Tuesday, January 31, 2006

If Everybody's Somebody, Then No One's Anybody

Mark Brennan has a short and poignant piece posted at LewRockwell.com today. He compares the attention given to an On-Camera Celebrity who gets hurt in Iraq to that accorded a near-nameless incremental dead Army guy. It's worth a look. First paragraph:

Ever hear of a guy named Jerry Durbin? No? OK, let me use his proper name. Did you ever hear of a guy named Jerry M. Durbin, Jr.? Not that either? OK, let me try it with his title. Did you ever hear of Staff Sgt. Jerry M. Durbin, Jr.? From Spring, Texas? Still doesn’t ring a bell? Staff Sgt. Jerry M. Durbin, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team? No luck with that either? Well, just so you know, Staff Sgt. Durbin died last Wednesday in Iraq after an improvised explosive device detonated while he was on patrol. The honorable, 26 year-old Staff Sgt. Durbin leaves behind a wife, two children, a stepdaughter and his parents to pay him his final respects.

Meanwhile, Chimpy's threatening to speak quite soon, so I obviously must rivet my undivided attention upon every single word, near-word, semi-human grunt, squint, and smirk bestowed on us by The Exalted. Good night ... and good luck.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Busted ... Fingered ... Tapped ... Tagged

In the comments after yesterday's post, Grace Nearing (who writes Scriptoids and The Next Blog Blog) "tagged" my humble self with the duty of completing these steps:

= = = = = = = = = =
1. Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.
= = = = = = = = = =

Ordinarily, I would give the only authentic Bartleby-esque response to any reasonable request: "I would prefer not to." However, since Grace is my role model, her slightest whim is to me an imperative command, so I went and did it.

If I have counted correctly, the fifth sentence in my twenty-third post is this:

The story was so teased in the teevee news broadcast here at the beach cottage a few mornings ago, just as I was about to go and conduct some critical sand engineering analyses.

This is embarrassing for several reasons. First, I started this exercise in late December, 2004, and I've just had my nose rubbed in the fact that it took me until late May of 2005 to hit 23 posts ... not too wonderful a rate of output, I'd say. Secondly, since I posted it while on vacation last year, it makes me look like a lazy, perpetually-vacationing slug. (I promise, we never go anywhere, usually; it's just that last May we had our 30th anniversary. I mean, how many normal people would settle for a low-rent, off-season Central Florida trip for a 30th anniversary?) Finally, I'm supposed to tag five other bloggers. I read rather more than five blogs, each and every day, but I'm afraid I can't come up with that many to whom I could possibly presume to pass along the "tag." Thus, I'll tap Craig, Debbie, and Lemming. (I would tag Cissy, but she just got started and doesn't have any 23 posts yet.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Church's Witness

This op-ed column from the New York Times, via Slacktivist, is not exactly fresh; it's more than a week old. But since the U.S. invaded Iraq nearly three years ago, and there's no end to the U.S. occupation in sight, a week doesn't seem so long.

The author, Charles Marsh, tells us:

Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. That period, from the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2003, is not one I will remember fondly. Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine.
Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, whose weekly sermons are seen by millions of television viewers, led the charge with particular fervor. "We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible," said Mr. Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers." In an article carried by the convention's Baptist Press news service, a missionary wrote that "American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

For the SBC's benefit, here's a picture (from March for Justice) showing American foreign policy and military might, busy opening an opportunity for the Gospel.

Yes, there's nothing quite like a foreigner's boot parked on your neck, your chin mashed into the dirt, and the scenic view up the bad end of a rifle to really make you receptive to the Gospel. Wouldn't you agree?

Mr. Marsh recently interviewed John Stott, the Anglican priest who wrote the very-well-known book Basic Christianity. Rev. Stott:

"Privately, in the days preceding the invasion, I had hoped that no action would be taken without United Nations authorization," he told me. "I believed then and now that the American and British governments erred in proceeding without United Nations approval." Reverend Stott referred me to "War and Rumors of War, " a chapter from his 1999 book, "New Issues Facing Christians Today," as the best account of his position. In that essay he wrote that the Christian community's primary mission must be "to hunger for righteousness, to pursue peace, to forbear revenge, to love enemies, in other words, to be marked by the cross."

I would generally agree with Rev. Stott in his main point here: that Christians are supposed to be bearers of their crosses, not bloody-handed butchers. But it is distressing to see him quoted as saying that the error of the American and British regimes lay in "proceeding without United Nations approval." Does this mean that the moral acceptability of invading a country (that hasn't attacked yours) and killing who-knows-how-many of its civilians -- old men, women, and children -- is simply a function of getting (or not getting) the go-ahead from Turtle Bay? Whose teachings are authoritative to Rev. Stott: Jesus's, or the Secretary-General's?

Most American evangelicals, seemingly, remain supportive of the Imperial War on Turr'r and Swarthy Recalcitrants. Which only serves to underline the words of Jesus, from Matthew 7:13-14:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Debbie (Off the Deb End) has a new column for this week in the Jeffersonville Evening News that's well worth reading. "Left" ... "right" ... what's the significance? Both caucuses of the Big Brother Party are residents of the bad end of the regimentation -- liberty axis. And the LiberPublican Party, around here at least, seems to have lost most of whatever distinctives it may ever have had as well.

Friday, January 20, 2006

My Security -- No Matter What It Costs You

The news has gone back and forth, the last few days, on just who may have been blown to bits by the CIA and possibly the Air Force in Pakistan last week. Various Abu Khababs and Ayman al-Zawahiris have been mentioned as having been slain, maybe. What seems generally agreed upon is that eighteen civilians, including five children and five women, were killed. I haven't even seen any speculation about how many were merely maimed. Rural Pakistanis ... what's a few wogs between friends, right?

I haven't been able to find any online evidence to which I can link, but I did happen to catch a little bit of "Hardball" (I think it was) on the tube on Monday evening. Former Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry was being interviewed, from India; he'd been in Pakistan earlier. Sure, he said, he fully supported Bush & Co in their aerial attack on this village, undertaken because some al-Quaeda celebrities were supposed to have been there at the time for a Muslim religious celebration of some sort. Yes, it's regrettable that some civilians might have gotten themselve dusted, and we're all appropriately heavy-hearted and long-faced about that, but you have to look at the Big Picture. War is hell, you know, but these guys might have been planning attacks on the United States!


Let's do a little thought experiment. Let us suppose that Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein (freshly escaped from prison), all four Dixie Chicks, Michael Moore, the freshly resurrected Timothy McVeigh, the freshly resurrected Adolf Hitler, the freshly resurrected Jeffrey Dahmer, and -- let's just go over the top here! -- the recidivist possible-insider-trader Martha Stewart were taking a little meeting in that village. And let us suppose that they were there specifically to plan serial nuclear terror attacks on the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards, the World Series, a Toby Keith concert, the NCAA Final Four, all however-many BCS bowls there are, Dale Earnhardt's grave ... and to cap it all off, they're planning a truly monumental combination insider-trading and murder-cannibalism party. We'd be justified in sending soldiers to kill these miscreants. We'd even be justified in sending soldiers who were certain to be killed on that mission. But would we conscript women and children for that mission -- women and children who had no idea what was going on, and would certainly be unwilling if they did know?

Well, that's what we did. Except that we didn't draft unwitting American women and children ... just towelheads. Does that make it OK? Obviously both El Supremo and his would-be successor, John Kerry, think so. Senator John "Lock-Step Maverick" McCain thinks so. As far as I can tell, pretty much everybody's happy, except for a handful of sorehead Pakistanis. (Oh, and me ... but neither I nor those Paks count for much of anything.)

When the next major terror attack on the U.S. comes -- and it will -- I hope we all remember this. But I bet we won't. Remember, we Americans have an absolute right to be as safe as possible, even from hypothetical threats. No matter how many swarthy foreigners have to give up their pointless little lives to improve our chances of safety by any minor amount, no matter how small.

God forgive us all.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New Blog

I got a note from a friend from back in the message-board days, Cissy. She mentioned that she's kicking off a blog. You should probably go read it ... I'm sure it will be good.

Monday, January 16, 2006


This item is nearly a week old, and I apologize for my neglectful ways of late. The offline world has been interfering badly with my proper business of venting my spleen in this space. But it does concern a question with a certain amount of shelf life -- the new Inquisition -- and so I suppose it's very nearly as timely today as it was last Wednesday.

It seems that "Americans United for Separation of Church and State" have once again caught the subversive whiff of heterodoxy and rebellion. The current offender against evolutionary orthodoxy goes by the name of "intelligent design," and it refers to the notion that irreducible complexity is not the product of random action. The school district in question is obviously trying to sneak a fast one past right-thinking folk everywhere:

Superintendent John Wight, who did not immediately return a phone call for comment, said last week that the class, "Philosophy of Design," was not being taught as science and was an opportunity for students to debate the controversial issue.

But you have to get up a little earlier in the morning than that, to fool the watchdogs of vigilance at Americans United:

"The course was designed to advance religious theories on the origins of life, including creationism and its offshoot, 'intelligent design,"' the lawsuit said. "Because the teacher has no scientific training, students are not provided with any critical analysis of this presentation."

And, speaking of the teacher, we haven't heard the worst yet -- no, not by a long shot!

The class is taught by social studies teacher Sharon Lemburg, whose husband is an Assembly of God pastor.

Not only that, but the Sacred Principle of Equal Time is being violated:

The five-member school board was divided when it learned about the class last month and discovered three guest lecturers were scheduled in support of intelligent design but none for evolution.

A few questions occur to me.

If a class in which the words "intelligent design" were heard was taught by a teacher with "scientific training," would it be OK? (I didn't think so.)

In a typical righteous, upstanding, Darwinist biology class, are any lecturers scheduled to support a non-evolutionary position? (Yeah, right.)

Have any orthodox Darwinist biology teachers been subject to investigations of the occupations of their spouses? Could any of them be married to ... uh ... atheists, by any chance?

Why is it that so many right-thinking, progressive, rational, scientific heirs of the Enlightenment seem to think that the way to handle dissenting views is to suppress them, by force of law? Why do so many who claim to value a scientific viewpoint respond only with the "argument from authority," followed by McCarthyesque guilt-by-association (the teacher's husband is a pastor!!!)? Whatever happened to the glorious "marketplace of ideas?"

By the way, "separation of church and state" is probably a fine idea (I include the qualifier only because of the contemporary uncertainty about what is meant by the phrase). But it's worth wondering, I think, as the state claims more and more territory in our lives: if the church is to be excluded from every area in which the state asserts control or authority, what space, exactly, is going to be left for the church? While pondering that question, keep in mind that the flush capacity of the water closet in your home is determined from Washington.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hooray For the Mouse!

From CNN, a tale of rodent vengeance:

Vengeful mouse sets house ablaze

FORT SUMNER, New Mexico (AP) -- A mouse got its revenge against a homeowner who tried to dispose of it in a pile of burning leaves. The blazing creature ran back to the man's house and set it on fire.

Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner said he caught the mouse inside his house and wanted to get rid of it.

"I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house," Mares said from a motel room Saturday.

Village Fire Chief Juan Chavez said the burning mouse ran to just beneath a window, and the flames spread up from there and throughout the house.

No was hurt inside, but the home and everything in it was destroyed.

Next time the charming Luciano catches a live mouse, maybe he'll figure out some more-decent way of getting rid of it than throwing it, alive, into a fire. I hope the previous guest in his motel room did something unspeakable on the pillow case. What a schmuck.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Puzzle Pieces Begin to Fall into Place

America doesn't torture, and doesn't run any secret overseas torture prisons. Which is why McCain's no-torture amendment was insufferable, and why The Exalted was so angry when we found out about the nonexistent torture prisons. OK, I'm good with all that.

So, McCain's amendment was approved by lopsided Congressional majorities, and the junta decided it was OK to sign after all. But then, as The Exalted signs the thing, he also issues a "signing statement" (Boston Globe, via The Poor Man) in which he says, well, you understand, I am commander-in-chief, and so I'm going to torture prisoners any time I think it might be necessary for Keeping You Safe ... and I, of course, will be the one-and-only judge of necessity.

This is very much in character, in view of Wiretapgate. From 'way back in the first term of The Exalted, he spied and tortured in secret. But now, with the Great 2004 Accountability Moment behind us, he begins to hear a little static ... and it's out-front, in-your-face time. Yes, I've been wiretapping, and it's legal because I say it is. I'm going to go right on wiretapping. Yes, the Congress can pass all the little anti-torture amendments they want (aren't they cute?). And I'll give the Congress all the attention and respect it deserves, however little that might be.

It fits in pretty well, I think, with my rape-is-more-fun-than-sex theory. It isn't enough, any more, for Prexy to just do whatever he wants. Now, he wants to be sure we know he's doing it ... and that we know just how powerless we are to stop him. The victim's awareness, degradation, and humiliation aren't mere byproducts, or unfortunate consequences, of the perpetrator's pleasure; they're integral, necessary parts of that pleasure.

The upcoming years may get a little more than interesting, if I'm correct. No more Mr. Nice Bush.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Comparing Risk with Risk

The engineering geek in me gets impatient, from time to time, with talk of "risk-benefit analysis." As in, "Do the benefits of thus-and-so outweigh the risks?" Benefits are benefits, and risks are risks; they are unlike quantities, and to talk about whther one "outweighs" the other is about as reasonable as asking whether my apple is crisper than my pickup truck is dirty. Unlike quantities can't be compared in this way, and it's one of the shortcomings of the English language that we can so easily talk about such comparisons.

But a CNN story about the latest coal-mining disaster has an interesting sidebar: it bulletizes a handful of mining catastrophes, going back to 1984, in which a total of 63 people were killed. And yet, we go on generating electricity by burning coal. We don't build any nuclear power plants, because we were scared spitless by Three Mile Island (at which how many were killed or injured? that's right, zero) and Chernobyl, which ocurred in the essentially third-world context of the old Soviet Union.

In terms of excess deaths, those 63 miners in the past two decades alone are a drop in the bucket, compared with the excess deaths and illnesses caused by breathing the same air in which millions of tons of coal are burned.

The risks associated with various methods of generating a reliable electrical supply cannot meaningfully be compared to the benefits of the availability of that supply. But the risks associated with one kind of generation can be compared to the risks associated with other kinds of generation -- and should be. This may be a situation in which a class analysis is useful, however out-of-fashion Marxism may be. Could it be that the nuclear risk, while clearly smaller, is less tolerable to us because it applies to the population more generally -- while coal-mining accidents are bad mostly for people who are sort of Appalachian, and don't exactly live in our neighborhoods? Ugly ... but not implausible.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Let's Make a Deal

It's been on CNN's site for a couple of days now that Jack Abramoff is close to a plea deal on charges of conspiracy and fraud. It is said that he facilitated the purchase of more than a few of our saintly legislators on behalf of various gambling interests. And apparently, at least one Indian tribe found out that some senators can be bought, but don't necessarily stay bought. Slippery devils, they are. And -- surprise, surprise! -- most of them seem to be affiliated with God's Own Party: the GOP. You know, the party that restored morality and integrity to the White House. The party of the great new permanent majority status in both houses of Congress.

Democrat partisans may be inclined to think that a really big GOP corruption scandal will deliver Congressional majorities back to them. They shouldn't be too cheerful quite yet. For one thing, it's a long time from now to November. For another, the great American voting public includes many, many people who are quite fuzzy on the difference between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Of course, I don't want to imply that my countrymen are pinheads ... let's just say that they often don't seem to be paying attention. The chances of their getting it right, and then remembering it until the fall elections, do not seem particularly good.

Meanwhile, I'm glad, in a way, that Abramoff is facing enough legal trouble to motivate him to dime out a bunch of our wonderful legislators -- the more, the better, and I can always cross my fingers that my own miserable clown of a Congresscritter, Mark Souder, might be prominent among them. But, in another way, I tend to think that Abramoff shouldn't be the one who's in trouble. I sort of think that when somebody buys a "public servant," it's the seller, not the buyer, who is guilty of the real offense against the public. Hang 'em all, say I; hang 'em high.