Friday, September 30, 2005

God's Destructive Effect On Societies

The London Times published an article Tuesday, which cited a study about the effects religious belief has on a society. Here's what they found:

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: “Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

Uh, right.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, of Toward Tradition, tears this faulty study apart piece by deserving piece.

Now, in one of the best examples of wrong-headed averaging, this week the London Times gleefully reported on a new study according to which, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

[The study] is a willfully dishonest distortion of America’s reality. It is also a distortion of the 'non-religious, pro-evolution' Europe that gave us both Communism and Nazism, the killers of over 100 million innocent humans.

How do I reconcile an America of these undeniable problems with an America which is the most Christian country on earth? I do so in the same way that back in the 18th and early 19th centuries I would have reconciled an America that believes slavery is evil with an America using the sweat of slaves. It was really two Americas then, and it is two Americas now. We resolved it then by terminating slavery with the War Between the States. We are resolving it now with another civil war. Happily not one fought with guns and knives but one fought with sermons and speeches, and with books and articles, and ultimately with votes on Election Day.

It turns out John Edwards was right. There are two Americas. He was just confused about which Americas they really are. Here is Rabbi Lapin's conclusion:

The truth is that if religious America were its own country, its crime rate, its illegitimacy rate, and all other indicators of trouble would be only a tiny fraction of those figures for England, Sweden, France, and Germany. If secular America were also its own separate country, its indicators of hopelessness would be completely off the scale and vastly outpace the same figures for most of Europe. Viewing us Americans as just one country and averaging all the figures together still makes us look only a little worse than other countries. America is pulled down by its dysfunctional secular half.

How desperate that half must be to conceal the evidence of its failure by dishonest averaging.

How fervent must be the faith of secular fundamentalists that they prefer the disease to the cure.

Postage Stamps

I'm starting today's posts with the important one.

The US Postal Service has released a new set of eleven stamps of: The Muppets. The first-day release ceremony was held Wednesday, and Kermit himself attended.

Unfortunately, the USPS website doesn't have the pictures posted yet, and the Postal Store page of stamp issues doesn't have it available for sale either. I'm not sure how they can declare a stamp set "issued" without actually offering them for sale.

Now, I am convinced that a person's favorite Muppet reveals a whole lot about that person's personality, so I'll just admit up front that my favorite Muppet is Fozzie Bear, and I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, if you want some whimsy in your stamps, check out these other issues:

The Art of Disney: Celebration

Last year's The Art of Disney: Friendship

Brighten someone's day with a fun postage stamp. They cost the same as the boring ones.


Here is the link to the USPS page that has the picture of the new Muppet stamps.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Truth About Quicksand

No, this isn't political, although I suppose when the Democrats get tired of using the word, "quagmire," they can always use "quicksand."

This is about the real thing, the stuff of which Hollywood horror movies have been made. Bjorn Carey reported yesterday in Live Science that quicksand doesn't behave the way the movies have led you to believe.

Instead of being sucked all the way in, quicksand victims will float once they get about waist deep, according to a new study.

Yet while the risk of vanishing has apparently evaporated, escaping the muck is still a tough task: To pull one leg free requires the amount of force needed to lift a small car.

Unfortunately, most people in quicksand (according to the movies anyway) don't have access to a small car.

Quicksand is a mixture of fine sand, clay and saltwater. Once perturbed, the mixture transforms from a loose packing of sand on top of water into a dense, liquid soup. Movement by a victim makes things worse.

"The higher the stress, the more liquid the quicksand becomes, so movement by a trapped body causes it to sink in deeply," study leader Daniel Bonn of the University of Amsterdam writes in the Sept. 29 issue of the journal Nature.

After the mix liquefies, the quicksand splits into a water-rich phase and a sand-rich one. The wet sand sediment becomes so densely packed that it's harder to move than cold molasses. Once the victim's foot becomes stuck in it, the situation is dire.

Not being from the Molasses Belt, I don't really know how hard it is to move, but judging from the tone, it's gotta be tough.

Bonn and his colleagues found, however, that if a you (sic) remain calm, you can actually float your way to safety.

The density of an average human body is about 62 pounds per cubic foot, which is less than quicksand's 125 pounds per cubic foot.

The advice : Stay calm and eventually you'll float. Stretch out on your back to increase your surface area and wait until your legs pop free. Bonn also suggests moving your legs around at this point, to stir in water, which will help you float.

"You have to introduce water into the sand," Bonn said. "And the easiest way to do that is to make it trickle along your leg into the quicksand, by making a circular motion with your leg."

It's so disappointing to find out that Hollywood has been steering us wrong all this time. With all the technical advisors they hire for their films, you'd think somebody might know about quicksand and be able to set them straight. Alas, no.

So we're on our own, and it's the beauty of the internet that allowed me to find this information and offer it as a public service. Because you never know exactly when you might need to know it.

John Roberts Confirmed

Judge John G. Roberts has been confirmed by the US Senate, 78 - 22, to replace William Rehnquist as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. has the list of how the Democrat Senators voted (all Republicans voted to confirm Roberts). Both of my California Senators voted against confirmation. Somehow, they never think to represent me when they vote.

So the next waiting game is the wait for President Bush to announce his choice of someone to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Earthquake Weather

It feels like earthquake weather again. The seismologists say that's just an Old Wives Tale, but normal people know better.

It was cold this morning when I took my little dog Abby outside so she could water the grass (actually, she puts her front feet in the grass and waters the driveway, but we love her anyway). I got to work at 8:00, did some work then had to go over to the other building for training at 9:00. It was still cool outside.

By midmorning, a Santa Ana had kicked up, and the trees outside the training room windows were blowing wildly. A group of us from the class ate lunch outside. It was hot, and we had to hold onto our napkins and weight down the plastic to-go boxes that the cafeteria serves the food in. We talked about earthquake weather, and one of the women said it didn't start being a threat until the wind died down.

It doesn't happen so much in the summer, when the days are hot and so are the nights. Earthquakes are about contrast. When it's hot during the day and cold at night, that's when there's a threat. The earth expands. Contracts. Expands. Contracts. Slips. Or so the Old Wives Tale goes, if you ask the scientists.

Class ended at 4:00, and I went back to my desk and worked until 8:00, trying to get my work caught up to where it would be on track with my scheduled ship dates. When I finally left the building, it was still hot, but the wind had stopped, and I thought again about our conversation at lunch.

We had also talked about how they fired one of the guys in our group Monday. "For performance" was all they were able to say, due to confidentiality concerns. It didn't seem right, though, because he was one of the ones who was busting his butt at all hours getting work done.

They've fired two other people since I started there over two years ago. The first one we understood, because he had a bad attitude and would talk the company and the department down a lot of the time. You can't let that continue for very long, and they had given him chances to change his ways.

The second guy we also understood, because he made mistakes and missed deadlines too often, and nobody liked QA'ing his stuff because it sucked up all our time and put our own work at risk.
But firing the guy on Monday we didn't get. He made mistakes, but everybody has. Since the workload increased, the mistakes have increased as well (our department has a two-fold bottom line: orders must be accurate, and they must be shipped when promised). In addition to working hard, this guy has taken the lead on some process improvements for our group.

One person at lunch thinks the guy may have been set up for failure by an uber-manager who didn't like him (forgive me, but I'm terrible at remembering people's titles). There was one order the guy did, where he stayed up until 10:00pm to get the order shipped on the promised day, but instead of thanking him for the hard work, the uber-manager chastised him for not managing his time properly. That didn't help morale for the rest of us any more than it did for him.

I wasn't here when he started working for our group, but the keepers of the history say he was hired as a non-technical manager. He managed, and the peons worked. But when the workload increased (before I started), he offered to help out if someone would teach him how to do the technical stuff, which someone apparently did, so the guy picked up some of the spare work and took care of it. But he still didn't have the solid technical foundation that the rest of the workers had. About a year ago, without explanation to the rest of us, he was demoted to being a worker. He didn't seem to be angry. He just kept on working, like everyone else. I never had problems QA'ing his work, and I never heard him grumble, so it's hard to understand why they let him go. And it's even harder to know if any of the rest of us is safe.

Actually, I came "this close" to telling the aforementioned uber-manager's replacement, when she announced that the guy didn't work for the company anymore, that I wished I were the one getting fired so I could get unemployment and not have to work there anymore because things are so bad (BTW, the uber-manager didn't get fired; he was promoted to doing special projects for the department head whose smile doesn't reach her eyes).

The other thing that came out of our lunch was that the company might pay for my tuition for getting a Master's degree. I knew they'd pay for me to get an MBA or a Master's in some sort of computer-related major, since I do that kind of work. But those degrees are repulsive to me. One of the women, from a different department, said that someone else she knows at the company is getting her Master's in Social Work, and the company is paying for it. The only stipulation on the tuition reimbursement is that you have to stay with the company for at least a year after your studies, or you have to pay the company back.

I've wanted a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy for some time, but my workload and the resulting lack of brain function at the end of the day has prevented any serious thought in this direction. Plus, I figured I'd have to pay for it, and it ain't cheap. Now it's a possibility, but I'll have to talk to HR and get the facts before I do anything. Especially about the part where I'd have to pay the company back for the tuition. What if they fired me? Would I have to pay it back? And if I quit halfway through the program, would I have to pay back all of it, or just the tuition for the classes I took within the last year?

And if I went for my Master's under the reimbursement program, would it become too big a golden handcuff to a department that's wringing the life out of me?

There's too much upheaval in my life right now. It's hard finding time just to sit still and breathe.

Definitely earthquake weather.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Poland's Elections

Some good news mixed with humorous news from Poland.

The AP reported Sunday that Poland threw out the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance in their elections, based on exit polls. Prime Minister Marek Belka had campaigned on a platform that included withdrawing the Polish troops from Iraq by the end of the year.

Projections based on exit polls by state television showed the socially conservative Law and Justice Party with 27.8 percent and the free-market Civic Platform with 24.1 percent. The governing Democratic Left Alliance, which has been plagued by Europe's highest unemployment rate and scandals, lagged behind with 11.2 percent.

Both of the leading parties have their roots in the Solidarity movement of the 1980s.

Since Warsaw sent ground troops to the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2003, frustration has grown over unfulfilled expectations. Even though Washington never made concrete promises, Poles hoped their sacrifices would gain them visa-free travel to the United States, lucrative contracts in reconstructing Iraq and more U.S. investment for Poland's economy and science.

It seems wrong that we provide foreign aid to countries whose support of us is dubious at best, and yet we are willing to disappoint the hopes of Poland, whose support has been solid.

On a lighter note, the elections in Poland have raised an issue I haven't seen come up anywhere else. Here are the pertinent excerpts from the AP story:

After the release of the exit polls, Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he had a mandate to become prime minister, citing a deal with Civic Platform.

"The agreement was that whoever wins the election has the prime minister post, and then this applies to me as the head of the winning party," Kaczynski said.

Poland also will hold presidential elections Oct. 9, with a likely runoff vote two weeks later.

Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski, the identical twin brother of the Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is one of two leading candidates in that race. The other is [Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski has said that, if his brother wins, he would renounce the premiership in order to spare Poland the confusion of two leaders who look alike.

We've seen leaders step down (or not) over scandals or corruption, but never because their identical twin was also in power. You've gotta love politics...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Weekend Report

My daughter called me at work on Thursday to report that the minivan ('96 Villager with 248,000 miles on it) was in the driveway hissing. It turned out to be caused by a busted radiator hose, compounded by my daughter's failure to keep an eye on the engine temperature gauge, and her failure was caused by my failure to drum that notion into her.

On Friday, the dealer reported that I could get a remanufactured engine installed for a mere $6900, or they could redo the top end for $1500, which would still leave the rest of the engine (and the transmission, etc.) at risk for sudden breakage. Slammed once again by major sticker shock, I told him I'd have to think about it.

Saturday, I declared the minivan to be dead, rented a car, and set out to try deciding what kind of vehicle to get to replace the Villager. Another minivan (I really love my Villager)? Nope. Can't afford one. A pickup truck? It could be handy. Really handy. A fuel-efficient car, since I put around 40,000 to 50,000 miles per year on the car I use for my commute? Maybe.

I spent the weekend looking at Consumer Reports online and hanging out with friends, so tonight I turned on Fox News to see what had been going on in the world while I wasn't looking. But it was Hurricane Rita all the time. Except for a few minutes for a "breaking" update from Natalee Holloway's mother. I guess Hurricane Rita put the rest of the world on hold or something.

WorldNetDaily wasn't much more helpful. Lots of Hurricane Rita, including an article on Barbra Streisand claiming global warming to be the hurricane culprit. Lots on the anti-war protest and the anti-anti-war protest.

I finally found what I was looking for over at Hugh's website. He summed up recent events this way:

The confusing of genuine national gloom over the devastation on the Gulf, weariness over a second hurricane blow and the ongoing violence and loss of life in the GWOT with a political trend is the worst sort of analysis. Even six months from now, and certainly six years from now, September '05 will be one of the crucial moments in the Bush presidency, but not because of his start down a long decline, but because of the elections in Afghanistan, the adoption of a draft Constitution in Iraq and its endorsement by the Ayatollah Sistani --the most crucial bit of news not widely absorbed this past week-- the placement on the SCOTUS of another GOP Chief Justice, keeping the judiciary's number one post in solid hands for many years to come, and a nomination to the Court yet to come will mark September '05 as a month where difficult decisions made long ago began to show the sort of undeniable success that not even a partisan media could distort.

The [Washington] Post focuses on the fact that social security reform stalled in the face of the Senate Democrats refusal to engage in the policy discussion. From early this year I have been arguing that the debate was a win-win for the president. Either he got reform, or the country got a clear picture that its most serious domestic problems cannot be solved unless an obstructionist Democratic Party is punished at the polls in '06, especially in Senate races in Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Washington State. Realignments aren't quick, and the framers set up a system that allowed for "last stands" by obstructionist factions. The Democrats are "stuck on stupid," to use the phrase that defined September as well as any other, and the wags who are burying the president refuse to deal with the realities of the political trends over the past six years.

I count on Hugh to break through the gloom that emmanates from the maninstream media like an all-encompassing fog. With his eternally positive outlook, he illuminates the truths (or hopes) that would otherwise remain obscured.

Now that I know that the world is safe for the moment, I can take my dog Abby outside one more time and go to bed.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Zimbabwe In The News Again

Back in June, Robert Mugabe, evil President of Zimbabwe, was "cleaning up" some of Zimbabwe's poorer areas as an energetic supplement to his policy of throwing out the productive white farmers. See my previous posts on these topics.

In July, after he had the poor areas of his country buldozed, Mugabe wasn't satisfied. The London Telegraph reported on July 22 that the people he had made homeless would not be allowed to remain in the churches where they had taken refuge.

Witnesses said hundreds were cleared from about 17 churches in the country's second city of Bulawayo. Clergymen said they believed the homeless had been taken to a government "transit" camp and would then be dumped in remote rural areas.

They were victims of President Robert Mugabe's "Operation Restore Order", during which security forces burned legal and informal dwellings in the Killarney township in Bulawayo on June 10.

That was in July. Now South Africa's Mail & Guardian reports on the latest in the Zimbabwe land grab from white farmers.

A Cabinet minister said on Thursday it was up to Britain to compensate thousands of white Zimbabweans whose farms were seized under President Robert Mugabe's land reform programme.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said a constitutional amendment Mugabe signed on August 30 that strips landowners of their right to appeal expropriation "finally settled the land question in Zimbabwe".

"All title deeds of the farmers have been cancelled, with the British government having sole responsibility to compensate the evicted farmers," Chinamasa told state radio.

Zimbabwe has repeatedly accused former colonial power Britain of creating economic and political trouble in this Southern African nation. Mugabe also has accused white Zimbabweans of orchestrating opposition.
Until 2000, whites farmed 17% of the country and earned most of its export revenue. Farming was the backbone of an economy now in free fall.

So, because Great Britain colonized Zimbabwe (then known as Southern Rhodesia), Mugabe believes it's up to the British to pay for his heavy-handed policies that have destroyed Zimbabwe's economy. Mugabe is just one more in a long line of third-world strongman dictators whose only concerns are: (1) lining his own pockets and (2) holding onto power so he can keep lining his pockets even longer. He sees the people of his nation only as a means to his own personal end.

My heart breaks for the people--black and white--of Zimbabwe.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Guns And Katrina

The news reports on the Katrina aftermath were full of guns: The looters were stealing guns from stores. People were shooting at the rescue helicopters. New Orleans was dangerous because of all the guns.

But where were the stories about people who used guns to protect themselves from the criminals? It's been how long since Katrina? Three weeks? And this is the first story I've seen that shows the benefits of gun ownership for the general population. It describes the efforts of the Algiers section of New Orleans after the hurricane and flooding hit the city.

"The hurricane was a breeze compared with the crime and terror that followed," said Gregg Harris, a psychotherapist who lives in the battered area.

After the storm, the neighborhood association had to act as law enforcement and emergency response unit as city services collapsed and the police force was unable to protect them.

Citizens organized armed patrols and checked on the elderly. They slept on their porches with loaded shotguns and bolted awake when intruders stumbled on the aluminum cans they had scattered on the sidewalk.

"For five days we didn't need FEMA, the Red Cross or the National Guard," Harris said. "The neighborhood took care of itself."

What these Algiers residents did reminds me of the time when the "Night Stalker" (Richard Ramirez) was prowling the Los Angeles/Orange County area before his capture. We lived on a cul-de-sac near a freeway exit, and most of the attacks had happend close to the freeway. So four of the men in our neighborhood took shifts during the night for about a week, perching on the roof of their homes with their guns. One night, a pickup truck drove slowly around the street, and the man on duty called out to ask what their business was. The truck sped away.

We slept easy that week, and once Richard Ramirez was captured, the men of our neighborhood also slept well.

The residents of the Algiers area of New Orleans have already demonstrated the truth that the police cannot protect all of the people all of the time. The people need to look to their own defense, especially in disastrous times.

The bad guys win when the good guys are unarmed. But the picture changes completely when the good guys take up arms for their own defense and the defense of the otherwise-defenseless. Let's hope the good people of Texas are prepared to protect themselves and others after Rita comes through.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Getting Ready For Rita

Hugh Hewitt posted the following excellent assessment by one of his listeners of the past and potential effects of hurricanes on Houston:

Hugh, The first individual you had on-air from Houston apparently does not know that Galveston has a SEVENTEEN foot seawall (not 8 feet) across much of the eastern side of the island that was constructed after the 1900 hurricane. He's an idiot! I lived through Hurricane Alicia in Houston in August 1983 ("only" a Category 3 though it had been a Category 4 when it crossed first over Galveston Island which buffered the mainland) and there were two problems. One was the high wind speed (clocked at 117 MPH, as I recall, in downtown Houston when the eye of the hurricane moved directly over the city) and the associated tornados. (The combined high winds of Alicia along with the tornados knocked down much of the above ground electric grid with some areas in the southeastern service area of Houston Lighting and Power directly in the path of the hurricane being without power for more than 3 weeks while the grid was rebuilt. BTW, at that time, the rebuilding of the HL&P grid was the largest utility reconstruction effort in history.) I saw large boats strewn along I-45 on the route to Galveston that were pushed there by the storm surge of Alicia (a distance of several MILES from the coast). The second problem with Alicia (or any hurricane or tropical storm impacting Houston) was the heavy rain combined with the storm surge that pushed water backwards up the Ship Channel as well as the East-West bayous which are used for drainage. (The Corps of Engineers proposed a North-South drainage system after massive storm flooding in the 1940's but the locals decided the plan was too expensive and opted to use the existing bayou system which is heavily influenced by storm surge coming in from Galveston Bay). The highest point in Houston is 30 feet above sea level and any kind of heavy rain combined with the storm surge causes immediate saturation of the drainage system and heavy flooding. It should be noted that during tropical storm Allison two years ago even the downtown area (among the higher points in the city) flooded which had never happened before in the twentieth century. The Houston Chronicle ran a series of articles after Alicia that pointed out how vulnerable Houston was to a hurricane whose path took it "up the chute" referring to a storm that moved directly up the Ship Channel. It was concluded from interviews with the Corps of Engineers and Harris County engineers that should a hurricane take such a path, the results would be catastrophic. Remember the largest concentration of oil refineries and associated process and chemical industries in the world sits on the Ship Channel. Major damage along that area (including flooding) would be devastating economically. Randy M.

Jerome Corsi, in WorldNetDaily's commentary section, has this assessment of the effect Rita will likely have on oil refineries in the Gulf region.

Galveston is under mandatory evacuation orders. Houston has not yet been ordered to evacuate, but people are wisely leaving town anyway. The Houston Chronicle is keeping its readers informed, with maps and other stories.

Finally, a co-worker of mine, who used to live in Houston and who still has friends back there, has a friend whose mother lives in Houston. The mother has a preparation plan that's worth considering.

Whenever Houston is at risk of flooding, either from hurricanes or from other high water, she bakes cookies. Then she takes her cookies to her local parish church (she's Catholic) and has the priest bless the cookies. She takes the blessed cookies home and scatters them around her yard.

So far, this has worked for her. The last time parts of Houston were flooded, the flood waters came into her neighborhood and stopped at the edge of her property. Her home stayed dry, while her neighbors were flooded.

My advice for those who haven't left the threatened area yet: Start baking cookies.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Republicans Play Dead Over Katrina Probe

This one has me steamed. The Los Angeles Times reports today that the House and Senate majority leaders have thrown their hands in the air and given up on a joint committee to investigate all the Before and After of Hurricane Katrina (HT: Hugh Hewitt)

Why have they called it quits? Because the Democrats refuse to play nice.

In announcing a joint probe this month, the Republican leadership had said it would be the most efficient way to investigate the administration's much-criticized initial response to the hurricane. But today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) conceded that he could not overcome Democratic opposition to a joint investigation.

Big stinkin' whoop!

Democratic opposition has left Republicans little maneuvering room for mounting a credible probe. With the joint investigation apparently off the table, Republicans can only hope that Democrats will participate in each chamber's separate investigation. It was far from clear today that Democrats would do that.

So we've got a situation where the Democrats definitely won't cooperate with a joint investigation, because of "the lack of equal representation of Democrats on the panel, and the lack of power to issue subpoenas that the majority opposed."

At the same time, the Democrats probably won't cooperate with separate investigations by the House and the Senate. "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) remains adamant that Democrats will not participate in the House committee."

The Democrats do not have equal representation in either the House or the Senate, so they shouldn't have equal representation on a joint committee. We can be certain that if the Democrats held the majority in Congress, Republicans would have a snowball's chance of getting equal representation on any joint investigations.

What infuriates me is not the Congressional Democrats. It's their nature to be loud, obnoxious, unreasonably demanding, petty, stubborn, irrational boors. Obstruction is what they do, so when they do it, there's no surprise.

What's infuriating is the Congressional Republican leadership, who have still not figured out that they're in charge. They have the majority. They call the shots. They are the ones to decide what kind of Congressional investigation there will be--joint or separate--and once it's decided, the Democrats are invited to play along if they want to.

If the Democrats refuse to cooperate, it's their own stupid fault if they get left on the sidelines.

If Frist and Hastert want to make nice with the Congressional Democrat leadership, then Frist and Hastert can step down from their majority leader positions and make nice on their own time. What the Republican Party needs most is a leadership with the iron will to stand up to the Democrats, and that's obviously something the GOP doesn't have right now.

It's time to get Republican leaders with a spine.

Monday, September 19, 2005

John Roberts Hearings

Radioblogger has a great post on the MSM take on the Senate Judiciary Committee's John Roberts hearings. He looks at followup editorials by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and gives good marks to the Washington Post for having "actually watched the hearings."

For myself, I'm favorably impressed with what I heard of Sen. Arlen Specter's leadership during the hearings. He shut up Sen. Schumer, who wanted to continue his diatribe against Roberts that Schumer couldn't quite disguise as a question. And Specter wrapped up the hearings in just a week.

After all the hoopla at the end of 2004 over Specter's presumed chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, it turns out that hoopla can be effective. Here's a WorldNetDaily editorial from the day after the election, which is indicative of the concern over Specter's initial remarks. Following all the calls from the Right to prevent Specter from taking over the Judiciary Committee, Specter finally made concilliatory statements that smoothed the way for him to become the committee Chairman. "I have assured the president that I would give his nominees quick committee hearings and early committee votes," Specter said.

With the Roberts hearings, Specter appears to have been a man of his word. And I respect that, especially since his initial statements and his politics lean more toward the left than conservatives would like.

The Judiciary Committee vote is scheduled for September 22, 2005, and the full Senate is expected to vote before the end of the month.

Sleeping It Off

It's amazing what a lot of sleep can do.

My normal state of being is sleep-deprived, since I average about 6 hours a night, which is not enough. But since my road trip to Albuquerque, followed the next weekend with a workshop in DC, I've been under severe sleep deprivation. Wednesday and Thursday last week, I started dozing off while I drove to work, and it's only by the grace of God that I didn't hit anything.

Thursday night and much of Friday, I did more local tour director work at a big corporate event in the area. It wasn't very demanding, but it kept me on my feet in the sun all day, and by Friday afternoon, I was beat. At 4:30pm I fell asleep sitting at my computer desk at home. I went to bed at 5:30 and slept 14 hours.

For the first weekend in I-don't-know-how-long, I didn't take a nap. I was alert. I got things done. I bought a few of the less-expensive things I'll need for making money with photography. I went to the photography store and talked to the guys about professional-level digital cameras, only to be slammed by major sticker shock. I took my sub-professional-level digital camera to the beach and started taking pictures. I went to the movies with my daughter ("Just Like Heaven." Loved it.) And I wrote a first draft of a travel article for an online magazine that looks interested. All that because I got caught up on my sleep.

So the hard part now will be leaving work at a decent hour so I can get to bed at a decent hour. It's hard to balance the need to get work done with the need to get sleep. Somehow, work usually wins. That's gotta change.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sense of Humor

There's a woman high up in management where I work, and her smile never reaches her eyes. I've heard her tell amusing stories about her kids and chuckle, but somehow her smiles are more susceptible to gravity than other people's smiles, and they can't quite find the strength to climb all the way up to make crinkles by her eyes.

I know there are lots of women, especially here in Southern California, who pay vast sums of money to have them removed, but I'd be willing to bet that this woman has no crows feet to speak of.

I'd hate to be her. (Granted, she'd probably hate to be me, since she's an executive and I'm at the bottom of the totem pole in our department, but that's another topic.) I'd hate to live a life where true, genuine humor and amusement and pleasure don't find their way into or out of my heart. I'd hate to be so guarded every minute of the day.

Life is too short to let the joy pass us by while we're focused on the pursuit of power or position or high income. Life is to be lived and enjoyed.

He who dies with the most toys is not the winner. The person who wins is the one with the deepest laugh lines and crows feet and with the shallowest furrows between the brows. I think I'm still in the running...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Babies Learn To Cry Before Birth

This article on the WebMD Medical News site today (HT: WorldNetDaily) reveals that babies apparently can do more in the womb than was believed.

Some researchers were studying the effects of cigarette smoking and/or cocaine on babies at about 28 weeks gestation, and they noticed that in all three groups (smokers, users of both cocaine and tobacco, and the control group who used neither) there was evidence that the babies cried.

Video-recorded ultrasound images of third trimester fetuses show that they appeared startled in response to a low-decibel noise played on the mother's abdomen and display crying behavior, such as opening their mouths, depressing their tongues, and taking several irregular breaths before exhaling and settling back down again.

[The researchers] say documenting crying behavior in third-trimester fetuses may have developmental implications because crying is a complex behavior that requires coordination of various motor systems. It also requires reception of a stimulus, recognizing it as negative, and incorporating an appropriate response.

It's hard for me to understand how abortion proponents can keep pretending that this is just a "blob of tissue" at all stages of development. The baby doesn't magically develop nervous system response capability at the moment of birth. Instead, there's a steady progression, and birth simply reveals how far the development has progressed.

Premature babies cry. They sleep. They wake up. They feel a lot of pain. And these things wouldn't be possible if the baby weren't already doing them before birth.

Why are researchers always so surprised?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

John Roberts Nomination Hearing

Sometimes I hate the internet. Like now, when I have limited time and I'm trying to find the text of John Roberts' statement to the Judiciary Committee yesterday. The New York Times has it, but they want people to register, and I don't want to give the NY Times the satisfaction of having another registrant. But did the Senate Judiciary Committee give exclusive rights to the text of Robert's speech to the NY Times? I can't seem to find it anywhere, at least through the first couple pages of google search results. I can't even find it on the Juciciary Committee's website.

But I did find this, and I have to say I'm favorably impressed. It's from the Judiciary Committee's member statements at the Roberts hearing yesterday (naturally, they only have the text of the members' statements, but not the text of Roberts' statement). This statement is by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and he seems to actually understand the function of the judiciary as well as the Senate's role under the "Advise and Consent" clause in the Constitution. Some excerpts:

Let me mention one example relating to my home state of Utah to show how the confirmation process has changed.

President Warren G. Harding nominated former Utah Senator George Sutherland to the Supreme Court on September 5, 1922. That same day, the Judiciary Committee Chairman went straight to the Senate floor and, after a few remarks, made a motion to confirm the nomination. The Senate promptly and unanimously agreed.

There was no inquisition, no fishing expedition, no scurrilous and false attack ads. The judicial selection process has changed because what some political forces want judges to do has changed from what America’s founders established.

America’s founders believed that separating the branches of government, with the legislature making the law and the judiciary interpreting and applying that law, is the lynchpin of limited government and liberty. James Madison said that no political truth has greater intrinsic value. Quoting the philosopher Montesquieu, Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist no.78 that “there is no liberty if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.”

Times have changed. Today, some see the separation of powers not as a condition for liberty but an obstacle to their political agenda. When they lose in the legislature, they want the judiciary to give them another bite at the political apple. Politicizing the judiciary leads to politicizing judicial selection.

[W]hat judges do limits what judicial nominees may discuss. Judges must be impartial and independent. Their very oath of office requires impartiality and the Canons of Judicial Ethics prohibit judges and judicial nominees from making commitments regarding issues that may come before them.

I will be the first to admit that Senators want answers to a great many questions. But I also have to admit that a Senator’s desire to know something is not the only consideration on the table.

Some have said that nominees who do not spill their guts about whatever a Senator wants to know are hiding something from the American people. Some compare a nominee’s refusal to violate his judicial oath or abandon judicial ethics to taking the Fifth Amendment.

These might be catchy sound bites, but they are patently false. That notion misleads the American people about what judges do and slanders good and honorable nominees who want to be both responsive to Senators and protect their impartiality and independence.

Senator Hatch finishes this way:

We must use a judicial, rather than a political, standard to evaluate Judge Roberts’ fitness for the Supreme Court. That standard must be based on the fundamental principle that judges interpret and apply but do not make law. Judge Roberts, as every Supreme Court nominee has done in the past, you must decide how best to honor your commitment to judicial impartiality and independence. You must decide when that obligation is more important than what Senators, including this one, might want to know. As the Senate has done in the past, I believe we should honor your decision, and then make our own.

Well said. But how much coverage did Senator Hatch get on any of the news programs last night or in any of today's newspapers this morning? Probably none, because his is the voice of reason. The news coverage goes to the voices of the attack dogs.

Which is a pity. The American people are capable of recognizing reasonable men and women making reasoned statements. And that must be the problem the media has. If they broadcast the reasoned arguments, then the American people would see the contrast and would reject the snarling of the attack dogs.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Back Home Again

I got back late last night from a four-day photography workshop in Washington DC. The workshop was focused and had us either out taking pictures or in the classroom learning and getting our photos critiqued. I brought my laptop but couldn't get the internet connected, so the only news I got was a headline on the elevator-lobby TV that was tuned to CNN. They said the FEMA head was being returned to Washington and would be replaced by someone else on the scene in Louisiana.

If anything else happened, I don't know about it (except for the robbery at our hotel that kept us waiting across the street while the police collected evidence).

My impression of the FEMA story was that of the two theater masks--the smiling face and the frowning face. My prediction of the coverage was this:

Democrats will put the frowning spin on the story. Look how bad a job President Bush's chosen man is doing! Why, they had to practically fire him. Bush is bad/incompetent/bad/lying/bad. Frown. Frown.

Republicans will put the smiling spin on the story. Our man at FEMA has more duties than just cleaning up after one disaster. We need him in Washington, so we're going to send someone to relieve him and take over the ground effort and keep the FEMA head where he can do the most good. Bush is on top of things. Smile. Smile.

I don't know if the coverage actually went like that, but most news stories, especially analysis, are variations on that theme, depending on which side the analyst is on.

I understand the world keeps on spinning even when I'm not paying attention, and that's OK with me. I'll get caught up soon enough.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Roberts Nomination For Chief Justice

President Bush said, "I'm certain that Chief Justice Rehnquist was hoping to welcome John Roberts as a colleague, and we're all sorry that day didn't come." It would have been the first time a Supreme Court Justice and his one-time law clerk served together on the Supreme Court. Now, it will be the first time a Justice's clerk succeeds him on the Court. Provided Roberts is confirmed.

There's been a lot of discussion and speculation about John G. Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court, including on this blog (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), and now his opponents are ramping up the dialog after President Bush nominated Roberts for the Chief Justice position. According to the AP, "Democrats, however, said bumping Roberts up to chief justice instead of having him replace O'Connor means tougher scrutiny of Rehnquist's former Supreme Court clerk."

Out of respect for Chief Justice Rehnquist's funeral, the rhetoric was toned down. But by tomorrow, I expect the verbal and written blasts against Roberts to escalate.

When the White House released the boxes of documents related to Roberts' tenure in the White House Legal Counsel's office, people scoured the documents for evidence of how Roberts will perform as a judge. What they found were often amusing documents, recommending that President Reagan not endorse Michael Jackson or recommending that Reagan's name shouldn't be used in a way that appeared to endorse unattractive dinnerware. Not really much that indicated how he would decide cases that might come before the Supreme Court.

The best test of how Roberts will decide cases is to look at the way he has already decided cases during his two-year tenure on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The United States Justice Foundation--a nonprofit public interest, legal action organization seeking to advance the conservative viewpoint in the judicial arena--has done that analysis. D. Colette Willson, Staff Attorney at USJF has written "A Brief Analysis of Judge John G. Roberts’ Written Opinions During His Two-Year Tenure on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals," and it is posted on the USJF website.

By and large, [Roberts' decisions] tend to deal with fairly technical questions of federal law that were undoubtedly intensely interesting to the corporations and individuals coming before the court, but rather mind-numbing for the rest of us. Oddly, however, I kept finding myself getting drawn into the discussion. Who would think the copper smelting process could be so interesting (Sierra Club v. EPA, 353 F.3d 976 (D.C. Cir. 2004)) or stop to consider why we should have a law requiring all television sets on the market to receive digital signals (Consumer Electronics Ass’n v. FCC, 347 F.3d 291 (D.C. Cir. 2003))? Judge Roberts’ opinions are easy to follow, thorough, well-reasoned, and often make for a good read besides. Quite frequently, the opening paragraph of his opinions summarizes the case more succinctly than the synopsis provided by the commercial publisher. And he’s witty.

Willson goes on to give examples of Roberts' wit and his reasoning on cases that show his judicial temperament. She provides plenty of detail, but I found myself reading every bit of it, drawn in just as Willson indicated she was with these cases. Her conclusion:

In the two years he spent on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Roberts’ opinions have not involved the types of cases raising issues of great concern to fundamental conservatives and people of faith, such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and religious liberty. Nevertheless, based on a review of the manner in which Judge Roberts has approached other types of cases, we believe that if Judge Roberts is confirmed to serve on the United States Supreme Court, he will prove to be a strict constructionist, not a judicial activist, fair-minded and reasonable, with due deference for the separation of powers accorded by the U.S. Constitution. If he is confirmed, we may not always agree with his decisions, but we rest assured he will bring with him neither a conservative nor a liberal bias but, rather, will judge according to the words etched in stone as one enters those halls of justice: Equal Justice Under the Law.


This article in the Village Voice has me slightly apoplectic. It's based on the same premise as the USJF article, above, in that it looks at Roberts' decisions on the DC Circuit Court.

But it looks at only one case, and the logic in their assessment of Roberts' decisions is so faulty that even I (a mainframe computer programmer, not an attorney) can see the obvious biases and distortions.

The author, Nat Hentoff, uses as his source of analysis of the Hamdan v Rumsfeld case Professor Neal Katyal. This sounds like an impressive, credentialed source, until you read that Katyal is actually the attorney for Gitmo detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who brought the case before the DC Circuit Court and lost. Not surprisingly, Katyal believes this was a bad decision.

Hentoff says of this decision:

The Hamdan decision gave the president (and by precedent, his successors) the unreviewable power—outside the jurisdiction of civilian courts, and what have been up to now the due process protections of military courts—to strip U.S. detainees of the humane Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners. This is an international treaty the United States has ratified—as is the international treaty Covenant Against Torture, which the Bush administration has also violated.

What Hentoff fails to point out is that the Geneva Conventions relate to prisoners of war--people who wear uniforms and/or fight for nations. The detainees are neither, so Geneva doesn't apply. In spite of that, we are treating the detainees humanely.

Hentoff then takes his arguments farther into fever swamp territory, suggesting that Roberts wants to "erase the word 'Treaties' from our Constitution and laws" (Hentoff quotes Jonathan Freiman of Yale Law School here).

Moreover, Katyal told the Supreme Court—quoting a Neil Lewis report in the August 1, 2005, New York Times—that some military prosecutors involved in Hamdan's trial were so concerned it be fair that they have charged that "the chief prosecutor had told his subordinates that members of the military commission that would try the first four defendants (which include Hamdan) would be 'handpicked' to ensure that all would be convicted." (Emphasis added.) But John Roberts has said nothing about that.

Pardon my ignorance, but don't prosecutors choose cases they believe they can win? Yet Katyal and Hentoff see this as sinister, and Hentoff concludes that a Justice John Roberts would seek to establish "unilateral presidential powers."

With arguments like these on the Left, it's a wonder anyone but the crowd takes them seriously.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Aftermath

The blame game has taken on a life of its own.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune blames President Bush and is calling for heads to roll. In the New York Times, Bob Hebert blames President Bush. Also in the New York Times, Paul Krugman blames "the lethal ineptitude of federal officials,"while "not letting state and local officials off the hook."

On Fox News Channel this afternoon (Brit Hume's show?), Congressman Bobby Jindal (R-LA) made it clear that he placed much of the blame on bureaucracy. Not any one bureaucratic organization, but on the behemoth that grows out of Rules and Regulations and Red Tape at all levels. His frustration was with help that couldn't be provided until the right person sent an email to the right bureaucrat for the proper approval.

Also on Fox News, one of the "All-Stars" on Brit Hume's show blamed New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (who blamed federal officials) for ordering mandatory evacuations and then not providing any way for the transportationless residents to get out of town. He pointed out the image of a parking lot full of school buses that were flooded to their eyebrows--500 New Orleans city-owned buses that could have been used to get the poor out of town but weren't.

There's plenty of blame to go around, and there are plenty of people who will assign blame to their favorite targets, regardless of the truth.

Mark Steyn says that we really haven't learned our disaster-response lessons from 9/11:

The comparison with Sept. 11 isn't exact, but it's fair to this extent: Katrina was the biggest disaster on American soil since that day provoked the total overhaul of the system and the devotion of billions of dollars and the finest minds in the nation to the prioritizing of homeland security. It was, thus, the first major test of the post-9/11 structures. Happy with the results?

That would be a big fat "No."

Meanwhile, Hugh Hewitt says this isn't the time for carping about blame. While we still have work to do (and we definitely do), we need to focus our energy on doing it.

And he's right. There will be time enough for fixing blame later.

Already there are calls for a 9/11 Commission-style investigation into who messed up after Katrina, most notably by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). My gut reaction to these calls is that any investigation will be a partisan,witch-hunt attack on the Bush administration. It's one more attempt by the Blame-Bush-First (and always) crowd to score points.

What's needed instead is a post-mortem assessment by the leaders involved or affected by the response effort. This assessment should include Bobby Jindal, Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, and others who were frustrated by hampered relief efforts, as well as those in charge at the Houston Astrodome, who can provide insights into what works. It should NOT include partisan political hacks from either side. Let the professionals determine what needs to change in the future, and keep Congress (both houses) out of it.

Back from Albuquerque

I just got back at 5am Monday from my road trip with a friend to Albuquerque. We left around 10:00 Friday night and drove all night, with stops for gas and a stop for a nap sometime in the wee hours. We got to her daughter’s house sometime around 2 in the afternoon.

After a little rest, we wandered around Old Town Albuquerque, looking in the shops and at the statues outside the Albuquerque Museum of Art. The wind picked up, threatening one of the “scattered thunderstorms” promised by the weather service, so we went early into Casa de Armijo, the Mexican restaurant where we had our reservations. Wonderful meal. Good company. We worked off some of our dinner by walking back through Old Town to my friend’s daughter’s place.

Sleep couldn’t come soon enough, after our long drive, and I was so tired that I slept fairly well on the hard futon with not quite enough padding between me and the wood. After breakfast, my friend and her daughter had a quiet argument that ended in our leaving early. We packed up the furniture my friend had come there to get, tied it down in the bed of the rented pickup, then drove up the old Route 66 for a while before finally leaving town.

My friend drove through New Mexico to Gallup, and each time I saw the roadsigns indicating the next major town, the song “Route 66” started playing in my mind. Sometimes it was with the sound of Nat King Cole, but usually it was Manhattan Transfer’s version. I drove across Arizona to Kingman (“…Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino…”) and got pulled over by a Highway Patrolman for going 8 miles over the limit.

He was really nice, and he told me he’d only give me a warning. “It won’t cost you anything,” he said, and I told him those were wonderful words to hear. He told us their holiday weekend started on Friday, and that’s when he got called to an accident. A man’s live-in girlfriend’s mother lived in Louisiana, and her home was destroyed. So the man and his driving-age son drove straight through from California to Louisiana, trading off driving now and then. They picked up the girlfriend’s mother and were bringing her back, driving straight through again. They traded off driving and took turns sleeping on the mattress in the bed of the truck. In Arizona, the man fell asleep at the wheel, the truck flipped over, throwing out the mother, who was sleeping in the truck bed, and she was killed. The man had no idea how he was going to face his girlfriend and tell her he killed her mother.

So the Highway Patrolman encouraged us to drive within the speed limit and to be safe. We thanked him and drove on, keeping at or under the limit.

It may not be very obvious by reading my blog, but I’m a very good listener, and that’s what I did during our drive each way. My friend is going through a lot of family upheaval, and she needed to talk. So I listened. She asked me if I thought she was wrong in this or that situation, and it was hard hearing her doubts and second-guessing. But there were times in my life when I had many of the same doubts. What I had to offer her were reassurance and encouragement and honesty.

It was a road trip unlike any other that I’ve had—two-thirds sitting on my butt in a truck, and a little bit of sightseeing. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Off to Albuquerque

Light post today. I'm getting ready to drive with a friend to Albuquerque tonight. Her daughter lives there and has my friend's antique bedroom furniture, but the daughter is going to be moving back to tornado country in about a month, so my friend wants to get her furniture back to Southern California before it becomes at risk (never mind the "what about earthquakes?" questions--it's my friend's decision). I'm going along to help with the driving (about 12 hrs each way) and just because a road trip sounded like a good time.

Hugh Hewitt has some excellent posts on Katrina and her aftermath, with more good links in them, on his blog (here, here, here, and here).

Also check out Powerline's posts on Katrina here, here, here, and here. Plus there's plenty more.

Finally, keep checking Michelle Malkin's blog for lots more.

Now, it's off to Albuquerque....

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Iraqi Constitution

First, be sure to donate to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts (see my earlier post).

That said, here is Mark Steyn's recent column (Aug 28, 2005) on the Iraqi Constitution efforts.

As the deadline approaches, we read [in MSM] that the whole magilla's about to go belly up, there's no agreement on the way forward, Washington's going to have to admit it called things disastrously wrong and step in to salvage what it can by postponing the handover to an Iraqi administration/the first free elections/the draft constitution/whatever.

Iraqi nation-building coverage is like one almighty cable-news Hurricane Ahmed. The network correspondents climb into their oilskins and waders and wrap themselves round a lamppost on the boardwalk and insist that civil war's about to make landfall any minute now, devastating the handover/elections/constitution. But it never does. Hurricane Ahmed is simply the breezy back and forth of healthy politicking.

[National Review's Rick] Brookhiser didn't add that the least enduring are those drafted by an ideologically homogeneous ruling class: This year's much ballyhooed European Union constitution, for example, was dead on arrival. By contrast, the constitution being hammered out in Baghdad reflects political reality. What the naysayers cite as the main drawback of Iraq -- it's not a real country, just a phony-baloney jurisdiction cobbled together to suit the administrative convenience of the British Colonial Office, never gonna work, bound to fall apart -- is, in fact, its big advantage: If you want to start an experiment in Middle Eastern liberty, where better than a nation split three ways where no one group can easily dominate the other two? The new constitution provides something for everyone:

The Shia get an acknowledgment that Islam is "the official religion of the state," just as the Church of England is the official church of that state -- though, unlike the Anglican bishops, Iraq's imams won't get permanent seats in the national legislature.

The Kurds get a loose federal structure in which just about everything except national defense and foreign policy is reserved to regions and provinces. I said in the week after Baghdad fell that the Kurds would settle for being Quebec to Iraq's Canada, and so they have.

The Sunnis, who ran Iraq from their days as Britain's colonial managing class right up to the toppling of Saddam, don't like the federal structure, not least because it's the Kurds and Shia who have the bulk of the oil. So they've been wooed with an arrangement whereby the country's oil revenue will be divided at a national level on a per-capita basis.

The best part of Steyn's column is where he presents the worst-case scenario:

And if it doesn't work? Well, that's what the Sunnis are twitchy about. If Baathist dead-enders and imported Islamonuts from Saudi and Syria want to make Iraq ungovernable, the country will dissolve into a democratic Kurdistan, a democratic Shiastan, and a moribund Sunni squat in the middle. And, in the grander scheme of things, that wouldn't be so terrible either.

Excellent analysis. That's why I keep going back to Mark Steyn.

And I keep going back to IraqTheModel for Mohammed's first-person descriptions of life in Baghdad. His post for today includes discussion of how the Iraqis view the constitution, from a conversation during tea break at his work:

Nevertheless the constitution wasn't absent and those who didn't have the chance to take a look at the final version were asking about the latest changes and agreements. The colleagues shared the optimism about the possibility of reaching a compromise, one guy made a comment that was accepted by nearly everyone:

Even the Islamic party which represents the strongest opposition to the present draft announced that they find more that 80% of the clauses very good and the division points are few, though important but the people are divided about them as well, so why not limit the referendum to what is agreed upon by everyone to have a base to start from and schedule the rest to another separate referendum and if they get rejected we will still have 80% of the constitution approved and the remaining 20% can be the responsibility of the next parliament…

I think that people here began to realize that dialogue is the key and that adopting stiff positions does not serve the interests of Iraq since everyone involved in the process is looking forward to a new era of peace, tolerance and prosperity and they realize that there's still time for reaching solutions.

It's so refreshing to read unfiltered, unvarnished comments from normal Iraqis who go to work every day and who are wrestling with the present and the future of their country. We don't see this reflected in the mainstream media, and so we don't see a parallel optimism reflected in the polling results of how Americans view our efforts in Iraq.

If more people were able to learn what the regular Iraqi's perspective is, then there would be a whole lot more hope and optimism in our country. Here's Mohammed's summary statement in today's post:

The democratic process in Iraqi is the knife that can cut the head of terrorism.



Blogs Across America

The Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds is coordinating the Blogs Across America effort originally suggested by Hugh Hewitt. Here's Glenn's roundup page. Blogs Across America is a fund-raiser for relief from the hurricane and the flooding Katrina left behind. Each participating blogger recommends his or her favorite relief charity. Here's mine:

The International Disaster Emergency Service (IDES) is a group supported by independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. They provide disaster relief within the US as well as around the world. And they're able to keep their overhead low by doing their distribution of aid through volunteers at Christian churches in the nearby area. Because the churches are local, they know the area and they're better able to pinpoint where the help is most needed.

When your donations are marked for a specific need, such as "Hurricane Katrina," 100% of your donation goes for that purpose. None of your designated donation will be used for overhead. IDES gets its overhead expenses from undesignated donations.

Here's what the IDES Disaster-Related Services page says:

"A real friend is one who walks in, when the rest of the world walks out." – Walter Winchell

IDES has assisted in all kinds of natural and man-made disasters including floods, tornadoes, typhoons, refugees, drought, famine, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, explosions, etc. Assistance provide has involved providing food, clothing, medicines, shelter, water, cooking utensils, blankets and many other items that are needed after a disaster.

…the list goes on, just as misery often goes on after government agencies, insurance companies, and the media go home.

Click here to see what IDES is all about or to donate.

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