Sunday, September 30, 2007

Infrequent Updates.

Update 10/9/07: Well, I've worked out a deal with my ISP so that I can keep my connection, but I still may not post very often for a while as I just haven't been able to think of anything I want to write about. I'll post occassionally, so keep a weather eye on this space.

I've been pretty busy this past week, and have not been able to update this blog very much. Now, due to financial reasons, I'm having to drop my internet connection. I'll try to get to the library about once a week and update from there, but they'll probably be just quick and dirty posts, nothing major; so, I'm officially calling myself on hiatus until probably after the New Year.
Thanks for reading thus far, and please check back from time to time until I'm able to resume posting on a regular basis. Thank you!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Or not. US Rep. Julia Carson has missed 13% of her votes this year in Congress. Sometimes she has to have someone help her cast her vote, coming dangerously close to violating the rules of the House. She intends to run for another term in 2008.

I don't wish harm on Ms. Carson, and I hope she recovers from her infection, but one would think that she would realize it is time to quit and let more vigorous candidates run for the job. She is not serving her constituents if she is not able to execute her office. This notwithstanding the fact that she is on the opposite side of the political aisle from me, and thus does not represent me anyway. But she is not serving the people who voted for her, either.

The paper has also hinted that she is grooming her grandson, Andre Carson, recently elected to the City-County Council, to run for her seat in the House when she retires. While I have deep misgivings about such a situation, at least he would be young enough to participate and make sure that Indianapolis' citizens have their voice in government.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Couple Caught Cheating: With Each Other!

Another story indicative of the sad state of marriage in our world today. It also illustrates the pervasiveness of the self serving idea that marriage is a means to satisfy ones needs.

A couple in Bosnia are divorcing after both of them struck up a relationship online with other people. They knew their online paramours only by their internet 'handles,' and were in for a rude awakening when each agreed to meet in person.

They arrived at the designated meeting point only to discover that their newly-found "soul mate" was none other than their spouse! Both have now filed for divorce, each accusing the other of being unfaithful.

Once the fog of irony subsides, however, this story illustrates a point I've made before. Marriage is a joint commitment, the success of which depends on the willingness of each party to sacrifice for the other. Too often men and women expect the other to be the first to sacrifice, thereby causing a stalemate in which neither will budge. This insistence on "I'll do this for you if you do this for me," which is touted by advice columnists everywhere is the height of selfishness. A better attitude is "I'll do this for you because I love you, whether or not I get anything for it."

I wonder if this couple could not have saved their marriage by putting each other first, instead of looking for their own satisfaction elsewhere. Alas, too many people in an unhappy marriage look elsewhere for the problem, when in fact the problem most likely resides in themselves.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What's in a Name?

If you read the comics in the newspaper, you might have noticed that Cathy has run strips for several days about the stress that new parents undergo to pick a name for their child. It pokes fun of the lengths that some parents go to pick a name that is unique, marketable, or Google-able. Sometimes I think the old advice is best - pick a family name or a Biblical name.

Names are powerful things. They are the core of our identity, so much so that we may insist on being called by one of our names (first or middle) to the exclusion of the other. Tolkein understood this; in the Two Towers, Treebeard cautions the hobbits not be hasty lest they give out their real names. Names, according to Treebeard, tell the story of those they belong to.

Names also give us control over someone. If you have some one's name, you can Google it and perhaps find out more about that person than they want you to. In Jurassic Park, the main character marvels at children in museums who master the complex names of dinosaurs that their parents are unable to pronounce, as if by saying the name, they have gained a measure of control over the terrible beasts.

It might seem strange that something which we are given can have such power; but once given, it defines us for all our days. There is little wonder though, if you look at the Bible. All the names in the Bible have a specific meaning; Moses is similar to the Hebrew for "draw out," as he was drawn out of the water. Jesus is a translation of Joshua, which means, "the Lord saves." The Bible clearly illustrates the importance of name to a person's identity. The Third Commandment even forbids profaning the name of God.

Perhaps the best example from the Bible comes from three people whose names changed: Abraham, Jacob, and Paul. All were chosen by God, and none were what you would call saintly material in the beginning. Abraham was a nobody, Jacob was a conniver, and Paul persecuted and murdered early Christians. But God chose them not for their qualities, but to illustrate his power to take something bad and put it to use for good. He does this with every Biblical hero, but these three are special in that their identity changes completely, evidenced by their names.

Abram was chosen by God to be the foundation for His chosen people. He became Abraham, "father of many." Jacob, "the supplanter," stole his older brother's inheritance. He became Israel, because he "struggled with God and with men and [overcame]" [Gen. 32:28] Saul, the Pharisee, the strict religious Jew, became Paul (from Paulus, a Roman name), was "humbled" and became the Apostle to the Gentiles. Once they belonged to God, these men were not the same as they were before; they were new persons.

God can change your identity as well; by letting him come into your life, by accepting His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ you become a new person, as surely as if you changed your name.

Believing in Blue: Colts 22, Titans 20.

Well, the Boys in Blue pulled it out in the music city today to go 2-0. Tennessee gave them a tough go, and played the full sixty minutes. It came down to a huge defensive stop and Tennessee fumble with 4 seconds to go.

The Colts played fairly well today, though they seemed a little less sharp than they did last week. Perhaps that's due to the Titans being so familiar with the Colts or two of our starting linebackers being out. The defense played worse against the run by giving up more yards, but they did not get gashed nearly as badly as some games last year. Vince Young was either better contained or more patient. It looked again as if the defense ran out of steam in the latter part of the game, though they came up with the big plays when it counted.

The offense was its usual productive self, though the interception intrigues me. Why did Reggie Wayne stop and look for a flag? They never said if he was hurt or not, and he came back in on the next possession with a big catch. Finish the play, and then worry about whether or not there should be a penalty flag. The line had a tough fight in this game, and Tennessee brought lots of different pressures. Everyone talks about rookie Tony Ugoh at left tackle when it was the right tackle and the guards getting called for the penalties and allowing the sacks.

The win is good, but I hope the close score does not become the pattern this year; last year was enough of that!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Go Ahead - Push My Buttons.

I'd like to take a moment, dear Readers, and direct your attention to the sidebar, beneath the Blogroll.

Here you will find a few features that are of use to me, and I hope will be enjoyable to you. First is the subscription button, which allows you to subscribe to this blog via Feedburner. Second are the reader lists from Blog Catalog and MyBlogLog. These show you (and me) who has visited from those communities, and who is part of my neighborhood. Click on some one's avatar in the list and you will be taken to their profile page. It's a great way to find blogs to read and build readership at your blog, since people tend to visit the sites of those who visit theirs.

Next you'll find the Technoratti Fav button. Click on it to add this blog to your list of Technoratti Favorites. The Blog Catalog button takes you to the directory in which this blog is listed at Blog Catalog. You may find similar blogs there. The Stumble Upon button takes you to my Stumble Upon profile page. I don't update that one very often, but if you visit it you can get an idea of what I like and dislike.

Finally, the Digg button. It's normal procedure to place a Digg button in each post, but I have yet to find a way to do that to my satisfaction. The last instructions I tried to follow placed the button in the upper right of each post, which was an offense to my stylistic standards. If any of you know where I can find directions to add the button to the end of each post, please post the link in the comments to this thread.

These are some of the tools I use to build traffic here and to see who is visiting. Please avail yourselves of them. You may find another site you like, and it will let me know who my readers are and what they like. If you're a member of Blog Catalog or MyBlogLog and you like this blog, then please join the neighborhood! I'd be thrilled to welcome you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Console Wars Explained.

Guaranteed to provoke fans of consoles. I found this via Stumble Upon. I'm a die-hard PC Gamer, so I thought it was hilarious, and accurate. Those with a lower Geek quotient may need to watch it twice to get everything. The content is edgier than the norm for this site, so observe your Official Content Warning.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This, my friends, says it all.

Link to image source.


62%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Mingle2 - Free Dating Site

Heh. Well, at least I'm not as bad as some people.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

It's Wednesday, so it's time for something light.

Meet Molly, our family's faithful companion, or benevolent dictator (depending on your point of view). We adopted her from the Humane Society 9 years ago because they said she had "great personality." We named her Molly Brown because at that time we were somewhat enamored of the movie Titanic. The name certainly fits.

While she's not too mean to sink (as the real Molly Brown's husband said about her when he learned that she had survived the sinking), she is unlike any cat I've ever known. She chatters at birds, begs at the table like a dog (she even chases her tail), and hates other cats. She is wonderfully patient with the kids, and has survived three grasping toddlers with unusual grace. I am not her favorite person (she's actually Alicia's cat), but she does occasionally acknowledge my existence by demanding to be fed.

Oh, and don't let the modest act fool you; she's anything but.

FOP Endorses Republican Candidate.

An illustration of how bad things have gotten here in Indianapolis appears in this morning's Indianapolis Star.

"The union's Monday night vote to support Ballard in the November election
was unanimous."

Bart Peterson, mayor of Indianapolis, ran for office a few years ago pledging to hire 200 more officers to reduce crime. Since then, the administration has refused to maintain those levels of police manpower, and crime has risen dramatically in the past year.

In addition, Peterson pushed through his proposal to save money by consolidating the city and county police departments. This came after a more than year long contract dispute with the FOP about IPD's contract, in which our brave officers had to work without a contract.

I don't blame the FOP for turning against Peterson. I hope Ballard listens, and gives our officers the respect they deserve.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Iraq: The Patraeus and Crocker Report.

General David Patraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have presented their reports on the status of military and diplomatic progress in Iraq. Both have presented clear, sober, and realistic accounts of the current situation and the progress that is being made. The text of both reports and Gen. Patraeus' charts can be found in the thread here. If you missed the presentation of these reports and the subsequent grilling of these fine men by our elected officials, then I encourage you to read both reports and study the charts.

Gen. Patraeus' report indicates that the troop surge has been a success. He describes al-Qaeda Iraq as being "off-balance," and that we have gained momentum. He also reports on the dramatic turn-around in Anbar province, where locals have turned against al-Qaeda and have been supporting the American and Iraqi forces. He highlights the severity of the interference by Iran:

"It is increasingly apparent to both Coalition and Iraqi leaders that
Iran...seeks to turn the Iraqi Special Groups into a Hezbollah-like force to
serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition
forces in Iraq."

His recommendations are that we can begin drawing down troops to pre-surge levels, as the security situation allows, and that withdrawing too rapidly would cause great harm to our efforts.

Ambassador Crocker's testimony was equally interesting. He did well to present the current situation in the context of what Iraq was like under Saddam. He highlights the degree to which Saddam's regime had de-constructed Iraqi society - meaning that once he was removed, the Iraqis had no structures in place to immediately begin the process of rebuilding their government. In effect, they had to learn how to govern themselves all over again. This is an important point that I think most Americans, and certainly most of Congress, forget.

Historically, Arabs were used to self government at the tribal level. Before the rise of Islam, power resided with local tribal leaders, and people accepted that and were loyal to the tribe. Even during the early days of the caliphate, tribal leaders and generals of the Arab armies had to be given some latitude to accommodate their independent streak. Saddam's totalitarian regime destroyed this tradition, and it is only now resurfacing.

I think Americans did not have a clear idea of Iraqi identity until now. I think the Iraqis themselves are just beginning to figure it out. Crocker stated that they are having meaningful discussions, across ethnic and sectarian divides, about what kind of government they are going to have, and how power will be divided between the central and provincial governments - in other words, federalism. I told my father-in-law during a conversation we had back in 2004 that we should be encouraging federalism in Iraq. It is heartening to see the Iraqi people examining that route now, because true democratic self-government begins at the local level; whether or not they adopt a federalist principle, at least they are exploring the idea. In a way, that is reminiscent of our own discussions in the early days of the Union about the rights of States and the power of the central government.

Crocker also had much to say regarding benchmarks, which members of Congress have been hanging onto as a means of attacking the Iraqi government, and making a case for withdrawal. The ambassador reports that benchmarks are being met in fact, if not by definition (i.e. the result is being achieved even though the legislation required to meet the benchmark has not yet been passed). Regarding distribution of oil revenues among the provinces, it is being done by the central government, and in a fair manner, despite the lack of formal legislation. The same is true regarding the de-baathification efforts.

There is much more in the reports, and I repeat, they are worth your time to read. The editors at NRO have a similar take; it is worth reading all that they have to say about it as well. In addition, it is certain that Tocqueville's conviction that democratic societies by nature do not encourage the best and the brightest to run for public office. This is made clear by the farcical hearings held by our elected representatives in Congress the past two days. The best and the brightest are the two men facing the inquisition, not the men asking the questions.

As a final note, I'll leave you with some thoughts of an Iraqi about the recent attacks by our Congress on the Maliki government.

Update: Chuck Norris has more that we can learn from history to help us with the current struggle: the Barbary Pirates conflict.

Never Forget.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Archaeology in the Holy Land.

I've been sitting on a couple of these stories for a while, but with the addition of the most recent, I decided to combine them into one post.

Though I studied Classical Archaeology (Greek and Roman), I never got too interested in archaeology at the fringes of the Roman Empire. My interests lay mainly with the Etruscans and early Rome. Archaeology is archaeology however, and I learned early on that a general knowledge was essential before one could pursue one's chosen specialty, so I've always kept an eye on areas that I didn't particularly study, such as the Middle East and Egypt.

Since I became a Christian, however, I've naturally become more interested in the archaeology of the Holy Land, both Old and New Testament periods. In addition to contributing to our understanding of the Bible, recent stories can also illustrate some problems faced by archaeologists and history lovers in Israel.

The first two stories follow the former point of contributing to our understanding of the Bible and biblical times. Beehives have been found which indicate a lively honey producing operation, more than just 'artificial' honey made from figs. The hives were found in a room which could have accommodated 100 of them. The land of milk and honey indeed.

From a later period, archaeologists have discovered an underground tunnel used by the Jews fleeing from the Roman sacking of the Temple. The tunnel was built as a drainage channel for the temple complex, and ran under the main road into the city; it is also mentioned by Flavius Josephus in his work, War of the Jews, regarding the rebellion of 66-70AD. The bonus for the archaeologists is that by discovering the tunnel, they also know where to look for the road as well (which was their original intent - goes to show that Beloq was right in Raiders of the Lost Ark that 'archaeology is not an exact science').

The third article follows the latter point I made about problems faced by archaeologists, particularly because of local political or religious considerations. A construction project by the Waqf, the Muslim custodial group of the Temple mount, has uncovered what is believed to be part of the actual Temple, mentioned in the previous paragraph, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. This is the first physical evidence of the temple since its destruction, and since it is in the area of Muslim control, antiquities unearthed in the project are being destroyed. This is not surprising, since the Muslims contend there was never a Jewish presence in Jerusalem. Naturally they will not be keen to preserve any evidence to the contrary. Israel's Temple Institute has issued an open letter asking Christians and Christian leaders to put pressure on the Israeli government to allow archaeologists to go in and examine the finds. The article has all the ins and outs, and it is worth reading the whole thing.

But while the archaeologists wait for permission (which is not likely to come - any attempt by the Israelis to halt the project will bring a terrific howl from the Muslims), precious antiquities which could give us so much information are being wantonly destroyed. Sometimes I wonder if the old days of the 'treasure seekers' were better days.

The Legend Lives on.

A new shipwreck has been found in Lake Superior. My wife and I read this story with interest, especially since we vacationed in Sault St. Marie, MI a couple years ago.

We enjoyed the beauty of the Upper Peninsula and we enjoyed watching the big ore freighters passing through the Soo Locks on the St. Mary's River. We drove over to Munising and took a glass bottom boat tour of shipwrecks from the 18-19th century. Of course we also visited the Whitefish Point light station and the Great Lakes' Shipwreck Museum, which features the most famous wreck of the Great Lakes.

The ship mentioned in the story above, the Cyprus, was a 420 foot boat, large for the turn of the century, but less than half the size of the 1000 foot monsters you can see on the horizon if you visit the Lake Superior shore today. There is a similar vessel, the Valley Camp, in Sault St. Marie which has been converted to a museum of Great Lakes' shipping. If you ever visit the U.P. (and you should), visit the museum and see the locks. It won't be long before you're humming Gordon Lightfoot.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Back in the Saddle.

