Saturday, December 31, 2005

Poor Al

The right Reverend Al Sharpton, minister without a church, must be doing well for himself in spite of his lack of a congregation. Twice in he last month he has turned down lucrative deals, claiming reasons of integrity in both cases.

In one instance, Sharpton -- the supposed defender of low-income families and consumer watch-dog -- backed out of a goldmine of an endorsement, but only after receiving criticism about the deal.
New York Activist Al Sharpton, under fire from opponents of predatory lending, says he has discontinued appearing in controversial television commercials for LoanMax, a car-lending agency that charges interest rates up to 300 percent.

The first round of commercials appeared over the past month and were mostly seen on the East Coast. The deal was paying Sharpton $20,000 a month or $240,000 for one year, according to sources familiar with the contract.

After he was challenged, Sharpton withdrew from the ad campaign.
According to the Center for Responsible Lending, the commercials...
...featured Sharpton on stage by a flag, appearing to be in his former roll as a Democratic candidate for president.
This marks the second time within three months that Sharpton has had to back away from an arrangement that ran counter to his pro-consumer reputation.

In September, even after it had been widely reported that Tyson Foods was the target of a lawsuit filed by 12 Black employees charging racial discrimination, Sharpton was proceeding to honor Tyson Foods... However, when contacted by the NNPA News Service, Sharpton said he would first look into the allegations and subsequently abandoned plans to present the controversial awards.

In the second instance, Rev. Sharpton just last week canceled his plans to star in a new sitcom.
The Democrat, who has run for president, mayor of New York and the Senate, was earlier this month reported to be working with CBS on a pilot tentatively titled, "Al in the Family" an allusion to the Archie Bunker classic '70s show.

"I'm not interested in being Archie Bunker, I'm looking forward to becoming George Bush," Sharpton said, alluding to a possible future presidential race.

The real question, of course, is why Rev. Al ever contemplated these ideas in the first place!

A Chance for Life Out of Abu Ghraib

A couple of weeks ago I shared a story about the heroic efforts of an Indiana National Guard unit working to save the life of a sick little girl from Afghan.

Now comes the equally impressive and touching story of little Noor al-Zahra, whose family says will soon be called "Georgia" after the Georgia Army National Guard unit that is working to save her life. The Iraqi infant, whose family lives in Abu Ghraib, was "born three months ago with a severe spinal cord defect that was untreatable in Iraq."
Noor, nicknamed "Baby Nora" by the soldiers, was born with spina bifida. Her spinal cord had not fully closed during her mother, Iman’s, pregnancy, leaving a tumorlike growth on her tiny back.

Iraqi doctors told the family that they lacked the facilities to treat the baby and that she would not survive long.

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment's Charlie Company discovered the little girl during a search of the family's house. They were determined to save her.
To this end, the guardsmen have worked with the Iraqi and American governments to expedite arrangements for sending little Noor halfway across the world, to a place where here chances for life will increase dramatically. She and her father and grandmother are now en route to Atlanta, Georgia, for corrective spinal surgery that will hopefully save the infant's life.

After all the horror stories associated with the name Abu Ghraib over the past year, it is refreshing to hear this tale of American compassion, of a new life that might otherwise be forfeit without the love and care of our brave soldiers.

You can read daily updates of Baby Noor's journey here.

A tip of the hat to The Anchoress for highlighting this story.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Why Didn't They Think of That?

Lawrence Simon just might have come up with the best question of the year:
If liberals think it's a good idea to distribute clean needles to inner-city junkies and condoms to gays and lesbians at the bathhouses to prevent AIDS, why aren't they out distributing blanks to gun-owning inner-city morons to prevent innocent people getting killed from falling bullets?
Now why didn't they think of that?

UPDATE: (12/31/05) The Good Lieutenant counters with one just as thought-provoking:
If liberals are the mainstream of today's society (which they often claim to be when one mentions the election results of 2004), then aren't conservatives by definition the revolutionary new counter-culture?

A Salute to Our Dads

Admittedly, I do not know very much about columnist and talk radio host Larry Elder. But I find that we seem to have an awful lot in common. We are both good-looking, conservative black men. (Okay, so maybe only two out of three applies to me, but I'll take what I can get!) And we both have conservative, loving fathers who took a close interest in our upbringing and, as Larry says, "who taught my brothers and me to overcome racism through hard work and personal responsibility."

Mr. Elder's latest column is both a tribute to his father and a lesson in personal responsibility. He says of the elder Mr. Elder:
What about my dad? How did he manage? How do you compare what it's like now to what it was like then? He grew up in the Jim Crow South during the Depression, when black adult unemployment was 50 percent. He dropped out of school at age 13, after his mother threw him out of the house in favor of her then-boyfriend. Hard jobs followed, and he served in World War II. When he came out, he worked two full-time jobs as a janitor, cooked for a family on the weekends and went to night school to get his high school G.E.D. He saved his money and somehow managed to start a restaurant when he was in his 40s, which he ran until he was in his 80s. If racism didn't stop him then, how can racism stop you today? And he votes Republican!
While the details of the history are different, in many ways it almost sounds like Mr. Elder is describing Pops. And it sounds like the lessons these two loving fathers imparted to their kids is exactly the same: you, and only you, are responsible for your life and your future.

Thanks, Pops.

Hat-tip: David Benzion of Lone Star Times

Reverse Discrimination in the City of Brotherly Love

I always heard of Philadelphia being called the "City of Brotherly Love." I just never realized that love was reserved only for the Brothers!
Apparently, four white employees were fired from their jobs with the Philadelphia school district for "racial reasons". This may be hard to understand for those of you in other parts of the country, but Philly is a pay-to-play city wrought with nepotism and racism (or should I say reverse-racism?).
The lead attorney for the Philadelphia school district (who remember is arguing against racism) proceeded to call the Caucasian jurors "crackers".
As the author points out, this may not be a particularly offensive term to most people. But in today's Politically Correct atmosphere where almost anything can be construed to be racially charged and offensive to someone, you can't expect to win too many battles against racism by throwing around racial slurs. Not even in the city of Brother-ly love.

It's Official: Candidate Dan

Dan, Dan, the candidate man. Anyone listening to KSEV during their drive home yesterday afternoon probably heard the festivities as station owner and talk show host Dan Patrick started the next phase of his senate campaign by officially filing in the Republican primary for the Texas State Senate, District 7.
Patrick's filing makes him the last of previously announced candidates to formally enter the four-way GOP race that also includes state Reps. Peggy Hamric and Joe Nixon and Houston City Councilman Mark Ellis. State Sen. Jon Lindsay is not seeking re-election in the heavily Republican district.
As usual, the Houston Comical raises as many doubts in its report as it can, ending with this negative push at Dan:
Patrick recently released a poll of likely Republican primary voters that shows him earning 54 percent of the vote if the election were held today. Nixon had 10 percent, Hamric had 9 percent and Ellis garnered 7 percent among those polled.
Nixon spokesman Jim McGrath questions the results.

"He's been on the air in the Houston market for years. Naturally he has a name ID advantage. We dispute that he has that level of support," McGrath said. "Name ID is one thing, support is another."
Mr. Patrick counters such assertions with the reason he believes he does have the support to propel him into the legislative body in Austin:
"It is time the average voter had a voice in the Texas Senate, and at a considerable cost to my business and my family I have decided to step forward to provide that voice," Patrick said. … "Republican primary voters have long expected property tax relief, order on the border and a school finance system designed by the legislature not the courts. While none of those issues were resolved, the legislature did deliver a 20% increase in the budget and a 25% increase in benefits paid to legislators. Enough is enough. We need change in Austin," Patrick remarked.
Dan's son Ryan will be guest hosting his father's afternoon radio show for the next couple of weeks as the senior Patrick withdraws from the radio spotlight to meet FCC restrictions and guidelines, concentrating the next two months on his campaign.

Security Good, Blogging Bad

Well, in spite of my best intentions yesterday to finally resume the regular blogging schedule (i.e., more than one post in a week's time), technology got in the way. My regular laptop that I use at work and when traveling was "under the weather" and being worked on, so I borrowed one from one of my guys who is taking the week off (this place is like a ghost office this week, with a "skeleton crew" of about 20% manning the place). Fortunately, he has followed our strict guidelines about PC and internet security. Unfortunately, that meant that I could not access the blogging tools I needed to post to Blogspot. (I guess that's good in that it tells me my guys are not wasting their time blogging from work, even though it was preventing me from doing the same...)

Anyway, let the blogging resume!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In the Spirit of Christmas

I had planned to post this last week, but preparations for the holiday sort of got in the way.

Last week, the Songbird family was invited by friends to attend a special Christmas celebration at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center, and I am so very glad we did.

After the flood and devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the SotBM Pan African Orthodox Christian Church here in Houston took in more than 40 dislocated Louisiana families, housing them in their on-site missionary training facilities and helping them get back on their feet.

Almost four months later, all but a handful of those families have moved on, most with new jobs and more permanent housing here in the Houston area. With the Christmas season at hand, the Shrine threw a special party for the children of these remaining families. A sister church from the area provided food and two big piles of toys for the festivities along with a fantastic ensemble named Basic that supplied some awesome Christmas music. We even had a visit from "Kente Santa," who handed out the presents to about 30-40 kids.

One of the best parts of the evening was seeing these diverse members of the faith all coming together to meet, mingle and celebrate the birth of our common Lord, Jesus Christ. There were no racial barriers here as black, white and hispanic all joined in sharing the love of the season.

The joy on the faces of these kids and their parents was infectious. I saw one big, bearded bear of a man reduced almost to tears as he played with a little toddler, whose first real memories of Christmas joy were likely saved by these loving brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another highlight of the evening was meeting two of the families -- families who were originally hosted by the church but have since moved on -- who returned to share in the celebration. One of these families, a middle-aged gentleman with a young wife and three kids under the age of five, was joyously celebrating a new permanent job in southwest Houston, proud that they were starting to pay back the church community's generosity by now helping others. The other, a single mother with two teenage daughters, told of a new apartment they were busily making their own, proudly without the assistance of the government or other charity. Both of these families had brought extra toys to the party to share with those still struggling to make their own way.

Here are a few of the pictures Shebird snapped at the party. (Unfortunately, the flash only worked on about one out of every four or five shots, so many were too dark to enjoy.)

"Kente Santa" in full regalia.

"Kente Santa" surrounded by kids who really needed a Christmas smile.

Santa's helpers and all the little elves.

A new bike and toys for a little angel.

UPDATE: This picture came from reader Kyle, who was also at the party and graciously forwarded some additional photos to me. Thanks, Kyle!

Look at these smiles -- that's the reason we were there!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Best Posts of 2005

Now that the annual Weblog Awards have been announced, the year-end excitement for many bloggers is winding down. However, there's a new contest in town!

Mister Snitch has initiated a search for the best individual blog posts from the blogosphere from 2005.

I have a tendency to link to most of my favorite blog posts here, to share them with my own readers, and I have already nominated several of the best of those from the past few months. (My memory being what it is -- which isn't much to brag about -- a few months is about as far back as I can go.) I would encourage you to do the same.

Please note that this is not a request to fill Snitch's inbox with links to this site. But find your favorite posts from the past year from across the blogoverse, and send them in.

I look forward to reading through the final list when he announces it on New Year's Day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

American, Not Black, History

Last year, Bill Cosby criticized the black community for the sorry state of our youth and our own social and economic status. And he was hammered for it by black leaders, many of whom called him a traitor to his race for his harsh but accurate words.

Now actor Morgan Freeman has taken on the racial establishment, and I fully expect he will receive the same treatment. In a 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace last Sunday evening, Mr. Freeman spoke out against the near-eighty year tradition of Black History Month, which started out in 1926 as Negro History Week, an attempt to insert a little knowledge of the history and accomplishments of black Americans into a subject that was then entirely dominated by the history of white America. But as Mr. Freeman points out, that has since changed -- dramatically.
"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor says... "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."
Freeman notes there is no "white history month," and says the only way to get rid of racism is to "stop talking about it."

The actor says he believes the labels "black" and "white" are an obstacle to beating racism.

"I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man," Freeman says.
Wow. I hate to admit it, but I had never even thought about this before watching that interview myself. But Mr. Freeman is correct, and as the Independent Conservative has stated so well, this is something we should all be moving toward:
I have to say, Morgan Freeman has spoken in a context few are able to understand! He has spoken of a view of America that some really can’t grasp. When Booker T. Washington delivered The Atlanta Compromise it was seen as profound! Today that same speech would be viewed as a regression if given in earnest today. And for these different times that is appropriate. Because we have moved far beyond the America of 1895. We moved into the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech. Where everyone lives as Americans, without regard to race.
Still what Mr. Freeman spoke of is not acceptable for many Blacks. What Morgan Freeman spoke of is something that many Blacks fear. True and full integration. Integration to a level where a special month for a race is not promoted. Because all are viewed as Americans. ... There was a fight to end segregation and so there is no need for Blacks to have heroes with darker skin segregated any longer.
Unfortunately, so-called "black community leaders" such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan, all too often "play the race card" -- at times even when there is no evidence of racism on the scene -- in order to promote their own status as defenders of the black man. In reality, they are promoting the very segregation against which they claim to be fighting.

As the AP article points out, even Carter G. Woodson, the original founder of Negro History Week, had hopes that "the week could one day be eliminated -- when black history would become fundamental to American history."

As evidenced by the recent nationwide mourning and honoring of Ms. Rosa Parks, I agree with Mr. Freeman that we have reached that day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Some High Points

Since I won't be doing much blogging of my own over the next few days, I thought I would point out a few other blog posts that have caught my eyes over the past few days.

On the death of Lt Gen William Yarborough: Death of the Original Green Beret, by Pat of Brainster's Blog

On the media's salivating over President Bush violating privacy rights: Privacy vs Getting Blown to Bits and The New York Times Designer Scandal, by Dave of The Paladin Blog (also, best use of a Maxwell Smart photo in a long time!)

On border security: US-Mexico border fence?, by Jeremy Weidenhof of Lone Star Times

On Affirmative Action in Michigan: Michigan having trouble allowing people to vote on Affirmative Action, by the Independent Conservative

On the mainstream media and the president's approval ratings: Differing Poll Positions

On the mainstream media and political bias: How to Write About Democrats and Republicans for the Mainstream Media, by Pat of Brainster's Blog

On The Chronicles of Narnia (which we have yet to see, hopefully next week?): That's Narnia Business, by Travis Fell of The Voice in the Wilderness

On the racism of King Kong: King Kong and Skinny White Blondes, by La Shawn Barber


Just a note to say that blogging will likely be rather light for the rest of the week, but will hopefully start back up full force within a couple of days after Christmas. We are busy with doctor visits and treatment scheduling and such this week, as well as marshalling the "off-duty forces" (i.e., the kids are all out of school!) to help get the house ready for all the family coming during the rest of the holiday week. By Saturday, we should be bursting at the seams... and that's referring to the house being full of people, as well as our stomachs full of Christmas goodies. Santa better come a day or two early if he's to find any leftover cookies at the Songbird house. ;->

In the meantime, check out the house of the Good Lieutenant as Mein Blogovault celebrates its first birthday. An excellent blog, well worth the stop for a daily read!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Where's Jessica Fletcher When You Need Her?

This story from the local Houston news desk just sounds too much like an episode of Murder, She Wrote or Diagnosis Murder:
A realtor made a gruesome discovery Thursday after trying to enter a home she was trying to sell... She found the elderly homeowner dead with an ax near her body.
Where are Jessica Fletcher and Dr. Sloan when we need them?

Raptor Ready for Duty

Although its pilots have been training on the new fighter jet for almost a year now, the United States Air Force officially announced on Thursday the newest member of its fleet, the F-22A "Raptor," is ready for combat. Initially conceived in the cold war era of the 1980s, the Raptor's designs have been modified and enhanced to make it one of the Air Force's most advanced weapon systems, helping to maintain "continued joint air dominance despite advancing enemy threats."

In a Reuters story out of the nation's capital, it was reported that the new Raptor is "twice as reliable and three times more effective" than the F-15 Eagle fighter it will replace.
"If we go to war tomorrow, the Raptor will go with us," Gen. Ronald Keys, head of the Air Force's Air Combat command, said in a statement. He said it was ready for use in combat worldwide or for homeland defense.

The aircraft's role is to "kick the doors down" in a conflict, as Pentagon officials put it, knocking out defenses on the ground and in the air to clear the way for other warplanes and forces.
The Raptor combines low-observability, or stealth, with supersonic speed, agility and cockpit displays designed to boost greatly pilots' awareness of the situation around them.
And while the fighter pilots manning this newest weapon are impressed with its capabilities in the air, former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper reports that the sod-bound maintenance crews are happy as well:
General Jumper said that in the Raptor, those Airmen have been given an aircraft that is easier to maintain than aircraft of the past.

"When you go around the F/A-22 Raptor, you see all the crew chiefs and the mechanics doing the Toyota leap with how happy they are with what they've got," he said.

The F/A-22 includes an automated diagnostics system that tells maintainers what is wrong with the airplane and an engine that has all of the accessible hydraulics lines on the bottom side so it is easier to maintain, General Jumper said. Additionally, he said, the aircraft is designed to be maintained with only a small number of tools.
And while the first squadron of Raptors will make their initial home with the 1/27 Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, one only has to wonder where these birds may be deployed first in today's world of ever-escalating threat levels and the war against global terrorism.

The Guy with the Beard

According to a CNN report, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader of terrorist forces in Iraq, should be in custody at this time, awaiting trial right behind Spider-Hold Saddam.
Iraqi security forces caught the most wanted man in the country last year, but released him because they didn't know who he was, the Iraqi deputy minister of interior said Thursday.

Hussain Kamal confirmed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- the al Qaeda in Iraq leader who has a $25 million bounty on his head -- was in custody at some point last year, but he wouldn't provide further details.
Just for reference, in case there's ever another chance at cornering this guy, use this description: He's the Middle Eastern guy with the beard!

Hat-tip: Bare Knuckle Politics

The Environmentalists' Dilemma

This dilemma could only come from the capital of the Left Coast, San Francisco: What to do about Christmas holiday decorating?
The choice between real and not real is especially painful for some environmentalists. Either they desecrate the Earth and chop down a tree or buy a fake one that's full of landfill-clogging polyvinyl chloride, which is kryptonite to greenies.
Oh, what to do, what to do? The Sierra Club offers some suggestions:
For a natural look, try making your own tree of trimmed evergreen boughs, a storm-felled branch, or a piece of driftwood. You could even hang ornaments on a potted plant.
Of course, if energy conservation is your main goal, the SF Chronicle suggests maybe you should just change your religion, at least for the holiday season:
"Allow me to put in a plug for Hanukkah, which celebrates the miracle of a little bit of oil lasting eight days," he said.

"You've got to love a holiday that's all about energy efficiency and eating potato pancakes," he said. "With only the finest organic potatoes, of course."

Hat-tip: David Benzion of LST, filling in for Dan Patrick on KSEV yesterday afternoon

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Viking Hordes

Sorry to drop in on all the political talk of the day, but I just had to share this bit of humorous sports reporting.

In looking over the afternoon's sports stories, I noticed the following headline that was just too funny to pass up:

        Four Vikings Charged in Boat Scandal

That one's just too hilarious to have been intentional!

Bush Attacks

It always makes me shake my head in wonderment when I see the massive spin that so many in the mainstream American media feel they have to insert into what should be strictly news reporting. (Hence the term "news stories," I suppose.) But I sometimes get a good laugh when it is done as amateurishly as in this AP story by writer (not even labeled a "reporter") Jennifer Loven:
The White House on Thursday defended President Bush's decision to insert himself into Tom DeLay's legal case, saying Bush was employing "presidential prerogative" when he declared the former House majority leader was innocent of Texas charges.

On Wednesday, Bush was asked during an interview on Fox News Channel whether he believed DeLay was innocent. "Yes, I do," Bush replied.
Wow, what an attack! Obviously, the president spent weeks strategizing on how best to "insert himself" into this political battle. Insert himself?!? He answered a simple question asked by a reporter! And how about that brutal reply? He must have been up all night practicing that savvy attack.

What strikes me as most humorous is that this story was not only considered newsworthy at all, but it was included in the "afternoon update" email of the day's top stories by the Austin American-Statesman, the Texas capital's major news rag.

Election-Blogging in Iraq

Blogger Omar of Iraq the Model has posted a full day of election-blogging from several locations around Iraq. Forget what you hear from the mainstream media reporters who are out standing in their fields. This is the real thing, straight from the citizens of Iraq.

Voter turnout?
No official figures on turnout till now but it is believed to be higher than that of January.
There's some great info and commentary there, all from the people who are busy living and breathing this brand new democracy.

Liar, Liar, Lance on Fire

Fellow Texan, cancer survivor, and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is in big trouble with the law over in Europe:
Armstrong has been ordered to stand trial in Italy on charges of defaming cyclist Filippo Simeoni.
Now I'm no expert on the law, but I have to wonder how you can defame someone who's never been famous to begin with. I mean, do you remember this Filippo character ever winning the Tour da French? Yeah, me neither.
Simeoni told an Italian court in 2002 that doctor Michele Ferrari advised him to take performance-enhancing drugs. Later, Armstrong reportedly called Simeoni a liar, and the Italian sued for libel.
Oh, defame! French (and apparently Italian) for "You beat me so now I'm gonna run tell my Mommy and get you in trouble!"

If I recall, we used to settle this kind of grade school squabble out behind the merry-go-round.

Making a Difference, One Life at a Time

If you can find the right places to look -- outside the mainstream American media, that is -- you will be as amazed and overwhelmed as I am at the sheer number and the variety of stories of heroes in our United States Armed Forces today., one of several sites that often highlights such stories, brings us this reminder of a little Afghan girl who will be returning to her home this month with a new chance for life (see the original story for a heartwarming picture of this beautiful little girl):
Basira Jan, born with a malformed heart that left her body starved of oxygen, faced a bleak future amid the country's poverty -- until Indiana National Guardsmen heard about her plight and vowed to help.
We hear so much from the mainstream media about the evil atrocities being committed by our government and it's occupying forces across the Middle East that it is a rare and special thing to actually hear in the media about a U.S. soldier doing something good.
"I wanted to make a difference, to make a little piece of the world better because we were there," said Indiana Guardsman Capt. Michael Roscoe, 33, a physician's assistant who examined Basira last spring when her father brought her to Camp Phoenix, where American soldiers train the Afghan army.
Because of the efforts of Capt. Roscoe and his fellow guardsmen, little Basira and her father were brought to the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where she underwent corrective heart surgery that has given her a totally new lease on life. In their absence, guardsmen still stationed at Camp Phoenix have been working to support the rest of Basira's family, supplying food and medical supplies to her mother and seven siblings.

For another such story of the difference our armed forces are making in individual lives in Afghanistan, see USAF Battles Terrorism with Love.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brainster on Faith vs Logic

For someone who doesn't "usually blog on religion or religious topics," our buddy Pat at Brainster's Blog does a pretty good job of it as he goes against the best arguments of the Atheist Manefesto:
...[I]f you look hard at the arguments against God, they mostly amount to arguments against particular religions. Hindus won't eat beef, while Jews won't eat pork; hence religion must be bunkum. But of course proving contradictions between individual religions doesn't disprove God. We could easily argue that they both have it wrong, as a Christian could do when ordering a bacon cheeseburger, or that one has it right and the other wrong, or even that God makes different rules for different people.

Arguments in favor of God, however, are not so easily dismissed. There is the first cause argument. Suppose we accept evolution and thus trace our ancestry back to single-celled amoebas swimming in the primordial soup, and that the Earth along with the rest of the universe, was created as a result of the Big Bang. Who or what caused the Big Bang? What existed before that? What caused that to exist? Keep tracking it back and eventually the atheist will say, "Nothing!" or "We can't fathom it."
Mmmm... bacon cheeseburger... Gotta run!

From the Soldier's Mouth

Lone Star Times points out an excellent article by a US Marine Corps officer who has started his third tour of duty in Iraq. He paints a much different picture of the current situation in Iraq than we hear daily from the mainstream American media, from the eyes of one who has been there and seen the truth:
For every vividly portrayed suicide bombing, there are hundreds of thousands of people living quiet, if often uncertain, lives. For every depressing story of unrest and instability there is an untold story of potential and hope. The impression of Iraq as an unfathomable quagmire is false and dangerously misleading.

Get the Biggest Aluminum Tree You Can Find

Lucy said, 'Get the biggest aluminum tree you can find, Charlie Brown!'One of our favorite family blogs, The Right Mom, has a wonderful story of Christmas decorations and remembrances, a time of sharing and love with her daughter. Well worth the read!

Iranian President Angers the World

According to latest reports, Iran has decided to take on the world as its president steps on as many toes as he can reach.

First and foremost, Israel:
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that the Holocaust was a myth, triggering a fresh wave of international condemnation.

Ahmadinejad had first suggested that the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis was a legend last week, drawing a rebuke from the United Nations Security Council.
Ahmadinejad, a former Revolutionary Guardsman who was elected president in June, in October called Israel a "tumor" which must be "wiped off the map"...
But insulting one's fiercest enemy is child's play. How about the Western world, or even your own allies?
Ahmadinejad provoked an angry reaction from the United States, Europe and even Russia, an ally of Iran, when he told reporters in Saudi Arabia on Thursday that Israel should be moved to Europe if the West wants to make up for the Holocaust.
And how about one's neighbor, the richest nation in the area?
The comment also infuriated the Saudis as it was made on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference that was dedicated to showing the moderate face of Islam.
And last, but not least, one's own countrymen:
But he has alienated even some conservative allies in Iran, who fear he is hurting the country's image. Moderate Iranians have called on the ruling Islamic establishment to rein in the president.

[But] Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate say on all matters, has backed Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel's elimination.
Unfortunately, this man calling for wiping Israel from the map is the elected leader of the same Iran that is reportedly closing in on the production of nuclear weapons. The Independent (Online Edition) recently reported:
Talks between Iran and the European Union, which has been leading negotiations aimed at preventing the Iranians from building a nuclear bomb, broke down in August, when the Iranians resumed nuclear-related activities at their Isfahan plant.
Global Security warns that Iran is currently involved in an active race toward nuclear armament.
Despite severe economic distress, Iran's use of limited funds to procure new conventional weapons and develop weapons of mass destruction reveals a commitment to achieve Gulf preeminence.
Iran has aggressively pursued nuclear technology from both Western and Eastern sources. Russia and China provided assistance in developing nuclear energy capabilities. Since the early 1990's Iranians has been purchasing dual-use nuclear equipment from Europe, China, Russia and third world countries. Some of this equipment could be used to enrich uranium which could be used for nuclear weapon development. Iran has also made extensive efforts in training nuclear personnel in Iran itself and in western universities.
In an April 2004 speech, John R. Bolton, the Bush Administration's primary policymaker on weapons of mass destruction, said: "If we permit Iran's deception to go on much longer, it will be too late. Iran will have nuclear weapons."
And on top of that, Iranian officials have recently announced their goals for building a world class space program.
Iran has major ambitions in space, looking to show off its technological abilities, monitor its neighborhood -- where the United States has hundreds of thousands of troops -- and establish itself as a regional superpower.

Others are concerned about the program's military applications, particularly Israel, whose existence is opposed by the hard-line Islamic regime in Iran. Iran's Shahab-3 missile, with a range of 1,240 miles, already can reach Israel as well as U.S. forces across the Middle East.
And while they assert that the space program's goals are totally innocent in nature, with no military purpose...
Iranian officials point to America's use of space to monitor Afghanistan and Iraq before invading them and say they need similar abilities for their country's security.
A bit of a mixed signal there, if you ask me. Just what we need: a religiously agressive nuclear power in space, run by a pair of madmen. Not quite the air of stability we were looking for in the Middle East...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Celebrity Celebration

Wide receiver Terrell Owens, recently removed from the Philadelphia Eagles' roster for his controversial antics, celebrated his 32nd birthday Monday night among a hoard of celebrities.

Among the list of attendees were a number of NFL players -- some from the Eagles, some from elsewhere (and no, Donovan McNabb did not make the scene) -- as well as an interesting assortment of other well-known revellers, including former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin; actors Jamie Foxx and Wil Smith; singer and actress-wannabee Jessica Simpson (of recent Daisy Duke shorts fame); model and internet film star Paris Hilton; and ... do my eyes deceive me? ... the Reverend Jesse Jackson! That name seems to stick out in such company.
Scantily clad women wearing different colored No. 81 jerseys with question marks representing the team name provided some of the entertainment for the guests.
Ah, mystery solved.

Texas Grassroots Bear Fruit

From the Dan Patrick for Texas Senate campaign site:
This past weekend, the sixty-two member State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) passed a resolution calling for an end to the so called “blocker bill.” This action is one of the cornerstones of the “Patrick Pact” as Dan Patrick’s Senate District 7 campaign declared months ago to fight to end the blocker bill.

The resolution “calls upon the Texas Senate to end the practice” of requiring a 2/3 vote prior to legislation advancing in the senate. Upon entering the Republican Primary for Senate District 7, Dan Patrick released his “Patrick Pact with Texas” in which item #6 calls for an end to the “blocker bill.” Prior to the release of the “Pact,” no other candidate had made a public statement concerning the demise of the parliamentary procedure.
And yet it is now a major plank in the state Republican platform for the 2006 election cycle.
“I applaud the State Republican Executive Committee for taking the steps necessary to ensure majority rules in the Texas Senate,” Patrick said. “The ‘blocker bill’ thwarts democracy by requiring a super-majority for passage of any legislation in the state senate,” Patrick remarked. “The grassroots of our Party have worked far too hard to elect a majority in the Texas Senate, only to see their agenda hijacked by a small minority of senators,” Patrick concluded.

In March of 2003, Dan Patrick led a group of taxpayers to Austin to fight for a lowering of the property tax appraisal caps from a maximum annual increase of 10% to 5% or less. Through those efforts, the Texas House voted 134-0 to support the lowering of the caps, but the measure died in the Senate when supporters were unable to get the 2/3 vote necessary to satisfy the parliamentary requirements established by the “blocker bill.”
Yet another victory for Dan, and for Texas homeowners, as it is being reported that a referendum (albeit non-binding) will be added to the Republican primary ballot allowing voters to show their support for a lowering of the property tax appraisal caps.

Iraqi Voters Speak Out

More good quotes from those Iraqi citizens and expatriates participating in early and absentee voting for Thursday's election for the new National Assembly:
Hamed Al-Nasseri, 56, also of Zarqa, said he was voting to rid his nation of militants. "What they say is bogus. I'm voting to dare these militants, to have a strong parliament and government that would restrain these outlaws," he said.
Truck driver Akeel AlMosawi was so excited about voting that he arrived 30 minutes early at the polling site at a banquet hall in Dearborn, Mich.

"We have to pick good people who we trust to take care of Iraq and not kill us," he said.
"I want to vote because I see the process as free and honest," said Talal Shawkat, 55, a Baghdad native who has lived in Damascus for the past 18 months.
"I hope this leads to democracy in Iraq and freedom for its people," said Mawaheb Mohammed, a 32-year-old college student and a Shiite Muslim from southern Iraq who cast her ballot in London. She said she fled nine years ago when the rest of her family was arrested.
In Denmark, Soran Abul-Aziz spent the night outside a polling station in a sleeping bag. He said he wanted to be the first one to cast his ballot.
"I am very happy. I hope Iraq soon will become a democratic country like Denmark," he said, sporting a red Santa hat.
Bernadet Shukri, 38, who left Baghdad for Warsaw before the American- led invasion three years ago, emerged from the voting station smiling and draped in an Iraqi flag.
"When you had Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the people didn't have anything," she said. "Before, life was very difficult in Iraq. But now it is beginning to work again.
Okay, so it's not quite a "dagger in Saddam's heart", but it certainly does sound promising. And it's a far cry from what the mainstream was reporting leading up to last January's first free elections.

UPDATE: Shawn of Bare Knuckle Politics reports on a recent ABC News poll in Iraq that sheds further light on the feelings of the Iraqi citizens, who indeed seem to be much more optimistic than the liberals of the American media.

NASA Discovers Utah

I always thought those Utah-ians (Utah-ites? Utans? Utes?) were a little out there. Now it appears I'm not alone: Stardust Space Probe to Land in Utah.

Connect the Dots: Saddam ... al Qaeda

Over the weekend our pal Brainster posted a link to The Real Ugly American, who has done "a marvelous job of gathering together an impressive amount of data on the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection that the antiwar crowd constantly denies exists."

The Ugly starts his post with the following caveat:

Please also understand that nowhere do I claim that "ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda proves or even suggestions Iraq had any involvement in the attacks on our country on 9/11." I also find that point to be irrelevant to the basic disagreement between the hard core left and people like myself.
He then goes through an incredibly detailed, point-by-point list connecting the dots between al Qaeda and the deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

This is indeed an impressive bit of research and reporting, and very definitely worth the read!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jackson's Rally Hides Personal Motives

It is mere hours until the end of the line for Stanley "Tookie" Williams, convicted murderer and founder of the brutal gang known as the Crips, and the celebrities of the left coast are still wailing and gnashing their teeth at the horrible injustice of it all. Despite the brutal murders of four innocent people, such noted personalities as Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg (a former Crip), Mike Farrell and others have poured their time and star-studded influence into a plea for clemency for the gang leader. But the man I find most interesting in his support for Williams?
A group of about three dozen death penalty protesters were joined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson as they marched across the Golden Gate Bridge after dawn Monday en route to the gates of San Quentin, where they were expected to rally with hundreds of people.
What, you ask? That same Reverend Jackson who has in the past railed against the gang culture -- and more specifically against the rival Crips and the Bloods of south central Los Angeles -- and its ravaging affect on the black community? That same Reverend Jackson who claims to stand for the rights and advancement of so-called "African-Americans" and is so quick to rally against anyone -- be it government, corporation, school or individual -- who in his eye is a threat to the freedoms and liberties of his people?

Yup, that's the one.

The Reverend Jackson appeared on CNN today to condemn California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for his denial of a stay of execution. In fact, in an interview last month with FOX News' John Gibson, Reverend Jackson went so far as to intimate that Williams' guilt was questionable.
There is a committee in California setting up a commission on fairness in the administration of justice. Why kill him in December and maybe find out in April it was not necessary?
The case has no witnesses. The case has no blood stain, no DNA. The boot that was his did not match. Gommar's hairs were found on somebody else's bed.
Interestingly enough, Williams' defense has failed in every single appeal over the last twenty years. Even the extremely liberal activist judges of the 9th US Circuit (Circus?) of Appeals just today refused to reopen the case, saying... would not intervene because, among other things, there was no "clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence."
Gov. Schwarzenegger upheld this stance [PDF] when he rejected the last minute plea for clemency.

As usual, the Reverend Jesse Jackson is not one to falter in the face of overwhelming and indisputable facts. But why lend his fame and face to this cause that is so promising of doom? Is it because he sees the White government of this corrupt nation beating down a helpless fellow Black man? Is it because of the injustice of killing a man who has written nine (count 'em) children's books from behind those cold racist bars of prison? Is it because he sees in this poor, downtrodden Black man the chronicle of oppression suffered by the Negroes throughout this nation's history?

Or is it a last ditch effort to assuage his own shameful past of violence and oppression, and a chance to shift some attention off his own judicial troubles? Reverend Jackson is himself due to face the court in January on several charges...
...including: Assault, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and a California Civil Rights Claim. [His son] Jonathan Jackson also will face the additional charges of Battery and False Imprisonment.

Hat-tip to Dave at The Paladin Blog for the reminder about Jackson's upcoming civil trial (although the original post on The Paladin seems to have since disappeared...)

NPR on the Iraqi Elections

It was like I was living out an episode of The Twilight Zone Sunday afternoon. I had been listening to a concert broadcast on our local NPR station and wasn't really paying attention as the music ended. Suddenly my head began to ache and my ears to throb, and I realized I had unwittingly allowed myself to hear the opening strains of All Things Considered, National Public Radio's extremely liberal version of the news.

But as I reached desperately for the safety of the radio dial ... I almost fainted in surprise at one of the quotes of the first story, a report on the upcoming elections in Iraq for a new full-term parliament, the beginnings of the new democratically elected government under the new Iraqi constitution. Reporter Debbie Elliott was interviewing several Iraqi expatriates currently living in the United States but voting absentee in the election. One of these was a young Iraqi woman named Babylonia Marcus, an Iraqi Christian, who voiced the following sentiments:
"...[A]s my mom says, 'Every time we vote, we put a dagger in Saddam's heart and a dagger in the insurgents' hearts.'"
I still can't believe such a statement actually made it into a broadcast report from NPR. In fact, all in all this particular report was fairly well-done, without the usual liberal rants so often associated with anything produced by NPR. Of course, I didn't press my luck. I quickly switched the radio over to something a little less dangerous before my ears had a chance to start bleeding...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Fantasy Fiction for Christians

Check out the latest offering from blogger extraordinaire La Shawn Barber: Fantasy Fiction for Christians.

As anyone familiar with the latest mega-hits at the box offices would guess, the major topics of conversation so far at FFC are Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. From reading through the initial offerings, I have some very high expectations of this new blogging project!

UN Back to Its Old Tricks

Well, we didn't expect it to last. The United Nations Security Council may have surprised the world a few weeks back when it not only condemned the latest Hezbollah attacks, but also refrained from reprimanding Israel for its military response. Two startling firsts from this august body.

But the Council has quickly turned back to its old ways, as the Voice of America reports:
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton issued a statement Tuesday unequivocally condemning the bomb attack in the Israeli town of Netanya that killed at least five people. The unusual action came after a U.S. attempt to have the statement issued by the Security Council was rejected.

Diplomats attending the meeting say several Council members raised concerns about language in the U.S.-drafted document. Ambassador Bolton, however, blamed Algeria for quashing the measure by objecting to a passage urging Syria to close offices of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which claims responsibility for the attack.
The U.S. envoy later read the text of the statement to reporters, and lashed out at the Council for what he called "failing to speak the truth".

He said "you have to speak up in response to these terrorist attacks. It's a great shame that the Security Council couldn't speak to this terrorist attack in Netanya, but if the Council won't speak, the United States will."

Hat-tip: Cox & Forkum, one of my favorite political cartoonists (and in the running for Best Humor/Comics Blog in the 2005 Weblog Awards.

Putting the Christ Back Into Christmas

We have all heard the debate raging over corporate and retail America taking Christ out of Christmas, replacing the word "Christmas" with Holiday and the like.

But the Anchoress has an excellent discussion on a bunch of churches that seem to be promoting the same thing. Apparently there are many churches across the nation with plans to close on Christmas day, cancelling regular Sunday services to give families the time to celebrate the holiday at home.
I know, I know, "God is everywhere and we don't need to be in a church to worship Him..." gotcha. But we're supposed to be not simply "believers" but a "community" of believers, a "church." ... And what difference does it make whether Christmas falls on a Sunday or not? If community worship and fellowship is important enough to get you attending church all those other Sunday's why isn't it moreso, rather than less so, on Christmas Day?
Easter also falls on a Sunday, but these megachurches manage to open for that. Why not's the celebration of the Incarnation, without which there would be no Resurrection.
I remember having this discussion at our church the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, and I still remember the surprise I felt at the number of people advocating the cancellation of services on this most holy of holy days. I am happy to report that our church will be open for full services Christmas morning, as well as what is becoming a much-anticipated tradition on Christmas Eve, a candlelight service of carols and prayer.

In all the hustle and bustle of this "magical" season, please do not forget the real super-natural reason for our celebrations. Christmas is the celebration of the human birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Him, there is no reason for celebrating. Without Him, there is no Life.

Have a Merry Christmas, and plan on spending it with Him.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Snowball Warming

Cox & Forkum has the latest on the whole global warming biz. It's a couple of days old, but still pretty funny.

Monday, December 05, 2005

DeLay Indictments Partially Dismissed

The Austin American Statesman has this "Breaking News Alert" currently displayed on their website: Judge throws out some DeLay indictments.

However, their article, the paper's initial post on this story, paints a somewhat more bleak picture:
Judge upholds money laundering charges against DeLay

AUSTIN, Texas -- Money laundering charges against Republican Rep. Tom DeLay were upheld Monday, dashing his hopes for reclaiming his post as House majority leader, but the judge dismissed charges related to any conspiracy to violate Texas' election code.
Once again, the Texas media seems to have already convicted the man before the trial even starts.

Al Qaeda Commander Killed in Pakistan

I shouldn't be surprised, but I have not seen any mention of this yet in the mainstream American media. Certainly didn't see it on the network news either last night or this morning.
A key figure in al-Qa'ida has been tracked down with US help and killed by Pakistani security forces in a rocket attack near the Afghan border, officials said yesterday.

Abu Hamza Rabia, said to have been second in command after Ayman al-Zawahri, became al-Qa'ida's operational commander aftr the arrest of Abu Farraj al-Libbi in May. He was among five people who died in an explosion on Thursday in north Waziristan. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan's Information Minister, said Rabia's remains were identified using a DNA test.

Who says we're not making any progress against the al Qaeda terrorists?

Could Mayor Bill Become Governor White?

Rally Alert

I just spotted this rally alert, or I would have posted it last Friday. The left-wingers of are coming to Houston today, planning a protest outside this evening's local fundraiser for Congressman Tom DeLay. Vice President Cheney (the eeeeeevil oil-man himself) will be speaking at the event, and apparently the MoveOn-ers don't like the message that sends:
DeLay is under indictment in Texas for criminal charges related to a campaign finance scheme but the vice president thinks it is OK to associate with DeLay. That debases the office of the vice president of the United States and sends the wrong message about corruption in Congress. We can send the message that it's time to "Clean House."

With the media spotlight on the Vice President's visit, several area progressive groups have organized an action to call for an end to the corruption and abuse of power in Washington, DC. Can you come out Monday at 5:00 PM, to help call on the Republicans to "clean house?"
I realize this is late notice, but anyone with a little free time (or who was planning on doing a little Galleria-style Christmas shopping this evening) should make a point to saunter on by and see the spectacle.

I wonder how many protesters (non-media personnel, that is) will actually be in attendance. I expect to see a sizeable crowd being reported on the ten o'clock news tonight.

Don't Mess With Grandma!

I got the following email from a friend who lives in the Washington DC area. I expect it is a forwarded story rather than a personal eye-witness account, but it's still worth sharing. (Please excuse the crass wording...)
On a recent trip into DC, I witnessed the following interaction between an elderly woman and an anti-war protestor at a Metro station:

There were protesters on the train platform handing out pamphlets on the evils of America. I politely declined to take one. An elderly woman was behind me getting off the escalator and a young (20-ish) female protester offered her a pamphlet, which she politely declined. The young protester put her hand on the old woman's shoulder as a gesture of friendship and in a very soft voice said, "Ma'am, don't you care about the children of Iraq?"

The old woman looked up at her and said, "Honey, my first husband died in France during World War II, my second husband died in Korea, one of my sons died in Vietnam, a Grandson died in Desert Storm, all so you could have the right to stand here and bad mouth our country. If you touch me again, I'll stick this umbrella up your ass and open it."
'Nuff said.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Fun in Iraq

That's what these Iraqi kids and their families are having as they celebrate "the Eid (a three days holiday after the holy month of Ramadan)" in Baghdad:

Eid photos from Baghdad
Eid photos from Baghdad
Eid photos from Baghdad
To see the entire set of photos, plus some great reports from a local, visit Sooni's blog.

It's a real shame the mainstream media is so concentrated on all the horrors of the war and the terrorists that continue to flock to Iraq that they cannot see the many, many good things that are happening there. It is so refreshing to see someone who lives there show such a different and promising outlook. After seeing these pictures full of happiness and hope, how can anyone actually believe that things were better off under the reign of Saddam?

Hat-tip: Dave at The Paladin Blog

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Old Westerns and Singing Cowboys

Gene Autry still has something to teach us all, as Joseph Phillips explains in this excellent post.

Picture of the Day

click for story
(Brings back memories of college...)