June 20, 2003

WHY I'M STILL NOT A DEMOCRAT (AND WILL NEVER BE ONE)

I'd forgotten about this little gem of a confession from Salon's Greg Kamiya: He and many of his fellow anti-war types (Dems all) wanted us to lose the war in Iraq. They wanted our soldiers to die in the desert. They wanted America disgraced, defeated and humiliated. They wanted Saddam to prevail, if it meant putting a Donk back in the White House in '04.
Posted by B. Preston at 01:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

SADDAM'S WEAPONS

Amir Taheri's take is worth a read. Money quote:

Finding and getting rid of such weapons in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and South Africa took 18 to 30 months, even though those governments all actively cooperated with the U.N. It is fanciful that similar results could be achieved in Iraq in a few weeks.

Not finding the weapons in a fixed timeframe does not mean they never existed. British and Spanish governments have been looking for weapons caches of Basque and Irish terrorist groups for 35 years and have found little. But everyone knows those groups have arms.

On the other hand, the Philippine government still finds weapons caches left by the Japanese over half a century ago.


MORE: Excellent money quote Bryan. This piece helps reinforce those WMD/intel realities: The War against Bush (Dems unite to save Saddam's legacy and protect his honor) -- Chris

MORE:Oxblog adds to the sanity and uses Josh Marshall's own words against him to make the argument. Not that there's anything unique about that. Small children are often found shredding Josh's arguments.

We also may have found a large stash of WMD documents.
Posted by B. Preston at 01:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WHY I'M STILL NOT A DEMOCRAT

They are, as a party and just about to man and woman, incapable of campaigning without going negative and accusing the GOP of starving, kicking out or depriving those that don't need starving, kicking out or depriving.

And yes, there are those that need starving, kicking out or depriving.

People so fat that they're suing fast food chains for causing their "addiction" need a good dose of starving.

Saddam Hussein needed kicking out. He also needed killin', and he may yet get that if he hasn't got it already.

Hillary! needs depriving, at least in the book sales department. Billy Jeff Clinton needs depriving in several categories, starting with access to microphones and pliant journalists.

MORE good reasons to not be a Democrat may be found in the mid-section of this Jay Nordlinger column.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

TURNING IRAQ'S WATER INTO WHINE

Two words: Mark Steyn.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

THE MOOSE IS LOOSE

Chief Charles Moose has resigned to beat his friendly Times reporter Jayson Blair to the sniper book publishing punch. Joe Farah has a good idea why Moose quit.

And Michelle Malkin further exposes him for the troublemaker that he is.

Henrico County Police Chief Henry W. Stanley told The Washington Post after a sniper task force meeting in February: "With all that's happened, we certainly don't want anything to jeopardize the trial. I felt, and I think the group felt, that we needed no more publicity that could add to the trial issues."

The task force expressed unanimous disapproval of Moose's book publishing plans. But he treated his fellow police chiefs the same way he treated the county ethics panel: he ignored them completely.

Instead of following the law, he and his big-mouthed wife, an image consultant and CEO of Chief Moose Inc., have hurled reckless charges of racism at county employees. Mrs. Moose whined to the panel that the couple resented having to answer to "a fully white group to give him permission to make some money." She likened her spouse to Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela as a civil-rights trailblazer who "stood for principle."

The Mooses have sued Montgomery County over the ethics ruling, citing their First Amendment rights. But their true motives are far less noble. In closed hearings, as first reported by Worldnetdaily.com investigative journalist Paul Sperry, Chief Moose grumbled that he made less than other police chiefs around the country and mentioned the need to pay off his wife's law school bills. Mrs. Moose pointed out that their house lacked antiques because of all the humanitarian sacrifices Moose has made on behalf of public safety.

Looks like he may have also been involved in a Jesse Jackson-style racism shakedown of Marriott Hotels.

"Hotel security asked to see his key, as is standard practice, and his reply was, 'Don't you know who I am? I'm Chief Moose!'" he said.

Two sources say Moose settled out of court for $200,000, but a third source said the figure is "exaggerated."

Moose was hired by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democrat, after the Clinton administration launched an investigation of the county for racial profiling. Duncan, who has backed Moose in his ethics fight and remains his biggest booster, has helped Marriott secure millions of dollars in business tax breaks and other inducements.
Posted by Chris Regan at 06:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NEW HILLARY CLINTON INTERVIEW

In Der Spiegel:


"I know my husband received the same intelligence information [during his presidency as did Bush]." Clinton asserted that "the real question is have we obtained accurate information, or have the findings been altered for military or political purposes?"

...Praising her husband's close relationship with European leaders during his period in office, Clinton declared that "for eight years we were on the right course to a globalized and integrated world - which is coming, one way or the other."

Clinton publicly revealed the foreign policy thrust of the Democratic Party in a remarkable moment of candor, a position Democratic leaders have not made clear to the public, but which is keenly understood and supported by Clinton.

Not only is a "globalized and integrated world" inevitable, it is a foreign policy priority of the Democratic Party.

According to Clinton, a single, unified world "is a perspective we Democrats have not successfully made clear."

We know Hillary, your hideous one-world New Age is still being birthed. No need to remind us that you're officially pushing to speed it's arrival. Save it for your next book.
Posted by Chris Regan at 06:36 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

LOOK OUT, BILL O'REILLY

Fox News has picked up Dennis Miller to be a regular contributor. He'll start out doing a weekly gig on Hannity and Colmes, but look for him to get a show of his own before long.
Posted by B. Preston at 06:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ORRIN HATCH: SOFTWARE PIRATE OR WEB PORNOGRAPHER?

Oh yeah, this is priceless.

The previous question about Orrin Hatch was: hypocritical musician or "professional fascist?" File downloaders wary of Hatch's corporate stormtroopers should replace that ridiculous ongoing Bush=Hitler meme with Hatch=Himmler. It would at least make some sense. The Nazi SA were "accompanied by bands of musicians" too!

With Republicans like Hatch, who needs all the elitist fascistic Democrats like Hillary? Luckily the GOP has few of them.
Posted by Chris Regan at 05:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

HAMAS IS THE REAL ENEMY OF PEACE

So says Secretary of State Colin Powell. Anyone who thought the Bush administration would end up selling out Israel has, once again, badly misjudged them.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

KERRY'S BACKFIRE

The other day Sen. John Kerry accused President Bush of lying to the country in the runup to war in Iraq. The "lies" centered on Iraq's ability to attack the US with WMDs and its possession of such weapons, and with the diplomatic games in the UN prior to the war, and so forth. Kerry's move was a pre-primary ploy to shore up his credentials with the left, which has all along insisted that everything the Bush administration has done from 9-11 forwards has been nothing but a house of lies. 9-11? Bush planned it. War in Afghanistan? Fought for a pipeline. War in Iraq? Blood for oil, or to advance a nefarious scheme to remake the MidEast. You know the drill.

There's evidence today that Kerry's move will backfire. In a lefty anti-war newsletter that arrived in my inbox this morning, Charles Jenks says he's not buying Kerry's new claims:


Senator John Kerry says he - in fact "every one of us" - was misled by President Bush concerning Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. And he says the deception is one reason he is running for President

---

If John Kerry had been interested in the truth, why did he refuse to meet with his Western Mass constituents before voting for the war resolution? Why did he close his Springfield office on October 11 - shutting out his constituents - in the aftermath of his vote in favor of war?

---

In October, 2002, 23 Senators and 133 Representatives voted against the Bush Administration's war resolution. John Kerry voted for it. What did 156 Members of Congress know that Kerry did not know? Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of his constituents had called him, urging him to vote against war. After he voted for war, over 20,000 constituents wrote in the name of Randall Forsberg, who ran against him in a last minute write-in anti-war campaign in November.

