Tuesday, November 30, 2004

De-Spinning the No-Spin Zone

Captain Ed deconstructs Bill O'Reilly's recent editorial defending Dan Rather here. O'Reilly sometimes gives the impression of a man who takes bizarre positions simply to make himself noticed. The utter vacuity of his defense of Rather leaves little room for any other conclusion. Excerpts from O'Reilly are in italics:

Bill O'Reilly issues a scathing editorial on all those who dared to criticize Dan Rather over the forgeries used in the 60 Minutes story on George Bush's Air National Guard service. According to O'Reilly, Rather's torment at the hands of critics using (gasp!) the First Amendment to speak out against him shows that the American system of innocent until proven guilty has been utterly discarded. What a load of horse puckey.

The ordeal of Dan Rather goes far beyond the man himself. It speaks to the presumption of guilt that now rules the day in America. Because of a ruthless and callow media, no citizen, much less one who achieves fame, is given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to allegations or personal attacks. The smearing of America is in full bloom.

The presumption of innocence relates to criminal proceedings, Bill, not media criticism. Criticism doesn't equate to legal action, and the cure is either countercriticism -- which CBS News and Rather apologists delivered in spades -- or admitting the obvious: the documents were forgeries and CBS screwed up. To this date, Rather has only done the former.

That smear came on the heels of the "Swift boat" attacks on John Kerry, an ordeal that may have cost him the election. While some of the Vietnam vets had valid points, more than a few of the accusations against Kerry were simply untrue.

We hear this a lot, but no one who makes that suggestion ever comes up with a single argument from the Swiftvets that was proven false, let alone "more than a few". O'Reilly doesn't back this up, either, making himself a hypocrite for at least the first time in this piece.

Right-wing talk radio in particular pounded Kerry and also bludgeoned Dan Rather for his role in another smear incident - the charges against President Bush about his National Guard service. Again, Rather was found guilty without a fair hearing.

Fair hearing? Rather used the broadcast medium of CBS to constantly defend himself, hardly a mismatch against Rather.

Charges that he intentionally approved bogus documents that made Bush look bad were leveled and widely believed. It was chilling.

Perhaps that's because he told the nation that he personally vouched for the authenticity of the documents, Bill. Even today, after we've found out that CBS's own experts warned them the documents could not be authenticated and every accredited expert in the field has thoroughly debunked them, Rather and CBS have yet to admit they're forgeries. They only admit that they aren't "thoroughly authenticated". Issuing bulls**t statements like that and stonewalling the critics got Rather and CBS in the hot water they're in.

It may be true that Rather did not vet the information supplied to him by producers, but few anchor people do.

Rather is more than the anchor at CBS News, he's also the managing editor. Isn't he supposed to be responsible for what gets broadcast on CBS News? Or is that just a phony title, meant to build up his credibility through fraud?

But holding a political point of view is the right of every American, and it does not entitle people to practice character assassination or deny the presumption of innocence. Dan Rather was slimed.

Oh, grow up. If Dan Rather can't take criticism about how he performs his job, then he should have gotten out of the media business a long time ago. And to reiterate the point, Rather hasn't been charged with a crime, he's being criticized in the same manner that he and his cohorts at 60 Minutes have made careers off of doing to others. As has Bill O'Reilly, for that matter.

Let me ask you something: In the future, do you think potential public servants and social crusaders are going to risk being brutally attacked within this insane system?

Dan Rather is NOT a public servant. He has made a very lucrative career appearing in front of a camera and pretending to be a journalist. If free speech is an "insane system", perhaps you'd like to tell us what you'd replace it with, Bill. Would we all need licenses to dare offer criticism of Dan Rather? Or do you believe we should all sit quietly and watch whatever CBS tells us without a hint of dissent?

Dan Rather did not get what he deserved in this case. He made a mistake, as we all do, but he is not a dishonest man. Unfair freedom of speech did him in. This is not your grandfather's country anymore.

"Unfair freedom of speech" ... I wonder how many of your victims would have said the same thing, Bill. George Bush could certainly make the same claim after the TANG story. If that's your position, then Dan Rather should have been tried for his participation in the story and possibly jailed, or at least silenced by the government, for his role. Is that what you propose for America, Bill?

Get a grip and a clue, O'Reilly. If Dan can't handle the criticism, then perhaps he shouldn't have sat behind the big desk in the first place. If he hadn't personally vetted the material as you say, then this "honest man" lied to the American public when he told us he personally vouched for its authenticity. He still can't bring himself to admit that he lied and his producers knowingly aired a story based on documents that they had been warned were not authenticated. Only through the efforts of Rather's critics did the truth finally come out.

That's what should interest you, Bill -- the truth. If your first priority is to Dan Rather instead of the truth, you're in the wrong business and you should get out. Now.

Viewpoint would add only this: In stating that "Dan Rather is [only] guilty of not being skeptical enough about a story that was politically loaded" O'Reilly demonstrates a marvelous facility for missing the point. The problem with Rather's use of fraudulent documents wasn't his lack of skepticism so much as the reason for that lack. Why did Rather suspend his skepticism? Why did he run with these documents even after having been cautioned against it? The only answer that makes any sense isn't very flattering. Rather wanted so badly to crucify George Bush that he threw caution to the wind, believed what he most earnestly wanted to be the truth about the memos, and then refused to face the facts when they became so apparent that only an obsessed partisan zealot could have failed to see it.

It's this reckless betrayal of journalistic standards in Rather's Ahab-like pursuit of the President that makes his conduct so reprehensible. For O'Reilly to be unable to see this strikes us as peculiar. Might he have been using the treatment Rather received over this affair as a surrogate for the treatment he feels he unjustly received when the sexual harassment suit was filed against him? Just wondering.

Conservatism and Liberalism

Here's a good column by Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online on the use of the labels conservative and liberal. The heart of the piece:

Consider a story last week in the Financial Times about the views of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer. According to the FT's Washington correspondent, Scalia speaks for "radical Republicans" because he wants to interpret the constitution literally. Meanwhile, Breyer represents the "moderate Democrats" because he "offers a more pragmatic vision: Judges should consider not just ancient words but modern consequences, he said, adding that courts should try their best to interpret the law in ways that 'are consistent with the people's will.'"

This has, um, exactly everything wrong. Saying that the courts should follow the Rousseauian General Will of the people isn't "moderate" at all - indeed, it's a form of radicalism. Meanwhile, saying that we should follow the strictures of our written constitution and laws is definitionally conservative. And conservatism and radicalism are opposites.

In 1957, Samuel Huntington wrote a fabulous essay titled "Conservatism as an Ideology," in which he noted that conservatism lacks an inherent ideal. "No political philosopher has ever described a conservative utopia," wrote Huntington. Unlike socialism, Marxism and Islamic fundamentalism, conservatism merely aims to preserve that which is deemed worth preserving in a given society. As Huntington noted, bona fide "conservatives" in America, Great Britain, and Portugal each want to conserve very different things. A "conservative" in Saudi Arabia wants to preserve their crapulent monarchy. Similarly, a "conservative" in the Soviet Union would want to preserve the rule of the Politburo. Meanwhile, someone in contemporary Russia who wanted to restore the Soviet system would properly be called a "reactionary."

But here in America, a conservative is someone who wants to preserve those institutions and ideals enshrined in the Constitution. For example, a "conservative" at a liberal university would be someone who wants to preserve what they love about that university. Pym Fortuyn the gay libertine politician who was murdered in Holland for saying he wanted to limit immigration from Muslim countries so he could keep the party going was, in effect, a conservative. Similarly, this is why Huntington and philosophers like Friedrich Hayek argued that America might be the only place in the world where conservatives were the real defenders of liberty because they wanted to preserve our classical-liberal institutions.

Good stuff.

The Cost of Citizenship

The Chicago Sun-Times has a sad article by Mary Laney about Steve Gardner. Gardner was a swift vet who served on under John Kerry in Vietnam and who spoke out vigorously against the prospect of having Senator Kerry elected Commander-In-Chief. Now this father of three finds himself in very difficult straits under very suspicious circumstances. Here are some excerpts from Laney's column:

This is the story of a military veteran whistleblower. He spoke out against someone he thought was dangerous for the nation, talked to local newspapers, and appeared on talk shows. In return, he was vilified by reporters, threatened by a political operative, fired by his company, and now he's broke.

"I had confrontations with him [Kerry] there. He nearly got us rammed by the VC one night because he wasn't watching the helm. I heard the motor coming close, turned on the spotlight, and the boat was only 90 feet away, coming fast. The VC was aiming an AK47 at us. I shot him out of the boat. We pulled a woman and a baby off the boat."

"Kerry wrote it up that we captured two VC and killed four more on the beach. None of that was true. The only thing true on Kerry's report was the date. The woman was catatonic and wouldn't call her baby VC and there were no VC on the beach. If we had seen that report before Kerry sent it up the chain of command, he would have been court-martialed and never allowed to run for office. And that's just the San Pan incident. There was much more. He is a self-aggrandizing bold-faced liar. I believe he caused the extension of that war."

Gardner told this story and others to radio stations and he wrote a piece for the local paper. Then, he says, he received a phone call from John Hurley, the veterans organizer for Kerry's campaign. Hurley, Gardner says, asked him to come out for Kerry. He told Hurley to leave him alone and that he'd never be for Kerry. It was then Gardner says, he was threatened with, "You better watch your step. We can look into your finances."

Next, Gardner said he received a call from Douglas Brinkley, the author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. Brinkley told Gardner he was calling only to "fact check" the book -- which was already in print. "I told him that the guy in the book is not the same guy I served with. I told him Kerry was a coward. He would patrol the middle of the river. The canals were dangerous. He wouldn't go there unless he had another boat pushing him."

Days later, Brinkley called again, warning Gardner to expect some calls. It seems Brinkley had used the "fact checking" conversation to write an inflammatory article about Gardner for Time.com. The article, implying that Gardner was politically motivated, appeared under the headline "The 10th Brother."

Twenty-four hours later, Gardner got an e-mail from his company, Millennium Information Services, informing him that his services would no longer be necessary. He was laid off in an e-mail -- by the same man who only days before had congratulated him for his exemplary work in a territory which covered North and South Carolina. The e-mail stated that his position was being eliminated. Since then, he's seen the company advertising for his old position. Gardner doesn't have the money to sue to get the job back.

We're reluctant to be too quick to conclude that this was a political hit job by despicable low-lifes who would rob a man of his livelihood and jeopardize his family in order to gain revenge on him for exercising his rights and duty as a citizen. It may actually be a coincidence that all this happened to him when it did and in the manner that it did.

And maybe there really is a tooth fairy.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Mathew Shepard

Andrew Sullivan directs us to this interesting article on the Mathew Shepard murder. The reader may remember that Shepard was a homosexual who was brutally murdered after leaving a nightspot with two other men. The crime became a cause celebre among those pushing for hate crime legislation as well as those who wished to portray America as a hot-bed of homophobia.

It turns out that the sordid facts of the case don't lend themselves to either of these purposes.

Modern Marvel

This story tells of a woman who had been paralyzed for twenty years who is now able to walk at least a little as a result of stem cell therapy. This is wonderful news and a partial vindication of President Bush's stance on stem cell research. The cells which were used were taken from umbilical cord blood, not human embryos.

Perhaps one of the most astonishing things about the report is that this woman was able to get up out of her wheel chair despite the fact that John Kerry and John Edwards were not elected on November 2nd.

Academics v. Intellectuals

The Philosophers' Magazine features an article from The Australian which discusses the thoughts of philosopher A.C. Grayling on the difference between academics and intellectuals:

[T]he great Renaissance humanists worked outside the universities, as do today's intellectuals. This makes me much more optimistic about the intellectual tenor of public life than critics of dumbing-down such as Furedi, Wheen and the rest. Grayling argues that surprisingly few university academics in the English-speaking world are intellectuals "in the sense of having wide interests of the mind and deep commitments in moral and political terms, often together with a vocation for deploying these in debate about matters of public concern". A university academic is a specialist in a narrow field who publishes, usually in jargon, technical research in journals of interest only to other specialists.

"Modern academia, on the non-science side, thus reprises the condition of Renaissance universities uncomfortably closely. Contemporary intellectuals inhabit journalism, the media, publishing, non-government organisations; they are writers or artists, commentators or independent entrepreneurs in forms of business related to the media and arts. While many of these intellectuals contribute substantially to the shaping of cultural life, their academic contemporaries pass their time obscurely multiplying footnotes to unreadable, unread and soon forgotten papers."

Ouch! In other words, modern academics, or at least a substantial portion of them, have devoted their lives to a completely pointless pursuit of the trivial and insignificant. One wonders how a haughty author of numerous papers and books that no one has read or cares about reacts to the charge that his life's work is a meaningless waste of time. Not equably, we suspect.

Peter Singer and Might Makes Right

Marvin Olasky does an interview with Peter Singer, the Australian born ethicist now teaching at Princeton, and offers some interesting commentary on Singer's radical views.

Don't expect Peter Singer to be quoted heavily on the issue that roiled the Nov. 2 election, same-sex marriage. That for him is intellectual child's play, already logically decided, and it's time to move on to polyamory. While politicians debate the definition of marriage between two people, Mr. Singer argues that any kind of "fully consensual" sexual behavior involving two people or 200 is ethically fine.

For example, when I asked him last month about necrophilia (what if two people make an agreement that whoever lives longest can have sexual relations with the corpse of the person who dies first?), he said, "There's no moral problem with that." Concerning bestiality (should people have sex with animals, seen as willing participants?), he responded, "I would ask, 'What's holding you back from a more fulfilling relationship?' [but] it's not wrong inherently in a moral sense."

If the 21st century becomes a Singer century, we will also see legal infanticide of born children who are ill or who have ill older siblings in need of their body parts. Question: What about parents conceiving and giving birth to a child specifically to kill him, take his organs, and transplant them into their ill older children? Mr. Singer: "It's difficult to warm to parents who can take such a detached view, [but] they're not doing something really wrong in itself." Is there anything wrong with a society in which children are bred for spare parts on a massive scale? "No."

When we had lunch a month after our initial interview and I read back his answers to him, he said he would be "concerned about a society where the role of some women was to breed children for that purpose," but he stood by his statements. He also reaffirmed that it would be ethically OK to kill 1-year-olds with physical or mental disabilities, although ideally the question of infanticide would be "raised as soon as possible after birth."

He has consistently tossed aside the Declaration of Independence concept that all of us are created equal. Instead, the worth of a life varies according to its rationality and self-consciousness, with no essential divide between animals and humans. For example, given a choice between keeping alive an adult chimpanzee and a human infant, the chimp should beat out the child. He has also thrown out the historical distinction between liberty and license (as in, licentious behavior): Any activity is ethical as long as it is consensual.

Professor Singer's views are shocking but they shouldn't be. He is simply living out, more consistently than most, the implications of an atheistic worldview. Olasky quotes Whittaker Chambers who wrote a half-century ago that, "Man without God is a beast, and never more beastly than when he is most intelligent about his beastliness."

Professor Singer, we say, is more consistent than most atheists but that is not to say that he is totally consistent. He does seem to think that some things are wrong, for example abusing animals, but here he fails to follow the logic of his assumptions. If he's correct about there being no moral authority outside of our own autonomous selves then moral categories like right and wrong are meaningless and empty of content. There are only things that we desire to do and to say that to impose upon those acts some moral value is arbitrary and gratuitous.

Naturalism offers man no moral anchor to keep him from drifting toward whatever behavior his feelings and impulses incline him. Whatever we can do is "right" to do. If Singer were totally consistent, he would simply say that the only ethical system which makes any sense, given his worldview, is the one which says that might makes "right."

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Alexander the Terrible

We had decided sometime ago that seeing Oliver Stone's Alexander the Great would be an inexcusable waste of time and money. Victor David Hanson agrees:

Well, I thought it was simply terrible. The film goes on for nearly three hours, but we hear nothing of what either supporters or detractors of Alexander, both ancient and modern, have agreed were the central issues of his life. Did he really believe in a unity of mankind, and were his mass mixed marriages, Persian dress, and kowtowing cynical, sincere, or delusions of megalomania? We see nothing of the siege of Tyre, Gaza, much less Thebes or even the burning of Persepolis. Other than the talking head Ptolemy, none of his generals have much of a character. There is nothing really in detail about the page purging other than a single reference; Stone, I would have thought, could have had a field day with Alexander's introduction of both crucifixion and decimation.

The Gedrosian desert gets a few seconds. And what was the elephant scene in the jungle? Was that supposed to be dirty fighting in India, or the battle at the Hydaspes-which in fact was a brilliant Macedonian victory? The elephants were visually good, but without context or significance. So since Stone omitted the controversial and key issues of Alexander's career, what do we get instead for at least over two thirds of the movie? Mostly sit-com drama, with gay and bi- subplots, in various bedrooms and banquet halls. Olympias was something out of a teen-aged vampire movie, not the sophisticated and conniving royal we read about in the sources. It is the old Dallas or Falcon Crest glossy pulp in Macedonian drag. Stone's Alexander is a pouty, wimpy bore; the real figure, whatever your thoughts on him, was a killer and a fearful man of action. Gladiator's Maximus was a far more engaging and forceful character-and that was a far better film as well.

There is also irony here. If we remember the embarrassing Troy, we are beginning to see, that all for all the protestations of artistic excellence and craftsmanship, Hollywood has become mostly a place of mediocrity, talentless actors and writers who spout off about politics in lieu of having any real accomplishment in their own field. I've heard so many inane things mouthed by Stone that I would like someone at last to address this question-why would supposedly smart insiders turn over $160 million to someone of such meager talent to make such an embarrassing film? Alexander the Great is third-rate Cecil B. Demille in drag.

We're glad we passed it up.


Kudos to David Wayne at Jollyblogger for calling our attention to the Reformed view of predestination and for doing such a fine job of laying out the case for it. He admits in his piece that the implications of the doctrine are difficult to reconcile with the concept of a perfectly just and good God, but the Bible seems clear, he argues, that some people are predestined to be saved and some are predestined to be lost and that whether we understand it or not that's where we have to take our stand.

We're not theologians here at Viewpoint, but we're not so sure that the words of the Bible actually demand this interpretation. It's possible to read the verses cited by Wayne as suggesting that those who freely accept Christ and are saved are, or have been, predestined to then go on to become sons of God. We grant that this may not be the plainest sense of the words, but when the plain sense doesn't make sense then it is sound exegesis to seek another sense. And if anything about this controversy is clear it is that the conjunction of the following two propositions does not make sense:

1) God is good, just, and merciful.

2) God intentionally creates some people to suffer eternal torment.

One Calvinist reply to the apparent contradiction between these two claims is to quote Paul who asks "does the clay ask the potter why have you made me thus", but this seems an inadequate response to a very perplexing question. Clay pots are not conscious. They don't feel and suffer, much less do they endure for eternity. Human beings are more than clay. For a conscious eternal soul, capable of profound suffering and anguish, to be placed upon this earth simply to suffer forever is completely alien to any notion of justice or goodness of which we are capable of conceiving.

One way around the difficulty, some have suggested, is to maintain that the "lost" do not suffer for eternity but rather are annihilated upon death. This may indeed be better, but one still wonders how denying some individuals eternal happiness is either good, just, or merciful when the individual had no ability to choose that destiny for himself.

Wayne points out that the possibility mentioned above, that God only predestines those who freely choose His salvation, doesn't help exonerate God of the charge of being cruel since it still leaves His goodness open to question. If God foreknew who would accept salvation and who wouldn't, but nevertheless went ahead and created those He knew would ultimately choose to reject His offer of salvation, He would still be open to the charge of cruelty or malevolence.

Perhaps Wayne has gotten himself tangled in the web of His Reformed theology and can't get out of one difficulty without enmeshing himself in another. In this case he's entangled by the Reformed doctrine of Divine sovereignty which holds that every single detail of creation was foreordained and predetermined. It may be, however, that God doesn't deliberately and willfully create every individual who has lived on earth, any more than He directly causes every event that happens to a person in his lifetime. Perhaps God only created the progenitors of mankind. The individual progeny of the original creation may be a result of chance and human volition. If so, God would be absolved of the charge of cruelty since He did not cause the birth of any particular individual nor did He foreordain that any given individual would spurn His love.

Another possibility is that God simply doesn't know what free beings are going to choose to do in their future (See a fuller discussion of this possibility here). Such knowledge may be beyond the capabilities even of a Being who possesses omniscience, just as the ability to create a world in which it would be true to say that God did not create it is beyond the scope of Divine omnipotence.

In any event, the question of exactly what Scripture is referring to when it mentions predestination is very puzzling and every potential resolution carries with it its own set of problems. Some Christians argue that whether our eternal destiny is predetermined or not makes no practical difference since each of us has to live as if we are free agents responsible for our own choices. This is true, of course, but the importance of the question lies not in its significance for our individual salvation, rather it lies in its apologetic significance. Those hostile to the Christian faith have long used the image of a cruel, malevolent deity gleefully creating beings for no greater purpose than to spend eternity condemned to torment and agony as a powerful tool with which to discredit Christianity. It's an image of God that makes Him seem more like Saddam Hussein than the source of love and goodness. It's an image that Christians must dispel, and so we must not throw up our hands and say the problem is too mysterious to be solved. We need to work at solving it.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Beyond Dirty Politics

This is extremely weird. Go to Drudge to look at the before and after pictures of Viktor Yushchenko, the challenger in the disputed Ukrainian election, and then read the story here.

And Americans were outraged at reports that people had voted multiple times and that some ballots weren't counted. This is an entirely new twist in the evolution of negative campaigning.

The Battle of Fallujah

The Ledger-Enquirer.com has a day by day account of the battle for Fallujah. It's not pretty, but it's an outstanding piece of journalism.

Wrong Values

Dennis Prager undertakes to answer the question, how did a party filled with people with "values" become identified as the party without values. His reply to the question pretty much says it all. Here's an excerpt:

To most Americans, Michael Moore is a Marxist who has utter contempt for most of his fellow Americans, who goes abroad and tells huge audiences how stupid and venal his country is, and in his dishonest propaganda film, portrays the American military as callous buffoons. Yet, this radical was given the most honored seat at the Democratic Party convention in Boston, next to former President Jimmy Carter.

To most Americans, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are race-baiting demagogues. Yet they are heroes to the Democratic Party. Most Americans do not see their country as the bigoted and racist nation regularly depicted by both black and white Democratic leaders.

To most Americans, a man who wears women's clothing to work is a pathetic person in need of psychotherapy. To the Democratic Party, he is a man whose cross-dressing is merely another expression of multiculturalism. The California legislature, which is entirely controlled by Democrats, passed a law prohibiting any employer from firing a man who shows up to work wearing women's clothing.

To most Americans, Eminem is a vulgar nihilist who poisons young Americans' minds. To John Kerry he was a man whose anti-Bush hate video was worthy of endorsement.

As long as these people are the face of the Democratic party, the average Democrat is going to feel like Ronald Reagan and Zell Miller did, that the party had left them in its rear-view mirror. As long as these people personify what it means to be a Democrat, voters in the heartland are going to find it difficult to pull the lever for Democratic candidates. The values embodied by the leadership of the party are the values which define the party. The Democratic leadership, its spokespersons, its big donors, and its celebrities largely embrace the values of Hollywood, trash culture, and the far political left, but these are not the values, at least not yet, of a majority of Americans. It's not that the Democrats are the party without values, it's that they are the party with the wrong values.

Read the rest. It's very good.

Good News From Iraq #15

Arthur Chrenkoff has his 15th edition of Good News From Iraq up and there's a ton of it. Just a couple of items from this fortnight's edition:

"Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, has secured assurances from various countries, including the U.K. and Germany, that they would support the cancellation of a large part of Iraq's $120 billion foreign debt burden. However, the pledge was only partial. 'We're not talking about just forgiving debts; we can't be that generous anymore,' said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. 'But we do want to make sure that Iraq's substantial resources aren't used just to pay off debt, but to rebuild the country. We want to contribute to that.'

This is an incredible development that the MSM is evidently dumbfounded by since they've said next to nothing about it. We can be sure that had, say, the Clinton administration secured such a diplomatic coup the media would be chiseling his visage in the side of Mt. Rushmore even as we speak.

And there's this from Stan Coerr, a Marine helicopter pilot who went into Iraq in the first wave of the Coalition troops. Coerr reflected recently on the significance and purpose of America's mission:

"For years, you have watched the same large, violent man come home every night, and you have listened to his yelling and the crying and the screams of children and the noise of breaking glass, and you have always known that he was beating his wife and his children. Everyone on the block has known it. You ask, cajole, threaten and beg him to stop, on behalf of the rest of the neighborhood. Nothing works. After listening to it for 13 years, you finally gather up the biggest, meanest guys you can find, you go over to his house, and you kick the door down. You punch him in the face and drag him away. The house is a mess, the family poor and abused - but now there is hope. You did the right thing.

"I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis."

One cannot reflect upon this report by Chrenkoff, taken in its entirety, without thinking that the United States, despite its historical black marks, is the greatest nation ever to grace this planet, and that the American people, our many shortcomings notwithstanding, are among the greatest people ever to inhabit the earth.

Post Script

If no one objects, I'd like to add a Post Script to my previous article on The U.S. Dollar vs. Gold to address the question of plausibility. It's interesting to note that only several years ago, articles like the one I presented were relatively scarce and when found, were often quickly dismissed as the rantings of crackpot folk on the fringe. Yes, Doom 'n Gloomers, to be sure. Always pessimistic...always believing the sky would start falling at any moment. For the reader to even consider the plausibility of such a scenario would mean they were just as nutty as the author.

Times have changed since then for several reasons, 1.) The very issues in question haven't gone away, rather, they have become more severe with increasingly disastrous implications gaining in probability. 2.) Respectable people in the mainstream with established credibility are starting to make the same observations and express their concerns. 3.) We're starting to hear rumblings from Asia, Russia, and even South America that maybe it's not such a great idea that their reserves be so fully invested in U.S. dollars and the time may have come to reduce risk to the dollar through diversification.

Today it's easy to find articles on the Internet and other media from people growing increasingly concerned about the condition of the U.S. Dollar. Here are links to just a few...

Warren Buffett - perhaps the most successful investor of all time.

Why I'm not buying the U.S. dollar. America's growing trade deficit is selling the nation out from under us. Here's a way to fix the problem -- and we need to do it now.
By Warren E. Buffett,

...Both as an American and as an investor, I actually hope these commitments prove to be a mistake. Any profits Berkshire might make from currency trading would pale against the losses the company and our shareholders, in other aspects of their lives, would incur from a plunging dollar.

But as head of Berkshire Hathaway, I am in charge of investing its money in ways that make sense. And my reason for finally putting my money where my mouth has been so long is that our trade deficit has greatly worsened, to the point that our country's "net worth," so to speak, is now being transferred abroad at an alarming rate.

... In effect, our country has been behaving like an extraordinarily rich family that possesses an immense farm. In order to consume 4 percent more than we produce -- that's the trade deficit -- we have, day by day, been both selling pieces of the farm and increasing the mortgage on what we still own. Why I'm not buying the U.S. dollar

Bill Gross - managing director of Pimco, the worlds largest bond fund handling several hundred billion dollars. He offers some very good points here but I must say, his recommendations at the end leave me a little confused.

From the link: John Snow and Allen Greenspan have finally bowed to the inevitable. Instead of blocking the lane in defense of a Shaq Attack slam dunk, they have politely if somewhat obfuscatingly stepped aside. "Put it down brother" they seem to be saying but it's the dollar and not a round ball that they're referring to. The dollar has gone down. The dollar is going down. The dollar will continue to go down because it's the easiest way out (for the U.S.) to begin to rectify its imbalanced finance-based economy. Balance the budget? Fugitaboutit. Raise interest rates to historic norms? Fugitaboutthattoo. "Let the market decide," Snow says. "Likewise," chimes Greenspan, warning that sooner or later foreign lenders will not be so exuberant in their purchase of U.S. Treasury bonds. Perhaps they'll be a little less irrational with their money he might have thought but that's a word he doesn't use anymore. And so the market's most crowded trade-short the dollar - will inevitably become a little more crowded, perhaps irrational itself at some point. There is a whiff of crisis in the air. Too Much!

Allan Greenspan - Chairman of U.S. Federal Reserve

Given the size of the US current account deficit, a diminished appetite for adding to dollar balances must occur at some point," Mr. Greenspan told a banking conference in Frankfurt. "International investors will eventually adjust their accumulation of dollar assets or, alternatively, seek higher dollar returns to offset concentration risk, elevating the cost of financing the US current account deficit and rendering it increasingly less tenable." The deficit has ballooned to more than 5% of gross domestic product, or $166bn in the second quarter of the year, driven by Americans' appetite for imports and flows of money into US financial assets, particularly bonds. The dollar has been sliding against other major currencies for a couple of years but its fall has accelerated since the re-election of President Bush this month as markets refocused on the current account and budget deficits. The large tax cuts of Mr. Bush's first term have driven the government's budget deficit to record levels. Speech to G20

Ron Paul - Congressman 14th District of Texas (My opinion - One of the very few honest politicians alive.)

Congress has become like the drunk who promises to sober up tomorrow, if only he can keep drinking today. Does anyone really believe this will be the last time, that Congress will tighten its belt if granted one last loan? What a joke! There is only one approach to dealing with an incorrigible spendthrift: cut him off. Congress wastes hundred of billions of dollars every year on countless agencies and programs. Rather than raising the federal government's credit limit, Congress easily could mandate cuts in the existing bloated budget. Raising the Debt Limit- A Disgrace

W Joseph Stroupe - Editor in Chief Global Events Magazine

President Vladimir Putin has stated both publicly and privately that invoicing Russia's crude-oil and gas exports to the European Union in euros instead of in dollars makes very good sense for both Russia and the EU.

... If Russia is perhaps positioning itself to make even a partial exit from the dollar in the pricing of its petro-transactions, then the Asian and other economies don't want to risk being left out in the cold, unprepared, seeing the value of their own huge dollar reserves undermined by a steep or chaotic decline in the value of the dollar. They cannot afford to ignore Russia's moves. Hence as Russia moves to decrease the percentage of its own holdings of dollars, so are the big Asian economies, as well as many other economies around the globe. No one wants to get burned in the event Russia moves to the euro. Additionally, as the dollar continues to weaken and crude oil continues to rise in price, having the dollar as the preferred international currency for petro-transactions will become more of a liability, especially for the big Asian economies, which are heavy importers of crude oil. This fact will tend to further undermine Asian, as well as the rest of international support for the dollar. Crisis towers over the dollar

Friday, November 26, 2004


We shouldn't do this, and if we had even a modicum of either humility or dignity we wouldn't, but since we have neither we are inviting our readers to consider entering Viewpoint into nomination for a weblog award at 2004 Weblog Awards.

There are a number of categories into which we fit, and we would be grateful to be nominated in one or more of them, if for no other reason than that it would give us greater exposure. We'd do it ourselves, but we have to draw the line against shameless self-promotion somewhere. If you need our URL it's www.wscleary.com/pov/home. Thanks.

Talk Radio

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has a lot to say about talk radio that others of us have been thinking for a long time. He offers essentially four reasons why talk radio seems to be losing its luster: It's politically or ideologically monolithic; it wastes far too much time on commercials and other extraneous, mind-numbing noise which are the talk-radio version of Chinese water-torture and which occupy about half of every hour of air time; the callers are too often either sycophants or banal; and, though it may be heresy among conservatives to say it, the big-time hosts are beginning to grow threadbare.

We confess that we often listen to talk radio when we're driving alone, and frequently find it very informative. Nevertheless every one of Carter's complaints is on the mark. Take, for example, the last.

Rush has for years been a national treasure, but more recently he seems to have become too convinced of his own self-importance. In the early years this was his shtick, now it seems to be his truth. On those occasions when he's not off on a trip somewhere he too often gives the impression that his show has been reduced to a mere sideline in his life. He's still good at pointing out the contradictions of contemporary liberalism, but his program is no longer as richly entertaining as it once was. Perhaps this is because he has allowed himself to become too much a caricature of the fat-cat, cigar-chomping, country-club Republican. His fondness for name-dropping and lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous exploits have become tiresome and are of little or no interest or relevance to the majority of his audience.

Rush is in many ways an admirable person, having risen to the top through dint of hard work and having persevered through a number of very difficult crises in his personal life, but despite his disclaimers, he seems to be taking both his show and his audience for granted.

Sean Hannity seems like a good guy, but he's especially hard to take on the radio. Every conversation is an opportunity for him to talk about himself in tones that ooze a faux humility. He likes to say that it's not about him, but, in fact, it seems to be all about him. His debating style is extremely confrontational and unpleasant. His preferred tactic is to refuse to let a guest speak and to step all over whatever words the unfortunate interlocutor does manage to sputter. It's quite unedifying.

A listener might like to hear a reasoned discussion when Sean has a liberal guest on, but that's pretty much hopeless. Hannity isn't interested in discussion, he's interested mostly in just pummeling his adversary into oblivion. He regards conversation as a kind of combat waged with clubs rather than as an attempt to increase the audience's understanding of the issues he's debating and to help them move closer to the truth. When Sean features a conservative guest with whom he agrees he often spends much of the allotted time talking, usually about himself, and leaves the guest relatively little time to say much of anything before the station has to break for commercials.

None of this isn't to suggest that neither Limbaugh or Hannity aren't still tremendous national assets. They are, but one wonders if, like great athletes, they aren't moving past their peak. Conservative talk radio has been a wonderful boon to this country. It has provided millions of Americans with information that was easily accessible nowhere else and has served to galvanize conservative citizens around a set of ideas that many found difficult to articulate themselves and which many also assumed no one else held. Even so, despite all its virtues, talk-radio is in jeopardy of becoming tired and old. It would be a shame if that were to happen.

The Silence of the Lambs

Bridget Johnson in Opinion Journal notices that Hollywood has been strangely silent about the brutal murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam.

One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding � la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we've heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying. Indeed Hollywood has long walked on eggshells regarding the topic of Islamic fundamentalism. The film version of Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears" changed Palestinian terrorists to neo-Nazis out of a desire to avoid offending Arabs or Muslims.

The war on terror is a Tinsel Town taboo, even though a Hollywood Reporter poll showed that roughly two-thirds of filmgoers surveyed would pay to see a film on the topic. In a recent conversation with a struggling liberal screenwriter, I brought up the Clancy film as an example of Hollywood shying away from what really affects filmgoers--namely, the al Qaeda threat vs. the neo-Nazi threat. He vehemently defended the script switch. "It's an easy target," he said of Arab terrorism, repeating this like a parrot, then adding, "It's a cheap shot."

How many American moviegoers would think that scripting Arab terrorists as the enemy in a fiction film is a "cheap shot"? In fact, it's realism; it's what touches lives world-wide. It's this disconnect with filmgoers that has left the Hollywood box office bleeding by the side of the road.

Ms Johnson sees a slavish devotion to the dictates of political correctness as the culprit. Maybe she's right. Or maybe van Gogh's murder carried a message that wasn't lost on our courageous Hollywood film makers: It's a lot easier, and safer, to confine your political efforts to telling lies about George Bush than to tell the truth about Islamo-fascism.

They Can Run But They Can't Hide

Recent reports of the assassinations of Sunni clerics have been sparking speculation as to who is behind their deaths. Here's the Strategy Page's take:

In the last week, two members of the Sunni Arab Association of Muslim Scholars have been assassinated. The Association has taken the lead in preaching resistance to the new government, elections and any Shia control of the government. This has caused much anger among the Shia majority. While many Shia have expressed this anger by joining the police or army, others have formed death squads, and gone after notorious murderers and hate mongers in the Sunni Arab community. This includes many Sunni Arab preachers. Shia Arabs and Kurds have thousands of names of Sunni Arabs who personally took part in supporting Saddam's decades of repression. Nearly all of these Sunni Arabs have fled to the traditionally Sunni areas in, around, and to the west of, Baghdad. But Shia death squads have been going in and killing the murderers and preachers of hate.

There are plenty of recent murders and atrocities to motivate these killers. Sunni Arab gangs have taken to setting up roadblocks and stopping Shia Arab or Kurd drivers, and torturing or killing them. The Shia get the most attention, because Sunni Arab clerics preach that Shia are heretics and blasphemers. This is a common attitude among Sunni Arabs, but usually does not result in violence. An exception is the Wahabi form of Sunni Islam. The Wahabi strain is popular in Saudi Arabia, and among al Qaeda members, and has become common among Iraqi Sunni Arabs as well.

Belmont Club has some interesting observations on al Zarqawi's fading fortunes. Among them is this:

A report from Jordan...gives Zarqawi ten days to capitulate or else his money will be confiscated. From the context, it appears the Jordanians are holding some of his property in connection with an earlier Zarqawi attack mounted inside Jordan. The interesting tidbit is that Zarqawi's money is within reach of the US.

"The Jordanian Security Court has given 10 days for the Jordanian fundamentalist leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi and three other men to turn themselves in for plotting attacks in Jordan. According to Jordanian papers publishing the Court's ultimatum, if Zarqawi and the three men, each of whom have a $25 million bounty on them from the United States, do not capitulate, the US administration will confiscate their property holdings."

The Fourth Rail has a report that overlaps with and draws from Belmont Club's analysis, but also features additional material:

Two separate reports, one from the Associated press, and another from ABC News (via Belmont Club), indicated that al Qaeda may be encountering difficulties due to recent operations in the Sunni Triangle. Abu Musab al-Zarqari, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, is angry at Muslim leaders for not doing enough to incite the faithful to take up the cause of Jihad.

An audiotape purportedly made by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi lashed out Wednesday at Muslim scholars for not speaking out against U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying they have "let us down in the darkest circumstances."

It was unclear whether the tape posted Wednesday on the Internet was intended as a direct threat against Iraq's Sunni religious establishment, who have come under attack recently with the slaying this week of two Sunni clerics by gunmen.

"You have let us down in the darkest circumstances and handed us over to the enemy. ... You have quit supporting the mujahedeen," said the voice on the tape, purported to be al-Zarqawi's. "Hundreds of thousands of the nation's sons are being slaughtered at the hands of the infidels because of your silence."

"You made peace with the tyranny and handed over the countries and the people to the Jews and Crusaders ... when you resort to silence on their crimes ... and when you prevented youth from heading to the battlefields in order to defend the religion," he said.

"Instead of implementing God's orders, you chose your safety and preferred your money and sons. You left the mujahedeen facing the strongest power in the world," he said. "Are not your hearts shaken by the scenes of your brothers being surrounded and hurt by your enemy?"

Moral support may not be the only problems for the insurgency and al Qaeda in Iraq. They are actively begging for manpower and leadership from Afghanis, Chechens, Palestinians and others sympathetic to the cause. The loss of Fallujah and the continuing operations in the Sunni Triangle may be having a devastating effect on enemy command, control and communications.

The new message opens with a plea for advice from Palestinian and Chechen militants as well as Osama bin Laden supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "We face many problems," it reads in Arabic, "and need your military guidance since you have more experience."

The problems, the message says, are the result of losing the insurgent safe haven of Fallujah to U.S. troops. It says the insurgency was hampered as checkpoints and raids spread "to every city and road." Communications broke down as insurgents were forced to spread out through the country. The arrest of some of their military experts, more "spies willing to help the enemy," and a dwindling supply of arms also added to the organizational breakdown, it reads. But the message also lists new "advantages," claiming insurgent groups are spreading -- to Mosul, Tikrit, Baghdad, and as far south as Basra.

The United States' military appears to have the bad guys on the run. The only question is how patient the American people will be in the face of continuing casualties. The elections on January 30th will tell us a lot about both the prospects for the future of Iraq and whether the public will stick with the project of planting another democracy (along with Turkey) in the heart of the Islamic world. One thing is almost certain. If we pull out Islamo-fascism will not only prevail in Iraq it will be an irresistible tide throughout the Arab world. Muslims everywhere will see our withdrawal as a sign from Allah that the end of the infidel is near, that Islamism is vindicated, and there will be no stopping it. Our withdrawal would be a disaster for the world.

Freedom On the March

There are serious events occurring in Ukraine these days which have been precipitated by what is almost universally believed to have been a fraudulent election manipulated to keep a corrupt, pro-Russian oligarchy in power. There is widespread belief that a reform candidate named Yushchenko actually won the election but had it stolen from him by the incumbents. This has produced huge protests in Kiev and elsewhere which threaten to topple the current administration. The police have even joined with the protesters who have through peaceful means managed to shut down the government.

For updates and details from a blogger who is an eyewitness in Kiev (and seems to be an American) go here. Instapundit is also following the events in Ukraine and has a lot of links to other sites.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Somethin' Happenin' Here

Captain's Quarters has caught wind of mysterious, and apparently very important, developments in North Korea:

Two wire service reports indicate that North Korea has made major changes in its normally fanatical approach to its sovereignty and security. Reuters informs its readers that the hermit nation has suddenly developed a sense of urgency about restarting the six-nation talks that Kim Jong-Il previously joined with great reluctance:

North Korea wants urgently to restart six-party talks on its nuclear programs but is still demanding of its certain conditions be met, a top U.N. official told South Korea's Yonhap news agency on Thursday. North Korea still agreed with the format of the talks, it quoted Jean Ping, president of the U.N. General Assembly, as saying. Officials told him during a visit that Pyongyang was committed to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, it said.

"North Korea not only agreed to the format of the talks but also believes that the talks should restart urgently," Ping was quoted as saying.

North Korea has hardly been a fan of the multilateral negotiations in the past. Their haste to return to the table sounds like someone else may be making the decisions now, an impression that only gains currency with this report from the French news agency AFP. Not only have Kim's pictures been removed from public places in Pyongyang, they've also been pulled from the lapels of traveling Northerners:

South Korea's Unification Ministry confirmed that lapel badges of Kim are no longer being worn by North Koreans travelling from the Stalinist state to China on official business. In the past, they wore either a badge portraying Kim or a similar badge portraying his father, the Stalinist state's founder Kim Il-Sung who died in 1994.

"North Koreans travelling to and from China who formerly wore the badge of either Kim Il-Sung or Kim Jong-Il on their chests, have stopped wearing the Kim Jong-Il badge," Unification Ministry spokeswoman Yang Jong-Hwa told AFP, citing an internal report from the ministry's information analysis bureau.

The official party line has Kim issuing orders to put an end to the personality cult he transferred from his father to himself after assuming power. Up to now, the only indication of regime change has been the removal of Kim's pictures, and the official explanation at least sounded plausible. Now that their foreign policy has apparently evolved, the rumors of Kim's demise start taking on a bit more credibility. The Reuters article discusses the latest of them:

Rumors circulated in currency and stock markets in Seoul and Tokyo early on Thursday that Kim had been shot dead. "There have been various rumors about North Korea and some do have an impact on the market, but this time there's no reaction," said a foreign exchange dealer at a bank in Seoul.

Something has changed up there. Maybe Kim just decided to get humble after Bush's re-election, but with the nation starving to death and their neighbors aligning themselves with the US on their nuclear ambitions, one or more of the palace guard may have decided that their Nero needed to go.


The U.S. Dollar vs. Gold

Recently, brother Dick asked if I would write an article on what is, and has been, happening with the performance of the dollar vs. gold. I thought, gee, I have a degree in psychology and I've been a software engineer for the last fifteen years how can I comment with any degree of authority on said topic? Well, as it turns out, this subject is kind of a hobby of mine and I've been following it for some time. Actually, off and on since the late '70s.

Back in the '70s I had a garage business where I worked on cars for a living. One of my customers was an older guy who would buy used cars, bring them to me for repairs so they would meet state inspection, and then sell them on his used car lot.

He was a gold bug. A gold bug (I prefer the term: gold advocate) is a person who believes that gold is and always will be the only real money, that gold has been wrongfully displaced by the paper dollars that the Federal Reserve creates with a key press on a computer, and that some day gold will again be recognized and restored as the only real currency.

This guy had an impact on me. Through discussions with him, I came to understand the significance of gold. It's actually very simple. Gold is a true store of wealth. In the 1920s, a $20 gold coin (one ounce of gold) would purchase a fine men's suite which retailed for...$20. Today, that same $20 gold coin will still purchase a fine men's suite which retails for $450 because that is what an ounce of gold is worth at the time of this writing. The take home message is that over the long term, gold maintains its value against the ravages of government sanctioned debauchery of its currency. In earlier articles I spoke of many of the issues surrounding gold.

The fact of the matter is that the United States has become bankrupt. This is clearly apparent to even the casual observer who considers the twin deficits this once great country has acquired. These are the trade deficit which results from the U.S. importing more than 1/2 a trillion dollars more than it exports and the budget deficit which has resulted from the U.S. spending (borrowing) 1/2 a trillion dollars more than it generates in revenues. The situation is analogous to an individual who has massively over-extending their credit card. The U.S. must borrow $2 billion dollars from the rest of the word each and every day to finance its debt.

In addition to this is the fact that there exists a $50 trillion dollars in un-funded liabilities (that means there's no money to pay for the socialist style of government programs promised to Americans like Social Security, Medicare, etc.) which is due to become payable as the baby boomer generation begins to retire. See the abyss

This is a classic example of government gone wrong. It initiates socialist policies intended to "take care" of its citizens and ends up hurting them more than helping them. And so it ever is. I've said it before and I'll say it again, government has no business trying to "take care" of its citizens. That's the responsibility and mandate of the Church. If one could have every dollar they've paid to the government's accounts established for their "welfare", they'd be able to provide for their own retirement and wouldn't be in a position where they are depending on the government for their very existence only to be devastated by some bureaucrat's decision to break a promise.

If anyone reading this thinks their investments in the stock market are going to insulate them from this mess, ask yourself what the entire baby-boomer generation is going to do when as they begin to retire. They're going to start liquidating their investments in the stock market into cash because they're going to need it. This will cause the stock market to drop significantly and I doubt I'm the only one that suspects such an eventuality. Many investors, with more understanding than myself are aware of this issue also. I doubt they will stand by idly and watch their investments decline.

And speaking of retirement, I can't see how the majority of Americans will ever actually be able to retire. It's obvious that the government is going to renege on Social Security and Medical benefits. They won't say "you can't have what you have paid into for all of your working life." It will be more like "you can't have what you've paid for until your seventy years old...or seventy-five...or eighty... Consider just the financial burden of insurance. There's health insurance including medical, dental, and vision. People in their latter years will need this more than ever and they're in for a shock when the see what it will cost when it's no longer subsidized by they're employer. Add to this the cost of home-owner's insurance, life insurance, and car insurance. To be sure, the combined costs will be prohibitively expensive for people who are on fixed income or worse, without income. We've already reached a point today where these costs are prohibitively expensive for people who haven't even retired yet!

The new paradigm for many will be to work until they drop or live out their latter years in destitute poverty living a quality of life that is diminished because of poor health. I think it was the pirate, Black Beard who said: "them's that dies is the lucky ones." It could reasonably be interpreted that the government's withholding of benefits to people who have contributed to them throughout their entire working lives would be anything less than the killing off of those who can't meet these expenses.

The American citizen has a choice to make. They can continue to go bankrupt along with the U.S. by holding onto the paper dollars and dollar related investments like the stock market (just as the Germans did with the paper Mark in the '20s) See this link from an earlier post or they can trade that paper for real wealth...gold. Forget about investing in the Euro...it's just another paper charade just like the dollar. After all, it's not redeemable in anything of value. As Murray Rothbard said, "Fiat currency, by any other name smells just as sour."

It's interesting to consider that, since 2001, the U.S. dollar has been devalued by almost 30% against the basket of foreign currencies in the U.S. dollar index yet there has been little or no economic recovery. Historically, this would result in eventual economic recovery for any country in a similar situation as the cost of their exports would drop relative to foreign currencies and their manufacturing sector would surge, create new jobs, and pull them out of the dilemma. Obviously this has not been the case. Why?

There are two reasons that I can think of for why things are different this time. First, the U.S. has, for the most part, exported its manufacturing base overseas so there is no manufacturing sector left to do the heavy lifting and, secondly, some of the countries with which the U.S. maintains a trade deficit (in their wisdom) have pegged their currency to the U.S. dollar. This means that as the dollar drops, their currencies drop so no matter how low the U.S. dollar falls, our exports will not be attractively priced to these countries.

In either case, this is extremely significant as it implies that (A.) the laws of global economics are no longer relevant or (B.) they have apparently been suspended in lieu of a "new world order" or (C.) the party will eventually come to an end and life as we know it will be considerably different.

At this point I suspect I may have digressed from the topic I was asked to address so to gain a better understanding of the current state of the U.S. dollar see this article.

The good news is that the individual American citizen doesn't have to suffer the same economic fate as the U.S government. You are free to choose to salvage and ensure your wealth by breaking free of the paper mentality and acquiring gold which preserves wealth for ever. So while the prospect for increasing financial devastation occurs on a global level, the prudent individual has isolated themselves from the powers they have no control over by acquiring gold.

In 1980 gold reached a high of approximately $800 per ounce. When adjusted for inflation, today that would be equal to approximately $1900 per ounce. Given our current economic situation, one has to ask themselves why gold is at today's price of $450 and govern themselves accordingly.

At this link are two charts: one reflecting the price of gold and beneath it a chart reflecting the value of the U.S. dollar against currencies of other countries. They say more than I ever could about what is going on with the dollar vs. gold.

Keep in mind that gold is a long-term concept. For instance, in November of 2002 gold was at $320. Then it rose to $$380. Then it plummeted to $320 again. That's called volatility and you can't let it influence your thinking. Many who bought gold at $380 sold it at $320 thinking it was the worst investment they ever made. They were controlled by emotions rather than their reasoning and understanding. It's the trend that's important and it appears to me that the trend of gold is to increase in value over the long term. Today, gold is at $450 (I wonder what those folks who sold at $320 are thinking now.) and could very possibly drop to $420 again where it was in April of this year. That too shouldn't influence your thinking. Gold advocates acquire gold and hold on to it for the long term. Gold is the metal of kings, a true store of wealth, and protection from the ravages of governments.

Thanks for reading,


Thanksgiving Proclamation

Hugh Hewitt has posted an historical document which your child will not be allowed to read in school. Doubtless if any public school teacher was so insensitive as to post this on the classroom bulletin board he or she would be compelled to remove it. We offer it to you, in part, as a way of sticking our thumb in the eye of the censorious mullahs who run our educational bureaucracy and in part so that we may all have a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the context in which Thanksgiving originated:

General Thanksgiving

By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America



WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Happy Thanksgiving,


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Administrative Asininity

The Drudge Report links us to this Reuters News article which simply confirms Viewpoint's claim yesterday that examples of bone-headed public school administrative decisions seem to be proliferating across the nation at an alarming pace.

Unless there's a lot more to this story than what we're told, the California elementary school principle in question is evidently not one of the brighter luminaries in the scholastic firmament.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

"It's a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful," said Williams' attorney, Terry Thompson.

"Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country," he said. "There is nothing in the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence."

Vidmar could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in San Jose and claims violations of Williams rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

Phyllis Vogel, assistant superintendent for Cupertino Unified School District, said the lawsuit had been forwarded to a staff attorney. She declined to comment further.

Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."

"He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote," said Thompson, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which advocates for religious freedom. "The principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity and it is pure discrimination."

We'd doubtless have more examples tomorrow of administrative asininity except there's no school for the next four days. All the administrators will be home solemnly giving thanks to John Dewey or Horace Mann, or Alfred Kinsey, or somebody, before they carve into their turkeys.

A Revolutionary President

Charles Krauthammer has an interesting piece on why George Bush's second term is unique in recent presidential history and why Bush has an opportunity to be among the most consequential presidents ever. The gist of it is here:

There is an unusual feature to the second Bush Administration that is extraordinarily important but has been almost entirely overlooked. For the first time in a half-century, a two-term presidency will end without sending out its Vice President to seek a mandate for succession at the next election. Vice President Cheney will not run for the presidency, and everyone knows it. When these eight years are over, the Bush-Cheney Administration will simply close up shop.

[T]he fact that Bush-Cheneyism will never have to seek popular ratification again gives Bush unique freedom of action. Which, in the hands of a President with unusually ambitious goals, will yield perhaps the most energetic - to some, the most dangerous - presidency of our lifetime. Bush is fully aware of his situation. Hence the remarkable alacrity with which, after the election, he seized the moment. No two-month vacation to unwind. No waiting for the January Inauguration to set the agenda. He waited but two days to lay claim not just to victory but to a mandate.

Then, even more audacity. He not only claimed his mandate. He defined it right on the spot. Seizing the third rail of American politics, he promised to reform Social Security with, at minimum, partial privatization. He then added his intention to radically redo the tax code - which includes entertaining such ideas as entirely abolishing the Internal Revenue Service by going to a national sales tax. You cannot get more radical than that. His subsidiary aims, earthshaking in any other context but almost minor in this one, are kneecapping the lawsuit industry with serious tort reform and installing a conservative judiciary that will long outlive his presidency.

[T]he President is taking control of his government. In a country where the bureaucracy is so entrenched that the government is often at war with itself, that is revolutionary. As is the man in charge. Bush is marshaling his forces for the single-minded pursuit of a foreign policy rooted in a radical idea: the spread of democracy, particularly in the Middle East. That means unrelenting pursuit of the war on terrorism and no flinching on Iraq. Those who thought a re-elected Bush might reverse course and seek an exit strategy have been sobered by everything that has happened since Election Day.

This sounds like the next four years will be fun to watch, unless you're a Democrat - or an Islamist.

The Darwinians and John Kerry

Thomas Woodward, writing for Christianity Today.com reviews the cover story on Darwinian evolution in the recent National Geographic. Woodward's review implicitly illuminates the Darwinians' strategy for dealing with the competing theory known as Intelligent Design. The strategy seems to be: Ignore it as if it doesn't exist as long as possible, and, when it must be mentioned, simply declare that it has been thoroughly discredited.

This strategy removes both the necessity of actually having to confront the arguments raised by ID advocates and avoids publicizing the fact that such arguments exist. Very clever.

It sounds quite a lot, though, like the strategy the Kerry campaign adopted to deal with the Swift Vet allegations. The tactic worked poorly for the senator, and it remains to be seen how well it will serve the Darwinians. We suspect that they will find what Senator Kerry found: Unless you actually explain why your opponents' criticisms are wrong, people just are not going to believe you when you insist that they are.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Helping Our Kids

Here's a great way we can all support our young soldiers and Marines overseas and help keep their morale up. The USO, with the help of AT&T, is running a program whereby they provide phone cards for our servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan to enable them to make calls home.

Each card costs fifteen dollars (AT&T is not making any profit from the cards). We can purchase cards for donation (as many as we wish)to military personnel by dialing 1-877-522-7000 and charging the cost to our credit card. The USO will see that the cards are delivered.

It's the very least we can do.

Keeping Abreast of the War

Belmont Club, Strategy Page, The Fourth Rail, and Adventures of Chester continue to provide fascinating insight, reportage, and analysis of the current military situation in Iraq. A visit to any of these sites will produce a lot of very interesting and informative reading.

Uneducated Educators

Stories of bone-headed public school administrators are frequently in the news. Here's one at Captain's Quarters about an administrator in Maryland who will not permit any mention of the fundamental significance of Thanksgiving:

Young students across the state read stories about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, simulate Mayflower voyages, hold mock feasts and learn about the famous meal that temporarily allied two very different groups.

But what teachers don't mention when they describe the feast is that the Pilgrims not only thanked the Native Americans for their peaceful three-day indulgence, but repeatedly thanked God.

"We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective," said Charles Ridgell, St. Mary's County Public Schools curriculum and instruction director. School administrators statewide agree, saying religion never coincides with how they teach Thanksgiving to students.

Of course not. Why teach students that Thanksgiving was historically a religious observance? Why teach students that it began as an expression of thankfulness to God and was officially proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln to be a day of gratitude to God? We can't do this, these administrators are convinced, because that would be to graft a religious lesson onto a history lesson, and somehow, they intuit, that would be wrong.

Perhaps someone will inform these "educators" that by teaching about Thanksgiving "from a purely historical perspective" they are making nonsense of both the day and its history. Mr. Ridgell evidently thinks that one can isolate historical events from their context and still teach history, as if the events can be understood apart from the circumstances which cause them. Who or what does Mr. Ridgell think the pilgrims were thanking? How meaningful is any historical discussion of Thanksgiving apart from an accurate understanding of its purpose?

We wish we could say that Mr. Ridgell is in the minority among school administrators and bureaucrats, but we suspect he is not. There are, of course, many fine people in school administration, but too many of them, for all their degrees, are often among the least well-educated individuals on a school faculty. They are not infrequently people who originally went into education to coach, taught subjects which required minimal academic or scholarly preparation, found the demands of the classroom uncongenial, and when finished coaching settled upon a career in administration as an escape. They often read nothing of academic or intellectual merit beyond a few sterile education journals and many of them can scarcely write a coherent, grammatically correct paragraph. Their greatest concern is not to provide the best education possible for students but rather to keep their school boards and parents happy and to stay out of court.

It's little wonder, then, that administrators like Mr. Ridgell don't understand that the religious motivations and beliefs of the pilgrims are an essential aspect of the history of Thanksgiving and that ignoring these only distorts and corrupts history.

Incredible Young Men

Another account of yet another American hero is posted at Captain's Quarters:

Sgt. Rafael Peralta built a reputation as a man who always put his Marines' interests ahead of his own. He showed that again, when he made the ultimate sacrifice of his life Tuesday, by shielding his fellow Marines from a grenade blast....

One of the first Marines to enter the house, Peralta was wounded in the face by rifle fire from a room near the entry door, said Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison, 20, of Tacoma, who was in the house when Peralta was first wounded.

Moments later, an insurgent rolled a fragmentation grenade into the area where a wounded Peralta and the other Marines were seeking cover.

As Morrison and another Marine scrambled to escape the blast, pounding against a locked door, Peralta grabbed the grenade and cradled it into his body, Morrison said. While one Marine was badly wounded by shrapnel from the blast, the Marines said they believe more lives would have been lost if not for Peralta's selfless act.

"He saved half my fire team," said Cpl. Brannon Dyer, 27, of Blairsville, Ga.

There are so many incredible young men and women serving in our military. Our nation really doesn't deserve them. We elevate to celebrity status the worst elements in our society, the thugs and the aesthetes, we pay them millions of dollars to amuse us. We make heroes out of criminals, drug addicts, and porn stars. We very nearly worship them. And men like Rafael Peralta fight and die in obscurity defending us from the Islamists who see clearly the decadence of our culture, despise us for it, and yearn to purge the earth of our presence.

Their mistake is that they see a part, a substantial part to be sure, and assume it is the whole. They fail to discern that amidst a debased popular culture there is still much that is good and noble and excellent in America. They fail to recognize that we are still a nation that, in addition to all the superficiality, banality, and degeneracy of those who comprise our celebrity class, can still produce such as Rafael Peralta. As long as we are a nation which breeds such men the Islamist savages will not win.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Hell of War

Dexter Filkins has a fine piece of reporting in the New York Times on the horrific conditions faced by our Marines in the initial assault on Fallujah. An excerpt:

On one particularly grim night, a group of marines from Bravo Company's First Platoon turned a corner in the darkness and headed up an alley. As they did so, they came across men dressed in uniforms worn by the Iraqi National Guard. The uniforms were so perfect that they even carried pieces of red tape and white, the signal agreed upon to assure American soldiers that any Iraqis dressed that way would be friendly; the others could be killed.

The marines, spotting the red and white tape, waved, and the men in Iraqi uniforms opened fire. One American, Corporal Anderson, died instantly. One of the wounded men, Pfc. Andrew Russell, lay in the road, screaming from a nearly severed leg.

A group of marines ran forward into the gunfire to pull their comrades out. But the ambush, and the enemy flares and gunfire that followed, rattled the men of Bravo Company more than any event. In the darkness, the men began to argue. Others stood around in the road. As the platoon's leader, Lt. Andy Eckert, struggled to take charge, the Third Platoon seemed on the brink of panic.

"Everybody was scared," Lieutenant Eckert said afterward. "If the leader can't hold, then the unit can't hold together."

The unit did hold, but only after the intervention of Bravo Company's commanding officer, Capt. Read Omohundro.

Time and again through the week, Captain Omohundro kept his men from folding, if not by his resolute manner then by his calmness under fire. In the first 16 hours of battle, when the combat was continuous and the threat of death ever present, Captain Omohundro never flinched, moving his men through the warrens and back alleys of Falluja with an uncanny sense of space and time, sensing the enemy, sensing the location of his men, even in the darkness, entirely self-possessed.

"Damn it, get moving," Captain Omohundro said, and his men, looking relieved that they had been given direction amid the anarchy, were only too happy to oblige.

A little later, Captain Omohundro, a 34-year-old Texan, allowed that the strain of the battle had weighed on him, but he said that he had long ago trained himself to keep any self-doubt hidden from view.

"It's not like I don't feel it," Captain Omohundro said. "But if I were to show it, the whole thing would come apart."

You'll want to read the whole thing.

Ersatz Islam

USA Today recently featured an editorial by Ralph Peters who wishes to persuade us that Islam is really not at war with the West. The people who are fighting against us, he argues, are not true Muslims. They are counterfeits parading under the banner of a religion whose basic tenets they consistently violate. He writes:

Suicide bombings. Assassinations. The wholesale murder of prisoners. The mass slaughter of 9/11. Videotaped beheadings and the execution studios recently discovered in Fallujah. We describe it as "Islamic terrorism." And we're wrong.

The hard-core terrorists spawned by the breakdown of the Middle East quote the Koran. They wear Muslim garments. They perform the daily rituals prescribed by the faith into which they were born. But all of us, in the West and the Middle East, have mistaken the identity of these butchers.

For all of their Muslim trappings, the terrorists of al-Qaeda and its affiliates have returned to pre-Islamic practices, to behaviors that Moses, Christ and Mohammed uniformly rejected: They practice human sacrifice.

When the terrorists we face invoke the names of "Allah" or "Mohammed," they are blaspheming and corrupting a great faith. The prophet was appalled by the religious practices of the early desert peoples. Those who murder in his name today have rejected his message even as they claim to revere it.

We'd be a lot more inclined to accept Peters' argument if those who are indeed orthodox Muslims would speak out more forcefully than they have against the extremists in their midst. We are eager to believe that we are not really in another phase of a war that Islam has waged against the non-Islamic world off and on now for seven centuries. We would love to think that those who desire nothing so much as to be able to slaughter our children are just a tiny minority of the Islamic lunatic fringe. But we can't. As long as the Islamic media, the Imams, and the entire cultural leadership of the Arab world continue to preach the most virulent hatred for the West, as long as the majority of Muslims feel a frisson of pride and pleasure every time an Israeli or American dies at the hands of a Muslim, the term moderate Muslim will continue to be seen by us as an unfortunate oxymoron.

Despite what President Bush would have us believe, a very substantial portion of the Islamic world detests the West and wishes to destroy all that it stands for. It is the goal of Islam to convert the entire world, by the sword if need be, to the Muslim faith and culture. The sooner we realize the nature and extent of the conflict we're in the more likely we'll be to successfully defend ourselves against it.

American Heroes

Chester directs us to this site for an e-mail from a Marine who just finished fighting in Fallujah to his dad at home. He concludes it this way:

I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not have heard yet. I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they occurred. No doubt some of the facts will change slightly, but I am confident that the meat is correct.

The first is a Marine from 3/5. His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager's grandson). As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door. As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out. The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man's leg. He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway. Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover. As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway. Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety. The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl. Yeager threw another in. He immediately entered the room following the second explosion. He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine. You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled. Marines usually let them "cook off" for a second or two before tossing them in. Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds.

The second example comes from 3/1. Cpl. Mitchell is a squad leader. He was wounded as his squad was clearing a house when some enemy threw pineapple grenades down on top of them. As he was getting triaged, the doctor told him that he had been shot through the arm. Cpl. Mitchell told the doctor that he had actually been shot "a couple of days ago" and had given himself self aide on the wound. When the doctor got on him about not coming off the line, he firmly told the doctor that he was a squad leader and did not have time to get treated as his men were still fighting. There are a number of Marines who have been wounded multiple times but refuse to leave their fellow Marines.

These guys are just amazing. It makes one proud to be a citizen of the same country they are. For a lot more examples of heroism under fire in the war on terror go to this site.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Teach Your Children Well

The local newspaper runs a piece wherein a young mother, concerned about blurring the line between church and state, is quoted: "I do have a concern", she opines, "that one day a teacher will tell their [sic] students that something is absolutely right or absolutely wrong."

Perhaps the woman has a point. Imagine what our world would be like if teachers started lecturing kids that there is never any moral justification for, say, rape, or for damaging someone's property just for fun, or for committing genocide, or beating a child with one's fists, or sexually abusing a child. Who'd want to live in a world where teachers taught their charges that punishing people for crimes they are known to be innocent of, or driving while drunk just for fun or hurting someone for the thrill of it were categorically wrong?

In our community just last week, a young woman, five months pregnant and her husband serving with the Marines in Iraq, was visiting from out of state. Her hosts took her to get some groceries at a supermarket. As she was getting into the car in the parking lot a young man who later told police that he "just wanted to kill somebody" drove up beside her and shot her in the head with a shotgun. The victim and her child may yet survive this vicious attack, but one searches in vain for any imaginable circumstance which might justify someone doing such a heinous thing.

Maybe the mother who thinks it would be so awful for teachers to instruct their students that some things are absolutely wrong could help us come up with some real-world circumstance in which imbeciles who "just want to kill somebody" are morally justified in gunning down complete strangers.

Anyway, we don't think that the mother need be too concerned that teachers will one day lecture their students that such deeds are absolutely wrong. In order to posit an absolute one has to ground it in something objective, and the only sufficient ground for moral absolutes, as Viewpoint has argued on several prior occasions, is God, and we all know what would happen if teachers started invoking God as the foundation for moral judgments. The day that's permitted we know the country has gone completely to hell.