Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Road Trip

This is going to be substantially off the beaten path for me. I spent the day in the car, driving to Charlotte to pick up a friend and bring him back. He’s recently taken a job in Dallas, but he and the missus haven’t moved yet, so he had to fly back, and Charlotte is a major hub, although there are big airports a little closer. It’s a 3-hour trip, each way.

I got to Statesville just before noon, and went to the JR Outlet to buy some cigars, then headed to the Carolina Bar-B-Q for lunch. It is a small place, twenty or so years old, and is privately owned (not a franchise), and it has a personality. It’s a kind of “down home” place, run and staffed by natives of the area, very unassuming and down to Earth. As you go through the door you are at the cash register, and I saw two signs posted there. The first one said, “Please be seated for service,” and the second on said, “If you are grouchy, irritable, or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge just for putting up with you.”

I like their attitude.

They had two seating areas, one to the left and one to the right. I naturally headed to the left side.

I saw a set of booths along a divider that consisted of three large flags, one for the Air Force, one for the Marine Corps, and one for the Navy. I didn’t see a flag for the Army, but I’ll bet there was one on the other side. When I looked to the right, there was one booth on the wall, and behind that the entrance to the kitchen. On the wall was a POW-MIA flag.

I like their attitude.

Below the POW-MIA flag was one of those large outside thermometers, probably about three feet tall and eight inches wide, which advertised a product. The POW-MIA flag covered just enough of the top of the thermometer that I couldn’t see the whole name of the company advertised thereon, but I could read the words “horse liniment.” Below the mercury tube that told you what the temperature was, it said, “also good for mules and jackasses.” I looked up at the top of the door to the kitchen, and a sign protruded which said, “Keep your hands off the waitress.” I sat in the booth near that sign.

The waitress that I was forbidden to touch was very prompt and very nice, but wasn’t someone I wanted to fondle. Lucky me. The food was good, and the prices reasonable. I had a barbecue tray consisting of pulled pork, slaw and hush puppies, with a side of baked beans and iced tea, and I got out of there for about $11, and that included a $3.00 tip.

The place mats were interesting, and that actually is what prompted me to write this. The place mat was a printed piece titled “Mountain Talk,” and featured artwork of hillbillies and scenes of mountain life surrounding mountain terms and definitions. The introductory material says, “The charm of the Appalachian mountain folk … lies in their isolation from outside influences. Their manner of speech and way of life dates back to earlier more relaxed times.” Having spent many years living in the Appalachian Mountains, I have heard many of these terms, although not too many people that I personally know use many of them. For your edification and amusement, I offer you a few:

Askeered of – Afraid of, as in, “He’s askeered of his shadow.”

Holler – A small valley, as in, “She comes from over in the holler.”

Vittles – Victuals, as in, “I hope ma’s got the vittles on when I git home.

Smart – To hurt, as in, “It shore smarts where I got hit.”

Fur piece – A great distance, as in, “He lives a fur piece up the holler.”

Pizen (pronounced “pie-zen”) – Poison, as in, “I seen lotsa pizen snakes in these parts.”

Crick – A stiffness, as in, “Marvin has a crick in his neck.”

Clum – Climbed, as in, “I clum thet tree for the last time.”

Poke – Paper bag, as in, “He put the chicken in a poke.”

Whupped – Whipped or spanked, as in, “Pa shore whupped me when I lied to the widder woman.”

Et – Eaten, as in, “Have they et?”

Gander – To look at, as in, “Take a gander at her.”

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

None Are So Blind As Those That Will Not See

Among the most puzzling things today is the seeming inability of the Left in the United States to grasp the seriousness of the threat of global Islamic terrorism. That this threat is real, and that it is the most significant threat to free people is a reality accepted by objective folk. Yet, a sizable group of Americans either does not understand it or refuses to accept it.

Think back to September 11, 2001, the day 19 barbaric Islamic radicals hijacked four airliners and crashed two of them into the World Trade Center, one more into the Pentagon, and a fourth (whose target isn’t certain) crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly three thousand innocent people died that dark day. The next day, September 12, everybody understood the threat; everybody was united against the threat; no one doubted the threat. Just five short years later a substantial number of Americans no longer recognize the threat. Why?

One answer is that it is much easier to criticize George W. Bush and his administration if there is no terrorist threat. One of the President’s constant themes is that we are in a war of global proportions against Islamic terrorism. We are pretty much forced either to accept that assertion or to reject it. Obviously, if we accept it, we won’t be as complacent about a future attack as the liberals and Democrats are. But that isn’t the only answer, and it only accounts for a portion of the doubters, which is the hard core Bush-haters for whom no threat is greater than the perceived threat posed by the Bush administration. That is a mindless muddle of emotionalism passing as a viable analysis of events. It is, however, a prevalent attitude.

Another answer is that because the U.S. hasn’t been attacked since 2001 many believe the terrorist threat has been eliminated or adequately reduced. A couple of questions naturally follow from such a premise, the first of which is: What happened that diminished the ability of terrorists to attack the U.S.? Was it because the U.S. responses to 9-11 were effective in reducing terrorist’s abilities to mount an attack? Did the action in Afghanistan disrupt al-Qaeda operations that greatly? Have U.S. intelligence agencies done an effective job at tracking and interfering with terrorists through the NSA surveillance program and other covert means? Has the fighting in Iraq tied up so many terrorists that there aren’t enough to focus on attacking the U.S.?

The second question is: How do these doubters explain the thwarted effort to bring down two handfuls of airliners bound for the U.S. from England? Does that dose of reality give them reason to rethink their position? Or do they think it was just a fluke?

You cannot adequately respond to a threat unless you fully and accurately recognize what the threat is. If a substantial portion of Americans does not believe that Islamic terrorists are a clear and present danger to this country, then they will not support efforts to thwart potential terrorist attacks, and, in fact, may openly oppose genuine efforts that target terrorist activities. This explains why The New York Times exposed counter-terror measures for the entire world, including terrorist planners, to see, and why the Left and the Bush-haters are so adamant about criticizing everything the President does, especially measures taken to identify and deter terrorists.

Such a state of affairs leads one to this conclusion: These Americans require being slapped in the face with another successful terrorist attack on our soil to wake them to reality. And so long as so many Doubting Thomases exist, it is only a matter of time.

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Points To Ponder

[T]he default assumption of our covert enemies is that in any conflict between the West and the Rest, the West is wrong. That assumption can be rebutted by overwhelming fact: Few argued for the Taliban after Sept. 11. But in our continuing struggles, our covert enemies portray our work in Iraq through the lens of Abu Ghraib and consider Israel’s self-defense against Hezbollah as the oppression of virtuous victims by evil men. In World War II, our elites understood that we were the forces of good and that victory was essential. Today, many of our elites subject our military and intelligence actions to fine-tooth-comb analysis and find that they are morally repugnant. We have always had our covert enemies, but their numbers were few until the 1960s. But then the elite young men who declined to serve in the military during the Vietnam War set out to write a narrative in which they, rather than those who obeyed the call to duty, were the heroes. They have propagated their ideas through the universities, the schools and mainstream media to the point that they are the default assumptions of millions. Our covert enemies don’t want the Islamo-fascists to win. But in some corner of their hearts, they would like us to lose. —Michael Barone

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

by The Windjammer

The Deed to the Southwest

I have heard in the past few days and weeks an argument made by illegal immigrants and their supporters that Mexico still actually owns the southwestern U.S. because Mexico owned it first.

That one just doesn’t hold tequila.

That claim, I suppose, is based upon the "right of conquest." The hidden meaning in that term is that someone else had to own it before. If it had not been, the conquest would have been over the land itself. The truth of the matter is that there were people there many thousands of years before anyone had ever heard the word "Mexico." That term also implies that anyone who comes along later and whips the britches off the Juan-come-latelies can claim it "by right of conquest." As I recall, that is precisely what happened, although that perception may not be popular in some circles.

I know a guy who has written a few books and is in the process of writing a few more. He is known far and wide as an old geezer and he looks as though he could have been there when some of the events happened. I’m afraid to ask him.

He is part Seneca and part Cherokee, although I don’t know which part is which. The biggest part is European, mostly Scot with a little mixture of miscellaneous others thrown in just to make it confusing. I hope you noticed I didn’t spell it Scotch. He doesn’t touch the stuff.

I am always eager to promote accurate history, so I have purloined a few pages (a.k.a. plagiarism) with his permission, of course, from a couple of them to illustrate that there were people here and there in the area long before the Spanish, the French, the Portuguese and the English ever knew there was such a place as Virginia.

I don’t know if you knew it or not, but Virginia was once a pretty big pea patch, stretching from sea to shining sea and from ice cubes to tepid water. That is according to two guys who stood at different times among the abalones on one side and the sand dollars on the other and declared that the whole shebang was Virginia. Others may have thought otherwise. They both named it for their absentee girl friend whose given name was Elizabeth I. Cell phones and CB radios just weren’t as efficient back then as they are today.

The accounts go from back to front, starting with what has become known as the European Conquest and hopefully will end with some ancient history. The book from which the brief history of the Spanish invasion is taken has been out of print for several years. I’m not telling about the other. Hope you enjoy the history lesson.

When Columbus landed on that little island down south and first got the sand of the new world in his sandals he found a relatively isolated group of natives who were peaceful and generous to a fault. They would have given the Spanish the shirts off their backs if the sailors had asked for them and if the natives had been wearing any.

There have been a number of discussions about what the sailors and the subsequent armies gave the natives in return. It is almost a foregone conclusion that three of the gifts were gonorrhea, smallpox and syphilis. One good turn deserves another and each country sends its best.

What the natives wore could hardly be classified as shirts by the European definition. The rest of their attire left more skin than skins showing. Not a whole lot in front and barely anything behind, to paraphrase another well-known writer of days gone by.

The women’s fashions were hardly worth toting back to Spain. The women wore not quite as much as the men, but they displayed it better. The mannequins were shaped differently.

The senoritas back home would not likely consider the garments as Paris originals. They were just a little more particular about how much Spanish miss they displayed at bullfights.

Columbus was convinced that he had found Spiceland, so he insisted the people were Indians. We have perpetuated the myth. He may have lived long enough to know better, but if he did learn, he would never admit his mistake.

He could not believe the people could be so generous with their assets. He and his men started taking without the formality of saying "Please." This caused a slight resentment among the natives, so they decided to take their stout sticks and the situation in hand.

They were not well equipped for fighting and the confrontations resulted in several short necks without the fuzzy ball on top. The victims were the natives. I’m not too sure whether the women were exempt, but Spanish sailors surely would recognize a good thing when they saw it. Those events happened before some red-hot reporter coined the phrase "gunboat diplomacy," but they had similar results.

Columbus had not much more than returned to Spain and presented a half dozen natives and a handful of gold nuggets and emeralds to the queen when Pope Alexander VI declared that half the heathen lands belonged to Spain and half to Portugal. He may have been hedging his bets. He must have been like some of the TV evangelists and said that God had made him do it. I suppose he was afraid that the Spanish and Portuguese might start studying German. The kind that Martin Luther began to teach a few years later.

Spain began its conquest—and I use the term loosely—almost as soon as the miter was dropped. They used the excuse that they were Christianizing the natives. Most of those who were not converted by the time the echoes of the first "Howdy" died away never made it.

I haven’t read anywhere that any of the Spanish officers or soldiers made the sign of the cross over any of the victims. The invaders made no attempt to determine the religion of the "heathens" or the similarities between it and their own. A few priests did raise their voices in protest but those were soon drowned out by the clink of silver, the clunk of gold and the clank of iron blades on bone and stone. The real reason for the expeditions was greed.

It was then and continues to be one of the blackest episodes in the history of Christianity. It ranks right up there with the Inquisition and the Holocaust for honors for infamy in man’s continuing relationship with mankind. Those others received more publicity, but for decimation of a genetic group, they don’t hold a candle to the destruction of the Mayas and the Aztecs. I have never fully understood why we have failed to recognize it for what it was.

One account that I read at some time or another estimated the Tainos population at the time the Spanish arrived at a quarter of a million. That figure dropped to about fourteen thousand by 1513. That genocide was by sword and smallpox, with a case or two of syphilis thrown in which the native girls picked up while picking seashells off the beach.

The first direct encounter between the mainland Mayas and the Spanish was in 1511 when a Spanish ship ran aground. The crew was captured and eaten. Only two men survived to become slaves of a chieftain. It was not a coincidence that in 1516 a new disease called the easy death killed many of the natives. It was smallpox.

The second encounter was when a Spanish ship attempted to land and the Mayas successfully drove them off. The next year saw the event repeated almost word for word when four ships arrived. The Mayas succeeded in driving them off again. Their good fortune was not to last.

A short time later the Spanish came again. This time they had eleven ships, about five hundred men and sixteen horses. The natives had never seen horses, so they fled in terror at the first sight of animals that carried tin men figures on their backs. Hernando Cortes had hit the jackpot.

He and his men hit the beaches of Mexico in 1519 and took off at a fast trot to educate the Mayas. He used soldiers, swords, firesticks and a K-9 corps to destroy a civilization that was probably far superior to the one he had left at home.

We are still trying to understand what we don’t know about their beliefs, their mathematics, their astronomy, their construction methods and their way of life. Their calendar may have been the most accurate of its time. Maybe ours as well. That calendar was forwarded to the Aztecs, the name by which most of us know it today.

Their use of the decimal point probably predated Europe by nearly a thousand years. The Romans were the most powerful nation of their time, but they could count only so far. Their largest number was "M" (1,000). They used the term "as the grains of sand" a lot.

The religious beliefs of the Mayas, Ancient Mayas and Aztecs were not so well developed as some of their northern neighbors, but that observation is made from the vantage point of several hundred years of enlightenment. They enjoyed a little long pig on occasion. They still practiced human sacrifice, not so much to their gods as to the process of the regeneration of life and time. They built huge edifices which were laid out in respect to the sun, moon and stars. They had a large and powerful priesthood that may have been more mystical than devout.

Cortes moved inland against the great Aztec empire. Reliable estimates place the population figures at about eleven million, more than twice that of Spain. The Aztecs were fierce fighters, led by their demi-god, Moctezuma. The Spanish had about four hundred men at the start of the campaign.

Strangely, that expedition produced only one significant battle rather early in the invasion—and that with the enemies of the Aztecs (the Tlaxcalans). Those defeated warriors joined the Spanish after the battle. I suppose they wanted to see old Mocky get his comeuppance.

Instead of fighting, Moctezuma welcomed the Spanish with open arms, believing them to be the white gods predicted in their religious beliefs. They turned out to be devils. The invaders were given the royal treatment for a week or so. A slave girl who had been given to Cortes by the Mayas talked Moctezuma into submitting as a royal prisoner. The Spanish had won again without firing a shot.

The Aztecs’ religious practices were similar to those of the Mayas except moreso. They sacrificed captives, their own people and their firstborn. It is believed that they often used virgins. I can’t swear to the condition. The priests removed the heart from a living victim as a sacrifice to their powerful sun-god, Huitzilopochtli. Don’t fret. I have trouble pronouncing it too. The Spanish could no more understand this barbaric ritual than the Aztecs could understand the Spaniards’ religion.

Cortes left a captain in charge while he went to fight a Spanish usurper who was nothing more than a pirate. When he returned, his trusted captain had instigated a massacre of innocents and initiated a battle royal in which Moctezuma was killed, possibly by his own people. The Aztecs weren’t the only barbarians on the scene. The Spanish played the part as though they knew how. More than eight hundred Spanish were killed. The rest ran off to fight again.

I can’t figure from where all the Spanish came. Cortes started with four hundred and a couple of weeks later there were far more than eight hundred. The extras may have been tourists who came to see the ruins before they became so old and vine-covered. The Spanish returned a year later and destroyed the city of Mexico. Aztec losses in that run-in were set at 117,000.

We still haven’t been able to determine the complicated science necessitated by, nor the actual significance of, the gigantic carvings of human heads done by their predecessors, the Toltecs and the earlier Olmecs. All we know for sure is that it was impossible for them to accomplish such things. We still don’t know enough about the Olmecs and the Ancient Mayas. Some of the later Mayan temples are still standing in Mexico and Central America. The most noted of these today is Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. There are a few descendants of the later Mayas living in Yucatan, but if they know anything about their ancestors, they aren’t telling very much. They have probably heard what happened to their ancestors and the Aztecs.

Cortes and his cronies and their dogs of war may have made it impossible for us to learn more than that their complex civilization was flourishing, peacefully for the most part, several centuries before Spain’s. Their wars were local and sometimes "friendly" for the purpose of capturing sacrificial offerings.

Ponce de Leon made the first Spanish landing on the North American mainland in what is now the United States in 1513 on the beach of Florida. He and his men took a bath in every little pond, puddle, inlet, outlet and stream they came upon in their frantic search for the fabled Fountain of Youth but they never found the one they were hunting. They went on and died just like everybody else—all gray and as wrinkled as prunes.

Pizarro followed a few years after Cortes and a few miles farther south to tame the Incas and to steal their treasures. There are a few descendants of that great empire who managed to survive.

What a tragedy that these great civilizations were sacrificed to the lust for a dull yellow metal that has been elevated to a god-like place in history and in the minds of men. To set the record straight, there was also some shinier metal that has not been considered quite so valuable but which still causes men to tear each others’ eyes out to gather a little of it.

The really sad part of the story is that the gold and silver could have been had in sufficient quantities for the asking and through kind and humane treatment. There is a strong likelihood that more would have reached the motherland and the mother church if the looters could have timed their departures more leisurely and avoided considerable losses at sea.

Footnote: Hernando de Soto explored from the eastern mainland to as far as what is now Kansas by 1541. He is credited with "discovering" the Father of Waters in that year. Heck, my ancestors had been catfishing in it for several thousand years before that. Isn’t it odd that nobody noticed?

De Soto made a reputation for himself as being a mean little bastard. He seldom met an Indian of whom he thought more than he did of the gold he never found in any appreciable quantity.

His people may have been the second Spanish people to meet the ani yvwiya (the tsalagi or Cherokee). They made themselves scarce when he came through the second time. Self-preservation, you know.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hot Rhetoric from Iran

Iran’s radical, pugilistic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a fiery sermon demanded that Iran’s enemies—meaning us in the West—bow down before Iran and apologize for having held back Tehran’s nuclear program for three years. Question: What did the West do that actually slowed Iran down? It seems to be the almost universal opinion that the world has been sitting on its hands while Iran has continued to develop its nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad also warned the West that it would “burn” in the “fire of the nations’ fury.” “If you do not return to monotheism and worshipping god and refuse to accept justice then you will burn in the fire of the nations’ fury,” Ahmadinejad said. By “return to monotheism and worshipping god” he apparently means Allah, which of course implies that Ahmadinejad will release the wrath of Iran on the West if we do not soon convert to Islam.