---

John Kerry had ample opportunities to discern the truth, before he voted for the war resolution in October, 2002 and during the build up to the invasion. He says that the Bush administration misled everyone. 156 of his colleagues in Congress would disagree; they voted against war. And, thousands of his constituents would disagree - they called his office or voted for his write-in opponent in November. After the deaths of between 5567 and 7240 civilians in Iraq as of this date (per the Iraq Body Count Project - http://www.iraqbodycount.net/ ) with almost daily shooting deaths of both US soldiers and Iraqi during the occupation (not to mention the thousands of Iraqis who will die due to destructions of infrastructure and health care systems, continuing violence and exposure to the hundreds of tons of depleted uranium residue left in Iraq from US and UK munitions), Senator Kerry speaks out.

He says was misled. Perhaps he was not as sharp as his 156 colleagues and thousands of constituents. Could there be a darker possibility? Could he have realized the truth and for political reasons went along, knowing that he could claim later - after things had started to go badly - that he had been misled, along with "every one of us."


Keep in mind the source here. Jenks is part of an outfit called the Traprock Peace Center, an anti-war group based in Kerry's own state. If his "I was misled" line didn't work for them, it just didn't work. The anti-war left was its target audience.

What the "misled" line seems to have done is the opposite of what Kerry wanted. He intended it to make inroads into Howard Dean's far left base, but if Jenks and his group are representative of that base, all it has done is anger them and driven them further left, weakening Kerry and strengthening Dean.

The "misled" line obviously isn't playing with the middle and right either, where President Bush's war stance still enjoys broad popular support in spite of the lack of WMD discoveries in Iraq to date. In claiming to have been misled, Sen. Kerry may have misled himself right out of electability.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2003

CHURCHES EMBRACING HARRY POTTER AS JESUS CHRIST FIGURE

I'm following up here on Bryan's recent Potter post and article link. I don't address it directly though since Granger only compares Harry to "Every Man" and it's a book excerpt, not a church teaching. I did post a comment though. It prompted me to look around some more, and I found a growing trend toward embracing Harry Potter books as almost a new "youth gospel" in Christian churches. Going back at least to Sept 2001:

The St Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Syracuse, New York state, is running classes comparing Potter - the creation of Edinburgh-based writer J K Rowling - with Jesus Christ.

Quidditch is in: young churchgoers in Syracuse play Harry Potter's favourite game

Teachers dress up as characters from the books and part of the church has been converted to a replica of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where Potter is a pupil.

During the lessons the baptism of Christ is compared to Harry's "calling" to be a wizard where he overcomes the evil Lord Voldemort.

Children aged 10 to 12 are taught how Christians are redeemed by Christ, just as Harry is quick to forgive his friend Ron and his teacher Dumbledore when they argue.

...Father John Wagner, priest at the St Elizabeth Ann Seton church, was congratulated by his superiors at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse for the lessons.

...One lesson compares the now-famous lightning scar on Harry's head to the crucifixion marks of Christ.

This seriously trivializes Jesus and the meaning of the cross, while thoroughly perverting the doctrine of redemption and baptism. The author of it all was praised by his superiors (not including God of course -- He's reserving His judgment).

In Jan 2002, a Dutch church celebrates a Harry Potter themed service.

In Oct 2002, we have UK Churches Urged to Embrace Harry Potter:

British and Irish churches are being urged to acknowledge the escapades of Harry Potter in their teachings

...a new independent report "Presence and Prophecy" commissioned by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CBTI) said on Wednesday the stories posed some serious theological questions and were an example of the type of popular culture Christians should embrace. "We're not trying to Christianize Harry Potter," Simon Barrow, CBTI Assistant General Secretary told Reuters on Wednesday.

..."But Christians, rather than standing around and being sniffy about this, should actually be immersed in this culture." A new book by U.S. author Connie Neal "The Gospel according to Harry Potter" concurs, describing 52 examples in Harry Potter of what she describes as "glimmers of the gospel."

I see glimmers of a "new gospel." The suggestion that Christians "immerse" themselves in Harry Potter's world is an interesting word choice and exhortation.

In March 2003, Minister compares boy wizard to Jesus in new book:

Boy wizard Harry Potter has received his second affirmation from Christian clergy in less than a month as a protestant minister, in a new book, compares the fictional magician to Jesus Christ, reports the Ottawa Citizen.

The latest praise for the widely popular book and movie series comes on the heels of last month's blessing from the Vatican. Officials at the Vatican talked glowingly about the Potter series at a news conference about the New Age movement.

The Rev. John Killinger, author of the new book "God, The Devil and Harry Potter," says Harry is far from being a devil or a witch. Rather, says the Presbyterian minister and academic, he actually is a Christ-like figure. Killinger calls the four-book series "a modern interpretation of the gospel."

Again, more accurately, "a new gospel" for a "new Christ."

Finally, Harry Potter's world inspires charm school:
Ohio church teaches youths about morality through wizard's tales


Haines developed the program as a reaction to the events of Sept. 11, 2001. She wanted to find an innovative way to help her community confront issues of hate and violence, and looked to the themes of Rowling's novels for inspiration.

"I teach a class on how to help kids respond to questions concerning Harry Potter as un-Christian,'' said Mac Goekler

...The church's main meeting room has been converted into the main hall of Hogwarts, the wizardry school Potter attends in the books. Sixty children between the ages of 3 and 16 are gathered there, wide-eyed and robed in wizard costumes....

"It's amazing how some of these kids go in and out of believing that they are actually in Hogwarts,'' said Trish McLoughlin of Brady Lake, known to her students as Professor Charming Trish.

Though the classes all revolve around themes of magic, spells and the Potter lexicon, each class has a focus on specific moral values.

The Blacklight Magic Class is a magical room of glow-in-the-dark stars, where students receive their third eye, or wizard vision, so they can see the inner beauty of everyday people and objects.

...At age 6, Christopher reads the books all on his own. "I've been counting down the days for the new book to come out,'' Christopher said. ``This is so fun. I get to learn all these new things. There's real magic. It's totally real.''

Totally real. That's the problem, and it's what sets Potter books apart from classic fantasy. Secular scholars also see deep morality in Rowling's moral muddle. It's essentially a "new morality" that will surely end up in college courses as Potter readers grow older.

"Good and right is whatever the characters decide good and right is. If it leads to defeating Voldemort, it doesn't matter what's done," says Abanes. "Rowling has redefined what good is."

There certainly is some rule-bending in the Potter books.

In Prisoner of Azkaban , the third book in the series, Harry leaves school grounds through a forbidden passage even though he is told repeatedly not to. Later, Rowling reveals that Harry's father had done the same. In the Sorcerer's Stone , Rowling writes that Harry's classmate Hermione Granger "had become a bit more relaxed about breaking the rules and she was much nicer for it."

The disturbing impulse to embrace this new anti-morality/amorality in churches may surprise some Christians and non-Christians alike. But those who have monitored the internal assault on the Church should be able to discern what's going on here. This is just one aspect of the syncretic merging of Christianity into the New Age of occult "enlightenment." It's yet another symptom that points out the root problem with modern liberal Christianity. Here's another strange symptom. You can see why Rowling's claim that she's a Christian is essentially meaningless in today's confused Christianity. The theology that ends up in her books is what matters, yet no matter what, neither Rowling nor Harry Potter is the root problem in the Church.

Since C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien fantasies overlayed a Christian foundational worldview with solemn reverence, they were very different at their core from what we see with J.K. Rowling's seemingly irreverent, and very real, neopagan/gnostic foundation. Still, teaching even spiritually healthy Lewis or Tolkien novels in church to spiritually adrift children would be a sign of weak Christian leadership.

Teaching kids that Harry Potter is like Jesus is just plain irresponsible. It's spiritually dangerous for Christians because Potter's many faults/sins -- especially his use of power to enforce his own supreme will -- are a perversion of the Holy Spirit, Christ's sinlessness and his submission to his Father's will. Allowing kids to read the books and teaching them how Harry Potter is unlike the "divine Potter" of the Christian worldview might be a more sane exercise.

Perverting Christian doctrines, and cynically using the Christ theme to sell Hollywood movies and channeled books, is an old lucrative trick of the trade and a widespread phenomenon -- especially lately in New Age self-help publishing. But seeing churches transformed into Hogwarts, and using Rowling's books to teach children corrupted Christian doctrine, is sad. It's happening though...just as the latest Potter book is poised to overtake the King James Bible on the all-time bestseller list.

There's probably a reason that, unlike visitors to Narnia, the children reading Potter books are so far not naturally drawn to the mystery of Christ, but instead some are turning to witchcraft. Adults desperately trying to transform Harry Potter into Jesus Christ will not change the self-transformational philosophy being taught in the books either, but they will confuse kids and corrupt Christianity more than Rowling ever could by herself.

We should simply let the Potter books stand on their own, and understand that Rowling's syncretism clearly ripped-off and combined a bunch of historical, religious and philosophical sources. It makes no sense to force fit a Christian allegory that actually confuses and corrupts the original -- unless that's the point.

UPDATE: The first review is in for the latest installment in the Potter series. Looks like some church teachers are going to have to explain to the kids why their new "Jesus" is a snotty jerk. This emphasizes why it's insane to incorporate a "new gospel" -- one that hasn't even been completed yet -- into church teachings for children. For all we know, Harry Potter could easily end up consumed by bitterness and hate in Book 7.

UPDATE: I added a few more lines with this link and a final blockquote above.
Posted by Chris Regan at 05:47 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

AND THEN THERE'S LILEKS!



Yes, that is Bea Arthur's coif...
Posted by B. Preston at 02:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

LEARNING CAPITALISM FROM FORMER COMMUNISTS

Russia's Soyuz will take a couple more space tourists up to the space station.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

LITTLE KINGS AND BIG BRIBES

South Korea's "Sunshine Policy" of engagement with North Korea was the product of massive bribes to a high-ranking South Korean official. He received the bribes from Hyundai, which wanted to open up more trade with the North probably to take advantage of its cheaper labor force. He then apparently turned and paid Kim Jong-Il at least part of that bribe money so that he would agree to a summit with the South. That summit led to a Nobel Peace Prize for the principals, and a few agreements on paper, and to a situation where the US found itself triangulated and without real allies on either side of the DMZ.

"Sunshine" was the policy that the Clinton administration largely accepted in its 1994 Framework that sought to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but in reality only served to set up the US as the Korean peninsula's principal villain in the minds of many in the South and obviously the North. "Sunshine" is the policy that Democrat pundits have lauded ever since, suggesting that if President Bush would just stick to it he could fix Pyongyang, and that his rejection of that policy has led to the current problems.

But "Sunshine" was based on dishonest government, on lies and on bribes. And though Kim Jong-Il probably made grand use of the Hyundai bribes, he never lived up the 1994 Framework, and continued his pursuit of nuclear weapons. Yet Democrat pundits continue to insist that Bush is the problem. They are, as usual, seeking partisan gain at the expense of America's national interest, and are siding with criminals in the process.
Posted by B. Preston at 08:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

COOKING THE BOOK SALES

Hillary! is a fast learner. Former Veep and aspiring TV mogul Al Gore and is wife wrote a book that was released recently and very quickly forgotten, leading ultimately to conclusions that he has no remaining political viability. With the release of her book, Hillary! is making sure such a fate doesn't happen to her. According to the Prowler, she's making bulk purchases a pre-requisite for booking her to speak before various groups. The DNC is also in the game, and plans to send out copies of the book as thank-yous for donations to the Democrat party. That move will obviously boost sales. They want to make sure Hillary!'s Lying History (nod to HH) remains atop the bestseller lists for the summer and are leaving nothing to chance...or the whims of the book-buying public.

(via The Corner)
Posted by B. Preston at 08:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BOORTZ ON BLOGS

Nice rejoinder to Bill O'Reilly's whining screed. Say what you want, just make sure you spell the name right.

Mine's spelled by a "y," by the way.

(via Hanks)
Posted by B. Preston at 07:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

HOW DO YOU LOSE 30 POTENTIAL TERRORISTS?

Just ask the US immigration bureaucracy.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IS J.K. ROWLING THE NEXT C.S. LEWIS?

That's what John Granger thinks. He argues that the Harry Potter author has infused the entire series with Christian symbolism and philosophy in much the same way that Lewis did with both the Chronicles of Narnia and the Space Trilogy. Here's a snippet:

Ms. Rowling, because of the rags-to-riches tale and no little misogyny, is enduring similar misunderstanding, albeit ignorance and slander greater by an order of magnitude. Lewis may not have been identified as a Christian writer (despite the seemingly transparent meaning of his fiction) but no one is on record as being shocked to learn that this Oxford Don was a Christian when he gave public witness of his faith. Imagine for contrast the response if Ms. Rowling were to make any statement of her religious beliefs!

The secret of Harry Potter, i.e., that it is Christian fiction, however, is evident in what we know of Ms. Rowling without a formal statement of her spiritual creed. She has a superior formal education in Classics and French in addition to a working familiarity with ancient and medieval philosophy and literature. This intellectual backdrop is evident in the Harry Potter books' language, mythological references, and philosophical underpinnings.

She has also said that she is a great admirer of the Inklings, especially Lewis. When compared with him, she says that Lewis is a genius and she is not, which response suggests that she sees him as something of a mentor. She admits to being physically incapable of being in the same room with a Narnia book and not sitting down to read it.


If so, an awful lot of Christian pundits have some explaining to do, or at least some backtracking. Because more than a few Christian columnists and public thinkers have branded the Potter series satanic and evil because they're full of magic and wizards and so forth.

For my own part, I haven't read the series but intend to. I have the first three books and plan to start on them once I finish up with a weak Dean Koontz novel I started working on while I was in Japan. I have seen both Harry Potter movies and found them to be a pair of yawns, but that may be because I haven't read the books. That may also be because they're aimed at kids. The Potter books are, at least in a PR sense, also aimed at kids but that won't necessarily make them a bad read. Narnia is obviously a series aimed squarely at children, yet upon my first reading of them at the tender age of around 26 I fell in love with them. They're magnificent tales.

Having confessed to not reading the Potter books, though, I've long thought that the Christian criticism of them was misplaced. Having read Narnia and Lewis' Space Trilogy, and being a fan of fantasy generally, I've been aware that it's possible to infuse a story with magic and nonetheless fill it with Christian or at least positive philosophy as well. Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, which I've been reading for nearly a decade now, is not Christian but is full of clear-cut good vs evil philosophy and is worth reading whether you're a Christian or not. Wheel also deals with the pitfalls of human nature in its treatment of the hero Rand al'Thor in a realistic way that more mainstream fiction can't usually match. That Rand is also working through most of the series to restore a man's ability to even be a hero in a very feminized fantasy world is surely Jordan's critique of our own world as well. The Lewis Space Trilogy in particular is a classic example too--it is full of odd magic and magical beings, even suggesting that finding life on other planets wouldn't be the crisis for Christianity that many think it would be. Lewis even resurrects the dead wizard Merlin in the third book, but because he had by the time of its publication announced that he was a Christian, that book never met the Christian criticism that Rowling's books has endured. Jordan hasn't met Rowling-level criticism merely because Wheel hasn't been the publishing and movie phenomenon that Potter has become.

Granger may be on to something in suggesting that J.K. Rowling is creating Christian fantasy fiction in Harry Potter. Rowling confesses that Lewis and his Inklings (a group of writers which included Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien) are at least one major source of inspiration for her series. Lewis' own inspiration--the life, death and resurrection of Jesus--may turn out to be Rowling's inspiration as well. Granger makes a very compelling and interesting case that it is so.

MORE: Maybe Harry Potter is a sinister Tory plot to advance conservatism.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:03 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

JOHN KERRY LIES WHILE ACCUSING BUSH OF LYING

Sen. John Kerry, pompous bad-haired French-looking Democrat from Massachusetts, says that President Bush "misled" the entire country about Iraq's WMDs as a justification for war.

Kerry said Bush made his case for war based on at least two pieces of U.S. intelligence that now appear to be wrong that Iraq sought nuclear material from Africa and that Saddam's regime had aerial weapons capable of attacking the United States with biological material.


To the first charge, maybe, but probably not. It's more likely that the President never knew that the Nigeria documents were forgeries. To the second, not proven yet. Bush never said that Iraq would use its drone aircraft to attack the US, just that given the chance to smuggle such a plane to within striking distance, that it might. And that it would use its stores of anthrax and other toxins--stores which no one seriously doubted existed prior to the war--as the cargo in those planes. Kerry also says Bush lied because he said he'd build a broad international coalition before the war, but that he didn't--that the war coalition wasn't broad enough. Is Kerry seriously trying to argue that French back-stabbing caused President Bush to lie? It was the French veto threat that essentially kept the UNSC from supporting, however relunctantly, the war. The French position was consistent, that it opposed the war and was willing to do just about anything to stop it. And that's President Bush's fault...how?

I say that no one really doubted that those Iraqi anthrax, etc stores existed because President Clinton himself used those very weapons as the justification for Operation Desert Fox. That bombing campaign took place in December 1998 (coinciding suspiciously with various impeachment votes), and the Clinton administration said it was intended to get Saddam to comply with UN weapons inspections. Why?

In a televised address, Clinton accused Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of failing to live up to his commitment to allow unrestricted access to U.N. weapons inspectors.

"We had to act, and act now," he said.

"Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors with nuclear weapons, poison gas or biological weapons," Clinton said from the Oval Office.


Clinton believed Saddam had or was developing WMDs back in 1998. Desert Fox didn't accomplish its goal though--it ended with Saddam kicking out the UN inspectors and ending any charade of complying with the inspections regime (the impeachment vote was also over). So is Kerry saying that Saddam didn't keep pursuing WMDs after Saddam kicked out the inspectors? It would seem illogical, but that's one viable intepretation of Kerry's remarks.

Kerry also lied in his anti-Bush statement today. Here's what he said:

''He misled every one of us,'' Kerry said. ''That's one reason why I'm running to be president of the United States.''


Kerry's talking specifically about Bush and WMDs, saying that Kerry's decision to run for president is based on Bush having "misled" us about those WMDs. But there's a kink--Kerry's timeline doesn't work. He went public with his presidential aspirations on December 2, 2002. For anyone keeping score at home, the Iraq war didn't even start until March 2003, and ended in April. President Bush couldn't have been proven to have misled us about Iraq's WMDs until after that. So it can't be a reason that Kerry wants the White House.

Unless...is Sen. Kerry saying that he already knew that Bush was misleading us way back in December? Then why did he vote in favor of the war? Or is Kerry saying that French stubborness leading to a smaller coalition is the reason he's running for president? If that's the case, perhaps Sen. Kerry should run for president of France.

MORE: Drudge fact-checks Kerry's @$$.
Posted by B. Preston at 06:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

STOP THAT MEME THIEF!

In his great column on blogging today, King of All Bloggers Glenn Reynolds takes anonymous institutional lefty bloggers to task with this graph:

TomPaine.com's blog, for example, is timely and interesting, but anonymously institutional. The same is true for The American Prospect's blog, Tapped, and The New Republic's blog, &c. (What is it with these lefty house blogs and anonymity?) (emphasis mine)


That's brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that I wrote the same darn thing (or very close to it) when TomPaine.com's pathetic blog first appeared. Here's what I said in a post titled "Another Blog Collective" on Wednesday, May 14th:

What is it with lefty blogs and anonymity? Tapped has this "we are the blog" feel about it. And now comes along TomPaine-in-the-keister, with more of "we think" this and "we think" that.


It's not as though Glenn can claim ignorance of my earlier post--he linked the darn thing, and then Kaus ran with Glenn's post on it, crediting me with thinking it up. But in today's column, in which Glenn parrots me nearly word for word--nada. Zip. Nothing. Glenn Reynolds has stolen my meme!

I demand...uh...well, nothing actually. But getting my props would be nice.

MORE: Et tu, Jonah?
Posted by B. Preston at 02:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WHY I'M NOT A DEMOCRAT

Idjits like Rep. Dennis Kucinich, whose Department of Peace would wreck America's national security.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

READ THE HATCH STORY ALL THE WAY TO THE END, PEOPLE

Everyone's justifiably outraged that Sen. Orrin Hatch said companies should be empowered to unilaterally invade your home and wreck your computer if you engage in file-sharing. He said it, and there's absolutely no defending it. But if you read the story about his remarks all the way to the end, you'll also see that Hatch isn't alone.

Last year, Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., ignited a firestorm across the Internet over a proposal to give the entertainment industry new powers to disrupt downloads of pirated music and movies. It would have lifted civil and criminal penalties against entertainment companies for disabling, diverting or blocking the trading of pirated songs and movies on the Internet.

But Berman, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary panel on the Internet and intellectual property, always has maintained that his proposal wouldn't permit hacker-style attacks by the industry on Internet users.


What Hatch said is worse--it goes beyond earlier proposals--but it's hardly unique. This isn't a partisan issue, as members of both parties are acting like elitist oligarchs as opposed to representatives of the people. So those of you who want to tar the GOP with this, don't bother. Just tar the offenders in both parties and be done with it.

UPDATE: Glenn I like ya, but sheesh--this is beneath you (and VodkaPundit too). The Dems are much more in bed with big media, via Hollywood, the artists and musicians themselves, etc, then the GOP can ever be. You guys know this. You just want to proclaim for the millionth time "Why I'm not a Republican" and act superior. How about some "Why I'm not a Democrat" posts and whack them on minor stuff like, you know, the war.

MORE: Fellow JYBer Chris Regan reminded me that Sen. Hatch is, in addition to being a somewhat flakey individual, a musician. With his own recordings, marketing effort, etc. Might he be using his bully pulpit in the Senate to speak on behalf of musicians as opposed to, say, representing any particular ideology? I'd say that he is--that he's trying to protect his intellectual property and by extension the intellectual property of his fellow artists. There's no ideology here, and thus no manifestation of some wicked GOP plot to destroy individuals' computers. That doesn't make his remarks any less sinister or any less worthy of our collective scorn and rejection, but does shade their intent a bit, no?

EVEN MORE: The Curmudeonly Clerk offers up a Hatch defense that's balanced and interesting. He's right that file-sharers are pirates and law-breakers, and that the RIAA is legally and morally in the right in trying to protect its property. It's their tactics and remarks in their defense, such as Hatch's nonsense, that earn them the blogosphere's ire. The RIAA and its defenders tend to come off as rich, powerful, smug and heavy-handed, while file-sharers tend to come off as little guys sticking it to "the man." It certainly doesn't hurt that many bloggers are also file-sharers and have no sympathy for the RIAA. Having said all that, Hatch should know better than to offer up such draconian ideas even to enforce laws that should be enforced. He deserves the backlash, but conservatives as a whole do not, as we don't share his view.
Posted by B. Preston at 04:52 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 17, 2003

QUESTION NOT COMPASSIONATE. HAND OVER PAYCHECK.

Heh. Liberalism reduced (or perhaps upgraded) to a few shakes of the Magic 8 Ball.

(via Ramesh Ponnuru over in The Corner)
Posted by B. Preston at 06:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ROE vs ROE

The pro-abortion groups must be having a Maalox moment today. Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe of the (in)famous Roe v Wade case, wants to overturn the precedent that her own case set in 1973. In other words, wants to undo Roe and sent abortion laws and decisions back to the states. She filed a motion in a Texas court today to do just that.

More power to her.

McCorvey's story is by now well-known. She wasn't raped, and therefore lied in order to get her original case before the courts. She was badly used by the pro-abortion lawyers and other forces for decades, made up to be the movement's standard-bearer for the press and cameras but otherwise disrespected and all but ignored when the cameras weren't around. She ended up having the baby she once tried to abort, thanks to the glacial pace of our legal system, and that baby is today a healthy daughter of about 30.

Today Norma McCorvey is a Christian and a pro-life advocate who says she regrets the role she played as Jane Roe. She wants to right the wrong she participated in, and get a case based on lies that has led to the murder of millions of babies overturned.

Like I said, more power to her. I hope she wins, and wins big.

UPDATE: She lost. Disappointing, but not surprising.
Posted by B. Preston at 03:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

THE PAPER OF RECORD FLACKED FOR CLINTON

Dick Morris may not be outselling former co-President Hillary Clinton in their book war, but he has to be winning the grudge match that their near simultaneous release has sparked. The other day, he accused Bill Clinton of trying to beat him up. Today, he's whacking away at the NY Times, accusing them of volunteering to work for Clinton's '96 re-election bid. Here's the tale:

While working for President Clinton in 1996, I got a call from the Lelyveld's office. Naturally, I agreed to a meeting the Times' chief to "get to know one another."

As Clinton's chief political adviser, I knew the request had something to do with the White House. But I was surprised to be asked by Lelyveld and a Times reporter to help them get an exclusive interview with the president. "We've tried for months and come up empty," the editor pleaded. "Can you help get it done?"

I spoke of Clinton's sensitivity to criticism from the Times and how he had bristled particularly at Raines, then running the editorial page. A worried frown clouded the editor's formerly sunny face. "You know," he assured me sotto voce, "we don't think that the public cares about what happened back in Arkansas."


So they basically sacked Whitewater--a scandal that the Times itself ignited on its own pages. Morris says the Times ran no stories on Clinton's myriad scandals for the entire two months leading up to election '96. Then, to make sure that Clinton would be presented in the best possible light, they advanced him the questions for an interview that would become the basis for a glowing profile.

Then my phone rang. It was the reporter who had sat with his editor in my hotel suite. I'd known him for some time, and he was calling to tell me that he would be conducting the interview. I congratulated him, and he invited me for a drink.

As I crossed through Lafayette Park to get from the White House to the Hay Adams Hotel to meet him, I wondered why he wanted to talk before the interview.

After some light chatter over drinks, he began, casually, to tell me the questions he was going to ask. "I'll ask him what are his proudest achievements, what he's most ashamed of, why he thought he lost the Congress [in the 1994 elections], what he proposed to do about Bosnia . . ."

A reporter briefing a presidential aide on the questions he was preparing to ask the president: This was about as common as it is for Nebraska to brief Miami on their football signals before the game. I couldn't believe my luck. Pushing my luck, I prompted him. "Why don't you ask him about . . . "

"Good idea," my obedient reporter/friend said as he jotted down notes.

The briefing before the interview wasn't even hard. Sitting on the couch with the president in his wing chair on my right in the Oval Office, I fed the reporter's questions to Clinton, and we worked out answers.

"What if he asks about Whitewater? Clinton wondered.

"He won't," I assured him. "He's told me exactly what he's going to ask."

Clinton couldn't believe his luck! Knowing what was coming, we came up with answers to hit the ball out of the park.


Folks, I've been both a journalist and a flack, and what the Times did here (if Morris is right) falls into the flacking game. It ain't journalism, or at least it shouldn't be called such. Advancing the questions gives the subject all the advantages of time and extended thought to prepare for them, and removes the element of surprise, which can lead to responses that are more revealing than anything that's canned or scripted. The resulting story is nothing more than a press release, but given the veneer of actual journalism it is much more powerful than any ordinary release. The Times deserved a paycheck equivalent to or even greater than the one Morris himself got paid to do PR work for Clinton, because that's exactly what it was doing.

Joseph Lelyveld, who both preceeded and has now succeeded the disgraced Howell Raines as the Times' executive editor, was according to Morris the man behind the Times' flacking gig. Lelyveld is largely responsible for pushing the Times onto the ideological road it has been on for some time now. He won't do anything to take it off that road. In fact, given the chance he'll probably find another Democrat to flack for in 2004. I assume John Kerry has already given him a call.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:27 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

FALLOUT FROM THE WALKOUT

Texas Dems, about whom I've written before, may have won a pyrrhic victory when they killed the GOP-sponsored state redistricting plan during their flight to Oklahoma earlier this year. They won the battle for now, but in the process have opened up a dangerous fissure in their own fragile coalition.

According to the Houston Forward, a liberal African-American newspaper, four Democrat state lawmakers stayed behind in Austin once it became clear that the party had gathered sufficient numbers to leave the legislative session and kill the redistricting plan. Those four are Ron Wilson, Sylvester Turner, Al Edwards, and Harold Dutton. All are from Harris County, and all are black.

They stayed behind for various reasons, but with the blessing of the Democrats as a whole. So they weren't bucking the party or being insufficiently supportive; in fact, they stayed behind at least in part to keep the GOP from using the Dems' absence to ram through any other controversial measures.

Now, weeks after the walkout, seven other Harris County Dems are to be honored for their participation in it. The so-called Killer D's will be honored by a group of mostly white liberal Dems, who will not honor the four black Dems who loyally stayed behind as part of the party's overall strategic gambit. And this has black Dems as a whole, in the words of the Forward's Ed Wendt, "mad as hell." I'll let Mr. Wendt take it from here (story not online yet, so no link yet):

Ron Wilson agrees with U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay, a major force behind the redistricting effort, that giving Blacks and Hispanics additional seats is more important than which political party is in control. Under the Republican plan, another Black congressional seat would be created for Harris County keeping the 18th Congressional District safe for incumbent Democrat Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee. Additional Hispanic seats also would be created.

"We are tired of holding up the Democratic Party's plantation system," Wilson said. "We are the backbone of the Democratic Party. We are not going to keep white male Democrats in congress at the expense of Black representation."

Al Edwards, a member of the Democratic National Committee since 1984, said it is up to members of his district, not white elitist liberals from other parts of the county and state, to pass judgment on him.

"None of the so-called liberal Democrats, who have tried to control Blacks all of these years, said anything when Democratic Lt. Governor Bob Bullock supported (Republican) George W. Bush for governor," Edwards stressed. "They didn't bash Bob Bullock. They named a big old museum after him. When John Sharp didn't support Garry Mauro (for governor against George Bush), they didn't kick him out, they ran him for lieutenant governor last time."

"When white Democrats support Republicans, they don't get crucified," said Edwards. "But if Blacks up here make a decision to do what is best for their constituents, then they want to say that we are traitors."

"It is just like when we spoke out during the civil rights movement," Edwards continued, "they said we were agitators and trouble makers. It is not much different from what white liberals are saying today."


Ouch. And yes, you read that right. The Dems killed a plan that would have added a black Congressional district and several Hispanic districts. Killing the plan did manage to preserve all the Dems' white districts, though. Black lawmakers haven't missed the trick. They also haven't missed the fact that, according to the Forward, Dem chat rooms are abuzz with criticism of the black lawmakers for not walking out.

It's very, very bad for the Dems when their own actions put any liberal black Dem on the same side of any issue as Tom DeLay, but that's exactly what's happened here. And it may get worse:

Harold Dutton, who represents Fifth Ward and northern Harris County, said white Democrats are often two-faced when it comes to political empowerment of Blacks.

"When I got here in 1991, they told me they had a district for me up here," said Dutton. "I told them I did not like the district and would draw my own district. I came back and they told me we can't have that district because if you have that district it may jeopardize three white Democrat districts we need to keep. I looked at the voting record of those three white Democrats and they had voted against everything I was for."

Dutton, like Wilson and Edwards, says it is "time out" for white liberal control of the Democratic Party.

"They want to tell Black folks what to do, how to think, and when to act," said Dutton.

"Why is it that when we have a disagreement with them that we are suddenly not loyal Democrats? Dutton asked. "They can go straight to hell!"


This is from black lawmakers and a black newspaper. The Dems may come to regret going to such extreme measures to kill a redistricting plan if it means they start to lose their iron grip on the black vote.

UPDATE: The Texas Dems' pyrrhic victory may also be a temporary one--Gov. Rick Perry has called the legislature into special session to work in the redistricting plan among other items. In special session, if memory serves, all the GOP will need is a simple majority of present members to pass bills, rendering a walkout irrelevant. The GOP will get its redistricting plan, and the Dems will get an intericine battle. Heh. Double heh.

UPDATE: It looks like they've got similar problems in Georgia. Triple heh.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WHY LIE?

Spending the past couple of weeks in the southern end of Japan, far from the NY Times and CNN and the daily tit-for-tat of the blogosphere, was like stepping however briefly off the world. Much of the news of that period just swept by, and I was as utterly indifferent to it as it always is to me. It was freeing, and allowed me to just exist for a while. But one story managed to pop through my blackout--the lack of WMD discoveries in post-Saddam Iraq.

It happened on a flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka. The flight attendant, seeing that I was a) American and b) therefore incapable of reading any Japanese-language paper, brought me a copy of the Japan Times. The JT caters to American businessmen living in Japan, and as such is printed in English. It also, like the more famous Times in the States, skews heavily to the left in spite of its masthead statement professing to present "All the news without fear or favor." But also, like our Times, is usually a good read, and I read it.

It blared with headlines and stories about how tough a time Tony Blair is having with his Labour backbenchers and backbiters about the lack of WMD discoveries in Iraq, and about how all this might cause Blair to fall and be replaced by a less America-friendly government. Which could happen, I suppose--Blair did use the Iraqi WMD threat more heavily than did President Bush to make his own case for Britain to send troops and fight alongside ours. He could fall if no WMDs are found, which would be a shame.

Throughout the JT stories, and others I've read since returning, are accusations that the Bush Admininstration and by extension the Blair government lied to their own citizens and the world to press the case against Saddam. They lied--they pushed headlong for a war against an innocent man and an innocent regime, at least as regards the WMD development, presence and threat.

To believe that Bush and Blair lied, you have to accept two things: That they knew that Saddam possessed no WMDs, and that they said he did in order to build the case for war against him. That means that you must also accept that Bush and Blair knew that, at the war's end, their lies would definitely be exposed unless they took steps to keep the lie alive. Our troops and the inspectors that followed them wouldn't find any WMDs, because Iraq didn't have any. Bush and Blair, knowing this, told the big lies anyway, to foment war.

Why would they do this? Why tell a lie that you know will be exposed shortly? And why would the two grand liars do nothing to make sure their lies were never exposed?

You could say, as many critics have, that the motive for war was always something other than WMDs. It could be Iraq's vast oil reserves, or the need to remake the Middle East into something more democratic and therefore less menacing than what it is today. War could be motivated by personal vendettas or for some other reason. War critics have used any and all of these arguments to oppose the war before it started and ceaselessly criticize it once it ended. But do any of these criticisms make sense?

While crafting their big lie, Bush and Blair did nothing to shore up its utility after the war. For Blair this would have been a particularly dumb move, as it would likely lead to his downfall and disgrace--many in his own party revolted as war neared. But he and President Bush nonetheless made cases before the House of Commons and the UN, they sent Paul Wolfowitz and Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and Condi Rice and Colin Powell and Jack Straw before the press and public to tell the lie, but they had no one working behind the scenes to make sure the lie would work once Saddam was gone. While relying on what turned out to be forged documentary evidence that Saddam tried to buy uranium from Nigeria, they never went out and forged any evidence of their own for the troops and inspectors to "discover" once Iraq was conquered.

As U2 once noted, it's no secret that a liar won't believe anyone else. Liars trust no one, and do everything they can to cover their own tracks. If you, as Bush and Blair, heads of two of the world's leading states, were brazen enough to lie to the world about Iraq's WMDs, wouldn't you also be brazen enough to "prove" that you were telling the "truth" about those weapons? Especially if it might mean the difference between your political survival or ruin?

Of course you would. If you made up the story, you'd have someone deep in NSA or MI5 also make up the proof to back it up. It wouldn't be impossible, or even very difficult, to manufacture and plant such evidence in the chaos of war. Which is why I don't believe that Bush and Blair were lying about Saddam's WMDs. Ironically, the lack of smoking-gun WMD discoveries proves that Bush and Blair really believed Saddam had them, proving that they believed the case for war to be based on truth.

Which isn't to say that not finding WMDs isn't troubling. It is. Whether we were acting on bad intelligence or Saddam, having had a year to plan for his involuntarily exile squirreled the weapons away where we couldn't find them easily, not finding WMDs is troubling. We need to find them, and as soon as possible, if only to verify that they aren't in the hands of terrorists already. We need to find them to finally lock up the case for war. We need to find them to destroy them.

But President Bush and Prime Minister Blair didn't lead the world to war based on a lie. They believed, based on intelligence and the stories of defectors and on the patterns of Saddam's own behavior, that Iraq had and intended to use directly or indirectly, weapons of mass destruction either against the US, UK, Israel or someone else. They believed it, and acted on that belief. They have made the world, in the long run, safer and deserve our gratitude.

Those who believe otherwise--that Bush and Blair knowingly lied to get us into war--owe the rest of us an explanation or two. Why would Bush and Blair lie without taking the time to "prove" they're telling the truth? And if Saddam's weapons weren't the motivation for war, what was?
Posted by B. Preston at 05:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 16, 2003

I KNEW IT!!!

I hate traffic cameras. Hate them hate them hate them, and not just because they've nabbed me. They're Orwellian infringements on the right to face one's accuser, and as I've long suspected and Radley Balko reports, towns are goosing the yellow lights to get more violations, and therefore more funds. It's a high-tech cash cow disguised as a safety device.

(via InstaPundit)
Posted by B. Preston at 07:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IRANIAN STUDENT DEMONSTRATIONS

I forgot to blog this important development. Catch up with an Instapundit post here, a Jeff Jarvis post there, and a nice Winds of Change regional briefing on Iran that takes you everywhere.

Check out the Iranians commenting and pleading for support on this BBC article as well.

The revolutionary protests have begun heating up, with a crackdown much earlier than I expected. It looks like the mullahs are trying to ensure that the runup to July 9th doesn't get out of control.
Posted by Chris Regan at 06:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

FAR EAST TRAVELBLOG PART II

If you ignore the Oriental architecture of the shops and houses alongside, the highway we're speeding along could be taking us through North Carolina. Mountains hidden in a spring mist line up to either side of us, grey-green mounds apparently without tops. We're heading north toward Fukuoka, having spent our last days in Amakusa. Near Fukuoka we'll visit more family. In three days, we'll back in America.

American Idol

A woman worshipped me the other day. She is my wife's aunt, maybe 80 or so. She'd never met an American before, and my wife's father took us to meet her and drop off some gifts. She has a hard time moving around, and walks with a back permanently bent from decades spent stooping to plant and keep her farm and garden. But the stooped back wasn't the cause of the worship. That happened as we were about to leave. We bowed goodbye, and she returned our bows with her hands together like a prayer. My wife and father-in-law laughed a little--the aunt had never said goodbye like this before, and her mind is still far too sharp for any dimensia to be blamed. She just didn't know what to do to say a proper goodbye to her America-jin nephew. So she worshipped. As the only gaijin in Amakusa I'd gotten used to all kinds of reactions--stares, giggles and whispers, or silent shyness--but worship was certainly a new one. Not one I'd want to repeat, obviously.

Feasts, Fishing & Ferries

The day I wrote the previous travelblog post we had a feast. My wife’s uncle and aunt were paying a visit to see our young un and to meet me, and as the ranking members of the family in the local area they deserved grand treatment. So otosan (my father-in-law) went out and ordered what must have been half a ton of the best sushi around and brought it in. We ate the biggest shrimp I think I’ve ever seen—they were practically steaks, and they hung off the sushi rice balls so far they just looked like flayed shrimp with a slight lump in the middle. Otosan also ordered up so maguro, a fatty tuna, knowing that I like it, and it was melt-in-your-mouth fresh. We ate the sushi until we could barely stand up, and then we ate a little more.

The following day we chartered a boat and headed off onto the bay. Amakusa is a little island chain, separated from the nearby Nagasaki and Unzen area by large turquoise bays. On clear days, we could see all the way to the top of Mt. Unzen, a volcano that erupted from 1990 to 1995. This day was a bit hazy and the seas a bit choppy, so while we couldn’t see Unzen’s summit we could see what we came for, which was the dolphins that swims these seas. Our 35-foot fishing boat was one of about a half-dozen or so that took out this morning to cruise and dolphin-watch, and we weren’t disappointed. Within a few minutes of leaving shore, our captain guided us to a school of dolphins breaking the surface to breathe, and upon seeing us in the boats, they put on little shows. They’d pop up in groups of threes and fours, some with calves in the tow of their mothers, blow out and breathe in, then submerge. If you followed them beneath the waves, you’d see shimmers as they swam in twists as if to show us their light bellies. We watched this for about a half hour, and toward the end I’d become a bit jaded and was watching the sea opposite the dolphins when something caught my eye. It was small, black and shimmered in the morning sunlight, and glided along no more than a foot or so off the surface. I figured it must be some strange type of bird looking for small fish to eat, but then it suddenly found a rising wave, pulled its plastic-like wings forward to slow, and dove straight into the water. The weird wings tipped me that it was no bird at all—I’d see a flying fish. Over the next several days, on the ferries that we took to Nagasaki and elsewhere, we saw a few more of the strange fish pop up out of the waves, take wing and glide for a few seconds or nearly a minute, before finding a wave and dashing headlong back into the sea.

After dolphin watching it was time to fish, so our captain took us away from the dolphins and toward an area near Kamen Jima, or Turtle Island. Kamen Jima is little more than a hill that happens to sit off shore, covered from its rise to its top in evergreens. During low tide it isn’t even an island—the retreating water reveals a land bridge that we once walked across to find a little campground still overgrown with tall weeds. In the summer travel season, the government will mow the island’s small flatland and clear its trails, and campers will use the land bridge to walk out to and camp on the island.

Behind Kamen Jima, on its seaward side, is prime fishing ground. We baited up with a kind of worm that looks like a nightcrawler but is slightly flattened and has little leg-like things on its sides. They felt pretty much like nightcrawlers otherwise, and the local fish definitely seem to like them. We fished for maybe half an hour, and between otosan, myself and the boat’s captain we probably caught nearly 20 fish. It was just a matter of baiting up the three hooks on the line, then dropping in until you felt it hit bottom. A couple of gentle tugs let the fish know the worm was available, and you quickly felt the bite. A quick tug and you had one or more on the line, and reeled in, the fish turned out to be mostly very bright red, big-eyed creatures, no more than a few ounces or so apiece, but everyone assured me that they were all keepers and that they’d taste very good. It struck me that the fish looked very familiar. I remembered the Japanese natural artwork I’d seen, the paintings from the Edo era, in various book and museums. They always depict the fish as bright, almost gaudy, with large lips and big, almost absurd, eyes. The fish we were catching looked exactly like that. I’d always thought the Japanese artists were exaggerating features. They weren’t.

We brought the fish to the house, where otosan and okasan (my mother-in-law) gutted and cleaned and then cooked them. They were small and it took several of them to make a meal, but they were excellent.

The next day, Ikuko and I left the young un in the care of his grandparents and took a ferry to Nagasaki. Nagasaki is probably best known stateside for having been one of the two cities that we (justifiably) hammered with atomic bombs to end World War II. Prior to the war, Nagasaki was one of a handful of cities with longstanding Western contact, dating in its case back to the 1500s. Today it’s a beautiful port city, as hilly as San Francisco, dotted with old churches and old gaslamp-looking streetlights and with streetcars that run in the middle of its wide streets. It’s also known for its grand shopping arcade and its great Chinese cuisine—it has one of the largest and oldest Chinatowns in Japan. Since both of us had been there before—me, with the USS Blue Ridge in 1996 and Ikuko several times during her visits to Kyushu—Nagasaki was nothing new but a nice place to wander around for a day. At the end of the day we caught a cab to take us back to Mogi, the ferry port. This cab ride turned out to be the highlight of the day. The driver took us up the narrowest two-way road that can possibly exist—in places it was no more than about 18 inches wider than our car, and as it was lined on both sides by houses, buildings or walls, there was no room for error. It also went up a rather steep hill, and riding this road gave one the impression that you’d just mistakenly jumped onto an out-of-control roller coaster. The driver managed to avoid accident or incident and got us to the port on time, but not with causing a few heart flutters along the way. I was very glad that he, and not me, was behind the wheel.

A Walk Through Hell

A day or two after Nagasaki, we also took a ferry in the opposite direction, to Unzen. As I’ve mentioned, the region is known best for the volcano that erupted there in 1990, killing 43 and destroying most of a nearby town. They have just finished building a museum to commemorate the events, and this museum is impressive. Its coolest feature is an Imax movie that combines 3D animation with real footage and a room that moves and shakes as the volcano erupts. It’s thrilling and a little scary, and overall very well done. I’m sure I understood all of ten words in the entire movie, yet came away feeling like I’d been on Mt. Unzen’s top the day it exploded. If you ever find yourself in the Shimabara area, do yourself a favor and skip the local castle and just head straight to the Unzen museum. The movie alone is worth the price of admission.

The Unzen area is also known, not coincidentally, for the hot sulphur springs that bubble up from one of the foothills near the volcano. It’s so hot and smelly that the locals call it “jigoku”—hell. It’s fitting—the whole side of the hill is stained yellowish-white, the sound of gurgling and bubbling rises from the ground, and the air reeks of rotten eggs. For a couple hundred yen you can buy an egg that’s been boiled in the springs, its shell turned black in the process. In the persecution era, Christians would be taken to the hottest of the springs and commanded to renounce their faith. When they didn’t, they were thrown into the steaming sulfuric waters and held there until they boiled to death. Halfway up the hill, there’s a monument to the martyrs who were sent to heaven by being thrown into hell.

On the happier side, the sulphur springs serve several onsens—public spas—in the area. We went to one of the more famous, the Unzen Spa House, and bathed in filtered (and cooled) outdoor sulphur baths. It’s supposed to be good for the skin, but we ended up giving off a faint whiff of spoiled eggs for a day or so.

Moji, the Kanmon Strait, and Home

That drive I mentioned at the top of this post took us to Moji, where my wife’s aunt lives. We’d visited her back in 1997, and while we had a good time I’d been less than impressed with the city of Moji. It’s a port city, but other than a great suspension bridge that crosses the historic strait it straddles, there just wasn’t much to do or look at. All that’s changed now, thanks to what must have been a monumental rebuilding of its waterfront areas in the past few years. On one side of the strait sits a museum to the port, trade and history of the region. Sounds boring, but this had to be one of the best museums I’ve seen in a while. Its central feature is a movie that’s projected onto a cylindrical screen hanging from a ring near the ceiling. It’s tough to visualize unless you see it, but the effect of the cylindrical projection is to give the image a kind of depth, almost 3D. The wordless movie traced the history of the region with a dragon motif, and during several sections the dragon was projected onto a whitish globe at the bottom of the screen. They’d rendered the dragon to appear as though it was trapped inside the sphere, but it would occasionally escape and swim up onto the main screen. Obviously the work of an art director given too much freedom, the movie and its wild screens made the museum memorable.

On the other side of the strait is an incredible aquarium. The first section is a walk-through tank that simulates the strait’s conditions—waves, tides, and of course the fish. At one point the aquarium actually forms a glass cave around you, with schools of tiny silvery fish swimming all around and above. The remaining sections include a gigantic sunfish, one of the few complete blue whale skeletons in the world, and a preserved coelacanth. They were thought to have become extinct millions of years ago, until a fisherman caught one off the coast of Africa in the 1920s or 30s. There aren’t many places you can see a real coelacanth, but Moji’s aquarium is one.

After a couple of days in Moji, we flew to Tokyo to fly home. Ironically, I’d been looking forward to the Tokyo part of the trip—the first few days—much more than the Amakusa part, where I expected to be hot and bored most of the time. Instead, I found Tokyo to be pretty much what I’d expected, with good friends and family visits and great food, but Amakusa turned out to be an unexpected paradise. Beautiful, rural, serene—real. Not the cosmopolitan, overgrown Tokyo with its smog and traffic and neon, but more Japanese than the capital. Though signs of Western—American—cultural influence abound in the form of shopping malls and Starbucks, Amakusa has retained its essential Easternness. It’s still full of rice farms. There are probably more snakes and bugs than people, and the mountains and sea dominate life. Amakusa is probably as close as you can get to visiting authentic Japan.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 15, 2003

TOUCHDOWN AT DULLES

We're back from Japan, and exhausted as you might expect after driving and flying about 7,500 miles in the last two days. Jet lag has us all in its grip now--it's well after midnight and I'm so awake you'd think I've been drinking espresso or something.

I see from glancing down the page that Chris has kept the JYB going full steam ahead while I've been gone. I also see that lots of things have happened in the past two weeks, all of which I was entirely unaware. I existed in a near news blackout while in Japan, and thus missed just about everything that's been going on. It was blissful ignorance, which a few minutes with Fox will clear up. Blogger also seems to have gotten its Dano thing running, and it looks cool. I hope the darn thing works too.

I have another post in the works that will sum up what we did in Japan. We had a great time, saw some wild and amazing things, and enjoyed just about every minute.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NY TIMES BIAS STILL ON DISPLAY

The latest news being spun is that Sen Leahy wants Bush to consult with Democrats in choosing Supreme Court Justices:

In two recent letters to the White House, Mr. Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said that if Mr. Bush took advantage of a vacancy on the court to select a staunchly conservative judge, it would produce a political war that would upset the nation and diminish respect for the courts.

Imagine a Senate Democrat writing that with a strait face. The Times of course avoids mentioning the obvious--how the tactics the Dems are now using (against non-staunch conservatives) are already perverting the Constitutional "advice and consent" rules and diminishing respect for the Senate.

"The courts are the one part of government people yearn to believe is free of politics," Mr. Leahy said. "That's why the Florida case shook people so much," a reference to the Supreme Court ruling in Bush v. Gore that resulted in Mr. Bush's presidency

In a major story about the Supreme Court, isn't this little explanation of Bush v. Gore just a slick way of saying Bush was selected, not elected? And I naively thought it was the votes of the American people that resulted in the election of President Bush. The decision of the Court actually just confirmed the voting process was legal, and that Gore's requested recount scam would be illegal. The Bush Presidency was not the result of a court case.

Anyhow, moving along, if Bush now nominates even ABA-approved judges without consulting the Democrats, the Times says Bush is "choosing confrontation." I'm surprised they didn't call the White House "judicial obstructionists" while they were at it.

So far, the Bush White House and Senate Democrats have chosen confrontation over several nominees for the federal appeals courts, the level just below the Supreme Court.

Although the Senate has 51 Republicans, a bare majority, Democrats have blocked votes on two appeals court nominees and are likely to do so with other candidates, by mounting filibusters, or extended debates.

Mr. Leahy would not name any candidate conservative enough to satisfy Mr. Bush but nonideological enough to win broad support in the Senate.

Nonideological? Wouldn't the potential nominee demanded by the Dems need to be liberal enough (as in pro-abortion) to win broad support? The current litmus test questioning from Democrats seems to be, "Are you, or is anyone in your family, a Christian or Catholic?" They're actually opposing someone who pledges to uphold Roe v. Wade, and are using their personal religious beliefs against them as the disqualifier instead. Be assured that if you were a Satanist and actively promoted vacuuming the brains out of partially-born fetuses, you pass the Democrat's test of being morally fit.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan confirms my hunch that liberals are bringing back the argument that Bush is an illegitimate President who was selected, not elected, and thus shouldn't be allowed to choose any Supreme Court justices. Nice to see the Times jumping on the bandwagon.
Posted by Chris Regan at 07:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

SADDAM STILL ALIVE?

We haven't found his DNA or even a bunker at Dora Farms, and nothing has been found at the Mansour district restaurant yet.

Ahmed Chalabi says we were scammed by a double-agent on the first night of the war, and Saddam is still alive. The first part looks like it may unfortunately be true since there wasn't even a bunker on the site.

Saddam's daughter also says he's still alive for what it's worth. It would be a fascinating event if he's captured, but I wouldn't bet on that outcome given the recent ongoing military action.
Posted by Chris Regan at 06:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

THE ROOT CAUSE OF TERRORISM

It's not poverty, but tyranny.

It also doesn't help when the tyrants behind the Saudi press, who teach children to hate Christians and Jews, employ what appears to be a writer from the NY Times:
The article says "the hate Israeli children harbor toward Palestinians has reached a high point."

"Children under the age of 8 have pictures in their minds of Palestinian children as blind and with no teeth," the al-Majalla story says. "They wish that those children would suffer from AIDS and burn in hell. Israeli children admitted to these feelings. What is even stranger is that they used very strong language, which cannot be published here."

But researcher Asi Sharabi says the writer of the story, Tarsier Jabber, never spoke with him. The Israeli student, studying in London, says Jabber fabricated quotes and selectively used material from his research published in a 2001 story in an Israeli newspaper.

Might the Christian missionaries that the media generally abhors help set the world free from tyranny and hate in the Arab world and elsewhere? William F. Buckley Jr. thinks they might if given a chance.

I tend to agree. It's a good thing he made his argument more convincing than Ann Coulter's "...invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
Posted by Chris Regan at 01:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack