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12-20-06 Wednesday 6:35 pm (ET)
Friends, Romans, Countrymen,
Ten "Religion/Culture/Morals" and sixteen "All Things Political" articles have been posted....
1) Born Today Frank Sinatra (Biography) - Allmusic.com
2) Timothy And Titus: They Teach Us To Serve the Gospel With Generosity - Pope Benedict XVI
3) Why Dec. 25th? Church Settled On ‘Christ’s Birth Day’ Centuries Later - Joseph Kelly
4) Are The Planes Safe? - L. Brent Bozell III
5) Paul's Tomb, Unearthed - A Key Find Lays Doubts To Rest - Elizabeth Lev
6) The Top 5 Deductions To Take Before December 31st - Stephanie Paul
7) What Kids REALLY Want For Christmas - Tom Purcell
8) Brutally Honest: The Multicultural Set Doesn't Like Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" Because Of Its Depiction Of Mayan Brutality - Sonny Bunch
9) Top 10 Christmas Gifts For Conservatives In 2006 - Human Events Online
10) Its Christmas Break - Do You Know Where Your Kids Are? - Chuck Norris
"All Things Political" articles
1) Bush Goes Back To The Basics - Ronald Kessler
2) Conflict-Free Diamonds? Try Conflict-Free Oil - Rush Limbaugh
3) A Primer On The 2008 GOP Candidates - John Hawkins
4) UN Is Rotten To The Core - Salim Mansur
5) ISG Must Stand For, Uh, Inane Strategy Guesswork - Mark Steyn
6) Friday Funnies: Dennis Miller Attacks Iraq War Defeatism - Noel Sheppard
7) I Know A Marine, And He Knows The Stakes - Mary Katharine Ham
8) Are We Freakin’ Stupid, Or What? - Erik Rush
9) Baker's Iraq Report Is A Study In Appeasement (Talk The Walk) - David Warren
10) GOP Is Losing Its Libertarian Voters - David Boaz & David Kirby
11) Mel's Latest: Brilliant Film, Inane Interpretation - Michael Medved
12) Surrender By Any Other Name... - Ann Coulter
13) The Lonely President - Tony Blankley
14) Our Iron Lady - R. Emmett Tyrell Jr.
15) 'The Man From Nowhere' -- What Does Barack Obama Believe On? - Peggy Noonan
16) The Mark Of Cain - Salim Mansur
Born Today Frank Sinatra (Biography)
Frank Sinatra was arguably the most important popular music figure of the 20th century, his only real rivals for the title being Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles. In a professional career that lasted 60 years, he demonstrated a remarkable ability to maintain his appeal and pursue his musical goals despite often countervailing trends. He came to the fore during the swing era of the 1930s and '40s, helped to define the "sing era" of the '40s and '50s, and continued to attract listeners during the rock era that began in the mid-'50s. He scored his first number one hit in 1940 and was still making million-selling recordings in 1994. This popularity was a mark of his success at singing and promoting the American popular song as it was written, particularly in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. He was able to take the work of great theater composers of that period, such as Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers, and reinterpret their songs for later audiences in a way that led to their rediscovery and their permanent enshrinement as classics. On records and in live performances, on film, radio, and television, he consistently sang standards in a way that demonstrated their perennial appeal.
The son of a fireman, Sinatra dropped out of high school in his senior year to pursue a career in music. In September 1935, he appeared as part of the vocal group the Hoboken Four on Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour. The group won the radio show contest and toured with Bowes. Sinatra then took a job as a singing waiter and MC at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood, NJ. He was still singing there in the spring of 1939, when he was heard over the radio by trumpeter Harry James, who had recently organized his own big band after leaving Benny Goodman. James hired Sinatra, and the new singer made his first recordings on July 13, 1939. At the end of the year, Sinatra accepted an offer from the far more successful bandleader Tommy Dorsey, jumping to his new berth in January 1940. Over the next two and a half years, he was featured on 16 Top Ten hits recorded by Dorsey, among them the chart-topper "I'll Never Smile Again," later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. During this period, he also performed on various radio shows with Dorsey and appeared with the band in the films Las Vegas Nights (1941) and Ship Ahoy (1942).
In January 1942, he tested the waters for a solo career by recording a four-song session arranged and conducted by Axel Stordahl that included Cole Porter's "Night and Day," which became his first chart entry under his own name in March 1942. Soon after, he gave Dorsey notice. Sinatra left the Dorsey band in September 1942. The recording ban called by the American Federation of Musicians, which had begun the previous month, initially prevented him from making records, but he appeared on a 15-minute radio series, Songs By Sinatra, from October through the end of the year and also did a few live dates. His big breakthrough came due to his engagement as a support act to Benny Goodman at the Paramount Theatre in New York, which began on New Year's Eve. It made him a popular phenomenon, the first real teen idol, with school girls swooning in the aisles. RCA Victor, which had been doling out stockpiled Dorsey recordings during the strike, scored with "There Are Such Things," which had a Sinatra vocal; it hit number one in January 1943, as did "In the Blue of the Evening," another Dorsey record featuring Sinatra, in August, while a third Dorsey/Sinatra release, "It's Always You," hit the Top Five later in the year, and a fourth, "I'll Be Seeing You," reached the Top Ten in 1944. Columbia, which controlled the Harry James recordings, reissued the four-year-old "All or Nothing at All," re-billed as being by Frank Sinatra with Harry James & His Orchestra, and it hit number one in September. Meanwhile, the label had signed Sinatra as a solo artist, and in a temporary loophole to the recording ban, put him in the studio to record a cappella, backed only by a vocal chorus. This resulted in four Top Ten hits in 1943, among them "People Will Say We're in Love" from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's musical Oklahoma!, and a fifth in early 1944 ("I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night") before protests from the musicians union ended a cappella recording.
In February 1943, Sinatra was hired by the popular radio series Your Hit Parade, on which he performed through the end of 1944. Adding to his radio duties, he appeared from June through October on Broadway Bandbox and in the fall again took up the Songs by Sinatra show, which ran through December. In January, it was expanded to a half-hour as The Frank Sinatra Show, which ran for a year and a half. In April 1943, he made his first credited appearance in a motion picture, singing "Night and Day" in Reveille With Beverly. This was followed by Higher and Higher, released in December, in which he had a small acting role, playing himself, and by Step Lively, released in July 1944, which gave him a larger part. MGM was sufficiently impressed by these performances to put him under contract. The recording ban was lifted in November 1944, and Sinatra returned to making records, beginning with a cover of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" that was in the Top Ten before the end of the year. Among his eight recordings to peak in the Top Ten in 1945 were Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn's "Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)," Johnny Mercer's "Dream," Styne and Cahn's "I Should Care," and "If I Loved You" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel. Sinatra insisted that Styne and Cahn be hired to write the songs for his first MGM musical, Anchors Aweigh, and over the course of his career, the singer recorded more songs by Cahn (a lyricist who worked with several composers) than by any other songwriter. Anchors Aweigh, in which Sinatra was paired with Gene Kelly, was released in July 1945 and went on to become the most successful film of the year.
Sinatra returned to radio in September with a new show bearing an old name, Songs by Sinatra. It ran weekly for the next two seasons, concluding in June 1947. Among his eight Top Ten hits in 1946 were two that hit number one ("Oh! What It Seemed to Be" and Styne and Cahn's "Five Minutes More"), as well as "They Say It's Wonderful" and "The Girl That I Marry" from Irving Berlin's musical Annie Get Your Gun, Jerome Kern's "All Through the Day," and Kurt Weill's "September Song." He also topped the album charts with the collection The Voice of Frank Sinatra. His only film appearance for the year came in Till the Clouds Roll By, a biography of the recently deceased Kern, in which he sang "Ol' Man River."
By 1947, Sinatra's early success had crested, though he continued to work steadily in several media. On radio, he returned to the cast of Your Hit Parade in September 1947, appearing on the series for the next two seasons, then had his own 15-minute show, Light-Up Time, during 1949-1950. On film, he appeared in five more movies through the end of the decade, including both big-budget MGM musicals like On the Town and minor efforts such as The Kissing Bandit. He scored eight Top Ten hits in 1947-1949, including "Mam'selle," which hit number one in May 1947, and "Some Enchanted Evening," from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific. He also hit the Top Ten of the album charts with 1947's Songs by Sinatra and 1948's Christmas Songs by Sinatra. Sinatra's career was in decline by the start of the '50s, but he was far from inactive. He entered the fall of 1950 with both a new radio show and his first venture into television. On radio, there was Meet Frank Sinatra, which found the singer acting as a disc jockey; it ran through the end of the season. On TV, there was The Frank Sinatra Show, a musical-variety series; it lasted until April 1952. His film work had nearly subsided, though in March 1952 came the drama Meet Danny Wilson, which tested his acting abilities and gave him the opportunity to sing such songs as Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's "That Old Black Magic," "I've Got a Crush on You" by George and Ira Gershwin, and "How Deep Is the Ocean?" by Irving Berlin.
At Columbia Records, Sinatra came into increasing conflict with musical director Mitch Miller, who was finding success for his singers by using novelty material and gimmicky arrangements. Sinatra resisted this approach, and though he managed to score four more Top Ten hits during 1950-1951 — among them an unlikely reading of the folk standard "Goodnight Irene" — he and Columbia parted ways. Thus, ten years after launching his solo career, he ended 1952 without a record, film, radio, or television contract. Then he turned it all around. The first step was recording. Sinatra agreed to a long-term, boilerplate contract with Capitol Records, which had been co-founded by Johnny Mercer a decade earlier and had a roster full of faded '40s performers. In June 1953, he scored his first Top Ten hit in a year and a half with "I'm Walking Behind You." Then in August, he returned to film, playing a non-singing, featured role in the World War II drama From Here to Eternity, a performance that earned respect for his acting abilities, to the extent that he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the part on March 25, 1954. In the fall of 1953, Sinatra began two new radio series: Rocky Fortune, a drama on which he played a detective, ran from October to March 1954; and The Frank Sinatra Show was a 15-minute, twice-a-week music series that ran for two seasons, concluding in July 1955. Meanwhile, Sinatra had begun working with arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle, a pairing that produced notable chart entries in February 1954 on both the singles and albums charts. "Young-at-Heart," which just missed hitting number one, was the singer's biggest single since 1947, and the song went on to become a standard. (The title was used for a 1955 movie in which Sinatra starred.) Then there was the 10" LP Songs for Young Lovers, the first of Sinatra's "concept" albums, on which he and Riddle revisited classic songs by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, and Rodgers and Hart in contemporary arrangements with vocal interpretations that conveyed the wit and grace of the lyrics. The album lodged in the Top Five. In July, Sinatra had another Top Ten single with Styne and Cahn's "Three Coins in the Fountain," and in September Swing Easy! matched the success of its predecessor on the LP chart. By the middle of the '50s, Sinatra had reclaimed his place as a star singer and actor; in fact, he had taken a more prominent place than he had had in the heady days of the mid-'40s. In 1955, he hit number one with the single "Learnin' the Blues" and the 12" LP In the Wee Small Hours, a ballad collection later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
On September 15, 1955, he appeared in a television production of Our Town and sang "Love and Marriage" (specially written by Sammy Cahn and his new partner James Van Heusen), which became a Top Five hit. Early in 1956, he was back in the Top Ten with Cahn and Van Heusen's "(Love Is) The Tender Trap," the theme song from his new film, The Tender Trap. As part of his thematic concepts for his albums of the '50s, Sinatra alternated between records devoted to slow arrangements (In the Wee Small Hours) and those given over to dance charts (Swing Easy). By the late winter of 1956, the schedule called for another dance album, and Songs for Swingin' Lovers!, released in March, filled the bill, stopping just short of number one and going gold. The rise of rock & roll and Elvis Presley began to make the singles charts the almost-exclusive province of teen idols, but Sinatra's "Hey! Jealous Lover" (by Sammy Cahn, Kay Twomey, and Bee Walker), released in October, gave him another Top Five hit in 1957. Meanwhile, he ruled the LP charts. The Capitol singles compilation This Is Sinatra!, released in November, hit the Top Ten and went gold. Sinatra began 1957 by releasing Close to You, a ballad album with accompaniment by a string quartet, in February. It hit the Top Five, followed in May by A Swingin' Affair!, which went to number one, and another ballad album, Where Are You?, a Top Five hit after release in September. He was also represented in the LP charts in November by the soundtrack to his film Pal Joey (based on a Rodgers & Hart musical), which hit the Top Five, and by the seasonal collection A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra, which eventually was certified platinum. The Joker Is Wild, another of his 1957 films, featured the Cahn-Van Heusen song "All the Way," which became a Top Five single. In October, he returned to prime time television with another series called The Frank Sinatra Show, but it lasted only one season, and subsequently he restricted his TV appearances largely to specials (of which he made many).
In February 1958, Sinatra reached the Top Ten with "Witchcraft," his last single to perform that well for the next eight years. That month, Capitol released Come Fly with Me, a travel-themed rhythm album, which hit number one. The year's ballad album, Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, released in September, also topped the charts, and it went gold. In between, Capitol released the compilation This Is Sinatra, Vol. 2, which hit the Top Ten. 1959 followed a similar pattern. Come Dance With Me! appeared in January and became a gold-selling Top Ten hit. It also won Sinatra Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and for vocal performance. Look to Your Heart, a compilation, was released in the spring and reached the Top Ten. And No One Cares, the year's ballad collection, appeared in the summer and just missed topping the charts. Sinatra gradually did less singing in his movies of the '50s, which is why they are given less attention here. But in March 1960, he appeared in a movie version of Cole Porter's musical Can-Can, and the resulting soundtrack album hit the Top Ten. Meanwhile, Sinatra was beginning to think about the approaching end of his Capitol Records contract and to enter the studio less frequently for the company. His next regular album was a year in coming, and when it did, Nice 'n' Easy was a mid-tempo collection, breaking his pattern of alternating fast and slow albums. The wait may have caused pent-up demand; the album spent many weeks at number one and went gold. Although Sinatra had not yet completed his recording commitment to Capitol, he began in December 1960 to make recordings for his own label, which he called Reprise Records. As a result, record stores were deluged with five new Sinatra albums in 1961: in January, Capitol had Sinatra's Swingin' Session!!!; in April, Reprise was launched with the release of Ring-a-Ding Ding!; in July, Reprise followed with Sinatra Swings the same week that Capitol released Come Swing with Me!; and in October, Reprise had I Remember Tommy..., an album of songs Sinatra had sung with the Tommy Dorsey band. There was also the March compilation All the Way on Capitol, making for six releases in one year. Remarkably, they all reached the Top Ten. Meanwhile, Reprise's first single, "The Second Time Around," a song written by Cahn and Van Heusen for Bing Crosby, won Sinatra the Grammy for Record of the Year. By 1962, the market was glutted. Capitol released its last new Sinatra album, Point of No Return, as well as a compilation, and Reprise put out three new LPs, but only Reprise's Sinatra & Strings reached the Top Ten. In 1963, however, all three Reprise releases, Sinatra-Basie, The Concert Sinatra, and the gold-selling Sinatra's Sinatra, made the Top Ten. The onset of the Beatles in 1964 began to do to the LP charts what Elvis Presley had done to the singles charts in 1956, but Sinatra continued to reach the Top Ten with his albums of the mid-'60s, albeit not as consistently. Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River, and Other Academy Award Winners hit that ranking in May 1964, as did Sinatra '65 in August 1965. That same month, Sinatra mounted a commercial comeback by emphasizing his own advancing age. Nearing 50, he released September of My Years, a ballad collection keyed to the passage of time. After "It Was a Very Good Year" was drawn from the album as a single and rose into the Top 40, the LP took off for the Top Five and went gold. It was named 1965 Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards, and Sinatra also picked up a trophy for best vocal performance for "It Was a Very Good Year."
In November 1965, Sinatra starred in a retrospective TV special, A Man and His Music, and released a corresponding double-LP, which reached the Top Ten and went gold. It won the 1966 Grammy for Album of the Year. Sinatra returned to number one on the singles charts for the first time in 11 years with the million-selling "Strangers in the Night" in July 1966; the song won him Grammys for Record of the Year and best vocal performance. A follow-up album named after the single topped the LP charts and went platinum. Before the end of the year, Sinatra had released two more Top Ten, gold-selling albums, Sinatra at the Sands and That's Life, the latter anchored by the title song, a Top Five single. In April 1967, Sinatra was back at number one on the singles charts with the million-selling "Somethin' Stupid," a duet with his daughter Nancy. By the late '60s, even Sinatra had trouble resisting the succeeding waves of youth-oriented rock music that topped the charts. But Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits!, a compilation of his '60s singles successes released in August 1968, was a million-seller, and Cycles, an album of songs by contemporary writers like Joni Mitchell and Jimmy Webb, released that fall, went gold. In March 1969, Sinatra released "My Way," with a lyric specially crafted for him by Paul Anka. It quickly became a signature song for him. The single reached the Top 40, and an album of the same name hit the Top Ten and went gold. In the spring of 1971, at the age of 55, Sinatra announced his retirement. But he remained retired only until the fall of 1973, when he returned to action with a new gold-selling album and a TV special both called Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back. In this late phase of his career, Sinatra cut back on records, movies, and television in favor of live performing, particularly in Las Vegas, but also in concert halls, arenas, and stadiums around the world. He refrained from making any new studio albums for six years, then returned in March 1980 with a three-LP set, Trilogy: Past, Present, Future. The most memorable track from the gold-selling set turned out to be "Theme From New York, New York," the title song from the 1977 movie, which Sinatra's recording belatedly turned into a standard. By the early '90s, the CD era had inaugurated a wave of box set reissues, and the 1990 Christmas season found Capitol and Reprise marking Sinatra's 75th birthday by competing with the three-disc The Capitol Years and the four-disc The Reprise Collection. Both went gold, as did Reprise's one-disc highlights version, Sinatra Reprise — The Very Good Years. Sinatra himself, meanwhile, while continuing to tour, had not made a new recording since his 1984 LP L.A. Is My Lady. In 1993, he re-signed to Capitol Records and recorded Duets, on which he re-recorded his old favorites, joined by other popular singers ranging from Tony Bennett to Bono of U2 (none of whom actually performed in the studio with him). It became his biggest-selling album, with sales over 3,000,000 copies, and was followed in 1994 by Duets II, which won the 1995 Grammy Award for Traditional Pop Performance.
Sinatra finally retired from performing in his 80th year in 1995. He later died of a heart attack at 82. Anyone will be astonished at the sheer extent of Sinatra's success as a recording artist over 50 years, due to the changes in popular taste during that period. His popularity as a singer and his productivity has resulted in an overwhelming discography. Its major portions break down into the Columbia years (1943-1952), the Capitol years (1953-1962), and the Reprise years (1960-1981), but airchecks, film and television soundtracks, and other miscellaneous recordings swell it massively. As a movie star and as a celebrity of mixed reputation, Sinatra is so much of a 20th century icon that it is easy to overlook his real musical talents, which are the actual source of his renown. As an artist, he worked to interpret America's greatest songs and to preserve them for later generations. On his recordings, his success is apparent.
Timothy And Titus: They Teach Us To Serve the Gospel With Generosity
Zenit News Agency
December 13, 2006
Pope Benedict XVI
Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at today's general audience, dedicated to comment on two of the Apostle Paul's closest aides: Timothy and Titus.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
After speaking at length of the great Apostle Paul, today we take into consideration two of his closest collaborators: Timothy and Titus. To them are addressed three letters traditionally attributed to Paul, of which two are destined to Timothy and one to Titus.
"Timothy" is a Greek name and means "who honors God." While Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, mentions him six times, Paul names him on 17 occasions in his letters (moreover he appears once in the Letter to the Hebrews). We can deduce that from Paul he enjoyed great consideration, although Luke does not tell us all that he had to do with him. The Apostle, in fact, entrusted him with important missions and saw in him a sort of "alter ego," as can be seen in his great praise of him in the Letter to the Philippians. "I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare" (2:20).
Timothy was born in Lystra (some 200 kilometers northwest of Tarsus) of a Jewish mother and a pagan father (cf. Acts 16:1). The fact that his mother had contracted a mixed marriage and that she did not circumcise her son leads one to think that Timothy was brought up in a family that was not strictly observant, though it is said that he knew the Scriptures from his childhood (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15). His mother's name has been transmitted to us, Eunice, and that of his grandmother, Lois (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5).
When Paul passed through Lystra at the start of his second missionary journey, he chose Timothy as his companion, as "he was well spoken by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium" (Acts 16:2), but he "circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places " (Acts 16:3). Together with Paul and Silas, Timothy went across Asia Minor to Troas, from where he went to Macedonia. We are told that in Philippi, where Paul and Silas were accused of disturbing the city and imprisoned for having been opposed to some unscrupulous individuals who were taking advantage of a slave girl who had a spirit of divination (cf. Acts 16:16-40), Timothy was released. When Paul then was obliged to travel to Athens, Timothy caught up with him in that city and from there was sent to the young Church of Thessalonica to confirm her in the faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). He then joined the Apostle in Corinth, giving him good news about the Thessalonians and collaborating with him in the evangelization of that city (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:19).
We again find Timothy in Ephesus, during Paul's third missionary journey. From there, the Apostle wrote probably to Philemon and to the Philippians, and both letters were written with Timothy (cf. Philemon 1; Philippians 1:1). From Ephesus, Paul sent him to Macedonia with a certain Erastus (cf. Acts 19:22) and later to Corinth, with the task to take a letter, in which he recommended to the Corinthians that they give him a good reception (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10-11).
He appears again as co-writer of the Second Letter to the Corinthians, and when from Corinth Paul wrote the Letter to the Romans, he transmitted greetings to Timothy, as well as to others (cf. Romans 16:21). From Corinth, the disciple again traveled to Troas, on the Asian shore of the Aegean Sea, there to await the Apostle who was going to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey (cf. Acts 20:4).
From that moment, we can say that the figure of Timothy stands out as that of a pastor of great importance. According to Eusebius' subsequent "Ecclesiastical History," Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus (cf. 3:4). Some of his relics have been in Italy since 1239, in the Cathedral of Termoli, in Molise, having come from Constantinople.
As regards the figure of Titus, whose name is of Latin origin, we know that he was Greek by birth, that is, pagan (cf. Galatians 2:3). Paul took him to Jerusalem on the occasion of the so-called Apostolic Council, in which the preaching of the Gospel to pagans was solemnly accepted without imposing upon them the precepts of the Mosaic law.
In the Letter he addresses to him, the Apostle praises him describing him as "my true child in our common faith" (Titus 1:4). After Timothy went to Corinth, Paul sent Titus with the task to call that rebellious community to obedience. Titus brought peace to the Church of Corinth and the Apostle wrote these words: "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only with his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more....Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his mind has been set at rest by you all" (2 Corinthians 7:6-7,13). Paul again sent Titus -- whom he called "partner and co-worker" (2 Corinthians 8:23) -- to organize the completion of the collections for the Christians of Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:6). Subsequent news found in these pastoral letters speak of him as bishop of Crete (cf. Titus 1:5), from whence, by invitation of Paul, he joined the Apostle in Nicopolis, in Epirus, (cf. Titus 3:12). Later he also went to Dalmatia (cf. 2 Timothy 4:10). We do not have any more information on Titus' subsequent trips or on his death.
In short, if we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of some significant facts. The most important is that Paul used collaborators in the development of his missions. He is, of course, the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches. Nevertheless, it is clear that he did not do it all alone, but leaned on trustworthy persons, who shared the effort and responsibilities.
To be pointed out, moreover is the willingness of his collaborators. The sources we have on Timothy and Titus underline their willingness to take on the different tasks, which often consisted in representing Paul even in difficult circumstances. In other words, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, knowing that this also implies a service to the Church herself.
Let us take up, finally, the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the letter he addresses to him: "This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others" (Titus 3:8). With our concrete commitment, we must and can discover the truth of these words, and carry out in this season of Advent good works to open the doors of the world to Christ, our Savior.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Continuing our catechesis on the Church's apostolic ministry, we now consider Saints Timothy and Titus, two close associates of Saint Paul in his missionary journeys. Timothy, born of a Jewish mother and a pagan father, is frequently mentioned in the Apostle's Letters. Titus, a convert from paganism, was brought by Paul to the Council of Jerusalem, which sanctioned the preaching of the Gospel to the pagans while not imposing on them the precepts of the Mosaic Law. Both were sent by Paul on important missions to the young Churches, often as his representatives in difficult situations. As we see from the New Testament epistles addressed to Timothy and Titus, Paul clearly counted on the help of these two collaborators in his ministry. Timothy and Titus were likewise prompt in accepting the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Apostle. May the example of these apostolic men inspire us to serve the cause of the Gospel with generosity, and thus contribute to the building up of Christ's Church.
I offer a cordial welcome to the members of the ecumenical pilgrimage sponsored by the Catholic Bishops' Conference and the National Council of Churches in Korea. May your visit to Rome be a source of inspiration in your efforts to promote the unity of all Christ's followers. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from the Philippines, Australia and the United States of America, I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.
Why Dec. 25th? Church Settled On ‘Christ’s Birth Day’ Centuries Later
Catholic News Service
December 13, 2006
The gospel accounts of the Nativity (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2) do not say what day Jesus was born. There were attempts to calculate the day, but by the third century Christians realized this was impossible.
So they tried other ways to determine a date for Jesus' birth:
- Many people believed the world was re-created on the first day of spring (March 25 of the Julian calendar followed in ancient Rome). How appropriate, then, for the world's redeemer to become incarnate that day!
- Other scholars argued that Jesus became incarnate not at his birth but at his conception. If Jesus was conceived March 25, he would be born nine months later, Dec. 25.
This date didn't catch on immediately, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean region where people believed Jesus was born Jan. 6. But in the West Dec. 25 had much appeal. Why?
Many Romans venerated the sun, whose birthday was Dec. 25, or a virility god named Mithra with the same birthday. Also, the Romans observed a raucous celebration called Saturnalia Dec. 17-23. Thus, Dec. 25 offered a date with a good theological basis that also would counter several pagan holidays.
Although we don't know the final steps, in 336 the church at Rome officially observed the "birth day of Christ" Dec. 25. This tradition spread. But what about Jan. 6? The church decided to use that day for Jesus' manifestation to the whole world, symbolized by the Magi.
The Magi were three kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar, right? Not really. Matthew's Gospel speaks only of Magi; it doesn't call them kings, or say they rode camels or give their names.
The early Christians looked to the Old Testament for prophecies relating to Jesus. One prophecy in Isaiah said that foreigners traveling on camels would bring gold and frankincense to the Messiah, while a psalm spoke of kings coming.
Naturally the Christians interpreted the Messiah as Jesus, and the only foreigners who brought him gifts were the Magi. So by the third century we find Christians speaking of the Magi as kings riding camels.
How many Magi were there?
A great Egyptian scholar, Origen, found a Genesis passage in which three pagans honored the Hebrew patriarch Isaac. Origen said the three symbolized the Magi, but didn't say why.
Names for the Magi do not appear until the sixth century; all are fictional. "Balthasar" may be a corruption of Belteshazzar, a Babylonian king in the Book of Daniel. "Melchior" may be a combination of two Hebrew words for "king" and "light." And "Caspar" may derive from the name of an Indian king converted by early Christians.
These names first appear in the West in a sixth-century mosaic in the church of St. Apollinaris Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.
The date for Christmas may have been settled by the fourth century, but legends of the Magi grew throughout the Middle Ages.
Are The Planes Safe?
Media Research Center
December 6, 2006
L. Brent Bozell III
The hubbub raised over six Islamic imams being removed from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis for suspicious behavior is the latest in a string of incidents underlining one consistent thread in the war on terror: Muslim terrorists have never given up on the tried and true idea of hijacking airplanes and blowing them up to kill and demoralize the infidels.
Police and witness reports suggest a list of suspicious activities and remarks. Some of the imams were discussing in Arabic about “bin Laden” and condemning America for “killing Saddam.” Imams asked for seat belt extenders for the extremely obese, for no apparent reason. (Did you know such extenders even existed?) The imams spread out at all exits of the plane, two in front, two in the middle, two in the rear. Between the six imams, they had one piece of checked luggage.
There have been some seriously frightening moments since 9/11. Just a few months later, foiled “shoe bomber” Richard Reid was arrested on board American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami for attempting to light explosives hidden in his shoes. In court, he declared his allegiance to Osama bin Laden and was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison.
On March 5, 2003, Fazal Karim, an illegal immigrant from Pakistan, attempted to board an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Houston when screeners found in his luggage 32 razor blades concealed within a box containing a coiled belt. He was convicted of attempting to conceal weapons and making false statements about his immigration status and sentenced to five years in prison.
On June 29, 2004, journalist Annie Jacobsen complained about the very suspicious behavior of a group of Middle Easterners during a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. When the plane landed, they were detained, and though the Department of Homeland Security would later report that they were a band of Syrian musicians en route to a gig in Las Vegas, Jacobsen learned that DHS also decided to classify the entire report. Why classify it if nothing was amiss?
On August 10, British authorities thwarted a plot to simultaneously blow up 10 aircraft heading to the U.S. using explosives smuggled in luggage, averting what police described as “mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” Some plotters had already purchased tickets on a flight to stage a test run, with an actual attack planned for days later.
The national media have certainly paid attention to airline security issues since 9/11. But they can’t be expected to learn about and report every airline disruption, especially if no real act of terror occurs. Thus it begs the question: How many times, at how many airports, have there been these kinds of incidents that have not made it to the news desks? I ask because I’ve been a witness to one such incident, from a distance of perhaps three feet, which never made it on the news.
On October 14, I was in Grand Rapids, having boarded United 5832 to Chicago. It was one of those smaller commuter jets with two seats on either side of the aisle. The flight was perhaps one third full, giving sardined passengers the opportunity to move to the multiple open rows after the boarding process was complete. That’s when I noticed the two men, one a younger Muslim, the second an older black man, make their way from the back to the two seats behind the bulkhead on the right side of the plane, one row in front and across from me. Odd. If they wanted more breathing room, why were they choosing to sit together again in crammed quarters, given all the open rows? Why did they move at all? And if they remained together because they needed to visit, why didn’t they exchange a single word? I watched them as they just sat, staring straight ahead. And the plane also just sat by the gate, for a good fifteen minutes.
And then the hatch flew open and a half-dozen DHS/FBI agents rushed in, surrounded these two men, and flashing badges, ordered them off the plane.
Now stop for a minute. Imagine you were one of these two, and you were innocent. What would be your reaction if suddenly confronted by a small army of heat-packing federal agents demanding your removal? You might literally jump out of your seat belt in surprise. What? Me? Huh?! Why? What’s going on?! What’d I do? What’s the meaning of this? And the like. And that’s when it really got creepy. I watched as the two men stood up, and without a word, without a shred of emotion on their faces, calmly accompanied the agents off the plane. How else to explain this? They were expecting their detention.
The pilot would take to the intercom a few minutes later to explain what he could. Homeland Security had been running background checks on these two, and while nothing had registered on the computers, the flight crew was “just uncomfortable” -- as they had every reason to be.
Something is happening out there. And it’s not good.
Paul's Tomb, Unearthed - A Key Find Lays Doubts To Rest
Zenit News Agency
December 14, 2006
2006 has been a year of discoveries for Rome. New frescos, new archaeological finds and statues returned after years of foreign residence have made this year a hit parade of novelties.
But this week the Holy See topped the charts as it announced the unearthing of the tomb (a sarcophagus) of St. Paul. Vatican archaeologist Giorgio Filippi actually found the tomb three years ago, but further research established that "there is no doubt, the sarcophagus found under the pavement of the Basilica of St. Paul's is really that of the Apostle," as Filippi announced in a press conference Monday.
Unlike St. Peter, whose traditional presence in Rome was supported by a paucity of factual evidence until the excavations under St. Peter's Basilica from 1939 to 1950, St. Paul's sojourn in Rome is well documented in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Paul was probably sent to Rome as a prisoner somewhere around A.D. 58 to 60 and spent several years among the early Christian community of Rome.
Eusebius of Caesarea tells us, "Paul was beheaded by him [Nero]," while tradition elaborates that the saint was martyred outside the city at a site now known as Tre Fontane, or the Three Fountains. This picturesque name is derived from the legend that when Paul was beheaded, his head bounced three times on the ground -- miraculously creating three fountains. A church has graced the spot since the fifth century and today it is a monastery.
St. Paul's body was taken a little closer to the city, along the Via Ostiense, or the main road toward the sea, and buried alongside this major thoroughfare. Eusebius also cites the third-century ecclesiastic Gaius who claimed that he "can show you the trophies of the Apostles. If you will go to the Vatican or along the Via Ostiensis you will find the trophies of the founders of this church."
These "trophies" were simple, makeshift affairs meant to remain hidden from the eyes of Imperial persecutors. Only under Constantine were the apostles given due architectural homage. Great basilicas were erected over the simple tombs and the early graves were enclosed in the foundations of these churches.
The sarcophagus found by Giorgio Filippi was made slightly later, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, the man who outlawed all other religious cults in 395, leaving Christianity the sole religion of the empire. The large marble sarcophagus was covered by a plaque bearing the inscription "Apostle Paul Martyr."
Thanks to the work of Filippi; the archpriest of the basilica, Cardinal Andrea Cordero del Montezemolo; and the engineers of the church, the sarcophagus, hidden behind the plaque under several feet of cement, was brought to light and can now be seen by pilgrims to the basilica.
This discovery restores to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls its central purpose as the place where the faithful go to pray at the resting place of the great apostle. For centuries people came to the tomb, especially during the first Jubilee year when Pope Boniface VIII declared the conditions for the plenary indulgence were to pray at the graves of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Dante, Michelangelo, St. Philip Neri and millions of others never questioned the authenticity of the location until a fire in 1823 devastated the basilica. The dramatic rebuilding and the subsequent enclosing of the sarcophagus in a block of cement made the historical reality of Paul's martyrdom at Tre Fontane and his burial along the Via Ostiense seem dim and doubtful.
The impetus for the excavation came during the Jubilee Year 2000. When millions of pilgrims came to the tomb of St. Peter, and thousands visited the excavation of St. Peter's grave and saw the proof of his presence, they then went to St. Paul's and wondered why no one had searched for the tomb of St. Paul.
The excavations began in 2002 and today the sarcophagus has been found and is on view for the faithful through a glass window laid into the floor. The remaining question is whether, as with the tomb of St. Peter, the remains of the Apostle Paul are still present. Catholics the world over had to wait 35 years from Pope Pius XII's announcement of the discovery of Peter's grave to the declaration that the bones had also been recovered.
Pope Paul VI announced the discovery of St. Peter's remains in 1976, inviting us to "rekindle in our minds the veneration, love, fidelity toward these apostles who constituted the beginnings of the Roman church and left to her the heritage of their word, of their authority and of their blood." Words that remain equally pertinent to this newest discovery.
From this moment forward, pilgrims will be able to see the graves of St. Peter and St. Paul, which Paul VI described as the "human and material as they are of the memory of the apostles." No doubt this is great boon for our scientific world of facts and proofs, but while we rejoice in being able to see and believe, Jesus praises those "who have not seen and believe."
The Top 5 Deductions To Take Before December 31st
Although many taxpayers get lost in the myriad of IRS forms and rules (the IRS sends out 8 billion pages of forms and instructions each year) one thing is simple to understand – you don't want to pay high taxes. The good news is you may be able to lower your tax liability.
If you itemize your deductions using a Schedule A, use the five tax strategies below to help lower your taxes and beef up your refund check from dear old Uncle Sam:
1. Charitable Contributions
Charitable contributions are not only good for the community; they are also good for your tax return. Donations of cash, personal property, and time can all be taken as charitable deductions. This includes monetary donations to a favorite charity or religious organization, clothes given to organizations such as the Junior League or Goodwill, and mileage driven for volunteer activities (currently at 14 cents per mile). If you make the donation before the end of the year, you'll reap the benefits even sooner.
While you're cleaning your house for the holidays, consider donating unused items to a local charity for a tax deduction. Donating items such as old clothing, furniture and appliances are perfect ways to lower your tax liability. If your attic is filled with junk that has not been used for years, consider donating it to charity. Taxpayers are entitled to deduct an item's fair market value, which is typically what an item can be sold for in a thrift shop.
For charitable organizations that accept credit card payments, you can charge your monetary contribution before December 31 and take the deduction, even if you don't pay the bill until next year. In addition, if you belong to a synagogue or church that collects yearly membership dues, send in your 2007 payment before the end of 2006. These membership dues are eligible for the charitable deduction.
Just remember to get and keep all receipts from organizations for your good deeds, and keep accurate records of mileage driven for charitable mileage purposes.
2. Prepay Your Mortgage Payment
Another way of accelerating expenses for an immediate deduction on your 2006 return is by prepaying your January 2007 mortgage payment. Homeowners can pick up an extra month's worth of mortgage deductions by paying this installment by December 31. The December interest charge included in the January installment is eligible for a 2006 itemized deduction if the payment is mailed by the end of this year. And in many cases, this one-month interest deduction tax savings is worth several hundred dollars.
Remember, though, that if you make this payment after your lender's 1098 is calculated, you will have to compute the additional interest yourself and add it to the amount reported on your 1098. However, this is usually easy to figure out and the savings are well worth it.
While we're on the subject of homeowner payments, you can also take another year-end tax deduction by prepaying your 2007 property taxes by December 31, 2006. This property tax prepayment is not allowed in all states, so you will need to contact your local property tax collector's office to see if you are eligible. But again, the phone call will be well worth it, since this tax deduction savings for prepaid property taxes can be substantial.
3. Auto Expenses
Operating a car is expensive, especially when this 2006 gas prices skyrocketed to over $3.00 per gallon. The good news is that if you use your car for business, you can deduct some of the costs of using it. And as an added incentive in the later part of 2006, the IRS raised the standard mileage rate from 40.5 cents per mile to 44.5. What does this mean for your 2006 tax return? If you use your car for business any time between September 1 and December 31 of this year, you will get the added luxury of deducting 44.5 for each recorded mile driven. This deduction is in addition to all business-related tolls and parking fees.
If keeping mileage records isn't for you, you can keep track of and deduct all of your actual business-related expenses, such as oil changes and repairs. If you use this actual expense method, you can also deduct the depreciation of your vehicle.
4. Prepay Medical Expenses
If your medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you can accelerate 2007 payments for an immediate deduction. This means an individual with an adjusted gross income of $40,000 can deduct medical expenses above and beyond $3,000.
Prepaying your orthodontia bill or your January 1 medical insurance before December 31 is a great way to accelerate expenses. Doctors' visits and prescriptions are not the only medical expenses you can take. Any special equipment or treatments you receive are also deductible. If you have a medical condition that can be helped by a sauna or a whirlpool, those items are deductible.
Deductible medical services can be performed by someone other than your doctor. If you have a condition like a bad back and your doctor says you need a daily massage, this treatment is deductible. However, make sure you get a written note from your doctor saying you need those services.
5. Retirement Accounts Take the time to check your 2006 contributions to your retirement plan. If you haven't made the maximum contribution, consider doing so before December 31. As much as $4,500 can be contributed to a traditional IRA if you are 50 or over and $4,000 if you are under the age of 50. If you have a company-sponsored 401(k) plan, your supplementary contribution may be matched by your employer, adding to the benefits of making additional contributions to your retirement.
If you don't think you can't afford these extra contributions, do some quick calculations. The reduction to your taxable income may actually be higher than the monies contributed.
Accelerating expenses before year-end can add thousands of dollars to your refund check from the IRS. As for all tax issues, contact your tax professional for more information on deductions, or visit the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov.
What Kids REALLY Want For Christmas
I feel bad for most kids these days. Every Christmas, they get way too much stuff when memories are all they want.
I'm 44 and barely remember most of the gifts I got for Christmas as a kid. I do remember the extraordinary blessings I was given.
I remember an unusually warm December when I was 6. Dozens of kids were out in the street playing, while their dads hung Christmas lights. I was looking out the window when my father, the Big Guy, pulled into the driveway, a tree strapped to the roof of our 1970 Plymouth Fury.
He opened the garage door and walked inside. He came out carrying a large Christmas tree platform he'd kept strapped to the garage wall. The Big Guy liked his platforms sturdy, and he built ours from a sheet of 4-foot-by-8-foot plywood and 2-inch-by-6-inch studs. It was heavy as lead, but he made it look light as a feather.
The Big Guy was only 34 then, his hair black as coal. He was youthful and powerful and madly in love with my mother. They had four children with two more yet to come. And as he toiled to get the tree straight on the platform, he had no idea his work would elicit powerful memories in his son 40 years later.
For years, our Christmas Eve ritual was the same. Our next-door neighbors, the Kriegers, visited. Tremendous festivity filled the air. The party lasted two or three hours before we were carted off to bed.
The Big Guy would stack the old stereo console in the dining room with every Christmas record we had – Mitch Miller, A Chipmunk Christmas, Snoopy and the Red Barron and Bing Crosby. Sleeping was near impossible until Crosby came on. Not even the most hyper kid could stay awake when the needle danced over that melodious tune.
And suddenly it was morning. I'd jump out of my bed and run around waking my sisters. We'd rush down to the living room. As we opened our gifts, our dog Jingles dived into the piles of wrapping paper.
And when we were done swapping gifts with each other, we gave our gifts to Jingles – six hunks of rawhide. Her tail went wild with excitement, and she'd spend the rest of the day chewing it in total contentment.
The Big Guy always made a massive breakfast on Christmas morning – eggs, bacon, ham, pancakes, French toast and English muffins smattered with jelly. We'd sit around laughing and talking an hour or more.
Until the Big Guy began getting antsy.
"You kids have to get ready for Mass or we'll end up standing in the aisles like we did last year," he'd say.
All the stragglers went to church on Christmas, you see – even the atheists must have – because we regulars had to get there extra early to claim our usual seats. But when you have five sisters, each sporting the "Farrah Fawcett" big hair of the era, and ONE full bathroom, it took us HOURS to get ready.
Their big hair prompted the Big Guy's second major Christmas morning concern: "For God's sakes, don't run your blow driers at the same time or you'll burn the house down!"
But every Christmas morning my sisters ran their hair driers at the same time – they didn't burn the house down, but did blow several fuses. And every year we were late for Mass. We stood in the aisles EVERY year.
My sisters and I are in our 30s and 40s now and we laugh about these memories. The memories, in fact, are all we really wanted for Christmas, but we were too young to know it then.
I know it now. Gifts don't mean much, but people do and our health does and our love for each other does. For most of the Christmases of my life, everybody has been healthy and blessed.
That's all I want for Christmas this year. More good memories. That's what every kid really wants, too, and we ought to give it to them.
Instead of a bunch of stuff.
Brutally Honest: The Multicultural Set Doesn't Like Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" Because Of Its Depiction Of Mayan Brutality
The Weekly Standard
Mel Gibson's Apocalypto is one of the few films that can rightly be described as a journey. The viewer is snatched from the confines (and comforts) of a Hollywood movie and thrown deep into the jungles of Central America. The film itself is a visual masterpiece; shot entirely in a Mayan dialect, Gibson flexes his visual muscles to show rather than tell.
Billed as a historical drama, Apocalypto is actually part revenge flick and part chase flick. After being brutally taken from his idyllic home (where his beloved father's throat was slit by the cruelest of his captors), the hero, Jaguar Paw, narrowly escapes having his heart torn from his chest as part of a human sacrifice. He then leads his tormentors on a harrowing chase through the jungle, utilizing his knowledge of the familiar terrain that surrounds his village to pick off his enemies one by one.
The plot itself is almost secondary, and little more than an excuse for Gibson to show off his phenomenal film making talents. In addition to the stunning jungle scenes, Gibson treats us to a view of what life in a vast Mayan city may have been like at the height of its culture. Immense pyramids rise out of the foliage; prisoners are sold as slaves and sacrificed in incredibly brutal ways; those not sacrificed are used for human target practice. If you can handle gore (and really, the movie is no more violent -- and in some ways, far less so -- than, say, Braveheart, which took home 5 Oscars, including Best Picture), do yourself a favor and see this innovative, unique movie.
As interesting as the film itself has been the reaction to it by film critics and historians alike. Those who praise the movie almost uniformly mention, if not condemn, Gibson's infamous anti-Semitic outburst (in the New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote that "say what you will about him -- about his problem with booze or his problem with Jews -- he is a serious filmmaker").
Other critics have, curiously, dismissed the film because it doesn't inform us about some of the accomplishments of the Mayans. "It teaches us nothing about Mayan civilization, religion, or cultural innovations (Calendars? Hieroglyphic writing? Some of the largest pyramids on Earth?)," Dana Stevens wrote in Slate. "Rather, Gibson's fascination with the Mayans seems to spring entirely from the fact (or fantasy) that they were exotic badasses who knew how to whomp the hell out of one another, old-school."
This is a strange criticism. If you were interested in boning up on calendars, hieroglyphics, and pyramids you could simply watch a middle-school film strip. And who complained that in Gladiator Ridley Scott showed epic battle scenes and vicious gladiatorial combat instead of teaching us how the aqueducts were built?
And then there have been the multi-culturist complaints. Ignacio Ochoa, the director of the Nahual Foundation, says that "Gibson replays, in glorious big budget Technicolor, an offensive and racist notion that Maya people were brutal to one another long before the arrival of Europeans." Julia Guernsey, an assistant professor in the department of art and art history at the University of Texas told a reporter after viewing the film, "I hate it. I despise it. I think it's despicable. It's offensive to Maya people. It's offensive to those of us who try to teach cultural sensitivity and alternative world views that might not match our own 21st century Western ones but are nonetheless valid."
Newsweek reports that "although a few Mayan murals do illustrate the capture and even torture of prisoners, none depicts decapitation" as a mural in a trailer for the film does. "That is wrong. It's just plain wrong," the magazine quotes Harvard professor William Fash as saying.
Karl Taube, a professor of anthropology at UC Riverside, complained to the Washington Post about the portrayal of slaves building the Mayan pyramids. "We have no evidence of large numbers of slaves," he told the paper.
Even the mere arrival, at the end of the film, of Spanish explorers has been lambasted as culturally insensitive. Here's Guernsey, again, providing a questionable interpretation of the film's final minutes: "And the ending with the arrival of the Spanish (conquistadors) underscored the film's message that this culture is doomed because of its own brutality. The implied message is that it's Christianity that saves these brutal savages."
But none of these complaints holds up particularly well under scrutiny. After all, while it may not mesh well with their post-conquest victimology, the Mayans did partake of bloody human sacrifice. Consider this description of a human sacrifice from the sixth edition of University of Pennsylvania professor Robert Sharer's definitive The Ancient Maya:
The intended victim was stripped, painted blue (the sacrificial color), and adorned with a special peaked headdress, then led to the place of sacrifice, usually either the temple courtyard or the summit of a temple platform. After the evil spirits were expelled, the altar, usually a convex stone that curved the victim's breast upward, was smeared with the sacred blue paint. The four chaakob, also painted blue, grasped the victim by the arms and legs and stretched him on his back over the altar. The Nacom then plunged the sacrificial flint knife into the victim's ribs just below the left breast, pulled out the still-beating heart, and handed it to the chilan, or officiating priest.
That exact scene, almost word for word, takes place in Apocalypto.
After the Spanish conquest, the Mayans adapted their brutal methods of pleasing the gods to coexist with Christianity. Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570 contains the following description from a contemporary source of a post-invasion sacrifice:
The one called Ah Chable they crucified and they nailed him to a great cross made for the purpose, and they put him on the cross alive and nailed his hands with two nails and tied his feet...with a thin rope. And those who nailed and crucified the said boy were the ah-kines who are now dead, which was done with consent of all those who were there. And after [he was] crucified they raised the cross on high and the said boy was crying out, and so they held it on high, and then they lowered it, [and] put on the cross, they took out his heart.
As for whether or not there have been any murals found portraying decapitation, as Prof. Fash complains, heads were certainly cut off in ceremonial fashion by the Mayans. Again, The Ancient Maya: "The sacrifice of captive kings, while uncommon, seems to have called for a special ritual decapitation...The decapitation of a captured ruler may have been performed as the climax of a ritual ball game, as a commemoration of the Hero Twins' defeat of the lords of the underworld in the Maya creation myth."
The protestation against Mayan slavery, is also off the mark: The Ancient Maya repeatedly refers to the purchasing of slaves. The first European contact with the Maya resulted, ironically, in the Spaniards being enslaved. After a shipwreck, Spanish survivors landed on the east coast of Yucatan, where they were seized by a Maya lord, who sacrificed Valdivia and four companions and gave their bodies to his people for a feast. Geronimo de Aguilar, Gonzalo de Guerrero, and five others were spared for the moment....Aguilar and his companions escaped and fled to the country of another lord, an enemy of the first chieftain. The second lord enslaved the Spaniards, and soon all of them except Aguilar and Guerrero died.
And it should be remembered that when the Spanish arrived in force, they had little problem recruiting allies as some Mayans fought with the Spanish against their own Mayan enemies. Matthew Restall's Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest reports that what has so often been ignored or forgotten is the fact that Spaniards tended also to be outnumbered by their own native allies...In time, Mayas from the Calkini region and other parts of Yucatan would accompany Spaniards into unconquered regions of the peninsula as porters, warriors, and auxiliaries of various kinds. Companies of archers were under permanent commission in the Maya towns of Tekax and Oxkutzcab, regularly called upon to man or assist in raids into the unconquered regions south of the colony of Yucatan. As late as the 1690s Mayas from over a dozen Yucatec towns -- organized into companies under their own officers and armed with muskets, axes, machetes, and bows and arrows -- fought other Mayas in support of Spanish Conquest endeavors in the Petén region that is now northern Guatemala.
Which is not to say that Gibson's film is an entirely accurate portrayal of life in a Mayan village. As they say in the business, for the sake of narrative, certain facts have been altered. The conflation of showing massive temples and then depicting the arrival of the Spanish at the end of the film is almost certainly anachronistic. Though Apocalypto is purposefully vague about its time frame, the appearance of Spanish galleons and conquistadors at the end of the film (as well as the sight of a little girl who might be suffering from small pox) suggests the action takes place in the early- or mid-16th century. But according to Sharer, "by 900.. monumental construction -- temples, palaces, ball courts...[had] ceased at most sites, as did associated features such as elaborate royal tombs and the carved stone and modeled stucco work used to adorn buildings."
Almost any historical drama will contain such problems. That being said, it is specious for professional historians and grievance groups alike to argue that Apocalypto is a wonton desecration of the memories of the Mayan people. While it may be an inconvenient fact that the Mayans were skilled at the art of human cruelty, it is, nevertheless, a fact.
Top 10 Christmas Gifts For Conservatives In 2006
Human Events Online
10. 365 Manners Kids Should Know by Sheryl Eberly
Why do today's children have such appallingly bad manners? One reason is that, for at least a generation, manners training in the home has been neglected; indeed, many parents have forgotten some basic rules of etiquette themselves. Now, Sheryl Eberly, a former White House aide to Nancy Reagan, gives parents an accessible plan for teaching (and learning!) good manners that begins in the home and covers every social situation and etiquette opportunity children will encounter. Far more than a simple rule book, "365 Manners Kids Should Know" provides anecdotes, advice, and activities for turning rules into habits.
9. "Is It True What They Say About Ann?" DVD by Elinor Burkett and Patrick Wright
Go behind the scenes with Ann Coulter, and meet the woman behind the stinging barb and the quick wit. In the documentary "Is It True What They Say About Ann?" you'll see the "conservative movement's diva" at her best. The most controversial political commentator of our day, Ann Coulter is the author of the bestselling "Godless," "Slander," "Treason," and "How to Talk to a Liberal." And finally, here’s a documentary that spotlights this fascinating woman. Ann’s legions of fans won’t want to miss this DVD full of exclusive interviews, classic television clips, and Coulter insight.
8. Godless by Ann Coulter
In past #1 bestsellers, Ann Coulter has revealed how liberals lie about their conservative opponents (Slander). She's shown how the Left routinely stands with America's enemies against America herself (Treason). She's even defended liberalism's ultimate bogeyman: Joe McCarthy. But now, Coulter ups the ante once again. In Godless: The Church of Liberalism, she shows how liberal hostility to traditional religion stems from the fact that liberalism is itself a religion -- a godless one. And, she reveals, thanks to the liberals who dominate our courts, our government bureaucracies, our schools, and our media, liberalism is now the established religion of our country.
7. The Gold Rose on Silver Pendant
Dazzle the precious women in your life with a gift made of precious metal. The Gold Rose on Silver Pendant is layered in pure, 24-karat gold. The Rose rests on a background of pure silver, and the contrast in precious metals is spectacular. This gold and silver medallion is placed in a sterling silver teardrop bezel, which hangs from a matching 18-inch sterling sliver chain. With today’s jewelry, it is rare to find pendants, rings and necklaces made from pure gold and silver -- most jewelers prefer sterling silver and 14- or 18- karat gold. For example, 14-karat gold means that the jeweler is using 14 “parts” of gold and 10 “parts” of other metals-copper, nickel, zinc, etc....Jewelers avoid pure silver and gold because they complain they’re too soft and too expensive!
6. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Dr. Meg Meeker
That’s right -- and teen health expert Dr. Meg Meeker has the data and clinical experience to prove it. After more than twenty years of counseling girls, she knows that fathers, more than anyone else, set the course for their daughters’ lives. Now, she shows you how to strengthen -- or rebuild -- your bond with your daughter, and use it to shape her life, and yours, for the better. Directly challenging the feminist attack on traditional masculinity, Dr. Meeker demonstrates that the most important factor for confident, well-adjusted women is a strong father with conservative values. To have one, she shows, is the best protection against eating disorders, failure in school, STD’s, unwed pregnancy, and drug or alcohol abuse -- and the best predictor of academic achievement, successful marriage, and a satisfying emotional life.
5. "The Case for a Creator" DVD by Lee Strobel
Based upon Lee Strobel’s New York Times bestselling book, the new DVD “The Case for a Creator” is a remarkable documentary about Strobel’s personal journey from atheism to faith in God. This compelling DVD presents Strobel's search for the truth about intelligent design in the universe. During his academic years, Strobel became convinced that God was outmoded, a belief that colored his ensuing career as an award-winning journalist at the Chicago Tribune. Science made the idea of a Creator irrelevant… or so Strobel thought. Then, in 1980, his wife’s conversion to Christianity led him on an intensive search for the truth about God. Not surprisingly, he began with science.
4. Culture Warrior by Bill O'Reilly
With three straight #1 bestsellers and the highest-rated talk show on cable TV, Bill O'Reilly is one of our nation's most formidable battlers in the culture war -- and that's the subject of his latest book, Culture Warrior. In it, this unrelenting fighter for the soul of America marshals all of his celebrated firepower for the defense of traditional values against those who want to transform America into a secular-progressive country. The culture war, O'Reilly explains, differs in many ways from the usual liberal/conservative divide, but it is no less heated -- and the stakes are even higher for those who love the values on which our nation is founded.
3. The Official 2006 White House Christmas Ornament
The "Official 2006 White House Christmas Ornament" honors the administration of the 21st President of the United States Chester A. Arthur (1881–85). Having served just six months as vice president to James A. Garfield, Arthur assumed the presidency in September 1881 when Garfield succumbed to the wounds inflicted by an assassin's bullet. He brought to the White House a luxurious style that signaled the nation's return to prosperity after the economic troubles of the late 1870s. The design of the "Official 2006 White House Christmas Ornament" is inspired by the period motifs and rich decor of Arthur's White House, which will be forever distinguished by the early work of famed American artist and decorator Louis Comfort Tiffany.
2. America Alone by Mark Steyn
Are you ready for a conflict between America and the rest of the world? In "America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It," Mark Steyn (the most widely read and wittiest columnist in the world today) argues that that’s just what’s coming. European and Islamic anti-Americanism, he explains, threatens to leave us isolated in the world: the global situation is rapidly reaching a point at which America will have to confront the enemies of civilization without help from anyone else. And when the world is divided between America and the rest, all those who don’t want to see the world shrouded in a new Dark Ages should hope that America wins.
1. Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies by Gregg Jackson
It happens to all of us: we’re debating some liberal friend or colleague when he makes an unsupported claim we’re just positive is false – but we don’t have the hard facts to prove it. Or we’re confronted with slick arguments for, say, legalizing “gay marriage,” but aren’t quite ready with the strongest counter-arguments. Now there’s help. In "Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies," Boston talk-radio host Gregg Jackson provides tightly argued, fully documented responses to no fewer than 241 of the most common claims made by the Left on all the most important political, social, and cultural issues of our day.
Its Christmas Break - Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?
Times have changed, and so have Christmas breaks
Remember Christmas vacations as a child? Those couple-week breaks when you were unleashed from school? I can still remember them like they were yesterday.
Living as a child in meager conditions with Granny Scarberry in Wilson, Okla., my younger brother Wieland and I had so much fun during those blissful December retreats. Playing hide-and-go-seek, catching lizards, pretending to be war heroes was about as dangerous as it got.
Times were simple back then, and Mom and Granny were always around.
But those days are long gone.
Today, with women making up 46 percent of the total U. S. labor force, 77 percent of youth (5-7 million between 5-13 years old) are designated as "latchkey kids," those who fend for themselves for at least part of the day while their parents are off working.
Absent fathers are another contributor, as 40 percent of babies are born to unmarried women, compared to only 3.8 percent in 1940.
So, what are our children doing with their time off, when mom and dad are away?
It's Christmas break. Do you know where your children are?
Hello DVD, my old friend
Half of all the children in our nation ages 12 to 14 are home alone for seven hours a week. Doing what? Some are engaged in illegal and immoral activity. According to the New York University Child Study Center:
In the last 11 years, juvenile crime has increased 48 percent. The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development found that eighth graders who are alone 11 hours a week are twice as likely to abuse drugs as adolescents who are busy after school. The Council also found that teens who have sexual intercourse do it in the afternoon in the home of boys whose parents work.
Most kids, however, are doing what seems like "normal American behavior": listening to iPods, watching TV, surfing the Net, and playing a host of electronic games.
Vicky Rideout, who led a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, found:
1. More than a third of kids under 6 have a TV in their bedroom.
2. About one in four have a VCR or DVD where they sleep.
3. A computer is present in 7 percent of preschoolers' bedrooms.
Rideout told CNN: "We found out that kids today are growing up absolutely immersed in electronic media in this country, starting at the youngest ages. [At] even just a few months old, they're watching TV, watching videos, using computers, playing video games...."
But is it all innocent and harmless fun?
As popularity of new gaming devices soars, and parents cave to purchase them because of the peer pressure of consumer demand, very few will stop to consider what irreprehensible garbage lies in wait on the most seemingly docile-titled games.
What we buy (for Christmas) won't hurt them?
Explicit sexual material and fantasy is growing at an alarming rate on electronic media.
If somehow you've missed how the smut has crept into and desensitized the gaming culture in our society, you can read about it on Internet encyclopedias. This from Wikipedia:
Many graphic adventure games depicted or make reference to subject matter that would otherwise been censored or taboo....Adventure games set in a gritty environment...contain bits of profanity and include either depictions or allusions to mature sexual themes such as prostitution, homosexuality and illicit drugs.
What many of our children and grandchildren are playing is flat out an embarrassment to an intellectually civilized country like our own. Or are we, when we provide the electronic instruments through which our children participate in such foolish and debilitating rituals?
Who lurks within
Children are specifically at risk on household computers. By just the input of a simple Google search, any child can accidentally call up a pornographic picture, pop-up, ad or site.
Simple online Christmas shopping at such teenage-popular places like Spencer Gifts can launch images of sexual ornaments or "pornaments" before innocent eyes.
Even worse today are the threats of online predators and pedophiles by e-mail, in chat rooms, on blogs, instant messenger or MySpace (your child's "cyber secret").
If you haven't heard or don't understand the terms I just used, and your children of any age are on computers, your household is likely unprotected from being sexually assaulted or victimized.
Garbage in, garbage out!
The American Academy of Pediatrics rightly encourages us to limit the "media diet of messages" our children are consuming. They also give at least seven great "media education ideas" and even more to "set the home stage."
Before you purchase a media gift for a stocking-stuffer, read an online parental review about the music.
In short, you're the parent. It's time to take control of your children's media diet, especially during school breaks. The garbage has come in. Time to take it out – and keep it out!
Are you sexually protected?
I'm not telling anyone to pull the plug on their computers or game stations. But we must model and teach our children how to safely surf the online world.
Even more, we must protect our children from being online prey! That is why I endorse and encourage some form of Internet sexual protection, such as Max Internet Predator Guard, Max Protect for Kids or Max Play filter for movies.
The additional benefit of getting it for the kids is it also protects the adults in the household. As most are all too aware, Internet pornography is one of the greatest threats to relational intimacy.
Could there be a better Christmas gift?
Home is where Granny is … or people like her
Though Granny Scarberry has long-ago left her Oklahoma home for her heavenly one, her legacy doesn't have to disappear.
Morality and decency can still be a part of America, as long as you and I are here and we commit ourselves to passing it along to our children and grandchildren. (If you don't believe you can make a difference to your little ones, reread my column "The force of 1" for a little Christmas inspiration.)
While proceeding forward in technology, we need be retroactive about decency and civility, reminding young people of a much simpler time in which people offered respect to all, took the time to talk to neighbors, raised their kids themselves, and even rested and went to church on Sundays. Now there's a novel thought! And just in time for Christmas. You can even find a little assistance online in locating one.
Friends, let's get to it! Our children are at stake, even during Christmas break.
"All Things Political" articles
Bush Goes Back To The Basics
President Bush has a new mandate: It’s back to the basics.
Over the next two years Bush will focus on winning back Republicans and Congress by returning to basic Republican principles, Karl Rove is telling White House allies.
Bush’s political strategist is saying that as part of that process, the party must reevaluate itself.
Down to Business
“We need better candidates, stronger organization, and a sharper, clearer message,” Rove said in a post-election debriefing. “We need to have the courage to say to members who have misbehaved or have overstayed their welcome that it is time to consider retirement.”
At the same time, Rove has stated flatly that Bush does not want to alienate the GOP. One of Bush’s goals has always been to build the party, and he wants to recapture the majority in Congress as part of his legacy, Rove is saying. Bush, Vice President Cheney, and first lady Laura Bush are committed to helping raise money toward that end.
Rove provided plenty of details on Bush’s agenda: The economy and Iraq will dominate the agenda until the end of Bush’s presidency. Given the new circumstances in Congress, achieving results in those and other areas requires good relations with Congress. Bush is committed to reaching out to members of both sides of the aisle. He wants to repair relations and build alliances.
In adhering to basic Republican principles, Bush will not yield on spending issues. More than ever, the White House must reel in Republicans and restrain Democrats when it comes to spending. That means forming majorities that will sustain a veto if required.
As outlined in a Nov. 8 NewsMax story, “Bush Policies Will Not Change,” Bush will not yield on any effort to emasculate tools like the Patriot Act or National Security Agency (NSA) intercepts needed by the FBI and CIA to protect the country from terrorist attacks. While the White House knows Democrats will be launching investigations, a mechanism has been set up to deal with them without allowing staff to become consumed by these events.
One way or another, the situation in Iraq has to improve in the next six to 12 months. In that regard, Bush hopes Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki will be able to produce the results he has promised. Malaki has said he believes Iraqi forces will be able to take full control of security by June of next year.
Steadfast and True
Rove is saying the White House must avoid “triangulation,” a term used by political guru Dick Morris to describe the strategy Morris advocated when he was an aide to President Clinton. As generally understood, Morris’ approach, which Clinton adopted in getting re-elected in 1996, meant appearing to favor policies that appeal to the right and the left to win as many votes as possible. Instead, Rove is saying the party must operate on principle and remain true to its beliefs.
While Bush will tilt more to the right, he will not abandon key programs that illustrate his compassionate conservative approach, a way of helping people by developing government programs and policies that allow them help themselves. Under this approach, Bush does not see government as an enemy, as traditional conservatives do.
He also does not believe the solution to problems is to throw money at programs that do not achieve results. Instead, Bush’s philosophy has favored adjusting existing programs, discarding cumbersome procedures, energizing bureaucrats, or supporting the efforts of faith-based and other volunteer groups to achieve results while saving taxpayers money. Reducing taxes, in turn, is yet another way to help people help themselves.
The No Child Left Behind Act, which seeks to reintroduce phonics, or sounding out letters to reading instruction, is the best example of Bush’s approach. As described in an Oct. 3 NewsMax story, “Margaret Spellings: Media Star,” Bush’s strategy is to get kids to read so they will not wind up in prison, on drugs, or on welfare.
While federal education spending has more than doubled under Bush, according to Bush’s vision, the investment will be worth it because enabling kids to read will strengthen the country and the economy in the long run, not to mention garnering votes.
Programs like No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug benefit use “conservative means to achieve liberal ends.” Rove told me for my book “A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush.”
Conservative Means for Health Care
In the case of the Medicare drug benefit, “The liberal end is quality health care for seniors,” Rove said. “The conservative means we’re going to use is the market, choice, innovation, and empowerment of the individual and incentives for savings and for taking personal responsibility to try to achieve it.”
Now Rove is saying the emphasis will be on holding the line on spending. In talking to Republican strategists, Rove has been saying that Bush will be advancing an aggressive policy agenda that will start to become public in the weeks ahead and will be highlighted in his State of the Union address.
Efforts to restrict illegal immigration and re-authorization of the No Child Left Behind Act will be the top priorities.
Social Security Reform
Bush will also be pushing Social Security reform but will not yield when it comes to raising taxes to fund Social Security. He also will not yield on his proposal to offer personal accounts, which was always envisioned as voluntary.
In developing these proposals, Bush will work with the Republican leadership. He recognizes that the White House will not be successful with a “go it alone” strategy, Rove is saying.
Almost from the beginning of the administration, politicians on both sides of the aisle have been critical of Bush for not seeming to recognize that fact. Longtime Washington Republicans complained the White House made no effort to reach out to them.
White House aides would say Bush operates like the Harvard Business School graduate he is and is simply focused on achieving results. Rove would point out that he maintains an intricate system for obtaining feedback from political leaders throughout the country, from governors to members of local school boards.
But Margaret Spellings, when she was White House domestic policy advisor, told me, “My perception is a lot of those people want to say, ‘I was at the White House this morning.’ They get to trade on that and have cachet. We’re not here to puff up the reputations of people who want to trade on their access.”
Spellings has gone on to take an inclusive approach as Education secretary, and Rove is now asking insiders to let him know of members of Congress who need extra love and attention from the White House. In the same vein, since August, the White House has opened up more to the media.
As Dan Bartlett, the White House counselor in charge of communications, told me long before the more open policy took effect, Bush wants results. Too much contact with the media can lead to leaks — as occurred during his father’s presidency — and can undercut the president’s efforts by forcing his hand and allowing aides to push their own agendas in the press.
Laying the Groundwork for Greater Appeal
As Bush’s poll numbers began to drop, he and his advisors began to recognize that, while his press policy was based on high-minded principles, it simply will not wash in this media-driven age. Without a higher approval level, Bush was in danger of losing his effectiveness.
Reporters are human, and even if they are not pushing a liberal agenda, they will take it out on Bush if the White House does not return their calls and does not feed them tidbits for their stories. Sen. John McCain, in contrast, has enjoyed good press because he gives the press access.
As with the new policy agenda recently outlined to insiders by Karl Rove, Bush has reversed course on his press policy, the subject of an Aug. 17 NewsMax story, “New White House PR Pro: Who is Kevin Sullivan?”
Conflict-Free Diamonds? Try Conflict-Free Oil
RUSH: Remember a couple weeks ago, I had this most unbelievable press release from Russell Simmons. Russell Simmons had arrived in Africa, nobody cared, but he put the press release out, "I have arrived in Africa," on my charter jet or what have you, and, "I'm here to promote jewelry, the right kind of jewelry." He's promoting his own. He's got a jewelry line now. I thought this was the most self indulgent press release I've ever read. I wish I could remember the thing because it really needs to be read. I don't have it here at my fingertips.
Lo and behold, now some of you may have heard of this, but it's new to me this week, the whole concept of conflict free diamonds. I'm sure it's not new. It has just escaped me. "This holiday season some diamond retailers say they are seeing heightened consumer concern about conflict diamonds. The gems mined in war zones sold to fund armed conflict in Civil War. Sales of so called conflict diamonds have helped finance wars that killed millions in Angola, Congo, Sierra Leone, and Liberia over the past several decades. Efforts to address the problem have been made within the diamond industry. Human rights groups are now taking the issue straight to consumers. With Friday's release of Warner Brothers Pictures' new film, Blood Diamond, diamond retailers are preparing to face more scrutiny than ever before." So they're going to do to the diamond business what they've done to the fur coat business.
We have a couple of sound bites on this. First off from the Today Show today, co host Al Joker was interviewing the writer Sally Morrison about diamonds and Al Joker said, "Look, we're hearing a lot about conflict diamonds. The movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio--" who is a glittering jewel of colossal ignorance in real life "--and Djimon Hounsou. For people who don't understand this, what, quickly, Sally, is a conflict diamond?"
MORRISON: A conflict diamond is a diamond that comes from a part of Africa where there's Civil War going on and the diamonds are being used to fund illegal activity against the government. The good news for consumers is that, thanks to the Kimberly Process, 99.8% of all diamonds in the marketplace now are conflict free. Clearly one conflict diamond is one too many. We all have to work as an industry to eradicate that last .2%, but people can be very confident going to the stores that the Kimberly Process is working and it's a great achievement. Makes it illegal to import conflict stones, and 68 countries around the world are party to this agreement with the UN.
RUSH: All right. I guess this is where I separate myself from this. I'm sorry, I don't relate to this. I think this is just mindless twaddle. This is typical of a bunch of weak kneed liberals trying to make a difference, and trying to make themselves feel, the new castrati on display, make themselves feel noble and moral and superior. "I'm not going to wear stones that come from conflict." Let's not address the whole idea of wearing jewelry in the first place. For crying out loud, folks. I don't even want to go there. I'll really get separation. But this is just nonsensical. This is a world governed by the aggressive use of force. How many of these products are these people not going to be able to buy once they learn about them? I mean, oil leads to the product that powers jet bombers. What, Mr. Snerdley, what?
Am I missing something here? What? How can I say what? This is like, "We've got to divest in South Africa. I'm not going to invest here; I'm not going to invest there." The world is at conflict at all times. The world roils in conflict. Consumers do have collectively a power. But are you telling me that the diamond industry is going to fall for this? Conflict free. And precisely because they're worried sick about it, they'll find a way to market conflict diamonds that aren't conflict diamonds. It's just going to be like buying Priuses, it's not going to make any difference. Not going to stop the wars. Not going to stop the funding for the wars. If the diamonds and their mining result in wars being funded, the funders of the wars will find somewhere else to go to get the money. William Jefferson, Congressman Democrat Louisiana. Who knows? There's any number of places that these people that want to wage war can go get the money. What these people think they're doing is going to stop conflict. "I'm not going to support war. Mr. Limbaugh, I'm not going to support it."
Anyway, if you think I'm wrong about this, we have some advocates. We've got another sound bite. A montage of the actress Jane Fonda and the actress Jennifer Connelly talking about their diamonds.
FONDA: This is not about we don't like diamonds. It's that we have to be conscious of what we're buying and not buying, and buy them only if they're blood free.
Conflict-free Diamonds? Bunkum!
CONNELLY: You know, if I wear diamonds to insist that the diamonds that I wear are conflict free.
FONDA: I'm wearing diamonds. They're conflict free. I have the certificate.
RUSH: Yippee. How can you trust it? "Oh, I have a certificate." Neville Chamberlain had a letter. You talk about white guilt. I mean, that's exactly what this is. Now these Hollywood actress types who don't have time to shave their underarms, two week old growth there, Maggie Gyllenhaal and whoever else, forget what was the other name? Maria Bello. Don't have time to shave their armpits, but this is important, Mr. Limbaugh. This is important. Not only do men have to buy diamonds for women, now they have to make sure they're conflict free. I'm going to go out and I'm going to make it my objective to buy conflict diamonds. Somebody has to be able to support these wars because that's how conflicts are solved.
RUSH: Conflict diamonds. I know exactly what this is. The challenge is going to be exposing it to you as the fraud that it is. So how about this? How about, folks, I spearhead a new movement: Terrorist free oil. Yes, it's a lofty goal. Why should we be buying oil or using any derivatives or refined products from oil where the profits end up in the people who bankroll and fund terrorism? Why, that's war. That's war against us. Well, I guess that's okay. But in all these places where we have no vital interest whatsoever, like Kofi Annan, our old boy Kofi Annan. Listen to this. (story) "Outgoing U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will ask on Friday how the international community can allow the 'horror' in Sudan's Darfur region to continue and say there is more than enough blame to share around the world." No, I will not resign. "'Above all we must not wait to take action until genocide is actually happening, by which time it is often too late to do anything effective about it,'" except burn the bodies.
So Kofi Annan. No mention of Iraq. No mention of North Korea. This is not quite his farewell speech but it's close. Nothing about Iraq. Nothing about North Korea. Nothing about Iran. No, we got to go to Darfur. Why? No US vital interests are at stake.
I was talking to a friend of mine on an instant message chat this morning. Don't worry, nothing in it for you Foley hunters. This guy says, "You know what really bugs me about this war and this whole study group is if the President were a Democrat, the Democrats would be all for the war in Iraq." I said, "No, they wouldn't. It's different now." He cited Kosovo and Clinton. I said, well, the difference, with Kosovo, we had no vital interest in Kosovo. We were humanitarian. Meals on wheels. In Iraq, US vital interests are at stake. The Democrats cozy up to our enemies: Ortega, Hugo Chavez, the Soviets. We start defending ourselves where there are vital interests, and they get upset. Here's Kofi, Darfur. We have to go to Darfur. We don't have enough troops. We're short. Gotta go to Darfur. Have to stop the genocide there. Kofi Annan. Ladies and gentlemen, it is plain to see here what the purpose of the Left is, and it is not anything to do with building this country up or protecting it. So oil for terrorists. No oil for terrorists. Conflict diamonds. No conflict diamonds. No oil for terrorists. Or no terrorist oil, however you want to put it.
There's a way to do that, by the way. And the way to prove my point about this is, our own. ANWR, Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of California. Can we do it? No way. We'd destroy the environment, destroy America. We’d pollute. No, we will use oil for terrorists. Now we've got conflict diamonds. This is not the first time this has come up, ladies and gentlemen.
(Playing Dolphin-free tuna spoof)
Remember this? We couldn't eat tuna that was caught in a net. It wasn't fair and they caught dolphins at the same time and the dolphins drowned in the net. Dolphin free tuna. Conflict diamonds. These things just repeat, ladies and gentlemen. And remember, the objective here is to stop conflict. If you think a bunch of gaudy baubles being worn by a bunch of women who are mined in a non conflict area are going to stop wars, then you don't understand men.
A Primer On The 2008 GOP Candidates
Human Events Online
It's still very early, but the race for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 is starting to shape up. Here's a quick-and-dirty breakdown of 20 names most-often mentioned, ranging from top-tier and second-tier candidates to has-beens and just-might-be's.
1) Due to his high name recognition and the fawning press that he gets from the mainstream media for trashing other Republicans, Sen. John McCain is currently one of the two frontrunners for the Republican nomination. On the upside, McCain is a Vietnam vet, a true blue fiscal conservative, and he has a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 83%, which isn’t terrible.
On the other hand, McCain is probably the single most widely despised Republican on Capitol Hill amongst conservatives in the know. That's because he seems to take particular delight in poking his finger in the eye of other conservatives in order to draw praise from liberals in the press.
McCain sponsored campaign finance reform that ran roughshod over the 1st Amendment, he was the ringleader of the Gang-of-14 compromise which may make it easier for Democrats to block conservative judges over the next two years, he voted against Bush's tax cuts multiple times, he's the prime mover and shaker behind the atrocious Senate amnesty plan for illegals, he supports a radical Kyoto-like bill that would do massive damage to the American economy in the name of reducing greenhouse gasses, he opposes a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage, and he even said twice back in 1999 that he opposed overturning Roe v. Wade (although he has flip-flopped since then). Combine that with his advanced age (he'll be 72 in 2008), his discussions with John Kerry about becoming the Democratic veep in 2004, and the fact that he committed adultery in his first marriage, and it becomes obvious that McCain isn't anywhere near as great a candidate as his supporters try to make him out to be.
With a guy like McCain, even if he wins, Republicans still lose because they'd be forced to have him as their party's representative in the White House for at least four years.
2) The support for Rudy Giuliani amongst many conservatives is rather puzzling. Yes, he's charismatic, did a great job of cleaning up crime when he was mayor of New York, and did a masterful job of holding things together in New York after 9/11. However, Rudy Giuliani is not conservative in the least. In fact, he's so ideologically ambiguous that he has more in common with the Democratic contenders than his Republican counterparts on perhaps a majority of issues.
Rudy Giuliani is pro-abortion, pro-partial birth abortion, soft on gay marriage, pro-gun control, and even once said he was open to endorsing Bill Clinton for President. Speaking of Clinton, Giuliani's former wife accused him of "open and notorious adultery." Is this really a guy that Reagan Republicans would be happy to have as their President? All I can say to conservatives is be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.
3) Mitt Romney is an interesting character. Although he is the outgoing governor of the very liberal state of Massachusetts and was named as one of the Top 10 RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) less than a year ago in HUMAN EVENTS, he's not as liberal as he might appear at first glance.
He opposed raising taxes in Massachusetts, balanced the budget, fought gay marriage (although unfortunately, he lost) and has flip flopped on abortion (He now has a pro-life stance). He's even publicly calling himself a “conservative Republican.”
On the other hand, according to recent polls, even if you set aside the debate about how conservative he is or isn't, the "Mormon issue" is starting to look like an insurmountable obstacle to his candidacy. According to Rasmussen Polling, 43% of Americans and 53% of Evangelicals say that they, "wouldn't consider voting for a Mormon candidate." For good or ill, that probably means that Romney is unelectable.
4) Putting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the top tier is probably a bit of a stretch at this point, but after George Allen's untimely political demise, Newt is basically the "conservative choice" by default. That's not to say that Newt doesn't have his charms. Not only is he extremely well informed and conservative, as the author of the Contract with America, he's the closest thing to a flag carrier that Reagan Republicans have.
Unfortunately, Newt is also carrying around some extremely heavy baggage. He has had multiple wives and multiple extra-marital affairs. He's also notorious for hashing out a divorce agreement with his first wife while she was in the hospital recovering from uterine cancer. On top of that, Newt, who was an extremely polarizing figure back in the 1990s, got caught up in a rather silly ethics flap over an advance on a book he wrote. Also, he gave up his leadership position in Congress after his fellow Republicans lost confidence in him back in 1998.
In short, Newt has a checkered past that would probably be revisited in excruciating detail in 2008. On the other hand, Newt's baggage is probably not much heavier than Rudy Giuliani's and Rudy’s numerous personal flaws don’t seem to be curbing anyone's enthusiasm for his candidacy.
5) Although Rep. Tom Tancredo has a significant fan base in the Republican party because of his tough stance on illegal immigration, he hasn't made a name for himself on any other issues and his comments about nuking Mecca and Miami being a "Third World country" indicate that he may not be ready for the big show. Still, even though Tancredo probably can't win the nomination, his endorsement, which would be like the good housekeeping seal of approval on the illegal immigration issue, could turn out to be very important.
6) Duncan Hunter, a congressman from California, is perhaps the most intriguing of the second-tier candidates. Hunter is conservative, charismatic, and tough on illegal immigration. He's also a former Army Ranger, who fought in Vietnam, has a son serving in Iraq, and is the current chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
On the other hand, Hunter is not a free trader, and although he belongs to the fiscally conservative Republican Study Committee, his record on spending issues is fairly pedestrian.
The weakness of the field overall combined with Hunter's foreign policy credibility and tough stand on illegal immigration may give him an opportunity to climb the ladder into the top tier if, and this is a big "if," he can significantly build up his name recognition and convince the base that he's a fiscal conservative.
7) Sam Brownback is a socially conservative senator from Kansas who might have had an outside shot at filling the now vacant "conservative candidate" role had he not been one of the strongest backers of amnesty for illegal aliens in the Senate. As it is, Brownback, who's not especially charismatic and has almost no name recognition, is better known for being in favor of unlimited illegal immigration than anything else. That's not an especially promising way to start a dark horse campaign for the presidency.
8) Mike Huckabee, the former minister and soon-to-be ex-governor of Arkansas has a cheerful personality, has gotten some attention for losing more than 100 pounds, and is, as you'd expect from a former minister, quite socially conservative. However, he doesn't come across as hawkish, fiscally conservative, or tough on illegal immigration. Given that he doesn't have high name recognition either, it's hard to see how Huckabee is going to be able to climb up the ranks.
9) Jim Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia and RNC chairman, has been said to be considering a run at the presidency. Although Gilmore is certainly very conservative and has burnished his national security credentials since he left office, he hasn't been the governor of Virginia for more than five years and he has very little name recognition. Since that's the case, if he decides to run, it seems likely that he will have an extremely difficult time getting any traction.
10) After hearing that Tommy Thompson was the former governor of Wisconsin, you might think that he'd be an interesting dark-horse candidate for the presidency. After all, Wisconsin barely went blue in 2004 and if Thompson could turn it red, along with perhaps Minnesota, which is next door, that would be an additional 20 electoral votes that the GOP could rake in. However, as Bush's Health and Human Services Secretary, Thompson shepherded through the biggest new government boondoggle since the LBJ presidency, the Medicare prescription drug program. That's just not the sort of thing you want to have on your resume when you're running as a Republican nominee for the presidency, especially when the base is particularly grouchy about issues related to fiscal conservatism.
11) Does a moderate, not particularly popular or well known, pro-abortion governor of a liberal state like New York's George Pataki really have a shot to become President? Honestly, probably not.
12) Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is best known for his anti-war stance, his criticism of other Republicans, and for being nearly as despised by conservative bloggers as John McCain. Hagel's chances of being the nominee in 2008 are about the same as those of Richard Nixon -- and Nixon's dead.
The Has-Beens and Just-Might-Be’s -- If They Decide to Run
13) Secretary of State Condi Rice has a surprising amount of grassroots support for a candidate who has never run for office before and if she were to get into the race, she'd probably become a top tier contender. However, the fact that she's a never married woman in her 50s would be a major hindrance (The Democrats would tag her as a lesbian or a weirdo) and as she actually revealed her domestic policies (of which, people know almost nothing at present), it's likely her support would drop significantly.
14) George Bush's replacement as governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is a socially conservative, fiscally conservative candidate from one of the most important states for Republicans. There has been some talk that he wants to be considered as a vice president in 2008, but if Perry were to get into the race, he'd have a good shot of moving right up into the top tier.
15) The current governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, would be an intriguing candidate if he chose to run. Pawlenty is conservative and could likely bring Minnesota and Wisconsin (20 electoral votes) into the GOP column in 2008. Although he has minimal name recognition at present, he would get a long, hard look if he got into the race.
16) Is the time right for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford to dip his toes into presidential waters? This quote tells you just about everything you need to know:
"Governor Sanford's reforms have saved South Carolina taxpayers tens of millions of dollars....Mark Sanford has made a real difference. He is a true taxpayer hero." — Citizens Against Government Waste Political Action Committee Chairman Tom Schatz Sanford would have a real uphill battle to get the nomination, but in a field this weak, he'd be guaranteed to at least get a long, hard look from the base.
17) When does it not make sense for a popular, fiscally conservative governor of an important swing state who is popular with Hispanics not to run for President? The answer to that is when his last name happens to be Bush, as in Jeb Bush. At the moment, Republicans have had enough of the Bush family in the White House and if Jeb wants to have a chance to win, he'll want to wait until at least 2012 at this point.
18) Normally, you'd think that the sitting Vice President would consider a run at the presidency, but Dick Cheney isn't particularly popular, has had heart problems, and has said definitively that he's not going to run.
19) Sen. George Allen was slowly morphing into the "conservative candidate" in the race before he lost to Republican-turned-Democrat Jim Webb in what was perhaps the nastiest political battle in the country. After losing, Allen is out.
20) After the GOP's crushing loss in 2006, Sen. Bill Frist decided not to run for the presidency, which makes sense because, after all, if people think the Republican Senate performed miserably and you were the Senate majority leader, a promotion probably isn’t in the cards.
UN Is Rotten To The Core
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is a prime example, I wrote last week, of Peter's Principle -- "an individual in a hierarchical organization rises to the level of his incompetence" -- at work.
Now, just weeks before his departure from the United Nations, Annan revealed how utterly depraved his politics are when he stated in a BBC interview Iraq is now worse than it was under Saddam Hussein.
Annan is of course the ethically void Secretary-General under whose watch the Oil-for-Food program, with Iraq's old regime, turned out to be the worst financial scam in the history of the United Nations.
Annan said, "If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison -- that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, 'Am I going to see my child again?'...And the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under control."
Such a rant coming from a Michael Moore would be predictable.
But when the Secretary-General makes such despicable observations, it is then quite appropriate to assume he is not alone in such thinking inside the United Nations.
In order to appreciate how rotten is the thinking of Annan and his cohort, imagine the Secretary-General transported back in time to the year 1940, and from some corner of Europe under the heels of Hitler's Third Reich he speaks out as the head of an utterly discredited League of Nations.
Britain is under siege, France has fallen, and Hitler's air force, the Luftwaffe, launches the Battle for Britain levelling towns and cities of the island nation standing alone for freedom and democracy against the full tide of German Nazism.
Then read those words of Annan given to the BBC interview, substituting Britain for Iraq, and suggesting how much better England would be were it not for Churchill who has failed to bring violence to an end.
Only the wilfully ignorant will refuse, given the evidence, to comprehend why the UN has been an utter failure when confronted with the evil of our time from Rwanda through Somalia to the Balkans and Darfur.
The United Nations has become the gathering place for the hyenas of our world -- representatives of tyrannies, medieval fiefdoms, dictatorships and Mafia states -- devouring their own people and blackmailing liberal societies by the sheer weight of numbers in a regular mockery of democracy in the General Assembly.
In his magnificent study of the United Nations -- Complicity with Evil: The United Nations in the Age of Modern Genocide -- Adam Lebor exposes the sheer bankruptcy of an organization founded to preserve the noblest aims of mankind.
Lebor quotes Mukesh Kapila, United Nations resident coordinator in Sudan from March 2003 to April 2004, to illuminate the darkness at the UN headquarters in New York and Geneva.
Kapila observed, "Trying to alert the Department of Political Affairs in New York about what was happening in Darfur was like speaking into a dark well, where your words just disappeared into nothingness."
The ranting against the United States and the singling out of Israel to heap abuse piled high with anti-Semitic bigotry reflect the only area of agreement among these wretched violators of human rights, else they would be tearing each other apart as Saddam's Iraq and Khomeini's Iran so amply demonstrated not too long ago.
The United Nations is depraved and beyond reform.
Indeed, democracies such as Canada should resign from the UN and construct a democratic coalition where victims of the hyenas might at least get an impartial hearing, consistent support and even, on occasion, genuine assistance.
ISG Must Stand For, Uh, Inane Strategy Guesswork
Chicago Sun Times
Well, the ISG -- the Illustrious Seniors' Group -- has released its 79-point plan. How unprecedented is it? Well, it seems Iraq is to come under something called the "Iraq International Support Group." If only Neville Chamberlain had thought to propose a "support group" for Czechoslovakia, he might still be in office. Or guest-hosting for Oprah. But, alas, such flashes of originality are few and far between in what's otherwise a testament to conventional wisdom. How conventional is the ISG's conventional wisdom? Try page 49:
"RECOMMENDATION 5: The Support Group should consist of Iraq and all the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria..."
Er, OK. I suppose that's what you famously hardheaded "realists" mean by realism. But wait, we're not done yet. For this "Support Group," we need the extra-large function room. Aside from Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait, the ISG -- the Iraq Surrender Gran'pas -- want also to invite:
"...the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States..."
Er, OK. So it's basically an Arab League meeting. Not a "Support Group" I'd want to look for support from, but each to his own. But wait, Secretary Baker's still warming up:
"...the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council..."
That would be America, Britain, France, Russia, China. A diverse quintet, representing many distinctive approaches to international affairs from stylish hauteur to polonium-210. Anybody else?
"...the European Union..."
Hey, why not? It's not really multilateral unless there's a Belgian on board, right? Oh, and let's not forget:
"...the Support Group should call on the participation of the United Nations Secretary-General in its work. The United Nations Secretary-General should designate a Special Envoy as his representative..."
Indeed. But it needs to be someone with real clout, like Benon Sevan, the former head of the Oil for Food Program, who recently, ah, stepped down; or Maurice Strong, the Under-Secretary-General for U.N. Reform and godfather of Kyoto, who for one reason or another is presently on a, shall we say, leave of absence; or Alexander Yakovlev, the senior procurement officer for U.N. peacekeeping, who also finds himself under indictment -- er, I mean under-employed. There's no end of top-class talent at the U.N., now that John Bolton's been expelled from its precincts.
So there you have it: an Iraq "Support Group" that brings together the Arab League, the European Union, Iran, Russia, China and the U.N. And with support like that who needs lack of support? It worked in Darfur, where the international community reached unanimous agreement on the urgent need to rent a zeppelin to fly over the beleaguered region trailing a big banner emblazoned "YOU'RE SCREWED." For Dar4.1, they can just divert it to Baghdad.
Oh, but lest you think there are no minimum admission criteria to James Baker's "Support Group," relax, it's a very restricted membership: Arabs, Persians, Chinese commies, French obstructionists, Russian assassination squads. But no Jews. Even though Israel is the only country to be required to make specific concessions -- return the Golan Heights, etc. Indeed, insofar as this document has any novelty value, it's in the Frankenstein-meets-the-Wolfman sense of a boffo convergence of hit franchises: a Vietnam bug-out, but with the Jews as the designated fall guys. Wow. That's what Hollywood would call "high concept."
Why would anyone -- even a short-sighted incompetent political fixer whose brilliant advice includes telling the first Bush that no one would care if he abandoned the "Read my lips" pledge -- why would even he think it a smart move to mortgage Iraq's future to anything as intractable as the Palestinian "right of return"? And, incidentally, how did that phrase -- "the right of return" -- get so carelessly inserted into a document signed by two former secretaries of state, two former senators, a former attorney general, Supreme Court judge, defense secretary, congressman, etc. These are by far the most prominent Americans ever to legitimize a concept whose very purpose is to render any Zionist entity impossible. I'm not one of those who assumes that just because much of James Baker's post-government career has been so lavishly endowed by the Saudis that he must necessarily be a wholly owned subsidiary of King Abdullah, but it's striking how this document frames all the issues within the pathologies of the enemy.
And that's before we get to Iran and Syria. So tough-minded and specific when it comes to the Israelis, Baker turns to mush when it comes to Assad assassinating his way through Lebanon's shrinking Christian community or Ahmadinejad and the mullahs painting the finish trim on the Iranian nukes. Syria, declare the Surrender Gran'pas, "should control its border with Iraq." Gee, who'dda thunk o' that other than these geniuses?
Actually, Syria doesn't need to "control its border with Iraq." Iraq needs to control its border with Syria. And, as long as the traffic's all one way (because Syria's been allowed to subvert Iraq with impunity for three years), that suits Assad just fine. The Surrender Gran'pas assert that Iran and Syria have "an interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq." This, to put it mildly, is news to the Iranians and Syrians, who have concluded that what's in their interest is much more chaos in Iraq. For a start, the Americans get blamed for it, which reduces America's influence in the broader Middle East, not least among Iran and Syria's opposition movements. Furthermore, the fact that they're known to be fomenting the chaos gives the mullahs, Assad and their proxies tremendous credibility in the rest of the Muslim world. James Baker has achieved the perfect reductio ad absurdum of diplomatic self-adulation: he's less rational than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
If they're lucky, this document will be tossed in the trash and these men and women will be the laughingstocks of posterity. But, if it's not shredded and we embark down this path, then the Baker group will be emblematic of something far worse. The "Support Group" is a "peace conference," and Baker wants Washington to sue for terms. No wonder Syria is already demanding concessions from America. Which is the superpower and which is the third-rate basket-case state? From the Middle Eastern and European press coverage of the Baker group, it's kinda hard to tell.
Friday Funnies: Dennis Miller Attacks Iraq War Defeatism
December 9, 2006
Fox News correspondent and comedian Dennis Miller was at it again Friday night. In his “Real Free Speech” segment, Miller took on Iraq War defeatism, and wisely explained why winning over there is important for America’s future (video available here courtesy of our friend at Ms Underestimated). As always, this works best if you read along while watching or you will miss the marvelous sight gags:
Hey there, folks. Tonight I'm going to talk about defeatism about the war here on the home front. Ah, but what good would it do me to talk about defeatism? It's not like it's going to change anything. You see how whiney that tone sounds? You think our enemy loves hearing that? Of course they do.
Now the recurrent through line of the naysayers in this country is that this is our Vietnam. Well, if it truly is, just Google Dr. Hang Noor to remind yourself what happened after we split there.
Each week we place a different burr under our saddle to work ourselves into a negative lather. Last week, it was which media outlet would be the first to catch the civil war bouquet. Ernie Powell must be spinning in his grave like Earl Monroe in the lane.
This week, we'll use the leaked Rumsfeld memo, citing the need for a major adjustment in the Iraq. By the way, federal government employees leak more often than a frat pledge with a caper-sized bladder.
You know, I always thought the reason we went into Iraq was to look scary again. There's a reason people didn't want to go across the middle on Ronnie Lott, and a lot of had to do with rep. Ostensibly, we're in Iraq to reinvigorate our brand.
But here at home we're proving ourselves soft, and the enemy knows it.
What's wrong in Iraq, quite frankly, is that we're not brutal enough to the insurgents. Now, if a majority of Americans decide that they're willing to continue down that path, because as Billy Crystal's Fernando character reminded us...
BILLY CRYSTAL, COMEDIAN: It is better to look good than to feel good.
MILLER: If that's the approach we're going to use against an enemy that's quintessentially evil, well, so be it. Majority rule. I'll go along for the ride because you are my peeps, and I'm here all the way to the results show.
But you know, as well as I do, that if we don't fight back, it will be the end of us.
And I think it's hard to get your head around the fact that your country might have to destroy some folks. I know I found it unsettling when it first crept into my frontal lobes. And I was even late to the table. I know people who thought it was go-time after the attack on the Cole. Not me. I signed on after 9/11, which around half of you out there did.
If we choose defeatism, I assume that more of you will RSVP after the inevitable next incident. You know where to find the rest of us.
Until then, all I ask of my country is that we don't beat ourselves and that we remain a place where Gwyneth Paltrow refuses to live.
Back to you, Heckel and Jeckel.
I Know A Marine, And He Knows The Stakes
Free Republic (excerpted) Posting
Mary Katharine Ham
I know a Marine. He sits in a bar in North Carolina. He came there by way of Fallujah. The same close-cropped blonde fuzz glimmers on his head in the dim light as burned under the hot sun of Iraq. He’s the greatest storyteller I know, spinning tales about his overseas exploits, both combat and otherwise — only with the express permission of the mixed company present, of course.
He speaks with a wit and color that would surprise John Kerry. He is not a quiet man. But I wonder what he would say this week. I wonder what he would say to the Iraq Study Group’s proposed “change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.”
I imagine he’d just shake his head at me. He knows what the new “primary mission” is, as does anyone who’s even skimmed the report, and it’s not the type of mission Marines are accustomed to. The mission is to lose. Lose slowly, lose “responsibly,” lose diplomatically, but lose without a doubt. My lively Marine friend would likely be disgusted into silence.
But there’s another kind of man who is not silenced by the prospect of an American military defeat. He’s downright enthused.
Tim Russert’s first word for the report was “extraordinary.” Later in the day, he had much more to say:
This was such a sobering report. Powerful. Passionate. Bipartisan. Unanimous. I think it's not only a wake-up call for the Bush White House, but for the whole country. We are in very difficult straits...
I mean, when you sit here and read these recommendations, it is numbing how passionate, how bold they are, and how bleak the assessment is.
These accolades for a report, which acknowledges that “a slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government,” a “humanitarian catastrophe,” and a “propaganda victory” for al Qaeda, but insists that the U.S. should carry out its “planned redeployments even if the Iraqi government” is not ready.
How do people find so much to be gleeful about in such a plan? There is nothing “extraordinary” or “bold” about quitting in the face of an enemy who wants to swallow up our very way of life in one sharia-abiding caliphate by way of suicide and dirty bombing. Smiling and pretending there is honor in giving them a win does not make it so, unless you are in Washington.
I know a Marine. He sits on a low bench at Walter Reed Hospital, white paper crinkling beneath him as he works his left knee back and forth. Below the knee is about 12 inches of tibia, wrapped at the end in gauze and tight bandages while the wound heals.
His left foot took its last step in Ramadi. It landed on an IED instead of Iraqi sand. He was on his way to clear a tower of an insurgent sniper when it happened. His fellow Marines — some double amputees jogging on treadmills and lifting weights — rib him, calling the injury a “flesh wound.”
Across town, Sen. Harry Reid is positively delighted by a report that suggests America “engage constructively” with the neighboring countries who likely fund many of the insurgent forces that hurt my friend and his fellow Marines.
The Iraq Study Group...I feel so good about them. They tried so hard to do the right thing. And their report indicates that they agree with what the election results were on November 7th. There must be a change of course in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group is a rejection of the policies of the Bush administration on war in Iraq. It calls for redeployment. It calls for a change of course, I repeat.
At Walter Reed, I doubt there are many men who think asking Iran and Syria for help is the “right thing.” They have spent years and lives and limbs trying to defeat the insurgent arms of these radical governments and the violence they foment, and now the Washington policy elite and press corps would ask them to team with them in a misguided attempt to quell violence in Iraq.
Only at Washington dinner parties could such a sell-out be worthy of so many smiles.
I know a Marine. He remains in Ramadi while his brother learns to walk again back in D.C. Their mother stands in the rehab room at Walter Reed wearing a t-shirt that says, “Half My Heart is in Iraq.” Both her boys put much of their hearts into winning their missions in Iraq.
But when they leave, it is of very little concern to some people what is left behind them, as long as we leave it behind. Joe Biden on the “new way forward:”
I think the most significant thing about the report is it has moved the debate in a fundamental way, from not if, but when and how we move our forces in Iraq.
Carl Levin explains where all the excitement is coming from:
The report represents another blow at the policy of ‘stay the course’ that this administration has followed. Hopefully this will be the end of that "stay the course" policy. The elections in November were the first major blow at that policy.
Only in the halls of Congress could a military loss for America in Iraq be considered only a political loss for George W. Bush. There are few who would argue that Iraq doesn’t need a new policy, a new strategy — perhaps one with more teeth than the present one — but not the kind George Stephanopoulos lauds:
If I had to pick out one recommendation that could have the kind of teeth you're talking about, it's recommendation No. 41. The study group says that the United States government should tell the Iraqi government that the United States is going to carry out its planned redeployments even if the Iraqi government doesn't meet the benchmarks. That is a real threat of withdrawal. That could be a significant change of course. It's going to be important to see what the President's reaction is to that single recommendation because that's the clearest one that indicates a path out of Iraq.
Only in a Washington TV studio, perfumed with hairspray and haughtiness, could running away before the job is done be considered tough and resolved.
I know a Marine. He is packing his stuff this week. On Saturday, he will bend down, kiss his wife good-bye, and deploy again for Iraq. He will not leave with a mind to allowing the collapse of Iraq’s government, a humanitarian catastrophe, a propaganda victory for al Qaeda, the diminishing of America’s global standing, or negotiations with the enemy, just because it means we can get out of Iraq quickly.
He’ll go with a mind to win, and he will not find boldness, passion, toughness, glee, or honor in anything less. That is a practice for Washingtonians, not Marines.
Are We Freakin’ Stupid, Or What?
Men's News Daily
December 11, 2006
“I’ll go so far as to say that someone who is not keeping an eye on a group of six imams chanting in an airport waiting area and then spreading out on a plane and behaving in a disruptive manner, well that person is swimming so far upstream against the basic human wiring of common sense and survival instincts that if one could just capture the contrary energy, the synaptic maelstrom going on inside their feverish, brainwashed, nonjudgmental little skull you could power the massive turbines of the very 757 you’re flying on.” - Comedian, actor and social commentator Dennis Miller, on Fox News.
It just keeps getting worser and worse...
I included the Dennis Miller quote simply because I think it’s brilliant. The ungrammatical statement I made that follows reflects the percentage of Americans who I believe wouldn’t have been keeping an eye on a group of six imams acting suspiciously on an aircraft. Whether the men were making a dry run (as did the 9/11 hijackers), looking to cash in on a civil suit, seeking to stir up the ire of the politically-correct, or simply being troublesome for hate’s sake, the reaction of the passengers who did take notice and the subsequent actions of the crew and the airline were most assuredly called-for.
But no. We have now the idiots who would have ignored the imams supporting the contention that they were being persecuted, profiled, singled out. The passengers on that plane should have taken no more notice of them than a group of flight attendants. That there is serious debate (let alone probable litigation) taking place as to the propriety of US Airways’ actions in Minnesota is manifestly insane.
For the record: I’m still not sure what an “imam” is exactly. The media’s proclivity for ascribing innocuous and inaccurate terminology to our enemies has frustrated me for years. I surmise that they’re some kind of Islamic cleric, but the requisites for same are fuzzy at best. Is there study of some kind involved, or is it just the beard, headgear and a worship of chaos and destruction? The Iranian terrorists who held American citizens hostage during the Carter Administration were referred to in the media as “students.” It’s altogether possible that guys who’ve attended Taliban training camps and have links to Al-Qaeda now qualify as holy men in the eyes of the press, progressive politicians and their deluded base.
A black man is shot to death by police in New York City and of course it’s murder before one solid fact gets out. In a perverse cosmic coincidence, within days of that shooting a Hispanic man is killed by police in a community near where I live. Due in no small measure to the breadth of coverage the New York story received, this instantly became a murder case as well, despite the fact that the deceased was brandishing a firearm.
These two men may have indeed been murdered in the legal sense; the point is that before the blood has congealed (let alone formal investigations being completed) in such instances there professional activists appear calling for riots, and a media feeding frenzy ensues that does far more to foment than inform. In the face of racially-heated news stories, these fools have lately developed the practice of giving airtime to the New Black Panther Party, whose slogan just happens to be “Freedom or Death.” Freedom from what? I’ve no idea. These are individuals who honestly believe that the first thought of each and every white person upon awakening is how to stick it to blacks that day.
A visit to their website (which made me feel like I needed a shower, by the way) quickly revealed that nearly all their principals possess – guess what – Muslim names. Given broadcast media venues, their spokesmen typically bark barely coherent ‘Sixties-era incongruencies about whites murdering black children and shout down flustered network correspondents.
When I seriously consider the motivations of the press and the far Left, it becomes sadly apparent that they would both view an outbreak of nationwide race riots as simply delicious. Again – insane and destructive, but think of the money they’ll make and the power they’d respectively gain!
A millionaire pop star flashes her privates and it’s a “publicity stunt.” In a sane society, she’d be charged with indecent exposure, her fan base would evaporate in a twinkling and she’d be pitied as a poor, unbalanced creature. After all, such acts used to be equated with unimaginable desperation or mental instability. In the context of our society at present and our current challenges, the fact that this titillates to the tune of top search engine rankings is the sickest part of all.
Now, I don’t bring all this up because of the recent political shift in our government, but I wager that we’ll see more overt evidence of societal decay as a result. Within hours after the midterm election, far Left elites became markedly more emboldened – as did our enemies abroad – in case no one has noticed.
I could go on and on with anecdotes across several areas of our society which illustrate the unthinking, delusion and sheer lunacy that is spreading across the country – and the grey matter of Americans – like some variety of voracious, flesh-eating bacteria. Moral relativists and other enemies at home and abroad have more and more success using our freedoms as the very weapons with which they are beating us to death, yet most of America remains too intimidated to speak out or act.
Fear, frustration and months of propaganda brought about one of the most potentially dangerous political developments of our time. They said “Bush lied” loud enough and long enough – and people finally bought it, despite there being no evidence whatsoever to support the statement, and cyclopean heaps of evidence to refute it.
Fear, avarice, and an apathetic public (the part which has not been misled outright) keep the system in place. It’s all well and good for social commentators – even famous ones – to tell it like it really is every now and then. As I said in my column Proretrogressives and the Last Wake-up Call, it’s going to take hardcore grass-roots initiatives to bring about the changes necessary to preserve our nation via political reformation and media negation: Boycotting corporations that support destructive lobbyists (even if they do produce a neat hybrid vehicle or a shampoo you swear by), calling out pretenders amongst the conservative ranks, refusing to settle for the nominations and elections of worthless, weak party hacks who happen to have the right parenthetical letter after their name, and going toe-to-toe with poverty pimps and class envy purveyors even if it means being called unpleasant names by mudheads in one’s community.
The brainwashed and the apathetic aren’t going to wake up on their own, either. Do you want to see your spouse and children gang-raped by laughing terrorists and then have your throat cut? No? Then get on board, because that’s what we’re up against.
What we really need is a president who is willing to tour America saying that, as during the days of the rail stop campaign – and decorum be damned.
Baker's Iraq Report Is A Study In Appeasement (Talk The Walk)
Ottawa Citizen - Canada
December 9, 2006
I was rewriting history, while walking along some cold lakeshore the other day. My thought was: if Churchill had only come to power in 1937, Chamberlain would have been installed to replace him in 1940.
Had Churchill been in power, and refused to sign Munich, he would have been blamed for the outbreak of war.
I can just hear the prattle in an English pub, circa 1950. "He pushed Hitler to it! Had it not been for Churchill, Hitler would have been satisfied with the Sudetenland, and England would never have had to surrender. Everything was Churchill's fault!"
Today, everything is Bush's fault.
The Iraq Study Group report, fully released in Washington this week, was ostensibly to the purpose of advancing bipartisan agreement on what to do in Iraq. As the commission's co-chairmen, Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton, wrote near the beginning: "U.S. foreign policy is doomed to failure if it is not supported by a broad, sustained consensus."
Good luck finding it. Mr Baker, in particular -- elected by no one -- instructs the U.S. President to follow not some, but all of the report’s 79 recommendations, some of them as fatuous as starting unconditional negotiations with Syria and Iran. This is not a “fruit salad”, Mr Baker insists. It is a grand strategy. To my mind, the sort of grand strategy the British Foreign Office came up with in the late 1930s: keep negotiating, keep retreating.
We could see the result of the call for consensus in the gleeful receipt of the report by the Washington media, and other Democrat partisans. For several days, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “reporters ransacked their thesauruses for words to unload pent-up antipathy toward the Bush White House: failed, repudiated, dire, abject failure, deeply pessimistic, disdain, replete with damning details, a rebuke, a remarkable condemnation.”
I foolishly ordered a goat curry in a neighbourhood West Indian establishment, Wednesday night. The food was great, but I was exposed to CNN for nearly half an hour: Paula Zahn and company "discussing" Baker-Hamilton, with a dig at Bush every 12th second. Again I'm amazed that, despite the 24/7 broadcast of such garbage, a significant proportion of Americans remain sane.
I am often amazed by feats of human endurance and stamina. The ability of my children to withstand the public school system, for instance. A certain lady's ability to survive Ontario health care. A White House spokesman’s ability to spot ways to finesse Baker-Hamilton to Mr Bush's advantage.
It is like this. The U.S., with precious little help from allies, who even in the case of Canada refuse to contribute anything like their fair share to the alliance’s military costs, for even the most conventional defensive preparedness on the home front, is fighting our common enemy in Iraq. We could be fighting them elsewhere, but that’s where our enemy’s efforts are concentrated at the moment -- as opposed to, say, the streets of Europe, or exposed infrastructure in North America. It is an enemy remorselessly committed to our annihilation, held up by proxy wars in the Middle East. We must therefore be committed to eliminating them, now and there, instead of here and later. This will not be done by negotiation and retreat.
And such media as CNN (perhaps unfairly singled out), persist in airing a worldview tantamount to blaming the police for the existence of crime. For the consistent argument of the talking heads amounts to, “We may need more troops on the ground in the short term, but the long-term answer is to get out.” Translation: “We may need more cops in the short term, to deal with the mess they’ve already stirred up, but the long-term solution can only be to let the criminals get on with it.”
To the criminal mind, even working on low wattage, the response to that has got to be “wait them out”. To the mind I call “gliberal” -- to distinguish it from the honourable and responsible tradition of liberal thought -- the very concept of a mortal enemy is beyond processing. Even those who recall what happened on Sept. 11th, 2001, have persuaded themselves that we are only a target because, after that fact, the U.S. went into Afghanistan and Iraq. The unspoken assumption is, withdraw from there, and our problems are over.
It is true that our problems there will be over, if we withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq. Well, perhaps the advantage of doing so would be, to show the Western electorate what comes next.
GOP Is Losing Its Libertarian Voters
David Boaz & David Kirby
Libertarian Party candidates may have cost Senators Jim Talent (R.-Mo.) and Conrad Burns (R.-Mont.) their seats, tipping the Senate to Democratic control.
In Montana, the Libertarian candidate got more than 10,000 votes, or 3%, while Democrat Jon Tester edged Burns by fewer than 3,000 votes. In Missouri, Claire McCaskill defeated Talent by 41,000 votes, a bit less than the 47,000 Libertarian votes.
This isn’t the first time Republicans have had to worry about losing votes to Libertarian Party candidates. Senators Harry Reid (Nev.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), and Tim Johnson (S.D.) all won races in which Libertarian candidates got more votes than their winning margin.
But a narrow focus on the Libertarian Party significantly underestimates the role libertarian voters played in 2006. Most voters who hold libertarian views don’t vote for the Libertarian Party. Libertarian voters likely cost Republicans the House and the Senate — also dealing blows to Republican candidates in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
In our study, “The Libertarian Vote,” we analyzed 16 years of polling data and found that libertarians constituted 13% of the electorate in 2004. Because libertarians are better educated and more likely to vote, they were 15% of actual voters.
Libertarians are broadly defined as people who favor less government in both economic and personal issues. They might be summed up as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” voters.
In the past, our research shows, most libertarians voted Republican — 72% for George W. Bush in 2000, for instance, with only 20 percent for Al Gore, and 70% for Republican congressional candidates in 2002. But in 2004, presumably turned off by war, wiretapping, and welfare-state spending sprees, they shifted sharply toward the Democrats. John F. Kerry got 38% of the libertarian vote. That was a dramatic swing that Republican strategists should have noticed. But somehow the libertarian vote has remained hidden in plain sight.
This year we commissioned a nationwide post-election survey of 1013 voters from Zogby International. We again found that 15 percent of the voters held libertarian views. We also found a further swing of libertarians away from Republican candidates. In 2006, libertarians voted 59% to 36% for Republican congressional candidates — a 24-point swing from the 2002 mid-term election. To put this in perspective, front-page stories since the election have reported the dramatic 7-point shift of white conservative evangelicals away from the Republicans. The libertarian vote is about the same size as the religious right vote measured in exit polls, and it is subject to swings more than three times as large.
Based on the turnout in 2004, Bush’s margin over Kerry dropped by 4.8 million votes among libertarians. Had he held his libertarian supporters, he would have won a smashing reelection rather than squeaking by in Ohio.
President Bush and the congressional Republicans left no libertarian button unpushed in the past six years: soaring spending, expansion of entitlements, federalization of education, cracking down on state medical marijuana initiatives, Sarbanes-Oxley, gay marriage bans, stem cell research restrictions, wiretapping, incarcerating U.S. citizens without a lawyer, unprecedented executive powers, and of course an unnecessary and apparently futile war. The striking thing may be that after all that, Democrats still looked worse to a majority of libertarians.
Because libertarians tend to be younger and better educated than the average voter, they’re not going away. They’re an appealing target for Democrats, but they are essential to future Republican successes. Republicans can win the South without libertarians. But this was the year that New Hampshire and the Mountain West turned purple if not blue, and libertarians played a big role there. New Hampshire may be the most libertarian state in the country; this year both the state’s Republican congressmen lost.
Meanwhile, in the Goldwateresque, “leave us alone” Mountain West, Republicans not only lost the Montana Senate seat; they also lost the governorship of Colorado, two House seats in Arizona, and one in Colorado. They had close calls in the Arizona Senate race and House races in Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Dick Cheney’s Wyoming. In libertarian Nevada, the Republican candidate for governor won less than a majority against a Democrat who promised to keep the government out of guns, abortion, and gay marriage. Arizona also became the first state to vote down a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Presidential candidates might note that even in Iowa libertarians helped vote out a Republican congressman who championed the Internet gambling ban.
If Republicans can’t win New Hampshire and the Mountain West, they can’t win a national majority. And they can’t win those states without libertarian votes. They’re going to need to stop scaring libertarian, centrist, and independent voters with their social-conservative obsessions and become once again the party of fiscal responsibility. In a Newsweek poll just before the election, 47% of respondents said they trusted the Democrats more on “federal spending and the deficit,” compared to just 31% who trusted the Republicans. That’s not Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party.
One more bit from our post-election Zogby poll: We asked voters if they considered themselves “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” A whopping 59% said they did. When we added to the question “also known as libertarian,” 44% still claimed that description. That’s too many voters for any party to ignore.
Rep. Barbara Cubin (R.-Wyo.) told her Libertarian challenger after a debate, “If you weren’t sitting in that [wheel]chair, I’d slap you.” It took 10 days to certify her re-election, perhaps because that Libertarian took more than 7,000 votes. A better strategy for her and other Republicans would be to try to woo libertarians back.
Mel's Latest: Brilliant Film, Inane Interpretation
December 7, 2006
Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” is an audacious, unforgettable triumph and, undoubtedly, one of the richest, most electrifying cinematic experiences of the year. In that context it’s unfortunate that the filmmaker has coupled his brilliance as a writer-director with a display of unalloyed idiocy as a commentator on his own work.
The stupidity began in September when he spoke to an audience in Austin, Texas after an early screening of his still unfinished film. At the time, he succeeded in getting advance attention for his work by drawing parallels between the fantastically brutal and dysfunctional Mayan civilization he portrays on screen and the current political situation in the United States. “The precursors to a civilization that’s going under are the same, time and time again,” he explained. “What’s human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?”
His comments came across like an unexpected punch-in-the-nose to many of the conservatives across the country who had rallied to his defense during the furious dispute over “The Passion of the Christ,” and even pleaded for forgiveness and reconciliation in his behalf in the wake of his toxic combination of drunk driving and anti-Semitic drivel.
Nevertheless, with his film finished, ready for its Friday (December 8) release, and overwhelming audiences everywhere with its eye-popping visual splendor and relentless narrative energy, the Gibsonian interpretation of his own work has gotten, if anything, even more inane.
The official press kit from Touchstone Pictures (a division the Disney Company) quotes Gibson as saying: “Throughout history, precursors to the fall of a civilization have always been the same, and one of the things that just kept coming up as we were writing is that many of the things that happened right before the fall of the Mayan civilization are occurring in our society now. It was important for me to make that parallel because you see these cycles repeating themselves over and over again. People think that modern man is so enlightened, but we’re susceptible to the same forces – and we are also capable of the same heroism and transcendence.”
The press kit also quotes Farhad Safinia, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gibson, making similar observations: “We discovered that what archeologists and anthropologists believe is that the daunting problems faced by the Maya are extraordinarily similar to those faced today by our own civilization, especially when it comes to widespread environmental degradation, excessive consumption and political corruption.”
On the one hand, these fatuous remarks distort the situation in the United States today -- far from “widespread environmental degradation,” for instance, the quality of our air and water has improved dramatically over the last thirty years, at the same time that reforestation has substantially enlarged the acreage of our already impressive woodlands.
Even more startling is the vast, unbridgeable gap between the politically correct comments by Gibson and his collaborator and the raw integrity of the film they actually made. Their observations about the “extraordinary similarity” between Mayan decadence and degeneracy and the realities of American life in the 21st century receive no support whatever from the thrilling adventure story that unfolds in the nearly two-and-a-half hours of the final version of “Apocalypto.” In fact, their interpretation of the project bears so little connection to the film itself that you wonder not only whether they truly made the movie, but whether they’ve ever actually seen it. Nothing — not one scene, one character, one set, or one passing detail in the film – in any way echoes contemporary America, even as seen by this society’s most embittered critics. The movie contains no sequences emphasizing “environmental degradation” (unless you count a heart-pounding chase through a corn field where the stalks look somewhat withered) or “political corruption.” (The spectacle of enslaving primitive tribesmen, binding them with ropes and sticks, marching them to your capital and then slashing open their chests to rip their hearts out in human sacrifice can’t rightly be described as “political corruption” — nor does this pagan savagery connect in any way with current controversies in our society. No matter how much Mr. Gibson may disapprove of the Iraq war, it’s a stretch to suggest that sacrificial victims captured very much against their will, and after their spirited struggle (and after their village has been utterly destroyed) bear any relationship to the volunteers who chose to fight in the Middle East.
The cruel, sadistic, masochistic, deeply demented culture of the Mayas, with its self-destructive emphasis on mutilation and mysticism, slavery and superstition, emerges with conviction and flair on the screen but will cause no one to think, “Oh, wow, that really reminds me of New York and LA!”
So why would a brilliant artist like Mel Gibson insist on ludicrously describing his masterpiece as a commentary on today’s social, cultural, political problems, when no sane viewer of his picture would note or even suspect those messages?
Perhaps Gibson is so eager to transcend the humiliation of his drunk driving incident, and to bury the lingering suspicions that “The Passion” (despite its huge commercial success) was a right-wing, hate-filled screed, that he’s saying stupid things that he believes will endear him to the “progressive” Hollywood establishment.
Clearly, the film (with dialogue in the ancient Yucatec language, with subtitles) represents a major risk and he needs great reviews to get the attention required for decent box office performance. By cooking up some preposterous lefty interpretation of Mayan collapse (is the big chieftain with the body scarring and the elaborate tattoos and the distended ears and the carved piece of jade in place of his nose supposed to represent George W. Bush?) Gibson may be trying to position his adrenalin-soaked, breathlessly paced chase picture as an “important, daring” message movie that indicts the U.S.
Even if there’s no basis whatever in the substance of the film for Mel’s alarmist, we’re-all-guilty-and-doomed commentary about US society, the attempt to fabricate a political subtext for a visceral, straight-ahead action-adventure may prove an effective strategy. The positioning of a relentlessly fast-moving thriller set in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula more than five hundred years ago as some searing, timely indictment of “over consumption” and “political corruption” in Bush-era USA, may force some high brow critics to take “Apocalypto” more seriously than they would without the pretentious preaching surround it’s release. There’s another advantage concerning the movie’s distribution overseas: Gibson’s comments will help to produce the warm reception in France that’s all-but-guaranteed for any work plausibly classified as anti-American.
Surrender By Any Other Name...
How did we go from winning the war in Iraq to losing overnight? Was this decided by the same committee that changed "Peking" to "Beijing"?
These word changes are a fortiori evidence that liberals are part of a conspiracy. On what date did "horrible" and "actress" vanish from the English language to be replaced with "horrific" and "actor"? Who decided that? (Meanwhile, I'm still writing "Puff Daddy" in my nightly dream journal when everybody else has started calling him "Diddy.")
When did "B.C." (before Christ) and "A.D." (anno Domini, "in the year of the Lord") get replaced with "BCE" (before the common era) and "CE" (common era)? "Withdrawal" is "redeployment," "liberal" is "progressive," and "traitorous" is "patriotic."
These new linguistic conventions -- like going from "winning" to "losing" in Iraq -- simply spread like an invisible bacterial invasion.
To be sure, last month the Democrats did win a narrow majority in Congress for the first time in more than a decade. And it cannot be denied that for the past 50 years, Democrats have orchestrated humiliating foreign policy defeats for America. So it is understandable that some might interpret their midterm gains as a mandate for another humiliating defeat.
But that's not what the Democrats told Americans when they were running for office. To the contrary, they claimed to be gun-totin' hawks. A shockingly high number of Democratic candidates this year actually fought in wars. And not just the war on poverty, either -- real wars, against men with guns.
It was a specific plan of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rep. Rahm Emanuel to fake out the voters by recruiting anti-war veterans to run against Republicans. (And when did "chairman" become "chair"?)
To the credit of the voters -- especially the American Legion and VFW -- the Democrats didn't fool enough Americans to even match the average midterm gains for the party out of power.
But the point is: You can't run as a phony patriot and then claim your victory is a mandate for surrender. That would be like awarding yourself undeserved Purple Hearts and then pretending to throw them over the White House wall in protest. No, that's not fair -- nothing could be as contemptible as throwing someone else's medals on the ground in protest.
Is it the report of the "Iraq Surrender Group" that suddenly caused everyone to say we're losing?
The ISG report was about what you'd expect if the ladies from "The View" were asked to come up with a victory plan for Iraq. We need to ask Syria to tell Hamas to stop calling for the destruction of Israel. Duh! "Dear Hamas, Do you like killing Jews, or do you LIKE killing Jews? Check yes or no."
Most of the esteemed members of the ISG were last seen on the "Dead or Alive?" Web site. Vernon Jordan's most recent claim to fame was getting Monica Lewinsky a job at Revlon when she was threatening Bill Clinton with the truth. He's going to figure out an honorable way to get out of Iraq?
We're still trying to figure out a six-part test from some decision Sandra Day O'Connor wrote back in 1984, but now she's going to tell us what to do in Iraq.
Have things changed on the ground in Iraq? Are our troops being routed? Hardly. The number of U.S. fatalities has gone from a high of 860 deaths in 2004 to 845 in 2005, to 695 through November of this year. If the Islamic fascists double their rate of killing Americans in the next month, there will still be fewer American fatalities in Iraq this year than in the previous two years.
Admittedly, it would be a little easier to track our progress in Iraq if the Pentagon would tell us how many of them we're killing, but apparently our Pentagon is too spooked by the insurgents posing as civilians to mention the deaths of our enemies.
Moreover, it might seem churlish to mention the number of Islamic lunatics we've killed during the holy month of Ramadan. Half the time we do anything to them, it's "the holy month of Ramadan." It's always Ramadan. When on Earth is Ramadan over?
It's true that no one anticipated that al-Qaida sympathizers would stream into Iraq to fight the Great Satan after Saddam fled to a spider hole, but that's because everyone expected al-Qaida to be fighting us here.
Like "Peking," that's something else we can't say anymore: the amazing absence of another 9/11-style terrorist attack in the past five years. The heart of the insurgency in Iraq is, by definition, composed of Islamic terrorists who hate the Great Satan, own an overnight bag and are willing to travel to kill Americans. But don't worry: The Iraq Surrender Group feels sure they won't come here if we pull out of Iraq.
If absolutely nothing changed in Iraq over the next few years -- if it didn't continue to get better and if the savages never lost heart (I'm assuming they subscribe to "TimesSelect") -- by 2010, 6,000 brave American troops will have died to prevent another 9/11 terrorist attack on American soil for a decade.
If that's a war Americans think we're "losing," Osama bin Laden was right: We are a paper tiger.
The Lonely President
Free Republic (excerpted) Posting
The American presidency has been called "A Glorious Burden" by the Smithsonian Museum, and the loneliest job in the world by historians. As we approach Christmas 2006 Anno Domini, President Bush is surely fully seized of the loneliness and burden of his office.
For rarely has a president stood more alone at a moment of high crisis than does our president now as he makes his crucial policy decisions on the Iraq War. His political opponents stand triumphant, yet barren of useful guidance. Many -- if not most -- of his fellow party men and women in Washington are rapidly joining his opponents in a desperate effort to save their political skins in 2008. Commentators who urged the president on in 2002-03, having fallen out of love with their ideas, are quick to quibble with and defame the president.
James Baker, being called out of his business dealings by Congress to advise the president, has delivered a cynical document intended to build a political consensus for "honorable" surrender. Richard Haas (head of the Council on Foreign Relations) spoke approvingly of the Baker report on "Meet the Press," saying: " It's incredibly important...that the principle lesson [of our intervention in Iraq] not be that the United States is unreliable or we lacked staying power...to me it is essentially important for the future of this country that Iraq be seen, if you will, as Iraq's failure, not as America's failure."
That such transparent sophism from the leader of the American foreign policy establishment is dignified with the title of realism only further exemplifies the loneliness of the president in his quest for a workable solution to the current danger.
Not surprisingly the most recent polls show just 21 percent approval of his handling of the war -- an 8 percent drop since the election, and that mostly from Republicans and conservatives. Overall, his job approval level is down to 31 percent.
If Washington gossip is right, even many of the president's own advisers in the White House and the key cabinet offices have given up on success. Official Washington, the media and much of the public have fallen under the unconscionable thrall of defeatism. Which is to say that they cannot conceive of a set of policies -- for a nation of 300 million with an annual GDP of over $12 trillion and all the skills and technologies known to man -- to subdue the city of Baghdad and environs. Do you think Gen. Patton or Abe Lincoln or Winston Churchill or Joseph Stalin would have thrown their hands up and said, "I give up, there's nothing we can do"?
Or do you suppose they would have said, let's send in as many troops as we can assemble to hold on while we raise more troops to finish the job. If the victory is that important -- and it is -- then failure must be unthinkable, even if it takes another five or 10 years.
And yet, when I exclusively interviewed two members of the Baker commission last week, they explicitly told me that they didn't propose increased troop strength because their military advisers told them it wasn't currently available.
Well, in 1943, we didn't have the troop strength for D-Day in 1944, and in 1863, we didn't have the troop strength (or the strategies) for the victory of 1865. But we had enough to hold on until the troops could be recruited and trained (and winning strategies developed). And so we do today. I have been told by reliable military experts that we can introduce upward of 50,000 combat troops promptly -- enough to hold on until more help can be on the way.
Sometimes, current tactical logistical weaknesses must not be used as an excuse for, or a signal of, strategic failure. In 1861, newly elected President Abraham Lincoln faced such a dilemma over the siege of Ft. Sumter. He had decided to ignore his military advice to surrender the fort. While the final published version of his explanation for this decision in his July 4, 1861 Message to Congress did not reflect his personal anxiety in coming to that decision, it might be useful to President Bush to read Lincoln's first, unpublished, draft -- which did reflect his mental anguish as he tried to decide. All his military advisers, after due consideration, believed that Fort Sumter had to be evacuated. But Lincoln's first draft read:
"In a purely military point of view, this reduced the duty of the administration, in this case, to the mere matter of getting the garrison safely out of the Fort -- in fact, General Scott advised that this should be done at once -- I believed, however, that to do so would be utterly ruinous -- that the necessity under which it was to be done, would not be fully understood -- that, by many, it would be construed as a part of a voluntary policy -- that at home, it would discourage the friends of the Union, embolden its foes, and insure to the latter a recognition of independence abroad -- that, in fact, it would be our national destruction consummated. I hesitated." (see "Lincoln's Sword," pp 79-80; by Douglas Wilson).
Lincoln was alone in the self-same rooms now occupied by George Bush. All his cabinet and all his military advisors had counseled a path Lincoln thought would lead to disaster. He was only a month in office and judged by most of Washington -- including much of his cabinet -- to be a country bumpkin who was out of his league, an accidental president. Alone, and against all advice he made the right decision -- as he would do constantly until victory.
Mr. President, you are not alone. The ghost of Old Abe is on your shoulder. God Bless you and Merry Christmas.
Our Iron Lady
R. Emmett Tyrell Jr.
It was at Jeane Kirkpatrick's funeral this week that I finally heard of some good achieved by the United Nations amidst all its dithering and graft. According to Jeane's pastor, during her momentous tenure as our U.N. ambassador, Jeane was so wobbled by the international body's cynicism and moral emptiness that she forsook years of atheism and became a person of faith. Mind you, she had always had an abundance of secular faith before President Ronald Reagan tapped her for the United Nations. Her faith in the American way of life, its freedom, democracy and equality was as ardent as it was intelligently conceived. But after leaving the house of hustlers on the East River, she became deeply Christian; and religion gently informed all she thought and did thereafter.
Jeane has been the paradigmatic 20th century intellectual of the good sort. She began her intellectual life a socialist and an atheist. As those two sacred cows revealed their barnyard primitivism she reassessed the evidence. She became a Hubert Humphrey Democrat with her beloved husband, "Kirk," the legendary head of the American Political Science Association who through his tenure kept it a serious instrument of American scholarship. But by the 1970s many liberal Democrats were beginning their long dissipation into fantasy and the megalomania that we witness today. After a historic 1980 meeting with President Jimmy Carter, Jeane made it clear that enough was enough. Seeking the support of liberal intellectuals, Carter had summoned her and a handful of others into his pert presence. He worked his magic, and when she led her contingent of eggheads onto the White House front lawn she revealed to the waiting press corps the extent of Carter's political genius. For the first time in her life Jeane would support a Republican, Ronald Reagan. It was the beginning of a working relationship that led to deep friendship. Her respect for Reagan only deepened through the years.
With other liberal Democrats drawn mostly from the camps of Humphrey and Sen. Henry Jackson, Jeane came to be called a neoconservative. The movement began in the late 1970s and pretty much concluded in the late 1980s. Today's neoconservatives are mostly misnomers, the consequence of journalism's invincible ignorance. The original neocons broadened American conservatism and distinguished themselves by their independence of mind, their courage and their principled defense of the American way of life. They were very serious thinkers, often political scientists. Jeane and her husband, who had also been her teacher, fought for years to maintain high intellectual standards in academe.
This readiness for combat Jeane brought into her political life and to her wide-ranging intellectual interests. She was always a lady, never without refinement; but with her keen mind and natural courage she never flinched if principles were at stake. Her public defiance of bullies both in domestic politics and in the United Nations is well known. Less well known is the counsel and loyalty she gave friends under fire. On the board of The American Spectator she was true blue when the Clinton administration harassed us with its grand jury and its journalistic hacks. In board meetings she was equally stalwart when anyone tried to take advantage of her colleagues under siege. Jeane was very American. I recall one gloomy night with her at dinner when the Spectator's prospects seemed bleak. Softly and wryly she sang a line from an old American folk song, "Nobody loves ya when you're down and out." And as the dinner progressed the fire she had shone on the floor at the United Nations ignited: "You stick to your guns." Only one other person fortified me with advice like that, Lady Thatcher, who asseverated, "If you have nothing else you have your principles."
Jeane was a fine writer with a gift for the memorable line: "San Francisco Democrats," or "blame America first." The validation of her political writing was on display the week she died, most notably the validation of her "Dictatorships and Double Standards." Three days after her death the right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet died, as a private citizen at home in prosperous, democratic Chile. In Cuba the communist dictator Fidel Castro is about to die, still a dictator, still a menace to the democratic West, and about to hand over his despotism to his communist brother. Twenty-seven years ago Jeanne predicted such a scenario.
Of all her achievements her most precious, however, was her achievement as mother and wife. She was devoted to her sons and to her husband. At her funeral one of her surviving sons recalled her telling him, "My strength is your father." Friends suspected as much. She cited Kirk often. Her son recalls a more recent declaration from her. With eight decades of growing virtue in her wake but tired by a weakening heart, she told him that that she would die in the bedroom of her Maryland home before her next birthday. And so she did.
'The Man From Nowhere' -- What Does Barack Obama Believe On?
Free Republic (excerpted) Posting
December 15, 2006
We are getting very excited. Barack Obama is brilliant, eloquent and fresh. He is "exciting" (David Brooks), "charming" (Bob Schieffer), "my favorite guy" (Oprah Winfrey), has "charisma" (Donna Brazile), and should run now for president (George Will). Our political and media establishments, on the rebound from bad history, are sounding like Marlene Dietrich in her little top hat. Falling in luff again, vot am I to do, vot am I to do, kont hellllllp eet.
Well, down from your tippy toes, establishment.
He is obviously planning to run. This week he was in New Hampshire -- rapturous reviews, sold-out fund-raisers -- and before that, Iowa. His second book is his second best seller and the biggest-selling nonfiction title in the nation. The intro he taped for "Monday Night Football" -- in an Aaron Sorkin-like setting of gleaming desk and important lighting -- showed he is an actor who can absorb the script and knows by nature what a camera is. This is a compliment. All the great presidents of the media age, FDR, JFK and Reagan, were great actors of the presidency. (The one non-great president who was their equal in this, Bill Clinton, proved that acting is not enough.)
He has obvious appeal. I asked a Young Democrat college student why he liked him. After all, I said, he has little experience. That's part of what I like, he said. "He's not an insider, he's not just a D.C. politician."
He is uncompromised by a past, it is true. He is also unburdened by a record, unworn by achievement, unwearied by long labors.
What does he believe? What does he stand for? This is, after all, the central question. When it is pointed out that he has had almost -- almost -- two years in the U.S. Senate, and before that was an obscure state legislator in Illinois, his supporters compare him to Lincoln. But Lincoln had become a national voice on the great issue of the day, slavery. He rose with a reason. Sen. Obama's rise is not about a stand or an issue or a question; it is about Sen. Obama. People project their hopes on him, he says.
He's exactly right. Just so we all know it's projection.
He doesn't have an issue, he has a thousand issues, which is the same as having none, in the sense that a speech about everything is a speech about nothing. And on those issues he seems not so much to be guided by philosophy as by impulses, sentiments. From "The Audacity of Hope," his latest book: "[O]ur democracy might work a bit better if we recognized that all of us possess values that are worthy of respect." "I value good manners." When not attempting to elevate the bromidic to the profound, he lapses into the language of political consultants -- "our message," "wedge issues," "moral language." Ronald Reagan had "a durable narrative." Parts of the book, the best parts, are warm, anecdotal, human. But much of it pretends to a seriousness that is not borne out. When speaking of the political past he presents false balance and faux fairness. (Reagan, again, despite his "John Wayne, Father Knows Best pose, his policy by anecdote and his gratuitous assaults on the poor" had an "appeal" Sen. Obama "understood." Ronnie would be so pleased.)
The world is difficult now, unlike those days when America enjoyed "the near unanimity forged by the Cold War, and the Soviet threat." Near unanimity? This is rewriting the past in a way that suggests a deep innocence of history, or a slippery approach to the facts.
Sen. Obama spent his short lifetime breathing in the common liberal/leftist wisdom, which he exhales at length. This is not something new -- it's something old in a new package. And it is something that wins you what he has, a series of 100% ratings from left-liberal interest groups.
He is, clearly, a warm-blooded political animal, an eager connector, a man of intelligence and a writer whose observations suggest the possibility of an independence of spirit. Also a certain unknowability. Which may account for some of his popularity.
But again, what does he believe? From reading his book, I would say he believes in his destiny. He believes in his charisma. He has the confidence of the anointed. He has faith in the magic of the man who meets his moment.
He also believes in the power of good nature, the need for compromise, and the possibility of comprehensive, multitiered, sensible solutions achieved through good-faith negotiations.
But mostly it seems to be about him, his sense of destiny, and his appreciation of his own particular gifts. Which leaves me thinking Oh dear, we have been here before. It's not as if we haven't already had a few of the destiny boys. It's not as if we don't have a few more in the wings.
It seems to me that our political history has been marked the past 10 years by lurches, reactions and swerves, and I wonder if historians will see the era that started in the mid-'90s as The Long Freakout. First the Clinton era left more than half the country appalled -- deeply appalled, and ashamed--by its series of political, financial and personal scandals. I doubt the Democratic Party will ever fully understand the damage done in those days. In reaction the Republican Party lurched in its presidential decision toward a relatively untested (five years in the governor's office, before that very little) man whom party professionals chose, essentially, because "He can win" and the base endorsed because he seemed the opposite of Bill Clinton. The 2000 election was a national trauma, and I'm not sure Republicans fully understand what it did to half the Democrats in the country to think the election was stolen, or finagled, or arranged by unseen powers. Then 9/11. Now we have had six years of high drama and deep division, and again a new savior seems to beckon, one who is so clearly Not Bush.
We'll see what Sen. Obama has, what he is, what he becomes. But right now he seems part of a pattern of lurches and swerves -- the man from nowhere, of whom little is known, who will bring us out of the mess. His sudden rise and wild popularity seem more symptom than solution. And I wonder if historians will call this chapter in their future histories of the modern era not "A Decision Is Made" but "The Freakout Continues."
The Mark Of Cain
Front Page Magazine
December 18, 2006
In October, the British medical journal The Lancet published a study by researchers from the Johns Hop-kins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Baghdad’s Al Mustansiriya University, alleging that “654,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003,” than would have died had Saddam Hussein remained in power. That research was quickly subjected to expert scrutiny, and questions about its methodology cast doubt on its findings.
The publication’s timing was perhaps no coincidence, as it came before the November 2006 U.S. congressional elections. The study supposed that, on average, “a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every single day in the first half of 2006, with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms” – in the critical words of the independent Iraqi Body Count. The IBC stands by its daily reporting of Iraqi casualties, which of late, as the American mid-term elections approached, peaked at about a hundred fatalities daily.
Yet too many Iraqis are dead, wounded and marked by torture, not from the U.S. war for regime change, but going back to 1968, when Saddam Hussein seized power in Baghdad. By inflating Iraqi deaths since March 2003, The Lancet article trivializes Iraqi suffering under his rule. Further, it is churlish to politicize the casualties from wars to end tyranny and free a people traumatized by brutal regimes. The liberation of Iraq caused unavoidable deaths, as did the liberation of Europe and Japan in World War Two. Any effort to end genocide in Darfur will cause Sudanese casualties, as did Vietnam’s 1979 intervention to stop Pol Pot’s slaughter of Cambodians, or the Tanzanian army’s liberation of Uganda from murderous Idi Amin.
This October, IBC estimated the maximum number of Iraqi dead following Saddam’s overthrow at more than 49,000, including the casualties of operations by the U.S.-led coalition and those killed by both Iraqi criminals and foreign jihadists. And this figure comes with the usual caveats of reporting from multiple sources in a fluid insurgency. Apart from the discrepancy between the IBC and Lancet counts, what is seen most clearly here is the reluctance of western sources to report the terrible reality of Muslim on Muslim violence throughout the Arab-Muslim world.
Iraqi casualties from the radical Islamist insurgency and sectarian Sunni-Shia violence exceed those from American-led military operations. The Bush administration may perhaps be faulted for not anticipating that level of violence and civilian casualties – but only in hindsight. No one in Washington or London could have imagined the ferocity of the militants who punish the Iraqis who opt for freedom. To anticipate such Muslim on Muslim violence would have required an admission of that tendency within Muslim history. No regional expert in the White House, nor even the astute historian of the region Bernard Lewis, warned ahead of Iraq’s liberation that Islamist insurgency might seek to drown Iraqi freedom in blood and tears.
Muslim on Muslim violence is intrinsic to Arab-Muslim history. The tribal lust for power and cruelty in warfare are not unique to Middle East culture. But such tribalism warped Islam as a faith tradition in the early seventh century, right at the outset of the post-prophetic years. Among its first victims were Prophet Mohammed’s family members: his cousin and son-in-law Ali, and his grandsons Hasan and Husayn.
Al Qaeda chief in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed this June, had come there from Jordan to precipitate a naked Sunni-Shia sectarian war. He had a large following in Jordan, and his mayhem in Iraq was not widely condemned by Arab leaders. His political violence was not an anomaly to his culture. Neither is Osama bin Laden’s ideology alien to Saudi Arabia’s sort of Islam, exported throughout the Sunni Muslim world. We have witnessed uninhibited Muslim on Muslim violence in Taliban Afghanistan, Darfur’s rolling genocide, the decade-long siege of Algeria, Saddam’s massacre of Iraqi Kurds, the bloodletting among Palestinians, and the clan warfare in Somalia.
Muslim on Muslim violence, crippling the Arab-Muslim world, is documented in R.J. Rummel’s Statistics of Democide. He provides the grisly example of Pakistan’s 1971 genocide in East Pakistan, which “succeeded in killing perhaps 1,500,000 people, created 10,000,000 refugees who had fled to India, provoked a war with India, [and] incited a countergenocide of 150,000 non-Bengalis.” As a young adult, I saw firsthand what Rummel describes.
The Lancet article’s flaw was worse than just questionable methodology. It shifted the Arab-Muslim culpability in Iraq’s bloodletting to the American-led coalition. It made room for Arabs and Muslims to deny their responsibility in making their own grim history.
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