Wednesday, August 29, 2007

God's Warriors

CNN recently offered a six-hour, three-session program put together by its top foreign Correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, entitled "God's Warriors." Her three classifications of "warriors" were the Jews, Muslims, and Christians, one session devoted to each group, beginning with the Jews, then the Muslims, and, finally, the Christians. It was well-done, not least because Amanpour simply let people speak for themselves, with a sprinkling of explanations by "experts," and did not directly editorialize.

Amanpour and her prosperous family lived in Iran in 1979 when Khomeini returned and usurped power from the Shah, forcing them to become instant refugees. Half-Iranian (Iranian father, British mother), from age 11 she was educated in England in two all-girl Catholic schools, and her Jewish husband, James Rubin, was a member of the Clinton administration. Later in 1979, the Shah grabbed 52 Americans (actually more, but he let the African Americans go), and held them for 14 months until the day Reagan was inaugurated.

Amanpour touched on American aid to the Jews in the first program, but mentioned mostly just some Florida charismatic types, other than the government. She didn't spare either the Jews or the Islamics with respect to terrorism, was accurate about the wars of 1967 and 1973, and took the trouble to show the differences in the way women feel in both groups, including those in this country. She let the Jews speak for themselves with regard to their security and ownership of the region, and the Muslims explain their claims about the same.

The most chilling thing was her statistical approach relative to the thinking of first or second generation Muslims in this country. They are much more devout to Islam than their parents, are almost obsessed with modesty, absolutely will not touch alcohol, and – most remarkable – have feelings much like those of the young Moslems in London…jihad certainly a possibility, meaning that Muslim cells do not have to be made up of immigrants, but can be (and probably already are) home-grown.

The figures that Amanpour used came from a recent Pew Poll, I believe, and included that 13% of all Muslims in the U.S. think that suicide bombing is okay under the proper circumstances, but that the figure among Muslims age 18-29 is 26%. That is scary. Praying five times a day is quite important to them, and the wearing of the headgear for the women is their "societal jihad" in the sense that they are risking the belligerence and ridicule that this habit invites.

The Pew instrument has many tables and goes into the demographics, including the ones that relate to other countries and the contrasts/agreements held by Muslims toward such things as al Quaeda, voting, how they vote (preponderantly democrat in this country). An interesting statistic is that 43% of Muslims believe political views should be expressed in the mosques. Also, Muslims believing that the government should protect morality stands at 59% and 61%, respectively, for all Muslims and those between 18 and 29. So much for their view of church and state.

The fact that there is work in this country for everyone (contrasted with idleness, a terrible problem in France, England, and Germany leading, allegedly, to societal disruption by young Muslims) should militate against the indigenous suicide-bombers, who it seems should be content to just live and let live, so there's obviously something at work here besides the tired excuse used in ethnic groups involving people who just don't want to work. Jihad is alive and well, even among the affluent/educated, as was remarked most recently in the terrorist activities staged by doctors in England.

The final installment of "God's Warriors" was interesting, especially as it provided a look from outside both the U.S. and U.S. Christendom, although Amanpour was college-educated at the University of Rhode Island and began her TV career in this country in the early 80s. In her interview with former president Carter, she was nice enough – though she mentioned it in the program elsewhere – not to ask why he allowed the Americans to languish in 1979-81.

Carter misspoke when he said that folks who would not sign, or perhaps sign on, to a creed could not be pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention, since SBC churches are autonomous and can do what they like, as can their pastors. She let Carter explain why he had to split with the SBC – the fundamentalism thing. He's a liberal, approving of same-sex unions, for instance, anathema to most Baptists. Perhaps his most interesting comment came in the first installment when Amanpour asked why this country so avidly supported Israel. He said it was because any congressperson who voted against such support would automatically give up his/her seat.
Amanpour apparently thought God's warriors in this country, on the basis of the attention allotted, belonged strictly to white evangelicals. Not even one black representative of any denomination appeared in the program, nor did any representative of the "mainline" denominations, generally those belonging to the National Council of Churches of Christ. She paid no attention to Catholics, thus not counting them among the "warriors," though she mentioned their agreement with the evangelicals and Mormons with respect to abortion.

She spent a lot of time with Falwell (just a week before his death), as well as the dean of the Liberty University Law School, and prominently featured conservatives John Hagee, Rick Scarborough, Russell Johnson and Ron Luce. Those evangelicals pushing for the political correctness agenda were Greg Boyd, Minnesota pastor and the apologist for the homosexual agenda (levels of sin his thing), and Richard Cizik, National Association of Evangelicals political director, who is caught up in the global warming thing.
The consensus seems to be that Hagee's support for Israel has to do with his insistence that we have to help God set the stage for the battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. It would have been expected that Amanpour would have mentioned that Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who helped throw her prosperous family out of Iran, is setting the stage in Iran for the second coming of the "missing imam," and drawn the obvious comparison. She didn't, but Hagee volunteered that this is not his position, only that the Bible says Israel must be protected and maintained, thus his huge ministry in Israel's behalf.
Amanpour confined the last program to "warriors" as they impact this country. This was surprising, since she had the golden opportunity to drag in the Crusades and nail the U.S. as a Christian nation going around the world doing harm. Instead, she let her interviewees declaim about "God in the marketplace," "God in the government," "God and the culture," "God in the schools" (or out, depending on the view), etc. She interviewed home-schoolers and recorded the San Francisco activity of the group "Battle Cry," part of Ron Luce's Teen Mania Ministries. It was the homosexual/lesbian/transgender/transsexual/cross-dressing/fornication crowd against a bunch of kids standing for everything 180 degrees opposite.
On balance, it seems that Amanpour might have paid a bit more attention to the "mainliners," and perhaps she tried but simply found that no sizeable number of "warriors" actively agitating for urging the citizenry to live and vote according to scriptural dictates existed in that venue. The conservatives vastly out numbered the moderates/liberals in her presentation, and seemed to comprise her opinion of who the "Christian warriors" are.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Diana & Mother Teresa

In 1997, two of the most famous women in the world died within a week's time of each other. Princess Diana, age 36, died 31 August in a fiery, high-speed automobile crash in a highway tunnel in Paris. Mother Teresa, age 87, died 05 September in Calcutta and was given the honor of a state funeral by the Government of India. She said of herself, “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."

A highly-publicized memorial service is planned for Diana, married to Prince Charles with whom she had two sons, for 31 August at the Guards Chapel, just across the road from Buckingham Palace in London. Her sons had already staged a celebration of her life in a musical extravaganza at Wembley Stadium on 01 July and attended by more than 60,000 people. For Mother Teresa, there will be many local memorial services held, but without the pomp and circumstance of which she most likely would have disapproved, in any case.

The London papers, especially the tabloids, have always been filled with news of the behavior of members of the royal family, and Diana's remembrance activity simply provides more fodder to be exploited. For reasons known only to himself, notwithstanding anything he might say about it, Canadian-born Father Brian Kolodiejchuk has written a book about Mother Teresa, entitled "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," to be released on 04 September, in which he recounts the doubts and fears she had regarding her faith – even abandonment by God – during her long ministry among the "poorest of the poor."

Sixty-six years worth of Mother Teresa's deeply personal letters to superiors and confessors – preserved by the Catholic Church despite her dying wish that they be destroyed – are published in the new book and already excerpted in Time magazine. It's hard to understand why her wishes were not honored, but the Roman Catholic Church is, if anything, a hierarchal institution, and someone at the top had reasons.

Diana had as a cause the land-mine problem that still exists in areas throughout the world, and there's no doubt that she did some good with her life, if only as a raiser of both awareness and funds in the effort to do good things. For instance, earlier in the month of her death she was in Bosnia where up to 70 people a month were injured by land mines left over from the 3 1/2-year war that split the country. She also brought vividly to the public eye – not surprising, since her every move was covered by the paparazzi – a lifestyle marked by infidelity and shame, and died with her lover at that time. Her husband was no better, and the two of them marked the royal house with perfidy.

Mother Teresa had the sort of "Jesus experience" to which Christians rarely give much attention. Even though she had given her life – literally – to the cause of helping the vulnerable, she sometimes – if not most of the time – did not feel the intimate kind of "presence of God" that preachers often describe as absolutely essential. The fact is, however, that Jesus, a hunted man in his own country, during the night before his ultimate sacrifice prayed fervently to be delivered from the awful death he knew he was facing. God's answer was "no." The next day, on the cross shortly before his last breath, he uttered the words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?".

The apostle Paul knew the feeling and described it in II Corinthians 12, explaining that he had a problem he called a "thorn in my flesh" (most likely a physical problem) and entreated the Lord three times to remove it. God's answer was "no" each time, with the promise that his grace would be "sufficient" for Paul, his power being made perfect in Paul's weakness. In other words, as people watched Paul do God's work despite the difficulty caused by his "thorn," they would see what faith could mean.

On second thought, perhaps Father Kolodiejchuk, as well as the church, were right in preserving an account of what it takes to do what is known to be right, whether or not there is personal happiness in the process. Mother Teresa felt abandoned, just as did Jesus, and she craved to know God loved her as she loved him, like Paul in asking just for a bit of healing, but God perhaps decided that the focus on the task at hand would be sharper if the followers were less joyous or appreciated and thus more determined because of having to fight off the disappointment (and maybe better understanding that of others), to do the job.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rhetoric as Turnoff

It's interesting to watch the candidates in both parties lash at each other, especially this long before even a primary election, since nothing will be the same next year with respect to the war, the economy, abortion, and the degree of Mike Gravel's mental shortcomings. Policies, stances, opinions, degradations of opponents, advertisements…everything will have to be changed by the time of the primaries as the candidates rearrange their positions to allow them to convince the electorate that they're ready and smart enough to save the country.

Just as interesting as watching the candidates try to impress the voters is the manner(s) in which they turn off the voters. The "elite three" of the "elite eight" among the democrats form a case in point. As Clinton, Obama and Edwards chop away at each other, they also chop away at a lot of support, but perhaps in their internecine exercises actually pick up a bit of support – okay, from the loonies. Hillary will turn off the men, notwithstanding anything the pundits think or the constant drive among a handful of desperate, democrat men to push her in the hope of attracting the largest segment of the population, the women.

No matter whether a "debate" speechette [purposeful sic] or a rousing stump exercise, Hillary succumbs to the John Kerry syndrome to "speak from the mountain" and mimic his stentorian delivery…sort of like Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the Tablets of Ten under his arm. The average guy listens to this and he's reminded of the "brassy broad" who tells off everybody, starting with the old man and taking in everybody else from the newspaper carrier to the bagger at the supermarket to the girls at the office. On the basis of her speaking qualities, she's the latter-day equivalent of the recently departed "Queen of Mean," rest her soul. She's the incarnation of the proverbial loud-mouthed fishwife…men just can't stand that.

John Edwards is too glib by half and turns off everyone – man and woman – who sees beyond the "slick speech" of the defense lawyer trying to con a jury into either believing his client is innocent or not bad enough to go to jail…or entitled to millions of bucks because someone made the coffee too hot to balance in the crotch. One can imagine Joe Blow working at the foundry in 100-degree heat and considering a $400-haircut as he listens to Edwards' syrupy pandering to the homosexuals while at the same time he's worrying about his kids' college bills. That mansion that covers nearly two-thirds of an acre under roof in North Carolina (although Edwards claims New Orleans as home-base) is more than old Joe can stomach as he listens to the rich "operator" next to the brassy broad and wonders where these cats came from.

Barack Obama was the subject of a teeny-bopper's YouTube extravaganza, or some such thing, giving rise to the natural wonderment on the part of old folks when he talks about…well, anything. His delivery is quite good, in fact, too good, and, like that of Edwards, too glib. When he boasts that he wasn't for the war the listeners know he didn't even have a vote, so his implication that Hillary and Edwards voted for it falls on deaf ears. All three yammer about covering every citizen cradle-to-the-grave – making death appear too intrusive for words – but make no mention of the national bankruptcy in store if Hillary's health-care bill had even been seriously considered in 1994.

Okay…I haven't watched all that much – all the way through on only one "debate," euphemism for "sound-bite circus." These opportunities for network anchors/pundits/hangers-on/columnists/gofers to grab their 15 minutes of fame are deadly dull, everyone knowing that their game is "gotcha," and that the candidates' remarks are profoundly predictable. So, the participation of these media celebs is about as obnoxious as that of the candidates. Remember Chris Matthews' walk up and down the stage as he went eye-to-eye with candidates who didn't have enough moxie to tell him to get out of their faces. He was Forester's Horatio Hornblower on the poop-deck…preaching to the choir, of course.

Hillary and Barack addressed the VFW the other day, talking "military" before grizzled old warriors, though neither had the slightest clue as to what he/she was talking about. The old guys had to be turned off by their intolerably bland performances and had to wonder why they didn't just stay away. Fred Thompson, on the other side, has no military experience, either, so they probably didn't think much of his speech.

Perhaps the most nagging thing is not what a couple of the "elite three" are saying to turn off the voters, but what they're having their wives say. Edwards and Obama would do well to ask Elizabeth and Michelle to truck on home and – if not take care of the kids – go to the office. Maybe these guys think their wives can get away with picking on Hillary better than they can, adding a bit of cat-fighting to mudslinging. It stinks and makes the Edwardses and Obamas look silly, besides turning off the voters, especially men. Voters aren't electing wives, contrary to what Hillary thought in 1992. She shows she's learned the "spouse-mouthing" lesson by keeping hubby Bill well out of sight 99% of the time.

And then there's Gravel (EGAD!) and the other four. There's plenty of time to evaluate how they turn off voters when they speak or – in Gravels's case – snarl. Gravel is the champ, but Biden is a world-class snarler, too, such as when he snarled that anything Edwards had to say was "fluffernutter." Snarling a word with that many soft sounds is no easy accomplishment.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Drunks & the Highways

A funny thing happened on the way to the computer keyboard…no, not funny at all. Someone handed me the statistic for 2006 with respect to deaths caused on the highways by drunk drivers. There were 17,941 people killed by drunks last year, the highest annual total in the past 15 years. Another 500,000 were injured. In Kentucky 313 people were killed by drunk drivers in 2005. This is a shameful statistic.

This means that the number of people killed on the roads by drunk drivers in just one year was five times greater than the number of Americans killed in the war on terror in almost six years. In the approximately eight years of combat in Vietnam, 7,250 Americans died per year, on average, some years worse than others. Well over twice that many were killed by drunk drivers in this country last year. This is madness.

There's a renewed clamor now to raise the taxes out of sight on tobacco products for the purpose of getting it out of the marketplace and out of society…simply make people choose between smoking/chewing and eating. Not even the dumbest liberal in Congress would say that cigarettes used by one person caused him to drive his car into another car and kill its occupants…or the occupants in his own car, often the case. And the propaganda about secondhand smoke is…well, just blowing smoke. The alcohol-loving tobacco-haters love to talk about people killed by secondhand smoke, knowing full well the emptiness of that argument, especially as compared to the real killer – alcohol.

It's time now to tax alcohol out of sight and allow people to choose between drinking – a certain cause of thousands of deaths – and eating. The abundance of new tax monies could be plowed back into the road-funds to make streets/bridges safer on the basis of maintenance. There's apparently no way to make them safer on the basis of stopping the drunk killer from getting into his vehicle and impacting society to an extent no one should be able to exercise. Laws seem to have little effect, so why not try a financial angle?

What's the difference between sending someone off to the Big House because of "drug-law" violations and sending everyone who kills while drunk? Killer-drunks are not "drug-abusers" necessarily…they're murderers. Indeed, alcohol is by far the most dangerous and widely used "drug" available. There should be no difference, and in some states or in some judicial districts the killers are sent to the penitentiary, but there's no consistency in the courts on this matter, and in some places driving under the influence is considered fairly normal.

A few years ago, two football players at the University of Kentucky and a friend of theirs got thoroughly looped after a ballgame, with the owner of the bar standing by. They started off to Somerset, Ky., a town about 75 miles away, but they didn't get there. When the pickup stopped crashing itself to pieces, two of the young men were dead or dying and the driver, probably the drunkest, was okay. He was sentenced to some years but was turned loose after 90 days on something called "shock probation." Later, while his friends were "moldering in their graves," he was off to the National Football League tryouts. That's how justice works in some places, and that's why laws are only as good as those charged with enforcing them.

Jail time should be mandatory for anyone convicted of driving under the influence, whether or not he tears up anything or hurts anyone. If they don't have the proper license, people are arrested for carrying concealed weapons. In the case of drunks, however and with or without the proper license, they drive cars, with the result being mostly just a fine. A drunk-driver is not using a concealed weapon; rather, he's using an obvious weapon. A second conviction should land him in jail for at least a year, notwithstanding all the clamor about job, family, and whatever else. Or, house arrest might be an option, and community service should be mandatory, like cleaning the bathrooms in public facilities.

The wink-and-a-nudge attitude toward drunks in cars…or drunks anywhere, since they're always a danger…must stop. They must be branded for what they are – insensitive people with brains inferior to those of an orangutan. The drinker slowly evolves himself from human to animal and should pay for that privilege. The starting place is in the tax department. Get alcohol out of the marketplace and out of society. Get the drunk in jail, where he belongs, not among the civilized. Make it too expensive to drink. Alcohol is one drug the absence of which will harm no one.

A Kentucky state legislator got drunk a few years ago, crossed the center-line in his car and killed a woman who just happened to be in the wrong place. The legislator died not long after (not from the wreck – he was okay – the drunk usually is) and there was a move to name a highway for him. The people rose up.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Aquarius Candidates & the Protected Class

In popular culture, the expression "Age of Aquarius" usually refers to the heyday of the hippie and New Age "movement" of the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps this is the reason that national politics and governance are as wacky as they are today with respect to both the Democrats and the Republicans, but more especially with the democrats. The folks in the drivers' seats now are those, such as the Clintons or somebody like Congressman Kucinich, who came of age politically during that era.

Never has serious business been as trivialized as it has been lately with the "sound-bite" debates, which are anything but debates, though the Democrats seem hell-bent on being the most profound trivia-freaks. The TV-debate the other evening staged before an audience of homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, trans-genders, or perhaps just those with no clue as to what they are was instructive. It followed on the heels of a similar debate staged at Soldier Field in Chicago before union-members, where Senator Clinton offered the most sagacious utterance when she told the assemblage that she was "their girl." Their GIRL! Egad!

The debate before the HBLT gang was moderated by Melissa Etheridge (okay just a panelist, along with two others), a high-profile lesbian, naturally, and sponsored by MSNBC, naturally, the news network that masquerades as a propaganda outlet for the Democrat Party. Instead of standing behind lecterns or sitting at desks, the candidates were seated in stuffed, easy-chairs, no doubt the better to display the laid-back, in-your-face approach of the homosexual, bisexual, transgender communities. One expected a wigged and gaudily attired transvestite to take the stage (Los Angeles instead of San Francisco, strangely) and writhe through an appropriate performance (a la "gay" parade histrionics) at any moment during the clambake.

The affair was sponsored by something called the Human Rights Campaign, self-described as "America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality." In other words, the HRC considers its constituents as a victim-class needing special protection – a sort of endangered species, like the famous snail-darter of President Carter's day. These folks are so special in the minds of the Democrat Party that a unique "debate" had to be scheduled just to assure them that the big, bad republicans would be thrown out of office and thus no longer threaten their circumstances and peace of mind. Significantly, the republican candidates have also been offered the opportunity by HRC to "debate" before this assemblage, but took a pass. Now, that would have been entertaining, indeed, since truth might have attacked the gathering and turned the thing upside-down.

Also significantly, senators Biden and Dodd, democrat president-wannabes, couldn't make the scene, leaving the "solicitous six" to hog the whole show. In other words, they didn't get "sucked-in" to this obvious and cynical pander. The members of the audience were interested in "domestic partner" benefits, a euphemism for cadging from all levels of government the goodies that are lawfully and legally allowed those with enough sense of commitment to form and sustain families. The recent amendments to a myriad of state constitutions establishing marriage as the act necessary to effect the appropriate benefits has placed the homosexual community on notice that the "partners," whether stay-at-home or in the workplace, are responsible for their own affairs. This shouldn't be a hardship, anyway, since taking care of families requires infinitely more of everything, including finances, than just affording "shack-up" facilities.

Former senator Edwards, from the get-go of his campaign begun in a New Orleans backyard (instead of his home-state) last December, has pledged to make homosexuals acceptable in the military, thus doing away with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy former president Clinton was stuck with in 1993, when he tried the same thing. It won't work this time, either, and Edwards knows that. The other candidates have to fall in line, whether they like it or not, but the republicans – at least as a whole – will not promise that, if for no better reason the protection of the homosexuals themselves.

Perhaps the penultimate act of lunacy was committed by prez-wannabe Gravel when he said the other day in New Hampshire that homosexuals make the best soldiers because they understand – GET THIS – real love. Gravel is the only democrat candidate who has had military service (Dodd did six years in the Army Reserve during part of which time he attended law school) and either has to be a total nutcase or at least battling at the bulwarks of insanity. He's also the guy who helped in the divulging of government secrets (Pentagon Papers) when he was in the Senate. Gravel even hinted at the relationship in the foxhole by two soldiers who "love" each other. Disgusting!

At least Hillary didn't, as she had before the unionists, claim that she was the homosexual/lesbians/bisexuals/trans-gender's GIRL, though it might have been a barn-burner performance if she had just said she was their "SIGNIFICANT OTHER," and then jumped out of her recliner and into the arms of Miss Etheridge. What theater!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Double-Dipping" Paradise

The private citizen sometimes becomes frustrated – if not angry – when he sees how some folks can work the system with respect to government, paid for by his tax dollars. A good example is the …well…racket that has been ginned up by mostly lawyers in the legislature that allows judges to retire, draw their pensions, and remain on the bench in a "special" capacity, continuing to draw that salary. If they aren't already, they should become millionaires in a very short time.

The most recent example locally (Lexington, Ky.) is the retirement of Police Chief Anthany Beatty so that he can become vice president for public safety at the University of Kentucky. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader of 11 August, the chief has mentioned the fact that he's been working for a salary less than his pension would be if he retired. His salary last year was $144,316.51, which means that his pension will be more than that.

Mayor Newberry had already made it known before even taking office this year that he wanted Beatty to become the city's public safety commissioner, after retiring as chief, of course – same deal. This wasn't possible because the city council would not have changed the city's nepotism law, even if Newberry had pushed for it, though he tried. Beatty's son is a fireman, and that circumstance triggers the nepotism law.

At UK, Beatty's salary will be $125,000 annually, to start. It should rise rapidly once he's on the job. This means that his total income annually, to start, will be about $270,000, more than half of it for not working. Beatty is 56 this year, so another ten years or so at UK will probably mean something close to $3 million in total income. That's almost twice as much as Joe Blow makes for working 40 years at an average salary of $40,000 annually, then retiring on maybe $30,000 a year.

Government employees in Kentucky sometimes complain about low pay, but they don't usually mention the unbelievable perks, especially with regard to retirement, that go along with their jobs. They (or at least many of them) can retire as early as age 50 and take other jobs. Schoolteachers, for instance, can retire after 27 years of service on full pension, no matter their age. They have many years of working-life left, so that by "double-dipping" they can increase their incomes significantly and even work at jobs including additional pension plans.

Pensioners on Social Security alone have a rough go of it, as well as many of those with relatively small ancillary annuities. They work until age 65 (or perhaps 62, with a hefty reduction) and wonder why they didn't get in another line of work in the long ago. Policemen and firemen have dangerous jobs, but they can retire young, draw very good pensions, and keep right on working. The trick is to get a disability rating, too, enhancing the pension, whether entitled or not.

Such is government. This isn't sour grapes. I'd work the system, just like anyone else; however, one may wonder how the system got to be what it is.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, August 13, 2007

City-Planners at Work -- BEWARE!

The lead editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader of 12 August had to do with the fact that Lexington municipal-planners, whoever they are, must do a much better job of making Lexington into the city it should be, a "distinct, livable, prosperous and desirable region anchored by a city that shares all those characteristics." Apparently, the editorialist doesn't think Lexington fits that description currently, noting that a simple thing like a stockyard can't be located, though one such was recently set for neighboring Woodford County only a few miles from Lexington and then rejected.

The underlying theme in all the rants that happen regularly about the shortcomings of the city is that of somehow "renewing the downtown," as if much of a change can either be effected or is even desirable. Just as is the case with all major cities and even towns of 15,000 or less, the downtown area, un-susceptible to the handling of retail establishments since parking is an unsolvable problem, Lexington's business section is locked-in. Grocery-shoppers, for instance, will NOT lug or even push carts of multiple bags of goods through the multi-tiered maze and elevators of parking garages.

Specialty retail establishments, restaurants, entertainment venues, and office/institutional buildings fit the downtown area, and even then parking is a problem. The surge in renovating/rebuilding buildings previously used for reasons no longer applicable, such as tobacco warehouses, to turn them into establishments allowing for small retail activity and living spaces for residents who value living downtown is in itself indicative of the recognition that only a unique fraction of the population desires or can be accommodated in the downtown.

The editorialist bemoaned a system that doesn't allow for workers to live in "safe, affordable housing close" to their places of employment or a mass-transit system that makes the to-and-from-work-trip convenient. If for no other reason, the transit problem will prevail because the people involved find walking even short distances to and from bus stops too inconvenient, though, in fairness, many lack the stamina or ability to do so. Some areas that have been turned into "safe-and-affordable-housing neighborhoods" have also been turned into crime neighborhoods, and this has been to no one's good fortune, even those supposedly profiting from the arrangement. Bricks and mortar do not change people's behavior, but just transfer it from place to another.

The editorialist mentioned the possibility of a commuter bus arrangement connecting Lexington and Nicholasville in order to diminish the inordinately heavy traffic load, especially during the rush hours. This might work if a lane is dedicated to buses only, but even then a wreck would cause the same hours-long snarls that regularly occur, besides cutting the auto-use lanes – and some folks WILL use their cars because the workplaces are located all over Lexington, not just in a central destination for buses.

A rail arrangement, such as existed in the 1930s-40s, is not possible – too much hassle over eminent domain condemnations – even if financially viable. Railroads got rid of furnishing passenger service long ago (except for Amtrak, which is government-subsidized and nowhere near Lexington), so the use of the Norfolk Southern, perhaps the heaviest-traveled north-south freight operation east of the Mississippi River, is out of the question, particularly since the configuration from Fayette Mall nearly to Wilmore is single track.

One cringes at what the planners might come up with. Just a few years ago, the Urban-County Council actually voted to close Vine Street, a primary artery downtown, and told the folks to pick their way through the narrow, sometimes almost impassable side streets – an idiocy. The citizens revolted, so the council relented (two lanes closed) and then relented altogether and left it as is, thankfully. Now, the effort is being made to turn the street into some sort of pedestrian mall, thus reducing traffic again, when grass and trees are not amenable to concrete and asphalt, in the first place. The current effort to make all one-way streets into two-way again is sheer madness. These streets are not wide enough for even one-way traffic at times.

The city has paid attention to university planners and to aesthetics-nuts in the past. Now, it's time to use plain common sense and let pragmatism rule. The downtown is a BUSINESS SECTION, not a playground or a park. As for urban sprawl, the Planning-Zoning Commission, along with the Council, is supposed to take care of that, but, unfortunately, favoritism sometimes seems to get in the way.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Debate" - Sound-bite Circus

The democrat prez-hopefuls went at it again at yet another "debate" (euphemism for sound-bite circus) the other night, this one in behalf of convincing union members of their competence in providing two cars in every garage (okay, three or four, who's counting?) and caviar at dinner every night. It provided some of the best entertainment around, furnishing all kinds of heat (unneeded right now) but the same amount of light as usual – zilch.

One of the funnier features had to do with the candidates trying to explain why their campaigns had begun so much earlier than usual. They've been at it for months, but the election is still a year and four months away. I think it was Biden who said that it's because the country is in such bad shape that people just had to start getting ready to save it…or something like that, notwithstanding the fact that neither he nor anyone else can do anything until 2009.

Biden, of course, announced his candidacy last year, a full two years ahead of the witching hour, although he's been running ever since 1987. He got sidetracked in 1988 account plagiarizing some Irish politician's speech and has had rough sledding since then. The actual reason, of course, lies in the fact that opportunists believe in the old adage about the early bird getting the "worm," interpreted "cash" in the world of the campaign. For Biden (maybe the sharpest of the candidates), the worm has been and is beyond his grasp. The glamour kids – Clinton, Obama, Edwards (the $400 haircuts) – are chirping up the cash – or is that "slurping" it up?

Edwards said in the debate that one should not look to the cover of Fortune Magazine to see his face…maybe because that's where glamour-girl Hillary appeared the other day. Actually, the remark made no sense at all, not unusual for the rich lawyer. Ironically, after letting Hillary go on and on about NAFTA, Olberman informed the other candidates that they would have 30 seconds to state their positions on just whether or not NAFTA should be continued or dropped, whereupon Richardson lashed out at union-busting lawyers, government, of course, with Edwards looking on. Richardson looked silly because lawyers practically own the Democrat Party.

Hillary didn't mention that hubby Bill is the culprit who signed the NAFTA agreement and praised it to the high heavens. Ironically, the candidates, instead of answering the question, chewed on the subject regarding how they would "fix" it, except Kucinich, who actually answered the question by saying he would inform the presidents of Canada and Mexico that NAFTA was dead, I believe, during the first week he was in office. This brought down the house since what he said was what the unionists wanted to hear, and the other candidates just had to grin and bear it. Honesty can be so cruel. It's doubtful that a prez can just abrogate a treaty, but it was great theater.

Some of the most amazing statements (and crazy, as well) came forth from the candidates when they had to do with what's heard during every election cycle – putting America back to work, creating more jobs, etc. This was supposed to play well with the union members – only 12% of the work force now – but they had to be smart enough to know that between 12 and 20 million illegals are in this country now precisely because there is now what is accepted as full employment, and that if the illegals were deported there wouldn't be enough people to run the economy here.

Or…if the illegals were deported, the folks on the dole who are able to work would just have to get out and get with it. Ironically, the democrats – helped by George Bush – make up the faction that's trying to legalize the illegal immigrants and thus help them take American jobs and, of course, put the country that's already at work back to work…again. In any case, the tiresome rhetoric about putting the country back to work is just that – tiresome. Whether in the blue- or white-collar sectors, the nation needs workers now. These workers are either here or they aren't, so the candidates should make some judgments about how to handle the dicey immigrant situation, not just spew campaign blather about putting the country back to work, when it's already hard at work…except for Congress, of course, which is taking a month or so off. Five of these vacationing Congress-people were in this debate.

The high point of the evening was when Hillary, playing to the mostly male crowd (at least presumably) as their kind of prez, said that she was "their Girl." Egad! This is a presidential campaign?

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Post-Fancy Farm

In the Lexington Herald-Leader of 06 August, political commentator Ryan Alessi said: "Much is at stake for both Kentucky Republican officials. Fletcher is seeking another four-year term. And McConnell, who is up for re-election next year, risks facing a more powerful, strongly backed Democratic opponent in 2008 if that party takes control of the governor's office."

Obviously, much is at stake for both politicians, but there's life after office, especially in financial terms since former office-holders at both the gubernatorial and senatorial levels have unlimited opportunities to profit from their positions. Fletcher would be a shoo-in on the basis of his performance in office…sort of like Ned Breathitt, governor back in the 60s, who, at least in this opinion, did well in the last two years after not doing well in the first two years.

Voters are not dumb and by now have seen through the "Fletcher affair," an obvious attempt by Attorney General Stumbo to hurt the governor by taking on personally a matter that involved only misdemeanors and that should have been handled in an ethics committee or other agency set-up to settle personnel matters. Stumbo outdid himself via the conflict-of-interest route, when he had to drop all charges concerning the governor (real or imagined) in order to run for the second spot on a losing ticket. Opportunism is rarely carried to a level as low as that. Fletcher will look better and better as November approaches.

Alessi is probably wrong about McConnell. If Beshear is elected in November, McConnell will not suffer, not just because Kentucky democrats routinely send republicans to Congress, but because McConnell is too strong – the consummate politician, not the least important attribute of which is the ability to gain support and keep it. In financial terms alone, McConnell is away ahead of the game, and he defeated Beshear in 1996 to earn his third Senate term.

McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984. That year, he was the only Republican challenger in the country to defeat a Democrat incumbent, and the first Republican to win a statewide race in Kentucky since 1968. That was the culmination of the infamous "tracking dogs" campaign (Where's Dee [Senator Huddleston]?). The democrats owned the government and most of the courthouses, and legislation was crafted strictly in the democratic caucus, not on the floor of either legislative body. In other words, McConnell can take on a powerful, strongly backed democratic opponent.

Added to the picture now is the fact that McConnell is the Minority Leader in the Senate, and would be Majority Leader if Senator Lieberman would just change his registration from Independent to Republican. That won't happen, of course, but Kentuckians understand both the power of McConnell's office and the inestimable value of seniority. McConnell is the longest serving republican senator in Kentucky history. If the Senate should go republican in 2008, McConnell would be Majority Leader, notwithstanding the fact that he is the most powerful politician in Washington already – the consummate arm-twister and deal-maker, a la Henry Clay of old.

Fletcher hit a sore spot at Fancy Farm on the casino question, and hammered away at Beshear. Later, republican attorney general candidate Stan Lee broke out the statistics on what to expect if casinos are allowed in the state. Beshear made his case for more gambling (though the worst sort), but Lee's opponent, Jack Conway mostly introduced "You know what" as the term to be used in a speech in most every sentence and sometimes multiple times in the same sentence.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Philosopher and Imperialism

In the Lexington Herald-Leader (McClatchy-owned newspaper in Lexington, Ky.) of 06 August is a column by Brian Cooney, a philosophy professor at Centre College, Danville, Ky. Cooney attempts to make the point that the U.S. has become an imperial nation. This is Cooney's concluding statement: "The Bush administration is telling the world to submit to our power in the name of freedom. That is imperialism."

Philosophers often have a built-in disadvantage, to wit, living in the world of abstractness while most everyone else lives in the world of blood, sweat, and tears. Philosophers believe that thoughts/ideas (not rationality) trump physical action and that words (not physical actions) solve problems, thus the constant drumbeat of dialogue/diplomacy as the proper tools to maintain a society, the presumption, of course, being that all people are thoughtful and civil.

The problem: All people are not thoughtful and civil, and some are downright malicious, merciless, mendacious, and mad, as in maniacal. Relatively thoughtful and civil people founded this country, but had to fight to maintain it – even had to fight each other at least once. On the world scene, maniacs strap bombs on their bellies and set them off where they can take the largest possible number of others with them into the hereafter. Rogue governments (Cooney apparently believes the U.S. is one such) kill hundreds of thousands or even millions (think Sudan, Japan, Russia, Germany, Iraq), often their own citizens, as a resurrected Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein would attest.

The definition of imperialism: "the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas." Cooney mentions Iraq with respect to his charge of imperialism, but seems not to understand that if this nation had desired it could have enslaved all Iraqis by now, confiscated all Iraqi oil, and made Iraq into the 51st state. Instead, three elections took place there in 2005, with unbelievable numbers voting.

Cooney seems not to understand that in 1991, the U.S., with 500,000 troops on the ground, could have confiscated Kuwait, lock, stock, and barrel, notwithstanding anything the UN might have whined about. In fact, this country could have annexed the entire Arabian Peninsula, which is what Saddam himself had in mind when he invaded the hopelessly vulnerable Kuwait.

Cooney apparently has no sense of history, either, especially since history is all about blood, sweat, and tears, not the musings of academics in ivory towers, from where they look down on the ignorant and unwashed. The U.S. shared with the Soviet Union the title of "superpower" until 1989, at which time the USSR dissolved, making this country the only power capable of doing anything it desired. For nearly 20 years, the U.S. could have grabbed (not paid for) oil and anything else it wanted. It has annexed nothing and still pays through the nose in intolerable trade imbalances for things the manufacture of which keep other countries viable. It's the modern version of Lend-Lease or the Marshall Plan that saved England and put Europe back on its feet after WWII.

Because of U.S. airpower that kept Saddam's thugs within the allotted parameters, the Kurds and Shiites were not murdered from the air after the Gulf War. That's not imperialism – that's mercy, the hallmark of a thoughtful and civil people. Girls go to school in Afghanistan and Iraq now because of U.S. "imperialism." In China, girl fetuses are routinely aborted and the government sets the size of families – the penultimate example of thoughtlessness and incivility, as well as almost total lack of freedom. Perhaps Cooney should lecture China about Tibet, also, which it annexed some 50 or so years ago, with the Dalai Lama still on the run.

About the Bush administration, Cooney said that it announced in a 2002 document on defense strategy that the United States will prevent "potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States" and adds (i.e., we will maintain our global supremacy by force). God help the U.S. if this aim is thwarted…and that has nothing to do with imperialism, only survival, with the ancillary ability to help the vulnerable. The actual imperialists in this world are the Muslim nations intent on their merciless Jihad to kill or conquer all infidels.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Saturday, August 04, 2007


This is the lead paragraph of the National Education Association Web site of 04 August 2007: Just because your students appear relatively homogenous does not mean your class is not diverse. The latest issue of "Thriving in Academe" [NEA Higher-Education newsletter] says that from gender and religion to social class and family background, all aspects of inclusion should be acknowledged and are integral to student learning. Note: The NEA is an official sponsor of the Yearly Kos clambake in Chicago, in session also on this date. The YK is a gathering of democrats – more the far-left fringe types, not the old-fashioned blue-dogs – at which frothing at the mouth is permissible each time one utters "George Bush." Chief frother is officially Senator Schumer, with Howard Dean as a backup screamer.

At the end of his COMMENT ON KENTUCKY program Friday evening at Fancy Farm, Kentucky (site of annual stump-speech bloviating and gastric distress from boundless barbecue), Moderator Al Smith asked the participants what they wished for. Al Cross, faculty member at the University of Kentucky and highly respected journalist, said something about keeping the momentum up with regard to education reform. The above statement from the NEA is indicative of what Cross should have wished, to wit, that a sensible start at reforming education-reform in Kentucky should be made. The touchy-feely, warm-fuzzy, politically correct (remember…no more spelling bees, since someone has to lose) approach the legislature approved in 1990 – outcomes-based education – that demanded self-esteem as the end-all and be-all of education has resulted in no momentum to be kept up. Indeed, under the KERA of 1990, it's okay for four plus five to equal seven as long as the student thinks adding is sometimes necessary and feels good about his addition skills.

Homogeneity is simply not acceptable to the NEA, though homosexuality is something to be adored, with its perfect normalcy taught in every course. The recognition of diversity as defining, with respect to excellence, is an NEA foundation block, notwithstanding the pleas of many for at least slight consideration of academics. Give the NEA credit, though, for having discovered that gender, religion, social class and family background are elements of inclusion, the obvious implication being that teachers should know every student's gender (not that hard, though a sticky proposition these days); religion (tsk, tsk…that church-state thing); social class (Nikes or tennis shoes…or [gasp] brogans); and family background (home visits, anyone, especially at the cocktail hour?).

What about other included aspects that "should be acknowledged and are integral to student learning?" Does the student walk to school, ride the bus or skateboard (with or without safety-helmet – important in determining judgment skills and life values?). Is the student allergic to various foods, the teacher, or other students? Is the student faking it when he asks to be excused ten times a day for toilet action? Is the student arrogant, malicious, and disrespectful of teachers in insisting that five plus four actually equals nine…or will he compromise (showing respect for diversity) by agreeing that four plus five may equal eight…or 800…who's counting, anyway?

How does the teacher or administrator "acknowledge" all aspects of inclusion? To the girls, she may recite or actually sing the lyrics of "I Am Woman," made famous by Helen Reddy in 1972. The boys might have their gender recognized by a swift ruler-hit on the wrist, giving them the opportunity not to cry. Acknowledging religion is a bit dicey, though the installing of Muslim footbaths in public buildings currently might provide enough latitude for the singing of "This Little Light of Mine." Reciting the pledge to the flag is a definite no-no, since there wouldn't be time to recite the pledges to all the flags of the world (that "inclusive" thing).

Acknowledging social class might consist of having the students bring in the stubs of their parents' paychecks, or, for the entrepreneurial parents, perhaps the IRS 1040 from the year before. Teachers would have to be careful at this point and explain why they wouldn't be held to the rule, since an inferior income might make some students think "dumb teacher" in this world of "goods as life." With respect to family background, students, instead of making vocal presentations, might simply submit essays describing their families, lest irate parents and significant others show up with their M-16s as the result of the inevitable gossip engendered by the spoken word. The essays would be destroyed without being read, of course (respect for diverse privacies), but the students would never know that. In the process, they would find their "identities," thus fulfilling the most important academic standard possible.

Prez-wannabe Senator Joe Biden recently referred to the utterances of fellow prez-wannabe John Edwards as "fluffernutter." There's no such word, but if there were – and perhaps Biden will get the word enacted into the dictionary after Labor Day – it would describe quite well "Thriving in Academe," another way of saying the NEA is about as flaky as it gets.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, August 03, 2007

Daily/Yearly Kos

Daily Kos is a blog-site of which I've been unaware until just recently, when a brouhaha regarding it was stirred by Bill O'Reilly, honcho of the O'Reilly Factor, a commentator/interviewer offering of the Fox News network. His main point: The blog is filled with obscenity (perhaps hate, too). Its owner is Markos Zuniga, 35, a San Francisco resident and former GI. O'Reilly's latest gripe has to do with the Yearly Kos, an outgrowth of Daily Kos, a convention of sorts held by and for democrats – hard-left-leaning types, in the main – which is being held in Chicago August 2-5, and in which O'R insists reputable people should not participate, thereby not granting credibility to obscenity.

I've taken an admittedly cursory look at both Daily Kos and the program of Yearly Kos. On the Web site, I found two disgusting pictorial representations, one of President Bush in a homosexual act with a goat and the other, Bush-aide Karl Rove doing for Bush what Monica did for Bill Clinton (without the cigar, of course). This kind of stuff has no place on the Internet. Zuniga also has his piano pieces on the site, so I checked them out. He's a gifted pianist, at least with New Age stuff, though NA becomes terribly monotonous after a while.

The Yearly Kos program is interesting, and a lot of high-profile folks (all democrats, of course) don't subscribe to O'R's opinion about support for the grossly disgusting. I noticed that president-wannabes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson are scheduled speakers, as well as House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid. The opening keynote speakers – DNC chairman Howard Dean and Senator Dick Durbin. I don't know what Durbin said, but perhaps he explained his opinion that American GIs are the same as Nazi storm-troopers, keepers of the gulags, or psychopaths of the killing fields, a la Pol Pot and gang. Dean probably didn't do the SCREAM he made famous in Iowa in 2004 since there might have been small children in the area.

This is an item from the transcript of the ABC program Nightline of 01 August: "You've got people who are responsible for 3,000 American deaths in Pakistan and that continue to raid and attack our soldiers in Afghanistan and make it more difficult to stabilize that country. And that is an unacceptable situation." The maker of that statement was Obama. Obviously, 3,000 Americans have not died in Pakistan, so Obama had no idea what he was talking about (okay, cut him some slack and say his grammar was dysfunctional). Earlier that day, Obama said that, as president, he would not hesitate to order unilateral military action against al-Qaeda inside Pakistan if he had intelligence information that warranted a strike. Perhaps in his YK speech, there's an explanation as to why he should declare war on a nuclear power that is this country's gateway to the fight against the Taliban at a crucial time in the war on terror.

Senator Clinton and Governor Richardson will doubtlessly discuss the war, as will Pelosi and Reid, though the four of them will be light-years apart in their opinions regarding what should be done in/with Iraq. None of them will declare that Congress should un-fund the war, which is the quickest way to get rid of it, but which would require an exercise in Truth and fortitude, which perhaps only prez-wannabe Congressman Kucinich can handle. He can afford that bravery because he knows his chances of making it to the Oval Office are at about minus-1000 on a scale of plus 1 to 10.

The advisory committee for the Yearly Kos clambake has some of the usual suspects on it, for instance, Carter's vice president Walter Mondale, former Senators George McGovern and Gary Hart, and Donna Brazile. Hart invited the press to investigate his private life, probably suspecting a friendly press wouldn't do that, and it cost him dearly. He should have known better, since the press was known to routinely examine Henry Kissinger's garbage. Brazile put Gore into "earth-tones," and the result was an "Inconvenient Truth." McGovern carried one state in 1972, so his advice might be suspect.

There are a plethora of sessions described in the program covering a multitude of subjects. An interesting one is entitled "Rebuilding New Orleans" – interesting because New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, whose incompetence was the worst curse of Katrina, was not a convener, nor was Louisiana Governor Blanco, his partner in crime. Nagin might have explained how not to use 200 buses for evacuation, and Blanco might have orated on the subject of making decisions a day too late.

Ironically, the strategic director for Yearly Kos is Jon Pontificator, also a member of the Organizing Committee. The term pontificate is defined as "to speak or express opinions in a pompous or dogmatic way." Senator Chuck Schumer, also listed as a speaker in Chicago, is the very personification of that definition. He exhibits his extraordinary talent at every opportunity, especially in Judiciary Committee hearings and in any press conference he can gin up or take over.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark