Saturday, October 20, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Alan Dershowitz, and Extraordinary Rendition

I saw "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" this afternoon. Good movie. It's a 7 on the 10 scale. But instead of focusing on Elizabeth's continuing to learn how to run a country and the defeat of The Spanish Armada, it concentrates on a romance that didn't happen with Sir Walter Raleigh. And Cate Blanchett's clothes.
Raleigh romance begins at court when he presents her with a couple of Native Americans, a box of pirated Spanish gold, some tobacky leaves, and a box of taters.
Then they go into a situation we know as The Babington Plot. Several (Catholic Sympathizing) conspirators try to win the release of the (Catholic) Mary Queen of Scots, overthrow the (Protestant) Elizabeth, and set Mary up as Queen.
They fail. Which gets to my point.
Elizabeth's spymaster, Geoffrey Rush, excuse me, Francis Walsingham, gets his hands on some of the captured plotters. He knows there is a plot to overthrow the English government. He knows the (Catholic) Prince Phillip of Spain is probably involved. He knows there are other plotters running around loose, waiting to assassinate the Queen.
I'm going off Movie History here. Possible mistakes in my timeline.
Spain could be sailing over for an attack, with "the Inquisition in the bowels of their ships". Thousands of English subjects will die. Walsingham needs information from the captured plotters, and he needs it fast.
There's a torture chamber in the dungenon. What would you do?

This is the situation that Harvard Law's Alan Dershowitz was pondering shortly after September 11. There's a ticking time bomb set to go off in a major U.S. city. We've arrested people who know the location of the bomb, but they aren't talking. What do we do? He floated an idea called a "torture warrant", an idea that rightfully sent much of the free world into a tizzy. (see link above.)
So the bomb is ticking. What should we do?

What we do now is known as Extraordinary Rendition, i.e. the U.S. doesn't torture, but we have friends who do. We haul the suspects to Saudi Arabia.
We outsource it, a process that probably started with (ahem) the Clinton Administration. Here's a quote from Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies":
Snatches, or more properly "extraordinary renditions," were operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, usually without the knowledge of and almost always without public acknowledgement of the host government.... The first time I proposed a snatch, in 1993, the White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, demanded a meeting with the President to explain how it violated international law. Clinton had seemed to be siding with Cutler until Al Gore belatedly joined the meeting, having just flown overnight from South Africa. Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides for Gore: Lloyd says this. Dick says that. Gore laughed and said, "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass." (pp. 143-144) excerpt thanks to Tigerhawk
What Dershowitz has proposed makes a lot of sense.

We're doing this stuff already. Like it or not. And it's being done with absolutely NO accountability. It should at the very least require some type of warrant, as in the Alan Dershowitz suggestion.
There's yet another movie out on this subject, simply called Rendition. The reviews aren't good. I hope that doesn't kill the discussion.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Robert Crump brought back 450 photos from Iraq and I posted this one first

Here's an Iraqi scorpion on a dollar bill. Photo compliments of Private Robert Crump, U.S. Army, now with us in Fort Worth TX.

Oral R.U. Without Dick ?

Oral Roberts University may lose Dick "Richard" Roberts, the current university president.
Three instructors have been fired, there are allegations that current ORU first lady Lindsey Roberts likes 'em young, that money has been misplaced, and that documents have been shredded. The University comptroller has been fired. In a faith-healing gone bad, three blind men were made lame.

Oral Roberts, the university's founder, started his career with small tent revivals and faith healings. This grew to a multi-media empire, including radio, TV programs, and Oral Roberts University. Because of a unique fund-raising vision of a massive Christ, Roberts also inspired one of the great rapper names: MC 900ft Jesus

My first exposure to these clowns was through my grandmother. She had been crippled by a severe stroke, and lived with us most of the time. I can remember her watching this charlatan's TV programs, and watching Roberts "heal" shills from the audience. "I just wish I had that kind of faith," she would say, after Roberts would shriek that her illness was still with her because of her unbelief.

This is from the Associated Press article that ran in the Startlegram:
Oral Roberts, who lives in California, said last week that the allegations against his family had blindsided him, "but we have been through some tough experiences in building Oral Roberts University in the 1960s, and we have surprised them all and have built a university that we believe is for the glory of God."
The Roberts family ministry grew from Southern tent revivals to one of the most successful evangelical empires in the country, hauling in tens of millions of dollars in contributions a year. The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS.
The elder Roberts founded the school, known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, in 1963. He famously told viewers in 1987 that God told him to raise $8 million for the university or he would be "called home."

There is a "Scandal Vulnerability Assesment" document tied to the lawsuit brought by the three dismissed instructors. Scandal Vulnerability? As if there's a side to these goobers that's remotely ethical? How would you go about looking for an Oral/Richard Roberts scandal? They're Faith-Healers, for heaven's sake. You couldn't throw a stick at ORU without hitting a scandal. If I'm a Whited Sepulchre, these guys are Gleaming Charnel Houses.

In a recent statement, Richard Roberts told a congregation that "God told him to deny the allegations". Would he have not done so otherwise?

Addition on November 23, 2007.....Click here and here for updates on the Oral Roberts University mess and a related mess.

And for the final comment I intend to make on these clowns, click here to read about Richard Roberts' pitiful resignation. And a few more comments about Big Daddy Oral not having the faith necessary to get off his deathbed and walk.

Jeff Jacoby Responds

Yesterday, Jeff Jacoby, Libertarian Demigod and Op/Ed journalist for The Boston Holy Globe, graciously responded to my "Public Schools, Private Schools, and Carl Carter" post. He had written a column in The Globe deploring the government's near monopoly in education. I loved the article and linked to it, but with a lengthy caveat that a little Guvmint intervention was for the best - they forced school integration in the 60's, for instance, correcting a grossly unjust situation.

Jacoby's email was polite, but devastating. This was the key sentence....

But just remind me -- who was it that segregated the A. W. James Elementary School in the first place?

It was, ahem, (cough, cough) The United States Government. The aspects of education they were best at repairing were the parts they had screwed up.

And that's why he's published through The Boston Holy Globe, and I'm published through a company laptop. I'll try not to depart from proper small government principles ever again.

The Whited Sepulchre, having been spanked, regrets the error.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Public Schools, Private Schools, and Carl Carter

My first 12 years of education were almost totally segregated.
Carl Carter, my 2nd grade classmate, and whose family had the courage to integrate A.W. James Elementary school in Drew, Mississippi, has been the subject of a history book, "Silver Rights", and a children's book "The School is not White". Can a movie be far behind?
Carl was the only minority in my 2nd grade class. His mother had decided that he and his sisters were going to have the best education possible. Tradition be damned. Carl Carter was our Jackie Robinson.
During my 3rd grade year, a 1st through 12th grade private academy was formed to circumvent the government's intent to integrate the public schools of the Mississippi Delta. White children left the public schools by the thousands. Carl Carter and a few of my white friends stayed behind.

I got a good education at the private academy. I got a great background in English, despite my tendency to use too many parenthetical expressions, commas, and cliches. (I read better than I write....) As a public speaker, I can usually hold a crowd's attention. Ruby Sue Issa taught us a lot more than history in our Social Studies classes. My faults are not because of my school or my teachers.
But even as a middle-schooler, I knew something was wrong. At one point, I sat down with my parents and discussed transferring to the Public School. I told my parents that the private school just wasn't right. I didn't say it was evil, I didn't say segregation was wrong. I didn't have the ability to articulate what I felt. I simply knew that something wasn't right. But then I talked myself out of transferring, simply because it was unheard of.
We weren't too upscale, but if your parents had the money and you were white, you went to the private academy. By the time I graduated, I was once again totally comfortable with the place.
Then one of my sisters went through a similar phase. She tried a different academy, hated it, and came back.
When my youngest sister started making the same noises, my folks decided to move to a town with good public schools. The schools happened to be integrated. My sisters and brother weren't bitten by anyone.
(My old school has since re-invented itself as a "Christian" academy. I hope they will find a way to integrate the place sometime soon. After all, it's 2007, and there's no shortage of minorities there to use as integrators....)
Then, having moved to Texas, I found myself with a daughter who needed educating, and sent her to a (barely) integrated church school through grade 6. My mother thoroughly enjoyed the irony of my kid attending a private academy. For middle school, she was in an integrated charter Arts school. High school has been the traditional public school. (But not the high school in my own beloved funky East Side neighborhood. That school is a Gladiator Training Center. I might be extremely liberal on some issues, but I ain't stupid.) Various strings got pulled to get her into the best public high school in the area, a public school that is nowhere near my house. I'm both happy with the decision, and proud of it. We didn't move to a White-Flight suburb.

Wait a minute....

Where the heck was I going with all this? My intent was to sit down and write a brief intro to the link below, which is a great Boston Globe article about keeping the Government out of the schools as much as possible. See below......But then I led off with Carl Carter and his family.
Don't leave educating our children to the government - The Boston Globe
I hope you read Jeff Jacoby's article.
Before I started writing this, I agreed with the whole thing. Now, I still agree with individual sentences, and most of the paragraphs, but I have to rein in my Libertarianism there. I can't agree with the entire article.

I still hate the idea of an educational monopoly. Or any other monopoly.

I think bi-lingual education is a joke. (No matter how little money I have, I'll always be able to pay some unfortunate victim of bilingual education to mow my yard.)

The overall public school expense to society, as comparated to a private school, is ridiculous.

But Jeff Jacoby erred in this article when he didn't give the government a slight tip of the hat for integrating A.W. James Elementary school. It wouldn't have happened any other way, and Carl Carter's life would have been immeasurably impoverished without the government's intervention. (But if I still lived in Mississippi, would I now avoid A.W. James Elementary as a "Gladiator Vo-Tech", like my parents did?)

It's funny what you can remember when you sit down and start typing.

(That sentence would have been a nice sentimental ending to this post, wouldn't it ? But I can't resist throwing in this....Jimmy Carter and I sent our daughters to Public Schools. Bill and Hillary didn't. Therefore, they're racist Arkansas Hillbillies. There. That feels better.)

Hong Kong and China

H.D.S. Greenway column on Hong Kong during China's Cultural Revolution - The Boston Globe
writes about Hong Kong becoming one of the wealthiest places on earth, despite being a relatively small rock surrounded by water, while China had an abundance of resources and starved it's people.....
A similar comparison can be made to Taiwan and China - The two nations had similar demographics at the end of WWII. Same people, same language, and similar culture. Taiwan was a relatively small rock surrounded by water. Taiwan prospered. China stagnated. (It didn't hurt Taiwan when the Chinese Nationalists took a huge chunk of China's gold reserves with them when they escaped to Taiwan. But it didn't help for that long, either....)
But many still see Collectivism as pure and holy, and Capitalism as evil. How can anyone look at the history of the previous century and still buy into that?
Hong Kong doesn't have the space to continue producing more and more wealth for it's citizens. China could eventually match Hong Kong in quality of life, if it doesn't pollute itself to death trying to catch up too quickly. One million people a month are moving out of poverty since China's opening of the first four Free Enterprise Zones in the 1980's. (Guess where people scrambled to live?)
I look forward to the day when they bulldoze the tomb of Chairman Mao and put up a Pizza Hut.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Ann Coulter Got Right. Or Didn't.

Here's a different perspective on the latest Ann Coulter eruption. It's from a Jewish blogging duo calling themselves The Hedgehog Blog - one writer is apparently kosher and the other isn't....
Their post, along with emails from friends, made me start thinking about all the extreme opinions I've read this week about Coulter.
For those who aren't aware of the Coulter Controversy because they didn't use TV, radio, newspaper, internet, or telegraph in the last week in an effort to decrease their carbon footprint, click here for the most concise summary that I could find. Video included.

There are several "Christian" ways to look at Coulter's statement that "Christians want Jews to be perfected", and her assent to the statement that America would be better if it were a Christian nation....
  1. There's the easily stereotyped ultra-fundamentalist Christian point of view: the Jews can be lumped in with all other non-believers, like Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics, Atheists, and members of The Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster, who have rejected Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Ann Coulter is wrong. The Jews aren't even "imperfect" Christians, and their status as God's Chosen People gets them nowhere - Jews who don't convert are going to hell.
  2. Moving a couple of clicks over on the continuum gets the theological traveler into Ann Coulter territory - there are evangelical Christians who believe that the Jews were God's Chosen People, but unfortunately they rejected Christ. Christianity (God's current ideal for humanity) is an outgrowth of Judaism (a failed prototype), and therefore Christians are "Perfected" Jews. Observant Jews who follow the Old Testament Law (see the Coulter interview) can still get a free pass if they're super cautious. They might not go to hell.
  3. Then there are embarrased but still borderline evangelical Christians who might honestly claim, if pressured, that the Jews aren't "saved". If they've even thought about the issue outside of their church. Once these Christians get outside of pulpit range they are embarrased by the Coulter episode, much like they were embarrased by Southern Baptist Convention President Bailey Smith's 1980 statement that "God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew". These Christians have been socialized, think of themselves as tolerant, perhaps belong to Country Clubs, and have never been filmed in an end zone holding a "John 3:16" sign. Ann Coulter isn't right or wrong, (who can make sense of all this preacher stuff?) but she is merely guilty of bad manners - she brought up religious issues in a political setting. (Incidentally, the Bailey Smith quote was later amended to include "God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew, except the prayer to be saved." This way all the Jews might not go to hell.)
  4. The Mainstream Protestants are next. Many of them aren't even aware of the New Testament scriptures that motivate the Christians in groups 1 and 2. Most of their ministers will soon write editorials or preach sermons deploring Ann Coulter for racism, insensitivity and anti-semitism, but in reality condemning her for airing the old Family Secrets in public. There probably isn't a hell for the Jews to go to. Or anyone else.
  5. Then comes the Progressive Christianity Outpost point of view. These are people whose Christian experience has been strongly tied to social ministries: they feed the hungry, shelter the homeless (as Jesus instructed) and they fret about social justice. Deep down, they know there isn't a hell, but wish God made one so Ann Coulter could go there.
  6. I'm intentionally cutting short any amateur projections of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox viewpoints. I've not seen that much written by them about Ann Coulter and the Jews. Both churches have a long, long anti-semitic track record, and might be lying low. But I suspect they're collectively giggling and congratulating themselves for not producing an Ann Coulter.

The question is this: If a Christian belongs to groups 1, 2, and 3, he or she seems obligated to spend every waking hour converting everyone possible. Jews, Muslims, and everyone else. We spend a brief flicker of time on earth, and then there's eternity, right? The fate of unperfected billions of souls depends on the beliefs they develop during this brief flicker. If Jesus was the divine Son of God, Christians shouldn't waste a minute watching Super Bowls, working at real jobs, shampooing dogs, or educating their children. It's all about eternity and who gets to be perfected. Shouldn't groups 1, 2, and 3 (if that's the way the world works) be more unashamed, like Ann Coulter? Or do they not really believe it?

But aren't groups 4 and 5 trying to have it both ways if they condemn Ann Coulter? After all, what she claims to know about God's abandonment of the Jews and salvation, she learned from the story and teachings of Jesus. What does Ann Coulter not understand?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Strange Bedfellows

Interesting observation by Greg Mankiw, Harvard Economics professor, comparing Al Gore's latest achievement to the Reagan era supply-side economists.
Greg Mankiw's Blog: Strange Bedfellows
If you're smart enough to think of things like this, you get to be a professor at Harvard.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Stephen Colbert is pure, undiluted greatness

Maureen Dowd, op/ed tormentor of all things Republican, recently bet Stephen Colbert that he couldn't write an Opinion/Editorial piece for The New York Holy Times. (Colbert is on "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report", for those who have gone without TV to reduce their carbon footprint....)
A Mock Columnist, Amok - New York Times
The results are Colbertian Greatness.
David Mallette can be clicked on and thanked personally for the heads-up on this one.

China Stories

From a great link about the China Blog Awards.....Click here for all entries. It requires a some navigation to get to all of them, but they're worth it.

This one is typical. "Laowai" means "Round Eye", the casual term used for Westerners.

There are two basic ways of ordering food in China. Try and guess which one
I normally opt for.
Method One:
1. Enter restaurant. Listen to 16 waitresses shout “欢迎光临” down your ear.2. Despite the fact that you have entered the restaurant by yourself, and there is nobody else near the establishment for another 15 miles, the waitress asks if you want a table for one.3. Follow waitress to table. Wait five minutes while the waitress clears the mass of bones, spit, foetuses, lost scrolls, blood, and monkey claws from the table with an oily rag.4. Place tissue paper on chair and sit down. Of the 27 waitresses who gather round your table, tell 26 of them to go away.5. Within 0.00000000001 millisecond of sitting down, the waitress is hovering behind impatiently.6. In impeccable Mandarin, ask for a menu. Repeat angrily when waitress giggles, looks away, and shouts to her colleagues that she doesn’t understand English.7. Tell waitress you don’t want the most expensive items she is pointing to on the menu.8. Tell the waitress to bring you a beer while waiting. When it arrives, send it back and ask for a cold one.9. When the waitress asks if you would like to drink the beer opened or unopened, ask her to open it.10. Choose meal.11. Choose different meal when told they don’t have it.12. Repeat stages 10 and 11 about three times.13. Finally choose something they have and ask them not to put any egg in it.14. Relax. All the time, a million Chinese peasants are staring at you, spitting, and muttering: “laowailaowai”. 15. After 20 minutes ask what is happening with your meal.16. After another 20 minutes receive meal, then send it back because it has egg in it.17. Seven days after you entered the place, finally receive meal.18. Pick out the stones and pubic hair.19. Eat.20. Halfway through your food, have your meal disturbedby the manager insisting on sitting down next to you and asking where you are from and if foreigners eat pork as well. 21. Ask to pay the bill, then tell them to check again after they give you the wrong bill.22. Pay for meal. Waitress asks if you have the correct change which you do not. Wait another 15 minutes as she goes down the street to find change. 23. Leave when 16 waitresses shout “谢谢光临” at you. Waitress 17 will shout “Bye bye!” instead and everybody will find it hilarious.24. Burn the place down. Then shit through the eye of a needle for two days afterwards.25. Point 25? There is none.
Method Two: 1. Walk into McDonalds/KFC.2. Point at what you want.3. Eat and get the hell out.

It's too late to get my infamous Chinese Dog and Chinese Washing Machines stories into this year's contest. Maybe next time.

What has Al Gore done for world peace? - Telegraph

Interesting perspective from England.
What has Al Gore done for world peace? - Telegraph