Saturday, December 30, 2006
Sometimes I just do a google search on any old thing and see what happens. Tonight I did a search on 'David Byrne' and lo and behold, found out he has is own web site: www.davidbyrne.com. He also has a blog: David Byrne Journal
Who is David Byrne and why should you care? He was the genius behind the 1980's mega band The Talking Heads.
More so than any other 80's pop band, the Talking Heads were truly avant garde, which is what you should expect from a band made up of art students. To this very day I've never encountered a band so unique and so creative.
I actually feeling sorry for the old dude. I doubt he will rest in peace however, as he certainly seemed quite defiant to the end, no sign of repentance. At least he went out with his boots on.
Had Saddam kept his focus on Iran, instead of messing around with Kuwait and Israel (and eventually the rest of the world), he still might be with us.
Friday, December 29, 2006
I built my own database for this, but I can already see the advantages of putting my book collection online, and being able to access it anywhere I can get on the internet. Just might have to test this out...you can list up to 200 books for free, or unlimited numbers of books for just $25 USD...lifetime fee...
I just hope there's a way I can catalog my CD's and DVD's as well...
hat tip: ochuk's blog
I would like to bring your attention to a new web site: Raise this Up! It is a news/article aggregate site where users get to post or link to articles that they think would benefit a wider audience. So instead of having to go to 5,000 different internet sites to find good articles, you can do all your research at Raise This Up!
As the site is only beginning, there is very little content, so I encourage you, humble reader of my blog, to go to the Raise This Up! website, logon as a new user, and start posting any and all articles of a Christian nature that you believe would be beneficial to a wider audience.
Already, I have found one of my articles posted: "Silence. Simplicity. Solitude." If you liked it, go vote on it!
I've already submitted a couple of articles I've found on other Christian blogs, and I will continue to do so.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
"How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?"
It amazes me every time I hear it, so I just had to write about it. That which amazes me are those Jews who lost their faith in God because of the Holocaust during World War II.
At first, it seems reasonable: why believe in a god who won't protect you? What good is a god who allows millions of your race to be killed in a systematic fashion? Why believe in a god who won't stop your people from being killed?
These are questions of theodicy ( thee-ODD-i-see) -- justifying God's goodness in the face of evil.
To some Jews, God's lack of protection of his people during WW2 is proof that he doesn't really exist. Certainly no god would allow that to happen to his people, if he were really almighty, would he?
First let me state that I'm in full agreement with all those who find the Holocaust of World War II to be an act of despicable evil. However, there were a lot of things done to a lot of people during World War II that was despicably evil. Just read a little about what the Japanese did to the Chinese (amongst others) during that same war, or what the Russians did to the Germans, or even what the Russians did to other countries. There's plenty of evil that went around to implicate just about everyone, even America and Britian to a small extent.
The reason I bring up the multitude of atrocities is to demonstrate that their was enough pain and suffering going on in Europe and Asia to make almost everyone lose faith in God; you didn't have to be Jewish to suffer at the hands of the Nazis. And yet there are many more who's faith was ultimately strengthened by the events of World War II, like the famous Dutch Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom. The horrible evil of World War 2 was not sufficient to make atheists of everyone, even those who lived through it's horrors.
There are many underlying assumptions being made by those who choose disbelief which need to be clarified before we can proceed. Those who find fault with God for not preventing the Holocaust are making--consciously or unconsciously--one or more of the following assumptions:
1. God must protect his people, no matter what.
2. No Jews were spared from the pain and suffering of the Holocaust.
3. God must overrule the free will of men to choose evil actions.
4. God has never allowed the Jewish people to suffer such humiliations in the past.
5. Nothing good ever came out of the Holocaust that ultimately benefited the Jewish people.
6. The Jewish people did not deserve the persecution that they underwent.
7. The Nazis got away with their evil acts
ANALYSIS OF THE ASSUMPTIONS
Let's examine these assumption one by one:
1. God must protect his people no matter what.
You will not find a passage anywhere in the Bible where God gives unconditional protection to any group of people, not even the Jews. Rather, there are numerous conditions that God lays out that are necessary for him to grant you protection. (Read the five books of Moses and the prophets) And even so, that does not mean that you will be spared pain and suffering in this life. The book of Job is a prime example of this, as is the story of Joseph.
2. No Jews were spared from the pain and suffering of the Holocaust.
While millions of Jews were killed during the Holocaust, millions more were spared this evil, either because they lived in countries beyond the reach of the Nazis, or they were kept from the Nazis' persecution; often being rescued by Christians of various denominations.
3. God must over-rule the free will of men to choose evil actions.
The Hebrew scriptures clearly state than man has been given the freedom to choose good or evil, Ezekiel 33 states this clearly. God will not over-rule mens' actions, but He will at least be warn men of the consequences. If a person chooses evil, they will ultimately pay for their choice. However, God does not intervene to stop men in their initial pursuit of evil.
4. God has never allowed the Jewish people to suffer such humiliations in the past.
Because of their special relationship with God, the Jews have been under closer divine scrutiny than any other people. While God does not offer all Jews unconditional protection, he does what he can to help those who remain faithful to him despite heavy opposition and persecution. Sadly, these Jews deserving protection are often a minority of the total population. This point is well documented throughout Hebrew scriptures, and is obvious to anyone who studies the prophets and writings beyond the five books of Moses. (Yet the pattern is set even in the Torah...Noah and Lott for instance, and even the Hebrews themselves enslaved in Egypt.)
But because the covenant between God and Israel applies to all Jews who are circumcised, and not just to those who are faithful followers, the negative aspects of the covenant are in effect for those who choose not to follow the terms of the agreement. When this happens---and it's happened several times throughout Jewish history---God takes the offensive against the Jews, and has them suffer humiliating defeats against their enemies. Again, this is extremely well documented in the Hebrew scriptures, as well as secular historical texts. However, these defeats and humiliations are never allowed to go so far as to wipe all Jews off the planet.
5. Nothing good ever came out of the Holocaust that ultimately benefited the Jewish people.
It was a direct result of the Holocaust that the nation of Israel was established in 1947, by the vote of the UN. It is an event unprecedented in history: a nation coming back into existence that was wiped off the map back in the year 70 by the Roman army. While the British were none too helpful in the creation and administration of Israel, at least they made a provision for it's existence. Of course Israel has had it's issues with it's very intolerant neighbors ever since it's independence, at no time have they been able to overcome the Jewish nation, the most powerful country in the entire middle-east.
6. The Jewish people did not deserve the persecution that they underwent.
Well, this is one of those assumptions that cannot logically be made, since obviously someone, somewhere believe that is was deserved! Whether or not God himself felt it was deserved is beyond our knowledge, but given that we have a history of him taking full responsibility for the mass deaths of Jews (as well as other nations) throughout history, it would not be illogical to assume that he, in some cosmic way, can be held responsible for the Holocaust deaths. It is also logical to assume that he somehow discerned that they were, in fact, deserved. What crime or crimes the Jews committed, either individually or corporately that offended God I cannot say, but I do think that Jewish involvement in communism, both in it's creation and in it's spread, might have something to do with it, even though only a small number of Jews may have been directly involved. Certainly this was a very big part of Hitler's rationale in exterminating the Jews, as they were seen by him--and not inappropriately so--in being the instigators in the communist movement, both in Germany and in Russia. It should be remembered that Hitler hated communists even more than he hated the Jews. It is one of the strange paradoxes of history that the country where communism first took root, Russia, was just as anti-semitic, if not more so, than Germany.
And it is a cold fact of history that communism as a political movement has been the most evil force of the 20th century, greatly eclipsing the atrocities of the Nazis by a wide margin.
7. The Nazis got away with their evil acts.
Well, they didn't, not by a long shot. If we can logically and biblically "blame" God for the deaths of the Jews at the hands of the Nazi's, then we can also logically credit God for putting a stop to the Holocaust, and to the Nazis themselves. It is a fact of history that the Nazis obviously failed in their effort to exterminate the Jews, a failure so complete that the Jewish people gained far more from the Holocaust than they lost: they got their old country back. Would the Jews be better off if there were no Israel? There are a few Noam Chomsky type self-hating Jews out there who might want to try to make that argument, but it's obvious that a clear majority of Jews are very, very happy that there is, once again, a Jewish nation on the face of the earth...perhaps the greatest miracle of the 20th century, if not world history.
The connection of the Holocaust to the creation of Israel is a fact of history, a fact so irksome to modern day Jew-haters that they would prefer to deny the existence of the Holocaust in order to deny the right of the nation of Israel to exist.
There may be good reasons for giving up your faith in God, but through rational examination of the evidence, the historical fact of the Holocaust cannot be one of them. If anything, it may paradoxically serve as more evidence for the existence of a God who favors the Jews!
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Click "My Check" to play the call.
WARNING: Language not suitable for minors. (But definitely suitable for miners.)
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature--trees, flowers, grass--grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls." --Mother Teresa
source: the Quote Lady
I find myself nodding in agreement with both these quotes, especially the first one. It is difficult to explain to those who haven't experienced it, but coming out of a time of intentional, wonderful silence back into the "real" world, is like going from the Garden of Eden to a scrap yard. We have grown so used to the noise all around us, when we intentionally step away from it all, and then step back into it, it's a wonder that we aren't all insane.
Come to think of it, I'm not so certain many of us truly are sane.
I do not make New Years resolutions, nor do I make resolutions of any kind, as I found that any sort of vow I make usually ends up in failure any way. Some of the wisest words ever spoken were when Jesus told his followers "Let your yes be "yes" and your no, no....anything beyond that is from the Devil." (Matthew 5:37) In other words, just do what you know you should, and stop doing that which is harmful, no need to get religious about it.
As strange as it seems, Jesus was probably the most irreligious person who ever lived, even more so than the Buddha or Socrates. It's absolutely stunning how we have turned his simple precepts into a circus of religious devotions. But then again, we human beings like that sort of thing, don't we? Buddha and Socrates faired no better.
While I'm not quite sure I would call them resolutions, I do plan to put into effect the three cardinal virtues of the spiritual life, effective immediately. Those three cardinal virtues being silence, simplicity, and solitude...in everything.
SILENCE: This is more than just keeping my own mouth shut, but keeping other voices to a minimum as well, including those that come from radio and TV. I guess that's why I love reading and the Internet so much....so much of that sort of activity can be done in silence (with the exception of YouTube and iTunes of course...) Most of the pain and suffering in my life has come--and does come--from people who can't shut up.
SOLITUDE: I absolutely LOVE solitude! Being alone is the most awesome spiritual experience available to man, as long as he can stand himself. If you can't stand yourself, then you are in desperate need of solitude. The thing we most fear is being alone with ourselves. Once that fear is overcome, we soon find, to our utter surprise and amazement, that being alone means never having to be alone, for it is when you are alone that you can most sense the presence of God. It is also in aloneness where you can most come to a self-understanding and even a self-appreciation that will not happen through any other means.
SIMPLICITY: Perhaps the most difficult of the three, especially in this modern world. I am fortunate to work with many senior citizens and retirees, and looking at the world through their eyes, I'm amazed at the magnitude of complexity our lives have taken on in the past thirty to forty years, mostly do to the information revolution, along with electronics. For all the good electronics have done, the world is a far, far, far more complex place than it ever has been, and it's not getting any better. Rather than simplify, with each advance in technology, the world becomes even more complex, in an exponential fashion. There's no going back, except via intention.
One bizarre thing I did this year--and this from a person who has been fascinated by computers and electronics for thirty years--I went back to keeping a hand-written balance of my checking account, rather than using Quicken or Microsoft Money. Why have I done such a old-fashioned thing? Because I'm really getting fed up with some of the aspects of the software industry, and their practices. I don't find keeping my accounts on computer to be very beneficial at all. If I need to, I can still access my balance and transactions via the internet, which is very useful.
I've also purchased a bunch of used 35mm camera equipment, and hope to use that more throughout the years, and leave my digital camera in the bag. I don't care if I do have to pay to develop the pictures, there is something about film and film cameras that charms me in a way digital cameras never can, and this from an early adapter of digital cameras.
Next to go: my debit card. Though debit cards have certainly made things very, very simple to a certain extent, I'm not sure it has made things better.
And that's the strange paradox about simplicity: sometimes the hard way is actually the simple way, and the simple way (i.e. "easy") is actually the hard way.
And so the mantra of "silence, simplicity and solitude" will be mine, not just throughout 2007, but most likely until the end of my days.
I have iTunes on my PC and laptop, because it was free software. I've downloaded a total of perhaps 50 songs from iTunes over the past two years, mainly because I did not want to buy an entire CD's to get one or two favorite songs. But I do not want an iPod, not now, probably not ever.
Why so negative towards the humble iPod? Simple: It's an over-priced peice of junk. And the iTunes are also, each and every song, overpriced pieces of junk. But let me tell you what I really think...
I set up an iPod for a relative, and was shocked to see that the two gigabyte model was really only a 1.7 gigabyte model. In other words, Apple rounds up when they advertise these things. What's a mere 0.3 gigabyes? Well, measured in songs, about 40 songs worth of space missing, or enough for a small video or movie clip.
