Thursday, December 30, 2004

UK Considers Bill to allow Physician-Assisted Suicide

The British House of Lords is currently considering a bill called the "Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill." If it becomes law, this bill would allow terminally ill people to request a physican-assisted suicide. The bill outlines nine safeguards that must be met before a physician can assist with a suicide. These are:
  • The patient must be over 18 years of age
  • The patient must be mentally competent (of sound mind)
  • The patient must have a terminal illness
  • The patient must make two oral requests to their doctor and one written request to die, all of which must be voluntary
  • There must be a 14-day waiting period for the patient to consider his or her decision
  • There must be a second opinion from another doctor
  • If there are concerns about a patient’s competency, they must be referred to a psychiatrist for an assessment
  • There must be two independent witnesses to the written request
  • The patient must be fully informed of all alternatives including a consultation with a palliative care expert
Should all these safeguards be met, a physician may then help a patient kill himself.

A poll released by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of England and Wales found that 80% of the respondents supported this bill.

Kevin Yuill, writing in Spiked, lists ten flaws in the arguments for assisted suicide, and there's far too much worth quoting, so I'll just suggest you go read it all. In arguing against the notion that those who oppose assisted suicide are just a small religious minority, Yuill says that he's an atheist. He writes "you need not be Christian to agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury that 'the respect for human life in all its stages is the foundation of a civilised society'."

He also passes along this chilling story:

It is true that many religious groups vehemently oppose the Joffe Bill, but they are not the only ones. They unite with medical representatives and disabled groups, who fear that doctors' judgements about 'quality of life' may imply that their own lives are not worth living.

This is no abstract fear voiced by philosophers such as Baroness Warnock, as Jane Campbell, writing recently in The Times (London), discovered. Campbell, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, a muscle-wasting illness that means she cannot lift her head from her pillow unaided, was hospitalised for a case of pneumonia. The consultant treating her said that he assumed she would not want to be resuscitated should she go into respiratory failure. When she protested that she would like to be resuscitated, she was visited by a more senior consultant who said that he assumed she would not want to be put on a ventilator. According to the Disability Rights Commission, this was not was not an isolated incident. As Campbell says, these incidents 'reflect society's view that people such as myself live flawed and unsustainable lives and that death is preferable to living with a severe impairment.'

Yuill closes by saying:

So shall we project our own cramped and gloomy worldview on to those who are most sensitive to counsels of despair? Or shall we continue to view all human life as valuable, doctors as curers of physical disease (rather than prescribers of death for therapeutic reasons), and life as worth living?

File this right next to The Groningen Protocol as yet another sign that we're near the bottom of the slippery slope if not already there. The ultimate message of policies like these is that some lives aren't worth living. The UK may soon allow patients to make this decision for themselves. How long before an independent committee makes that decision (as is the case with the Groningen Protocol)?

"The Passion" and the Oscars

Patrick Hynes, writing in the American Spectator, says

Both the Golden Globes and the Broadcast Film Critics passed over The Passion of The Christ for any major nominations this year. The American Film Institute made no mention of The Passion in its 2004 best films of the year announcement. And according to USA Today's Oscar Oracle, The Passion isn't on the radar screen for even a single nomination when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out nominations at the end of January.

Hynes lists five official reasons the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences won't consider a nomination for The Passion of the Christ.
  • The Passion is just a sadomasochistic bloodbath with quasi-religious overtones.
  • The Academy doesn't do religious films.
  • The Passion just reflects Mel Gibson's obscure brand of extreme Catholicism.
  • The factual errors disqualify the film for any nominations.
  • The Oscars don't do foreign language films.
In his article, Hynes debunks them all. For example:

The body count in The Passion is one (actually it's zero, but that argument is too big a leap for the average Academy member, so we'll just stick with one), far fewer than Mel Gibson's 1995 Best Picture winner Braveheart, 1974's The Godfather Part II, or even 1991's The Silence of the Lambs in which the main character is a cannibal.

In 1994 The Academy nominated Pulp Fiction in which an overdosed woman is resuscitated with a hypodermic stab to the heart. Fargo, in which a murder victim is shredded to bits in a wood chipper, was nominated for Best Picture in 1996. And two years later Saving Private Ryan was nominated because it depicted some of the most graphic and realistic war scenes in cinematic history, not despite it.

The Academy has a long-running love affair with blood and guts, so the idea that The Passion was just too gory doesn't hold water.

Read the rest here.

Earlier I'd noted that The Passion of the Christ is now the 9th highest-grossing film of all time (the third highest-grossing film of 2004). I can't verify that these are the "official" reasons for ignoring The Passion, or if these are just the reasons stated by film critics. (Here's USA Today's Oscar Oracle, to which Hynes refers above.) But either way, for the Academy to ignore the film is rather curious.

The nominations come at the end of January, so nothing's certain yet. But it will seem odd if a film that's grossed so much and is a serious film rather than a "Summer Action Blockbuster" doesn't get a single nomination.

Bush's aid coalition "Undermines the UN"

(Hat tip: Dummocrats)

Did you know that only the UN has the moral authority to administer aid to those countries stricken by the tsunamis? Yes! It's true! Or at least that's the way former International Development Secretary Clare Short sees it.

“I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said.

“Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme.

“It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”

Cry me a river, Ms. Short. Has it occured to you that perhaps we no longer trust that money funneled through the UN will actually go to those who need it? Heard of the Oil-for-Food scandal?

Ms Short said the coalition countries did not have good records on responding to international disasters.

She said the US was “very bad at coordinating with anyone” and India had its own problems to deal with.

“I don’t know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system,” she added.

Is this about helping the victims of the tsunamis, or is this about the UN's reputation? I think someone needs to check her priorities.

More: Captain Ed has more.

More: Betsy tells us a little more about Clare Short.
You might remember Clare Short as the pain in the rear former minister in Tony Blair's cabinet who resigned over his support for Bush in the war in Iraq. She was angry then that he wasn't letting the UN lead the efforts in Iraq. Apparently, she is still laboring under the delusion that the United Nations is a useful organization.

NYTimes: "Yes, we are Stingy!"

The New York Times, arriving a few days late to "Stingy-fest 2004," props up the "US is a Cheapskate" meme in an editorial today.

Mr. Egeland was right on target. We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.

(Make sure you get in a good slam on Republicans, guys.) They go on to complain that $35 million is "a miserly drop in the bucket" and compare the amount donated by the US alone last year to development aid with the amount donated by all the EU countries combined -- as if this is a fair comparison.

The complaint seems to be that this $35 million is a small percentage of our GNP, and given that, we should be donating much, much more. Doesn't matter, I guess, that we're donating the most. And it doesn't matter, I guess, that private contributions by US citizens through private organizations (some of them -- gasp! -- "faith-based") have dwarfed the amount donated by certain EU member nations.

Here's how math works for the New York Times.

Say country "A" has a GNP of $10, and they donate $5 to the cause. The New York Times (and the UN) say "Wow! You just gave 50% of your GNP!" Now say country "B" has a GNP of $5 trillion and they donate $1 trillion. The New York Times clucks its tongue, saying "Only 20%? How miserly of you!" It doesn't matter to them that country "B" donated more. It only mattered that they didn't sacrifice enough.

Or, rather, that they didn't commit to a global redistribution of their wealth.

2004: The year of "hate speech"

The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby looks back at a year of "hate speech" emanating from the left. Though he gives a nod to a few lame examples of conservatives racheting up the rhetoric, his focus is almost entirely on the langauge of the lefties.

It has increasingly become a habit of leftist argumentation to simply dismiss conservative ideas as evil or noxious rather than rebut them with facts and evidence.

That is why there was no uproar when Cameron Diaz declared that rape might be legalized if women didn't turn out to vote for John Kerry. Or when Walter Cronkite told Larry King that the videotape of Osama bin Laden that surfaced just before the election was "probably set up" by Karl Rove. Or when Alfred A. Knopf published Nicholson Baker's "Checkpoint," a novel in which two Bush-haters talk about assassinating the president. "I'm going to kill that bastard," one character rages.

Bill Moyers warned a television audience on Election Day that if Kerry won narrowly, "I think there'd be an effort to mount a coup, quite frankly. . . . The right wing is not going to accept it." Chevy Chase, hosting a People for the American Way awards ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, slammed Bush as "an uneducated, real, lying schmuck." A cartoon by the widely syndicated Ted Rall described Pat Tillman, who gave up his NFL career to enlist in the Army and was then killed in Afghanistan, as a "sap" and an "idiot."

So many examples, so little space.

Indeed. Had he taken the necessary column inches to provide even half of this year's choicest examples, it would likely fill a Sunday edition and then some.

There is room in the marketplace of ideas for passionate, even angry, rhetoric, but there are also lines that, as a matter of decency and civic hygiene, should not be crossed. The violent invective so often hurled at conservatives pollutes the democratic stream from which all of us drink. Democrats no less than Republicans should want to shut those polluters down.

(Sigh.) Another year, another call for civility. Almost makes me . . . (snf) . . . nostalgic. I doubt anyone's listening, though.

Iowahawk does Nick Coleman better than Nick Coleman does!

Insanity defense still an option for Vang

Meanwhile, in spite of what I assumed yesterday, entering a "Not Guilty" plea does not rule out that Vang's defenders may eventually amend the plea to an insanity plea. Two forensic psychologists have already met with Vang to determine whether he was suffering from some sort of mental incapacity when he murdered six people, and Vang's attorneys have admitted that an insanity plea is still possible.

Also, Vang's attorneys have until March 1st to request a change in venue or to ask that Vang's initial statement to investigators be surpressed so that it may not be used at trial. One of Vang's attorneys said that surpression of Vang's statement was "on the top of our list to explore."

I was glad to hear that the anti-Hmong bumper sticker some idiot in Mankato was selling has been pulled from his store. (Jib mentions it here.) I just learned today that the "Free Chai Vang" merchandise that was for sale through CafePress has been pulled as well. Good on both counts. While I would love to see this trial over as quickly as possible (and I'm sure the families of the victims would as well) perhaps the passage of time will allow tempers to cool down.

On the other hand, the trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 12th, and if it gets dragged out, might still be in the news by the time the Wisconsin deer hunting season begins. Not a good time for tempers to flare back up.

Pioneer Press says Lautenschalger is "Grandstanding"

Yesterday I said that it would be churlish of me to suggest that Wis. Atty General Peg Lautenschlager wanted to prosecute the Chai Vang case because she plans to run for re-election in 2006 (the trial is set for Sept., 2005).

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has no such qualms. Here's Churly!

We're inclined to agree with the cynics who think this is more about politics than prosecutorial discretion. After all, it's certainly no coincidence that Lautenschlager will be up for re-election in 2006.

It's also important to note that Lautenschlager is trying to live down a DWI conviction. Adding insult to injury, she was in a state-owned vehicle earlier this year when she was pulled over and refused to submit to a sobriety test.

Clearly, a victory in the high-profile Chai Vang case would do much to erase these blemishes.

The Pioneer Press notes that taking the case could backfire on her as well. If, for example, the case ends in acquittal for Vang due to some error in procedure, the Pioneer Press suggests this would end her career. I don't think that's likely, though. So far there's been nothing to suggest any procedural loophole exists. But it's a long time until September.

The editorial continues:

Our problem with all this goes beyond the crass political motives obviously at work here. By taking over the case, Lautenschlager increases the profile and tension in an already tense and highly scrutinized case. Moreover, injecting herself — and her politics — into the case will only fuel arguments from all quarters that this case was handled in anything but a routine manner.

While some would argue that the state is only being prudent in paying special attention to this case, we think just the opposite. It should be handled like any other case. Sticking to that simple premise will ensure a fair and speedy trial for all.

Speedy? I wish. A speedy trial would probably be appreciated by the families of the victims. But we've got to wait until September for the trial to even begin! I'm sure the delay works well for Lautenschalger, though. September is that much closer to election day.

(Or am I being churlish?)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Technical Difficulties

Apologies if the template begins looking strange. I'm trying to add some book picks to the sidebar, and I can't figure out why only the ugly "boxed" versions of Amazon's links show up, while the cleaner, larger "basic" links don't appear at all. Anyone else have this problem when building links?

"The leech has two daughters. 'Give! Give!' they cry."

A good round-up of Bush-blaming bloggers can be found at QandO.

Wizbang has a bunch, too.

. . . and monkeys might fly out my butt.

A group calling itself the Coalition Against Election Fraud is holding a vigil outside John Kerry's house this week.

[T]he group believes the election was fixed and wants to persuade the Massachusetts senator to oppose congressional approval of the electoral college results Jan. 6. That would set in motion the process of questioning George W. Bush's victory in November. Such a challenge has never been successful, and nobody in Washington expects one now.

. . .

In a statement, a Kerry spokesman praised the tenacity of the group camped out on his doorstep yesterday.

''You meet a lot of inspirational people who took this campaign into their hearts," spokesman David Wade said. ''They keep their bumper stickers on their cars because they're proud of the fight they fought. John Kerry's campaign touched a chord with millions of Americans, and so many people want the fight to continue. . . . The campaign's ended, but the values we share are worth fighting for."

Apparently those values include the inability to face reality.

The Coalition Against Election Fraud actually has a blog! Their website carries the following statement:

On January 6th, Congress meets to certify the Presidential election. If even one House member and one Senator object to the electoral votes of any state, this objection will be recorded: the vote will not be automatically approved. This has happened only once before -- in 1877. Its occurrence once again would draw historic attention to our shattered democracy and lead to an outcome that none of us can know.

In 2000, no Senator would join the Representatives from the Congressional Black Caucus to challenge the electoral vote. Therefore, in 2004, we are asking you to contact as many as you can of the key Senators, listed below, as well as your own Senators, if you think you can reach them on this issue. Tell them not to certify the election on January 6, 2005.

Contact these Senators at 1-800-839-5276 or 1-877-762-8762 connecting all offices.

  • Barbara Boxer CA-D
  • Robert Byrd WV-D
  • Mark Dayton MN-D
  • Thomas Harkin IA-D
  • Jim Jeffords VT-I
  • Edward Kennedy MA-D
  • Patrick Leahy VT-D
  • Carl Levin MI-D
  • Joseph Lieberman CT-D
  • Barbara Mikulski MD-D
  • Barack Obama IL-D
  • Olympia Snowe ME-R
  • Charles Schumer NY-D

Interesting choice of senators they want you to contact. Why not all Democratic senators? They must know that most of them won't go along with this kind of nuttiness. But Ted Kennedy? Mark Dayton? Robert Byrd? Barbara Boxer? Surely these folks will sign aboard with the plan.
''Who knows? Maybe we'll overturn the election," said Sheila Parks, a vigil organizer.
. . . and monkeys might fly out my butt.

    Chai Vang pleads "not guilty"; Lautenschlager to prosecute

    Chai Vang made his first appearance in court today, entering not guilty pleas to the nine charges against him.
    It was a short appearance at the Sawyer County courthouse for Chai Vang. With his lawyers by his side, the Minnesota man pleaded not guilty to all nine charges against him -- six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

    Eight hunters were shot November 21st after confronting Vang about being in a tree stand on private property. Prosecutors added a third attempted homicide charge Wednesday, alleging Vang tried twice to kill one of the hunters, Lauren Hesebeck, though the shots proved not to be fatal.

    Vang waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and the trial has been set to begin September 12. Though Vang's defense attorneys considered a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity," they mysteriously went for a plain ol' "not guilty" charge.

    Reconcile that with Vang's initial statement to investigators:

    Vang stated that Vang removed the scope from his rifle. Vang stated that Vang shot 2 times at the man with the rifle and the man dropped to the ground. Vang saw all the others run toward the ATV's and Vang continued to shoot. Vang stated that 2 or 3 more men fell to the ground. Vang stated that a couple of the men started to run. Vang stated that Vang chased after one of the men that ran towards the cabin. Vang stated that the man was yelling "Help me, help me." Vang stated that Vang shot at the man several times while chasing him. Vang stated that he got to about 15 to 20 feet of the man who was still running away and Vang shot him in the back. Vang stated that the man dropped to the ground. Vang stated that the man did not have a gun. Vang stated that Vang walked up to the man and heard the man groan and then Vang walked away. . . .

    Vang stated that at this point Vang heard one of the other men call on the Walkie Talkie and state "We've been shot and need help." Vang stated that Vang observed 3 other subjects coming on an ATV. Vang stated that Vang then turned his reversible coat from orange to camo. Vang stated that he also reloaded his magazine with 5 or 6 bullets. Vang stated that Vang did not shoot at these men because they had guns with them. Vang stated that the men were in by the other injured men for less than a minute and then left. Vang did not know if the men took any of the wounded out with them.

    Vang stated that Vang then observed another ATV coming with 2 more people on it. Vang stated that the driver of this ATV had a gun on his shoulder. Vang stated that Vang began to run and Vang stated that they saw Vang running and were going too fast to stop and drove past Vang. Vang stated that they stopped approximately 10 to 15 feet past Vang at a 45 degree angle. Vang stated that the man removed the gun from his shoulder with one hand while the other hand was on the handle bars of the ATV. Vang stated that Vang shot 3 or 4 times and both people fell off the ATV and onto the ground.

    It's been awhile since I studied the way court cases proceed, but I guess this means that Vang's initial statement (actually, his second version of events, since his first statement was that the hunters shot themselves) won't be entered as evidence in the trial. Otherwise, what's the point of pleading not guilty if your own statements on the matter mark you as guilty?

    I can assume, then, that the defense is planning to argue that this was a matter of self-defense on the part of Vang.

    The case is to be prosecuted by Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager--the first she will prosecute since prior to her election in 2002. Lautenschlager's had her own legal problems this year, having been convicted of drunk driving, and having to pay a fine for the misuse of a state vehicle. But Lautenschlager's planning to run for re-election in 2006 anyway.

    Lautenschlager says she wants to prosecute this case because of her "'personal interest' in cases that involve crimes against people." (It would be churlish of me to suggest that she wants to prosecute a high-profile case because she's running for re-election.)

    Coalition of the Stingy

    Captain Ed passes along a breakdown of what other, supposedly "non-stingy" nations have contributed.

    Australia: $26M, plus five military transports and 50 specialists
    Austria: $1.36M
    Belgium: One military transport to deliver UNICEF aid
    Britain: 370K (pounds), $100K, plus $481K of materials to Sri Lanka
    Denmark: 45 tonnes of supplies, $1.82M
    EU: "Ready to release" 30M Euro, 3M Euro already released.
    France: 100K Euros ($140,000)
    Finland: 500K Euro.
    Germany: 2M Euro.
    Greece: 17 doctors and staff.
    Italy: 2 helicopters and crew.
    Netherlands: 2M Euros.
    Poland: $336K
    Spain: 1M Euros pledged, 19 volunteers
    Sweden: Two communications specialists and some tents and radios.

    The good Captain notes: "Norway, Egeland's home country, is conspicuously absent from this list, and France might as well be."

    I know how we can raise some money. There's a nice piece of real estate in lower Manhattan that should fetch a hefty price. All we need to do is evict the deadbeats that are squatting there.

    More: Heh. Jib nails it, here.

    After receiving criticism from the United Nations, aid organizations, and for not sending enough aid money to Tsunami ravaged areas of Asia, the Bush administration today agreed to further balloon the US deficit by providing a $35 billion aid package to the Asian nations.

    "We have have heard the cries, and we realize that we were blatantly wrong in not promising scads of unsecured funding to Asia to cover all the costs of the tsunami," said Bush Press Secretary Scott Mclellan. "We are confident that throwing all of this money around will make the world love us. After all, that is the goal of the United States-to be the most popular nation in the global lunch room."

    . . .

    [Kofi] Annan went on to praise the other nations of the world, as well as to announce UN plans for the tsunami ravaged region.

    "I can't say enough for the generosity of the remaining nations of the world. We passed a hat around the UN offices and came up with 37 Euros. I'd like to remind stingy Americans that 37 Euros comes up to about 43 of your dollars. France alone scraped up 6 Euros. Norway, one of our most generous aid givers, agreed to raise taxes in 2005 to come up with their 8 Euro donation. China even offered to dispatch one of their armies to the region to help restore order under the Chinese flag. As for the UN, we will be organizing a US Aid for Food program, which will be headed by my son. I'm also looking at buying a new yacht sometime after we get the program set up."


    More: Hrairoo at Silflay Hraka has an interesting plan, too.

    We write the checks and just get pissed on anyway. Let's try it for a year without writing the checks. We'll be 24 billion dollars richer at the end of the road.

    Let's try it all for a year. Next December, we'll solicit opinions from the rest of the world regarding which United States they like better.

    The President Responds

    The president made his (apparently required) statement this morning from his ranch. Full transcript here.
    This morning, I spoke with the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and expressed my condolences and our country's condolences. I told them of our support; I praised their steadfast leadership during these difficult times. We're grateful to the American and international organizations that are working courageously to save lives and to provide assistance, and I assured those leaders this is only the beginning of our help.

    We are committed to helping the affected countries in the difficult weeks and months that lie ahead. We pledged an initial $35 million in relief assistance. We have deployed disaster experts to the region. All leaders expressed their appreciation for the hard work of our ambassadors and their embassy staffs to help the countries in need. As well, we're dispatching a Marine expeditionary unit, the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, and the Maritime pre-position squadron from Guam to the area to help with relief efforts.

    Also, note that after being hounded by the press to make a statement about the catastrophe that claimed possibly 100,000 lives, the very first question asked to him by reporters was this:

    Mr. President, more than 50 people died yesterday, alone, in the Sunni Triangle area. And with the Sunnis backing out of the election, how concerned are you that the world and the Iraqis will view this election as credible?

    The mind boggles.

    Here was his response to the "stingy" comment:

    I felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill-informed. The -- take, for example, in the year 2004, our government provided $2.4 billion in food, in cash, in humanitarian relief to cover the disasters for last year. That's $2.4 billion. That's 40 percent of all the relief aid given in the world last year, was provided by the United States government. No, we're a very generous, kindhearted nation.

    You know, the -- what you're beginning to see is a typical response from America. First of all, we provide immediate cash relief, to the tune of about $35 billion [sic]. And then there will be an assessment of the damage, so that the relief is -- the next tranche of relief will be spent wisely. That's what's happening now. I just got off the phone with the President of Sri Lanka, she asked for help to assess the damage. In other words, not only did they want immediate help, but they wanted help to assess damage so that we can better direct resources. And so our government is fully prepared to continue to provide assistance and help.

    It takes money, by the way, to move an expeditionary force into the region. In other words, we're diverting assets, which is part of our overall aid package. We'll continue to provide assets. Plus, the American people will be very generous, themselves. I mean, the $2.4 billion was public money -- of course, provided by the taxpayers. But there's also a lot of individual giving in America. In this case, I think it's very important for Americans who want to give to provide cash to organizations that will be able to focus resources and assets to meet specific needs. In other words, a lot of times Americans, in their desire to help, will send blankets or clothes. That may be necessary, but to me it makes more sense to send cash to organizations that could then use that cash to make sure we match resources with specific needs on the ground. There are many NGOs now involved that understand what is specifically needed to meet the needs of these countries.

    Let Truth and Falsehood Grapple

    In this article, Hugh Hewitt again suggests something like a full disclosure of personal and political views for reporters and producers of the mainstream news media, a suggestion I gently criticized on Monday. While I wouldn't call it "incipient McCarthyism" (I don't know that I'm one of the bloggers to which he refers) I still think he's way off base. It wouldn't make any difference if we all learned how uniformly far-left the mainstream news figures are. They already know it and they don't care. The public's already figured it out and are changing channels. We won't save the MSM from themselves by assigning thought police to expose their worldviews. We just need to give them more competition (or a rope by which to hang themselves).

    That's why blogs have become so successful. With blogs we're not limited to choosing between a handful of news sources. Instead we have thousands of sources just a mouse-click away. The trusted sources will become the successful sources.

    Perhaps John Milton had some mystical foreknowledge of blogs when he wrote:
    Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do ingloriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple: who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?

    The sails of the blogosphere billow with the winds of doctrine, and truth and falsehood grapple daily upon her decks. That is what will ultimately doom the mainstream news media.

    And here's another quote from Milton's Areopagitica that I must remember the next time someone dismisses blogs as being nothing but a bunch of opinions:
    Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.

    More: Bigwig has collected a few reactions here, and Sisu is certainly not the only one whose antennae were set off. Bigwig adds:

    It boils down to trust, not on the part of the media consumer, but the media producer. Many bloggers are perfectly happy to answer Hugh's ten questions because they trust their readership to approach them with an open mind regardless of the actual content of their answers to those questions. MSM types may scream "McCarthyism!" when asked the same question, but what that denunciation really means is "We don't trust you enough to tell you," which, come to think of it, explains almost everything one needs to know about the relationship between the mainstream media and the American public.

    Hmmmm. So is he saying that the MSM doesn't think we have open enough minds?

    Bigwig summarizes my response above as saying "We know what the answers would be already, so what's the point in asking the question?" But even more than that I think there's no point in asking the questions at all. The problem to me is not leftward bias in the mainstream news. The problem is that the MSM is almost entirely leftward-biased. And so I'll repeat my refrain that a little free-market competition is what's needed and, it turns out, is what bloggers provide.

    It's not my battle . . .

    . . . but it sure is fun to watch Nick Coleman get his clock cleaned.

    Good intentions matter most

    Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

    So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    The Washington Post is already attempting to use the tsumanis against President Bush. (Hat tip: Captain Ed.)

    Although U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland yesterday withdrew his earlier comment, domestic criticism of Bush continued to rise. Skeptics said the initial aid sums -- as well as Bush's decision at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for the Christmas holiday rather than speak in person about the tragedy -- showed scant appreciation for the magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia.

    After a day of repeated inquiries from reporters about his public absence, Bush late yesterday afternoon announced plans to hold a National Security Council meeting by teleconference to discuss several issues, including the tsunami, followed by a short public statement.

    Note that this criticism comes from unidentified "skeptics" and "reporters." And note the Post's use of the word "cloistered" to describe the President's stay in Crawford. The Post adds that Gerhard Schroeder cut short his vacation and "returned to work" because of the tsunamis, and that Bill Clinton managed to get his mug before the BBC cameras in order to urge international response.

    Earlier yesterday, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling. Explaining the about-face, a White House official said: "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.' "

    Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for the cameras to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy. "Actions speak louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the president's view of his appropriate role.

    Some foreign policy specialists said Bush's actions and words both communicated a lack of urgency about an event that will loom as large in the collective memories of several countries as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks do in the United States. "When that many human beings die -- at the hands of terrorists or nature -- you've got to show that this matters to you, that you care," said Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.

    There was an international outpouring of support after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and even some administration officials familiar with relief efforts said they were surprised that Bush had not appeared personally to comment on the tsunami tragedy. "It's kind of freaky," a senior career official said."

    Again, note that "some foreign policy specialists" and "even some administration officials" complained about the President, but only Leslie H. Gelb is identified.

    Gelb said what appears to be a grudging increase in effort sends the wrong message, at a time when dollar totals matter less than a clear statement about U.S. intentions. Noting that the disaster occurred at a time when large numbers of people in many nations -- especially Muslim ones such as Indonesia -- object to U.S. policies in Iraq, he said Bush was missing an opportunity to demonstrate American benevolence.

    The WaPo article notes everything that the US is doing to help, but the repeated refrain is that President Bush must "take a higher profile." He must make sure that he announces his good deeds with trumpets.

    President Bush has always been the sort to let his actions speak. Unlike his predecessor, he doesn't run to the cameras to shed crocodile tears. He doesn't make sure the cameras are rolling every time he signs a bill. This President doesn't loudly boast that he is creating a cabinet that "looks like America;" he just goes ahead and does it, and sometimes it gets noticed.

    But if only the president would fly back to Washington to hold a press conference where he can say "I feel your pain," will he be let off the hook. At least as far as a bunch of unidentified sources are concerned. And it would help if he just pulled out of Iraq. Public statements of good intentions are what really matter right now.

    Politicizing the Tsunami

    The death toll in the wake of the tsunamis that hit southeast Asia may rise above 100,000. The number is just staggering. Think back to 9/11, and the horror you felt (assuming you were horrified) as those two towers in south Manhattan came tumbling down. Now imagine that instead of just two buildings collapsing, there were sixty. Or imagine that you turned on the television and watched a WTC-sized building full of people collapse once every five minutes . . . for five hours straight.

    Earlier this week we were told by a UN official that the US was being "stingy" in its proposed tsunami relief package, which currently stands at $35 million. Instead, we should just raise our taxes in order to help. The UN apparently doesn't acknowledge aid from private charities like World Vision. Aid must come from the federal government (i.e., taxes) to count.

    As if that wasn't a stupid enough, then we were told that the disaster was the result of global warming. In other words, it's the fault of the industrialized West; or in global-speak, the fault of the United States, since major polluters like China apparently get a pass because they're still "developing" and Europe gets a pass because they're oh-so-socialist.

    How long before we learn that this is all George Bush's fault?

    Last night on Hannity and Colmes, Nancy Skinner tied everything up with one big bow of blame, saying that if we weren't spending money on the military in Iraq, we'd have enough money to help. (Yep. It's George Bush's fault) After doing all they could to politicize the tsunamis, Colmes and Skinner blamed conservatives for politicizing the event by using it to attack the UN. (Sometimes I wish Fox News would post transcripts of its shows. I hope someone got it, because it was a real telling hour of television. All I can find is this anti-Fox News, lefty-skewed version of events.)

    Is it just me, or do these lefties always blame the right for the very things they do themselves ?

    So how much aid is enough? At this point it's still too early to know exactly what is needed, but the US is doing all it can to help. In the coming days and weeks, further assessment will make clear how to better direct funds, supplies, and "boots on the ground." The US is always first in line to commit aid to disaster relief efforts. But it's never enough for some people.

    Allow me to get geeky for a moment.

    One of the better episodes of Star Trek: Voyager involved an encounter with a group of refugees who ask the captain for supplies. She agrees to help them. But they soon discover that Voyager is a lot more advanced than they realized. Before the end of the episode they're reduced to extortion, threatening to destroy the ship unless they get more supplies.

    Sound similar? "You're the United States!" cries the global left. "You should increase taxes on your citizens until we've decided that we have extorted enough money from you. You should give all your money to us so that we can begin global redistribution of wealth" (right after we skim 85% off the top to line our own pockets).

    More: Lileks offers this stinging rebuke to those whose environmental policies eclipse their sympathy.

    I wonder if those who rooted for hurricanes also muttered an “attaboy” for tsunamis. Same idea, after all. Earth striking back against all that tacky development. Settling scores. Nature got some of its own back. Gaia's stern rebuke against building resorts that employ people to wait on bored Swedes instead of . . .well, doing whatever they would be doing otherwise. Preferably something that was nice and non-impactful, like growing jute to make the backings for those nice carpets they weave, the ones with the clever patterns. Marsha got one from Thailand, and it's perfect for the foyer, such a pity to think what happened to the people who made it. Makes you almost want to walk around the carpet for a week. Out of respect. Do they grow jute? Or does it come out of the ground or something? Anyway. Build a resort on an ocelot habitat and these things happen. Pass the butter.

    Tuesday, December 28, 2004

    Atheist says Christmas Tree recycling program violates first amendment

    Officials in Chicago wanted to boost their city's "blue bag" recycling program while also encouraging people to properly dispose of their Christmas trees. They thought they'd hit upon a good solution: bring your Christmas tree to one of the city's tree-recycling locations and get a year's supply of the blue bags along with some mulch. (The blue bags normally cost about 11 cents each.)

    Alas, some people aren't content to let a simple, civic program exist without finding something to complain about.
    [T]rust Rob Sherman, a local activist and an atheist, to raise questions. According to him, the city's trees-for-bags swap is unfairly beneficial to Christians.

    "The concern was that the city had constructed a well-intentioned program, but the effect was that only Christians had the opportunity to participate," Sherman said. "Christians had the opportunity to receive the blue bags for free. Atheists and others would have had to pay."

    The city will now offer blue bags to anyone who visits one of 22 tree-recycling locations on Jan. 8 and brings a large bag of recyclable material, streets and sanitation spokesman Matt Smith said.

    "We'd prefer the tree, but we're willing to permit that. We've always been flexible," Smith said. "The main thing is that we want people to recycle, and we want to keep these trees out of the waste stream."

    Stories like this just leave me at a loss for words. What kind of person will look at a simple program like this and see it as a church/state separation issue? Obviously, it would have to be the kind of person for whom this kind of agitation is a lifestyle:
    Sherman, best known for keeping crosses off the municipal seals of Zion and Rolling Meadows, began his campaign at 8 a.m. Monday after reading about the city's plan in the Tribune.

    So he's done this sort of thing before. In fact, here's his website, where he talks about his success in changing the program "without needing to go to federal court." Yep. He threatened a lawsuit.
    On behalf of a Chicago resident, Sherman called the city's law department and the Park District. At one point, Sherman said, he was told that he could bring someone else's tree and receive the blue bags.

    "Atheists shouldn't have to go begging from home to home for a Christian who will sponsor them into this kind of government program," said Sherman, 51, of Buffalo Grove.

    But you don't necessarily have to be a Christian to own a Christmas tree, said Fred Kniss, a professor at Loyola University who studies sociology of religion.

    Not only do non-Christians put up trees for the holiday season, the tree itself is a pre-Christian symbol that represents the renewal of life, Kniss said.

    "Predominantly, it's a Christian holiday, but there are a lot of secular people who buy Christmas trees and use Christmas trees in their holiday celebrations," Kniss said.

    But non-Christians who own Christmas trees represent only a small minority, Sherman believes.

    "The group that predominantly has Christmas trees are Christians," he said. "No self-respecting atheist or Jew or Hindu puts up a Christmas tree in their home unless they are Christian wannabes."

    He's used that line before.
    While celebrating the solstice might be seen as borrowing from another religion to avoid celebrating a Christian holiday, most atheists don't see it that way.

    "Solstice is just a scientific moment," said Mary Jo Wood, lead organizer for Chicago Atheists, a group of a dozen or so people who connected through the online site "It's not religious."

    Not all atheists like the idea of marking the solstice. Well-known Chicago-area activist Rob Sherman, who battles governments to remove crosses and Nativity scenes from public property, put it this way: "Basically they're trying to be Christian wannabes, and I have no interest in being a wannabe."

    But he is a wannabe. He wants to be noticed. He wants media coverage. He wants exposure.
    And he's running for Illinois State Legislature, so I'm sure locals are quite familiar with this guy's antics. I guess I didn't realize there was an Anhedonia Party in Illinois.

    I have very little patience for such individuals. I've got no problem with atheists per se. Live and let live. But I do have a problem with atheists who think that it's their job to remove every last vestige of religion from the public square.

    Monday, December 27, 2004

    Parents sell children's toys on eBay

    Jib recently talked about how important the word "no" is for children to hear from their parents.
    No must be firm, and it must be meant. When the child disobeys 'no', there must be consequences for that action. I'm open to various parenting techniques when it comes to the consequences, but it must be swift and real.

    Here are some parents who get it. (Hat tip: Dummocrats)

    Saving the MSM from themselves

    In light of the questions raised by this issue, Hugh Hewitt asks an intriguing question today -- one that's occupied my mind for quite some time. In fact, I posted some similar questions way back here.
    Thanks to the blogosphere, the memos used by CBS News as a means of affecting the November election were revealed as forgeries. We caught them in the act this time. But what about last time? And more importantly, what about next time? The next time someone wants to create damaging 30-year-old memos and deliver them to CBS News, you can bet they'll go to the trouble of obtaining a 30-year-old typewriter. How can we be sure this doesn't happen? How can we be sure it isn't happening already? How do you know that what you heard on the news today is true? It's sort of an existential crisis.

    In a free society, there is a necessary level of trust between the citizens and the news media. CBS News is hoping that the trust hasn't been destroyed. But with their actions they have not just destroyed the trust placed in CBS, but in all the mainstream news media. As citizens who depend on the news media for information, how do we respond to the increasingly manipulative media gatekeepers who will do anything to further their agenda and retain their power? Can the trust be repaired? And how do we ensure that those who betray that trust face the consequences of their actions? How do we ensure that there are no more "Rathergates"?

    Hugh writes:

    How will MSM regain lost trust, and thus lost audience? To begin, they would first have to admit they have a problem, and there is little evidence they are inclined to do so.

    But if they were so inclined, the very first step would be publication on the internet of biographies of every reporter/producer on the news team along with that individual's responses to a series of questions on important issues of the day. Everyone brings baggage to the reporting of the news. Some of us lay that background out for the world to see -- most reporters don't. A sure sign of something to hide is the hiding of something, and the unwillingness of MSM to tell us about their staffs is a giveaway that the lack of intellectual diversity in the newsroom is a scandal.

    What questions would I like answered? Very simple ones: For whom did the reporter vote for president in the past five elections? Do they attend church regularly and if so, in which denomination? Do they believe that the late-term abortion procedure known as partial birth abortion should be legal? Do they believe same sex marriage ought to be legal? Did they support the invasion of Iraq? Do they support drilling in ANWR?

    If I know the answers to those ten questions, I can quickly decide what degree of trust with which to approach a reporter's reporting. Even "low trust" reporters can earn trust, of course, but degrees of suspicion are a fact of life. Only MSM pretends otherwise, and bloggers have exposed that pretension as the fiction it really is, even if most of MSM want to continue the charade.

    I disagree with the esteemed Mr. Hewitt on this. I don't require a full disclosure of the personal opinions and beliefs of every person in the news media. In fact, I wouldn't work for any business that required me to do such a thing.

    Fox News has become one news source I trust -- as much as I trust any mainstream news outlet, that is. But it's not because I know what their reporters think about abortion or drilling in the ANWR. It's because in my view they do not repeatedly assault the values that I, and most Americans, hold dear. They have not set themselves against the residents of Red State America (or even those of us in the Blue State parts of flyover country). Their reporters do not write lengthy "The Sky is Falling" diatribes against "Jesusland."

    (Certainly others think Fox is as biased as I think CBS News is. If so, then Fox acts as an antidote to the others.)

    I understand, I think, what Hugh is getting at. To an extent I agree that if a news organizaation cannot rid itself of its biases, the least it could do is reveal those biases. Gone are the days when every market had its competing left-wing and right-wing newspapers, but at least then you knew where each newspaper stood. The lack of competition has allowed for the illusion of non-bias in the media.

    Therefore, if there's one thing that the mainstream news could benefit from, it's competition. Here, again, is where Fox News has proven useful. The moderate (or some would say right wing bias) of Fox News has worked to reveal the biases of their competitors. This is a good thing. It's also a good thing that other news outlets have noticed that the increased ratings for Fox have accompanied their own decreasing ratings. Competition is iron sharpening iron.

    Other news outlets could benefit from figuring out what makes Fox News different. It's too simplistic to suggest (as they do in as sneering a manner as possible) that Fox is simply "NASCARizing" its news. But until the mainstream news media gets over themselves, they will continue to harbor the elitist illusion that they're somehow "better" than Fox, and they'll simply continue to give us more of the same.

    More: Further thoughts here.

    "A country that makes a film like 'Star Wars' deserves to rule the world."

    That audacious statement leads off this piece by David Sands in the Washington Times. (Hat tip: Cheat Seeking Missiles)
    Love it, hate it, embrace it, deny it, American power, American influence and American values are the defining features of today's interconnected world.

    Questions of an American "empire" — whether we have one, whether we want one, whether we can afford or keep one — aren't just the white-hot topic of the day among statesmen and political scientists.

    The world really is becoming more "American."

    The pervasive pull of American ideals, popular culture and media, and economic opportunity works in mysterious counterpoint, and not always harmoniously, with overwhelming U.S. military might and diplomatic clout.

