January 30, 2005

Blogging 101

Those who write have a common refrain, that there is something pounding on their skulls from the inside that begs to be put to paper. A writer's mind is usually filled with all sorts of essays, diatribes, rants and things poetic. He simply must exorcise these demons and so he heads for his desk and writes. A truly dedicated writer will always carry a pen and a notepad so as to jot down any Great Thoughts that happen to pop into his mind. (Hey! Maybe I should do this. Oh...I am too lazy, alas.)

In days of yesteryear many such creatures would begin a cursus honorum (OK, I am showing off here) by becoming 'ink-stained wretches' writing obituaries and high school football stories for the local newspaper, though always secretly pining for a gig at a truly big rag---say, the LA Times or the Chicago Tribune. Those few, those happy few, those bands of brothers, who actually made it to the big city papers would then set their sights on writing The Really Big Story. This would usually be some exposé of a local politician either caught with his hands in the till or sleeping in a bed not his wife's. With luck such a tale would land the writer a Pulitzer and his career would be off and running.

Sadly (or perhaps not) most inky wretches never made it out of the local rag. Their options now were narrowed to two: become best of friends with Jack Daniels or find another line of work. Most left the job and so began to actually contribute something to society. Those who remained could be found during Happy Hour at the nearest bar, sitting by themselves with bourbon in hand and muttering "I coulda been a contenda." Oh well.

But now all that is changed. Those who had abandoned their dream of writing and moved on with life now have another chance at influence and more than the allotted 15 minutes of fame. Enter the blog. What is this? It is short for 'web logger,' meaning someone who maintains his own web site and pontificates thereupon. Call it a public on-line diary. The writer's interests can lie anywhere: politics, religion, history, movies---you name the subject and there is a blog for it. (Actually, there are millions of these blogs. I have one myself. You are reading it now. Thanks!)

It was technology that made this so. To blog one need not know a damn thing about HTML code. All that is necessary are desire, a computer and the proper software. (I use FrontPage to write on my blog and on my professional site.) As blogs have increased economics 101 has again proved its relevance. There is now keen competition among tech companies to offer more or less free web space for bloggers (here is Google's) and to sell programs ready-made for blogging. (Radio Userland is one good example.) Now any fool or genius can publish his own Great Thoughts. Whether anyone reads them is another affair. But the fact of just being able to have your writing on public display probably satisfies most bloggers.

The first blogger (actually a proto-blogger) was Matt Drudge. He still writes, and his site is viewed millions of times a day. Drudge began by investigating stories the mainstream media (MSM) would not touch. He started his site during the Clinton presidency and so had stacks of material to choose from: illegalities, immoralities, treasons, mendacities, thieveries, conspiracies, envies, vulgarities and every variety of pelt and pelf. The Clinton era was an amazingly fecund one for such things, and Drudge was willing to stick his pen in the goo. It was he who exposed Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman!" Monica Lewinsky scandal. Drudge's reputation was now assured, and he was off and running.

The primal fact that inspired Drudge in the first place and the thing that has led to an explosion in blogging was the bias, bigotry, pettiness, arrogance and mendacity of the MSM. The simple fact is that they had had a hammerlock on information for decades. Whatever they saw as news became news. I wrote two years ago that

...the major media outlets---CNN, BBC, NPR, ABC, CBS, NBC (sorry for all those acronyms), The New York Times, The Washington Post, The LA Times, Reuters---all speak with one voice. They agree on the essentials of what passes for educated opinion on: the role of the UN, multilateralism, religion in the public square, US foreign policy, the military, the Kyoto Treaty, public education, abortion, environmentalism, global warming, conservative thought, liberal thought, affirmative action, the death penalty, the 2nd Amendment. These media affirm each other, refer to each other and congratulate each other. There are no real dissenting voices among them. As for the US media, their members vote overwhelmingly democrat, few attend any sort of religious service (recall the Washington Post front page as referring to most religious people as 'poor, uneducated and easily led') and most content themselves with living in a few enclaves on the East and West coasts of the US. (One common joke among them is that the great central mass of the US is little more than 'fly-over territory'.) 

Little about the MSM has changed since I wrote those words. What has changed is that their monopoly on information has collapsed. They now have competition---all those pesky bloggers.

(The rest of this story will appear in Blogging 102. So stay tuned.)


January 28, 2005

It took a while after moving to Oklahoma City and beginning a new job to be really and truly settled in here. 'Settled in' means coming home every day after work and going 'Ahh...!' 'Settled in' means opening the door to the apartment and seeing for the thousandth time the acquired stuff of a lifetime---material odds and ends, books, music, techno gadgetry---and knowing that you are once again among friends. 'Settled in' means that where you live reflects who you are, that one who knows you can walk into your place and know absolutely that you and only you could possibly live there.

All that has happened. I am settled in here: Comfortable. Secure. Content. It was so in Buenos Aires until my final year there. My departure date was already a done deal and all that was needed was another year of teaching before beginning the long planned and long fantasized 'Year of Living Dangerously.' My apartment began to feel sort of odd, a bit strange, as if my things were themselves preparing for departure. When the time came to leave it was an easy thing to do. The place where I had lived was mine no more, had nothing to do with me, was an empty place turned cold and foreign.

