Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The ABC of religious ignorance

Would somebody at ABC News please hire a Catholic to help edit their religious news. No, not that guy who claims he was Catholic when he was 7 before his parents divorced. Someone who still participates in their faith and at least knows the basics. That would prevent reports like this on Good Morning America:

Like many Catholic children, Haley Pelly-Waldman, 9, had looked forward to her first Holy Communion. It is a sacred rite of passage for all young Catholics, steeped in tradition and meaning.

Catholics believe the wine and the wafer symbolize the body and blood of Christ. ...

Catholics do not believe that the wine and the wafer symbolize Jesus Christ.

Catholics do believe that the unleavened bread and wine are in fact the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, brought to that state at the time of consecration by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is a vast difference between the actual belief and the ABC report, and unless a viewer knows the difference the rest of the story makes the Church look rather silly.

Which is probably the intent of ABC News. The young girl in the story has a rare eating disorder that precludes her from eating wheat. An attempt to give her a rice-based host at her First Communion was not valid (as the priest should have known. Sigh!).

Stunned by that ruling, Haley's mother, Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman, decided to challenge the church law by appealing to the Vatican.

"I am one woman questioning 2,000 years of church teaching," Pelly-Waldman said on "Good Morning America" today. "But I believe with some patience and persistence maybe perhaps we can be heard."

(More sighing.) The ignorance goes well beyond ABC News in this case. Perhaps the priest should go back to catechism class, along with the mother.

You see, communion for a Catholic is more than "steeped in tradition and meaning." Taking the words of Jesus for their face value (or literally) in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John, Matthew 26: 26-29, and the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-32, Catholics believe that sharing in the bread and blood of Christ is life itself. Spiritual life; eternal life.

Since communion (Eucharist) is Jesus Himself, the Church cannot change the elements (bread and wine) to rice cakes and grape juice. This refusal is not meant to be hard-hearted. Many people over the years have, for one reason or another, been unable to parttake of the communion host but have fully communicated with Christ through the communion wine. The Church teaches that each and every particle of the host and every droplet of His blood is 100% pure Jesus (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity). One need not take communion under both forms in order to get the full effect.

Short version: properly informed, the mother should realize that her daughter is receiving a full communion with a small sip, even a couple of drops, from the Cup.

Properly informed, this "one woman" challenging 2,000 years of Church teaching would acknowledge her error, apologize to the Church, the media and her daughter, and enrol herself in the nearest available RCIA course offered to those thinking of becoming Catholic.

Another thought: there are many instances in which people with Haley's problem have gone ahead, taken communion, and found no ill effects whatsoever. Amazing what the power of Jesus can do.

ABC claims to be a legitimate news outlet, but would they ever give you the information you have just read so that you could see both sides? Maybe it's not ignorance at work here after all.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Mr. President, you are wrong!

President Bush is calling the Minuteman Project volunteers "vigilantes" in the latest Washington Times, and promises to call for even looser border controls!

Unthinkable! Absurd! (And there is no other hand ...)

More than 1,000 people — including 30 pilots and their private planes — have volunteered for the Minuteman Project, beginning next month along the Arizona-Mexico border. Civilians will monitor the movement of illegal aliens for the month of April and report them to the Border Patrol.

Mr. Bush said after yesterday's continental summit, with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin at Baylor University, that he finds such actions unacceptable.

"I'm against vigilantes in the United States of America," Mr. Bush said at a joint press conference. "I'm for enforcing the law in a rational way."

What is that rational way, you might ask. Is it flauting Congressional legislation to add 2,000 new border patrol agents? Apparently so.

Mr. Bush was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats earlier this month for failing to add 2,000 agents to the Border Patrol, as set out in the intelligence overhaul legislation he signed in December.

The president's 2006 budget allows enough money to add only 210 agents for the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico.

The president changes the subject by talking about North Korean nukes at the news conference. Not to belittle the WMD danger, but our porous borders pose a far greater and immediate danger to our nation. President Bush instead should have been asking -- publicly -- why Vincente Fox's government is encouraging its citizens to illegal migrate to the U.S., not to mention questioning Fox on his stand on "la reconquista".

In general we support Bush but not on this issue. We like Hispanics. We think there's a solid case to be made for legal immigration on sustainable levels with citizenship requirements that will forestall bilingual regionalism. What the president is advocating is unrestrained madness.

He must hear from those of us, a majority we would suspect, who believe that a nation's borders, language and culture are worth preserving and protecting. Our elected reps in Congress also need to hear from us on this.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Psychology of a slow execution

Andrew McCarthy, over at National Review's Corner, had some good points to make on the ongoing starvation and dehydration killing of Terri Schiavo, re its "excruciating slowness."

"... it is worth remembering that the excruciating slowness of the execution here, the incremental-ness of death, is designed by its champions to inure us to it ..."
Why should we think this is intentional? Consider, say, a month ago, before Terri's plight took center stage, if you had asked someone in the abstract: "How would you feel about starving and dehydrating a defenseless, brain-damaged woman?" The answer is easy to imagine: "Outrageous, atrocious -- something that wouldn't be done to an animal and couldn't be done to the worst convicted murderer."

But then it actually happens ... slowly. You're powerless to stop it, and ... you find your life goes on. There are kids and jobs and triumphs and tragedies and everyday just-getting-by. An atrocity becomes yet another awful thing going on in the world. After a day, or maybe two, of initial flabbergast, we're talking again about social security reform, China, North Korea, Hezbollah, etc. A woman's snail-like, gradual torture goes from savagery to just one of those sad facts of life. As is the case with other depravities once believed unthinkable, it coarsens us. We slowly, and however reluctantly, accept it. We accept it. The New York Times no doubt soon "progresses" from something like "terminating life by starvation," to "the dignity of death by starvation," to "the medical procedure that opponents refer to as starvation." And so the culture of life slides a little more. The culture of death gains a firmer foothold."

It's good stuff and our excerpt does it an injustice.

'Unintended' consequences? Maybe ...

The Wall Street Journal opines today on the looming issue of how the Federal Election Commission is going to deal with political bloggers, thanks to a federal judge ruling that McCain-Feingold MUST be applied to the internet. For the most part the WSJ folks get it right but we wish to quibble with a couple of points:
When it comes to the law of unintended consequences, the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance "reform" is rapidly becoming a legal phenomenon. The latest example comes courtesy of the Federal Election Commission, where officials are being asked to extend the law to the very people it is supposed to empower: individual citizens.

Can we talk? "Unintended" consequences? There was little doubt from the git-go that campaign finance reform was meant to silence some people and ignore the megaphones of others. It was more like the Big Liberal Media Monopoly Protection Act. Honest opponents said so, McCain-Feingold apologists looked the other way.

Before the ink was dry the liberals demonstrated that they already knew where the loopholes were -- the 527 groups -- and were to wage electoral p.r. battles as usual. Thankfully "sauce for the goose" allowed conservative voices to establish their own 527s. McCain-Feingold in effect is in tatters, but its poisonous after-effects remain.

Our next quibble is in response to this statement:
Another alternative would be to classify all bloggers as journalists, seeing as how the press is about the only entity exempt from McCain-Feingold. As much we enjoy our profession, we think a nation of journalists is overkill.

Overkill? What's so wrong with a nation of journalists, i.e., citizen observers who report what they see, think about the issues, and offer their views? Isn't that the nature of free speech and free press? If a little is good, shouldn't a lot more be better? Thomas Jefferson certainly thought so.

We generally like the WSJ, but like others of its kind (MainStreamMedia) it is having a difficult time shaking off the old definitions and the sense of entitlement that for too long have tempted reporters and editorialists to believe that they were a special, privileged class. What they were were Americans representing all Americans, entrusted with a sacred duty to be thorough and tell the truth. One can argue whether this was ever well practiced in the industry, but it seems obvious that in recent years an increasingly "royal" press and its practice of advocacy for causes has often diminished the cause of accuracy and truth.

Competition changes all that. Even the small conservative wing of the MSM benefits from the competition and scrutiny of the blogosphere. Let a thousand flowers, nay even a million flowers, bloom!

Aside from these stipulations, it's a good editorial, and it concludes with a hope that McCain-Feingold should die.


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Fox can go jump

What is an extremist?

Apparently anyone who believes that a nation's borders should be nothing more than a philosophical construct, if you believe Mexican president Vincente Fox.
Fox said he plans to push for U.S. immigration reform during a meeting with President Bush in Texas next week.

Yeah? What kind of reform? Perhaps regulations against the formation of groups like the Minutemen, the volunteers who will start patrolling the border in Arizona beginning April 1 with an eye toward reporting illegals entering from Mexico.

"There are signs of these kinds of problems present today, and (they are)progressing," Fox said during a news conference for foreign reporters. "We have to act quickly and on time to prevent these kinds of actions." He said Mexico is watching the Minuteman Project carefully and will take action in U.S. courts or international tribunals if any of the activists break the law.

"We totally reject the idea of these migrant-hunting groups," Fox said. "We will use the law, international law and even U.S. law to make sure that these types of groups, which are a minority . . . will not have any opportunity to progress."

You see, Fox does not like border restrictions. He does not like fences or walls. Especially the new triple fence being built near San Diego.

"We are convinced that walls don't work. They should be torn down," he said. "No country that is proud of itself should build walls. No one can isolate himself these days."

Fox said he understood Americans' concern about protecting their southern border. But he dismissed fears that terrorists have sneaked into the United States through Mexico. "We have absolutely no evidence of that," he said.

And we won't have evidence until we plug the leaks -- or when the first reports of terrorist casualties come in from the next 9-11 type event. Naturally Fox doesn't like walls when they conflict directly with his goal of flooding the former territories of Mexico -- now part of the United States -- with enough people to achieve reconquest through the ballot box.

Perhaps hoping that President Bush will not get wind of his pro-reconquista remarks intended for Mexican crowds, Fox is trotting out his own version of "Save Social Security."

Fox said he will push for action on a "guest worker" program in the United States. He said that the U.S. population is aging and will need Mexican labor in the future and that turning millions of undocumented Mexicans into legal, taxpaying workers could help keep the Social Security system afloat.
Of course these same workers would draw Social Security benefits too, and not necessarily commeasurate with years of service, etc.

We are, of course, not expecting much from Dubya on this issue: it is a serious blind spot for the president, for whatever reason. We hope that congressional Republicans will awaken to their responsibility for border security before Hillary and the liberal Democrats grab it as a faux issue to woo voters in 2006 and 2008. (We do not trust them to do border control right, but even a little bit of falsely sincere border control is better than totally sincere cluelessness.)

We like the response of the Minutemen Project leadership:

Minuteman co-organizer Chris Simcox said participants are exercising their constitutional rights." Vicente Fox can rant and rave all he wants, but he obviously doesn't understand what a democracy means," Simcox said. "We have been working within the law."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Ides of What?

Oh, yeah. March.


An angel of God, indeed!

For those who seek proof of the miraculous the story of Ashley Smith should be this week's Exhibit A.

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The woman held hostage by Atlanta courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols gained his trust by talking with him for hours and spoke of her 5-year-old daughter in a bid to win his sympathy, she told reporters Sunday.
Smith said she asked Nichols if she could read. She retrieved a Bible and a copy of "The Purpose-Driven Life." She said he asked her to repeat a paragraph "about what you thought your purpose in life was -- what talents were you given."

Smith said she asked Nichols why he chose her.

"He said he thought I was an angel sent from God, and that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ," she said. "And that he was lost, and that God led him to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people."

Nichols eventually let Smith leave the apartment. She called 911 and Nichols surrendered peacefully to law enforcement officers.

Here is a situation in which two very different people share at least one common belief: that Divine Providence has arranged to bring them together, not as a random act, but for a purpose that they must discern.

The results speak for themselves.

It would be easy to say that Ashley had no alternative but to rely on her faith, but this doesn't explain (1) why her reliance on God paid off, and (2) why so many other men and women fail to call upon their faith in times of crisis. Ashley's witness was the critical difference. Her faithfulness was rewarded.

Not yet convinced? Read a bit more:

"I talked to him about my family -- things that had happened in my life. I asked him why he did what he did. And his reason was because he was a soldier."

Smith said: "He asked me what I thought he should do, and I said, 'I think you should turn yourself in. If you don't turn yourself in lots more people are going to get hurt.'"

After 6 a.m., Smith said she followed Nichols so he could hide Wilhelm's truck and then took him back to the apartment in her car. She said that Nichols did not bring any weapons on the trip, and that she had her cellular phone but did not call police.

Smith said Nichols was "overwhelmed" when she made him breakfast and that the two of them watched television coverage of the manhunt.

"I cannot believe that's me on there," Smith said Nichols told her.

"He told me, 'Look at me. Look at my eyes. I'm already dead,'" Smith said. Smith said she told him that it was a "miracle" he had survived.

"You need to go to prison and share the word of God with all the prisoners there," Smith said she told Nichols.

We're sure that some educated nit-wit is going to come up with a theory like a "reverse Stockholm syndrome" or some such to explain what happened in that apartment, refusing to accept the possibility that greater events were taking place than the wise of this world are capable of understanding.

We prefer to believe that Ashley, indeed, was an angel, a messenger, of God's wisdom. She didn't volunteer but then again, she didn't refuse the assignment once it became hers.


Monday, March 14, 2005

So we must be irrational?

"It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners."

Thus spake San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer today (Monday), in his infinite wisdom overturning history, culture and tradition in striking down California's ban on gay marriage.

Really, NO rational purpose? In effect he has ruled that any pre-existing norm or purpose is irrational.

The judge wrote that the state's historical definition of marriage, by itself, cannot justify the denial of equal protection for gays and lesbians.

"The state's protracted denial of equal protection cannot be justified simply because such constitutional violation has become traditional," Kramer wrote.

Where did this guy go to law school? Did he take any history courses? When California adopted its constitution it did not arbitrarily deny all those pre-existing gay and lesbian marriages. There weren't any to deny. The state, founded by Christians from a society built by Spanish and Mexican Christians, enshrined in its constitution the strictures of a moral code that has governed Christian civilization for millenia. Jews and Muslims share the concept of marriage limited to one man, one woman. Most other faiths do as well.

No, what Judge Kramer has done --- and let us pray that the California Supreme Court will undo it -- is to insist that morality and the law must divorce. Any code that purports to be God-derived obviously will not pass constitutional muster in this man's courtroom.

What is missing in this report is that God is real, He is paying attention, and He will have the last Word on the matter. Sooner, we fear, than later.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Apocalypse routine - and overdue

If it were a movie, it would be called "Apocalypse Now (& Then)."

Berkeley physicists say they have undeniable proof that every 62 million years there is a"mass extinction," a big die-off of the prevailing life on Earth.

That didn't seem to bother the San Francisco Chronicle reporter, who ignored the basic math of the story: The last mass extinction occurred 65 million years ago! Math may not be our long suit but even we can handle the occasional negative number. If the 62 million year flame-out is a regular event, then we're slightly overdue for the next!
With surprising and mysterious regularity, life on Earth has flourished and vanished in cycles of mass extinction every 62 million years, say two UC Berkeley scientists who discovered the pattern after a painstaking computer study of fossil records going back for more than 500 million years.
The Berkeley researchers are physicists, not biologists or geologists or paleontologists, but they have analyzed the most exhaustive compendium of fossil records that exists -- data that cover the first and last known appearances of no fewer than 36,380 separate marine genera, including millions of species that once thrived in the world's seas, later virtually disappeared, and in many cases returned.*

Robert Muller, who is somewhat known for his "Nemesis" hypothesis, the idea that a small brown dwarf star circles around the galaxy and wreaks havoc periodically, says he's given up on that idea (and several others).
Muller and Rohde conceded that they have puzzled through every conceivable phenomenon in nature in search of an explanation: "We've had to think about solar system dynamics, about the causes of comet showers, about how the galaxy works, and how volcanoes work, but nothing explains what we've discovered," Muller said.
"We've tried everything we can think of to find an explanation for these weird cycles of biodiversity and extinction," Muller said, "and so far, we've failed."

We would suggest that the existence of God, if admitted as at least a possibility, might cover a multitude of strange historical events in the fossil record, but somehow we doubt if that answer would please Muller at all.

It might explain, too, why the timetable has changed. A God who is both transcendant AND personal could be protecting a creature He has a loving interest in: namely us.

Vision returneth

A couple of days and the right medicine makes a big difference. The red is out, the vision is clear, and the headache is gone. Perhaps some posting will get done today. There's the courtrooom trajedy (travesty may be more appropriate) in Atlanta, the new Star Wars trailer, the bankruptcy bill, more than enough actually to do some serious blogging.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Getting the 'red eye' out

We're seein' red, at least in our right eye, but officially it's conjunctivitis.

This means war, of course, and that means antibiotic drops for a few days. It also means a definite measure of discomfort with reading backlit pixels, so be patient with our production here at Oklahomily central. Should be back to merely bleary in a few days.

(Forget bright-eyed and bushy-tailed -- whatever that means. 'Twas a long time ago.)

Malarial math not looking good

Reuters today:

More than half a billion people, nearly double previous estimates, were affected by the deadliest form of malaria in 2002, scientists said Wednesday.
"The disease burden is 515 million clinical attacks a year on the planet. That is quite substantial," said Professor Bob Snow of the Kenyan Medical Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya.

Oh yes. Quite substantial. If you accept the number of humans planet-wide at 6 billion, that's about one person in every twelve with "the deadliest form" of yellow fever. [Question: How many contracted the least (or is it lesser) deadly form(s)?]

We hate to sound like a broken record but IF this story is factual, that's one hell of a lot of sick people. Since malaria is a repeat offender -- the parasite never actually leaves the body -- perhaps we should rethink this total DDT ban. Maybe a couple of years worth of spraying in the world hot spots to quell the mosquito-borne contagion would be cost effective.

Just a suggestion ... don't be so hot-headed!

Sad & stupid -- IF it's true

UPI is reporting that a U.S. Marine of Lebanese descent has told a Saudi newspaper that Saddam Hussein was captured a day earlier than the official story given-- after a fierce gun battle!

IF -- and it is a qualified IF until Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh's story can be checked out -- this is true, it would be exceptionally sad and stupid.

But count us as skeptical for the moment because:

(1) Nadim Abou Rabeh is listed as an "ex" sergeant. That's an odd designation, even for the foreign press.

(2) We wouldn't bet the farm on anything appearing in the Saudi press.

It's just possible that there's a public relations counter-offensive taking place designed to take the luster off the U.S. victory in Iraq, perhaps quelling the fledgling "rise to democracy" movement in the Middle East.

It's also possible that the sergeant's story is true. If so, there will be much more to talk about.

Where's Barry?

Just as we feared/suspected/groused: eleven subpoenas issued today to baseball people by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, not a one of them to Barry Bonds.

Question: Under what stretch of definition does Government Reform and Oversight cover Major League Baseball, or any other sport?

Since Republicans are in the majority, we'd automatically classify this as a case where the advocacy of limited government is but the fancy sweet nothings in our ear during election campaigns. If the GOP were really interested in less government intrusion, they'd cancel this hearing now.

This is an expensive sideshow.

Real issue overlooked

The Wall Street Journal has a short but excellent editorial today that pins the tail on the Italian government's donkey: why did Italy believe it was worth $6 million in ransom money to bring communist journalist Giuliana Sgrena out of bondage, and what will the terrorist "insurgents" (we prefer "bastards") do with that money?

Money quotes:
So far, all the world's moral anger has focused on the claim that U.S. soldiers were reckless, or even tried to "assassinate" her, as Ms. Sgrena's newspaper, the communist Il Manifesto, put it. But her claims in some interviews that her car was moving slowly and cautiously are contradicted by, well, Ms. Sgrena.
Not only does paying ransom encourage more kidnapping--of Italians especially--it also puts money in the hands of the enemy in a country where $40 buys an automatic rifle and $200 an attack on U.S. forces. The shooting of a speeding car at a military checkpoint in a war zone is an unintentional tragedy, but the paying of ransom amounts to a policy of deliberately aiding terrorists.
It has crossed our thinking that perhaps Ms. Sgrena, the Il Manifesto reporter, was not in as dire peril as she claimed, since her sympathies are almost entirely with the Islamo-fascists who would take Iraq back to the Stone Age if they had the chance. Certainly nothing she has said since her release gives her any credibility as an objective journalist.

Once more Euro-think, in the form of subsidizing (encouraging) bad terrorist behavior, can lead only to more violence, more American and Iraqi deaths.

With friends like these ...

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Action list for Sunday

Today is Sunday, March 6, 2005.

It is the Lord's Day, but He will share it with you on the condition that you keep it holy.

That means knock off going into the office.

Go to church.

Spend time with the spouse and the young ones. Ask them questions about their week, and encourage questions from them about anything and everything. (Leave the TV off.)

Read your Bible or something spiritually uplifting.

Eat dinner together as family.

Find 30 minutes (an hour would be better) to pray together as family. Identify specific concerns or individuals who need prayer help (these can be family, friends or even distant figures like Pope John Paul II, Terri Shiavo, the Tsunami victims, the soldiers at war. etc.). Pray for them. Be serious about it. If you really want to shock your family, get on your knees as you pray and gently suggest that any one of them who wishes to join you may do so.

Most of all, treat this day as something special. Do not continue to allow it to be the "catch all" of your week, the day that the grass finally gets cut, the laundry gets caught up, that list of "honey do's" gets done. Try not to spend your day spending money. You are only encouraging businesses to stay open, which in turn requires that some people do not get a real sabbath.

If more of us followed this simple set of guidelines, our lives would change. Better yet, our country, our culture, would also change.

Wouldn't you agree that life today could use some change for the better?

Let go of your cares, give Sunday to the Lord, and let God bless you for it.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

When suicide assistance fails ...

It is (past) time to rethink the assisted suicide law in Oregon, and perhaps new reports coming out of the "I Love You to Death" state will prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to correct its 1997 error.

On the 680News radio website, an Associated Press article, proclaiming the just awful news that it isn't always easy to kill someone.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A terminally ill cancer patient who tried to end his life with drugs prescribed under Oregon's assisted-suicide law awoke three days later, alert and talkative, his wife said.

David Prueitt, who had lung cancer, took what was believed to be a fatal dose of a barbiturate prescribed by his doctor in January. He fell into a coma within minutes, but woke up three days later, said his wife, Lynda Romig Prueitt. Prueitt's wife told The Oregonian newspaper that he asked, "Why am I not dead?"

Two weeks later he was, apparently without human assistance, which is as it should be. Oregon officials are going to review the case to see if the supervising physician erred or if the accidental revival of life was due to factors as yet not understood.

The reporter wanted to reassure us that all is well in the Culture of Death.
Complications with doctor-assisted suicides are rare. In 2001, a patient took 37 hours to die after ingesting a lethal dose, and in 2003, a patient took 48 hours to die. Neither regained consciousness.

That makes at least 3 "problem" cases out of 170. Likely there are more we have not heard about. Even at that rate there is a 1.75% chance that a euthanized patient will linger, perhaps in greater pain that they are unable to complain about. It's terribly undignified, and one can imagine it takes a huge psychological toll on any relatives who happen to be hanging around for The End.

We are pessimistic that the Supremes will perform any better a second time around, but we can pray for God's intervention and would urge you to do the same. It would be a simple miracle: tweak one or two courtly consciences just enough to have solid misgivings over this horrific mess in the Pacific Northwest.

Declare victory and run away?

When it comes to diplomacy and diplomats, trust nothing.

For instance, we would not bet the farm on any diplomatic triumph for the U.S. at the week's U.N. global conference on women. This is a periodic five-year followup to the original conference in Beijing in 1995.

The U.S. tried to push through an amendment stating that abortion is not considered, and will not be considered, a new international right for women. It also attempted to promote the idea that abstinence successfully combats AIDS. Both actions were loudly booed by delegates and "observers" (activists), many of whom were itching for a chance to do so. Here's what happened next:
After withdrawing an unpopular anti-abortion amendment from a key U.N. document, the United States joined in approving the declaration that reaffirmed a 150-page platform agreed 10 years ago at a landmark U.N. women's conference in Beijing.

Here's the spin by top U.S. delegate Ellen Sauerbrey:
"We think we have really accomplished what we set out to do," Sauerbrey said. "We have heard from countries ... that our interpretation is their interpretation. So the amendment we recognize is really redundant, but it has accomplished its goals. We will be withdrawing the amendment."

If you believe that, read on:

Despite U.S. lobbying, support for Washington's abortion stance was limited to the Vatican, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.

Mary Ann Dantuono, the Vatican delegate, was interrupted by shouts when she said the Catholic Church "would have preferred a clearer statement emphasizing that the Beijing documents cannot be interpreted as creating new human rights including the right to abortion."

Delegates from the European Union, Asia and Africa forcefully opposed the U.S. position.

Do you still believe that this is a win for the pro-life position? Sounds more like we got whupped again at the U.N. (Not-so-Okay) corral.

Not to mention that in the end the U.S. voted to reaffirm the original document which asserts a woman's right to "control her own sexuality." This is code for obtaining abortions, not just who to date or sleep with.

Yeah, things turned out pretty much as usual. We lost.

Why are we still wasting time in the U.N.?

Congress to play hard ball?

Spring training for Congressional grandstanding is just about ready for the first exhibitions of the 2005 season, and officials are warning that baseball players who decline the "invitations" to testify about steroid use will be compelled by subpoena to play ball.

The The New York Times is reporting:

Commissioner Bud Selig, the Yankees' Jason Giambi and several other baseball players and executives are deciding whether to accept an invitation to testify at a Congressional hearing on steroids this month, but the decision may eventually be made for them.

Any of the four executives and seven former or current players who decline to attend will be subpoenaed, said a person familiar with the committee's plans.

"This is no bluff," said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

We are also told that the congressmen involved do not grandstand. How reassuring that this hearing is not designed to convince voters that only congressional action can save the national pasttime. Certainly it wouldn't have anything to do with Jose Canseco's excreble new book that makes wild claims of just about everyone in baseball. (You were right, Sparky Lyle. Canseco has the body of a Greek goddess, and now we know how it got that way.)

Check out the congressional guest list:

In addition to (Jason) Giambi, (Mark) McGwire and Canseco, all former teammates with the Oakland Athletics, the current players who have been invited are Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles, Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox and Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox.

According to The A.P., Palmeiro said he would decline the invitation and Sosa said he needed to talk to his agent.

Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants and the Yankees' Gary Sheffield, two players who testified before the grand jury in the Balco case, have not been invited, but Karen Lightfoot, a spokeswoman for (Cong. Henry) Waxman, said more invitations could be issued.

Now hear this: Any Congressional hearing on steroid use in baseball will be a mockery if Barry Bonds is not required to testify.

With the advent of a new, tougher Major League Baseball program on steroid testing, and since Bonds is already the subject of federal grand jury scrutiny, perhaps it would be best if Congress just kept the hell out of the way for the time being. So typical of Congress to hold hearings on open barn doors only after the horse has been caught and returned, and the door closed.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Media Guardians strike back

No revolutionary new development ever arrives unless it is confronted by the Guardians of the Status Quo, and thus no revolution -- even those of benign consequence for the good of humankind -- is ever bloodless. It's just the way humans interact, and there is no getting past it.

A growing number of reports in the MSM focus on alleged blogging excesses, worries over unrestricted internet access, whether the 'net should be taxed, whether free speech has its limits online, and questions over whether bloggers are "real" journalists (whatever that means). It goes beyond a merely perceptible trend; the animus of some, mostly in government and media, toward the evolving blog culture is measurable, and their "concerns" are rapidly mutating into "cautionary warnings" that border on Phase 3, "threats."

As a former member of that caste called mainstream journalists, the Oklahomilist is not surprised by this reactionary movement. There are many in the MSM whose perceptions of their power are based on an antiquated notion that they are somehow different than the common man and most definitively of a higher calling. Or if you prefer simpler, harsher language, your typical liberal reporter, editor or opinion writer believes that he or she sits (never stands) on a lofty moral throne, elevated through sheer compassion and intellectual growth over mere mortals (especially conservatives).

Allied with the liberal ruling caste (ahem, excuse me, former liberal ruling caste), the MSM has dominated debate and directed political action on public issues for several decades. But no more, and that has the powers-that-were in a snit. The rise of talk radio, the advent of the internet and the development of the blogosphere has taken away the monopoly on political thought. Nothing signified this change more so than the Fall of Dan Rather/CBS News, and the subsequent re-election of George Bush to the presidency and Republicans building on their power base in Congress.

Suddenly liberals, who had once thought they would dominate the new media as totally as they did the old, discovered that the internet is a hard, cruel place for political philosophies without defensible foundations. It is not enough to repeat the same set of mendacious personal slurs and mindless talking-points that inundate the public in the MSM. Information seekers on the internet can and do select from a vast menu of offerings of fact, opinion and verification. All but the mindless reject mere sloganism. (For those mindless liberals, you may now proceed to this link where you may bottom feed among your own.)

Thus the backlash against a powerful new medium is perfectly understandable, just as the British attempt to prevent the American colonies from forming a more perfect union was predictable, as was the later attempt to reclaim the lost territory in what we now refer to as the War of 1812. And just as the patriots of freedom were called upon in 1776 and 1812, so we are now called to stand ready to defend what rightfully belongs to all men and women.

Thank God no actual bloodshed should be required. We need only stand vigilant to remind the nation that the ideals of freedom require an understanding that the words "free press" and "free speech" mean nothing unless they apply to everyone with opinions and the ability to express them. Just as the voting franchise once was limited only to those with real property, the notion that a "free press" is limited only to those who own printing equipment and ink is outdated. Nor did the constitution ever require that a certified reporter must have a bachelor's degree in journalism. (This concept alone could provide fuel for a very long column.)

Please read today's posts, follow the links, and be prepared to do your part for defending freedom here at home. The liberals of the MSM, through their guardianship of the powerful organs of the old media during the decades, have had their day. They must learn a new thing: how to compete in the big marketplace of ideas without resorting to government control, electronic gate-keeping, taxation and regulation, or thuggery. It is possible that the academic requirements of this competition -- i.e., real thinking and real reporting -- will be beyond their abilities after so many years of forsaken disuse. Ah, well even the dinosaurs died out when their time was at an end.

And for those liberal dinosaurs who somehow manage to survive and adapt to the transition, welcome to the new frontier of freedom.

The War on Blogging, Part I

It appears certain members of the Federal Election Commission are suddenly interested in reigning in the uncontrollable voices of the blogosphere, according to someone who ought to know: FEC member Bradley Smith.

Smith, an avowed friend of the Pajamahadeen, gives a chilling interview to Declan McCullagh, of the C/NET tech news site News.com, under the headline "The Coming Crackdown on Blogging." Concerned about the impact of a federal court ruling that on its face would mandate FEC regulation of "political activity" on the internet, Smith fears the days of the free-wheeling political speech of the blogosphere may be numbered. You should read it all, but here's a taste:

It's going to be a battle, and if nobody in Congress is willing to stand up and say, "Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear," then I think grassroots Internet activity is in danger. The impact would affect e-mail lists, especially if there's any sense that they're done in coordination with the campaign. If I forward something from the campaign to my personal list of several hundred people, which is a great grassroots activity, that's what we're talking about having to look at.

Senators McCain and Feingold have argued that we have to regulate the Internet, that we have to regulate e-mail. They sued us in court over this and they won.

Here we have clear evidence of bipartisan Luddism as it pertains to the rights of free speech and press. John McCain is so concerned about his image as a maverick hero among the MSM chattering classes that he seemingly has sold his soul to the devil of campaign finance "reform", which is just another way of saying "government control of people with whom I disagree." Thus McCain more often helps the liberal cause than those espoused by his own party.

Democrats thought they would own Al Gore's internet (heh) but the internet represents freedom, and freedom belongs to no one party. It merely helps those who best understand it. Liberals are more interested in bread and circuses than the free exchange of ideas. They would rather champion universal access to online porn than universal access to unfettered, uncensored political thought.

Perhaps the thinking is that by attacking the blogging community now, while it is still relatively young and not well connected in the halls of power, it can be put on a leash to do the masters' bidding. For the sake of the rights of all Americans, we cannot afford to lose this fight.

In that light, let us refer you to Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters, who delves into the nuances of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. (The short version, he says, is that "(T)he BCRA is bad law, unconstitutional, and an unconscionable infringement on free political speech.") He also has some suggestions about blog-storming Congress.

Whether you are a blog-author or a blog-reader, you have a dog in this hunt. If the media power brokers and their allies in Congress have their way, we will return to the bad old days of MSM monopoly, with only talk radio standing in the way.

The War on Blogging, Part II

Deacon at Powerline weighs in on the campaign finance law threat but after thinking his post over a bit, updated with one of the few optimistic posts we've seen.

I should add my sense that, while the government may make life quite dificult for bloggers for a time, its attempts at regulation ultimately will prove futile. And, to the extent that they continue to lead the charge, the Democrats will probably suffer. This is a party that has steadily moved to the losing side of the key issues of our time -- from solid cold warriors to semi-pacifists; from upholders of equal opportunity to proponents of racial preferences; from upholders of free speech to proponents of speech codes; etc.

Now, the Democrats seem intent on losing whatever edge they may have with young, sophisticated voters by moving to the losing side of the censorship debate and taking on the internet.

We sincerely pray that the Deacon is correct -- the Powerline guys are some of the smartest, best informed voices in the Blogosphere -- but the recent tendency of federal courts, including El Supremo, to ignore the Constitution and substitute flights of fancy or international intrigues instead, have us somewhat less positive.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The New McGavins of Journalism

We love the online feed of India Daily. These are journalists who are on the cutting edge of What's Happening in the Real World. They are the new Darren McGavins of Nightstalker renown. Today's Offering:

Evidence of extreme disturbance
in Earth’s core – can earth explode?
... reports coming from every continent says that the volcanoes, geysers and mud volcanoes all are ready to explode.
According to some contemporary geosciences theories, the Earth's iron core formed with a large share of radioactive uranium, which combined with sulfur to make an ultra-dense compound. The uranium settled to the center of the core, where it eventually formed a mass big enough to sustain a supercritical nuclear reactor. Not just that, but it functions as a breeder reactor, creating more nuclear fuel than it burns. This provides the energy needed to generate the geomagnetic field. ... If that reactor for some reason is disturbed, it can cause major problems and eventually explode.
By now you may be troubled, but there is some good news:
But scientists believe the chances of that are very remote though not impossible. There are evidences in our solar system that an extra planet did explode and caused major problems for the Earth and Mars millions of years back.
So it might not happen like it did when the mysterious fourth planet blew up and left us an untidy Asteroid Belt.
Naturally our sleuthing journalist friends quote no scientists by name, no actual studies, not even links to the Weekly World News for attribution. But you have to understand, when you are on the cutting edge of What's Happening in the Real World, you do not need no stinkin' attribution or sourcing. You just grab a hold of the truth, tell 'em to open the gate and hang on for an 8-second ride.

Commissar of Cloaking

We formally offer to become the Commissar of Cloaking for a grateful world should this Startling New Technology pan out.

High-tech cloaking machines could one day render very small objects nearly invisible and perhaps improve military stealth technology, scientists said Monday.

The idea is straight out of science fiction -- cloaking technology made Romulan spaceships disappear in Star Trek. A humbler version of the device could become a reality, according to Nader Engheta and Andrea Alu of the University of Pennsylvania.
The proposal involves using plasmons -- tiny electronic excitations on the surfaces of some metals -- to cancel out the visible light or other radiation coming from an object.

"A proper design … may induce a dramatic drop in the scattering cross-section, making the object nearly invisible to an observer," Nader and Alu write in a scientific paper that was made available to the public Feb. 14.

The idea is in an infant stage but appears not to violate any laws of physics, according to an article Monday in news@nature.com, an online companion to the journal Nature, which provided advance copies of the story to reporters.

"The concept is an interesting one, with several important potential applications," John Pendry, a physicist at Imperial College in London in the UK, told the publication. "It could find uses in stealth technology and camouflage."

Excuse us, but that is chicken feed. Cloaking devices offer more than mere military applications. Think of the entertainment potential! No longer do you merely wish you could be that "fly on the wall."

Of course such technology could be abused, thus a Commissar of Cloaking would be needed to determine who gets to use it and who doesn't.

That would be our job. Naturally, we'd have to have a working model for research on those thorny issues of when cloaking is and is not appropriate. We've already got some good ideas, however. Some people are already invisible on this planet. They do not need to be cloaked. They need to be encouraged to come out of the shadows and be counted.

Others are far too visible already. These people -- you know who they are -- we would order involuntarily cloaked and we would hold the key to their eventual uncloaking when the world had had its proper rest. We're thinking certain Hollywood celebs, the Clintons, Beyonce, Howard Dean (enough already), Bill O'Reilly (yeah, him too). Oh, the list is a long one and the workload for a Commissar of Cloaking would be heavy, so the pay must be commeasurate.

Let us not wait until cloaking, like cloning, becomes a huge ethical issue. Put us in charge now, and we will make sure that this new technology is used only for good and not evil.

Hunt on for the real killer

Freon, a trace gas convicted of crimes against humanity -- specifically the ongoing destruction of the earth's ozone layer -- is hopeful that it will soon be released from custody after news reports today indicate that the real ozone killer is still on the loose.

Sun's Temper Blamed for Arctic Ozone Loss, declares Robert Roy Britt of LiveScience.com.
Ozone, which screens out some of the Sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation, declined by up to 60 percent in the stratosphere over high northern latitudes in the spring of 2004. Officials issued a health warning earlier this year for residents of the far North.

In a new study, scientists conclude that an intense round of solar storms around Halloween in 2003 was at the root of the problem. Charged particles from the storms triggered chemical reactions that increased the formation of extra nitrogen in the upper stratosphere, some 20 miles up. Nitrogen levels climbed to their highest in at least two decades.

Nitrogen is toxic to ozone.

Britt still toes the party line that the bulk of ozone depletion is caused by man-made CFCs, but he adds:
The new study suggests a better understanding is needed of how the Sun itself alters the ozone layer. "No one predicted the dramatic loss of ozone in the upper stratosphere of the Northern Hemisphere in the spring of 2004," said (University of Colorado physicist Cora) Randall said.
"That we can still be surprised illustrates the difficulties in separating atmospheric effects due to natural and human-induced causes."

The Oklahomilist declares that perhaps scientists should declare all bets off on ozone thinning, eat more brain food, and look for the real killer. Of course, if it is a surly sun at fault, what are you gonna do? We need artificial ozone machines in the upper stratosphere.

BTW, the report is worth reading for the cool html graphics alone. Sun explosions, flares and coronal mass ejections. Cool stuff.

Jacko Update

It's Tuesday, March 1, 2005, and not only do we not care to discuss or hear details of the Michael Jackson trial proceedings, we really don't give a damn other than in a general sense that we pray justice is done.

Whatever that happens to be.

A one in a million mama ...

Who ya gonna believe, me or that good fer nothin' pistol?

Annette Stevens, also known as "Flirty", has more than a
public relations problem in Springfield, IL (and no, this is not where the Simpsons live).

A Springfield woman who began lobbying against gun violence after her son was shot to death in 2002 was arrested last week when police allegedly found an illegal gun and drugs in her home.

Annette "Flirty" Stevens, however, said Monday she's innocent, and the arrest is an attempt by police to get her to give up information about unsolved crime in the city.

Mrs. Stevens offers her side of the story, sort of. One might suspect that she will have to improve upon it.

Howie the Scream cries "Evil"

Howard "The Scream" Dean, on conservatives:

"Moderate Republicans can't stand these people (conservatives), because they're intolerant. They don't think tolerance is a virtue," Dean said, adding: "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant."

And concluding his backyard speech with a litany of Democratic values, he added: "This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."

Is it just us or is there the strong smell of demogogery bordering on "hate speech" in this? "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant?" What does that mean? Is it a threat of some sort?

And if Howie the Scream is so tolerant, why not start with the toleration of dissenting political viewpoints, instead of their demonization.

Words have meaning, people, and Howie and his people bear close watch in the days to come. Recommend you read the entire report.