January 05, 2002

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CROSS-TALK BETWEEN MCJ AND FLYBOTTLE is at the root of why I started blogging in the first place. I'd been scanning InstaPundit, Virginia Postrel, Matt Welch, Ken Layne--the biggies--and I noticed a current of anti-Christian thought running through them. I still like their sites, and their take on most issues is well-reasoned and researched, but when they comment on religion they usually do so from an outsider's perspective and therefore, um, don't really know what they're talking about.

Will Wilkinson wants to know what Christianity has given to world, questioning whether it has achieved anything other than the Inquisition. Well for starters, Will, the entire concept of equality comes straight from scripture. From Paul, we learn that in Christ's eyes, there is "neither Jew nor Greek (meaning Gentile), male nor female." Powerful stuff, especially from a 1st Century teacher. From Jesus, we learn that faith and government shouldn't be bound together ("render unto Caesar what it Caesar's, and unto God what is God's"). We learn to care for widows and orphans, to value people more than possessions, and to love your neighbor as yourself. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we learn to take risks to help others in need, even if there's no real payoff for ourselves. And we learn to be honest with ourselves, honest with others and honest with God.

Christians haven't been perfect, but please pull off your blinders and imagine the past 2000 years without the influence of Christianity. No justice other than the whims of kings, no equality of any kind between the ruler and the ruled, between men and women, and among the races. Sure, we might have eventually gotten there without Christianity (I doubt it, but it's possible). But we wouldn't be where we are now.
Posted by B. Preston at 07:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2002

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IT'S A SMALL WAR AFTER ALL: The apparent denoument of the Indo-Pak crisis has brought to mind something that I had been wanting to write about for a few days, but as the say goes "You snooze, you lose," and Jonah Goldberg beat me to it. It's about nukes and how, while they're undoubtedly the most horrific weapons around, they serve the useful purpose of deterrence. One big reason that the Cold War never became a true mano-a-mano hot war is that the US and USSR had nukes. We'd proven we would use them when we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we believed the Soviets would use them if they saw some purpose to. That's also what kept Iraq from gassing our troops during Desert Storm--the Bush 41 administration had warned Saddam that such a move would precipitate the end of Iraq via a few big ones. Our nukes, and our conventional forces stationed in the region, also keep China from just going ahead and swallowing Taiwan. India and Pakistan, who don't much like each other and who have fought a few wars, are both armed with nukes. Strategically, India's numerical advantage in conventional forces and the fact that Pakistan had been deploying its best troops along the Afghan border virtually guaranteed an Indian victory in a purely conventional war. But Pakistan's nukes made India think twice about a full-scale invasion, lest their gigantic tank force get vaporized as it rumbled toward Islamabad. This is reflected in Indian statements that they would survive a nuclear conflict with Pakistan--mere survival is not much of a rallying cry, but probably would constitute victory if your enemy lauches 30 or so nuclear missiles at you and you have twice as many to launch at him. The presence of nukes in both countries made a full-scale war unappealing to both sides, and that seems to be one of the catalysts for the cooling of tensions we're seeing now.

In other words, peace through strength, Reagan's vision of how the world works, is vindicated yet again. We miss you, Gipper, but I suspect your true successor is at the helm now.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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SO I LOG IN TO CHECK MY STATS TONIGHT, to find that they're a bit higher than usual. It can't be that bit about peeing in Buchanan's corn flakes (written while I was eating my morning cereal, oddly), can't be the thing about Darwin fishes. It must be the link from Midwest Conservative Journal. A big thanks to Christopher Johnson, its blogger-in-chief. You spiked my ratings, and you've got a great blog. I've returned the favor...

AT SOME POINT TODAY, I was checking out some blog or other and ran across a little line about a news report calling the nutbags in Pakistan the "religious right," arguing that Musharraf would have to rein in his "religious right" to keep the peace with India. I was incensed, but I was also at work and therefore unable to launch full-tilt into a rant on the language the media uses to describe the various players in a story. Now that I'm home, the kid is asleep and I have the luxury of time, I can't find the dang story. I was all set to live up to the junk yard blog name, set my teeth into a reporter's leg and gnaw it off, but I don't know which reporter to pounce on. Man I hate that.

But, in a general sense, I'll say that the use of "religious right" in that context was no accident. Most readers are already aware of this, but it bears some explanation. Nothing the media puts out is by accident. Nothing. Every picture, every word, every voice inflection, every tone and nuance, is the product of choice. I know because I worked in news radio, and in military news radio and tv, and now produce products for tv, for a living. Even in the meat-and-potatoes world of the daily news grind, print, radio, whatever, the reporter, the producer, the news director, the editor, all get their say. The end result is a story that reflects the worldview of those participating in its production. In the case of the term "religious right," that was a conscious effort on the part of at least one person, and probably more than one, to tar the American religious right through guilt by association.

Does it have an effect? You bet. Back in 1992 or so, Russian President Boris Yeltsin faced what was probably his greatest non health-related or drinking-binge crisis in office. The Communists were attempting to kick him out and retake the Kremlin, and there was that big showdown at the so-called Russian White House. I always thought it odd that Russia suddenly had a White House, but that's not the point I'm driving at. Our esteemed media, Dan, Tom, Peter, the lot of them, kept referring to the Communist insurrectionists as "conservatives." I'm not making this up--they really did. I was a little radio news guy at the time, and I kept thinking that someone, somewhere, who was not the sharpest tool in the drawer, was likely to mistake what the media called a conservative (in actuality a Communist--the antithesis of American conservatives) for the American cut-from-the-Reagan mold conservative. It happened. A friend of mine worked at a graphic design shop, and he was a fairly vocal conservative. Like most graphic design shops, his was staffed mostly with lib arty types, and several of them started acting more odd than usual. Finally one day, in the midst of the Yeltsin defense of Russia, one of my friend's co-workers started shouting at him, calling him a conservative and a Communist in the same breath. My friend replied that you can't be both--you're either a conservative or you're a Communist. The accuser then fired back something like "Well what about those conservatives in Russa? They're trying to overthrow Yeltsin to bring Communism back." Honest, that's what the guy said, and from the reactions around the room, the rest of those clueless libs were thinking the same thing.

So, in the present circumstances, calling the radical Pakistanis who are itching for a war with India the "religious right" is an intentional smear of Christians in this country, just as calling Communists "conservatives" was back in Yeltsin's day. Language is a powerful weapon, especially when used by skilled writers.

UPDATE: The offender is Douglas Jehl, of the New York Times (surprise).
Posted by B. Preston at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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USAMA'S BONKERS, AND WE NOW KNOW WHY, according to the UPI rumor mill Here's the story:

At last we can explain why Osama bin Laden is crazy. It's his eye makeup. Professor Roger D Masters, who runs the Dartmouth Foundation for Neuroscience and Society, directed a major research project for the U.S. government's Environmental Protection Agency on the social dangers of lead poisoning. In an unusually assertive claim, Masters concluded: "High blood lead at age 7 predicts juvenile delinquency and adult crime." Cut to a posting on the Daily University Science News Web site UniSci by Dr. Karl Simanonok, a space physiologist: "When I managed the blood lab at a northern California clinic for the poor, Pakistani children were often found to be contaminated with lead from the black makeup called 'kohl' that their mothers applied around their eyes. Middle Eastern mothers use it on their boys just as much as their girls. ... Beside the fact that many Arab cultures have a history of prolonged lead exposure through kohl. Lead poisoning should especially be considered a possible factor in recent events because many Arab fighters, including some of the Taliban, traditionally use kohl around their eyes. Some pictures of Osama bin Laden certainly suggest he might be wearing kohl." Of course, may New Yorkers might think another form of lead poisoning would be entirely suitable for Osama bin Laden. ...

Posted by B. Preston at 04:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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ANOTHER REASON TO VIEW OUR FRIENDS, THE SAUDISwith suspicion. They're funding Hamas, the Palestenian group that keeps blowing up Israelis. Nice.
Posted by B. Preston at 08:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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WHO PEED IN PAT BUCHANAN'S corn flakes? His latest tome, "Death of the West," seems tailored to demonstrate that it isn't just the far left that's lost touch with reality since 9-11, but so has the far right (or whatever he is nowadays). This book, well okay I haven't read it, but from reports I have read about it, this book seems to do little more than project current population trends into the future, and from that extrapolate an inevitable future. Problem is, today's trends will not continue unabated. They never do. Remember tamagochi? Remember the age of irony? Remember Maureen Dowd? Trends are, well, trends, and aren't iron paths. Something always comes along to shift the current. Pat knows this, he's just making noise as usual.
Posted by B. Preston at 08:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 02, 2002

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THE ISLAMIC SIDE OF WTC: so says a little write-up in Slate. So to bin Laden, the WTC was like a giant version of those annoying Darwin fishes that are spawning on car bumpers in this part of the world? Whodathunkit?
Posted by B. Preston at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY (MD) RESISTS SCHOOL REFORM, according to this story in the WaPo yesterday. Story goes that the Army is helping to turn a violent, terrible inner-city school into a place that actually educates its students. Discipline, uniforms, drill sergeants jumping on you for misbehaving, the works. A group wants to bring the same type of reform to some of Maryland's worst schools in the suburbs of DC, and resistance comes from the local state senator. Here's a quote that made my head spin:

"Putting a military school in a poor, black community makes it too inviting for these youngsters to go out and volunteer for the military" instead of pursue a college education, said state Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's).

With all due respect, what an idiot. How likely are students in inner city schools to graduate high school, let alone attend college? And on who's dime will they attend? The military is one of the great social equalizers in our society, giving those that can't afford an education a little thing called the GI Bill that pays a good chunk of the cost for them. You can take advantage of the Bill either when you're still in the military or for about ten years after you leave it. And what's so bad about some of these kids getting recruited into the Army, even if they don't want to use the GI Bill? The military offers gainful employment, community service, travel, a broadened perspective on the world, high-tech training that usually translates well into civilian life. Again, what an idiot. Ironic that the state Senator is named after a couple of war heroes himself.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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OREGON DESTROYED COLORADO tonight, 38-16, putting the pressure on Miami and the BCS. Should Miami falter, the BCS will name Nebraska the National Champ, in spite of not even winning its division, let alone its conference. By all rights, Oregon made a convincing showing tonight, and the AP may vote the Ducks the champs should Nebraska win or even should Miami play poorly but squeak out a victory. I hope this happens, because Oregon and Colorado were both deserving of a shot, because I don't particularly like Miami, and because the BCS is idiotic. Slate's Tuesday Morning Qurterback has a nice pre-Fiesta Bowl skewering of the BCS here. The salient paragraph:

...here's the difference between the NFL and the BCS: The Bowl Championship Series designed an incredibly scientifically advanced computer formula able to choose, as No. 2 in the country overall, a team that finished third in its own conference. When you see Nebraska take the field at the Rose Bowl, keep this in mind about computer projections on the economy, global warming, etc.

TMQ, normally about the NFL and usually a reliable lib on political issues, has had a moment of global-warming clarity thanks to the BCS. The BCS can bring such epiphanies outside of football, but continues to muddy the waters inside the game.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 31, 2001

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Well, this is likely my last post for 2001. It's been a wild year, a long strange trip, and nothing like the movie. To the half a hundred or so who pop in each day to see what I'm up to, thanks. It means a lot that someone, anyone, sees and reads what I write and apparently isn't so put off that they wouldn't think of clicking back for more. Drop me a line if you want, even if it's just to call me a moron or suggest that I gather a few facts before posting a rant or forming an opinion, which will then become a rant. To the Linux user who pops in once in a while, tell me who you are and whether or not Linux works for you. I'm a happy Win2k user who will not re-join the Mac cult (I was deprogrammed a couple of years ago), but I don't like much about XP. I animate, surf, write and game on my pc, if that helps. To the Mac users, there is life outside of Apple. Steve Jobs is not the messiah. Bill Gates is not the devil. Get over yourselves. Oddly enough, I like Macs in general. I'm just tired of the, um, attitude of Mac users.

I still owe a post on the whole faith/science thing, being a Christian NASA drone. It's in the works, and will likely be one of my first posts in 2002. Happy New Year, may it bring peace to the good guys and the end of the bad guys, and intimidation to those thinking about becoming bad guys. May Robert Fisk get beaten up by Girl Scouts, and may he blame himself for it. May Ted Rall finally sit down and write The Cartoonist Manifesto. May the left continue to sink further into oblivion, and may Instapundit continue to write 50 posts a day. On a more serious note, may God grant us the grace to find peace in our souls, wisdom to see truth amid the lies, and the courage to do the right thing.
Posted by B. Preston at 04:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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CHINA EXHIBITS its devotion to freedom of religion.
Posted by B. Preston at 01:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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THERE’S A SCENE IN GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA in which a group of Japanese blithely sip away on their lattes at a sidewalk café while, in the background, Godzilla sloshes up the bay and stomps through town, destroying everything in his path. The café sippers keep sipping, Godzilla keeps destroying, until all at once (no doubt on the director’s ham-fisted cue) the sippers suddenly notice the Big Guy. They scream, in unison, and run off-screen in a pattern of fixed random panic.

Since 9-11, the war is Godzilla, tearing up everything in its path (and I think that’s a good thing, since so far only the Taliban, Al Qaeda, UBL, Iraq and a few truly deserving entities seem destined to fall into that path). The café sippers are the professional, leftish punditry, sipping and pontificating, their smug self-important babble preventing them from hearing the rumble in the distance. Suddenly, they scream in unison, realizing that their credibility has somehow fallen into the path of Godzilla. Will they get off-screen in time? I’m cheering for the dai-kaiju, the King of Monsters, to clean them out.

IN OTHER NEWS, I’m glad to see that Alex’s military experience resembles my own. He seems to have stayed in a good deal longer than I did, and he was apparently in various units that had as their duty the actual prosecution of war, or at least supporting units that had that duty. My unit was Air Force Broadcasting, and while we weren’t a fighting unit, that experience afforded me the chance to see a wide cross-section of the military. I was stationed in Tokyo, home to all branches plus the Coast Guard, and spent time working on stories with people ranging from the 18-year-old airman fresh from basic to the commander of US Forces Japan (who, just to name drop a little, was Lt Gen Richard Myers—he’s since put on another star and gotten promoted to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). I deployed with the aircraft carrier USS Independence, with Marines firing shoulder-launched missiles at Camp Fuji, and with the Army on cold weather training in northern Japan. That’s the origin of my opinion that Clinton presided over, and created, a tough span for the military. Stories abounded of crews whose job was to use TOW anti-tank missiles in combat, yet less than a quarter had ever fired a live TOW thanks to budget cuts. I can tell you from personal experience that firing a live round is very different from firing a dummy, not so much in how the weapon feels as how you feel about the weapon.

That experience also gave me confidence that we would win the war in Afghanistan, and we’d win it decisively. Today’s military has suffered, but it’s proud and determined. It is also resourceful, as Alex described and as our recent experience demonstrates. Further, it trains to fight in all climates and on all terrain. While the pundits argued that our troops would meet their match in the Afghan mountains, or the Afghan winter, or in the toughness of the Afghan fighter (cue Godzilla’s theme music), people like me knew that, while training and supply had been hampered during the Clinton years, compared to any other our military is still the best-trained, most mobile and most versatile military in the world. Nothing I have seen since has changed that opinion a bit (and the punditry screams).
Posted by B. Preston at 12:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 30, 2001

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE SAYS THAT SINCE WE'RE WINNING THE WAR, Bush's election claims that the military is hollow areexploded. Which means, at least by implication, that Bush was either uninformed or intentionally lying in making those claims. Not so fast. I was in Clinton's military until 1997, working as an Air Force journalist. I can say first-hand that the force, during the Clinton years, was fast on the decline. Units, including mine, found it increasingly difficult to get spare parts for aging and damaged equipment due to budget cuts. Morale was dribbling away, as were the first-termers. I was a first-termer myself, and low morale (plus a screaming economy) played a role in my own exit. Training budgets were declining, and the airfleet was aging (still is).

The American military prowess we've seen recently is due to a few things, in my opinion. The smart bomb development reached its zenith during the late Reagan years, and the bombs we're using now in Afghanistan are mostly improved versions of munitions developed during that period. The B2 is a Reagan-era weapon, as are the big nuke carriers and their aircraft currently seeing action. Special Forces are a breed apart from the rest of the military, and are largely unaffected by swings in morale in the larger force due to the small, tight nature of their units and their strict, highly specialized and professional training. Significantly, they have taken on the lion's share of ground action, while the Marines and Army will be doing the late-stage work. The Army, usually the last to adjust to new battlefield realities, has been quietly grousing over the fact that more mobile Marine Epeditionary Units have been the first large ground force deployed.

Clinton presided over and created a rough era for our armed forces, and President Bush was right to make that claim during the campaign. Declining benefits, aging equipment, reduced training for many units and over-extention for peacekeeping operations all took their toll. The Post-Gazette's article mentions that Bush's election has likely improved morale across the military. That by itself is a big improvement over the Clinton years. Now let's hope our present war points the way to maintaining that improved morale by revitalizing our armed forces.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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NOT CONTENT TO BE THE ONLY US CITY TO ADOPT AN ANTI-WAR STANCE, or ban flag displays on its firetrucks, Berkeley hasbanned fireplaces. I thought the ultimate in liberalism was total free choice in everything. Guess not.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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AFGHAN EVIDENCE USED TO FOIL TERROR PLOTHere is the full story. The most interesting thing to me, apart from the notion that the Afghan war is already paying off elsewhere, is the lack of sourcing for this story. Neither the US nor Singaporean govt (where the plot was supposed to take place) will acknowledge that any of the story's contents are true. No "anonymous source" in any bureau is mentioned. The only hint is that a Pentagon official tells UPI that the US and Singpore won't publicly acknowledge the raid for fear of compromising intel sources. But that same source tacitly confirms the substance of the report. Interesting....
Posted by B. Preston at 12:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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TERRORIST LINKS TO FIRES DOWN UNDER? No indication yet, but a fewarrests have been made.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack