Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ostrich on the Golden Gate

On a lighter note comes this picture, accompanied by this story from the San Francisco Chronicle on August 30, 2005.

An ostrich, which was purchased by Ronald Love of Love Farms shortly before it was to have faced the butcher's chopping block, fell out of Love's cargo van onto the Golden Gate Bridge.

A sudden acceleration of the van caused the bird to smash through the rear window and land on the bridge pavement, just north of the toll plaza.

"It should never have happened,'' said the driver of the van, Ronald Love. "The ostrich's butt broke the window. You never would think an ostrich could fit through a little window, but she did.''

The Highway Patrol took about ten minutes to round up the ostrich. Highway Patrol sergeant Wayne Ziese said this was the first ostrich on the Golden Gate.

"Ostriches usually are very gentle,'' said Love. "An ostrich is easier to keep than a goldfish. Unless it's been too long in the back of a van, I guess.''

Dismal Morning

On my drive to work this morning, the newscaster listed the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Along with the news about the devastation of New Orleans, he also said that 80% of Mississippi is without power. Here's a story about the power outages so far in Katrina's wake.

New Orleans, for all practical purposes, doesn't exist anymore. They're going to move the refugees in the damaged Superdome to the Astrodome in Houston. There's widespread looting, the dead bodies will soon be a disease risk for anyone who stays behind, and prisoners in the Orleans Parish Prison rioted and are holding hostages. The governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, has ordered New Orleans to be completely evacuated, because the city is uninhabitable.

The dismal news isn't limited to Katrina, though. Today, the AP reported on a deadly incident in Baghdad:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - At least 648 people were killed in a stampede on a bridge Wednesday when panic engulfed a Shiite religious procession amid rumors that a suicide bomber was about to attack, officials said. It was the single biggest confirmed loss of life in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

The stampede caused the bridge railing to collapse in one spot, and many of the dead were the result of falling or being pushed into the river by the crowd.

The head of the country's major Sunni clerical group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, told Al-Jazeera television that Wednesday's disaster was "another catastrophe and something else that could be added to the list of ongoing Iraqi tragedies."

"On this occasion we want to express our condolences to all the Iraqis and the parents of the martyrs, who fell today in Kazimiyah and all over Iraq," said the cleric, Haith al-Dhari.

So much death and devastation in so short a time. So much grief. The thought of it can get hard to bear, and I don't even know anybody in any of these places. The best thing to do is help with the relief efforts in whatever way we can.

Salvation Army

International Disaster Emergency Service (IDES)

Red Cross

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina II

I posted yesterday on Katrina, when it looked as though New Orleans escaped the worst of the damage that was expected. Mississippi was taking the brunt of it (Here's a link to this morning's AOL News story with lots of pictures).

The story that broke my heart was the man whose wife was swept away by the water, after he struggled to keep hold of her hand. She told him to take care of their kids and grandkids. Last night on Fox News, they talked to him, and I know the pain on his face will be mirrored on countless other faces across the South as Katrina's impact continues.

But the relatively good news about New Orleans was yesterday. This is today (free registration required) and this and this. Mississippi has dozens dead. Alabama has flooding in the coastal area, but no deaths reported so far. And while Katrina has slowed, she hasn't finished with us yet.

Some emergency relief organizations you might want to contribute to:

Salvation Army

International Disaster Emergency Service (IDES)

Red Cross

Wildcat Clones

The London Telegraph reported today that cloned wildcats have bred naturally and produced kittens. Unfortunately, the Telegraph article doesn't have any pictures.

Their family tree is a little complicated, though. Nancy the African wildcat was the original female, who was cloned, producing Madge and Caty. On the male side, Jazz the African wildcat "was born as the result of the transfer of cryopreserved ("frozen") embryos to a domestic cat." But Jazz wasn't the father of Madge and Caty's kittens. The father was Ditteaux, the clone of Jazz. Between Madge and Caty, they had eight healthy kittens.

The scientists who did this are thrilled, not only because they've done something new, but especially because this gives them an additional method of preserving endangered species.

"We couldn't be happier with these births," said Prof Betsy Dresser, director of the Audubon Centre for Research of Endangered Species.

"By improving the cloning process and then encouraging cloned animals to breed and make babies we can revive the genes of individuals who might not be reproductively viable otherwise, and we can save genes from animals in the wild."

Prof Dresser said skin samples of a long-dead but genetically valuable animal, if properly preserved, could be cloned to create a genetic match of the animal.

Those genes could then be introduced back into the population through natural breeding, keeping the species viable and increasing their numbers. "The goal is to use whatever tools we can to help boost these populations," she said.

The critics referenced in the article didn't object on any moral ground. Their objection was that the real problem is the loss of habitat.

And while I agree that the loss of habitat can be a limiting factor on an animal population, when habitat can be recovered, there's going to be a need for more animals to live there.

In doing a gut-check on this article, I don't have any problem with it. If it were people they were talking about, I'd be extremely upset. But endangered species? They have my blessing. Do what it takes to preserve what we can.

Maybe they can even bring back the dodo bird...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Things Get Worse

Somebody brought some fruit to work to share with our group, and we didn't recognize it right off. It turned out to be litchi (lychee), and one of the guys tried it and thought the texture (after peeling it) was something like flesh would be, with the skin and some underlying tissue. So naturally, he encouraged me to try it and see if I thought it was creepy too.

I tried it, but found the texture to be more like I imagined an eyeball to be, rather than flesh, since tissue-attached skin seems less firm than the litchi. It wouldn't have been that much of a creep-fest, if he hadn't planted his images in my mind.

But that doesn't change anything about litchi, because I've had it before at Chinese restaurants. They serve canned litchi as a dessert, and I remember the texture (not the taste) being more like canned pears. The taste starts out sweet with the first bite, but every bite after that is less and less sweet, and pretty soon, I can't eat it anymore.

There are other things in life that have that same effect on me. They become worse and worse the more I partake.

When I was in my early twenties and my husband and I went on our pre-children bicycle trip to Europe, we mostly stayed in campgrounds to help conserve our money. There was one place in France (can't remember where--it wasn't a big tourist spot) where the campground was full of tiny travel trailers, but the place was deserted. We got our tent set up and went into town to buy dinner and breakfast.

When we got back to camp, the place was full of men in the trailers. One of them struck up a conversation with us (my French was fairly fluent at the time), and he said they were a group of itinerant butchers. They'd work there in that town for a few months, then they would be headed for the south coast of France, then the Netherlands, then Ireland, and then it would be two years from the time of our conversation, and he'd go on vacation to America.

He really liked talking to us, and all the other men just looked on and listened. After a short time, our new friend pulled out a bottle of Suze (scroll down), a golden-colored liqueur, to share with us. He poured us each a healthy sample, and I tasted it. Sweet, with an interesting undertone that I couldn't identify. I liked it.

My next sip wasn't as good. Sweet, but that undertone was more forceful. After a few sips, the sweetness was gone and all that was left was a bitterness that I couldn't choke down if I wanted to. I stopped drinking it, and in the years since then, I've issued general warnings to people to beware of the stuff if they ever came across it.

My earliest experience with the getting-worse phenomenon was when I was a kid, about 10, and we used to go to the swimming pool on the Navy base, because my mom didn't like taking us to the beach where we would get sand all over everything. The pool at the Navy base was olympic-size and had both a regular diving board and a high diving board (no platforms). All the kids would test their courage on the high dive, and I was no exception.

On the low dive, there's practically no time between jumping (I didn't dive) off the board and landing in the water. From the high dive, seconds would pass. The first jump was scary and exhilarating, and I'd hurry back to the ladder for more. But the next jump took longer before I hit the water. Each successive jump stretched out the air time, until finally I couldn't do it anymore, and I had to go back to the low dive for a while.

When the low dive started feeling too tame, I'd head back to the high dive for another round of longer and longer jumps. It never stopped being that way.

Litchi. Suze. The high dive.

Some things get worse, and there's no explaining it or changing it.

Uganda, AIDS, and the UN

CheatSeekingMissiles (HT: Hugh Hewitt) has a post on an unprecedented cut by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. [N]o country except Uganda has had its grant funds suspended due to concerns about financial mismanagement -- even though the fund gives money to a rogue's gallery of corrupt governments.

The Global Fund announced last week it was suspending all its aid to Uganda, citing a PricewaterhouseCoopers report alleging financial improprieties in the implementation of Uganda's Round 1 HIV/AIDS grant. The Global Fund cut all five grants -- suspending care for tuberculosis and malaria, putting innocents at risk for no apparent reason, even though no allegations have been made regarding mismanagement of those grants. (The Global Fund explains the across the board cuts by saying all are managed by the same unit of the Ugandan government.)

The cuts follow sharp criticism of Uganda's program -- not because it is failing; it is one of Africa's most successful -- but because it puts morality (monogamy and abstinence) first and condoms second.

The Global Fund's website, on their About the Global Fund>>How the Fund Works page, lists their general principles, which include, "Support programs that reflect national ownership," "Operate in a balanced manner in terms of different regions, diseases and interventions," and "Pursue an integrated and balanced approach to prevention and treatment."

With these as their guiding principles, a person might reasonably expect the Global Fund to reward countries whose programs are working. A person with this expectation, however, would be disappointed.

Uganda's program reflects national ownership, because they are certainly the only African nation promoting monogamy and abstinence as their prevention program targeted at AIDS/HIV. It is a uniquely Ugandan program, and Uganda's success is likewise unique.

Uganda's program also gives the Global Fund an opportunity to "operate in a balanced manner in terms of different... interventions," since all the other African nations receiving aid from the Global Fund have condom-distribution programs.

Finally, Uganda's program reflects a "balanced approach to prevention and treatment." Prevention in terms of abstinence outside of marriage, and treatment in terms of HIV medications.

Back to CheatSeekingMissiles:

While it is possible that corruption exists in the Uganda program, it is even more likely that it is just as rampant elsewhere in less successful programs, given the host of corrupt countries receiving grants: Congo, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Haiti, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, Vietnam and many more.

That is why I've theorized that the true cause for the suspension is pressure from anti-abstinence, morality and monogamy groups like George Soros' Human Rights Watch.

His theory is supported by this Reuters article available at Breitbart.com:

By Andrew Quinn

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The U.S. government's emphasis on abstinence-only programs to prevent AIDS is hobbling Africa's battle against the pandemic by downplaying the role of condoms, a senior U.N. official said on Monday.

Stephen Lewis, the U.N. secretary general's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said fundamentalist Christian ideology was driving Washington's AIDS assistance program known as PEPFAR with disastrous results, including condom shortages in Uganda.

Uganda had been praised for cutting HIV infection rates to around 6 percent today from 30 percent in the early 1990s, a rare success story in Africa's battle against the disease.

Uganda's State Minister for Health Mike Makula told the Monitor newspaper on Monday there was no condom shortage, saying the country had 65 million in stock and had ordered another 80 million for delivery soon.

"That there is a condom shortage in the country is just a rumor by people who want to spoil the image of this country," the newspaper quoted Makula as saying.

But Jodi Jacobson of the U.S.-based Center for Health and Gender Equity said the about-turn in Uganda's previous policy to promote condoms was having a real impact -- reducing availability of condoms and cutting consumer confidence in them.

"They are kow-towing to the (U.S.) fundamentalist right on this issue," Jacobson said.

So activists, like Jodi Jacobson and the UN's Stephen Lewis, would rather ignore the huge improvement in HIV infection rate and block the programs that brought about that improvement. They would rather allow more people to become infected again by pursuing policy that has no effect on HIV infection rates. Why? Because Uganda's program focuses on morality, something the "fundamentalist right" likes. And in the condom-activists' opinion, allowing the fundamentalist right to get their way is a fate worse than African people's death.

Hurricane Katrina

They say that the internet is really great for getting really up-to-date information that you really can't get from the standard sources. Really.

But sometimes, you have to know where to look on the internet. I've seen things mentioned in different blogs and news stories that raise questions I can't find the answer to. One post I saw (but can't find the link to now) said something about Katrina being Category 2. Did she drop that much overnight? And how much damage did New Orleans take? The news sites tend to show pictures of the Superdome, or a wet but not flooded street, or a flooded street, or a debris-smashed car. No "big picture", and that's what I'd like to find.

The most recent Katrina advisory from the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center (08/29/2005 at 2pm CDT): Katrina has been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, with 95mph winds, moving north at 18mph.

Josh Britton, blogging in New Orleans, has the latest update (08/29/2005 1:06pm CDT) from a press conference by Louisiana governor, Kathleen Blanco. They still need to assess the damage. It appears that the levee system is mostly holding, though there is at least one small breach and one pump no longer working. But Katrina hasn't finished going through. Here's the latest satellite photo.

Hugh Hewitt provides this link to Wizbang blog's post from September 14, called "Pray." It was good advice last night, with all the predictions of widespread devastation for New Orleans. I kept Fox News on the TV last night as background while I did other things. One thing that struck me about the New Orleans and Louisiana officials who were interviewed was how many of them asked for prayer. Not our positive thoughts. Not good luck. They went straight for the "p" word. "Pray for us," they said.

And, based on today's news that New Orleans, for the most part, survived Katrina, it looked like our prayers were effective.

One last note, from Michelle Malkin's blog:

I kid you not: A left-wing blogger is already blaming Bush for Katrina. More Bush-bashing.

Her first link (SwingStateProject) has the pertinent accusation at the end (includes foul language), which is that Bush caused the devastation by going to Iraq instead of shoring up the New Orleans infrastructure. The second one (AmericaBlog) attacks Bush for not leaving Crawford to coordinate the relief efforts (includes foul-gesture picture).

It just goes to prove that, to the Left, everything bad--even the weather--is President Bush's fault.

Friday, August 26, 2005

More on the Report from Mosul

After making yesterday's post linking to Hugh Hewitt read the entire article on his radio show. He had to wait over several commercial breaks to finish reading it all.

The response to his reading it (which would normally be considered "bad radio") was overwhelming. His callers included a former roommate of CSM Prosser (mentioned in Yon's article) and relatives of some of the others Yon wrote about.

Then this morning, WorldNetDaily had a link to Yon's story on the front page.

As Hugh was discussing with one of his guests or callers yesterday, there is a hunger out there for news from Iraq and Afghanistan. Real news. The kind of news that tells what our military is going through and how well they know their mission and how well they execute that mission.

All that the standard news outlets tend to give is body counts without any context. Michael Yon provides the context we need. Check out his other posts as well. They're well worth it.

Update:

Here's the link (and another) to Hugh's post reflecting on his reading of Yon's article on the air as well as the reaction from his listeners.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Report From Mosul, Iraq

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for posting the link to Michael Yon's report from Mosul, Iraq. It's Yon's dispatch he named Gates of Fire about one of their operations in Mosul. A must-read.

Thinking Dark

Peggy Noonan is one of my favorite columnists (after Mark Steyn), and she hit a home run today in her Opinion Journal column. I posted along similar but narrower lines a while ago.

The title of her column is, "Think Dark," and the subhead is, "Don't close those military bases. We may need them someday soon."

She opens with the following:

The federal government is doing something right now that is exactly the opposite of what it should be doing. It is forgetting to think dark. It is forgetting to imagine the unimaginable.

Normally, I'm an optimist. I see the good side of things and have a positive attitude about life. But with the "hope for the best" attitude, I include, "be prepared for the worst." Just remembering that horrible things can happen helps people to deal with and roll with the punches.

But the Pentagon seems to have forgotten that the worst still lurks out there, waiting for an opportunity. And the base closure proposal is a sure way to provide more opportunity for the worst to happen.

The Pentagon says this huge and historic base-closing plan will save $50 billion over the next two decades. They may be right. But it's a bad plan anyway, a bad idea, and exactly the wrong thing to do in terms of future and highly possible needs.

The Pentagon has some obvious logic on its side--we have a lot of bases, and they cost a lot of money--and numbers on paper. They have put forward their numbers on savings, redundancies, location and obsolescence.

But they're wrong. What they ought to do, and what the commission reviewing the Pentagon's plan ought to do, is sit down and think dark.

In the rough future our country faces, bad things will happen. We all know this. It's hard to imagine some of those things on a beautiful day with the sun shining and the markets full, but let's imagine anyway.

Peggy Noonan goes on to describe her imagined scenario, which isn't far-fetched at all, but is merely what the terrorists hope to do to us. Be sure to read it. Her dark imaginings go beyond the terrorists and mention the North Koreans and the "limitless possibilities for terrible trouble." To which I can name Iran, Russia, and China as additional, imaginable threats. And that still leaves the unimaginable.

We don't need these bases for sentimental reasons. We don't need them because local congressmen want the jobs and money they provide. We don't need them because we must never change the structure and operations of our defense system. We need them because someday they may very well help us survive as a nation. (emphasis added) Seems worth the price, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Putin On The Move

I can't remember which talk radio shows I listened to back in 2000. Time has become a blur. But I remember when Vladimir Putin showed up on the scene after Boris Yeltsin's resignation as the Russian Federation President.

People familiar with the Soviet Union, who knew or knew of Putin, were giving their analysis of the Putin presidency-to-come. What they predicted was that Putin would figure out a way to become President For Life, in spite of the Russian constitutional limit of two terms.

It looks as though that prediction is on its way to being fulfilled. The London Telegraph is reporting that Putin supporters in the Kremlin are working toward changing the Russian constitution to remove the two-term limit.

I realize President Bush has looked Putin in the eye and found him to be a good man. But I believe that at times President Bush has more faith in the goodness of his fellow man than he should. He seems to give the benefit of the doubt unless presented with opposing evidence. He wouldn't speak to Yasser Arafat, which was the right thing. But Putin has made a point of playing his career close to the vest, so any visible evidence against him wouldn't show before President Bush. I'm surprised Condoleeza Rice didn't provide stronger red flags about Putin to the President.

A couple key paragraphs from the Telegraph article:

Although the Kremlin still insists Mr Putin has no ambitions to serve beyond the end of his second term in 2008, independent analysts say his allies have long been plotting to keep their man in power.

The main factor deterring Mr Putin from changing the constitution is the fear of the likely cool response from the West. The strategy could easily be compared with that of Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, described by President George W Bush as "the last dictatorship in Europe".

Keep your eyes open. Especially in light of the recent war games between Russia and China, Putin and the Russian Federation still merit wary watchfulness, if not outright mistrust.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Mitt Romney Gets It

At this stage in the 2008 Presidential primaries, I have very few characteristics I'm looking for in a Republican candidate. At the top of the list of requirements is that the candidate has to get it about the Global War On Terror. All the rest of the presidential qualities are meaningless if we lose the GWOT.

Hugh Hewitt has a link to this article in the Boston Globe on Mitt Romney's statements about the GWOT.

Amid growing concern among Republicans over the course of the war in Iraq, Governor Mitt Romney expressed support yesterday for President Bush's approach and warned that a premature withdrawal of American troops would inspire terrorists worldwide.

''The enemy is emboldened by anything other than the strength of America," Romney said.

In contrast to Romney, there's this tidbit from the same Boston Globe article:

A leading Republican senator, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, told ABC's ''This Week" on Sunday that Iraq was not ''dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam."

''We should start figuring out how we get out of there," said Hagel, who is also considered a potential candidate for the GOP nomination in 2008. ''Our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur."

Chuck Hagel is not a "leading Republican senator." He's a lefty who forgot to change the 'R' after his name to a 'D'. His prominence only comes from the left-leaning media's fascination for Republicans willing to bash Bush. Off camera, he doesn't lead much.

I hadn't come to any conclusion yet about who I might support for the Republican nomination in '08, just that it had to be someone who gets it about the War. Hagel has been out of the running for me from the get-go, and so have McCain and several others.

With his statements Sunday, Mitt Romney has put himself into the running. Time will tell...

Influenza II

Excellent article in yesterday's Washington Post (HT: Hugh Hewitt) on the Avian flu (H5N1) and one of the researchers, Robert G. Webster, who is trying to combat the strain before it becomes a pandemic.

First the bad news:

[W]hat has Webster and other experts so worried are the 112 people who have been infected with the H5N1 "bird flu," more than half of whom have died. The fatality rate of 55 percent outstrips any human flu epidemic on record, including the epochal Spanish flu of 1918 and 1919 that killed at least 50 million people.

Why this new virus is so deadly is not entirely understood, although scientists have hints.

Influenza viruses invade cells lining the throat and windpipe, where they replicate and cause inflammation but are eventually suppressed by the immune system. In some cases, the microbe invades the lungs and leads to viral or bacterial pneumonia. Some H5N1 strains, however, have two features that make them even more dangerous.

Normally, the flu viruses can replicate only in the throat and lungs. With H5N1, however, the protein that triggers replication can be activated in many other organs, including the liver, intestines and brain. What is usually a respiratory infection can suddenly become a whole-body infection. Simultaneously, a second "defect" in the virus unleashes a storm of immune-system chemicals called cytokines. In normal amounts, cytokines help fight microbial invaders. In excessive amounts, they can cause lethal damage to the body's own tissues.

Now the good news:

So far, [t]he trait H5N1 has not acquired is the ability to spread easily from person to person.

Last fall, while analyzing a strain circulating after an outbreak in Hong Kong in 2002, one of Webster's post-doctoral researchers, Diane Hulse, made an unusually important observation.

Many ducks experimentally infected with the virus didn't die, even though the strain was highly lethal to chickens. This meant that killing infected chickens wasn't going to be enough to stop the spread of the microbe. Ducks could serve as a permanent reservoir of H5N1 virus.

The discovery by Hulse and Webster led, in part, to an extreme program Thailand mounted last November. About 70,000 investigators went into every village in the country looking for sick ducks and sampling the feces of healthy-looking ones. Flocks carrying H5N1 influenza virus were killed.

The strategy appears to have worked. Last year, Thailand had 12 human deaths from H5N1 flu. So far this year, it has had none.

It's hard to know if the H5N1 strain of avian flu will be the next pandemic, or if Webster and like-minded researchers will manage to prevent a human outbreak.

One point made by Laurie Garrett's article (see my earlier post) is that the 1917-1918 pandemic "would have been much worse had there not been milder flu epidemics in the 1850s and in 1889, caused by similar but less virulent viruses, which made most elderly Americans immune to the 1918-19 strain. The highest death tolls were among young adults, ages 20-35."

Since there has not been an outbreak of any H5N1 strains in the last century, nobody alive now has any immunity or resistance. We need researchers like Webster to keep going with the research and the intervention strategies.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Really Ticked Off

In the state of California, all fourth-grade children are required to study California History. This was true when I went to school in San Diego during the 60's and it's still true now. The biggest change in the requirements is that now the kids have to choose one of the Spanish missions, write a report, and build a model of it. There's even a model-building industry that has sprung up because of the requirement.

In my quest to be a tour director, this state requirement has come in handy, because I need to have a good handle on the history of whatever region I'm in. For Southern California, knowing the mission history is important, and the best way to get an overview on any particular subject is to go to the juvenile section of the library. Books for kids condense the information in a way that's perfect for what I need.

So I checked out three books, one on each of the three southernmost missions: San Diego de Alcala, San Luis Rey de Francia, and San Juan Capistrano. As I started reading them, I started getting really annoyed by the revisionist, multicultural, Europeans-are-bad kind of language in these books.

From MissionSan Luis Rey de Francia, by Jennifer Quasha:

At this time, most Europeans did not value cultural diversity. They believed that their religion and way of life were superior to those of the American Indians. They thought that the Indians needed their help to become more "civilized." These beliefs led them to think of the Indians as children or "savages" who needed to be educated. They also believed that they could take away the Indians' land. Today we know that all cultures are important and should be respected. Although the Spanish may have believed that they were helping the American Indians, European colonization of the Americas drastically changed the American Indian's way of life.


From Mission San Juan Capistrano, by Kathleen J. Edgar and Susan E. Edgar:

Because the Indians lived much differently than they did, the Spanish regarded the Indians as "savages." The Indians wore little or no clothing, while the Spanish men wore shirts and trousers and the Spanish women wore floor-length dresses. The Indians didn't attend schools, while many Spaniards did. The Spanish didn't recognize that the Indians' lifestyle was just as full and respectable as their own.

From Mission San Diego de Alcala, by Kathleen J. Edgar and Susan E. Edgar:

The Spanish thought the Indians living in New Spain should adopt the Spanish language, lifestyle, and religion. The Spanish didn't understand the Indian culture. They thought the Indians were "uncivilized" because they lived off the land, wore few clothes or none at all, did not believe in the Christian god, and were not educated in schools. At that time the Spanish believed that Indians needed to be taught Christianity. In actuality the Indians did have a complex civilizaton that the Spanish didn't understand. We know today that different religions and cultures should be respected.

I'm not sure I can articulate the reason, but reading this kind of stuff really strikes a visceral point of anger in me. Maybe it's the use of the word "diversity" or the way they put "savages" and "uncivilized" in quotes. Or that gratingly offensive, "We know today...." Whatever it is, I find it apalling, and it's even more so because almost the same wording is used by completely different authors.

And I know my anger at the authors (or their puppet-masters) is keeping me from being objective about the questions raised. Was it wrong for the Spanish to settle California with the mission system? (I'm not going to argue that Cortes's decimation of the Aztecs might have been OK. This question is limited to the priests in California.) Would the Indians have been any better off if the Russians or British had moved in ahead of the Spanish, as those two nations were intending?

Would the authors have said the same "full and respectable lifestyle" thing about the Sioux tribes, who were constantly at war with other tribes and other Sioux family groups? Would they have been this diversity-loving about the Angles and the Saxons and the Vikings and the barbarian hordes in Europe and blamed the Romans for having invaded the complex civilization of the Gauls?

At what point in human history would the multiculturalists have preferred people to have stayed put?

This stuff makes me crazy. I'd better shut up now and try to get some sleep, before I say something really angrily stupid.

Catching Up on Stem Cells and Comas

I'll start with the coma. This article, from CBS News August 3, 2005, tells of a woman who had been in a coma for twenty years and woke up in February. Doctors had to do surgery to repair Sarah Scantlin's muscles that had atrophied, as well as giving her speech therapy to unlock her long-unused tongue.

Although her speech is still limited, Sarah has shown that she was aware of what was going on around her since the accident that hospitalized her in 1984.

However, it seems that throughout her 20-year coma, she could see, hear, and understand what was going on around her. Shortly after she awoke, her father asked what she knew about events that had occurred years earlier.

"Sarah, what's 9/11?" her father asks. She responds, "Bad…fire…airplanes…building…hurt people."

Sarah's comatose condition should not be confused with Terri Schiavo's condition of having been brain damaged. Though it may not look like it to the people around a comatose person, there is something going on in there.

Embryonic Stem Cells and Frist:

This column, by Michael Fumento in Townhall.com, is from August 4, 2005. In it, he takes Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to task for coming out in support of embryonic stem cell research. Here are some key points that Fumento makes:

Frist’s position is compelling, we’re told, not just because he’s the highest-ranking Senate Republican but also a physician. Actually, that makes him as much a specialist on stem cells as a plumber is on aquatic chemistry. A bit of reading will give you more knowledge about these cells than the average doctor possesses. You might learn that ASCs [adult stem cells] are CURRENTLY used in over 250 human clinical trials and are treating over 80 different diseases.

ESC researchers sniff that this is only because their field is newer, but research on both types of cell dates back to the 1950s. ESCs aren’t playing catch-up; they’re falling behind.

Another myth that Frist propagated in his “breakaway” speech is that “embryonic stem cells uniquely hold specific promise for some therapies and potential cures that adult stem cells cannot provide.” In fact, ALL that ESCs have is promise. That’s why advocates feel obliged to claim they’ll eventually cure every disease from Alzheimer’s to acne. But again, had Frist done his homework he’d know that three years ago scientists began changing ASCs into ALL three types of cells the body produces.

Since then, countless labs have used various forms of ASCs to make all those cell types, but ESC advocates insist you not know this. They also go bonkers if you mention at least four different methods of creating ESCs without destroying embryos are being developed, as the June issue of Wired documents.

Ironically, the clamor for massively-increased public funding for ESCs is precisely because their practical applications, if any, lie many years in the future while those of ASCs are here and now.

ESC research supporters like to point to a study in rats that showed some positive results. But although the CBS News article covering that story in October, 2002, had a positive headline ("Stem Cells Ease Parkinson's In Rats"), the results weren't all rosy. In a test of 25 rats, 14 improved, however you had to go way down toward the end of the article to find the "but."

They killed them a few months later and looked at their brains. The 14 rats who got better all had new brain cells, and testing showed the cells had developed into neurons and other brain cells from the mouse stem cell transplants.

Some of these cells produced dopamine, thus treating the Parkinson's symptoms in the rats, the researchers said.

Five of the rats died and they turned out to have teratomas -- a kind of tumor -- at the injection site.

Isacson said this is one risky side effect of using stem cells, which can differentiate, or develop into mature cells, in an uncontrolled way. He is working to find ways to reduce this risk.

Twenty percent of the rats died from tumors, while nearly sixty percent improved. Those aren't usually the odds people like to see. This kind of "risky side effect" of uncontrolled stem cells does not appear to be a factor when treating people with adult stem cells.

Frog Invasion

First it was the exploding toads in Germany and Denmark. Now it's an all-out invasion of frogs in France.

A campaign in France to exterminate frogs may sound like the beginning of a civil war, but these are no ordinary frogs.

The aggressive and voracious bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), introduced illegally 37 years ago, can grow to more than 4lbs in weight and almost 2ft long. It consumes other frogs, fish, lizards and even small birds.

Hunters working for the government's wildlife agency will be stalking ponds in south-west France this weekend, aimed with flash-lights, rifles, silencers and night-vision sights.

They have been mobilised for the most intensive effort so far to terminate a plague of giant Californian bullfrogs which is threatening to disrupt the ecology of the Gironde, Dordogne and several other d├ępartements.

I find it surprising that these frogs are said to hail from California, because I've never seen two-foot, four-pound frogs here before. I lived in a condo years ago, where there were creeks running through the complex that had frogs. If you put your thumb and index finger together to form an "O" that's as big as our frogs ever got. Most of them were a little smaller.

They came through our condo a lot, because we left the slider door open to let our two cats come in and out. Every once in a while, we'd see one of the cats focused on the floor by the wall, and we'd know a frog was there. Since one cat had proved himself a good mouser, and the other was good at catching birds, I think they were trying to decide if the frog was a mouse or a bird. Since it was neither, no frogs were ever harmed in our condo by the cats. Just in case, we'd grab the cat, put him outside, shut the slider door, and hurry the frog out the front door. Then we'd let the cat back in and he'd try to find the frog again for a while, until he decided it must be nap time.

So I can't comprehend the size and hardiness of these frogs in France. And apparently, neither can France's wildlife and fisheries groups:

Destroying the frogs is not easy, however. The Gironde fisheries protection association attacked a pond full of bullfrogs with electricity a few years ago. The frogs fought back. The hunters battled with them for two hours. They killed just one frog before they gave up.

Game-keepers and volunteers working for the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (National Hunting and Wild-life Agency) have now developed night-fighting techniques. The frogs are easier to locate at night because their eyes reflect torchlight.

"Shooting them with rifles is the most effective method we have found," said an environmental campaigner, Luc Gueugneau.

Even so, experimental attacks on ponds and lakes over the past 11 months have killed only 120 frogs. A much bigger offensive, starting this weekend, aims to exterminate all the bullfrogs in France within five to 10 years.

To that I say, "Bonne chance!"

Sunday, August 21, 2005

My Adopted Box O' Docs

I got my box assignment from Generalissimo in the Great "Adopt A Box O' Docs" Caper, and it's the one I requested nearly at random (it was still available, and I like the number 11 just fine). I have Box 45-JGR/Pro Bono (11).

When I opened my doc box and checked the page count, my first reaction was, "Holy Cow!" Fifty-four pages. Generalissimo's box only had 4 pages, and one of those was the title page. Actually, the first page of mine is also a title page, so maybe it's not so bad.

It turns out there are only three topics in the box.

Topic 1:

This spans pages 2 through 44, and it covers the possible extension of Section 120 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Page 2 is a memo from John G. Roberts to Fred F. Fielding, Counsel to the President, dated October 10, 1984. The body of the memo follows (retyped by me--this is not a faked memo):

On September, 19, I submitted draft replies for your signature to letters Mr. Baker received from ABA President Wallace D. Riley and former ABA Presidednt (sic) Morris Harrell. Riley and Harrell wrote Baker to urge that the Administration act to prevent Section 120 of the Internal Revenue Code from expiring. As I explained in my memorandum, Section 120 grants preferred tax treatment for employer-funded legal assistance programs for employees. Unless extended by Congress it will expire at the end of this year pursuant to a sunset provision.

The draft replies I submitted noted that the Administration, in Treasury testimony, opposed extension of Section 120. You wrote back that the replies were difficult for you to send, because you needed the support of Riley and Harell on another matter. The attached revised draft omits the reference to the Administration position, simply thanking the two for their views and assuring them that they will be appropriately considered.


The pages that follow include draft copies of the replies, a memo from Fielding to Peter J. Wallison (General Counsel U.S. Dept. of the Treasury), the September 19 drafts of the replies, the actual replies from Fred Fielding, the original letters to James A. Baker III (White House Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President) received from Riley and Harrell, a statement made by Patrick J. Keating on behalf of the ABA to the Senate Committee on Finance in favor of the extension (this one had a couple of hard-luck stories about people whose lives went down the tubes for lack of accessible/affordable legal advice), and finally a statement made by Robert G. Woodward (Tax Legislative Counsel Department of the Treasury) to the House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures (covering five different bills, including this one (HR 5028) and stating the reasons Treasury wanted Section 120 to expire).

I don't see a whole lot that Roberts's critics can use against him, beyond a charge of bowing to political expediency in having dropped wording that might have endangered Riley and Harrell's support on another issue. But this would be a huge stretch.

Topic 2:

This one is more fun. I've heard Hugh and some of the Fox News commentators mentioning that Roberts has a reputation for his sense of humor slipping into his documents. This is one of those documents. It's covered by pages 45 through 50.

This is concerning a reply to a letter to President Reagan received from Mrs. Helen F. Boehm of the Boehm porcelain company. Mrs. Boehm was inspired by a quote by President Reagan ("to make America great again and let the Eagle soar") to create a line of Boehm china that featured patriotic eagles. She hoped to use President Reagan's quote, along with mention of his name as the source of the quote, in a brochure promoting the new line of china. Roberts, in his memo to Fred Fielding, dated October 10, 1984, says in part:

The brochure as presently designed may convey the false impression that the President has endorsed “The Great American Heritage Collection.” This would not only contravene established White House policy concerning endorsement of commercial products, but also, given this particular pattern, call into serious question the President’s taste in dinner service. Of course, only the former point need be made in the reply to Mrs. Boehm. The attached draft reply also raises a cautionary note about the use of the collection to raise funds for the party. Since Mrs. Boehm is reportedly a personal friend of the Reagans, I have prepared a memorandum to [Katherine]Shepherd [Presidential Correspondence Office] in order that the proposed reply may be reviewed by her office before being sent. (emphasis added)

Unfortunately, no copy of the proposed brochure or china pattern is included in the box.

Topic 3:

This is regarding a request from Brother John Foster, Director and Founder of the Kids for Christ Foundation of Portsmouth, Ohio, for permission for the President to declare October 13 - 21 Child Abuse Awareness Week. The memo from Roberts to Fielding, dated October 12, 1984, states in part:

The week was chosen because there will be a seminar on the subject in Portsmouth at that time. Foster is requesting Presidential permission because some misguided bureaucrat in the city manager’s office told him it was required.

Portsmouth, of course, can have any week it wants without Presidential permission.
(emphasis added)

What can the Roberts critics do with this one? Perhaps accuse him of heartlessly casting aspersions on essential city personnel. Not much else.

Final comments:

These three topics don't say much about how Roberts will approach his time on the Supreme Court. I think I like Roberts's sense of humor, though. It could make for some entertaining reading in future Supreme Court decisions. And isn't that what this whole confirmation debate is about?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

More On Our Military

Radioblogger, Hugh Hewitt's radio show producer "Generalissimo" Duane, is running the Adopt A Box O' Docs program. So I sent in my request for a box to adopt, and while I waited (still waiting, actually, but it hasn't been very long since I sent it in), I looked at some of the other blogs to see what they were coming up with.

Over at Blogotional, John hasn't posted on his adopted box yet. Instead, he has a wonderful post on the military, with pictures! It's a description of the average military person. Read the whole thing. And look at the pictures.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Our Military

I was listening to Laura Ingraham's radio show this morning, with a guest host whose name I can't remember. He had just finished up with a guest from Vermont, whose son had died in Iraq and who said, "Cindy Sheehan doesn't represent me."

After that, a man named Leo called in and told about his son, who is still in Iraq. Leo was so passionate and so full of pride for his son. He told about his son's high school graduation, when they announced that he was joining the military, and Leo stood up and said, "That's my son!" His son's boot camp graduation was the same week as September 11, so the family's plane tickets were cancelled, and they had to get to his graduation another way, and they were so proud of him. Lately, from Iraq, Leo's son told him that he re-enlisted, and Leo said, "That's awesome!"

What a great call! The next call was from a mom who just lost her son in Iraq, and she was just as full of pride, mingled with tears, as Leo was. And there were other great calls as well. Cindy Sheehan's anti-war views are definitely not representative of the families of our military, but hers is the only view the mainstream media is reporting.

So I refer you to these two articles in World magazine (HT: Hugh Hewitt):

The first is about the quality of men and women enlisting in the military. Contrary to Bill Maher and others on the left, the military is not scraping the bottom of the barrel to get recruits.

The second is about a funeral held recently in Seattle for Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem, who was killed in Iraq early this month.

It's not as though all the supportive families are hard for the MSM to find. It's that the media doesn't want to find them.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Grieving Father Responds to Cindy Sheehan

In today's OpinionJournal.com, Robert R. Griffin, a father who lost a son in Iraq, answers the media fascination with Cindy Sheehan. In the process, he shares a different view than the one that keeps getting reported, giving the stories of several grieving families.

Here is just a snippet of what he says:

Although we all walk the same sad road of sorrow and agony, we walk it as individuals with all the refreshing uniqueness of our own thoughts shaped in large measure by the life and death of our own fallen hero. Over the past few days I have reached out to other parents and loved ones of fallen heroes in an attempt to find out their reactions to all the attention Mrs. Sheehan has attracted. What emerges from those conversations is an empathy for Mrs. Sheehan's suffering but a fundamental disagreement with her politics.

Read the whole thing. It's a powerful reminder of the sacrificial decisions made by the members of our military, and the pride of the family members they left behind.

Trent Lott Blames Frist

Trent Lott has a new book in which he blames Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for Lott's having been dumped from that position in the aftermath of the November, 2002 elections. According to the AP story:

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott blames his fall from power in 2002 on a “personal betrayal” by an ambitious Sen. Bill Frist, his successor, adding in a new book that President Bush, Colin Powell and other GOP associates played a role.

“If Frist had not announced exactly when he did, as the fire was about to burn out, I would still be majority leader of the Senate today,” Lott said in “Herding Cats, A Life in Politics.”

So, if Lott is to be believed, he'd still be in charge if only Frist hadn't announced he wanted to be Majority Leader at that precise moment. After all, "the fire [about Lott's statement that segretationist Strom Thurmond should have been president] was about to burn out."

Somehow I remember things a bit differently. It seemed to me the fire burned out because Frist (anybody, really) announced he wanted the post. The Republicans jumped at the chance to dump Lott, because he was becoming a liability to the Republican Party.

He had been making deals with the Democrats, including what was for me the last straw: delaying the changeover from Democrat-controlled Senate committees to Republican-controlled committees during the post-election portion of the Senate term. This unnecessarily allowed the Democrats to continue obstructing judicial nominees by keeping hold of the Judiciary Committee. Lott had become too entrenched in the Good-Ole-Boy, glad-handing persona of too many long-term legislators, and this kept him from doing what was needed as Republican Party leader in the Senate.

It was time for Lott to go. It was his own fault. His statements about Srom Thurmond simply provided the excuse, so all that was needed was Lott's replacement. Frist made that possible.

It appears that Trent Lott, in his new book, has shown that he's still incapable of serious introspection or self-analysis. He seeks to blame his troubles on others, and that's a shame.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Influenza

Hugh Hewitt has a link to some articles in Foreign Affairs about the possible effects of the newest strain (H5N1) of avian flu. I spent most of my lunch hour reading them instead of blogging. This is good information to have as we look ahead to flu season, because this latest strain has a greater potential than earlier strains to cause a pandemic.

Laurie Garrett looks at the causes and effects of influenza outbreaks and why this year's avian flu could rank up there with the worst of the earlier ones.

Michael T. Osterholm looks at the preparations that can be made to better equip us to handle whichever pandemic may come.

William B. Karesh and Robert A. Cook look at the links found between animals and humans in the various flu and non-flu viral outbreaks.

There are other links that are worth reading as well. As the avian flu spreads across Russia toward the rest of Europe, it's best to remember the Boy Scout motto and be prepared.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Japan and World War II

My friends and I went to the movies yesterday to see "The Great Raid." It's based on the book, Ghost Soldiers, by Hampton Sides. The movie was excellent, as was the book when I listened to it a few months ago during my commute to work.

It's one thing to hear the story and have my imagination picture the brutality, superimposed over the reality of daily traffic. It's an entirely different thing to see images of what the Imperial Japanese Army did to the American military and the Philippinos left behind on Batan.

Just last week was the sixtieth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was surprised to see the results of the WorldNetDaily poll asking (paraphrased) if it was a good or a bad thing that we used the bomb on Japan. Even though WorldNetDaily's readers are predominantly conservative, the overwhelming response on the poll was that dropping the bomb was bad. Things sure have changed.

My understanding of public opinion in 1945 was that the nation supported Truman's decision and welcomed the surrender of Japan. The notion that public opinion could have changed so much is a testimony to a combination of anti-American propaganda and the dying off of first-hand memories.

Mark Steyn wrote a column last week for the Jerusalem Post, marking the anniversary of the bomb, and he addressed a lot of the questions surrounding this issue. In particular, he touches on the abject brutality of the Imperial Japanese Army.

There's no doubt the atomic bomb wound up saving lives – American, Japanese, and maybe millions in the lands the latter occupied. The more interesting question is to what degree it enabled the Japan we know today. They were a fearsome enemy, and had no time for decadent concepts such as magnanimity in victory. If you want the big picture, the Japanese occupation of China left 15 million Chinese dead. If you want the small picture, consider Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. It fell to the Japanese shortly after Pearl Harbor, when the 22 British watchkeepers surrendered to vastly superior forces. The following year, the Japanese took their British prisoners, tied them to trees, decapitated them, and burned their bodies in a pit. You won't find that in the Geneva Conventions. The Japs fought a filthy war, but a mere six decades later and America, Britain and Japan sit side by side at G7 meetings, the US and Canada apologize unceasingly for the wartime internment of Japanese civilians, and an historically authentic vernacular expression such as "the Japs fought a filthy war" is now so distasteful that use of it inevitably attracts noisy complaints about offensively racist characterizations. The old militarist culture – of kamikaze fanatics and occupation regimes that routinely tortured and beheaded and even ate their prisoners – is dead as dead can be.

Mark Steyn is right about that. Japan is now our ally and our supplier of fabulous technological gadgets. But one atomic bomb wasn't enough to destroy Japan's old militaristic culture. It took two.

When the credits started to roll on "The Great Raid," I thought about several things: How well-planned the raid was, especially considering the fact that the Army Rangers had not yet seen combat. How much we owe the Philippinos for their help with the raid. And underlying it all is a certainty that we were right to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

He Never Saw It Coming

Herve Vandrot, a French amateur psychic studying botanics at Edinburgh University, came home to his flat to find it burning. Firefighters said the blaze, which also destroyed two other flats and damaged several others, was caused by Vandrot's crystal ball.

The best part of this article in the London Times was how much fun the reporter, Alan Hamilton, apparently had pointing out that Vandrot hadn't predicted the fire.

Instead of predicting that his flat would catch fire, the fortune-telling device was the cause of the blaze.

The student, who uses the ball for psychic purposes, suffered blistering to his hand when he burst into his burning top-floor flat in the city’s Marchmont area in an effort to rescue his university course work. He was removed from the building by some of the 35 firefighters who had arrived to tackle the unforeseen inferno.

Vandrot said he believed the fire was caused by an electrical fault.

Edinburgh’s firefighters disagreed, and roundly blamed the ball. “Strong sunlight through glass, particularly if the glass is filled with liquid like a goldfish bowl, concentrates the sun’s rays and acts like a magnifying glass,” a spokesman said. The fire had been started by the ball concentrating a ray of sunshine on a pile of washing, he said.

I'm not quite sure what the lesson is here, but let that be a lesson to you.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Is Losing It

I haven't posted yet on Cindy Sheehan, the mother of fallen soldier Casey Sheehan. The news media has been giving her plenty of publicity. But according to today's news, she's gone farther off the deep end than ever.

WorldNetDaily reports that Cindy Sheehan isn't simply blaming President Bush for her son's death (which she has done before), but now she's vowing not to pay her taxes because of this:

"My son was killed in 2004. I am not paying my taxes for 2004," Sheehan told an audience of Veterans for Peace. "You killed my son, George Bush, and I don't owe you a penny. ... You give my son back and I'll pay my taxes. Come after me [for back taxes] and we'll put this war on trial."

She added later,

"And the other thing I want [President Bush] to tell me is 'just what was the noble cause Casey died for?' Was it freedom and democracy? Bullsh--! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East. We're not freer here, thanks to your Patriot Act. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism," she said.

"There, I used the 'I' word – imperialism. And now I'm going to use another 'I' word – impeachment – because we cannot have these people pardoned. They need to be tried on war crimes and go to jail."

Powerline quotes an article from FrontPage, which quotes Cindy Sheehan:

"We have no Constitution. We’re the only country with no checks and balances. We want our country back if we have to impeach George Bush down to the person who picks up the dog sh-t in Washington! Let George Bush send his two little party animals to die in Iraq. It’s OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons but we are waging nuclear war in Iraq, we have contaminated the entire country. It’s not OK for Syria to be in Lebanon. Hypocrites! But Israel can occupy Palestine? Stop the slaughter!"

I can't imagine Cindy Sheehan's loss. Having recently lost my father suddenly, I can only begin to know what she feels, because losing your parents is the way life works. Losing your children is against the natural order of life and has to be so incredibly more painful.

I've heard people saying that it's been a year now, and Cindy Sheehan should be getting over it by now, but it doesn't work that way. I know people who lost a child 13 years ago, and they say it's not something you get over. You just learn to keep on living.

That said, I can't help but see Cindy Sheehan as a woman whose grief or ideology (or both) has driven her off the cliff at the Left edge of the earth. The severely Left-wing groups appear to have nurtured Sheehan's radical beliefs, and that nurturing has been fed by a mostly friendly media that allows Sheehan full vent to her ideas. Without any reins put on her rants, Sheehan has run headlong down the path of extreme ideology.

The more the MSM allows a public forum for Sheehan to keep talking, the more people will see what she stands for and be repulsed. Even the rest of her family has disavowed her views.

Keep talking, Cindy.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

More on Atta

Last night Kristen Breitweiser was on Fox News, talking about the news that Mohammed Atta was identified and left alone under the Clinton administration (my comments from last night here). But I've been too distracted by work and ordering textbooks for my daughter's first semester of college (can textbooks get any more expensive?) to really get into the meat of this issue.

Lucky for me, Michelle Malkin is on top of it (her latest post on this here).

She quotes Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters, who says of the 9/11 Commission's recent acknowledgment that they knew about Atta's having been identified but ignored that information:

So what did the Commission do? It ignored those facts which did not fit within its predetermined conclusions. It never bothered to mention Able Danger even one time in its final report, even though that absolutely refuted the notion that the government had no awareness that Atta constituted a terrorist threat. It endorsed the idea of data mining (which would die in Congress as the Total Information Awareness program) without ever explaining why. And while the Clinton policy of enforcing a quarantine between law enforcement and intelligence operations came under general criticism, their report never included the fact that the "wall" for which Commission member Jamie S. Gorelick had so much responsibility specifically contributed to Atta's ability to come and go as he pleased, building the teams that would kill almost 3,000 Americans. [emphasis added]

So Kristen Breitweiser and others of her viewpoint claim that before President Bush came along, any mistakes were only made by individuals and weren't systemic. But the 9/11 Commission finally admits otherwise.

Keep checking in with Michelle Malkin for her continuing updates on this and other issues.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Kristen Breitweiser on Fox

Kristen Breitweiser, the 9/11 widow who appears on the TV news shows as the Bush-bashing representative of the 9/11 families, was on Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News tonight. She was there to discuss the latest findings that a year before 9/11, defense intelligence officials had identified Mohammed Atta as an al-Qaeda cell member in the US. Nothing was done about him at the time, because he was here legally. And the events of 9/11 were unimaginable before they actually happened.

But Kristen Breitweiser is upset.

What I found interesting, and what seemed to surprise Cavuto, is that when he asked her if she believed the problem under the Clinton administration (which is the administration that was in charge at the time Atta was identified) was a systemic one of departments not sharing with each other, she said no. She said she believed the 9/11 Commission will find that it was individuals who didn't do their jobs properly, and the Commission will name names. But other statements she made (which are starting to fade from my memory) indicated that she believes the problems within the Bush administration are systemic. She said it's been four years and we're less safe than we were before 9/11.

When Cavuto pressed her, she responded that the only reason there haven't been any more attacks on US soil is because of Osama bin Laden--I think she said it was because he hasn't tried yet.

So according to Kristen Breitweiser, the Clinton administration only suffered from bad-performing individuals, while the Bush administration suffers from bad policy, direction, etc. But she's hurt that people think she's a Democrat--after all she voted for Bush in 2000.

Time after time, the TV news shows trot out reliably anti-Bush Kristen Breitweiser. And time after time, they ignore Deborah Burlingame, who is also an articulate 9/11 widow and who represents another group of 9/11 families. But since Burlingame actually supports Bush's policies, the TV news shows just pass her by. I thought Fox News was a little more fair and balanced than that.

The Way of Things

The sermon title this past Sunday was, "Bloom Where You're Planted." That's all well and good, but lately I've felt like the poster child for "Wilt Where You're Planted."

I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating. The work I do is endless. We get something done and our reward is much more to do. I've long said that excellence is its own punishment, and that's no more true than where I work. It's just the nature of the job.

So I found it rewarding to see today's post by Megan McArdle at InstaPundit. The Washington Post had an article that shows that high-paying jobs are boring. That means that people better off than I am are probably worse off than I am.

McArdle ends the post this way:

There is a tendency among liberal arts types to think that it is grossly unfair that investment bankers make so much money, when said artsy type's clearly more socially valuable work is so pitifully renumerated. Having spent a summer doing it, I personally think that anyone who is willing to spend his Saturday night going over the fine print in an SEC prospectus until 2 am is welcome to all the filthy lucre they will pay him. I chose to become a journalist because I've only got forty or fifty years left on this planet, and if I'm going to spend the majority of my waking hours doing something, I'd rather do something I feel is worthwhile than something that will buy me a cushy place to sleep. It seems downright piggy for those of us with what my mother calls "English Major Jobs" to demand both fulfilling work and lavish renumeration.[emphasis added]

A point well taken. Since I'm somewhere in the middle between lavish and pitiful remuneration, I suppose my work should be somehwere in the middle between fulfilling and "fine print in an SEC prospectus until 2am."

Yep. Wilting or not, it looks like I'm on track with The Way of Things.

Seeking Neville Chamberlain

This from Captain's Quarters:

After seeing the effect that the Madrid bombings had on the Spanish electorate, it appears that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda have gone on a public-relations campaign to undermine Western resolve in the war on terror. In today's Daily Standard, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross points out the changing rhetoric of AQ leadership that now seems tailored to the tastes of the war's critics, promising a truce (hudna) for the simple act of abandoning Southwest Asia and North Africa for good:

Captain Ed then quotes a few paragraphs from Gartenstein-Ross's column discussing Ayman Al-Zawahiri's latest change in rhetoric. And Captain Ed follows with this chilling analysis:

Obviously bin Laden and Zawahiri have studied the reactions of the West through our media, and likely their own as well. Like most of our enemies over the past century, they have analyzed dissent as weakness and intend to exploit it. The only difference in this war is that their analysis may not be in error.

We have dissent in our country (and in the Western world as a whole), and it is weakening us and taking its toll. Witness the (however faulty) recent poll results from USA Today/CNN Gallup. America's support for the Global War on Terror is slipping, whatever the reason, and that makes us vulnerable to repeating the past.

Al-Qaeda is "promising a truce (hudna) for the simple act of abandoning Southwest Asia and North Africa for good." Similar promises came from the Third Reich when they promised to stop after annexing the Sudetenland. And Austria. And...

All it took was a Chamberlain to believe them. And all it takes now is a similar-minded leader in a nation more powerful than Spain to believe al-Qaeda and act on that belief.

Unfortunately for us, we have plenty of leaders on the left willing to declare "peace in our time," if only they can gain a position of power. And once the promises are believed and peace is declared, the results will be the same.

We cannot afford to lose our will now. However difficult the road ahead, it must be travelled, and victory must be secured. Total victory. Our enemies will accept nothing less.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

News From Iraq & Afghanistan

Here's a post from one of the milbloggers, Timmer at SgtStryker's The Daily Brief (HT: BlackFive via Michelle Malkin). Timmer includes an email he got from his Soldier Niece on "one hell of a day" she had recently. It's powerful. Read the whole thing.

And from Afghanistan, there's plenty of progress and plenty more still to do. Chrenkoff has this post (HT: Michelle Malkin) detailing a lot of what's happening there.

Be sure to keep our military in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the people of those countries, in your prayers.

Poll: Bush Is A Loser

This stuff really burns me up. A USA TODAY/CNN Gallup poll (full poll results here), reported in USA Today yesterday, shows dwindling support for President Bush and the war in Iraq.

I can hardly keep my fingers on the keyboard, because there's so much to criticize about this poll.

The poll questioned 1004 people. On questions 12 and 13, the pollsters separated the Republicans (and Republican-leaning people) from the Democrats (and Democrat-leaning people). Interesting that the count of Republicans was 443 and the Democrat count was 466 (909 total, so some of the 1004 must be independent or undecided). This raises the question of whether Democrats were over-represented in this poll, thus skewing the results away from President Bush and his policies. The last reports (which I can't find a link to right at the moment) that I remember showed slightly more Republicans in the country than Democrats.

An important question that's missing from the poll is:

What is your primary source of news?
  • Large metropolitan newspapers and/or their websites
  • Local newspapers and/or their websites
  • Broadcast network news shows and/or their websites
  • Cable network news shows and/or their websites
  • Independent internet news sources
  • Talk radio
  • Blogs
  • Other

My guess is that the majority of the people polled get their news from the mainstream media, where any bad news from Iraq is reported and all the good news is ignored (and yes, there is good news). With nothing but bad news coming across MSM news outlets, is it any surprise that people are wondering if going to Iraq was a good idea?

Here are the poll questions on Iraq:

6. In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?

7. All in all, do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq, or not?

By saying "In view of the developments..." the pollsters encourage the respondents to think back over the latest news, which would be the MSM reports of US military deaths.

And by asking the "mistake" question first, they put the respondents into a negative mindset before presenting them with the question, "Was it worth it?"

This poll is being widely reported, even on Fox News, and I haven't heard any of the reports question the validity of the poll. The real losers from this poll are the people who accept it as valid--and the pollsters themselves, who slanted their poll to fit their own agenda.

Update:

Here is a story from Iraq with good news (from Aug 8). Do you think it's being reported in the New York Times? Ummm... No. Here's what the Times is reporting (Aug 9). It's a story on today's attacks in Iraq that left 20 dead, including 1 US soldier, with unrelated discussion of the difficulty Iraq is having hammering out a constitution. Down at the bottom, the article has related stories, none of which include the good news of yesterday's discovery and destruction of a car bomb factory in Haqlaniyah in the Anbar province.

If the New York Times was where you got your news, what do you think your answers would be to poll questions about Iraq?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Netanyahu Resigns

Binyamin Netanyahu has resigned his post in Israel's government in protest over the Israeli evacuation of the Gaza Strip. I got the story from Hugh Hewitt who, in spite of being on a cruise through Northern Europe under the tutelage of Prof. David Allen White, is still finding time to keep up on the latest news and blog about it.

Hugh's post (here) includes the full text of Netanyahu's resignation (English translation), and it's worth reading. He also includes analysis by Barbara Lerner of Think-Israel.

Netanyahu and Lerner both see the Gaza pullout as a looming disaster, as it gives Hamas a safe haven and a port city where Hamas can build and refine their their terror industry. The Gaza pullout is a threat not only to Israel, but to all of "the infidel," especially the US.

Netanyahu's resignation will not stop the pullout. Let's pray Ariel Sharon (or his replacement) can muster up the iron strength he will need to deal decisively with the results of his misguided policy.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Duck

I miss my Daddy.

He loved ducks. Not in the way that some people surround themselves with little figurines and pictures on the wall of their favorite animal. It's more that ducks made him chuckle, with the way they waddle and the sound of their quack. Ducks are inoffensive and kind of adorable in their ungainliness on land. And because my Daddy loved ducks, I think of him when I see them.

Yesterday, while I waited for the computer at work to finish running some of my jobs, I came across this post at Argghhh!!!, one of the milblogs. It's called, "Duck." It's a little long and worth every moment it takes to read it. John's writing is beautiful and makes me wish my words came off my fingers even half as well as his do. And it reminds me of my dad.

Enjoy it!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lower Than Low

For a guy who's on vacation, heading for a cruise, Hugh Hewitt sure manages to blog! He's got a link to a Drudge report on the New York Times. If Drudge's story proves true, The Times is launching an investigation into the adoption records of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' two children.

There aren't words that are strong enough to convey how completely vile this is. Professor Bainbridge comes close, though:

Slimy Slimeballs

I find the NY Times' reported effort to dig into the adoption records of SCOTUS nominee John Roberts' children totally despicable. It's just another example of how the MSM's overweening belief that they are the untouchable masters of the universe blinds them to the privacy-invading low-life scum that they in fact are. Putting yourself forward as a prospective public servant should not mean abandoning all privacy rights, especially when it comes to your children. Some things simply ought to be off-limits.


I knew the NY Times was partisan. It's hard not to know. But now they've revealed themselves as a rabid attack dog. If no story shows up in the NY Times, it will be because there isn't even a hint of a possibility of a story that could be used against Roberts, and through him against Bush.

Sick, disgusting, despicable slimeballs.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

John Roberts Answers Questions

Powerline has a link to this article in the New York Times about John Roberts' nomination progress. He has answered some of the questions asked of him by Senators.

Here are the links to the text of Roberts' answers (pdf format): Part I, Part II.

For the most part, the article looks like straight reporting, with little overt bias. One statement can be seen as slanted: "In [his response], the nominee seeks to cast himself as a proponent of judicial restraint, a quality prized by senators at a time when conservative critics of the judiciary are bemoaning activist judges."

Powerline takes issue with this NY Times mention of judicial restraint coupled with their neglect of "the second, longer part of Roberts' answer where he defended judicial action that "check[s] the Legislature or Executive" against the "judicial activism" charge."

Another interesting point about the NY Times coverage of the Roberts response is that the article points out--twice--what Roberts' financial status is, going into detail about his stock and mutual fund holdings, as well as his home's mortgage and property value. It seems to scream, "This guy is rich, and his stocks make him an evil tool of corporate America!"

Get a grip, NY Times. It didn't bother you that John Kerry and John Edwards were rich. If his wealth and support of judicial restraint are all you can find against Roberts, then there's really no problem, is there?

New Clipping Service for Supreme Court Nominees

Hugh Hewitt today has the following succint post:

Patrick Ruffini launches SCOTUS wire.

Here's how Ruffini describes the website:

SCOTUS Wire is an automated clipping service for the first blogged Supreme Court nomination in history. It aims to gather every news story and blog post on Judge John Roberts and lets you decide what's important.

If you're following the John Roberts nomination (and presumably any future nominations), this is the place to go. He lists and links all new blog posts and MSM articles that touch on the nomination, and specifies whether the source is a Blog or the MSM.

If you scroll down the list, it's no surprise to see the MSM slant to the left on some of the links. Here are a few:

A judicial think tank - or a plot? - Christian Science Monitor

Lame Duck Bush Has Swagger, Not Waddle - News Channel 6 New Orleans

Roberts too extreme - Westminster Community Times

Meanwhile, the blogs are all over the place. A few of those:

Is John Roberts a Republican Party Socialist? - To The People

The Myth of Neutrality:Part 2 - Imago Dei

Privacy Schmivacy - The Grizz Gazette

Keep an eye on SCOTUS Wire for all the latest. It's going to be fun!

Catching Up on Culture

Cohabitation and Divorce

I've been saving some articles for a while, and it's time to get to them. The first one is hard to tell when it was originally published, because when I went to the article in the The Olympian Online, it put today's date all over it, and I've been saving the url for at least a couple weeks. Oh well.

The headline says, "More cohabitation lowers divorce rate," with a subhead of, "Marriage rate also declines." Here's the link.

My problem with this is that the headline makes it sound as though the higher rate of cohabitation leads to more stable marriages, thus reducing the divorce rate. But that's not what the study found. The blame for this extremely misleading headline lies with The Olympian, a news organization in Olympia, Washington, one of the liberal regions of the country.

In fact, the study found that "couples who get married are more committed to each other than those who live together without marriage." The headline's reference to declining divorce rates is due to divorces dropping from a peak of 22 per 1,000 in 1980 to 18 per 1,000 in 2004. This has no relation to cohabitation, as seen in this explanation:

Report authors David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead said they are glad the divorce rate is on the decline, but they worry about the children of couples who are living together without marrying.

"The breakup rate of cohabiting couples is considerably higher" than that of married couples, Popenoe said. "As more and more cohabiting couples have children, that becomes more of a problem."

For the sake of our children, let's hope the divorce rate keeps declining and that cohabitation starts doing the same.

Cloning Research

The researchers who brought us Dolly the Sheep are in a quandry, and they'd like your help. According to an article in The Guardian:

Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, is to seek permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to ask women to donate eggs for cloning experiments designed to shed light on the debilitating condition motor neurone disease.

Until now, cloning experts in Britain have justified their work by using only spare eggs left over from couples undergoing treatment at fertility clinics. The eggs are typically rejects of the IVF process and are routinely discarded if not used in experiments.


Kinda reminds me of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's latest pronouncement on embryonic stem cell research, that it's OK since the embryos will be discarded anyway.

The problem comes when they run out of to-be-discarded embryos, or when those embryos aren't the high quality needed for the research, which is the case for Dolly's creator, Prof. Ian Wilmut.

In an interview with the Guardian, Prof Wilmut, who was awarded a cloning licence in February, said: "I have never doubted that women would donate if they thought we were helping people to have treatment. Our hope and belief is that women who have seen the devastating effect of this disease will be prepared to make such a donation."

I saw this coming when California passed the bond measure approving $3 billion for embryonic stem cell research. The creation of embryos--whether that's for stem cell research or for research in fighting a particular disease--requires eggs. And the only current source for human eggs is human women of childbearing age.

Who will donate eggs? Possibly my friend who never ever wants to have kids. Most likely, the donors will be women who need the money that would need to be paid in order to get donated eggs. And this will become an exploitation of poor women.

The other source of eggs is still in the speculation stage. At the website for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, there is a discussion of the possible use of aborted female fetuses as a supply of eggs for reproductive treatment for women without ovary function. But this source could also be used for research.

Some researchers have suggested that fetuses eventually might be used as a source for oocytes in oocyte donation programs (1,2). One variant is to remove oocytes from the ovaries of aborted fetuses, mature them in vitro, and use them as donor oocytes for couples who need eggs as part of their IVF effort. A second variant is to remove ovaries from aborted fetuses and transplant them in women who lack ovarian function so the transplanted tissue eventually will contribute to the woman's normal reproductive cycle. Although at present the use of fetal oocytes for conception is hypothetical and speculative, its endorsement by some researchers and its critique by government-sponsored commissions make timely a discussion of its ethical dimensions (3,4).

This raises the ethical question of turning abortion into a "manufacturer" of research materials, which increases the financial incentive for abortion providers to promote abortions, even when it's not in the best interest of the pregnant woman.

No matter how you look at it, the call for more eggs and embryos is an open invitation to start (or continue) the exploitation of vulnerable young women. This is not the direction Western civilization should be going.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Britain Goes PC on Terror

Just when it looks like Britain has everything on the ball (arresting terror suspects, talking a hard line), they go and drop it.

WorldNetDaily reports on the new guidelines that Bedfordshire police are to follow when entering Muslim households. A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said, "We would like to reassure all communities that any current or perceived tensions, which might be heightened as a result of recent events, will not affect how police deal with Muslims or anyone else."

Some of the guidelines:

  • Rapid entry needs to be the last resort and raids into Muslim houses are discouraged for a number of religious dignity reasons.
  • Police should seek to avoid looking at unclad Muslim women and allow them an opportunity to dress and cover their heads.
  • For reasons of dignity officers should seek to avoid entering occupied bedrooms and bathrooms even before dawn.
  • Use of police dogs will be considered serious desecration of the premises and may necessitate extensive cleaning of the house and disposal of household items.
  • Muslim prisoners should be allowed to take additional clothing to the station.
  • If people are praying at home officers should stand aside and not disrupt the prayer. They should be allowed the opportunity to finish.
  • Officers should not take shoes into the houses, especially in areas that might be kept pure for prayer purposes.

Of course, there are more guidelines than just these.

Over at LittleGreenFootballs, where they've covered the story as well, one of the comments (by Spiny Norman) says, "We don't want to piss off the terrorism suspects. If we do, they might, umm, commit acts of terrorism! "

That says it all.