Monday, December 31, 2007

UPDATE: What a Crock

While it's beneath the U.S. media to acknowledge our military, I note, via Powerline, that others are not so blind. General Petraues is the U.K.'s Sunday Telegraph's 'Person of the Year.

General Petraeus: man with a message of hope

The critics said it couldn't be done, but the vision and determination of General David Petraeus have brought greater security and cause for optimism to the people of Iraq. He is The Sunday Telegraph's Person of the Year

For a man whose critics say he is far too fond of the television cameras, General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Iraq, has been rather out of the limelight this Christmas.

The sprightly, media-friendly 55-year-old is not perturbed, however, that his face is no longer number one item on the US networks. As he said last week, where Iraq is concerned, "No news is good news."

Today, we put him in the spotlight again by naming Gen Petraeus as The Sunday Telegraph's Person of the Year, a new annual accolade to recognise outstanding individual achievement.

He has been the man behind the US troop surge over the past 10 months, the last-ditch effort to end Iraq's escalating civil war by putting an extra 28,000 American troops on the ground.

So far, it has achieved what many feared was impossible. Sectarian killings are down. Al-Qaeda is on the run. And the two million Iraqis who fled the country are slowly returning. Progress in Iraq is relative - 538 civilians died last month. But compared with the 3,000 peak of December last year, it offers at least a glimmer of hope. … [T]he reason for picking Petraeus is simple. Iraq, whatever the current crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan, remains the West's biggest foreign policy challenge of this decade, and if he can halt its slide into all-out anarchy, Gen Petraeus may save more than Iraqi lives.

A failed Iraq would not just be a second Vietnam, nor would it just be America's problem.

It would be a symbolic victory for al-Qaeda, a safe haven for jihadists to plot future September 11s and July 7s, and a battleground for a Shia-Sunni struggle that could draw in the entire Middle East. Our future peace and prosperity depend, in part, on fixing this mess. And, a year ago, few had much hope.

To appreciate the scale of the task Gen Petraeus took on, it is necessary to go back to February 22, 2006. Or, as Iraqis now refer to it, their own September 11. That was when Sunni-led terrorists from al-Qaeda blew up the Shia shrine in the city of Samarra, an act of provocation that finally achieved their goal of igniting sectarian civil war.

A year on, an estimated 34,000 people had been killed on either side - some of them members of the warring Sunni and Shia militias, but most innocents tortured and killed at random. US casualties continued to rise, too, but increasingly American troops became the bystanders in a religious conflict that many believed they could no longer tame.

Except, that is, for Gen Petraeus. Despite his well-documented obsession with fitness - he starts his 18-hour days with a five-mile run - he is the opposite of the brawn-over-brain image that has dogged the US military mission in Iraq.

Top of the class of 1974 at West Point Military Academy and the holder of a PhD in international relations, he is the co author of the US military's manual on counter-insurgency, a "warrior monk" for whom the messy intrigues of asymmetric warfare hold more interest than the straightforward challenges of 2003's invasion.

Simply being the best and brightest soldier of his generation, however, would not be enough for Iraq in 2007, where a major part of the "surge" involves reconciling Iraq's warring political tribes.

When the White House called, confirming him for the job, President Bush was looking not just for an outstanding leader but also a diplomat, a politician and a negotiator. It seems he got them all.

"Petraeus has a rare combination of great geopolitical skills as well as tactical and military ones," says retired General Jack Keane, a fellow architect of the surge strategy. "He is good at working with ambassadors, with the Iraqi government, and he also knows how to cope with uncertainty and failure, which is what you get in an environment like Iraq."

Lest Gen Keane seem a little biased, it should be pointed out that British commanders hold Gen Petraeus in similarly high regard.

Several Northern Ireland veterans who worked with him in Baghdad this year came away with the opinion that it is now America, not Britain, that is the world leader in counter-insurgency.

As Petraeus toured some of Baghdad's abandoned, bullet-scarred Sunni neighbourhoods last February, his own comrades were not the only ones predicting he might fail spectacularly.

Among the US public, the clamour grew for the troops to be brought home altogether, and Iraq to be declared a lost cause unworthy of further American sacrifice.

The surge's "boots on the ground" strategy would simply force the militias into temporary hiding, critics said, wasting thousands more Americans lives in the process.

The strategy's chances of success were commonly put at only one in three - and those were the odds quoted by its supporters. Indeed, when The Sunday Telegraph visited Baghdad in the spring, US troops were candid about their expectations.

"Sure, the bad guys will go into hiding," said one commander in Jamia, an al-Qaeda-infested neighbourhood with 30 murders a month. "All we can hope is that things will have improved by the time they come back, so they're no longer welcome."

Nine months on, things do seem to have improved, thanks largely to Petraeus's extraordinary coup of turning Sunni insurgents against their extremist allies in al-Qaeda.

With the chief accelerant in the civil war gone, Shia militias such as the Mehdi Army have also been deprived of their main raison d'être, and with extra US troops on the streets, Iraqis who had previously felt vulnerable to the gunmen now feel safe enough to return home.

Things are far from perfect but, after four years in which events did nothing but get worse, the sight of a souk re-opening, or a Shia family being welcomed back home by their Sunni neighbours, has remarkable morale-boosting power.

Where once Iraqis saw the glass as virtually empty, now they can see a day when it might at least be half full.

True, post-Saddam Iraq has had a habit of confounding even the most cautious of optimists.

Iraq's Shia-dominated government is not alone in worrying that the most controversial of Gen Petraeus's policies - the co-opting of former Sunni insurgents into "concerned local citizens" schemes to fend off Shia militias - may create new, better-organised forces for a renewed civil war once the US finally departs.

Many coalition officials fear such a scenario. Were it to occur, it would confirm the charges of Petraeus's critics that at best he has secured only a hiatus in the collapse of Iraq.

Ultimately, that may prove to be the case.

But it should not overshadow his achievement this year: he has given another last chance to a country that had long since ceased to expect one. And for that, Gen Petraeus is Person of the Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Er, I O U

Here's a good one from the WSJ's 'Best of the Web':
Katie Couric's "CBS Evening News" brings us this hard-hitting sob story:

For accountant Alex Guzzetta, not a day goes by when he doesn't think about these numbers: $90,000 in student loan debt, $20,000 owed to the federal government and $70,000 to a private lender.

"A third of every hour I work is basically just going towards just maintaining the interest on my student loans. I'm not getting anywhere, they're not getting any lower. I'm just buying time," he tells CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace.

Guzzetta maxed out in borrowing a fixed low interest federal loan and had to take out a private loan. He says he didn't realize he'd wind up paying 10 percent in interest and a minimum of $535 a month for 30 years.

"They said 'In six months, this is what your payment's going to be,' and when I saw that I nearly had a heart attack," he said.

You can see why he went into accounting. He obviously has an aptitude for it.

Darwin Award
Meet the Candidates

One of the conditions of winning the Darwin Award is that you have to be dead. Here, however, are some candidates for the honor at a date still to be determined.

Forest Kelly Bissonnette
Bank robber listed demands on own cheque

Englewood, Colorado - A man robbing a bank demanded the money by writing a note on one of his own cheques, authorities say.

Not surprisingly, he was caught soon afterwards.

Forest Kelly Bissonnette, 27, apparently tried to cover his name on the cheque, then handed the note to a teller on September 5 at the Bank of the West in Englewood, according to authorities.

"We could still make it out even though he blacked it out," FBI agent Rene VonderHaar said. Nearly $5 000 in cash was taken.

A surveillance video showed a suspect similar to Bissonnette's description, and a tipster said a man named Forest Kelly claimed he got $5,000 in a bank robbery, according to a federal complaint.

Bissonnette remained in federal custody on Tuesday after turning himself in Friday. A public defender was to be appointed for Bissonnette. - Sapa-AP

QuickwirePublished on the Web by IOL on 2007-09-12 03:01:48

Randy-Jay Adolphos Jones

He holds woman's cell phone for ransom — but cops thwart plan
Lancaster New Era

Published: Oct 15, 2007 11:32 AM EST

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - How much ransom money would you pay to get your cell phone back from a robber?

Perhaps $50 or $100 — maybe more if the phone were equipped with all the latest features.

But not a whopping $185,000.

Believe it or not, that was the initial amount an alleged purse snatcher told his victim he wanted in return for her cell phone, Lancaster police said.

After a few minutes of negotiating with the victim, the robber lowered his ransom figure dramatically — down to $200.

But the victim, a 29-year-old Philadelphia woman, got her phone back — and her stolen purse — without paying a single cent.

That's because Lancaster police listened to the negotiations and met the alleged robber at a rendezvous point with drawn guns.

The suspect, Randy-Jay Adolphos Jones, 29, of 2565 Ironville Pike, Columbia, was arrested on charges of robbery and indecent assault with his bail set at $100,000, police said.

Officer Jeff Gerhart, who filed the charges, gave this account:

Shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday, police got word of a purse-snatch robbery in the 400 block of West Lemon Street.

When Gerhart and other officers arrived, they had the woman call her cell phone number.

Jones answered and told the woman "he wanted money, $185,000, to give her her phone back," Gerhart said.

The woman kept Jones on the line, stalling for time, as police tried to trace the suspect's location. "Who are you? Where are you? What do you want me to do?" she kept asking the man while trying to get him to lower the ransom amount.

The suspect agreed to a price of $200, and told the woman to meet him at the Harrisburg Avenue pedestrian walkway that connects Franklin and Marshall College and Doc Holliday's restaurant.

Gerhart and about four other officers from Platoon A accompanied the woman to the meeting point. When they saw Jones standing by a pillar on the campus side of the walkway, they moved in shortly after 2 a.m. and arrested the suspect at gunpoint.
Brian Poulin

Police: Man Arrested After Calling 911 For More Beer

POSTED: 1:25 pm EST November 6, 2007
A Hebron man was arrested Sunday after police said he called 911 several times, asking police to bring him beer.

Brian Poulin, 35, of 450 Church St., was charged with disorderly conduct.

Police said he called 911 numerous times and told police he was out of beer and asked them to pick up more for him.

Poulin was transported to Windham Community Memorial Hospital where Hebron Ambulance took him for treatment.

Police did not say what he was treated for.

He is scheduled to appear in Superior Court in Rockville on Nov. 20.

Copyright 2007 by

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas from the Gipper

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What a Crock

So many of these annual awards are just an excuse for liberals to pat themselves on the back, an opportunity to promote their agendas or prop up their favorite dictators. Time's Man/Person of the Year is one of the prime examples. (Yes, I know, technically it's not an award -- but it's generally considered to be one). Another great example of what a farce these awards have become is giving gas-bag AlGore the Nobel Peace Prize. How does stumping for tree-huggers equate into world peace? The organization that has done more to promote world peace is the US Military -- not that those clowns on the Nobel committee would ever dream of considering them.

Here is a good piece on Putin's award from the WSJ:

Man of the Year?

December 22, 2007; Page A11

Ever since President Vladimir Putin took office eight long years ago, the political and media leadership of the West have had a full-time job trying to look on the bright side of Russia's rapid turn from democracy.

The free press has been demolished, elections are canceled and rigged, and then we hear how popular Mr. Putin is. Opposition marches are crushed, and we're told -- over and over -- how much better off we are today than in the days of the Soviet Union. This week Time magazine named Mr. Putin its 2007 "Person of the Year."

[Vladimir Putin]
Vladimir Putin

Unfortunately, there is no silver lining to Russia's descent into dictatorship. If anything there is a look of iron to it.

Condoleezza Rice, hardly a Putin critic, said recently that Russia "is not an environment in which you can talk about free and fair elections." A good start, but this comment was not made where one would imagine -- perhaps at a press conference insisting that Putin's Russia be removed from the G-7 for making a mockery of democratic practices. No, her remark came as a side note to her very early endorsement of Mr. Putin's handpicked heir to the throne, Dmitry Medvedev.

The most revealing moment in Ms. Rice's comments came when the topic of Mr. Medvedev as the next president was first broached. The official transcript reads: "SECRETARY RICE: Well, I guess, they're still going to have an election in March. "

Perhaps my sense of humor was dulled during the five days I spent in a Moscow jail last month for protesting against these sham elections. Or maybe it was reading about the constant persecution of my fellow activists across the country that did it. Madam Secretary went on to speak approvingly of Mr. Medvedev, making the undemocratic nature of his selection sound like a minor annoyance. The last remaining element of democracy in Russia, the transition of power, will be destroyed. Will Mr. Putin and his successor still be welcomed with open arms in the club of leading democracies?

In the early days of our opposition activities last year, when members of Other Russia were harassed and arrested, the "bright siders" in the West said it could be worse. Later, when our marchers were badly beaten in St. Petersburg and Moscow, Mr. Putin's fans in the West said at least the police weren't killing us in the streets.

Last week, 22-year-old opposition activist Yury Chervochkin died in hospital after several weeks in a coma. He had been beaten nearly to death an hour after making an anxious cellphone call to our offices saying he was being followed by members of the organized-crime task force known as UBOP, which has become the vanguard of the Kremlin's war on political opposition. A witness saw him clubbed repeatedly by men with baseball bats.

Yury's sin was not chanting Nazi slogans or praising the deeds of Josef Stalin, activities that regularly go unremarked in Russia these days. No, he had been caught throwing leaflets that read "The elections are a farce!" That was enough to make him a marked man. Now, for agitating for real democracy in Russia, he is dead.

The stakes have been raised to the highest level, and what bright side will be found now? Where is the line that cannot be crossed without a serious response from the West? So far Mr. Putin hasn't found it -- and he has good reason to suspect such a line simply does not exist. It is for the leaders in Washington, D.C., Paris and Berlin to decide what it means to denounce the Russian elections as fraudulent, only to then embrace the winners as democratic partners.

Lesser tragedies than that of Yury Chervochkin are occurring on a regular basis in Russia today. Last week journalist Natalya Morar was denied entry into the country on secret orders of the FSB security force, after writing investigative articles on financial deals with Kremlin connections. Lyudmila Kharlamova, a political organizer for Other Russia, was arrested after heroin was planted among her possessions in Orenburg. Activist Andrei Grekhov suffered a similar fate in Rostov, though the police chose to plant bullets instead of drugs in his pockets.

This is a good opportunity to remember Anna Politkovskaya, the investigative journalist who was murdered on Oct. 7, 2006, Putin's birthday. The police investigation into this infamous assassination has stalled and talk of it has died down. The Kremlin is counting on the same thing happening with "minor" cases like that of Yury Chervochkin.

In a recent speech, Mr. Putin said "the enemies of the state must be wiped out!" It has been made quite clear that by "enemies" he means anyone who opposes his total authority. It is no surprise that his words are taken at face value across the country, and acted on by security forces eager to prove their loyalty and enthusiasm.

The presidents and prime ministers of the West seem just as eager to bow down to the Kremlin and the great god of business as usual. Nicolas Sarkozy raced to congratulate Mr. Putin on his party's election victory, despite the overwhelming evidence of massive fraud at the polls. A few days later France's Renault picked up a 25% share in Russian automaker AvtoVaz, a purchase made from Sergei Chemezov and his arms-dealing company Rosoboronexport. Why should Mr. Putin and his oligarchs worry about democracy as long as the money keeps rolling in?

Time magazine, of course, took obvious pains to explain that its award to Mr. Putin is "not an endorsement" and that it goes to the person who made the most news "for better or for worse." Nonetheless the article praises Mr. Putin for restoring his country to prominence in the international arena, dispelling "anarchy" and recovering national pride. The magazine does express concern about his "troubling" record on human rights.

The same things could have been said about Adolf Hitler in 1938, when he took his turn as Time's Man of the Year. "Fascism," Time wrote then, "has discovered that freedom -- of press, speech, assembly -- is a potential danger to its own security." Again these words apply equally well to this year's winner.

Most of the criticism leveled against Mr. Putin regards "alleged" abuses or comes directly from known critics. This abdicates the journalist's role to report the facts as facts.

Consider the timing of this announcement, right after the counterfeit parliamentary elections that added to Mr. Putin's record of eradicating democracy across Russia. The Time article will be trumpeted by Kremlin propaganda as an endorsement of Mr. Putin's policies. The man on the street will be told that even America, constantly blasted by the Kremlin as an enemy, has been forced to recognize the president's greatness.

Internationally, the focus will be on the myth that Mr. Putin has built a "strong Russia." In fact he and his cronies have hollowed out the state from within. Most of the power now resides in the super-corporations like Gazprom and Rosneft, and among the small group of loyalists who run them.

The Putin regime has taken Russia from a frail democracy to an efficient mafia state. It was an impressive balancing act -- behaving like a tyrant while at the same time staying in the good graces of the West.

After each crackdown, with no significant international reaction forthcoming, Mr. Putin knew it was safe to take another step. As ever, appeasement in the name of realpolitik only encourages would-be dictators. And such moral weakness inevitably leads to very real costs in human life.

Mr. Kasparov is a former world chess champion and a leader of The Other Russia, a pro-democracy coalition. He is the author of "How Life Imitates Chess," recently published by Bloomsbury USA.

That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles
nyuk, nyuk

Friday, December 21, 2007

I'm Sooo Happy
well, not really

Interesting piece from yesterday's WSJ. Very timely for this time of year. Despite what our culture tells us -- that lots of nice expensive presents will make us happy.

The Happiness Myth

December 20, 2007; Page A17

One morning when I was 13, I elbowed my father as he got ready for work. "Dad," I said, "are you happy?" For a long moment he stared at me. Then he replied, "Son, a man doesn't have time to think about that. A man just does what needs doing." He gave me one of his you'll-understand-someday smiles, and left.

I've been thinking about that exchange a lot, now that another kind of exchange -- the gift-giving kind -- is upon us. If recent traditions hold, a fair percentage of those gifts will be "inspirational" materials that extol the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. Certain to end up under the trees of at least some Americans who don't already own it is that unparalleled tribute to wishful thinking, "The Secret," by Rhonda Byrne. The year's blockbuster best-seller-cum-cultural phenomenon sold six million books and DVDs on the strength of the belief that you can imagine your way to total fulfillment.

Some of the season's hottest inspiration books, though not "how-to" in format, sell a similar message. Notable is Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love," the story of one woman's (literal) journey to happiness, in which she decided to forsake the comfort of her known life for regions uncharted. "Eat, Pray, Love" reached the top of the best-seller lists after being blessed by Oprah. Self-help guru Tony Robbins, too, has lately been spamming his online community with holiday offers. Various Robbins products, and even tickets to his entry-level seminars on personal reinvention, will likely end up as stocking-stuffers.

If the quest for joy doesn't take center stage at Christmas, it will surely pop up the following week. Typically, New Year's resolutions that don't involve weight loss have something to do with embracing change, choosing happiness, following your dreams, etc. We are consumed by the pursuit of happiness.

That's too bad. Because it's that very pursuit -- as currently framed -- that may prevent you from finding happiness, or at least a passable facsimile.

Now, I'm not contending that Dad's stoic machismo is what life ought to be about -- for either gender. But a lot of us seemed a lot happier, or at least less restless, before the Happiness Movement began bullying us. Myrna Blyth, a longtime editor in chief of Ladies' Home Journal, made this point explicitly in her 2004 book, "Spin Sisters." Ms. Blyth undertook an informal study of the themes in women's magazines as they evolved over recent decades, and concluded that what women have mostly gotten from their magazines is the message that they're never quite happy enough -- never good enough, never fulfilled enough, never far enough along on the path to "having it all."

Of course, it's not just women's magazines that do this. With highly visible gurus of personal development fanning the flames, an entire generation has come of age believing that perpetual happiness is a birthright. Over the past four decades, the concepts of Empowerment and Entitlement, first-cousins in the family of American psychobabble, have conspired to produce what New York Observer writer Alexandra Wolfe labels "the most coddled generation in American history." We once laughed at the excesses of the "Me Generation," the malignant narcissism epitomized in the TV show "Seinfeld." If we don't laugh quite as much these days, that's because it's not caricature anymore. It's life as we live it.

Contrary to what you hear from Oprah, not "everything you want in life" is attainable (unless, maybe, you are Oprah). Consider the staple line from school administrators during self-esteem-boosting student-assemblies: "In this great country, you can even be president, if you want!" While technically it's true that anybody can be president, it is not true that everybody can be president. Yet that's the implication. In my own case, growing up in Brooklyn, I wanted desperately to patrol center field for the Dodgers. Alas, I had millions of young competitors, some of whom had actual major league skills. If that is your dream -- the only dream that will make you happy -- what do you do when the Dodgers fail to call?

We know what some of us do, perhaps, when our plans don't work out. The years between 1960 and 1999, the period of the most intense "coddling," saw a tripling in suicides among people aged 15 to 24. (For every "successful" suicide, 100 to 200 young people attempt it.) Increasingly, those who don't kill themselves find alternative ways of escaping reality. Today, almost one-fifth of people under age 20 confess to binge drinking. Millions of others descend on doctors, seeking prescriptions for Prozac, Xanax and the like. Although it's reckless to draw straight-line links of causation, is it not possible that these grim facts represent, in part, what happens when people raised on pie-in-the-sky brainwashing run up against the hard truths of an unforgiving world and can't cope?

Here's something else Dad told me: "Life isn't built around 'fun.' It's built around peace of mind." Maybe Dad sensed the paradox of happiness: Those most desperate for it run a high risk of being the last to find it. That's because they make foolish decisions. They live disorderly lives, always chasing the high of the moment.

Perhaps happiness is best viewed as an ongoing marathon rather than a succession of disconnected sprints. It's a long-term commitment that sometimes calls for sacrifice and self-denial, compromise and conciliation. Above all, happiness may mean knowing when to quit -- to settle for "just OK." That is a very unpopular message in these empowered times.

My father didn't have it all, but I believe he was at peace with himself and the life he led. Shouldn't that be enough for any of us?

Mr. Salerno is author of "SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless," (Crown, 2005). He is now writing a book on vanity's role in American life.

In fact, there's really only one thing, one person (well, Three Persons :-), who can bring true happiness.

As St. Thomas says in his Prayer of Thanksgiving After Mass:

And I pray that You will lead me, a sinner,
to the banquet where you,

with Your Son and holy Spirit,
are true and perfect light,
total fulfillment,
everlasting joy,
gladness without end,
and perfect happiness to your saints.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Just Wondering

If we depend on the government to protect us, it should follow that the more government control there is, the safer things should be.

So why are prisons so dangerous?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Think You've Got a Tough Job?

A crocodile at a zoo in the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung holds the forearm of a zoo veterinarian in between its teeth, April 11, 2007. The crocodile bit off the arm of the zoo veterinarian treating it, an official reported.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Get Ready for Anti-Gun Hysteria

I can't predict the future, but this is a no brainer. In case you haven't heard, the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the D.C. gun ban case. (D.C. had a law on the books outlawing private ownership of handguns -- thereby ensuring that only criminals had guns. The law was finally challenged and the law struck down.)

This is the first time since the 1930s that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a gun rights case. Liberals have tried over the years to concoct the theory that the 2nd Amendment only guarantees a "collective" right to keep and bear arms. Unfortunately for libs, honest recent scholarship has begun to embrace the view (no surprise) that, like the other amendments, the 2nd Amendment was always intended as an individual right.

With the facts and history against them, look for desperate liberals to whip up anti-gun hysteria by playing on people's emotions. It's their standard posture and as predictable as night following day. You'll see "analysis" pieces in the media about the "legacy" of gun violence, human interest pieces on lives destroyed by some shooting; and, heaven forbid there's an incident along the lines of Columbine or Virginia Tech, but liberals won't even wait for the smoke to clear before they're in front of the microphones exploiting the tragedy.

I'm cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court will uphold the Constitution and affirm the Court of Appeals in the D.C. case, but, no matter. If they don't may answer will be: MOLON LAVE!

Update: a quick scan of the NYTimes shows they haven't wasted any time developing the liberal talking points. Here's an excerpt for some chuckles:
November 21, 2007

The Court and the Second Amendment

By agreeing yesterday to rule on whether provisions of the District of Columbia’s stringent gun control law violate the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the Supreme Court has inserted itself into a roiling public controversy [I wonder how much the NYTimes objected to the Supreme Court "injecting" itself into a "roiling public controversy" on abortion in 1972?] with large ramifications for public safety. The court’s move sowed hope and fear among supporters of reasonable gun control, and it ratcheted up the suspense [is this a Hollywood movie or a court case?] surrounding the court’s current term.

The hope, which we share, is that the court will rise above the hard-right ideology of some justices [unlike the reasonable and measured jurisprudence of Souter and Ginsburg] to render a decision respectful of the Constitution’s text and the violent consequences of denying government broad room to regulate guns [can you say "fear mongering?]. The fear is that it will not.

At issue is a 2-to-1 ruling last March by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that found unconstitutional a law barring handguns in homes and requiring that shotguns and rifles be stored with trigger locks or

disassembled. The ruling upheld a radical decision [ooh] by a federal trial judge, who struck down the 31-year-old gun control law on spurious grounds [ooh, ouch] that conform with the agenda of the anti-gun control lobby but cry out for rejection by the Supreme Court.


Beyond grappling with fairly esoteric arguments about the Second Amendment, the justices need to responsibly confront modern-day reality. A decision that upends needed gun controls currently in place around the country would imperil the lives of Americans. [what about the lives of Americans imperiled because of gun control?? How many students at Virginia Tech could have been saved if they'd been allowed to have weapons for self-defense?]

I'm cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court will uphold the Constitution and affirm the Court of Appeals in the D.C. case, but, no matter. If they don't my answer to the gun grabbers will be: MOLON LAVE!

The Tridentine Mass

God certainly does have his ways. A couple of months ago, I read a letter to the editor in Homiletic and Pastoral Review about some of the problems in the Novus Ordo Mass. It made me start thinking about the Tridentine Mass. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that our church was getting a new pastor. He is with the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius -- whose charism is the "restoration of the sacred", especially through the liturgy, and particularly through the Tridentine Mass.

I don't know much about the Tridentine Mass, but (also no coincidence) the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, recently issued a Motu Proprio providing for greater access to the Tridentine Mass.

Here is an interesting article from Catholic Online on the Motu Proprio and the efforts on the Society of St. John Cantius to facilitate other churchs to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.

New Online Multimedia Tutorial of the 1962 Latin Tridentine Mass

8/14/2007 - 23:12 PST

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14, 2007 - In thanksgiving for Our Holy Father's recent Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, The Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius ( are pleased to have the opportunity to train priests to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite according to the 1962 Missale Romanum. In developing resources to train priests, we have developed a new website entitled

In addition to providing an online multimedia tutorial, provides the rubrics of the 1962 Missale Romanum in English, as translated by Rev. Dennis M. Duvelius, the text of Fortescue‘s Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, a ceremonial for altar servers, artilces on the spirituality of the Tridentine Latin Mass, a large resource of liturigical articles, and a ceremonial for liturgical music of the liturgical books of 1962. Please check regularly for new updates, as the documents we have prepared are put online.

Rev. C. Frank Phillips, C.R., the Founder and Superior of the The Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius (Chicago), hopes that will assist priests in praying the Mass of the Ages with deeper reverence and love, so that the faithful attracted to this venerable rite might more profoundly enter into the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

To further assist priests in the celebration of the ancient Roman Rite, the webstore of The Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius ( or 1-800-345-6665) will be adding new liturgical items (Liber Usualis, Missale Romanum, Rituale Romanum, altar cards, etc.) to its catalogue in the coming week.

As we begin our 10th year of service in the Archdiocese of Chicago dedicated to the Restoration of the Sacred, we will continually be working to enhance and expand At present the website is only available in English. We are now gathering resources for the traditional Latin Mass now in Chinese, Lithuanian, Spanish and Polish. Those persons who might be able to assist us in gathering resources in these and other languages are invited to contact the Rev. Scott A. Haynes (

At present provides a multimedia presentation of Low Mass for Trinity Sunday. We would like to produce other multimedia presentations of a Requiem Mass, a Missa Cantata, a Missa Solemnis and a Missa Pontificalis, but in order to do this contributions are necessary. Only with by the generosity of the Catholic faithful are we able to continue forming, training and educating priests to celebrate the Traditional Mass according to the 1962 Missal. But exceeding in importance this monetary support is the support of prayer and sacrifice. Tax-deductible donations [Law 501(c)(3)] may be sent to:

Rev. C. Frank Phillips, C.R.
The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius
825 N. Carpenter Street, Chicago, Illinois 60622 USA

Contact: Canons Regular of St. John Cantius IL, US
Rev. Scott Haynes, SJC - Webmaster, 312 - 243-7373

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup" Psalm 16:5

Very interesting piece from today's WSJ:

Trappist Command:
Thou Shalt Not Buy
Too Much of Our Beer

Monks at St. Sixtus Battle
Resellers of Prized Brew;
Brother Joris Plays Hardball

November 29, 2007; Page A1

WESTVLETEREN, Belgium -- The Trappist monks at St. Sixtus monastery have taken vows against riches, sex and eating red meat. They speak only when necessary. But you can call them on their beer phone.

Monks have been brewing Westvleteren beer at this remote spot near the French border since 1839. Their brew, offered in strengths up to 10.2% alcohol by volume, is among the most highly prized in the world. In bars from Brussels to Boston, and online, it sells for more than $15 for an 11-ounce bottle -- 10 times what the monks ask -- if you can get it.

For the 26 monks at St. Sixtus, however, success has brought a spiritual hangover as they fight to keep an insatiable market in tune with their life of contemplation.

The monks are doing their best to resist getting bigger. They don't advertise and don't put labels on their bottles. They haven't increased production since 1946. They sell only from their front gate. You have to make an appointment and there's a limit: two, 24-bottle cases a month. Because scarcity has created a high-priced gray market online, the monks search the net for resellers and try to get them to stop.

"We sell beer to live, and not vice versa," says Brother Joris, the white-robed brewery director. Beer lovers, however, seem to live for Westvleteren.

When Jill Nachtman, an American living in Zurich, wanted a taste recently, she called the hot line everybody calls the beer phone. After an hour of busy signals, she finally got through and booked a time. She drove 16 hours to pick up her beer. "If you factor in gas, hotel -- and the beer -- I spent $20 a bottle," she says.

Until the monks installed a new switchboard and set up a system for appointments two years ago, the local phone network would sometimes crash under the weight of calls for Westvleteren. Cars lined up for miles along the flat one-lane country road that leads to the red brick monastery, as people waited to pick up their beer.

"This beer is addictive, like chocolate," said Luc Lannoo, an unemployed, 36-year-old Belgian from Ghent, about an hour away, as he loaded two cases of Westvleteren into his car at the St. Sixtus gate one morning. "I have to come every month."

Two American Web sites, Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, rank the strongest of Westvleteren's three products, a dark creamy beer known as "the 12," best in the world, ahead of beers including Sweden's Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter and Minnesota's Surly Darkness. "No question, it is the holy grail of beers," says Remi Johnson, manager of the Publick House, a Boston bar that has Westvleteren on its menu but rarely in stock.

Some beer lovers say the excitement over Westvleteren is hype born of scarcity. "It's a very good beer," says Jef van den Steen, a brewer and author of a book on Trappist monks and their beer published in French and Dutch. "But it reminds me of the movie star you want to sleep with because she's inaccessible, even if your wife looks just as good."

Thanks to the beer phone, there are no more lines of cars outside the monastery now. But production remains just 60,000 cases per year, while demand is as high as ever. Westvleteren has become almost impossible to find, even in the specialist beer bars of Brussels and local joints around the monastery.

"I keep on asking for beer," says Christophe Colpaert, manager of "Café De Sportsfriend," a bar down the road from the monks. "They barely want to talk to me." On a recent day, a recorded message on the beer phone said St. Sixtus wasn't currently making appointments; the monks were fresh out of beer.

Increasing production is not an option, according to the 47-year-old Brother Joris, who says he abandoned a stressful career in Brussels for St. Sixtus 14 years ago. "It would interfere with our job of being a monk," he says.

Belgian monasteries like St. Sixtus started making beer in the aftermath of the French Revolution, which ended in 1799. The revolt's anti-Catholic purge had destroyed churches and abbeys in France and Belgium. The monks needed cash to rebuild, and beer was lucrative.

Trappist is a nickname for the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, who set up their own order in La Trappe, France, in the 1660s because they thought Cistercian monasteries were becoming too lax. The monks at St. Sixtus sleep in a dormitory and stay silent in the cloisters, though they speak if they need to. Today, though, Trappists are increasingly famous for making good beer.

Seven monasteries (six are Belgian, one, La Trappe, is Dutch) are allowed to label their beer as Trappist. In 1996, they set up an alliance to protect their brand. They retain lawyers in Washington and Brussels ready to sue brewers who try use the word Trappist. Every few months, Brother Joris puts on street clothes and takes the train to Brussels to meet with fellow monks to share sales and business data, and plot strategy.

The monks know their beer has become big business. That's fine with the brothers at Scourmont, the monastery in southern Belgium that makes the Chimay brand found in stores and bars in Europe and the U.S. They've endorsed advertising and exports, and have sales exceeding $50 million a year. They say the jobs they create locally make the business worthy. Other monasteries, which brew names familiar to beer lovers such as Orval, Westmalle and Rochefort, also are happy their businesses are growing to meet demand.

Not so at St. Sixtus. Brother Joris and his fellow monks brew only a few days a month, using a recipe they've kept to themselves for around 170 years.

Two monks handle the brewing. After morning prayer, they mix hot water with malt. They add hops and sugar at noon. After boiling, the mix, sufficient to fill roughly 21,000 bottles, is fermented for up to seven days in a sterilized room. From there the beer is pumped to closed tanks in the basement where it rests for between five weeks and three months. Finally, it is bottled and moved along a conveyor belt into waiting cases. Monks at St. Sixtus used to brew by hand, but nothing in the rules of the order discourages technology, so they've plowed profits into productivity-enhancing equipment. St. Sixtus built its current brewhouse in 1989 with expert advice from the company then known as Artois Breweries.

In the 1980s, the monks even debated whether they should continue making something from which people can get drunk. "There is no dishonor in brewing beer for a living. We are monks of the West: moderation is a key word in our asceticism," says Brother Joris in a separate, email interview. "We decided to stick to our traditional skills instead of breeding rabbits."

The result is a brew with a slightly sweet, heavily alcoholic, fruity aftertaste.

One day recently, the wiry, sandy-haired Brother Joris returned to his office in the monastery after evening prayers. He flipped on his computer and went online to hunt for resellers and ask them to desist. "Most of the time, they agree to withdraw their offer," he says. Last year, St. Sixtus filed a complaint with the government against two companies that refused --, a Web site that sells beer, cheese, chocolate and other niche products, and Beermania, a Brussels beer shop that also sells online. Both offer Westvleteren at around $18 a bottle.

"I'm not making a lot of money and I pay my taxes," says owner Bruno Dourcy. "You can only buy two cases at once, you know." Mr. Dourcy makes monthly two-hour car trips from his home in eastern Belgium.

"Seek the Kingdom of God first, and all these things will be given to you," counters Brother Joris, quoting from the Bible, adding that it refers only to things you really need. "So if you can't have it, possibly you do not really need it."

CNN Republican Debate --
What a Bunch of Idiots!

I mean of course ...

... CNN? or,
... the Republicans?

It could be both. What I mean is: What were the Republicans thinking when they agreed to let CNN be the forum for their debate? Did they really think it was going to be "fair and balanced". I'm surprised one of the questions wasn't "When did you stop beating your wife?"

Check out this takedown from Powerline:

This was a classic CNN con job.

They chose the questions so once again we get the liberal's perspective of conservatism.

"What would Jesus do?"
"Do you believe this book"
Lock and loaded gun prop question.
Confederate Flag.

And of course...Should women go to jail if they have an abortion.

If the Republicans agree to one more debate on CNN I will begin question if they have the intelligence to lead this country.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stomach Turning Video

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Should've Bought a Mac

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gator Story Comments

I just got done reading the reader comments on the Gator story (see below). There were so many good ones that I'm posting some of them here:
  • "That animal should have been rewarded with more ciminals to eat."
  • "maybe he should have stolen a boat before heading for the water...."
  • "It's to bad that his buddy couldn't keep up with him. Think of the money it would have saved..."
  • "brings new meaning to taking a bite out of crime"
  • "Even gators like "Mexican Food"."
  • "if you enter the Gators House, expect to be invited to supper and you are the main course."
  • "Don't do the crime if you can't bring the Thyme."
  • "Wonder if the guy tasted like chicken to the gator."
"Brings New Meaning to the Phrase
'Take a Bite Out of Crime'"

I'd love to be able to claim the above quip as my own, but it was in the reader comments to this news story which I saw on Of Arms & the Law.

Suspected Car Thief Eaten by Gator

Man Died After Fleeing From Police Into Pond on Fla. Indian Reservation


Nov. 13, 2007 —

Authorities in Florida are saying very little about an incident last week in which a suspected car thief reportedly fled from police into a small pond on an Indian reservation and was eaten by an alligator.

ABC News' South Florida affiliate WPLG reported that Thursday the Miccosukee Police Department, which handles law enforcement for the Miccosukee Indian Reservation, along with K-9 units from the nearby Sweetwater Police Department, responded to a call about two men breaking into vehicles in the parking lot of the tribe's 300-room resort and casino.

Police reportedly captured one of the men, but the other dived into a nearby retention pond  ignoring a sign that warned about dangerous alligators in the pond.

Eyewitnesses told WPLG that bystanders on the bank of the pond saw the gator, which the station reported was nicknamed "Poncho" by resort employees, and urged the man to swim back to shore, but he eventually screamed before disappearing underwater. The body of the man, who has not been identified by police, was discovered by divers Friday, 50 feet below the water's surface.

Gator Trapped, Put Down

The alligator that authorities believe is the one that killed the man was trapped and killed, and is now being held at All American Gator in Pembroke Park, Fla.

Under Florida state law, any alligator that kills a person must be destroyed.

Brian Wood, owner of All American Gator, told WPLG that the Miami-Dade County medical examiner hold him to hold the reptile for inspection. Neither the medical examiner's office nor Wood was available for comment, but Wood reportedly told the local station that it's not uncommon for a gator to behave defensively.

"Some gators have a nasty disposition, and he was a nasty gator," Wood told WPLG.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Liberal Bias

Someone once said something to the effect that media bias is so obvious that it's not even worth debating. If it was debated, one of the primary evidences of it, apart from liberal advocacy masquerading as "news" reporting (by far Exh #1), would be movie reviews. Movie reviewers tend to be so lockstep, rigidly liberal in their viewpoints that it's laughable.

Case in point: Bella

This tremendous movie has been out for a couple of weeks now. However, its been ignored by the majority of movie reviewers. According to the movie review site 'Rotten Tomatoes', there are a whopping 48 reviews of Bella. To give you some contrast, American Gangster has 167 reviews. Beowulf -- which hasn't even opened yet -- has 79 reviews.

And, of course, of those 48 reviews, many are negative. The reviewer for the Detroit News called it "A barely disguised anti-abortion tract". Gee, we can't allow movies to be taken over and turned into political propaganda now can we? Gosh, what was 'Lions for Lambs' about?

Obviously, many of Hollywood's movies are just that -- political propaganda. Take, for example, 'The Cider House Rules' from a few years back. That movie was a polemical tract agitating for abortion rights as a moral imperative. But, did reviewers blast it as a "not-so-thinly disguised pro-abortion tract"?

Not exactly. Here's what one reviewer said:
The film begins in the 1920s, where we are introduced to young Homer Wells, a resident of a secluded orphanage in St. Clouds, Maine. Taken under the wing of the orphanage’s director, Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), Homer grows up in the institution, watches the other children find homes and comes to accept the fact that he will likely spend his entire youth there. Under the doctor’s tutelage, Homer even learns how to deliver babies and perform abortions, even though the idea of the latter is at odds with his personal beliefs.
Poke these liberal Hollywood apologists in the eye. Go see Bella this weekend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Way Cool


Bullet At 5000 Frames Per Second - Watch more free videos
Multi-color Laptops

Wow! You can pick from one of 8 different colors if you buy a Dell Inspiron laptop. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!!

Check it out:

Sure, it's an unreliable piece of junk -- but you can get it in Espresso Brown, Spring Green, or even Flamingo Pink!

What will they think of next!? Say, do they offer one in 'burnt orange'?
How Dumb Can You Get?
the sky's the limit apparently
Man Hurt Using Shotgun to Loosen Lug Nut
SOUTHWORTH, Wash. (AP) — A man trying to loosen a stubborn lug nut blasted the wheel with a 12-gauge shotgun, injuring himself badly in both legs, sheriff's deputies said.

The 66-year-old man had been repairing a Lincoln Continental for two weeks at his home northwest of Southworth, about 10 miles southwest of Seattle, and had gotten all but one of the lug nuts off the right rear wheel by Saturday afternoon, Kitsap County Deputy Scott Wilson said.

"He's bound and determined to get that lug nut off," Wilson said.

From about arm's length, the man fired the shotgun at the wheel and was "peppered" in both legs with buckshot and debris, with some injuries as high as his chin, according to a sheriff's office report.

"Nobody else was there and he wasn't intoxicated," Wilson said.

The man was taken to Tacoma General Hospital with injuries Wilson described as severe but not life-threatening.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ted's Not a Red
well, he is a red-blooded American

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Growing the Welfare State

Got this interesting piece from a friend in my e-mail today.
Where are we headed?

About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.”

“A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.”

“From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

“The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years.”

During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. From bondage to spiritual faith;

2. From spiritual faith to great courage;

3. From courage to liberty;

4. From liberty to abundance;

5. From abundance to complacency;

6. From complacency to apathy;

7. From apathy to dependence;

8. From dependence back into bondage.

Professor Joseph Olson of Hemline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, points out some facts concerning the 2000 Presidential election:

Number of States won by:
Gore: 19
Bush: 29

Square miles of land won by:
Gore: 580,000
Bush: 2,427,000

Population of counties won by:
Gore: 127 million
Bush: 143 million

Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won by:
Gore: 13.2
Bush: 2.1

Professor Olson adds: 'In aggregate, the map of the territory Bush won was mostly the land owned mostly by working and taxpaying citizens.

Gore's territory significantly encompassed those citizens living in government-owned tenements and living off various forms of government welfare...Olson believes the United States is now somewhere between the 'complacency and apathy' phase of Professor Tyler's definition of democracy, with some forty percent of the nation's population already having reached the 'governmental dependency' phase to some extent.

If Congress grants amnesty and citizenship to twenty million illegal aliens and they vote, then the development of governmental dependency will be significantly hastened.
This is the most compelling part:
"some forty percent of the nation's population already having reached the 'governmental dependency' phase to some extent"

The whole problem with government is the increased dependency it creates. I recently read David McCullough's "The Johnstown Flood". The part of the story that struck me was that after the flood devastated the town, the survivors didn't sit on their hands waiting for the government to come to the rescue. The first thing they did was band together and "elect" a new town leader.

What makes this even more amazing is that the mayor and a number of other city officials survived. However, the survivors wanted to elect the town's most prosperous businessman and put him in charge. They obviously recognized that they needed a man of action, not a politician. That businessman had, unfortunately, been killed in the flood. So, they immediately "elected" Johnstown's second most prosperous businessman and put him in charge.

By the time outside help began to arrive, the townspeople had divided Johnstown into sectors. They had formed search parties by sector to look for survivors, had established aid stations for the injured, and morgues for the dead. They had teams collecting and disposing of dead animals to avoid the spread of disease, while other teams were collecting salvageable food and clothing.

As I read this, I could not help compare it to New Orleans. Too many folks down there didn't do anything because they'd been conditioned to wait for help from the government. Tragically, there were folks in New Orleans who died because the government didn't get there in time with food, water and shelter.

If 40% of our population is at this level of government dependency. What will our country be like when that percentage gets to 50%? 60%? 75%?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Remember Me

Monday, November 05, 2007

Top Conservatives??
I don't think so

A recent story out of the UK listed the top conservatives in the U.S. The top 20 according to these Brits are:

Republican presidential candidate [Please. This error runs through this whole list. Being a Republican is NOT the same thing as being a conservative. Moreover, the mere fact that Giuliani is the current Republican front-runner does NOT qualify as the top conservative.]

Commander of coalition forces in Iraq [Don't know much about Petraeus, and have never heard his political views. I suspect he's on the list by virtue of being the top general in Iraq.]

Internet journalist and talk radio host [I like Drudge, and suspect he leans conservative. But, to my knowledge, he's never written a book or article articulating conservative principles. So, his being on this list is questionable, and #3?? Come on. Haven't they ever heard of William F. Buckley in the U.K.?]

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives [The first one to even qualify as a conservative. ]

Talk radio host [Finally.]

Vice President of the United States [Hooray. (He should take some liberals hunting.)]

Defence Secretary [Whaa?]

Chief Justice of the United States [Whaa?]

Senator for Arizona and presidential candidate [Please. Being a Republican candidate for president does NOT mean you are a conservative.]

Presidential candidate [See above.]

Presidential candidate [This is getting old. See above.]

Secretary of State [Regardless of who's president, no matter how conservative he might be, they always take the most limp-wristed, spineless member of the cabinet and make them Sec. State.]

Former US ambassador to the United Nations [Should be in the top 5.]

Editorial Page Editor, The Wall Street Journal [Ditto]

Talk radio host [Don't listen to her much. Is she the most conservative woman? Don't think so. Try Michelle Malkin or Debbie Schlussel.]

Governor of Mississippi [A politician first; maybe a conservative if it advances his politics.]

Pollster and strategist [Never heard of him.]

Talk radio host [Heard of him, but never heard him.]

Congressman [One of the few true conservatives in Congress.]

Counsellor to President George W. Bush [Great political operative; led Bush's campaign against Kerry. But a conservative? I don't know.]


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