Saturday, April 30, 2005

Sometimes I surprise myself

I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. I'm not the most insightful person in the world, but I can read people and see where things are going. Still, when I wrote this last week

To me, there's always been something a bit creepy about Ed Smart. His voice is whiny, his personality is grating, and he is an unabashed publicity hound. Whenever he says something like "Elizabeth needs to get on with her life" you can bet you'll see her within a week at some carefully-choreographed media event with her dad.

I was engaging in hyperbole. I didn't really expect to see a story on Elizabeth Smart within a week; I just knew based on what I'd seen in the past that Ed couldn't keep his daughter (or himself) out of the limelight.

So I'm understandably smug after seeing this story in today's Deseret News. Here it is, only a couple of weeks after Ed bewailed all the media attention is daughter is getting, and we find that Elizabeth is appearing in the latest issue of People magazine. With her father's consent, by the way.

Maybe I should become a psychic.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

More El-ahrairah Iraqi Photoblogging

(Posted with his permission -- CH)

An example of the modern armored Humvee.

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And here he is, next to a stop sign.

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UPDATE: Hrakalanche!

Sorry Professor, but you're wrong

It doesn't happen often, but Instapundit is off the mark.

Polls are kind of like Rorshach tests; different people see what they want to see. For moderate and libertarian Republicans, the reason for the President's dropping poll numbers is the Terri Schiavo affair. After all, they opposed his actions, so the public is simply agreeing with them, right?

Wrong. Almost completely overlooked is the effect of the President's ill-advised "vigiliante" comments that he made while standing the in the presence of the Mexican president. For the large majority of Americans who are concerned about illegal immigration, this was tantamount to the Democrats going to Baghdad to denounce the President in 2002. The backlash has gone unnoticed by the Main Stream Media, but some moderate Republicans have felt it.

Similarly, the Media hype about Terri Schiavo was based on their fondest wishes, not on reality. As I pointed out earlier, if one wanted to see the real political fallout from the Schiavo controversy, one had to merely watch the actions of the Democrats. And they certainly did not act as if they had the support of the majority.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

My Daughter would love this

Via Uncle, I found a link to this company.

My oldest daughter loves shooting BB guns with Daddy. I'll bet she would love this for her birthday when she gets a little older.

That will give me time to convince her Mom. And to save my money; it won't be cheap.

Dumb and Dumber

Question: What do you get when an ex-sports-writer-now-serious-journalist pens a glowing description of a former beauty queen's latest stupid idea?

Answer: You get this.

In essence, columnist Doug Robinson recycles the Publik Skool Establishment myth that if you just dump more money into the schools, why you'll have Rhodes Scholars in no time. The obvious answer to that is to look at scholastic achievement. In that regard we find that although Utah has the lowest per-pupil expenditure, Utah students are slightly above average in test scores. On the other hand, Washington D. C. virtually gold-plates its' public schools, which not coincidentally have the distinction of being the worst in the Free World.

You can put any angle on this you want: Utah has more kids than other states; Utah students score well on tests so why do they need more money; Utah kids are the best in the universe, especially your kids. But education leaders have been bemoaning Utah's low ranking for years. They want more money for education, of course. Students could be better, they reason. If a football team were ranked No. 50, the coach would be fired.

Fine with me. Fire the whole bunch. In fact, since these people are the ones who have been overseeing this supposedly sub-standard education for years, let's get rid of them all and start up fresh.

Which brings me to Sharlene Wells-Hawkes. The former Miss America has another bright-eyed idea to Make Everything Wonderful. Essentially, she wants companies to donate 10% -- ten freakin' percent -- of their proceeds to failing Utah schools:

The former Miss America is chief operating officer of StoryRock Inc., a company that provides software for multimedia, digital yearbooks to schools. Her company has agreed to donate 10 percent of all proceeds from Utah schools to a specific school in Utah that needs help. And she's throwing down the gauntlet for other companies to do the same.

Ya know, CEO's are generally a smart bunch when it comes to money. And I'm sure if they were going to spend that much money on a school, they'd probably start their own private school and avoid the Educracy altogether. Pour some water in a rat hole, and you'll get what I mean.

In fact, if Ms. Wells-Hawkes were as smart as she pretends to be, she'd be better served by using her company's money to provide private-school scholarships to all those disadvantaged kids stuck in failing public schools. But I would bet that she doesn't want to do that because she doesn't want the riff-raff attending school with her kids.

I'm not sure who is dumber: Robinson, for writing such tripe; or Wells-Hawkes, for thinking up a ditzy scheme that sounds like something she would have said at a beauty pageant.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Today's AS Freakout Level is "Disgusted"

From this Spoons post, I obtained this gem. (Praises be to Allah for the graphic).

A long time ago (early 2002), when I discovered the world of weblogs, was the first blog I ever read. At the time, he was a post-9/11 conservative, a take-no-prisoners warblogger of frothing intensity.

Since then, he's turned into a simpering, whining, narcissistic moderate, who demonstrated in the last election that he would gladly jettison the War on Terror for legalized gay marriage. This new incarnation of AS is quite sensitive and easily upset, so much so that it's a running joke among conservative bloggers.

So, The Warren is proud to offer the Andrew Sullivan Freakout Meter. Check the bottom of the sidebar for your daily update.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

El-ahrairah's Iraqi Photo-Blogging

(Pictures of El-ahriarah's base in Iraq. -- CH)

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Friday, April 22, 2005

More Photoblogging

I think I'm getting the hang of this.

This is Buglet (my son) on top of Mount St. Helens last summer.

Before it started erupting again, obviously.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Trouble in SmartLand

I was going to blog about this earlier, but I had other priorities at the time. More background here and here and here.

To me, there's always been something a bit creepy about Ed Smart. His voice is whiny, his personality is grating, and he is an unabashed publicity hound. Whenever he says something like "Elizabeth needs to get on with her life" you can bet you'll see her within a week at some carefully-choreographed media event with her dad. For a family that supposedly cherishes their privacy, they sure do get around.

Such publicity was essential to finally finding Elizabeth, since it was clear that she didn't really want to be found on her own. Thanks to her family's connections, Elizabeth's case stayed in the national spotlight, which eventually resulted in the tip that led to her recovery. Truth be told, if she had been some Latina from the west side of Salt Lake instead of a rich white girl from the tony Federal Heights area of east SLC, she might still be missing. But now we have the unseemly spectacle of the family fighting over who gets to control the limelight, her uncle Tom or her father.

Not that I really care. I just wish for once all the Smarts would shut up and actually do what they all say they want to do: Let Elizabeth get on with her life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Baby Blogging

Emmy says "Life is wonderful!"

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Lileks says it best, as usual

I don't have much of an opinion on the recent elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger to the office of Pope; after all, I am a Mormon. If Pope Benedict XVI is the ideological twin of John Paul II, then I think the Catholic Church is in good hands.

But I have noticed that the MainStreamMedia are tsk-tsking the idea of another conservative, traditional Pope, calling him "rigid" and an "enforcer of Church Orthodoxy". Occasional Catholic Andrew Sullivan, for one, is at his hysterical best. I don't understand how people who don't really believe in the divinity of the Catholic Church or who aren't Catholic can get so worked up over someone who, in their eyes, is just an old man leading an anachronistic institution. Lighten up, people.

On this subject, St. James of Jasperwood has the best and final word. My favorite part:

Hence I am always amazed by people who want the church to accommodate their thoughts, their new beliefs, their precarious and ingenious rationales, instead of ripping themselves from the bosom and seeking a congregation that doesn't make them feel like a heretic banging thier head on Filarete's doors. To those who want profound change, consider an outsider’s perspective: the Catholic Church is the National Review of religion. You may live long enough to see it become the Weekly Standard. In your dreams it might become the New Republic. But it’s never going to be the Nation. And if ever it does, it will have roughly the same subscriber base.

As Professor Reynolds would say, go and read the whole thing.

Ahnuld "gets" the immigration issue

Just at the point when I thought the Republicans were on their way repeating the 1992 election fiasco, the Governator provides them with a backbone transplant.

President Bush's recent drop in the polls is not due to the Terri Schiavo affair but to his remarks about the Minutemen being "vigilantes". If Karl Rove is as smart as everyone says he is he will start moving the Party to the right on this issue. Perhaps Arnold speaking out is part of a bigger plan to get the Republicans moving.

There is a tremendous amount of resentment among Americans, both native-born and immigrants, over the failure of the Federal Government to secure the southern border with Mexico. In my opinion, we're just another 9/11 away from mass deportations and closed borders. It's too bad we have to endure another terrorist attack to get the government to do something about it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Eat your heart out, Bigwig

Photo-ice-fishing-blogging. The fish is the Bear Lake strain of Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki utah)

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I think I like this photoblogging stuff....

Household items...

I've finally got around to adding some new links, mostly related to firearms. Go check them out.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

News Flash: A state Supreme Court merely interprets the law, film at 11!

Okay, so I'm being sarcastic. Still, I didn't expect the Oregon Supreme Court to be so...restrained. (link via Drudge)

This solves the issue of gay marriage in Oregon...for now. I don't know if this is because the Oregon Supreme Court respects the legislative process, or if the liberal activist members of the Court stayed their hands to prevent a massive backlash. Perhaps members of the judiciary are beginning to recognize that the public is increasingly fed up with their meddling in controversial issues like gay marriage. Maybe this represents a return to their proper and traditional role in the political system.

Let's hope so.

El-ahrairah's Continuing Iraqi Saga, Episode VI

(posted from an e-mail at his request, edited slightly for spelling and grammar -- CH)

Close Encounters of a Mortar Kind

The Iraq that I knew two years ago and the Iraq of today are two different countries. Two years ago, the Iraqi insurgents were just starting to ramp up their attacks on coalition forces using roadside bombs and mortars followed by the MSM and the left whining and moaning about going to war without being prepared, etc.

Fast forward two years and since the battle of Fallujah and the successful Iraqi elections, attacks on coalition bases have gone way down. However, every now and then, “former regime loyalists” (FRL) or “dead-enders” in Rumsfeld-speak will lob mortars at the base where I live, causing the military to go into “we are under attack” mode. When that happens, there is an alert signal given and we are supposed to respond accordingly. We usually don’t know where the mortar hit, just that one did hit the base somewhere and an alert was given. Most of the time, the alert happens when you want to go outside and go to chow or the head (the toilet for non-naval types) which causes you to vacate the roads and wait until you hear the “All Clear” signal.

It’s funny to me (and probably only me) how “close” so far I’ve come so far to possibly being “lit up” by a mortar. I’ve only been here three weeks and that has happened twice. I don’t consider them anything like butt-puckering, shrapnel-scattering, “Whew-that-was-a-close-one-and-lucky-we-are-still-alive” close. More like “Wow-if-I-had-left-for-work-a-few-minutes-sooner-I-would-not-be-stuck-in-this-stupid-traffic-jam-due-to-the-semi-rollover-up-ahead” close.

Just after I got here, one landed not far from our housing area. At the time, I did not know this, only that I was on my way to the BX and had to return to my “hooch” when the alert signal was given. It wasn’t until the “All Clear” signal was given that I found out that the impact area was in a parking lot which I would have been walking through. I’m not sure if the round actually exploded since it could have been a dud. This happens more times than you would expect because the Iraqis didn’t really take good care of their weapons. When the FRLs looted the weapons depots, they carted off a good number of old, dud ammunition. I suspect that we receive more attacks than are noted for the main reason that the base is very large and if a mortar round hits and doesn’t explode, there may not be anyone around to notice.

A few days after my first “brush with greatness”, I had another almost-“close encounter” with a mortar at my work site. All over the Iraqi air base where we live, there are hardened aircraft shelters (HAZ) where the Iraqi air force kept their fighters. They are built of very think concrete, covered with dirt and designed to take direct bomb hits and protect what is inside. Back when the major air-to-ground threat was Scud missiles or B-52s dropping “dumb” bombs, these would have been very formidable. Unfortunately, thanks to the development of laser-guided “smart” bombs and the US military’s uncanny ability to place them thru ventilation shafts, they have become more of a graveyard for what is inside. Most of the HAZs that I saw at the air bases where I was stationed in Kuwait had been very well “ventilated” during the first Gulf War but for some reason, the HAZs here do not have any holes in them which could mean that they were empty during the Iraqi war (the fact that we have found Iraqi MiGs buried in the dirt kind of supports that theory).

My work site is located inside of one of these HAZs. We were just leaving the HAZ to go to chow when we heard that there was an alert over the radio. That meant that we had to stay put so we went back inside to wait (and miss chow, *$&%#@!). What we didn’t know was that the mortar landed just outside our compound, about 50 yards from the HAZ. When the “All Clear” signal was given, we found out that if we had left the HAZ a few minutes earlier, we might have been outside when the mortar landed. Just think of the “sea stories” I could have told when I got home (ask the Cap’n about the difference between Marine Corps “sea stories” and fairy tales).

I guess when it comes right down to it, I should be worried about the attacks, but it seems just like another military nuisance that we have to put up with here. I’m sure my sainted mother and my lovely wife would think otherwise, so I avoid telling them everything that is going on. As far as they know, all the bad stuff happens somewhere else. Here, it’s “Club Med”.

Shuffleboard anyone?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A quantum leap forward in blogging

Testing my photoblogging skills

UPDATE: Which are obviously very poor. I found a site to host pictures, but Blogger gets heartburn whenever I try and post them. So go here to see a picture of my cute daughters in their Easter dresses.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

El-ahrairah's Continuing Iraqi Saga, Episode V

(Posted from an e-mail at his request, slightly edited for spelling and grammar -- CH)

El-ahrairah’s Continuing Iraqi Saga: Stupid Military Rules and Regulations

Living on a military base can be interesting and fun, but one of the things that you have to put up with is military rules and regulations. Some of the rules make sense but are made for the wrong reason and others are just plain dumb.

On the base, the computer network and Internet access are controlled by what we call, the Net Nazis. Since the military cannot allow you to have unlimited access to the Internet, they control access to certain sites. You can pretty well be sure that anything that has to do with sex or pornography is blocked, no matter whether you happen to be in the US or in Iraq. They also block access to sites that are big time wasters, e.g., anything to do with on-line gambling, on-line gaming, on-line chat rooms, etc. Although there is a military regulation for what should and should not be blocked, it is sometimes a crapshoot whether your favorite site is blocked or not. Case in point, back in Italy, Yahoo! web mail and Excite web mail are blocked, but they are wide open here. However, the website and other web logs are blocked here whereas they were open in Italy. The Warren website is open but only because I think our address is kind of strange and not your run of the mill blog address.

Besides the Net Nazis, we have the Postal Nazis also. The military controls what you can and cannot mail home for the basic reason that many of the United States finest would mail home AK-47s and hand grenades if they could in a heartbeat. So, as a result, if you send something home, you have to have your package inspected by postal employees. The laundry list of items that cannot be mailed home under any circumstance is rather long and tedious but sufficeth to say that most anything that a normal American GI would like to send home as a souvenir is off-limits.

Many times, military rules are knee-jerk reactions to an incident. Like the old saying, one person can ruin it for every one else, the military has a penchant for doing just that. For example, one of the stupid military rules that we have to live by is that it is against the rules to walk around outside in open-toe shoes (sandals, shower shoes, etc). So, if you want to take a shower, you must wear a pair of normal shoes to the shower where you can take them off and put your shower shoes on before getting into the shower. It would be much easier just to wear your sandals to the shower, but that would make too much sense. This rule is probably a good one for the reason that with scorpions and other little nasty biting/stinging insects running around, you could get stung/bit on the foot if you happened upon one, especially at night. However, the reason given was that if there was a bomb alert, you could stub your toe and fall down while running for a scud bunker which is probably what happened one night. There was a scud alert and somebody was running for a scud bunker and fell down and hurt him or herself ergo, we need a new rules to avoid this type of mishap.

Another rule which doesn’t seem to make sense is the dress code at the swim pool. No Speedos, no bikinis and no thongs. Women must wear swimsuits which cover their chest, abdomen and buttocks. Again the reason is that we don’t want to offend our host nation’s sensibilities, but if that’s the case, why do they sell men’s magazines like Maxim, Stuff and FHM (which are chock full of women in bikinis and lingerie) in the BX? If they are worried about battle-hardened soldiers “losing it” when they see bikini-clad women at the swim pool, why sell magazines which could be called Playboy Light?

This leads into yet another of our military rules which kind of makes you wonder about the officer who thought it up. The rule has to do with sex. All sexual activity is off limits (the military calls it “cohabitation”). I can see where this is probably one of those rules that makes sense in a military environment, but as usual, the military will go over board at the implementation. Not only all sexual activity is off limits, but all kissing, hugging, hand-holding, looking at members of the opposite sex for more than two seconds, etc. are also off limits. We even have our own “chastity police” comprised of senior NCOs and officers which go out looking for “illegal” activity. I guess the reason for this is that Iraq being a Muslim country, contact between members of the opposite sex is strictly controlled and we don’t want to offend our host nation sensibilities.

That’s all well and good, but if that’s the case, why do they sell condoms in the BX?

These are the most blatant examples if the dichotomy between the words “military” and “intelligence” that I have encountered so far. Needless to say, they probably won’t be the last before I leave here.

El-ahrairah's Continuing Iraqi Saga, Episode IV

(Posted from an e-mail at his request --CH)

El-ahrairah’s Continuing Iraqi Saga: Getting Settled In

I have started to check out the base and all the “amenities” that are available for the soldiers stationed here. The base is an old Iraqi airbase north of Baghdad, not too far from the Tigris (at least that is what I’m told). The base is rather large for just an airbase, so the Army has pretty well taken over the site, but with a large Air Force presence. I live in the Air Force housing area where the Air Force is steadily but surely replacing all the tents with trailers for sleeping quarters. I’m not sure if everyone is in trailers now, but I’m lucky enough to be. My room is about ten by fifteen feet square with a window and an air conditioner. I share my room with another contractor who works on the same system as I do. We both have a bed, a closet and a bookcase which we have placed together to divide the room in half. It’s not much room to live in, but it’s much better than living in a tent. The air conditioning is on the half where my roommate sleeps, so I hope that my half doesn’t get too hot during the summer.

The trailers are organized into groups of 18 to 21 and each group of trailers is surrounded by concrete walls. It kind of looks like they took slabs of the Berlin Wall and placed them around each group so that as you walk down the road, you only see grey, concrete walls. The trailers have sandbags piled up against the front to provide cover in case of mortar attack, so unless a mortar hits dead on, it shouldn’t cause any problems. Each trailer also has sandbags piled up against the front to provide cover in case of mortar attack.

The toilets and showers are located about 50 yards away from my hooch. For some reason, the showers and toilets are in different buildings. They are not very remarkable except for the fact that they are very clean. I expected worse, but they are maintained by a company called KBR (Keith, Brown and Root) and their employees are always cleaning.

There is a laundry room here and if you don’t feel like washing your own clothes, there is a laundry service which will wash and fold your clothes for you. Both the laundry room and laundry service are maintained KBR.

There are four chow halls on the base and they are all essentially the same. A private company named (you guess it), KBR runs them and considering the alternatives (C-Rats/MREs), they do a pretty good job. Some may complain about the food, but everyone always complains about cafeteria food. If you do not want to eat chow hall food, you can go to Pizza Hut, Burger King and Subway Sandwiches on the base and pay for food or eat junk food (or as we euphemistically call it, “comfort food”) from the BX.

From my short period of time here, I can see that KBR has a large presence on the base. In case you do not recognize the name, KBR is a subsidiary of that liberal embodiment of evil in the world, Halliburton. The loony left has been beating the Halliburton/Cheney drum for quite some time, first complaining about the no-bid contract that they got for their work in Iraq and then complaining that Halliburton is making too much money for their work in Iraq. If KBR wasn’t here to run the chow halls, clean the showers/toilets and wash the laundry, life would really suck here in Iraq. As it is now, it’s somewhat tolerable.

So, when the left is whining and moaning about the sins of Halliburton, we need to know what the money is being spent on. From what I’ve seen, Congress should give them a bonus for the work that they have done here. I would rather that Congress dump money down a Halliburton rat hole rather than some Democratic-supported, government rat hole (Social Security, Medicare, etc.). At least with Halliburton, this rat hole directly benefits me and makes my life in Iraq much, much easier.

Like the French, but more obnoxious

During the Terri Schaivo affair, the Republicans received alot of criticism for their defense of the sanctity of life. Most of it came from the usual suspects; the Main Stream Media and the Democrats. However, some came from the libertarian wing of the party, who were aghast that the Party would use federal law to "trample" state's rights, though I suspect that most of their concerns were caused by the fact that the leadership would actually listen to those darn snake-handling Religious Right types.

This has caused the predictable "Republicans are cracking up" debate, one that I've heard over and over again. I'm not going to rehash it here. But thanks to Spoons, I found an excellent description of Libertarians over at Ankle Biting Pundits:

Too often, though, the idea of a conservative-libertarian divorce reads like an ultimatum from libertarians, who occasionally express so much frustration at conservative apostasy they threaten to walk away. If we’re going to follow the marriage analogy to its grisly end, this dynamic is akin to a mouthy, pushy wife riding her hardworking husband (cheap fedora cocked to one side, tie askew, briefcase bulging with work still unfinished) about how useless he is around the house from the moment he walks in the door to the moment his head hits the pillow. With all respect, on Election Day, conservatives are the ones doing all the work.

Good, very good. But in the comments section of Spoon's post, I provided one that I think is better:

The Libertarian contribution to the GOP 2004 victory was kind of like that of the Free French Forces in WWII:

Sure, they helped out a bit. But the outcome still would have been the same without them.

UPDATE: Incidentally the reason I never joined the Libertarian Party, even though I agree with much of their positions, was because of their sometimes overt anti-religious attitudes. Besides, the Libertarians have kind of a People's Front of Judea mentality: We are the true Constitutionalists, and everyone else is just a tool of Big Government.

Found: Smart Democrats

One of Captain Holly's favorite pastimes is pointing out the idiocy and political ineptitude of the Democrat Party and its liberal wing. I enjoy this party because it's fun and partly because it's so easy. The modern Democrat Party can't get much dumber.

But let it not be said that I don't recognize brilliance when I see it. For example, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is one of those few Democrats that "gets" the gun issue. He just signed into law a bill relaxing the requirements for the New Mexico concealed carry permits. Not only that, but he signed it at an NRA-owned facility, and in the process, headed off any Republican attempts to portray him as "anti-gun".

Congratulations, Governor Richardson. Now could you do something about Howard Dean?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Now they tell us...

Now that Terri Schiavo is dead, the MSM apparently feel comfortable enough to let the truth come out. Or perhaps the pollsters hope to maintain their reputations by doing a few accurate polls and hoping that no one will remember their earlier biased ones. Contrary to the polls and conventional wisdom, Captain Holly knew that the Terri Schiavo case was politically bad for the Democrats:

In truth, one didn't need these stories to understand that the MSM's hysteria about fracturing Republicans and Christian Mullahs running the government were bunk. Just a quick review of all the moderate, red-state Congressional Democrats who voted for the bill allowing federal review of the case, or the fact that no prominent Democrat has even gotten near Michael Schiavo, provides all the necessary evidence. This issue is political poison for them, and the Democrats know it.

In any case, I was reading Michelle Malkin yesterday and came upon this gem. Sure enough, Zogby seems to be trying to reclaim his reputation as the most accurate pollster (however, this isn't the first time Zogby has produced biased polls that were spectacularly wrong). And we find that when most Americans realize Terri Schiavo wasn't on life support, they change their views rather quickly.

I know this because I was one of those detached Americans who originally sided with the husband in this dispute. As a husband myself, I wouldn't want a bunch of busybodies sticking their noses in my private family affairs. But when I learned of Mr. Schiavo's adultery, his financial incentives, and the complete lack of any unbiased corroborating evidence of Terri's wishes to die, I became a Terri Schiavo supporter. I am still horrified that the US Courts allowed a woman to be starved to death only on the testimony of her adulterous husband.

But Terri did not die in vain. The outrage that her death provoked among the pro-Life movement will produce tangible political results. Let the Democrats try and filibuster pro-Life judges now. If they thought the Terri Schiavo case caused a backlash, they ain't seen nothin' yet.

Being liberal Democrats, they might not be able to help themselves. But if they do, it won't be the first time they bet on the wrong horse.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

John Paul II, RIP

As virtually everyone in the world knows by now, Pope John Paul II has died.

Even though I am not Catholic, I admired John Paul. He will be remembered as one of the great leaders of the 20th century, if not of all history. He became Pope at a time of great crisis, and through his moral leadership the world has changed for the better.

I remember clearly when he became Pope. It was the fall of 1978 and I was a junior in high school. The previous Pope (I think it was Pope Paul, not sure of the number) had died after nearly 20 years of service. In his place they appointed a friendly, telegenic man who took the name of the two previous Popes, John and Paul. In contrast to his stoic predecessors, this new Pope was outgoing and lively who smiled and waved to well-wishers. My good friend "Mello", who was Catholic, was excited about the change. It seemed the entire Catholic church was energized by the new Pope.

And then he died about a month later.

In his place the College of Cardinals appointed another friendly, telegenic, media-savvy Cardinal, the former Karol Wojtila of Poland. Recognizing the popularity of his predecessor, he adopted his name, and became John Paul II.

The world would never be the same.

This new Pope had lived under the hard boot of repression, first under the Nazis in World War II, and then under the Soviets during the Cold War. He knew that communism was not just another form of government, but a fundamentally evil system that in the eyes of God was just as sinful as adultery and robbery. John Paul was determined to stop it.

1979 was a bleak year for freedom-loving people. The Soviets and their allies were on the march in Central America and Afghanistan. The leaders of the West were feckless and weak. America was still saddled by the doubt and despair of the war in Viet Nam. The conventional wisdom was that captialism and democracy were on the wane, and communism was the wave of the future.

Against this stood John Paul II. He pledged his support to dissident groups and condemned totalitarianism. His opposition to communism added a moral dimension to the debate, inspired the West, and gave comfort to the opponents of the Soviet Union. He was a bright light of hope during those dark times.

Soon he had allies. The elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan marked the turning of the tide in 1980. For the first time since the early 1960's the West was prepared to meet the Soviets head-on, and this time not only contain them but destroy them.

John Paul provided the moral support for this effort. Cynical western intellectuals rolled their eyes when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire", but thanks to the statements of the Pope it resonated with the common people. If Ronald Reagan was the Commanding General in the fight against communism in the 1980's, then John Paul II was the Head Chaplain.

For this I honor John Paul II, even though I did not consider him to be the representative of God. But he was an honorable, courageous and moral man who stood against the forces of totalitarianism and helped liberate countless millions. He will be greatly missed.

May God rest his soul.