    Perhaps the above is obvious. Though I quibble with this statement:
    "You cannot imagine the impact of the American election in Europe," Italian religious philosopher and politician Rocco Buttiglione says during a recent Washington visit.

    "America is modernity, and what takes place in America today will take place in Europe in 10, 15 or 20 years," he says. "The Europeans, all of a sudden, had to discover that America is religious, that ethical issues are relevant to politics."

    I don't doubt that Europeans were shocked by our election results. But while it would be wonderful if Europe begins to adopt American ideals and values, I don't see it happening. Europe would have to "get over itself" first.

    The article speaks mostly of America's "soft power" arising from the exportation of our "democratic ideals and entrepreneurial ingenuity to language, sports and popular culture." What seems to be missing in this examination, however, is the exportation of democracy itself to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Freedom, liberty, and "power to the people" may begin to catch on in places that have never experienced it before, thanks to what we've done in the middle east in the last couple of years. If so, it won't be that America "rules the world," so much as that we show the people of the world how to rule themselves.

    Laer at Cheat Seeking Missiles writes:
    The standardization that is McDonalds, Home Depot and Borders may be chilling for some, but it also represents not just the perfecting of a concept far above what the world has ever expected, but also the ability to successfully replicate it.

    Things like standardization and abundance drive my Internationalist mother and brother nuts. I remember my brother saying, "Who needs 35 kinds of cupcakes?" as a damning indictment of all things American after he was overseas for a number of years. Well, we Americans seem to, and the fact that we can choose between Ho-Ho, Moon Pies, Twinkies and Snow-Balls is as American as 12 apple pie choices.

    Earthquake moves Sumatra 100 feet to the Southwest

    The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off Indonesia on Sunday morning moved the entire island of Sumatra about 100 feet to the southwest, pushing up a gigantic mass of water that collapsed into a tsunami and devastated shorelines around the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

    The quake was the largest since a magnitude 9.2 temblor struck Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1964 and was one of the biggest ever recorded by scientists. It triggered the first tsunami in the Indian Ocean since 1883, civil engineer Costas Synolakis of USC said.

    Sunday's temblor, which occurred off Sumatra's northwestern tip in an active geological region, ruptured an estimated 600-mile-long stretch of the Earth beneath the Indian Ocean. The quake caused one side of the fault to slide past the other, much like seismologists expect the San Andreas fault to do when the "Big One" hits California.

    AP: Accomplices of Terrorists?

    The Belmont Club has more on that suspicious AP photo of terrorists killing two Iraqi election workers. It seems the AP photographer, whose identity the AP is keeping secret, was tipped off by terrorists that there would be a "demonstration," which is why he was on-hand to photograph the execution.

    While it seems unfair to criticize the photographer for simply capturing the "demonstration" on film, one has to ask what responsibility these journalists have to prevent such things from happening if they have foreknowledge. Did the photographer know what the "demonstration" would entail? Probably not. But did he have the duty to warn Iraqi authorities that a "demonstration" of some kind was going to take place? Absolutely.

    Then there is the fact that the printing of the photo in question undoubtedly helps terrorists do what they do best: spread fear and terror.

    I'm of two minds. On one hand, I think it's important to know the atrocities that terrorists are committing. It can only steel our resolve to wipe them off the face of the earth. On the other hand, reporting on their actions is exactly what they want. As a result, journalists and terrorists feed off each other, in ever more bitter-tasting bite-sized pieces.

    Part of the entry at The Belmont Club addresses this comment at Power Line, which was apparently a response to this earlier entry at The Belmont Club.
    AFP, AP and AP TV had advance notice of the murders of contractors in Fallujah last spring, so that they could position themselves on scene.

    The Fallujah case is particularly interesting, because it involves one of the same organisations (AP). Apparently the reporters were tipped to go to a specific location. They were not told exactly what would take place, but they knew it was going to be a terrorist action of some type. For security reasons, the terrorists give the reporters very little notice -- just enough to get there, if everything goes right.

    They were told exactly what street corner to be on, where they would be expected by and under the protection of the terrorists. ("If you're anywhere else, we can't guarantee your safety.") The AFP writer and photographer got to the scene "in time" to get photos of the tag end of the fight. The AP van, held up by the TV crew, was late to the scene and had trouble finding it at first. When AP arrived, the fighting was over, the Americans were dead and their vehicles were being set afire.

    After the contractors were dead and their bodies looted, the reporters stayed and encouraged the mob that had gathered to mutilate the bodies. I am told by our Arabic speakers that they can be heard egging the youths on during the video of the mutilations. "Go ahead, cut him up. What are you afraid of?" I don't believe that they are motivated by anti-American animus -- after all, there were plenty of Americans like Kos that took delight in those murders -- but by professional considerations. They need shocking video to win the daily news cycle. If they can't get it, they'll manufacture it.

    If this is true -- if the reporters actually encouraged the mutilation of the bodies, the reporters deserve nothing less than to be charged as accomplices to the crime.

    Tidal Waves Kill 22,000 in Nine Countries

    Sometimes a tragedy is so big that the mind can barely grasp what it means.

    Sometimes the word "disaster" can't even communicate how staggering the death toll. "Catastrophe" is closer.
    Rescuers piled up bodies along southern Asian coastlines devastated by tidal waves that obliterated seaside towns and killed more than 22,000 people in nine countries, and officials indicated Monday the death toll could climb far higher.

    Hundreds of children were buried in mass graves in India, and morgues and hospitals struggled to cope with the catastrophe. Somalia, some 3,000 miles away, reported hundreds of deaths.

    The death toll rose sharply a day after the magnitude 9 quake struck deep beneath the Indian Ocean off the coast of Indonesia. It was the most powerful earthquake in the world in four decades.

    Government and aid officials suggested the death toll could increase significantly, citing unconfirmed reports of thousands more deaths on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on India's Andaman and Nikobar islands.

    More: Here's a personal account of the catastrophe by a Washington Post writer who was swimming off an Island near the coast of Sri Lanka when the tidal waves hit.
    I was a quarter way around the island when I heard my brother shouting at me, "Come back! Come back! There's something strange happening with the sea." He was swimming behind me, but closer to the shore.

    I couldn't understand what the fuss was about. All seemed peaceful. There was barely a ripple in the sea. My brother's house rests on a rock 60 feet above the level of the sea.

    Then I noticed that the water around me was rising, climbing up the rock walls of the island with astonishing speed. The vast circle of golden sand around Weligama Bay was disappearing rapidly, and the water had reached the level of the coastal road, fringed with palm trees.

    As I swam to shore, my mind was momentarily befuddled by two conflicting impressions -- the idyllic blue sky and the rapidly rising waters.

    In less than a minute, the water level had risen at least 15 feet, but the sea remained calm, with barely a wave in sight.

    Within minutes, the beach and the area behind it had become an inland sea that rushed over the road and poured into the flimsy houses on the other side. The speed with which it all happened seemed like a scene from the Bible, a natural phenomenon unlike anything I had experienced.

    More: Links to other Asian bloggers with their accounts of the catastrophe.

    (Hat tip: Betsy's Page)

    More: You can help with relief efforts through World Vision.

    Sunday, December 26, 2004

    The Huron Carol

    Okay, it's the day after Christmas, but I still want to share one of my favorite Christmas carols. Since I was a wee bairn I have always liked "The Huron Carol," which is also called "'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime." It was written in 1643 by Father Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary among the Huron people in Quebec. The song was written to communicate the story of Jesus' birth in terms that the Huron people would understand using images from their culture.

    Originally written in their own language, it was translated into French, and then later into English by Jesse Edgar Middleton in 1926. It was Middleton's translation that I am most familiar with. Here are his words:
    Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
    That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
    Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,
    Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

    Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;
    A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round
    But as the hunter braves drew nigh
    the angel song rang loud and high
    Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

    The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
    As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
    The chiefs from far before him knelt
    with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
    Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

    O children of the forest free,
    O seed of Manitou
    The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
    Come kneel before the radiant boy
    who brings you beauty peace and joy.
    Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

    The Huron Carol was in the hymnal in the church where I grew up, but the "hunters" became "shepherds" and "mighty Gitchi Manitou" was changed to "God the Lord of all the Earth." The tune was still nice, but it lost the Native American imagery that made it unique.

    On his 1993 "Christmas" album, Canadian folkie Bruce Cockburn recorded a version in the Huron language. Here is a direct translation of those words:
    Have courage, you who are human beings: Jesus, he is born
    The okie spirit who enslaved us has fled
    Don't listen to him for he corrupts the spirits of our thoughts
    Jesus, he is born

    The okie spirits who live in the sky are coming with a message
    They're coming to say, "Rejoice!
    Mary has given birth. Rejoice!"
    Jesus, he is born

    Three men of great authority have left for the place of his birth
    Tiscient, the star appearing over the horizon leads them there
    That star will walk first on the bath to guide them
    Jesus, he is born

    The star stopped not far from where Jesus was born
    Having found the place it said,
    "Come this way"
    Jesus, he is born

    As they entered and saw Jesus they praised his name
    They oiled his scalp many times, anointing his head
    with the oil of the sunflower
    Jesus, he is born

    They say, "Let us place his name in a position of honour
    Let us act reverently towards him for he comes to show us mercy
    It is the will of the spirits that you love us, Jesus,
    and we wish that we may be adopted into your family
    Jesus, he is born

    While this is probably more accurate, I think I like the Middleton translation better for its poetry.

    More information can be found here and here.

    Reggie White Remembered

    It's hard to communicate just how well-liked Reggie White was. He was admired both on and off the field. His love of the game was contagious, and as a result his legion of fans grew. Though he played in Philadelphia as well, to Cheeseheads he will always be a Green Bay Packer.

    While we did not know him but from afar, Reggie seemed to all Packer and Eagle fans to be a very special football player, but more importantly, a very special human being. The world is better off because of him, but this morning we are a little worse off without him.

    Brett Favre's golden arm and incredible toughness will be what is most remember about this Packers revival, but I feel safe claiming that a third Super Bowl title wouldn't have happened without #92. It wasn't just that Reggie White was the most dominating defensive end in NFL history. By White coming to Green Bay it told the rest of the league that the Packers were serious about winning. As Tom Silverstein writes, "Soon after his arrival, the Packers were able to recruit free agents from all walks of life because they had the great Reggie White recruiting for them."

    Back when I worked in a record store in the 80's, I had this friend Kevin, a Cowboy fan, who was fond of saying "Damn, damn Reggie White!" Every time I see Reggie's name, I can hear Kevin saying that.

    Damn, damn Reggie White. One of my football heroes is gone. RIP, man.

    I have never been a football fan, but it was hard to miss the end of Reggie White's football career, and the beginning of his new career in ministry. His death last night shocked me. While definitely a controversial individual, it also seems clear to me that he new God intimately. Godspeed to him on his new adventure, and prayers to his family.

    Rev Steve:
    I heard the news coming back from church this morning. He was an intimidating defensive player as the "Minister of Defense" and an outspoken witness for faith in Christ. He was missed when he retired from the Packers and he will be missed in defending the inner city from drugs and poverty. God bless the White family.

    I greatly respected and admired Reggie White. Although he played an unglamorous position, and played for the archrival Packers, he was always one of my favorite players. He was fearless both on the field and off, and his determination to speak openly about Jesus Christ made him a man I wished to emulate in my own public life. . . .

    His race was far too short, but it was well-run indeed. May God richly reward him and give strength and comfort his family.

    Captain Ed:
    As a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings, the sight of Reggie White bearing down on the quarterback made me nervous for 15 years. Even though I rooted against him, his skills and his sportsmanship made it impossible to dislike him. He made the game fun for the fans and tried in his short life to build stronger communities through his belief in Jesus Christ. His passing saddens me, especially since I believed that White had so much more to teach us, but I feel comforted knowing that the Lord will look after him now.

    Reggie was this great football player and seemed to be a wonderful Teddy Bear of a man. I will always think of him after the Super Bowl victory when he was running around the Super Dome in his brand new Super Bowl Champions t-shirt down to his knees. He brought so much happiness to the people of Wisconsin and seemingly to everyone else whose life he touched. Godspeed, Reggie.

    The Big Trunk:
    Reggie White joined with Brett Favre in leading the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls and one championship. While making his mark as the dominant defensive lineman of the modern era, he became an ordained minister and pastor. As a public spokesman for his religious beliefs, he combined decency and strength. "It is wonderful to have a giant's strength," Shakespeare writes in Measure for Measure, "but tyrannous to use it like a giant." Dead at age 43, Reggie White had a giant's strength that he used to lead free men for worthy purposes. RIP.

    Blogs: Your First News Source

    I find that more and more blogs have become my initial news source. Maybe it's because we have a small child, but we rarely sit down to watch a news broadcast anymore. And if I ever do buy a newspaper, I'm usually looking at movie reviews and comics.

    Case in point: It was only by checking in with Jib this morning that I heard of Reggie White's passing. I will now likely check out other news sources for more information, but it was the blogosphere that told me about it first. Obviously Jib heard it first via a traditional news outlet; or even if he read it first on another blog, that blogger might have heard it first by the mainstream news. But either way, it may be that blogs get news out more quickly to more people. They're a modern public green.

    Is this a growing trend, or is it just me?

    Jib says:
    Packer fans will mourn Reggie deeply. Reggie's unfathomable decision to come to Green Bay made football in the city and the state respectable again. Not only was he a great football player, but he gave credibility to every single person in that locker room. Rarely have I seen any professional sports team which so openly embraced God. . . . Our heart breaks that we will not have him periodically in our lives for the years to come, and our hearts break for all who knew and loved Reggie personally.


    More: Reggie White Remembered.

    Saturday, December 25, 2004

    Merry Christmas!

    In-laws arriving in less than an hour, which means my role as Head o' the Household will prevent me from doing much blogging. (Not that anyone's out surfing the blogs today anyway.)

    Merry Christmas to everyone who's dropped by Darn Floor since we went online. Thanks for the warm welcome to the blogosphere, and thanks for reading.

    Especially, thanks for the links.

    Friday, December 24, 2004

    The Ghosts of Kitschmas Past

    Some last-minute gift ideas . . .

    In past years, Ship of Fools has done a Christmas feature called "The 12 Days of Kitschmas" in which they highlight some completely ridiculous religious-themed gifts, such as this Jesus ashtray, or this statuette of Our Lord giving some guy (who looks suspiciously like JFK) a manly hug.

    I was looking forward to the 2004 list, but they decided not to do it this year, apparently because of a lack of stuff that could top last year's list.

    However, you can still browse the "12 Days of Kitschmas" for 2003, 2002, and 2001.

    And if you're really brave, you can venture into the discussion forums where members are nominating their own choices for this year's missing list. (Like this slightly crazy-looking Jesus doll.)

    The Christmas Letter I should have sent

    Instead of staying up late trying to compose the perfect Christmas letter, I should have done what the Coyote blog did, and just sent out one of these.

    Pixie Dust and Wishing Stars

    Who took Christ out of Christmas? Mark Pinsky blames Walt Disney.
    In a sense, Disney was well ahead of his time, presenting an inclusive approach to faith in a predominantly Christian nation. "The things we have in common," Walt once wrote, "far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us."

    Other areas of Disney's entertainment empire reflect this view. No theme park has a Main Street church; no cruise ship has a chapel. This magic kingdom has little reference to the kingdom of heaven. Disney World national television ads entice visitors to a special, seasonal presentation "for those who believe in the magic of Christmas."

    Why the magic, rather than the sacredness? Perhaps it is more evidence of a Hollywood disconnect. Walt, the storyteller, knew his movies would need some agent of supernatural intervention, but he did not want religious figures. Children who were not Christian, both in North America and worldwide, might feel excluded from cartoons infused with a different faith, and their parents might not buy tickets.

    So instead, Disney chose magic, something universal to all cultures – and customers. While characters may use theological vocabulary ("miracle," "blessing," "divine"), they wish upon a star when they are in need, rather than pray. They rely on fairy godmothers rather than a Savior, and sprinkle pixie dust rather than holy water.

    Thursday, December 23, 2004

    Jesus, Santa, and Faith

    I was looking again at that collection of pictures of kids scared by Santa, and again remembering just how much I could relate. Although not the prize-winner, this picture in particular is our favorite.

    This one looks like a detail from a Norman Rockwell painting.

    And this sends shivers down my spine.

    I remember when I was a kid being taken down to the village hall for a visit with Santa. Kids would line up to taken their turns sitting on Santa's lap and confiding in him what they wanted for Christmas, and on the way out each would receive a brown paper bag of candy. (Typical hard candy Christmas confections, mixed nuts, peanut brittle, and a few rare chocolate drops.) For kids like me who were apprehensive about meeting with Santa--if not downright terrified--this seemed like a cruel trick. You mean, I can only get the candy if I sit on that scary man's lap? Aren't there laws against this sort of thing? It's amazing what torment we will endure for a sugar fix. I think these visits with Santa may have been the genesis of my phobia of people in costumes--a phobia I still maintain today. (I say "maintain" because I have no interest in overcoming this phobia. I think a good healthy fear of costumed freaks is essential to long life.)

    Santa was scary for other reasons as well. As the song reminded us, "he knows if you've been bad or good." He was like God that way. Perhaps one of God's little helpers. And as kids who weren't Catholic this was the closest we'd come to the confessional booth.

    As we got older, we continued the visits with Santa, even as we became suspicious of his existence. I think it was the promise of candy that dragged us back. Apparently we would even feign belief if it meant a bag of goodies and perhaps one or two extra "From Santa" presents under the tree.

    But also, as we got older, identifying which of our small town's prominent citizens was wearing the red suit and fake beard became sort of a game. I am positive that Santa was the elderly lady next door one year, even if her beard was the real deal.

    I don't remember ever being a real "true believer" in Santa, even when I was very young. Parts of the story never made much sense to me. Santa supposedly came down the chimney. But we had no fireplace. Our chimney led directly to the furnace, and Santa would have been burned to a crisp if he'd dropped in for a visit. Furthermore, how was he supposed to land his sleigh on our sloped roof? It would slide right off. And yet someone ate the cookies we left out for him. Someone delivered the toys. It all remained firmly in the realm of mystery for me.

    In college I dated a girl who was insistent that her children would never be told that Santa was real. She believed when she was younger, and as she began to doubt, her parents encouraged her to keep believing with, as she described it, something close to desperation. When she discovered the truth, she felt like she'd been lied to by the people she was supposed to trust the most.

    Santa isn't even on Lid's radar, so it isn't necessary for us to address the Santa question yet. As Christians we certainly don't want to allow Santa to eclipse Jesus. But I don't know that belief in Santa and belief in Jesus are mutually exclusive for children. As a kid I knew that Christmas was a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, even as I beseeched "I believe, Santa! Help my unbelief!" Jesus was still the most important person by far. Then came Santa, then Mary and some angels, and then Frosty. Then Rudolph and the Little Drummer Boy and some shepherds and wise men. Thus went the hierarchy.

    The girl I dated in college felt that if children find out we've lied to them about Santa, it may cause them to question what we've told them about God as well. I'm not so sure.

    Perhaps the Santa story is one of those things that act as training wheels for faith. Of course, it depends on us as parents to take off the training wheels and encourage our kids to ride without them so that as Santa fades into the realm of story, Jesus moves into the realm of reality.

    You may ask, then, if Santa is even necessary. I don't know that he is necessary, but the Santa story opens us up to the possibilites of mystery; of something beyond our understanding. In a way, imagination is almost a requirement for faith, and Santa kindles the imagination at a very young age.

    So I think we'll encourage Lid to use her imagination, and help her learn to accept that there are some things that are very difficult to understand--or in the words of the Psalmist, too wonderful or too lofty to attain--but are nevertheless worth trying to figure out.

    A Field Guide to A/V Geeks

    The Generalissimo provides a sort of Field Guide to A/V Geeks, describing the telltale field marks, and then helping to identify a few of them in the blogosphere. I'm hoping he'll include range maps in a future post, highlighting migratory paths and breeding territory.

    I became an A/V Geek the moment I was handed my first tape recorder. I immediately became a roving reporter, shoving a microphone in the faces of all my friends and creating mock news broadcasts. Then, seizing control of the family 8mm movie camera, I created little stop-motion animated films featuring puppets, Fisher-Price toys, and Legos. After a brief flirtation with computers in high school, I decided upon broadcasting as a major. I spent exactly two years in the business post-college, and while working with all the high-tech stuff was fun, dealing with the egos of news reporters was often a chore.

    Now, aside from editing a bit of audio for my employer now and then (which is also a chore) I "get my geek on" by turning old LPs into new CDs. I suppose blogging brings out the A/V geek a bit, too. If I ever get my own web domain (read: if my wife ever lets me incur the expense), expect this blog to become a cornucopia of sights and sounds.

    (There must be some way for me to get pictures up here at least. All the cool kids do it.)

    Lynne Cheney loves bloggers

    It's nice to know that Lynne Cheney loves reading blogs, as she said on "Hardball" the other night. (Campbell Brown was guest-hosting, so Mrs. Cheney was allowed to finish her sentences.)
    Brown: What do you make of the evolution of the blogs?

    Cheney: "I think it is quite wonderful. It is a real democratization of information so that people don't have to rely on one or two sources. They've got multiple sources. You know, I can tell in about two minutes, on a blog, whether this is someone whose opinion I value or not. You know. You know, in a conversation when you are talking with someone who is bright and well-informed, and I can do that same thing when I am looking at blogs on the internet.

    Brown: You have got to have a favorite?

    Cheney: "I have a lot of blogs that I read."

    Brown: "What are they?"

    Cheney: "Oh I love Hugh Hewitt, I think he's terrific. I love Powerline. I read Instapundit, and, I don't know, does RealClearPolitics constitute a blog? I certainly looked at it a lot during the campaign. It was a wonderful source and remains a wonderful source of articles that are being written in many places."

    Hey, if she's read Hewitt, there's a distinct possibility that she's clicked through to Darn Floor!

    (For those keeping track, Brown said "Happy Holidays" to Mrs. Cheney. She gave him a "Merry Christmas.")

    The Year in Quotes

    In yet another look back at 2004, Tim Blair presents the year in quotes.

    Links to each month are collected in the sidebar on his main page. Otherwise, you can begin with January, here.

    Go. Enjoy.

    Prepare for the "Airing of Grievances"

    In the department of "It was bound to happen eventually," it seems that the fictional holiday of "Festivus" has become part of a public holiday display in Florida.

    "Keep counting under we find enough votes!"

    Two recounts not being enough for Washington Democrats, they have now completed a hand recount, and have discovered enough votes to put Christine Gregoire ahead by 10 votes. Then yesterday the state Supreme Court ruled that 723 uncounted ballots, some of which were discovered in a warehouse after the election, could be added to the total.

    For a first-hand account of the recount, check out this post from Stefan Sharkansky at Sound Politics. (Sound Politics is actually a good place to bookmark if you're interested in this subject.)
    When the hand count was complete at the Tukwila facility, it was my understanding from talking to the floor managers, that Rossi was still in the lead. At that point the canvas board still had several hundred ballots to review but now they knew how many votes to come up with to give Gregoire a victory. It seems they did just that by assigning overvotes to Gregoire.

    Initially we were tallying clearly marked overvotes as overvotes and putting them back in the box with the rest of the ballots when we had completed counting a precinct. That changed about half-way through the count of absentee ballots when the canvas board ordered that all overvotes, no matter how clearly marked, be sent to the board for review. There have been reports that the board's criteria - or at least the criteria used by two members of the board - also changed in regard to the overvotes at that time and more were divined to be real votes, and mostly for Gregoire.

    Overvotes are those ballots where more than one candidate for a race is marked. There's no reason these ballots should be considered legitimate.

    It seems to me that with such a close race, and with the growing likelihood of fraud each time more votes are "discovered," the best decision would be to do a statewide revote. If they can do it in the Ukraine, they can do it in Washington State.

    Speaking of the Ukraine, election day (take 2) is on Sunday. A good blog to keep bookmarked for that is SCSU Scholars.