Sunday, December 30, 2007

International Leader - Who?

The international upheaval – more imagined than real – vis-a-vis the 27 December assassination of Pakistani PPP leader Benazir Bhutto has, however, called attention to the need for the leader of this government to have a clue as to what’s happening in the world. The last two democrats to advance to the White House, Carter and Clinton, had state-governorships as their experience, as did the next-to-last republican, Ronald Reagan. The last republican, besides the current president, to hold office was George H.W. Bush, who had had about all the international experience possible when he took office.

Neither Carter nor Clinton distinguished himself in handling foreign affairs. Carter allowed the U.S. military to degenerate and was too weak-kneed to extricate the 52 American hostages who languished for 14 months in Iran. Clinton and his intel-establishment seemed to sit idly by while Muslim jihad-murderers like Osama bin Laden bid fair to take over the world, bin Laden making his disastrous preparations for 9/11 throughout much if not all of his tenure.

Carter presided over the questionable Panama Canal giveaway, while Clinton managed his Somali adventure (Black-hawk Down) so badly that nations could justifiably consider the U.S. a paper tiger after 1993. Carter lost the White House, but Clinton muddled through a second term, during which American embassies were bombed in Africa and bin Laden roamed free. Clnton’s anemic missile-launch into Afghanistan and Sudan made him look silly.

Reagan learned from his mistakes. The Lebanon tragedy (220 Marines killed in suicide bombing) in 1983 was a lesson for him about the Middle East and the mindset of the Muslim, i.e., the cheapness of life and the cowardice connected to tactics (terrorism). He went on to form a military so powerful that the Soviet Union fell without a shot being fired. This helped put the quietus on Soviet clients in the Middle East as well as elsewhere such as in Cuba.

George H.W. Bush (41), with no help from a hostile democrat-controlled Congress, mobilized a half-million American GIs in 1991 to kick Saddam out of Kuwait, saving huge oil supplies, and made the rest of the world pay for his trouble. George H.W. Bush made sure his plan to feed the Somalis in 1992 did not endanger Americans. He put troops in harm’s way, but they were successful not least because the Somali troublemakers knew better than to mess with them. The next year, Clinton dropped the ball. G.H.W Bush also went directly into Panama and grabbed the thuggish Noriega, who still languishes in a U.S. federal prison. Bush-41 was the best international leader since Richard Nixon.

President Bush, also with just a governor’s experience, had no desire to mess with the Middle East militarily or to nation-build, as he made plain in his first state-of-the-union speech, but was turned around by 9/11, carried out by people who freely operated in this country during the Clinton years in flying-schools, etc. One can only wonder about what was so important in those papers his National Security chief Sandy (Burglar) Berger snatched. Bush has successfully bitten the bullet, however, and is proving that U.S. power will be respected, no matter if he stands virtually alone in his mission/determination.

What about the current pretenders to the throne? Five of the democrats have Senate experience (six, if the weird Gravel counts), with Biden probably being the most capable concerning foreign affairs. His bona fides are questionable, however, in light of his agreeing publicly with Senator Clinton that General Pretraeus was a liar. That was so dumb on both their parts as to be scary. Kucinich has been a mayor and a congressman and seems not to know what’s happening in the world.

Richardson probably has had the most foreign-affairs experience, but his promise, like Kucinich’s, to just walk out of Iraq, come hell or high water, is too off-the-wall for him to be taken seriously. None of the democrats has actual military experience. The only one to have worn a uniform is Dodd, who was in the army reserve.

Among the republicans are two with Senate experience, two with congressional experience, two with gubernatorial experience and one who’s been a mayor. McCain is head-and-shoulders above the rest in terms of international savvy. He, Hunter, and Paul have many years of military experience among them, including combat. Add that to the equation and these three rise to the top especially in a world that is as dangerous as this planet is at present. Paul is not a factor, however, as is the case with most libertarians/isolationists. He also would leave Iraq immediately, and that’s not possible.

McCain – even accounting for his age – is the person most likely to lead this country successfully in world affairs. By comparison, the democrat frontrunners pale into insignificance, Clinton with the laughable claim that being a president’s wife counts for international experience; Obama (rookie senator) in boasting that he did not support the Iraq conflict even though he wasn’t even in the Senate in 2002-03; and Edwards on the basis of one Senate term, during much of which he campaigned for president in 2004.

This is a dangerous world and only someone with the brains, experience, and the guts to face it squarely should be elected in 2008. All the democrats want to wimp out concerning Iraq and, by extension, terrorism, adopting the Bill Clinton “head-in-the-sand” posture and yammering about “can’t-we-all-just-get-along talks” with inflexible folks like Ahmadinejad. All the republicans except Paul insist on “staying the course.” The choice is easy.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bhutto's Death Changes Nothing

The assassination on 27 December 2007 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, of Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani prime minister, was regrettable not only because of her death but because of the deaths of others who were the victims of the suicide bomber who blew himself to smithereens after shooting Bhutto. Upon her return from exile a few weeks ago to run for Parliament, an unsuccessful attempt was made on her life that resulted in more than 150 deaths of others, so her presence in the country for a few days has cost many lives. The senseless riots over the country in the wake of her death have cost many more lives and destruction of property.

Government by assassination or power-grab is the rule rather than the exception in Muslim-dominated countries, so the murder was not a surprise. President Bush has expressed his regret at Bhutto’s death, but surely knows that in a country in which the population is less than 50% literate, and therefore ruled by religious fanatics who have the smarts to exploit the ignorant, that her presence would not have amounted to much vis-à-vis the maintaining of a democracy.

Government by theocracy is as damning as government by atheism, Pakistan mirroring the Soviet Union in this respect. Ruling via the tenets of Islam is as evil and murderous as ruling by the tenets of communism. Life is cheap in both systems, and the most bloodthirsty operatives are the winners. The ayatollahs and imams do not rule in Pakistan now, but have every intention of doing so, with the weapon of choice being terrorism no matter how many innocent people suffer and die.

Bhutto had envisioned a power-sharing plan with Pakistan President Musharraf but apparently abandoned that idea recently. Musharraf gained power in 1999 in a military coup, ejecting Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader who has also returned from exile recently. Sharif told angry PPP supporters at the Rawalpindi hospital where Ms. Bhutto’s body lay that he was with them and they would jointly avenge her death, according to The Hindu online newspaper. And so it goes…an-eye-for-an-eye…government by Islam, followed by 97% of the Pakistan population.

Benazir Bhutto was prime minister of Pakistan 1988-90 and 1993-96. She and her husband have been fighting criminal charges since her government was tossed in 1996, ironically by Sharif. Her younger brother, who opposed her positions while he was in the Pakistan parliament in the 1990s, was assassinated while she was prime minister in 1996. Ms. Bhutto ended her “tortured” 8-year exile in England and the United Arab Emirates when she returned.

The daughter of Bhutto’s murdered brother, Fatima Bhutto, wrote the following as published in the Los Angeles Times on 14 November: “It is widely believed that Ms. Bhutto lost both her governments on grounds of massive corruption. She and her husband, a man who came to be known in Pakistan as ‘Mr. 10%,’ have been accused of stealing more than $1 billion from Pakistan's treasury. She is appealing a money-laundering conviction by the Swiss courts involving about $11 million. Corruption cases in Britain and Spain are ongoing.” Actually, a Swiss court convicted Bhutto and her husband of money-laundering in 2003. These are not beautiful people.

What those who believe that American-style democracy will work everywhere don’t understand is that…well, it won’t work in perhaps most of the third world. The Middle East is a hotbed of theocracies – rule by the imams and the ayatollahs and the devil take the hindmost. Until the Islamic Jihad-freaks and religious fanatics are denied the opportunity to run governments, there will be no democracies in the Middle East, including Iraq and Pakistan. Since the Muslims are an essentially uneducated people, and since both education and integrity (at least to some degree) are vital in supporting a democracy, representative government is not possible for them. This is true, also, throughout Africa.

Al Qaeda has taken credit for the assassination, and that seems to be the case as the investigation unfolds. The Taliban could never countenance a woman in a position other than in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant and never seen in public except as in a head-to-toe burka. Her followers will blame Musharraf, as Sharif already has, even though Musharraf himself faces assassination on a daily basis. They’ve been proving their point by rioting, burning buildings, killing each other…absolute insanity, remindful of the rioting deaths in Afghanistan when Newsweek falsely ran an account of a Koran (Islam holy book) being flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo.

For better or worse, this country has to support Musharraf, no matter if he declares a state of emergency again and postpones the elections. He, too, has a finger on the A-bomb button, and one can only imagine the carnage if bin Laden’s gang ever acquired that finger. The U.S. road to the fight against al Qaeda runs through Pakistan and it must not be closed. Bhutto’s death – a not unusual occurrence – has changed nothing.

And so it goes

Jim Clark

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Baptists & Religious Left?

Beliefnet is an online offering which describes its mission as “to help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness.” This is the beginning of a recent Beliefnet column written by Tony Campolo, professor emeritus at Eastern University and the founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education:

“Recently, I met with a group of religious leaders who have become increasingly disturbed by the alliance between evangelical Christians and the Republican Party. … The meeting was joined by the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine; Father Richard Rohr, a well-known Catholic writer and speaker; Brian McLaren, a leader of the emergent church movement; the Rev. Dr. Cheryl J. Sanders, a prominent African-American pastor; the Rev. Noel Castellanos, a strong voice in the Hispanic community; and several other outstanding Christian communicators. The purpose of this gathering was not to create a religious left movement to challenge the religious right, but to jump-start a religious movement that will transcend partisan politics.”

Earlier this year, former presidents Clinton and Carter came up with the idea for a “gathering” of Baptists other than those connected with the Southern Baptist Convention, which Carter described as having presented a negative image to the country and from which he split over doctrinal differences some years ago. The convocation – New Baptist Covenant Celebration—will be held in Atlanta January 30-February 01. One of the featured speakers is – guess who – Campolo. Six of the 12 other main speakers are politician Baptists (or should that be Baptist politicians?), four democrats – Carter, Clinton, Bill Moyers, Al Gore – and two republicans – Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley. Does Campolo’s statement sound a bit like snake-oil in light of this development?

Graham and Grassley are the token republicans, but it’s a lead-pipe cinch that this is a democrat gathering. Actually, Graham is running for reelection next year, so he may be using the NBC at least somewhat, as well as being used by the cagey Carter/Clinton team. Grassley has just been investigating televangelists, so the plot thickens.

According to the New Baptist Covenant Web-site, the Atlanta clambake is to be attended by some 20,000 Baptists representing groups/institutions of some 20 million Baptists, all of them (well… most of them) well-meaning and accepting the celebration for what it’s described to be on its Web-site, with the keyword being “unity.” The effort was hatched at the Carter Center last January.

Among the 81 attendees at that meeting was James Dunn, Executive Director Emeritus, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. This is the same man who was on the board of the far-left Clergy Network hatched in 2004 by the Rev. Albert Pennybacker and having, as explained on its Web-site, the goal of defeating George Bush. Partly bankrolled by the George Soros organization, it was made up of clergy whose churches are tax-exempt organizations.

The presence of Dunn in the NBC Celebration represents the failure of the Clergy Network in 2004 but also represents the fact that the whiners about a perceived coupling of the so-called Religious Right with the republicans (a fiction, since values was the issue and republicans happen to like those of conservative Christians) are making a genuine effort to structure a Religious Left…and what better place to do it than in an institution conceived by two consummate politicians – Carter and Clinton?

The plot thickens in the fact that the celebration will occur in Atlanta just as the conventions of the three large African-American Baptist denominations end, with an invitation already extended to those Baptists to participate in the C/C convocation. It thickens more in the fact that the celebration will take place less than a week before super-Tuesday, probably still a crucial date by then for Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It’s not hard to guess who will campaign hard for Clinton. The irony lies in the fact that the African Americans, always manipulated by democrats, may go for Obama, something not thought about last January before Obama announced in February.

One would have thought that the so-called mainline denominations would be considered the backbone of the Religious Left; however, these groups, as they’ve wrestled with the “liberal” questions concerning homosexuals for decades, have been withering on the vine. The Atlanta “celebration,” especially with folks like Campolo and Dunn involved with slick politicians, could be the introduction of the new Religious Left, notwithstanding that it will be made up of Baptists, albeit of the moderate/left genre.

For Carter, it could also be his answer for his exile from the Southern Baptist Convention of 16 million members, whose policies will not tolerate same-sex unions, for instance, something which Carter favors as being state-sanctioned but surely will not mention in January, since even most leftist Baptists won’t go for that. The presence/glorification of Nobelist Gore, in whose honor there will be a luncheon, may backfire, since the claim that global warming is caused by humans is being systematically disproved by reputable scientists/climatologists.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, December 21, 2007

H-L Editorialist Debases Legislators

The editorialists at the Lexington Herald-Leader apparently had their collective knickers in a bind of enormous proportions for the 19 December issue in which they took profound exception to the pre-filing of a bill by two democratic (gasp and three palpitations) legislators to nullify the action by the trustees of both the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky to grant perks to non-families, both homosexually and heterosexually structured, which the state Constitution unmistakably bans.

As a reason for the wrongness of their action, the editorialist suggested that neither of the men represented a district that included an institution offering those benefits, thus apparently making them ineligible for taking such a drastic action. One wonders how people get to the position of editorializing in the light of a statement like that. Based on that thinking, the only legislators who could raise such a stink would have to be those representing Fayette and Jefferson Counties. Okay…it’s hard for any reasonable person to believe that, so folks are invited to bring up the editorial and see for themselves.

The editorialist did not then proceed to explain why these men are wrong and why their bill has no legal standing or how the attorney general has explained their mistake, if any. Instead, he/she/maybe-it took the opportunity to unload both barrels at the districts the two men represent, making them appear to be on roughly the level of zoos and among the state’s most profligate counties, presumably because these representatives are so bereft of redeeming virtues that they have caused their counties to degenerate to dismal levels.

So…the statistic-game was then introduced to discredit any claim these guys might have to present a bill about most anything. The numbers accruing to median-household income in eastern Kentucky are always good for a slam, so they were introduced…wonderful damnation of such poverty not corrected by the honorables Henderson and Smith. Then, the old children-living-in-poverty figures were trotted out, as well as those pertaining to families-under-poverty-level status and even the teen birth-rates, presumably due to dereliction of duty on the part of the legislators, who apparently are guilty of malfeasance or misfeasance or some other feasance in not handing out enough condoms to the girls or shotguns to their fathers in the interest of making those hormone-driven shack-ups make each-other honest.

Following this thorough abasing of the districts represented by the honorables Henderson and Smith – implicitly blaming them for every bad thing – was the by-now terribly tired line that the universities simply must regurgitate these perks upon homosexuals and heterosexual shack-ups in order to snare the “brightest and the best” to teach the state’s young people. Having little enough sense to engage in unsanitary, perverted, disease-prone homosexual behavior seems, actually, to disqualify the homosexuals and offer the wrong example to the students, who will quickly understand who is what. Or, having so little sense of commitment that they prefer to satisfy sex while not having to be responsible to each other for it seems to disqualify the heterosexual folks engaging that lifestyle. That’s the wrong example.

The bottom line, of course, is that these legislators represent taxpayers, all of whom have a stake in what happens to state money, especially since all state workers are entitled to the same perks as those employed at the universities and will at some point demand the same treatment. The current AG has failed to do his job, and the incoming AG has already made it plain that he won’t, either. The defining factor does not lie in legislative action, anyway, but in the simple enforcement of the Constitution, the thwarting of which Governor Beshear has already approved in this matter, as well.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nanny Is Watching You!

The “nanny state” has arrived…well, it arrived long ago about as soon as any government decided to take personal citizen-decisions away from citizens, thus protecting them from themselves. This might make some sense with regard to illegal activities or substances or hardware, though even then one might presume to make decisions regarding himself as long as his actions don’t impact adversely the welfare of other citizens. A guy should be able to booze his liver into oblivion as long as he doesn’t drive his car while turning himself yellow and endangering other folks. Whether it should be or not (should not, in this corner), the bubbly is legal.

Cigarettes are legal, too, but the government-nanny has declared that citizens who turn their lungs into leather-bags shouldn’t, and that they certainly shouldn’t expose other citizens to their allegedly carcinogenic fumes. Okay, agreed, though drivers are not usually charged with DUI for strange moves they make unless they have an alcohol blood-rating of more than .0799999 in probably most states, so the strange law presumes to quantify drunkenness while not quantifying the amount of fumes a smoker may introduce into the cosmos or into a building, there to endanger organisms of all kinds.

Question: Should private citizens have the right to make use of or deny use of or prescribe use of or determine location of smoking? In Lexington, Ky., the law is that no smoking can be allowed in public buildings, whether government-owned or privately-owned. This introduces the subject of secondary smoke, said to be harmful to the non-smokers exposed to it, whether it actually is or not (probably not, unless exposure is constant).

Well…okay, at least up to a point. Some folks are allergic to tobacco smoke, and that’s reason enough to protect them in places governed by the governing. But what about the restaurateur or bar-owner who decides to cater to the crowd that is not choosy about the matter…or even the grocery-owner, for that matter? If their customers don’t mind and/or even enjoy a tobacco ambience, why should anyone else care? After all, it’s their lungs.

But nanny is watching, not that this curmudgeon is much affected since he quit smoking 50 years ago, suspecting then the deleterious effects of same. The latest rumblings by the city fathers/mothers/nannies in Lexington have concerned the banning of smoking outdoors on hospital grounds. Getting ahead of the curve, some facilities have declared those grounds – open to the sky – as soon-to-be non-smoking areas, never mind that they touch the city’s main arteries upon which thousands of cars spew CO2 and all kinds of other greenhouse/carcinogenic gasses into the air 24/7. There are rumblings, also, with regard to the legislature simply banning smoking here-and-there statewide…a sort of super-nanny thing, one supposes.

This is not a brief for smoking, a bad, most-often addictive habit. Just a whiff of cigarette smoke causes drooling to this writer, even after 50 years of total abstinence. One puff would likely send him over the edge. It’s merely to remind that government has no business controlling any behavior and choice unless the public is willfully threatened. Smoking a cigarette on the lawn or a sidewalk threatens no one, especially as compared to the gas-spewing diesel locomotive or truck beside which the smoker may be standing. People should have the right to make choices with respect to other places. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, notwithstanding Hillary’s contention, and it doesn’t take the City Council to wipe everyone’s nose with regard to most anything legal.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, December 17, 2007

Democrat Machine in Gear!

Things are settling down in Kentucky after the Grand Inauguration featuring enough horses in the parade for every Indian to have had five on which to ride over Custer’s body at the battle of Little Big Horn. Actually, the new king had been crowned at the send-off dinner for KET’s Al Smith a few days before, a sort of Jackson-Jefferson Day dinner masquerading as a celebrity-fete. I tuned out after 17 minutes because it was getting too deep in the TV area. Later, Smith gave the state board of education a whacking in a Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed, calling its turndown of Beshear’s suggestion on how to do its commissioner-search job foolish and mean-spirited. He scorned the board on the program, as well.

True to form in Kentucky-crony politics, Beshear picked as his communications director someone who is tied as closely to KEEP as a bit is to the horse’s tongue. KEEP is the horse-force driving casinos as heaven-sent but only when at race-tracks. The appointment created a smell so strong (some claimed manure from the parade had been spread in the capitol) that the resignation of Mr. Osborne was almost as prompt as the acceptance of the goody, in the first place. KEEP will have to find another “inside operator,” but that shouldn’t be too hard, since the new guv is on the record as insisting that casinos will turn Kentucky into another Eden…before Adam took the gamble, of course.

Then, along came the new Finance and Administration Cabinet secretary in the person of Jonathan Miller, who conveniently dropped out of contention for the top job and endorsed Beshear last May. It turns out that Miller has made some miscues in hiring and “promoting” employees as state-treasurer (or is that just awarding some “raises”), but not to worry…everything will be straightened out. Beshear has said that top employees must take training in how not to do such things, but one suspects a simple dose of integrity is all that’s necessary.

Miller managed to “promote” a secretary hired in 2000 in a $21,000-a-year job to one now paying $78,981, with $25,000 accruing in raises in just the last three years. It turns out that the secretary accompanied Miller to Las Vegas for non-state business last May, so one wonders if they took a bit of vacation or carried out that four-day venture on state time. Actually, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader (15 December), Miller said, “No state-government work,” but also said, “We (presumably he and the secretary turned chief-of-staff ) had business meetings.” In Las Vegas…just the two of them…four working days? Couldn’t such non-state-business meetings be held in Frankfort? What business? Whose business?

The real kicker, of course, lies in the fact that Miller couldn’t remember when asked in October if the secretary was in on the jaunt (seven days after dropping out of the primary after spending a million big ones) and had to go check his records…or something, since, as he said, he traveled with a lot of different people. Well…Miller was also Democrat Party chairman while he was still treasurer and had a lot on his mind, what with the demanding treasurer’s job (which the repub candidate promised to try to abolish since it involves virtually no work), as well as getting his new benefactor elected, so he needs some slack cut for not remembering that trip in the merry month of May, whether he went alone or with whom. Wonder who paid the secretary’s tab, since no state funds were used? Ah…that “personal business,” he mentioned, as noted in the H-L.

Yeah…business as usual with the old democrat machine now back in place. That means no worry about any hiring or other patronage practices, since the new attorney general is a democrat, just as the attorney general was during the wooly Patton administration, although Ben Chandler at least fried his guv’s hide with regard to the Louisville vote-scheme. Philandering Paul pardoned four and thus kept himself, also, out of the fire. He claimed that Ben just wanted to be governor…sound familiar?

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Bali Boondoggle

On its Saturday edition of All Things Considered, National Public Radio managed to air this nonsense, spoken in Bali Saturday, to the U.S. representative by Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea's ambassador for climate change: "If you cannot lead, leave it to the rest of us. Get out of the way." His gripe: The treaty that will replace the Kyoto mishmash was being opposed by the U.S. when a consensus was needed to end the lengthy conclave so everyone could just “get on home.”

At least part of the reason the U.S. gave for its demurral was the fact that the new treaty, as per the will of the Bali participants, will require absolutely no emission-controls from China, India, and Brazil, three nations contributing enormous amounts of greenhouse gases under the non-requirements of the Kyoto Treaty, most of it from the 40% of the world’s population in India and China, which by now is probably the world’s worst polluter, having passed the U.S., which has laws and technologies already suppressing huge quantities of emissions.

The new treaty is hoped for by the end of 2009 to cover emissions 2012-2016, but applying only to “deeply industrialized countries,” in which category China and India, both with nuclear bombs and huge productions of just about everything but airplanes, are not included. They are categorized as “under-developed,” so the rest of the world can “just eat cake.” India, China, and Brazil, by world (UN) fiat, may pollute to their heart’s content well past 2016, as if they wouldn’t do so anyway, while this country passes and enforces emission-control laws requiring conformance on scales incomprehensible to the Asians and driving up prices in this country to ever-increasing levels while enormously disadvantaging it competitively worldwide.

The reason for all this balderdash is that the world’s leaders have been sold on the fact – or at least claim they have – that the villainous United States, with some help from the Europeans, is changing the climate of the world, something that apparently they foolishly imply that populations could do during the ice ages and warming ages or at any time in recorded history when the climate went through its cycles. Today’s experts haven’t even discovered yet such a simple thing as how to make it rain, yet the IPCC gang has forecast the end of entire populations right away because men have discovered how to change the whole climate; however, the IPCC findings are being routinely nullified by serious non-political researchers now, so the question is actually moot. The slight warming is not manmade.

It seems that everything from shoes to textiles to toys to electronic equipment to autos is already coming from the three nations named above, having already outdone this country with their cheap labor and non-emission-controls, so the obvious intent of the whole Bali thing was to place this country at an even greater disadvantage in world trade. Reasonable people consider Gore and the end-of-time gang to be loony tunes, the Nobel Peace Farce notwithstanding. Bush won’t stand for this graft, but it’s a lead-pipe cinch that a democrat administration will bend to the wind.

Together, China, India and Brazil own a land area two-and-one-fourth times larger than that of the U.S. Collectively, the three countries own 44% of the world’s population, while the U.S. is comprised of only five percent. The relative pollution contribution of each is unmistakably obvious. All of these countries are now industrialized, no matter what the UN claims, with Brazil actually contributing massive amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere by just allowing the cutting of the rain-forests. Despite this, the squirrelly UN is determined to penalize this country for what…for just being what it is…that’s what. Climate-change is a non-issue.

In any case, these words from C.S. Lewis in his The Abolition of Man are appropriate: “At the moment, then, of Man’s victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely ‘natural’—to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man.” Man thinks he will control nature (climate), but he is thankfully mistaken. God will take care of that.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The U.S., Global Warming & Christians

All the wrangling about what the scientists believe as opposed to what other scientists believe regarding global warming can be encapsulated in “data” and “models” that are worth little more than info-garble that folks can read and then decide for themselves about the issue. Without any help or hindrance by man, apparently, the cycles have been around for what the experts say are millions or billions of years, as if anyone has even a slight clue as to what caused the warming and cooling cycles.

One thing is clear if the historians and anthropologists can be believed, to wit, industrialization and its alleged CO2 emissions played no part, no matter how hot or cold the earth was in any given period. Something else is clear, to wit, that reputable scientists are now in the process of shredding to pieces the UN/IPCC global warming report, never mind the grand conclave of the end-of-the-earth crowd in its conference ending this week at Bali. Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, cannot even be shown in England’s public schools unless the students are told that it is a “political” instrument, not a scientific one, and unless the teacher points out the many errors in the propaganda piece.

There’s an uglier aspect to this matter, namely that people in positions such as university professors – especially university professors – have made an effort to condemn this country and a sizeable number of “religious” folks for environmental profligacy, namely, callous disregard for God’s creation and the world’s “other” people. Until recently, David Gushee was a “professor of moral philosophy” at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., but now he is a “professor of Christian ethics” at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.

This is how Gushee began an article in the Associated Baptist Press of 11 December: “Global warming is becoming the ultimate moral-values issue. Both religious and political leaders must mobilize immediately to address it. No society is more reluctant to accept these two claims than the United States. No religious community is less sympathetic to them than ‘Bible-believing’ Christians. What will it take for us to change our ways?”

According to Gushee, then, this country, oblivious to “ultimate moral values” (his, presumably), is the one most willing to end the world, and “Bible-believing” Christians (one wonders what other kind there are) simply don’t give a damn. When he classifies GW as the “ultimate moral-values issue,” he places it in the same category as one that concerns life and death, actually making it into a weapon and places the U.S. in the “them against us” category, which is descriptive of the current war on terrorism, which actually is a war against Islam. He substitutes the inculcation of global warming for the AK-47.

Surely Gushee, operating in the field of human dynamics, recognizes the “drive for survival” and “survival of the fittest” as perhaps the intrinsic considerations most shared by all people. So…what he’s actually saying is that this country, by enhancing global warming and assuming U.S. technological ability to deal with such warming while others can’t, is exercising, if not domination, total disdain of other peoples. Whether he meant this or not is moot.

From his perch in the ivory tower, Gushee damns his own country as being the predominant user of the ultimate weapon – global warming – to work its will, notwithstanding that both laws and technology probably make this country the most efficient in the world in restricting pollution of all kinds. From his perch in the ivory tower, Gushee damns “Bible-believing Christians” for having no significant sympathy for people adversely affected by global warming…in other words, “tough luck all you non-believers…we got the Book on our side.”

It would be hard to put a number on the degree of outright silliness in Gushee’s pronouncements, probably causing even the freshmen to snicker at such inane statements. Certainly, anyone who’s been around for a while laughs out loud at such foolishness. In one fell swoop, Gushee makes the U.S., driven at least partly by its “Bible-believers,” into the villain of the piece, the executioner using global warming (simply by not destroying it) to dominate the world until everyone else either melts or learns how to live in air-conditioned suits. This guy teaches in a university when hatred of both the U.S. and Christianity dominates administrations and faculties on most campuses, whether or not at Mercer, so he reflects that same anti-country, anti-conservative Christian (assuming such person to be the “Bible-believer” by Gushee) bias. Disgusting!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, December 10, 2007

Education & Money

The lead editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, Ky., of 09 December and a column about public education in the 10 December issue by Marty Solomon, retired University of Kentucky professor, point to problems and suggestions regarding the subject, but do not emphasize, at least with facts and figures, the enormous increase in funds their suggestions would entail, particularly with respect to the latter column, in which is a call for a “tiered education system” marked by at least three layers, one for the “hopelessly behind at the get-go,” another as a technical-training system (though optional), and a third for the “best and brightest,” as Solomon designated them.

The defining factor in the Solomon suggestion is that such systems, obviously available only in cities but not in districts with small student-populations, is their labor-intensive component, translated, very expensive. The editorial pointed to the areas in which Kentucky is behind the other states in all categories such as number of high-school graduates, number of college degrees, etc.,…the usual. The suggestion was made that the governor and legislature “should move quickly on a major overhaul of need-based financial aid,” translated, throw much more money at the problem.

This is where the latest efficiency-rating activity of U.S. News & World Report magazine comes in. Just as it has done annually with regard to determining the best universities, colleges, med schools, hospitals, etc., USN&WR, using the expertise of School Evaluation Services, a K-12 education data research business run by Standard & Poor’s, issued its first accounting of the nation’s public high schools in the 10 December issue and listed the 100 best high schools in the nation as determined by a complex formula indicating how schools discharge their responsibility to all students, not just based on grades. Forty states were examined for the 2005-06 school year, representing 93% of high school seniors.

Predictably, there were no high schools in Kentucky among the top 100; however, Kentucky ranked 17th overall, meaning that, on average, its system performed better than either two-thirds of those of other states (counting all 50) or far better than half, counting the 40. The former figure would seem to hold up, since it represented all but seven percent of all seniors in the country.

This is surprising, since the alleged doleful aspect of Kentucky public education as compared to that of all other states and many countries is the usual fare offered up by the media, especially as they continue to scream for more money to be thrown at this area. It is NOT surprising in the fact that legislatures subsequent to 1992 or thereabouts have been gradually dismantling the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (outcomes-based education emphasizing self-esteem), getting rid of its silly mixing of K-5 students in the same classes quite a while ago, for instance, and doing away with bonuses for teachers who supposedly perform better than other teachers, never mind the gross unfairness of that protocol on the basis of demographics alone.

For Solomon, “class-distinction” was the defining factor in calling for “accelerated schools as an option for kids who are failing,” with the usual reason, to wit, “children from poverty, on average, start school far behind their more fortunate peers.” Well, of course. Later, regarding these schools, he states, “…but these schools are not for families that cannot abide such a regime.”

His regime includes nine or ten hours a day in school, Saturday school, summer school, nightly homework, and “parents who insist on academics as a first priority.” In other words, the key is the parent, and if the parent had been on the job in the first place there would be no need of the “regime,” notwithstanding the fact that Head-start, a very expensive project, has been in operation since the 1960s to get at this problem on the front end, with virtually no success.

The problem is primarily social, and no volume of new techniques, new pedagogy, new facilities or new legislation (except to finish off KERA) will make a dent in the problem until parents quit damning their children’s education-achievement right from the get-go. This problem will grow worse no matter the efforts, since 70% and nearly 30% of black and white children, respectively, are illegitimate, having no father of record and no documented family. In most cases, poverty is the outcome of these circumstances, thus Solomon’s defining factor, with which the education establishment cannot successfully deal no matter how much money is thrown out there.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Romney, Religion & Reasonableness

In his “religion” speech of 06 December, republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said this: “But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong.”

In a commentary on the speech, J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, said this: “Governor Romney should also understand that ‘secular’ is not a bad word. While our culture need not be secular, our government must be – not in the sense of being hostile to religion, but being religiously neutral.”

The definition of secular: “of or relating to the worldly or temporal: not overtly or specifically religious: not ecclesiastical or clerical.” Walker’s and everyone else’s problem lies in what is meant by the term “neutral.” Carried to its logical extreme, neutral would mean that all coins should be inscribed with ALL appropriate pronouncements of ALL religions, such as “In God We Trust,” or none. The same would be true for public buildings and documents.

The First Amendment merely states that CONGRESS shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibit its free exercise. The 10th Amendment states that, “The powers not delegated to the United States (Congress) by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The courts are saddled with trying to make these amendments accommodate each other, since localities affected other than states (state governments) can simply mean groups of people, which could be interpreted as towns and cities.

The courts have both struck down and approved the display of religious entities on public property, finding ways in each case (both ways in this corner’s state) for them to be right or wrong. In the end, it would seem that local groups, especially since no injury to a citizen is involved other than the un-measurable and therefore unrecognizable alleged mental anguish, can make decisions regarding the issue. The group would make use of the “majority rules” provision endemic to democratic government but, of course, would not involve forcing any citizen to observe any establishment of religion, since only God and not doctrine would be involved.

Belief, as well as unbelief, is a personal thing (mind over matter), not government-regulated in any way and therefore never being susceptible to an abridgment of freedom. If an error is made by the state or group, it should be made on the side of separation, but groups of people running their own governing agencies should have the right to display religious symbols as long as the symbols do not establish a religion or effect coercion. This already is the case with respect to money and government buildings on all levels.

Walker further stated, “Government must not be allowed to meddle in religion, for or against, or take sides in religious disputes, favoring one religion over another. As soon as it does, it denies someone’s religious liberty.”

There are perfectly reasonable laws in this corner’s state, almost always un-enforced, that disallow snake-handling. The “peyote case” of a few years ago comes to mind. Should the government allow butchering of chickens or other animals as a form of worship? May the state prohibit the “religious” practice of polygamy…or even bestiality? Should the state allow the “Phelps crowd” to disrupt religious exercises (funerals)? Government sometimes must “meddle” even into religious practices in order to keep civil order, its fundamental domestic responsibility. Walker needs to get past this over-simplification of religious freedom. No observance that adversely impacts the society or forces conditions on such things as the legitimate conducting of business can be allowed in the name of religion or anything else.

It’s probable that Romney equated secularism with hedonism, defined as “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.” If so, he described the current trend in this country toward the old “if it feels good do it” philosophy, and the devil take the hindmost. The Judeo-Christian concepts form the antithesis to that trend, with the admonitions of God as spelled out in the holy scriptures defining the “right” way to go, most of the civil law simply emanating from the Ten Commandments, for instance.

It may be that Walker actually homed in on “humanism,” defined as “a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially: a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason.” If so, as Romney said, he’s wrong. Self-realization through reason drove Hitler and Hirohito, but self-realization through recognition of the supernatural – God – and God’s exhortations drive people of goodwill.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Presidents, Religion, & Politics

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, feeling the pressure of religionists and non-religionists alike regarding his Mormon faith, feels the need to explain himself, as did John F. Kennedy in 1960 regarding his Catholicism. In Kennedy’s case, the question had to do with where his primary loyalty lay, to the Pope (remember the 1980 Drinan affair?) or to the U.S. Constitution. In Romneys’ case, the question has to do with cultism (shades of Jim Jones and David Koresh), as well as beliefs that many Christians find sacrilegious, defining some sort of flawed character.

Romney will make his case, though he shouldn’t be judged on the basis of anything other than his oath and ability to uphold the Constitution. His problem calls attention, however, to what some politicians will do – or might do – to use religion in an effort to make something purely political happen. A case-in-point is the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, a convocation of sorts ginned up mostly by former presidents Carter and Clinton to be held in Atlanta 30 January-01 February, just after three African-American Baptist groups hold their annual meetings, also in Atlanta.

The CNBC (what a coincidence, an acronym shared by perhaps the most anti-administration media outlet in the world!) has as its headliners Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Bill Moyers, all good Baptists and among the most far-out liberal democrats in the land. The CNBC Web-site currently, however, features the pictures of (gasp) senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, good republican Baptists who will make speeches, but are obvious tokens as one looks at the list of big names connected with the event.

The CNBC was officially hatched last January just as the main presidential contenders were beginning their much-too-soon campaigns, and the main event will be held just as the primaries come on line. The clambake will be held between the primaries in Iowa (caucus), New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, Florida and the tsunami 20-state primary of 05 February. One wonders if a religious celebration might have seemed more credible after at least those primaries were over, and with a delay of maybe one or two weeks, especially as conceived for “religious” rather than “political” reasons by consummate politicians. Coincidence, anyone, especially since Hillary Clinton is anything but popular in the South?

Since Carter, Clinton, Gore, and Moyers are former government officials at the White House level, the affair smacks of the mixing of church and state, something liberals accuse evangelicals of favoring, thus also smacking of rank hypocrisy. Ironically, Senator Grassley is currently investigating at least six “TV ministries” of high-profile, glittery televangelists with regard to their tax-exempt status, but has agreed to speak at a church-sponsored event himself. One wonders if he will check out the CNBC’s tax-exempt status, especially since it’s headed not by religionists but by politicians. A large amount of money – along with appeals for donations – is involved in the enterprise, noted on its Web-site as tax-exempt.

An amalgam of some 30 or so Baptist entities (denominations, media outlets, universities, etc.) are “partners” in the CNBC, representing, according to the site, some 20,000,000 North American Baptists. Notably absent from the list is the 16,000,000-member Southern Baptist Convention (categorized by the liberals as huge part of the “Religious Right”), deemed earlier by Carter as portraying a “negative” image to the country, notwithstanding its support of some 10,000 missionaries, half in North America and half throughout the rest of the world. The SBC has undergone a change in the past quarter-century that defines it as far more “fundamentalist” than before, though it has continued to grow during the period. The most high-profile former Southern Baptist is Jimmy Carter, whose doctrinal stands are not upheld in the SBC, making one wonder about his actual incentive. Indeed, the church in which he famously teaches Sunday School is strictly Southern Baptist.

The program outlined for the CNBC includes all sorts of sessions to deal with mostly social problems, though evangelism and preaching are listed, too, giving it the air of being terribly useful. But the entire affair is described as a celebration. One of the main goals involves the never-ending, mind-numbing clamor for the respecting of diversity, the very mention of which reminds everyone of how much they are different from each other than of how much they’re alike. Another goal is “unity in bringing good news to the poor,” though one suspects that pure water, medicine, food, and jobs would do more good.

Carter’s antagonism toward the Southern Baptist Convention and Clinton’s interest in anything political, especially as it relates to his wife, along with the timing of the CNBC – especially the timing – give one pause with regard to the actual motivating aspects. Without question, the participants will have the highest motives in mind…simply doing good. Most of them will come from groups already carrying out what they consider “good works,” and are not likely to become part of yet another organization to replicate their efforts.

As of now, it seems to be mostly a “meet-and-eat” affair marked by some fine rhetoric, but lacking much hope of substance, since even the liberal/moderate Baptists find cooperation hard to come by in the light of deep-seated doctrinal differences. As for ameliorating racial problems, real or imagined and a prime objective of the meeting (at least so advertised), forget it. The problems will be talked to death, with nothing smacking of change, human nature being what it is.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, December 03, 2007

Downtown as Playground?

Wonders never cease in the matter of “resuscitating” the downtowns throughout the nation, whether in small towns or large cities and usually using taxpayers’ hard-earned cash in the process and always making noises about the absolutely undeniable importance of the aesthetics of the DOWNTOWN. So it is these days in Lexington, Ky., with the latest mantra of the “downtown revolutionists” being that the big horse-competition of 2010 simply must not be held where the downtown can be considered shabby.

So…the mayor (or the city, whichever) has engaged the services of an out-of-state firm to “do” a downtown sidewalk and streetscape master plan, taking as a priority the creating of a park along Vine Street and making Vine more attractive to pedestrians. A PARK? Egad! Vine Street is the second most important street in the downtown but the “downtown revolutionists” have been making noises for some time about turning Vine Street into some sort of a “green-space” for pedestrians to walk their dogs and otherwise clutter up the place.

This is reminiscent of the amazingly absurd recommendation (this time from some folks at the university) a few years ago that Vine Street be closed entirely at Broadway, with the advisement that people needing to get downtown should just plan on using “neighborhood Streets,” which allowed for one-lane traffic in many places. The Urban-County-Council, suffering a collective-coma, actually voted to do this. Then, the common-sense folks raised a howl, so the council decided on just closing half the lanes, whereupon the common-sense folks screamed to the traffic gods for relief, and the council junked its whole street-closing, gridlock-threatening nonsense.

Now, the aesthetic-mongers are at it again. With the traffic situation being the main reason folks would rather endure a root canal than go downtown, in the first place, they want to exacerbate the traffic problem by building a park (some say in the middle of Vine) that because of the newly enhanced traffic problem people will simply avoid at all costs, thereby being forced to walk their dogs and push their strollers in the same old dull neighborhoods.

Downtowns were once the center of activity. This was the case in Lexington right into the 1960s, before the population numbers exploded, one result being that parked cars could not be accommodated in large enough numbers to make shopping downtown worth the trouble. Its nature changed from one of great retail diversity to one allowing mostly for office buildings, financial institutions, government buildings, specialty shops, sports arenas and other entertainment venues. Private developers introduced the shopping-centers/malls where there was room for everything, and the rest is history.

If taxpayer money were used to help the entrepreneurs in the same way as those who profit from it downtown, one wonders what the cost would be. There’s already enough green space downtown, so one wonders why a consulting firm must be engaged at a cost no official has even mentioned (is the contract unbelievably open-ended?) to simply design some new sidewalks. The streets can hardly be redesigned, since they’re already in place and not susceptible to moving around. Some paving might be needed before 2010, but how complicated is that?

Oh well…if nothing else, perhaps this unneeded project will take minds off the other unneeded project ballyhooed a few days ago, to wit, building a new basketball facility (just $200 million plus cost- overruns) across the street on a valuable parking lot to replace Rupp Arena…after the spending of millions on its refurbishment only three years ago. Sometimes one wonders, in light of the collective poor judgment of the council, if voting is worth the trouble.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark