Friday, March 31, 2006

Die Grosse Stille

My son told me about this movie. So, when I saw this article on Chiesa I thought I'd post it.
Everyone to the Cinema, to Listen to “The Great Silence”

The film was shot at the Grande Chartreuse in Grenoble, and is 162 minutes of pure contemplation. In Germany, it has met with surprising success. And now it has come to Rome

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, March 30, 2006 – It was previewed on March 26 in the cathedral of Genoa and on March 28 at the Pontifical Gregorian University. On the 31st it will be released in the movie theatres of Rome and the rest of Italy. Benedict XVI also knows about it, and might see it. The film comes from his homeland of Germany, where it has had surprising success with the public.

The original title in German is “Die Grosse Stille,” the great silence. It is a title that is more than appropriate for 162 uninterrupted minutes of pure contemplation. The soundtrack is made only of the chiming of bells, nighttime psalmody, footsteps, wind, rain, and very little else.

It’s just like the passage of God in the First Book of Kings, 19:11-13:

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and powerful wind tore through the mountains, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was the whispering of a gentle wind.”

These words – like others in the Bible that are no less powerful – appear on the screen repeatedly throughout the film. But these repetitions are always fresh, like the liturgies in Gregorian chant, the seasons of nature, and the daily lives of the monks of the Grande Chartreuse.

Because the only characters in the film are the monks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery of Grenoble, in the French Alps, the mother of all the Carthusian monasteries in the world.

Philip Gröning, 46, from Düsseldorf in Germany, lived there for six months, armed only with a movie camera and a Super 8. He did everything himself: staging, production, direction, filming, sound, editing. There is no artificial lighting, no music, no offscreen narration.

But this is exactly where the film’s appeal lies. It is humble and transparent. It reveals without explaining. It penetrates the soul like a fertile seed.

The timing of the film was that of the monks themselves, to whom Gröning presented his idea for the first time 19 years ago. And they responded to him: “In 13 years, maybe.” They called him back in 1999. The film was ready in 2005, and was presented at the Venice Film Festival, in the category called ‘Orizzonti’ (horizons), which is dedicated to experimental films.

But no one would have bet on the astonishing public success that the film had last winter in Germany, topping even the latest Harry Potter film. And yet this is precisely what happened.

Yet the Carthusians are the most hidden of all monks, the least inclined to release news about themselves, the farthest from seeking proselytes. The novices – in the film, there is one who came from Africa – join the Carthusians in mysterious, unplanned ways.

That so many viewers are seeking out the contemplative silence of “Die Grosse Stille” is a sign of the need in these times.

By coincidence, at the same time as the film is coming to the Italian theatres, there is growing attention to Carthusian monasticism in Italy and in the world.

On Sunday, March 26, in Argentina, the popular newspaper “Clarin” published an extensive survey, entitled “A solas con Dios,” of the only Carthusian monastery in the country, at Deán Funes, not far from Córdoba. Its author, Leonardo Torresi, wrote it on a scale and in a style not unlike the cinematographic style of “Die Grosse Stille.”

In Italy, "Avvenire," the newspaper of the bishops' conference, published an editorial by Fabio Falzone on Gröning's film, on March 22. And on March 29, it dedicated two full pages of its cultural section to the film, with commentaries from theologian Pierangelo Sequeri and poet Roberto Mussapi. Other newspapers showed similar interest.

Furthermore, the publisher Rubbettino has come out with a book by Enzo Romeo, entitled “I solitari di Dio [God‘s Solitaries].” It is dedicated to the Carthusian monastery of Serra San Bruno in Calabria, founded in the eleventh century by the saint and founder of the Carthusian order.

The book comes with a DVD of the documentary filmed by Romeo in the same Carthusian monastery and broadcast two years ago by RAI, the Italian state television.

To these signs of great public interest in the “great silence” characteristic of the Carthusians, others can be added, relating more to monastic life in general.

In Great Britain, the program “The Monastery,” which the BBC aired in May of 2005 to a wide audience, will soon be followed by a new series entitled “The Convent.” In the new program, four women spend six weeks sharing in the life at the Poor Clare monastery of Arundel, in the south of England.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

How Was My First Time Parachuting?

It Was OK.

Well, Actually It Wasn't So Great.
Jack Bauer and Rush

How cool is that!
(just had to post this again :-)

Ann Coulter Checking In

NY Times, Broken Clock: Both Occasionally Right
Ann Coulter

The New York Times has been urgently warning Congressional Republicans to abandon the Iraq War or face ruination in the November elections. Of course, for three years now, the Times has predicted that all world leaders who supported the war would be thrown out of office on their ears.

However embattled they are, I don't think Republicans are at the point of taking advice from the mainstream media, but let's look at the facts.

Four major world leaders who sent troops to Iraq have faced elections since the war's inception -- Jose Maria Aznar in Spain, John Howard in Australia, Tony Blair in Britain and Junichiro Koizumi in Japan. Three of them won re-elections in campaigns that centered on their support for the Iraq war.

Only in Spain did voters capitulate to savagery and vote in an al-Qaida-friendly government in response to their trains being bombed the week before the election. Unaware that there is NO CONNECTION between al-Qaida and Iraq, al-Qaida's European spokesman explained that the terrorist attack was intended to punish Spain for supporting the Iraq war. Spanish voters duly complied, making terrorist attacks in the rest of the world more likely. Muchas gracias, Spano-weenies.

But in the three other elections, Iraq war-supporting prime ministers won historic victories. During the run-up to each of these elections, The New York Times described them as referendums on the war and predicted defeat for any leader who had supported war in Iraq. Only when the war-supporting leaders won did the Times change its mind and decide these elections were really about the economy, privatizing the post office, Tony Blair's tie, "The Sopranos" -- anything but the war.

