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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Lincoln Mayor Coleen Seng

Mayor Coleen Seng (D) has a guest column on the opinion pages of today's Lincoln Journal Star. She is not directly involved in Tuesday's election, but it is in a real sense a referendum on her policies and her leadership. The council is closely divided by party with Republicans holding a 4-3 edge. The three seats up for grabs could widen that edge to 5-2, maintain the status quo, or reverse it to 4-3 for the Democrats. Two of the three seats were held by Republicans, and the GOP is guaranteed to win at least one of the three.

Mayor Seng writes:
"I meet regularly with Lincoln residents in their homes all over the city. I encourage them to invite their neighbors so I can hear directly from the people. The common themes I hear resonate as strongly today as they have for decades. High quality of life, good jobs, desirable neighborhoods, strong schools and a safe, clean, vibrant community.

Together, we can do so much to achieve our dreams. But lately, it seems bold ideas are met with cynicism and pessimism. For example, the critics met John Q. Hammons' proposal to build a new hotel with suspicion and antagonism -- until he did not submit a bid. Then, suddenly, they questioned why he changed his mind.

Some of this can be attributed to a very negative campaign season, which brings out the worst in those who insist on seeing the glass half empty. Naysayers do not help find solutions. In my experience, it is not the Lincoln way of doing things. I do not want suspicion or negative attitudes to turn investment away from Lincoln. I spoke to Hammons to encourage him to continue investing in Lincoln. He assured me he remains interested in Lincoln. He will look at alternative sites and continue exploring a possible public-private partnership on a new convention center."
This strikes us as more than a little whiny. The problem is Mayor Seng's idea of "bold ideas" is "public-private partnership" and a $75 million bond issue for "improving" non-essential streets and trails.

The "public-private partnership" apparently means using the power of the city and tax money for direct aid to private development. She proposed using eminent domain to force unwilling owners to sell their land to the city so that the city could sell it to Mr. Hammons. Of course this only makes sense if Mr. Hammons would pay less than if he buys it directly himself. So either the owners would receive less than true value for their property, or the city would be subsidizing the project with tax money, or both.

This proposal created a political firestorm that led to the council unanimously rejecting the use of eminent domain for the project. The mayor actually withdrew the eminent domain clause herself before the vote, when it became obvious how unpopular it was. Still, she doesn't seem to grasp why this blew up in her face.

Our conclusion as to why Mr. Hammons changed his mind about the hotel project is that without the subsidies it didn't make economic sense. Are we supposed to be disappointed about that? If Mayor Seng is upset that people reacted to the original proposal with "suspicion and antagonism," she would do well to consider how her own actions caused that reaction. If Mr. Hammons is upset about this, and we have no idea if he is, he should be aware that a completely private proposal for the same project would not have been contoversial at all.

UPDATE: In the comments, Kyle points out that the current makeup of the Lincoln City Council is 4-3 in favor of the Democrats rather than the Republicans as I stated above. I was working from memory on that, so he is most likely correct.

That means that Republicans winning 2 of the 3 seats would maintain the status quo. If both Democrats win, their council majority would shift to 5-2. If the Republicans sweep, it would shift to the council to 4-3 in their favor.

Humpty Dumpty Egged On?

Our recent post about Humpty Dumpty's successful lawsuit in Omaha, Humpty Dumpty Wins Big, prompted this comment from Steve Donohue:
My question has always been: where is it ever said that humpty dumpty is an egg? It doesn't say so in the rhyme, but he's always depicted as such. But I'm happy to hear that, egg or not, he's doing quite well for himself.
Clearly, this is a fertile area of ovology. Indeed, the actor in the Omaha World Herald photographs is clearly oviform, but where is the support for this notion? Moreover, as Mr. Lyons says, "The question is: Did he fall or was he pushed? And who was behind the Grassy Knoll?" To deal with these questions ab ovo we return to Mother Goose herself:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses, and all the king's men,
Couldn't put Humpty together again.
The illustration in our Mother Goose volume suggests he is ovularian. However, there's nothing in the original text to suggest any oviod nature to Mr. Dumpty at all.

You may recall that Lewis Carroll's Alice encountered Mr. Dumpty in her journey Through the Looking Glass. So let's go ask Alice:
"HOWEVER, the egg only got larger and larger, and more and more human: when she had come within a few yards of it, she saw that it had eyes and a nose and mouth; and, when she had come close to it, she saw clearly that it was HUMPTY DUMPTY himself. `It can't be anybody else!' she said to herself. `I'm as certain of it, as if his name were written all over his face!'

It might have been written a hundred times, easily, on that enormous face. Humpty Dumpty was sitting, with his legs crossed like a Turk, on the top of a high wall -- such a narrow one that Alice quite wondered how he could keep his balance -- and, as his eyes were steadily fixed in the opposite direction, and he didn't take the least notice of her, she thought he must be a stuffed figure, after all.

`And how exactly like an egg he is!' she said aloud, standing with her hands ready to catch him, for she was every moment expecting him to fall.

`It's very provoking,' Humpty Dumpty said after a long silence, looking away from Alice as he spoke, `to be called an egg -- very!'

`I said you looked like an egg, Sir,' Alice gently explained. `And some eggs are very pretty, you know,' she added, hoping to turn her remark into a sort of compliment."
So, according to Alice, Humpty Dumpty looks quite ovularian, but is insulted by allusions to this. It's not clear what sort of descriptor he would prefer, "ovo-hominid" perhaps?

But can we rely on Alice's report? The Mother Goose account predates Alice by several hundred years. How can Dumpty have survived all that time? Even if we assume ovo-hominids to have much longer lifespans than humans, there is the issue of his "great fall." It certainly seems to be a fatal accident from the Goose account.

As it turns out, there are alternate theories which assert that Mr. Dumpty was not even a sentient creature:
Phonological Awareness: "Humpty Dumpty was not an egg at all; nor was he an English king as people frequently believe. Humpty Dumpty was the nickname for a huge wooden battering ram built for the army of King Charles I in the mid-1600s to roll down a slope, across the River Severn, and up against the walls of Gloucester. During England's Civil War Gloucester was held by Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads. While Charles' army was busy building the 'Humpty Dumpty' the Roundheads were secretly widening the river. Thus Humpty Dumpty was wrecked in midstream, 'had a great fall', and toppled into the water, drowning hundreds of soldiers--and there was nothing all the king's men could do about it."
Another site and its readers provide some support for this theory, along with several other explanations. The siege engine story was the most popular, but we also get:
Rooney Design: "'Humpty Dumpty' was street talk for a short, clumsy person with scrambled brains. Today we'd call Mr. Dumpty a nerd, a dork, a geek, an egghead or something equally unflattering. It's not easy being oval.

On September 5, 1997, Scott Begg wrote: A good number of years ago, I ran across another interpretation for the Nursery Rhyme 'Humpty Dumpty,' and I wonder what is thought of it... 'Humpty Dumpty' referred to King Richard III, the hunchbacked monarch. At the Battle of Bosworth Field, he fell from his steed, a horse he had named 'Wall' (as dramatically rendered in Shakespeare's play 'Richard III:' 'A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a Horse!') Richard was surrounded by enemy troops in the battle, and was butchered right there, his body being hacked to pieces. Hence the final part of the rhyme: 'All the King's Horses and All the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again!'

[...]On January 29, 2001, Jerry Bell wrote: May as well put my 2 cents in. Humpty Dumpty was explained to me as the fall of the Roman Empire. Of course I heard this in my Latin class :)

[...]On June 27, 2001, Kevin Stryker wrote: Most scholars believe that Humpty Dumpty refers to Richard III and his fall in the last battle of Bosworth. The 'wall' Humpty was sitting on though was probably not his horse but a pun, often used in riddles. The 'wall' is a play on words with the word meaning 'welsh' or 'foreigner.' This is the same 'wal' that in 'walnut' (a welsh or foreign nut) and 'Cornwallis.' Richard III was counting on (hence sitting on) Sir William Stanley and other foreigners in the battle but was deserted, and his troops couldn't protect him from death.

[...]On March 18, 2002, Angela Patanio wrote: I can tell you what Humpty Dumpty really means. It was the fall of King Louis of France right before Napoleon took over.

[...]On April 27, 2004, David Duncan wrote: I think it's about an alcoholic who everyone is trying to change. But all the King's horses and all the King's men refers to his friends and family."
So we have our pick of non-ovularian explanations. One last site offers this explanation Humpty Dumpty:
"History: From the East Anglia Tourist Board in England:
'Humpty Dumpty was a powerful cannon during the English Civil War (1642-49). It was mounted on top of the St Mary's at the Wall Church in Colchester defending the city against siege in the summer of 1648. (Although Colchester was a Parliamentarian stronghold, it had been captured by the Royalists and they held it for 11 weeks.) The church tower was hit by the enemy and the top of the tower was blown off, sending 'Humpty' tumbling to the ground. Naturally the King's men* tried to mend him but in vain.' * NB: The 'men' would have been infantry, and 'horses' the cavalry troops."

Toads Exploding in Germany

Why are they doing it?
Birds May Be Behind Exploding German Toads - Yahoo! News: "BERLIN - Why are toads puffing up and spontaneously exploding in northern Europe? It began in a posh German neighborhood and has spread across the border into Denmark. It's left onlookers baffled, but one German scientist studying the splattered amphibian remains now has a theory: Hungry crows may be pecking out their livers.

'The crows are clever,' said Frank Mutschmann, a Berlin veterinarian who collected and tested specimens at the Hamburg pond. 'They learn quickly from watching other crows how to get the livers.'

So far, more than 1,000 toad corpses have been found at a pond in Hamburg and in Denmark. But the pond water in Hamburg has been tested, and its quality is no better or worse than elsewhere in the city. The remains have been checked for a virus or bacteria, but none has been found."
Of course the crow angle is just one theory at this point. Rumors of some toads croaking, "Allah akbar," just before exploding have not been confirmed.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Negative Ads

There is currently a kerfuffle about the use of "negative ads" targeting the two Democratic candidates in the city council race. The state Republican party has been running ads to defeat Democratic incumbent, Terry Werner, and newcomer Dan Martin. Some local Republicans have denounced the ads against Marvin, which deal with his co-chairing the mayor's committe that proposed the $75 million bond issue for "streets and trails" that was soundly thumped in the fall.

That turkey was not entirely his fault. Although Marvin is hardly blameless, the mayor, the other members of the commision and the council deserve their fair share of blame as well. The measure consisted of non-urgent street widenings at the edges of town and expansions to the city's extensive network of biking/hiking trails--something for everyone to oppose. A special election was held for the bond issue just before the November, 2004, election, evidently hoping that low turnout would assure passage. Voters, having recently shot down two proposals in the same calendar year to raise taxes for city schools were not impressed.

Republican incumbent, Ken Svoboda says anti-Werner ads are factual:
Lincoln Journal Star Online: "'We wasted an awful lot of time on the Patriot Act and death penalty,' Svoboda said of Werner's leadership as council chairman."
Indeed. Mr. Werner clearly has the politician's love of the sound of his own voice. Why in the world would the Lincoln city council need to have hearings and debates on the PATRIOT Act? Death penalty a big issue for the city? Nope. These were just issues that Mr. Werner feels strongly about, and so it was necessary for the rest of us to receive the full benefit of his wisdom. Perhaps next term Mr. Werner and the council can debate US foreign policy.
Councilman Glenn Friendt (whose seat is up for grabs Tuesday, and who is not running again) appears in a TV ad accusing Werner of opposing the council's decision to begin reciting The Pledge of Allegiance prior to their weekly meetings. The decision came one week after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Svoboda said Werner had a problem with the pledge's promise of 'liberty and justice for all' and characterization of the United States as 'one nation, under God.'Werner vehemently denies he opposed saying the pledge.

'That's just crazy,' he said. 'We voted unanimously to say it.

'Council meeting minutes do not reflect discussion about the pledge, or a vote, but a 2001 Journal Star story said Werner expressed reservations, saying he didn't oppose the pledge but said it might feed a nationalistic frenzy that doesn't question America.

And in a 2003 letter to the editor, Werner said he questioned whether the pledge should be said because he questions whether the city of Lincoln truly provides 'liberty and justice for all.'

Werner said he didn't, and doesn't, oppose saying the pledge before each meeting.'

I've never said a word about 'under God,' ' he said. 'That's a lie.'"
We've seen this ad, and it comes across as silly. With all the solid reasons to oppose Werner, why focus on The Pledge of Allegiance? However, the letter to the editor questioning whether Lincoln provides 'liberty and justice for all' is typical Werner.

One could also note his baseless accusations of racism against Svoboda and Friendt, followed by whining about the lack of bipartisan cooperation on the council. What might be the problem there? Calling your co-workers racists has always been an excellent way to foster trust and teamwork.

There are his actions as council chairman spearheading the smoking ban in all public places (which was also supported by Svoboda). When amendments began to carve out exceptions, Werner began whining that the ban was hardly worth passing in such watered down form. Suddenly a total ban was passed, then rescinded and a version with no exemptions added to the November ballot.

We don't smoke and don't like being around it, but we believe it's up to the owners of private property to decide what their customers want. The ban was sold as a "health issue" because of the vastly overstated "dangers" of second-hand smoke. This scare campaign was successful, and the "no-exception" version passed by a large majority.

The ban's lack of any exemption for theatrical performances has made Lincoln a national laughing stock for writing a ticket for comedian Ron White's on-stage smoking. Keno revenue for the city is also drastically down since the ban, as smokers take their business outside the city.

Although Lincoln is more liberal than Nebraska as a whole, Mr. Werner is way to the left of liberal.

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham
Conservative talkradio hostess, Laura Ingraham, has been out all week this week due to surgery for breast cancer. We have missed her on our morning drive to work (1290AM, KKAR, the former KOIL to others with long memories), and we hope to have her back safe and sound soon.

Updates on her condition are being posted on her site, but there are no permanent links to them, so here is the current report:
LAURA UPDATE, DAY 4: Great news yesterday from the pathology report that was done on Laura's tumor and lymph nodes after her breast cancer surgery on Tuesday. Her lymph nodes were NEGATIVE, her HER-2 test was negative (a good thing), and her tumor was estrogen/hormone receptive (good thing). The tumor was 9 millimeters in diameter. The one bummer is that she needs to go back for another surgery next week because the dye they used showed some cancer cells remaining "outside the margin" of the tissue Dr. Katherine Alley excised during the first surgery. So, Dr. Alley will go back in and "clean the margins" a few more millimeters around the original tumor and that should be that. Laura is meeting soon with her oncologist Dr. Fred Smith to begin mapping out her post-op cancer treatment (radiation schedule, etc.). "Chemo could really cramp my style so I am hoping that is not necessary!" Laura laughed. "That could really mess up my highlights! Although, then again, it could save me money on salon waxing bills." "Botton-line," said Laura, "I am feeling better every day--your calls, emails, best wishes, and more than anything your prayers have made all the difference in keeping my spirits up. You remind me every day that I am too blessed and have too much to say and do to check out any time soon!"
She insists there is no way she will put off her wedding plans (set for June), even if she has to "get married in an open MRI machine."

Always the compassionate liberals, the Moonbats of the Democratic Underground board are cheering for an early death. Michelle Malkin has lots more on this.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Bear With Us

Lincoln Journal Star Online: "Dear Mr. Sportsknowitall:
The department of Wildlife and Fisheries advises American golfers to take extra precautions against bears while playing in Wyoming and Montana national forests. What's up?--Big Dog.

Rangers advise golfers to carry pepper spray and wear noise makers, such as little bells. And remember, rangers advise to learn the difference between the droppings of black bears and grizzly bears. Black bear droppings are smaller and have remnants of berries and ingredients of pic-a-nic baskets. Grizzly bear droppings are larger and have bells in them and smell like pepper spray."

Humpty Dumpty Wins Big

From the Omaha World-Herald (link only good for a few weeks) comes this: "A special mock trial in the case of Humpty Dumpty resulted in $300,000 for the damaged egg.

The mock trial, sponsored by Omaha Bar Association, was conducted Wednesday at the Hruska Federal Courthouse for 120 fourth-graders from Omaha's Dundee Elementary and Brownell-Talbot schools.

The jury of 12 students awarded the imaginary character $300,000 for a fall at a fictional Mr. King's auto dealership.

Actors from the Omaha Theater for Young People played the parts of Humpty Dumpty and the witnesses."[emphasis added]
There you have it: The stupidity of the American legal system in a nut eggshell.

Perhaps in the next act they could portray the employees of Mr. King's auto dealership losing their jobs, while Dumpty's attorney shops for a new Mercedes at another dealer.

Lincoln City Council Race

Last month we reported the results of the primary election for three Lincoln City Council seats. We were disappointed in the sparse turnout, just 19.3%, with contentious issues at stake and plenty of red ink in the budget. Oddly enough, that beat the Omaha primary turnout by 3 points.

Next Tuesday is the general election with incumbents Terry Werner (D) and Ken Svoboda (R) vying with Dan Marvin (D), Shawn Traudt (R), Robin Eschliman (R), and Mark Koller (R) for three at-large spots. Each voter can cast votes for up to 3 of the 6 candidates. Ironically, the strong Republican showing in the primary (they got 60% of the votes cast and 4 of the 6 spots) may work against them in the next round. Straight ticket voters on the Republican side must leave off one Republican, while their Democratic counterparts can vote for both Democrats.

Differentiating the candidates can be tough, as they all want to be centrists/moderates in the eyes of the public. A proposal was floated last week to spend millions of dollars that are not available to build an arena, and all six candidates had the same basic position. You could summarize them all as: interesting idea, but we'll have to think of where we would get the money. One can parse the nuances of their quotes to try to divine who is really thinking, "There's no freakin' way we can pay for this even if we wanted to," and who is thinking, "Well, we could raise taxes on ..."

Fortunately, as reported in the Lincoln Journal Star, a local neighborhood association, the Neighborhood Alliance, has graded the candidates. Besides proving that "non-partisan" is not the same as "non-ideological," the survey also provides a valuable measure of the candidates based on their responses to a questionaire:
While the Neighborhood Alliance doesn't endorse candidates, it hopes voters will take a look at its grades when they go to the polls next week. The group took pains to explain it is nonpartisan and used an unbiased process to develop the report card, but the only two candidates who earned As were the two Democratic candidates, Terry Werner and Dan Marvin.
Details of the questions and the candidates answers were not available, but:
"We think that fixing sidewalks is not a Democratic or Republican issue," said Michael Cornelius, another board member of the Neighborhood Alliance.

However, the questionnaire went well beyond sidewalks.

It awarded points based on support for everything from creating neighborhood police substations to burying power lines, adopting design standards, clamping down on dilapidated buildings and junked cars, downzoning neighborhoods and banning upholstered furniture on porches.

Candidates were also asked several questions about how much developers should pay for growth.

They were dinged if they didn't support existing impact fees and an expansion of impact fees for power, schools, fire and police protection. The city of Lincoln began charging impact fees in 2003 to help pay for infrastructure costs associated with new development.

Candidates were also rewarded points if they agreed new development should pay "a significant share" of initial infrastructure and school, fire and police services to the development.
The results were telling:
  • Terry Werner(D): A
  • Dan Marvin(D): A
  • Shawn Traudt(R): B
  • Ken Svoboda(R): C
  • Robin Eschliman(R): C
  • Mark Koller(R): D
We are pleased to say that we voted for Mr. Koller in the first round, and our faith in him is clearly justified. He has definitely earned our vote for next Tuesday. Ms. Eschliman continues to build on her strong showing in the primary, and Mr. Svoboda again shows why he is such a formidable candidate.

We congratulate and thank the Neighborhood Alliance for producing such a useful tool. It's a welcome break from the normal routine, wherein Terry Werner alternately trumpets that he's proud to run on his record and cries, "dirty politics," when his record is actually presented to the voters by the Republicans.

UPDATE: Gunscribe also has a post on the election on his blog, From the Heartland.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Separation of Church and State II

As we know, the Founding Fathers erected a Wall of Separation Between Church and State, assuring forever that there would be absolutely no mixing of religion and politics whatsoever in anywayshapeorform, nosirreebob. The Founders knew that once you let God out of the closet, it's a slippery slope to a theocracy, where God is everywhere: on public buildings; in the Congress; in the Courts; and even in the Whitehouse, itself.

Unfortunately, despite the critical importance of maintaining this Wall, inexplicably the phrase "separation of church and state" is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. A similar glaring omission occurred in recording the Sacred Right to Filibuster (the 14th commandment).

Because of this oversight there are loopholes in the law that allow religous zealots to jeopardize religious freedom by exercising it. It would be bad enough if they engaged in this behavior in private, but many of them insist on exposing themselves to others who are uncomfortable with this.

Don't Ask Don't Tell may be the law of the land for these wierdos, but there are clear lines that mustn't be crossed under any circumstances. Because it is sometimes hard to discern what behaviors are permitted and which are forbidden, we offer this helpful table to our readers.

Forbidden Behavior
Permitted Behavior
Republican Senator giving speech in a church
Democratic presidential candidates making campaign appearances in southern Black churches
Born Again President Bush
Born Again President Carter
Christian ministers and priests advocating a vote for one candidate over another
Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson running for president
Allowing faith to inform your views in opposition to abortion
Allowing faith to inform your views in favor of taxing "the rich"
Rev. Jerry Falwell speaking out on issues with conservative views
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking out on issues
Catholic priests protesting abortion
Catholic priests protesting the Vietnam War
Display of religous symbols or verses in public
Elimination of all religious expression in public
President Bush praying for guidance and wisdom
President Clinton seeking out Rev. Jesse Jackson for "spirtual advice"
Christians urging elected officials to codify their views of morality into laws via legislation
Judges codifying their views of morality into laws by decree.

Should you observe any of the dangerous, forbidden behaviors, report it at once to the ACLU or another office of the Democratic Party. Activities in the Permitted Behavior column are nothing to worry about.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Not Race or Racism, But Culture

We first became aware of Thomas Sowell in the 1980s, when he was a regular part of the discussion period at the end of each episode of "Free to Choose," Milton Friedman's award-winning series about economics on PBS. He was PhD economist, an excellent advocate of free markets, quick in a debate, tough-minded, and black. He and fellow economist, Walter Williams. used to joke that they had to be sure they never both rode on the same planes. Today they are both regular columnists at, two of many reasons to visit that site.

In Tuesday's edition of the free OpinionJournal site from The Wall Street Journal, Sowell again tackles the question of the root cause of differences in outcomes among racial groups:
"For most of the history of this country, differences between the black and the white population--whether in income, IQ, crime rates, or whatever--have been attributed to either race or racism. For much of the first half of the 20th century, these differences were attributed to race--that is, to an assumption that blacks just did not have it in their genes to do as well as white people. The tide began to turn in the second half of the 20th century, when the assumption developed that black-white differences were due to racism on the part of whites.

Three decades of my own research lead me to believe that neither of those explanations will stand up under scrutiny of the facts. As one small example, a study published last year indicated that most of the black alumni of Harvard were from either the West Indies or Africa, or were the children of West Indian or African immigrants. These people are the same race as American blacks, who greatly outnumber either or both.

If this disparity is not due to race, it is equally hard to explain by racism. To a racist, one black is pretty much the same as another. But, even if a racist somehow let his racism stop at the water's edge, how could he tell which student was the son or daughter of someone born in the West Indies or in Africa, especially since their American-born offspring probably do not even have a foreign accent?

What then could explain such large disparities in demographic 'representation' among these three groups of blacks? Perhaps they have different patterns of behavior and different cultures and values behind their behavior."
The common theme of those who are unsuccessful, whatever their race, is what Sowell calls "redneck culture," which is characterized by low achievement (and expectations) in education and economics, out of wedlock births, and single parent households. This culture was shared by people of all races. It came over from England and predated slavery.
"While a third of the white population of the U.S. lived within the redneck culture, more than 90% of the black population did. Although that culture eroded away over the generations, it did so at different rates in different places and among different people. It eroded away much faster in Britain than in the U.S. and somewhat faster among Southern whites than among Southern blacks, who had fewer opportunities for education or for the rewards that came with escape from that counterproductive culture."
Unfortunately, the "redneck culture" is the dominant culture in the black ghettos, and it is viewed by some as the only "authentic" black, American culture. Thus those trying to escape from the trap must also deal with being accused of "acting white."

Read the rest.

Best of Abe at Plains Feeder

PTG at Plains Feeder is taking a break from blogging while on vacation. To keep the herd fed while he's away, we are re-running some posts from DLMSY as a sort of "Best of Abe Revue" over there. It's rough commuting all the way to Omaha everyday, but anything to help a friend.

The latest installment is "Strongmen and Strong Language." This was one of the first posts on Don't Let Me Stop You, and it remains a personal favorite. However, since the blog was brand new, practically no one else saw it at the time.

If you are one of those few people who have not yet read the entire DLMSY archives, you should definitely check this out.

Monday, April 25, 2005

It's Official: I'm Out of It

Ryne McClaren writes about the new book "South Park Conservatives:"
South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias.

I haven't yet read the book, and from the looks of my 'to read' shelf, I probably won't get to it any time soon. But I have followed the whole 'South Park Conservative' discussion that started way back when we were all talking about 'South Park Republicans,' and I was definitely interested in the theory behind it."
I was feeling fairly up to date, since I had heard the term a full two weeks ago from Grizzly Mama. Just to complete my education, though, I followed Ryan's link to Tech Central Station - South Park Republicans from 2002.

War with China?

Last week's Best of Homespun includes a link to The Redhunter's piece on the possibility of war with China:
"In an earlier post called 'The Looming Threat', I wrote that China would likely attack Taiwan sometime 'before 2015'. In light of better information, I am revising my estimate to say that if there is a war it will occur sometime between 2008 and 2010.

I've changed my time estimate because of two factors; first, additional research has let me to conclude that the military 'window of opportunity' for the Chinese will start to close in 2008, and second I have given more thought to the meaning of the 2008 Olympic Games, which will be held in the Chinese capital of Beijing."
It's a well thought-out piece, so go and read it while we wait.

OK. Welcome back. We certainly agree that the possibility of a PRC attack on Taiwan should not be discounted, particularly if Peking believes the US would shrink from intervention for any reason. We must do all we can to make sure China is not tempted to attack Taiwan. Fortunately, last fall the Bush administration made a clear, unhedged statement of our committment to help defend Taiwan, while John Kerry urged a return to "ambiguity" in our policy. Lack of ambiguity should help assure we don't have to choose between abandoning a friend, Taiwan, and war with China.

There are a couple of other "straws in the wind" to consider. The US military is now revamping itself to fight guerilla/terrorist enemies, and China would be quite a different, more traditional enemy in war. We are also aiming to be able to fight in multiple, small scale conflicts at the same time. These trends could embolden China into aggression, if we appear weak or preoccupied. Fortunately, as The Redhunter discusses, need to cross the sea makes a direct invasion of Taiwan by China unlikely. So sea and air defenses are the key, and the US (and Taiwan) will have a technological edge for some time.

Domestic politics in China is the other wildcard. Market-oriented, freedom-based economic policies have created a dyanmic economy and rising expectations. There are expectations of increasing wealth, but inevitably the fruits of this growth are not and will not be distributed equally. Unequal results create friction even in the USA, let alone a country ruled by communist ideology for generations.

Economic freedom also feeds desires for more political freedom, desires that endanger the positions of those in control. If the political system also moves towards greater openness, the risk of a Chinese attack on Taiwan will decrease. In fact this path could lead to peaceful reunification further down the road. On the other hand, if the ruling elite feels endangered by calls for open politics, the risk of military aggression will be greater.

As a model for scrapping a communist system and moving to something that works, the Chinese approach has clearly been better than the Russian path. Taiwan itself is an example of an authoritarian government, which embraced economic freedom before political freedom. After a sustained period of strong economic gains, the political system also adapted to freedom. Let's hope that China will ultimately follow Taiwan's path to democratic pluralism.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Aremenian Genocide

Ninety years ago today, April 24, 1915, the Turkish government ordered the arrest of over 2300 Armenian political and community leaders. This date is officially commemorated as the start of the Turkish genocide that all but wiped out Turkey's Armenian population.

An article in The American Thinker (HT: Little Green Footballs) brings out a facet of those events that we had not previously been aware of, namely the jihad aspect. The Armenians were Christian dhimmis, living under Muslim "protection" (i.e. subjugation) after being conquered. There was pressure from Europe to grant full rights to the Armenians, so of course they had to be killed in the name of Islam.
"The Ottoman Turkish destruction of the Armenian people, beginning in the late 19th and intensifying in the early 20th century, was a genocide, and jihad ideology contributed significantly to this decades long human liquidation process. These facts are now beyond dispute. Milan Kundera, the Czech author, has written that man's struggle against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. [50] In The Banality of Indifference, Yair Auron [51] reminds us of the importance of this struggle:
Recognition of the Armenian genocide on the part of the entire international community, including Turkey (or perhaps first and foremost Turkey), is therefore a demand of the first order. Understanding and remembering the tragic past is an essential condition, even if not sufficient in and of itself, to preventing the repetition of such acts in the future...
Yet ninety years after the events of April 24, 1915, the Turkish government persists in its denials of the Armenian genocide, abetted by a well-endowed network of unsavory political and pseudo-academic sycophants operating with the imprimatur of morphing geostrategic rationales--formerly, "Turkey as a bulwark against Communism," and now, "Turkey as a bulwark against radical Islam." This leeway afforded Turkey is both illogical and morally indefensible. West Germany was arguably a much more direct and important ally against the Soviet Communist bloc, while each successive post-World War II West German administration, from Adenauer through Kohl, made Holocaust denial a punishable crime. Moreover, there is burgeoning evidence, available almost daily, that both Turkey's government under the Muslim ideologue Erdogan(see here as well) and large swaths of the Turkish media and intelligentsia (see, "Turkish Media Project") hardly qualify as "bulwarks against radical Islam." Indeed, Turkey's contemporary Islamic "revival" is of particular relevance to the tragic events that transpired between 1894 and the end of World War I, because the Armenian genocide was in large measure a jihad genocide. But most importantly, there is a compelling moral imperative which transcends the flimsy geopolitical considerations used to rationalize and sustain Turkey's ongoing campaign of genocide denial. Professor Deborah Lipstadt,�the renowned Holocaust scholar, and author of Denying the Holocaust,� and History on Trial (which recounts her crushing defeat of Nazi-sympathizer David Irving's "libel" suit), in conjunction with twelve other leading genocide scholars, elucidated the corrosive immorality of genocide denial in this 1996 statement:
Denial of genocide--whether that of the Turks against the Armenians or the Nazis against the Jews--is not an act of historical reinterpretation. Rather, it sows confusion by appearing to be engaged in a genuine scholarly effort. Those who deny genocide always dismiss the abundance of documents and testimony as contrived or coerced, or as forgeries and falsehoods. Free speech does not guarantee the deniers the right to be treated as the "other" side of a legitimate debate when there is no credible "other side;" nor does it guarantee the deniers space in the classroom or curriculum, or in any other forum. Genocide denial is an insidious form of intellectual and moral degradation..."
Turkey continues to deny that it perpetrated genocide, but the denials are not the least bit credible.

The full article goes into considerable detail on the jihad aspects of the killings, including eyewitness reports. Considering that hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children were brutally killed in the name of Allah, you may want to read the rest of the story.

Microsoft for Bloggers

Here's a very humorous take on the new "MSN Spaces" software from Wuzzadem at Blogging With Clippy (HT: Sobek Pundit). This promises to do for blogging what Word has done for suicide notes.

Pope Benedict in Wonderland

Although we are not Catholic, the story of the papal succession is fascinating. First we had the long-anticipated death of John Paul II, followed by a look back in admiration at all that he accomplished. After Joseph Ratzinger was chosen to be Benedict XVI, there was predictable outrage from those who want the church to only preach what the people want to hear.

Ryne McClaren has some links to those who think a brief, compuslory stint in the Hitler Youth at age 14 somehow tells us more about the new pope's character than everthing he has done since then. Given the inability of some on the Left to distinguish between Jerry Falwell and Osama bin Laden, perhaps they consider Benedict's "rigid, dogmatic" Catholicism to be indistinguishable from Nazism. These are not hard differences to discern, except for the deliberately, ideologically blind.

In the free, Wall Street Journal site, Daniel Henninger's column this week looks at the real Benedict XVI from Ratzinger's memoir, "Milestones." Henninger writes:
OpinionJournal - Wonder Land: "In that book, Joseph Ratzinger describes how he prefers Augustine to Thomas Aquinas, 'whose crystal-clear logic seemed to me to be too closed in on itself, too impersonal and ready-made.' Anyone familiar with Augustine and Aquinas would at least pause to reflect on this remark from a man characterized in the press as an inquisitor, rottweiler, enforcer. Augustine is the more mystical personality, closer in some ways to the 'new age' impulses of our times. In the writings of Augustine, arguably the most complex mind Christianity has produced, the exercise of deep faith carries with it the possibility of what I would call a 'high' experience in one's pursuit of and relationship to God. That was the Church of the 5th century.

In our time, religion has become freighted with correct politics (the Left) or correct morality (the Right), rather than the substance of one's relationship with God. I get the impression that Joseph Ratzinger--who reveres the early, transcendent Church Fathers (its 'founding fathers')--is at heart more a vibrant 5th-century Christian than a stale 19th-century dogmatist; as conceivably was John Paul II, who often let himself slip into an Upward-directed reverie in public. In short, Benedict XVI looks to be very different from the stolid, authoritarian German described this week in the public prints.

His memoir also gives a more complete understanding of the real source of Cardinal Ratzinger's disputes with his enemies--a battle again penciled in as the dogma cop, bunkered in some Vatican redoubt, giving thumbs up or down on new ideas, according to his whim. In fact, Ratzinger's beef is mainly with the post-Vatican II academic theologians who thought they should be writing, or rewriting, the Church's rulebook based on whatever new theories spun out of their heads--not the bishops, the Pope or even the church faithful. The way the political game is now played, if John Paul and he had opened the door on one reform, say contraception, the whole gang would have roared in behind."
Henninger packs a lot of insight into those three paragraphs, insight into the new pope and into the world around him. The rest of Henninger's article is also well-worth reading.