Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Port Report

by The Windjammer

Just last week I was dumber than a box of rocks concerning the controversial port deal in which a state-owned company out of the United Arab Emirates purchased or attempted to purchase from a British firm for more money than I could count in my lifetime the right to operate a portion of the process of offloading and onloading freight at some of our ports.

Today after listening to various media and Congresspersons and assorted other folk, I am almost twice as smart. Now I am dumber than a whole pile of rocks–just like nearly everyone else I have heard discussing it.

I was absolutely and unequivocally opposed to the deal. There was no way I was going to change my mind.

But I have. The one factor which exerted the most pressure in making that change was the negative coverage by the media and the negative response by certain members of Congress whom I had been led to disbelieve so many times before. Those aren’t limited to any one party, but the preponderance is with one of the three.

The media have generally raised such a hullabaloo about the sale of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to Dubai Ports World that the rest of the public is almost half as smart as I am about the deal. Meanwhile, down behind the corral, the public has already made up its mind that any deal spelled with a capital "A" (as in Arab) can’t be good for anyone and has started taking potshots at the enemy with pistols loaded with blanks. No one has ever told me while my earpans were free of wax just who owns the selling company. It is London-based, but that doesn’t tell me it is England-owned and bred. Heck, they didn’t even tell me who owned the buying company. I had to find that out for myownself.

Pols read polls like yesterday’s newspapers. Those show that "common people" a.k.a. voters are opposed to the deal. I read one which claimed that an overwhopping 76% of the pollees were thinking just like the others. That thinking is based on what the TV talking heads told them to think. All of a sudden, politicians from both sides of the aisle who were likely only about half as smart as the people who matter most who were about half as smart as I (remember that I was totally and blissfully ignorant) started counting votes before they were cast and sided against Bush who was the guy all those pistols were aimed at down behind the high pole fence. If you think pols aren’t mathematicians, you had better believe they can count votes on both hands faster than you can get your shoes off to count your toes. They are scared of becoming ex-Congresspersons and will bend in any direction, including over, to avoid such a calamity.

There may be more to the deal than meets the jaundiced eyeball.

I have tried to inject a few other factors which I have determined to be true into my logic.

First: the freight in question doesn’t originate at our ports, it is coming into them from all over this little piece of universe. If it originates here, there isn’t likely to be any terrorists hiding in a bale of Alabama cotton or under a few thousand bushels of wheat. Lint gets in your nostrils if you try to breathe through a thick wad of unpressed cotton and little grains of wheat irritate your sinuses something fierce.

Second: this company which is owned by United Arab Emirates already conducts operations in ports all over the world. If they were interested in playing havoc with their own economy, they would have done it long ago to some poor unsuspecting nation such as France or Russia. I still don’t know who owns P&OSN. It might be Iran.

Third: the United Arab Emirates has been an ally since about the time way back there when that Notorious Democrat turned over the reigns to that Notorious Republican or a year or so later.

Still third, but with a different tack: I hesitate to blame all the other folk in a country for the actions of a few. That may be the very reason so much of the rest of the world thinks that the U.S. is nothing but a bunch of horse thieves, blackguards and sundry other dirty rotten scoundrels. They are the ones who make all the newscasts and when one comes along who is as honest as Honest Abe bragged about being, the media can’t believe such a person could possibly exist and set out to tear him limb from limber. Such misrepresentation is likely the only basis for making a judgment of our country that many of those people have readily available.

Fourth: and this is only hearsay, no domestic company appeared to be sufficiently interested in acquiring this business.

Fifth: the work will still be done by the same people who have been doing it. The security will still be done by the same people who have been doing it. I’m not at all sure of the efficacy or of the efficiency of that group. I suspect that there ain’t no such thing as a 100% solid guarantee that security will not be or even has not been breached.

Sixth and last, but certainly not least: the folks who first raised the objection are the same ones who have in the past opposed everything Bush has tried to accomplish and accused him of lying when subsequent events proved that he was the one telling the truth all along. It makes one think he is smelling a rat whether there is one or not.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is Violence Endemic In Islam?

These days I seem obsessed with Islam and its intolerance. I see recent events in dire terms, signaling a move toward what might eventually become a World War of Religion that ultimately pits non-Muslims and Muslims against each other in violent confrontation.

Dan K. Thomasson, a Scripps-Howard News Service columnist whose work is published in the local newspaper, had a thoughtful column in this morning’s edition in which he discusses this issue. In it he recites the response of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf to a question from NBC’s Tom Brokaw, who asked why there is such a violent reaction among Muslims to the now-infamous cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, but no reaction when radical Muslims blow up mosques and kill fellow Muslims. According to Mr. Thomasson, Gen. Musharraf really didn’t answer the question, and could not answer it. The reply, he said, was “couched in the cautious rhetoric of a politician who is beset by his own religious-driven problems.”

He goes on to say that Mr. Brokaw’s question is precisely what most non-Muslims the world over puzzle about, and he offered, “ the answer actually would seem to be that radical Islamic preachers use any excuse whatsoever to encourage violence, particularly against societies that cherish freedom. Taken a step further, the implication is that Islam itself is a religion built on violence, not on free expression.”

That impression “is one that moderate, God-fearing Muslims the world over need to correct quickly if the millions of them who live in open societies around the globe are to fit into the polyglot religious cultures of the modern world,” Mr. Thomasson continued. “If they are citizens of democracies, then they must respect those institutions without violent disagreement.”

In conclusion he said, “American Muslims should lead the way in disavowing this behavior. Otherwise Muslim and violence become synonymous whether it is a fact or not.” That is certainly true.

However, there is a real question whether most American Muslims even believe that this violence is wrong. As evidence of this question I cite the experience of a close personal friend, who works closely with some Muslims. He recounts the experience of another of his co-workers, who is Hindu, attending a meeting with Muslim co-workers on the evening of September 11, 2001. His Hindu friend commented that the dark events of that day were not even discussed, let alone condemned by the Muslims in attendance.

My friend is convinced that most American Muslims, while not personally bent on violent behavior, do not condemn it when it is done in the name of Allah. If this is true among the American Muslim community at large, it seems my vision of a coming religious war may be accurate.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

The Latest From bin Laden

The newest excerpts from Osama bin Laden’s tape from last month contain a couple of defining statements.

First is the declaration that bin Laden won’t be taken alive. More cowardice from the Coward-in-Chief: “I have sworn to only live free. Even if I find bitter the taste of death, I don’t want to die humiliated or deceived.” No surprise there. Good ol’ Osama continues the practice of letting others do his dirty work for him, and then taking the glory road to 72 virgins when the heat gets too high. No siree, no pain or facing the music for Osama, it's the easy way out for him. But if he really wants to live free, he should renounce his repressive 7th Century religion and become an American.

Then he says something truly remarkable about U.S. soldiers in Iraq: “… despite all the barbarity, [and] the repressive steps taken by the American Army and its agents … there is no longer any mentionable difference between this criminality and the criminality of Saddam.”

Despite all the barbarity? The terrorist attacks on the United States four years ago weren’t barbaric, the continuing terrorist attacks in Iraq that more often than not kill far more innocent Iraqi Muslims than U.S. soldiers aren’t barbaric, the beheading of innocent people like Nick Berg and Daniel Pearle isn’t barbaric, but the U.S. fighting terrorists in Iraq is barbaric?

The mind of a fanatic is indeed an interesting place.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Iranian/Muslim Threat

The threat posed to the world by Iran continues to grow more serious, with two new developments.

First, Iran's most hard-line Islamic spiritual leaders have issued a holy order approving the use of atomic weapons against the country's enemies, calling into question the theocracy's traditional viewpoint that Shariah law forbids the use of nuclear weapons. One senior mullah has now said it is "only natural" to have nuclear bombs as a "countermeasure" against other nuclear powers, a reference considered to be the United States and Europe.

Second, the recent revelation of a seminar on suicide-bombing tactics at Tehran's Khajeh Nasir University by a group that claims its members are dedicated to becoming suicide bombers. A spokesman for "Esteshadion" (Martyrdom Seekers) warned the United States and Britain yesterday that they will strike coalition military bases in Iraq if Tehran's nuclear facilities are attacked. "With more than 1,000 trained martyrdom seekers, we are ready to attack the American and British sensitive points if they attack Iran's nuclear facilities," the spokesman said.

I’m a peace-loving guy, but I recognize that peace is, in the most optimistic of terms, a two-million-to-one long shot. Iran does not want peace if getting peace means it will not be able to develop nuclear weapons. That position may be construed to mean that Iran, which is run by militant Islamic clerics, intends to use nuclear weapons to impose Muslim doctrine of the rest of the world, which rejects Islam, and with greater and greater justification in view of recent fanatical behavior by Muslim fundamentalists in several countries.

I don’t consider myself a prophet, but I have been saying for several months that we are seeing the beginnings of a religious world war between Islam and everybody else. The mindless violence in response to anti-Muslim cartoons, which now has a Muslim/Christian element in Nigeria, is evidence of the growth and intensification of the lunatic Muslim fringe. In the eyes of Muslim fanatics, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, believers in other religions and believers in no religion at all are all the same, and are deserving of death.

Militant Islam is the greatest threat human beings have faced in all of history, greater than the threat of Hitler, or of imperial Japan, or of the Communists of the USSR, Korea or China. This is a greater threat than the relatively minor threat posed by a few individual ego-maniacs like Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Hirohito, it is a threat posed by more than 1.3 billion believers living all over the world, some of whom are convinced that their god has commanded them to rid the world of all who do not believe as they do, and have begun to act on those commands.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Thoughts On Free Speech

 There’s an interesting polarity before us on the issue of free speech, a basic and dear freedom for those of us in the free world.

On the one hand you have the Danish cartoonist who drew and published a cartoon of the Muslim prophet Mohammed with a bomb for a turban. He has the right to draw any cartoon he pleases.

In response, Muslims in several countries took to the streets in often-violent protests against the cartoons, burning buildings and flags, calling for beheadings of certain individuals, and other grisly activities. They also have the right, under the free speech model, to protest, although in some countries there is a limit to what behavior one may indulge in during a protest.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that speech shall be free. It does not guarantee freedom only for speech that is in good taste, or for speech that is responsible or reasonable. However, in the U.S. some speech is ruled illegal. You cannot yell, “fire!” in crowded public places (unless there is actually a fire) because it would likely result in injury to other people. You cannot publicly slander or libel another person. You cannot indulge in speech that incites others to commit violence or infringe public order. And, you cannot indulge in speech giving aid and comfort to the enemy—treason.

Examples of speech that is irresponsible and unreasonable are abundant in the U.S., most of it directed toward George Bush and the war in Iraq. Some of us who cherish freedom of speech and hold our country in high regard are put in the position of supporting the right of people to say what they please while at the same time being repulsed by the reprehensible things people say. We regard some of these comments as harmful to our nation’s image and to Americans—including our troops—abroad, and subversive to our ability to effectively fight terrorism and protect the country from additional terrorist attacks. Some of this rash and ill-considered speech is, in my opinion, treasonous.

Those indulging in this subversion of the national interest either do not understand that they are hurting their country, or they do not care. The former are not thinking clearly, if at all; the latter are consumed with hatred for George Bush/Republicans/conservatives or shameless self-interest.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Last Thoughts On Over-reaction Of Cheney Hunting Accident

  • Mr. Cheney should have personally come forward with information sooner.
  • Given the performance of the media following the accident, the decision to give the story to a competent local newspaper that could be relied upon to report the story accurately is confirmed as a sound decision.
  • Although Mr. Cheney took responsibility for the accident, Mr. Whittington shares the responsibility. The mishap occurred because of carelessness on Mr. Whittington's part, and a case of a hunter concentrating on his target—in this case a bird as it was flushed from cover and started to fly off.
  • Mr. Whittington’s injury is more severe than I originally understood, but apparently still not truly serious. The ammunition used in quail hunting consists of small pellets that spray over a wide area at low velocity and lose momentum fairly quickly.
  • "There are about 700 nonfatal hunting accidents each year in the United States and Canada," said Jim Wentz, a spokesman for the International Hunter Education Association. "In addition, there are about 75 fatal hunting accidents each year. That's out of the 15.7 million people who hunt."

  • Quail hunting accounts for about 26 accidents yearly, Wentz said. "In areas where you have bird hunting and groups of hunters together, accidents are more prevalent than in areas where it is primarily deer hunting or big game hunting, and people aren't shooting at flying targets," he said.
  • The most common causes of hunting accidents, according to Wentz, include: failing to correctly identify a target; careless handling of the firearm; the victim being out of the shooter's line of sight; the victim moving into the line of fire; the shooter stumbling and falling; and failing to check beyond the target.

  • So long as Mr. Whittington’s injuries are not more serious than they now seem, this incident has had more press than it deserves, and it should disappear from the news forthwith.
  • There is no reason for Mr. Cheney to entertain any thought of resigning.
  • The mainstream media needs to get a grip and move on to truly important issues. I recognize that its collective feelings have been mortally wounded by Mr. Cheney’s “snubbing” them, but they are all big boys and girls, and they will just have to accept that they are not as important as they believe they are.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different

Paddy was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn't find a parking place. Looking up to heaven he said, "Lord take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me Irish Whiskey."

Miraculously, a parking place appeared. Paddy looked up again and said, "Never mind, I found one."

A husband and wife go to a counselor after 15 years of marriage.

The counselor asks them what the problem is and the wife goes into a tirade, listing every problem they have ever had in the 15 years they've been married. She goes on and on and on.

Finally, the counselor gets up, goes around the desk, embraces the woman, and kisses her passionately. The woman shuts up and sits quietly in a daze.

The counselor turns to the husband and says "That is what your wife needs at least three times a week. Can you do that?"

The husband says, "I can bring her in on Monday and Wednesday, but on Friday I'm golfing.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dick Cheney's Hunting Accident

According to an eyewitness account, this incident is pretty much a non-event, in political terms. Two things have a lot of media panties in a wad. The first is that it involves the Vice President, who is no favorite of the national media, and gives them an excuse to become apoplectic and pretend something big happened. The second is that a small town newspaper scooped the national media because the Vice President didn’t drop everything and dutifully report what had happened to the “real media,” and that is perhaps the greatest sin of all.

But when you read the excerpts from The Washington Post and apply a little common sense to the events reported there, you’ll see that there’s not much real news there.

In summary, Mr. Cheney, Harry Whittington and another man were hunting quail. Mr. Whittington shot a bird and went to retrieve it. Mr. Cheney and the other hunter moved from that spot, heard a second group of birds behind him, turned and took aim and fired. What had flushed the birds was Mr. Whittington approaching the other two hunters from behind without warning them he was there, and when Mr. Cheney fired Mr. Whittington (who one report said was some 30 yards away) was hit by some of the birdshot.

Did Mr. Cheney shoot Mr. Whittington? Not exactly. To say the he shot the other man creates the impression that he drew down on him and fired, or that there was a more-or-less direct hit. It also implies negligence or carelessness. However, Mr. Whittington, who should have let Mr. Cheney know where he was, was accidentally hit by the periphery of the shot spray, not by a direct shot. An eyewitness said that Mr. Cheney could not see Mr. Whittington; brush or leaves or something might have obscured him.

Now it probably was not high on Mr. Cheney’s list to notify the national media of this incident, given that he had more important and pressing issues at hand, namely an injured friend that needed medical attention. And gosh darn it, when the property owner decided to notify the media, she called the local paper instead of The Washington Post or CBS News.

Here are excerpts from account of the hunting accident Vice President Dick Cheney was involved in:

Vice President Cheney accidentally sprayed a companion with birdshot while hunting quail on a private Texas ranch, injuring the man in the face, neck and chest, the vice president's office confirmed yesterday after a Texas newspaper reported the incident.

The shooting occurred late Saturday afternoon while Cheney was hunting with Harry Whittington, 78, a prominent Austin lawyer, on the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas. Hearing a covey of birds, Cheney shot at one, not realizing that Whittington had startled the quail and that he was in the line of fire.

According to [the property owner Katherine] Armstrong’s account, she was watching from a car while Cheney, Whittington and another hunter got out of the vehicle to shoot at a covey of quail. Whittington shot a bird and as he went to retrieve it, Cheney and the third hunter discovered a second covey.

Whittington "came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself," Armstrong said, according to the Associated Press.

It was Armstrong's decision to alert the news media. Cheney's office made no public announcement, deciding to defer to Armstrong because the incident had taken place on her property. Armstrong called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, and when a reporter from the paper called the White House, the vice president's office confirmed the account.
Cheney's office referred other reporters to Armstrong for a witness account, but after speaking to some members of the media yesterday afternoon, Armstrong stopped returning phone calls.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Perspective on Senseless Muslim Violence

Nothing recently has aroused my ire more than the senseless behavior of Muslims in reaction to a few tasteless cartoons mocking them and their religion. I have spent some time putting together my thoughts on this spectacle, but today I found a published column that says it better than I ever could.

I try not to reprint the thoughts of others too often, but sometimes it happens. The last post on Observations was a column by Wes Pruden, the insightful and gifted Executive Editor of The Washington Times.

I find myself about to post another of his columns. Now the last two posts on my site are not just someone else’s thoughts, but the same “someone else’s” thoughts.

Even so, this column is worth the few minutes it will take you to read it. Please do.

Picking the right provocation
February 10, 2006

Muslims, as F. Scott Fitzgerald might say, are very different from you and me. Muslims say the same thing about us, sometimes with guns, scimitars and explosives.

The worldwide furor over cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad is beyond the ken of most of us in the West. Jews are rightly infuriated by cruelly fanciful insults of their faith, and Christians are righteously angered by "artistic" depictions of Christ in a vial of urine and portraits of the Virgin Mary defaced by elephant dung. But neither priest nor preacher has led a lynch mob to torch a museum or gallery.

Faith is defined differently in the West: Christians, Jews and even unbelievers regard faith as something freely held in the heart, a place where no tyranny can intrude nor mob defile. A government might as well tell a mother not to caress her child as to tell free men and women not to hold dear their link to God and eternity. In much of the Islamic world, governments decree that no man can hold any religious belief but Islam, and death to the brave and the bold who defy the edicts of thuggish authorities. To Western understanding, this is not faith, but fanaticism.

The West, to its everlasting shame, often acquiesces. When President George H.W. Bush visited his troops to share Thanksgiving in the midst of the first Gulf War, his Saudi hosts insisted that no one should offer thanks to the God of Christians and Jews, not even at a private dinner at which no delicate Saudi ears were at risk of being tempted by prayer and praise to an alien God. To the mortification of his friends, the president, with his excess of good manners, agreed. The American soldiers who cheerfully risked their lives to save the Saudis from the depredations of Saddam Hussein were told to keep their prayers of thanksgiving to themselves.

