Sunday, April 30, 2006

United 93

I just got back from seeing United 93 for the second time this weekend. The first time I saw it was Friday afternoon, and I wanted to see it again.

Yesterday morning, at breakfast out with the girls, I told them about it, but my usual movie-going buddy didn't want to see it. She was afraid of how it would make her feel, that it would be depressing. But it isn't, and after I did quite a bit of persuading, she decided to go with me today after church. And she was glad she did.

This is a movie that Hollywood got right, but given the subject matter, it took a British director to make the film. And any time Hollywood gets something right and tells the truth, I want to support it. Seeing this movie--twice--during its opening weekend is my way of sending a message to Hollywood.

It's an intense movie, but it's not graphic. We don't see close-up shots of people being killed. Instead, we see the positions of the people, the arm motions, the fall of the body. We don't need to see more.

On Friday, I took my travel pack of Kleenex out of my purse in preparation before the movie started. Just about all I did with it was crumple it in my hand. At one point, when the passengers were calling their families to say, "I love you," I got sniffly, but that was the only time.

And I learned things, about the air traffic controllers and the military, about their confusion and disbelief over what was happening in the sky. I was impressed by how difficult an air traffic controller's job is at the best of times, and I was even more impressed by how they handled themselves on September 11, 2001.

Christina at The Right Perspective has an excellent review (spoiler warning--in case you don't know what happens).

What gets to me about the aftermath of 9/11 is the way the media has tried to get us to forget. After about a week, they stopped showing the crashes and the collape of the Twin Towers. They said it was being overdone. But they've never gone back to show them again. Instead, they showed photos of Abu Graib over and over, whenever the opportunity presented itself. They want us to be reminded of Americans falling short, but never of why we fight.

One character in the movie said it best: "Someone out there is at war with us." Let us not forget.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mark Steyn on Islam

Mark Steyn has a column in Canadian publication Macleans, in yesterday's Book section. It's about Oriana Fallaci's latest book, The Force of Reason. But it's also about the broader question of Islam in the world.

Over in Sweden, they've been investigating the Grand Mosque of Stockholm. Apparently, it's the one-stop shop for all your jihad needs: you can buy audio cassettes at the mosque encouraging you to become a martyr and sally forth to kill "the brothers of pigs and apes" -- i.e. Jews. So somebody filed a racial-incitement complaint and the coppers started looking into it, and then Sweden's chancellor of justice, Goran Lambertz, stepped in. And Mr. Lambertz decided to close down the investigation on the grounds that, even though the porcine-sibling stuff is "highly degrading," this kind of chit-chat "should be judged differently -- and therefore be regarded as permissible -- because they were used by one side in an ongoing and far-reaching conflict where calls to arms and insults are part of the everyday climate in the rhetoric that surrounds this conflict."

In other words, if you threaten to kill people often enough, it will be seen as part of your vibrant cultural tradition -- and, by definition, we're all cool with that. Celebrate diversity, etc. Our tolerant multicultural society is so tolerant and multicultural we'll tolerate your intolerant uniculturalism. Your antipathy to diversity is just another form of diversity for us to celebrate.

I remember Dennis Prager, on his radio show, saying that Germany learned the wrong lessons from World War II. It looks as though Sweden has also learned the wrong lessons from Muslim riots.

Oriana Fallaci, in her book, distinguishes between the different types of Islam, in what Mark Steyn considers the most valuable point she makes.

[O]ne reason why westernized Muslims seem so confident is that Europeans like Herr Genscher, in positing a choice between a generalized "Islam" and "the West," have inadvertently promoted a globalized pan-Islamism that's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, Germany has Turks, France has Algerians, Britain has Pakistanis, the Netherlands has Indonesians. Even though they're all Muslims, the differences between them have been very significant: Sunni vs. Shia, Arab Islam vs. the more moderate form prevailing in Southeast Asia.

Once upon a time we used to understand this. I've noticed in the last few years that, if you pull any old minor 19th-century memoir off the shelf, the en passant observations about Islam seem more informed than most of the allegedly expert commentary that appeared in the year after 9/11. For example, in Our Crisis: Or Three Months at Patna During the Insurrection of 1857, William Tayler wrote, "With the Soonnees the Wahabees are on terms of tolerable agreement, though differing on certain points, but from the Sheahs, they differ radically, and their hatred, like all religious hatred, is bitter and intolerant. But the most striking characteristic of the Wahabee sect, and that which principally concerns this narrative, is the entire subservience which they yield to the Peer, or spiritual guide."

Had William Tayler been around when the Islamification of the West got under way and you'd said to him there was a mosque opening down the street, he'd have wanted to know: what kind of mosque? Who's the imam? What branch of Islam? Old-school imperialists could never get away with the feel-good condescension of PC progressives.

Here's Tayler again: "The tenets originally professed by the Wahabees have been described as a Mahomedan Puritanism joined to a Bedouin Phylarchy, in which the great chief is both the political and religious leader of the nation."

Muslims are not all alike. And the more dangerous to the West appears to be the Wahabis, the sect of Saudi Arabia that is probably an even bigger export than their oil. We need to train ourselves to detect the difference, and then we need a plan to deal with the reality we face. I'm just not sure what that plan should be.

Judge Greer to Speak at Bioethics Conference

WorldNetDaily reported today that the probate judge in Florida who ordered the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube last year will speak at a bioethics conference Monday.

Florida Circuit Court Judge George Greer on Monday will address attendees of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics 10th anniversary symposium, entitled "The legacy of the Terri Schiavo case: Why is it so hard to die in America?"

Greer intends to speak to the need for courts, not legislators, to decide the fate of incapacitated individuals like the 41-year-old Florida woman whose husband obtained Greer's authority to remove her feeding tube and cause her death, over the objections of Terri's parents and siblings.

Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo's brother, calls Greer's speaking engagement "offensive," and on behalf of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation Center for Health Care Ethics intends to protest Geer’s presence at 10:30 a.m. Monday outside of the university's Biomedical Research Building.

"Judge Greer's presence at the University of Pennsylvania's bioethics conference is not only outright offensive and inappropriate but it is indicative of his own biases against the disabled, and may well be in violation of Florida's judicial canons as prescribed by the Supreme Court of the State of Florida," Schindler stated in a press release. "Judge Greer is confirming exactly what my family has maintained from the beginning of Terri's case – that he has a disposition against the vulnerable people whose cases he controls."

I agree with Bobby Schindler that Judge Greer showed again and again his determination to "help" Terri die. He appeared unwilling to consider new medical advances that could give a more accurate diagnosis of Terri's condition, he refused to look into Michael Schiavo's obvious conflict of interest as Terri's guardian, and he ignored Terri's court-appointed guardian ad litem, Jay Wolfson's recommendation that Terri be given swallowing tests.

In addition to Judge Greer, Michael Schiavo will also be speaking at the conference, on Sunday.

A summary of Terri Schiavo's story can be found in a WorldNetDaily article from March of last year.

Bioethics is the practice developed within the medical community to resolve ethical conflicts such as disputes over whether to remove feeding tubes, ventilators and other life-sustaining treatment. Bioethicists believe in placing limits on a patient's liberty to demand medical care. In the wake of earlier high-profile life-and-death disputes such as that over the fate of Karen Ann Quinlan, hospitals across the country formed ethics committees to carry out bioethicist recommendations for removal of treatment deemed futile.

Neurologist Ronald Cranford, a prominent bioethicist whose testimony that Terri Schiavo was in PVS largely persuaded Greer to reaffirm his ruling in 2002, is slated to speak at the symposium later in the day Monday. Cranford has publicly stated no PVS patient should be allowed to stay on a feeding tube.

If that's what passes for ethics, bio or otherwise, I want not part of it.


As WorldNetDaily reported earlier this week, the family of Andrea Clark is scrambling to transfer their ill mother from a Houston, Texas, hospital where an ethics committee seeks to terminate her life-sustaining treatment, including a ventilator, despite the fact the 54-year-old is not in a coma, is not brain dead and wants to go on living, according to her family.

Update to "Related:"

Mary Katharine Ham at Hugh Hewitt's blog reported yesterday that Andrea Clark's life has been saved, thanks to the efforts of the pro-life community.

Friday, April 28, 2006

American Life Expectancy is Increasing

This was reported in yesterday's Voice of America News.

Life expectancy for Americans is the highest it has ever been. The average American born today can now expect to live almost 78 years. Americans are living longer and the number of deaths is declining.

"You would expect with an aging population for the number of deaths to increase, just because the population is older and people at older ages have higher death rates," says [Robert Anderson, at the National Center for Health Statistics].

Hmmm. Must be all that global warming.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

1100 Violent Sex Offenders Arrested

Good. Now go get some more. And try to keep them behind bars this time.

United 93 Opens Tomorrow

The London Times reported yesterday about the world premiere of United 93 in New York. It was attended by family members of the victims and others:

The audience included former Senator Bob Kerrey, a member of the official 9/11 inquiry; New York’s police commissioner Ray Kelly; actor Steve Buscemi, a former fireman who joined the rescue effort at Ground Zero; and the real-life air-traffic controllers who played themselves in the movie.

The Times reported that the family members sobbed, and even wailed.

"It’s horrific to see my brother Edward on the screen, knowing what is going to happen," said Gordon Felt. "It’s shattering, but it needs to be. This is a violent story."

"Some people will not want to see the film. People find the subject too hard. I respect that," [British writer-director Paul] Greengrass acknowledged. But, he added, "Remembering is painful. It’s diffcult. But it can be inspiring and it can bring wisdom."

With all the anti-war lefties in Hollywood, here's something that surprised and impressed me:

But Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival - founded to revive the lower Manhattan neighbourhood after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center - insisted on holding the premiere of Greengrass’s film.

I'll try supporting De Niro's movies when I can, because it looks like he gets it.

And I'll be there to see the movie this weekend, so Hollywood can have one more chance to get the message that America wants to see movies that aren't hit-pieces on the Heartland and the things we value.

Universal Pictures, the distributor, announced it would donate 10 per cent of the first weekend’s box office to a memorial for the Flight 93 victims.

Let's hope the memorial doesn't turn political.


Hugh Hewitt has a link to an Opinion Journal column by United 93 passenger Todd Beamer's father, David Beamer. He recommends everyone see the movie.

Hugh also links to John Podhoretz's review of the movie, which ends this way:

There's no reason to fear United 93. It is a riveting examination of an unbearable moment. Not only can we take it, we can also rise to the challenge it presents--both to us, and to those who would treat Americans as though they were hothouse flowers incapable of feeling the "right way" about September 11.

The White House Press and Tony Snow

Christina at The Right Perspective has a great post on the selection of Tony Snow as the new White House Press Secretary. She includes a link to this AP story published Wednesday, by AP White House Correspondent Terrence Hunt.

As I read the AP article, I saw so much left-wing bias that I started looking to see if it was labeled as "commentary" or "news analysis," but I couldn't find any. So this is what the AP (or Terrence Hunt) considers a straight news article.

Snow, a Fox news pundit and former speechwriter in the White House under Bush's father, replaced Scott McClellan who resigned in a personnel shuffle intended to re-energize the White House and lift the president's record-low approval ratings.

Did the White House or McClellan actually say his resignation was part of a "personnel shuffle"? Did McClellan say his resignation was intended to "re-energize the White House and lift the president's record-low approval ratings"? Not that I'm aware of. So this would be guess-work and opinion on Hunt's part.

Snow's appointment is notable in a White House that has a reputation for not suffering criticism. He has had some harsh things to say about Bush.

Again, having "a reputation for not suffering criticism" looks like opinion. Who holds that opinion? The press? Hunt himself? It's easy to be vague, but objective reporters are supposed to deal with facts.

As a columnist, Snow has called the president "something of an embarrassment," a leader who has "lost control of the federal budget," the architect of a "listless domestic policy" and a man who has "a habit of singing from the political correctness hymnal."

Hunt only listed the negative things Tony Snow has said about President Bush. I didn't see a sign of any positive, supportive quotes. If Snow really were as critical of the President as this article makes him look, I'm surprised the President ever considered Snow for the job. Once again, no balance--only negatives.

The MSM flunks again in the Objective Reporting category.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Cleaning" Crew

This is one of the toys I have on my desk at work. I didn't used to have toys on my desk--nobody in my group did. But one time, when the group our group works with the most (the liasons between us and the sales people) came to visit (they're spread out all over the country), one of them noticed that we just don't have enough fun at our desks. So she bought a bunch of cheap toys, boxed them up, and sent them to our supervisor. There were enough for each one of us to get several different toys, but this blue toy was specially marked for me.

I try not to figure out what kind of shape it is, because I'm afraid it might be a bug, and then I wouldn't want to touch it. It's one of those water toys that you push the buttons and they make the water squirt the tiny plastic rings around, and you try to catch the all rings on the posts. But there are more rings than will fit on one post, and whenever you press one of the buttons, all the rings that are on the nearest post go floating back off the post and you have to start over.

The best I've done is to fill up one post, and that leaves three rings unposted. I consider this a success, and I rest it against my Kleenex box, so I can admire my great skill over and over again.

But once a week--it used to be Wednesday nights, but now it's Tuesday nights--the nighttime cleaning crew dusts our desks. Some Wednesday mornings when I get to work, not much has been rearranged, and some of the little plastic rings are still on the post. Those are good days. Other Wednesday mornings, my keyboard has been shoved away from the edge of the desk, and the folded paper towel I keep as a coaster (see lower right corner) has been thrown away, and all my little doo-dads and toys are where they don't belong. And my water toy has been knocked over, tipped over, or laid down nicely with all the rings off the posts.

I took this picture this morning. Notice how empty the posts are. That fat pinkish glob at the bottom of each post is the base where the first ring will settle. Notice all the little colored rings scattered around the bottom of the toy.

Doesn't the cleaning crew know the effort involved in getting those rings to be jettisoned from the lower right, up and over the right post, to be snagged and maybe tilted onto the left post? Don't they know to be careful with the trophies of our glory?

Each Wednesday morning brings with it that moment of dismay, when I see the sorry condition of my little blue toy. For its sake, though, I rise to the occasion and take the time to start getting those tiny rings back on the post. It may take me a few days to get them all (except for the three that don't fit), but then I can sit back again and bask in my glory until next Tuesday's cleaning crew comes along.

Working Late

I worked until midnight Monday night. I had two projects that had to be finished, and by 9:00 I ran out of steam and started feeling sorry for myself. Ordinarily I would have packed it up and gone home, but Monday I couldn't. So I slugged it out, finished the first project around 10:00, and finally got the second one finished about ten minutes before the stroke of Tuesday.

As I was walking out to my car, this bunny was loitering on the sidewalk. Since the incident with the hawk, when I was caught without my camera, I've been bringing my camera with me in my tote bag. Faced with a bunny, though, I almost forgot I had it.

My first picture, with him on the sidewalk, came out blurry, and the flash sent him gently hopping over to the grass. I never know how close I can get before I spook wild animals, but I've got 10-x zoom on my camera and I used every x of it. He held still, gave me the red-eye treatment (I think that means rabbits can see color, because dogs can't and they get yellow-eye effect from the flash, but that's not exactly scientific, so don't quote me on that), then hopped well away from me and my camera flash.

We don't get monster rabbits around here--or Jimmy Carter's killer rabbit--just these guys, small and gray with small, white tails and small, tentative hops. I kinda like them, because if they're a nuisance, they do it at somebody else's house.

And this bunny gave me something to smile about after a long, long day at work.

Border Fence Moves Forward

I love this. WorldNetDaily reported today that citizens' groups are planning to quit waiting for the Feds to get their act together, and they're going to build the border fence themselves on private land.

Taking matters into their own hands, some activists are working to build a fence along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S. southern border – with or without government participation.

Using the slogan "American Citizens Securing the Borders Themselves," The Border Fence Project hopes to raise enough money to build a fence along 90 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border that currently has no physical barrier.

According to the effort's website, the "fencing solution" will include the use of near-wholesale raw materials and use volunteer labor to build the structure.

Fact check question for WND: I thought the southern border was 700 miles and the northern border was 2000 miles. No matter, though.

The article has a terrific drawing of what the fence would look like. It looks perfect.

States the Border Fence Project website: "Because Washington officials have consistently shown apprehension and outright consternation of the idea of a complete fence, it is unlikely they will ever cooperate, assuming the public continues to vote for special-interest candidates. Furthermore, most estimates show that because of the inefficiency of government labor and high markup on raw materials, the cost is likely to run $9 billion, only 23 percent of the Department of Homeland Security annual budget, but enough to receive grief from the open-borders lobby.

"We know we the civilian volunteers, in cooperation with Minuteman-like groups already on the border, can do the job for 1/400 of that cost!"

Meanwhile, an Arizona state lawmaker is proposing legislation to allow ranchers who lease state land along the border to build fencing on government property.

State Rep. Russell Pearce told KVOA-TV the bill is still being drafted.

"I'm interested in helping to do that," Pearce said. "We don't have authority over federal land but we do over state land."

The Border Fence Project people estimate that it will cost $1.50 to $4.00 per linear foot to build the fence, but I think that must be a typo, because later in the article, Chris Simcox of the Minutemen, estimates $150 per foot. So let's be pessimistic and say it'll be $400 a foot. For 700 miles, that's only $280,000 to put up some effective barriers.

Ranchers with property along the border are supportive of letting their property have fences. My guess is that any ranchers who oppose the fence will change their minds, once their neighbors have the fence up and all the illegals start funneling through the fence-opposers' property.

This is great. Donate $150 to build a foot of the fence.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mark Steyn on Climate Change Alarmists

I had a good time, with some other regular commenters at Malott's Blog, going back and forth about Global Warming with Dave of the Sierra Club. I've found that environmental extremists are typically humorless (look at Al Gore), and Dave is no exception.

That was over the weekend, and then yesterday WorldNetDaily pointed me to Mark Steyn's latest column, in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times, on people like Dave.

Do you worry? You look like you do. Worrying is the way the responsible citizen of an advanced society demonstrates his virtue: He feels good by feeling bad.

But what to worry about? Iranian nukes? Nah, that's just some racket cooked up by the Christian fundamentalist Bush and his Zionist buddies to give Halliburton a pretext to take over the Persian carpet industry. Worrying about nukes is so '80s. "They make me want to throw up. . . . They make me feel sick to my stomach," wrote the British novelist Martin Amis, who couldn't stop thinking about them 20 years ago.

But the Big One never fell....Back then it was just crazies like Reagan and Thatcher who had nukes, so you can understand why everyone was terrified. But now Kim Jong-Il and the ayatollahs have them, so we're all sophisticated and relaxed about it, like the French hearing that their president's acquired a couple more mistresses. Martin Amis hasn't thrown up a word about the subject in years.

So what should we worry about? How about -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- "climate change"? That's the subject of Al Gore's new movie, ''An Inconvenient Truth.'' Like the trailer says: "If you love your planet -- if you love your children -- you have to see this movie."

I didn't realize Al Gore had a new movie. I thought he had some hip new TV channel designed to indoctrinate our youth with leftist propaganda, because they don't already get enough of that at school and in the usual news and entertainment outlets. I love my planet, and I love my children, but I'm not sure I can stomach a whole movie made by our illustrious former-VP-turned-environmental-crusading-screamer.

Here's an inconvenient truth for "An Inconvenient Truth": Remember what they used to call "climate change"? "Global warming." And what did they call it before that? "Global cooling." That was the big worry in the '70s: the forthcoming ice age.

And yet, amazingly, we've survived. Why? Because in 1970 the planet stopped its very slight global cooling and began to undergo very slight global warming. So in the '80s, the doom-mongers cast off their thermal underwear, climbed into the leopardskin thongs, slathered themselves in sun cream and wired their publishers to change all references to "cooling" to "warming" for the paperback edition. That's why, if you notice, the global-warming crowd begin their scare statistics with "since 1970," an unlikely Year Zero which would not otherwise merit the significance the eco-crowd invest in it.

But then in 1998 the planet stopped its very slight global warming and began to resume very slight global cooling. And this time the doom-mongers said, "Look, do we really want to rewrite the bumper stickers every 30 years? Let's just call it 'climate change.' That pretty much covers it."

No matter what they call it, the bottom line is that the eco-crowd thrives on alarm, because through alarm they gain power. It's their bread and butter. No, wait! I think butter might be bad for the planet. It's their bread and tofu. And if we let them get their way, we will be at their mercy, under their thumb, and without any recourse.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Border Fences and Appeasement

Hedgehog Blog was a star over the weekend, with two powerful posts.

The first, on Saturday, was on the border fence. He included a link to this article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on private citizens--organized by the Minutemen--making plans to build fences on their Mexico-bordering property.

Mexico President Vicente Fox called the plans "shameful." He's a fine one to talk.


The second, on Sunday, was on Europe's predilection for appeasement. He reprinted a March article in Die Welt that was translated from German.

A few days ago Henry Broder wrote in Welt am Sonntag, " Europe--your family name is appeasement." It's a phrase you can't get out of your head because it's so terribly true.

Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives, as England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to toothless agreements.

Appeasement legitimised and stabilized Communism in the Soviet Union , then East Germany , then all the rest of Eastern Europe , where for decades, inhuman suppressive, murderous governments were glorified as the ideologically correct alternative to all other possibilities.

Appeasement crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Kosovo , and even though we had absolute proof of ongoing mass-murder, we Europeans debated and debated and debated, and were still debating when finally the Americans had to come from halfway around the world, into Europe yet again, and do our work for us .

Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European Appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance," now countenances suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians.

Appeasement generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore nearly 500,000 victims of Saddam's torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace movement, has the gall to issue bad grades to George Bush... Even as it is uncovered that the loudest critics of the American action in Iraq made illicit billions, no, TENS of billions, in the corrupt U.N. Oil-for-Food program.

The author, Axel Springer, CEO of Mathias Dapfner, goes on to defend American presidents Reagan and GW Bush. His tone is that of frustration that his countrymen and continentmen just don't get it.

The freedom of the world depends on Springer getting his message through the thick heads and lazy, greedy, uncaring hearts of Europe's leadership--and on America staying the course.

World War II Hero Buried With Honors

As a followup to yesterday's post on the discovery of American World War II letters in Belgium, there is this article in yesterday's Sioux City Journal.

Staff Sgt. Walter Knudsen, a World War II B-24 gunnery instructor from Sioux City was praised as an American hero at a graveside ceremony with full military honors Saturday at Memorial Park Cemetery.

Knudsen was killed along with eight of his crew members when his B-24D bomber crashed southwest of Lae, New Guinea, during World War II 61 years ago.

In February 2002 a New Guinea villager found Knudsen's lone dog tag which led to the excavation of the plane in January 2003 and the identification of eight of the nine crew members' bodies in May 2005.

On Sept. 23, 1944, Knudsen received secret orders to go to Nadzab airdrome in New Guinea to be part of the new 360th Air Service Group, Far East Air Forces. The Far East Forces Combat Replacement Training Center at Nadzab provided training in Southwest Pacific warfare, including a five-week B-24 course Knudsen taught for heavy bomber crews. By the age of 20, Knudsen was already a skilled gunnery instructor, who was training 160 men for 10 hours a day in the use of the .50-caliber Browning machine gun used on B-24s.

On the morning of Oct. 9, 1944, Knudsen took off on a training flight from Nadzab along with a crew of eight. He had been in New Guinea just 20 days when his B-24D Liberator, "Mr. Five By Five," crashed.

The plane vanished that morning when it crashed nose first into a tri-canopy area of the cloud-covered mountainside 11 miles southwest of Lae. The plane burst into flames upon impact. The raging fire melted much of the plane, leaving only its four engines, wings, tail and a portion of the fuselage. Although the area where the plane crashed was searched, the wreckage, which was covered by dense jungle, remained hidden.

Family members said they never imagined that the selfless actions of a New Guinea villager in February 2002 would bring them closure.

While traversing the rugged mountain terrain and countryside, the villager found Knudsen's dog tag hidden in the dense tropical vegetation near the crash site. The villager traveled about 200 miles to Port Moresby to return Knudsen's dog tag to the U.S. Embassy, which in turn contacted the U.S. Army. The lone dog tag led to the plane's excavation in January 2003.

I'm a sap for this sort of story. The selflessness of a villager to travel 200 miles to deliver dogtags to the embassy is impressive. He is the one who allowed these war heroes to receive the honor they deserve.

Read the whole article. It's beautifully written. (Bring a hanky.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

World War II Letters Found

The London Telegraph reported today about a find in Belgium.

They have lain unopened in a horse manger in a forgotten part of the Belgian countryside for more than 60 years. But now, a set of incredibly well-preserved letters, prayer books, cigarettes and cartoons abandoned by American troops days before the Battle of the Bulge have been discovered.

The items were left between October and December 1944, just before Germany launched its final -and ill-fated - offensive of the war as the Allies fought their way through France and Belgium.

American soldiers of the US Army's 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment of the First Infantry Division were resting in farmhouses in Belgium close to the German border. On December 16, they were called to the front line for one of the bloodiest encounters of the war, involving one million troops.

Everything that was not strictly essential was abandoned, leaving letters half-finished and mail unopened in the manger of a stable in the village of Froidthier. They were rediscovered when the building was being renovated.

I have an hour-long (or more) commute each way to work, and what I used to do before I started working so late I couldn't make it to the library anymore was check out audio books. Usually non-fiction. A lot of what my library has in terms of history and biography is World War II books, so that's what I've listened to during my commute. I've heard Ghost Soldiers (on which the movie The Great Raid was based), Band of Brothers, In Harm's Way, and The Inextinguishable Symphony.

Having listened to these books and become involved in the lives of the men and women described in them, the discovery of the letters in the Belgian feels personal. And though I know it wasn't the "Band of Brothers" whose letters were found, the men these letters did belong to were a lot like the men who have been written about.

In [one] letter, Cpl H F Drawdy was told by "aunt Florence", who it seems he had never met, that his home town was lining up a choice of women for him for when he returned.

"I am your uncle Davis's sister-in-law. We are planning a big blow out when the war is over," she said. "We are going to have so many pretty girls there you'll be undecided which one you would like."

The letters will go on show in the Remember Museum in Thimister-Clermont, near Liege, later this year. "We have lots of US soldiers visiting us," said the curator, Marcel Schmetz.

"We like to show them they are still loved. We will always remember what they did for us."

I'd love to go.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Vacation Plans

I asked for vacation at the end of May, and it was approved. I'll have ten days away from work, because my vacation ends with Memorial Day.

I know I posted on Tuesday that I'd go to Glacier National Park first, but when daydreaming turns into reality, everything looks different. I'll be driving out to Texas to see my mom and my sister and her family. My kids are welcome to come along. If my daughter comes, my little dog Abby will come too.

There's no contest. Glacier will still be there later.


I've seen ads for Hoodia here and there on the internet, but I didn't pay much attention. The name sounded too much like a nearly indecent word that they named a restaurant after. But eventually I wondered what is that stuff, and a glance at the ads showed that it's supposed to be for weight loss.

Then I heard an ad on the radio this morning for Hoodia. The ad said that Hoodia was from a plant in Australia that was used by Aborigines when they were out in the bush. They used the plant as an appetitie suppressant, since food wasn't very plentiful out there.

But now, through the miracles of modern science and marketing, you too can have this plant to work for you.

The ad said that their new product, presumably the plant in pill or capsule form, will reduce your appetite and increase your metabolism.

But that doesn't sound right at all. If the Aborigines are out in the bush, they'd want their appetite suppressed, no doubt about that. But they certainly wouldn't want to increase their metabolism, because that would burn off their stores of fat even more quickly than normal, leading them to starve much sooner.

No point in going walkabout, if you're not going to be able to walk about for very long.

So the Hoodia product we can buy either has additives to increase metabolism (which is a red flag for ephedra-like substances), or it doesn't really increase your metabolism, because if it did, there'd be a lot of dead Aborigines in Australia's outback (which is a red flag for possible false advertising). Either way, there's a problem.

I'm not going to try the product, not because of the red flags but because I just don't like the name (and also because I'm too cheap to spend money on stuff like that). The name reminds me of the commercials they had on TV when I was a kid for some game called "Hoosker-do." It was just like the game "Concentration" that we used to play with playing cards, so if we had asked our parents to get it for us, we would have wasted a valuable gift-receiving opportunity on something we could already play.

No, in my experience, things that start with "Hoo..." are too pointless, trivial, or tacky to bother with.

Good News Out Of Africa

I spotted this article in the Christian Science Monitor's Special Projects section. It's from September 12, 2005, and it's about Kenya's Lazaro Sumbeiywo, who brokered peace in Sudan.

Until a single phone call from the president of Kenya changed the trajectory of his life, Lazaro Sumbeiywo had spent the whole of his illustrious career focused on making war.

When the phone rang in his office in October 2001, this towering son of a village chief was Kenya's top general.

Often a peace deal comes down to an individual willing to step between the warring parties and forge peace.

"I have an offer for you," he recalls the president saying, "and I order you not to refuse."

General Sumbeiywo was fiercely loyal to then-President Daniel arap Moi. During a 1982 coup attempt, he'd raced to Mr. Moi's home to protect him. Off and on since 1987, he had sometimes been involved with the Sudan negotiations. But the president's order caught him off guard.

"I want you to find peace in Sudan," Moi said.

The war had been going on for 18 years, between Muslim Arab northerners and mostly Christian black southerners, with two million dead and four million forced from their homes. Sumbeiywo fasted and prayed and then spent the next 3-1/2 years negotiating peace for Kenya's neighboring country.

Sumbeiywo brought in people from the outside to apply pressure when it was needed--Colin Powell was among these. He barred the outsiders when their presence was counterproductive. And he kept on his knees before God, for wisdom and for strength.

On the sun-dappled afternoon of Jan. 9, 2005, at a packed soccer stadium in Nairobi, the parties were arriving to sign the final peace deal.

The event marked the end of one of the world's deadliest conflicts - and, for Sumbeiywo, of so many sleepless nights. "It was reached by the will of God," he says.

For his part, Sumbeiywo is enjoying a slower pace. "It's been a lot of Christmases since I've seen my family," he says. So now, "I can make up for it."

But his voice turns to steel when he talks about Sudan's continued peace. "We must watch," he says. "We must watch very carefully."

Read the whole thing. It's good to see a glimmer of hope out of Africa, with so much bleakness on that continent.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Athiest Manifesto

No, I'm not the one with the athiest manifesto. That would be Sam Harris at Truthdig, a progressive website. Just reading the Editor's Note and the opening of Harris's manifesto left me sputtering from not knowing where to start a rebuttal first. Here are the Editor's Note and another excerpt, accompanied by my sputtering response:

Editor’s Note: At a time when fundamentalist religion has an unparalleled influence in the highest government levels in the United States, and religion-based terror dominates the world stage, Sam Harris argues that progressive tolerance of faith-based unreason is as great a menace as religion itself. Harris, a philosophy graduate of Stanford who has studied eastern and western religions, won the 2005 PEN Award for nonfiction for The End of Faith, which powerfully examines and explodes the absurdities of organized religion. Truthdig asked Harris to write a charter document for his thesis that belief in God, and appeasement of religious extremists of all faiths by moderates, has been and continues to be the greatest threat to world peace and a sustained assault on reason.

"...fundamentalist religion has an unparalleled influence in the highest government levels in the United States..." I take that to mean that President Bush is a self-professed born-again Christian, and he has other Christians in his administration. Is he a fundamentalist? I don't think so, but I can't be sure. And what's wrong with faith having an influence? That would be denying a large part of our population their voice in the country.

"...religion-based terror dominates the world stage..." Oh, of course. President Bush has allowed religion into his administration, and religion is the base for terror in the world, therefore President Bush's religion is connected to terror.

" tolerance of faith-based unreason is as great a menace as religion itself." Faith is "unreason." Thinking people, reasonable people don't have faith. Religion is a menace, and if progressives tolerate it, they're as great a menace as religion itself.

"...The End of Faith, which powerfully examines and explodes the absurdities of organized religion." Harris does some exploding in his article, but that's later. For now, we are assured that organized religion is absurd. I'm not sure, though, just how "organized" they mean. Is it the hierarchically structured denominations (Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, eg.), or is any belief system considered organized?

"...his thesis that belief in God, and appeasement of religious extremists of all faiths by moderates, has been and continues to be the greatest threat to world peace and a sustained assault on reason." Strike that "appeasement" clause, and you get the athiest's belief that "belief in God [is]... the greatest threat to world peace." And, you get the athiest's belief that "belief in God [is]... a sustained assault on reason." I had no idea my faith was both a great threat to and an assault on others. Appeasement of it is merely a secondary issue.

Now to Sam Harris. This follows his discussion of Hurricane Katrina and the event, shortly after that, where a thousand Shiite pilgrims were trampled to death on a bridge in Iraq:

Only the atheist recognizes the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved. Only the atheist realizes how morally objectionable it is for survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God while this same God drowned infants in their cribs. Because he refuses to cloak the reality of the world’s suffering in a cloying fantasy of eternal life, the atheist feels in his bones just how precious life is--and, indeed, how unfortunate it is that millions of human beings suffer the most harrowing abridgements of their happiness for no good reason at all.

His arrogance is boundless. The "saved" are narcissistic and self-deceived. Only the athiest sees reality. Only the athiest feels in his bones the preciousness of life.

But the vast religious population cloaks suffering in a "cloying fantasy of eternal life" and suffers from "abridgements of their happiness for no good reason at all." I'm not quite sure what abridgements he's talking about, because he doesn't discuss it (as far as I can tell, but then I believe in God, so that makes me intellectually inferior). But, as I recall, studies have shown that religious people are actually happier than non-religious people.

Of course, people of faith regularly assure one another that God is not responsible for human suffering. But how else can we understand the claim that God is both omniscient and omnipotent? There is no other way, and it is time for sane human beings to own up to this. This is the age-old problem of theodicy, of course, and we should consider it solved. If God exists, either he can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities or he does not care to. God, therefore, is either impotent or evil. Pious readers will now execute the following pirouette: God cannot be judged by merely human standards of morality. But, of course, human standards of morality are precisely what the faithful use to establish God’s goodness in the first place. And any God who could concern himself with something as trivial as gay marriage, or the name by which he is addressed in prayer, is not as inscrutable as all that. If he exists, the God of Abraham is not merely unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.

There is another possibility, of course, and it is both the most reasonable and least odious: The biblical God is a fiction.

Harris's use of "omnipotent" here and in other places indicates he sees it as God causing all things to happen (responsible for human suffering). If this is the case, his Latin is a bit lacking. Omnipotent means able to do all things. It doesn't mean God actually does all things. That would be omnimanipulent.

He is right to bring up the question of suffering, because that is a question that has plagued people of faith throughout the ages. If God is real, loving, etc, why...? But Harris runs off into simplistic territory, declaring as though his statement constitutes absolute proof, "[If He exists,] God, therefore, is either impotent or evil." Finally, though Harris gives the "reasonable" conclusion that "God is a fiction."

It's all a belief system, one way or the other. Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc, believe in the existence of God. Atheists believe in the non-existence of God. It's almost impossible for one group to convince the other group of the soundness of the opposite position.

Just look at the comments to Harris's manifesto. It's full of people saying, "I'm right and you're wrong." "No, I'm right and you're wrong!" Athiests quote the Bible to prove how wrong it is. Christians quote the Bible to prove how right it is. And nobody really listens to the other.

It's the tone of the conversation that I notice. Just as with Sam Harris, I find that the atheist commenters tend toward either the arrogant or the pugnacious, and they do a lot of name-calling and ad hominem attacks. The Christian commenters have some pugnacious ones as well, but they're outnumbered by those who try to make logical, reasoned (or Scriptural) arguments. Just which group is best grounded in reason I leave to you to decide.

Doolittle's Raid "Reported" Today

Harold Hutchison has this post at Strategy Page today (HT: Hedgehog Blog). Two days ago was the anniversary of Doolittle's 1942 air raid on Tokyo, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The raid was featured at the end of the recent movie, Pearl Harbor, which is the only reason many younger people have even heard of the raid.

Hutchison's post gives his view of how that event would have been reported if today's media had been doing the reporting. Here's an excerpt.

New York Times Editorial, April 21, 1942: "Without a doubt, the decision to risk two carriers and their escorts to launch a raid that could do so little damage can only be described as incredibly stupid. The fact that the cost of this raid included all sixteen bombers, with most of the aircrews missing, only increases the level of disaster involved. By allowing this mission to go forward, Secretary of War Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox have shown that they lack the judgment to carry this war to victory. If they will not resign, then President Roosevelt should fire them."

Of course, this is an editorial and not a straight news items. You'll have to read the whole thing to get the news.

The benefit of Doolittle's raid on Tokyo was not its military effect. It was the effect it had on the morale of the American people, who had been demoralized by the losses at Pearl Harbor the previous December. At last our country had some payback. At last we were able to take Japan by surprise and hit them on their own home turf. And the press at the time played up that part of the success. They didn't second guess the President. They didn't couch every success in a context that screamed "failure." The mainstream media of 1942 was on America's side.

That's not true of the media anymore.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Michelle Malkin on Terrorists

Michelle Malkin has a great column today in WorldNetDaily. She talks about the Left's propensity to play the victim card on behalf of murdering-thug terrorists. First she gives a little background, in case we've forgotten who Zacarias Moussaoui is and why he's on trial and what he contributed to on 9/11.

Last April, Moussaoui pleaded guilty to six charges of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy, conspiracy to destroy aircraft, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to murder government employees and conspiracy to destroy property. Throughout the sentencing phase of his trial, this martyr-in-waiting has laughed at his victims, brandished his Quran and shouted death threats to America – "God Curse You All!" and "Burn in hell!" and, of course, "Allah Akbar!"

Now the trial is in the sentencing phase.

Last week, when prosecutors put 9-11 family members on the stand to tell the world the pain and horror they still feel every day as a result of the mass murders that Moussaoui facilitated, presiding Judge Leonie Brinkema warned them against "prejudicial testimony."

But Judge Brinkema said nary a word as Moussaoui's lawyers ratcheted up the prejudicial emote-a-meter to 11.

A social worker and a psychologist offered pathos-laden testimony about Moussaoui's difficult childhood. His abusive father. The anti-Muslim taunts of schoolmates. The hostility of the parents of his French girlfriend, under whom Moussaoui "suffered a lot of pain about not being accepted." The courtroom soap opera climaxed with video testimony exhibiting his troubled sisters, who called their beloved Zacarias the "little sweetheart of the family." Sniffle.

Moussaoui rightly mocked his own defense team. "It's a lot of American B.S.," he scoffed.

Malkin then takes a look at a bigger picture.

On Monday, while Moussaoui's defense team played their violins in court, apologists across Europe and the Muslim world played the same song for the suicide bomber who murdered nine innocent civilians and wounded scores more at a Tel Aviv restaurant. The bomber packed his explosives with nails and shrapnel soaked in rat poison to increase the suffering of the victims.

But it's not the fault of terrorist Sami Salim Mohammed Hammed and his sponsors at Islamic Jihad. Blame "Israeli aggression" and "anti-Arab racism"!

The dry-eyed know there is one Root Cause for this carnage. It's not America, Israel, racism or psychological imbalances. It's evil. Just evil.

There is only one response to evil, and it's not "understand" it. We must stop it in its tracks. Destroy the terrorists whenever possible, and when that's not possible, incapacitate them. We will not be safe until the job is done.

Iguana Invasion

There is much in the news that's important, but I can't resist the lizard story.

This is like Jurassic Park, only the dinosaurs are smaller. The London Times reported yesterday (HT: WorldNetDaily) that one of Florida's islands has been overrun by an unpleasant breed of iguana, presumed to have been brought there as pets decades ago.

AS RESIDENTS of an upmarket community in Florida, they are perhaps more at home clutching cocktails than airguns. But after their island was overrun by 10,000 ill-tempered reptiles, the people of Boca Grande took up arms.

Outnumbered ten to one by spiny black-tailed iguanas — a non-native species with a big appetite and a bad attitude — citizens of the formerly serene town on Gasparilla Island are engaged in a furious turf battle to try to reclaim their homes, gardens and beaches from the prehistoric-looking interlopers.

"I think the iguanas may have met their match in the people of Boca Grande," Bill Sweetser, an animal trapper on the mainland, said. He recently set up a service, Iguanagon, in response to the problem. "It’s war down there."

Bonnie McGee, 60, who keeps a pellet gun at her back door to repel reptilian invaders, acknowledged that she had "taken out a few".

One of her friends, Ann Ingram, found one cavorting in her lavatory after it came up through the plumbing, and she slaughtered it by pouring in a bottle of bleach. Others have found that golf irons come in handy. At the local hardware store, meanwhile, traps are selling fast, and local newspapers have printed recipes for iguana stew.

But wait! No good war goes unchallenged by the Left. In spite of the destruction the iguanas have brought to the island's beaches and the threat they post to endangered birds and tortoises, some people are not so thrilled with the assault on the non-native lizards.

Delores Savas, an environmental columnist for the local newspaper, the Boca Beacon, complained: "These people are supposed to be so refined, but when it comes to iguanas they are like a lynch mob."

The people of Boca Grande should be like a lynch mob. Somebody check Delores Savas's environmental credentials. She's worried about the wrong thing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I'm restless. The break room here at work looks out toward the airport, and I can see the planes after they take off. I think about the people headed somewhere on vacation or headed home after spending time at Sea World or Disneyland or Universal Studios. I watch as the planes disappear into the sky as they fly out toward the ocean, where I know they'll bank sharply, seeming to pivot on one wingtip, then level out and set a course for someplace north or east of here. I want to go someplace too.

Yesterday, on my way to work, I thought about taking a road trip. I'd need a month or more, maybe the whole summer.

I think I'd go to Glacier National Park first, my favorite place in the world. The road is closed by snow at the hairpin turn most years until about Memorial Day. But the bison should still be in the lowlands, usually close enough to the road for good photos. As the snow melts, they'll follow the snowline up into the higher elevations, and the moose will be more plentiful down below.

At Lake McDonald the terrain changes from pond-scattered grassland in the valley to tree-covered mountains where the road is named Going-to-the-Sun Highway. And it does.

Glacier wasn't named for the glaciers that cover some of the peaks, but for the way those peaks were carved by glaciers during the Ice Age. A river that might once have meandered through a valley, plunges hundreds of feet in a narrow cascade where the valley had been sheared off from under it by a glacier ages ago. The Weeping Wall is a place where ground water flows through rock strata that was stripped away, and the water falls down the rock face to the road. I saw it once in early November just a couple days before they closed the road for the winter, and it was a wonderland of icicles clinging to the wall.

Yes, I'd go there first, maybe by way of a friend's place on the coast of Oregon. After Glacier, well, I guess I'd head east.

I'm dreaming, though. Maybe. I have twelve vacation days available, and that would only get me there and back, with a little time to look around. I could ask for a leave of absence, I suppose, but we're short-handed at work, with one guy out on disability and another due to retire in June. I can't see that happening. Which leaves the "Q" word--the word I dare not say, because to do that would be foolhardy, and I try not to be a fool.

So now I'm torn, with my need for income fighting my need for something I don't even know how to name. And I'm not sure which need is the stronger one.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Analysis of Iran

Perhaps the title of this post should have been plural: "Analyses of Iran." I've got one analysis, by Amir Taheri in Sunday's London Telegraph, and another one, by Mark Steyn in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times. But analyzing Iran always boils down to one point: They mean what they say.

Taheri (emphasis added):

In Ahmadinejad's analysis, the rising Islamic "superpower" has decisive advantages over the infidel. Islam has four times as many young men of fighting age as the West, with its ageing populations. Hundreds of millions of Muslim "ghazis" (holy raiders) are keen to become martyrs while the infidel youths, loving life and fearing death, hate to fight. Islam also has four-fifths of the world's oil reserves, and so controls the lifeblood of the infidel. More importantly, the US, the only infidel power still capable of fighting, is hated by most other nations.

According to this analysis, spelled out in commentaries by Ahmadinejad's strategic guru, Hassan Abassi, known as the "Dr Kissinger of Islam", President George W Bush is an aberration, an exception to a rule under which all American presidents since Truman, when faced with serious setbacks abroad, have "run away". Iran's current strategy, therefore, is to wait Bush out. And that, by "divine coincidence", corresponds to the time Iran needs to develop its nuclear arsenal, thus matching the only advantage that the infidel enjoys.

Steyn (emphasis added):

Happy Easter. Happy Passover. But, if you're like the president of Iran and believe in the coming of the "Twelfth Imam," your happy holiday may be just around the corner, too. President Ahmadinejad, who is said to consider himself the designated deputy of the "hidden Imam," held a press conference this week -- against a backdrop of doves fluttering round an atom and accompanied by dancers in orange decontamination suits doing choreographed uranium-brandishing. It looked like that Bollywood finale of ''The 40-Year-Old Virgin,'' where they all pranced around to "This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Aquarius." As it happens, although he dresses like Steve Carell's 40-year-old virgin, the Iranian president is, in fact, a 40-year-old nuclear virgin, and he was holding a press conference to announce he was ready to blow. "Iran," he said, "has joined the group of countries which have nuclear technology" -- i.e., this is the dawning of the age of a scary us. "Our enemies cannot do a damned thing," he crowed, as an appreciative audience chanted "Death to America!"


On Monday, he was as candid as ever: "To those who are angry with us, we have one thing to say: be angry until you die of anger!"

His adviser, Hassan Abassi, is rather more eloquent. "The Americans are impatient," he says, "at the first sight of a setback, they run away. We, however, know how to be patient. We have been weaving carpets for thousands of years."

Steyn (emphasis added):

Bill Clinton, the Sultan of Swing, gave an interesting speech last week, apropos foreign policy: "Anytime somebody said in my presidency, 'If you don't do this, people will think you're weak,' I always asked the same question for eight years: 'Can we kill 'em tomorrow?' If we can kill 'em tomorrow, then we're not weak, and we might be wise enough to try to find an alternative way."

The trouble was tomorrow never came -- from the first World Trade Center attack to Khobar Towers to the African Embassy bombings to the USS Cole. Manana is not a policy. The Iranians are merely the latest to understand that.

Ahmadinejad has one thing on his side: Time. He will use the nations that hate America to his advantage, letting the question of his nuclear program wend its way through the UN--that labyrinth of slow-motion processes and reports, of votes and vetoes.

The problem we have in dealing with Iran is bigger than the UN. The problem is that we're civilized countries. The problem really is that Natural Selection has been working against us for the past century.

Each war that we've fought, starting with...which? I'll go back to World War I. Britain had a generation of young men--the ones who understood the need to fight against tyranny and agression--decimated. So many of these men died without passing their genes and their understanding of the world to the next generation. And America faced the same thing on a smaller scale.

World War II did the same for both countries. And Korea and Vietnam did it some more for us. Each generation has fewer willing to stand up to the men who would annihiliate whole populations. Each generation has more and more wussies who would let either their fear or their pampered lives keep them from taking action when it can still be effective. Each generation has more people like Bill Clinton, who are content to wait until "tomorrow" to act, while they try for an "alternative way."

The Iranians understand that, and they'll be ready to act just as soon as they see that we're not.

Knitting Saves Lives

Too bad I can't knit. I drop stitches. I pick up stitches. Basically, I can't make a knitted square potholder that doesn't have holes in it and isn't misshapen somehow. I can crochet. But crocheting doesn't save lives.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday (HT: WorldNetDaily) about a project undertaken by Mormon women in Australia and New Zealand to knit sweaters for penguins. The article has a really cute picture of two penguins wearing their sweaters.

Even though it may sound silly to knit sweaters for penguins, it is helping the survival rate for fairy penguins.

The smallest breed of penguins, often known as "fairy" penguins, tend to get caught in oil spills off the coast of Australia, which can destroy their natural oils or even kill them. Doll size, tight-fitting wool sweaters can keep the penguins warm during the rehabilitation process, and "stop them preening and ingesting the poisonous oil," according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The sweaters improve penguin survival rate to about 98 percent, the paper reported.

The ladies have already knitted over 1,800 sweaters. Well done!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Saturday's Silence

Many people have already posted their thoughts on Good Friday and even Easter. Malott's Blog and Another Think each have excellent perspectives on Good Friday and what it means to us today. Another Think and La Shawn Barber have great posts on Easter.

But people don't often write about that Saturday in between.

I've been one of the Bread Bakers for ten years, and back in 2002 (long before we started posting our Breads on the internet), I wrote a Bread for Christmas that touched on Good Friday and God's silence on Saturday. I offer it to you for today.

Luke 2:34 - 35 "Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, 'This child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others. Thus, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.'"

Mary and Joseph had brought Jesus to the temple to be dedicated after his birth. When Simeon, then Anna, saw Jesus, there was much rejoicing and blessing and prophesying. But there's that jarring statement at the end: "And a sword will pierce your very soul." It predicts the pain Mary would later know as she watched her son be misunderstood, mistreated and killed.

There's a famous statue, the "Pieta," that shows Mary holding the lifeless body of her son after he was taken down from the cross, her sorrow preserved in marble. In England, in a tiny church outside of Dover, I saw a not-so-famous "Pieta" that I would take any day over the famous one. This one captured Mary as she lifted her son's limp arm and rested her cheek gently against the back of his hand. Her tenderness, mingled with her sorrow, moved me to tears.

Life is not always an easy road. It holds pain beyond measure and sorrow without end. Do you suppose, at this moment after her son was killed, that Mary wondered if it was really worth it? Do you suppose she asked God why He chose HER to suffer this much pain? Do you suppose she didn't even care that God would somehow be glorified through the hurt she was feeling?

Amid the rejoicing and glory of Christmas, so many of us feel the piercing of our soul. Families are torn apart, loved ones have left an empty place, children have gone astray. Sorrow doesn't take a break for Christmas.

Our God doesn't take a break, either. He knew, that Friday after the cross, that there was purpose, meaning, salvation, and abundant life still to come. But He kept silent. He didn't answer Mary's questions. He gave her time to mourn, to grieve, to question the "why" of it all. That "greatest joy to many others," including to Mary herself, would come later.

If you're not suffering this Christmas, let the joy of Christ overflow in you! But if your tears have been your food day and night, know that our Loving God understands. While He may not supply the answer to your every question, He WILL supply your every need.

Our Savior has been born! Our Redeemer lives! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

PETA Celebrates Good Friday

It was Good Friday, and the kooks at PETA were at it again, this time in Austria. I won't say much beyond that. They're kooks with crosses.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Dog Finds Master's Brain Tumor

This is cool. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday (HT: WorldNetDaily) that Steve Werner's dog, Wrigley, detected a brain tumor that Werner's physician couldn't find the first time around.

Then in July, Wrigley started to behave strangely.

Every day when Werner would curl up next to his beloved canine at his Brentwood home, she would turn, focus on his right ear and sniff doggedly.

"I thought it was just a friendly sniff," Werner said. "But after four or five days, I realized she seemed to be focusing on something. At some point, I noticed she was always sniffing at the opening of my right ear. She would set herself up and intently smell my ear."

One day, Werner was watching TV when a feature about cancer-sniffing dogs grabbed his attention. What he heard propelled him back to his doctor's office.

An MRI of Werner's head revealed a brain tumor the size of a pingpong ball that had spread into the inner canal of Werner's right ear - the very ear Wrigley had been sniffing persistently.

Werner got his surgery before the non-malignant tumor could grow to the point of causing a stroke or permanent facial paralysis.

The article goes on to discuss studies that scientists are conducting to see if dogs can detect various cancers and diseases. It gives the skeptical viewpoint as well.

The whole thing reminds me of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, I think in the second book (there are quite a few books that together tell one long story, so I lose track of which thing was in which book), where the nun in the hospital in France has a disease-sniffing dog named Bouton (Button).

The idea of dogs detecting diseases is creepy and fascinating at the same time. For Steve Werner, it was a life-saver.

Gloomy Skies

Today it's gloomy.

Yesterday was a surprise because, when I left work, the temperature was hovering somewhere between Very Warm and Kinda Hot. It felt like a Santa Ana coming on. But not today. Today they're expecting thunderstorms. And right as I typed this, I heard the first of the raindrops hitting the window ledge outside our office.

It's gray outside. It's cold inside. And I'm at loose ends after yesterday.

Yesterday I was following Suggestion 19 (Be bold and courageous), hoping for Suggestion 2 (Work at something you enjoy...) to kick in. It felt good to be bold, to imagine and try for a life that's completely different from the one I led while I was raising my kids. Supporting a family doesn't usually call for this kind of boldness.

I had started taking some practical steps in case I got hired: Make sure my ex-husband would take in our daughter (he would), start thinking about who could take care of my little dog Abby (I wouldn't be able to keep her), and let my daughter's friend know that she might not have a place to stay anymore.

Everyone was excited for me, because they saw the excitement in my eyes--my friends, my daughter, and even her friend (even though she would probably have to move back in with her mom, until the two sisters and their mom argued again and their mom threw the older daughter out again). And when I broke the news that I wasn't selected, they were disappointed for me, even though they were glad I wouldn't be leaving. My daughter's friend told me she didn't mind moving back in with her mom, if it meant I'd be able to have my dream. What great girls I have at home.

So I'm trying to fight the gloom, that letdown that comes after the adrenaline is gone. And I'm trying to hang on to the boldness instead. I may just have to watch Gallipoli tonight, though, and then shake it all off tomorrow and get busy.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Looking for a Change

I went to a group interview with an airline tonight, to try to become a flight attendant. The pay is lousy. You'd have to relocate. They own you for a couple years, and then it gets better. But you get to fly on their airline for free and on other airlines for cheap. It sounded good to me.

They talked about the requirements of the job and how everything worked, and then they had each one of the interviewees stand up in front of everyone and say why she should get the job. This was in part to find out why we should get the job, but also to see how well we speak in front of a group, since that's part of what a flight attendant does.

After that, they broke us up into two smaller groups and had us discuss amongst ourselves (while they listened) on each of three different topics. Then we were sent from the room, while the two of them went over their notes and our resumes and decided who would be invited to stay for one-on-one interviews.

If our name appeared on the list, we could stay, and if we were selected, training would start May 2. If our name was not on the list, we should go home, and we would be welcome to re-apply in six months. There would be no reasons given to the ones who were sent home.

Out of about 16 applicants, four names were on the list. Mine was not one of them.

So now I have six months to try to improve what I don't know is wrong. Did my hair look too wild and unprofessional (it's curly, but not uniformly so)? Did I look like I wasn't physically fit enough (I'm probably not, since I sit at my desk all day and in the car for a couple more hours besides)? Did I say something stupid when I had the opportunity (always a possibility)?

I don't know. But I have to fix it.

May 2 sounded awfully sudden, but now I'm prepared for sudden. And I was already getting mentally prepared for the lifestyle, especially the part where you don't have much stuff, because you're never home to use it. And I had checked the airline's route map to see how close they fly to my mom and my sister in Texas and to my brother in Massachusetts and to the other people I know around the country. And also to the places I'd want to go so I could write travel articles and take stunning photos and sell them in my time off. May 2 may have been sudden, but it would have been perfect.

November 2 (or thereabouts) could be even more perfect.

21 Suggestions

At work in the break room, there's a framed sign of H. Jackson Brown, Jr.'s "21 Suggestions for Success." I liked them from the first time I saw them, and today I took a couple minutes and copied them down. I thought I'd post them and maybe comment on them.

But then I discovered that they're all over the internet--in tiny, hard-to-read fonts and in big, easy-reading fonts. They're tucked in the text of speeches that people gave and in newsletters online. Based on Google, it looks as though I'm the last to know about the 21 Suggestions.

I don't care, though. I'm an optimist, and I choose to believe that there's somebody out there who hasn't heard of them, hasn't read them, and would love for me to post them here. I would love for me to post them here, so I will.

21 Suggestions for Success
by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

  1. Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.
  2. Work at something you enjoy and that's worthy of your time and talent.
  3. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
  4. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
  5. Be forgiving of yourself and others.
  6. Be generous.
  7. Have a grateful heart.
  8. Persistence, persistence, persistence.
  9. Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.
  10. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
  11. Commit yourself to constant improvement.
  12. Commit yourself to quality.
  13. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
  14. Be loyal.
  15. Be honest.
  16. Be a self-starter.
  17. Be decisive even if it means you'll sometimes be wrong.
  18. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.
  19. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did.
  20. Take good care of those you love.
  21. Don't do anything that wouldn't make your Mom proud.

Oops. I messed up number one right from the get-go. But I got two wonderful kids out of the deal, and that's not too shabby.

Umm... number two is a problem too. But it gets better after that.

I'm cheerful, positive (did I say "optimist"?). I once had a co-vanpool rider accuse me (yes, "accuse" is the right word) of being a "Pollyanna." Now, I wouldn't go quite that far, but on a scale of one (angry, sputtering, hateful) to Pollyanna, I do tend to lean in her direction.

For number 18, I need to come clean. Back on my Blogiversary, I blamed others for my decisions. I blamed Hugh Hewitt for getting me started blogging. And I blamed AOL for my lovely name, SkyePuppy. Hugh was my inspiration, but it was completely my decision to start this blog and to continue it most days. AOL was simply the screen-name hostage-taker that spurred me into my family history, out of which I personally, responsibly chose my name.

I feel better now.

Go, thou, and be successful, and make your Mom proud.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Migrants Rushing to Arizona

Powerline has this post today about a Macleans story titled: "Migrants rush to Arizona border anticipating passage of guest-worker plan."

In anticipation of a guest worker program, people are hurrying to get across the border so they can possibly be included in whatever program Congress finally works out. The Macleans article also states:

Many of the migrants also are being driven by a desire to get into the United States before the likelihood that legislators further fortify the border.


Let me pose a question here. Why are they rushing to Arizona and not, say... San Diego? Could it be because San Diego has a fence?

Note to lawmakers: Maybe fences really work.

Build the fence.

Illegals Fired for Protesting

The Detroit Free Press (a left-leaning newspaper) reported yesterday that fifteen immigrants were fired after they skipped work to attended the immigration protests.

A manager at a Detroit meatpacking plant said Monday that 15 immigrant women were fired last month after attending a protest for immigrant rights. He said they had been told that they would be terminated if they missed work on the day of the protest.

But the workers and an activist working on their behalf said the women were given no such assurances. If the workers knew they would have been fired for attending the March 27 rally in Detroit, they never would have skipped the morning shift, said Elena Herrada, a Detroit activist who is trying to help the women get their jobs back.

[General Manager Jay] Bonahoom said that as far as Wolverine [Packing Co.] knows, the workers were documented, but an employment agency does the actual hiring. He said the workers had been told, "written and verbally," on the Friday before the protests that their attendance was mandatory on the day of the protest.

They were fired "for standing up for their rights," Herrada said.

"It was not fair,'" said Mercedes, a 31-year-old Detroit woman who attended the rally and was fired. "We went to fight for our rights." Mercedes is undocumented and asked that her last name not be used.

I'm trying not to sound hard-hearted, because I do sympathize with Mercedes, who suddenly finds herself without a job. It's very possible that she didn't know ahead of time that her job would be in jeopardy if she went to the protest. From the employer to the employment agency to the workers, there were plenty of opportunities for communication to break down.

But it emphasizes a point: If you're illegal, you have no rights. If Mercedes had a green card, she would have rights. But when you bypass the law, how can you expect the law to protect you?

I met a woman from South Africa during the end of the Apartheid years. She was Colored, under a system that recognized these racial categories, in this order: White, Colored, Asian (primarily from the Indian subcontinent), Black. She had a good job, but because she wasn't all white, she wasn't allowed to live in certain areas. So a white friend rented an apartment for her in a white neighborhood, and she had to sneak into and out of her apartment every day.

One day her car was stolen, and she went to the police to report it. But when she told the police where it happened and they realized she was living where she wasn't supposed to, they dropped all their efforts to find her stolen car, and they pursued the case against her.

There's no other way around it: The law respects those who respect the law. And for people who want to do things the easy way, slip in undetected, hide in the shadows, skirt the law, for them there is no protection. They have no rights.

Building a fence will keep more people like Mercedes from being illegal and risking being taken advantage of. Streamlining the legal immigration process (after securing the border) will allow more people like Mercedes to legally get and keep their jobs, because there won't be a need to protest.

Not So Secret

WorldNetDaily is publicizing today that Lawrence Kaplan, senior editor of The New Republic is publicizing a secret new team in the State Department. And now I'm publicizing it and should be ashamed of myself.

Kaplan says the administration last month formed a secretive body led by Vice President Cheney's daughter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Liz Cheney, called the Iran-Syria Operations Group.

Cheney has more than $80 million at her disposal to promote democracy in Iran and help craft official policy, according to Kaplan.

Kaplan said a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs won't comment on the existence of the group, which parallels State's understaffed Iran desk.

"Unsurprisingly," says Kaplan, "this has led to grumbling at NEA, with staffers complaining the Bush team has set up its own Iran shop and has been making end runs around the State Department's traditional bureaucracy."

Two points. First, how can our country keep secrets if we won't keep secrets? Somebody told Kaplan, and Kaplan told WorldNetDaily, and WND told me, and now I'm telling you. C'mon. If it's a secret, I don't want to know.

Second, let the State Department whine about this new group "making end runs around the State Department's traditional bureaucracy." Bureaucracy--especially State Department bureaucracy--deserves to have end runs made around it. The State Department's traditional purpose has been the preservation of the status quo in the world. And when the status quo changes, then the State Department tries to preserve the new status quo.

Q. What's the status quo in Iran?

A. Apocalypse-loving, Holocaust-denying, genocidal, oppressive, repressive mullah-crats on the fast track to nuclear weapons, with their true-believing President-Puppet making inflammatory speeches.

Q. Why would we want to preserve this?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Global Warming's Bad News

Ever since I had a rather heated (but not angry) conversation with my friend's lefty friends about Global Warming last year (see my post here), I have truly enjoyed reading articles about Global Warming. The alarmists provide great entertainment, and the debunkers provide great education. This column, in Sunday's London Telegraph, is in the educational camp.

For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco. Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).

Yes, you did read that right. And also, yes, this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society's continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In response to these facts, a global warming devotee will chuckle and say "how silly to judge climate change over such a short period". Yet in the next breath, the same person will assure you that the 28-year-long period of warming which occurred between 1970 and 1998 constitutes a dangerous (and man-made) warming. Tosh.

The problem here is not that of climate change per se, but rather that of the sophisticated scientific brainwashing that has been inflicted on the public, bureaucrats and politicians alike. Governments generally choose not to receive policy advice on climate from independent scientists. Rather, they seek guidance from their own self-interested science bureaucracies and senior advisers, or from the IPCC itself.

This being in a British paper, the author focuses on British government policy, but his criticisms could equally apply in the US. Self-interest on the part of science establishments is not unique to the UK.

Global Warming is not inevitable, not constant, and not happening now. Too bad that news doesn't get out.

Here's one more point about reality:

The reality of the climate record is that a sudden natural cooling is far more to be feared, and will do infinitely more social and economic damage, than the late 20th century phase of gentle warming.

Mark Steyn on Europe's Future

Mark Steyn's Saturday column in the Jerusalem Post is titled, "A continent hurtling toward the abyss." And he makes the case uncomfortably well.

He starts the column by describing the way he has been surprised to find himself quoted by other writers as an example of American anti-Europeanism.

If the best evidence of the pandemic of anti-Europeanism in the United States is a Canadian columnist writing for a Canadian newspaper (Jewish World Review is a plucky New York Web site that happened to reprint a piece of mine from Toronto's National Post) that would seem to be self-refuting. Until now.

Two books have just hit the shelves - While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying The West From Within by Bruce Bawer, and Menace In Europe: Why The Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too by Claire Berlinski. In media-speak, two of anything makes a trend[.]

The difference between "anti-Americanism" and "anti-Europeanism" is obvious. In, say, 2025, America will be much as it is today - big, powerful, albeit (to sophisticated Continentals) absurdly vulgar and provincial. But in 20 years' time Europe will be an economically moribund demographic basket case: Seventeen Continental nations have what's known as "lowest-low" fertility - below 1.3 live births per woman - from which no population has ever recovered (emphasis added).

The only question about Europe is whether it's going to be (a) catastrophically bad or (b) apocalyptically bad, as in head for the hills, here come the Four Horsemen: Death (the self-extinction of European races too self-absorbed to breed), Famine (the withering of unaffordable social programs), War (civil strife as the disaffected decide to move beyond mere Citroen-torching) and Conquest (the inevitable victory of the Muslim successor population already in place).

I'd say Option (b) looks the better bet, for a few if not all Continental nations: United they'll fall, but divided a handful might stand a chance.

He talks about the fall and spring "youth" riots in France and the change in the once-freewheeling culture of Amsterdam. And he hints at this being America's future, only farther down the road. Read it all.

If Bawer's book is a wake-up call, [Charles] Murray reminds us [in his new book, In Our Hands]that western Europe long ago threw away the alarm clock and decided to sleep in.

Mark Steyn on Immigration

So many Mark Steyn columns. So little blogging time.

His Sunday column in the Chicago Sun-Times hit the immigration issue.

Here's my immigration "compromise": We need to regularize the situation of the 298 million non-undocumented residents of the United States. Right now, we get a lousy deal compared with the 15 million fine upstanding members of the Undocumented American community. I think the 298 million of us in the overdocumented segment of the population should get the chance to be undocumented. You know when President Bush talks about all those undocumented people "living in the shadows"? Doesn't that sound kinda nice? Living in the shadows, no government agencies harassing you for taxes and numbers and paperwork.

Yep. Sounds perfect. Sign me up!

Too bad it's not that easy.

All developed countries have immigration issues, but few conduct the entire debate as disingenuously as America does: The president himself has contributed a whole barrelful of weaselly platitudes, beginning with his line that "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande." True. They don't stop at the 49th parallel either. Or the Atlantic shore. Or the Pacific. So where do family values stop? At the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you're an American and you marry a Canadian or Belgian or Fijian, the U.S. government can take years to process what's supposed to be a non-discretionary immigration application, in the course of which your spouse will be dependent on various transitional-status forms like "advance parole" that leave her vulnerable to the whims of the many eccentric interpreters of U.S. immigration law at the nation's airports and land borders.

Here's another place where family values stops: The rubble of the World Trade Center. Deena Gilbey is a British subject whose late husband worked on the 84th floor: On the morning of Sept. 11, instead of fleeing, he returned to the building to help evacuate his co-workers. A few days later, Mrs. Gilbey receives a letter from the INS noting that as she's now widowed her immigration status has changed and she's obliged to leave the country along with her two children (both U.S. citizens). Think about that: Having legally admitted to the country the terrorists who killed her husband, the U.S. government's first act on having facilitated his murder is to add insult to grievous injury by serving his widow with a deportation order. Why should illegal Mexicans be the unique beneficiaries of a sentimental blather about "family values" to which U.S. immigration is otherwise notoriously antipathetic?

Read the entire column, because there's so much more, and all of it is Mark Steyn at his best.

Morning Commute

(Photo Credit: Mark H. Ehlers)

I got into the parking lot at work this morning, and in between the two entrances to the parking garage I spotted a red-tailed hawk standing in the grass and pecking occasionally at the ground.

Did I have my camera with me? Of course not. It's sitting on my desk at home next to the computer, where I left it after I uploaded some pictures of my haircut Saturday, so I can take them back to my haircutter next time and say, "Do this again."

The hawk seemed pleased that I didn't have my camera. I'm sure it would have flown away if I reached for the camera. Wild animals are like that. So I just stopped the car (nobody was behind me) and watched.

He came up with what looked like a worm one of the times he pecked the grass, but then he put it back down and planted his talons over it while he looked around. He looked a lot like the picture above, with mistrust in his eyes.

Then a car came up behind me, driven by a woman who didn't look as though she noticed. She just sat behind the wheel looking straight ahead with a frown on her face. So I slowly pulled away, trying not to startle the hawk, and parked the car.

As I walked out of the parking garage, the hawk flew up and landed on the ledge of one of the floors above me. I hope he was able to finish his breakfast.