JihadWatch inteprets Ahmadinejad’s rantings as:
"... the call to accept Islam that precedes jihad, in accord with the Muslim Prophet Muhammad's dictum to call the unbelievers first to accept Islam, and to fight them if they refuse (Sahih Muslim 4294)." Is Ahmadinejad issuing fair warning before he unleashes the Iranian hordes on us?

Does he also intend to take on the rest of the non-Islamic peoples? Should the 4.3 billion of the world’s 6.6 billion people who are not Muslims start to worry?

It is the hot season in Iran, and perhaps the heat is responsible for Ahmadinejad’s provocative rhetoric.

The threat Iran poses is relatively small, unless and until it acquires nuclear weaponry. Ahmadinejad has to know that his military—which while not insignificant, is far from dominant—has no chance of taking over the world and either converting billions of people or killing the billions who refuse to convert, even in the unlikely event that he could unite the disparate factions of Islam behind him. And he has to know that even with the help of nuclear weapons he gets one shot before Iran is erased from the map.

So what is Ahmadinejad up to? He can cause some mischief in the region, of course, and he can continue to support terrorist activities. But it is unlikely that Iran could take down an Israel military that, unlike in the conflict with Hezbollah where it tried to minimize civilian casualties, would fight the Iranians with both hands and feet.

All things considered, Ahmadinejad’s rant is just a lot of hot air.

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Worth A Thousand Words

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Points To Ponder

It is long past the time when we need to start ‘playing’ the equivalent of smash-mouth football with these [islamofascists]. They’ve got our number, but we don’t yet have theirs. The British are still shocked that people who are born in their country, go to their schools, have British accents and eat fish and chips would kill their fellow Brits. They do so because their allegiance is not to Britain, or to the Queen, but rather to their perverted view of God and the instructions from the hate preachers telling them to go bag some Jews, Christians, Westerners and other ‘infidels.’... This isn’t about ‘civil rights’ and constitutional protection. These people use our Constitution to protect themselves so they can kill us. And this is decidedly not a game. It is life and death. We want to live and they want us dead. Any questions? —Cal Thomas

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Does Anything Make This Okay?

Ricky Jovan Gray was convicted Thursday of capital murder in the New Year's Day slaying of Bryan Harvey, 49, his wife, Kathryn, 39, and daughters Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4. The victims were found in the basement of their burning home, bound, beaten with a hammer and stabbed, with their throats cut. Prosecutors say Gray, 29, and his nephew, Ray Joseph Dandridge, killed the Harveys during a bloody crime spree that included the slaying of a second Richmond family less than a week later. A police detective from Philadelphia, where the men were arrested Jan. 7, testified Thursday that Gray confessed to those crimes and others, including the November slaying of Gray's wife near Pittsburgh.

Relatives testified Friday that Gray's childhood was filled with abuse. His mother wept as she testified that he was beaten repeatedly with a horse strap by his father and was sexually abused by a half brother for years.

So, your childhood wasn’t good. Okay, it was a nightmare. But that doesn’t make it okay for you to kill people. Understand?

I continue to wonder to what degree our national affinity to understand violent crimes and to have compassion, rather than contempt, for those who commit inexcusable acts of violence has actually created a culture of victim hood that conveys the message that because you had some bad luck you can do pretty much anything you want, and it will be okay.

Well, Ricky, it’s not okay. Your childhood does not excuse your barbaric behavior.

Ricky Gray didn’t kill people because his father was a vicious bastard; he killed people because he is vicious bastard! A lot of us had a less than ideal childhood, and a lot of us had a bad childhood. I did. Maybe you did, too.

If everyone who didn’t have a perfect childhood went out as adults and started kicking dogs, beating our spouses, robbing convenience stores, assaulting innocent people and committing murder, the country wouldn’t be able to survive the crime wave. Most of us don’t succumb to the temptation to wallow in our misery. Instead of whining and moping about their bad circumstances, most people try to rise above their negative background and make something more of themselves than being a wanton killer.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Freedom Misused is a Dangerous Thing

America may be, even with all the restrictions on its citizens, the freest nation on Earth. Even if we aren’t the freest nation, we certainly enjoy a high degree of personal freedom, which is no accident, as our Constitution strongly defends mankind’s unalienable, God-given rights. As a people we are very aware of our freedom to express ourselves and we are very quick to assert that right and to cite our Constitutional protection of it.

Everyone everywhere can think whatever he or she wants, but not everyone is free to say what he or she wants. Citizens of other nations—Iran, for example—do not enjoy the freedom to express themselves. Iranians can think whatever they want to about, for example, the direction and actions of their government, but they know better than to voice any discontent. The result is that Iran presents a united front; the world believes that the Iranian people support what the Iranian government says. That may not be true, of course, and we are told that the people of Iran do not necessarily agree with their government, but we don’t see Iranians carrying signs in the streets protesting their government’s actions.

Here in the United States citizens write letters to the editor; form organizations to lobby for various causes; make public statements on TV and radio and in news publications; march in public demonstrations; and utilize virtually any imaginable vehicle to express their opinions. Elected officials are openly and even harshly critical of each other and of official national policies. The result of this chaotic din is that the world sees the U.S. as a nation without a unified voice, and views the government’s policies as the policies of the relative few in power, not policies supported by the whole of the American people.

Imagine the power that a nation as large and powerful as the U.S. could project if it’s policies appeared to be supported by all the people. Instead, the disarray projected to the world through the loud, vitriolic public disagreement that Americans today so greatly cherish works to our national detriment, as it signals to everyone, friends and enemies alike, that we don’t know what we want, and can’t agree on anything. Instead of projecting strength, we project confusion and disunity. Our ability to influence world events is fractionalized; America is weakened.

It is possible to disagree without destroying our national image; it is possible to project unity even as we privately jostle our positions to more accurately reflect what “we the people” think. That requires good judgment. Unfortunately, too many Americans are more concerned with exercising their right to say what’s on their mind than with exercising good judgment. Our freedom allows us to do that.

Freedom misused is a dangerous thing.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Who Won?

Did Israel kick Hezbollah’s butt? Did Hezbollah kick Israel’s butt? Who won this war? Who came out ahead on the cease-fire agreement?

It is far easier to see who lost than to see who won. The Israelis lost. They lost because they were attacked for no better reason than that the Shiite Hezbollah wants to kill them and take over their land. They lost because their civilian population was deliberately targeted by Hezbollah, instead of targeting their uniformed armed forces, which is what honorable fighters do.

The other losers in this conflict were the Lebanese people, who only did one thing wrong, and that was to fail to insist that their government stop a terrorist organization from moving into their neighborhoods and hiding among them as they launched missiles and rockets at the civilian population of Israel.

As for the cease-fire, again the losers are the Israeli people who are still at risk of continued attacks from Hezbollah, which escaped relatively unscathed, short of the damages from fighting with the Israelis, and was not required to disarm.

Israel could have won this war hands down if it had one thing, which is to have unmercifully wiped out everything and everyone in the area where rockets and missiles were launched at Israel. But the Israelis paid a heavy price for being civil and compassionate toward the Lebanese people, who were pawns of Hezbollah. By trying to minimize civilian casualties, Israel incurred far more injuries and deaths among its army than if it had simply gone in a cleaned house.

If there is a next time—if Hezbollah once again fires on innocent Israeli civilians—my bet is on Israel doing the smart thing, not the compassionate thing.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

British Muslims Are Badly Confused

Here’s an interesting development: News reports tell us that Muslims in England, and elsewhere, are becoming angry that they are being looked at suspiciously, and that Muslims are increasingly becoming targets of prejudice by police.

Some Islamic groups have expressed anger at what they say amounts to a policy of discrimination whereby Muslims traveling on London's mass transport system are targeted for searching ahead of other religious and ethnic groups.

Many in their middle and working class neighborhoods said the communities have become alienated by U.S. and British policy in the Middle East.

Clearly, British Muslims are not seeing clearly what is going on around them. Let’s review:

  • Terrorist violence is predominantly the work of Muslims.
  • The 24 suspected terrorists arrested in London whose plans to blow up airliners bound for the U.S. was foiled were Muslims.
  • There is a faction of radical religious fanatics who have sworn to destroy democratic nations like Great Britain and the U.S., and they are all Muslims.
  • Many if not most Muslims in Great Britain consider themselves Muslims first, and British citizens second.
  • Many if not most of the Muslims in Great Britain have not assimilated themselves into British society.

The Muslims in Britain have a serious case of denial. They do not realize that Muslim fanatics are the cause of most of their problems; it hasn’t dawned on them that it is a problem that they are more concerned with what is happening in Arab nations than in England where they are citizens. Instead of getting angry with British authorities, whose efforts to prevent terrorist activities against British citizens by focusing on those who historically have been responsible for those activities, they should take a good long look in the mirror, realize that their fellow Muslims are the problem that needs to be addressed, and get busy cleaning up their own Mosque.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Salient Points From the Foiled Terrorist Plan

1. Surveillance works, and if the Brit’s government had the ACLU and The New York Times fighting them, like the U.S. does, they likely would have been prevented from implementing effective surveillance tactics that helped track the terrorists, and likely would have missed catching them.

2. The predominant characteristics of the terrorists targeting the U.S., Great Britain, and other Western democracies are (still) that they are Muslims and of Middle Eastern extraction. Profiling should be used.

3. When The New York Times reveals how the U.S. goes about tracking terrorist activities, it hinders the ability of the U.S. to track terrorists. The Times should be prosecuted for hampering U.S. efforts at national security.

4. The terrorist threat is real, a point which eludes Bush critics; Islamic fascists did not give up on killing Americans after September 11, 2001.

Falacious Argument #632: Allowing our government to monitor international phone calls involving suspected terrorists is an unacceptable threat to our freedoms.

Response: As the dead have no freedoms, it only makes sense to use every available tool to hunt terrorists down and take them out, preventing them from killing us.

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Terrorist's Failed in Airliner Attack

This week’s foiling of a terrorist attack at London’s Heathrow Airport is a big deal. The NSA procedures that Democrats so loudly decry helped the Brits foil a terrorist attack of near-9/11 proportions.

The 9/11 attacks were a mere 5 years ago, yet more than a few Americans, including a large portion of Democrats and liberals, act as if it was 30 years ago. They just don’t get it; they do not realize—do not believe—that terrorism is the greatest threat to our freedom that we have seen since George III tried to snuff out the budding American ideal.

How should we respond to terrorism? Should we try to negotiate with the terrorists? Should we capitulate to their demands and their world view? The answer to both questions is a firm and decisive “No.” We must fight back; we must win this war.

Therefore, we have to make it easy for our government to identify and thwart the bad guys.

Face the facts: It’s not 80-year-old grannies that are trying to kill us. It’s not 30-ish blond, blue-eyed mothers or their kids trying to kill us. It’s not black guys or white guys that are trying to kill us. It’s mostly Middle Eastern Muslim men that are trying to kill us. Drop the politically correct BS that interferes with focusing on those most likely to be terrorists, and use the common sense method called “profiling.”

We have to take measures to discover and stop terrorist activities, and if that means that the government monitors phone calls, so be it. If that means using “unconventional” measures against captured combatants, so be it. If that means we finally must admit that neither our criminal justice system nor the Geneva Conventions covers terrorists, so be it.

If we don’t abandon this stupid PC approach to terrorism, we will have aided and abetted the enemy.

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Friday, August 11, 2006


This is one of the most incredible things I've ever seen: Flexible Dancer

Bendy gymnast does her routine

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There's No Retreat to the Shroud

August 11, 2006

Something happened yesterday in London but some of us aren't quite sure what it was, or even if it was.

Scotland Yard, just like in the movies, raided several rats' nests in London, Birmingham and High Wycombe to seize 21 men before they could put in motion their plot to blow up a dozen airliners over the Atlantic. The arrests, which continued yesterday, were the work of dogged detectives with the cooperation of authorities in Pakistan.

The cops no doubt enjoyed a run of the good luck that usually accompanies hard work. Some of us sighed a great sigh of relief, tempered by the chill brought on by the knowledge that maybe other plotters are still at large. Some of us, but not all of us.

Politicians on this side of the Atlantic seized on the opportunity to make a little noise. If you think this was one event that couldn't be spun as something wicked by George W. Bush, you obviously never heard of Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, giddy over the resurrection of George McGovern in Connecticut. Not all of us are quick students of reality. Reuters, the London-based news service so high-minded that it won't even call terrorists "terrorists" and is perhaps preoccupied with figuring out how much of its coverage of the fighting in Lebanon has been faked, insists on calling it a "suspected" plot. Agence France-Presse sullenly calls it an "alleged plot," and suggests that the triumph of Scotland Yard is just more American politics, enabling the Bush White House to tag Democrats as wimps and wussies eager to raise the white flag. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said some of the right things denouncing "the suspected alleged plot," but spokesmen spent most of their Washington press conference yesterday lecturing the rest of us not to think that just because "the suspected alleged suspects" are Muslims the murderous plot has anything to do with Islamic jihad.

It's true that many -- perhaps even most -- of the Muslims in our midst mean no harm to anyone, and want only to be good Americans with tolerance and kindness for all, but it's a libel and a slander to suggest that Americans need to be warned not to engage in a "backlash" against Muslims. Americans, provoked no end by Islamic radicals, have nevertheless treated Muslims, as they should, with the respect they treat Methodists.

The London arrests will harvest a lot of one-day headlines and for a few days we'll hear pious tut-tutting from the usual suspects, and we'll be further harassed at airports by tightening of security. The security men collected a lot of perfume and cosmetics yesterday -- some of their wives may be the best-smelling women in their neighborhoods -- and blue-haired Lutheran grannies of Minnesota can expect to be pulled out of line again for questioning, not because the inspectors expect to find terrorists among them but because they would be accused of "profiling" if they question only suspicious-looking characters named Mohammed.

Whether modern Islam has anything to teach the world about tolerance and understanding is something best left to theologians and George W. Bush, but yesterday the president called the enemy in the war on terror "Islamic fascists," using neither the usual term "Islamist" nor his usual mantra paying tribute to the "religion of peace."

The foiling of "mass murder on an unimaginable scale," as a London police superintendent describes it, may be the last opportunity the West will have to get serious about the threat before we have to deal with death and destruction as we have not seen it before. The restrictions on movement through airports, the electronic surveillance of the flow of money through American banks, and the heightened police visibility would never have been tolerated by Americans in more innocent times, but will be necessary for a season. We don't have to like it -- and vigilance against unreasonable breaching of civil liberties will be more important than ever -- but necessity requires that we put up with it.

Most important of all, we must recognize that the madness foiled in London is part of the worldwide Islamist assault on civilization, and cannot be separated from the war in Iraq, the threat from Iran and the Hezbollah provocations of Israel in Lebanon. We can long for happier days, and imagine that we can retreat behind the ocean barriers that protected us for so long, but it will be the retreat to a shroud.

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The Brink of Madness

A familiar place.

By Victor Davis Hanson

When I used to read about the 1930s - the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, the rise of fascism in Italy, Spain, and Germany, the appeasement in France and Britain, the murderous duplicity of the Soviet Union, and the racist Japanese murdering in China - I never could quite figure out why, during those bleak years, Western Europeans and those in the United States did not speak out and condemn the growing madness, if only to defend the millennia-long promise of Western liberalism.

Of course, the trauma of the Great War was all too fresh, and the utopian hopes for the League of Nations were not yet dashed. The Great Depression made the thought of rearmament seem absurd. The connivances of Stalin with Hitler - both satanic, yet sometimes in alliance, sometimes not - could confuse political judgments.

But nevertheless it is still surreal to reread the fantasies of Chamberlain, Daladier, and Pope Pius, or the stump speeches by Charles Lindbergh ("Their [the Jews'] greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government") or Father Coughlin ("Many people are beginning to wonder whom they should fear most - the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination.") - and baffling to consider that such men ever had any influence.

Not any longer.

Our present generation too is on the brink of moral insanity. That has never been more evident than in the last three weeks, as the West has proven utterly unable to distinguish between an attacked democracy that seeks to strike back at terrorist combatants, and terrorist aggressors who seek to kill civilians.

It is now nearly five years since jihadists from the Arab world left a crater in Manhattan and ignited the Pentagon. Apart from the frontline in Iraq, the United States and NATO have troops battling the Islamic fascists in Afghanistan. European police scramble daily to avoid another London or Madrid train bombing. The French, Dutch, and Danish governments are worried that a sizable number of Muslim immigrants inside their countries are not assimilating, and, more worrisome, are starting to demand that their hosts alter their liberal values to accommodate radical Islam. It is apparently not safe for Australians in Bali, and a Jew alone in any Arab nation would have to be discreet - and perhaps now in France or Sweden as well. Canadians' past opposition to the Iraq war, and their empathy for the Palestinians, earned no reprieve, if we can believe that Islamists were caught plotting to behead their prime minister. Russians have been blown up by Muslim Chechnyans from Moscow to Beslan. India is routinely attacked by Islamic terrorists. An elected Lebanese minister must keep in mind that a Hezbollah or Syrian terrorist - not an Israeli bomb - might kill him if he utters a wrong word. The only mystery here in the United States is which target the jihadists want to destroy first: the Holland Tunnel in New York or the Sears Tower in Chicago.

In nearly all these cases there is a certain sameness: The Koran is quoted as the moral authority of the perpetrators; terrorism is the preferred method of violence; Jews are usually blamed; dozens of rambling complaints are aired, and killers are often considered stateless, at least in the sense that the countries in which they seek shelter or conduct business or find support do not accept culpability for their actions.

Yet the present Western apology to all this is often to deal piecemeal with these perceived Muslim grievances: India, after all, is in Kashmir; Russia is in Chechnya; America is in Iraq, Canada is in Afghanistan; Spain was in Iraq (or rather, still is in Al Andalus); or Israel was in Gaza and Lebanon. Therefore we are to believe that "freedom fighters" commit terror for political purposes of "liberation." At the most extreme, some think there is absolutely no pattern to global terrorism, and the mere suggestion that there is constitutes "Islamaphobia."

Here at home, yet another Islamic fanatic conducts an act of al Qaedism in Seattle, and the police worry immediately about the safety of the mosques from which such hatred has in the past often emanated - as if the problem of a Jew being murdered at the Los Angeles airport or a Seattle civic center arises from not protecting mosques, rather than protecting us from what sometimes goes on in mosques.

But then the world is awash with a vicious hatred that we have not seen in our generation: the most lavish film in Turkish history, "Valley of the Wolves," depicts a Jewish-American harvesting organs at Abu Ghraib in order to sell them; the Palestinian state press regularly denigrates the race and appearance of the American Secretary of State; the U.N. secretary general calls a mistaken Israeli strike on a U.N. post "deliberate," without a word that his own Blue Helmets have for years watched Hezbollah arm rockets in violation of U.N. resolutions, and Hezbollah's terrorists routinely hide behind U.N. peacekeepers to ensure impunity while launching missiles.

If you think I exaggerate the bankruptcy of the West or only refer to the serial ravings on the Middle East of Pat Buchanan or Jimmy Carter, consider some of the most recent comments from Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah about Israel: "When the people of this temporary country lose their confidence in their legendary army, the end of this entity will begin." Then compare Nasrallah's remarks about the U.S: "To President Bush, Prime Minister Olmert and every other tyrannical aggressor. I want to invite you to do what you want, practice your hostilities. By God, you will not succeed in erasing our memory, our presence or eradicating our strong belief. Your masses will soon waste away, and your days are numbered."

And finally examine here at home reaction to Hezbollah - which has butchered Americans in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia - from a prominent Democratic Congressman, John Dingell: "I don't take sides for or against Hezbollah." And isn't that the point, after all: the amoral Westerner cannot exercise moral judgment because he no longer has any?

An Arab rights group, between denunciations of Israel and America, is suing its alma mater the United States for not evacuating Arab-Americans quickly enough from Lebanon, despite government warnings of the dangers of going there, and the explicit tactics of Hezbollah, in the manner of Saddam Hussein, of using civilians as human shields in the war it started against Israel.

Demonstrators on behalf of Hezbollah inside the United States - does anyone remember our 241 Marines slaughtered by these cowardly terrorists? - routinely carry placards with the Star of David juxtaposed with Swastikas, as voices praise terrorist killers. Few Arab-American groups these past few days have publicly explained that the sort of violence, tyranny, and lawlessness of the Middle East that drove them to the shores of a compassionate and successful America is best epitomized by the primordial creed of Hezbollah.

There is no need to mention Europe, an entire continent now returning to the cowardice of the 1930s. Its cartoonists are terrified of offending Muslim sensibilities, so they now portray the Jews as Nazis, secure that no offended Israeli terrorist might chop off their heads. The French foreign minister meets with the Iranians to show solidarity with the terrorists who promise to wipe Israel off the map ("In the region there is of course a country such as Iran - a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region") - and manages to outdo Chamberlain at Munich. One wonders only whether the prime catalyst for such French debasement is worry over oil, terrorists, nukes, unassimilated Arab minorities at home, or the old Gallic Jew-hatred.

It is now a cliché to rant about the spread of postmodernism, cultural relativism, utopian pacifism, and moral equivalence among the affluent and leisured societies of the West. But we are seeing the insidious wages of such pernicious theories as they filter down from our media, universities, and government - and never more so than in the general public's nonchalance since Hezbollah attacked Israel.

These past few days the inability of millions of Westerners, both here and in Europe, to condemn fascist terrorists who start wars, spread racial hatred, and despise Western democracies is the real story, not the "quarter-ton" Israeli bombs that inadvertently hit civilians in Lebanon who live among rocket launchers that send missiles into Israeli cities and suburbs.

Yes, perhaps Israel should have hit more quickly, harder, and on the ground; yes, it has run an inept public relations campaign; yes, to these criticisms and more. But what is lost sight of is the central moral issue of our times: a humane democracy mired in an asymmetrical war is trying to protect itself against terrorists from the 7th century, while under the scrutiny of a corrupt world that needs oil, is largely anti-Semitic and deathly afraid of Islamic terrorists, and finds psychic enjoyment in seeing successful Western societies under duress.

In short, if we wish to learn what was going on in Europe in 1938, just look around.

- Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the author, most recently, of A War Like No Other. How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hezbollah Should Be Wiped Out

In the current Middle East conflict only two groups of people deserve compassion. First, the Israelis, a people who have been attacked repeatedly by their neighbors over the decades, a people who for the most part want only to be left alone to live in peace. The people of Israel have suffered greatly in this conflict, being deliberately targeted by the terrorist organization Hezbollah, which shares with other murderous Islamic radicals the desire to annihilate them.

Second, the Lebanese people deserve compassion because of the intolerable situation in which they have been placed by Hezbollah, which has used their country as a pawn in a war it started against Israel, used the Lebanese people as shields, and which is solely responsible for the destruction of Lebanese property and the death and injury to its citizens.

The Israelis further deserve much credit for the measured response to the flagrant terrorist attacks on their citizens. While it would have been understandable and appropriate for the Israelis to have gone after Hezbollah with abandon, they worked diligently to minimize the collateral casualties of Lebanese civilians, whose lives and safety were put in jeopardy by the callus tactics of Hezbollah, which stored munitions in homes and other buildings in civilian neighborhoods, and launched attacks from those neighborhoods, knowing full well—indeed, hoping—that Israel would come after them wherever they hid.

You may have noticed that the villain in this scenario is Hezbollah, which deserves only our contempt, and to be wiped from the face of the Earth.

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It's Hot Out There, So Hysteria Rules

By Wesley Pruden
Published August 8, 2006

Once upon a time in August, every year, every girl in town was a hottie. So were the men and boys. You could look it up.

Everybody complained about the heat but neither ex-vice presidents nor newspaper columnists, old wives or even television evangelists waxed hysterical about it. You could look that up, too. And if you did you would see that we've been here before, and the sky, despite everything the calamity howlers are telling you, is not falling this summer, either.

The record of the summer of 1930, now swiftly fading into ancient history, puts our summer in the shade. Between June 1 and Aug. 31 of that year Washington recorded 21 days when the temperature soared to 100 degrees or more. "That summer has never been approached," Patrick Michaels, a professor of natural resources at Virginia Tech and senior fellow for environmental studies at the Cato Institute, tells Cybercast News Service. "And it's not going to be approached this year."

Between July 19 and Aug. 9 of 1930, records were set nine times. These marks still stand three-quarters of a century later. It's enough to give everybody but Al Gore pause. And it wasn't just in Washington, where bloviation and man-made hot air are enough to keep the mercury bubbling but not enough to broil the upper atmosphere. (It's no coincidence that temperatures on Capitol Hill are usually warmer than in the more polite precincts of the nation's capital.)

The hysteria in certain newspapers and on certain television newscasts, fueled by academics eager to publish lest they perish, is just what media do. Last winter, it was avian flu; this summer, it's the arrival of the loudly promised global warming, and next winter, it will be something else. Hysteria over global warming -- the notion that we're all soon to be dead and we might as well lie down and enjoy it -- has become the received religion of modern science. Even the Rev. Pat Robertson, the eminent televangelist, is preaching it. It was hot last week in Virginia Beach, and Pat, now 76, was feeling it. "We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels," he told his considerable television audience. "It is getting hotter, and the ice caps are melting, and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air." Pat is something of an icon on weather, if not necessarily an authority. He once commanded a killer hurricane to veer away from Virginia Beach, and it did. Let's see the theologians at the National Science Foundation do that.

No one argues that the Earth's weather is not warmer than it was a decade ago, though not warmer than it was in decades and centuries before that. It's observable fact that the Earth has warmed more than a degree over the past century; the weather always warms and cools over the centuries, brought about by solar activity and other natural phenomena. Modern Scientific Man is obsessed with the notion that since there is no ordained order in the universe, it must have been man who did it. Modern Scientific Man's sidekick, Chicken Little, figures the hot weather we're having this summer proves it.

A researcher at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change concedes that this summer's heat doesn't necessarily prove anything, except that a prudent man stays in the shade and sips a lot of iced tea, but he's pleased that this summer's heat is "completely consistent with what we expect to become more common as a result of global warming."

Or maybe not. A cursory look at the record temperatures in the 50 states reveals that most of the records were set years ago, some of them early in the century. The "all-time new record high," as an excited cub reporter might write it, was 134 degrees, set in Death Valley in 1913. Libya eclipsed this by 2 degrees in 1922. Several state-by-state records were set in that horrific summer of 1930 -- 110 in Millsboro, Del., 113 in Perryville, Ky., 114 in Greensburg, Ky., 115 in Holly Springs, Miss.

"Climatologically speaking," says Prof. Michaels, "the last week in July is the warmest week of the year on average, and when the atmospheric flow patterns get into anomalously warm configurations during this time of year, temperatures will skyrocket."

The professor might well be correct, but he won't get headlines with news like that. Scientific Man, who once scoffed that Columbus would never be seen again because Science knew the Earth was flat, is on the boil.

Copyright (c) 2006 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Wake Up to the Threat of Radical Islam

In his recent column about the Israeli conflict with Hezbollah, Charles Krauthammer has a very good description of the threat posed to Americans and other non-Muslim Westerners by the fanatics of radical Islam.

Three paragraphs from that column follow:

[Hezbollah] is today the leading edge of an aggressive, nuclear-hungry Iran. Hezbollah is a wholly owned Iranian subsidiary. Its mission is to extend the Islamic Revolution's influence into Lebanon and Palestine, destabilize any Arab-Israeli peace, and advance an Islamist Shiite ascendancy, led and controlled by Iran, throughout the Levant.

America finds itself at war with radical Islam, a two-churched monster: Sunni al-Qaeda is now being challenged by Shiite Iran for primacy in its epic confrontation with the infidel West. With al-Qaeda in decline, Iran is on the march. It is intervening through proxies throughout the Arab world -- Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army in Iraq -- to subvert modernizing, Western-oriented Arab governments and bring these territories under Iranian hegemony. Its nuclear ambitions would secure these advances and give it an overwhelming preponderance of power over the Arabs and an absolute deterrent against serious counteractions by the United States, Israel or any other rival.

The moderate pro-Western Arabs understand this very clearly. Which is why Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan immediately came out against Hezbollah and privately urged the United States to let Israel take down that organization. They know that Hezbollah is fighting Iran's proxy war not only against Israel but also against them and, more generally, against the United States and the West.

Hence Israel's rare opportunity to demonstrate what it can do for its great American patron. The defeat of Hezbollah would be a huge loss for Iran, both psychologically and strategically. Iran would lose its foothold in Lebanon. It would lose its major means to destabilize and inject itself into the heart of the Middle East. It would be shown to have vastly overreached in trying to establish itself as the regional superpower.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Evil Oil Companies?

Like the price of other products, the price of gasoline is determined by common factors such as the cost of goods and the costs of sales, and enough of a profit over and above those costs to make it worthwhile to be in the gasoline production/sales business.

Any time one of those broad categories of costs goes up, the price must rise commensurately in order to provide a steady level of profit. So, as the price of crude oil rises, the cost of refining the oil into fuels goes up, and the cost of gasoline and diesel goes up, too. As the cost of gasoline and diesel rises, the cost of delivering gasoline from the distribution point also goes up, because the tankers that carry the gasoline have higher fuel prices, too.

Every business has to make a profit. Breaking even does not enable a business to pay its owners for their investment. If you can make more money by putting your money in a savings account than you can by investing it in a business, why invest in a business? And, obviously, if the business loses money it won’t be around long.

How much profit should a business make? There is no right answer to that question. Some businesses make a larger percentage of profit than others. For example, McDonalds made 13.8 percent and Coca-Cola made 21.2 percent in a recent quarter, and Google made 24.2 percent. Merck, Bank of America, Microsoft and the Citigroup all made much, much more. And two of the nation's largest newspaper chains grumble when they don't make over 15 percent on sales.

In case you don’t understand what profit margin is, it measures how much out of every dollar of sales a company actually keeps in earnings. In the case of McDonalds, which made 13.8 percent, it means that for every dollar of sales, the company had 13.8 cents more than it cost it to produce and sell its products.

Oil companies typically make about 8 – 10 cents of profit for every dollar of sales, so for every gallon of gasoline that sells for $3.00 the oil company makes between 24 and 30 cents. Where does the rest of the money go? To production and sales costs, to taxes (The federal tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, while state and local taxes vary from 8 cents in Alaska to nearly 50 cents per gallon in New York) and a little bit to the dealer.

So why are people so upset over oil company profits? Many other industries make a larger margin of profit than oil companies do, and the amount of profit isn’t excessive when compared to banks and newspapers. It’s because of the amount of dollars involved. When it is reported that an oil company made, say, $7,000,000,000 in profits in one quarter with an 8 percent profit margin, it means that its total sales were $87,500,000,000. If its profits rise to $11 billion because crude oil prices and refining costs go up causing the price of a gallon of gasoline to rise, its sales would have also risen to $137,500,000,000. The company isn’t making a bigger margin of profit per gallon, but because the price of gasoline in higher, its dollars of profit go up. And so do its costs, from $80,500,000,000 to $ 126,500,000,000.

Oil companies are not making “obscene profits” and they are not gouging the consumer; they are making the same margin of profit as always. The culprit is “market forces.”

To ask oil companies to forego some of the dollars of profit they are making to make life easier on consumers is a really, really, really stupid suggestion. It would punish the oil companies and their investors for something over which they have no control, and it would ask of them something that has not been asked of other industries that make far higher profit margins than oil companies do, which is really, really, really stupid.

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