Considerettes

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"Warning: first examination of Considerettes suggests an excess of rational thought goes into that blog."
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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Are we making progress in Iraq? Streiff at Redstate displays the map for all to see of the areas that were under Iraqi police control starting in January '05 and continuing through July '05, January '06 and up to August 23rd '06. The area just keeps getting bigger and bigger. As Bush has said before, as they stand up, we'll stand down, and that's precisely what's being done. We're training them, we're helping out with the hotspots, and preparing them to hold their own.

We're still not going to be out of there anytime soon. Gen. George W. Casey Jr. says, "In 12 to 18 months Coalition presence will be decided by the Iraqi government." But it will be their decision to make. No one's saying that the insurgency will be over and done with, but Iraq will be dealing with it themselves. We'll still probably maintain a presence there (as we do in quite a number of countries around the world). But we will have accomplished the mission of giving control of Iraq to the Iraqis. A republic, if they can keep it.



More religious openness in China? Could be happening.
A Christian author has been permitted to sign his books at a press conference at the Beijing International Book Fair, a first, according to Chinese officials.

"This is the first time in the history of China that an international religious leader has been permitted to sign copies of his book in a large public secular venue," said Shen Weiping of the China Association for International Friendly Contact.

The signing was by evangelist Luis Palau, whose book, "Riverside Talks: A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian," was released Wednesday at a Beijing news conference cut short when the crowd of journalists, photographers and television crews rushed the stage to get autographed copies and interview the authors.

It's the first time such a book has been issued in China, according to Craig Chastain of the Luis Palau Association, because it has a clear statement of the beliefs of Christianity and a description of how to become a Christian.

There were 500 copies of the book prepared for the book fair, but they were snatched up immediately.

I suppose this could be considered propaganda, but considering the description of the book, I kinda doubt it.
Palau wrote the book with Zhao Qizheng, the vice chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and former minister of information for the People's Republic of China.

As he used the book, Palau also used the press attention to explain what is meant when Christians say they follow Jesus or have peace with God.

"I believe with my whole heart that God loves China. I believe He has a special message for China and wants nothing more than to share His love with the entire nation," Palau said.

Zhao told reporters that the book – as well as his friendship with Palau – models how two people with different ideologies and backgrounds can have a dialogue and be friends.

The book was started several years ago when Zhao suggested a project to build bridges and mutual understanding, and the two held a series of face-to-face conversations.

Tapes of those meetings were turned into book form.

The project, the authors said, is a dialogue, not a debate between opposing perspectives – an atheist and a theist, a scientist and a Christian evangelist, a Marxist scholar and a religious scholar, a leader from the East and a leader from the West.

They exchanged ideas and beliefs on ethics, politics, atheism, Confucianism, Chinese and Western cultures, the Bible, religion, history, creation, philosophy and the relevance of Jesus Christ to society.

A book that describes a discussion of the Christian faith with a member of the Chinese government is certainly a big step forward. Yes, they apparently cover a wide range of topics, and perhaps the Christian message of saving from sin is spread thin among all the other information. However, it sounds like it presents the Christian perspective on a number of other relevant topics, something that many Chinese may not otherwise get exposed to. It could break down the disinformation they may have heard. This is certainly a good first step.

Hopefully also, a good first step toward the end of the persecution of Christian in that country.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Joseph Farah, on why the recent ruling requiring the condoning of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality in California institutions that get government money is a big deal.
I don't want to overstate this, but this is the end of religious freedom in the biggest state in the union.

The only alternative left for Christians and Jews and people of other faiths in California is quite literally to drop out. That means homeschooling. It means creating new institutions that won't touch any public funding - even when it is as tenuous as one student accepting a state grant. When you submit yourself or your institution to government regulation in California now, you tacitly accept the official state religion of paganism.

And don't think it will end here. It never does.

When more people choose to drop out, as they inevitably will, the coercive state will find new creative ways to come after them as well.

Just ask German homeschoolers. Yes, Farah's editorials are generally overheated, but this time I think he's really on to something. How far of a stretch is it, really, to imagine a law that makes this sort of coercion required for any business or institution simply operating in California, regardless of whether it gets state money? Not that much, in my mind.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sam's Club has brought back "Christmas".



It's now illegal in California schools to criticize homosexuality.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has tossed out all sexual moral conduct codes at colleges, private and Christian schools, daycare centers and other facilities throughout his state, if the institutions have any students who get state assistance.

The governor yesterday signed a bill that would require all businesses and groups receiving state funding -- even if it's a state grant for a student -- to condone homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.

Note the phrase I bolded. Not only does this affect state-run schools, but it affects any private institution that has students who get state education grant money.
There is no exception for faith-based organizations or business owners with sincerely held religious convictions, critics note.

Gov. Arnold has essentially forced private institutions to either teach what they don't believe, or refuse students who get money from the state and who may not be able to otherwise afford those institutions (and possibly cause those institutions to scale back or go out of business). The state is now forcing a particular social curriculum, to the financial detriment of those who disagree with the state's position.

If this is what a "moderate" Republican looks like, I'll stick with those further to the right, thankyouverymuch. I applauded Schwarzenegger for actually stepping up to the plate and doing something about what he believed--running for office--when other Hollywood types just had photo ops for causes. I still think he's head and shoulders above the rest, but I think he's way out of the mainstream from the public. This is simply a bad law.

If you wonder why more and more folks choose to homeschool, there's you're answer. You're not forced to immerse your kids in an institution that is diametrically opposed to what you believe.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)



"Future Imperfect" This sounds like the title of a bad sci-fi flick, and the following sounds like an overused plot--on the run from government compulsion--but it's happening today in Germany. They don't trust their citizens to do what's best for their childrens' education, even the highly qualified ones.
Hamburg- A German couple who are determined to educate their six children entirely at home have fled the city of Hamburg after the father, Andre R, 44, was jailed for a week for refusing to enrol his offspring in a public school. The R family are evangelical Christians who believe that public schools are a bad moral influence on children. Father R has a university degree in teaching, so he thought he could teach his five daughters and one son their reading, writing and arithmetic at home.

But the couple have hit a brick wall with German school authorities, who say they will apply the full power of the state until the R family yields to compulsory-education laws.

In February, Andre R and wife Frauke, 39, were hauled into court and fined 840 euros (1,090 dollars) for defying education laws. This month, five police showed up at the family's rented, suburban row- house and hauled Andre R off to the Hamburg city prison.

Andre R refused to give in, so after a week among murderers and drug dealers, he was released and the authorities tried a new tack.

Officials last week began fetching the children each morning from the R home and taking them to school. Custody of the children is to taken away from the parents and the children will become wards of the state.

On Monday, no one answered when officials came knocking at the door of the R home.

Armin Eckermann, president of the German Home-Schooling Association, who is advising the family, said, "They have left Hamburg." He declined further details.

I fully understand a government that insists that children be educated, but this is over the top. In Germany, there is only one way this will be done and that is by the state. There is no place for the parent in the equation. Where does this governmental attitude come from? Hint: Not from smaller-government, more-personal-freedom conservatives. More and more central control of things like education leads to this sort of incredible action on the part of a government that insists it knows better. It's the nanny-state taken to its logical result.

I was asked in a previous post on the subject at Stones Cry Out, by a German citizen, what these parents have to fear from a government education. The thing is, the people aren't trying to stop the government from doing something, it's the government trying to enforce these onerous rules, so the question should instead be put to it. Or perhaps more accurately, it should be put to the citizens who have voted for the politicians that implemented these laws. What do they have to fear? It was also pointed out to me that there were Christian schools ("overlooked by the state", according to the writer). All well and good, but not all can afford that. But that begs the question; does the state really not trust its own citizens enough to allow even a university-trained teacher to teach his own children?

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)


Monday, August 28, 2006

Blog Upgrade Update: Now that I have all my Blogger posts imported into WordPress, I'm doing what we call in the computer biz a parallel test. I'm posting the same thing in both environments to keep the WP blog up-to-date as well as learn any of its quirks and make sure the tool I typically use for blogging (w.bloggar, who's website seems to be MIA) will still work with WP and how it'll works with it. I'm adding categories to each new post, so the category list will be populated with a few things when I go live (but I'm not going back through the previous 1,829 posts to do that; they'll just have to stay Uncategorized).

Lots of fun!



Looks like the Plame game may have gotten started by a little innocent chit-chat by a moderate in the Bush administration, not someone with an axe to grind.
[Richard] Armitage's central role as the primary source on Plame is detailed for the first time in "Hubris," which recounts the leak case and the inside battles at the CIA and White House in the run-up to the war. The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with colleagues, friends and lawyers directly involved in the case, underscore one of the ironies of the Plame investigation: that the initial leak, seized on by administration critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent, came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone.

Indeed, Armitage was a member of the administration's small moderate wing. Along with his boss and good friend, Powell, he had deep misgivings about President George W. Bush's march to war. A barrel-chested Vietnam vet who had volunteered for combat, Armitage at times expressed disdain for Dick Cheney and other administration war hawks who had never served in the military.

Betcha' no one's going to ask for Armitage to be "frog marched" out of the White House. That's because this whole issue has been nothing but a hope for a full-blown scandal. But the fireworks never went off because there was no powder in them.



While they may talk big about wanting a time table to get troops out of Iraq, Democratic politicians are campaigning in the opposite direction.
Most Democratic candidates in competitive congressional races are opposed to setting a timetable for pulling US troops out of Iraq, rejecting pressure from liberal activists to demand a quick end to the three-year-old military conflict.

Of the 59 Democrats in hotly contested House and Senate races, a majority agree with the Bush administration that it would be unwise to set a specific schedule for troop withdrawal, and only a few are calling for substantial troop reductions to begin this year, according to a Washington Post survey of the campaigns.

The large number of Democrats opposed to a strict timeline for ending the military operations runs contrary to the assertion by President Bush and top Republicans that Democrats want to ``cut and run" amid mounting casualties and signs of civil war. At the same time, the decision by many Democrats to refrain from advocating a specific plan for withdrawal complicates their leaders' efforts to convince voters that they offer a new direction for the increasingly unpopular war.

The assertion by Republicans that Democrats want to "cut and run" is consistent with the rhetoric the Dems have been laying out. They elevated John Murtha to media darling. They agreed with timetables in press conferences. So Bush's assertion fits the Democrats' public pronouncements.

What it doesn't agree with is how the Democrats act, regarding their voting almost unanimously against the Hunter Amendment which was a virtual copy of the Murtha plan, and regarding how they're now campaigning. When this group says one thing and does another, it's inevitable that any criticism will wind up missing the mark with either the words or the actions. But that's not Bush's fault. The fault lies with the Democrats, who are pandering to both sides of the issue. They're not sitting on the fence, they're trying to stand firmly on both sides.

However, as their actions show, they realize that, generally, the American public does not want to leave Iraq until the job's done. So, to appease both the public and the increasingly powerful left-wing groups within the party, they're talking out of both sides of their collective mouths. You can't trust the words.



A very interesting article by Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times on how religion, specifically Protestant Christianity, and more specifically the typical social events, is making folks fat. I can attest to the fact that much of the article's observations are right on, and it's something really worth thinking about.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Happy 7th Birthday, Blogger! I've been with them for 4.5 of those years.

(OK, and I'm planning on leaving them soon.)



The stifling of dissent, Democrat-style.
...[T]his week in one of the boldest moves yet by a sitting liberal, Democrat California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez proclaimed, "The real purpose of SB 1437 is to outlaw traditional perspectives on marriage and family in the state school system."

He continued, "The way you correct a wrong (perspective) is by outlawing. 'Cause if you don't outlaw it, then people's biases tend to take over and dominate the perspective and the point of view."

Nunez's solution to the people he disagrees with is to outlaw their ability to disagree with him.

And Nunez's viewpoint is one that pervades liberals in his party and in the nation. That is why Nunez and his fellow Democrats in the California State Assembly voted in unison to pass four bills that are all designed to punish people who disagree with them. To incarcerate someone for daring to criticize a different point of view over a purely behavioral issue.

The bills in question have passed both houses and await Gov. Schwarzenegger's signature or veto. The bills were unanimously embraced by the Democrats and universally denounced by the Republicans.

Read the whole thing for the details on those four bills. In summary, they are designed to promote homosexuality as a lifestyle in the schools (in rather graphic detail), and to punish anyone who dares speak against it.

Some have said that it's just a matter of time before the public accepts homosexual marriage. Perhaps not. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before it's fully forced on the public, and the public loses its will to fight.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)



Blog Upgrade Update: Things are moving along nicely. I've settled on WordPress, I've settled on a theme (Tiga), and I've got the theme working. I had a big problem in customizing it until I made a small change to the files. (Geek Speek: The theme has a special page it adds to WordPress theme administration where you fill in values for the stylesheet, which it then uses in the dynamic stylesheet style.php. Problem was that style.php was calling PHP's output buffering routines, and for some reason, possibly related to my hosting system, nothing at all would come out. Thus, my page had no styles at all. I commented out the buffering calls, and voila. I'll probably do what the theme author suggests and, once I have my layout pretty much set, run style.php, save the output as style.css, and then use that for the style sheet. Static pages, of course, respond faster than program output, and I have noticed that sometimes the program is too slow and again no style it output.)

WordPress has an option to require you to register (just nickname & e-mail) before you can post comments, and as annoying as I know that can be, I also know how much spam is a problem, even with countermeasures. (I've been the main spam handler at Stones Cry Out.) At the start, I'm going to make registration optional; anyone will be able to post as long as they enter a name and e-mail. Your first post will be automatically moderated, but once you have an approved post, you'll be able to post unmoderated (well, depending on content, of course) as long as you use the same e-mail address. I've added a plug-in to allow you to subscribed to comments to a post (you'll get an e-mail when they come in), so if you're really interested in a topic, you can keep up with what other folks are saying.

You'll still be able to register, and that'll bypass (I think) the first-post-moderation step. It'll also remove the requirement to put your name and e-mail address in every time you want to comment. And you'll have a leg up if the spammers force me to the step of requiring registration.

Don't worry about remembering all this, because I'll give a full description of it again once the new format starts. We're getting there!


Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's about time, but at least it's happening
The U.S. "catch-and-release" immigration policy has ended, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today.

Law enforcement authorities are holding nearly all non-Mexican illegal immigrants caught in the U.S. until they can be deported to their home countries, Chertoff declared.

The new "catch and detain" policy, he noted, does not apply to Mexicans, who are to be sent back immediately after being stopped by Border Patrol agents.

"Although we're not ready to declare victory – we've got a lot more work to do – it is encouraging and it is something that ought to inspire us to continue to push forward," Chertoff told reporters.

This has certainly been one of the major issues conservatives have had with the Bush administration. If they follow through with this, it's a great step in the right direction.



While you slept last night, the solar system lost a planet.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is - and isn't - a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Will Mickey Mouse's dog have to be renamed "Neptune"?



Israel gets it.
Israel is carefully watching the world's reaction to Iran's continued refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, with some high-level officials arguing it is now clear that when it comes to stopping Iran, Israel "may have to go it alone," The Jerusalem Post has learned.

One senior source said on Tuesday that Iran "flipped the world the bird" by not responding positively to the Western incentive plan to stop uranium enrichment. He expressed frustration that the Russians and Chinese were already saying that Iran's offer of a "new formula" and willingness to enter "serious negotiations" was an opening to keep on talking.

"The Iranians know the world will do nothing," he said. "This is similar to the world's attempts to appease Hitler in the 1930s - they are trying to feed the beast."

He said there was a need to understand that "when push comes to shove," Israel would have to be prepared to "slow down" the Iranian nuclear threat by itself.

The world will stand by and wring its hands and talk about doing something. But Israel knows two thing; one, that Iran can't be trusted, and two, if Iran gets a nuke, Israel is most likely their first target.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Now that legal experts have been able to go over the recent ruling on the constitutionality of the NSA wiretaps, they're not impressed, even the ones that don't like the wiretaps.
Even legal experts who agreed with a federal judge's conclusion on Thursday that a National Security Agency surveillance program is unlawful were distancing themselves from the decision's reasoning and rhetoric yesterday.

They said the opinion overlooked important precedents, failed to engage the government's major arguments, used circular reasoning, substituted passion for analysis and did not even offer the best reasons for its own conclusions.

This from a Carter appointee. The results of a single presidential election can have ramifications long after he leaves office.
Discomfort with the quality of the decision is almost universal, said Howard J. Bashman, a Pennsylvania lawyer whose Web log provides comprehensive and nonpartisan reports on legal developments.

"It does appear," Mr. Bashman said, "that folks on all sides of the spectrum, both those who support it and those who oppose it, say the decision is not strongly grounded in legal authority."

The main problems, scholars sympathetic to the decision's bottom line said, is that the judge, Anna Diggs Taylor, relied on novel and questionable constitutional arguments when more straightforward statutory ones were available.

Much like other liberal judges who rule based on, say, emanations and penumbras, rather than the text. The "living document" way of looking at law and the Constitution has brought us decisions that legal experts from both sides of the aisle can't defend.

And if I may toot my own horn for just a bit, this point...
She ruled, for instance, that the program, which eavesdrops without court permission on international communications of people in the United States, violated the First Amendment because it might have chilled the speech of people who feared they might have been monitored.

That ruling is “rather innovative” and “not a particularly good argument,” Jack Balkin, a law professor at Yale who believes the program is illegal, wrote on his Web log.

...sounds very much like my initial critique that her explanation made wearing a wire to a mob meeting unconstitutional. I am not a lawyer and still I managed to pick this up. This says nothing about my legal knowledge, frankly, but speaks volumes against this poor ruling.

Critics of the wiretapping also don't understand why Judge Taylor's ruling didn't take into account some of the more obvious legal issues, like the FISA court law. Even supporters of the program could tick off lists of precedents that could have been used.
Supporters of the program, disclosed by The New York Times in December, suggested that Judge Taylor’s opinion was as good a way to lose as any.

“It’s hard to exaggerate how bad it is,” said John R. Schmidt, a Justice Department official in the Clinton administration who says the program is legal. He pointed to Judge Taylor’s failure to cite what he called several pertinent decisions, including one from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review in 2002 that said it took for granted that Congress “could not encroach on the president’s constitutional power” to conduct warrantless surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence.

Predictably, the ACLU will take the worst ruling and frame it as wisdom from Solomon.
Anthony Romero, the executive director of the A.C.L.U., said Judge Taylor’s decision represented vindication of established limits on the scope of executive authority.

“Ultimately,” Mr. Romero said, “any doubts about the decision will be taken up on appeal by sitting federal judges rather than pundits or commentators.”

No, the doubts will most likely stick around. According to Prof. Cass Sunstein, a rather liberal law professor at the University of Chicago, the case, while he thinks it will ultimately be won by the plaintiffs, won't be won because of anything Judge Taylor said.
“The chances that the Bush program will be upheld are not none, but slim,” Professor Sunstein said. “The chances that this judge’s analysis will be adopted are also slim.”


(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)


Monday, August 21, 2006

Well, that didn't take long.
JERUSALEM – Hezbollah has returned to many of its strongholds in south Lebanon and is capable of launching another round of attacks against the Jewish state, Israeli and Lebanese officials tell WorldNetDaily.

The statements follow scores of reports Iran and Syria are attempting to rearm Hezbollah one week after a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon went into effect following 34 days of confrontations that began when Lebanese militia ambushed an Israeli patrol unit, kidnapping two soldiers and killing eight others.

"Hezbollah has undoubtedly returned to their positions," Walid Jumblatt, Lebanon's Druze leader and head of the country's Progressive Socialist Party, told WND. "They were victorious against Israel and now they are regrouping for another round, which is inevitable."

Looks like Thomas Sowell will be shown to be right, as calling for a cease-fire is doing nothing but giving Hizbollah time to rearm for the next strike.



Dr. Roy Spencer at TCS Daily asks "How Green is Your Church?" and hits points about global warming and the different way that Christians can react to it that we've covered here before. But I wanted to highlight his concluding paragraphs.
Bjorn Lomborg, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, assembled a panel of experts in economics who were charged with determining -- given a fixed amount of money to be dedicated to improving the human conditions -- what actions give the biggest returns for the least money. The result was the "Copenhagen Consensus", with over a dozen policy approaches prioritized in terms of bang-for-the-buck. Fighting climate change was at the bottom of the list. Fighting malaria, AIDS, provision of clean water and other sanitation measures were a few that were at or near the top of the list.

As has often been the case where economics and policy intersect, good intentions are not enough. The lesson for the church is, while it is one thing to agree to "help the world's poor", it is another thing entirely to determine how to best spend limited financial resources. Unless we examine the consequences of our charitable efforts, it is entirely possible to inadvertently make matters worse, rather than better.


Friday, August 18, 2006

I'm considering a big change to the blog. I had an issue with the Blogger template the other day when I went to add the 9/11 memorial graphic to the sidebar. The editing web page didn't load the whole template HTML into its editing window, and when I saved it I lost a bunch of the template, including the part that showed the posts!

Did I have a backup? I'm ashamed to say "No", and I may have to turn in my technogeek credentials. Fortunately, Google cache is my friend. I got a copy of what the page looked like before, and with that and some help from Blogger help pages got it all back up and running. (Though the Site Meter stats have been unusually low since then. Not sure if that's related, but I think it probably is. Not sure why.)

Anyway, I've been wanting to either use a new Blogger layout (the one I use has long since disappears from the predefined templates Blogger lets you choose from) or go to another system. I kinda like the idea of a system that publishes static pages, so that if I move to yet another blogging system I just keep the old pages, not all the old software and its database that generates the the pages on the fly. However, most (all?) of the new software out there, and the one in particular I've really enjoyed messing around with (WordPress) are on-the-fly solutions. And especially if I want to have comments without using an external service, on-the-fly is the only way to go.

I've also wanted to buy a domain name to make the URL for the blog easier to remember, and thought that I'd do both at the same time, but that's not a top requirement.

As I said, I'm really liking WordPress, of what I've heard of the 5 possible blog software solutions that my hosting software supports. It has loads of themes and plugins to work with, and I've been working on importing all my Blogger posts into it so that you can search all the archives from just WordPress. I've made sure that all my custom sidebar stuff can be moved over, and there are some nice themes. Comments would become a part of the blog, because I've wanted to be able to hear from y'all. I've enjoyed (and, yes, sometimes dreaded) comments to posts at Stones Cry Out, where I'm a contributor, and I'd like to try that here. Might make for more return visits, eh? >grin<

Anyway, just to let you know that you may see some changes coming down the pike. Next week or next month or next year? Hard to say, but I'd place my bet as between the latter two timeframes.



North Korea is going to test a nuclear bomb?
There is new evidence that North Korea may be preparing for an underground test of a nuclear bomb, U.S. officials told ABC News.

"It is the view of the intelligence community that a test is a real possibility," said a senior State Department official.

A senior military official told ABC News that a U.S. intelligence agency has recently observed "suspicious vehicle movement" at a suspected North Korean test site.

The activity includes the unloading of large reels of cable outside P'unggye-yok, an underground facility in northeast North Korea. Cables can be used in nuclear testing to connect an underground test site to outside observation equipment. The intelligence was brought to the attention of the White House last week.

Even before this most recent intelligence, there has been growing concern within the U.S. government that North Korea has been moving toward a nuclear test. North Korea is believed to have enough nuclear material to build as many as a dozen nuclear bombs, but it has never tested one. A successful test would remove any doubt that North Korea is a nuclear power.

But I thought Jimmy Carter gave them all sorts of aid so this wouldn't happen! Do you mean that this is one dictator we couldn't trust?

Who would have thought?



A recent court ruling claims that, while a religious display might not be unconstitutional in and of itself, if too many religious people get near it, it becomes unconstitutional.
The ruling from the Fifth Court of Appeals said the display of a Bible on public ground in Houston to honor the founder of a mission has to go, not because it was unconstitutional itself, but because it became unconstitutional when a Christian group rallied around it.

The pastor's group said that means any monument, building, or even feature of nature is an illegal "establishment of religion" if a church ceremony is held there.

"Connecting the dots between the eminent domain case, which says all of your churches are up for grabs if a town wants a mall, secondly you now have been told you do not have constitutional rights in the public square," Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors Conference, told WorldNetDaily.

"Any kind of an event is okay, as long as you didn't express any religious faith. What is that telling you?

...

Welch told WND that the court's conclusion was "ludicrous" and if followed logically, could mean that a religious rally at any public building would therefore make the building unconstitutional so it would have to be removed.

The Bible was installed on county property about five decades ago in honor of William Mosher, the founder of Star of Hope Mission, and was replaced in 1996 with donated funds. However, an atheist challenged the monument, and on an appeal from the District Court decision that the Bible was unconstitutional, the appeals court carried the argument further.

Its ruling said that the monument became an unconstitutional "establishment" after a 2003 rally was held by Christians to defend the display. That rally involved prayers and clergy, the court noted.

"The ramifications of this tortured decision are breath-taking and without any historic or legitimate Constitutional rationale," said the pastors' organization. "For the court to state that if a private citizen exercises his or her First Amendment rights of religious expression and assembly on public property, that any monument, building or fixed item of any kind that contains religious references becomes 'establishment of religion' is simply irrational."

Even if you don't think that such predicted persecution "followed logically" from such a ruling, the ruling itself is awful. It's certainly one that, if it stays in force on appeal, makes the constitutionality of any sort of religious display, even in a religious context, subject to the whims of judges. Is that what the First Amendment means by "free exercise" of religion?

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)



So much for disarmament.
Hezbollah will retain its weapons in southern Lebanon but its members will not bear them in public, according to an agreement reached yesterday after days of talks between Hezbollah representatives and the Lebanese government.

...

The Al Jazeera network yesterday reported Hezbollah's refusal to accept any proposal involving a handover of its weapons to the Lebanese army or to UNIFIL, or allowing the Lebanese army to search its positions. The compromise reached is that Hezbollah would conduct no military activity in the south. There is to be no "show of military arms" by Hezbollah in the south, but only of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL.

Now there's a "compromise"; keep your weapons, but just hide them better. Thank you, UN

Oh, and don't forget a shout-out to France.
United Nations officials scrambled to put together the peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon on Thursday after France sent planning into a tailspin when announcing that it would offer just 200 soldiers.

France had been expected to lead the force with several thousand of its own troops.

And among those outdoing France in the peacekeeping department?
Bangladesh also pledged up to 2,000 troops to be deployed in Lebanon.

Once again, the UN decides that something must be done, but they just don't want to do it, or can't find enough folks to help out. They'll put something together, no doubt, and consider it having done their job. Perhaps we should take France off the Security Council and put Bangladesh in their place.



Great Moments in Journalism (hat tip Best of the Web Today):

Item 1: The NY Times offers a correction.
An article on Tuesday about President Bush’s defense of American policy in the fighting between Israel and Lebanon incorrectly described the planning that led to Mr. Bush’s meetings on Monday at the Pentagon and the State Department. Mr. Bush’s schedule for the day was prepared weeks ahead as part of the annual presidential review meetings; it was not devised last week as part of a White House effort to seek political advantage on national security after Senator Joseph I. Lieberman’s loss in Connecticut’s Democratic primary and news of a disrupted terrorist plot in Britain. (Go to Article)

An honest mistake, I'm sure. Anybody would have assumed nefarious schemes, right?

Item 2: The Associated Press reports on the economy. Headline:
Consumer prices up, factory output slows

Slows? By how much? Paragraph 1 explains.
WASHINGTON - Consumer inflation accelerated in July, reflecting a big jump in gasoline and other energy prices. In evidence that the economy is slowing, industrial output in July slipped to just half the June pace.

Output in July was cut in half from that of June? That's pretty drastic!

The truth finally comes out in paragraph 3.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve reported that output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities increased by 0.4 percent last month, just half of the 0.8 percent gain in June.

So the output has increased in July, the output was not cut in half. What was cut in half was its rate of growth.

Interestingly enough, this is exactly how Democrats frame cuts in the growth rate of budgetary spending as well. If they want to increase a line item by $2 million, and the Republicans only want to raise it by $1 million, Dems wind up on the talk shows talking about a $1 million "cut" the evil Republicans want to impose. There is hardly ever honest discussion about how the budget still is increasing.

Odd that the Democrats and the media use the same terminology, eh?

(Cross-posted at Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)


Thursday, August 17, 2006

I'm a little behind in my podcast listening since having gone on vacation, but I listened to one this evening from the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Father Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, gave a 40 minute talk on "A Civil Society Approach to Welfare" (link is to the mp3 file). It's an absolute must-listen for a Christian considering caring for the poor, the morality of the welfare state, the waste of the federal "solution" to this, and the unintended consequences.

One of the very many good points that Sirico makes is that governmental social services, by their nature, cannot minister to the whole person. The spiritual side is ignored, and in many cases (Sirico suggests that it may be in the majority of cases) there is a deeper moral issue that has caused the poverty. (Most of our own problems, indeed, reflect a personal issue with sin.) The church is the best party to deal with this, but when the government steps in, it siphons off funds that would go to faith-based organizations, and turns many of those organizations into lobbying groups for more welfare instead of groups that actually do anything. Social services that ignore the spiritual nature of man in essence treat him as cattle. When the cows are cold, we put them in the barn. If they're thirsty, we give them something to drink. Nothing wrong with doing that for people, but people aren't cattle. There's a dimension that is ignored by government a thousand miles away (or even government down the street).

This talk is absolutely chock full of great points. I wish there was a transcript that I could post excerpts from, so you'll just have to listen to it. Really. And if you have a podcatcher, pick up their feed.



A federal judge has ruled that the Bush administration's NSA warrantless wiretaps of international calls are unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

A few things in this paragraph bug me. First, when one says she "became the first", the AP implies "of others", because you don't typically refer to the first of something when there is only one of them, or unless you're anticipating more (or trying to give the impression that there will be more). Their bias is showing, and their intent to manipulate public opinion has begun.

Secondly, listening to speech in no way restricts it. It's like saying when a stoolie wears a wire it stifles the free speech of the mob.

Thirdly, there's that elusive general constitutional right to privacy that no one can ever put their finger on. There are some specific privacy rights, but none so general as would prevent people from listening in on conversations or allow the general right of getting an abortion.

Now granted, this is a very preliminary report of the ruling, which just hit the wires. There's certainly more to come, and the description of the ruling at this point may be overgeneralized. In fact, there's no mention in the article about the warrant or FISA issues. And frankly, as I said when this thing first came out, I'm always a bit wary of expanding government power (though when it's a constitutionally-mandated power, I'm less concerned). But if this turns out to be true--that this flimsy ground is what the ruling is built upon--it's worth of appeal.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the U.S. and people in other countries.

Yup, let's make it easier for journalists to do their job, while making it harder for the intelligence agencies to do their's. Now that's prioritization.

Certainly this will be a hot topic in the days to come.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Doing some more catch-up today. This time, the recently "cease-fired" battle in southern Lebanon between Israel and Hizbollah

This particular battle had quite a lot of popular support, from both the Right and the Left, in Israel. Israel's peace movement was essentially silenced as either they didn't speak up and/or they agreed with the premise. This was also noted on the Radio Open Source program of 7/31, in a show highlighting Israeli reactions. How the battle was prosecuted certainly has its critics, but hardly anyone disagreed with the justness of it.

And who can we at least partially thank for the necessity of it? Why the UN, of course. While their "peacekeeper" were flying their flag along with Hizbollah's, Iran and Syria were rearming these terrorists (Hizbollah, not the UN). Israel tried to make this a quick and effective battle by sending in special forces to take out enemy positions early, but what they ran into were more and better bunkers than they'd known about. Hizbollah was showering Israel with far more rockets than they were thought to have. Much of this digging in and rearming occurred during the 2 years that UN 1559, the resolution saying that Hizbollah must be disarmed, was in force. Guess this august body was quite sure of what needed to be done, but no one was willing to do it. (Until Israel started the job. Then, of course, the UN balked.)

I wonder if Israel will now have 2 years to abide by the UN resolution calling for a cease-fire. No, in fact Kofi Annan wanted the fighting to stop before the appointed hour in the resolution.

As I noted earlier, Thomas Sowell said that there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else, and that doesn't seem to have solved the Arab-Israeli issue. I don't think this one will either. Here are some of the pros and cons of this:

Pros:
  • Civilian deaths will stop: Well, Lebanese civilian deaths will stop, which is a good thing in and of itself. I really don't think that this cease-fire will stop Israeli civilian deaths, especially since it was Hizbollah that started the shooting. Letting them continue on to fight another day just delays when that begins again.
  • Israel forced the UN to actually do something about UN 1559: The United Nations sat on its collective hands for 2 years, allowing and hardly discussing the violating of an international border by Hizbollah. Is this the way to prevent war, by allowing one side to attack and kidnap? Is this they way to achieve fairness, by only passing resolutions when the other side defends itself? But in any event, the cease-fire will allow forces to come in and hopefully start the job of enforcement that should have been started 24 months ago.

Cons:
  • Hizbollah lives to fight another day: We are going to see further Israeli casualties in the future. It's simply a matter of when. This new resolution, 1701 (not a Star Trek reference, for those that may get it), also calls for the disarming of Hizbollah. Think it'll happen? I'm not talking about whether Hizbollah gives up some of it's rockets, I'm talking about disarming. No, I don't think will. Instead, they'll give up their older tech in likely anticipation of getting longer-range missiles from Syria and Iran, while the UN "peacekeepers" mill about.
  • Hizbollah is legitimized: The UN is treating like a country. According to Andy McCarthy at National Review, the resolution...
    doesn't purport to direct any UN member nation to make Hezbollah cease firing least of all Lebanon, the purported sovereign of this territory. Instead, it appeals to Hezbollah directly in the same paragraph in which it addresses Israel, as if there were no difference in status between the two and "calls on" it to stand down.

  • The resolution has no teeth: It was not passed with what's known as Chapter 7 provisions, so the international force can't actually do anything if Hizbollah starts shooting at Israel again. As Michael Rubin puts it (also on National Review), the force thus becomes so much "decoration". Hizbollah doesn't even have to return the kidnapped soldiers, the flashpoint of this battle.
  • Instability in Israel: If just one more rocket is launched from southern Lebanon or one more attack made, the Olmert administration is done for. While the cease-fire is ostensibly insured by the UN, it'll be Olmert that pays the price if it fails.
  • Israel is essentially punished for properly leaving Lebanon: As they say, no good deed goes unpunished, at least in the Middle East. Click here for a list of the sacrifices made and costs incurred by Israel in the one year since moving out of Gaza and portions of the West Bank. Note also the thanks they got in return from the Palestinians.

And, as ScrappleFace notes, if cease-fires work so well, how about we call a cease-fire in the war on terror, eh? Think Osama will abide by it?

(Other notable reactions to the cease-fire are at Captain's Quarters and Power Line.)

Overall, I think Israel got a raw deal. They may have made some gains against Hizbollah, but not enough to ensure their security. Thank you, United Nations.

The media have been an interesting part of this conflict. They come out with a number of black eyes, especially regarding photography (or as Glenn Reynolds has referred to it as, "fauxtography"). As noted by my blogger-in-law Jim, and heavily documented at "EU Referendum", the video and photos coming in from the front have been manipulated, either intentionally or not. The fact that this happened, as far as I know, exclusively on the Hizbollah/Lebanese side of the equation make the press look like patsies, full of bias, or both. (It doesn't say much for the Arabs, either, when you'd be hard-pressed to find nearly the same attempts at manipulation by civilians on the Israeli side.)

This hasn't been solely a pictorial issue. CNN International coverage of the conflict was highlighted by a report that minimized Israeli deaths while reporting heavily on Lebanese ones, and inferring that Israelis would intentionally target civilians, among other things. The foreign media in general covered Beirut extensively, but virtually ignored Haifa. They've called Israeli leaflets asking civilians to leave a soon-to-be-attacked area "propaganda", ignored bad news for Hizbollah, reported their own opinion in news, and ignored dissention against Hizbollah in Lebanon.

As I've noted before, typically, your political persuasion can generally predict who you side with in Arab-Israeli conflicts. It shouldn't be that way, given a clear reading of history, but it generally does. Conservatives tend to side with Israel, liberals with the Arabs. Now, given the leanings of the press in the coverage, it further adds credibility to the charge that they have a liberal bias. Just another of a long line of such lists of evidence.

To be honest, I've found myself on CNN as often as FoxNews in the recent weeks, mostly because I wanted current news rather than analysis or opinion, and Anderson Cooper was doing more of that than Bill O'Reilly or Greta van Susteren. While you can point to some reports and programs that were balanced, when you look at those that could be considered biased for one side of the other, and when you see which side that bias almost always falls, the press, once again, falls into the camp that conservatives have always said it would.

But those that deny such a bias will also hand-wave away such evidence as well. That I expect, but find increasingly amazing.

So in summary:
  • Israel: Short term win, medium term up in the air (thank you, UN), long term loss.
  • Hizbollah: Short term loss, medium term win.
  • United Nations: All term loss (toothless, cowardly; needs to visit the Wizard of Oz).
  • The Media: Loss. Again. Not really news, so to speak.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Playing a little catch-up after 2 weeks in the Great Smoky Mountains. (Loved it; camped out and went whitewater rafting, among other things, with the family.)

As I mentioned in my one mid-vacation post, the terrorist airline bombing plot that was foiled is a testament to the Bush administration's approach to the problem vs. Kerry's proposed "law enforcement" approach. Law enforcement relies on the penalty for breaking the law being a deterrent. It doesn't handle suicidal maniacs very well.

The Wall St. Journal put it this way:
Let's emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.

Some have shot back (see the comments to this post from World Magazine's blog) that the issue is legality, making it sound like they'd have no issue whatsoever if the NSA wiretapping and the SWIFT program, both of which the NY Times exposed, would be hunky-dory with them if only they were legal. Problem is, the NSA program hasn't been shown to be illegal and the SWIFT program was patently legal (even the Times admitted that). And it is possible that some of the intercepts were international calls to the US (ABC News' "The Blotter" blog notes that the FBI is following up on domestic leads). I don't buy this appeal to legality since all is assumed to be wrong if done by a Republican.

And I'm pretty confident in that generalization, as reported by PoliPundit.
"Regardless of how you voted in the presidential election, would you say you want President Bush to succeed or not?"
Democrats: No, 51%

And with this success in the war on terror, you'd think this would be good news, but, again, not for Democrats. (The WSJ again...)
And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success. Harry Reid, who's bidding to run the Senate as Majority Leader, saw it as one more opportunity to insist that "the Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists."

If the terror plot had been successful, you no doubt could've hear the exact same rhetoric coming from Reid. It's nothing but a talking point to try and make political hay out of a success viewed as a failure. (Is this what Democrats mean by "reframing" the debate?)
Ted Kennedy chimed in that "it is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win." Mr. Kennedy somehow overlooked that the foiled plan was nearly identical to the "Bojinka" plot led by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995. Did the Clinton Administration's "misguided policies" invite that plot?

And I would add; what is it we need to do to make ourselves more liked by Islamic fascists, and do we really even want to consider it? We are not hated primarily because of policy or politics; we're hated because we're not Muslims. France has bent over backwards to avoid offending Muslims, and they got riots anyway. Indonesia's huge Muslim population and Muslim preference didn't stop the Bali bombings. And the 9/11 attacks had most of their planning period spent under the Clinton administration. They didn't start hating us and planning our demise once Dubya sat down in the Oval Office.

This is a textbook case of playing politics with people's lives. It's time for Democrats to take a deep breath and determine what's best for the country instead of just their own political careers. It's time for the man on the street to see this rhetoric for what it is. And it's time for the far left to take a reality check, step back from the Bush Derangement Syndrome they're suffering from, and take an honest look at the world. If not--if the Democrats continue to be pulled to the left by vitriol and dishonesty--I don't see how they expect this to win them more votes in November.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)



Today's Odd "Considerettes" Search Phrase - i literally will tear you and this project into political shreds. (#2 on Ask.com)


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Quick on-vacation post due to the serious news this morning. I'm extremely thankful to the Britain's MI5 for uncovering and thwarting this huge plot to blow up 9 or more international airliners. I'm extremely thankful to the British public that their Home Secretary credited with helping uncover it. I understand that a number of neighborhood residents, at least in the High Wycombe area, alerted the authorities when they saw suspicious activity.

Counter-terrorism is everybody's business, not just the governments. The government can't be your primary wall of security; you must be. Also, this highlights how incredibly wrong John Kerry's assertion was that terrorism is primarily a law enforcement issue. Law enforcement comes after the law has been broken, not before. I'd rather the CIA and MI5 be on the terrorism case, not the FBI or Scotland Yard. Law enforcement is critical backup for intelligence, but we need to be more proactive in this effort. President Bush has come under fire for taking proactive steps in the war on Islamo-fascism. Perhaps we should be thanking him, instead.