Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Even though this was published over a year ago, it's always appropriate during the farcical holiday of Kwanzaa.
Interesting, thought-provoking column from Thomas Sowell today.

Two earthquakes; one in California registers 6.5 on the Richter scale, one in Iraq registers 6.6. The one in California kills less than 10 people. The one in Iraq kills tens of thousands of people. The primary difference? Wealth.

Sowell says that wealth saves lives:
Wealth enables homes, buildings and other structures to be built to withstand greater stresses. Wealth permits the creation of modern transportation that can quickly carry people to medical facilities. It enables those facilities to be equipped with more advanced medical apparatus and supplies, and amply staffed with highly trained doctors and support staff.

Those who disdain wealth as crass materialism need to understand that wealth is one of the biggest life-saving factors in the world. As an economist in India has pointed out, "95 percent of deaths from natural hazards occur in poor countries."
I'll leave the implications for how last summer's French heatwave (and the catastrophic loss of life that resulted) reflects on their culture for another time. But as Sowell points out, there is a cultural aspect to all this:
There is another side to the story of these two earthquakes and their consequences. It gives the lie to the dogma being propagandized incessantly, from the schools to the media, that one culture is just as good as another.

It is just as good to lose tens of thousands of lives as not to? What hogwash! It is just as good to lack modern medicine, modern transportation, and modern industry as it is to have them? Who is kidding whom?
Of course there are other differences between the Iraq earthquake and the California one. Still, the wild disparity in natural disaster deaths between the United States and much of the rest of the world must be accounted for.

Monday, December 29, 2003

There's just no way that someone as tone-deaf as Howard Dean becomes President of the United States in this day and age. It just doesn't happen. Think about it--who's the last elected president who was this graceless and artificial in his attempts to pander?

The most recent example, his laughable attempt to "Christianize" his campaign in an effort to appeal to the South, is just the latest in a string of disingenuous posturings. Unfortunately, none of them are attributable to some finely-honed sense of irony, since Dean is notably (and disturbingly) berift of a sense of humor.

His out-of-the-blue efforts to identify himself as a Christian will be meaningless to those whose brand of Christianity he evidently shares (the New England, congregationalist, non-supernatural, Unitiarian-leaning social gospellers) and it will actually repel the evangelical Christians to whom he ostensibly is trying to appeal with this gimmick.

Dean says, according to the Boston Globe:
''Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind,'' Dean said. ''He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything . . . He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it.''
Oh yeah, that's going to get them fired up in the pews down in Louisville: Jesus set kind of an inspiring example--when you think about it.

Dean honestly doesn't seem to realize that such tonally awkward declarations ring as unadulterated counterfeit and patronizing balderdash (which, let's face it, it is) in the ears of those who believe that Christ was the divine, miracle-working messiah, offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

He'll find out soon enough, and it will be fun to watch this aspect of his campaign fall flat on its misbegotten face.
Just when I tried to jump on the feelgood bandwagon, the Rams had to go and boot me back off again with this little abomination in Detroit yesterday.

Home field advantage was more crucial to the Rams than any other team in the NFL, and they squandered it yesterday against one of the worst teams in the league. I have no reason to believe that the Rams would beat the Eagles in Philadelphia if they played 20 times.

This is my team. I want them to win. I hope that they'll win. I even believe that Marc Bulger has earned the opportunity (whatever I might think of his abilities) to lead this team in the playoffs. But it's just very hard for me to envision a scenario in which they get out of the NFC.

I think Rams fans need to root very hard for whoever plays the Eagles in Philly's first playoff game, because the Eagles getting knocked out is the only thing that can return the home field advantage to the Rams--and the home field advantage is the only chance they have.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

From Matthew, chapter 1:
18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

For some reason, Psalm 68 is striking me as a wonderful Christmastime verse today, though I'm not sure I've ever heard it in that connection. Verses 4-6:
Sing to God, sing praise to his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds -
his name is the LORD -
and rejoice before him.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,
he leads forth the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
The NASB translates the first line of v. 6 as: "God makes a home for the lonely." What a beautiful statement.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2003

I was reminded this weekend while driving around listening to the radio that the best pop Christmas song ever is Bruce Springsteen's version "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Bar none.

The worst? The horrendous piece of Paul McCartney dreck, "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time." It's a stupid song to begin with, and it sounds like it's being played on a dime-store Casio keyboard.
The most pitiful football story of the week would have to be Joe Namath's bizarre interview with ESPN's Suzy Kolber at Saturday night's Jets/Patriots game.

As observed in USA Today:
...ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber interviewed Namath. After initially speaking coherently, Namath then used halting language to repeatedly tell Kolber, "I want to kiss you" — before Kolber ended the interview.
It's a shame that America had to see it, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. It's been well-known in the sports media for some time that...ahem...to put it politely, you don't call the NFL Hall of Famer after dinner time, if you know what I mean. But even his boldness in public intoxication has been growing over the past few years.

Kolber undoubtedly knows this too, but probably thought that Namath would have it together at a football game, and as the article says, he was at first coherent. She probably chatted with him first for a minute or two and deemed him fit for broadcast before telling the truck to have the guys in the booth throw it to her for the interview.

I don't feel sorry for him, since he's responsible for his own behavior. But it's still unsettling to look inside the psyche of a has-been.
Assuming a win next week against the hapless Detroit Lions, the Rams have wrapped up a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They don't lose at home, which would have to make them at least an even bet to go to the Super Bowl.

Yesterday was a high-quality performance all around--including Marc Bulger. The past is the past, and this team ain't the Rams of '99 or '01, but they'll actually finish with a better record than the championship team of '99. In my opinion, the only team that has a shot against them is the Eagles, and they won't face them until the NFC Championship game--at the Edward D. Jones Dome.

The fact that the Rams have largely remained under the radar this season (they are the number one team in the NFC now, and yet one still sees relatively little national coverage of them as contrasted with the Eagles or the Cowboys) will only work to their advantage. They don't have the huge target on their back that they had in '01.

Friday, December 19, 2003

This is just too good not to post. I found it over at Hugh Hewitt's blog:

Okay, I'll have to just come out and admit it: I completely don't get the whole "Lord of the Rings" thing. Granted, I never read the books, which as I understand it is 99.9% of the overwhelming appeal of the movies.

Still, I wouldn't expect these movies to make so much money so quickly from only their devoted literary following. I mean, it's not as if these folks are taking a date to the movie, so somebody else must be jumping on the bandwagon...

I saw the first two, and I suppose I'll see this one too, since I've come this far. I don't hate them or anything. I just don't get the fuss. To me, they're all sort of like the Indiana Jones movies, only without the humor and some of the people have fake feet.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Jodie Foster must be praying he didn't see her in "Silence of the Lambs," too.
I'm a little late on this, but Thomas Sowell did a column yesterday on judicial tyranny that I just cannot recommend highly enough. In it, he examines the recent Supreme Court ruling on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law:
If you think the issue in the recent Supreme Court decision upholding campaign finance legislation is whether campaign finance reform is a good idea or a bad idea, then you have already surrendered the far more important and more fundamental idea of Constitutional government.

There is nothing in the Constitution of the United States which authorizes Congress to regulate what is said by whom, or under what conditions, in a political campaign. On the contrary, the Constitution says plainly, "Congress shall make no law" -- no law! -- "abridging the freedom of speech."

The merits or demerits of this particular law, restricting what you can say when, or how much money you can contribute to get your message out, are all beside the point. Just what part of "no law" don't the Supreme Court justices understand?

The sad -- indeed, tragic -- fact is that they understand completely. They just think that this legislation is a good idea and are not going to let the Constitution stand in their way.
It occurs to me that we conservatives are going to have to get on the same page if we're ever going to solve the problem. We largely (though unwittingly) buy into the activist court mentality ourselves, and thus forfeit the war in favor of a few individual battles.

A case in point: the recent case of Joshua Davey, who sued the state of Washington because they revoked his college scholarship on the grounds that paying for his theological course of study violated the so-called "separation of church and state." On the surface, it sounds like an egregious case of religious bigotry.

But there's a problem--the state of Washington has an amendment in it's constitution which clearly says that no public money will be used to finance a religious education. Is it a bad law? Perhaps. But whatever it is, it's part of the constitution of the state of Washington. Davey, his lawyer Jay Sekulow, and the Solicitor General of the United States are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rewrite Washington's democratically-encated constitution by decree. They are actually in a postion of begging for judicial activism from the Supreme Court.

The irony of this, of course, is that when the Supreme Court rewrote the Massachusetts state constitution in the recent gay marriage case, conservatives (particularly conservative Christians) were (rightfully) screaming bloody murder over the Court's unconscionable activism in overruling the people of that state, as expressed in their constitution, by mere fiat.

"If you want to change the Constitution," we're always insisting, "do it through the prescribed, democratic means, not by judicial decree." But then a state constitution comes along that says something we don't particularly like, and suddenly we're first in line to find a judge to impose the "correct" viewpoint on an entire state. Ought we not abide by the democratic principle even if we don't happen to like what a particular law happens to say?

As Sowell says:
One of the tragedies of our time, and a harbinger of future tragedies, is that court decisions at all levels have come to be judged by whether we agree or disagree with the policy that is upheld or overturned.
If we're basing our view of what the courts should do on the basis of whether a particular law is a good idea or not, we've already given up the game. For every outcome that goes our way, there will be literally dozens that go against us. Some of those bad decisions might even use Davey as a precedent for judicial activism, and there won't be single objection we can raise.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Oof. This is the kind of thing that hits you like a punch in the gut.

I worked with Rob Ramage in the mid '90's on a Blues hockey post-game radio show in St. Louis, and I like him a lot. "Rammer" has always been one of the good guys--unfailingly polite, friendly, and good natured like so many of his fellow Canadian hockey players. He also usually has a good head on his shoulders--when I was working with him, his daytime job was as a stockbroker.

He's been charged with driving while impaired in an accident that killed former NHL player and coach Keith Magnuson yesterday.

That story just bites in so many different ways.
I never do these quizzes here, but this one is too good to pass up. Via Discoshaman, I stumbled upon the 80's Music Test.

Frankly, being a product of the '80's, I thought I would have done a bit better. I'm disappointed that Disco outscored me. I did well on much of the obscure stuff, and then struggled with basic 80's staples like Heart. Go figure. Anyway, my final score was 77.45, and I'm a:

It's going to be great fun to watch the Democratic Party implode as a result of Saddam's capture. The party had already painted itself into a corner over the war, and the capture leaves them in a very tough spot. They throw out the obligatory "Of course, Saddam was a bad guy, and it's good that he's no longer at large"-es, but you can tell their heart's not really in it. The little act won't last more than a few more days, and the cracks (or the crackpots, to be more accurate) are already showing.

Today's most entertaining tidbit comes from noted Democrat kook Jim McDermott (D-Wash), who was previously best known for snuggling up to Saddam in Bagdhad before the war. According to the Associated Press:
The Washington congressman who criticized President Bush while visiting Baghdad last year has questioned the timing of the capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., told a Seattle radio station Monday the U.S. military could have found Saddam "a long time ago if they wanted." Asked if he thought the weekend capture was timed to help Bush, McDermott chuckled and said: "Yeah. Oh, yeah."

The Democratic congressman went on to say, "There's too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing."

When interviewer Dave Ross asked again if he meant to imply the Bush administration timed the capture for political reasons, McDermott said: "I don't know that it was definitely planned on this weekend, but I know they've been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was. It was just a matter of time till they'd find him.

"It's funny," McDermott added, "when they're having all this trouble, suddenly they have to roll out something."
Ah, yes. "When they're having all this trouble." Things were going quite terribly, what with the sudden surge in the economy and the Dow closing at over 10,000 for the first time in forever. Of course Bush just waited to do this, since he couldn't have used a boost at all, say, about three or four months ago. And certainly he stands to gain much more by pulling Saddam out of the ground now, rather than, say, next October a few weeks before the election.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The Evangelical Outpost, browsing the Howard Dean blog in the wake of the Saddam capture yesterday morning, discovers an interesting, unguarded comment from a Dean loyalist (and I believe you'll see this sort of opinion much more openly in the weeks to come). From the Evangelical Outpost:
Found in the comments section of Howard Dean's "Blog for America" :

I can't believe this. I'm crying here. I feel that we now don't have a chance in this election.
Posted by Carrie B at December 14, 2003 10:03 AM


I'd like to remind folks to keep in mind...

The press is reading.

Posted by cdmarine at December 14, 2003 10:06 AM
Very telling, indeed.
It was amusing to watch CNN yesterday. I wish I had written down the time and the reporter involved, but I swear at one point they had a reporter saying "The Iraqis we've talked to expressed disappointment in Saddam and anger at the U.S."--underneath video of Iraqis dancing in the streets.

In fairness, that was not the dominant tone of anyone's coverage that I saw. In the early afternoon hours, it seemed like the cable networks were trying to run in some experts to wring their hands and convince us that the capture of Saddam was a Bad Thing ("It will probably result in more attacks, and awaken the pro-Saddam loyalists inside and outside Iraq!"), but by mid-afternoon, they had given up on the Doom Project, recognizing that even they couldn't successfully spin Saddam's capture as anything other than an unqualified success.
For a day or two they'll say what they think they have to say, but over the next few weeks it will be very interesting to see how many people had a deeply vested interest in Saddam not being captured, and what their reactions will be. Beginning with the front-runners in the Democrat presidential race.

Just ask yourself one question: in the privacy of his own home (or wherever he was), what do you think Howard Dean's reaction was when informed that Saddam had been captured? Do you really, in your heart of hearts, believe his reaction was joy?
Okay, I'm going to stop complaining and just enjoy it. The Rams are now 11-3, have clinched their division, and have a legitimate shot at home field throughout the playoffs.

Sure, yesterday's win over the Seahawks was typically unconvincing, and sure their lucky break this time was an official getting tangled up with a Seattle wide-receiver on the potential game-winning touchdown pass. But the simple fact is that this Rams team is at least as good as anyone else in the NFC (not that that's saying much).

I'm still dubious of their playoff potential, but I'm through whining about it. Marc Bulger is their quarterback and they don't beat anybody by more than about 7 points, but you don't go 11-3 by accident in the NFL. As the old sports saying goes, "It's better to be lucky than to be good." They're pretty good and they're very lucky, and that might just be enough to do it in this league.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

From Antonin Scalia's dissent (with case citations deleted) in the Supreme Court's campaign finance ruling:
Who could have imagined that the same Court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography, tobacco advertising, dissemination of illegally intercepted communications, and sexually explicit cable programming, would smile with favor upon a law that cut to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government.
Reason 10,428 why I love Antonin Scalia.
The always informative Thomas Sowell today has some interesting insights into the manipulation of language that's used to demonize corporations and economic progress.

Lately, you can hardly glance at a business page without seeing somebody--liberal or "conservative"--whining about Wal-Mart and all its supposed "power." Why, they control the market and are destroying the little guy! They are wielding their incredible power to destroy free choice in America!

Nonsense, says Sowell:
Just what "power" does a sales percentage represent? Not one of the people who bought their disposable diapers at Wal-Mart was forced to do so. I can't remember ever having bought anything from Wal-Mart and there is not the slightest thing that they can do to make me.

The misleading use of words constitutes a large part of what is called anti-trust law. "Market power" is just one of those misleading terms. In anti-trust lingo, a company that sells 30 percent of the disposable diapers is said to "control" 30 percent of the market for that product. But they control nothing.

Let them jack up their prices and they will find themselves lucky to sell 3 percent of the disposable diapers. They will discover that they are just as disposable as their diapers.
One suspects that those who relentlessly sing the praises of small, independent, Mom & Pop stores do everything but actually shop there. When it comes down to it, they like cheap prices and wide selection just as much as the rest of us do.

The answer to the "problem" is not to artificially prop up Mom & Pop stores, or to punish bigger, more efficient operations--it's for Mom & Pop to find something more efficient and productive to do for a living.

In no area is the silly sentimentalism of the Mom & Pop mentality more pervasive than in the propagation of the one enduring myth of Americana: the family farm. When I'm more expensive than anybody wants to pay for me, I'll be unemployed. But when food produced by Mr. Farmer becomes more expensive than anybody wants to pay for it, Willie Nelson holds a benefit concert for him. Explain that to me.

Am I insensitive? No, just realistic--and in favor of progress and economic growth. So is Sowell:
How could industries have found all the millions of workers required to create the vast increase in output that raised American standards of living over the past hundred years, except by taking them away from the farms?

Historians have lamented the plight of the hand-loom weavers after power looms began replacing them in England. But how could the poor have been able to afford to buy adequate new clothing unless the price was brought down to their income level by mass production machinery?

Judge Robert Bork once said that somebody always gets hurt in a court room. Somebody always gets hurt in an economy that is growing. You can't keep on doing things the old way and still get the benefits of the new way.
Though our modern-day welfare state will keep trying.
The legendary Casey Kasem is being replaced on the weekly "American Top 40" radio program by that doofus from "American Idol."

Back when I had my radio show about five years ago, Kasem came on to promote the then-upcoming Jerry Lewis Telethon, which he usually participates in. The partial, reconstructed-from-memory transcript of that interview is something like this:
CASEY: I'm very excited about it. This is the 19th Labor Day telethon I've been involved in.

ME: Would you do the "Shaggy from 'Scooby Doo' " voice for me?

CASEY: Jerry is a good friend of mine, and he's been doing unbelievable work for these kids for years now.

ME: C'mon, let's hear just a little "Shaggy."

CASEY: As you know, Muscular Dystrophy is a deadly disease that attacks thousands of people, many of them children.

ME: I would really love it if you would do your "Shaggy" voice for us.
Yes, I'm sure it was a high point for him, too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The one remaining Constitutional obstacle standing between me and the presidency disappeared today. Look out, Howard Dean and GWB...
Queen Sandra has made another ruling

As I've pointed out before, Sandra Day O'Connor, because she has no actual judicial philosophy and thus rules based on whatever her mood happens to be today, is the de facto Queen of America. As the swing vote on a closely divided court, Mrs. O'Connor's hormones on any given day determine the Law of the Land.

Today, the SCOTUS upheld key parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act, with O'Connor again acting as our monarch-in-chief:
Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer signed the main opinion barring candidates for federal office, including incumbent members of Congress or an incumbent president, from raising soft money.
Just to recap, if you are a corporation, you can have your CEO stand out in front of the company headquarters in Times Square and set an American flag on fire (which is, of course, protected free speech according to the Courts), but you can't send any amount of money you like to a political candidate.

I would attempt to look for any semblence of legal reasoning to justify this dichotomy, but having read numerous opinions from O'Connor & Company at this point, I know there would be none.

As you'll recall, the Bush administration winked at us when GWB signed the bill into law, basically saying "ah, don't worry about it. We have to sign it, but it'll never pass muster with the Supreme Court." What a load that was. Oh yeah, you can always count on those geniuses on the Supreme Court to do the right thing when you're too gutless to do it...
We receive particular interest in our blog from a few folks in the Austin, Texas area. Especially some folks affiliated with the state government there, who've arrived here through another blog. Who would've guessed?

Welcome, y'all...

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Carl F.H. Henry has died at 90.

Henry was one of the major figures of 20th century evangelicalism, who worked hard to bridge the divide between evangelicalism and true intellectual scholarship. His six-volume magnum opus God, Revelation, and Authority, was one of the landmark contributions to evangelical Christianity in the 20th century. Would that there were a million more like him.

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" --Matt. 25:21

Gen. Wesley Clark appeared on Chris Matthews' "Hardball" last night. While the Democratic nomination process has been endlessly entertaining so far, I've been conflicted in trying to decide which candidate is the most cynically calculated, soulless power-monger--Clark or John Kerry?

I had been leaning toward Kerry again lately with his ridiculous motorcycle entrance on Leno and his hokey attempt to seem hip by dropping the "F" bomb in Rolling Stone magazine.

Still, it's hard to overcome the cynicism of Gen. Clark, considering his vast body of documented statements from only a few months ago in support of the war, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and the entire Bush administration. Last night, my pendulum swung back towards him as he insisted on "Hardball" that Osama Bin Laden, when caught, needs to be tried in international court at the Hague, rather than in the U.S.

After all, he insisted, "80 other nations lost citizens in that strike on the World Trade Center. It was a crime against humanity, and he needs to be tried in international court."

Even the Democrat Matthews, recognizing pure idiocy when he hears it, coudn't stomach this.

"Well, 3,000 Americans were killed here. Do you believe he should be held exempt from capital punishment, because if you send him to Hague he will be. They don’t have capital punishment at the Hague," Matthews pointed out.

At which point Clarks eyes seemed to roll into the back of his head, and he shorted out. He looked like a deer in headlights. An eternity seemed to pass before he could formulate an answer, as it dawned on him that if anyone were watching (unlikely on MSNBC these days), he had probably just blown his presidential campaign.

"I think that's a seperate issue," he finally protested, weakly. He then blathered on about how there were more important things than retribution, and that we needed to look at the bigger international picture in the war on terror. But Matthews, to his credit, wouldn't let it drop. Here's the verbatum exchange from the MSNBC transcript:
MATTHEWS: But doesn’t life in Holland beat life in a cave?

CLARK: Not in a Dutch prison. Chris, they’re under water, they’re damp, they’re cold, they’re really miserable.
And if that doesn't make them really, really miserable, we'll send them to bed without dessert.

If I were the other Democrats, I'd be using that soundbite in every ad against Clark. If, that is, anyone even still sees him as a threat. Which they don't.
Once again, the St. Louis media have the pom-pons out after the Rams tenth win of the season last night on "Monday Night Football." Anyone who buys into the hype is going to be in for a cold awakening come playoff time.

Once again, the Rams squeaked past a subpar opponent (4-9), almost blowing the game in the final minutes. Once again, they won on defense, against a Cleveland Browns squad that ain't exactly an offensive juggernaut. Once again, golden-boy quarterback Marc Bulger had a strictly ordinary night (223 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT).

Al Michaels said in the pre-game that "these Rams are looking like the Rams of 1999." Perhaps--if one only looks at their record. The resemblance to that Super Bowl-winning team ends there. The Rams of '99 blew other teams off the field. The Rams of '99 could destroy you in ten different ways. Defensive players lost sleep over having to play against that offense. The Rams of '99 were able to consistently beat quality opponents. The Rams of 2003 have clinched a playoff spot by feasting on subpar competition (their strength of schedule ranks in the bottom 10 percent of the league), and by playing in a lousy division.

A win is a win, and you can only beat the teams on your schedule. I don't blame the Rams for the watered-down competition. Good for them for clinching a playoff spot so quickly. There aren't many good teams in the league this year, so who knows how it might turn out?

Still, watching them struggle to eke out wins with a weak-armed quarterback and a head coach who is beyond clueless when it comes to managing a football game (the Rams rarely have any time outs left in the last ten minutes of a game) against bad football teams, it's difficult for me to imagine them beating anybody any good. Their saving grace is that they may not have to play anybody any good until the NFC championship game.

Monday, December 08, 2003

It's hard to believe, but today marks the 23rd anniversary of John Lennon's murder outside the Dakota apartment building in New York City.

Lennon (along with his writing partner Paul McCartney) is one of the great musical geniuses in history. I firmly believe that a number of Lennon-McCartney compositions will still be listened to hundreds of years from now. Having said that, I must also admit that I was once among those poor, deluded souls who once mistook Lennon's pithy wordplay for profundity.

In retrospect, I realize that some of his lyrics are clever; many of them are inane, nonsensical, utopian blather. Of the Beatles, his radical political outlook once made him seem to me to be the "cool one." Now, with some age and experience under my belt (I was not quite 12 years old when Lennon was killed), I recognize that much of his pedantic politicizing actually rendered him the "idiotic one."

Still, he could turn an amusing phrase and write a beautiful tune, and he penned some of the greatest pop songs in history. On the 23rd anniversary of his death, the Weekly Standard picks apart "Imagine," simultaneously one of his most popular and most vacuous ditties:
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people, sharing all the world. . . . Let's begin implementing the third stanza's message by splitting up the royalties to this copyrighted song. Mrs. Lennon, I imagine, will be only too happy to share with the rest of us the proceeds from the semiannual checks she receives for its licensing. In fact, why don't we all participate in every revenue stream created by John's invaluable catalogue?
There you have it. The guy who sang "Give Peace a Chance" and "All You Need is Love" was at emnity with almost every personal relation in his life. The guy who sang about "no possessions" lived in a multi-million dollar New York penthouse with a personal valet, having left England to escape the high taxation that supported the welfare class there. Lennon, while immensely talented, was at bottom a huge hypocrite. Koo-koo-kachoo.
I like the gang at Brent Bozell's Media Research Center, and I also think the liberal bias of the mainstream news media is proven beyond a reasonable doubt--largely thanks to the dilligent efforts of the MRC.

Still, I think sometimes they go a little overboard in their search for supposed bias. In today's Cyberalert, the MRC sees Tim Russert's questioning of Hillary Clinton on yesterday's "Meet the Press" as some sort of attempt to convince her to run for president, ostensibly based on his desire to see her run:
1) On Sunday, ABC's George Stephanopoulos and NBC's Tim Russert grew excited and repeatedly tried to entice Senator Clinton into the presidential derby, eliciting laughter from Clinton for their efforts.

...NBC's Tim Russert presented her with the scenario of a deadlocked convention which turns to her. Russert followed up ten times as he tried to persuade her to run. Examples: "So no matter what happens, absolutely, categorically, no?", "But you would never accept the nomination in 2004?" and, ever hopeful, "I think the door is opening a bit."
First of all, despite Russert's Democratic credentials (he's worked for Mario Cuomo, among others), I think he is perhaps the fairest high-profile journalist on any of the networks.

Second, Russert didn't handle it any differently than I would have handled it (as a right-winger, no less) if I had been in his place. Mrs. Clinton refuses to categorically deny the possibility of a run, always couching her "denials" in the typical, Clintonian language that her husband made famous. Any good journalist would see the cracks of light in her non-denial denials and attempted to nail her down, especially since anything concrete that she lets slip out would be a major coup for a news organization. As long as she refused to give a candid answer to the question, Russert was right to keep exploiting the holes in her evasions.

Simply trying to nail down an evasive subject on an important issue like this is hardly evidence of liberal bias.

Friday, December 05, 2003

From the Onion:

New Alternate-Reality Series Puts 12 Strangers on Island Where South Won Civil War

LOS ANGELES—CBS executives announced Monday that they have begun filming Antebellum Island, a new "alternate reality" series in which 12 strangers compete for $1 million while isolated on an island still under Confederate rule.

"Set to air in the spring of 2004, Antebellum Island gives us the unique opportunity to play with both social dynamics and recorded history," CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves said. "The contestants on Antebellum Island will spend 60 days braving the elements, each other, and the unfamiliar customs and practices of a 21st-century Confederate States of America—all for a chance to win a cool million."

Added Moonves: "That's one million in Union dollars, of course!"

...Executives were reluctant to reveal the themes for Antebellum's weekly competitions, but said contests might include skeet shooting, quilting bees, formal-dress cotillions, and working at a textile factory on the west side of the island for the entire show's duration with no chance at the $1 million prize.
In the massive amount of media coverage about the Terri Schiavo case, the story has been portrayed as an evangelical and Roman Catholic Christian crusade (see, for example, "Victory in Florida Feeding Case Emboldens the Religious Right," New York Times, page 1A, Oct. 24). And there's no question that Christians, who believe each person is created in the image of God and ought not to be ordered to an execution without having committed any crime or had any trial, have taken a major interest in this case.

What you haven't heard in the mainstream media, however, is how this case fits into an ideological crusade of another kind. It's leader is George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo who is working to have Terri's feeding tube removed, and it's goal is "spiritual awakening" through the "death process."

In fact, Felos wrote a book last year, Litigation as Spiritual Practice, in which he lays out his views. To understate the case, this is not a man driven by a concern for fair application of the law. Rather, he sees his law practice as being driven by his worldview--in his case, a bizarre, New Age spirituality, which he wishes to implement through litigation. Doesn't that sound like the kind of thing you would expect to at least hear mentioned in the mainstream media when motives are being endlessly dissected?

As pointed out by an essential, must-read story by James A. Smith, Sr. in the Florida Baptist Witness, Blue Dolphin Publishing, the publisher of Felos' book, specializes in "comparative cultural and spiritual traditions, lay and transpersonal psychology, education, new science, self-help, health, healing, complementary medicine, ecology, interspecies relationships, and whatever helps people grow in their social awareness and conscious evolution,” according to its website.

Felos gained noteriety as the lead attorney in the landmark "right to die" case of Estelle Browning. In his book, he recounts an experience with the comatose Mrs. Browning that forever solidified his dedication to the cause of death. As you read it, try to imagine the media reaction if something like this had been written by someone on the other side. And also ask yourself how it is even possible that you've never heard these words before in the media from the highest-profile attorney in the nation's most prominent current "right-to-die" case:
As I continued to stay beside Mrs. Browning at her nursing home bed, I felt my mind relax and my weight sink into the ground. I began to feel light-headed as I became more reposed. Although feeling like I could drift into sleep, I also experienced a sense of heightened awareness.

As Mrs. Browning lay motionless before my gaze, I suddenly heard a loud, deep moan and scream and wondered if the nursing home personnel heard it and would respond to the unfortunate resident. In the next moment, as this cry of pain and torment continued, I realized it was Mrs. Browning.

I felt the mid-section of my body open and noticed a strange quality to the light in the room. I sensed her soul in agony. As she screamed I heard her say, in confusion, ‘Why am I still here … Why am I here?’ My soul touched hers and in some way I communicated that she was still locked in her body. I promised I would do everything in my power to gain the release her soul cried for. With that the screaming immediately stopped. I felt like I was back in my head again, the room resumed its normal appearance, and Mrs. Browning, as she had throughout this experience, lay silent.
Felos frequently has other such "soul conversations." A number of them are recounted in this compilation of his own words as expressed in his book.

Now imagine yourself lying in a hospital bed, fully conscious but unable to move, as George Felos comes in and "touches your soul" and begins a crusade to have you starved to death based on communication he believes he's received directly from you. Do you trust the Birkenstock-wearing George Felos to hear your soul correctly? Should the judges in his cases? Should Terri Schiavo?

And does Felos' self-professed worldview deserve at least some mention in the mainstream media along with those of the Christians who are trying to keep Terri Schiavo alive?

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Gephardt's campaign caught extorting unions:

According to today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dick Gephardt's national campaign co-chair, Joyce Aboussie (a legendary bare-knuckles, below-the-belt, unscrupulous fighter in the St. Louis political scene), indicated in a meeting with Gerald McEntee and Andrew Stern, presidents of two of the largest AFL-CIO unions, that if the unions offered assistance to Howard Dean in Missouri, "she would take steps to get a key collective bargaining order for state workers rescinded."

According to the PD article, a the two union honchos have sent Gephardt a letter demanding Aboussie's firing:
According to the letter, Aboussie demanded that the unions:

Not send any of their Missouri union members to Iowa, a must-win state for Gephardt and a place where the two men are locked in a tight race for the lead.

Not make independent expenditures for Dean in Missouri.

Not communicate with their Missouri members about their support for Dean.

McEntee and Stern said Aboussie warned that if they didn't comply, she would send a letter signed by 22 Democratic state legislators calling for the repeal of Holden's executive order giving state employees collective bargaining rights, a longtime public service union goal.
So there's "Mr. Union" Dick Gephardt for you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

More on the more-on:

Justice O'Connor's timing couldn't be better. As Bill Federer's daily "American Minute" points out, it was 200 years ago today that Congress, at the behest of President Jefferson, ratified a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians, which read in part:
And whereas the greater part of the said tribe have been baptized and received into the Catholic Church, to which they are much attached, the United States will give annually, for seven years, one hundred dollars toward the support of a priest of that religion, who will engage to perform for said tribe the duties of his office, and also to instruct as many of their children as possible, in the rudiments of literature, and the United States will further give the sum of three hundred dollars, to assist the said tribe in the erection of a church.
C'mon, Sandy, open a book. As Emil Faber once said, "Knowledge is good."
Justice Sandra Day O'Conner is apparently concerned that there are some in the world who are still not aware of her breathtaking ignorance, even after she so famously displayed it in a number of her Supreme Court opinions this summer. To remedy the situation, she's at it again. Has this woman ever even read a book?

The Court heard argument yesterday in the case of a student in Washington state who was denied a state scholarship because he was pursuing a major in pastoral ministry. According to the wizards of the state of Washington, such a thing would violate the supposed "separation of church and state" (a phrase which, by the way, never once appears in the Constitution).

There is an old saying that goes something like "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." Yesterday, Justice O'Conner decided to remove all doubt. In questioning Solicitor General Ted Olsen, the following exchange took place, according to the New York Times:
Describing the Washington program, Mr. Olson said that "the clear and unmistakable message is that religion and preparation for a career in the ministry is disfavored and discouraged." He added, "the person who wants to believe in God or wants to have a position of religious leadership is the one that's singled out for discriminatory treatment."

His argument met an unexpectedly skeptical response from Justice O'Connor, who said: "Well, but of course, there's been a couple of centuries of practice in this country of not funding religious instruction by tax money." She added, "I mean, that's as old as the country itself, isn't it?"
Well no, it's not, as any cursory reading of American history might have shown her. Just a look the presidency of Thomas Jefferson alone (who is held up by the Left as the paragon of church-state separation) would be enough to dispel such nonsense.

Among other things, as president he:

  • Three times signed legislation funding missionaries to the Indians

  • Funded the construction of church buildings for the Indians

  • Three times extended a 1787 act of Congress which designated special lands "for the sole use of Christian Indians and the Moravian Bretheren missionaries for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity."

  • As Bill Federer writes in America's God and Country, President Jefferson "chaired the school board for the District of Columbia , where he authored the first plan of education adopted by the city of Washington. The plan used the Bible, and Isaac Watts' Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, 1707, as the principal books for teaching reading to students."
And, of course, Jefferson also funded congressional chaplains, and after his presidency designated the rotunda at the University of Virginia for chapel services and encouraged the teaching of theology there. Other than that, though, I suppose O'Connor is right on top of it. What a scholar.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Brendan Miniter of Opinion Journal on rising conservative and Christian discontent with the Bush Administration:
President Bush's armor of invincibility is starting to crack. The president is still infinitely stronger on national defense than any of the nine Democrats running for the White House, but on a growing list of domestic issues, the president is losing his conservative base.

Fiscal conservatives are upset about the Medicare expansion as well as the farm bill and a host of other spending extravaganzas. And now another front of criticism is opening up. Karl Rove is picking up his phone to find the Family Research Council and other Christian groups thundering away. The big issue is marriage and whether the president will defend it.
In all of this, I keep thinking of John DiIullio, the "Faith-Based Initiative czar" who acrimoniously exited the White House last year, saying all the important policy decisions were being made by the "political strategy" arm of the administration (read: Karl Rove).

DiIullio's analysis of the difficulties Bush faced in the 2000 election (as well of those of Bush 41 in '92) was incorrect, in my opinion. DiIullio believed that both Bushes would have done better to be even more "centrist," which I think is a risible misreading of the situation. I further suspect DiIullio would see last week's Medicare bill as a positive development in the president's "compassionate conservative" strategy.

Still, from all I know of DiIullio (with whom I share a couple of mutual acquaintances), he is a man of impeccable Christian integrity, and his larger point is worth revisiting: if the administration's is going to implement "policy light" for the sake of political expediency, who will be interested in voting for such an administration a second time?
I'm about 3/4 of the way through reading Bernard Goldberg's Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite, and it's terrific.

By now, liberal media bias is old news, but what makes the book so good is Golberg's funny, entertaining writing style and the fact that he offers actual, common-sense solutions to the problem. And, of course, like Bias, Arrogance is an insider's account of a tilted media that doesn't seem to know it's tilted. Goldberg is no flaming conservative (in fact, he's basically liberal on all the major issues), which makes his account that much more pursuasive.

It's a great read, though it's likely that the major media outlets will ignore it as fastidiously as they did the number one best-seller Bias.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Bob Novak today on the possible Federal Marriage Amendment:
As George W. Bush traveled to London Nov. 18, he learned of the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upholding gay marriage. It had been dreaded, expected and awaited for months, giving the president plenty of time to decide whether to endorse an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet, he uttered only pro forma disapproval of the Massachusetts decision, pledging to defend "the sanctity of marriage."

Aides said President Bush wanted to concentrate on his mission in Britain without distraction by a domestic social issue. However, he has long since returned to Washington (and made a round trip to Baghdad), without revealing his intentions. In fact, the White House is divided, as is the Republican Party, on an issue Bush cannot avoid.
This is an issue so one-sided in the court of public opinion that already more than 30 states (including California, for heaven's sake!) have passed on version or another of the Defense of Marriage Act. And yet the White House can't figure out what to do. The administration can rest assured, however that there will be no politicking their way out of this one:
This is a yes-or-no choice for the president, with a middle course not possible. Without a constitutional amendment, gay marriage will become part of the fabric of American life.
If the administration refuses to take a stand, it will find itself (much like the President's father found himself) without the Christian wing of their party come election time--and they will not win without them.
The much-threatened liberal talk-radio network is close to purchasing radio stations in five of the top markets in America, according to the New York Times.

Fine with me. The more money they pour into this thing, the more fun it will be to watch it all collapse. Ever notice that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and dozens of other "conservative" talk show hosts have never had to buy a single radio station to get their programming on the air? The difference is, stations with actual commercial revenue want to run these programs, whereas they flee from the proposed aural graveyard of the upcoming liberal network as if it were the plague. I mean, these guys don't have a clue.

From the Times:
[Jon Sinton, Progress Media's president] said Progress Media was pursuing a deal to give the comedian Al Franken a daily talk show. The company, whose programming division is to be called Central Air, is also talking with representatives of the comedian Janeane Garofalo.
Memo to Progress Media: I'm only one guy with a few years of radio experience, so I may not be an authority on the matter. But do you think it's even possibly a bad idea to give radio programs to people who are recognized worldwide for their annnoying voices? I mean, regardless of political content, do you think there's a nation full of people who want to hear Al Franken talk through his nose for three hours every day? That they want to hear that whiny twang hectoring them for the long haul?

I hate to point out the obvious here, but it's radio, guys.
Okay. Since I've been hard on the Rams lately, I have to give credit where credit is due. They came up with a decisive, no-doubts win yesterday against a team (the Vikings) that is in first place in its division. Obviously, it's much better than a loss, and much better than just squeaking by.

Still, while I know it will place me at odds with the cheerleaders in the St. Louis press corps, reality constrains me to point out that the Vikings are in first place in a lousy division (the new NFC North, in which two of their wins have come against the Detroit Lions) and are a team that, after a strong start, have lost five of their last six games.

On top of that, Marc Bulger had another thoroughly mediocre day, throwing 20 passes for 220 yards with one interception and one touchdown in a game in which his team scored 48 points.

Fortunately for the Rams, Marshall Faulk seems to be back to his normal, superlative level, and the defense is playing great football. If both of those things continue, the Rams might end up having an opportunity to win a playoff game. But if they do (and I maintain we still haven't seen them beat anyone who's a legitimate contender for anything), it won't be because of their once-great offense, but in spite of it.