Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Day 2 and 3

Day 2 - Saturday

Today we hit the Charlotte-Douglas Airport around 11, and take wing about 12:50, for Houston, Texas, where after checking into our hotel we will meet up with two of my cousins and their families who live nearby.

We got to the airport and that was not too difficult an event. Check in was pretty smooth as those things go. On the plane we found our seats, though getting up the aisle, if you could call it that, was interesting. This airplane was about as wide as a passenger bus, with an isle almost wide enough for a person of regular girth to move, so you had to navigate carefully so as not to brush against those passengers who had already found their seats.

The flight attendant announced, “Welcome aboard US Air Flight 5-0-0-8 to Houston.” I knew we were in trouble. We were supposed to be on Flight 5-0-0-3. We all waited in anticipation of what was to follow. It got worse.

Next, she informed us that we were capable hands of “our pilot, Captain Mickey.” This did not inspire confidence. Is it normal to identify those who have the lives of hundreds of people in their hands by their nicknames? Wouldn’t it have been better to give us his real name? Wouldn’t you rather know that “George” or “Jack” or “Marvin” or “Clyde” was in charge? Not “Mickey the airplane pilot.” I couldn’t help thinking of “Larry the cable guy.” I should have been happy it wasn’t Mr. Magoo, I suppose. I began to imagine the rest of the crew’s names: “Our co-pilot is Goofy, and your flight attendants are Minnie and Daisy.”

Did she really say, “The crew is prepared to provide you a safe flight to Houston; we’ve just come from the bar where we have been since our arrival at 9:00 a.m. and we are ready and rarin’ to get this bird in the air,” or did I just imagine it?

The rest of the message wasn’t much better. I noticed an annoying percussive sound after she would pause. You’ve heard people that do this. They make a sound by putting their tongue to the top of their mouth and then pulling it away, sort of a “tsk” sound. There were awkward pauses in the middle of sentences, and at one point she even said, “tsk In the event of an emergency just reach up to the compartment … tsk above your head and pull … tsk that’s p-u-l-l … the oxygen mask down and … place it over … tsk your face.” My wife and I just looked at each other, wondering if Minnie thought perhaps if she didn’t spell the word the passengers might think she said “pool,” which, given her diction was not outside the realm of possibility.

We got in the air only about 12 minutes after the posted take-off time; not bad, really. Eventually, they came by to offer us a snack and a drink. We were told the various soft drinks by brand name, and that they had an assortment of juices. Later they said that there was also beer, chardonnay and merlot available, for an additional charge, of course. I’m still not sure if the welcome announcement is not purposely designed to promote the sale of alcoholic beverages. It sure did work for us.

My wife and I looked at each other with a look that said, “I need a glass of wine.” We asked one of the flight attendants about the wines, Diane opted for the chardonnay; I went for the manly choice, the merlot. Upon delivery of the wines, we screwed off the caps of our respective bottles and poured some of the liquid into our plastic cups. As is our custom, we toasted before tasting, and then I watched intently as Diane took her first sip of the chardonnay. Her expression was not comforting. After I had tasted the merlot, I asked to try the chardonnay, and handed her my plastic cup in exchange for hers. I tasted: the frown that I felt gripping my face matched hers. Her expression after tasting the merlot wasn’t a great deal different than after tasting the chardonnay. “Interesting,” I said of the chardonnay. Although I thought the merlot was tolerable, she didn’t have much good to say of it. A little later I tasted the chardonnay again, only to confirm my original grim reaction. She said, “You get used to it.” We both began to wonder if they had their own winery on board the plane. I could only imagine the beer.

Somehow Captain Mickey managed to get the plane on the ground in Houston right on time, and without serious incident, unless you count the opening announcement and the dreadful wines. Then, after a 40-minute wait, the luggage began to slowly appear on the baggage carousel. We figured the Seven Dwarfs were moving the bags from the plane to the terminal. Waiting for and finding the luggage took nearly as long as the flight from Charlotte to Houston.

We got to the hotel around 3 p.m. local time, and encountered some of the most unusually dressed people I’ve encountered in my life. The first indication that someone was very wrong occurred nearly as soon as we walked through the door, as we were approached by a rather large girl of about 18, accompanied by a man I assumed to be her father. She was dressed somewhat like a Goth. She had a black top and black shorts that hit her about mid-thigh, and right below the knee began her boots. The ensemble was finished off with a couple of facial piercings. Dad must have been very proud. The rest of the females were dressed like fairies, in full, flowing dresses, some of them with headdresses. One had a multi-colored outfit or oranges and reds, with a feathered headdress. I took her to be the queen of the fairies.

The guys had a variety of outfits on, the most impressive of which involved kilts. One guy had long dark hair infused with some gray, and a long beard that nearly touched the kilt. He looked very serious, and seemed not to notice how onlookers were reacting to him. The others were nerds dressed like… well, nerds, with a sci-fi flare. We discovered that there was some sci-fi group having a gathering, called Apollocon, and in addition to the meeting they were have a casting call for some sort of thespian activity. Later we had some lunch and relaxed a little. We caught up with two of my cousins and their families and spent the evening at the Sam Houston Race Park. Son Ryan and I used some of the data in the racing form to decide which horse to bet our money on, daughter Katherine bet by the name of the horse. She won; Ryan and I didn’t. Go figure. We didn’t lose much, though, and had a good time.

Day 3 - Sunday

After a regular start, we had our check-through luggage picked up by the hotel and loaded onto two passenger buses for the trek to the port of Galveston. It was about an hour and a half from pull out at Houston until we were getting off the bus and going through an efficient check-in procedure and boarded the Rhapsody of the Seas for a 5 p.m. cast-off. Aside from being pleased to be on the ship and the anticipation of the week to come, this day was a good day, but not exceptionally exciting.

Except for the jazz combo that played in the Schooner Bar Sunday night. This group is a subset of the larger band that backs the shows in the theater, and the drums, bass and guitar were so solid and drove so hard, the band really cooked. The guys were from Eastern Europe and the U.S. I’m looking forward to their other appearances through the week.

Internet access is not one of the better aspects of this ship. There is a charge—50 cents a minute! Can you believe that? You can get better rates if you buy a package. I got a package of 90 minutes, and that lowered the rate to JUST 39 cents an hour!!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hunting Hurricanes

I have decided to chronicle our trip this year, since I won’t have much time to post my normal political rants. My daughter (#3) graduated from high school, and her big present is a cruise, much like my son’s when he graduated two years ago. Hers is a little better than his, at least according to him. Two years ago we sailed from Baltimore to Freeport, Bahamas, visited the RCCL private beach island, went to Key West, FL, and then up the coast to Port Canaveral, FL. It was a nice trip, but to him, the western Caribbean seems more appealing. Maybe he’s right.

Our trip pales in comparison to my friend Buffalo’s, whose magnificent journey is beautifully described on his Web site, Buffalo’s Path (#2), linked on my BlogRoll in the right column. Buff and his partner Kat are touring the U.S. on his Harley and have been some 9,000 miles so far. They’ve been to a lot of wonderful places, and he keeps us well informed on Buff’s Great Adventure. Ours won’t be so interesting, but it will at least give me something to do in the down times.

Day 1

The trip to Charlotte was marred by problems. A good sub-title would be "Traffic Jam." I-77 south is a stretch of highway that typically is a pain in the fanny when you get to exit 36 at Mooresville every summer when vacation traffic is heavy. Today was worse then the usual unbearable nuisance it most often is. Normally a three-hour drive, we lost a half-hour because of—first—a construction project near Sparta/Elkin that involved a section of one lane that was about 150 yards long. That little distraction backed up traffic for five miles and took an additional 20 minutes to get through.

Next, there was a heavy rainstorm—the second one, but the worst one—that brought traffic speeds down to 35 mph for several minutes, followed shortly thereafter by a minor traffic accident, probably due to the heavy rain and the general inability of many/most drivers to know what to do when driving conditions aren’t perfect. Maybe it’s an overabundance of caution, but anytime anything happens on the highway, people lose all common sense and do the wrong thing. In this case what apparently happened is that because there were two vehicles in the accident pulled over to the side of the road, along with two state troopers, some drivers thought that was their cue to drive 5 mph. Maybe they wanted to gawk; maybe they thought they were being safe. The result was that traffic behind them slowed way down and stopped and started many times before getting past the site. That added another five minutes.

Then we got to Mooresville, where for no apparent reason traffic always becomes bumper-to-bumper and stop-and-go for several miles. Eventually, we got to the Huntersville exit where the Red Rocks Café is in Berkdale Village, a very nice shopping area. By that point we were thirty minutes behind schedule. After an hour and a good meal, we continued to Charlotte and checked into the hotel at around nine p.m. or so.

Anytime you have a three-hour trip that takes three-and-a-half hours, that isn't good.

Today we hit the Charlotte-Douglas Airport around 11, and take wing about 12:50, bound for Houston, Texas, where after checking into our hotel we will meet up with two of my cousins and their families who live nearby.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Risky Assignment

I have been assigned to be in Galveston, Texas on Sunday to board a watercraft and search the Caribbean for hurricanes all next week. I leave tomorrow at 3.

It’s dirty and dangerous work, but someone has to do it. Don’t worry, though, I’ll take good care of myself.

For the hundreds of you who depend upon my wisdom and insight to get through the day (yes, Buff and Brad, and JLP, I’m talking to you) you may have to go cold turkey for a few days.

The posts may be even less regular than usual, but it’ll be okay.

Wish me luck.

At Least Someone in Washington Gets It

The government leaks that made the public aware of secret national security mechanisms are criminal acts, not whistle blowing, and anyone who is even vaguely honest has to admit that. As a government employee you don’t reveal secrets just because you don’t happen to agree with a policy or a program, and if you do—for any reason—you are a criminal and should go to jail.

Here’s one elected official who understands that and isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade:

House Intel Chairman Hoekstra: CIA Leaks 'Politically Driven'

Kenneth R. Timmerman,
Wednesday, June 21, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich, told NewsMax that he believes the recent leaks over the CIA's secret prisons and the NSA's terrorist surveillance program were "politically driven," and that the leakers "ought to be prosecuted."

"What we are seeing is a systematic breakdown in the intelligence community when it comes to leaking highly classified intelligence information," he stated.

If intelligence officers have concerns about a particular program, they have various legal avenues to make those concerns known, he said.

"First, there's an inspector general," he noted. "Then there's a House intelligence committee, and a Senate intelligence committee. If you have questions about the legality of some program or some action, that's where you go to make sure what's being done is legal and within the law." An Intelligence officer who goes to the press with grievances and leaks classified information is "no better than a common thief," he said.

"Nobody's given you the authorization to determine what information should be made freely available to the public. Nobody's given you the authorization to determine what should or should not be classified, or to make those decisions for the American people," Hoekstra said.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How to Save the Airlines

Dump the male flight attendants. No one wanted them in the first place. Replace all the female flight attendants with good-looking strippers! What the hell - the attendants have gotten old and haggard looking. They don't even serve food anymore, so what's the loss? The strippers would at least triple the alcohol sales and get a "party atmosphere" going in the cabin.

And, of course, every businessman in this country would start flying again, hoping to see naked women.

Because of the tips, female flight attendants wouldn't need a salary, thus saving even more money Hell, I suspect tips would be so good that we could charge the women for working and have them kick back 20% of the tips, including lap dances and "special services."

Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing naked women. Hijackings would come to a screeching halt, and the airline industry would see record revenues. This is definitely a win-win situation if we handle it right - a golden opportunity to turn a liability into an asset.

Why the hell didn't Bush think of this? Why do I still have to do everything myself?


Bill Clinton

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What is the True Nature of Islam?

I keep wondering aloud (in writing) just why it is that if Islam is truly a religion of peace the peaceful Muslims do not take a strong, public stand against the fundamentalist fringe (if indeed it is just a fringe) that has hijacked and perverted their beloved Islamic religion, and have created the global image that Islam is a very large group of intolerant, murderous thugs stuck in the culture of 1,400 years ago?

I have encountered a few Muslims in my travels around the blogosphere who take exception to my asking that question, as if by asking it I have done some horrible thing to them. They seem genuinely puzzled that anyone could be so ignorant as to connect Muslim terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (may he rot in hell), Osama bin Laden (may his cave collapse on him) and the rest to Islam.

They put forth their arguments in favor of the “peaceful Islam” very politely, instructing me not only about the peaceful aspects of Islam, but also its magnificent superiority to Christianity and all other “pretend” religions of the Earth. They are very forceful in their defense of Islam; less so in admitting that Muslim terrorism is an actual black eye for Islam.

I haven’t been dissuaded from my original position, although I have begun to wonder whether I am guilty of painting Islam with too broad a brush. Perhaps the reluctance of Muslims to condemn their barbarian brethren is not so widespread as I thought; perhaps the suspicion that even moderate Muslims agree with the concept that we infidels ought to be dispatched to the nether regions (they just don’t use guns and bombs to do it like the fanatics do) is misplaced.

The following piece addresses this dilemma. I’m not certain of its origin, so I can’t credit the author, but it was sent to me by my friend and sometimes-blog partner The Windjammer. The writer confirms my position.

Canadian Delusions

Dr. Mahfooz Kanwar recently attended Calgary's largest mosque for a funeral. At one point in the proceedings, a man Kanwar has known for more than three decades led the prayers. "He was saying in Urdu (the official language of Pakistan): 'Oh, God, protect us from the infidels, who pollute us with their vile ways,'" recalls Kanwar, a professor of sociology at Mount Royal College in Calgary.

"I stood up and grabbed him by the lapels, which was shocking even to me because I have never done anything like that in my life and I said: 'How dare you attack my country.' And then I addressed the crowd and said: 'I have known this man for more than 30 years and he has been on welfare for almost all of those years.' " Kanwar chuckles at the memory. "Then I said to this semi-literate man, 'you should thank me and those you call infidels.' "He asked me why and I said: 'Because the taxes I pay are putting food on your table as are the taxes of the so-called "infidels.' "

Most Canadians and many Muslims would applaud Dr. Kanwar's righteous outburst. But guess which of the two men is no longer welcome at the Sarcee Tr. S.W. mosque? Not the intolerant, hate-spewing semi-literate. No, it's Dr. Kanwar who's persona non grata. That, says Kanwar, is just one of numerous instances he has experienced as a result of the culture of ignorance and intolerance that permeates so many mosques in Canada and throughout the world.

In light of the arrests two weeks ago of 17 young Muslim Canadian men who are alleged to have planned terrorist attacks against their fellow Canadians that included attacking Parliament, seizing the CBC and beheading the prime minister, Kanwar says it's vitally important for Canadians to start making more demands of those who immigrate to this country. Kanwar says we now know one of the 17 accused was allowed to spew hatred and calls to violent jihad at a Toronto-area mosque and he was never once told by the leadership there to stop. Six of the young men who listened to him are also charged in the plot.

Kanwar is pretty certain, if he spoke up at that mosque, however, with his message that Canada's culture is better than the culture found in any Islamic-based country, he'd be kicked out. "The policy of official multiculturalism is a disaster," says Kanwar, who ironically once headed a government-funded multicultural organization in Calgary in the early '70s.

Every year, Kanwar's organization would host a large food and crafts festival in the basement of the Jubilee Auditorium. "There were 52 tables, each with two flags on them -- Polish and Canadian, Ukrainian and Canadian etc. When the Alberta minister in charge of funding the festival showed up, I asked him, 'why is there not even one table here with a single flag -- why is there no Canadian table?'"

Kanwar has been questioning the government-funded official multicultural model ever since -- most recently through his 2002 book: Journey to Success, which is used as a sociology textbook at Mount Royal College and other post-secondary institutions. "Multiculturalism creates nations within a nation and divides the loyalty of people," says the 65-year-old Pakastani-born Kanwar, who immigrated to Canada in 1966. "It allows people to marginalize themselves. It endangers us all as these recent arrests show."

Because of Kanwar's open and published opposition to Ontario's proposal last year to consider allowing sharia law for arbitration purposes in that province, Kanwar says he has been issued with fatwahs -- not the death-threat versions made famous by the one issued against Salman Rushdie for writing the novel The Satanic Verses -- but more like a shunning. Kanwar, a devout Muslim, says he has essentially been excommunicated by Calgary's mosques because he is too tolerant of others.

Homa Arjomand, who lives in Toronto and headed Canada's successful campaign of the International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada (, says like Kanwar, she too once embraced the idea of multiculturalism. Arjomand, who calls herself a "victim" of sharia law -- a strict set of rules based on Islam's holy book, the Qur'an, that subjugates women, as well as allows for the chopping off of hands for theft etc. -- says part of the reason she decided to immigrate to Canada was because she had heard about official multiculturalism. "I thought how wonderful, but not anymore," she declares. "I came here for Canadian values, not sharia values. I fled Iran on horseback because the values there threatened my very life. If people want to live under sharia or the way they lived back home, let them go back," she said.

Kanwar agrees. He says the time has come for the Canadian government to tell new immigrants "once you're in Canada we expect you to be totally devoted to Canada -- no divided loyalties." "This country," added Kanwar, "is a democracy and democracy is founded on Christian principles. "Canada is -- like it or not, take it or leave it -- a country founded on Christian principles where the vast majority of citizens are Christians," said Kanwar. "Yes, there's separation of church and state but even that was a principle founded by Christians and Christianity. "If Muslims, or anyone else, doesn't like living in a land filled with Christians or in a democracy they should get the hell out."

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Democrats and Desperation

Democrats and desperation: the two go hand in hand. Out of power for years on end, the Democratic Party, once a party of principle and ideas, today is floundering like a recently boated bass, flopping wildly, trying to get back in the water.

Devoid of ideas, the Democrats are left to grumble, snipe, whine, demagogue, pander and bellyache because things do not suit them, but they can do nothing more than that. They don’t like what the Bush administration is doing, especially when it scores points, but they have no real ideas about what we ought to do instead.

Back in 70s and 80s NBC News characterized the party out of power as “The Loyal Opposition,” a phrase that acknowledged that the party out of power is just as devoted as the party in power in advancing the interests of United States, but merely has different ideas about how to achieve those interests. Today, that just isn’t so. For the Democrats, it’s not about advancing the interests of the United States, it’s all about gaining political power to advance its own agenda, an agenda remarkably different from the traditional values of our county.

The Democrats are in the unenviable position of having to oppose everything the Bush administration does, without regard for the validity of the administration’s initiatives. You may have noticed, for example, that many prominent Democrats eagerly anticipate something—anything—that allows them to criticize the military, to call them murderers, to brand them as torturers, even before an investigation has been conducted. I think the normal position of patriotic Americans is to first take the position that our military acts properly, and then let someone prove otherwise. But the Democrats are out of power, and they hate George W. Bush more than Osama bin Laden, and nothing must be allowed to prevent them from getting Mr. Bush, not even what is in the interest of the United States.

Because of the position in which the Democrats find themselves they are forced to adopt foolish and wrong-headed policies and to oppose anything and everything that George Bush does, rather than to advance and stand for some supportable principle. Consequently, they find themselves on the wrong side of one issue after another.

Iraq and terrorism are two timely examples.

The Democrats are eager to advance the idea that because the war in Iraq hasn’t gone perfectly we should withdraw the troops. In other scenarios such a proposal would be termed “surrender,” but the Democrats can’t admit that surrender is what they want, so they try desperately to call it something else. And because a true global war against terrorism would play to the benefit of the Republicans, Democrats now are in the position of having to deny that terrorism is a real threat.

There is another possibility on the war against terrorism: Perhaps Democrats honestly don’t believe terrorism is a real threat. But that begs the question, “Which is worse: A group of people that doesn’t recognize reality when it stares them in the face, or a group that puts political considerations ahead of confronting threats to the safety of the American people?”

It doesn’t matter. Whichever way you answer that question, the inescapable conclusion is that the Democrats are unfit to govern.

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Leave Us Alone!

Starbucks May Be Next Target of Fatty-Fighting Group

Monday , June 19, 2006

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) may be next on the target list of a consumer-health group that this week sued the operator of the KFC fried chicken restaurant chain for frying foods in oils high in harmful trans fat.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said it is planning to campaign against the global cafe chain because of the increased risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer associated with high-calorie, high-fat products it sells.

And the possibility of legal action against Starbucks, similar to the case it is taking against KFC owner Yum Brands Inc. (YUM), has not been ruled out, said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.

"Regular consumers of Starbucks products could face Venti-sized health problems," Jacobson said, referring to Starbucks' use of the 'Venti' designation for 'large.'

The group is primarily funded by newsletter subscribers and individual donors. It has support in the campaign from the small IWW Starbucks Workers Union, which has members in three stores, all in New York.

They would like Starbucks to list nutrition information — which is currently available online and in store brochures — on its menu boards.

"Customers can ask for nutrition information, but when you're talking about a transparent business in a busy world, that's not enough," union organizer and Starbucks "barista" staff member Daniel Gross said in an interview.

Full Story

Somebody! Please! Get these people a real job so they won’t have time to stick their noses in everybody else’s business. People are going to eat fried chicken and drink lattes if they want to, and these busybodies just make doing business more expensive, hence the products we want to buy are also more expensive.

And if I ran Starbucks, there would be 100 percent of the members of the small IWW Starbucks Workers Union looking for employment, too.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ann Coulter

What does a reasonable conservative say about Ann Coulter?

Initially, my comment was that Miss Coulter is unnecessarily harsh in her comments. I think you can make the same points that Miss Coulter makes without being as vitriolic as she is.

However, I find that while I don’t really like or subscribe to the rhetoric she uses, I agree with most of her perspectives.
I understand what I think is her motivation: the Left is absurdly, unapologetically crass and shamelessly nasty in its approach to political discourse; has no principles that cannot be tossed aside in the pursuit of political expedience; and says things as harsh or harsher than Ann Coulter every day of the world. Having such a low standard set by the opposition, why shouldn’t members of the Right indulge themselves in similar rhetoric if they want to?

Maybe the Left doesn’t like tasting its own medicine, or perhaps it only sees Ann Coulter’s rhetoric as unacceptable, and see its own venomous language as okay. Who knows?
But, as they say, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

So Lefties, get over it.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

America is Becoming a Nation of Wimps

With every new generation Americans are becoming bigger wimps. There is a group within our society that is nannying us to death, trying to remove every last possible potential harm to us. The focus of this nannying is primarily our children. At first glance it might seem smart to try to protect the kids from harm, but this can be taken too far; we can protect our kids too much.

I grew up a long time ago. In the 50s, we had swings, slides, merry-go-rounds, monkey bars and the usual assortment of playground equipment, both on school playgrounds and on public playgrounds. We all lived through that experience with few injuries, and none more serious that a skinned knee or arm, or perhaps the occasional broken bone. Even the parents of the kid who broke his arm weren’t too upset; they didn’t want to close the playground or sue the city or the school system.

These days those two issues are the problem: 1) a nearly manic effort to protect kids from growing up, and 2) the proclivity of some people to sue somebody for whatever happens in their lives.

On the news today was a story about playground safety that told us that the Oregon school system is about to ban swings and such fun stuff as playing tag from playgrounds because of safety and litigation issues. School systems already spend a fortune on “new and improved” (safer) playground equipment. Estimates are that in order to build a safer playground will cost around $70,000. That’s way too much. And taking traditional equipment off the playground is sort of stupid.

Getting hurt was part of growing up. You learned a lot when you got hurt. These nannys and lawsuit-happy people need to grow and become responsible adults. What playgrounds need is not safer equipment that costs a fortune, or banning certain equipment and games. What we need is adequate supervision on the playgrounds, and the acknowledgement that it is okay, even good, for kids to get hurt once in a while, and when that happens, you comfort them, treat their injury, and move on.

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Today is Flag Day

G o d B l e s s A m e r i c a

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dark Day for Democrats

It’s a dark day for Democrats and liberals; Karl Rove isn’t going to be indicted for not committing a crime in the “Valerie Plame Never Was a Covert Agent” case the way Lewis “Scooter” Libby was indicted for not committing a crime. Just why Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor who spent two years investigating people over a crime that didn’t happen, gave up on Karl Rove we don’t know, except that maybe he couldn’t prove that Mr. Rove got mixed up about facts that have nothing to do with criminal activity the way Mr. Libby did.

There is something wrong with our criminal justice system when people like Lewis Libby can be indicted for either purposely or accidentally misstating facts to federal investigators when there wasn’t a crime for them to be investigating. Mr. Libby’s professional life is ruined; he’s undoubtedly spent a fortune on legal advice defending himself from nothing. The same with Mr. Rove, who had the good fortune to apparently not get confused about facts that have no legal significance the way Mr. Libby did.

Martha Stewart, who also committed no crime, found out about the low standards that prosecutors have to meet to get indictments. Under these standards, if the FBI comes to your door and asks if you have ever misspelled a word and you answer “no,” and the FBI produces a letter you wrote to your mother three years ago with a misspelled word in it, you have “lied” to government investigators and could be indicted. You would have done essentially the same thing that Ms. Stewart and Mr. Libby did: commit no crime, but misstate facts in answer to questions from federal investigators. It may be, as in the case of both Ms. Stewart and Mr. Libby, that you simply forgot that you had misspelled a word in your letter, or it may be that you never knew that you had misspelled a word, in the eyes of people like Patrick Fitzgerald you are subject to grand jury action.

It gets worse. Ms. Stewart was convicted and did jail time for “lying to federal investigators” and unless Mr. Fitzgerald gets a fit of conscience, Mr. Libby may suffer the same fate. Imagine that: In the United States of America it is possible to be indicted, tried, convicted and put in prison and never have committed a real crime. Is this a great country, or what?

But back to the original point: It’s a Dark Day for Democrats and liberals because Mr. Rove won’t be indicted, the “culture of corruption” fallacy can’t be used (unless the Democrats are willing to say that being investigated equals being corrupt, which wouldn’t be totally without precedent) and the second most hated man in America (George W. Bush tops that list) will continue working in the White House.

If you see liberals with their heads hung low, say something nice to pick up their spirits.

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Liberal Idiocy

Three of the Guantanamo Bay detainees succeeded in hanging themselves the other day, the first successful suicides in a string of more than 40 attempts by the suspected terrorist detainees. Usually the guards are able to thwart these efforts, but this time, thanks in part to the efforts of human rights organizations, the guards were inhibited in their surveillance of the detainees. You see, in order to provide the most humane and gentle conditions for people who routinely throw feces and urine on their guards and threaten to hunt down and kill their interrogators, these rights organizations insist that detainees be able to cover the window in their door, allowing them the utmost privacy, but preventing the guards from seeing that they are hanging themselves. This event produced new calls for the Guantanamo facility to be closed, and worse.

The most vile barbaric sub-human miscreant terrorizing Iraqis on a daily basis was tracked down last week, and the United States Air Force dropped two 500-lb bombs on his humble abode, taking out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a top deputy and four other people. Zarqawi did not die immediately; he fortunately lived long enough to see the faces of U.S. troops and likely recognized that he met his end at the hands of the American infidels. Almost as soon as the news reached the United States there were questions of whether Zarqawi had died of injuries inflicted by the explosion, or whether American troops had put a bullet in his head or beat him to death with the butt of a rifle.

Question for those wondering how Zarqawi died: Who cares?
Perhaps the people who ask such questions don’t realize that the purpose of dropping the bombs on the safe house was to kill Zarqawi. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether he died of bomb-inflicted injuries, whether some GI slit his throat or shot him between the eyes, beat him to death or smothered him with a pillow. These individuals likely also do not understand that the purpose of military units is to defeat the enemy, even if (horrors!!!) that means killing him.

Question for the media and other liberals: In such circumstances why do you automatically assume that the military of the United States has done something wrong?

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Visitor Charges Ignorance of Islam

In the previous column I wondered what the chances of democracy taking a prominent role in the Middle East are, given the sectarian violence that is now occurring in Iraq. Most of the violence and death are inflicted by Muslims against other Muslims—the Sunnis against (primarily) the Shi’a. This violence is clearly a religious conflict, and it is clearly a Muslim conflict.

There is and has been a great deal of violence committed by Muslims, and even the acts that are not part of the sectarian conflict are often connected to Islam by the perpetrators, who say they are trying to rid their country of Western intruders, or are waging war against “infidels.” Even when the goal is to drive out U.S. and coalition forces, Iraqi Muslim are most often the victims, and more than a few of the insurgents/terrorists are foreign fighters who have come to Iraq to fight. In response to that column was the following comment:

Understanding_Islam said...


Yet again...another non-Muslim who is accusing Islam! For those of you who accuse Islam of being a religion of violence...WHERE DOES IT STATE IN THE QUR'AN TO GO AND KILL INNOCENT PEOPLE? Please, for your own sakes, shut your ears from listening to what the media says and go and do your own research!!!If anyone is interested in getting a better understanding of Islam, feel free to visit my blog!


I appreciate Understanding Islam sharing his or her thoughts on Observations, but I wonder at his or her apparent lack of understanding that despite what the Qur’an does or does not say about killing innocent people, Muslims are busy killing innocent people.

Perhaps Islam is indeed a religion of peace, but it is difficult to ignore the murders committed by Muslims, which are often indiscriminate, frequently target innocents and often are committed in the name of Allah. Perhaps Understanding Islam’s peaceful religion has been hijacked or perverted by fanatics, and if that is the case you have to wonder why moderate and peaceful Muslims are so quiet. The Muslims that I know are quite devout, and I have the impression that Muslims are universally very attentive to the practices of Islam. And if that is so it is even more baffling why “true” Muslims who believe in peace, and who revile the killing of innocents allow what may be a fairly small faction of non-peaceful “false” Muslims to so horribly soil the reputation of Muhhamed and of Islam?

Could it be that while most Muslims interpret the Qur’an as a document that promotes peace and tolerance, it is equally legitimate to interpret the Qur’an as a document that encourages death to all non-Muslims—or in the case of the Sunni/Shi’a conflict, encourages the death of non-Sunnis—as a way to rid the world of non-believers or false believers? This would explain why there is no outrage at the irrational violence perpetrated by other Muslims.

It is all well and good to profess that Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion and to implore us to research the religion for ourselves, but so long as Islam is so closely tied to horrendous barbarism and so long as that faction of barbarians is allowed to continue murdering indiscriminately, it is fair and proper for us non-Muslims to question Islam’s claims to being peaceful.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Islam and Democracy

More and more I wonder if there is any hope for expanding freedom in the Middle East. Yes, it looks as if a democratic government may take root in Iraq, although that is by no means a certainty, and perhaps other nations may also adopt democratic principles. However, if what is happening in Iraq is any indication of the probability of success, the best we can do is hope. That is because of problems that are not so much political in nature, but religious in nature. The problem isn’t that people will reject freedom from oppression if offered it, it’s that Islam, or some of its adherents, will not permit it.

I know quite a few Muslims. They live and circulate in our community, and their children attend our schools. Most of them are doctors or are the family members of a doctor. They are immersed to a considerable degree in Western culture, availing themselves of the technological bounties present in our society and the good life that it is possible to live in the United States. It isn’t always and everywhere the same. In Iraq, for example, some Muslims welcome the coalition troops and the efforts to allow democracy to be born; others are fighting it tooth and nail. The internal war in Iraq swirls around religious differences between opposing sects of Islam, pitting the Sunnis against the Shiites and the Kurds.

Examples of Sunni violence abound. The terrorist Zarqawi has gained a large measure of infamy because of his vicious murder of Iraqi Muslims. Zarqawi and his ilk may be more afraid of an end to Sunni dominance in Iraq’s goverment than to some perceived threat to his practice of Islam, although the two are heavily intertwined. But other less publicized violence is more directed at those who are perceived as straying from the prophet Muhhamed’s lifestyle.

A column in the local daily by Deroy Murdock detailed the work of Sunni totalitarians that have killed Iraqis for, of all things, selling ice. To Westerners, and perhaps to a majority of the people of planet Earth this seems irrational, but to these fanatics it makes perfect sense. You see, Mr. Murdock tells us, since Muhhamed didn’t have ice 1,400 years ago; Muslims today should not have ice, either. The killing of four ice merchants occurred in Al-Dora a couple of weeks ago. Violence has also been carried out or threatened against Iraqis for other non-Muhhamed activities such as: selling falafels, tennis players wearing shorts and tee-shirts, men wearing goatees (Jewish fashion, you know), and women riding buses with men or driving cars.

Obviously, these fanatics have targeted some things that were not part of Muhhamed’s existence while ignoring other things that also were not part of Muhhamed’s world. They killed a tennis coach and two of his players because of their wardrobe, apparently allowing people to play tennis if dressed appropriately. They used modern weapons to kill the ice sellers. They killed 21 Shiite, Turkoman and Kurdish students headed to school in mini-buses while sparing four Sunni students. Neither tennis, nor semi-automatic weapons, nor mini-buses existed when Muhhamed sold his wares in the year 600. So these radicals who are mired in the past are hypocrits in addition to being barbarians.

But the overriding point in all of this is that as long as Islam has fanatic factions that are so out of touch with present day life on the Earth, and are willing to kill other Muslims who have moved on to a lifestyle that is in step with the rest of the world, Islam will continue to be derided and be considered a major threat to the world. Those Muslims who are incensed at the widely held negative view of their religion will have to realize and admit that this negativity is self-inflicted. If this view is going to change Islam itself will have to change.

We continue to wait on Muslims to act in their own best interest.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ding Dong the Pig is Dead!
Allah be Praised!

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the wanton murderer of dozens of innocent men, women and children, the Jordanian miscreant who came to Iraq to kill fellow Muslims and behead innocents in the name of Allah, is dead.

Allah be praised.

Apparently, death came quickly and without warning. Too bad. Anyone who has inflicted as much pain and horror on others as this thug deserves to know that he is about to die, and have time to think about that. He deserves to have lots of
pain and wish he were dead for several hours before relief comes.

Zarqawi escaped his just desserts yesterday, and though it would give me great satisfaction to know that he will live a long uncomfortable life in an 8x12 room with no contact with human beings except when he sees someone deliver his meager meals, I’m thrilled that the bastard is dead.

So are millions of others, including Iraqis and even his fellow Jordanians, who have repudiated his evil. He is no martyr; he is just one more dead murderer.
The war isn’t over. The killing isn’t over. But this is a serious blow to the terrorists trying to tear Iraq apart.

I won’t even dignify the Left’s idiocy with comments. You know the drill: Let’s pull out and leave the Iraqis hanging. If Bush were competent we’d
have had Zarqawi and bin Laden and Zawahiri and Hitler … Showing pictures of the dead is against the Geneva Conventions. You know: Idiocy.

Let’s just celebrate that justice has been done to one evil crud and enjoy and revel in the moment.

Update: Zarqawi was alive and on a gurney when American forces arrived on the scene, and therefore understood what had happened to him. Reportedly, he tried to roll off the gurney to escape. We have the added satisfaction of knowing that Zarqawi knew he had been found and killed by the United States. Perhaps that reality will dawn on his murderous brethren.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Why Aren’t You Angry?

Why aren’t you angry at your government’s gross negligence securing our borders? Why aren’t you incensed that millions of people have come to our country illegally, some of them criminals, most of them running up costs to state and local governments, few of them paying their way? Why aren’t you furious that with the ease of getting into the United States it is only a miracle that some number of terrorists haven’t sneaked in and carried out attacks on you and me? Or maybe they have and we just haven’t seen the results of their work.

Why aren’t you enraged that so many convicted sex offenders are turned lose on society, free to rape and kill? Why do you so placidly allow judges to under-sentence these dangerous scumbags without comment or action? How many times recently have we seen these degenerates fail to follow the puny rules of probation or the requirement to register with law enforcement officials, and then rape or kill an innocent woman or child?

What is wrong with Americans? Have we become so “tolerant” that we have become stupid and hypnotized?

I think so.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Understanding Islam and Muslims

One of the most frustrating things to me is the lack of loud Muslim outrage in response to the Muslim terrorist acts that are so prevalent these days. We are told that Islam is the religion of peace, and yet Muslim terrorists commit horrendous acts of violence often aimed at innocent men, women and even children, and do so in the name of Allah, the god of Islam. Commonly, Muslim terrorists set off roadside bombs, or suicide bombers blow themselves to Kingdom Come, taking innocent bystanders with them, and there is barely a whimper from the legion of so-called “moderate Muslims” in horrified reaction.

In my blogosphere travels I have visited Web sites hosted by Muslims in an effort to try to understand just where “everyday Muslims” stand on this and other issues. While I haven’t found anyone on these sites yet that can adequately explain this phenomenon to me, I have at least found a couple of sites where the host seems mostly reasonable. One plainly denounced suicide bombings, beheadings and violence against innocents, but without passion. Most often the atrocities that are committed by Muslims in the name of Allah are explained away as the acts of a relative few extremists.

I believe that it is the absence of outrage from the larger peaceful Muslim community if such a community actually exists—that is responsible for, or which at least has exacerbated the anti-Muslim sentiment that exists today.

The targets of this violence are frequently fellow Muslims, as we heard in the news just this week, when masked gunmen stopped two minivans carrying students north of Baghdad Sunday, ordered the passengers off, separated Shiites from Sunni Arabs, and killed the 21 Shiites "in the name of Islam," according to a witness. This seemingly mindless act must have some tremendously important basis among the Muslims who perpetrated this reprehensible deed, something strong enough to warrant the wanton murder of children, of fellow Muslims, of fellow Iraqis. It has something to do with Islam and the sectarian differences between the Sunis, the Kurds and the Shiites. But why would people, all of whom believe in Allah, want to kill each other in the name of Allah over other, smaller differences? It is equivalent to Baptists and Methodists taking up arms against each other.

Islam is indeed a puzzle, and if there truly are moderate, peace-loving Muslims who despise the hijacking of their religion by extremist minorities, they must be afraid to condemn it, or maybe they don't really think what their brothers do is wrong.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Thoughts on Illegal Immigration

Here’s the contents of an email I got today that is ostensibly a letter to the editor of a newspaper from a lady named Linda Myers, who is disenchanted with the do-nothingness of our government on the illegal Mexican immigration issue.

She has a lot of company.

Her perspective is an interesting one, comparing illegals to someone breaking into a private home. It isn't original, but the application is pretty effective.

I can’t vouch for the authenticity of this letter, but the message is valid regardless of its origin.

Recently large demonstrations have taken place across the country protesting the fact that Congress is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration. Certain people are angry that the U.S. might protect its own borders, might make it harder to sneak into this country and, once here, to stay indefinitely.

Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests. Let's say I break into your house. Let's say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave. But I say, "I've made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors; I've done all the things you don't like to do. I'm hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house)."

According to the protesters, not only must you let me stay, you must add me to your family's insurance plan and provide other benefits to me and to my family (my husband will do your yard work because he too is hard-working and honest, except for that breaking-in part). If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my right to be there.

It's only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I'm just trying to better myself. I'm hard working and honest um, except for ... well, you know. And what a deal it is for me!! I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of selfishness, prejudice and being anti-housebreaker. Did I miss anything?

Does this sound reasonable to you? If it does, grab a sign and go picket something. If this sounds insane to you, call your senators and enlighten them because they are stumbling in the darkness right now and really need your help.

Linda Myers
April 10, 2006 - New-Sentinel

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Advice for Graduates

From 1988 to 2001 I edited and published a weekly community newspaper, The Observer, and about this time each year I would write an editorial addressed to the soon-to-be high school and college graduates of the area. It wasn’t an original idea; such editorials are common in the spring. But I took a somewhat original approach inasmuch as I was not telling the graduates what a big step they had taken and how much they had accomplished, but instead trying to give them a dose of cold, hard reality, and some good, solid advice. 

Each year it becomes more evident that kids need that message more than the year before, because this generation—Generation Me, it has been called—is a different breed. More and more kids graduating today are the product of the “self-esteem-at-any-cost movement,” a dumb-headed and dangerous construct that holds that whatever else is going on in a young person’s life, they need to be made to feel important. It is no longer enough for a kid to feel good about herself because she won the spelling bee or made straight As, or because he is the fastest in the hundred-yard dash at the county track meet. No, that isn’t good enough because only one person could win the bee or the dash, and not everyone is capable of making straight As. Those that don’t win get no positive reinforcement from whatever the experience is, and that is simply unacceptable; everyone must get positive reinforcement from every experience or their egos will be forever damaged.

Kids with this sort of background are at a tremendous disadvantage, even if they happen to have come away with a good education, and these days that is anything but certain. Their attention has been misfocused during much of their time in school, they have quite often been taught to pay attention to the wrong things, and they are not prepared to successfully function in the workaday world.

So in the interest of helping them adapt, here is my advice for today’s graduates:

  • Despite the picture painted for you, you are not the smartest and most wonderful person on Earth.

  • What you think about things will be irrelevant to most other people most of the time. It isn’t what you say; it’s what you do that counts.

  • You have graduated, and that is certainly noteworthy, but that achievement is relative; there are millions who have graduated before you, and you are just getting started.

  • If you were valedictorian, salutatorian or an honor student, good for you, but that buys you very little at the next stage.

  • You need to develop some perspective. Fast.

  • Always be polite and courteous. It is virtually painless and pays big dividends.

  • Be respectful of your elders; they know what you are just beginning to learn.

  • Even if you have a college degree, when you get a job your first and most important task is to learn. You don’t learn how to do your job in college; you learn that on the job. College gives you tools; experience gives you expertise.

  • When you get a job, try to be underpaid. That means you are giving your employer more than he or she is paying for, and that is the prescription for advancement.

  • Listen to and learn from people who hold different opinions than you. You may still keep your opinions, but at least there will have been conscious thought involved in the process.

Good luck in the future. If you work hard, you will most likely be successful.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Graduation: Another Tradition Being Destroyed

Daughter #3 graduated from high school this weekend. I'm very proud of her; she has done well in school. But it’s a shame what has happened to graduation ceremonies lately. People do not know how to behave, and the entire ceremony has become a caricature

Time was when the person in the senior class with the highest grade point average was the valedictorian and the person with the second highest GPA was the salutatorian. In fact, those are the very definitions of those two terms. But no more. My daughter’s class had five—yes, that’s right, five—valedictorians and two salutatorians, in a class of 97 seniors. I am fond of saying that if everyone wins an award winning awards becomes meaningless. When five people are in first place and two people are in second place, in my mind it’s not really very special. I was somewhat surprised to hear the principal say that when he learned there would be five valedictorians what a special thing that was, and how special that particular class was.

Now, it is mathematically possible for two or more students to have the exact same GPA. Not very likely, you understand, but mathematically possible. But five people with the same GPA? I doubt it. And even so, there has to be a better outcome than to have five people named the smartest person in the class. But this is part and parcel of the recent abhorrent trend toward trying to make everyone feel special, even when they aren’t. At the class awards ceremony last week, even people who just participated in a particular activity got an award. I guess those activity sponsors just couldn’t bear not to praise even the mediocre participants. Excellence ain’t what it used to be.

It seems to me that the solution to having two or more people with the same GPA—if indeed that was really the case—is to have some way to break the tie, and the winner takes the valedictorian’s mantle and the second place winner becomes the salutatorian. The rest will just have to be content to rank among the top seven of their class, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Give them a test to see who has the best score. Flip a coin. Draw lots.

Frankly, I think the top five students were close in GPA, say within some number of hundredths of a point. The top student may have had a 4.17, and the second highest had a 4.09. Close? You bet. But one had a better GPA than the other, and that’s the way it should have been determined. (Now, in case you are wondering about how even one student can have more than a 4.00 GPA, it is possible because the Advanced Placement classes are worth more than 4 points for an “A” because of the difficulty of the class.)

School officials couldn’t make the tough decision; that’s the plain and simple truth, and the result is that being valedictorian isn’t as special as it used to be. That and the fact that we are training our young people to expect to be rewarded for less than excellent performance.

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