'E is not pining! 'e is passed on! Zis dictator is no more! 'E has ceased to be! 'E is expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E is a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If I 'adn't dragged 'im to zis shop 'e would be pushing up ze daisies! 'Ees metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E has hopped the twig! 'E 'as kicked ze bucket, 'e 'as shuffled off zis mortal coil, run down ze curtain and joined the choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-TYRANT!!

(pause)

Annan: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek behind the counter) Sorry sir, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh, we're right out of Iraqi dictators.

Chirac: I see. I see, I get the picture.

Annan: I got a North Korean.

(pause)

Chirac: Pray, does it talk?

Annan: Nnnnot so you can understand him.

Chirac: WELL IT IS 'ARDLY A REPLACEMENT, IS IT?!!???!!?

Annan: N-no, I guess not. (gets ashamed, looks at his feet)

Chirac: Well.

(pause)

Annan: (quietly) D'you.... d'you want to come back to my place?

Chirac: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.

Saddam Hussein has gone on to meet his final reward and face justice. May every Iraqi rest easier now and I'll see you all in 2007.
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Friday, December 29, 2006

HIKING BLUES

"The flood damage to trails and roads in Mt. Rainier National Park alone is $35 million."

Jefferson Wilderness
Although I'm not up to it any more, one of the greatest joys in my life once was to hike into the wilderness areas of Oregon and Washington. These are areas set aside where no motorized vehicles are allowed and no planes (other than emergency or military) can fly over. They are all but pristine, with light trails, no facilities, and very little maintenence. My personal favorite is the Jefferson Wilderness Area, which feels like... well it always felt like I was going home when I went there.

There's something about carrying all your goods on your back and walking in the awesome forests of the cascades, drinking unbelievably cold, astonishingly delicious water from a spring, and eating crappy freeze dried dinners that taste surprisingly good in the setting and altitude that is uplifting and wonderful. Hiking is one of the hobbies of the Northwest USA, one of the true blessings that we enjoy here. Particularly in Washington State hiking is incredibly popular, likely because the biggest cities are so close to the mountains.

From the Washington State Sound Politics blog, we get this story from disgruntled hiker Joel Connelly from a Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper column:
several destinations are now inaccessible because of damage from the 2003 and 2006 floods, and refusal by the Bush administration and Congress to put money into stewardship of America's public lands.
What angers Connelly most is the lack of federal funds (other people's money) to maintain the roads and trails that enhance his recreational experience. I enjoy hiking too, but those of us who choose to spend our leisure time in public parks should provide the primary support for these goods. It's a proper function of government to set aside and protect park land. But developing and maintaining the recreational infrastructure is better done through private initiative.
Commenters at the site had this to say:
Marion Mountain VistaI assume that these lands that Connelly is complaining about are all Federal land? Or is this another Nagin fiasco, blame the first R in the chain of command? It couldn't be Seattle's fault (D run). It couldn't be county property (D run). It obviously isn't state property (D run). Therefore all damage is to poorly maintained fed lands.

Pass the Bong!
-by Right Said Fred


With the cessation of logging on federal lands, or very little of it, there is now thousands of acres of National forest that no longer get care.

Buried inside those logging plans were repairs to roads/trails/bridges that were paid for from the proceeds of the timber sales.

Very few Federal Forest Timber sales come across my desk, maybe a handful a year. They are cumbersome because of regulations and contract stipulations, but also risky because they can be brought to litigation by any enviro group on a whim. They truly aren't worth the risk. They sell for bottom dollar compared to State Timber.

I suggest that Mr. Connelly snuggle up with a spotted owl, and enjoy the scenery he can hike to from his backyard. But it surely isn't BUSH's Fault. Joel might try the eco-terrorist and see if they are home, they might have a hiking stick he could borrow.............
-by Chris


Well by golly, you mean to say that our all powerful Senators and Democraticially contolled Congressional delegation aren't bringing home sufficent bacon to cover this! Outrageous! Better hold off on that earmark removal program. Why doesn't Maria and Patty simple tell the citizens of the State of Washington that they are not going to get to deduct any State Sales tax from their Federal Tax and then apply that money to Park Maintenance and Storm repair! Pay for play. Start hiking the entrance fees for Federal parks too just to be consistant. What's that? It's not popular with the greeny left? Can't have that now can we.
-by Huh?


Many years ago I worked on a Forest Service thinning crew. We we experimented with a new style management. We thinned out second and third growth forest to balance the types and sizes of trees, and to return the forest to a more natural state. Natural forest are much thinner than what we see in "managed" forests. They are more fire resistant, more frequent cooler fires burn out dead wood and undergrowth and germinate seeds. They are more flood, wash out resistant. The goal was to return the forest to a state closest to a natural growth forest then leave it alone, expect for approximately every 70 years allow selective logging.

The project was stopped....

By the Connely's friend and fellow travelers the ENVIRONMENTALISTS.
-by JCM


I have often wondered why some entitlemetnt nazi has not filed suit under the Americans With Disabilities Act because there are no wheel chair accessable routes up Rainier.
-by Huey


Gives new meaning to "sleeping with the press". No wonder Nickels gets such good press.

If anyone recalls, it was the Democrat- Bill Clinton - who did the roadless initiative. Bush did all he could to keep roads open. Sorry, Joel, your whine just doesn't cut it.

And now, SkyValley, or whatever name Murray calls it, is being made less accessible to us low lifes who aren't in as good a shape as Connely.
-by Swatter


Whoooaaaa

First of all State parks are State parks, not national parks. Your local state park was on a pay system ($5/vehichle) until they removed it. The parks I visited on the pay system where "honor pay" system. You grabbed an envelope and put your money in it. Little or no enforcement to pay before you went through the gate.

The Federal "National" parks are run by the feds, those guys in the brown shirts are the forest service. They are under staffed, and are on their way to extinction.

The National Parks were self suffiencant for decades, depending on timber harvest to pay for the upkeep and maintenance on those lands. Those same timber harvest's paid for all the recreation opportunies that we citizens of this great country enjoy. Now they are gone, no more timber sales, no more funding to improve, repair, or even maintain our federal forests.

Even the private organizations that try and improve via volunteers are limited to what truly needs to be accomplished. It has be almost 2 decades (20 years folks) since true stewardship of those lands have taken place.

I ask Conelly and others, why are we asking this question NOW? Why do we deserve this after years of neglect?

We reap what we sow......
-by Chris


A giant whiff on the point of his column.

Smirky McFlightsuit campaigned on how he was gonna fix the funding backlog in the parks. Then didn't do squat.

By the way, speaking of other people's money, how's that national debt doing? You know--the one that was up a paltry 49% about 3 weeks ago.
-by Jim
Actually, President Bush's budget did allocate more money for parks, but it is up to congress to pass or make the changes in question, so any failure is their fault, not President Bush's.

To a certain extent I sympathize with the desire for money and effort to be used to maintain and care for these sort of areas. At the same time, I'm always amazed when a hardcore environmentalist and Darwinist will shake their fist in anger and indignation when weather and natural forces change something they want left alone, and demand other peoples' money spent to make it all back the way it was, like a child who had to move to another area or who lost a pet. The massive efforts to maintain coastlines and beaches to prevent million-dollar homes from collapsing into the sea comes to mind.

