Friday, December 30, 2005

Is Speech not Free in Europe?

I wish this guy had mentioned the case of Oriana Fallaci as well, which is a disgrace and blemish on any democractic country's free speech record but especially for a former facsist state like Italy. He does make a good point about what free speech includes:

Freedom of speech, as its name suggests, does not mean freedom for views
that go down well in polite society but not for views that stink: it means
freedom for all speech, the freedom to think, say and write what we please
and the freedom of everyone else to challenge or ridicule our

More politicians, pundits, and media elite should perk their ears to that last sentence. Their ideas have every right to be challenged and ridiculed especially if they're illogical and unintelligent. Unfortunately, many in these catagories only resort to ad hominem attacks when their ideas get challenged. What happened to reasoned and intelligent discussion in which the actual argument or idea was debated? Perhaps I'm naive and that never happened. But then I think about the Lincoln-Douglas debates and they certainly laid out arguments and tore each other's ideas apart or attempted to. Of course ad hominem barbs were thrown in but at least it wasn't the substance of the argument. Of course the deteriorating American attention span is to blame as well. If TV is any indication, American's can only handle 30 second sound bites which doesn't lend itself to reasoned debate, but awfully well to personal attacks. I don't really believe the American mind is that mushy, but our media elites like to believe so because it gives them the excuse they want to push pap.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Fun

I had a lovely Christmas! There were no intense moments of joy or wonder, but a general feeling of happiness and well-being pervaded my experience. Christmas day my church had a potluck after the service, which turned out to be a brilliant idea. Many people don't have family living in LA or have no place to go this day because everyone else has family to visit; although there were many who brought their families so they didn't have to spend all day in the kitchen preparing a feast. We all feasted together and it was great fun. I think we've started a tradition!

That evening we went to visit my in-laws staying with Steve's sister and during the evening meal I sat between TWO World War II vets. On my left was Ed, 81 years old and wry as ever. He was stationed out of England for about 18 months as a gunner. He'd sit in the nose of the plane and gun down the enemy. I can't imagine having that kind of bird's eye view of all the mayhem happening. He went on 56 missions before the Navy redeployed him back to the U.S. No one from his team was killed in battle (one died from yellow jaundice and another from something else unrelated to fighting). Not only that, but he was part of the Normandy Invasion! I was sitting next to a HERO of WWII who fought on D-Day! To say I was honored was an understatement. I think my jaw dropped every time he shared another story. They just don't make them like that anymore.

To my right was Helen, another octogenarian. She was recruited by the Navy to fix their instrument panels and other related equipment. During this time, she met and worked with Charles Lindbergh. THE Charles Lindbergh of the famous kidnapped and murdered son and the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris. The Lindbergh that helped launch the areonautics industry in America and Helen is talking about him in an offhand way as if he were just her next door neighbor that she borrowed sugar from. A true character that Helen!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Traveling Bits and Pieces

We're baaaaaack from ten glorious albeit frozen days in Berlin and Prague. We needed what this trip provided--a bigger perspective. We'd become so trapped by our petty worries and daily struggles that we'd lost sight of the joy and wonder of life that travel provides. Steve and I made a pact that this trip would NOT be like our honeymoon, which went horribly wrong from the moment we arrived in Paris. No matter what happened we wouldn't stress about it...I have a harder time doing this than Steve. Travel tends to bring out the little dictator in me (just ask Steve). I never get so serious about time as when I'm in a foreign country trying to make sense of public transit systems. Nothing frustrates me more than when I want us to get to the platform to determine that the train is indeed on time to have either my husband or my sister (who is notorious for doing this) say they want to buy water first or go to the bathroom. What if we miss the train?! Egads people, you can pee on the train and you can go an hour without water, but I DO NOT want to wait another interminable stretch of time before getting the next train, bus, or tram. I do fear the unknown in foreign travel. It takes me at least a day or two before I can relax and enjoy the change of scenery and pace. Almost all of my foreign travels begin with me staying awake the first night out worrying about all the travel plans, which is why I always start our travel adventures exhausted.

We did have a fabulous time in both cities even though both Steve and I are horrible tourists. We never visit the proper museums or see the proper sites. We may pay to do a couple of them, but mostly we just walk...a lot. Usually we spend about six to eight hours a day just walking around and exploring the neighborhoods. At the end we feel like we've really experienced the city since we've mirrored the local activity..walking, eating, relaxing at cafes.

The residents of both Berlin and Prague have excellent taste in dogs since everywhere we went I saw West Highland White terriers. Seriously, every day I saw at least one if not two people walking Westies. They go perfectly with winter!

Did you know The Czech Republic (or Czechia as they want to be called) is the number ONE beer drinking country in the world? Ireland is second and Germany is third! They drink beer with breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and just for fun. They do have one of the BEST dark beers I've ever tasted: Kozel cerzny. I generally do not like beer. I rarely choose to drink the stuff. But Kozel I could drink every day it's that good. In fact I'm dreaming about it now the smooth, creamy body with no harsh aftertaste....mmmmmmm. And in Prague it was cheap about 55 cents for a large bottle. I'm so obsessed with this beer that I came home and started researching on the web to figure out how to get it. None of our local shops carry it and in fact I don't think it can be bought in the USA! The horror! I found out on google that a shop in San Antonio may have sold it at one time so I'll be calling them to see if they still do sell it and if they can ship it to me. I must have my Kozel! So, if you're in Prague make sure you try this beer or maybe you shouldn't so you won't be disappointed when you can't get it back home.

Some gear tips: I bought the 3-in-1 Squall jacket from Lands End because it was waterproof, warm to -10 degrees (with layers), came with a hood, and was lightweight. I LOVE this jacket. It kept me toasty (and I get cold easily) and dry in the freezing cold, the driving rains and aggressive winds in Prague, and then the blustery snow of Berlin. It was large enough to accommodate all the layers I wore, but not bulky so I didn't look like the kid from The Christmas Story. I highly recommend this jacket for your all purpose winter needs. Besides it was a steal at $79!

The Lonely Planet Guide to Prague was ok. Their history section was pretty good and their guide to restaurants and cafes was also good. However, their language guide sucked eggs. They gave a pronunciation guide to each letter of the alphabet, then they gave the english sentence with the Czech underneath. But they did NOT sound out the words for you. Apparently they thought their pronunciation guide was adequate. It was not. Czech is a very difficult language to speak. I could barely pronounce the word for Thank You after three days and I have an ear for languages. Forget asking for anything else. We took a walking tour our first day and our guide said that children before entering school often get speech therapists to help them with their pronunciation since it's that difficult! And yet, Lonely Planet thought the average tourist could do better than the native children. Thanks for nothing!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Who Was Che?

Who was the real Che? Here's what Jay Nordlinger from NRO had to say about him:

He was an Argentinian revolutionary who served as Castro's primary thug. He was
especially infamous for presiding over summary executions at La Cabaña, the
fortress that was his abattoir. He liked to administer the coup de grâce, the
bullet to the back of the neck. And he loved to parade people past El Paredón,
the reddened wall against which so many innocents were killed. Furthermore, he
established the labor-camp system in which countless citizens--dissidents,
democrats, artists, homosexuals--would suffer and die. This is the Cuban

Do you still want to wear the mug of this thug on a T-shirt to glorify his memory?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hurrah for the Italians

I wish our own politicians had as much gumption as these Italians do. There should be severe condemnation against Iran's government for making such asinine remarks.

Politicians from Italy's left and right have said they will attend a rally
in front of the Iranian Embassy on Thursday to protest remarks by the
Iranian president that Israel should be "wiped off the map.

There can be no Palistinian state without Muslim agreement that Israel has a right to exist. What was the point of Transjordan /Jordan if not to function as a palestinian state?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Doe vs. Groody

Now that Alito is up for confirmation all the lefty attack dogs are digging through the trash to find something that will make him smell bad enough to warrant a filibuster. The liberal lefts methods are so childish. Rather than argue or reason persuasively and logically, they can only resort to ad hominem attacks or distortion of the truth to scare voters. The boys at Powerline blog believe the Doe vs. Groody case will be a judgment that gets distorted by the media. So we'd better know what they're trying to distort. Alito's dissent sounds completely reasonable and persuasive to me. It's not like the cops were just looking for an excuse to strip a drug addict for their own sick pleasure. Here's what John at Powerline had to say:

Groody was a lawsuit by two "Jane Doe" plaintiffs against four police
officers. The plaintiffs claimed that they were illegally searched by the
officers, and asked for money damages. The officers moved for summary judgment,
arguing that the search did not violate any clearly established constitutional
rights. By a two-to-one vote, the 3rd Circuit panel upheld the trial court's
denial of the officers' motion to dismiss the case. Alito was the

The case arose out of the execution of a search warrant on a meth
house. In the affidavit that the officers submitted to obtain the warrant, they
noted that when drug dealers see that they are being raided, they commonly hide
drugs on the persons of whoever may also be on the premises, hoping that the
search warrant won't allow the officers to search them. So, in this case, the
officers requested permission to search anyone they found on the premises, not
just the drug dealer who was the target of the raid.

The search warrant was drafted by the police officers and signed by a magistrate. It granted the officers' request for a warrant, but didn't specifically say that they could
search occupants of the house other than the drug dealer. The officers testified
that this was only because the box on the form where they described the premises
to be searched wasn't big enough to contain more information, but that they
believed that the information in their supporting affidavit was incorporated by

The majority held that the warrant did not authorize the officers
to search anyone but the drug dealer himself. Alito disagreed. In my opinion,
Alito got much the better of the argument. You can judge for yourself by reading
the decision here. Alito wrote:

First, the best reading of the warrant is that it authorized the
search of any persons found on the premises. Second, even if the warrant did not
contain such authorization, a reasonable police officer could certainly have
read the warrant as doing so, and therefore the appellants are entitled to
qualified immunity.

Alito noted that, under the controlling authorities, search warrants "are to be read 'in a commonsense and realistic fashion,'" a proposition with which I think most Americans, and most Senators, would agree. Liberals' reference to a "strip search" by officers will evoke images of slavering voyeurs gratuitously disrobing a mother and child, so it is important to understand what really happened. This description comes from the majority opinion:

The officers decided to search Jane and Mary Doe for
contraband, and sent for the meter patrol officer. When she arrived, the female
officer removed both Jane and Mary Doe to an upstairs bathroom. They were
instructed to empty their pockets and lift their shirts. The female officer
patted their pockets. She then told Jane and Mary Doe to drop their pants and
turn around. No contraband was found. With the search completed, both Jane and
Mary Doe were returned to the ground floor to await the end of the

Judge Alito made it clear that he was not pleased by the fact that
searches of this nature may be necessary. But, as in so many other instances,
the problem doesn't arise from gratuitous malice on the part of police officers,
it arises from the tactics of drug dealers:

I share the majority’s visceral dislike of the intrusive search of John Doe’s young daughter, but it is a sad fact that drug dealers sometimes use children to carry out their business and to avoid prosecution. I know of no legal principle that bars an officer from searching a child (in a proper manner) if a warrant has been issued and the warrant is not illegal on its face. Because the warrant in this case authorized the searches that are challenged – and because a reasonable officer, in any event, certainly could have thought that the warrant conferred such authority – I would reverse.

Every indication is that the officers in this case met the
highest professional standards. What did they get for their pains? They got
sued. Judge Alito's opinion in Groody is well-reasoned and highly persuasive.
There is no reason why leftists should be allowed to use it to cast doubt on
Alito's qualifications. On the contrary, it is a good illustration of why we
need jurists like Judge Alito on the Supreme Court.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Today's Historical Moment

What is so significant about today, October 31st? Oh, don't say Halloween. Halloween may be a fun time to dress up, load up on sweets and prepare for All Saints Day on November 1st (like so many of us do THAT). But such frivolity didn't change the face of Western Civilization. Nope, it's something far more grand and contentious at the same time. Tired of guessing? The Reformation! Woohoo!

Today is Reformation Day, the day Martin Luther pounded his 95 Theses or declarations to the door of Wittenburg Cathedral in 1517. In doing so, he threw down the gauntlet in the hopes that the Pope and his minions would engage him in debate. Luther argued for sola scriptura, sola fides, and sola something else. In English that means the church is not over scripture but under scripture. Therefore, the Catholic Church should be held accountable by and to God's Word, or Holy Scripture. Luther also clarified that we are saved by faith alone with God's grace. We cannot earn our salvation through the buying of indulgences or the doing of good works. Luther never intended to split from Catholicism but only wanted to reform it, to bring it back to Biblical truth. Popel Leo X would have none of it and declared Luther a heretic. And thus, the Reformation was born and the domination of the Catholic church and its popes weakened.

Two men were precursors to Martin Luther but with a similar message: John Wycliffe and Jan Hus. Wycliffe was the first to translate the Bible into the English vernacular so that the common man could read it for himself. For centuries the Bible was only in Latin and the only people who could read it were those who were highly educated, not a large percentage of the population. He was also against the church being in charge of governmental or temporal affairs and condemned it's use of the sword against its enemies. He believed that it corrupted the church. For his troubles, Wcliffe was posthumously burned as a heretic. Jan Hus was also burned at the stake as a heretic for propagating the beliefs of Wycliffe in Bohemia or modern day Czech Republic. Both these men sowed seeds that would be harvested by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and others.

We live with the legacy of the reformation in many ways. One big way is that it opened the way for the separation between church and state. So everyone living in America owes these first Protestants a huge Thank You for bucking the establishment or the system or "the Man" if you will to follow their conscience and the truth. To this day, the Catholic Church believes the Protestants broke off from Church tradition. However, Protestants believe they continued what was started in the early years of the Church and it was the Catholic Church that diverged from the truth. And yet, more than ever there's an ecumenical spirit growing between Catholics and Protestants (and even the Orthodox, but that's another story).

Take a moment and give a prayer of thanks for these men and the positive changes they wrought on the world.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Can insects get fat? or reptiles? I would venture a guess that insects expend so much energy capturing and eating their food that they're always treading a fine line between life and death. I have no scientific evidence or knowledge to support that theory, but that's what I think. Now reptiles I could see getting fat if they were pets, but again not if they're part of the food chain of eat or be eaten. And yet, perhaps insects can get fat. A spider has set up shop near our back porch and been doing a brisk trade. Everyday fat bundles are stuck in his web. I fear the spider's abdomen is getting larger. I fear the spider will leap at my face the next time I walk by. The web is beautiful and an engineering marvel (if I remember my science textbook correctly). But. The spider is getting bigger. I must resist the urge to destroy it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Historic Moment in Turkey

For years, the Turks refused to allow the Kurds the freedom to express their Kurdish identity. It wasn't until June 2004 that the government even permitted TV programs in the Kurdish language. Until last year or so, Turkey has been committed to the reforms Ataturk enacted early in the 20th century to forge the descendents of the failed Ottoman Empire into one homogenous people group. So for the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to say the following is a HUGE step in the right direction.

In a recent speech in Diyarbakir, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the government has mishandled relations with the Kurds, and their long-standing grievances need to be addressed through
greater democracy, not repression.
In this largest city in the nation's
troubled Kurdish region, the crowds applauded wildly. "The significance of his
words can't be underestimated," said the chairman of Diyarbakir's influential
Bar Association. "It's the first time any Turkish leader has admitted to
wrongdoing on the part of the state." Since Erdogan came to power in 2002, his
party has enacted sweeping reforms allowing Kurds to broadcast and publish in
their own language as well as to teach it in private courses.
However, not everyone is happy with Erdogan's comments. I'm assuming Erdogan made these comments because he desperately wants Turkey to get into the EU and they have to show they're serious about protecting human rights. Keep your eye on this country for I'm sure there will be interesting developments for good or for ill in the next couple of years. They're a petri dish with Islam and Democracy being the microbes and everyone wondering if the two can work together. Admitting guilt is a step towards better democracy. However, as I mentioned below there's still the threat of imprisonment for Ophan Pamuk because of his statement about the government's complicity in the Armenian genocide. Obviously they're not a perfect democracy just yet (none of them are), but at least they're working at it.

Harry Jaffa Speaks!

If you're in Orange County Friday night check out Harry Jaffa speaking at Trinity Law. He's Professor Emeritus of government at Claremont McKenna college, founder of the Claremont Institute, and author of A New Birth of Freedom. His talk is on The Moral Foundations of the Law. An important issue considering today's political, legal, and social landscape where morals are considered mere opinions as opposed to absolute and objective knowledge. If anyone does attend, please post your comments about his talk here. And it's FREE.

The Trinity Law and Trinity Graduate Schools
2200 N. Grand Ave. Santa Ana CA, 92705
Friday Night Speaker Series
Date: 14 OCTOBER 2005
Time: 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Where: Room #200

Monday, October 10, 2005

Harriet Miers

Is Harriet Miers another Sandra Day O'Connor? It's looking that way. Stanley Kurtz of National Review has been digging into her past as the head of the Texas Bar Association, here are some of his conclusions:

The most telling thing about Miers is that she sees membership in the Federalist Society as excessively “political,” yet doesn’t think twice about associating herself with a lecture series that invites the likes of Gloria Steinem, Pat Schroeder, and Susan Faludi. That’s because Miers’ political career is based on being the one member of the conservative Texas establishment that liberal feminists can best work with. Miers has spent a lifetime being the sort of conservative who tries to swim within the “mainstream.” Miers would rather make a partnership with the far left, than risk being called an outsider on the right. Her almost obsessive silence about her political views probably derives in part from the fact that her own support base comprehends everyone from pro-life evangelical conservatives to Susan Faludi-like feminists.

Even when Miers went out of her way to make a conservative point–as in the drive for ABA neutrality on abortion–her underlying purpose was to keep her Texas group connected to the national center of “mainstream” liberalism (and her formal position was mere neutrality). And even if Miers’ advice to the White House to go slow on affirmative action and stem cells was based on a political calculation, it was a calculation that fit very comfortably with Miers’ long-term intellectual-political orientation. Whatever her personal views, Miers doesn’t feel comfortable openly positioning herself to the right of what liberals call the “mainstream” on social issues. My sense is that this makes Miers into something of a Sandra Day O’Connor figure–someone who could go either way on the big social issues. On the one hand, Miers’s personal instincts are conservative. On the other hand, she is used to working in coalition with, making concessions to, and often sympathizing with, feminist liberals. (David Frum's excerpts from Miers's writings broadly support this point.)

On abortion, Miers is clearly opposed personally, yet her history is that of working with, and making concessions to, feminists to her left. So I’d say that one’s a toss-up. In short, given her history of building coalitions with liberal feminists, I think Miers is likely to be an O’Connor-like figure, who could break either way on all the big social issues.

I'm not keen on the Miers nomination. I wanted and think we needed the fight that could've happened over a real nominee with stellar credentials. I'm really curious to see if Republicans will bork Miers. If they do, it would be a huge testament to their belief in the importance of ideas over the strictly political. We'll see....

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My Mister

How do I know my mister loves me? He surprised me with pork chops stuffed with a cheese, spinach and garlic mixture when I came home from work. Nothing is so sexy as a man who cooks and has it waiting for you after a grueling day. You may be thinking what's the big deal. But food is a contentious issue in our home. If we argue about anything, it's about what we're going to eat. We can have yelling matches about what restaurant to eat at or what take out to get (usually because we've been dithering for an hour and are near starvation by the time we decide). Neither of us likes to make food decisions because neither of us wants the other to be disappointed with the choice. And if we're talking about making food, it was usually my responsibility since my mister didn't know how to cook. But lately I've been tired of cooking, thinking about food or trying to figure out what's for dinner that night. My mister had never cooked prior to marrying me five years ago. And in those five years, I could count on one hand the number of meals he made from scratch.

Yet his endeavors this past month have me counting on both hands now and that's a big deal in our household. Not only that, but all the speciality meals he's made have turned out fantastic. For a beginner, he's marvelous. His lasagna, chicken picata, and now stuffed pork chops have all been winners. And pork is a difficult meat 'cause it dries out so quickly. Not these chops. Moist, succulent, and oh so tasty! If you have a mister or a misses who doesn't know sauteing from stewing give them Cooks Illustrated. It's the best magazine for beginners since they give detailed instructions from start to finish and explain all the science behind the technique.

My mister loves me 'cause he's willing to do what I hate to keep me happy and us both nourished. Left to me, it would be cereal every night with a boiled egg thrown in for protein.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Keep an eye on this guy....

He wrote Snow and My Name is Red. Now he's saying what no Turk has dared to say: That the Turkish government was responsible for the Armenian genocide from 1915-1918. For almost a century, Turkey has refused to admit any guilt for the extermination of the Armenians. Their history books ignore it, their politicians deny it, but Orhan Pamuk is apologizing for it. A famous Turkish writer is airing his country's dirty laundry that has moldered for almost one hundred years. As a result he faces up to three years in prison for speaking the truth about his government's sordid past. Pamuk isn't speaking to the world, he's speaking to his own people who have their hands clapped over their eyes, ears and mouth when it comes to problems in Turkey's past. Let's hope that with the upcoming EU talks, Turkey will think twice about imprisoning Pamuk for what the rest of the world already knows to be true.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Kissing Judases

Os Guiness rebukes the pseudo Christian leaders who are corrupting mainline denominations. Following are some excerpts from a recent speech he gave to a worldwide gathering of Anglicans as reported by The Layman:

"Soren Kierkegaard called them 'kissing Judases' – followers of Jesus who betray
him with an interpretation."

Guinness said liberal denominational leaders have followed to a fault
Friedrich Schleiermacher's plea that Christians reach out to "the cultured
despisers of the gospel." Rather than reach them to convert them, said Guinness,
the current church leadership has joined and become like cultured despisers of
the gospel, no longer being faithful to Jesus Christ.

Guinness labeled the current ecclesiastical state
as "an Alice in Wonderland Church in which Christian leaders now openly deny
what all Christians have believed and many have died to defend; Christian
leaders who celebrate what their faith once castigated; Christian leaders who
advance views closer to their foes than to their founder; and Christian leaders
who deny the faith, but stay on shamelessly as leaders of the faith they

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Celebrity Weather

For a dramatic reading of LA weather, and yes we do have weather contrary to popular belief, check out this celebrity's site for a daily update. Apparently his report is getting affiliated. At least that's what I think his last remark suggests.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Time Line of Local, State, Federal efforts in LA

Check out Rick Moran's website for a time line of all the efforts in Lousiana. A fascinating read of who knew or said what and when. It may confirm or blow away your perceptions of the effort, or a little bit of both. People were so shocked and horrified that Michael Brown didn't know there were evacuees in the Convention Center a place that was never mentioned in the emergency evacuation plans. Well, it sounds like Brown wasn't the only one who didn't know. (HT:Hugh Hewitt)


Friday, September 02, 2005

That Bitch Katrina

What are those looters going to do with the junk they stole? Seriously, they're in the middle of a massive natural disaster with untold consequences to life and livelihoods and all they can think to do is to steal trifles. An ipod, a flat screen TV, a camera, a carton of A1 Steak Sauce are all trifles compared to the drama raging around them. What is going on in the souls of these people that they can focus on stealing crap while people surround them wailing and gnashing their teeth. How does one put the lust for a material possession before the safety of their own life? Where are they going to watch that TV when they have no home? How are they going to charge that ipod when there's no electricity? How will they eat that steak sauce when there's no food? It's absurd. It's deeply disturbing. It's human nature.

Then you have the blame game. Everyone's going to come out dirty in this game. The blame starts local and moves up. Ain't no one going to escape the mud. Government corruption of the kind that ran rampant in Lousiana and New Orleans for decades leaves the state weak when it most needs to be strong--natural (and unnatural) disasters. Too bad it's the people who pay.

Monday, August 29, 2005

So Cindy Sheehan doesn't think this country is worth fighting for. The USA, one of the freest and most just nations in the modern world let alone history (compared to reality not a utopia), a country that lets her spew filth without a governmental bitchslap in response, is not worth fighting for. Makes me wonder what kind of country she does think is worth the fight. How about North Korea Ms. Cindy Sheehan? Let's take a look at that country. Following are highlights from a Touchstone Magazine article on this evil regime:

German activist Dr. Norbert Vollertsen was one of the first to
mobilize American advocacy for human rights in North Korea. In 1999,
volunteering as an emergency-room doctor in Pyongyang, he donated skin for a
graft for a burn victim. The North Koreans rewarded him with a “Friendship
Medal,” a car, and a V.I.P. passport, affording him the kind of access never
given to those on state visits. Vollertsen was undone when he saw the real
North Korea: the country of mass starvation; villages with no sanitation or
running water; no medical care; and orphanages full of dying children
. Since
that time, he has devoted his life to efforts to bring freedom to that country.
He and other heroes regularly risk their lives helping North Korean


A 2004 BBC documentary, Access to Evil, provided another shocking revelation. A producer and an investigative journalist were invited to North Korea to film a political documentary in which the regime offered its perspective on the nuclear crisis. Undeterred by the propaganda the authorities organized for them, the filmmakers interviewed several defectors now living in Seoul and ended up revealing North Korea’s gas chambers and chemical experiments to the world.
The witnesses included a former prison-camp security chief who had watched parents and children die by poisonous gas injected into a small glass cubicle, and a doctor who had actually performed the experiments. Those the regime considered enemies of the state, including Christians, were selected for the experiments.


Christians and other political prisoners receive life sentences of hard labor, tantamount to a drawn-out, torturous death sentence. Soon Ok Lee, a former North Korean government worker and prisoner, witnessed the persecution and death of many Christians. She saw prison officials pour molten lead over one group of elderly believers. The uncompromising faith of Christian prisoners deeply moved Mrs. Lee, who has become a Christian and a tireless activist.

What would Cindy Sheehan say if her son died to liberate the North Koreans? How can one so weak raise one so strong? I must believe that he grew into a man despite his mother and not because of her.

Andre Kertesz Photos

I found this photo simply breathtaking. The trees look so delicate and so like pressed seaweed. Yes, that was my first thought that his photo looked like my pressed seaweed.

Words that came to mind from the simple elements of a stark building and a shadowey figure: drama, suspense, foreboding, intrigue.

Elegant and restful.

A Perfect Day

I slept until almost eleven and didn't feel a moment of regret either. The only reason I got up then is that the bedroom was slowly roasting me. I then made myself some Cameron Highlands tea my sister picked up for me in Malaysia, two pieces of toast buttered with raspberry jam, and a sliced peach. Ah the decadence of buttered toast. Butter is one of my favorite foods (or is it a foodstuff? what's the difference?). As a child, I'd savor slivers of butter I shaved off the stick. Now and again you can catch me eating butter especially when I'm baking. But I digress.

I lingered over my tea reading G.K. Chesterton's What's Wrong with the World. I find his diatribes against the Reformation and Martin Luther hilarious. If I was Catholic I'd probably feel the same way. In fact many Protestants think the Catholics are seriously misguided and all going to hell. So he's really just the flip side of the same sentiment.

After breakfast I puttered around in between bouts of lethargy spent lounging on the sofa reading catalogues, magazines, and the book Answering Islam. I then trolled through various books copying passages into my ideas notebook that I wanted to ruminate on at a later date. We batted around the idea of seeing a movie, but tired of the discussion and instead pulled up a Pat Novack for Hire radio detective show from the 1940's starring Jack Webb and Raymond Burr as Inspector Hellman. You can find MP3's for a few of the shows here. The writing's smooth, the humor dry, and the delivery laugh-out-loud funny. I love it. Agnes Bolton is my favorite episode so far.

Needing to escape the heat, we decided to see the Tim Hawkinson show at LACMA (after five is free!). But not before I insisted we stop at Canter's for a bowl of Kreplach soup (with an extra kreplach) and a cup of coffee. Strangely enough I get cravings for soup even when it's 98 degrees outside. But I can only eat it if I'm in an air conditioned restaurant or it's 10 o'clock at night otherwise I perspire. Back to Tim Hawkinson. From LACMA's website (which is hideous):

The central subject of Hawkinson’s work is often his own body,
whose likeness he inflates, measures, weighs, reflects, and animates. Eschewing
conventional self-portraits, Hawkinson uses his own physical form as a starting
point for investigations into material, perception, and time. His analytical
approach is often balanced by a suggestion of spirituality, as in Balloon
Self-Portrait (1993, refabricated 2004), a life-size, inflated latex cast of the
artist’s body that has been inflated and hovers over the gallery floor like an
apparition. In other works, though, Hawkinson reduces his self to a simple
machine effect, as in the kinetic sculpture Signature (1993), which ceaselessly
inscribes the artist’s own signature.

Creepiest piece was a small sculpure of a bird skeleton made from his fingernail clippings. If I could buy one of his pieces it would be his elephant "skin" made from aluminum foil and something else. For being made from foil it looked remarkably real, but not at the same time. Intriguing. It'd look fantastic hanging in a hunting lodge.

Next, we popped into view Andre Kertesz's photography which was breathtaking. I love his eye! I'll post a few of his photos in my next posting.

After LACMA, we dined with my sister and her husband on tri-tip and champagne with Cassis.

A perfect day from start to finish.

My Friday

If not for the heat (and the lack of air conditioning in our wee apartment), my weekend would have been perfect. Friday wasn't auspicious. I laid off an employee, a very agreeable and likable fellow I'll call Mark. I've laid off employees before, but in that instance I was happy to see them leave. Not this time.

My goal during the last three (or is it now four) years as Manager has been to create a department that is highly functional and works well together. It required letting people leave for the competition without making a counter offer, laying off two others (one who was a trouble maker and another who was incompetent) and not hiring ex-employees who left on their own accord but then wanted to return to their old position. Which wasn't as simple as it sounds since I couldn't always pay my first choice candidates what they deserved or what they wanted. Yet despite the obstacles Corporate has thrown along the way, I've developed a great department. All of which to say I'm sad to see Mark leave. He was dependable, honest, intelligent, and unflappable. He made a good foil to the other more high strung tempraments in the office.

However, Mark made one egregious error in handling a large client of his. The client then threw a temper tantrum which ended with him sending an email to Mark (and copying the rest of my department--very bad form) berating him for his lack of customer service skills and ranting about all that Mark had done wrong in handling his problem. It was ugly. Unfortunately for Mark it made him the layoff target since the incident put him on my two bosses radar. And yet, it may have been the best thing for him. Mark wasn't happy; he aspired to be a scriptwriter (this being hollywood) but wasn't motivated to move on from here to pursue his dream. He also wasn't promoted like most others in the office and now wouldn't be because of losing his biggest client. Basically he was in a dead end job. So perhaps the layoff (which gave him three weeks severance) was ultimately an act of mercy to push him into his dream. Mark being Mark handled the layoff with his usual aplomb. I thank him for that.

I'm afraid there may be more lay offs in the near future. For all I know, my own.

Friday, August 26, 2005

How Hot?

I'm melting. At 11am this morning it was 90 degrees in the shade and I'm not talking about Valley temperatures which reached 100. Now, at 8:15pm it's so still and sultry I belong in a Tennesse Williams' play as the woman desperate for her man yet frigid with unresolved sexual tension. Or a dame in a Raymond Chandler novel sipping a shot of whiskey to stay cool while perched on the porch waiting for her crooked boyfriend. Yep, it's that hot.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bangledesh Bombed

200 bombs exploded in Bangladesh last week all over the country in a well-planned attack of psychological and physical terrorism. The bombs were not intended to kill civilians....yet, but to show the terrorists power. The Islamists in Bangladesh have thrown down the gauntlet and chances are no one will challenge them for fear of deadlier destruction. I remember, before we went in to liberate Iraq, there was a lot of talk about the compatibility of Islam with Democracy. A lot of pundits were skeptical that countries with an Islamic majority could ever transition to Democracy. However, to prove the naysayers wrong, other pundits cited Turkey and Bangladesh as functioning Democracies with large Muslim populations. Bangladesh, a country that's barely on the radar of news agencies let alone the American public is the third largest Muslim nation in the world behind Indonesia and India and yet it has (had?) an established parliamentary form of democracy. But Islamists are now holding the nation hostage threatening further destruction and mayhem if they don't win enough votes to take over the Parliament and enact Sharia law. The group who planned the bombs appear to have many members who used to work in Saudi Arabia where they were indoctrinated into Wahhabism. Bangledesh is becoming the new breeding ground for terrorists. How will this effect the rest of muslim SouthEast Asia like Indonesia and Malaysia? How will these governments respond? How will or should WE respond?

Friday, August 12, 2005


I hate needles. As a child I loved getting shots. At least that's what my mom tells me. I do have a recollection of being four or five with my bum in the air getting my monthly shots for living in the tropics. My memory isn't one of trauma so it must be true that I liked them at some point. No more. Every time I get a shot I ask the nurse if it will hurt. They usually think I mean the after effects or the internal pain, but I don't. I mean the literal needle poke into the arm. And the answer is always no and they're always right, but I always keep asking. There's one notable exception. The most painful in all my history of getting shots is the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella booster (also known as the MMR in doctor lingo). Tetnus, GammaGlobulin, antibiotics, none of these even register as shots compared to the MMR. The liquid burns as it enters your arm and is so thick it takes a good minute before they remove the needle (that might be an exaggeration, but it's hard to know when it feels like you could've written a novel in the amount of time it takes) . But the pain doesn't subside since the vaccination juice continues to swirl and sting. I nearly passed out after leaving reception.

I received one other traumatic shot when I went under the knife to get a cholesterol bump removed as a wee eight year old. For years I had a small bump at the corner of my mouth growing larger and larger with each year. We were afraid it would ruin my chances of marriage if left to itself so the decision was made to Remove It! To numb the area, they slid a needle through the layers of skin between the inside and outside of my mouth starting at the corner of my mouth. Despite being one of the most painful experiences of my life, I never cried, but I squeezed the nurses hand so hard she cramped. (The other painful experience was smashing my finger in a door, having it swell to three times its natural size, and my parents saying it would heal in a day or two. Yes, they never took me to the doctor to get the finger drilled to relieve pressure and to this day it aches in humid weather (actually that's not true about humid weather. But I've always wanted a body part that augurs weather conditions)).

Why am I sharing needle memories? I had to get blood work done today to determine if I have high cholesterol or a thyroid condition. The first sentence out of the nurse were words of horror to anyone with a fear of needles. "Oh dear. I can't find your vein." AAAAAAGH. Such words immediately conjure up visions of vain (no pun intended, ok pun intended) poking and prodding with a needle to find the vein. My fears were groundless. The nurse found a plump vein in no time, filled the vial, and sent me on my way in five minutes. Ah, competency.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Those Dang Presbyterians

The PCUSA (Presbyterian Church, USA) once again thinks it's a political organization rather than a church. They'd been toying with the idea of divesting PCUSA investments from companies who work with Israel, but now have started the process. Here's Lileks risible take on the decision of the Elders of PCUSA:

The Presbyterian church - not the members, but the learned elders - has announced it will use the church’s stock holdings to target Israel for being mean to the Palestinians. But they’re not anti-Semites. Heavens, nay. Don’t you dare question their philosemitism! No, they looked at the entire world, including countries that lop off your skull if you convert to Presbyterianism, and what did they chose as the object of their ire? A country the size of a potato chip hanging on the edge of a region noted for despotism and barbarity. By some peculiar coincidence, it just happens to be full of Jews.

Doesn’t matter that one side is a liberal democracy that grants rights to women and non-Jews, and the other side has thugs and assassins for rulers and sends its kids to summer camps where they learn the joys of good ol’ fashioned Jew-killin’; doesn’t matter at all. According to the script of the hard left, Israel was created when some Europeans (hisssss) invaded the sovereign nation of Palestine, even though we all know the Jewish homeland is somewhere outside of Passaic. Then for no reason Israel invaded the West Bank and Gaza – which for some reason had not been set up as New Palestine by the Egyptians and the Jordanians, but never mind – and made everyone stand in line and get frisked. Those who joined the line in ‘67 are just getting through now. Evil Zionists.

The companies the church wishes to pressure include Caterpillar, which makes bulldozers purchased by the Israelis for the sole purpose of knocking down innocent homes of gentle lamb herders; Motorola, which among other things sells night-vision goggles that give the IDF an unfair advantage over people who want to smuggle in bombs to encourage the social-justice dialogue. The church will probably get around to boycotting Cuisinart, if the imams suggest that Jews use Cuisinart products to grind up Gentile bones for Passover pastries. Of course it’s not true, literally, but in the culture of the occupation and resistance, we must understand these things as potent metaphors. False, yes, but potent! Perhaps they could just boycott Cuisinart’s cookie-sheet division.

Check out all of Lileks' screedblogs here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Steven Vincent

I'm sure by now that most people have heard about the murder of Steven Vincent in Iraq last week. The chatter is that his NY Times opinion piece made him a prime target. I was not very familiar with his work having read only one piece of his prior to his death. But after reading that he journeyed through Iraq alone relying on his wits and contacts he made on the go, I knew I needed to read more.

Following are bits and pieces taken from his blog and from an Interview with Frontpage that will hopefully pique your interest for more. I found his style engaging and credible since he wasn't sent by any media outlet with a particular perspective. I also found his voice refreshing for he doesn't shy way from the topics no one is discussing in the mainstream media like the evil effects of multiculturalism, the continuing oppression of Muslim women, and the compatibility of Islam and democracy. If you like what you read here buy his book In the Red Zone from his blog site.

From his blog, talking about the disaster that is multiculturalism:

I'd wanted to introduce Layla to the Gary Cooper side of America, and I felt I'd succeeded. Instead of the evasive, over-subtle, windy Iraqi, fond of theory and abstraction, here was a to-the-point Yank, rolling up his sleeves with a can-do spirit of fair play and doing good. "I want to have a positive effect on this country's future," the Captain averred. "For example, whenever I learn of a contracting firm run by women, I put it at the top of my list for businesses I want to consider for future projects." I felt proud of my countryman; you couldn't ask for a more sincere guy.
Layla, however, flashed a tight, cynical smile. "How do you know," she began, "that the religious parties haven't put a woman's name on a company letterhead to win a bid? Maybe you are just funneling money to extremists posing as contractors." Pause. The Captain looked confused. "Religious parties? Extremists?"
Oh boy. Maa salaama Gary Cooper, as Layla and I gave our man a quick tutorial about the militant Shiites who have transformed once free-wheeling Basra into something resembling Savonarola's Florence. The Captain seemed taken aback, having, as most Westerners--especially the troops stationed here--little idea of what goes on in the city. "I'll have to take this into consideration..." scratching his head, "I certainly hope none of these contracts are going to the wrong people." Not for the first time, I felt I was living in a Graham Greene novel, this about about a U.S. soldier--call it The Naive American--who finds what works so well in Power Point presentations has unpredictable results when applied to realities of Iraq. Or is that the story of our whole attempt to liberate this nation?
Collecting himself, "But should we really get involved in choosing one political group over another?" the Captain countered. "I mean, I've always believed that we shouldn't project American values onto other cultures--that we should let them be. Who is to say we are right and they are wrong?"
And there it was, the familiar Cultural-Values-Are-Relative argument, surprising though it was to hear it from a military man. But that, too, I realized, was part of American Naiveté: the belief, evidently filtering down from ivy-league academia to Main Street, U.S.A., that our values are no better (and usually worse) than those of foreign nations; that we have no right to judge "the Other;" and that imposing our way of life on the world is the sure path to the bleak morality of Empire (cue the Darth Vader theme).
But Layla would have none of it. "No, believe me!" she exclaimed, sitting forward on her stool. "These religious parties are wrong! Look at them, their corruption, their incompetence, their stupidity! Look at the way they treat women! How can you say you cannot judge them? Why shouldn't your apply your own cultural values?"
It was a moment I wish every muddle-headed college kid and Western-civilization-hating leftist could have witnessed: an Air Force Captain quoting chapter and verse from the new American Gospel of Multiculturalism, only to have a flesh and blood representative of "the Other" declare that he was incorrect, that discriminations and judgment between cultures are possible--necessary--especially when it comes to the absolutely unacceptable way Middle Eastern Arabs treat women. And though Layla would not have pushed the point this far, I couldn't resist. "You know, Captain," I said, "sometimes American values are just--better

And from his interview with Frontpage, talking about the importance of words:

The most despicable misuse of terminology, however, occurs when Leftists call the Saddamites and foreign jihadists “the resistance.” What an example of moral inversion! For the fact is, paramilitary death squads are attacking the Iraqi people. And those who oppose the killers--the Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, members of the Allawi government, people like Nour—they are the “resistance.” They are preventing Islamofascists from seizing Iraq, they are resisting evil men from turning the entire nation into a mass slaughterhouse like we saw in re-liberated Falluja. Anyone who cares about success in our struggle against Islamofascism—or upholds principles of moral clarity and lucid thought—should combat such Orwellian distortions of our language.

Here he talks about the effects of tribal Islam on women:

My experiences in Iraq, together with what I witnessed in Iran in 2000, led me to wonder why the civilized world doesn’t rise up en masse and say Enough! We will no longer tolerate the way that Muslim nations in the Middle East treat women! Alas, in today’s multicultural world, such outrage is impossible.

Meanwhile, in Iraq the compass of women’s lives—their legal and social rights, hopes and dreams and image of themselves—slowly constricts. Criminals prey on females, forcing them to remain indoors after dark. Islamic clerics pressure them to don black abiyas—even when the heat tops 140 degrees. Tribal leaders and Shia imams agitate for shari’a—misogynistic Islamic law—to regulate every aspect of a woman’s existence. Polygamy, honor killings, divorce by repudiation, temporary marriages (essentially religiously-sanctioned adultery) have returned, at least as matters of serious discussion.

What I learned from Nour—and what I discuss in much of In the Red Zone--is the psychic claustrophobia of Iraqi society. Reputation and virginity are everything—should a woman lose the first, she is ostracized from “good” society; lose the second before marriage and she risks being murdered by her “shamed” family. On the street, in restaurants, taxi cabs, mosques, and public place, men (and women) stare at females, waiting—hoping—they will do something that will disgrace themselves and fuel invidious gossip. “The relationships between Iraqi men and women are sadomasochistic,” Nour told me. From what I saw, she is right.

More discussion of liberating muslim women from oprression by applying Western standards of freedom, equality, and human rights to their situation:

As I’ve noted here and elsewhere, suppression of the feminine—whether it be feminine sexuality, freedom or laughter—is the foundation upon which the death-cult of Islamofascism rests. Undermine that foundation, and the entire edifice, from al-Sadr to Zarqawi to bin Laden will collapse.

But for the West to encourage such an event, we must overcome our own fears of liberated women. By that I mean, the Left must discard a multicultural mindset that refuses to use Western standards to criticize other cultures, even when Western values—such as feminism--are clearly more beneficial to those cultures. As I describe in my book, one afternoon in Baghdad I listened to a group of Western anti-war activists complain that the American invasion of Iraq was an imperialistic attempt to crush the country’s native culture. When I suggested that some aspect of this “native culture” should be crushed—like forcing women to wear black sacks in blistering summer weather—one of the activists looked at me with a shocked expression. “But feminism has brought such destruction to the American family, do we want to wish that on Iraq?” And she was no post-feminist youngster, but a woman from the anti-Vietnam War days!

This—along with an unwillingness to support the Bush Administration in anything—explains in large part the silence of the Left as Islamofascists repeatedly violate their core beliefs of secularism, human rights and creative freedom (where are the outcries about the murder of Theo van Gogh? They come mostly from the Right). I remember my Iraqi friend Naseer telling me how impressed his mother was to see American women soldiers. His mom didn’t realize such gender equality was possible, or that women could interact so easily with their male counterparts—and millions of other women across Iraq are learning similar feminist lessons. The Left has got to accept one fact that has stuck in their craw since the Vietnam War: where the American military goes, so goes human freedom.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Great Pick Up Line

So I'm hanging out with Steve, my husband, and a friend at an art opening this weekend that included work from another friend of Steve's. As we're talking, an older man in sports attire looking a little worse for wear approaches me and says, "Excuse me Miss but are you for sale?". Uh, what's that grandpa? At least that's what I'm thinking in my head. Out loud I simply say, "Excuse me?" He continues, "I ask because you are the most beautiful work of art here." HIGH-larious. I respond, "Oh, you're too kind." To which he replies, "No, I'm not Too Kind, I'm Guy Rex." Uh, ok. Now, if he were 40 years younger that would be a great cheesy pick up line that would most likely start a conversation since I'd be laughing wine through my nose. From an old geezer it was slightly creepy since I first thought he was propositioning me. After that I just thought it was funny. Perhaps I have a nostalgic look for them, but for whatever reason I could always count on the oldies to chat me up and never the guys my age.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Deny Yourself Something

Cathy Seipp, a Silver Lake writer with a highly entertaining blog about LA social circles and much more, inadvertantly made a most profound statement about the current state of our postmodern culture:

A few weeks ago I came across an old World War I poster that announced, "Deny Yourself Something: Eat less of the food fighters need." Deny yourself something. What a curious and forgotten concept. The poster might as well have been 1000 years old instead of less than 100, so bizarre was its message to modern eyes. Contemporary citizens are far more likely to deny reality than deny themselves anything. (emphasis mine)

She's absolutely correct. You hear that sort of denial all the time. Lefty liberals would rather deny that the Iraqis are better off now than under Saddam, than deny themselves the satisfaction of hating Bush for waging "a war for oil". Men and women would rather deny that random sexual hook ups affect their soul (meaning their spiritual, mental, and emotional selves) and their bodies (STD's, abortions, sterility), than deny themselves momentary gratification. Many parents would rather deny the detrimental effects of full time daycare on the emotional and physical health of their children, than deny themselves a fancy home in a prestigous neighborhood.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Dahlias from the LA Flower Market

Friday, July 29, 2005


My first thought this morning upon waking was "self-deception". Just the word, so maybe it wasn't a thought exactly, but it was there on the edge of my subconcious mind waiting for me to wake up so my SC could spit it into my conscious mind. Why was I mulling this over? Am I trying to deceive myself in some way? So now I'm peering into the shadowed nooks and crannies of my soul with a scrub brush in hand ready to cleanse away any self-deception. The quote of the day in my daytimer seems rather prescient under the circumstances: "Being extremely honest with oneself is a good exercise" says Sigmund Freud. I couldn't agree more, which makes me all the more wary of why my mind is circling around self-deception while I sleep. You'd think by looking at our culture that self-deception was a national past-time. Most people are tamping down thoughts and feelings about their inadequacies, their loneliness, their despair, their fears, their insecurities, their jealousies, their envies, their betrayals, their longings, their hopes, their failures, their bitterness, their shame.

The phrase regarding people who "live lives of quiet desperation" comes to mind, but I can't remember who said it or where I read it. It's almost a sin in our culture to not be happy or to think positively about yourself and your life. So we cloak our true feelings and problems from ourselves with false happiness in the hopes that this is really living. Yet reaching a point of true contentment and joy requires going through the pain of realizing you're a flawed, sinful, imperfect creature. Without that realization the only thing left is self-deception and that will never bring contentment or joy.

More Hypocrisy Please

Can we please have a Victorian awakening? I'm so sick of the over sexualization of our culture especially of our children. There is no escaping the sex. I receive porn emails all day long at work. I do not ask for them, I do not seek them out. They just come to me. My work has spam blockers and firewalls that filter out needed client emails but cannot manage to filter filth. I'm ready for some good old fashioned Victorian hypocrisy. Let people do what they want in the privacy of their homes, behind closed doors and draped windows. But in public, let them act civilized and discreet abhorring public displays of affection and immodesty. I don't care if it's hypocritical. I don't care if they are seething sex fiends in their own residences, as long as I don't have to see or know. Of course I'd rather people treat themselves with respect and engage in healthy sexual relations instead of treating their bodies as if it is a mere instrument for their pleasure that has no connection to their mind or spiritual state. But if they can't manage that, they at least can give the appearance in public that they do.

We're due for a Victorian Hypocrisy Awakening. Our period of sexual liberation and freedom hasn't led to wholesale happiness and good times for most people engaged in the revolution. We have more divorce, more sexually transmitted diseases, more abortions, more emotionally stunted adults, more suicides, more teen anomie, more broken families, more pornography, more teen girls sterile before they've even reached the age of consent. Can we finally admit the sexual revolution has left more people dead and wounded than sexually fulfilled and content? Can we please?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On Romney's Being Mormon

Roberts starting the confirmation process to become a Supreme Court Justice, a possible second retirement from the SCOTUS, Tancredo sparking a brouhaha for saying the US should bomb Mecca if provoked, and now Mitt Romney announcing he's running for President. This political season is hot and I like it!

I like Mitt Romney especially since he was willing to take a strong stand against embryonic stem cell research despite most of Massachusettes being favorably disposed to it. He probably has a good chance of getting the nomination, which would be a first for a Mormon. I am curious to how his Mormonism will play out in the media and with the GOP constituency. I think he'll have a tough time getting the conservative evangelical vote after reading the following quote from an online Atlantic Monthly article (ht: NRO):

"How Mormon am I?" he said. "You know, the principles and values taught to
me by faith are values I aspire to live by and are as American as motherhood and
apple pie. My faith believes in family, believes in Jesus Christ. It believes in
serving one's neighbor and one's community. It believes in military service. It
believes in patriotism; it actually believes this nation had an inspired
founding. It is in some respects a quintessentially American faith, and those
values are values I aspire to live by. And I'm not perfect, but I'm one aspiring
to be a good person as defined by the biblical Judeo-Christian standards that
our society would recognize."

Romney has to make his Mormon beliefs sound mainstream in order to get votes from people who are normally suspicious of cult-like religions. It is true that Mormons share a very similar ethic and morality to Christians. However, the problem is that evangelical Christians know that Mormonism is NOT Christianity and so does Romney. So, in his attempt to sound mainstream about his beliefs he's actually hurting his chances among evangelical Christians who don't like disingenuous religious claims that attempt to collapse the differences between mutually exclusive religious beliefs. For example Romney equivocates on the phrase "believes in Jesus Christ" in the above quote. To say he has a belief in Jesus Christ is to be so vague as to be meaningless. Does belief mean he accepts the orthodox Christian definition of belief, or does he simply have a historical belief? A Mormon belief in Jesus and a Christian belief in Jesus are two very different beliefs. Mormons do believe that Jesus existed, but they do not believe in One triune God, with Jesus Christ being the second person of the trinity who died a sacrificial death so that we might be saved from our sin. This is the Christian view of Jesus not the Mormon. Evangelical Christians will bristle at the idea that Mormon belief and Christian belief are essentially the same. In some respects, Romney is between a rock and a hard place. If he affirms that his beliefs are different than orthodox Christianity, he'll probably lose votes from both the left and the right who are wary of Mormons. If he tries to minimize the differences and instead speak in civil religion type terms, then he'll alienate conservative evangelical Christians who will resent his attempts to sound like one of them.

I have an evangelical Christian Conservative friend who said if Romney wins the nomination, he may end up voting for the Democrat because he couldn't vote for a Mormon. I think this is silly and fallacious reasoning for making political decisions. I'm not sure why exactly he would vote this way, it may have something to do with not wanting to legitimize Mormonism through such a public and national position. Although I can sympathize with this reason, it does make me wonder how many people have converted to Mormonism BECAUSE Romney was the Governor. Though I disagree with Romney's religious beliefs, I do not think they should necessarily disqualify him for consideration. If he's a true conservative who will propose policy in keeping with his conservative beliefs, that's more important to me as a voter than if he gets his own planet when he dies (I'm assuming this is a Mormon belief based on anecdotes from others. I have never researched this tidbit myself). To vote for a Democrat simply because Romney's a Mormon seems to me to be cutting off your nose to spite your face. While I can say that I wouldn't rule Romney out because he's Mormon, I cannot say the same would be true if he were a Muslim. I'm still thinking through why that would be and perhaps I'll post on it later. Right now it's more of a gut reaction than a reasoned decision. But just because I wouldn't vote for him if he were a Muslim doesn't mean I'd vote for the Democrat!

I do hope his being Mormon leads to a fruitful national discussion about the role of religious beliefs in politics. Everyone has a belief system whether it's religious or irreligious. The reigning ideal of a neutral public square and government is pernicious and false. It's false because everyone has a worldview that shapes their attitudes and beliefs. If your worldview is not shaped by religion then it is shaped by some other philosophy (like naturalism or materialism). The only difference between the two is that a religious worldview is much easier to spot and to ridicule. I'd rather see all ideas battle it out in the public square regardless if they're religious. Let voters decide what's persuasive and what is not instead of using subtle bigotry to marginalize those with religious beliefs. As such, the Muslim who runs for President would have the opportunity to address my skepticism in an attempt to persuade me he'd be the perfect candidate because of or irrespective of his religious beliefs. Those who believe in materialism (the philosophy that all that exists is matter) should have to answer the tough questions of how their beliefs are consistent with Democracy (I don't believe they are) just as those who have religious views must do. Neutrality simply does not exist.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Dr. Richard Mouw is the self-professed evangelical president of Fuller Theological Seminary. While researching Dr. Mouw's views on Islam, I came across some other pieces of interest. His opinion of polygamy is odd and gives me the impression he's trying to say the cool thing to stay a part of the "in" crowd. Although his opinion may make more sense when coupled with his comments regarding Mormons and evangelicals. Here's a critique of that apology. I agree that Mouw was out of line apologizing for "we evangelicals". His blanket apology incriminated everyone engaging in ministries to Mormons. He made no distinctions between those who are doing good honest work and those who may not be.

I dislike blanket apologies. If neither I nor my ancestors were involved in slavery do I need to apologize for it? My ancestors were starving in Norway due to famines and bad government policy. I don't require an apology from the Norwegian government for their treatment of my ancestors. I think, that's history and move on. Where does the apologizing get us? Why perpetuate a grievance victim culture that requires apologies from those who weren't involved to those who weren't afflicted? Apologies from white southern slavers to their slaves? Yes. Apologies from those who actively discriminated against blacks and wanted to keep them segregated to those who were actually affected by those policies? Yes. I, however, feel no need to apologize for what other white folk have done in the past. Why do I have to apologize for the bad actions of other white skinned folk that I have no relation to whatsoever? Why does our all being white automatically put us all in the same category? If I had to apologize for simply being in the same color category as those who've committed heinous acts, I could never stop. I'm still waiting to hear the apologies from the black Africans and Arabs that sold their brethern into slavery in the first place. I'm waiting to hear an apology from Muslim Imams for the persecution and slavery of Christians. Actually I'm not waiting. I don't expect an apology or require one. All these after-the-fact apologies are pointless since they don't involve those who truly need to be apologizing or those that truly need the apology.

However, I do believe there is a role for governments to apologize for state sanctioned actions that happened in the past. I believe Turkey needs to apologize to Armenians for the genocide of 1918. To this day they refuse to admit anything even happend. I don't know if this ever happened, but I think the US governement should have apologized to the Vietnamese for leaving them to the Chinese communists and cutting off all aid to the south Vietmanese. I think the Russian government should apologize for the USSR's slaughter of millions under communism. I think South Africa needed to apologize to their black community for years of Apartheid. It's appropriate for governments to recognize their misdeeds especially open and democratic countries. But apologies that come as a result of false multiculti guilt I can do without.

Remember when Pope John Paul apologized to Muslims for the crusades? Was that appropriate? I'm not so sure. I understand he was apologizing for those who killed and marauded in the name of Christianity, when that is NOT what Christianity is about, but did he need to apologize for those crusaders who were defending their homeland from Muslim invaders? I believe there's been a bit of revisionist history about the crusades as well. If Muslims still considered the crusades with pride like they used to, would there have been an apology in the first place?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Why I'm Happy

Yeah! George Bush chose NOT to pander to the hyper-sensitive calling for a SCOTUS nominee based on skin or sex preferences. Instead he picked the BEST person for the job. From everything I've read so far John Roberts Jr. sounds quite brilliant. He's won 25 out of 39 Supreme Court cases earning him one of (if not the best) records before the SCOTUS. A top notch legal mind who has no desire to legislate from the bench, who is an originialist. No chance he'll be bringing in international law or European opinions for his decisions. I've no doubt that he'll be confirmed. The fact that he won't legislate from the bench should make Democrats happy. It means he won't actively be trying to reverse Roe. V. Wade since it currently is the law of the land. However, I do believe if homosexual marriage came before him he would vote against it since he wouldn't see a "right" to it in the Constitution. The Democrats couldn't get a better candidate from Bush than this since Bush would be flayed mercilessly by his constituency if he nominated someone without solid conservative street creds. I read on Wikipedia that he has written 40 opinions while on the DC Court of Appeals with only two dissents. I don't know enough about the ins and outs within the Courts of Appeal, but that sounds like his judgments are so logical and consistent with the law that they leave no room for dissent. That's impressive!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

My Favorite Dog

Somebody in the marketing world must love Westies. Or the Association of West Highland White Terriers is doing an awesome PR campaign to get the dogs into the media. I see them in TV commercials for dog food and air fresheners, in furniture magazines where they add a touch of class, and in short films. I'm not complaining since I love these pups. They have the air of old men from a bygone era who would have been most comfortable sipping a brandy or cognac in deep leather chairs before a warm hearth talking Tory politics. Or they would have been in Cricket whites getting relief from the heat with a gin fizz. These dogs are not mere dogs, but formidable ladies and gents of a time that knew both comfort and hard work. I love terriers in general for their spunk and verve, their curiosity and confidence. They have a no fuss manner that belies their loyalty to and adoration of their owners.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I love this word. Perhaps because of all the consonants bunched up at the end. It's a word that evokes place in my mind even though it has nothing to do with place. I think of dry, barren North African lands filled with forgotten British folk.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Is this psychological dog torture? Any self-respecting pup should bite the owner who attempted to put paws in these monstrosities. I'm advocating canine disobedience as the only way to end such humiliation!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Share a Secret

Need to unload a secret, but don't know who to trust? Forget telling a friend, tell a stranger instead.

Family Reunion

This is my first cousin once removed, Bekah. And yes, those are scissors she's sucking on. She got dubbed Danica Dickens junior since she reminded everyone of me at that age. Think of the babyish Spanky from the little Rascals, then visualize a female counterpart. That's Bekah. She had a deep hearty cackle laugh that sounded like a demon being expelled.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Jaguar or Tabby Cat?

The first Jaguar I remember seeing was at the Men's department of Nordstroms in the Tacoma mall. I must have been eleven or twelve. I was so enamoured with the sleek hunter green 1980's XJ that I took the dealer's card and carried it in my wallet for years (yes, I was an odd child). For some reason this event is stuck in my memory like it's significant.

I recalled this memory while contemplating the marriage of Jaguar and Ford. I think the relationship has been disastrous for the Jaguar. No longer sleek and elegant like its namesake, the new Jaguars are bloated tabby cats in comparison to earlier models. They look like glorified Fords. Instead of Jaguar enhancing the Ford, Ford has fouled the Jaguar reputation, dumbing down its distinctive style and shape until it looks like any other car on the road. I wouldn't recognize the new Jaguars if it wasn't for the hood ornament. That could never be said prior to the marriage.

Monday, June 27, 2005

US vs Them

The United States (US) is superior to all other countries because of the economic, political, and religious freedom its citizens enjoy. Yet many people and groups of the leftist persuasion are trying to create a reality in which the US is evil. My use of the word "create" is intentional. No such reality exists, but they hope that through their language, by talking about America in terms normally applied to true totalitarian regimes, they will create the desired reality. They want to assign evil motives and intentions to government policies or actions despite evidence to the contrary (see Dick Durbin). Facts don't seem to dent their determination. From their denunciations it appears that they would prefer a reality in which America is crippled, in which America really is on par with Mao's China.

My US vs Them posts are my attempt to highlight the disparities between the United States and other countries that do not enjoy the same freedoms we do. It's my wee antidote to all the "America is evil" talk that passes for intelligent conversation in some circles. Please note that in no way am I suggesting that the US is superior culturally or spiritually to all other countries /or cultures. It may be, or it may not be, but that's not the point of these specific posts.

In the ring today: US vs. Iran:

"An Iranian court has sentenced a man to have his eyes surgically removed for a crime he committed as a teenager 12 years ago. Amnesty International has condemned the sentence, reported in the Iranian daily Etemaad, but local human rights groups say these unusual punishments are hardly ever executed."

"Etemaad says the accused, identified only as Vahid, was 16 when he threw a bottle of acid at another man during a fight in a vegetable market in 1993. The top opened - Vahid insists accidentally - and blinded his victim in both eyes. A court said the crime should be judged as qisas, a category for which the Koran stipulates specific punishments, in this case an eye for an eye. The paper said the sentence was to pour acid on Vahid's eyes, but an appeals court ruled it should be done surgically so as not to harm other parts of his face."

Regardless if they go through with this punishment, the fact remains that this is an acceptable punishment according to the Koran and the law courts of Iran.

View from LA Design Center

Fire in the Sky

Which city is this?

Cal State Fullerton Arboretum

Friday, June 24, 2005

Eurabia is coming....

Remember Oriana Fallaci, the gutsy Italian writer who wrote about the cultural suicide of Europe in the face of Islam? She's been indicted in Italy for vilifying Islam in her book The Force of Reason.

Oriana Fallaci on the Islamization of Europe:

"You cannot survive if you do not know the past. We know why all the other civilizations have collapsed--from an excess of welfare, of richness, and from lack of morality, of spirituality." (She uses "welfare" here in the sense of well-being, so she is talking, really, of decadence.) "The moment you give up your principles, and your values . . . the moment you laugh at those principles, and those values, you are dead, your culture is dead, your civilization is dead. Period."

Regarding her affinity with the new Pope:

"I feel less alone when I read the books of Ratzinger." I had asked Ms. Fallaci whether there was any contemporary leader she admired, and Pope Benedict XVI was evidently a man in whom she reposed some trust. "I am an atheist, and if an atheist and a pope think the same things, there must be something true. It's that simple! There must be some human truth here that is beyond religion."

As a cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI wrote frequently on the European (and the Western) condition. Last year, he wrote an essay titled "If Europe Hates Itself," from which Ms. Fallaci reads this to me: "The West reveals . . . a hatred of itself, which is strange and can only be considered pathological; the West . . . no longer loves itself; in its own history, it now sees only what is deplorable and destructive, while it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure." (emphasis mine)

Sound familiar?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Children in Crisis

Mary Eberstadt's Home Alone America is one of the most frightening and heart-wrenching assessments of current childhood that I've ever read. Many parents desire to fob off their children to third party care givers, but with the added luxury of doing it without guilt. The best way for them to do that is by redefining what children need or are. Eberstadt gives solid evidence that left alone children tend to have less emotional intelligence, are more likely to get fat, more readily diagnosed with mental or behavioral problems that "require" drugs, and more likely to engage in promiscuous sex. These absent parents abrogate their responsibility for the emotional, mental, and spiritual well being of their children to anyone and everyone but themselves. Eberstadt states, "We're very good at taking a grain of anything-PCB's, vaccines, hormones, advertising, corporations, entertainment, television, the Internet, brain chemistry-and growing from it some large explanation that adults can hide behind. We say, 'Look there! Look there!' what we mean is, 'Look anywhere but here.' That is the standard ruling our home-alone world, and it is past due for a serious realignment." Eberstadts most troubling point is that despite the increase in material wealth and quality of life that has improved many adults' lives, the children of these adults have worse childhoods than their parents had. While the quality of life may have gone up for adults, the quality of life for their children has gone down.

Too often these kids are being diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, and other disorders to simply make them more manageable and controllable. Eberstadt points out that the bias to drug teens favors the parents /or adults. These problems are rarely viewed in light of the troubled family situations many of these children come from. Imagine what mental or behavioral problems you would have if your parents never nurtured your mental, emotional or spiritual well-being, never allowed you to make any demands on their love, never invested in even being physically present to you. My heart breaks for these children who have been emotionally abandoned by their parents. Eberstadt finishes out the book with a chapter on "specialty schools". They're for "troubled" teenagers i.e. teenagers getting in the way of their parents plans. Such schools use "tough love" to break a teen's spirit. One school, Tranquility Bay in Jamaica, forced kids to lie face down on the floor for days and even months at a time. They were allowed ten minutes of standing time per hour. The school record was for one girl who endured such treatment for 18 months! Many such schools are given a free hand to do with these kids as they please. Her descriptions suggest less a school and more a prison for juveniles. "...Just as 'tough love' and manifold deprivations obviously do work for certain kids, so also do they manifestly traumatize and stigmatize others. These include the teenagers (sometimes pre-teenagers) who have ended up in the specialty system not because of drugs or crime or violence, but because of a very different order of adolescent failing: They were in the way of what adults needed or wanted to do." That sentence stopped me cold when I read it the first time. I felt the pain that these unwanted children must feel. The pain that comes from knowing you're viewed as an obstacle to your parents. Many of the troubles plaguing America's youth would diminish if the adults in their life were actually present. Throughout the ages parents have tried to give their children better lives and opportunities than they had, unfortunately today, the reverse it true. Unlike yesterday's parents, many of today's parents refuse to sacrifice their own wants and desires for the health and well being of their children and the children are paying for it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More Vietnam

I was chatting with my dad on Sunday and he mentioned meeting a Vietnamese man at church. He was in Virginia visiting his daughter. After the service he, his daughter and her family were heading up to DC to protest the visit of Prime Minister Pham Van Khai of Vietnam. This man knows of what he protests.

During the Vietnam war he fought with the Americans against the North Vietnamese as a Montagnard soldier. The Montagnards are an ethnic minority group within Vietnam and known for the help they gave the Americans. Once the Americans left, the North Vietnamese obviously took over the south. One of the missions of the North Vietnamese was hunting down Montagnard soldiers and no doubt killing them. This man my father met hid in the jungles of Vietnam and Burma for NINETEEN years to escape death. After the first thirteen, he managed to get his wife and kids to America, but it took another six years before he could flee his home country. A Lutheran church in North Carolina sponsored him so he could join his family.

Vietnam is still a communist state. The Vietnamese government still persecutes Christians, Buddhists, Hmong, and other ethnic people groups like the Montagnards. This man's fear is that the Vietnamese government will get away promising reform with mere words, but then never be held accountable for backing up their promises with changed policies. A very reasonable fear.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


If you plan to swim in the Amazon or Oranoco Rivers you may want to read this first. Here's a highlight to peak your interest:

Amputation of the private areas is the cheapest, and most life-changing, way to remove the fish. Actual surgery is extremely expensive and involves inserting the Xagua plant and the Buitach apple up the urethra. These two plants kill and even dissolve the parasitic fish. If surgery is not done in time, the blockage of the urinary tract will prove fatal. (emphasis mine)

Ah, yes. I may have died without ever reading of a necessary need to amputate the private areas. I cannot begin to imagine what that involves or what the final result may be. How do you amputate a bottom let alone other private parts? Does it result in a Hank Hill no-butt? I'm disturbed. I'm adding Swimming-in-the-Amazon to my list of things I will NEVER do.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Seoul Train

"Action is the only remedy to indifference. Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
~ Eli Weisel, 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. ~

When I taught English in South Korea in 97/98, I read snippets of info in the expat papers about the starvation of the North Koreans. People had to eat bark and grass to stay alive while the "Dear Leader" feasted. Remember when Secretary of State Madeline Albright danced with him? Should she have danced with evil? I believe that in doing so she trivialized the tyranny of his regime. I can't imagine her actions giving hope to those starving, or being tortured to death. Contrast that with Ronald Reagan walking out on Gorby or calling the USSR an evil empire. What Reagan did was speak truth to power and in doing so he gave hope to those suffering in the Soviet gulags for they knew that they weren't forgotten. I can't imagine how the North Koreans felt if they heard /or saw Albright dancing with their demented dictator. I don't think I'd feel hopeful that the world finally learned the truth of my situation. Sometimes I care more about U.S. foreign policy than I do domestic policy. The North Koreans don't even have the luxury of debating a domestic policy, which is why I want OUR foreign policy to kick Kim Jong Il's ass.

If you need motivation to get involved or give money to help those helping the NK people, then check out the movie Seoul Train or at least the website. I haven't yet seen the movie, but the website has more than enough documentation to boil your blood. The documentary depicts the harrowing conditions the NK's navigate to leave their country and their treacherous journey through the "underground railroad" made up of people and organizations who help North Koreans escape their oppression. The saddest are those who've escaped to China only to be sent back to NK to face certain death. In doing so China violates the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. China claims that those escaping do not meet the definition of refugee. That is an evil lie.


Doug TenNapel creates a comic analogy between Enviro-Activists and Kill-The-Embryoists in this piece entitled "A Clump of Condor Cells." Nickolodeon employs TenNapel as their resident cartoon genius. I was first introduced to TenNapel's work through his short film "Sock Baby". The first word that came to mind to describe this effort was "bizarre", yet the film was not unlikable.

I wanted to cut and paste the entire entry (with proper attribution of course) but wasn't sure if that's acceptable blogging etiquette...anyone know?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

US vs. Them

In the ring today is US vs. Saudia Arabia. Recently Newsweek started a brouhaha with allegations that the Koran was desecrated at Guantanamo Bay by US Military personnel. However, please remember that the religion of these detained TERRORISTS is being respected by the US Government. Though they have MURDERED (or actively planned to do so) hundreds if not thousands of people, they are allowed to follow the dictates of their religion. They're allowed to pray, to read the Koran, to eat special food, to worship freely. And they're TERRORISTS. Contrast our treatment of Muslim TERRORISTS with the Saudia Arabian treatment of INNOCENT Christians:

Thursday, June 2, 2005 By BosNewsLife News Center RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (BosNewsLife)--

Saudi Arabia's security forces have arrested at least almost 100 foreign Christians, including Indians, in an apparent violent crackdown against non Muslims, BosNewsLife learned Wednesday, June 1.

"This has been going on since yesterday [Tuesday May 31]", one senior Christian official with close knowledge about the situation told BosNewsLife on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. "In phone calls to me, we know of at least 80 to 90 arrests being made by the regular police and the religious police...The arrests are continuing [and] so far, [they] are taking place only in the capital, Riyadh, but we don't know the final extent of this," the source added.

"Apparently, the arrests are being made for religious reasons, objecting to their prayer, possession of Bibles and proselytizing," the source said. "[However] police have not given any specific [reasons and] simply show up at any time, day or night, with as many as 26 officers and personnel bursting into apartments to confiscate or destroy computers, cell phones, files, books [and] Bibles. [They also] beat up people in front of spouses and children [before they] haul them away," he added.

"These arrests and beatings seem to be part of a well-orchestrated plan to persecute Christians in Saudi Arabia, whether Indian or other expatriates. The Indian expatriates do not have any redress through the Indian embassy in Riyadh, which is entirely manned by Muslims," said the BosNewsLife source, who appealed for prayers and international help from the United States and other governments. Earlier in April, Saudi police forces detained 40 Pakistani Christians for worshipping at home, several reports said.

The Saudi Institute, an independent Washington based think tank with close contacts to dissidents in Saudi Arabia, has accused the royal family and other authorities of selective anger over recent reports that a copy of the Koran had been desecrated by American military personnel at the detention facility of Guantanomo Bay, Cuba.

"The Saudi government burns and desecrates hundreds of Bibles its security forces confiscate after raids on Christian expatriates worshiping privately or at border crossings," Liben added in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife News Center. "Hundreds of Christian worshipers are arrested every year by Saudi police in raids on their private gatherings. Bibles, crosses and printed materials are confiscated and later burnt or dumped into trash. Although considered as holy in Islam and mentioned in the Koran dozens of times, the Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia, and is confiscated and destroyed by government officials." Saudi Institute Staff Writer Zachary Liben said.

Western diplomats have complained that although Saudi Arabia’s economy heavily depends on foreigners, expatriates are not allowed to profess their faith as observing any religion other than Islam is illegal in the Kingdom. There are around six million foreigners in the conservative kingdom, which has a population of 23 million, including many Christians from Europe, North America, Asia and other Arab states.