Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Liberal Canadian Muslims denounce Islamist bigots: One Canadian mosque sent out a Christmas Day e-mail message to its followers, claiming that wishing someone "Merry Christmas" was the equivalent of congratulating someone for "drinking wine, or murdering someone or having illicit sexual relations..."
A quick and resounding "Up yours" was contributed by a group of liberal Muslims who claim to have fled persecution in their native Pakistan (which we can readily believe.) Muslim Canadian Congress spokesman Syed Sohail Raza said, "These are the kind of bigots we don't need in our religion and we don't need in Canada."
Hear, hear. Watch your back, Syed - who knows how many fatwas are flying in your direction these days.
Anne 6:13 PM
At least one Canadian editor has a sense of honor: According to this National Post editorial, at least five of the potential terrorists who slipped into the US from Canada may be planning some kind of New Years' Eve mayhem, and the National Post puts the some of the blame squarely where it belongs: on the soft and liberal government.
So what has Ottowa done to keep both Canada and the US safe from jihadis?
During 2001, Ottawa issued special immigration permits to 11 suspected terrorists, over the objections of immigration and intelligence officials ...
Can the Canadians clean up their act, please ... and can we do the same?
Ottawa has admitted over 37,000 refugee claimants, most with little or no documentation to back their claims or even establish their identities. Between 5,000 and 6,000 of these people are from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen, which are known to harbour, and in some cases even sponsor, terrorists ...
It took Ottawa over a year to decide Hezbollah, one of the most bloodthirsty terrorist organizations in the world, was indeed just that -- a terrorist organization ...
Anne 6:01 PM
Judge rules "Choose Life" license plate unconstitutional because those in favor of abortion don't have a "forum" in the license-plate department to express their views.
How about the pro-lifers get to keep the "Choose Life" plate, and the abortion advocates get one that says, "Choose Death?"
Anne 5:51 PM
Monday, December 30, 2002
Accused "insulter" of Muslims refuses to apologize ... and it's news: Political cartoonist Doug Marlette caused a firestorm with his What Would Mohammed Drive? political cartoon. Even though he's received the usual obnoxious death-and-mutilation threats, the unrepentant satirist refuses to apologize. That's news these days, when the usual response to criticism is to fall all over oneself in slobbering self-abasement. Good for Mr. Marlette, and keep 'em coming.
Anne 9:47 PM
Greenies are wimps... Florida Greens (men this time) took off their clothes to form a giant chicken-foot (oops, I meant peace sign.) Give me a break - in Florida?
When I was at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, one of the men's dorms had their annual wintertime Nude Olympics. Late at night drunken undergraduates would run around the Purdue campus buck-nekkid. Now that took some intestinal fortitude, as West Lafayette IN is a nasty, cold, foggy place where winter descends about October and doesn't leave till early April.
Why do the Greens never pull these stunts in December in Chicago, preferably right in the middle of a little lake-effect snow? That would show true dedication to the principle of "honoring Mother Nature."
Anne 9:36 PM
Straying off the "compassionate conservative" plantation: Nebraska is in revolt against the Bush administration's "Leave No Child Behind" education reform plan. While Nebraska is a relatively small state, it's a strongly Republican one, and many in Nebraska educational circles believe that the education reform bill interferes with their state's right to test, evaluate, and report on their students' progress according to their own state guidelines, not federally imposed ones.
The administration has threatened to remove Nebraska's federal education money if the state doesn't comply with testing and reporting requirements.
Whatever happened to the days when a Republican administration even floated the idea of eliminating the federal Department of Education altogether? When the watchword for public schools was *local,* not federal control? When the whole point of conservatism was to reduce the influence of the federal government, not increase it?
Anne 9:27 PM
Wahhabi private education: threat to everyone else's freedom? Suzanne Katz Keating describes a Saudi-funded day school in Northern Virginia, where students study no American history or the foundations of constitutional government:
The Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in Northern Virginia forthrightly states that even though it exists on U.S. soil, it is "subject to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
Students at ISA are not required to study U.S. history or government. They do, however, receive instruction in Wahhabism.
Outsiders are not permitted to observe Wahhabism lessons or any other classes at ISA. But early this year, students at the academy told two Washington Post reporters some of the things they learn at school. Among other things, students discover the intricacies of Judgment Day.
One event on that formidable day will be that Muslims will fight and kill Jews. The cowardly Jews will seek refuge behind trees. Much like the trees in the forest scene from the Wizard of Oz, these trees will become animated and aggressive. They will call out to the righteous: "Oh Muslim, Oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him."
Students also said they are taught "it is better to shun and even to dislike Christians, Jews and Shiite Muslims." Furthermore, students learn, it is okay to hurt or steal from a non-Muslim.
The Saudi-supplied textbooks at this and other Wahhabi schools state that Muslims are obliged to consider all infidels the enemy. Certain enemies are not even acknowledged in geography class. Wahhabi schools in America are notorious for doctoring maps of the Middle East, and hanging them in classrooms - with Israel blotted out.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Times tells us that "more Muslims are homeschooling." The usual reasons are given: avoidance of what's perceived to be "bad public schools," as well as difficulties with observing the Ramadan fast, having to eat cupcakes at class parties instead of qataif pastries, etc.
Most ominously, Islamic families who send their children to public school often "remove their girls at puberty" and homeschool them instead. Control and repression of women is accomplished in fundamentalist Islam by isolating women from society in general. At what point does legitimate concern about violence and sexual harassment in (some) public schools become a vehicle for forced early marriage and other forms of sexual intimidation within the fundamentalist Islamic family itself?
The rights to private and homeschooled education are fundamental and paramount, and governments need to trample upon them lightly if at all. While the vast majority of Christian private and homeschooled students receive heavy infusions of patriotism and US history, that's obviously not the case in the Islamic school mentioned by Keating, and homeschooling parents in most states are free to do as they like. If private education and homeschooling are seen as abuses of that freedom by serving as vehicles to inculcate children in anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, then the backwash will swamp all involved in educational alternatives.
This becomes even more acute when individual states and the Bush administration advocate vouchers for private schools (and occasionally homeschoolers are mentioned as well.) Giving state money to schools that black out the state of Israel on their maps seems unconscionable at this point.
Anne 9:39 AM
Nineteen and counting, and why I oppose a draft: Now the FBI tells us there may be up to 19 potential terrorists from majority-Muslim countries sneaking around our country planning mayhem. They apparently obtained false papers and snuck in through Canada via Great Britain.
What does this have to do with a draft? Drafting young men is a serious moral decision on the part of the country. To me, it's justified only when a country has been directly attacked, is being currently invaded, or both. Young men give up their freedom and potentially their lives to defend their country's integrity. But that social compact has another side. The country itself first must show itself willing to safeguard that national integrity as well.
What was one of the first actions taken after the 9/11/01 attack? We *closed the borders* as well as grounding air travel. Unfortunately, the borders opened again very shortly after 9/11, and what followed has been a debacle worthy of the Keystone Cops. First and foremost has been the absurd "security" at airports, brought to us by Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, who never met an 85-year old paraplegic grandmother terrorist he couldn't profile.
The porosity of our borders to illegal immigrants, immigrants with fake documents, and visa-overstayers has been bad enough. Worse has been the continuing open invitation to students from majority-Muslim countries on student visas, and the continued solicitation of H-1B visa applicants (many of whom are from majority-Muslim countries as well.)
The porosity of our borders, however, poses a significant threat to the US. As long as our borders are open and porous, and as long as no profiling clearly identifies jihadist terrorists, it is unreasonable for the US government to allow the threat of domestic and international terrorism to escalate to the point where a draft of young American men would be necessary.
Anne 9:18 AM
Friday, December 27, 2002
Call me cynical, but I don't believe the reports of the "first cloned baby" manufactured by Raelian UFO-cultists. For one thing, the timing is too perfect - not only unveiling the touchingly-named "Eve" at Christmastide, but to coincide with the release of Star Trek: Nemesis as well, where Picard fights his "evil twin" clone.
For another thing, the Raelians have a reported history of dubious doings. Back in August 2001, in that biotech mecca of Nitro, West Virginia, suspicious locals alerted the Food and Drug Administration to a supposed "cloning lab" set up in an old rented school building. As the landlord said when the FDA came to check things out,
"It was very rinky-dink. There wasn't much to it," Casto said. The police and FDA left without any action. "There wasn't anything going on, so they couldn't do anything."
Nor am I overawed by claims of "scientific verification" of the Raelians' claims. Any lab with the right equipment can match DNA. However, scientists should be highly suspicious that the crucial "chain of evidence" have the requisite integrity. Will the blood actually come out of the baby's body? Will that be verified "independently?" Will the baby's *and* mother's blood both be sent separately to different labs, and the results cross-checked?
For that matter, I wouldn't trust scientists alone to verify the "clone:" I'd rather have someone like The Amazing Randi, the magician who made a name for himself debunking all kinds of occultic scams and hoaxes. Scientists are sometimes way too naive.
Why would someone fake a clone? For cultists, it makes perfect sense. Not only does it provide them with enormous publicity, but it represents a source of income from the rights to movies, TV docudramas, interviews with higher journalistic lifeforms like tabloid reporters, and so on. The tinfoil-hatted fanboys who obsess about alien abductions, probes, mutant babies, etc. will pay any money to see or read about this "new superior life form."
Anne 4:57 PM
Thursday, December 26, 2002
NY Post lists 10 film bombs: I have to agree with 9 out of 10. But Solaris was an excellent film. We're so used to bug-eyed monsters, alien invasions, mind-numbing sequences of explosions, and surf-boarding space teenagers that we've forgotten that sci-fi for adults even exists, and how to watch it.
Apparently the new version was doomed by marketing mistakes. Instead of selling the film as "intelligent science fiction" (like Gattaca, with its clever NY subway ads advertising the "baby designing" services - which people actually believed), it was supposedly marketed to middle-aged palpitating female George Clooney fans, who expected to see a bodice-ripping romance showpiecing their studly hero.
Solaris is based on the novel by Polish sci-fi author Stanislaw Lem. The space station Prometheus circles the planet Solaris, whose only feature is a massive ocean which constantly moves, changes, and casts an odd psychological pall over those scientists and technicians working on Prometheus station - they see their fantasies and obsessions come to life.
Lem's original story is bleak, existential, and depressing, which fits Lem's mechanistic, atheist world view. Andrei Tarkovsky, flush from watching Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, gave his own mystical and Christian-humanist perspective in a 1972 Russian film version.
Sodeburgh's story is his own interpretation, but draws from the best elements of both Lem's original story and Tarkovsky's interpretation. The ending adds Solaris to the list of Jacob's Ladder, The Matrix, Dark City, and Artificial Intelligence, where viewers will wonder and debate the ultimate fate of the protaganist and the spiritual nature of the world shown in the film in question.
I hate to see good films doomed by marketing debacles. We can only hope for a decent DVD release containing hours of exposition on all three versions of the Solaris story. Maybe the owners of the Tarkovsky film's rights will allow some footage for some kind of special feature comparing the two versions.
Anne 8:47 AM
Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Chinese girls slave to make US Christmas ornaments: According to this Asia Times article, the vast majority of US Christmas ornaments and decorations are made by young women in China, who work 12-14 hours a day for thirty cents an hour. Sounds to me like it's time to revive the old Christmas customs and look for some alternatives.
Scavenging always works. Many of us have older relatives who no longer put up Christmas trees or put up smaller trees than in the past. Perhaps they would part with some ornaments. Yard sales also turn up interesting old things. I'd be careful with anything old that's wired for electricity: it might be better to use it not plugged in if there are any suspicious smells or puffs of smoke. If you are very lucky to find the old candle holders for little tree candles, go ahead and use them - just don't light the candles.
Make your own. String popcorn and cranberries on the fourth Sunday of Advent. Gather pine cones and brush the edges with liquid correction fluid (looks like they're snow-brushed.) They don't even need to be hung on a long-needled tree - just shove them in the thick parts of the branches. Give the kids cardboard, glue, aluminum foil, embroidery floss, and ornament hangers, and see what they come up with. Cover styrofoam eggs or balls with ribbons, cloth scraps, sequins. Try it yourself. Don't be cowed by the Ghost of a Martha Stewart Christmas. Perfection is not the point; the fun is.
If you gather scraps of pine boughs on the fourth Sunday or later, they'll still be fresh on Christmas.
Remember that mesh we all used to use for "needlepoint" in grade school? It's probably made in China too, but at least you can use yarn scraps and make simple ornaments from that stuff (like little present "cubes.")
If you buy a Nativity set, get a German or Italian one. It will be more expensive but will be a keepsake you can pass on to grandchildren.
Save last year's bows and furbelows for re-use. It's not essential to buy lots of Christmas paper, either. Plain white butcher-block paper decorated with handpainted or stenciled designs, the color comic pages, and re-usable gift bags all work too.
For those things that one really wants to buy, why not seek out local artisans in one's community, and have a few items made, or buy locally-made craft items at the various craft festivals that spring up all over in the fall?
Anne 10:08 AM
Monday, December 23, 2002
Ooh, "massive protests" threatened if we go to war with Iraq. I can hardly wait. If they have their "candlelight vigil" in downtown St. Louis, they'll be entirely alone except for a few news crews, because *nobody* goes down there.
On this note, it seems appropriate to refresh ourselves on the immortal words of Great Britain's Neville Chamberlain, who said at the conclusion of the Munich Conference in 1938:
We, the German Führer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe.
We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.
We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe.
"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time...
Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.
Anne 11:32 AM
Why do they continue to bother? A survey of Church of England clergy showed that a quarter don't believe that Christ was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary (in short, the "virgin birth.")
One towering paragon of bravery in Hampshire said, "I have a very traditional bishop and this is one of those topics I do not go public on. I need to keep the job I have got."
I am sure that the "traditional bishops" in England all know who they are, so hopefully the one in Hampshire will pull out his Naughty or Nice file and start making a few checks.
The article cheerfully assures us, "The survey did find some comfort for traditionalists: 64per cent of those arguing against the idea of a virgin birth still believed in some sort of resurrection of Christ, whether physical or otherwise."
Anne 11:03 AM
Thanks, God, for a good Advent: We've had a lot of trials, but God has been good to us as we await the celebration of the birth of His Son.
After watching the History Channel Christmas traditions show (which really was good, despite that revolting ad), I realized that we'd lost something significant about Christmas along the way from the Puritans to today. In pre-Cromwellian English days Christmas was not only a religious feast day but a public festival, with mummers, carollers, and an atmosphere which to us would seem more "mardi gras" than Christmas.
After the Puritan Revolution, Christmas was essentially outlawed in England for many decades, and the old carols, mummeries, and revels were suppressed. CS Lewis indirectly referred to this time in his fantasy The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in the person of the evil White Witch, who's put all Narnia under an evil spell so that it is "always winter but never Christmas." After the Restoration and into the Victorian era, Christmas became more personal and family-centered (and again in the US in the 20th century), but the idea of widespread Christmas revelry never really returned.
Another point made by the show (and with which I concur) is that as Christmas became more "Victorian" (i.e. when a lot of the German traditions were introduced into England and then in the US as a result of Queen Victoria's marriage to Prince Albert), it also became more child-centered. As the narrator put it, in effect children became the interpreters of Christmas to their parents (rather than the other way around, where the adults had fun, then went to Mass etc. & the kids all joined in.) Parents participated in Christmas to watch their kids.
This produces a major problem, of course - it makes Christmas very stressful for those who either have no children or few family members, and it also makes people think that Christmas becomes "less important" or that they're somehow left out of it as their family structure changes (i.e. as kids grow up.) That's why many people seem to enjoy holidays like Fourth of July or Halloween or Mardi Gras so much more than Christmas, because these holidays capture more of the *public* and *communal* celebratory spirit that we've almost entirely stripped from our Christmas celebrations.
Anne 10:31 AM
The Scrooges of History Channel: Just tossed off a little broadside to History Channel (which we usually like.) Yesterday at noon CST they had a great program the cultural history of Christmas traditions, including a good segment on Christmas traditions in England before and after the Puritan revolution of Oliver Cromwell. The family was having a good time with it - until they ran The Ad.
This obnoxious offering was an advertisement for another History Channel show purporting to give "the real story about Jesus." What got me going was when they dangled the bait about Jesus not really being the Son of God or even Joseph's natural son, but the possible result of rape "by a Roman soldier." Yes, I know this slander has been around for a long time, but to drop it into the middle of this nice, older-kid-friendly program on Christmas traditions represented to me the height of obnoxious bad taste. I mean, I would have expected some kind of routine desecration like this from network or public television, but History Channel. Please.
Anne 10:24 AM
Lott broke the Unspoken Rule: So says a reader:
We are not the party of segregation and never have been; we simply offered a welcome mat for discontented losers from the Democratic party in the South after LBJ effectively threw them out. And we did a great service both to ourselves AND to the Democrats by doing so: we gave them an effective voice for their other, legitimate, non-segregationist disagreements with crazed northern liberals, and forced them as a price of a seat at the table to put a sock in it. The price of returning to a place at the trading bazaar (or is that 'bizarre'?) was cultural amnesia and a mutual agreement Not To Talk About It Any More. And it worked.
Trentie broke the Don't Talk About It rule and an example must be made.
What's amazing about Lott isn't that he slipped up but that far fewer Senators have done similar things. And given the quickness with which we cut his throat, it offers (a) a salutory lesson to any other remaining crypto-seggies still in government and (b) offers hope that when the Lott generation dies out they take their pernicious race hate with them to their respective Valhallas (do not pass go do not collect 200 dollas).
I say of Lott, we're well rid of him; he was never our friend anyway (and would cut prolifers' throats at first opportunity if it was to his advantage).
Anne 10:14 AM
Sunday, December 22, 2002
The Two Towers is of course worth seeing. I got wrapped up in the story, especially the tussle between Aragorn and Theoden, and Theodon's evil factotum Wormtongue (Brad Dourif.) Dourif is one of my favorites - and they really didn't need to glom the makeup on him either; if you've seen him playing the demented serial killer Luther Lee Boggs in the X-Files, you know he doesn't need any face goo to ooze pure evil.
Jackson is at his best when he's imitating medieval samurai horse operas. I can get into it on that level. John Mark Eberhart of the Kansas City Star whined that since The Two Towers is "really" about Saruman and Gandalf, we're cheated by not seeing more of the faceoff between the two - even though supposedly Jackson does defer it to Movie Three. Frankly, for most viewers, the maneuvering and subsequent battle scenes were far more evocative than watching Saruman and Gandalf glare at each other (or, God forbid, wrestle around on the floor as in Movie One.)
Jackson also gets the credit for creating the first truly multi-dimensional (even multiple-personality) computer-graphics animated character. His Smeagol makes Yoda look like a cheap Muppet on strings. Smeagol actually *acts;* even though the images were based on a human actor and then rendered by computer graphics, it's still quite a feat to give such expression and depth to an animated face.
I have some kvetches but will save them until the movie's been out a little longer.
Anne 4:15 PM
Some thoughts on Trent Lott's resignation: I'm tired of all this South-flogging. They lost the war. It was over 150 years ago. It's time for the Yankees to get over it, and realize that The Union Won. It's ungentlemanly and unsporting to kick the loser when he's down.
The American soldiers saluted General Lee's men when Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Today's Democrats AND Republicans would have liked to see not a surrender but a mass public crucifixion, Spartacus-style, followed by a "1984-style" Ministry of Information purge of all that would indicate we even *fought* a Civil War - including all the consequences that followed from Reconstruction.
I just saw The Producers this weekend at the Fox in St. Louis, and it was hysterical. One of the best lines was from the song "Everything Right," when conning flim-flam producer Max Bialystock asks accountant-turned-partner in crime Leopold Bloom, "How could we lose? / Half the audience were Jews!" about their runaway success Springtime for Hitler.
Why is it that Jews (and everyone else) could laugh along with Mel Brooks at Nazis, but everyone seems to have their collective sphincters in a pucker with the Confederacy? Why can we laugh at one and not the other? If someone had a different 'version' of a story like the Producers but about the Rebels instead of the SS, the Cathari of both parties would burn down the theater.
Anne 3:50 PM
I'm baaack... I've been busy. Sorry about that... While a lot has happened in the world since my rather extended LOA, it's nice to see Blogger hasn't changed one bit - still giving me Error 503s and all sorts of other bizarre behavior. Consistency is so reassuring.
Anne 3:45 PM