In the run-up to Australian Prime Minister Howard's re-election, the Times noted that he had "made the alliance with Washington a key element of his tenure." The Times was hopeful that Australia would be as pathetic as Spain, noting that "with al-Qaida threatening reprisals for the country's support of the United States in Iraq -- a war that most Australians opposed -- is Australia poised to become the next Spain? Will it become the next country to abandon President Bush?"

On the eve of Howard's re-election bid in October 2004, the Times ran an article titled: "War in Iraq Plays a Role in Elections in Australia," saying Howard's opponents promised to "have the troops home by Christmas."

When Howard walloped the opposition in the election a few days later, becoming only the third prime minister of Australia ever to be elected to a fourth term, the Times headline was: "Australians Re-Elect Howard As Economy Trumps the War."

As Blair approached British elections in April 2005, the Times ran an article titled: "With 10 Days to British Vote, War Emerges as Top Issue." As the Times cheerfully reminded its readers: "The prospect of war drew huge street protests here in early 2003, and in the aftermath Mr. Blair was -- and is still is -- accused by many people of misleading Britons about the legality and the rationale for the invasion." The war had "damaged Mr. Blair's credibility and left many Britons mistrustful of him."

The Times cited "many Britons" who said "their vote will be swayed by the fact that, while Mr. Blair spoke so forcefully of a threat from Iraqi unconventional weapons, none were ever found."

And then Blair went on to win the election, becoming the first Labor Party candidate to win a third term in the party's 100-year history. It was almost as if "many other Britons" believed in the cause the British military was fighting for in Iraq! The Times took solace in the fact that his margin was lower than in previous elections -- "reflecting his unpopularity over the war in Iraq."

One year before elections in Japan, the Times was predicting defeat for Koizumi, a loyal friend to President Bush and an implacable supporter of the war in Iraq.

Reporting on the unpopularity of the Iraq War in Japan, the Times said "polls indicate that the population is against an extension" of Japanese troops serving in Iraq and that the opposition vowed to withdraw troops. Indeed, "some members of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's own party have been calling for the troops' withdrawal."

And then in September 2005, Koizumi's party won a landslide. The Times described this as mainly a victory for the prime minister's idea to privatize the post office, explaining that Koizumi had won "by making postal privatization -- an arcane issue little understood by most voters -- a litmus test for reform," thus confirming the age-old political truism, "Most elections hinge on arcane, obscure issues voters don't know or care about."

As congressional Republicans decide whether to take the Times' advice and back away from the war this election year, they might reflect on a fourth world leader who won re-election while supporting the Iraq war. Just about four months before Bush was re-elected in 2004, the Times put this on its front page: "President Bush's job approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The poll found Americans stiffening their opposition to the Iraq war, worried that the invasion could invite domestic terrorist attacks."

Maybe it was his support for the post office.

Copyright 2006 Ann Coulter

I (Don't) Want to Hold Your Hand

Here's a funny story (funny to me at least) of the spat between Apple Computer and Apple Records regarding iTunes.

I love the line towards the end of the story: Apple Records felt that Apple Computer's getting into the music distribution business with its iTunes service violated their agreement -- and the final straw for them was when Apple approached them for permission to sell Beatles songs via iTunes!

The other part I find interesting is how technology tends to outpace the contracts and agreements we make. Apple Records and Apple Computer had a deal. Records would stay in the music business and Computers would stay in the computer business. This deal was made years before the web and the concept of digitized music being downloaded over the internet and being played on computers. Who'd a thunk it!

Beatles' Record Label
Wants Apple to Change
Logo on iTunes Product

March 30, 2006; Page B3

LONDON – Playing a 1970s disco hit to illustrate his point, a lawyer for the Beatles' record company asked a British court to order Apple Computer Inc. to stop using the Apple logo to promote its iTunes music store.

Geoffrey Vos, a lawyer for the Beatles' Apple Corps, told England's High Court that Apple Computer had engaged in a "flagrant violation" of an agreement the two sides had previously reached over use of the Apple name and logo.

The case could settle a long-running flap between the companies over use of the Apple brand name. In 1991, after more than 100 days in court, the companies agreed to share use of the name. Apple Computer, of Cupertino, Calif., was allowed to use the brand for computers as well as for equipment and software to distribute music. London's Apple Corps had the right to use it to produce and sell music.

Then Apple began promoting its iTunes service, a popular computer program that allows people to download songs from the Internet and transfer them to Apple's iPod portable music players. The Beatles' company argued in court that iTunes violated the agreement by placing the Apple logo on the program and in advertisements for it.

The case requires the judge, Edward Mann, to interpret an agreement over the sale and distribution of music that was written before the phrase "music download" came into existence. Apple Computer is scheduled to begin laying out its case today. The hearing is expected to end next week.

The case is likely to hinge on whether Apple Computer is found to be packaging and selling music or merely distributing it. Mr. Vos cited examples that he said showed Apple had eagerly entered the music industry, including paying for recording sessions for singers Elvis Costello and P.J. Harvey. He presented technical information about the ability of the iTunes program to alter song formats, which he said proved Apple was more than a music distributor.

"What they want now is to be in the music business," Mr. Vos told the court. "Which is okay as long as they use a name that is unrelated [to Apple]."

To show how the iTunes store works, Mr. Vos downloaded a track during yesterday's hearing. He played part of the song "Le Freak," by '70s band Chic.

The Beatles' company wants the judge to find that Apple Computer is in breach of their 1991 deal and to order Apple to stop using its logo on the program and in iTunes advertisements. If Apple Computer is found to have violated the agreement, the Beatles' company would be able to seek damages. The iTunes service wouldn't be shut down.

The companies have discussed the matter for years. In January 2003, Apple Computer asked Apple Corps to put Beatles' songs on the iTunes service. The Beatles' company, unhappy with Apple Computer's move into music, refused. Two months later, Apple Computer Chief Executive Steve Jobs offered to buy the name Apple Records for $1 million, Mr. Vos said. The Beatles' company rejected the offer. The band's songs still aren't among the 3.6 million offered on iTunes.

Rush and Jack Bauer

how cool is that!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"It was murder in the eyes of God"

Open Letter to Michael Schiavo

3/25/2006 8:38:00 PM

WASHINGTON, March 25 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, and an eyewitness to Terri Schiavo's final hours, released the following open letter to Michael Schiavo tonight. Fr. Pavone will read it to a worldwide audience on an internationally broadcast religious service on Sunday morning, March 26:

A year ago this week, I stood by the bedside of the woman you married and promised to love in good times and bad, in sickness and health. She was enduring a very bad time, because she hadn't been given food or drink in nearly two weeks. And you were the one insisting that she continue to be deprived of food and water, right up to her death. I watched her face for hours on end, right up to moments before her last breath. Her death was not peaceful, nor was it beautiful. If you saw her too, and noticed what her eyes were doing, you know that to describe her last agony as peaceful is a lie.

This week, tens of millions of Americans will remember those agonizing days last year, and will scratch their heads trying to figure out why you didn't simply let Terri's mom, dad, and siblings take care of her, as they were willing to do. They offered you, again and again, the option to simply let them care for Terri, without asking anything of you. But you refused and continued to insist that Terri's feeding be stopped. She had no terminal illness. She was simply a disabled woman who needed extra care that you weren't willing to give.

I speak to you today on behalf of the tens of millions of Americans who still wonder why. I speak to you today to express their anger, their dismay, their outraged astonishment at your behavior in the midst of this tragedy. Most people will wonder about these questions in silence, but as one of only a few people who were eyewitnesses to Terri's dehydration, I have to speak.

I have spoken to you before, not in person, but through mass media. Before Terri's feeding tube was removed for the last time, I appealed to you with respect, asking you not to continue on the road you were pursuing, urging you to reconsider your decisions, in the light of the damage you were doing. I invited you to talk. But you did not respond.

Then, after Terri died, I called her death a killing, and I called you a murderer because you knew -- as we all did -- that ceasing to feed Terri would kill her. We watched, but you had the power to save her. Her life was in your hands, but you threw it away, with the willing cooperation of attorneys and judges who were as heartless as you were. Some have demanded that I apologize to you for calling you a murderer. Not only will I not apologize, I will repeat it again. Your decision to have Terri dehydrated to death was a decision to kill her. It doesn't matter if Judge Greer said it was legal. No judge, no court, no power on earth can legitimize what you did. It makes no difference if what you did was legal in the eyes of men; it was murder in the eyes of God and of millions of your fellow Americans and countless more around the world. You are the one who owes all of us an apology.

Your actions offend us. Not only have you killed Terri and deeply wounded her family, but you have disgraced our nation, betrayed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and undermined the principles that hold us together as a civilized society. You have offended those who struggle on a daily basis to care for loved ones who are dying, and who sometimes have to make the very legitimate decision to discontinue futile treatment. You have offended them by trying to confuse Terri's circumstances with theirs. Terri's case was not one of judging treatment to be worthless -- which is sometimes the case; rather, it was about judging a life to be worthless, which is never the case.

You have made your mark on history, but sadly, it is an ugly stain. In the name of millions around the world, I call on you today to embrace a life of repentance, and to ask forgiveness from the Lord, who holds the lives of each of us in His hands.

-- Fr. Frank Pavone

Priests for Life is the nation's largest Catholic pro-life organization dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia. For more information, visit

Psalm 23

The King James version of this Psalm is the best. Moreover, is it possible to "exhaust" this Psalm? I mean, I can read it again and again and it is just as fresh and powerful the last time as the first.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Crisis Over

Apple Store
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Monday, March 27, 2006

Life Without iPod -- Is There?


Saturday, March 25, 2006

This Tiger Wanted to be a seal -- as in SEAL
(saw this via Froggy Ruminations)

Tiger Woods Visits Naval Special Warfare

Blackanthem Military News, CORONADO, Calif., February 01, 2006 13:35

Pro golfer Tiger Woods viewing a static display of various SEAL weaponry. Tiger was in San Diego for the Buick Invitational Golf Tournament and spent the afternoon learning about the Special Operations Community. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

Pro golfer Tiger Woods visited the men and women of Naval Special Warfare Jan. 23 to tour their facilities and learn more about their mission.

Woods was in town for the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, in which he is the defending champion, and wanted to see some of the Navy’s champion SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC). The visit gave him a glimpse into the training and capabilities of the Navy’s finest warriors.

Woods learned about SEAL training and the various weapons they use, and then addressed Sailors who were preparing to enter the SEAL training program.

"If I hand’t been in golf, I would have been here with you guys" said Woods. "When I was younger, I always dreamed of being a Navy SEAL."

The class responded with the traditional Naval Special Warfare "Hooyah!" cheer.

"My mom was Asian, so she was disciplined," Woods said. "My father, being former military, was also very disciplined. I was very lucky," said Woods. "I wouldn’t have had the discipline to succeed in my sport if not for my upbringing."

Woods’ visit concluded with a demonstration of the high-speed boats used by the SWCC operators.

"I really admire what you’re doing for your country," Woods said, "and that you’re going to be out there protecting our freedom."

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Menzie / Naval Special Warfare Public Affairs
What's in a Word

The quality of being changeable; mutability.

"You could say that losing your job is just one of the vicissitudes of life."
What Are We Fighting For?

Instead of indoctrinating students in moral relativism, our schools should be reminding them why our troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan. We could do with an occasional reminder ourselves.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

Friday, March 24, 2006

"These are mice, after all"

Here is another good story from yesterday's Journal. Everyone agrees that we should be good stewards of the environment. In fact, stewarding the environment is a conservative, not a liberal, principle. What this story shows is how liberalism has twisted environmental stewardship. 1. Environmental preservation is not to be intelligently or prudently balanced against other, equally valid concerns, like property rights -- it must trump all other concerns. 2. In advancing their agenda, liberals are willing to ignore facts, promote lies, and destroy anyone who opposes them.

Of Mice and Men
A tiny rodent is the hottest political issue in Colorado.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 12:01 a.m.

DENVER--Here in Colorado, the hottest political issue of the day may not be the war in Iraq or the out-of-control federal budget, but rather the plight of a tiny mouse. Back in 1998, a frisky eight-inch rodent known as the Preble's meadow jumping mouse gained protective status under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA). What has Coloradans hot under the collar is that some 31,000 acres of local government and privately owned land in the state and stretching into Wyoming--an area larger than the District of Columbia--was essentially quarantined from all development so as not to disrupt the mouse's natural habitat. Even the Fish and Wildlife Service concedes that the cost to these land owners could reach $183 million.

What we have here is arguably the most contentious dispute over the economic impact of the ESA since the famous early-'90s clash between the timber industry and the environmentalist lobby over the "endangered" listing of the spotted owl in the Northwest. That dispute eventually forced the closure of nearly 200 mills and the loss of thousands of jobs. Last week the war over the fate of the Preble's mouse escalated when a coalition of enraged homeowners, developers and farmers petitioned the Department of the Interior to have the mouse immediately delisted as "endangered" because of reliance on faulty data.

The property-rights coalition would seem to have a fairly persuasive case based on the latest research on the mouse. It turns out that not only is the mouse not endangered, but it isn't even a unique species.

The man who is almost singlehandedly responsible for exposing the truth about the Preble's mouse is Rob Roy Ramey, a biologist and lifelong conservationist, who used to serve as a curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Mr. Ramey's research--published last year in the peer-reviewed journal Animal Conservation--concluded that the Preble's mouse "is not a valid subspecies based on physical features and genetics." The scientist who conducted the original research classifying Preble's as unique now agrees with Mr. Ramey's assessment. Even scientists who defend extending the mouse's "endangered" status admit that it is 99.5% genetically similar to other strains of mice.

Nor is the mouse on the road to extinction. "The more people look for these mice, the more they find. Every time scientists do a new count, we find more of the Preble's mouse," Mr. Ramey says. It's now been found inhabiting twice as many distinct areas as once thought. These are mice, after all, and the one thing rodents are proficient at is breeding. The full species of the meadow jumping mouse, far from being rare, can be found over half the land area of North America.

"The federal government has effectively shut off tens of millions of dollars of economic development," complains coalition spokesman Kent Holsinger, "based on saving a species that we now know doesn't even exist." But green groups and Department of Interior bureaucrats, who regard the ESA as a sacred pact--the modern-day equivalent of Noah's Ark, as former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt called it--pledge to fight any change in status.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Ramey has been accused of being "dishonest," a "whore for industry" and a "shill for the Bush administration." Under intense political pressure from environmental activists, he was removed from his curator's job at the museum. "I've been nearly stampeded by a herd of agitated elephants in Africa and suspended from some of the highest cliffs in North America, but nothing prepared me for the viciousness of the attacks from the environmentalist lobby," he tells me.

Meanwhile, the Preble's mouse continues to impose huge costs on local communities. One water district in Colorado was recently required to build two tunnels for the mice under a man-made pond to spare the critters the inconvenience of having to scurry around it. Regulators even asked local officials if it would be feasible to grow grass in the tunnels for the mice, which was only slightly less absurd than padding the mouse thoroughfares with red carpet. The extra cost to the water project to make it mouse-friendly? More than $1 million. The Fish and Wildlife Service also has the authority to assess penalties on property owners if they even inadvertently spoil mouse habitat. Owners can even be fined if their cats do what cats do: chase and apprehend mice.

Because of preposterous regulations like there, many land owners resort to extreme measures. A comprehensive 2003 survey found that more than one in four land owners impacted by the Preble's mouse regulation "admitted to actively degrading habitat following the species listing in 1998." This is often precisely what happens in these situations: Because most of 1,500 or so species that have been listed as threatened since 1972 are anything but, people have no respect for the designation and attempt to force the species away from their land. For truly endangered species, the ESA is a disaster.

Many of these land owners have been so strong-armed by federal bureaucrats that they have come to believe--with good reason--that the original and widely supported intent of the ESA has been subverted into a back-door means to slam the brakes on economic development. "It's a cost-free way for the government and the greens to impose land-use control on property owners," says R.J. Smith, an ESA expert at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. The law tries to achieve the societal policy goal of saving species from extinction by imposing all of the costs on a hapless few. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo has sensibly proposed reforms that allow land owners to get fair compensation from the government if their land is depressed in value due to a wetlands or endangered species designation. That seems equitable: If society wants to preserve habitat for the common good, then the cost should be borne by all taxpayers, not individual land owners, who would no longer regard endangered species as an economic plague on their property.

If anything good can come out of the Preble's mouse fiasco in Colorado, it will be that it has awakened Congress to the reality that the ESA isn't just failing property owners but the very irreplaceable species it was designed to protect.

Mr. Moore is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.

Copyright © 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Taliban Man at Yale
The story thus far.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 12:01 a.m.

Something is very wrong at our elite universities. Last month Larry Summers resigned as president of Harvard; today Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi will speak by video to a conference at Columbia University that his regime is cosponsoring. (Columbia won't answer questions about how much funding it got from Libya or what implied strings were attached.) Then there's Yale, which for three weeks has refused to make any comment or defense beyond a vague 144-word statement about its decision to admit Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi--a former ambassador-at-large of the murderous Afghan Taliban--as a special student.

The three backers of the foundation that, along with Yale, is subsidizing Mr. Hashemi's tuition have told the Yale Daily News that they are withdrawing their support. But the university remains mute and paralyzed. "The intelligentsia haven't told Yalies what to think yet, because even they haven't made up their minds," says Daniel Gelernter, a Yale freshman whose father is a Yale professor. He clearly has: He calls the Taliban "an evil and macabre terrorist group. . . . The fact that Hashemi didn't do actual killing does not absolve him. Goebbels didn't shoot anyone either."

Universities are places where free inquiry, debate and information sharing are supposed to be guiding lights. In reality, the ivory towers too often now resemble dark castles, which raise their drawbridges at the first hint of criticism or scrutiny. Never has the moat separating elite universities from the rest of America been wider than in the case of Yale's Taliban Man.

In justifying its grant of a place to Mr. Hashemi, Yale has cited his approval by the State Department. And Yale's sole official statement says it hopes "his courses help him understand the broader context for the conflicts that led to the creation of the Taliban and to its fall. . . . Universities are places that must strive to increase understanding." That justification is unsettling to two women who will join voices at Yale tonight. Natalie Healy lost her Navy SEAL son Dan in Afghanistan last year when a Taliban rocket hit his helicopter. Ms. Healy, who notes that her son had four children of his own, is appalled at Yale's new student. "Lots of people could benefit from a Yale education, so why reward this man who was part of the group that killed Dan?" she told me. "I want to tell [Yale President] Richard Levin that his not allowing ROTC on campus is one thing, but welcoming a former member of the Taliban is deeply insulting to families who have children fighting them right now."

Ten days ago Ms. Healy met Malalai Joya, a member of Afghanistan's parliament, when she spoke near her home in Exeter, N.H. Tonight, Ms. Joya will speak at Yale on behalf of the Afghan Women's Mission. She is appalled that many people have forgotten the crimes of the Taliban, and was surprised to hear that Mr. Hashemi, who, like her, is 27 years old, is attending Yale. "He should apologize to my people and expose what he and others did under the Taliban," she told me. "He knew very well what criminal acts they committed; he was not too young to know. It would be better if he faced a court of justice than be a student at Yale University."

Mr. Hashemi probably won't be attending Ms. Joya's lecture tonight. He has dodged reporters for three weeks, ever since his presence at Yale was revealed in a cover story in the New York Times Magazine. Some claim he has fully repented his Taliban past, but in his sole recent interview--with the Times of London--he acknowledged he'd done poorly in his class "Terrorism: Past, Present and Future," attributing that to his disgust with the textbooks: "They would say the Taliban were the same as al Qaeda." At the same time, Mr. Hashemi won't explain an essay he wrote late last year in which he called Israel "an American al Qaeda" aimed at the Arab world. When asked about the Taliban's public executions in Kabul's soccer stadium, he quipped: "There were also executions happening in Texas."

[RFR: This is a great example of moral equivalence which the "Yale Taliban" used to his advantage. Rather than addressing the Taliban's execution, he turns the tables by citing executions in Texas as if they were equivalent, thus silencing any criticism. But are they equivalent? Without knowing anything of the specifics of either execution, we can still surmise enough facts to show how bogus this response was. Regarding the Taliban execution, based on what we know of how they operated, this woman was probably killed for some "crime" such as learning to read; teaching others to read; perhaps being caught without wearing a veil; maybe even because she was raped. Raped? you may ask. Yes, in many Muslim countries, rape victims are executed because they must have done something to provoke the rape. Whatever her "crime", it's likely she was denounced by someone, given a cursory interrogation, then driven to the stadium and shot.

Regarding the Texas execution. Even though I am opposed to capital punishment, it is not because I feel that these criminals are not bad people. To get the death penalty, even in Texas, the criminal must have really committed a pretty heinous crime. In addition, he was caught and brought to trial, was represented by an attorney, and
only convicted (with multiple appeals) when his guilt was established *beyond a reasonable doubt*.

Yes, Taliban dirtbag, we have executions in Texas. So, what's your point?

Given his record as a Taliban apologist, Mr. Hashemi has told friends he is stunned Yale didn't look more closely into his curriculum vitae. "I could have ended up in Guantanamo Bay," he told the New York Times. So how did he end up in the Ivy League? Questions start at the State Department's door. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the Judiciary Committee's border security panel, has asked the State Department and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to explain exactly how Mr. Hashemi got an F-1 student visa. Yale's decision tree is clearer. Richard Shaw, Yale's dean of undergraduate admissions until he took the same post at Stanford last year, told the New York Times that Yale had another foreigner of Mr. Hashemi's caliber apply but "we lost him to Harvard" and "I didn't want that to happen again." Mr. Shaw won't return phone calls now, but emails he's exchanged with others offer insights into his thinking.

The day after the New York Times profile appeared, Haym Benaroya, a professor at Rutgers, wrote to Mr. Shaw expressing disbelief that Mr. Hashemi, who has a fourth-grade education and a high school equivalency certificate, could be at Yale. Mr. Shaw replied that he indeed had "non-traditional roots [and] very little formal education but personal accomplishments that had significant impact." Mr. Benaroya was stupefied; did Mr. Shaw mean accomplishments that had a "positive impact, not terroristic and totalitarian impact"? Mr. Shaw responded: "Correct, and potential to make a positive difference in seeking ways towards peace and democracy. An education is a way toward understanding the complex nuances of world politics."

Back in the early 1990s, when he was dean of Yale College, Yale history professor Don Kagan warned about what he called the university's "mutual massage" between value-neutral professors and soft-minded students. He is even more critical now: "The range of debate on campus is more narrow than ever today, and the Taliban incident is a wake-up call that moral relativism is totally unexamined here. The ability of students to even think clearly about patriotism and values is being undermined by faculty members who believe that at heart every problem has a U.S. origin." [What a tragedy. Yale is considered one of our countries elite institutions of higher learning. However, instead of teaching students critical thinking, their heads are stuffed full of moral relativistic mush. Consequently, they can't tell right from wrong, good from evil. What's more disturbing, is they're taught by their professors that they shouldn't make such distinctions.] Mr. Kagan isn't optimistic that Yale will respond to outside pressure. "They have a $15 billion endowment, and I know Yale's governing board is handpicked to lick the boots of the president," he told me. "The only way Yale officials can be embarrassed is if a major donor publicly declares he is no longer giving to them. Otherwise, they simply don't care what the outside world thinks."

But there may be one other source of worry for Yale. Mr. Hashemi told the New York Times that he will apply next month for sophomore status in Yale's full-degree program starting next fall. An admissions official told me Yale's plan all along was to do just that if his grades were acceptable. But next week, Yale will mail out 19,300 rejection letters to those who applied to be in its class of 2010. "I can't imagine it'll be easy for Yale to convince those it rejects that the Taliban student isn't taking a place they could have had," a former Yale administrator told me.

Former Yale president Benno Schmidt says admitting Mr. Hashemi is an exercise in "amorality and cynicism." He told me that "diversity simply cannot be allowed to trump all moral considerations." It's not as if Yale can't muster moral indignation. Yale is divesting from Sudan, responding to pressure from student activists and labor unions. But when it comes to a former Taliban official, there is a desire to move on.

A case in point is Amy Aaland, executive director of Yale's Slifka Center for Jewish Life, where Mr. Hashemi takes his meals (Kosher complies with Islamic dietary laws). When I asked her if any of the revelations about his past disturb her, she noted that he was "very, very young" when he had been a Taliban official, and that "it's not like the Taliban attacked this country." I asked about the Taliban's decree in May 2001 that all non-Muslims--chiefly Hindus--had to wear yellow badges. The order, reminiscent of the Nazis, was met with global censure. A reporter then in Kabul recalls Mr. Hashemi had no trouble defending the decree as a protection for minorities against punishment by the religious police "until I pointed out it also required non-Muslims to move out of housing they shared with Muslims within three days; he didn't have a coherent response to that." Ms. Aaland absorbed all that I told her, and replied: "I don't expect learning to happen overnight." She still thought that "just living here, [Mr. Hashemi] can learn values and ideals from our society."

There is a line beyond which tolerance and political correctness become willful blindness. Eli Muller, a reporter for the Yale Daily News, was stunned back in 2000 when the lies of another Taliban spokesman who visited Yale "went nearly unchallenged." He concluded that the "moral overconfidence of Yale students makes them subject to manipulation by people who are genuinely evil." Today, you can say that about more than just some naïve students. You can add the administrators who abdicated their moral responsibility and admitted Mr. Hashemi.

Copyright © 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Time to Hang it Up

Now don't get me wrong, I like rock and roll music a lot. However, one of the things about rock celebrities, as with other Hollywood and other media celebrities, is that they are perpetual adolescents. And part of that infantalism is that they won't -- in fact, can't -- grow up. They need to be young, trendy, rebellious, etc. It's what they've based their careers on, and if they move on they run the risk that they won't be perceived as cool anymore. (There's also the real possibility that if they tried to do something different with their music it would become readily apparent that they didn't have any real talent to begin with.)

The point I'm trying to make is -- would someone please tell Mick Jagger he's not a teenager anymore. Gently break the news to him that he's not even young anymore -- he's an old man! For crying out loud, when is this fossil going to realize it's time to hang it up and move on!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sudoku (and other pseudo-intellectual diversions :-)

From The American Thinker blog:

Sudoku and Other Diversions
March 19th, 2006

My wife, having been told by friends in Europe that Sudoku, the Japanese [1] number-grid puzzle, was all the rage there, asked me to find some Sudokus and teach her how to solve them. A Google search disclosed a website with billions of Sudoku puzzles, a Wikipedia article with the puzzle’s history and mathematics, and dozens of other sites which (as the little girl wrote in her book report) “told me more than I wanted to know.”

I tried a few Sudokus and found that they could be solved by logical inference without any guesswork. My wife caught on to the method quickly and is now happily puzzling away.

But the wonder is that she—and the world—are interested in such logic puzzles at all. In trying to figure out why, I remembered a Caltech colleague who, at the height of the Cold War, developed a classic anxiety syndrome: high blood pressure, insomnia, and all the rest. His doctor concluded that the source of his anxiety was his newspaper and restricted his reading to the classified ads and the crossword puzzle. He claimed that the classifieds were the most optimistic thing in the paper: all those beautiful homes and cars going for a song, all those interesting and lucrative job openings, and (on the very next page) a bevy of wonderfully qualified applicants ready to fill those jobs—in short, a happy world, very different from the one in the front pages.

And the crossword puzzle? It worked out—with every letter in its proper place. And if you didn’t know how to make it come out properly, they told you the next day. It was a small island of order and symmetry in a chaotic world.

I suspect Sudoku serves the same purpose. It gives you the illusory feeling that you know how to solve the problems in your life. If you can make the numbers in the Sudoku grid come out even, then maybe you can do the same with your bank statement and tax return. Walter Kerr, in his profound Decline of Pleasure, attributed this healing quality to art. But since most of us have lost interest in art, or at least in the unsettling enigmas of contemporary art, we have to make do with puzzles. The austere symmetry of logic can provide a similar soothing pleasure, which is why Archbishop Fénelon warned his seminarians to “be on guard against the enchantments and diabolical attractions of geometry.”

But Sudoku, and other logic puzzles like it, may have the far more important purpose of teaching logic to the masses. Our school system seems to have abandoned all attempts at that [2]. As George Will recently pointed out, they are more concerned with teaching students to “promote social justice” and “perform their identities.” Fortunately, a certain percentage of young people manage to teach themselves basic logical skills. To this end, puzzles like Sudoku may succeed where our education system has failed.

I therefore propose Sudoku as Step One in a three-step program to prepare American Thinker readers for interpreting MSM articles and columns. After a few weeks of Sudoku have purified and organized you thinking, go on to Step Two, the cryptic crosswords that so delight the British, but are most masterfully exemplified by American compilers such as Cox and Rathvon. These are like ordinary crossword puzzles except that the definitions include puns or anagrams cunningly crafted to mislead the reader. Thus “pretty girl in crimson and rose” defines “rebelled”—“pretty girl” is “belle,” “crimson” is “red,” and “rose” defines “rebelled—thus, “RE(BELLE)D.” It may well be that the popularity of cryptics in Britain has helped to make its politicians so adroitly evasive and its voters so cynical.

When Sudoku has trained you to spot logical contradictions and cryptics have taught you to see through evasions and deceptive phrasing, you are ready for Step Three.—the game of “Spin.” The object of this game is to read a MSM article or column and separate the truth from what the writer is trying to make you believe. An easy example is two recent columns commenting on the Academy Awards. The writers had very little good to say about the proceedings, They accused the Academy voters of not having fairly watched all the films, invented farfetched explanations for the success of Crash, and shared a petulant dislike for almost every aspect of the ceremony.

I showed this to my wife and asked her to play “Spin” with it. Her Sudoku training paid off; within five minutes she had correctly solved the puzzle: “They’re sore that Brokeback Mountain didn’t win and are trying to get even.”

So take up a copy of New York Times or Time and play “Spin.” Though we can no longer rely on MSM reporters and columnists to tell us the unbiased truth, we can at least make them a source of innocent merriment, as the Mikado would say.


[1] Actually invented by American architect-puzzlemaster Howard Garns in 1979. Just like American artists and musicians a century ago, the game had to travel abroad and adopt a foreign name before it could return home in triumph.

[2] The school boards have their own equivalent of Sudoku therapy. Having failed miserably to teach students logic or language or mathematics or science, they have, as Sam Weller put it, “…took to building, which is a medical term for being incurable.” The school boards may fail to teach students to pass statewide exams but at least they can point with pride to the impressive buildings they’ve erected with our money.

Paul Shlichta is a research scientist.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Friday, March 17, 2006

Plain Speaking from Thomas Sowell

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Thomas Sowell provides something that is all too rare in American today -- plain spoken, common sense. Here's a recent column via Townhall.

Myths of rich and poor

By Thomas Sowell

Feb 8, 2006

There is a fundamental difference between seeking the truth and scoring points. In politics, the truth is strictly optional and that also seems to be true in parts of the media.

Much of what is said about the incomes of Americans is said to score points. For example, it has been repeated endlessly that the average American family's income has not increased significantly for decades and that real wages are actually going down, not up.

That is great stuff for scoring points. You can just imagine the words and the music: The economy is stagnating, the American Dream has become a nightmare, our best days are behind us, etc.

The fact that the conclusions are totally false has not cramped anyone's style. Best-selling authors reap the profits of doom by writing such stuff. Politicians show how compassionate they are by promising to rescue us from economic disaster. Those who want to show how hip they are by disdaining American society get their jollies by scoring such points.

A book titled "Myths of Rich and Poor" by W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm exposes such nonsense for the fraud that it is.

Despite the statistics that show real wages going downhill over time, somehow Americans are consuming more than ever and have a larger net worth than ever.

As of 1970, for example, only about a third of American homes had both central heating and air conditioning, while more than four-fifths had both in the 1990s. Moreover, the homes themselves were more than one-third larger.

Just over one-fourth of American households had a dishwasher in 1970 but more than half did by the 1990s. Only 34 percent of households had color television in 1970 but 98 percent did in the 1990s.

How could this be, with lower real wages? Were we just going deeper and deeper into debt? Actually the net worth of Americans more than doubled during those same years.

Was there some kind of economic Houdini who could perform such magic?

No. Actually a lot of the point-scoring rhetoric involves misleading statistics. Wages are only part of total compensation -- and increasing proportions of that total compensation is taken in the form of fringe benefits. Total compensation has been going up while average real wages have been going down.

Even the decline of real wages has to be taken with a grain of salt. Real wages are calculated by taking the money wages and adjusting for changes in the consumer price index.

Only an economist can get excited by the consumer price index. Other people's eyes are more likely to glaze over when the term is mentioned. However, an inaccurate consumer price index is part of the reason for the appearance of declining real wages.

When the consumer price index says that inflation is 3 percent a year, it may really be more like 2 percent or 1.5 percent. As anyone who has had to pay off a mortgage knows, a difference of a percentage point can add up to real money over a period of decades.

Economists' estimates of how much the consumer price index exaggerates inflation range from an estimate of one percentage point by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan to an estimate of 1.5 percent by Michael Boskin, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President.

Even if we take the lower estimate of one percentage point, over a period of 25 years, that under-estimates the real income of the average American by nearly $9,000. In other words, a working couple will have their real income under-estimated by nearly 18 grand, using the consumer price index to correct for inflation.

No wonder the income statistics look so bad, even while the standard of living is rising and Americans have a higher net worth than before. Nothing is easier than to turn reality upside down, especially if you are just trying to score points, instead of getting at the truth.

My comment on this book has been reprinted on its cover: "Cox and Alm deserve a medal for bringing some sanity to a subject where insanity is the norm."

If making a whole society's rising prosperity look like a disastrous decline is not insane, what is?

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

What's in a Word

having or showing arrogant superiority to and disdain of those one views as unworthy

"The girl has a supercilious expression, and seems to be looking down her nose at the camera."

Monday, March 13, 2006

What's in a Word

Obstinately disobedient or rebellious; insubordinate.

"A contumaceous witness is subject to punishment."

What's in a Word

Got the spark for this from a great Catholic blog FUMARE. They have a "Word for the Day" feature that they work into posts. I have had a similar idea for a while, but different as well.

When I hear a cool word, I write it down and look it up. I have a collection of these words now and will post them occassionally along with their definition. This is done as a public service for my readers. :-)

Friday, March 10, 2006

It's Hard Out Here for a Wimp
By Ann Coulter | March 9, 2006

In case you missed the Oscars last Sunday night, here are the highlights:

  • Best song went to a musical tribute to the overseers of human sex slaves, an occupation known as "pimping";
  • best picture went to a movie about racism in Los Angeles;
  • best supporting actor went to the movie about how oil companies murder people; and
  • best supporting actress went to the movie about how pharmaceutical companies murder people.

Curiously missing from Oscar night's festivities was any reference, even in passing, to the 150,000 brave Americans currently risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On behalf of red state America, let me be the first to say: "Screw you, Hollywood."

Although I must tell you, overall, this Academy Awards ceremony was a major strategic retreat by Hollywood. Despite all their Bolshevik bluster about how Democratic politicians won't stand up to Republicans, the Hollywood left is as scared of decent patriotic Americans as the Democrats are.

"Brokeback Mountain" did not win best picture, "Munich" won nothing, and the Palestinian suicide bombers movie won nothing. There was no angry self-righteousness from Vanessa Redgrave against "Zionist hooligans," or from Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon for the Haitian boat people. There was no Bush-bashing. There was no Michael Moore. The host was not Whoopi Goldberg, so that's a big fat reward to every man, woman and child in America right there.

This may have been the most American Oscars yet, if America consisted of beautiful airheads in $50,000 dresses. And that was just the guys in "Brokeback Mountain."

I believe this marks the first time in Oscars history that an award recipient shouted, "Thank you, Jesus!" upon receiving his award. Admittedly, this was the only part of the speech that didn't have to be bleeped and it was for a song titled, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," but it's still a step forward.

Jon Stewart, this year's host, was very funny – but not quite as funny as the fact that the audience didn't get the jokes. (There were a lot of actors in the audience.) Apparently, the one comedy bit capable of bringing down a house of actors is: Ben Stiller hopping around in a green unitard.

However liberal Stewart is personally, his best jokes are always mildly conservative.

He twitted the Hollywood audience, saying:

I have to say it is a little shocking to see all these big names here, these huge stars. The Oscars is really, I guess, the one night of the year where you can see all your favorite stars without having to donate any money to the Democratic Party.

Actually, between George Clooney's posturing and the ode to pimpdom winning "best song," I think Oscar night was more of a fund-raiser for the Republican Party.

George Clooney made the only stand for liberal Hollywood, smugly declaring:

We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it's probably a good thing. We're the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular ... [T]his group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I'm proud ... to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.

Forget about Hollywood being ahead of the big issues: Hollywood has never even been on time for the big issues. This is why, for example, in the middle of an epic war with Islamic fascists, Hollywood is still making movies about the Nazis. Now and then, just for variety, they tackle a more current topic, like the Jim Crow era.

Even on AIDS – which is something you'd expect people like Clooney to know something about – Hollywood was about seven years behind. Wait, no – bad choice of words. Even on AIDS, Hollywood got caught with its pants down. Still no good. On AIDS, Hollywood got it right in the end. Oh, dear ... Note to self: Must hire two more interns to screen hate mail.

The point is: The Hollywood set didn't start wearing AIDS ribbons to the Oscars until 1992:

  • 10 years after the New York Times described AIDS;
  • seven years after AIDS was the cover story on Life magazine;
  • seven years after AIDS was in People magazine;
  • five years after Oprah did a show on AIDS.

Only recently has George Clooney heard about segregation. (He's against it.) But he still can't nail down the details of something that ended nearly half a century ago.

Contrary to Clooney's impassioned speech, no theaters ever forced black people to sit in the back. If you were trying to oppress people, you would make them sit in the front, which are the worst seats in the house. Or you'd just make them watch a George Clooney movie.


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