The temptation to confront such bigotry with mockery and ridicule is great, and the editors of several European newspapers published several cartoons portraying the prophet as a terrorist with a bomb in his turban, and as a sentry at the Pearly Gates telling arriving suicide bombers: "Go back, go back, we're running out of virgins." This offends many Muslims, though they should be more offended by the killings to protest something in a newspaper that few if any of their faith will ever see or attempt to read.

This was a deliberate provocation of the ignorant and the clueless, much like the schoolboy sport of poking the wasps' nest under the eave of the barn just to watch infuriated wasps in a frenzy of retaliation. The result was predictable, as frenzied Muslims firebombed embassies of Denmark and Norway, where the cartoons first appeared, and set fire to Christian churches in Arabia.

When the Europeans invited newspapers elsewhere to join the challenge, only a few accepted. Nearly all U.S. newspapers, including The Washington Times, declined. We're pleased to see European newspapers arouse themselves, without endorsing the motivations of all. (One German newspaper boasted that it would mock both Jesus and Muhammad.) But The Times picks its own provocations. The serious issue at hand was the first reaction of Western governments. Wise men of the West, notably Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush, lectured newspapers on their "responsibility" instead of instructing the Islamic governments that they must find a way out of the eighth century if they want to be a part of the real world. They must recognize that every man is entitled to think for himself, and every newspaper must decide for itself what to publish.

There are ways other than mockery to challenge the excesses of the religion of peace (and suicide bombers and beheaders), and we should encourage the voices of Islamic moderation, however timid. If the millions of peaceable Muslims want the respect of the West, they must effectively confront the bigots and killers in their midst.

For our part, we keep our promise never to mock the peaceable faith and beliefs of others. We will continue to confront bigotry, challenge the violent and scourge evil with the disinfectant of public disclosure. This is the authentic responsibility of a free press.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A missed chance to teach a lesson

By Wesley Pruden
Published February 7, 2006

The prophet Muhammad, who lived in the 8th century, never met Boss Tweed, who presided over New York in the 19th. But if the prophet runs into Mr. Tweed at the mall in a modest suburb somewhere in the afterlife, they can compare afflictions.

Mr. Tweed suffered boils and warts at the hand of the great newspaper cartoonist, Thomas Nast. "Stop them damn pictures," the old Tammany tiger told his hit men. "I don't care what the papers write about me. My constituents can't read. But they can see the pictures."

If we are to believe the millions of Muslims who are racing into the streets from Damascus to Jakarta looking for Jews to torment, Christian churches to torch and European embassies to plunder, the prophet who invented Islam is suffering a similar migraine this morning, the gift of a Dane reckless with pen and ink. The prophet's constituents can't read, either. They're not even supposed to look at the pictures. The imams fomenting hysteria are apparently afraid they might peek.

Hollywood couldn't contrive this latest Islamic comic opera, which has been tough on government property but has afforded the bored Muslim masses an opportunity to entertain themselves, and a lot of pols and government bureaucrats the stage for a remarkable performance of pandering, hot-dogging and grandstanding.

Several European heads of state have done what Europeans do best, the full grovel, and yesterday Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, did his usual shuck and jive on the high road. "I understand and share their anguish," he said of the plunderers and looters in the capitals of Arabia. "But it cannot justify violence, least of all attacks on innocent people. I appeal to Muslims to accept the apology that has been offered and to act as I am sure Almighty God, who is compassionate and merciful, would wish them to do. That is, to act with calm and dignity, to forgive the wrong they have suffered and to seek peace rather than conflict." But Muslims have suffered no wrong; Muslims have inflicted the wrong. It's reassuring to learn that the theologian-general of the U.N. is on such intimate terms with God, and endorses the almighty mind. Expecting "calm and dignity" in the Muslim street is expecting a lot, and only a man of Mr. Annan's deep faith in the whatever would attempt such a stretch.

Representatives of nearly every European country, and sad to say the United States, hurried out to the nearest camera with apology and penitence, where apology is not called for and penitence is not appropriate. The bureaucrats, like the State Department officer who called the cartoons "unacceptable," are addicted to the grovel, too. What does "unacceptable" mean in the mouth of a government officer? Is an arrest imminent?

This could have been an occasion for instruction and tutelage, for assisting the followers of the religion of peace out of the 8th century and into the relative light of the 12th or 13th, en route on some distant day to the 21st. Scott McClellan, the spokesman for President Bush, attempted a lecture yesterday but delivered the wrong rebuke. "We support and respect the freedom of the press," he said, "but there are also important responsibilities that come with that freedom."

This is wrong, and dangerously wrong. The guarantees of free expression (such as the First Amendment in our own country) include no "if," no "also," no "but." The guarantees do not ordain a "responsible" press, but a free press. This is what the Muslims, who often show no respect for the beliefs of others, must learn even if they learn it the hard way. Followers of the prophet are entitled to believe that a caricature of the man they revere is wrong. If they believe that, they should neither draw such a caricature nor look upon one drawn by someone else. They have no right to impose that belief on anyone else, Hindu, Christian or Hottentot. This is what Kofi Annan and the bowed heads of Europe and spokesmen for the State Department and the White House, and George W. Bush for all that, should be telling the Muslims. And not forget to duck.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

Copyright © 2006 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cheap, Tawdry Politics? Or Just Business As Usual for Democrats?

The classless politicizing of Coretta Scott King’s funeral by Democrats and black preachers (Bill and Hillary Clinton did not indulge in the tawdry behavior) is another low in Democrat behavior. My initial reaction was of indignation at the insensitive crap offered up by Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton and a few black preachers whose names didn’t stick with me.

Then I started to think about the reaction of those attending.

They were all just fine with the political rhetoric that I thought was degrading to the memory of Mrs. King, whom I regard as an American hero whose funeral ought to be a dignified affair recognizing her contributions to the great strides her race has made over the last four decades.

So I have revised my evaluation. If black Americans—who are after all more tied to Mrs. King than I, a white guy, am—then I’ll withhold my indignation.

So that takes us to part two, the efforts to exacerbate the existing racial divide between black and white Americans.

As I remember Dr. King, his mission was to dissolve the separation between the races. Much of the “sentiments” at his widow’s funeral went in the opposite direction, and instead of uniting the races, instead even of noting the progress that has been made as a result of Dr. and Mrs. King and their works, took the opportunity to tell us how horrible things are for black Americans.

Pitiful. Shameless. Cheap. Tawdry.

But that’s just my opinion.

What’s yours?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different

The Wayward Daughter

An Irish daughter had not been home for over 5 years.

Upon her return, her father cursed her. "Where have ye been all this time? Why did ye not write to us, not even a line? Why didn't ye call? Can ye not understand what ye put yer old mum through?

The girl, crying, replied, "Dad ... I became a prostitute...."

Ye what!!? Out of here, ye shameless girl! You're a disgrace to this family.

"OK, dad ... as ye wish. I just came back to give Mum this luxurious fur coat, title deed to a ten-bedroom mansion, plus a savings certificate for $5 million. For me little brother, this gold Rolex and for ye Daddy, the sparkling new Mercedes limited edition convertible that's parked outside, plus a membership to the country club... (she takes a breath) ... and an invitation for ye all to spend New Years Eve on board my new yacht in the Riviera, and ...

"Now what was it ye said ye had become?" says dad.

Girl, crying again, "Sniff, sniff.... a prostitute, Dad! Sniff, sniff."

"Oh! Ye scared me half to death, girl! I thought ye said a Protestant'. Come here and give yer old man a hug!"

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Islam's Violent Reaction to Cartoons

The uproar over cartoons depicting Islam's prophet Muhammad provides interesting fodder for contemplation.

The cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper in September and reprinted in European publications recently, have produced a strong reaction among Muslims because Islamic law is interpreted to forbid any depictions of Muhammad. Indeed, the level of outrage and violence are strongly out of character from what we Americans have come to expect from religious groups.

Thousands of outraged Syrian demonstrators stormed the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, setting fire to both buildings, and Muslims are calling for executions and setting European flags afire. "We should have killed all those who offend the prophet," said a leader of a peaceful protest group. Although his group did not act on that sentiment, the fact that it is a publicly expressed thought should be both instructive and reason for concern.

While most people are opposed to the violence there is general agreement that the cartoons were over the line. The Vatican, for example, denounced the violence, but also said some forms of criticism are an "unacceptable provocation." "The right to freedom of thought and expression ... cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers," the Vatican said.

One cartoon featured Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse, among other provocative images. Civilized people honor the personalities and symbols of all religions, even if they do not subscribe to any of those religions, or to any religion. Most of us would be uncomfortable with images denigrating Moses or Jesus, for example, so we sympathize with the aversion Muslims feel. Certainly American Christians have suffered more frequent insults from their own countrymen, and Jews are under continual attack the world over. However, the fact that so many Muslims resort to violent protest says more about Islam than it does about the cretins who created these offensive cartoons.

Muslims, however, ought to be able to process not just the dissing of their blessed prophet, but also the actions of their murderous brethren that provoked these particular images. They ought to be able to see that Islam’s violent and intolerant fundamental faction has seriously stained their religion, and that faction’s uncivilized behavior threatens to turn Islam into a worldwide pariah.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Where do you live?

I am frequently surprised by where people live who visit my site.

Here is a list from yesterday, with duplicates removed (I hope):

Fort Worth, Texas
Atlanta, Georgia
Princeton, West Virginia
Star City, Arkansas
Kansas City, Kansas
Adelaide, South Australia
Flat Top, West Virginia
Memphis, Tennessee
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Phoenix, Arizona
San Francisco, California
Via Del Mar, Valparaiso
Greendale, Wisconsin
Willoughby, Ohio
Collingswood, New Jersey
Somerville, Massachusetts
Chicago, Illinois
Huntsville, Alabama
Greenford, Slough
Excelsior, Minnesota
Vashon, Washington
Medicine Hat, Alberta
Cambridge, Massachusetts
South San Francisco, California
Shawnee, Kansas
Ballwin, Missouri
Sandyford, Dublin, Ireland
Kansas City, Kansas
Jersey City, New Jersey
Springfield, Missouri
Marseille, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur
Des Plaines, Illinois
Columbus, Ohio
Neu Eller, Nordrhein-Westfalen
Oroville, California
Esmoriz, Aveiro
Buenos Aires, Distrito Federal
Koutoumo, Lakonia
Rock Tavern, New York
Americus, Georgia
Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania
Los Angeles, California
Dallas, Texas
Hoboken, New Jersey
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Ambridge, Pennsylvania
Houston, Texas
Smithfield, Rhode Island
Novate Milanese, Lombardia
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Seattle, Washington
Franklin, Tennessee
Mount Laurel, New Jersey
Diggins, Missouri
Indianapolis, Indiana
Flat Top, West Virginia
San Diego, California
Randolph, Massachusetts
Burnaby, British Columbia
Bolingbrook, Illinois
Downers Grove, Illinois
Mount Laurel, New Jersey
Port Moody, British Columbia
Yetman, New South Wales
Edmonton, Alberta
Twig, Minnesota
Atlantis, Florida
Hicksville, New York
Livingston, New Jersey
Summit Park, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
Port Charlotte, Florida
Rolla, Missouri
Mountain View, California
Calgary, Alberta
Columbus, Georgia

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What About Cindy Sheehan?

Cindy Sheehan, grieving mother turned political gadfly, has once again made headlines. It was only a short time ago that she turned up at the side of the insufferable Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, holding hands with “Banana Boat” Harry Belafonte and bad-mouthing the United States.

This time Ms. Sheehan was ejected from visitor’s gallery at the State of the Union address, along with a congressman’s wife, for a wardrobe malfunction. Actually, it was a malfunction of judgment. The ladies had worn T-shirts with a war message, Ms. Sheehan’s anti-war, and Beverly Young’s supportive of the war.

Ms. Sheehan was taken away in handcuffs before President Bush's arrival at the Capitol and charged with a misdemeanor for violating the District of Columbia's code against unlawful or disruptive conduct on any part of the Capitol grounds, while Ms. Young left the gallery and therefore was not arrested, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said. Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against Ms. Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and Ms. Young.

"Neither guest should have been confronted about the expressive T-shirts," Chief Gainer said in a press statement.

I disagree.

Neither pro-war nor anti-war messages, whether emblazoned on signs or worn on clothing, are appropriate at the State of the Union address, which is a formal and dignified communication from the President to the Congress required by the Constitution, not a cheap political event.

Ms. Sheehan has reportedly expressed the desire to sue somebody, which should come as no surprise. Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, Florida Republican and Ms. Young’s husband, said he was not necessarily satisfied with the apology. "My wife was humiliated," Mr. Young told reporters. He suggested that "sensitivity training" might be in order for Capitol Police. I suggest the two women be ordered to take common sense and propriety training.

A Capital spokesperson framed the issue as well as anyone can: "You would assume that if you were coming to an event like the State of the Union address you would be dressed in appropriate attire," she said.



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The State of the Union Address

I try never to miss the State of the Union Address, regardless of whom the President is that delivers it. It is a high political moment, one demanding a good cigar and an equally good Scotch.

It is a great moment, indeed, when the announcement is made when the President of the United State enters the House Chamber. Everyone stands and applauds. They applaud not the individual, but the office. It is one of the few moments in Washington, D.C. when there is unanimity, even if it lasts only a couple of minutes.

Here are a few phrases from the first several minutes that I think are worth repeating, most of which deal with the Iraq was and the war on terrorism:

  • “We love our freedom and we will fight to keep it.”
  • “The United States will never retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil.”
  • “Our work in Iraq is difficult because our enemy is brutal.”
  • “Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning.”
  • “[b]ut those decisions [on withdrawing troops] will be made by military commanders, and not by politicians in Washington, D.C.”
  • “Hindsight is not wisdom, and second guessing is not strategy.”
  • “We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand by our military in this vital mission.”
  • “Elections are vital. But they are only the beginning.”
  • “We have proven the pessimists wrong before, and we will do it again.”
  • “Human life should never be devalued, discarded, or put up for sale.”

I have never—regardless of which party held the White House—thought that there was a legitimate reason for the opposition party to be given a stage to present an opposing view of the State of the Union Address. The comments of the President of the United States should not be open to the partisan sniping of the “loyal opposition.”

The State of the Union Address is the traditional fulfilling of a Constitutional mandate upon the President:
Article. II.,
Section. 3. - He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; …

The Constitution does not go on to say that the other party can rebut this message. You might want to press the argument that the President often makes political statements in his address, but that is irrelevant. The State of the Union Address is to Congress, the message is Constitutional not political, and the opposition party has neither the need nor the right to argue with it. There is plenty of time to do that when the President’s recommendations are taken up for debate.

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"Truthiness" Replaces Truth

Here's an interesting column:

The triumph of 'truthiness'
By Suzanne Fields
Published January 30, 2006
The Washington Times

With a rewrite of "1984" George Orwell might transform his Ministry of Truth, which controlled the news about everything, into the Ministry of Truthiness. Truthiness is far more powerful than mere truth. Orwell's Ministry of Truth grew out of his disenchantment with communism, his "God that failed." But truth was mere conspiracy; truthiness is consensus.

Truthiness is the amorphous cultural control that seeps into the public consciousness without anyone actually knowing or recognizing what's happening. The word "truthiness" was coined by the mock pundit Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central, and the word was designated by the American Dialect Society as the "word of the year," best reflecting the zeitgeist of 2005. It works as a word for reasons that go to the heart of the comic's definition. In his telling, "truthiness" is what right-thinkers conclude with their hearts, not their heads. Rhetoric is driven by emotion, not fact.

The comic coined "truthiness" to poke fun at the president, who often speaks of knowing another person's heart, but he stumbled on to something more profound than he knew, popularizing a word for the culture wars. Much that passes for fact in textbooks and in the media is really about truthiness, not truth. It starts with politics.

A new academic study uses magnetic resonance imaging to plumb the working of the brain during fierce ideological arguments. When a group of committed Republicans and Democrats discussed their differences, the centers of the brain bearing on the emotions "lit up," driving each group to opposite conclusions.

"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University, who led the study. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up."

Opinions were shaped by emotional impact rather than logic or analysis. The circuits for cognitive reasoning were not engaged.

This won't surprise anybody who lives in political Washington (or political Hollywood) where it's rare for thoughtful reasoning to persuade anybody of anything. Where you start is where you finish. We use colors to describe red states as Republican, blue states as Democratic, and purple as undecided. But only a fool or a hopeless naif would set out to build a political base where the color is purple.

"These days, political ideologies are almost genetic," says pollster John Zogby. "We are exposed to political messages meant to provoke a specific emotional reaction, designed to make you want to 'buy' politics, like a car or toothpaste." When the media presents opposing points of view, it's less to persuade than to confirm strongly held beliefs.

Thus truthiness becomes the coin of the realm, fitting the facts into preconceived emotional attitudes. Politicians have known this forever, of course, but truthiness has become the operating process for historians and academics who we used to believe were seekers of truth.

In a symposium on the culture wars, the editors of New Criterion magazine asked several scholars to describe their confrontation with truthiness. Columbus Day celebrations, for example, once were occasions for celebrating the achievements of Christopher Columbus, but it has become the venue to indoctrinate impressionable students, telling them how much better the world would have been if Chris had not sailed that Ocean Blue.

"Since the 1970s, the dominant voices within academic history have worked to generate a widespread cynicism about the nature of Western democracies, with the aim of questioning their moral and political legitimacy," says Keith Windschuttle, an Australian historian who wrote "The Killing of History." In "American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World," historian David Stannard casts Columbus as a prime mover for unprecedented horror: "The road to Auschwitz led straight through the heart of the Americas."

In his book, "The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy," historian Kirkpatrick Sale accuses Columbus of inflicting environmental abuse likely to lead to the very destruction of the earth. (We hold this truthiness to be self-evident.) Such ideological history can be the result of sloppy research and a dependence on questionable secondary sources, but more to the point, it derives from politically correct manipulation that replaces the disinterested search for truth with emotional appeals to denigrate and deconstruct the legacy of Western culture.

At the Ministry of Truthiness, facts don't matter. Attitude is everything. As the emotion centers of our brains are lighting up like pinball machines, Descartes becomes dated, too. If he were alive today, he would have to write, "I feel, therefore I am." Such is the triumph of truthiness.

Copyright © 2006 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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