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Monday, June 30, 2008

Long way down the Holiday Road...




This kiosk will be inattentively manned for the following week. The Prices are enjoying things like clear skies, the sound of the wind rushing through the trees and the sound of telephones not ringing.





So as much as I'd like to swing a barstool in the comboxes below, I'll let you non-vacationing folks do that. Mike Denton, I'll have a response to your thoughtful criticism when I get back, if you're still interested at that point.

Oh, and here's a time-waster for the ages, and one sure to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Teaching Office and Homework.

The Supreme Court at long last acknowledged the obvious yesterday: the Second Amendment is not a dead letter, nor is it the crazy aunt in the Bill of Rights. To lay my cards on the table, I own three firearms. None of which is a handgun, though I have fired pistols before. I hunt--mostly unsuccessfully--every year. I keep them secured, too, and my children already know they are emphatically not toys.

Back to the opinion. Finally, the highest court in the land acknowledges that the second provision in the Bill of Rights has meaning, and it must be interpreted to assume that it has real and relevant content. As the Court stated, after acknowledging the undeniable problem of violence involving handguns:

"[W]hat is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct."

Just so.

This has provoked this remarkable cork-popping tantrum over at Vox Nova, which can be summed up as "I don't like it, and you're a bad Catholic if you do!" The reasoning employed to reach its conclusions would have to undergo substantial revision and improvement to rise to the level of "half-assed." It is so indiscriminate in its raging that it manages to misunderstand or misuse the following concepts: Positive law, the Enlightenment, principles of legal interpretation, Anglo-American history, Catholic principles of solidarity/the common good, the gay marriage decisions, to name but six fatal flaws. Oh, and there's the usual Morning Minion Papal Bull infallibly declaring anyone who disagrees with him Malum Catholicus. Which, for those of you unfamiliar with his style, is a feature, not a bug.

Since there's nothing else of substance to the rest of his fusillade (though, to be fair, it still manages to be better than a lot of the comments following it), I'll just focus on his waving of the bloody conference statement. The document in question is the 1975 statement from the then-NCCB's Committee on Social Development and World Peace, Handgun Violence: A Threat to Life. Let's avoid the potential pitfalls of evaluating the binding force, etc. of the teachings of the bishops in conference--it's an unnecessary, and I think, dangerous diversion. Bishops' statements shouldn't be shrugged off so readily. If your bishop is on the committee, it certainly reflects his thoughts and should be considered accordingly. On the flip side, such documents can't be brandished as holy writ, either.

Here is the Committee's proposal:

This is clearly a national problem. No state or locality is immune from the rising tide of violence. Individual state and local action can only provide a partial solution. We must have a coherent national firearms policy responsive to the overall public interest and respectful of the rights and privileges of all Americans. The unlimited freedom to possess and use handguns must give way to the rights of all people to safety and protection against those who misuse these weapons.

We believe that effective action must be taken to reverse this rising tide of violence. For this reason, we call for effective and courageous action to control handguns, leading to their eventual elimination from our society.


First of all, the actual recommendations for immediate action are moderate and sensible, and for the most part I think they have been enacted.

But the goal is exceptionally radical, as it advocates the banning and confiscation of private property nationwide, with all that entails for police powers, search and seizure and expansion of the criminal code. Moreover, here we reach the problem: there's not a hint that the Committee considered anything other than a few select studies and statistics before coming to this conclusion. A lack of credibility will destroy even the best-intentioned statements, and the flaws here have that effect.

Sure, there are curt nods to the Second Amendment and very, very limited legitimate uses for "approved" firearms, but there's not a hint that the Committee comprehended in the least degree firearm mechanics and how "fungible" they are. With the exception of concealment, rifles and shotguns do the same things handguns do, mechanically speaking.

No, let me restate that: rifles and shotguns are, if anything, much more destructive than handguns. The sheer punching power of bullets/slugs/buckshot coming from long guns makes them much more dangerous. I can't be comforted by "we support the legitimate and proper use of rifles and shotguns for hunting and recreational purposes" when those devices aren't functionally different from what you say should be forbidden.

Now, the Committee can be forgiven its limited understanding of the Second Amendment in 1975. Frankly, the guidance from the legal community was lacking, even in secondary materials like law review articles.

Less forgivable is a lack of understanding of State constitutional bills of rights, which usually protect Second Amendment rights in crystal-clear language. A little better understanding of federalism would do everyone a lot of good, and would have done wonders for Handgun Violence. If nothing else, it would have underscored the radical nature of the proposal.

In fact, the Committee would have been on firm ground had it taken a look at other causes of handgun violence, which frequently correlate with factors other than firearm availability. A lot of my high school classmates vanished from the classrooms on November 15, the opening of firearm deer season in Michigan. None of them ever killed anybody with their weapons.

That aside, the document still displays a flawed understanding of the Bill of Rights, which was designed with the common good of the American polity in mind. It takes a hyper-individualistic mindset to see the rights to free speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure, etc. as solely individual rights. They aren't. They inhere in "the people" because the rights protect higher goods which accrue to the benefit of all. Sure, there are costs and risks stemming from each one, as the framers knew. But the need to explicitly protect established, customary rights was deemed to be worth the costs. Surely, uncounted lives could also be saved if the Fourth Amendment was read as a dead letter. But I don't think anyone wants to have their doors kicked in on the whims of armed authority.

Then again, YMMV, but doors are pretty pricey these days.

Let me, in genuine humility (for once), suggest that bishops who make radical proposals do a lot of homework and consultation beforehand, not least with knowledgable members of their own flocks. If the Committee talked to a single handgun owner before writing this, it's not evident in the statement. Which is pretty dismaying, when you think about it.

OK, Heather--you can get a Tim McGraw album if you want.

Country music singer Tim McGraw intervenes when lout hits a woman at his concert.

Decisively intervenes.

It occurred during his abomination-against-all-that-is-good-and-decent song Indian Outlaw, but I suppose that will make it easier to take when I hear it for the 15,238th time.

Good for you, Tim.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Official "2000th Post" Post.




Yes, my 2000th post. My determination to wear out my welcome has brought me to this millenial milestone. Huzzahs!

And a notable event deserves a notable beer--on me! Enjoy the fine selection:





Smoke if you got 'em.

Oh, and just looking for input. Should the heavy cavalry of my post-Change army look like Byzantine cataphracts

Byzantine Klibanophoros 10 th C



or Polish hussars?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

About that Muslim demographic tidal wave in Europe...

...not so fast.

Steve Stirling sent me this link, which reports plummets in those levels, too:

The news that France has overtaken Ireland to boast the highest birthrate in Europe is intriguing for three different reasons.

The first is that for a Europe that is worried about too few children being born to support the fast-growing numbers of elderly retirees, it suggests that public policy can make a difference. France now pays any mother with a third child about $1,200 in child support, along with massive discounts on train and public transport and subsidized day care. These incentives seem to work.

The second development to note is that INED, France's National Institute of Demographic Studies, has done some detailed research and concluded that France's immigrant population is responsible for only 5 percent of the rise in the birthrate and that France's population would be rising anyway even without the immigrant population.

That is important in a country where the number of immigrants from traditionally Muslim countries and their French-born children and grandchildren is now reckoned to be more than 6 million from a total population of 60.7 million. The anti-immigration Front National Party has claimed the rise in births came from Muslims, who were thus on track to become an eventual majority, and this appears not to be the case.

In fact in France, like everywhere else in Europe, the birthrate among immigrant mothers drops quickly toward the local norm in less than two generations. The measure most commonly used in international statistics is the Total Fertility Rate, which seeks to measure the number of children born to the average woman in her fertile years. (The formal definition of TFR is the average number of children a woman would have during her reproductive lifetime if current age-specific fertility rates remained constant over her reproductive life.)


As Steve said, immigrants who come from places where the TFR is already below replacement aren't going to suddenly have six kids. Hasn't happened anywhere else in the world, and the TFR in most majority-Muslim countries is below replacement and falling, too.

Best Forgotten Teen Flicks of the 80s.

MSN offers its list and a better poll here.

Of their list, I saw only The Last American Virgin--and I rather liked it, including the ending. Much more realistic than most. Then again, I was an oft-bitter, dateless nerd in high school, so YMMV.

The poll is better, and I saw three of those:

Real Genius, which my Much Better Half regards as the Citizen Kane of the 80s;

Lucas; and

Three O'Clock High.

I liked the other two well enough, but the last was a classic, High Noon for the Ferris Buehler set. The opposite in resolution from TLAV, it's just one of those great nerd underdog flicks. If you haven't seen it, see it. Unjustly forgotten.

Friday, June 20, 2008

In a manner reminiscent of Jenghis Khan...

I want to see this: Mongol, the first in a trilogy about the life of Genghis Khan. If Roger Ebert gives his imprimatur, I'm willing to truck off to see it. Victor?

One of the epochal figures in human history, Genghis unleashed a typhoon upon the world. Some parts of the world have never recovered from what he wrought, and some only partially. Actually beating the Mongols in battle was something to boast about for approximately ever, and only a handful did before the 15th Century (the Egyptian Mamluks, the Russians). And their enemies were well-advised to defeat them or surrender without a fight because the alternative was a Carthaginian peace. What saved their enemies more often was the practice of recalling all of the subordinate leaders of the Great Khan to Mongolia upon the death of the Khan. That's almost certainly what saved central Europe from devastation in the 1240s.

Skunks On A Plane.

No, really.

I'm getting a movie idea...

Beer Wars.

A really good article about the recent shakeups in the brewing market, and the forces driving it.

Looks like beer drinkers are the beneficiaries, as this fact demonstrates:

Anheuser-Busch has also been revamping its Michelob line, which includes flavors such as Honey Lager, Amberbock and Marzen, an Oktoberfest-style beer. Several of Michelob's brews have been winning awards at both the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

If my daughters and sons can display the same kind of heroic dignity in difficult circumstances that Luke Russert did...

...then my life will have been a success.

I know a lot more about Tim Russert now from having watched his son, and all of it good.

Let's all work together and annoy Hilary into going to the Doctor.

Here is our problem patient's problem.

And to sweeten the pill, compliment her on her fine photography of Merrie Olde Englande in her summer glory.

"Lighten the ballast."

I'd buy this book in a heartbeat, if he wrote it.

Anyway, some good advice. RTWT.

I think I've mellowed over the past 3 years or so. The heresy detector is still on, but it comes with analytical settings such as "is the issue really more de gustibus?"; "how do I best handle this as a teaching moment?"; and the essential "pick your battles does not mean pick a fight--especially one you can't win." By all means, instruct--but remember your audience.

My wife's encounter with a Jehovah's Witness at a supermarket comes to mind. When the grandmotherly Witness said "God did not come in the flesh," Heather merely smiled and without a trace of snark or anger said "Yes, He did."

"Revelations" Reactions.

A nice round-up here, at the indispensible Galactica Sitrep. Including two neat panoramas and the video of the post-landing scene.

Also, a very fine analysis at Time Immortal, which offers a generous hat-tip to yours truly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First we'll surrender. Then we'll negotiate.

Professor Kmiec has a cunning plan:

I am firmly in the camp that now sees non-legal paths as the best means of reducing abortion, but I also relish the belief (much denigrated on less thoughtful sites) that it is possible to moderate the legal implications of FOCA by reminding the advocates of choice that true choice includes choosing life and funding one side to the exclusion of the other raises the very equality and discrimination concerns at which the legislation purports to be aimed.

This is what the Freedom of Choice Act his hero has passionately sworn to sign into law will do:

Under current law, Medicaid funding for abortion is prohibited except in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. Under FOCA, Medicaid funding for abortion would be required. That’s not the status quo.

Under current law, abortions are not performed in many hospitals. Under FOCA, abortionists would be able to set up shop in any hospital, and any state or federal law or regulation to the contrary would be voided. That’s not the status quo.


Under current law, states can (and many have) pass informed consent law and/or waiting periods for women seeking abortions. Under FOCA, such laws would all be voided. That’s not the status quo.

Under current law, abortions are not performed on military bases. Under FOCA, they would be. That’s not the status quo.

FOCA does enshrine the right to an abortion in statutory law, making it that much more difficult to stop abortion even if Roe is overturned. That’s bad enough. But FOCA does far more than that. It would, in one fell swoop, wipe out most of the legal gains made by the pro-life movement in the last 30 years.

The Professor sees this as an opportunity to dialogue.

Holy hopping snot.

Sales representatives, do not hire this man.

At the risk of debilitating pedantry, here's the problem with it: had we followed the "hearts 'n minds only" plan with respect to racial equality and civil rights, Senator Obama would not be the nominee of the Democratic Party. He probably wouldn't live in the Chicago neighborhood he does now. A lot of hearts and minds were just fine with Jim Crow and its de facto equivalents in 1953, in both the north and south. They remained quite happy with it until 1964-65, but they could no longer hide behind "it's the law" when court precedent and legislation turned against them.

The progress we've seen (far, far from complete, but still progress) on racial reconciliation/civil rights in this country would not have been achieved without both legal efforts (Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Loving v. Virginia) *and* moral suasion (Little Rock, Selma, Dr. King and the brave work of black citizens seeking full citizenship) working in tandem.

Appeals to morality are essential, as is education. But both work much more effectively when the legal climate favors that struggle, as opposed to destroys it. In fact, I'm hard pressed to think of a positive cultural reformation which did not involve legal reform as well.

Disregarding history, logic, and even common sense, legal marginalization of the pro-life movement is collateral damage that Professor Kmiec and the rest of Obama's Catholic Fan Club are happy to accept. There are a lot of words to describe this irrational quietism, none of them polite. Ultimately, it amounts to a separate peace with the culture of death.

Press Secretary Kmiec, you are hired. Congratulations.

[H/t to Jay for the Kmiec comment find.]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

For Feddie, Jay and everyone else tired of beating their heads against their keyboards over Prof. Kmiec.

And three cheers for the Democrats.

Trying to rescind the desperately stupid nuclear technology agreement with the Saudis:

Resolutions introduced Thursday in the US House of Representatives and the Senate seek to restrict US nuclear power cooperation with Saudi Arabia and
instead encourage the development of solar power there.

Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Senator Charles Schumer of New York -- both Democrats -- introduced the resolutions to overturn President Bush's support last month of building new nuclear power in Saudi Arabia, even though the country is home to the largest oil reserves in the world. Furthermore, they said that the country should be developing solar power at a massive scale, given its extremely sunny climate.

Markey worried that handing over such sensitive knowledge to Saudi Arabia would aid in "fueling a nascent nuclear arms race in the Middle East" since many believe Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon despite professing that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes like generating electricity.

"A potential Saudi nuclear power program is just as suspicious," he said. "[Saudi Arabia feels] threatened by the rise of Iran and they want to guarantee that Saudi Arabia too can play the nuclear game."

Schumer said that he has yet to talk with Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, but he already has reached out to several Republicans including members of the leadership. Markey, one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's closest allies, said the measure soon will have the support of at least six Republicans.

The resolutions were made in disapproval of a memorandum of understanding that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs signed on May 16, during Rice's visit to Saudi Arabia.


The sooner we can get out of this degrading, principle-trashing, co-dependent relationship with the House of Saud, the better.

On a related note, Danzig said that "Dora the Explorer" can be a valuable template for our dealings with Hugo Chavez.

Senator Obama's presumptive National Security Adviser invokes Winnie the Pooh:

Mr Danzig spelt out the need to change by reading a paragraph from chapter one of the children’s classic, which says: “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming down stairs. But sometimes he thinks there really is another way if only he could stop bumping a minute and think about it.”

Not that our current President is deserving of any slack on his choice of staff, either:

In a subtle break from Mr Bush’s belief that the war on terror can be won, Mr Danzig, who is a Pentagon adviser on bioterrorism,

Hoo-boy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

This would be a pretty damn good way to lose my vote, Senator.

McCain wobbles on judges.

If so, bad answer.

REALLY bad answer.

I'm reserving judgment a little bit because all we have is a comment that doesn't rise to the level of hearsay--it's merely the effect of what another said.

But I don't like it anyway. Since the system has been rigged so that judges have the say on social issues, he has no slack on this one. None.

[Update: Confirmed McCain skeptic AP finds the incident considerably less than outrageous.]

Well, that's cast rather a pall over the evening.

Still digesting last week's Galactica mid-season finale. "Revelations," indeed.

Jay didn't like it.

He's right about it being rushed--it is. "Thank" Sci-Fi for that one, a byproduct of the pressure put on the creative team having one season to wrap things up. It still packed a powerful punch, though--thanks to the groundwork laid by the fine performances of the cast regulars.

As to the rest, I'm going to reserve final judgment until I see how it fits into the remainder of the episodes. My Much Better Half bought me Season 3 for Father's Day and I am sure I am going to like it more upon further review, as I have the rest of the series.

Remember the Pythian mantra--"All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again." And the Razor prophecy, too. Which is way accusations of "PC" that I have seen around the net are especially anachronistic.

My initial impulsive review--I liked it. I especially liked the horrified reactions of the not-quite-Cylons-anymore--particularly Leoben, who has gradually changed from a Loki-ish pseudo-mystical trickster into someone more genuinely benevolent. And Michael Hogan as Tigh deserves an Emmy, if that benighted awards bestower could ever dig itself out of its chick-show monomania.

Oh, and now I am no longer sure who the final Cylon is. Doc Cottle is a recent theory that makes a whole lot of sense to me, but I'm not going to rule out Baltar any more, either.

The worst part about the whole thing is that I have to wait until weather is routinely described with "wind chill" before I get to see the rest.

Learned an interesting lesson on Saturday.

Madeleine and Trip have been attending a dance class for the past year. Maddie's been on the ballet track and I think D3 was inspired by the Nicholas Brothers to take tap dancing lessons.

The inspiration is understandable:



Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers in Stormy Weather.

Well, he's not quite to that level yet. But he was happy to take the class (after a few weeks) and is now determined to continue.

Here comes the lesson. I wanted the kids to know Dad was supporting them, so I bellowed out "All right, Maddie!" and "Way to go, Dale!" for their respective performances. Maddie says she thought she might have heard me. She was a graceful as an angel during her performance.

Unfortunately, Dale heard me loud and clear and gave a puzzled reply, his hands shading his eyes:

"Where are you?"

Fortunately, he went ahead with a fine performance, and I sank into my seat.

I for one have welcomed our new infant overlords.

Fact-finding mission from the European Union discovers a subjugated America.

Friday, June 13, 2008

May God rest his soul.

Tim Russert died of a heart attack today.

Too young--he was only 58.

"Make sure you're not bashing Muslims. Never say Muslims are evil. They're just like you and me."

So speaks Jay Smith, an English Christian who routinely debates Muslims in Hyde Park and elsewhere.

Western seminaries taught Smith "friendship evangelism" as the primary way to share Christ with Muslims. Nothing should offend. Never point out contradictions, inconsistencies, or historical inaccuracies in another person's religious beliefs. Everything aims to convert. Judge results by the number of conversions.

Smith decided to take an alternate approach:

Defend historic, orthodox Christianity.

Answer untruths that Islam proclaims about the Bible, Jesus, and Christians.

Hold Islam itself accountable for the actions of its followers.

"We have to start taking Christ back to his Mediterranean roots," says Smith. "True love confronts friends when they go wrong. Paul certainly argued. Jesus certainly argued. That's the kind of love Muslims need to hear.

"Propositional truth confronts," he argues, in fundamentalist fashion. "If there's not a reaction, we're not preaching the gospel."

In most Muslim-Christian dialogue, Smith believes Christians typically concede on points of orthodox doctrine to make the faith palatable to Muslims. Smith asks: Why should Muslims respect any Christian who distances himself from what he claims to believe?


Read the whole thing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Victims, victims everywhere.

Perhaps the most poisonous thing about multiculturalism is that inculcates the idea that everyone can try to play the victim card.

For instance, fellow beadsqueezers Tracey Ann and Matthew McVeigh.

For Matthew McVeigh, it was the moment he had excitedly been working toward for months.
But when the youngster learned that to become an official Cub Scout he would have to pledge allegiance to the Queen when reciting the Cub Scout Promise, he refused to do it on religious grounds.


Now a row has broken out after the eight-year-old was told he cannot become a fully-fledged Cub as a result.


His mother, Tracy Anne, 29, said yesterday that her son's refusal to say the part of the oath that declares a promise 'to do my duty to the Queen,' was a matter of principle for their Roman Catholic family.

* * *

'He was really excited about it. But when he had to fill out the application form, he realised he would have to pledge duty to the Queen and that's when it all kicked off.

'We weren't happy about this aspect of the Promise as we don't think it's necessary in today's world. We are supposed to live in a multi-cultural age, but this just flies in the face of that.

'I don't want to make this a religious issue, but being a Catholic in this country, a lot of things are out with our reach.

'My son cannot grow up and become Prime Minister because of his religion. The 1701 Act of Settlement specifically discriminates against Catholic people and only allows for Protestants to take the throne - so why should we make an oath to the Monarchy? It actively discriminates against Catholics.'

First of all, she's wrong--her son can become Prime Minister. The Catholic Relief Act of 1829 ensured that. Rather long odds, admittedly. Even longer of marrying into the House of Windsor, her other gripe.

Second of all--suck it up and swear the oath. This is the United Kingdom, not some benighted, fanged despotism. The Stuarts aren't coming back. Queen Elizabeth II is the legitimate head of state of a free people--you owe her your allegiance. Moreover, pledging allegiance doesn't mean a mindless endorsement of everything a free nation does or permits.

In short, we don't need to add ourselves to the ranks of the aggrieved with baseless protests like this.

Suffering from a bad case of plutoids.

I love things astronomical. Feeds the sci-fi geekery woven into my soul. Land an astronaut on Mars? Meh, OK--nice start. After cities on the Moon, permanent stations at the Lagrange points and a newer, bigger version of Hubble to scan the cosmos with.

Yeah, OK--after we get our budget in order.

I even wanted to be an astronomer once, but my mathematics teachers started tossing the alphabet into the mix, needlessly confusing the elegant simplicity. My genius (seriously) friend Steve Gibson should have developed cauliflower ear in 8th grade, given all the time he patiently tried to explain algebra to me over the phone (he might be an atheist, but he's earned saint credit for that). After a brief rally in trigonometry, I gave up the ghost in pre-calculus. Time to join the wordslinging world.

Anyway, I still have a telescope and long for a deck-mounted version at my future non-light-polluted estate (working name: Chartwell West) in the Upper Peninsula. I can't explain stellar phenomena, but by Obama I will look at them.

All of this is a needlessly long prologue to explain that while I admire astronomers, I think they need to hire some wordslinging consultants from time to time.

Like this time.

"PLUTOIDS"?

Sounds like something I need a prescription for. Perhaps a topical cream. Not to mention a whole lotta euphemisms.

I know the IAU has a plucky Rebel Alliance battling Pluto's demotion, and ironically, I think this is probably the best news they could hope for. Now every science teacher in the English speaking world will join the rebellion, lest they hear the Beavisesque snickering for months on end.

"He said 'plutoids.'" "Yeah yeah yeah--plutoids!"

Oh, and here's an article on the naming of the tenth planet, Eris.

Old Solarism--a stand for sanity.

From "The Glass Is Half Full" Department.

Michigan actually has a road repair budget.

Learn something new every day.

There has been a persistent rumor to this effect floating around the last few years, but the evidence for it was pretty thin.

Greetings, fellow polytheists.

U.S. Commission reiterates call to close Islamic school in Fairfax, Virginia.

Textbooks at a private Islamic school in northern Virginia teach students that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, according to a federal investigation released Wednesday.

Other passages in the school's textbooks state that "the Jews conspired against Islam and its people" and that Muslims are permitted to take the lives and property of those deemed "polytheists."


* * *

The commission said it obtained 17 of the academy's textbooks through a variety of channels, including from members of Congress. The texts did appear to contain numerous revisions, including pages that were removed or passages that were whited out, but numerous troubling passages remained, according to the panel:
_ The authors of a 12th-grade text on Koranic interpretation state that apostates (those who convert from Islam), adulterers and people who murder Muslims can be permissibly killed.


_ The authors of a 12th-grade text on monotheism write that "(m)ajor polytheism makes blood and wealth permissible," meaning that a Muslim can take with impunity the life and property of someone believed guilty of polytheism. According to the panel, the strict Saudi interpretation of polytheism includes Shiite and Sufi Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists.

