Monthly Archives: April 2007

The Lamps Going Out Across America

Today’s column by Mark Steyn sums things up very nicely as to the machinations of the Democrats and our enemies abroad. A small slice of the wisdom pie:

…As I always say, if you live in Tikrit and Ramadi, the Iraq issue is
about Iraq. But, if you live anywhere else on the planet, Iraq is about
America. In Tehran, Pyongyang, Khartoum, Caracas, Beijing, Moscow and
the South Sandwich Islands, they watch Harry Reid & Co. on the 24/7
cable channels and draw their own conclusions about American will.


The Defeaticrats are being opportunist: They think they can calibrate
the precise degree of U.S. defeat in Mesopotamia that will bring
victory for them in Ohio and Florida.
The losses are devastating
for the individuals’ families but they are historically among the
lowest in any conflict this nation or any other has fought. So I don’t
believe the nightly plume of smoke over Baghdad on the evening news
explains the national disenchantment. Rather, the mission as framed by
the president — help the Iraqi people build a free and stable Iraq —
is simply not accepted by the American people.
Contemptible as this is, it
wouldn’t be possible had the administration not lost the support of
many of the American people over this war. On the right, between
the unrealpolitik "realists" and the "rubble doesn’t cause trouble"
isolationists and the hit-’em-harder-faster crowd, the president has
fewer and fewer takers for a hunkered-down, defensive, thankless
semi-colonial policing operation. Regardless of how it works on the
ground, it has limited appeal at home. Meanwhile, the leftists don’t
accept it because, while they’re fond of "causes," they dislike those
that require meaningful action: Ask Tibetans about how effective half a
century of America’s "Free Tibet" campaign has been; or ask Darfuris,
assuming you can find one still breathing, how the left’s latest
fetishization is going from their perspective:


"On Sunday, April 29, Salt Lake Saves Darfur invites the greater Salt
Lake community of compassion to join with us as we honor the fallen and
suffering Darfuris in a day of films, discussion and dance with a
Sudanese dance troupe."


Marvelous. I hope as the "Salt Lake Saves Darfur" campaign intensifies
in the decades ahead there’ll be enough Darfuris to man the dance
troupe. It would be truer to say that the greater Salt Lake community
of compassion, like Sen. Obama with his light bulbs, is "working on"
saving Darfur.


In Khartoum, Tehran, Moscow and elsewhere, the world’s mischief-makers
have reached their own conclusions about how much serious "work"
America is prepared to do.
(Emphases mine).

Read the whole, sad thing.

 

Continue reading

Are We Looking at Each Other?

From our most favorite web-site, The Astronomy Picture of the Day:


2007 April 26



See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

Gliese 581 and the Habitable Zone
Credit:
Stephane Udry, Michel Mayor
(Geneva Obs.)
et. al,
Image: DSS,
Skyview

Explanation:

The faint, unremarkable star centered in this
skyview
is Gliese 581,
a mere 20 light-years away toward the constellation
Libra.

But
astronomers
are now
reporting
the discovery
of a remarkable
system of three planets orbiting Gliese 581, including the
most earth-like planet found beyond our solar system.

Gliese 581 itself is not a sun-like star, though.

Classified as a
red
dwarf
, the star is much smaller and colder than the Sun.

Still, the smallest planet known to orbit the star is estimated to
be five times as massive as Earth with about 1.5 times Earth’s
diameter.

That super-earth
orbits once every 13 days, about 14 times closer
to its parent star than the Earth-Sun distance.

The close-in orbit around the cool star implies a mean surface
temperature of between 0 and 40 degrees C – a range over which water
would be liquid – and places the
planet in
the red dwarf’s
habitable zone.

Are they looking at us while we are looking at them?

Continue reading

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Freakonomics posits the significant statistical decline in crime rates in the US to the legalization of abortion, among other things. There is a lively discussion about the validity of the data, but something has surely happened in the US. The emasculation of the male, and its role in social engineering, is the topic of another post, but suffice to say that strong male role models are not abundant in the laboratories of American social development, aka academia.

Thus, this ominous bit of information provides grist for the mill for those who proclaim the inevitable decline of Western values, and the good that will come of it.

The widespread use of sonogram technology–coupled with liberal
abortion laws–has made it possible for women to identify the sex of
their child so that those with a Y chromosome can be killed before
they’re even born. Last year, in a speech before the U.N., demographer Nicholas Eberstadt revealed the details of this frightening trend: 

Over the past five years the American public has received
regular updates on what we have come to call “the global war on
terror”. A no-less significant global war—a war, indeed, against
nature, civilization, and in fact humanity itself has also been
underway in recent years. This latter war, however, has attracted much
less attention and comment, despite its immense consequence. This
world-wide struggle might be called” The Global War Against Baby
Girls”.

The effects of this war on girls can be seen in the changes in the
sex ratios at birth. Eberstadt explains that there is a "slight but
constant and almost unvarying excess of baby boys over baby girls born
in any population." The number of baby boys born for every hundred baby
girls, which is so constant that it can "qualify as a rule of nature",
falls along an extremely narrow range along the order of 103, 104, or
105. On rare occasions it even hovers around 106

This causes your scribe to ask several questions:

  • First, should the feminist activists be concerned that the right to choose is serving as the agent of their demise in certain parts of the world?
  • Second, as we, in the US, reduce the numbers of testosterone capable citizens, while our challengers in the East produce more and more males, are we putting ourselves in a demographic hole?

 

Continue reading

Do We Still Get the Pork Without the Vote?

Remember this? The buying of Democratic Party votes for the Supplemental, with the Congressional mandates on withdrawal from Iraq? From Q and O  on March 21, 2007:

Now to some details. In case you were wondering
what is of supreme importance to a supplemental spending bill for the
wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, a look at this list will supply that answer:

    *      $74 million for a peanut storage program that pays storage fees as farmers market their crop.
    *      $750 million to cover shortfalls in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
* $400 million to subsidize rural northwest counties who have been
suffering from declining timber sales since the mid-1990s.
    *      $3.7 billion to compensate farmers and ranchers for losses suffered during the last 3 crop years.
    *      $25 million for spinach growers effected by the e-coli health advisory.
    *      $60 million for Indian tribes and fisherman affected by declining salmon runs in the Northwest.
    *      $50 million for asbestos abatement at the Capitol Hill Power Plant.
    *      $140 million for livestock owners, citrus growers affected by the ’05 hurricanes.
    *      $120 million for the shrimp and menhaden industries.
    *      $2.5 billion for homeland security projects such as additional cargo screening at ports and airports.
    *      $283 million for extending the small dairy farm income loss contract program.
    *      $1.3 billion more for the Army Corps of Engineers to work on the New Orleans levees.
    *      $910 million to waive local matching requirements for the FEMA disaster aid program.
    *      $1 billion for pandemic flu preparedness.
    *      $16 million for maintenance and security improvements to the Capitol Hill office buildings.
    *      $25 million for the Small Business Administration disaster-loan program.

Some
may argue that a few of these programs are important. Then they should
survive nicely in bills of their own. But it is also apparent that many
of these expenditures are in this bill specifically to attract votes in
Congress. Earmarks be damned, these a blatant bribes for votes with
your money.

Well, here’s a spot of bad news  for those bought votes…..

So the saga that is the Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental continues
today, with word that Congressional Democrats–having decided the big
issues–are ready to begin a conference on the legislation.

Roll Call
($) reports that Democratic leaders are breaking the bad news to House
liberals–the conference report won’t force a surrender in Iraq on a
date certain…

Guess all that money (pork) got earmarked for a result that isn’t going to happen. Do we taxpayers get our money back?

Continue reading

What Have We Wrought?

There have been many eloquent statements, in deed and thought, about the terrible event in Blacksburg. All we can do is look at the larger picture, in search of perspective and wisdom.

Q and O, as usual, has some keen insights, to wit:

It’s not about guns, video games, or any other
inanimate objects. It is about a culture which has removed many of it’s
taboos and restraints. It is about a culture which has come to
celebrate, at varying levels, acts of antisocial behavior and, by doing
so, passes them off as "normal". The removal of those cultural
restraints has led to more and more antisocial behavior as one might
expect. Conventional pop-psychology has taught us we must not judge and
that we shouldn’t condemn, but should instead ‘encourage’. What we end
up doing is encouraging people to act out their emotions (no matter how
absurd) and, in many cases, congratulate and celebrate them for doing
so. We concentrate on building "self-esteem" instead of "self-respect".
It is a culture of excess, where, in the past, restraint played a key
cultural role.

The author goes on to refer to a Wall Street Journal editorial, entitled No Guardrails, written in 1993, that was the source of much debate at the time. Your scribe read that article, and was so moved by the words that I wrote the author and asked for a copy. I reprint it in its entirety here:

REVIEW & OUTLOOK
(Editorial): No Guardrails

03/18/1993
The
Wall Street Journal
PAGE A12
(Copyright (c) 1993, Dow
Jones & Co., Inc.)

The gunning down of
abortion doctor David Gunn in Florida last week shows us how small the barrier
has become that separates civilized from uncivilized behavior in American life.
In our time, the United States suffers every day of the week because there are
now so many marginalized people among us who don’t understand the rules, who
don’t think that rules of personal or civil conduct apply to them, who have no
notion of self-control. We are the country that has a TV commercial on all the
time that says: "Just do it." Michael Frederick Griffin just did it.

An anti-abortion
protester of intense emotions, he walked around behind the Pensacola Women’s
Medical Services Clinic and pumped three bullets into the back of Dr. Gunn.
Emptied himself, Michael Griffin then waited for the police to take him away. A
remark by his father-in-law caught our eye: "Now we’ve got to take care of two
grandchildren."

As the saying goes,
there was a time. And indeed there really was a time in the United States when
life seemed more settled, when emotions, both private and public, didn’t seem to
run so continuously at breakneck speed, splattering one ungodly tragedy after
another across the evening news. How did this happen to the United States? How,
in T.S. Eliot’s phrase, did so many become undone? —

We think it is possible
to identify the date when the U.S., or more precisely when many people within
it, began to tip off the emotional tracks. A lot of people won’t like this date,
because it makes their political culture culpable for what has happened. The
date is August 1968, when the Democratic National Convention found itself
sharing Chicago with the street fighters of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

The real blame here
does not lie with the mobs who fought bloody battles with the hysterical Chicago
police. The larger responsibility falls on the intellectuals — university
professors, politicians and journalistic commentators — who said then that the
acts committed by the protesters were justified or explainable. That was the
beginning. After Chicago, the justifications never really stopped. America had a
new culture, for political action and personal living.

With great rhetorical
firepower, books, magazines, opinion columns and editorials defended each
succeeding act of defiance — against the war, against university presidents,
against corporate practices, against behavior codes, against dress codes,
against virtually all agents of established authority. —

What in the past had
been simply illegal became "civil disobedience." If you could claim, and it was
never too hard to claim, that your group was engaged in an act of civil
disobedience — taking over a building, preventing a government official from
speaking, bursting onto the grounds of a nuclear cooling station, destroying
animal research, desecrating Communion hosts — the shapers of opinion would
blow right past the broken rules to seek an understanding of the "dissidents"
(in the ’60s and ’70s) and "activists" (in the ’80s and now).

Concurrently, the
personal virtue known as self-restraint was devalued. In the process, certain
rules that for a long time had governed behavior also became devalued. Whatever
else was going on here, we were repeatedly lowering the barriers of acceptable
political and personal conduct.

You can argue, as many
did and still do, that all this was necessary because the established order
wouldn’t respond or change. But then you still need to account for the nation’s
simultaneous dive into extensive social and personal dysfunction. You need to
account for what is happening to those people within U.S. society who seem least
able to navigate the political and personal torrents that they become part of,
like Michael Griffin. Those torrents began with the antiwar movement in the
1960s.

Those endless
demonstrations, though, were merely one part of a much deeper shift in American
culture — away from community and family rules of conduct and toward more
autonomy, more personal independence. As to limits, you set your own. —

The people who provided
the theoretical underpinnings for this shift — the intellectuals and political
leaders who led the movement — did very well, or at least survived. They are
born with large reservoirs of intelligence and psychological strength. The fame
and celebrity help, too.

But for a lot of other
people it hasn’t been such an easy life to sustain. Not exceedingly
sophisticated, neither thinkers nor leaders, never interviewed for their views,
they’re held together by faith, friends, fun and, at the margins, by fanaticism.
The big political crackups make the news — a Michael Griffin or the woman on
trial in Connecticut for the attempted bombing of the CEO of a surgical-device
company or the ’70s radicals who accidentally blew themselves up in a New York
brownstone. But the personal crackups just float like flotsam through the
country’s hospitals and streets. You can also see some of them on daytime TV,
America’s medical museum of personal autonomy. —

It may be true that
most of the people in Hollywood who did cocaine survived it, but many of the
weaker members of the community hit the wall. And most of the teenage girls in
the Midwest who learn about the nuances of sex from magazines published by
thirtysomething women in New York will more or less survive, but some continue
to end up as prostitutes on Eighth Avenue. Everyone today seems to know someone
who couldn’t handle the turns and went over the side of the mountain.

These weaker or more
vulnerable people, who in different ways must try to live along life’s margins,
are among the reasons that a society erects rules. They’re guardrails.
It’s also true that we need to distinguish good rules from bad rules and
periodically re-examine old rules. But the broad movement that gained force
during the anti-war years consciously and systematically took down the
guardrails. Incredibly, even judges pitched in. All of them did so to
transform the country’s institutions and its codes of personal behavior
(abortion, for instance).

In a sense, it has been
a remarkable political and social achievement for them. But let’s get something
straight about the consequences. If as a society we want to live under
conditions of constant challenge to institutions and limits on personal life, if
we are going to march and fight and litigate over every conceivable grievance,
then we should stop crying over all the individual casualties, because there are
going to be a lot of them.

Michael Griffin and Dr.
David Gunn are merely two names on a long list of confrontations and personal
catastrophe going back 25 years. That today is the status quo. The alternative
is to start rethinking it.

Truer words were never written.

(As a side note, this  post also prompted my thinking on the subject).

Continue reading

Coffee is Still Good for You….

From the link, more conversation about the good and bad of coffee. What I like in the article:

    It reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease, colon cancer, gallstones, and liver cancer.

The downside to coffee:

    It can cause anxiety, jitters, and heart palpitations, although numerous studies have found         no link between caffeine and cardiovascular disease.

At my age, here’s what I think: I don’t need coffee to be anxious, get the jitters, or have my heart palpitate. That happens naturally, many times every day. That’s life. Colon and liver cancer are death.

Give me the Grande’ of the French Roast, a little room for cream. And, yeah, use the same cup!

The Informed Reader – WSJ.com : Too Much Coffee?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Continue reading

Real Heroes

Via Arts & Letters Daily , a little known story of real heroism from a different time. A taste:

Beijing’s capture, imprisonment, and eventual release of CIA officers
John T. Downey and Richard G. Fecteau is an amazing story that too few
know about today. Shot down over Communist China on their first
operational mission in 1952, these young men spent the next two decades
imprisoned, often in solitary confinement, while their government
officially denied they were CIA officers. Fecteau was released in 1971,
Downey in 1973. They came home to an America vastly different from the
place they had left, but both adjusted surprisingly well and continue
to live full lives.

Read the whole thing and reflect on the courage and tenacity of these two men.

Continue reading