Now I am a thousand years and a million miles gone from all that---and settled in yet again. And yes, there are still 'wild weird climes, out of space, out of time' that entice me away from here. But their pull is nebulous, like a familiar song heard far away. You turn your head and strain to listen but continue on your journey nonetheless. The song fades, then disappears; you shrug and return to the here and now. There is no time to pay attention to such things.

No time. To pay attention. To such things.

Not yet. Not yet.


January 26, 2005

Lost and Found

One of the many things that bedevil historians writing about the classical world is the primary sources---there are not enough of them, and what we have usually has missing pieces. Whole swaths of Polybius, Tacitus, Livy, Plutarch and such have not survived, and what exists is more than likely to be a thousand year old copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Our most recent Gallic Wars, for example,  is just 950 years old---a copy of a copy created almost 1000 years after Caesar wrote the original. Other ancient manuscripts suffer likewise.  Will Durant said that ancient history was like the flotsam that drifted to shore after a shipwreck. One sees the broken planks and scattered detritus and tries to make some kind of conclusion about the crew and its mission. This is the state of ancient historiography, alas. (Though it is no comfort, primary sources of the world before the Greeks and Romans are more scarce than Baptists in San Francisco.)

Occasionally historians and archeologists have a stroke of luck and come across bits and pieces of some hitherto unknown writings. Exactly this sort of thing has happened in Italy. We owe the discovery to a volcanic eruption 2000 years ago that buried some Roman towns and villas. One such country house was a remarkable affair, that of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, father-in-law of Julius Caesar. Piso was typical of the ruling elite---we call them patricians, but they referred to themselves as boni, 'the best'---of his day. Bilingual and sophisticated, Piso maintained a tremendous library of Greek manuscripts. When volcanic ash submerged the villa in 79 AD the library was preserved almost intact.

It was not until 1738 that workers in the area quite accidentally discovered part of Piso's great house. They dug into it no doubt hoping to find some lost artifact that might bring a tidy sum from a museum. What they found instead was nothing more than what seemed to be mere lumps of coal. These were unceremoniously dumped into the sea. It was not until some years later that Piso's library of 1800 scrolls was found. It was then realized that those 'lumps of coal' were in reality carbonized rolls of papyrus---lost books from a nearly lost world. But all was not lost:

[We now have] the first detailed analysis of the 1,800 papyri, now largely unrolled and deciphered thanks to a technique known as multi-spectral imaging (MSI). What appear to the naked eye as jet-black cinders are transformed by MSI into readable text. Thirty thousand images are now legible on CD-Rom; suddenly poems and works of philosophy are speaking again, 2,000 years after they were sealed in their cedar-wood cabinets in the summer of AD 79.

But wait---there's more! Scholars now believe that old Piso might have had another library or even several more. After all, the guy was loaded, his villa has several levels and the only library so far revealed has just Greek manuscripts. Is there another library with Latin manuscripts, say, of Livy? of Horace? of the great Caesar himself? And is there yet a third manuscript collection, making Piso's library, like Caesar's Gaul, divided into three parts? (Codex pisonis est divisa in partes tres.) And so the search in and around the house of Piso continues.

The results so far have been momentous. Whole reams of formerly lost Greek writings are now part of our canon. Historians of the Classical World---hardly known as a bunch of party animals---are intoxicated with glee and fervor at the prospect of more finds from the site, of reputations to be made, of books to be written and of grants to be awarded.

Of course it will take some years before the research from Piso's villa becomes available to every layman with an interest in Classical studies. I am such, truth be told. And I await new revelations from the world of Rome like a near bankrupt man awaiting his inheritance check.


January 23, 2005


Why Bush is hated and despised by some---'some' being Euro-weaklings, Blue State girly-boys, effete intellectual types, scrawny college kids, socialist flotsam and assorted Democrat riff-raff---is exactly why he is loved and admired by others---'others' being Christians, conservatives, Red State types, the military, Westerners, gun owners and Southerners. (And pardon the multiple redundancies.)


(From IMAO.)




Santayana Laughs

History shadows herself:

The Iraqi regime has long been a menace to its neighbors, many of whom have been invaded. Hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered over the years. Israel herself has been threatened. Finally a coalition of powers invades Iraq and heads for her capital city. The entire world is surprised by how quickly it falls. Elements of the Iraqi regime hold out and cause havoc for the occupying powers but eventually are destroyed.

Recent headlines? Not quite. The Iraqi regime mentioned above is ancient Assyria (1800-609 BC). Assyria gradually developed into a first-rate military power. By 750 she was what would now be termed a super-power, controlling one-half of the world---all or part of modern Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Lebanon. Her methods of warfare were brutal: torture, mass-terror, mutilation, forced population shifts---in short, she resembled nothing so much as Iraq under Saddam Hussein.


Assyria at her greatest extent


Assyrian king Sargon II (721-705) was responsible for the destruction of the 'Lost Ten Tribes' of Israel, leaving only two tribes in the small and weak nation of Judah. Like Saddam Assyrian kings brought violence and tyranny to the entire Middle East. Finally in 612 a coalition of Medes, Chaldeans and Scythians laid siege to the Assyrian capital at Nineveh. All were surprised that it fell in a matter of weeks. Remnants of the old regime held out for three years but capitulated as the Chaldeans restored order to the region.


