Sunday, July 30, 2006

USMC sniper metes out swift death in Iraq

By ANTONIO CASTANEDA, Associated Press WriterSun Jul 30, 12:57 PM ET

He was 5 when he first fired an M-16, his father holding him to brace against the recoil. At 17 he enlisted in the Marine Corps, spurred by the memory of 9/11. Now, 21-year-old Galen Wilson has 20 confirmed kills in four months in Iraq — and another 40 shots that probably killed insurgents. One afternoon the lance corporal downed a man hauling a grenade launcher five-and-a-half football fields away.

Wilson is the designated marksman in a company of Marines based in downtown Ramadi, watching over what Marines call the most dangerous neighborhood in the most dangerous city in the world.

Here, Sunni Arab insurgents are intent on toppling the local government protected by Marines.

Wilson, 5-foot-6 with a soft face, is married and has two children and speaks in a deep, steady monotone.

After two tours in Iraq, his commanders in the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment call him a particularly mature Marine, always collected and given to an occasional wry grin.

His composure is regularly tested. Swaths of central and southern Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, are dominated by insurgents who regularly attack the provincial government headquarters that Marines protect.

During a large-scale attack on Easter Sunday, Wilson says, he spotted six gunmen on a rooftop about 400 yards away. In about 8 seconds he squeezed off five rounds — hitting five gunmen in the head. The sixth man dived off a 3-story building just as Wilson got him in his sights, and counts as a probable death.

"You could tell he didn't know where it was coming from. He just wanted to get away," Wilson said. Later that day, he said, he killed another insurgent.

Wilson says his skill helps save American troops and Iraqi civilians.

"It doesn't bother me. Obviously, me being a devout Catholic, it's a conflict of interest. Then again, God supported David when he killed Goliath," Wilson said. "I believe God supports what we do and I've never killed anyone who wasn't carrying a weapon."

He was raised in a desolate part of the Rocky Mountains outside Colorado Springs, "surrounded by national parks on three sides," he says. He regularly hunted before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as a teenager. His brother also serves in the military.

Guns have long been part of Wilson's life. His father was a sniper in the Navy SEALS. He remembers first firing a sniper rifle at age 6. By the time he enlisted he had already fired a .50-caliber machine gun.

"My father owned a weapons dealership, so I've been around exotic firearms all my life," said Wilson, who remembers practicing on pine cones and cans. "My dad would help me hold (an M-16), with the butt on his shoulder, and walk me through the steps of shooting."

Technically, Wilson is not a sniper — he's an infantryman who also patrols through the span of destroyed buildings that make up downtown Ramadi. But as his unit's designated marksman, he has a sniper rifle. In the heat of day or after midnight, he spends hours on rooftop posts, peering out onto rows of abandoned houses from behind piles of sandbags and bulletproof glass cracked by gunfire.

Sometimes individual gunmen attack, other times dozens. Once Wilson shot an insurgent who was "turkey peeking" — Marine slang for stealing glances at U.S. positions from behind a corner. Later, the distance was measured at 514 meters — 557 yards.

"I didn't doubt myself, if I was going to hit him. Maybe if I would have I would have missed," Wilson said.

The key to accuracy is composure and experience, Wilson says. "The hardest part is looking, quickly adjusting the distance (on a scope), and then getting a steady position for a shot before he gets a shot off. For me, it's toning everything out in my head. It's like hearing classical music playing in my head."

Though Wilson firmly supports the war, he used to wonder how his actions would be received back home.

"At first you definitely double-guess telling your wife, mom, and your friends that you've killed 20 people," Wilson said. "But over time you realize that if they support you ... maybe it'll make them feel that much safer at home."

He acknowledges that brutal acts of war linger in the mind.

"Some people, before they're about to kill someone, they think that — 'Hey, I'm about to kill someone.' That thought doesn't occur to me. It may sound cold, but they're just a target. Afterward, it's real. You think, 'Hey, I just killed someone,'" says Wilson.

Insurgents "have killed good Marines I've served with. That's how I sleep at night," he says. "Though I've killed over 20 people, how many lives would those 20 people have taken?"

Wilson plans to leave the Marines after his contract expires next year, and is thinking of joining a SWAT Team in Florida — possibly as a sniper.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Continued Prayers for Cardinal George

Cardinal out of bed after surgeries

Posted Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cardinal Francis George was stable and out of bed this morning, two days after his bladder and prostate were removed to fend off cancer and one day after a midnight scare operation to stop internal bleeding.

The Chicago Catholic Archdiocese reported this afternoon George has stable vital signs and blood counts, with no indication of further internal bleeding.

The 69-year-old, who shepherds 2.4 million Catholics in Cook and Lake counties, plans to be out of bed at least one more time by the end of the day, according to the archdiocese.

“The cardinal expresses his gratitude for all the prayers that have been offered for him and appreciates continuing prayers on his behalf,” the release said.

George, who has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, had his bladder, prostate, several lymph nodes and part of his right ureter removed Thursday at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood. His doctors initially ruled the surgery a success, but cautioned they would not know the extent of his cancer until test results come back next week.

(Daily Herald file photo)
Shortly after midnight on Friday, George was rushed into surgery - his second operation in less than 12 hours - shortly after midnight Friday to stop internal hemorrhaging. Doctors believe the bleeding was caused by a small cut to an artery branch during his radical cystectomy Thursday.

The setback is not expected to derail the cardinal’s recovery.

“It’s not uncommon," said Dr. Myles Sheehan, a priest and George's personal physician. “But it is a complication. He tolerated the operation well.”

Around 7:30 p.m. Thursday, George’s blood pressure dropped after receiving pain medication, Sheehan said. He was given fluids and another blood infusion, but his blood pressure and blood count continued to fall.

Sheehan gave the cardinal, who was awake and lucid throughout the ordeal, a blessing before the surgery. George offered a loud “amen” when he finished, Sheehan said.

The cardinal also shared an inside joke with Sheehan as he headed toward the operating room, the doctor said.

It took the operating team about two hours to repair the damaged blood vessel in the cardinal’s pelvic region, Sheehan said.

After the surgery George was awake Friday morning and prayed the rosary with some Loyola workers and archdiocese staff. He also inquired about Chicago First Lady Maggie Daley, who had breast cancer surgery on Thursday.

“He’s real sharp and in good spirits,” archdiocese spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said. “His sense of humor is right there.”

George also asked about the prayer vigils held on his behalf throughout the Chicago area this week. Dolan said he was touched by the faithful’s response and had read many of the get-well messages left for him.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the city of Chicago who believes more firmly in the power of prayer than the cardinal,” Dolan said.

George will stay in the hospital at least a week, doctors said. He will remain in the intensive care unit over the weekend and should be cleared to eat in the next three to four days.

Sheehan said he doesn’t want the cardinal to return to pastoral duties before Labor Day. It remains unseen, however, if George will follow the doctor’s orders.

“What I want and what the cardinal will do could be two totally different things,” Sheehan said. “The cardinal does not put up with lying around. He’s going to get up and he’s going to want to move around.”

An active lifestyle would serve George - whose legs were permanently damaged during a teenage bout with polio - well during his recuperation, Sheehan said. It’s important for the cardinal to aggressively approach his recovery to prevent the loss of additional muscle mass in his legs.

“It’s really important that we make sure he retains his muscle mass... so he can maintain his active schedule,” Sheehan said.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Darn it, Jack

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Praying for our Shepherd

Please pray for the shepherd of our diocese, Francis Cardinal George, who is undergoing cancer surgery this afternoon.

Archdiocese of Chicago

Statement of Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I
Archbishop of Chicago
to the Archdiocese of Chicago
July 26, 2006

“Tomorrow morning I will undergo surgery at Loyola University Medical Center to remove cancer discovered very recently in my bladder. I am informed that I can expect to make a full recovery from this cancer and the surgery to remove it. I have asked my doctors and Archdiocesan officials to fully brief you after the surgery on the specifics of the operation and my recovery. During my recovery and absence, Father John Canary, the Vicar General, will provide day to day governance of the Archdiocese. He and the Auxiliary Bishops and Mr. Jimmy Lago, the Chancellor, will be in contact with me as necessary.

I ask my fellow priests, the religious, all Catholics in the Archdiocese and other friends and colleagues to pray for me. I trust that the Lord will give me the strength and grace I need during these next days and weeks.”

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago

The Holy Father Weighs In

From Chiesa:
At the Summit on the Middle East, Benedict XVI Preaches the Cross of Jesus

Less politics – as little as possible – and more Christian faith: this is the new approach the pope wants for the Church. While the armies fight and the diplomats negotiate, in a little mountain parish he says...

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, July 26, 2006 – At the same time as the opening of the international conference on the war in Lebanon in the Italian capital – with representatives from the United Nations, the World Bank, the United States, Canada, Europe, Russia, the Muslim countries, and the Vatican - the position of Benedict XVI distinguishes itself for its sheer clarity and originality.

To grasp this, it is enough to read the brief words he spoke on Sunday, July 23, at two different occasions of prayer.

The first was at the midday Angelus, the only occasion at which Benedict XVI has given the essential political coordinates of the Holy See’s position on the conflict.

The pope said that the three pillars for a stable peace in the region are these:

“the right of the Lebanese to the integrity and sovereignty of their country, the right of the Israelis to live in peace in their state, and the right of the Palestinians to have a free and sovereign homeland.”

He asked the parties in conflict for an immediate ceasefire, and for the opening of negotiations “with the support of the international community.”

And he insisted in particular upon the right to “humanitarian” assistance of the populations struck by the war, both in Lebanon and in Galilee.

But the key point of Benedict XVI’s message at the Angelus was a different one. It was his invitation to make that Sunday “a special day of prayer and penance to implore from God the gift of peace.” It was an invitation he extended, not only to Catholic Christians, but “to all believers.”

At the end of his brief message the pope remembered Saint Bridget, whose feast fell on that day:

“Saint Bridget came from Sweden, lived in Rome, and also went on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Her witness speaks to us of openness to different peoples and civilizations. Let us ask her to help humanity today to make extensive room for peace. In particular, may she obtain from the Lord peace in that Holy Land toward for she had such affection and veneration.”

* * *

So Benedict XVI shows he has no doubts: the specific contribution that the Church can make to peace in the world is not political, but essentially religious. With the cross of Jesus at the center.

And in fact, during that afternoon – at his second brief address – he again insisted upon this alone: upon Jesus, and following him.

The pope had gone to visit Rhemes Saint-Georges, to a little mountain parish, and to the people crowded into the little church he gave a meditation on the passage from saint Paul that had been read during the Masses that Sunday.

The reading was from the Letter to the Ephesians, 2:13-18:

“Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

And this is how Benedict XVI commented upon it. The meditation lasted seven minutes. The pope did not read from a text, but improvised. Here is the complete transcript of his words, which demand to be read:

How to be a force for peace in the world
by Benedict XVI

Just a quick word of meditation on the reading we have just listened to. What is striking, against the background of the dramatic situation in the Middle East, is the beauty of the vision illustrated by the apostle Paul: Christ is our peace. He has reconciled us with one another, Jews and gentiles, uniting them in his body. He overcame enmity in his body, upon the cross. With his death he has overcome enmity, and has united us all in his peace.

But what strikes us even more than the beauty of this vision is its contrast with the reality we experience and see. And we can do nothing, at first, but say to the Lord: “But Lord, what does your apostle say to us – ‘We are reconciled’?” We see in reality that we are not reconciled... There is still war among Christians, Muslims, and Jews; and there are others who foment war and are still full of enmity and violence. Where is the efficacy of your sacrifice? Where in history is this peace of which your apostle speaks?

We human beings cannot solve the mystery of history, the mystery of human freedom to say “no” to God’s peace. We cannot solve the entire mystery of the revelation of the God-man, of his activity and our response. We must accept the mystery. But there are elements of an answer that the Lord gives to us.

A first element – this reconciliation from the Lord, his sacrifice – has not remained without efficacy. There is the great reality of the communion of the universal Church, found among all the peoples, the fabric of Eucharistic communion that transcends the boundaries of culture, civilization, peoples, and times. There is this communion, there are these “islands of peace” in the Body of Christ. They exist. And they are forces of peace in the world. If we look at history, we can see the great saints of charity who have created “oases” of this divine peace in the world, who have always rekindled his light, and were always able to reconcile and create peace. There are the martyrs who have suffered with Christ, have given this witness of peace, of the love that places a limit on violence.

And seeing that the reality of peace is there – even if the other reality also remains – we can go more deeply into the message of this Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. The Lord has triumphed upon the cross. He did not triumph with a new empire, with a power greater than the others and capable of destroying them; he triumphed, not in a human way, as we would imagine, with an empire more powerful than the other. He triumphed with a love capable of reaching even to death. This is God’s new way of winning: he does not oppose violence with a stronger form of violence. He opposes violence with its exact opposite: love to the very end, his cross. This is God’s humble way of winning: with his love – and this is the only way it is possible – he puts a limit on violence. This is a way of winning that seems very slow to us, but it is the real way to overcome evil, to overcome violence, and we must entrust ourselves to this divine way of winning.

Entrusting ourselves means entering actively within this divine love, participating in this work of peacemaking, in order to conform with what the Lord says: “Blessed are the peacemakers, those who work for peace, because they are the children of God.” We must bring, as much as possible, our love to all those who suffer, knowing that the judge of the last judgment identifies himself with the suffering. So whatever we do to the suffering we do to the ultimate judge of our lives. This is important: that in this moment we can bring this victory of his to the world, participating actively in his charity.

Today, in a multicultural and multireligious world, many are tempted to say: “It is better for peace in the world among religions and cultures that one not speak too much about the specifics of Christianity, about Jesus, the Church, the sacraments. Let us be satisfied with the things that can be held more or less in common...” But it’s not true. At this very moment – at a moment of a great abuse in the name of God – we need the God who triumphed upon the cross, who wins not by violence, but by his love. At this very moment, we need the face of Christ, in in order to know the true face of God and thus to bring reconciliation and light to this world. And so together, with love, with the message of love, with all that we can do for the suffering in this world, we must also bring the witness of this God, of the victory of God precisely through the nonviolence of his cross.

So let’s go back to the starting point. What we can do is give the witness of love, the witness of faith; and above all, raise a cry to God: we can pray! We are certain that our Father hears the cry of his children. At the Mass, preparing for holy communion, to receive the Body of Christ who unites us, we pray with the Church: “Deliver us, O Lord, from all evil, and grant us peace in our day.” Let this be our prayer in this moment: “Deliver us from all evil, and give us peace.” Not tomorrow or the next day: give us peace, Lord, today! Amen.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What a Knockout

News Flash

Saw this on Opinion Journal's 'Best of the Web'.

Haig: Iran, Syria Behind Hezbollah
Iran and Syria are responsible for Hezbollah’s aggression against Israel, according to former Secretary of State Alexander Haig.

