Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Non Sequiturs

Sometimes I read statements that simply make no sense at all. That's happened several times in the last couple of days. The outstanding ones, just from James Taranto's Best of the Web, are these:

In yesterday's entry of the continuing "Zero-Tolerance Watch" series, a student was told he was not being suspended while he was being suspended.

Two days later, he said, Vice Principal Paul Deal told him that he was not being suspended or expelled, but that he might be a threat to the school or himself. J.K. [the student] said he was told to leave and not return until being cleared by a mental-health professional.

Today, there's an item titled "Violently Opposed to Violence". It seems there was a peace demonstration in the Palenstinian territories, but the demonstrators don't seem peaceful — some carry rifles, and others RPGs. As Taranto says:

We've often noted that many so-called pacifists seem to have a taste for tumult, but only in Palestinistan would a peace protester carry an RPG launcher. Or should we say only in Reuterville?

The lead item today is about the statements by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He says the war is lost, but we can still win it ... or something like that. "This war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," Reid said at a press conference. He "knows" what Condi Rice, Robert Gates, and General Petraeus — and maybe President Bush — believe, which happens to be at odds with everything any of them has ever said. One thing he didn't explain is, if we have lost the war, who won? (At least Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee has balls enough to say we should claim victory and leave.) Other Democrats wouldn't say they agreed with Reid's statement, but said the war cannot be won militarily. That is, they don't agree with him but they agree with him.

It's not a non sequitur, but a particularly egregious statement cited in the Politico article was from Sen. Tom Harkin. When asked what our troops are doing in Iraq, he said "I don't know what they're engaged in, what they are trying to do. Our military is being abused, abused by this administration. Abused." In an actual non sequitur, he also said his 2002 vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq should not have been construed as a green light to invade Iraq.

Meanwhile, in the same column (second item), says Vice President Dick Cheney "took the unusual step of seeking out reporters." He was up on Capitol Hill — you'd think the reporters would be seeking him out. Guess they didn't want to hear what Cheney had to say.

What is perhaps my favorite continuing Leftist non sequitur, though, shows up in today's column in its fourth item, "Stand Up and Be Labeled a Terrorist." The extremists like to pretend their (they claim all of our) rights are being infringed, and they can't express their opinions. That's right, they are without any fear expressing their opinions that they are not allowed to express their opinions. Taranto's comment is right on point:

What's odd about this is that the plaintiffs apparently have no fear of announcing in open court that they fear designation as terrorists. If they really feared it, you'd think they'd be lying low. This is similar to the plaintiffs in the wiretapping case last year, who made declarations to the effect that they had various ties to terrorists, and who claimed in the case that their civil liberties were under siege. If civil liberties were really under siege, people wouldn't be openly confessing their ties to enemies of the country.
The only question left is whether these people are completely detached from reality, or are simply clueless.

A New Island

A new island has appeared off the coast of Greenland, and it's being touted as a proof and consequence of global warming. It had been thought to be the end of a peninsula, but it turned out to be an island when the ice over it melted.

Something tells me this isn't the first time this island has appeared. After all, the Vikings called the place Greenland for a reason, and it wasn't because it was all covered with ice.

That was during the Medieval Warm Period. Then the Little Ice Age came, and the Viking settlements simply disappeared.

Riehl World View notes:

So this island has most likely come and gone before, hundreds of years before man invented electricity or the internal combustion engine, but, well, this time it's different, it's proof positive that man is the cause of Global Warming?
Somehow that just doesn't make sense.

Incidentally, I remember that Al Gore and his global warming activists are saying the global warming ice melt will cause the sea level to rise twenty feet or more. But I also recall that Venice was thriving — and not flooded — during that Medieval Warm Period.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Where Was God?

Terrible events, like Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech, bring up questions like "Where was God?" The more general question is something like "If God is all-powerful, and God is (and desires) good, then why is there evil?" One of the better discussions of this question I've read was in a column written this week by Don Crawford because of the Virginia Tech shootings. That article is good despite saying Tuesday rather than Monday.

Of course, the answer the article gives is from the Christian perspective. The answers from at least some other religions are different.

From reading in Experiencing the World's Religions just this week, for example, I understand that the Jain answer is that there is no god, and the earth just is. So this question doesn't occur.

Islam has an equally simple answer -- what happened at Virginia Tech was the will of Allah. Muslim philosophy has been governed since the middle of the ninth century by Asharite doctring and al-Ghazali’s teaching Allah's unlimited power, expressed in the view that each instant exists as is does entirely because Allah wills it so.

Obviously, I prefer the Christian answer, but I think there's more to it,too. The whole issue brought to my mind an essay by Bill Whittle called Tribes" that I ran across right after Hurricane Katrina, a little more than 18 months ago. (I used some ideas from this essay in discussing Hurricane Katrina.) Whittle's tribes are not characterized by black and white skins, but by the black and white hats the tribe's members choose (by their choices and viewpoints) to wear. To avoid unconscious overtones, he tags these tribes as the Pinks and the Greys. The Pinks just want to be left alone, feel that everyone is really much like them, and feel that any conflict can be resolved if we just understand the other side's issues. This has as a corollary that, if something bad happens, somebody made it happen. The Greys would also rather be left alone. But they also know that bad things sometimes happen, even without a malicious agency. Putting it in engineering terms, they know that "things break sometimes," and feel "please don't let it be my bridge." And the Greys know one more thing that the Pinks don't, or won't -- they know that an enemy exists that wants to destroy both Pinks and Greys. (Whittle does not give the enemy a tribe or a color.)

Whittle mixes metaphors a little to relate his tribes to the Loony Toons cartoon characters -- sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves -- featured in the introduction to The Bulletproof Mind by LtCol (Ret.) Dave Grossman, whose related essay "On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs" was reprinted a few days ago. The sheep are the Pinks, the sheepdogs are the Greys, and the wolves are the enemy. When the wolves are actually in the flock and attacking, they fill the sheep with terror. The rest of the time, though, the sheep would rather believe wolves don't exist. The sheepdogs, when the sheep recognize them, make the sheep uncomfortable -- they are a reminder that evil exists. And some sheepdogs are always recognizable. Others, like the shaggy cartoon sheepdog, may be taken by sheep as other sheep, and so pass unnoticed -- until the wolves arrive.

And so we come back to Virginia Tech. With a wolf loose in the fold, a few people showed their grey. The heroism of Holocaust survivor Professor Liviu Librescu was outstanding, and he paid for his heroism with his life. (Update: So was that of Waleed Mohammed Shaalan, who distracted the shooter's attention from another injured student at the cost of his own life.) The grey of others was less obvious, and less deadly, like that of student Derek O'Dell. And others, like the student sitting next to O'Dell in class, never got the chance to show their color, pink or grey. There are other grey stories we may never know, in some cases possibly because the sheepdog was unsuccessful in stopping the wolf. After all, there's nothing that says the sheepdog always wins. But what's undeniable is that there are people alive today who would not be alive were it not for the protective actions of these individuals.

Note that these were not recognized protectors, recognized Greys. These were what we might call "undercover Greys" -- apparent Pinks who stepped up when they were needed, and helped save others' lives.

In a way, maybe that's an answer (though perhaps not one we'd hope for) to the original question: Perhaps it's as I was taught, that God usually works through people. And in this case the people he was working through are the ones who showed their grey.

Recommended: Read the Crawford article, the Whittle essay, and the Grossman reprint. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

No More GWOT

Ike Skelton, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has banished the phrase "Global War on Terrorism" (and, presumably, the shorthand GWOT) as too vague and non-specific. This has produced the suggestion that GWOT be replaced by WOIITUSAAPLMGWAAEEFISDGTPTKJIRCSDYBMQTITCSKCAN.

I hope this makes Mr Skelton happier (follow the link for the definition).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NM Voter IDs Killed

It's not bad enough that

• a federal judge struck down the voter ID law the voters of Albuquerque passed by a 73-27% margin as a partial solution to the vote fraud problem

• more than 201,700 voter ID cards (over 18% of the 1+ million total) sent out last year were returned by the post office as undeliverable, suggesting at least that number of voters had moved or died — or had never existed and had been fraudulently registered (and that's not counting the fraudulently registered children and pets)

• the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico, David Iglesias, failed to take any action on vote fraud cases even when he reportedly had an iron-clad case and a confession (a failure to act that was apparently at least partly responsible for his termination)

Now the New Mexico legislature has passed, and Governor Bill Richardson has signed, a new law that ends even the pretense of a voter ID in this state.

It seems to me what's going on is the attempt to deliver the new voter ID cards demonstrated huge problems with the voter registration system and with the current voter rolls. The state's politicians didn't want to acknowledge the system's problems, and responded by killing the activity that gave evidence of the problems.

It's not right but, apparently, that's the way it is.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Something I Never Knew

Several people have noted the ill-fitting suits the British soldiers and marines were wearing — presumably so the one female sailor wouldn't be the only one out of uniform. They also noted the lack of ties on all of them.

I never knew till this week that the necktie was considered a Christian symbol.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Easter Reflections: A Visit to Ocotlán

It’s Easter time — a time to be reminded that God didn’t (and doesn’t) do things the way man expects. And that has made me remember and reflect on something that happened a few months ago.

We were part of a group on a pilgrimage to central Mexico at the end of the summer. The highlight of our trip had been a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, some distance from the center of Mexico City. We visited the Basilica and climbed Tepeyac Hill, where San Juan Diego met with the appearance of Our Lady in 1531 — barely ten years after the Spanish had conquered Mexico’s Aztec kingdom.

Our group was taken out to Teotihuacan the next day. I remember being taught as a child that the pyramids there were built by the Aztecs, but that’s not so. Now we know that Teotihuacan started being built about the time of Christ, and it was in ruins when the Aztecs arrived, having been abandoned some eight centuries before.

Leaving the area of the pyramids, we ended up on a minor road heading for Tlaxcala and its nearby village of Ocotlán to see a beautiful and historic church there. It seemed to take an awful long time getting there, and some of us wondered why we were on a minor road when it seemed one of the major highways would have suited the trip better.

On the way, we were told a little about the Basilica of Our Lady of Ocotlán. This church is associated with an appearance of Our Lady to another Juan Diego, this one in 1541 — just ten years after her appearance at Tepeyac. Near the church is a miracle spring that figures in the story of this appearance. We were told we might be able to get some water from the spring while we were there — if we got there while the gates were still open.

We finally arrived in Ocotlán about 5 p.m. Mass was just starting as we came into the church. Naturally, we stayed and participated. It must have surprised the elderly priest to see such a group there for a midweek Mass. Hearing the group fully participating in the Spanish of the Mass might have surprised him a bit, too.

We noticed during the Mass that the priest never moved from where he was behind the right side of the altar at any time. The reason became evident as the Mass ended. He was in a wheelchair, and evidently not in very good shape. The priest and deacon with our group went up to talk to the older man while the rest of us were looking at (and admiring) this beautiful church and the figure of Our Lady featured there in accordance with her wishes.

And then things started to get unusual, in ways far beyond any coincidence.

It turned out the elderly priest was just returning from major surgery — an amputation. This was apparently one of his first days back in his church. Part of his leg had become infected, and he had been unable to fight the infection because of his diabetes. For that same reason, his recovery was being painfully slow.

He had been aware that we were from the United States, but only now did he learn we were from New Mexico. That was particularly striking for him because he had studied at the seminary in Montezuma, New Mexico, which was set up as a gift from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops during the time when many priests were killed and all the seminaries in Mexico were closed by the Mexican government. Our accompanying deacon attended the Montezuma seminary later, and was known to this priest by reputation. (!)

As the priest spoke with us, he became more animated; our visit was clearly giving him a lift. We all gathered around the priest and gave him a special blessing before we left. He was very moved, and we saw a tear in his eye.

After we were back on our bus, on the way out of the area, the meaning of what had just happened began to dawn on us. We began to realize how it must have been for him, at this time of personal trial, having us arrive — a pilgrim group from an area full of good memories for him — dropping in, blessing him, and almost magically disappearing again. We did a real good deed that day. That day we were angels.

And that explains why it had to take so long getting to Ocotlán — it was so we would get there at the right time.

Thursday, April 5, 2007


I noticed a couple or three jaw-dropping items today. One is from the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled (5-4) that you and I are polluters. (See also this New York Times article.) Since the Supreme Court has now ruled that — whether or not science agrees — carbon dioxide is politically a pollutant which EPA has the authority to regulate, I wonder how long before we all have to get a license to be allowed the privilege of breathing.

Then I saw the article on the "Aroma in Tacoma" talking about the Washington State city officially blaming the victim for being attacked. Tacoma is billing the U.S. Department of Defense for their $500,000 costs in providing a significant law enforcement presence necessitated by the violent "peace" demonstrations against the military. This seems to me logically equivalent to the Saudi Arabian "justice" system punishing a woman for being the victim of a gang rape. Tacoma clearly has no principles in this. They just figure they have a better chance of getting money from their fellow victims than from the unscrupulous (and probably totally unproductive) "peace" protestors violently attacking those who protect them.

The first two items in today's Best of the Web were not quite that bad. In one, the Democrats in the House Armed Services Committee have made the Global War on Terror into "the war that must not be named" by banning the use of that phrase (among others). Column author James Taranto notes that

America seems dangerously close to a tipping point: a return to the 9/10 mindset that led to 9/11. It may be that President Bush's steadfastness is the only thing standing in the way, and that his departure from the scene in January 2009 will leave a more timid America.

Or, more optimistically, it may be that the current opposition to the "global war" is less about the war itself than about partisanship and Bush-hatred — and that its apparent gain in strength is really only a reflection of the president's political weakness late in his term.

Taranto also notes (second item) an interesting flip-flop by the Left. The Left previously demanded that Islamist extremists captured on the battlefield and in terrorist attempts be given Prisoner of War status, even though they are explicitly excluded from such status by the terms of the Geneva Accords. Now, however, they think Prisoner of War status is too severe since it mandates imprisonment until the war's end. The Left thinks that's far too long and wants these terrorist barbarians released soon (or now) so they can murder more innocent victims. In effect, they are insisting these war criminals be given more rights than legitimate Prisoners of War.

All in all, just unbelievable!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Midnight Company

Omar's friends have often asked him what he knows about American soldiers' behavior during house searches. They challenged him because "The Americans never searched your home."

Well, now that's no longer true. American soldiers came to Omar's house last week, and — if others' descriptions of their experiences are true — Omar's description demonstrates that being pleasant and cooperative (and without terrorist arms) makes things go much more smoothly with the Americans.

Read the whole thing.