Pamelia LakeThere are millions of Washingtonians who enjoy camping, hiking, and driving through the mountains and natural beauty of which their state has considerable bounty. I am more inclined for them to pay at least the bulk of the costs of maintaining it, rather than - say - Wyoming or Rhode Island. Call me silly.
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BLOGS AND INFORMATION

Go look at The Belmont Club for an excellent analysis of blogs and how information is processed in the modern age. Blogs are an excellent gateway for truth in the information war we now are engaged in (just ask Dan Rather or the Green Helmet Guy in Lebanon), and Wretchard has some very wise and discerning thoughts on how this should be best used. In his categories, I'm more a "thinker" blog, although this site sort of defies categories most of the time.

Seriously, go read what he has to say and the comments afterward. I can't add anything to it and there are too many good comments to pick out just a few to reflect here.

RUE BRITANNIA

"They don't call him Red Ken for nothing."

Mayor Livingston
Fidel Castro is said to be doing better, according to a European doctor (who came to the island that claims it has the best health care system in the world) that has been caring for the brutal dictator of Cuba. Like most news out of a communist dictatorship, it is difficult to know what is true and what is not. What we do know is true is that in three years, it will be the 50th anniversary of the communist revolution that took over Cuba with no small amount of bloodshed. I doubt Fidel will be around to celebrate.

London Mayor Ken Livingston has decided this is a great thing to celebrate, and has 2009 planned out with a huge bash to commemorate the rebellion.
The event, to be staged in 2009, will involve street parties, sports venues and some of London's leading museums as well as the closure of Trafalgar Square.

Although the Mayor's office refused to provide budget estimates, it could cost up to £2 million.

The festival was agreed on the Mayor's controversial trip to Cuba last month.
Others considered this a bizarre and foolish waste of money.
"Forking out to celebrate a totalitarian regime is a choice that most Londoners will find bizarre," said Angie Bray, leader of the Conservative group on the London Assembly.

"The Mayor associates himself with some of the most odious people around and it's Londoners who are being asked to pay out. Sooner or later, there will be a reckoning."
Although this should come as no surprise to most readers, Cuba is not exactly a nice place since the communists took over. The London Daily Mail continues, describing how the world views Cuba:
According to human rights organisations, Cuba is one of two countries in the Americas (the other being Haiti) where political freedom is completely curtailed. The British Government singles out Cuba as one of only two Latin American states which is of "major human rights concern".

There are 33 countries in the Americas. The bi-partisan US foundation, Freedom House, classifies 22 of them as "free", nine as "partly free", and two, Cuba and Haiti, as "not free.

Political parties, other than the Communist Party, are prohibited in Cuba, as are free trade unions. Freedom of expression is banned and, according toAmnesty International, there are 70 prisoners of conscience.

There is no press freedom and Cuban citizens are not allowed to travel freely - they are also affected by a US economic blockade.

Severe racism against Cuba's black minority is reported by human rights monitors.
In response, Ken parroted the party line out of Cuba about health care, literacy, and sports. Babalu Blog picked up this story and while too weary of adulation of the brutal thug Fidel to be shocked, Val Prieto still found the story "Unbelievable." Commenters responded:
Totally sick. Who ever heard of celebrating a total failure? And a bacchanalia of violence? Livingstone is out of his pinhead mind.
-by A.M. Mora y Leon


If this is not some sort of sick joke, it might as well be. This Livingstone clown can't possibly be that far gone, or rather, the city of London can't possibly go along with such an obscene farce. Still, the mere consideration of such an abomination is more than bad enough. If the Cuban tragedy teaches anything, is that the world is full of vile SOB's, and that the only people who will ever really get Cuba out of the hole are Cubans themselves.
-by asombra


Ken Livingstone is 100% capable of this. And London is certainly cabable of going along with it -- they elected him!
-by Scott
Scott is right, this is Mr Livingston's second term as Mayor of London, and as patron of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and member of the Society of Socialist Economists he's made no secret of his politics and extreme leftwing leaning. So much so that he's known as "red" Ken Livingston, an avowed Trotskyite. Here are a few tidbits from Red Ken's thinking:
“World wide capitalism kills more people everyday then Hitler did. And he was crazy.”

“Under foreign occupation and denied a right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs ... I suspect that if it had happened here in England we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves.”

“But I don't just denounce suicide bombers. I denounce those governments which use indiscriminate slaughter to advance their foreign policy.”
Tim Blair pointed out that although this huge celebration of a brutal dictatorship being born in an island paradise after 50 years of tyranny and misery for the people living there, there is so far no plan for any major celebration of the three hundredth anniversary of Great Britain next year.
But beyond striking a commemorative £2 coin and staging an exhibition in the House of Lords, there are no plans for anything more celebratory south of the border. By contrast, £20m is being spent on commemorating the abolition of slavery, which will also be marked by a £2 coin.

The Scottish parliament is organising a series of events involving schools, museums and galleries.

Patricia Ferguson, the Scottish minister of culture, said the union was a pivotal moment in Scottish history, and it was important to recognise the anniversary.

But when the Earl of Caithness asked how the Government planned to mark the event, Lord Davies, a minister, replied that he was not aware of any plans beyond the commemorative coin. Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering, received a similar reply in the Commons.
Anniversary of the revolution in Cuba? Perfect chance for a multi million-pound celebration. Great Britain founded in 1707? Eh, stamp a coin. What is confusing is that a leftist like Mayor Livingston would so love a country where they jail homosexuals, prohibit trade unions, and is condemned so heartily by so many different left leaning organizations for its egregious human rights violations. That is, confusing until you realize that every communist believes that you have to break a hundred thousand eggs to make the perfect omelet.

Sure, its miserable but it's Communist, so it's better than that eevil capitalism, and why if there are problems, that's just temporary until the worker's paradise is realized. Besides, it's all the fault of the United States, anyway, just listen to Fidel's speeches!

Also on WATN:

Quote of the Day

"The plural of anecdote is not data."
-Frank Kotsonis
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Thursday, December 28, 2006

DRAFT COSTS


"Rangel has guts and shrewdness. He lacks wisdom, circumspection and a love of country."

There is a tendency of some to reduce everything to a category they most are interested in. Walter Williams is one of those, as a professor of economics, he tends to view everything in terms of economic pressures and activity, reducing every analysis to this area. Since it is his area of expertise, this works well for a column, but at times it seems forced.

However, in the case of his most recent column on the draft, it was a fascinating analysis and a take I'd not considered. Dr Williams looked at the (yet again) proposed draft by Democrats in congress. He calls it "confiscation of labor services."
The Defense Department can get all the military personnel it wants on an all-volunteer basis; it could simply raise wages. Indeed, there exists a wage whereby even I would volunteer my services.

The draft is needed when the military wants to pay soldiers wages lower than those earned in the non-military sector of our economy. When we did have a draft, as in 1950s, look at who was and was not drafted. The commander in chief at that time, President Dwight Eisenhower, wasn't drafted. Neither were members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Generals and other high-ranking officers weren't drafted. Who was drafted? Recruits, and it's not hard to understand why. A newly inducted recruit's pay was $68 a month. The pay of the commander in chief, Joint Chiefs of Staff, generals and other officers were many multiples higher than a recruit's pay. It's not difficult to understand why drafting recruits was necessary.
Basically he's extending the point that the draft is effectively slavery: you are forcing people against their will and without the ability to quit to work for you. The pay is lower than what would draw some people to the military of their own accord. Thus, the people who join the military are doing it out of a desire to serve. This, plus the fact that an all-volunteer military is the most effective and powerful in the world gives good reasons for the draft to be utterly pointless and destructive. Commenters respond:
Sadly, thanks to George W. Bush and his minions in Congress, we will have to ultimately reinstate the draft. Such is the magnitude of the disaster of this Presidency and his war.

And without any deferments, the President and members of Congress who support articles of War, will have to consider the very real possibility that their children will be placed in harm’s way. (Bush the Elder had no problem voting to send other children to die in Viet Nam while using his connections to make sure W. was..... where was W. during Viet Nam, again – I keep forgetting.)

While our sons and daughters are dying (for what reason, again – I keep forgetting), the Bush twins are partying in Argentina, yet the British royal family has always been active in the military service of their country.

Gird your loins, neo-cons! History will brutalize George W. Bush.
-by Elisabeth


I usually agree with Dr. Williams but I think he has his economics a little skewed. If I leave my $400 a month taxi driver job for the $68 monthly in the military, I am losing $332 a month in cash but much of what that would go for is provided by the military, so my net loss is far less than that. Moreover, society doesn't lose a taxi driver @ $400 monthly, a different person will be hired to do the job. IF that person leaves a job because it pays less, then he benefits by my being in the military. I suspect society's net loss is far less than mine.
-by drjeckyll
The draft is a terrible idea for a host of reasons, as I've noted in the past. Even Charles Rangel thought his own bill was a bad idea, as he voted against it in 2004.
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CONSTITUTIONAL TYRANNY

...the only people who can stop them are the victims of their offenses, and like a battered wife they keep rewarding their assailants.

Arrogant Politician
One of the dirty secrets of the United States government is that ultimately although the people are said to be in charge, they are actually all but powerless. The founding fathers understood this, and that's why they were not only strong on the 2nd amendment (a government must at least somewhat fear an armed populace), but on virtue (a virtuous public and government will avoid corruption and violating the laws). They knew that the government could run roughshod over the citizens if they chose to and the citizens could do little about it.

That's partly why Thomas Jefferson thought regular revolution was a healthy thing for the country, to keep the government frightened and accountable. It doesn't really work in France, but the concept is plausible at least.

Out of Massachusetts we get this gem, courtesy Whizbang:
In Massachusetts, the Constitution spells it out: if enough citizens sign petitions for a Constitutional amendment, the legislature MUST convene in a Constitutional Convention and vote on it. If they want to defeat it, they have to muster a 3/4 vote to shoot it down. But if the number of lawmakers voting in favor of it exceeds 1/4, even by a single vote, then it goes on the next statewide ballot. (Well, actually it has to do this twice, but you get the idea.)

A little while ago, though, some legislator with more brains than scruples found a loophole: while the Constitution requires that they vote, there is absolutely no mechanism whatsoever to enforce that decree. All they have to do is simply "run out the clock" on their legislative session without voting, and what the Founders intended to require a 3/4 vote to achieve becomes a simple majority. Abra cadabra, they've rewritten the state's Constitution without having to bother with the whole rigamarole of actually amending it!
The problem here is that congress cannot be forced to do anything except by their honor and dignity and a sense of responsibility and virtue. Yes, the law orders them to do so, but what can you do if they refuse? What is the penalty of failing to obey this law? Penalties not laid out in the Constitution, they are simply commanded to take action.
The governor is furious. He can call the legislature into session, but he cannot compel them to vote on the matter. And his term expires at the same instant theirs do, so when they "run out the clock" on the amendment, they do the same to him. He's threatening their pay raises, but that's pretty much the extent of his ability to sway them.

He sought the assistance of the Supreme Judicial Court, but they were of no help. They issued an opinion saying that the legislators were clearly violating their Constitutional duties and oaths, but said there wasn't a damned thing anyone could do about it.
In fact, here's an excerpt of their opinion -- and it's an amazing admission to place in a court ruling:
Beyond resorting to aspirational language that relies on the presumptive good faith of elected representatives, there is no presently articulated judicial remedy for the Legislature's indifference to, or defiance of, its constitutional duties.
Let me sum it up briefly: the only group in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts that can exert any influence over the Legislature and compel them to actually obey the state Constitution, in accordance with their oaths to do so, are the people themselves, through elections.
In order to get this law changed or set up some sort of penalties the legislature is the body that has to do it. In other words, they can simply ignore the law and shrug at anyone who disagrees. What will people do, vote them all out? Not likely, and even if they did, what's to stop the next legislature from doing the same thing? Nothing. Commenters responded:
Jay, I am more and more amazed at what the people let happen. The older you are the more you see it.
-by WildWillie


You know, if you look at the history of the U.S. since the early 1900's, you'd be less surprised. We've been through worse in this country. Consider:

1. Government has a controlling interest in your money. If you do not submit to the government each year (or quarter) exactly what you've been doing with your money, you go to jail. Furthermore, if you don't pay over a government determined percentage of that money, you go to jail.

2. Government has a controlling interest in your children. If you do not send your children to one of the government approved schools, the government will take your children away, and likely as not, you'll go to jail.

3. Government has a controlling interest in your health. You can put into your body only what the gov't deems appropriate.

And this is just the 1900's. Think about it! This is why I always laugh when the crowd comes out to scream that they can no longer make international phone calls to Mohammad Al-Jihad without being investigated.

So it doesn't surprised me, especially, that a left-leaning state like Massachusettes is moving to the point of eliminating the "voters" altogether. Leaning to the left has nothing to do with freedom-- they just burn different witches at their witch trials.
-by Gringo

"and like a battered wife they keep rewarding their assailants"
That's the same way I feel about the poor blacks who are trapped in the "Great Society" (a.k.a. inner city slums) who continue to vote 90% or more for the people who created the trap the poor are stuck in and continue to perpetuate and improve it.

A good example of this is related to Gringo's #2 point, which is not an entirely valid point in my opinion. It's not valid because you do not need to send your children to "government approved schools", you merely need to assure that they are educated.

Now the poor do have no choice but to send their kids to whatever school the government wants them to go, thanks to the democrats (so Gringo's point is valid in that single case). Thanks to the democrats, only the wealthier citizens can have their children educated where ever they please.
-by P. Bunyan


Hold on a sec now... could I get away with sending my kids to the Little Racist's School of Hilterian Thought, or would someone intervene? Just to make a point.

For instance, I don't think I could send my kids to an apprenticeship at a pharmacy to get them educated-- it would accomplish a lot for them, but it wouldn't be a government approved form of education.
-by Gringo


GOOD for the courts! They can see Mitt's ridiculous political ploy for what it is. GARBAGE!!! Mass is a liberal state and no amount of crackpot christianity is going to change that. People here support gay marriage almost two to one. If you don't like it, MOVE!
-by Liam
Here we see the ideology behind this position. The constitutional amendment in question? It defines marriage as one man, one woman. The response of those who disagree? Break the law, violate the constitution, and the hell with you if you don't like it. Is it illegal? Who cares, as long as it is Politically Correct (as in conforms to the proper political position) Commenters went on...
Liam, if 2/3 of the people of the state support gay marriage, why the hell are they fighting so hard to deny those people the chance to vote against it? That would kill the matter for good, wouldn't it?

If I lived there (shudder), I would vote against the ban. But I am appalled by the utter perversion of the established process being done.
-by Jay Tea



But haven't state courts in the past ruled that legislatures must act. For example, to provide funding for schools, or forcing school districts to bus students to non-neighborhood schools?

It sure seems their 'restraint' only applies to issues they disagree with.
-by Steve Sturm
It is striking to me the gross lack of integrity the left shows in too many positions. Take Joe Biden recently, who just last year was calling for more troops in Iraq, now has announced that congress under Democrat control will fight to "undercut"... the increase of troops in Iraq that President Bush has proposed. This position isn't based on any real desire for what is right or anything other than political opposition. When you reject the very concept of absolute right and wrong, then anything becomes right, if you choose for it to be.
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MILESTONES

There has been some discussion on blogs lately about the press-hyped "Grim Milestone" of the number of US casualties passing the number that died in 9/11's terrorist attacks. The implication seems to be that we've crossed some ghastly rubicon and now it's not worth it any more. As others have pointed out, we crossed that line from Pearl Harbor hundreds of times over by the time WW2 was over.

The problem is one of missing the point here. If what we're doing in the war on terror is right, then the deaths, though horrible and sad, are worth it to end the evil we fight and prevent worse casualties in the future. If it's not right, than the number of deaths is irrelevent, because what we're doing is wrong. In other words: if you look at the number of deaths as your system of decisionmaking, what you are doing is similar to judging how well a baseball game went by how much popcorn was bought.

Either these men and women are fighting and dying for a just cause or they are not, that's the key point and the point that is being skipped by many commenters and the news. The presumption, sadly, is often that it is obviously wrong and unjust.

And really, other than my deepest sympathy for the families and friends who suffer from the pain of loss due to these deaths and my deepest gratitude for their sacrifice "on the altar of freedom" as Abraham Lincoln puts it, I don't have anything else to say on this topic.

*UPDATE: at the American Thinker, Herbert Meyer suggests that everyone needs to reinstall their thinking on Iraq instead of repeating the same lines over and over without listening or thinking about what's being said. Great advice, but it's never really been about Iraq for most people. It's been about politics at home and the President.
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ROCK ON

"Wanna see my smilin' face/On the cover of the Rolling Stone"

How well do you remember your classic album covers? Back when we played records, the covers were huge and easy to see, CDs don't have quite as much space to enjoy the artwork on. Artists and studios like Hipgnosis and Roger Dean produced amazing, memorable covers like Dark Side of the Moon (for Pink Floyd) and Fragile (for Yes).

There's a website that has a quiz, showing parts of covers for you to guess the artist and disc, my brother and I got about half of them. Here are some samples:

Take a look at the Planet Rock Album Quiz, maybe you can do better than we managed.
*UPDATE: errr, yes, perhaps a link would help...
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Quote of the Day

"This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer."
-Will Rogers
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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

BRITS YOU SHOULD KNOW

"The Times Is already moaning about the omission of Winnie and Thatch"

According to the Tories (the more conservative party of England), there are some Brits that everyone ought to know about. They picked a list of twelve key figures:
Saint Columba, Alfred the Great, Henry II, Simon de Montfort, James IV of Scotland, Thomas Gresham, Oliver Cromwell, Isaac Newton, Robert Clive, Sir Robert Peel, Millicent Fawcett and Nye Bevan.
Some of these names (many, perhaps) may be a bit obscure to many readers, so follow the links for more details. Simon de Montfort for example founded the first British Parliament, Alfred the Great drove out the Norse invaders from and founded a unifed England, and Thomas Gresham was the man who founded the Royal Exchange (the British stock market).

Over at Harry's Place in the UK, Graham asked the commenters there about this list "who do you think that everyone living on this "precious stone set in the silver sea" really needs to know about, and why?" and they suggested a few:
No writers, poets or artists on the list. All very 'Tory' funnily enough, except for Nye Bevan of-course. As you say, peculiar that Winston Churchill has been left off, when he is so highly regarded by many, especially older people.
-by Sue R

Yeah, what on earth did Winston Churchill ever do for Britain? Not like Nye Bevan (if you're going to thank anyone for the NHS, thank the US for picking up our defence spending (and everyone else's in Europe) tab)or a poet like Michael Rosen or a spokesman for the down-trodden like George Galloway. Now I put my historical memory somewhere...
-by K

'That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.'
Nye Baevan, speech on 3 July 1948 at the Bellevue Hotel, on eve of the entry into force of the National Health Service.
-by Nick Cohen


Thomas Paine. Worth knowing about in his own right imo - Might also be some use for introducing critical thinking to the schoolkids.
-by Jon d


Glad they chose Dame Millicent Fawcett to represent female emancipation, rather than the vain, corrupt and tyrannical Mrs Pankhurst, whose hooligan efforts did so much to impede the Cause.

The most important Scot of modern times, beyond question, was John Reith. Indeed in the perspective of time he may come to be seen as the most influential Briton of the 20th century- more so than Churchill, whose aims of preserving the British Empire and preventing the Cold War came to dust, and who shackled us to the USA to our lasting detriment.
-by Union Jock
I too was baffled by the omission of Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, and many others. Perhaps these figures were deemed so very well-known already that they were not needed on a list of Brits people ought to know. Given the shoddy and notoriously poor quality of the grossly socialist National Health Service (Nye Baevan's contribution) I'm amazed to see him on a Tory list, myself. William Tyndale and George Orwell were other suggestions, as were Archbishop Cranmer, Benjamin Disraeli, John Locke, Henry VIII, and Queen Victoria. Many people suggested Charles Darwin, but along with guys like Freud I'd list him in the "will end up in history's ash heap for being so destructive to culture and civilization" category. Some even suggested the Beatles, for reasons I cannot fathom - likely similar to the fascination with Princess Diana.

The list was compiled by David Willetts, who said the list was "neither definitive nor exhaustive". Instead, it should "provoke thought and debate" and highlight the need for more "narrative history".
"The loss of national memory means a loss of national identity. Britain needs to be one country - and this means that all British people must share a knowledge and understanding of the events which have made us what we are as a people."
As readers of this blog should know, I agree with this concept, and wish it to be applied to America as well - the real history, real people, and real events, not the "narrative" that some PC professor wants to impose on them. Because that's what real conservatism is: knowing the past and taking the strengths and good from it to continue with today.
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MAIL FROM BEYOND

"The children of mammon are wiser in their generation..."

PRP header
One of the things that fascinates me is the way some people can come up with a way to make money from anything. Whenever there's a new trend or popular thing, people come up with moneymaking schemes based on that popularity, such as selling virtual gold from World of Warcraft.

Now we get this scheme from Post Rapture Post:
Do you know someone who is in danger of being `left behind' because of a sinful life? Imagine if you could write a letter to a friend or loved one after the Great Day of Reckoning. Maybe a message to your family telling them to trust in God, and that everything will be okay. Perhaps you would leave instructions to care for your pets after your departure. It could be that your message is the light that opens a sinner's eyes to the Glory of God and allows them entrance to Heaven during the trials before the Second Coming. This is where the Post-Rapture Post comes in.

Just write your letter and it will be hand-delivered immediately following the exodus of the pure from the Earth. But you must be thinking to yourself, "How can the letters be delivered after the Rapture?" The answer is simple. The creators of this site are Atheists. That's right, we don't believe in God. How else would we be able to deliver your correspondence after the Rapture?
This calls to mind people who buy land, clothes, cars and such from people who are certain Jesus is coming on x date (despite Jesus clearly stating nobody knew when the day was) at cut-rate prices (or just taking them as gifts). Kim Riddelbarger of the White Horse Inn had this on his blog, and commenters there had this to say:
That is hilarious. I wish I'd thought of it. Of course, my disclaimer would be more "I'm an amillenial Presbyterian...."
-by Nathan


You got to be kidding! If Jesus comes back for the church them what message can one leave, it is over that is it. It is too late for watering your plants, or worrying about your pets or loved ones who have not been called. As harsh as it may sound, When Jesus comes back we won't care about the former things like stuff left behind or have time to worry about any body as we well be worshiping the king of kings. If any unbelievers are left them woo to them for judgment for their life is to come. No time to save people after Christ return that is what we are supposed to be doing now! If we don't evangelize now then all we can do is watch what the Lord does when He returns as that is it no second chances.
-by timinator


My Preterist friend sends me post-parousia letters all the time. I just got a Christmas card from him.
-by Rick B.


My question is, how many Jenkinites or Lahayeites have actually signed up for this. I'll bet those boyz will have a Beemer inside of a year.

BTW...I'm thinking of having a Rapture practice website. Kind of an on line excercise course for Pre Mil, Pre tribbers to keep fit?? Just a thought.
-by Angelz


That's the nuttiest thing I've ever heard of.
-by BrianR
I take a somewhat less amused approach to this: these atheists are mocking Christians, and likely are of the kind that think the majority if not all Christians are of the "left behind"/Tim Lahay style. The fact is, most aren't, even if a majority in the United States might be. Just a peek at their Frequently Asked Questions page gives a hint of their attitude, it is entitled "God Hates FAQs." They further gleefully write their sins and go on with mockery in the "who can I write to" section with this:
It may not be worth it to write to George W. Bush or his administration, as it is clear that he will be one of the first to go to Heaven when Jesus comes to tend to his flock.
The cost for this letter? $4.99 to $799 dollars. This sort of preying on the gullible and mockery of faith - a view of prophecy I happen to disagree with - is disgusting to me. I do not share the amusement of the Riddelblog's readers.
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GRADING BRADY

"It is quite interesting to see an advocacy group impeached by its own grading system."

Kitty GenoveseWhen President Reagan was shot, would-be assassin John Hinkley jr's rapid firing sprayed the crowd with bullets resulting in the death of one Secret Service agent and press secretary James Brady being paralyzed. Brady was a strong 2nd amendment advocate, in favor of ownership and training with guns for individual citizens for a variety of reasons, but his distraught wife held a different opinion, soon apparently shared by James Brady.

After the shooting, Mrs Brady took her case to congress, and formed the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was lobbied for in congress, which required a 5-day waiting period and background check before the purchase of a gun. Since the waiting period ended and the gun could be purchased even if the background check had not been completed in that time period, many stores simply didn't bother with it, and the act effectively became simply a waiting period. In 1998, the Brady Law's 5-day waiting period requirement expired and was replaced by the NICS computerized background check system.

One significant loophole to this system is the "gun show" which is more properly the "private seller" loophole. Only organized, official gun sellers have to use the system to check backgrounds, individual or private sellers do not. If I sold you my dad's old army 45, I don't have to do a background check.

Over the years, the Brady family and organization has become a leader in the effort for gun control, and any time a terrible event happens involving guns, they have a statement ready for the press. Every year, the Brady Center grades locations and states by how strict their gun control laws are or how closely they adhere to the Brady Center recommendations. This information was taken by Denton Bramwell and compared to gun violence and violent death rates in the states in question (pdf file).

In other words, he looked at how effective these laws were at reducing gun violence and deaths in the states, comparing violence to grades. Over at Of Ams & the Law blog, the report was examined:
If Brady's report cards made any sense (that is, if the legal measures it wants enacted, the type of thing that earns an A grade), then there should be some correlation between grades and violent crime and murder rates. The paper concludes that there is no such correlation at all. At each grade level, states' homicide/violence rates range from low to high, and there is no evidence of any correlation between grades and homicide rates at all. A regression analysis indicated that the relation between Brady grade and crime rate was no better than you would get by running random pairs of data, plucking grades and crime rates out of the air.
Mr Bramwell's study indicates that the states with good grades did not see a reduction in gun violence, often the opposite. In fact, the numbers of violent crimes and deaths seemed to show absolutely no correspondence to the gun laws at all, the results were almost what you'd get if you randomly assigned numbers. He puts it this way:
Those of you with an intense interest in statistics may want to know that I also did a regression analysis on the data just to verify the tale of the graphs. The correlation between your state’s Brady grade, and its actual murder or violent crime rate is absolutely no better than you would get if you ran pairs of random numbers through the analysis.

In short, your chances of being killed, raped, or assaulted are, on average, no better, and no worse, in states that got the coveted Brady A or A-, than they are in states that got a D or an F. If the laws the Brady Campaign favors were very successful in combating violence, you could not possibly get this result.
Commenters at Arms & the Law responded to this report:
Another interesting result is the grade the Bradys have assigned to Washington DC. The last time I checked the Brady Campaign web site on this issue( www.stategunlaws.org), the District was graded only a B+. According to the Brady Bunch, DC doesn't do better because
"Congress has authority to repeal DC's gun laws." and "The Police Chief has discretion" about issuing concealed carry permits.

Does anyone know of anyone who has a DC concealed carry permit?

For most of us on the pro-self-defense side, the District should get an A+ from the Brady Camapaign, based on its restrictive gun laws.

Or is it possible that the Bradys simply cooking their grading system to account for the fact that the District, where the law-abiding are defenseless against criminals, is one of the most violent places in the US?
-by Andrew Frechtling


Here's how the six New England states stacked up, using 2004 numbers.

Shocking, I know.
-by Bruce


That comparison of the six New England states is kind of silly. Not only is the sample too small to tell anything, but it's basically comparing urban vs. rural states. It leaves one with the impression that more gun control correlates with more violent crime, when in fact Bramwell has it right: more or less gun control doesn't have a significant effect on violent crime rates. However, the size and density of metro areas most definitely does correlate with violent crime (MA has the largest, densest cities in New England; ME and VT don't really have cities, and NH only kinda does).
-by Cos


I beg to differ with your assertion that "comparison of the six New England states is kind of silly" The statistics clearly say that they account for variations in population. The numbers showed violent crime per 100,000 in population.

It is apples to apples. To say density makes all the difference is not borne out by comparing all metropolitan areas with high population density.

In my view it is reasonable to compare MA to neighboring NH; even more so that it would be to compare Boston to San Diego for example.
-by 1894C
The data is as follows: urban centers are higher in crime, including violent gun crimes. Gun control laws are often enacted to try to reduce this gun crime, but does not seem to have any effect positive or negative. The data is not inconclusive, it points to one conclusion: gun control laws aren't actually having their intended effect. More or less gun control does not actually reduce the amount of gun crime or violent deaths caused by firearms.

Why not? The most glaring reason is one that is well-illustrated by the tragic Columbine High School incident where young men wearing long coats took automatic weapons to school and murdered fellow students. Cries for greater gun control were sounded around the nationa and Michael Moore made the deliberately deceptive Bowling for Columbine movie trying to show that it was lack of gun control that was the issue at stake.

Except all those guns were already illegal, doubly so for minors. As were the criminal acts of planting bombs and killing people. Making laws against an act does not prevent people from breaking those laws, it simply punishes them for doing so. Criminals, by their very definition, are not going to be swayed by laws against an act or they would not be criminal to begin with. Thus, tougher gun laws are not going to prevent criminals from having and using guns any more than tougher theft laws prevents thieves from stealing your jewelry.

The root cause, the reason gun crime and murder takes place is not being addressed by these laws, thus, they do not reduce the gun crimes and murder rate. In order to do something about these horrible crimes, one must address the actual reason they are done, not the devices used in their undertaking.

In short, the Brady Center is using the three step Underpants gnome system of decisionmaking (from the comedy show South Park)
  1. Collect Underpants
  2. ???
  3. Profit!
There's a step missing and a presumed (hoped) result, they aren't taking the needed steps to see that their goals are met by their efforts. The basic root cause of murder and other crime is not a lack of stringent enough laws, but a lack of virtue in citizens, both the criminals and the society they dwell in. It's obvious that a lack of virtue in criminals leads them to criminal and wrong behavior, but society and our behavior and attitude toward crime and criminals is a significant factor as well.

William HortonThere is a line in the movie Batman Begins, where the bad guy says something very wise and true: "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding." A society that either looks away Kitty Genovese-style or is indulgent of criminals in a William Horton "furlough" program, criminals are not being treated in a just manner. The idea here is not to stone criminals to death upon a single accusation, but to be strict, fair, and consistent in punishment and have a society that will not tolerate or defend criminals and thugs.

Every one of us has a duty and a responsibility toward each other to not look away when crime or evil happens, and to act to prevent it. We further have a duty and responsibility to treat crime and the ones who commit them as fellow human beings, but criminals who deserve punishment, not mistaken people who fell in with the wrong friends in need of kindly rehabilitation.

We need laws, and I have no problem with a background check on gun purchases. I'm fine with restricting access to military weapons and with even registering firearms if the local people decide that's what they want. We simply have to understand that laws are not the instrument of change, peace, or civilization; they are one of the tools to maintaining said civilization.
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Quote of the Day

"Earth has a skin and that skin has diseases; one of its diseases is called man."
-Friedrich Nietzsche
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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

CARTOON FUN!

"With my spear and magic helmet..."

One of the joys of the modern Internet age is that unlike in years past when you had to spend hours and even weeks (and miles on your car and hundreds of dollars) to research some topics or information, it is all available with a few mouse clicks. Now instead of needing to hire a research service or go to the local library for data, I can use my computer and a few powerful search engines to pull up whatever I need, including billions of images on any topic whatsoever.

YouTube and similar sites have expanded on this significantly, adding video to the archives, so that an amazing array of different things can easily be pulled up and enjoyed on demand. Take, for instance, the top 50 cartoons as selected by the animation industry in 1994. Great stuff there, but outside of someone with an amazing personal collection or access to various studio archives, out of reach for most people until recently.

Now, the site Cityrag has compiled links to 44 of these cartoons for everyone to enjoy. For example, the classic What's Opera, Doc? With Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny doing their version of the ring cycle by Wagner. How about Der Fuhrer's Face from Disney, mocking Hitler? Or The Cat Came Back (which the lovable muppets did a great version of)? Check it out, all at the City Rag Blog.
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NO PEACE ON EARTH

"No Bush/Big Oil/Neocon connection, no story."

Regional Map
The US press hasn't paid too much attention to Somalia since the withdrawal of troops from there by President Clinton in 1995. The country has an interim government that is losing ground to the islamic radicals, particularly those in charge of the sharia courts after they took control of Mogadishu earlier this year. In 2002, Southwestern Somalia, comprising Bay and Bakool provinces declared itself "temporarily" autonomous, a condition that persists to this day with Baidoa being the effective capital. Another section of Somalia split off in 2006, declaring its self Jubaland.

The transitional government has requested peacekeepers from East Africa come to stabilize the country, but the Muslims who are trying to take over the country strongly oppose this step. The Union of Islamic Court leaders lobbied African Union member states in Libya to abandon plans to send peacekeepers to Somalia. According to US intelligence,
four al-Qaida leaders blamed for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania have become leaders in Somalia's Islamic militia
The UIC leaders claim Ethiopia plans to take over Somalia, and oppose any of them being present in the country, especially since the war between these two countries in 1977-1978. The Islamist Militia declared a jihad against the government of Ethiopia in October 2006.

At present civil war is feared in Somalia between forces backed by Ethiopia (such as the interim government) and Eritreans backing the Islamic forces. This month the Islamist Militia declared war on Ethiopia and started to attack the Ethiopian forces along the border, and portions of the Ethiopian army entered into Somalia.

Then on Christmas Eve, an Ethiopian strike force bombed targets in Somalia near Baidoa, and on Christmas, they bombed an airport in Mogadishu. The AP story goes on:
Ethiopian Information Minister Berhan Hailu said before Meles' announcement that Ethiopian soldiers were fighting alongside Somali government soldiers in Dinsoor, Belet Weyne, Bandiradley and Bur Haqaba.

Witnesses said a major road and an Islamic recruiting center were bombed in Belet Weyne, and 12 Ethiopian soldiers were reportedly captured nearby.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi went on television to announce that his country was at war with the Islamic movement that wants to rule neighboring Somalia by the Quran.

"Our defense force has been forced to enter a war to defend (against) the attacks from extremists and anti-Ethiopian forces and to protect the sovereignty of the land," Meles said a few hours after his military attacked the Islamic militia with fighter jets and artillery.

Meles has said his government has a legal and moral obligation to support Somalia's internationally recognized government. He also accuses the Islamic movement of backing ethnic Somali rebels fighting for independence from Ethiopia and has called such support an act of war.

Leaders of the Islamic militia have repeatedly said they want to incorporate ethnic Somalis living in eastern Ethiopia, northeastern Kenya and Djibouti into a Greater Somalia.
Africa at warOver at the Ace of Spades HQ, LauraW noted "Yeah. Patience is a really bad way to deal with people who spread their religion by the sword," and commenters responded:
Just one more example of how the US and Israel are causing all the problems in the Muslim world. If only those dam Israelis would give back Palestine, and the US would pull out of Iraq, the Somalis and Ethiopians could live in peace!
/sarcasm off
-by Tobias Magan


If this was a US strike, there would be the inevitable outcry about collateral damage and civilian deaths. An Ethiopian strike apparently gets a pass.
-by Geoff


Yes, but will they unleash the Secret Weapon?
-by See-Dubya


Geoff,

I too was surprised that the "eyewitness" to the attack said they were hitting roads and recruiting centers. The PR advisors from AQ have not arrived yet, or AP would be quoting "police Lt. Mohammed" that an orphanage and a mosque were hit with 100 women and children killed.
-by Aaron


I'm tempted to say we should back any country that is fighting psycho Islamic death cult terrorists. However, that's what our strategery was in the Cold War when our enemy was the USSR and global communism, and we ended up in bed with a number of disreputable characters, such as Anastasio Samoza and the Shah of Iran.

On the other hand, Jimmy Carter tried a foreign policy based on "human rights" and it was a complete and utter disaster. Thanks to his incompetence, Nicaragua was lost to the commies and Iran morphed into the first Islamic terrorist state

So my question is, must we then base our foreign policy on the lesser-of-two-evils Realpolitiking, or is there a better way?
-by OregonMuse


Unfortunately, this isn't a good guys vs. bad guys fight. Ethiopia has a hideous human rights record. See Link

There aren't that many good actors in this part of the world, but I side with them against the islamo-nutters on this one
-by Redhand


Read THIS blog post I wrote on Nov 19 and click the CJTF-HOA news link in it.

I think you'll notice that Kenya features prominently in many of the news stories.

Now look at a map of Kenya. You'll notice Kenya has borders with Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan (Sudan? Darfur?)

Now go read THIS post where I suggested we get heavily in bed with Ethiopia.

Ha, I am ****ing Nostradamus - I knew something was up over there over a month ago. The details don't all match, but I got the broad strokes dead on.
-by Purple Avenger

They are cowards," said Sheik Mohamoud Ibrahim Suley, an official with Somalia's Council of Islamic Courts. "They are afraid of the face-to-face war and resorted to airstrikes. I hope God will help us shoot down their planes."
If God doesn't help, will the Somalia's Council of Islamic Courts get the message?
-by Maggie


The Ethiopians fought Italian tanks with spears. Are the Islamic Courts sure they've thought this through?
-by Richard McEnroe
Just a week ago, Islamic Court leaders fled Somalia, apparently in a bold move to demonstrate their warrior spirits and stand by their followers in the jihad after the declaration of war on Ethiopia. Seems like they knew what was coming, and didn't want any part of it.

So now you know some of what's going on in Northeastern Africa. Sometimes it seems like that vast continent is doomed to constant misery and strife.
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Quote of the Day

'bout all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.
-by Will Rogers
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Monday, December 25, 2006

THE MAN

Here was a man a man who was born in a small village the son of a peasant woman
He grew up in another small village
Until he reached the age of thirty he worked as a carpenter
Then for three years he was a traveling minister
But he never traveled more than two hundred miles from where he was born
And where he did go he usually walked
He never held political office he never wrote a book never bought a home
Never had a family he never went to college and he never set foot inside a big city
Yes here was a man
Though he never did one on the things usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself he had nothing to do with this world
Except through the devine purpose that brought him to this world
While he was still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against him
Most of his friends ran away one of them denied him
One of them betrayed him and turned him over to his enemies
Then he went through the mockery of a trial
And was nailed to a cross between two thieves
And even while he was dying his executioners gambled
For the only piece of property that he had in this world
And that was his robe his purple robe
When he was dead he was taken down from the cross
And laid in a borrowed grave provided by compassionate friends
More than nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today he's a centerpiece of the human race
Our leader in the column to human destiny
I think I'm well within the mark when I say that all of the armies that ever marched All of the navies that ever sailed the seas
All of the legislative bodies that ever sat and all of the kings that ever reigned
All of them put together have not affected the life of man on this earth
So powerfully as that one solitary life
Here was a man
-Johnny Cash
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MERRY CHRISTMAS

To whoever drops by today, I hope that you have a blessed, joy-filled Christmas - unless you're from Australia and other parts West Pacific, in which case I hope you had one. Happy Boxing Day, then.

Gesëende Kersfees
Rehus-Beal-Ledeats
اجمل التهاني بمناسبة الميلاد و حلول السنة الجديد
Feliz Navidad
Շնորհավոր Ամանոր և Սուրբ Ծնունդ
Zorionak eta Urte Berri On!
Vesele Vanoce
Feliz Natal
весела коледа
З Божым нараджэннем
Bon Nadal i un Bon Any Nou
Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito
Sretan Bozic
Zalig Kerstfeast
Glædelig Jul
Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Ruumsaid juulup|hi
Hyvaa joulua
Joyeux Noel
Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier
Froehliche Weihnachten
Kala Christouyenna
Jwaye Nowel
ח� וכה שמח
शुभ खिसमस
გილოცავ(თ) შობა-ახალ წელს
Mele Kalikimaka
Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Gledileg Jol
Καλά Χριστούγεννα και Ευτυχισμένο το Νέο Ετος
Selamat Hari Natal
Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Nollaig Shona Dhuit
नवीन वर्षच्या हार्दिक शुभेच्छा
Buone Feste Natalizie
Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus
Linksmu Kaledu
IL-Milied It-tajjeb
Meri Kirihimete
God Jul
Boze Narodzenie
un Crăciun fericit
Сретан Божић и Сретна Нова Година
Sretan Bozic
Hristos se rodi
Mừng Chúa Giáng Sinh
Cestitamo Bozic
สุขสันต์วันคริสตร์มาส
Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
С Рождеством Христовым
vesele božične praznike
vesele vianoce
Chrismas joon wadhayoon
نايا سال مبارک هو

Merry Christmas (and happy new year) in various languages can be heard at this link! For the various languages I have transliterations of your Christmas wishes, I apologize, I could not find some in their proper text, but the sentiment remains.
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Saturday, December 23, 2006

SORRY, VIRGINIA

"Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus lane..."

In 1897, an Eight-year-old Virginia girl supposedly wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun asking if Santa Claus really existed.
DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O'HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
In response, the editor wrote a short column that has become more or less famous, the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history. Putting aside the unfortunate father's allegiance to a newspaper, this has always struck me as an odd episode. Even in an opinion piece, a newspaperman, especially an editor, is supposedly dedicated to the truth. At the very least, one would expect they are not inclined to knowingly and deliberately lying in their paper.

Santa Claus does not exist. We all know there is no magical elf riding a flying sleigh around the world drawn by 9 tiny reindeer, the lead of which has a glowing red nose. This is myth, a story we tell children but know is complete invention. To be sure, there is some fact behind the myth: there was a bishop named Nicholas who gave presents to the poor and had a festival near Christmas.

St NickHISTORY AND BACKGROUND
Nicholas lived in Asia Minor (Eastern Turkey today, the region known as Anatolia) and there are several stories about this man. He provided dowries for three prostitutes so they could marry (essentially buying them out of slavery) and is famous for giving gifts in secret (apparently not all that secret). Nicholas was part of the Council of Nicea, he supposedly struck the heretic Arius in the face and was removed from the council and jailed for the act. Also famous for defending the falsely accused, he was sainted for allegedly bringing back to life girls who had been hacked apart.

It is this Bishop Nicholas that many stories began to be built up around, and in the iconography for the man he was usually depicted with three golden orbs to represent the dowries for the three girls he rescued from prostitution which are at times mistaken for oranges. The feast of St Nicholas is December 6th, and was traditionally a children's festival, involving gift-giving and candy. From this developed slowly the corruption of Saint Nicholas until the Dutch version Sinterklaas became Santa Claus. Bishop Nicholas had a long white beard and white hair, but was not fat, he was rather skinny - iconography was very stylized but also was very strictly passed down as accurate depictions of the various saints.

One by one various elements of the myth built up over the years, such as the red and white suit from the Bishop's winter mitre and cape worn for holidays. The chimney and stockings came from legends such as this much-tamed variant on how the prostitute girls got their dowries:
A nobleman who lived with his three daughters had fallen on hard times. The daughters had no chance of marriage, since their father could not pay their dowries.

One night, St. Nicholas threw a sack of gold through a window of the nobleman's shabby castle, which was enough for one daughter's marriage. The next night, he tossed another sack of gold through the window for the second daughter.

But on the third night, the window was closed. So, St. Nicholas climbed onto the roof and dropped the sack down the chimney. The next morning, the daughters found the gold in the stockings they had hung to dry by the fireplace.

Hence leaving the stockings out for Santa Claus.
Clement MooreIt was in 1822 that the poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" was written by Clement Moore for his children, which more or less formalized the myth of Santa Claus, who was gladly appropriated by stores for a more commercial-friendly hook than a humble, poor baby who came to save us from sins such as greed. Santa Claus also was an acceptable atheist replacement for Christian stories, it gave non Christian children a figure to celebrate and a reason for the holiday without needing that pesky Jesus in the picture.

Famous cartoonist Thomas Nash drew a picture of Santa Claus as a rotund man for Conde Nast magazine, and the image for some reason stuck - perhaps because a jolly fat guy is more approachable and less intimidating to children than a thin Bishop. In Europe however, Father Christmas is always portrayed as thin.

TODAY'S PARENTS
It is almost ubiquitous that parents in America and other nations tell their young children the myth of Santa Claus with all the usual trappings: stockings hung out (although we have electric driers to dry our clothes now), cookies set out for the elf, pictures of Santa all over, songs about him and the reindeer, and so on. The children are told that Santa is quite real, if anyone asks, like Virginia, the parents insist that the stories are true, that Santa Claus is a real elf who really uses magic to fly around the world on one night and give all kids their presents. That there are really 9 tiny reindeer who live on the north pole and can fly.

This is as opposed to stories like the tooth fairy and the Lion King, where children are amused and entertained by the wonder of fantasy and talking animals, where the joy of various tales such as Cinderella are presented as just that: stories. Parents don't insist that the Little Mermaid was real, or that My Little Pony really exists in a far away land of rainbows. But Santa Claus? Parents get mad when someone says he's not real. A school for small children recently came under fire in England for daring to issue a worksheet that said "many small children believe in Father Christmas" rather than teaching the orthodox doctrine that Santa really exists. My oldest brother was shown doctored pictures of Santa on his sleigh flying through the air by a teacher when he asked if Santa was real. See, pictures don't lie!

Why?

Why do parents tell their kids this myth is real when they won't with others - why cling to this myth with such fierce tenacity when others they shrug at. The Easter bunny, leprechauns and pots of gold, the comedic talent of Margaret Cho, these myths nobody feels compelled to defend but when you dare to question the reality of an elf the parents are very aware is fake, they get mad. The children, think of the children!

What makes me unhappy is that these are otherwise good parents, at least most of them, who try to raise their children with basic ethics. They will teach their children it is wrong to lie, that telling the truth is good. They will try to show an example to their children by how they live, by avoiding things in their presence, at least. Then they look that child straight in the eye, with deliberate calculation, and tell him or her an outright, intentional and outrageous set of total lies. Yes, Virginia, that fat magic elf really exists, really, really.

What could compel a parent to do this? It's one thing to tell your child wondrous stories - you should! It's one thing to try to make Christmas a wonderful, special time of year - you should! It's another to do so in a way that demonstrates that not only is lying fine, but that adults should lie to children when it makes them happy. What exactly are you trying to teach your kids, again?

Away in a MangerThe most disturbing to me is that many Christian parents do this too, they are part of the process and myth and lies. They'll go along with every step of the process, the reindeer decorations outside, the stockings, telling kids Santa will soon be here, the cookies and milk. One of the names for Santa Claus is Kris Kringle. This title comes from the German word Christkindl, as in Christ child. Just something to consider when you tell your children all about merry Chris Kringle. Children taught about Santa Claus and his gifts are far more focused on goodies coming and magic flying reindeer than the actual reason Christmas exists: to celebrate the (likely springtime) birth of Jesus Christ. A baby in a manger with shepherds visiting doesn't excite much interest in a little boy or girl but a magic elf bringing him presents and constant exposure to him does.

For Christians, the myth and fierce defense of the lie that Santa exists is a fierce defense of something taking the place of Jesus Christ on Christmas. This is somewhat like having your kid's birthday, then diverting all the attention to a magic gnome that will show up and give everyone candy. Yes, kids this is Jimmy's birthday, but you all get candy from the mystic gnome! Sorry Jimmy, go in a corner and open your presents.

YOU GRINCHY SCROOGE!
Why, I can hear you cry, what a miserable bastard, how could you be so mean to children! I hope you don't have any kids! When you have children, your story will change, what a stingy jerk! I know at least some of you are saying this because I've heard it before. I know the arguments: its fun for children, its harmless, it teaches them the joy and importance of giving.

The problem is, none of these arguments requires that you tell the children a lie. Sesame Street teaches children important lessons, but nobody feels compelled to tell their children Oscar and Big Bird are real, or would get mad at someone for saying otherwise. Joy can be spread without telling your children an intentional lie about a magic fat elf, and there's no lesson of giving involved, unless it's "give to me."

The reason presents were given around Christmas to begin with was to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, because you couldn't give anything to God - who owns and has everything, literally, already. You can give gifts to each other, and do so to demonstrate the teachings and purpose of Christ: that we are generous, merciful, and loving.

For the atheist - if you don't believe in God, why is the story of a child born to the heraldry of angels who healed the sick and died for salvation of others any more offensive than the tales of Santa? You don't believe either, why pick Santa to laud rather than Jesus, who is the entire purpose of the holiday?

For the Christian - why on earth are you telling your children a deliberate lie about this myth, let alone having some figure eclipse Jesus Christ, whom you profess and confess to be the king of kings and the central figure of all reality and history? The birth of Christ was so important in the Bible that heaven exploded with praises and glory, and our response is to teach our children about a secular myth?

Corporate SantaCONCLUSION
For those of you who still are reading, not to mention those who will actually return here, I just wanted to do my part to point out a problem with our modern Christmas: this holiday is about baby Jesus in a manger, there wouldn't be a Christmas without this event. Believe what you will about this Jesus, the entire point of the season is for Him and His incarnation. This was a historical event, it really did happen.

Sure, it didn't happen on the 24th of December, sure the Roman Catholic Church took this day to give converts and pagans a holiday that replaced winter solstice celebrations and other holidays. We celebrate every President's Birthday on the same day in February, even though only one was actually born that day. The purpose is not to claim this was the exact day, but to give a specific day to celebrate the event. After over a thousand years of history, this is a traditional day to have the celebration.

Trying to replace Jesus Christ with a magical elf is just bizarre, even if you aren't a Christian. Pushing Jesus aside for the tale of a gift giving fat man is useful for stores, but it makes no sense and is further a destruction of centuries of tradition and culture. Is that really what you want to do? Christian and atheist a like have good reason to continue the stories of Jesus and not replace him with Santa, and other faiths have reason to avoid Santa as well. Just something to consider, before you throw a rotten orange at me.

The city of Demre today is built on the ruins of Myra, where Bishop Nicholas lived and worked. They have a bronze statue of him that used to be on a prominent pillar in the town, but in 2005 the statue was removed and a fat red-suited Santa Claus was put in its place to make the image more familiar to visitors. The bronze statue of Nicholas was moved to a local church. If Nicholas was such a pious man he punched Arius in the snoot for denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, I doubt he'd be much amused by this development, or venerating him in any capacity.
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