For reasons of appearance, the iPod battery is built-in, unremovable. Batteries always go bad, always. Hence, when the battery does go bad on the iPod, it becomes a truly worthless piece of junk, especially since this will probably happen soon after your very short warrenty expires.
And let's talk accessories...the cheapest set of speakers I could find for the iPod, including a little docking port, was $70.00. I can get speakers of equal or better quality for my PC or laptop for a mere $20.00 to $25.00. What's the difference? My PC and laptop don't need a licensing agreement from Apple to have external speakers.
You can get a "universal dock" for your iPod, for just a mere $39 USD, that will allow your iPod to connect to any stereo that uses RCA jacks, or a TV that has an "S-video" input. But what do you get when you buy a "universal dock?" Basically a piece of plastic that acts like a stand for your iPod. If you actually want cables to connect your iPod dock to your TV, stereo, electrical supply or computer....that's all extra. And if you want a remote control for your iPod, that's extra too. By the time you get a "universal dock" a cable, and a remote control, you've spent an extra $100 just to listen to poor quality songs from your stereo system.
But worse than even the iPod are the iTunes. If there were any service that deserves the slogan "pay more and get less" it would be iTunes. Why do I say that? Because for $0.99 USD per song, you get a track that sounds like it's being played over AM radio. In other words, the audio quality sucks. The worst CD in my collection sounds better than the best iTune. I buy iTunes for convenience, not sound quality, and due to the poor sound quality I own no more than 50 songs from iTunes that I've purchased in the past two years. (In contrast to the hundreds of songs I've purchased during the same time through buying CD's and DVD's.) If the iTune price were more like $0.39 a song or less, I wouldn't complain....but paying more than CD prices for AM radio quality just doesn't cut it for me.
I have a decent size CD collection, and every CD I own can be played on every CD player made, with no restrictions. Shoot, I can even play them on PC's and DVD's players. But just try to play your little iTune in an MP3 player or software program that's not from Apple: it won't work. So I'm stuck playing my little iTunes on my PC, on my iTunes sofware, and that's it. There are some CD and DVD players out there that can play MP3's....but Apple's iTunes are not real MP3's....they are a propriatrary audio format only supported by Apple hardware and software. Hence, it's the most restrictive music format in existance, not that I would want to play iTunes on a hi-fi stereo anyway....ouch!
On a positive note, I do believe that the iPod's design and implementation to be one of the best ever in American industrial history. I also think iTunes is a fabulous way to conduct informal music research. But these good points do not outweigh the bad.
So from my point of view, the whole iPod thing is just another in a long line of consumer electronic fads, one that will get old just like the rest of them, unless they start slashing those iTune prices, and let gadgets other than those with the Apple name on them play that iTtune. (I'd also like to see an improvement in the sound quality, but that might be asking for too much.)
Update to a better browser: Firefox 2.0
I've been using both Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 as web browsers. I like Firefox for it's functionality,speed and security, and I liked Explorer 6 for it's ability to correctly display all the web pages I go to, as well as being the only browser that will work correctly with Microsoft web pages and update services (no surprise there!). Depending on my need I used either one.
Microsoft recently unvieled Explorer 7, which has the same tabbed browsing feature as found in Firefox. I thought that I would finally be able to just use one browser for all my internet needs, and leave the other behind. Well, I was wrong.
So rather than having Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) meet all my needs, it may never be used again. The reason: it locks up...and the first time it locked my entire system!
In the space of 24 hours, I had IE7 twice lock-up on me while exploring different web sites. The little browser totally froze-up, becoming completely unusable. I've never had this problem with Firefox, nor Internet Explorer 6. The first time it locked up, it locked up the entire PC and operating system, which is a problem I've never experienced before with any other software program I own. Both times the lock occured, IE7 was the only application running.
The last time IE7 locked up, I checked my system monitor, and saw that the CPU was being used at 100% capacity! Yet nothing was happening with the browser, it was completely non-responsive. Normally when you see a situation where the only application you're running has locked-up solid, and your CPU is pegged at 100%, then you might have what is commonly known in the programming world as an infinite loop: a computer instrution gets carried out over, and over and over, because the software programmer forgot to provide the instruction an "exit" for when it finishes it's instruction. So it just carries it out again, and again, and again....
Usually infinite loops are created by beginning programmers, or those who are working on very complex systems where a programmer may only be working on one tiny piece of the system, and not be aware of the other pieces and how they interact. I doubt any of the programmers working on IE 7 are beginners, which leaves me to think that the loop was casued by system complexity and a poor testing procedure for the finished product.
Hence, no more IE 7 for me. Instead, I'm using Firefox 2 as my browser from this point forward. I don't have enough time in this life to be messing with unstable, unusuable software. I will be keeping IE 7 around for software update purposes, especially since Microsoft software updates don't like Firefox. But beyond software updates, IE 7 is not going to be used very much on my PC.
Microsoft had an excellent opportunity to become the dominant PC web browser again, but instead, due to a poorly tested product, they will be sending the masses off to Firefox.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Ebenezer Scrooge as played by the great British actor Alister Sim. The best Scrooge ever.
Who can forget Charles Dickens wonderful Christmas classic "Christmas Carol." Perhaps the most famous of all Christmas fables; it is the story of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who loved money more than anything else, and made sure he kept all of it to himself.
But Scrooge is confronted about his cold hearted greed by the ghost of his long dead business partner, Jacob Marley. He is shown what a horrible awful life he's had since making money his idol, and how his miserable ways have caused pain and suffering to others, either intentionally or unintentionally.
So after an evening of being haunted by ghosts, Ebenezer Scrooge wakes up Christmas morning, a new man! The new, generous to a fault Ebezeer Scrooge then goes about London showering money and gifts upon everyone he finds. So the mean old scrooge becomes a happy, generous soul.
What could possibly wrong with such a story? And how can this most famous of Christmas fables be at the root of all the crass Christmas commercialism and gift giving that permeates America like a fog, and even has infected other countries and nations as well?
Well, there is an unintended consquence to the story of Scrooge.
The main thesis at the heart of the Christmas Carol is that everyone hates a greedy, cold-hearted snob, and everyone loves a generous, warm-heartted soul...and who doesn't? So we have it beaten into our heads, from the time we are small children, that greediness is bad, and generosity is good. Not a bad message in general....but then the Christmas Carol has forever linked this lesson to one particular day of the year: Christmas.
Scrooge had something at his disposal that many of us don't: a large cash reserve, big bank accounts, and lucrative investments; in other words, he was very well off. With no children or wife, he had far more money than he knew what to do with. So going off and buying presents for half of London wasn't such a big deal for Mr. Scrooge, as he certainly seemed to have the assets to do it.
But for those of us who identify more with Mr. Scrooge's underpaid and overworked book keeper, Bob Cratchit, zooming off grand gifts to friends and relatives on Christmas--even if we just limit ourselves to just those people--can be a rather daunting task.
It becomes even more complicated when you factor in that all the most desirable gifts, even those for children, are seldom less than $100 each. No, a nice selection of Hot Wheels cars or a Barbie Doll just doesn't make the cut: it has to be a Nintendo or Sony or Microsaft gaming system, with at least a few games to go with it. And if not a gaming system, then Apple's goofey little iPod is the gift of choice--a small, simple one starting at $150 and going up from there.
In other words, Christmas is EXPENSIVE, even when limited to just those few people in our most immediate family. But then who wants to be a Scooge and only get someone a nice card and a simple toy from Wal-Mart? No, it has to be big and splashy, and he has to be "cool." And if we spend too much money in the process, so be it. Better to spend too much and be thought generous then spend too lttle and thought to be a Scrooge.
Now of course there are those who really don't care that they are thought of as Scrooges, for they like money as much as Ebenezer. But most of us would rather not be associated with that image, if we can possibly help it. And thanks to VISA and MasterCard, we can help it.
I don't believe it's the ever criticized "crass commmercilism" of Christmas that has many of us in a spending spree frenzy, but rather a vicious mental fear injected into us by a 19th century British author who was only trying to preach on the virture of generosity. And so generous we will be, and we will be to a fault! Of course the makers of consumer goods know this as well, and have capitalized on this handsomely. And who can blame them? They are only giving us what we want: cool, expensive Christmas gifts.
I personally would like to see more emphasis on the poor and needy during Christmas, as well as all year long...and I dont' mean just songs about world hunger sung by spoiled rock stars. I mean just some simple, common effort to contribute to the Salvation Army, or to CARE, or some such organization that works to alleviate the suffering of others.....those who are truly needy.
I also don't have any problem getting kids toys for Christmas. I wish there were better toys than what we currently have, but then that might be too much to ask for; sometimes something as simple as a football or a nice doll can be the best sort of present. Keep it simple and fun.
To be perfectly honest, the "commercialism" of Christmas doesn't bother me personally, I actually rather enjoy it. But even so, it's easy to get carried away with generosity....to the point you are giving away gifts with money you won't have until March. I'm certainly guilty of it, and try as I might, I don't get better over time.
I want to be like the born-again Scrooge, not the miserly, old Scrooge. I do admit that that stupid Christmas Carol still haunts me, and that the ghosts of Christmas float around in my subconscious, looking for any possible signs of greed or cold heartedness. To keep them at bay, I give, give, give...certainly more than what is logical or necessary. Mr Spock would not be happy with me. I can see him now: "Spending more money on Christmas presents then your current weekly income is not logical." But sadly the spectre of Mr. Spock in my subconscious is outnumbered by the Dicken's Christmas ghosts, three to one. (Four to one if you count Marley...)
So this year, like all the past years, I've been generous to a fault, especially with member of my own family. And you know what? I don't regret it for a minute.
Still, I blame it on Scrooge.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Department 56 Coca-Cola Delivery Truck....$20 USD
1. From those wonderful people at Department 56, maker of fine ceramic buildings, I would like their fine ceramic Coca-Cola delivery truck (part# 56.59428). I have a Dept. 56 Christmas display I've put up this year, and this would be an excellent edition to my Christmas village. I already have the Dept. 56 Coca-Cola Soda Fountain.
Lionel Chicago Great Western flat car and truck trailer....$55 USD
2. Once the greatest Christmas toy company of them all, yet still around after all these years: Lionel. From them I would like this limited-edition Chicago Great Western flat car with matching trailer (part# 6-26310). I have a soft spot in my heart for the old Chicago Great Western, a railroad that was merged out of existance in the mid 60's, and was quickly forgotten about. However, part of the old mainline was converted into a nice bike trail that goes from St. Charles to Sycamore, Illinois. The CGW was famous for originating the now familar "piggy-back" service where a truck-trailer was loaded on a flat-car for delivery, saving wear and tear on the truck and driver.
"Flames of War" USA Armored Rifle Platoon with 5 M3 Half-Tracks....$65 USD
What would be a Christmas without a miniature re-inactment of the famous battles of World War II? Far be it from me to ignore this well loved Christmas tradition. So from New Zealand's own Flames of War gaming company, I would like their box set of a U.S. Army armored rifle platoon, complete with five M3 half-tracks (part# UBX01). I'm currently working on a 1500 point USA armored rifle company for use in the Flames of War gaming system, and three of these armored rifle platoons are going to be the core of this force. I will also have some T19 105mm howitzers, and M3 75mm motor gun carriages, all based on the M3 half-track. My inspiration for this half-track army comes from the well known 1970 film Kelly's Heroes. I just hope I don't ever have to play against someone with Tiger tanks...
CD Box Set "Ultimate Christmas Cocktails"....$30 USD
4. I love Christmas music of all kinds, especially compilation albums. Here is one that is on the top of my list for 2006: the "Ulimate Christmas Cocktails" 3 CD box set. All the old greats can be heard on this collection, including Lena Horne, Lou Rawls, Sammy Davis Jr., Bing Crosby and Johny Mercer, to name a few. A must-have for any Christmas music collection.
That's it! A simple, modest list to be sure.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
His thesis: a Christian hero suffers for what is right and just, no matter the cost. He does not seek glory in this life, but in the next.
I highly recommended the Catholic Analysis blog, and encourage you to visit it often, whether you are Catholic or not. While Sobrino is unapolagetically Catholic, his writings apply to the wider of world of Christianity as well.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
But if you are in dire need of philosophical or theological stimulation, I highly recommend the Apollos blog/database/web site/stimulation center.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
FOXNews.com: "NEW YORK: Mohammed Yusef Mullawala wanted a license to transport hazardous materials and to learn how to drive commercial tractor trailers. There was nothing unusual about that, until he told his teacher that he only wanted to learn how to drive forward, and he wanted to learn fast."
Perhaps backing up is against his religion...
His thesis: there is a huge demographic shift occuring in our world, that benefits those who want to destroy the West...however, they certainly don't need to waste the effort of actually destroying us, since the West is doing a great job destroying itself.
Read the article and weep.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I quote it in full now, as my personal repsonse to the conclusions of the Iraq Study Group.
In the speech, Churchill references the following verse added to the school song:
"Not less we praise in darker days
The leader of our nation,
And Churchill's name shall win acclaim
From each new generation.
For you have power in danger's hour
Our freedom to defend, Sir!
Though long the fight we know that right
Will triumph in the end, Sir!"
Winston Churchill's Never Give In Speech:
Prime Minister Winston Churchill:
Almost a year has passed since I came down here at your Head Master's kind invitation in order to cheer myself and cheer the hearts of a few of my friends by singing some of our own songs.
The ten months that have passed have seen very terrible catastrophic events in the world--ups and downs, misfortunes-- but can anyone sitting here this afternoon, this October afternoon, not feel deeply thankful for what has happened in the time that has passed and for the very great improvement in the position of our country and of our home?
Why, when I was here last time we were quite alone, desperately alone, and we had been so for five or six months. We were poorly armed. We are not so poorly armed today; but then we were very poorly armed. We had the unmeasured menace of the enemy and their air attack still beating upon us, and you yourselves had had experience of this attack; and I expect you are beginning to feel impatient that there has been this long lull with nothing particular turning up!
But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough. It is generally said that the British are often better at the last. They do not expect to move from crisis to crisis; they do not always expect that each day will bring up some noble chance of war; but when they very slowly make up their minds that the thing has to be done and the job put through and finished, then, even if it takes months - if it takes years - they do it.
Another lesson I think we may take, just throwing our minds back to our meeting here ten months ago and now, is that appearances are often very deceptive, and as Kipling well says, we must '...meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same."
You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination.
But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period--I am addressing myself to the School--surely from this period of ten months, this is the lesson:
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.
Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.
You sang here a verse of a School Song: you sang that extra verse written in my honor, which I was very greatly complimented by and which you have repeated today. But there is one word in it I want to alter - I wanted to do so last year, but I did not venture to. It is the line: "Not less we praise in darker days."
I have obtained the Head Master's permission to alter darker to sterner. "Not less we praise in sterner days."
Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days--the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.
Well said Mr. Churchill, well said.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Peace through superior fire power.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Though I love computers, the Internet, and blogging, my life circumstances are dictating that I spend time away from those things so that I can pursue some other interests. It is my deepest regret that a day is only 24 hours longs, as I have enough interests and responsabilities to make a 48 hours long day go by very, very quickly. Life is so very fascinating! So much to learn, so much to experience, so much to do! It is far, far too short in duration. I haven't even been able to master a single foreign language yet, and I'm on the lee side of 40 years old...
I'm going to experiment with blogging from work, something I never wanted to do, but if I dont' blog from the workplace, then I won't be blogging at all; for when I get home, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer monitor and keyboard for another hour or two. I spend all working day staring at a computer screen, and chance to do something else is an opportunity quickly taken.
I'm getting to the point that when I get home from work, I don't want to spend any more than perhaps 15 minutes with e-mail and blogging. Of course I use my home PC for a multitude of different things, even the purchase of Christmas and birthday presents, but now I desire to move away from my life of ease and pleasure as a cyber surfer, and engage in some more human centered activities, especially with my cute, little family.
So I hope to DRASTICALLY reduce the amount of time I spend on the computer at home, and if all works well, maybe spend NO TIME at all on it during the week. The fact that I'm starting to take on the appearance of Jabba the Hut is a subtle but important reminder that I need to engage in more activities than simply moving my finger over a keyboard.
Wish me luck. Better yet, pray for me.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Big Mac with a little gospel on the side
By Johnathon E. Briggs
Tribune staff reporter
September 10, 2006
A McDonald's restaurant on the South Side of Chicago might be an unlikely spot to catch the Holy Spirit.
But for the last three years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, soul-stirring gospel music has filled the parking lot, the dining area, even the bathrooms of the Golden Arches at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
The grainy, full-throated contralto of Mahalia Jackson's 'I Will Move on Up a Little Higher'--could it be coming from the larger-than-life cutout of Jackson in a faux recording booth in the back of the store?--complements the aroma of Big Macs.
A mural tells the story of gospel music and photos of gospel artists decorate the dining area. A glass display case brims with porcelain African-American angels.
Choirs come in for live performances, or even the occasional worship service. Employees punctuate sales with 'Have a blessed day,' and customers are saying 'Amen' to the Gospel McDonald's.
Since franchise owner Yolanda Travis transformed this fast-food sanctuary, she has enjoyed a double-digit increase in sales and, by all accounts, changed the vibe of a notoriously rough corner that straddles the border between the Bronzeville and Hyde Park neighborhoods.
Located in the shadow of a cut-rate liquor store, the site had been a hot spot for rowdiness and crime, police records show.
But longtime customers say that since the arrival of Gospel McDonald's and its strong-willed operator, the ranks of loiterers have thinned and they have experienced a kinder, gentler corner.
"The music kind of soothes your nerves," said Minter, 74, during a recent lunch rush. "You got something to calm you down. You don't stress out."
Shift manager Rory Grant said the restaurant's inner calm has spilled into the street. He doesn't see as many men huddled on the corner clutching bottles wrapped in brown paper bags, and customers seem to act right in the presence of something spiritual.
"When first I started in 2002, it was rough up in here," said Grant, 22. "Now they come in all polite."
Employees and customers say that Travis' hands-on management style is also behind the revival.
The former Illinois Air National Guard sergeant is known for running a tight ship and won't tolerate what she describes as "nonsense" on her premises.
Indeed, Travis made headlines last year when a Kenwood Academy High School student was handcuffed and arrested inside another McDonald's franchise she operates at 5200 S. Lake Park Ave.
The teenager had been protesting a policy that required students to sit in a separate area from other customers, a policy Travis said she implemented based on customer complaints about unruly behavior. After the incident she scrapped the policy and issued an apology.
So far, Travis hasn't encountered any protest about the gospel theme. That's a sign to her that she's filling a need.
"A lot of people believe, but they don't want to go to church," Travis said. "So they come here and listen to the music. It's a lot of stay-at-home Sunday worshipers, you know?"
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Monday, September 11, 2006
Rick was also a Vietnam Nam veteran, having immigrated to the USA specifically to fight in that war! He's was an amazing man. I encourage you to read evereything about him you can get your hands on.
9/11: Never Forget.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
There are currently four original poems as this posting, but I'm sure CE Grand has more in the pipeline.
Whether you like poetry or not, stop by the Poetry blog and read one or two, I think you'll be impressed.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
"What Europeans say about what should be done about terrorist states should fall on deaf ears. Their history of weakness and cowardice during the 1930s goes a long way toward accounting for the 60 million lives lost during World War II. During the mid-'30s, when Hitler started violating the arms limitations of the Versailles Treaty, France and Britain alone could have handily defeated him, but they pursued the appeasement route.
Anyone who thinks current Western appeasement efforts will get Iran to end its nuclear weapons program and end its desire to eliminate Israel is dumber than dumb. Appeasement will strengthen Iran's hand, and it looks as if the West, including the United States, is willing to be complicit in that strengthening."
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Today's poem is from the book "Notes to Myself" by Gordon Prather. Read this one slowly and carefully, then read it again, and again...
If I had only…
Forgotten future greatness
And looked at the green things and the buildings
And reached out to those around me
And smelled the air
And ignored the forms and the self-styled obligations
And heard the rain on the roof
And put my arms aorund my wife
…and it's not too late.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Both Stein and Hudnall accurately point out the consquences of Israel's failure to destroy Hezbollah. Great post!
The Illinois Railway Museum has hundreds of railroad cars, trollies, steam engines and diesel engines. They have have some weird stuff that you won't see anywhere else, like a huge locomotive powered by a gas turbine, and a "fireless" steam locomotive, amongst a host of other things.
They have an operating stretch of regular railroad track that is several miles long, and an operating trolley loop that's about a mile in length. If you're lucky, you might even get there on a day when the electric trolley buses are running! (But they weren't running the day I was there.)
Below are just a few pictures I took while I was there. While it may seem like there is a lot of equipment in these pictures, it is only a small fraction of the entire collection!
The Illinois Railway Museum is a wonderful place to visit, especially on a nice, quiet Sunday afternoon.
"Whatever the challenges ahead, Mr. Goldberg, the producer, said Hollywood would adapt as it did when silent movies became talkies, and three decades ago, when the VCR was perceived as a threat.
He had no sympathy for those who do nothing but complain. "Let them get a real job," he said. "They get paid a lot. They go to great parties. They fly around in jets, not only for business reasons, but for personal things, too. I think there are worse jobs to have."
I agree Mr. Goldberg.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) told the Knesset plenum that "Unfortunately, there will be another round [in this war] because the government's just demands weren't met" by the cease-fire agreement that went into effect Monday morning.
"The [kidnapped] soldiers weren't returned home, the Hizbullah was not disarmed … Right now, we are [merely] in an interim period between wars," Netanyahu warned. "And there is no one who will prevent our enemies from rearmed and preparing for the next round."
"We were a responsible opposition," Netanyahu said. "We aided in every way, including in the media war." But "our public duty is to tell the truth, because unfortunately there will be another round."
Netanyahu warned that "We were living in a coma, and received an alarm warning telling us to return to reality as it is, and to return to ourselves and to those values that will secure our existence in the future."
Click here for the whole JPost article: Olmert: Resolution 1701 changes strategic situation
This blog winds up my coverage of the current Israeli war... for more excellent coverage, visit the Jeruslam Post, Pajamas Media, and the Counterterrorism Blog, all of which are listed on my blogroll on the righthand sidebar.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
But, to no one's surprise, this cease-fire is not making many Israeli's happy, neither on the left nor the right! It will be interesting to see which lasts longer, Olmert or the cease-fire.
Read more about it here:Olmert under fire over cease-fire.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Douglas Farah has also researched the subject, and has a short article on his blog about the influence of Islam on terrorists. Here's an excerpt:
"As the Western world again debates the roots of Islamist attacks on Britain and the United States, the question often posed is "Why do they hate us?" The conventional wisdom is that alienated youth, suffering prejudice and unemployment, migrate to suicide bombings to help redress the grievious injuries suffered by uncaring European societies that offer them no way out. Also mentioned are the broader political issues of Palestine, Iraq and recently, Hezbollah."
Click here to read the rest of the article: It is not social isolation that drives radicalization, but the mosques.
Friday, August 11, 2006
"AS FREE SOCIETIES, the Western democracies have a choice of whether or not face up to the existential challenge they face from Radical Islam. The lure of seeking an easy way out is almost irresistible. The siren song of sitting down and reasoning with the Hezbollahs and Ahmadenijads of the world is powerful. If we could just do something to convince ourselves that all is well and that there’s nothing to fear, life sure would be easier."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
"But then, under pressure from the US, Defense Minister Amir Peretz made a frantic call to Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz and ordered him to stop the division in its tracks. 'We need to give the diplomatic process one last chance,' Peretz told Halutz. The orders trickled down the chain of command and by the time they reached 366, it had already reached Marjayoun, a stone's throw from the Litani."
The most famous picture of the aftermath of the bombing of Qana, Lebanon shows a man with a green helmet carrying the body of a dead child.
Well, it seems as if Green Helmet Guy is more than just a rescue worker, but rather an aspiring movie director: watch the following YouTube video to see Green Helmet Guy in action. Micheal Moore watch out!
I encourage you to click on the link and read some of the reviews. Insider accounts of Islam paint quite a different picture of Jihad than the made-for-TV progaganda that is the summ total of most people's ideas about Islamic terrorist organizations.
An excerpt from a review by M.D. Roberts:
"The book also investigates the alleged misinformation in the media together with what is called the "miasma of words that insulates the public from the evil of terrorism" in the wake of recent terrorist attacks. The book demonstrating how it is not difficult for extremists to allegedly explain Islam in a completely untruthful fashion to the unquestioning moderates and win them over by the droves. Such a statement being made within the context of sincere concern as to how so many Westerners, especially on the far left side of politics, allegedly demonise Israel and exonerate Islamic-Arab terror."
"Relations between the country's political and military leadership are at the lowest point in the country's history, on the verge of a crisis. In addition, there is a growing lack of confidence between Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, the first CoS to hail from the air force, and many of his general staff colleagues from the ground forces, who say he and his 'blue clique' [blue being the color of the air force uniform-ed] do not fully appreciate the nature of ground warfare. "
(Thanks to Free Republic for the link.)
An excerpt from the book "Leaving Islam" edited by Ibn Warraq. From the chapter 20: "Mirza: Floods, Droughts, Islam, and Other Natural Calamities."
"There were several good affluent Hindu families near our village and I had some school friends from those Hindu families. Several of them were very good friends of mine, with whom I used to go to school and play and eat together in their houses. I noticed that many times local Muslims were hostile toward those Hindus whenever any riots occurred in neighboring India. These scenarios of riots used to bother me very much, as it was very hard for me to conceive why Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had to die for crimes committed by some Hindus in Delhi or Bombay. One day I asked one local mullah if he supported killing of local Hindus for his Muslim brother in Delhi or Bombay. I was simply stunned and horrified by his reply. The mullah told me: "It is the sacred duty for the Muslims to kill kafirs. Hindus are kafirs, therefore it is our duty to kill them!" I asked him if it is written in the Koran or hadith to kill Hinidus. The mullah replied, "Yes!" At that time, it was not possible to verify the mullah's assertion, since I did not understand a word of Arabic and there was no translated Koran available to me."
...Later in the same chapter...
"I purchased two transalted Holy Korans, one in English and one in Bengali. I also purchased some renowned sahih hadith books. I also gathered the Bible, Bhagavat Gita, and some chapters from the Upanishads. I was reading the Koran, first very slowly but systematically from the beginning, and my intention was to finish the Koran. Before that, I had read the Koran selectively, some verses here and there with no clear-cut idea of what it was. The more I read the holy book, the more I was dismayed. My intention was to search divinity, philosophy, science, ethics, morality, social, and political issues in the Koran. But alas, the Koran was a book with no chronology, no philosophy, no science at all (but had plenty of erroneous science), pleny of problems in ethics and morality, amply redundancies, unfit social and political teachings by today's standards, and, above all, it had ample superstitious scriptures. I also found that the Koran was a book full of hatred, cruetly, unethical matters--no divinity at all."
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
"For a long time there has been a dreadful predictability of thinking on the Left, a lack of originality that means a thousand monkeys hammering away at a thousand typewriters could very quickly produce a whole issue of Green Left Weekly without even stopping for an expensive banana."
RED STATE JEWS
By THANE ROSENBAUM
August 9, 2006; Page A10
This is a soul-searching moment for the Jewish left. Actually, for many Jewish liberals, navigating the gloomy politics of the Middle East is like walking with two left feet.
I would know. For six years I was the literary editor of Tikkun magazine, a leading voice for progressive Jewish politics that never avoided subjecting Israel to moral scrutiny. I also teach human rights at a Jesuit university, imparting the lessons of reciprocal grievances and the moral necessity to regard all people with dignity and mutual respect. And I am deeply sensitive to Palestinian pain, and mortified when innocent civilians are used as human shields and then cynically martyred as casualties of war.
Yet, since 9/11 and the second intifada, where suicide bombings and beheadings have become the calling cards of Arab diplomacy, and with Hamas and Hezbollah emerging as elected entities that, paradoxically, reject the first principles of liberal democracy, I feel a great deal of moral anguish. Perhaps I have been naïve all along.
And I am not alone. Many Jews are in my position -- the children and grandchildren of labor leaders, socialists, pacifists, humanitarians, antiwar protestors -- instinctively leaning left, rejecting war, unwilling to demonize, and insisting that violence only breeds more violence. Most of all we share the profound belief that killing, humiliation and the infliction of unnecessary pain are not Jewish attributes.
However, the world as we know it today -- post-Holocaust, post-9/11, post-sanity -- is not cooperating. Given the realities of the new Middle East, perhaps it is time for a reality check. For this reason, many Jewish liberals are surrendering to the mindset that there are no solutions other than to allow Israel to defend itself -- with whatever means necessary. Unfortunately, the inevitability of Israel coincides with the inevitability of anti-Semitism.
This is what more politically conservative Jews and hardcore Zionists maintained from the outset. And it was this nightmare that the Jewish left always refused to imagine. So we lay awake at night, afraid to sleep. Surely the Arabs were tired, too. Surely they would want to improve their societies and educate their children rather than strap bombs on to them.
If the Palestinians didn't want that for themselves, if building a nation was not their priority, then peace in exchange for territories was nothing but a pipe dream. It was all wish-fulfillment, morally and practically necessary, yet ultimately motivated by a weary Israeli society -- the harsh reality of Arab animus, the spiritual toll that the occupation had taken on a Jewish state battered by negative world opinion.
Despite the deep cynicism, however, Israel knew that it must try. It would have to set aside nearly 60 years of hard-won experience, starting from the very first days of its independence, and believe that the Arab world had softened, would become more welcoming neighbors, and would stop chanting: "Not in our backyard -- the Middle East is for Arabs only."
It is true that Israel has entered into peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have brought some measure of historic stability to the region. But with Israel having withdrawn from Lebanon and Gaza, and with Israeli public opinion virtually united in favor of near-total withdrawal from the West Bank, why are rockets being launched at Israel now, why are their soldiers being kidnapped if the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and the intentions of Hamas and Hezbollah, stand for something other than the total destruction of Israel? And if Palestinians and the Lebanese are electing terrorists and giving them the portfolio of statesmen, then what message is being sent to moderate voices, what incentives are there to negotiate, and how can any of this sobering news be recast in a more favorable light?
The Jewish left is now in shambles. Peace Now advocates have lost their momentum, and, in some sense, their moral clarity. Opinion polls in Israel are showing near unanimous support for stronger incursions into Lebanon. And until kidnapped soldiers are returned and acts of terror curtailed, any further conversations about the future of the West Bank have been set aside.
Not unlike the deep divisions between the values of red- and blue-state America, world Jewry is being forced to reconsider all of its underlying assumptions about peace in the Middle East. The recent disastrous events in Lebanon and Gaza have inadvertently created a newly united Jewish consciousness -- bringing right and left together into one deeply cynical red state.
Mr. Rosenbaum, a novelist and professor at Fordham Law School, is author, most recently, of "The Myth of Moral Justice" (HarperCollins, 2004).
First, it seems that Israel is finding the nerve to take the battle all the way to the Litani River, and have readied a massive invasion force: 40,000 soldiers await word to enter southern Lebanon
Then there are two very interesting opinion pieces.
Yaakov Katz indicates that the IDF would rather have a diplomatic settlement then have to wade their way through the toils and troubles of southern Lebanon. Read about it here: To the Litani and Back?
And Daniel Pipes, long time prophet warning against Islamic aggression, has a piece about the the Murder in Seattle. His point: that an angry muslim who shot six defenseless Jewish women is the natural product of a religion that preaches hate, intolerance, and violence; especially in regards to the Jews.
Since I link these books to their respective page on Amazon.com anyway, I thought I would just use Amazon.com's HTML code generator to build the links.
I also signed up to become an Amazon.com "associate" -- so every book you buy that's linked to from my site will generate a couple of pennies for good, ole' Thomas Merton, which I promise to invest completely in the quest for world peace.
By the way, if you haven't bought Ibn Warraq's "Leaving Islam", now would be a really good time to do so. Easily one of the best non-fiction books I've read this year. So click on that link I provided, and have a copy sent to you RIGHT NOW!
Peace be with you.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
France has agreed with the Arabs that before ANY cease-fire agreement is in place, Israel must leave all of Lebanon. I guess the Hezbollah terrorists are tired of having to move their launchers around continuously, trying to avoid Israeli shell fire.
Of course you students of history out there already know that Israel has left Lebanon on NUMEROUS occasions, only having to re-invade the joint because Hezbollah conveniently forgets their end of the bargain: stop inciting Israel by firing rockets and kidnapping troops.
What this means is that there isn't going to be a cease-fire deal anytime soon, as Israel would be the biggest sucker in the world to fall for the word of the Arabs. So far every deal Israel ever reached to end hostilities in Lebanon or Palestine has ended up causing more conflict, not greater peace.
But then the left-wing government in Israel might take any olive branch thrown in their general direction, whether or not it's to their benefit. The reason: they do not seem to have the stomach to fight this thing to a military conclusion, nor is a military solution within the realm of possibility. But then again, a non-military solution is not in the realm of possibility either.
All that the leaving of Lebanon will accomplish is the re-arming and strengtheing of Hezbollah, just as it did the LAST time Israel left Lebanon...
Oh what a mess this is...
Here's an interesting note in his post:
A note here: By the third day of dutifully recording those Katyusha launchings, we were advised in the most direct terms that it would not be a healthy thing for us to continue to do. Scattered among the international media were representatives of the Hezbollah militia. And like any military organization, they are worried about operation security. They figure that the Israeli defense teams in Tel Aviv might actually be tuned in to FOX, and real-time displays of rocket firings could help Israel in its targeting ability)."
But the power of the Holy Spirit for transforming us and the world with that completed divine revelation is never complete or finished. And certainly none of us can dare presume to say to the Holy Spirit: "You cannot do this or that today; that was just for the early Church." Yet, it is amazing how some people voice opinions that seem to do just that: telling the Holy Spirit that certain things that he did long ago are just not the thing to do today. It is ludicrous for us to put constraints on the Holy Spirit; it may even be seriously sinful.
Here is an excerpt:
"In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time--Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as 'by the end of August,' but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise.While I do not believe this is a possibility, I post this article as evidence that the Muslim's have their own peculiar "Armageddon" scenario, which, of course, involves them actively taking part in killing lots of infadels.
What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to 'the farthest mosque,' usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind."
In Volatile Mideast,
U.S. Finds a Use
For Old Autocrats
As Elections Boost Islamists,
Democracy Push Falters
In Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Red Carpet for Mubarak Heir
By NEIL KING JR. and YASMINE EL-RASHIDI
August 8, 2006; Page A1
Last summer, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered an emotional speech in Egypt now regarded as a high-water mark of the Bush administration's push for democracy in the Middle East.
"There are those who say that democracy leads to chaos or conflict or terror," she told a packed house at Cairo's American University in June 2005. "In fact, the opposite is true: Freedom and democracy are the only ideas powerful enough to overcome hatred and division and violence."
Today, the question confronting Ms. Rice is this: How much hatred, division and violence can the region bear en route to this promised new era?
With radicalism on the rise and battles flaring from Beirut to Baghdad to Gaza, the Bush administration's quest for democracy in the Middle East is literally under fire. So while Ms. Rice portrays the fighting in Lebanon as "the birth pangs of a new Middle East," the administration is also showing new eagerness to maintain pillars of the old Middle East -- particularly America's steadiest allies in the region, the autocracies of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The violence in Lebanon also highlighted what critics say are contradictions in the Bush democracy quest. For one, the administration now has to rely on autocratic leaders as it pursues its goal of ridding the region of autocratic leaders. Moreover, the region's worst unrest is in the three places Washington has pushed hardest for democratic change: Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.
Recent elections in all three places have led to a strengthening of strongly Islamic parties, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, which picked up 14 seats in the 128-seat Lebanese parliament, and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, which swept January elections and now controls the government. The results also enhanced the influence in all three places of Iran's hard-line Shiite leadership, much to the alarm of its rivals in the Sunni capitals of Cairo, Amman and Riyadh.
Early in the democracy project, the administration had cause for encouragement despite an array of skeptics. Palestinians picked a moderate, Mahmoud Abbas, as their president in January 2005. Iraqis risked attacks to line up to vote in two nationwide elections, first in January 2005 and then last December. And when Syria pulled troops out of Lebanon, after years of interfering in its domestic politics, the country held its first free election in decades.
It also became clear that elections didn't immediately enhance U.S. interests or create stability. That is partly because Islamic groups offered by far the most organized and effective opposition to the old leaderships. The biggest shock came with Hamas's victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. The Bush administration, after pressuring Israel to allow Hamas to compete, was stunned by the results.
Amid restrictions on who could run and how candidates could campaign, Mr. Mubarak secured a fifth term as president [of Egypt] with relative ease. But the parliamentary election -- conducted in three rounds in September, November and December -- was plagued with problems. Riot police barricaded some voting stations, forcibly preventing voters from entering. Human-rights groups and the Egyptian judiciary alleged that ballot-rigging was rife.
Violence intensified approaching the second round of elections in November. In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidates won 88 seats in parliament, up from 17 in the 2000 election, forming the largest single bloc of opposition seats in modern Egyptian history. Mr. Mubarak's National Democratic Party took 230 seats of 454. While the ruling party retained its majority, for many the elections indicated the pro-Islamist direction Egypt might turn if left to its own devices.
URL for this article:
U.S.-led troops have been conducting raids against what have been described as death squads. But one raid early Monday in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood drew criticism from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, comments that illustrated the difficulty of securing Baghdad without alienating the man in the street.I post this article as further evidence of the mindset formed by Islam--in this case, Shi'ite Islam.
At least three people were killed and 15 were wounded, including four children, during clashes that ensued as the raid targeting 'punishment and torture' cells unfolded in the Shiite enclave, also a bastion of support for militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Speaking Monday night on Iraqi TV, al-Maliki -- also a Shiite and close to al-Sadr -- said he was 'angered and pained' by the operation. He indicated that it was excessive and said it hurt the cause of national reconciliation.
Al-Maliki said 'the operation used weapons that are unreasonable in efforts to detain someone -- like using planes.' He emphasized that 'reconciliation cannot go hand in hand with operations that violate the rights of citizens this way.'
In other violence on Tuesday attackers shot dead three people -- one of them a teacher -- in two incidents in Muqdadiya, which is north of the Diyala province capital of Baquba. In Baquba, gunmen killed two people in drive-by shootings.
A police officer was killed and eight people were wounded in two roadside bombings in Tikrit, and an improvised explosive device detonated in Iraq's Anbar province, killing a civilian operating a tractor, the U.S. military said."
American troops get sent to Baghad to stop Shi'ite violence, and of course the only way to stop it is through the use of force. But notice how the Iraqi PM condemns the American use of force, but doesn't say "boo" concerning the use of force by Shi'ites! It is absolutely amazing that he has no words of condemantion for Muslims killing each other, but as soon as the Americans step in to quell the uprisings, now the condemnations begin: agaist the Americans.
Does anyone else see the hypocritical double-standard here, or is it just me?