The minor Hebrew prophet Nahum was a superb Assyria-hater.

Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria; your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains with none to gather them. There is no assuaging your hurt, your wound is grievous. All who hear the news of you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?

---Nahum 3:18-19

Certainly all who suffered under Saddam could have written the same.


What remains of the Assyrian capital---not much, as the Chaldeans left scarcely a stone upon a stone---lie near Mosul. This city is a center of much terror and murder in post-Saddam Iraq. Mosul is, as its ancient neighbor was, a 'bloody city, full of lies and robbery.'


The greatest Chaldean king was Nebuchadnezzar II (605-561), he of Hanging Gardens and Ishtar Gate fame. Here are the gardens with the Tower of Babel looming in the background. Legend tells us the he built the gardens because one of his wives missed the flora and cool mountain air of her native Media.



Nebuchadrezzar II is also the worthy who tossed Daniel into the lions' den, though to no effect. Like the Assyrians he was a great enemy of Israel. Saddam actually patterned himself after this Nebuchadnezzar and even dressed his palace guards in ancient Chaldean uniforms. These could achieve little against the US Marine Corps, but they looked cool.


Nebuchadnezzar spent the last 4 years of his life in a rather interesting captivity---on all fours eating grass. Apparently he had angered the Jewish God and suffered as a consequence. Saddam most certainly has angered Him too and will suffer likewise. Hussein's prison fare is better (and I doubt that he goes around on all fours), but his end will be the same as Nebuchadnezzar of old---and none too soon.


Nineveh before her fall.


For further study see Ancient Iraq, by Georges Roux.





Death Becomes Us


Yesterday was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in all 50 states. This ruling has so far cost the lives of 43,000,000 human beings. But the abortionists missed this one:


And this one:


Who is she? Her name is Gianna Jessen. She is 27. Gianna was 71/2 months in the womb when her mother decided to abort her. At the abortion clinic the 'doctor' injected a saline solution into her mother's womb. The idea behind this procedure is to burn the child inside and out so that within 24 hours it will be delivered dead. But Old Scratch must have been otherwise occupied, as Gianna came out of the womb alive.


But let Gianna speak.

"I did not die that day," Jessen said. "I was delivered alive in a Los Angeles County abortion clinic in a room full of teenage girls who had already had the saline injections and were feeling their children die inside of them."

She was not expected to live. Gianna spent 3 months in an incubator and had cerebral palsy from a lack of oxygen while being surrounded with the saline. Physicians believed she would never be able to walk or crawl or even hold her head up. And today?

Today, she walks with a slight limp in her left leg.

Jessen has done indoor rock climbing and is training for the Music City marathon in Nashville in a few months. She plans to take swing or tango dance lessons after that. Jessen also writes and performs songs, ranging from love ballads to social commentary.

Gianna was told when she was 12 that she had been aborted.

"It must have been the Lord, because I didn't freak out," Jessen remembered. "I totally believe that the Lord Jesus spared my life and I would not be walking today if it were not for the grace of God and the power of Christ. I know that when you need God to walk every day, you know that God is real."

Miss Jessen has spoken before Congress against partial birth abortion and in favor of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. She has also met with President Bush, whom she wholeheartedly supports. The president said to Gianna, "I will not let you down."


To say the very least, Miss Jessen is one remarkable young lady, stronger than any Supreme Court, stronger than any doctor, stronger than the entire God-damned abortion industry.


And what really goes on in an abortion clinic, in one of those places that sentenced Gianna to death? Well, this:

He takes the baby out in pieces. He checks each part and he places each one in a tray down below.

"It's impressive how well-defined they are. You can't believe what you are seeing. You see perfect little hands, tinier than those of a Barbie doll. You can see intestines, tiny ribs, their little faces, and their tiny squashed heads. You can distinguish among the parts if the baby was a boy or girl...

"It's very hard for me to do all this...to see all that falls on the floor, or for example, to remove a tiny foot from the instruments. A girl who worked here told me that she came home with a tiny foot stuck to her uniform, close to her shoulder. She, of course, hadn't noticed until her husband told her."

You can read more if you have the stomach for it. But I recommend a stiff drink first. And then you can go here and see your tax dollars at work.

We have become as Death, the destroyer of worlds.


January 18, 2005


Abortion is certainly not the only moral issue dividing Democrats from Republicans. Sodomite marriage is another. Like abortion, Democrats see this issue as one of rights while Republicans see it as one of morality. Obviously there can be no compromise. I thought it useful to revisit an essay I wrote more than one year ago about how the world's great religions view such activity. As Dr. Johnson said, we need to be reminded more than instructed. The original title was Judge Marshall and Monotheism. Marshall wrote the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision in November of 2003 favoring the right of sodomites to marry. As I wrote then, in her opinion Marshall did not quite get around to mentioning the law but she did dwell upon her feelings: 

Without the right to marry -- or more properly, the right to choose to marry -- one is excluded from the full range of human experience and denied full protection of the laws for one's avowed commitment to an intimate and lasting human relationship...The marriage ban works a deep and scarring hardship on a very real segment of the community for no rational reason.