_ A social studies text offers the view that Jews were responsible for the split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims: "The cause of the discord: The Jews conspired against Islam and its people. A sly, wicked person who sinfully and deceitfully professed Islam infiltrated (the Muslims)."

More generally, the panel found that the academy textbooks hold the view that the Muslim world was strong when united under a single caliph, the Arabic language and the Sunni creed, and that Muslims have grown weak because of foreign influence and internal divisions.

Note the highlighted section because it's true. Consider this telling passage from an ex-Methodist's conversion to Islam, which I read about a year ago:

He immediately cut me off with a simple statement: “You finally couldn’t stomach the polytheism anymore, could you?” He knew exactly why I was a Muslim, and he didn’t disagree with my decision!

More joy--he's a very prominent proselytizer (use the keyword "Dirks"), as far as these things go.

Yes, I know--Methodists will convert at the drop of a hat to anything (even Catholicism), but it's food for thought, especially when considering the happy-clappy one big Abrahamic family line that gets the most publicity.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Dominator hangs up his skates.

He will be missed. In the epic 2002 Conference Finals battle with the Avalanche, it was a source of tremendous comfort to know that it was Hasek backstopping the Wings as they faced elimination, down 3-2 and going back to Denver. He responded with back to back shutouts.

On a related note, ESPN asks you to rank the Ten Best Goaltenders of All Time.

Here's mine:

1. Patrick Roy --There's no arguing his record and the duration of his excellence.
2. Terry Sawchuk --[Misspelled on the poll--gah!] Yes, a homer pick but I can defend it.
3. Glenn Hall --Pukin' Glenn doesn't get enough credit--a pioneer of butterfly goaltending.
4. Martin Brodeur --More sustained excellence.
5. Grant Fuhr -- Never gets the credit he deserves for the Oilers' success.
6. Tony Esposito -- Everybody loves Tony. Consistently brilliant, even for bad teams.
7. Jacques Plante -- Six cups with the Habs dynasty of the late 50s-60s.
8. Dominik Hasek -- A spine like a slinky, he could will pucks away from the goal mouth.
9. Ed Belfour -- A bit flaky and took dumb penalties, but superb.
10. Curtis Joseph -- Great everywhere he played, he just could never get over the top.

Some free advice for journalists covering the pregnant "man" story.

SHE'S NOT A MAN!

SHE'S A CONFUSED WOMAN WHO COULD AFFORD EXPENSIVE SURGERY.

MEN. CANNOT. HAVE. BABIES.

CALLING HERSELF A MAN NO MORE CHANGES HER CHROMOSOMES THAN ME STICKING MY HAND INTO MY SHIRT CHANGES ME INTO NAPOLEON.

Back to you.

Belated D-Day Anniversary Post.

I meant to post a link to this last Friday, but circumstances intervened.

I had the honor of visiting Sword Beach in September 1989, and met a grateful Frenchman, who gave us a chilling example of what the French were being liberated from. Also, one of my doctors was a Ranger who fought at Pointe du Hoc. Thanks to all who served and serve.

Don't miss your chance to thank these men--they are inexorably passing from our midst. Last year I had the opportunity to thank an Anzio veteran for his service, and I'm glad I took it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Twenty-Five Worst Movie Sequels.

Via AOL.

I haven't seen many of these, I'm relieved to say. But they forgot a few: Highlander II, Star Trek V, Alien Resurrection.

Next up--shaved heads, black sneakers and vats of kool-aid.

I have a proposal. Every time you run into a piece of Obamolatry, start responding with an irreverent "Barack H. Obama."

Because this is getting seriously out of hand.

Barack Obama isn't really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway.

This is what I find myself offering up more and more in response to the whiners and the frowners and to those with broken or sadly dysfunctional karmic antennae - or no antennae at all - to all those who just don't understand and maybe even actively recoil against all this chatter about Obama's aura and feel and MLK/JFK-like vibe.

To them I say, all right, you want to know what it is? The appeal, the pull, the ethereal and magical thing that seems to enthrall millions of people from all over the world, that keeps opening up and firing into new channels of the culture normally completely unaffected by politics?

No, it's not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless, winking charm, didn't have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity.

Dismiss it all you like, but I've heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who've been intuitively blown away by Obama's presence - not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence - to say it's just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord.

Here's where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.


Barack H. Obama. Yessirree, and I'm the irrational theocrat. At this point, the Illinois Senator could be running against Verne Troyer and I'd still put a VERNE! sign in my yard (Proposed slogan: "Let's Toss This Dwarf Straight Into The White House!")

Reaganolatry could be pretty bad, and I could be wrong, but I don't recall anyone ever positing that the Gipper was a demigod.

Christianity: Still The Only Safe Way to Worship a Living Human Being.™

["Thanks" to LGF.]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

This is pretty much my sense of humor.

The cautionary tale of Charlie the Unicorn.



"Shun the non-believer! Shun! Shuuuunnnnnnnn....."

I also picture Blue and Pink saying "....neeewwwwwwwwwwww politics, Charlie...hope and change and hopeness, Charlie..."

But that's probably just me.

Lord Stanley.


[Photo credit--Detroit News]

That's better. Much, much better.

It's just as well most of you don't hang around with me during championship sporting events. I called D3 out to the living room with about four minutes left in the game to watch the finish. I was hesitant, but 3-1 felt like a solid enough lead. It was, but yikes, the finish.

When Jiri Hudler took the penalty with 1:50 left, I barked "Hudler, you dumb s--t!" Dale sitting right with me, of course. Heather tapped my arm and I grated out the apology for my bad language.

Then Hossa scored about 15 seconds later (that guy is a brilliant, brilliant player). I riveted my jaw shut.

The seconds ticked down slowly. The Boy attempted to engage in conversation, which Heather gently--and quickly--shut down.

With about 40 seconds left, my beloved mother-in-law, who had been over to watch the game with us, asked me when I thought the parade would be held. I have never said an unkind word to her, nor did I then. I simply ground out "I'd rather they win the game first." But I suspect the look on my face must have conveyed that I'd just been asked "Care to rub your face with this cheese grater?" because she didn't raise the topic again.

Thankfully, time ran out--yes, Penguin fans, Hossa's shot would not have counted--and I changed back from Werefan to me again.

I took Dale out to look for a commemorative newspaper (I got the championship copies at 7-11 this morning) and to get milk. We went up Gratiot, one of the impromptu parade routes (second after Royal Oak's Main Street in popularity) and he marvelled at the celebrating fans and honking horns. Loud and boisterous, but well mannered. And the area's finest were out in omnipresent, but not obnoxious--force.

A good time for a city not enjoying good times right now.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Grrr.

After last night's case of Cuppus Interruptus, I've decided to go the humor route for the moment, with a sci-fi flavor:

Behold the Alternate History Search, brought to you by Multiversity™!

Sample History Search: The Death of Adolf Hitler in Vienna, August 13, 1908.

My personal favorite is Scenario #5.

Event: ADOLF HITLER is KILLED by SUFFOCATION WHEN INEXPLICABLY ENCASED IN AN ENORMOUS BLOCK OF UNFLAVORED GELATIN

Hat-tip to a fellow maniac at the Stirling Group.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hockey fans--we're not like other people.

This year's "Dude, You Rock Award" goes to Zach Smith, Red Wings fan from Cleveland and Cephalpod Chucker Extraordinaire.

The octopus hit the ice of Mellon Arena to a chorus of boos just after the national anthem Saturday.

But the tentacled toss didn't come from a Michigander. Zach Smith, 19, of Cleveland, an avid Red Wings fan and adrenaline junkie, hurled the slimy creature.

Then he got tossed. Security guards threw him out.

"You're outta here," Smith said they told him. "Come back in and you get arrested."

But Smith and his two friends from metro Detroit, who asked not to be identified, had a plan.
They had bought an extra ticket in anticipation of his booting. That's an extra $300 from a scalper.

And Smith was wearing a regular T-shirt, instead of Red Wings gear, when he threw the octopus.

Outside, he quickly threw on a Red Wings sweater and walked back into Gate 3.


Awesome. Hopefully, this is the night the Wings go to 11.

Oh, and we had a flat tire yesterday, I mowed the lawn, drove over the wife's keys with the lawnmower (Briggs & Stratton 1, Keys 0), turned 39, had to go to Home Depot to get new keys and generally had a fine old time.