One of my favorite hobbies a few years ago was playing racing sims. My first experience at any type of online gaming was racing online in the game Grand Prix Legends.

Grand Prix Legends (GPL) is a simulation racing game that was released in 1998 by Sierra. It never was successful in terms of sales, in part because of its ultra-realistic driving physics and steep learning curve. It caught on in the sim racing community however, and is still being modded and played today. What made GPL unique was that it simulated Formula One racing of 1967, when the cars were little more than rolling gas tanks, and drivers such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill, and Jackie Stewart were household names even in the US.

In the last few years, a dedicated team of modders have expanded on GPL, introducing revised, more accurate physics models, and car sets to depict the cars from 1965 and the first winged cars of 1969. More mods are in the works, including one which represents Formula One of 1937, the heyday of Mercedes and Auto Union.

I recently decided to get back into sim racing and joined in an online race this morning. I must say I didn't realize how much I'd missed it. The guys I raced with back in the day are still going strong, and eagerly welcomed me back. My skills haven't deteriorated as much as I feared, and I placed a respectable third out of eight drivers, even though I did not have a good setup for my car. I even had a couple of "Oh Wow!" moments which brought back memories of some of my more exciting races. One was an awesome power slide around the first corner (pictured at the top of this post), and the other was when I threaded the needle between two spinning cars (below).

If you like driving or racing games, GPL can still be found online for next to nothing. It's a classic of the genre, and like all classics, it is timeless. There is a vigorous community of guys ready and willing to help out and welcome newcomers. Grab a copy, get a wheel and pedals, and give it a spin! See you on track.

Just for Jihad.

Osama bin Laden is in the news again, this time with a new video addressed to the American people in which he rails against capitalism, spouts Democratic talking points, and attempts to sweet talk Christians into converting by claiming that Islam venerates Jesus.

It's the typical "convert or die" message from the Jihadists, but his honeyed words are particularly repugnant. Hot Air has the video, and here is a transcript.

He's clearly addressing the anti-war liberals with his references to "major corporations" and global warming, but he has some harsh words for the Democratic Leaders in congress for not doing anything to stop the war after they won their majority. In this, he sounds remarkably like a diarist at DailyKos. His ignorance of America and American history shows in his references to Vietnam and Kennedy.

The video may be an indicator that Al Qaeda has an operation in the works against us, and it may be true, though he doesn't make an explicit threat. It's interesting that a bunch of Jihadi websites shut down once word got out that the US had a copy of the video.

Much has been made of Osama's sexy new look with the cropped, black beard, but it looks as if there's a reason besides vanity.

'As I noted here yesterday, the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence
forbids men and women to dye their hair black "except when the intention is a show of strength to unbelievers" ('Umdat al-Salik e.4.4). OBL is
not a member of the Shafi'i school; the Wahhabis adhere to the Hanbali school,
and the Deobandis (the dominant sect among the Taliban) are Hanbalis. But this
is not just a Shafi'i view: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in his internationally
influential The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, says essentially the same
thing: "Some of the early Muslims, including some sahabah [companions of
Muhammad] such as Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, 'Uqbah ibn 'Amr, al-Hassan, al-Hussein,
Jarir, and others permitted the use of black dye. Some scholars, on the other
hand, do not consider the use of black dye as permissible except during time of
war, when the enemy might be impressed by the fact that all the soldiers of the
Muslim army look young."'

My own impression is that they are not as strong as they would like to be, and that our efforts are having an effect. This attempt to cajole the American people would be laughable, were the situation not so serious.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Find for the Ages.

This story is nearly a week old now, but I just discovered it while playing around with Google News.

A rare find was discovered south of Siena: an undisturbed Etruscan tomb. The Etruscans were a people that inhabited what is now known as Tuscany in Italy. Often called pirates by ancient authors, the Etruscans traded with groups all over the Mediterranean, from Carthage to the Levant (modern day Syria and Israel). They dominated central Italy until the second century BC, when the Roman Republic grew in power. The date of this tomb is from this later time period.

Read the article for the details, but note what the author says near the end about local lore.

"In Civitella Paganico, residents have known for a long time that something
interesting was hidden in the woods.
"When I was a child, my father told me
there were strange holes in the ground around the woods," Marcocci said."

I spent a summer during college digging at a site near Siena called Poggio Civitate. That particular site was also discovered as a result of investigating local legends. "Poggio Civitate" means something like "civilized hill." The dig site is on a part of the hill known as the Piano del Tesoro, or "Plain of Treasure." Local legend had it that once someone had gone up to the hill and brought down a golden treasure. A team of archaeologists in the 1960s investigated this legend and found an Etruscan settlement from the 6th and 5th centuries BC.

The Etruscans have always fascinated me, and it is always interesting to hear about new finds.

Believing in Blue: Colts 41, Saints 10

Football season is officially underway and Colts fever has hit in a big way. I had to work last night, so I missed watching most of the game, but it looks as if the Colts are off to a good start.

The big concern in the media was the number of rookies that are starting for the Colts, but I didn't see where they were that much of a detriment. They played well for their first time out, and in some cases it looked as if they played better than last year's group. The defense did especially well against the run, and seemed to be tackling better than in years past. They seemed to run out of steam a little in the late stages of the game, though, and did not look quite as sharp on some plays.

The offense was its usual efficient self, and I think having a rookie to spell Joe Addai is not going to be a big issue. Keith ran well the few times I saw him, and the line is good at opening holes for anyone. I think we'll see a big year for the offense now that the ridiculous pressure of the media's "can he win the big game?" is off of Manning.

It's always good to start the year off with a win.

Link to Image Source.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

It's Official: Fred's In.

Check out his announcement video. Very Reagan-esque production, though it's a lot to take in all at once.

I'm excited that he's in, and I'm excited by the positions he states in his announcement. I may be idealistic, but I like the idea of a candidate that says that the power of the federal government should be reduced and given back to the States and the people, as the Constitution says.

The attacks have already started though, and it will be crucial to see how Fred handles them. Some are predictably ridiculous, but others regarding his record and history are more serious. He didn't handle the revelation that he lobbied for a pro-abortion outfit very well. He'll have to be sharper on defense, especially since the media have hit him so hard for waiting as long as he did and for announcing in the way he has.

I'll be watching him closely the next few weeks to see if the reality lives up to the hype.

The Fox News Republican Debate

I know it's not the first debate, but in keeping with the style here at Back Home Again, I'm coming late to the game with my own thoughts and opinions. This debate seemed to me to be the real kick off to the campaign, especially since Fred Thompson also officially jumped in last night (more on Fred later).

Several bloggers kept track of the action last night. Hoosierpundit live blogged the debate, as did Michell Malkin. The NRO staff also followed along at the Corner, and Hot Air has video excerpts. My wife and I sat on the couch, watching and discussing.

I thought the debate was a pretty good one, and the questions were tough and honest, though like all primary debates which have more than two participants, it seemed more a debate between the candidates and the moderators than between the candidates. Fox picked a good group to moderate the discussion; they kept control, but not maniacally so. They allowed the discussion to flow, and they weren't afraid to question the candidates' statements when needed.

Here's my impressions of the candidates, then (since I haven't paid much attention up to this point):

Duncan Hunter: He sounded good and made some statements I liked, but his demeanor turned me off. I didn't like the way he leaned on the podium and smirked all the time; he seemed like a cocky boss.

Sam Brownback: I really don't know why he's in the race. He made some good conservative statements, and emphasized family values, but nothing about him really seemed inspiring. He seemed a little tired and dull.

Mitt Romney: This was my first real exposure to Romney, and I rather liked what I saw. He has good communication skill, and did a reasonably good job of articulating his position. I didn't like his hedging on whether or not the Surge is working (kudos to McCain for calling him on it), and I think he should have outright apologized to the gentlemen who questioned him from the diner regarding his comment about his sons' "service." He also didn't handle the illegal immigration question particularly well, and I thought it a little weak to dodge the sanctuary city issue by saying that the mayors were responsible for that. I'm sorry, but as governor of a state, you have some political leverage you can use on local governments; he should have used it.

Rudy Giuliani: I was really disappointed in Rudy. I thought he conducted himself well on 9-11, and I thought his statements to the media that day were more informative than the media reports themselves. But last night was one long repetitive litany of "I did this in New York." The focus group after the debate had it right: he bragged about his accomplishments ad nauseum without stating what he would accomplish as president. He (understandably) completely ducked the family values question put directly to him, and was notably absent from the abortion question. His response to the sanctuary city question was completely unsatisfactory; everyone knows that INS is dysfunctional, but to use that as an excuse for doing nothing is irresponsible. He pointed out that they reported all "illegals who committed crimes." What about the crime of crossing the border and working without permission? What about the crime of overstaying your visa? Did he report those too?

John McCain: A lot of people are calling him the winner, but I just don't buy it. He conducted himself well, as always, and he is clear and articulate as befits a long-time senator, but though he stuck to conservative statements, much of what he said contradicts his record and is the same sort of stuff we hear from the current administration. His attempt to explain his position on immigration as "enforcement first" was laughable. He was as steadfast on the war as always, and I think his directness on that issue is what carried the day for him in many people's eyes.

Mike Huckabee: Huckabee impressed me as Romney did. He was clear, articulate, and eloquently (that word has shown up on the 'net concerning Huckabee a lot today) stated his positions. He actually struck me as more genuine than Romney, though he dodged the racism part of the question on immigration. His response to the abortion question was priceless: bravo. I also liked the way he went after Ron Paul when Paul clearly had wandered into the giggle-weeds. In addition, he comported himself well during the post-debate interview with Hannity and Colmes.

Ron Paul: What can I say? Paul was definitely the entertainment of the evening, and despite the clamor in the auditorium during his statements, he obviously has almost no chance of being elected. but amid the shrill isolationist babble, he did have one or two gems that I think are worth noting. He pointed out the ineffectiveness of the federal government at protecting citizens, and points out that if people on the planes on 9-11 had been able to carry guns, then things might have turned out differently. His views on war, though, are completely unrealistic, and his understanding of the government's power to make war is wrong. He stated that the president should go to Congress and inquire "if there is a legitimate national security threat," in accordance with the Constitution. Incorrect. If there is a threat, it is the President that must determine it and explain the threat to Congress and ask them to declare war against the threat. Congress has been derelict in its duty the last seventy years by issuing permissions to use military force instead of war declarations. The anti-war crowd would do better to couch their argument in those terms rather that decrying the war as immoral.

Tom Tancredo: I like Tancredo's willingness to point out the enemy in the war on terror as Radical Islam, and not take the myopic view that Iraq is the beginning and end of the war. His position on immigration is also strong, though he turns many people off by subscribing to fears about the "North American Union." He seemed to be a strong conservative, but he also seems to be a one or two issue candidate. He beats his two drums, and you really don't hear much else out of him, granting that the two issues are the two most important. I don't think he'll get the nomination, but he'll be the guy to articulate the reality that everyone else believes but won't dare state out loud.

In summation, I'll have to split my vote between Huckabee and Romney, with Huck having the slight edge for taking on Ron Paul and for dodging less questions than Mitt did. But both passed the "he looked Presidential" test, whereas the others fell short.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Walk Along the Canal.

Sometimes the greatest pleasures we experience in this world are the simplest, and some of the greatest adventures we have are the least eventful. I gained an understanding of this contradictory truth during my semester at Harlaxton College near Grantham, England.

The Gregory Arms was a popular hangout for the college students, and many of us could be found sitting at the bar on weekend nights, chatting with the locals and sharing pints. My regular conversation partner was an old Canadian ex-patriat with an interest in history and a degree in mathematics. We talked about anything from the origins of the Etruscans to the Japanese economy. One night, however, he told me about something different.

"If you want a nice walk," he said, "follow the Grantham Canal to Woolsthorpe, and have lunch at the 'Mucky Duck.' It's not far, and makes a nice stroll for a Sunday morning."

The next morning dawned and I rose early, determined to take his advice. I donned my trusty work boots which had served me well from Poggio Civitate to London. Slipping into my denim jacket to ward off the morning chill, I made my way into Harlaxton to find the canal. One had to walk past some of the more ramshackle dwellings to a small bridge, then turn sharply and descend, passing beneath the span to put your feet on the old tow path. After successfully navigating this course, I found myself experiencing one of those quintessentially simple pleasures that it's almost impossible to experience with someone else.

The canal was narrow, and here and there a boat was pulled up to the bank, paint faded and tarp-covered. The waterway wound through the countryside, autumn fields rising up on either side of me as I casually walked along, enjoying the sight of the occasional lock with it's black gates and immense wooden levers. The weather was perfect, with just enough sun to drive away the gloominess of autumn, and enough clouds to keep you from squinting. Groves of trees and water plants broke up the landscape, giving you the sense that you were actually going somewhere as you moseyed along.

Just as the sun was drawing to its peak and I was starting to feel warm, I reached my destination. The Dirty Duck (its real name) was that wonderful mixture of quaint traditional and cool modern that typifies English pubs. It seemed fitting, like my solitary walk, that I was the only patron there at this particular lunch hour. I had a sandwich, of what I don't remember, and a pint, probably John Smith's Bitter, my staple while I was at Harlaxton. Both were good, and after a relaxing break and a casual glance around the pub, I stepped back outside to the canal.

I paused for a moment as the warm October sun shone down on me and I looked down the path, first one way, then the other. I felt full of energy, as if I could cover the entire 27 miles to Nottingham in the remainder of that day. The Midland country air tends to have that effect on you, and will tempt you if you let it. But I had funds for lunch, not a hotel, and the magic would surely wear off with the setting of the sun; and I had classes the next day.

I resisted temptation that time, and turned back to the now-familiar way that led back to school. The sun was warmer, so I doffed my jacket and bounced along, not caring that I had forgotten my camera to chronicle my excursion. Such a device would have stolen the soul from the day, and I did not miss it. I had plenty of drawing paper in my room, and could capture my memories well enough in that fitting medium.

I walked along into the afternoon, nodding to the old scows as I passed, my only companions on that special journey. I climbed the bank to the bridge and made my way through the still quiet village, though the gates and in the door of the manor, back to the world of dart games and British Studies.

Release: Final Thoughts on the South Korean Hostages.

It's old news now, but I didn't want to leave the subject of the South Korean hostage release without a few final thoughts. Eugene Cho and Michelle Malkin have the details of the release as it happened, so I won't rehash it here.

Firstly, don't forget that there are still hostages being held by the Taliban, a German man and four Afghans which the Taliban want to exchange for their jihad goons.

Second, it's possible that South Korea paid a ransom for the hostages release. As I noted a few posts ago, that only encourages the Taliban to continue to target aid workers and other innocents. Each instance of capitulation by allied governments increases the Taliban's political clout, as well as providing them much-needed funds.

I'm glad that the Korean hostages are free, but I don't like it that their freedom was bought, either monetarily or with concessions such as the withdrawal of all of South Korea's aid forces (which, incidentally, had already been proposed; why the change of heart, Taliban?). Even more outrageous is that now, the hostages feel compelled to apologize to their countrymen and government for putting themselves into danger in the first place!

"'I've had sleepless nights, thinking of what we have caused the country. I
am deeply sorry,' Yu Kyeong-sik said at a press conference."

Excuse me?! The South Korean government caves like a wet lily to a group of criminals, and the hostages are to blame? Yes, they should have been careful, but venturing into an unstable country is a risk that missionaries and aid workers take. The Bible illustrates in several places that spreading the Gospel is dangerous. I'd like to think that if I were in their place, I would be willing to accept even death in the effort to spread the word about Jesus, rather than have my homeland buy my way out.

This is not to condemn the hostages for wanting to be free, or for apologizing now, but Christians should not be ashamed of those who have given or will give their lives for their faith. We must remember that there is more than this life here on Earth, and though evil may seem to grow stronger, the victory of the Lord is already assured.