The confusion of this touchy-feely notable is vast. Her arguments would equally apply to polygamists and pedophiles and those who really, really love their animals---'very real segments of society' and very much a part of 'the full range of human experience'. Do such require---or deserve---the protection of Law?



Sodomy and Monotheism


There is a fiercely puritanical streak in monotheistic religions. Maybe that is because they all arose from the desert in about the same place. Sins of a sexual nature are always associated with the idea of uncleanliness, and homosexuality is seen both as unclean and an abomination---an assault upon the natural order. 


How would the three great monotheisms look upon judge Marshall's legal opinion?


Here is one Islamic scholar on homosexuality: 

This sin, the impact of which makes one’s skin crawl, which words cannot describe, is evidence of perverted instincts, total collapse of shame and honor, and extreme filthiness of character and soul… The heavens, the Earth and the mountains tremble from the impact of this sin. The angels shudder as they anticipate the punishment of Allah to descend upon the people who commit this indescribable sin

Yikes! Any questions?


Here is Jewish Scripture:

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed

 "because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord." (Gen. 19:13)

Jude 7 records that Sodom and Gomorrah "acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust." Ezekiel says that Sodom committed "abominable things." (Ezek. 16:50)

 "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. . .If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them." (Lev. 18:22, 20:13)

Nope. Crystal clear.

And according to Christian Scripture: 

"...God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. . . . Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them." (Rom. 1:26–28, 32)

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9–10)

We get the point.


Islam, Judaism and Christianity may disagree on the divinity of Christ and on suicide bombers, but they do not disagree on homosexuality. (Actually, the moral codes of all religions---monotheistic and otherwise---are remarkable similar. But that will be a subject of another day.)


Leaving now monotheism, Buddhism is unclear on the subject---it never mentions it actually---but places it under the same ethical  disciplines as heterosexuality. As far as polytheistic Hinduism...who knows? Hindu and Buddhist scholars do mention a 'third sex,' though I have no idea what that is---and I am not going to look for it either. 



January 17, 2005

The Democrats Get Religion

The Democrat Party has a problem---lots of them, actually. The latest one to wonderfully concentrate their thoughts is religion, the Christian variety of it anyway. Democrats have seldom shown much interest in Christians except to disparage them. Recall that famous front page of the loyally Democrat Washington Post that described Christians as "poor, uneducated and easily led."

But now after a string of painful electoral defeats, Democrats want the votes of Red State Christians without abandoning those doctrines dear to their own hearts, especially those concerning abortion, sodomite marriage, and so on. They think they have found a solution, their own version of James Dobson. His name is Jim Wallis, and he calls himself an evangelical Protestant. A registered Democrat, Wallis is eager to rescue the Democrats from---themselves.

"Failure makes you reassess," he said. "The Democratic Party has increasingly had a problem as being perceived as secular fundamentalists."

Democrat Party leader James Manley agrees.

"It is clear from the results of the election that we Democrats need to be much more forceful and clear in communicating their faith and values to the electorate," Mr. Manley said. "He can help us communicate with the rising number of evangelicals in the country, which is right now a Republican constituency," Mr. Manley said, "but which Wallis argues could easily become part of the Democratic constituency as well."

Conservative evangelical Protestants who voted for Bush might easily switch their vote to the Democrat Party? How might this miracle occur? Wallis has the answer:

He said Democrats needed to do a better job of explaining the moral and religious foundations of policies intended to help the poor, protect the environment and reduce violence.

Here Wallis simply parrots the Democrats' line that they have not really explained their positions very well. Thus, Americans were confused about what the Democrats really stood for. This is a fancy way to call evangelical Bush voters stupid---and "poor, uneducated and easily led."

He also urged the Democrats to look for middle ground on the social issues most troubling to religious traditionalists, like obscenity and abortion.

Wallis is mightily confused. What 'middle ground' is he talking about? Concerning moral issues there can be no middle ground. Consider abortion. The Democrat line: "Abortion is a good." The Christian line: "Abortion is an evil." Wallis' wants to look for a middle ground. And what would that be? "Abortion is half good and half evil." Or he could say "Abortion is neither good nor evil." In either case Wallis' position is both logically and theologically incoherent. If abortion were neither good nor evil then we would not be talking about it. It would then simply be a matter of taste, like preferring tea to coffee. And no Christian believer can take the middle ground concerning abortion. If Christ abhors it, then He abhors every single instance of it. He does not abhor only half of them.

As abortion, likewise obscenity---no middle ground. If one allows fornication to be shown on TV, then one allows fornication to be shown on TV. One does not allow only half the instances of fornication to be shown on TV. To admit to such a position is to admit to moral confusion.

Wallis continues in his incoherence:

Whatever their stance on abortion rights, he argued, Democrats need to treat its occurrence as a moral problem and propose ways to reduce it.

He at least admits that abortion should be treated as a moral problem. Well, what does that mean? It means that the act concerns a grave matter of right and wrong. So tell me Mr. Wallis, how does a Democrat whose stance is abortion on demand---the current state of this procedure in the US---come to believe that abortion is a 'moral problem' and that he should 'propose ways to reduce it?' Democrats do not believe that abortion is evil, they believe it good---it is merely a 'choice' after all. This is why the Democrat Party refuses to allow any anti-abortion Democrat (yes, there are some) to speak for the party, to hold plum chairmanships or to exert any real power. To the Democrats abortion is their sacrament, never to be abandoned, never to be restricted. (Witness the shrieks when Republicans tried to eliminate 'partial-birth' abortions, a procedure done 4000 times a year in the US and which involves the insertion of scissors into a baby's brain just before the child is to be born.)

The Democrats have been in a similar moral swamp before. Then the issue was slavery, and then as now the Democrats called an evil a good, never to be abandoned, never to be restricted---even at the cost of civil war. Indeed, just as Roe v. Wade has expanded abortion on demand to all 50 states, so the Democrats of 150 years ago tried to expand slavery to the entire nation using the Dred Scott case and the Fugitive Slave Law. Then as now there were those like Mr. Wallis---Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Douglas---who sought some impossible middle ground between freedom and slavery. Then as now the Republican Party---then under its first president, Abraham Lincoln---came to see itself in a struggle against a moral abomination.

Mr. Wallis can work for the Democrats and call himself a follower of Christ, but real Christians are not fooled by his moral posturing or taken in by his delusions. We were warned 2000 years ago about such creatures:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing

 but inwardly  are ravenous wolves.---Matt 7:15

Wallis may not be a 'ravenous wolf,' but he is certainly a moral imbecile. As such he is a perfect spokesman for his party, a party controlled by such moral exemplars as Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and the Clintons.

My advice to Mr. Wallis is the same I would give to anyone: Repent and come to know the Lord. And until you do so, stop speaking in His name.



January 16, 2005

Dulce Et Decorum

From the wife of a marine:

They came in single file, about 50 of them. Silent ambassadors, to tell us who they were. They moved at a slow pace, passing us for over 20 minutes. Some walked, while others pushed their wheelchairs as best they could. Some were helped along on crutches by their wives or sweethearts. They were escorted front and rear by U.S. Marines in dress blue uniform. I have never seen prouder Marines. The Amputee Ward from Walter Reed Army Medical Center visited the Pentagon today. I was there.

Some wore looks of resolution, pride, or dignity. Many had prosthetic devices where limbs used to be. All of them wore looks of surprise. We, the 26,000 employees of the Pentagon, lined both sides of the A ring (the inner ring of the Pentagon) to watch them pass and welcome them with thunderous applause. Half a mile they walked through a gauntlet of grateful fellow citizens two and three deep, who reached out to shake the hands of the remaining good arms, or grasp the remaining fingers of hands that have given ultimate service. They walked through us to the main concourse, where they were met by the Army Band and color guard playing martial music for them, and where the mall was filled with additional people who swelled the applause. Many of us just called out loudly, Thank You, because we didn't know what else could be said; thank you for your service to us. The applause never stopped.

None of them spoke. They just cried. So did we.

This is why America wins her wars. This is why America will win this war. This is why America will win the next war.

No other nation produces people like this.


Party On, Dudes!

Watching the meltdown of the Democrats has not been a pretty sight---for Democrats. (I have rather enjoyed it. If the Democrats insist on committing suicide I will not interfere.)  From the wild ruminations of Nancy Pelosi to the scare mongering of Barbara Boxer to the whiskey-soaked bellowing of Ted Kennedy, not one of them has a clue why they failed and why they will continue to fail.

Now comes some advice from Dan Gerstein, an advisor to Senator Joe Lieberman and a more or less rational fellow not given to Howard Dean-like outbursts. Gerstein admits that his party " grossly underestimated the national Democrats' capacity for self-delusion and self-defeat." Well, yeah, but this was clear when they elected John Kerry as their candidate.

But the fact is, politics provides clear, irrefutable ways to measure performance, and by most any standard our recent performance stinks.

True, but obvious. Keep writing.

 That begs a few questions [sic]. Such as, what does it take to hold someone accountable for losing? And more importantly, when do we stop beating our heads against the wall and try something--and someone--different?

Something...someone...different? Like what...like whom?

Of course, upgrading the salesmen won't dramatically change the results if we don't also upgrade the product we're marketing. Right now the clear majority of voters--including large swaths of the country--don't trust us to keep them safe or share their values, and we have a long way to go to rethink our messages and policies and ultimately rehabilitate our credibility.

Gerstein speaks of the Democrat Party as a marketer would a brand of soap. He advises that the product---that is, the message of the party---be rethought by "savvy and compelling men and women to not only chart our course but change it."

And just what part of this course does Gerstein want to change?  Is it the Democrat insistence on sodomite marriage? Could it be the Democrat attempts to force the Boy Scouts to accept sodomite scout masters? Or perhaps the right to murder children in the womb? Could it be the slavish adulation of the UN? Or maybe the removal of God from the public square? And how can we forget John Kerry's desire to render unto France the same thing that Monica Lewinski rendered unto Bill Clinton?

Dan, if you really did 'upgrade your product,' revamp your message and change your course you would cease to be Democrats. And there is already another party out there with a different message from yours. It is called the Republican Party.

Like the Bourbons, the Democrats have forgotten nothing and learned nothing.


January 14, 2005

Allah Sends His Thanks

After Indonesia severely curtailed American relief efforts to those stricken by the tsunami---the victims being those among that nation's most impoverished---we now see that the local radical Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah has threatened murder and mayhem.

Reports indicate that terrorists are planning attacks against a wide variety of targets,'' the U.S. State Department said in an e-mailed statement yesterday from Washington. Attacks ``could be directed against any location.''

These Islamic killers are the ones blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed over 200, most of whom were disco habitués and surfers. Eighty-eight of those murdered in Bali were Australians. Australia has worked hand-in-hand with the Americans to bring aid to Indonesia in the wake of the tsunami.

Westerners working in the Indonesian province of Aceh---the area most damaged by the tsunami---are feared to be right in the line of fire from this radical Islamic group linked to al-Qaeda. Sadly for those in Aceh, the US has advised her citizens not to go there to help in any relief efforts.

The pitiless response of much of Islam to the tragedies suffered by its own simply stupefies. Radical Islam cannot save Moslems but would murder those who can.

Saturn Devouring His Children

---Goya (1746-1828)




January 13, 2005

Islamic Brotherhood Update

It appears that the Indonesian authorities are increasingly angry at American efforts to save Indonesian citizens. The US has been ordered to leave Indonesia by the end of March.

"Three months are enough," Vice President Jusuf Kalla told the official Antara news agency. "In fact, the sooner [they leave] the better."

Kalla's government also forced the Abraham Lincoln, from which Navy pilots have flown dozens of food supply missions to the hard-hit Aceh Province, to steam out of Indonesian waters because they refused to let U.S. pilots fly training missions in their air space.

The Indonesians also refused to let the Marines coming ashore rebuild roads, establish a base camp or carry arms.

The Indonesian government has been complaining about "American interlopers," even as these 'interlopers' save countless lives, lives the Indonesians themselves had no hope of rescuing.

Always wary of America, Indonesia reluctantly allowed U.S. soldiers in when it became clear it could not deal with the aftermath of the Dec. 26 tsunami on its own.

The Indonesian people themselves---those unaffected by the disaster that overwhelmed and killed more than 150,000 of their Islamic countrymen---are as callous as the regime they serve:

In Jakarta, aside from flags at half-staff, we have seen no signs of mourning for the victims: while employees and dependents of the American embassy spent their holiday loading trucks and putting together medicine kits, the city's inhabitants went ahead with New Year's parties; nightclubs and shopping centers are full; and regular television programming continues. At least 120,000 of their fellow countrymen are dead, and Indonesians hardly talk about it, much less engage in massive charitable efforts. The exceptionally wealthy businessmen of the capital -- and the country boasts several billionaires -- haven't made large donations to the cause of Sumatran relief...We have seen nothing akin to what happened in the USA following the 9/11 atrocity, or the hurricanes in Florida of this past year.

Exactly one year before the tsunami an earthquake struck Iran and killed 40,000. America responded as she always does and sent relief. The mullahs who rule the place complained about US "meddling in Iranian affairs."

Saving Iranian Moslems is 'meddling?' Saving Indonesian Moslems is 'interloping?"

So let me get this clear: Islam, with no capacity or apparent desire to save its own in peace or war or natural disaster, complains about those who do.

What the Hell is wrong with these people?


Mohammed's Best Friend

On December 26 a tsunami killed 272,000 people. Most of the dead were Moslems in Indonesia. The first relief to reach the survivors was the Americans, Australians and Japanese. Bush sent 20 warships to the stricken, including the aircraft carrier battle groups Bonhomme Richard and Abe Lincoln. These reached the area in three days. The quick action of President Bush and his Asian allies saved perhaps 100,000 Moslem lives by bringing them water, food, and medical care. This is not the first time, nor likely will it be the last, that Bush has come to the aid of Moslems.

There is much irony here. In the days after 9/11 we were inundated with scenes of jubilant Islamic mobs across the globe dancing in the streets at this 'victory' of Islam over the hated America. (Of course, one we mobilized our military the dancing stopped.) Bush then invaded and destroyed two Islamic regimes, that of the Taliban in Afghanistan and that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Whatever one's view of these wars there can be no doubt that because of them tens of millions of Moslems were freed from the yolk of tyranny.

The rule of Saddam and his sons had been one of unusual brutality even by the standards of your run-of-the-mill Islamic thugocracy. Only after the American invasion of Iraq has the full scope of Saddam's Orwellian rule come to light. Over the years Saddam had murdered, tortured and mutilated upwards of one million of his countrymen. He extended this violence into the neighboring Moslem nations of Kuwait and Iran, killing one million more of his Islamic brethren. It was George Bush who brought an end to this madman's reign. One can speculate about the number of Moslem lives thus spared from Saddam's future depredations, but the number would surely be in the hundreds of thousands.