Wow! Thanks for clearing that up Al. :-)
Dershowitz Right On on Terrorism

I am no fan of Harvard Law prof Alan Dershowitz -- he is at the forefront of most liberal causes. However, I heard him interviewed either yesterday or today on Bill Bennett's 'Morning in America' and he was right on. So, I was not real surprised to see him continue in the same vein in a Chicago Tribune editorial.

If I was uncharitable, I'd quip that even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while. But, in this case, I'll just post Dershowtiz's editorial. :-)

How the UN legitimizes terrorists

By Alan M. Dershowitz
Published July 25, 2006

If anyone wonders why the UN has rendered itself worse than irrelevant in the Arab-Israeli conflict, all he or she need do is read UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's July 20 statement. Annan goes to great pains to suggest equal fault and moral equivalence between the rockets of Hezbollah and Hamas that specifically target innocent civilians and the self-defense efforts by Israel, which tries desperately, though not always successfully, to avoid causing civilian casualties. In his statement, Annan never condemns, or even mentions, terrorism, which is a root cause and precipitator of the conflict.

Even Annan was forced to acknowledge that "Hezbollah's provocative attack on July 12 was the trigger of this particular crisis"; that Hezbollah is "deliberate[ly] targeting ... Israeli population centers with hundreds of indiscriminate weapons"; and that Israel has the "right to defend itself under Article 51 of the UN charter." But he doesn't stop there. He goes out of his way to insist on equating Hezbollah's terrorists with Israeli military response, which he labels "disproportionate" and "collective punishment." He condemns both Hezbollah and Israel. He also criticizes Israel for its efforts at preventing Qassam rocket attacks against its civilian populations, noting that the Hamas rockets have produced no "casualties in the past month." (This, of course, is not for lack of trying.) He ignores Hamas' long history of terrorism against innocent civilians.

Annan then calls for an "immediate cessation of indiscriminate and disproportionate violence" on both sides, again suggesting a moral equivalence. Among the most immoral positions anyone can take is to suggest a moral equivalence between morally different actions.

Part of the goal of organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas is to gain moral legitimacy for their terrorist tactics by having them equated with the conventional military tactics used by democratic regimes. Only the morally obtuse--or perverse--cannot recognize the difference between a terrorist group that targets civilian population centers with anti-personnel weapons designed to maximize civilian casualties and a democracy that seeks to prevent terrorism by employing smart bombs designed to minimize civilian casualties.

Annan knows better than to suggest a moral equivalence. He is fully aware of the tactic employed by terrorists of launching their rockets from, and hiding behind, civilian shields, so as to make democracies have to kill some civilians to get at the terrorists.

But Annan heads an organization that is so anti-Israel that as the late Abba Eban, the early Israeli ambassador to the UN, once put it: "If Algeria proposed a resolution that the Earth was flat and that Israel has flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 120 to 3, with 27 abstentions."

Many such resolutions have been passed by the General Assembly, including the notorious one equating the Jewish national liberation movement with "racism." Other one-sided resolutions have been passed by the General Assembly legitimating terrorism. Only the U.S. veto--which does not operate in the UN General Assembly--has prevented one-sided resolutions by the Security Council.

If a space alien from a distant planet were to land at the UN, he would come away with the impression that Israel is not only the sole offender in the Middle East, but the worst offender in the entire world. He would single out Israel for condemnation and exclude it from membership on many UN bodies, on which Syria, Lebanon and Iran serve in positions of honor.

Annan himself has a long history of one-sided condemnations of Israel. In March 2004, Annan "strongly condemned" Israel's targeted killing of Sheik Ahmad Yassin, the terrorist leader of Hamas, without condemning Yassin for his murderous actions or his organization for the murder of Jewish civilians. In December 2003, Annan "strongly condemned" Israel's assault on a Palestinian refugee camp where two gunmen were thought to be hiding. And in 2005, he issued the most tepid of statements--expressing "dismay"--at threats by Iran's president to "eliminate" Israel, a member nation of the UN. The list goes on and on.

And even worse than the one-sided condemnations that ignore Hezbollah and Hamas are the numerous statements that perversely suggest moral equivalence.

The UN peacekeepers on the Lebanese border have turned out to be collaborators with Hezbollah, videotaping the Hezbollah kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers in 2000 and then refusing to release the video--which could have helped in the rescue--on the grounds that it might compromise their "neutrality."

This is a real test for the UN. If it cannot--or will not--distinguish between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that seeks to stop the terrorism while minimizing civilian casualties, it has become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.


Alan M. Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard and the author of "Pre-emption: A Knife that Cuts Both Ways."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Cut Off the Head of the Serpent"

I have a good friend who is Lebanese. His brother and parents still live in Lebanon. I saw him today and asked how his family is doing. They are well he told me (thanks be to God) as they live further north and are not directly affected by the violence. We both agreed that the real source of the problem in the Middle East right now is Iran. As my friend so aptly said, there will be no peace in Lebanon until they "cut off the head of the serpent".
U.N. Anti-Israel

After posting the New York Sun editorial, I was reminded of a comment Rush Limbaugh made that the U.N. is a hotbed of anti-Semitism. At the time I thought Rush was being a little over the top. However, I just came across this post from The Volokh Conspiracy. If you thave the time, read the post in its entirety -- it's eye-opening and worth your time. A short excerpt:
UNIFIL's [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] most notorious collaboration with terrorists involved the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli soldiers, and the subsequent cover-up.

On October 7, 2000, Hezbollah terrorists entered Israel, attacked three Israeli soldiers on Mount Dov, and abducted them Lebanon. The kidnapping was witnessed by several dozen UNIFIL soldiers who stood idle. One of the soldier witnesses described the kidnapping: the terrorists set off an explosive which stunned the Israeli soldiers. Clad in UN uniforms, the terrorists called out, "Come, come, we’ll help you."

The Israeli soldiers approached the men in UN uniforms. Then, a Hezbollah bomb detonated—-apparently prematurely. It wounded the disguised Hezbollah commander, and three Israeli soldiers.

Two other terrorists in U.N. uniforms dragged their Hezbollah commander and the three wounded soldiers into a getaway car.

According an Indian solider in UNIFIL who witnessed the kidnapping, "By this stage, there was a big commotion and dozens of UN soldiers from the Indian brigade came around." The witness stated that the brigade knew that the kidnappers in UN uniform were Hezbollah. One soldiers said that the brigade should arrest the Hezbollah, but the brigade did nothing.

According to the Indian soldier, the UNFIL brigade in the area "could have prevented the kidnapping."

"I’m very sorry about what happened, because we saw what happened," he said. Hezbollah "were wearing our uniforms and it was too bad we didn’t stop them."

It appears that at least four of the UNIFIL "peacekeepers," all from India, has received bribes from Hezbollah in order to assist the kidnapping by helping them get to the kidnapping spot and find the Israeli soldiers. Some of the bribery involved alcohol and Lebanese women.

The Indian brigade later had a bitter internal argument, as some members complained that the brigade had betrayed its peacekeeping mandate. An Indian government investigation sternly criticized the brigade's conduct.
You can see why the Israeli's are likely not too enthused about more "help" from the U.N.
U.N. Peacekeepers? What a LOUSY Idea!

We're hearing a lot these days about how we should be looking to the U.N. to send Peacekeepers to the Israel - Lebanon border. Anyone with any brains, or even just a modicum of historical perspective, realizes just what a lousy -- and worthless -- idea that would be.