Bush senior also saved innumerable Islamic lives, ending Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and bringing aid to Somalia. (American actions in Bosnia and Albania during the Clinton presidency saved hundreds of thousands more.) One can effectively argue that the Bush family has been the greatest benefactor to the Islamic world since Mohammed chatted with Gabriel. One can also argue that the greatest evil ever to befall the Moslem world has been---other Moslems. Islamic history is one incarnadined with internecine violence. The years after World War II have been ones of increasing Moslem-on-Moslem savagery as the Islamic world continued its dreadful political, social and economic collapse, a decline that began 300 years ago. I wrote in May of 2003 on this sad spectacle.

Iraq invades Iran and Kuwait---all three are Islamic states; Algeria murders 200,000 of its own---all Moslems; half of the Sudan---the Moslem north---literally enslaves the other half---the Christian south; The Moslem Taliban terrorized an entire Moslem nation---Afghanistan; Moslem al-Qaeda makes war upon the spiritual center of Islam itself, Saudi Arabia; Islamic Somalia is at war with itself and with Islamic Eritrea---and both of these Hobbesian nightmares join with their Moslem brothers in the Sudan to sexually mutilate their adolescent girls; Moslem Syria sponsors terror brigades in whatever is left of Moslem and Christian Lebanon; Moslem Turks slaughter Moslem Kurds; Sunni hates Shiite; Palestinian mothers exult when their sons and daughters march off to the oblivion of suicide bombing; and on and on and on---always more blood, always more terror, always more degradation. In almost every part of our globe wherever there is violence you can bet that one or both of the parties is a Moslem group or nation. 

Whatever the glories of the Islamic past the Islamic present is filled with instability, poverty and violence. Islam has no cure for its own turmoil but in fact seeks to export it. Osama bin-Laden is only the most recent of self-styled prophets trying to force the dubious benefits of Islamic rule on one and all.

It surely must gall the Moslem world to know that its greatest enemy is Islam and its greatest benefactor is the United States, an avowedly Christian nation. President Bush himself implied this as clearly as he needed to:

I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit. That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban...On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord.

Irony of ironies: The violence of Moslem upon Moslem brought to an end by an Evangelical Christian who believes that he could not be president "without a relationship with the Lord," a Lord whose followers are routinely slaughtered by Moslems wherever they can get at them. What would Mohammed think!

Not that I care much. Just curious.

Indonesian child rescued by American serviceman




January 10, 2005

Less is More

Since the invasion of Iraq there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth concerning how many American troops are needed there. Conventional Wisdom---as least the version of it fancied by our mainstream media---says that there are simply not enough boots on the ground to guarantee victory. To bolster their case the media trot out a select group of retired generals who chant in Gadarene unison, "We need more troops!" And then there are the usual suspects in congress---regrettably, not all Democrats---who parrot the same line. (Odd that these same  creatures who now complain about some imagined shortage of troops fell all over themselves during the Clinton regime in their zeal to eviscerate the Pentagon budget.) And lest I forget, there is our hallowed Academia, few of whom ever donned a military uniform except at anti-war rallies, and then only to besmirch it. Most of these worthies know little of war and less of Iraqi history. And most of course oppose the war outright. Troop levels in Iraq are irrelevant to them---they would like the number of American troops there to be zero. Much of the rest of those esteemed professors bleat the standard line, "We need more troops!"

Well, do we need more troops in Iraq? And if so, would that bring us victory?

No. And no. History offers numerous examples  both of small armies defeating much larger foes and of large numbers being no guarantee of success.

Iraq measures 167,618 square miles, give or take the odd sand dune. Right now there are 150,000 US soldiers there. (Yes, I know that marines and soldiers and airmen are not the same, but stop quibbling.) At its greatest extent (117 AD) the Roman Empire boasted 2,200,000 square miles. The number of legionnaires then was fewer than 200,000 yet these policed an area more than fifteen times as great as modern Iraq. Rome had only 8 of her  legions---50,000 troops---stationed in what is now Egypt, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq, which was then perhaps one-third of the Empire. Where legionnaires marched 2000 years ago Americans are marching today. Then as now the place was unstable, violent---sicarii ('knife wielders') would make suicide attacks upon Roman soldiers and the local citizenry---and filled with religious dissension. None the less, Rome ruled the region for 700 years---controlling a far greater area and with far fewer soldiers than the United States has in Iraq. According to the logic used by the "we need more troops" crowd this would have been well nigh impossible. Yet it happened.

There are many such cases. Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) invaded the vast Persian Empire---marching through the same real estate where we fight today---with an army of only 35,000, yet in the set-piece battles of Granicus, Issus and Gaugamela he destroyed armies five times the size of his own. Hannibal (247-181 BC) took his soldiers, seldom numbering more than 40,000, from Spain to Italy and killed hundreds of thousands of Roman legionnaires---60,000 in only a four hour period (216)---and he remained in the Roman heartland for 14 years. Hannibal scarcely lost a battle though he was usually surrounded by scores of thousands of the enemy. Caesar himself (100-44 BC) led 40,000 Romans in into Gaul and conquered it in seven years (58-51)---though the Gauls numbered 5,000,000. (OK, they were only French, but you see my point.)

Even the Swedes demonstrate the point that numbers do not promise victory. Though immoral and pacifist weaklings today, they once controlled an empire comprising parts of modern Russia, Norway, Finland and northern Europe. Under their king Charles XII the Swedes with an army of 7000 defeated 45,000 Russian troops under Peter the Great (1700), even though Charles marched his men uphill in a blinding snowstorm to fortified Russian positions. The Inca were  superb soldiers and empire builders, and their ruling class was one of capacity, renown and intelligence. Yet, they succumbed to the conquistadors even though they outnumbered the Spanish tens of thousands to one. And recall that Britain for 200 years ruled India's hundreds of millions with a relative handful of soldiers.

I need to add---painfully though it be---that if vast hordes of soldiers bring victory, how then de we lose in tiny (128,379 square miles) Vietnam? At one point in that war America had almost 600,000 soldiers there.

The "we need more troops" types never quite say what we would do with them. They remind me of one of Napoleon's advisors who counseled the great Corsican to arrange all of his many thousands of artillery pieces equidistant apart on the frontier with Prussia. Napoleon quipped, "And what would be the point of that? To stop smuggling?" Greater numbers of soldiers in Iraq might stop smuggling, but that is a job for a customs house, not an army.

There are sound strategic reasons for keeping the numbers of US soldiers in Iraq at around 150,000. More soldiers make more targets for suicide killers. More soldiers multiply logistical problems. More soldiers make more reminders to Iraqis that theirs is an occupied country, however beneficial and temporary that occupation be. (And if I walked outside my apartment and saw any foreign troops, I would reach for my revolver.)

What the US military is doing in Iraq is exactly what needs to be done: hunting down and killing terrorists, destroying their cells and gathering intelligence. But perhaps the most critical element in the entire American occupation is the training and equipping of a new Iraqi army and police force. And this is happening with speed and success right under the noses of the mainstream media.

I should add that our military is superbly placed and practiced for the upcoming wars against Syria and Iran. (You knew these were coming, didn't you?) And 150,000 experienced and battle-tested troops are more than enough to send these regimes into the dustbin of History.



January 6, 2005

Oklahoma has been hit with a perfect storm, a rare convergence of three weather systems at once.

Moisture-laden storms from the north, west and south are likely to converge on much of America  over the next several days  in what could be a once-in-a-generation onslaught, meteorologists forecast yesterday.

It began early yesterday. I awakened at 3 AM to a bone-cold morning and freezing rain. I walked out my door at 7:15 and discovered my beautiful Jeep covered in ice. Odd, I had been at Wal Mart the day before, and on a whim picked up an ice scraper and a can of de-icer for car windshields. (I know that God cares for me, but it seems He also cares for my Jeep.) Driving was hazardous, even in 4-wheel drive. School remained open, but half the students stayed home. All the day it rained ice.


School is canceled for today. I sit at home, coffee in hand and heater on full. Already my mind is busy with things: write, work on the school's web site, load a bunch of photos on my super fast 64-bit computer, catch up on some e-mails, finish reading a recent biography of Alexander, complete long-neglected chores. Nature abhors a vacuum and so do I. No sooner am I surprised with a free day than things arise to fill it. It is impossible to simply sit and wonder, something at which I became expert while solo backpacking South and Central America. Then I need only open the tent door to marvel at God's carpentry all around me;  now, an open door reveals nothing but a cold darkness, an icy road, a black sky.


So here I sit. It is enough today to have escaped the frozen dreariness that begins just beyond my door.





January 2, 2005


I ended the year in an unusual way---at least, unusual for me.  I was actually at home and relatively sober when 2004 headed for the history books. For the first time in a decade I was neither in a tent circling some Andean peak nor exploring the Central American jungles. I mourned this fact, but there was nothing to be done about it. I am at a new job with much to do and learn. The first opportunity I will have to head for South America will be in June. I will have 9 weeks at most, but that is enough. There are several possibilities for superb backpacking---solo, of course---in Bolivia, Chile and Peru. But more on these in due course.


And already I plan to spend next  Christmas break in the jungles of Guatemala. It will be the dry season there, and time enough to explore the extreme northern areas where few have tread---for good reason. It is wild and hard to get to. There is only one road---a Jeep track, really---and even that is only passable between December and May. The few locals who inhabit the place still use the centuries old Mayan trade routes that wind among the many ruins there. Dos Lagunas, El Mirador and El Zotz ("the bat") are there, and I have seen none of them. I will need about two weeks or so to do all of this. (See here for details of my recent expedition to the region.)


I know it is yet one year away, but I began planning for my 'year of living dangerously' long before I actually began it. And I still must think out exactly where I will go this June and July. Some ideas are Lauca National Park in northern Chile, the Cordillera Blanca in Peru, and a return to Choquequirao using a different route. Why a return? This 12-day adventure was the toughest of my career. When I walked out of the Andes after it was done I was in the finest shape of my life and I thought myself invincible. To accomplish it again would be a good way to see exactly where I stand physically, mentally and spiritually---a perfect report card.


Ah...but first I must lose 20 pounds. Sounds like a fine New Year's Resolution to me. I made others as well, but most of those only God can know---He, and the priest who took my Confession January 1. It was a fine way to usher in 2005.  And today Mass was superb. School begins tomorrow, and I will stand before my students without mortal sin. Bliss!



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