The New York Sun (not the NYTimes (darling of terrorists everywhere)) has a good editorial on why we should say "No thanks" to more U.N. "help".
Rwanda and Srebrenica are the two most notorious recent [U.N. peacekeepiing] failures. Mr. Annan headed the United Nations peacekeeping department during both massacres. In Rwanda blue helmets exited as 800,000 Tutsis were massacred. Despite having advance warning of the genocide, U.N. peacekeepers were told by Mr. Annan's department to remain "impartial." At Srebrenica the U.N. peacekeepers did nothing as Bosnian Serbs murdered 8,000 Muslims — in the U.N.'s "safe haven."

From Sierra Leone, where U.N. peacekeepers were taken hostage, to the Congo, where the peacekeepers traded food for sex with girls as young as 13, the term "U.N. peacekeepers" sends shudders down the spines of the persons they were sent to "protect." For Americans, "U.N. peacekeeping" is synonymous with Somalia. Who can forget the image of the bodies of American soldiers being dragged through the streets?

Read the entire editorial here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Are You Ready?

One day, while moseying around the internet, I stumbled across the website for this magazine -- and I was hooked: Backwoods Home magazine.

Now, when it comes to the "back-to-the-country", simpler life-style info, I'm not that big a fan (the wife likes that stuff). However, I was really taken by the underlying philosophy of the magazine: that we live in an overly-complicated, technology dependent world and if there was ever a natural disaster, massive power outage, terrorist attack, or other disaster, most people would be in big trouble. Why? Just try getting through the day without something as simple and taken for granted as electricity.

Say the local power plant had a generator blow and it knocked your area off the grid on a day like today (low 90s and humid). It wouldn't take long before the effects off no air conditioning were felt -- not a problem, but a discomfort.

In my case, I'm on a well, so it wouldn't be long before the water was out. My stove and oven are both electric, so no way to cook apart from the propane in my grill or cooking over an open fire in the yard. Once it got dark, I'd only have candles. There'd be no TV, radio, internet. Cell phones would only be good for so long (I'm assuming the cell phone companies have some generator back-up but it would only last 8-10 hours max.)

So, you get the point. And that's the point of Backwoods Home magazine. Go to this link for an excellent, must-read editorial, in light of Hurrican Katrina, on why we should not sit around waiting for the gov't to rescue us and why we should be ready to take care of ourselves (what a concept!). A short excerpt:

Hurricane Katrina and the inability of Government at any level to respond in a timely, life-saving manner should set off alarm bells in our heads. If you want to protect yourself and your family, don’t follow the advice of the media or opportunistic politicians by voting for a new set of politicians and asking Government to spend billions of dollars on various projects. That won’t do it.

Take your life into your own hands and plan to take care of yourself and your family in an emergency situation. You, any only you, can become the timely power that will save your family when disaster strikes.

Friday, July 14, 2006

"If you pursue evil with pleasure, the pleasure passes away and the evil remains; if you pursue good with labor, the labor passes away but the good remains."

— Cicero
'Nuff Said

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rush on Immigration

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Little People in a Big Pond

I got these pictures from a couple of differnt people (they must be making the rounds on the internet). Anyway, they are really interesting to look at and get some perspective at just how small we are in the big scheme of things.

As you check out these pictures, pretend you're a liberal and keep telling yourself: "Man is so powerful, he can destroy the Earth through global warming" and "There is no God -- this universe came into existence all by itself". :-)

(for the astonomically-challenged among you, Sirius, Pollux and Arcturus (above), and Betelgeuse, Antares, Rigel and Aldeberan (below) are (really, really big) stars in our solar system.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

John Adams: A Man Worth Knowing

David McCullough is probably one of my most, if not the most, favorite historians. I was catching up on my reading and saw that he had spoken at Hillsdale College not long ago. (I have to get on the mailing list for this stuff -- I hate finding out who spoke there after the fact).

Anyway, McCullough spoke about John Adams and his comments were published in Hillsdale's periodical Imprimis. (It goes without saying that McCullough's bio on Adams is excellent). Here are some excerpts from his talk at Hillsdale. You can get a free subscription to Imprimis here.

“A Man Worth Knowing”
David McCullough

I want to discuss a single human being [John Adams] and why we should know him. And the first thing I want to say about him is that he is an example of the transforming miracle of education. When he and others wrote in the Declaration of Independence about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” what they meant by “happiness” wasn't longer vacations or more material goods. They were talking about the enlargement of the human experience through the life of the mind and the life of the spirit. And they knew that the system of government they were setting up wouldn't work if the people weren't educated. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization,” Jefferson wrote, “it expects what never was and never will be.”


Adams more than anyone got the Continental Congress to vote for the Declaration [of Independence]. We have no records of what he said. Deliberations took place behind closed doors, out of fear of spies in Philadelphia. Keep in mind that only about a third of the country supported the Revolution. Another third was opposed–the Loyalists or Tories, who saw themselves as the true patriots because they were standing by their King. The remaining third, in the human way, were waiting to see who won. But Adams got the Congress to vote for the Declaration and many wrote about it afterwards. If you've seen the musical 1776, you'll remember that he is the central character. That's as it should be. And there are many people in it singing, “Why don't you be quiet, John Adams?” or “Why are you so obnoxious, John Adams?” When I was working on my biography, I tried to find out who called him obnoxious, and I found only one—Adams himself. He wrote to a friend many years later that he must have been rather obnoxious back then, but that he felt he had to make it happen.


Let me say a word about Abigail Adams. ... She was as bright as can be and had a backbone of iron. She probably didn't weigh 100 pounds, standing only about five feet one. I think she's one of the greatest Americans of all time. And you can discover her, too, in her marvelous correspondence with her husband during his long absences.

Something I always like to emphasize is that there never was a simpler past. We hear often, “Oh, that was a simpler time,” but it's always wrong. Imagine Abigail's life. Up in the morning at about 5 to light the fireplace that served as the kitchen, call to the children to come down, cook the breakfast, tend the stock, try to keep the farm solvent during the whole war with her husband gone and with inflation and with shortages of everything. Schools were closed, so she had to educate the children at home. Her day didn't end until 9 or 10 at night when the children would go upstairs to their bedrooms, where it could be so cold that the water in the bowls that they used to wash their faces was iced over. And then she would sit down at the kitchen table with a single candle and write some of the greatest letters ever written by any American.

In one plaintive letter, she writes: “Posterity who are to reap the blessings will scarcely be able to conceive the hardships and sufferings of their ancestors.” And we don't. We don't know what they went through–epidemics of smallpox or dysentery, which could take the lives of hundreds of people just in the little town of Quincy, Massachusetts. It was by no means a simpler time. They had to worry about things that we don't even think about any more, and suffer discomforts and inconveniences of a kind that we never even imagine.


Adams was not a great president. But he was a very good one and I think he should be judged as more presidents should be judged–not just by what he did, but what he didn't do. He didn't go to war with France. Had he done so, he would have been re-elected, and he knew it. As it was, the 1800 election was extremely close. A change in about 300 votes in New York City would have re-elected him. And let us not forget that one of the most important turning points in our country, even in the world, was that election, because there was a peaceful transition, following a bitter election, from one party to another. It was not contested by armed opposition, which was the historical norm. Adams went home to Quincy–having traveled more in the service of his country than any other American of that time–and never went anywhere ever again, although he lived for 25 more years.
Desert Island Books

Thinking of lists made me think of an old list question: "what book(s) would you take if you were going to be stranded on a desert island?"

I have a slight twist in mind though. Usually, when folks answer this question, they offer lame answers like "the Bible" or the "Complete Works of Shakespeare". However, I think these answers are disengenious cop-outs as these people have probably not picked up a Bible in years, if ever, so such an answer doesn't really tell you much about them (which is the purpose of the question -- isn't it?)

So, how about this: Name up to five books, which you have already read most/all of, that you would take to a desert island to read again.

I think (assuming one gets honest answers) this question could result in some truly interesting answers. My answers would be (subject to revision based on some more thought) are:
  • My Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (a timeless classic -- you could never actually be "finished" with this book)
  • He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Cieszek (the spiritual journey of a priest who spent the better part of his life as a prisoner of the Soviets)
  • The Civil War by Shelby Foote (not only a great history of the war, but at more than 3,000 pages, it would sure help pass the time on the island!)
  • Keep It Simple by Emmanuel de Gibergues (an eye opener)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (the best American novel ever written)
Getting to Know Your Friends

The "Tag, You're It" post reminded me of a similar e-mail I got a while back from a co-worker called "Getting to Know Your Friends". I dug out the questions with my responses and thought I'd post that too -- updated as needed. :-)

Welcome to the 2004 edition of getting to know your friends. What you're supposed to do is copy (not forward) this entire e-mail and paste it onto a NEW e-mail that you'll send. Change all the answers so they apply to you then send this to a whole bunch of people including the person who sent it to you. The theory is that you will learn a lot of little things about your friends.
  1. What time do you get up? 5:00 AM -- 5:45am
  1. If you could eat lunch with one person, who would it be? Either John Paul II or St. John the Evangelist
  1. Gold or silver? Gold
  1. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? The Passion of the Christ -- The Great Raid
  1. Favorite TV show(s)? None
  1. What do you have for breakfast? Cup of coffee
  1. Who would you hate to be stuck in a room with? Someone with nothing interesting to say. I’d even take Bill Clinton because he wouldn’t be boring.
  1. Who inspires you? Jesus Christ, Robert E. Lee, John Cyboran (my father-in-law)
  1. What is your middle name? Francis
  1. Beach, City or Country? Beach
  1. Favorite ice cream? Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  1. Butter, plain or salted popcorn? Buttered & salted
  1. Favorite color? Blue
  1. What kind of car do you drive? Nissan
  1. Favorite sandwich? Reuben from Dudley’s in Barrington (so big, you have to share it with someone else)
  1. What characteristic do you despise? Unfaithfulness
  1. Favorite flower? None
  1. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Fiji
  1. What color is your bathroom? Can’t remember -- still can't, but it might be white (?)
  1. Favorite brand of clothing? Eddie Bauer
  1. Where would you retire to? A cabin in the mountains, with a big porch and lots of books
  1. Favorite day of the week? Sunday
  1. Red or white wine? Red (Merlot)
  1. What did you do for your last birthday? Worked -- ditto :-(
  1. Where were you born? Harvey, IL (no change :-)
  1. Favorite sports? Sleeping
  1. Who do you least expect to send this back to you? My sister (but I'm not going to say which one :-)
  1. Person you expect to send it back first? Scott D.
  1. What fabric detergent do you use? What’s fabric detergent?
  1. Coke or Pepsi? Neither
  1. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Used to be night owl, but job schedule did away with that – but I am not, nor will I ever be a morning person
  1. What is your shoe size? 10EE
  1. Do you have any pets? No (Our 10-year-old, 110 pound “puppy” Rutherford died.)
Tag, You're It!

Saw this interesting set of questions on the Happy Catholic blog; she had been tagged from a friend on another blog -- The Scratching Post. Anyway, here are the questions with my answers. Feel free to comment with your own answers.

4 jobs I’ve had:
  • Fence Painter (for 2 days -- an awful experience)
  • Dishwasher
  • Title Searcher
  • Car "Jumper" (transport cars from one place to another)
4 movies I could watch over and over:
  • To Have and Have Not
  • Casablanca
  • The Big Sleep
  • The Maltese Falcon
4 Places I’ve lived:
  • DeKalb, IL
  • San Diego, CA
  • Dolton, IL
  • Barrington, IL
4 TV shows I love to watch:
  • NFL games
  • Rockford Files
  • nothing
  • nothing
4 Places I’ve been on holiday:
  • Cayman Islands (very nice place)
  • Rome (love to go back as a Catholic)
  • Maine
  • Quetico Provincial Park (Canadian Boundary Waters)
4 Websites I visit every day:
4 of my favorite foods:
  • pizza (deep dish)
  • Chicago-style hotdogs (no ketchup -- ever!)
  • Italian sausage with Rotini noodles
  • Orange Chicken

Pistols at Dawn

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. I find it amazing that Burr was Vice-President at the time of the duel. Remember the hullabaloo the media made when VP Cheney accidentally shot his friend? Can you imagine Cheney shooting someone in a duel!

Anyway, I came across this kind of long but very interesting article on dueling on the PBS site and thought I would post it in honor of the Hamilton-Burr Duel anniversary.

The History of Dueling in America

Hamilton/Burr Duel pictureThe fatal duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr shocked the nation. But it was the identity of the man killed, not the fact of the duel itself, that produced such dismay. By 1804, dueling had become an American fixture. And for another thirty years or more, its popularity would continue to grow.

Like many early American customs, dueling was imported. Starting in the Middle Ages, European nobles had defended their honor in man-to-man battles. An early version of dueling was known as "judicial combat," so called because God allegedly judged the man in the right and let him win. In an era known for its bloody encounters, judicial combats probably prevented men from killing in the heat of passion. Still, numerous authorities, including heads of state and the Catholic Church, banned dueling -- with little effect.

In 1777, a group of Irishmen codified dueling practices in a document called the Code Duello. The Code contained 26 specific rules outlining all aspects of the duel, from the time of day during which challenges could be received to the number of shots or wounds required for satisfaction of honor. An Americanized version of the Code, written by South Carolina Governor John Lyde Wilson, appeared in 1838. Prior to that, Americans made do with European rules.

A picture of a duelIn a typical duel, each party acted through a second. The seconds' duty, above all, was to try to reconcile the parties without violence. An offended party sent a challenge through his second. If the recipient apologized, the matter usually ended. If he elected to fight, the recipient chose the weapons and the time and place of the encounter. Up until combat began, apologies could be given and the duel stopped. After combat began, it could be stopped at any point after honor had been satisfied.

Edward Doty and Edward Lester, of the Massachusetts colony, fought the first recorded American duel in 1621, just a year after the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth. Armed with swords, both men sustained minor wounds. A unique aspect of this duel was that Doty and Leicester were servants. For the most part, only gentlemen dueled.

picture of two gunsMost duelists chose guns as their weapons. The large caliber, smoothbore flintlock pistols Hamilton and Burr used in their encounter typified the American dueling weapons. Many American men owned a pair of such pistols, and, from about 1750 to 1850, many were called to use them.

The chance of dying in a pistol duel was relatively slim. Flintlocks often misfired. And even in the hands of an experienced shooter, accuracy was difficult. Generally, pistols had to be discharged within three seconds; to take aim for a longer time period was considered dishonorable.

In an 1802 duel, DeWitt Clinton was challenged by John Swartwout, a friend of Aaron Burr. Swartwout accused Clinton of trying to ruin Burr with political smears. The men exchanged five rounds. After each round, as the code provided, seconds encouraged the combatants to mend their differences. Clinton adamantly refused to sign a letter of apology. Swartwout, despite being shot in the thigh and ankle, refused to quit. Unwilling to continue shooting at a wounded man, an exasperated Clinton left the field. Surgeons standing at the ready tended Swartwout's wounds.

In America, duels were fought by men from all walks of life. But many of America's most important citizens defended their honor on the dueling grounds. Button Gwinnet, who had signed the Declaration of Independence, was shot down by General Lachlan McIntosh in a duel. Commodore Stephen Decatur of the United States Navy, an experienced duelist, died at the hands of another commodore, James Barron. And Abraham Lincoln narrowly averted a battle with swords by apologizing to an Illinois state official he had ridiculed in a local newspaper.

Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were among the most prominent Americans to condemn dueling. Franklin called duels a "murderous practice…they decide nothing." And Washington, who undoubtedly needed all the good soldiers he could get, congratulated one of his officers for refusing a challenge, noting that "there are few military decisions that are not offensive to one party or another."

Religious and civic officials worked hard to stop duels. But diatribes such as Reverend Mason Weems' illustrated pamphlet "God's Revenge Against Dueling" did little to change public sentiment. Anti-dueling ordinances also failed to stop the flow of blood. Duelists ignored or evaded such laws. In fact, the most popular dueling ground in America was at Bladensburg, Maryland, near the nation's capital. Dueling was banned in Washington, but not in Maryland, which was a short carriage ride away. Irate legislators could simply shuttle out to Bladensburg and fire at will.

Due to the partisan nature of their work, politicians frequently received challenges -- as did newspaper editors and attorneys. As a young man, attorney Andrew Jackson, future president of the United States, earned a reputation as a formidable duelist. His honor suffered, however, after a duel against Charles Dickinson in 1806.

Dickinson fired his pistol, slightly wounding Jackson. Jackson's weapon misfired -- which according to dueling rules counted as a shot. Technically, the duel should have ended there. But Jackson coldly pulled his hammer back again and fired, this time killing Dickinson. In the eyes of many, Jackson's behavior amounted to little more than murder.

By the time of Hamilton and Burr's deadly encounter, dueling had begun to decline -- at least in the North. In the South, where the chivalrous novels of Walter Scott held sway, dueling remained the preferred way to defend one's honor -- or even to commit murder. A jilted lover need only wait for a rival's insult, or even manufacture one. He was then free to challenge and kill the rival without condemnation.

Some men -- accurate shots in particular -- practically made careers of the duel. Among these men was Alexander McClung, who once killed an opponent at over 100 feet with a smoothbore pistol. This remarkable shot -- and subsequent killings at shorter distances -- honed McClung's fearful reputation. Yet it was said that he was haunted by the ghosts of his victims, and maybe this was so. The last man McClung killed with a pistol was himself, in 1855.

For every man who gloried in the duel, there were many others who feared it. A word or two passed in private company on a Friday night could well mean a challenge on Saturday morning and death on Sunday. Avoiding a challenge wasn't easy. Particularly in the South, where men who refused to duel would be "posted." A statement accusing them of cowardice would be hung in public areas or published in a newspaper or pamphlet.

When Congressman John Randolph of Virginia refused to meet General James Wilkinson in a duel, a furious Wilkinson posted him. The post declared "In justice to my character I denounce to the world John Randolph, a member of Congress, as a prevaricating, base, calumniating scoundrel, poltroon, and coward." Wilkinson, a co-conspirator in Aaron Burr's treason plot, had little character to damage. Randolph lost little by his posting.

By the time of the Civil War, dueling had begun an irreversible decline, even in the South. Not surprisingly, public opinion, not legislation, caused the change. What once had been a formal process designed to avoid violence and amend grievances had deteriorated into cold-blooded murder. People at last were shocked by it, and they showed their disdain. It may have been too late to save Alexander Hamilton. But if American was to become a truly civilized nation, the publicly sanctioned bloodshed would have to end.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

From the 'Tell Me Something I Don't Know Files'

Saw the headline for this story on Opinion Journal's 'Best of the Web' column:
French are rudest, most boring people on earth: British poll
May 20 3:00 AM US/Eastern

The French have been voted the world's most unfriendly nation by a landslide in a new British poll published. They were also voted the most boring and most ungenerous.

A decisive 46 percent of the 6,000 people surveyed by travellers' website Where Are You Now (WAYN) said the French were the most unfriendly nation people on the planet, British newspapers reported.

The Germans have no to reason to celebrate the damning verdict. They came second on all three counts.

WAYN's French founder, Jerome Touze, told the papers he had been stunned by the thumping condemnation of his compatriots and sought to blame it on Gallic love-struck sulking.

"I had no idea that the French would emerge as such an unfriendly country," he said.

"I think our romantic 'moodiness' is misunderstood and I will be sure to pass on the message to my family and friends back in France to be a bit more cheerful to tourists in the future."

Italy was voted the world's most cultured nation with the best cuisine, while the United States was named the most unstylish with the worst food.

The British did not feature in the top 10 of any of the categories.

"The British fit in nowhere -- good or bad. It appears that we are so completely average that the voters did not include us in any category," the tabloid Daily Express commented.

"And to our shame, four percent of respondents -- all British of course -- said they would only talk to other Britons when they are abroad."

This unwillingness to talk to the locals appears to go hand in hand with respondents' perceptions of foreigners.

While most said Spain was the foreign country where they would most like to live, they said the Spaniards were nearly as unfriendly and ungenerous as the French.

To add insult to injury, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph put the boot in on Saturday by saying in an editorial that the French stank.

"The French may like to think that Chanel No 5 is their scent but we all know that garlic and stale Gitanes are much more representative."

Howls of Indignation from Liberal Catholics

Here is a "great"(more accurately -- grate) editorial from the liberal National Catholic Reporter that I came across via Seattle Catholic. It makes for some very interesting reading -- if you can stomach the whining and spitefulness -- as you can see how these liberal Catholics view the "battle" over liturgical translations from their side of the barricade.

What's most telling is their heavy use of perjorative, emotionally-loaded words, e.g., "tactics used to reverse the reforms [of Vatican II] ... were secretive and engineered by people incompetent in the discipline and accountable only to a small group who had achieved power." Wow, they sure are gracious in defeat! :-)

Apart from the amusement in reading this piece, it is also instructive to note that, like most liberals, the editors at the National Catholic Reporter are never willing to admit defeat. They see this as only a setback (albeit a significant one) in their battle to rewrite Scripture and liturgical texts in feel-good inclusive language. Note how the editors offer some friendly advice on what to do next:

In service of that Gospel [really -- more like in service to your self-absorbed ego], there are numerous possibilities for moving ahead on this issue now that it has been decided [Hmm. How does one "move forward" if the matter has "been decided"? Methinks you don't really think the matter has been decided]. One of the most important considerations will be acknowledging the mistakes of the past. Yes, even though one might agree with the general direction and processes of liturgical reform since Vatican II does not mean one automatically agrees with every word translated or, God knows for certain, every song sung.

What will be most important is the manner and degree of educating -- catechesis -- that is done regarding the new translations and why things are changing [here's the plan (and it's worked so well in the past) get liberals in influential positions (DRE's, liturgists, etc.), and dismiss, belittle, sabotage and undermine the Magisterium].

We hope that the educating is user-friendly, pragmatic as well as theoretical and theological. Most of all, we hope professional liturgists and practitioners are brought in as full partners in the preparation of teaching materials and in the implementation of the new translations.

Finally, we suspect that the way forward will also include accommodating those who simply refuse to go along and will stand in place and continue to use the same language they’ve been using for decades. Our suspicion is that God will not be terribly upset by a little show of resistance. [Sure. Just like the liberals "accomodated" traditionalists who loved the Latin Mass, "refused to go along" with the deconstruction of the Mass and "continued to use the same language they'd been using" for centuries! I can't speak for God, but I seem to recall that liberals in the Church hierarchy were more than a little upset by those "little shows of resistance". What rank hypocrisy.]

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Internet Urban Legends

Urban legends have been around for decades. However, the growth of e-mail and the internet gave a whole new impetus to urban legends. With these new technologies, urban legends could be disseminated to dozens, hundreds and even thousands of people instantly, and posted on web sites to be viewed and re-disseminated by millions.

Here are a couple of the early internet urban legends that I recall seeing. Both make for some good humorous reading.

JATO Rocket Car
You all know about the Darwin Awards - it's the annual honor given to the person who did the gene pool the biggest service by killing themselves in the most extraordinarily stupid way. Last year's winner was the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine which toppled over on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.
And this year's nominee is:
The Arizona Highway Patrol came upon a pile of smoldering metal embedded into the side of a cliff rising above the road at the apex of a curve. the wreckage resembled the site of an airplane crash, but it was a car. The type of car was unidentifiable at the scene. The lab finally figured out what it was and what had happened.
It seems that a guy had somehow gotten hold of a JATO unit (Jet Assisted Take Off - actually a solid fuel rocket) that is used to give heavy military transport planes an extra 'push' for taking off from short airfields. He had driven his Chevy Impala out into the desert and found a long, straight stretch of road. Then he attached the JATO unit to his car, jumped in, got up some speed and fired off the JATO!
The facts, as best could be determined, are that the operator of the 1967 Impala hit JATO ignition at a distance of approximately 3.0 miles from the crash site. This was established by the prominent scorched and melted asphalt at that location. The JATO, if operating properly, would have reached maximum thrust within five seconds, causing the Chevy to reach speeds well in excess of 350 MPH, continuing at full power for an additional 20-25 seconds. The driver, soon to be pilot, most likely would have experienced G-forces usually reserved for dog-fighting F-14 jocks under full afterburners, basically causing him to become insignificant for the remainder of the event. However, the automobile remained on the straight highway for about 2.5 miles (15-20 seconds) before the driver applied and completely melted the brakes, blowing the tires and leaving thick rubber marks on the road surface, then becoming airborne for additional 1.4 miles and impacting the cliff face at a height of 125 feet, leaving a blackened crater 3 feet deep in the rock.
Most of the driver's remains were not recoverable; however, small fragments of bone, teeth and hair were extracted from the crater, and fingernail and bone shards were removed from a piece of debris believed to be a portion of the steering wheel.
Smithsonian Barbie
Paleoanthropology Division
Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull." We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents "conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago." Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be the "Malibu Barbie". It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to it's modern origin:

  • 1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.

  • 2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.

  • 3. The dentition pattern evident on the "skull" is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the "ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams" you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time. This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:

  • A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.

  • B. Clams don't have teeth.

    It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in it's normal operation, and partly due to carbon dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results. Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation's Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name "Australopithecus spiff-arino." Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound like it might be Latin.

    However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your back yard. We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the "trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix" that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.

    Yours in Science,

    Harvey Rowe
    Curator, Antiquities

  • Thursday, July 06, 2006

    Bean Counting

    Real Clear Politics is a great site; it not only collects and posts a number of good articles, it also does a great job of tracking different political races, polls, etc. One race that is near and dear to me is the upcoming House election for my district (the IL 8th). Here is a recent post from RCP's blog and bad news for the Dem incumbent Melissa Bean.

    More Bad News For Bean

    Last month Melissa Bean's reelection bid in the 8th Congressional District in Illinois hit a rather sizeable bump in the road when the state AFL-CIO refused to endorse her - political payback for her vote in favor of CAFTA last year.

    Now comes word that third-party candidate Bill Scheurer has made it onto the ballot in November. Scheurer is a lay minister and "progressive" peace activist who ran against Bean in the 2004 Democratic primary, winning 22% of the vote. Adding insult to injury, it turns out that Scheurer made it onto the ballot with the help of labor unions, which provided volunteers to help him collect signatures and have also donated more than $30,000 to his campaign this year.

    A third-party progressive candidate with even minimal union backing is bad news for Bean, who is in a competitive race with Republican Dave McSweeney to hold onto the seat she took from Phil Crane in 2004. Illinois-8 is a decidedly Republican-leaning district (Cook Partisan Voting Index R+5), so if Scheurer manages to siphon off even a couple of points from Bean it could prove lethal.

    On the plus side for Bean: she ran unopposed in the primary and is flush with close to $2 million cash-on-hand while McSweeney is essentially broke after spending more than $2.4 million (the vast majority of which came from his own personal fortune) to outlast a crowded primary field. McSweeney has been bringing in Republican dignitaries left and right - Speaker Hastert, Vice President Cheney and Rudy Giuliani all made appearances in Chicago in June - in an effort to fill his coffers and post a respectable number for the latest FEC filing.

    The money race becomes all that more important now that Scheurer is on the ballot. Unless McSweeney proves to be utterly incompetent - which isn't very likely - Bean is going to need to outspend him in a big way to compensate for the vulnerabilities created by a challenge from her left and lack of union support.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    Timeless Truths

    "You can't hardly find a law school in the country that don't, through some inherent weakness, turn out a senator or congressman from time to time...if their rating is real low, even a president."

    — Will Rogers
    Some Long Term Perspective

    Got this e-mail today -- a little long, but worth reading.

    This is by Raymond S. Kraft, a California lawyer.

    Sixty-three years ago, Nazi Germany had overrun almost all of Europe and hammered England to the verge of bankruptcy and defeat, and had sunk more than four hundred British ships in their convoys between England and America for food and war materials.

    The US was in an isolationist, pacifist, mood, and most Americans and Congress wanted nothing to do with the European war, or the Asian war. Then along came Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and in outrage Congress unanimously declared war on Japan, and the following day on Germany, which had not attacked us. It was a dicey thing. We had few allies.

    America's allies then were England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Australia, and Russia, and that was about it. All of Europe, from Norway to Italy, except Russia in the east, was already under the Nazi heel.

    America was not prepared for war. America had stood down most of its military after WWI and throughout the depression, at the outbreak of WWII there were army units training with broomsticks over their shoulders because they didn't have guns, and cars with "tank" painted on the doors because they didn't have tanks. And a big chunk of our navy had just been sunk and damaged at Pearl Harbor.

    Russia lost something like 24 million people in the sieges of Stalingrad and Moscow, 90% of them from cold and starvation, mostly civilians, but also more than a million soldiers. More than a million. Had Russia surrendered, then, Hitler would have been able to focus his entire campaign against the Brits, then America, and the Nazis would probably have won that war.

    I say this to illustrate that turning points in history are often dicey things. And we are at another one. There is a very dangerous minority in Islam that either has, or wants and may soon have, the ability to deliver small nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, almost anywhere in the world, unless they are prevented from doing so.

    The Jihadis, the militant Muslims, are basically Nazis in Kaffiyahs - they believe that Islam, a radically conservative form of Wahhabi Islam, should own and control the Middle East first, then Europe, then the world, and that all who do not bow to Allah should be killed, enslaved, or subjugated. They want to finish the Holocaust, destroy Israel, purge the world of Jews. This is what they publicly say.

    If the militants prevail, then the Wahhabis, the Jihadis, will control the Middle East, and the OPEC oil, and the US, European, and Asian economies, the techno-industrial economies, will be at the mercy of OPEC - not an OPEC dominated by the well-educated and rational Saudis of today, but an OPEC dominated by the Jihadis.

    You want gas in your car? You want heating oil next winter? You want jobs? You want the dollar to be worth anything? You better hope the Jihad, the Muslim Inquisition, loses, and the Islamic Reformation wins.

    If the Reformation movement wins, that is, the moderate Muslims who believe that Islam can respect and tolerate other religions, and live in peace with the rest of the world, and move out of the 10th century into the 21st, then the troubles in the Middle East will eventually fade away, and a moderate and prosperous Middle East will emerge.

    It is hard for some to see, but we have no choice here. We have to help the Reformation win, and to do that we have to fight the Inquisition, i.e., the Wahhabi movement, the Jihad, Al Qaeda, the Islamic terrorist movements. We have to do it somewhere. We cannot do it nowhere. And we cannot do it everywhere at once. We have created a focal point for the battle now at the time and place of our choosing, in Iraq.

    Not in New York, not in London, or Paris, or Berlin, but in Iraq, where we did and are doing two very important things.

    (1) We deposed Saddam Hussein. Whether Saddam Hussein was directly involved in 9/11 or not, it is undisputed that Saddam has been actively supporting the terrorist movement for decades. Saddam is a terrorist. Saddam is, or was, a weapon of mass destruction, who is responsible for the deaths of probably more than a million Iraqis and two million Iranians.

    (2) We created a battle, a confrontation, a flash point, with Islamic terrorism in Iraq. We have focused the battle. We are killing bad guys there and the ones we get there we won't have to get here, or anywhere else. We also have a good shot at creating a democratic, peaceful Iraq, which will be a catalyst for democratic change in the rest of the Middle East, and an outpost for a stabilizing American military presence in the Middle East for as long as it is needed.

    World War II, the war with the German and Japanese Nazis, really began with a "whimper" in 1928. It did not begin with Pearl Harbor. It began with the Japanese invasion of China. It was a war for fourteen years before America joined it. It officially ended in 1945 - a 17 year war - and was followed by another decade of US occupation in Germany and Japan to get those countries reconstructed and running on their own again .. a 27 year war.

    World War II cost the United States an amount equal to approximately a full year's GDP - adjusted for inflation, equal to about $12 trillion dollars, WWII cost America more than 400,000 killed in action, and nearly 100,000 still missing in action.

    The Iraq war has, so far, cost the US about $160 billion, which is roughly what 9/11 cost New York. It has also cost about 2,200 American lives, which is roughly 2/3 of the 3,000 lives that the Jihad snuffed out on 9/11.

    Americans have a short attention span, now, conditioned by 60 minute TV shows and 2-hour movies in which everything comes out okay. The real world is just not like that. It is messy, uncertain, and sometimes bloody and ugly. Always has been, and probably always will be.

    The bottom line here is that we will have to deal with Islamic terrorism until we defeat it, whenever that is. It will not go away on its own. It will not go away if we ignore it.

    If the US can create a reasonably democratic and stable Iraq, then we have an "England" in the Middle East, a platform, from which we can work to help modernize and moderate the Middle East. The history of the world is the clash between the forces of relative civility and civilization, and the barbarians clamoring at the gates. The Iraq war is merely another battle in this ancient and never-ending war. And now, for the first time ever, the barbarians are about to get nuclear weapons unless we prevent them. Or somebody does.

    We have four options:

    1. We can defeat the Jihad now, before it gets nuclear weapons.

    2. We can fight the Jihad later, after it gets nuclear weapons (which may be as early as next year, if Iran's progress on nuclear weapons is what Iran claims it is).

    3. We can surrender to the Jihad and accept its dominance in the Middle East, now, in Europe in the next few years or decades, and ultimately in America.

    4. Or we can stand down now, and pick up the fight later when the Jihad is more widespread and better armed, perhaps after the Jihad has dominated France and Germany and maybe most of the rest of Europe. It will be more dangerous, more expensive, and much bloodier then.

    Yes, the Jihadis say that they look forward to an Islamic America. If you oppose this war, I hope you like the idea that your children, or grandchildren, may live in an Islamic America under the Mullahs and the Sharia, an America that resembles Iran today.

    We can be defeatist peace-activists as anti-war types seem to be, and concede, surrender, to the Jihad, or we can do whatever it takes to win this war against them. The history of the world is the history of civilizational clashes, cultural clashes. All wars are about ideas, ideas about what society and civilization should be like, and the most determined always win. Those who are willing to be the most ruthless always win. The pacifists always lose, because the anti-pacifists kill them. Real facts, real life.

    In the 20th century, it was Western democracy vs. communism, and before that Western democracy vs. Nazism, and before that Western democracy vs. German Imperialism. Western democracy won, three times, but it wasn't cheap, fun, nice, easy, or quick. Indeed, the wars against German Imperialism (WWI), Nazi Imperialism (WWII), and communist imperialism (the 40-year Cold War that included the Vietnam Battle, commonly called the Vietnam War, but itself a major battle in a larger war) covered almost the entire century.

    The first major war of the 21st Century is the war between Western Judeo/Christian Civilization and Wahhabi Islam. It may last a few more years, or most of this century. It will last until the Wahhabi branch of Islam fades away, or gives up its ambitions for regional and global dominance and Jihad, or until Western Civilization gives in to the Jihad.

    It will take time. It will not go with no hitches. This is not TV.

    Remember, perspective is everything, and America's schools teach too little history for perspective to be clear, especially in the young American mind.

    The Cold war lasted from about 1947 at least until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Forty-two years. Europe spent the first half of the 19th century fighting Napoleon, and from 1870 to 1945 fighting Germany.

    World War II began in 1928, lasted 17 years, plus a ten year occupation, and the US still has troops in Germany and Japan. World War II resulted in the death of more than 50 million people.

    The US has taken a little more than 2,000 dead in Iraq. The US took more than 4,000 Killed in action on the morning of June 6, 1944, the first day of the Normandy Invasion to rid Europe of Nazi Imperialism. In WWII the US averaged 2,000 Killed in action a week for four years. Most of the individual battles of WWII lost more Americans than the entire Iraq war has done so far.

    But the stakes are at least as high - a world dominated by representative governments with civil rights, human rights, and personal freedoms or a world dominated by a radical Islamic Wahhabi movement, by the Jihad, under the Mullahs and the Sharia (Islamic law).

    I do not understand why the American Left does not grasp this. They favor human rights, civil rights, liberty and freedom, but evidently not for Iraqis. In America, absolutely, but nowhere else.

    300,000 Iraqi bodies in mass graves in Iraq are not our problem? The US population is about twelve times that of Iraq, so let's multiply 300,000 by twelve. What would you think if there were 3,600,000 American bodies in mass graves in America because of George Bush? Would you hope for another country to help liberate America?

    "Peace Activists" always seem to demonstrate where it's safe, in America. Why don't we see Peace Activist demonstrating in Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, in the places in the world that really need peace activism the most?

    The liberal mentality is supposed to favor human rights, civil rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc., but if the Jihad wins, wherever the Jihad wins, it is the end of civil rights, human rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc. Americans who oppose the liberation of Iraq are coming down on the side of their own worst enemy.

    If the Jihad wins, it is the death of Liberalism. Everywhere the Jihad wins, it is the death of Liberalism. And American Liberals just don't get it.

    Raymond S. Kraft is a writer and lawyer living in Northern California. He feels that high school and college students need to obtain a full perspective on the world situation today - information and the real hard facts about the American past that is very meaningful TODAY. By being denied the facts and truth of our history, they are at a decided disadvantage when it comes to reasoning and thinking through the issues of today. They are prime targets for misinformation campaigns beamed at enlisting them in causes and beliefs that are special interest agenda driven.


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