Friday, May 27, 2005

Memorial Day...We Do Not Forget

The family of Marine Capt. Ryan A. Beaupre received this letter last month:

Mom & Dad,

Well if you are reading this, then things didn't go well for me over in Iraq. I'm sorry for the pain that I have caused you because of this. Please do not be upset with the Marine Corps, the military, the government, or the President. It was my choice to go into the military. The President and my higher commanders were just doing what they thought was best. Realize that I died doing something that I truly love, and for a purpose greater than myself. There is a paragraph that I read from time to time when I lose focus. "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." John Stewart Mill Now there is a little Marine Corps bravado in there, but I do believe in the basic premise. I want you to know that I could not have asked for better parents, or a better family. ..... I'll never forget that one of my friends in elementary school said that if he could trade places with one person, he'd trade places with me because of my parents and home life. I truly feel that I've had a blessed life thanks to you two. Please give my love to Alyse & Ryan, Kari & Matt & the girls, Chris & Brandy, and everyone else in the family.

All my love,


Beaupre, 30, of Bloomington, Ill., was killed March 20 in a helicopter crash in Kuwait.

We are free, in this country, because of men and women like my brother-in-law Steven, and like Ryan Beaupre. If you're going to forget the meaning of a holiday, don't let Memorial Day be the one.

Hat tip to Mudville Gazetter, who has other last letters home as well (after you get past the early part of his post where he's ranting).

Annie Kinsella

Ran across a blog today that was new to me, Sheila O'Malley's Sheila Variations. She's written a thoroughly delightful post on one of my all-time favorite movie characters, Field of Dreams's Annie. At enthusiastic length, she glories in how much Annie stands out above most movie wives, and baby, she was preaching to the choir as far as I was concerned. I found myself posting a long comment, which I figure I might as well cannibalize as The Peril...

Amy Madigan's character has always been what sets that movie apart in my mind. It's not just that she's twice the character any of the other characters are in that particular film; she's one of the great characters in any film, period.

I love the fact that they make her so strong and so supportive and yet so real and flawed -- the scene where she and Beulah are going after each other and obviously they have BOTH gone temporarily insane is wonderful precisely because the scriptwriters have the guts to let Annie lose it and make an ass of herself, even though clearly the scriptwriters love Annie like their own daughter. (Nobody can understand a person as well as the scriptwriters understand Annie unless they love them.) And the side of her that causes her to go bonkers over Beulah's bovine stupidity -- and therefore to do put on a first-rate unconscious Beulah impersonation but from a stupid Sixties child angle rather than a stupid fundamentalist angle -- is precisely the same go-for-it-and-deal-with-the-consequences-later attitude that makes it possible for her to support Ray...perfect, just perfect.

Dorothy Sayers talked once about how a great character can come alive and take control of a novel away from the novelist -- a truly realized character becomes real enough to have free will and to stop cooperating, sometimes, with what the author had intended to do in the book. The character just refuses: for the sake of the plot, you need for the character to do something, but you realize there's no way she ever's just not her, and she refuses to put up with it, and you have to go change all kinds of other stuff in the book just to get her to relent and agree to go along with it. I have no doubt that Annie came alive in the scriptwriters hands more than did any other character in the story, and I'll bet she caused them more trouble and forced more rewriting of script and incident and tone than any other three characters in the story -- she's not just a strong-willed and feisty woman-in-the-story, she's real enough to have been a strong-willed and feisty character with the authors. In great stories, you have to make the great characters happy -- by which I mean not that you have to have a happy ending, but that the characters have to be willing to play the role you want them to play. In that sense, Annie is one of the most satisfied characters in the last twenty years of Hollywood, IMHO: she, more than all but a very few Hollywood characters (certainly female characters) was allowed to become gloriously and individually herself. Orson Scott Card has said of the last three Star Wars films that, thanks to heroic exertion by talented actors, you can almost believe that human beings might actually have talked like the characters in the film. Somewhere. Maybe. But with Annie, not only can you believe that a woman could live and talk and love and flounce and dig in like that...not only that. No, even though you would never have thought Annie up on your own, now that you've seen her, your heart knows not just that such a woman could have lived, but that such a woman DID live -- because your heart knows that Annie is alive, whatever your head may say. Few characters ever reach that level of incarnation.

I grew up playing uncounted hours of catch with my dearly beloved dad and I cried when Ray and his father started that game of catch. But the moment that has always stayed with me from the film is not that game of catch. It's the secret smile on Annie's face as she looks out at the boys playing catch and turns on the park lights. To me, that moment is the essence of the movie.

Go read Sheila's post.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

"Help, Help, I'm Being Oppressed" Dept

It's striking to me that so many American newspapers seem to think that the allegations of the prisoners at Guantanamo are intrinsically reliable and that the testimony of American soldiers is intrinsically to be distrusted. Lots of people are dissecting this so I won't contribute to the noise level...but I do want to point out that some stellar investigative reporting is going on over where the Llama Butchers roam. And as far as I can tell their scoop is at least as well supported as anything Newsweek has published this millenium...


10. Camp cinema charging full price for matinee showings of
Star Wars III.

9. Forced to milk 100 cows every morning before walking four miles to holding cell and back. In the snow. Up hill. Both ways.

8. Took my liver even though I was still using it....

Read the rest, dudes. It gets better. (You can't go wrong with Holy Grail allusions, after all.)

There is also the runner-up for scoop of the day, found here, where we learn that, "The entire Death Row population at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana testified that 'the food is terrible and I'm 110% innocent. I swear. Hey, you wouldn't happen to have a smoke, would you?'"

Monday, May 23, 2005

Don't Let The Republicans Negotiate On My Behalf

I don't know whether the Republican mavericks acted in what they considered to be the best interests of the country (I have my doubts) or in their own personal best interests given their own ambitions and agendas (when it comes to politicians, that's what my money's generally on). But they certainly weren't acting in the best interests of the Republican party. What a really, really awful deal from the purely partisan Republican perspective. My hat is off to the Democrats who got something for nothing and made the Republicans feel like they'd accomplished something to boot. As Molten Thought puts it, though with bitterness rather than amusement, "Once again, the GOP is playing solitaire while the Democrats play chess."

Before I go further -- I'm just babbling off the top of my head, with my initial reaction, which tomorrow I may come back and make fun of. There are Republicans who seem to think they've scored big-time here (you can follow My Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy's links). Don't see it myself, but then they take it all more seriously than I and probably have thought about it more carefully.

But from where I sit...God help anybody who has the Republican Party for a sports agent. What an awful deal for the Republicans! Holy cow, these guys really are morons. I mean, I'm not saying that compromising wouldn't be a good thing if you could get reasonable terms -- I'd just as soon people work together like grown-ups as not -- but when you hold all the cards you should at least be able to get the other guy to give you something he wasn't going to lose anyway. Beth and her Right-Wing Co-Conspirators all seem to be talking about things the Republicans have "gained" that they could have had anyway without the compromise. And to get this, the Republicans implicitly ceded the core principle.

The issue: does tradition support the idea that a minority party in the Senate has the right to veto judicial nominations? Even more fundamentally, when we talk about checks and balances of the Constitution, are those checks and balances meant to balance the three branches of government, or are they meant to balance majority and minority parties?

With this deal, the maverick Republicans have cast their vote for the Democratic view -- which I personally think is disastrously wrong -- and have set a precedent that the Republicans are likely to rue bitterly in the not very distant future. And what did they get out of it?

Squat, baby. Oh, no, wait, sorry -- they got photo-ops.

To be fair, that's an exaggeration. They did manage to get a small number of Democrats to agree implicitly that Janice Rogers Brown is not "extreme." I'm not sure what that's worth...personally I doubt it's worth a whole lot, but some people seem to be pinning their hopes on the idea that (a) it means that "extreme circumstances" is restricted to ethical problems rather than ideological issues and (b) that the Democrats will actually keep the deal. Seems pretty iffy to me. I'd've demanded more, myself, at least if I were a group of Republicans agreeing to spit in the face of my political base.

I am presuming that this means that John McCain has given up all hope of becoming President. On few if any subjects do Republican core voters feel more strongly than on the subject of taking back the judiciary from liberal domination, and they will never forgive McCain for this. He stands absolutely no chance now of ever surviving a Republican Presidential primary. And he can't be stupid enough not to realize that. (Can he? Surely not.) So I'd say this is a clear sign that he no longer cherishes those ambitions. I only hope he's been motivated in this by something other than a petty desire to put a knife in the back of Clan Bush, which has, after all, been primarily responsible for McCain's slow but inexorable slide into national irrelevance. It's hard not to suspect that McCain is cackling, "Who's irrelevant now, you nuk-u-lar-option-lovin' bastard Dubya, you?" But we can hope that isn't the case.

I'll tell you this, though, charitable or not: the following section is nothing more nor less than John McCain giving the middle finger to the man who got the job McCain wanted:

"We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word 'Advice' speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President's power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration."

What I think is the funniest thing is the fact that the Democrats gave up nothing that the Republicans weren't going to take anyway. Nothing at all. They promised not to filibuster "except in extreme circumstances," which were very carefully not defined and therefore are basically, "anything we Democrats damn well decide is extreme," and I suspect that the enraged conservative pundits are more right than wrong when they say that "extreme circumstances" means pretty much "anybody besides these three that W nominates if they are devoutly Christian, or if they have enough melanin in their skin to make minorities wonder whether they might be better off Republican, or if they are female, or if they are not known to have contributed to Planned Parenthood." Perhaps I'm unduly cynical -- I have noted that there are some folks who seem to think the term actually has meaning and will be honored -- but the Republican moderates seem to me to be quite astonishingly trusting. I'm having a hard time coming up with any recent examples of Democrats' playing nice or losing gracefully. Of course, my view may be unduly colored by the fact that I live in Texas where Democrats have been known to flee the state rather than admit that the voting public has kicked them emphatically out of power; but still...when's the last time you saw a notable Democrat do something dramatically bipartisan? (That's an honest question, by the way.)

It certainly wasn't today. Hoo, boy, did the Republicans ever get taken on this one.

As for the enraged conservative pundits: what, exactly, did you people expect? If this sort of snatching-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory routine ain't your bag, why are you supporting a party that thinks Bill Frist makes a great majority leader?

My hearty congratulations to the Democrats for the snooker job of the year to date. And don't pay attention to the relatively few Democrats who are annoyed because they are going to have to put up with Brown. Kos and Company know perfectly well that they scored better here than they could have hoped: "There'll be more outrage from their [i.e., the Republican] side, since quite frankly, they lost." See the Kos's take (or at least part of it).

If Bill Frist is still Majority Leader when the next session rolls around then the Republicans just don't want to be in charge.

The Peril

P.S. And if you are a conservative and are enraged by my cavalier attitude toward this particular political tragedy...hey, babe, I have a deep and abiding interest in the fate of persons living in what used to be the Soviet Union; so you're not gonna convince me that the filibuster compromise is going to cause the sky to fall. There are, believe it or not, worse critters in the world than Teddy Kennedy, and worse tragedies than Bill Frist's incompetence. Though I do admit it would be hard to find anybody who's surviving in CIS politics with the advanced level of senility proudly flaunted by the Byrd-brain...or any majority party other than the Republicans dimwitted enough to be outmaneuvered by him.

UPDATE: Hm, maybe I was wrong. Sort of looking that way after a couple of weeks here. That would explain why I don't make a living doing negotiations.

Conservatives and Newsweek

I said last week that I was unimpressed with conservative reaction to the Newsweek debacle; so here's my promised explanation. I should say that over the weekend a saner balance of commentary has slowly been developing, and that my reaction is mostly to the first couple of days after the story broke.

I'm going to start by quoting myself, but from something nobody but me has ever read. (I wrote it for my own satisfaction years ago, in trying to work out how to explain to modern Americans, like my kids, the whole thorny concept of causality.)

...Necessity is the third standard of importance for causes. A necessary factor is one without which the effect could not take place. Turning once again to the L.A. riots, let us try to decide whether the basic cause was the criminal character of the rioters or whether it was the King beating and verdict. Neither the criminality nor the verdict is sufficient cause, for if nobody chose to riot, there would be no riot, yet riots have to have a trigger event in order to get a large enough number of willing rioters all mad at the same time. So we ask which is a necessary cause. Do you have to have rioters in order to have a riot? Absolutely. It is absolutely necessary. Do you have to have an unjust verdict in order to get a riot? Nope. ...we have seen full-scale riots thrown in two separate cities (Detroit and Chicago), in each of which cases the trigger event was the local NBA team's winning the NBA championship! When this fact is taken into consideration, it becomes obvious that just about any excuse will do: our inner cities have a lot of people in them who enjoy destroying and stealing things and who find random destruction and looting to be an acceptable way of expressing strong emotion, and if you get them stirred up, you'll find yourself having to deal with a riot....

Now, does this mean that we shouldn't care about racism in the legal system? Of course not. Racist discrimination in the courts is a betrayal of everything our legal system stands for, and it cannot be tolerated. Does it mean that racism does not result in riots? No, it doesn't even mean that. For racism may well play an important role in turning inner city kids into criminals. All that our discussion has shown is that reforming the legal system will not in itself prevent riots in the inner city. If we want to solve the problem of riots in the inner city, we must attack the problem of the criminal character of so many inner city kids and adults. The root problem is that there are a lot of warped people in the inner cities. Solve that problem, and you will have solved the problem of inner city riots. But if you try to attack the problem solely by going after trigger events, then what are you going to do -- outlaw NBA championships?

What we saw in the Newsweek debacle is, I think, an analogous situation. Newsweek humiliated themselves, obviously. But wasn't it obvious that the Newsweek item itself wasn't enough to start riots? Don't we all agree that the situation only exploded when despicable rabble-rousers deliberately used the item in order to cause trouble?

On the one hand, you have Newsweek and its peers suddenly talking about how it's not really Newsweek's fault because those damned Muslims are so crazy they'll riot over truly ridiculous things like...well, like stories that appear in Newsweek. I grant you that it doesn't say much for the rioters' intelligence that they are gullible enough to believe something on no better authority than Newsweek. Intelligent people wouldn't so much as buy a penny stock on Newsweek's authority, much less throw a riot. Still, if Newsweek isn't responsible for the violence perpetrated by people using Newsweek as an excuse, then why did we have to listen to all that pontificating about how the Rodney King riots were white America's fault?

But Michelle Malkin and company, on the other hand, were not doing any better. Conservatives were handed the chance to take the high road, to say, "Okay, yeah, it was really stupid and it doesn't look good when you compare their handling of this story to their handling of stories that would make Democratic Presidents look bad; but the MSM is not the bad guy here. The bad guy is that bloody demagogue in India who started waving the piece around; the bad guys are the Taliban who exploited Newsweek's incompetence and some Afghan hillbillies' ignorance."

Instead, big-name conservatives went wild on Newsweek (and by extension the "MSM") the same way the liberal press went wild on white America back in the day. I'm not talking about people like the Anchoress, who put on-line her own and her journalist buddy's struggles with their emotions over the whole incident, and eventually took a break from blogging because (if I understand her correctly) she was unwilling to blog while in such an emotionally uncharitable state. Putting your personal struggle on line is a gutsy thing to do. No, I'm talking about the conservatives who demonstrated anger that was far more gleeful than righteous -- the people who apparently didn't struggle with their rancor one little bit. We got, "Newsweek lied; people died." Of course Newsweek didn't lie -- "having been convinced themselves, they convince others" -- and conservatives quickly realized they had gone too far and backed off a bit. But that's not really my point.

Conservatives seem to have backed off of the "lie" terminology, and, as I say, the balance has gotten a little better in the past few days. But those first couple of days, we heard acres of Newsweek-bashing for every square foot of Muslim-nutcase bashing. What, after all, is one of the principal complaints conservatives have about MSM coverage? Is it not that the MSM exaggerates and highlights, whenever possible, whatever aspects of the story can do most damage to the people they hate most, rather than the aspects of the story that are objectively important? Is it not that the emphasis that drives MSM coverage of politics is the emphasis that is dictated by the MSM's personal hatreds rather than the emphasis proper to the story itself? But here the conservative bloggers went wild on the MSM with much more alacrity, and much more enthusasism, than on the rioters; and it's hard not to suspect that this might indicate that conservative bloggers hate liberal journalists rather more than they hate literally bloodstained Middle Eastern demagogues.

"Do unto others the same nasty things they've done unto you," is a crippled and juvenile moral philosophy; and I don't care that liberals have been running around saying, "Bush lied; people died." That doesn't mean it's okay to spew the same stuff back at 'em. The conservatives have stooped to the liberals' level on this one.

And that's what happens, you know, when you focus on the people you hate instead of the people you admire. You wind up becoming like them. If conservatives like Ms. Malkin want to convince more people to join them instead of just preaching to their own communal echo chamber, then they should remember that those of us (like me) who don't fit in with Republicans any better than we fit in with Democrats, know that bad behavior is bad behavior no matter who's committing it.

If you join 'em, guys, you can't beat 'em.


P.S. And if you haven't heard me go off on somebody who didn't deserve it, for no particularly excusable reason, then you don't live in my house; so please don't think I'm setting myself up as holier than Michelle Malkin. Just 'cause I do it, doesn't mean you want to get caught doing it too.

Though I'm fairly confident I'm holier than Rush... ;-)

Best Use Of An Easy Target Award

I have not bothered to see Revenge of the Sith -- shoot, I haven't even bothered to see Episode II yet. It's been vastly more fun just to read the reviews of what I have just seen called some "of the most successful wretched films in history," which sums it up just about perfectly.

Here's the best of the bunch, a review which (a) skewers Lucas mercilessly and yet (b) makes me want to go see the film for something other than the special effects. It's from Orson Scott Card, who has written some very interesting science fiction novels (the Ender series), and therefore knows a thing or two about both science fiction and writing. I think my favorite stretch of his pan job -- though you should certainly read the whole thing -- concerns the wretched actors whose agents got 'em contractually obligated into having Lucas's dialogue come out of their mouths in front of half the human beings who are now or ever have been alive. The actors can take some solace, of course, in knowing that much of the viewing audience won't know English and will depend on the subtitles, and since your average Japanese third-grader can write more convincing dialogue than Lucas can, we can be confident that the foreign subtitles are much less embarassing to the actors than are the English lines they're actually uttering.

...The actors are heroic... To be handed a script with dialogue like the lines Mr. Lucas wrote for them is one of the worst nightmares actors have.... Yet these actors took those lines and made them into something. I think they must have seen Episode I and realized that the lines really were as bad as they thought, and their director had no clue. So if anyone was going to save them from humiliation, it would have to be themselves.

As a result, they all worked hard to create line readings that took some of the curse off of Mr. Lucas's leaden ear for heroic speech. And most of the time they succeeded. At times it was almost possible to believe that humans might have spoken that way. Maybe. Somewhere.

There ought to be an Oscar category for Best Acting with a Desperately Bad Script. I'd give it straight off to Hayden Christensen, because despite all he made the brooding Anakin Skywalker's [sic] a vigorous, compelling presence on the screen. And we almost never laughed at his lines, which is quite an achievement, considering that Mr. Lucas meant almost all of Annakin Skywalker's lines to be in deadly earnest, which practically guarantees they'll get a laugh.

But Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Ewan McGregor, and Jimmy Smits are close runners up....

Hat Tip: Vodkapundit

Friday, May 20, 2005

Oh, Say, Can You Spin?

Dropped by The Anchoress to check in on that very thoughtful introvert, as is my wont, and idly followed this link. Her Anchoressness was amused that the pollsters were surprised to find Americans optimistic. I was struck, however, by the last couple of paragraphs. "Dr. Louria, meanwhile," we are told, "is urging politicians, public officials, teachers and others concerned with public morale to take the reassuring findings seriously." Which I initially took to mean that people who have been worried about public morale should relax and chill a bit. But that was just my irrepressible turns out the Dr. Louria wants the people who have been worried to worry even more because this is, you see, bad news. For the article continues -- apparently giving what the reporter believes to be Dr. Louria's own views:

A drop in personal optimism could be "a harbinger" of all sorts of societal ills, from substance abuse to reckless driving, he said.

"Those in leadership positions in our society, as well as educators, should pay close attention," Dr. Louria said, adding that all this public positivity should not be taken for granted.

"We believe this personal optimism is sort of a last barricade," he said, and could prove "shaky."

So the obvious question: um, what possible outcome of the poll, Dr. Louria, could have had the effect of changing your own preconceived notions?

By the way, I haven't been blogging much on Newsweek and so forth just because we're moving this weekend and I haven't had time...silliness and human folly don't require a lot of thought but the Newsweek thing deserves more effort. I haven't been terribly impressed with the conservatives on this one...there's you a teaser, eh? Will get back to you after the weekend.

"How Dare You Impugn My Nativity?" Dept

Oh, ho, my...okay, I'm presuming that at least half of my readers -- and perhaps even both of them -- whether liberal or conservative, are not insane, and therefore agree that Ward, words fail me. And that certainly doesn't happen often. (Actually, to be precise, not all words failed me, but of the words that showed up prepared to perform their duty, none were sufficiently Baptist, even for this Episcopalian.)

The guy's so easy to make fun of that there are only two real challenges: to refrain from doing so (harder than you would think if, like me, you find human folly amusing) or to do so in a way that parodies him better than he parodies himself (all but impossible). So kudos to this guy for pulling off the latter.

I particularly love "Ward Churchill's" evidence that he really is an Indian after all:

I am an Indian because:

1. I call myself an Indian.

2. Other people (who do not have televisions or read newspapers or turn on the radio or leave their houses) think I am an Indian.

3. I am an associate member of the Keetoowah tribe
[actually true, but the Keetooway are disassociating themselves as fast as they can -- Peril], a privilege which cost me three dollars and a proof-of-purchase seal from a package of Red Man chewing tobacco.

4. I give things to people and then take them back...

I owe a hat tip to somebody...maybe Ms. Malkin? Probably her; she keeps tabs on Churchill, though I have the impression that she's considerably more angered than amused by his...oh, asininity is just such an inadequate word.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Thanks, Darrin

My family is going through a very difficult time right now, for a lot of reasons, and the most helpful e-mail I've gotten so far comes from my friend Darrin, who sent me a hymn.

Now, I know the theology with my head, but the thing about great poetry is that it helps your head speak to your heart...since the two speak different languages. So, thanks, Darrin.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds shall know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessиd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Katharina A. von Schlegel, tr. Jane L. Borthwick, passed on to me by Darrin Roush

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"What, This Is News?" Dept

"Interviewees were simply asked an open question - what five adjectives sum up the French," said Olivier Clodong, one of the study's two authors and a professor of social and political communication at the Ecole Superieur de Commerce, in Paris. "The answers were overwhelmingly negative."

According to Mr Clodong, the old adage that France is wonderful, it's just the French who are the problem, is shared across Europe.

HT the One Truly Indispensable American Blog

Friday, May 13, 2005

Resistere Inutile Est

Hat tip to The Anchoress for the link to today's Name That Church contest.

The comments are well worth the read -- some other classics major had already Latinized "Resistance Is Futile" before I got there, and while I give props to the person who suggested the name "Holy Crap," I have to say the clear front-runner in the name-that-church contest is "Our Lady of Futile Resistance."

And We Care About John Bolton...Um...Tell Me Why We Care, Again?

I had an interesting conversation this morning...I was chatting with a friend down on the trade floor, and CNN started yet another John Bolton Brouhaha update. So I mentioned the fact that I can't imagine why anybody feels like the Ambassador to the United Nations is a post worth fighting over. (Yes, I know that the Democrats are really just trying to smack George Bush because anything Nasty Mean Ol' Georgie wants, the Democrats don't want him to have; and I know that Dubya is trying not to be smacked, and it doesn't have anything really to do with the U.N. at all. But I wasn't doing political analysis; I was just laughing at the very idea that such a useless post is worth all the sound and fury being spent on it.)

My friend, who I think takes politics a bit more seriously than I do and who is way less cynical than I about the value of most things done by career bureaucrats and politicians, immediately objected, "No, I think it's pretty important -- he's going to be the face of the United States to the world."

I don't usually challenge people on politics at work, but this is guy is Good People and I knew he wouldn't get mad if I pulled his chain a bit. So I simply asked, "Okay, so who's our ambassador to the U.N. right now?"

He looked confused. " it Negraponte?, wait, he's Iraq...maybe we don't even have one right now..." Finally he gave up. "I don't know, actually; who is it?"

Me: "Hell, I don't know. How about this: do you know the name of any current ambassador to the U.N., from any country in the world...France...Germany?"

He started to grin, "No, I don't guess I do. I know some former ambassadors."

Me: "Okay, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, of course, but who else?"

Him: "Madeleine Albright...yeah, I see your point."

Me [grinning]: "Look, I'd just as soon have somebody competent in the U.N. as not, and for all I know Bolton is clueless; but Bolton is not going to be the face of the U.S. to the world. The face of the U.S. is George W. Bush."

He starts laughing, "You know, I hadn't really thought of it, but you're right. I've been listening to pundits too much..."

Like I said, he's Good People -- smart enough to be able to catch me being silly now and then, but willing to admit his own silliness as well.

In the meantime, if you care about what John Bolton is going to do to our image in the rest of the world, then here's what it seems to me you're saying: You apparently think that the world is full of people who are sufficiently addicted to politics that they care about, and keep up with, the current roster of U.N. ambassadors -- but they don't have any particular opinion of George Bush. Oh, yeah, there are lots of those people around. Can't shake a stick without hitting a buxom young Fraulein who is as neutral as the Swiss on Dubya but whose bosoms heave passionately with fury over John Bolton's unworthiness to be our ambassador.

I mean, just try to imagine if Bush were to appoint John Kerry ambassador to the U.N. -- would the voters of France instantly say, "Ah, mon Dieu, it appears that we have been wrong in thinking that M. Bush is the derriere of the gelding and that the U.S. is the imperialistic naughty nation without the good taste to take orders from M. Chirac"? Or let's say Bolton does become the ambassador, and some Iraqi who four years ago watched Saddam's guys put a bullet between the eyes of his wife and then had to pay for the bullet, finds out about it -- is he going to say, "Oh, my goodness, here all this time I've thought the Americans were our liberators and now it turns out that they are rude persons with bad moustaches who have been known to raise their voices at underlings"? I know I'm taking extreme examples, but really, give me any halfway believable scenario in which John Bolton's confirmation or lack thereof will move some foreigner to a position on the U.S. noticeably different from that which he already holds.

But by God it matters to the Democrats...bless their little hearts. Ah, well, the more time Sen. Boxer spends worrying about the U.N., the less time she has to do any real mischief; so it's all good.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Much Better Than Lucas's Lameness

Darth Vader is blogging and bless me if the ghostwriter hasn't invented a whole new art form. Obviously there are plenty of elements of parody in it, but the guy is actually exploring Vader's character in ways Lucas might not necessarily buy off on...but with quite a bit more believability than Lucas can ever manage to get into his own dialogue. Clearly Lucas isn't the one writing the blog, 'cause believe me, this guy's a lot better writer than Lucas. (Which is of course true of at least 8,999,900 of the 9,000,000 people currently blogging, but still. The Dark Lord's ghostwriter is doing some good stuff.)

Basically the blogger has taken the more or less lame plot elements that Lucas's tired and juvenile little mind cooked up for the prequels, used them as background and motivation, and started rewriting The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi from Darth Vader's perspective. It's satire, but occasionally there's real character exploration, as I said.

Remember that a blog is displayed in reverse chronological order -- go to the last-displayed post first and then read your way through the posts from the bottom one up to the top one.

It's the first piece of Star-Wars related stuff to be genuinely entertaining in years. Woo-hoo!

Big-time hat tip to Will Collier of Vodkapundit fame

From an AP report:

By contrast, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, noting Bolton's public criticism of the United Nations over the years, said she wondered why someone who disliked the world organization so much wanted to take on a job there.

Um...perhaps, Maddy, because he would like to try to change the things he doesn't like? In fact, perhaps that's why Dubya picked Bolton, because the things Bolton doesn't like about the U.N. are the things Dubya doesn't like, either?

You see a quote like this and you just remind yourself -- especially if, as I have, you've had the experience of seeing yourself quoted inaccurately in news articles written by people who actually were on your side -- that there's no telling what Ms. Albright actually said, and that just because a news story makes her look stupid, that doesn't mean she's actually stupid.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"I Represent That Remark" Dept.

Just ran across an old Cathy Seipp article on the Modern Dad that includes this excellent observation:

"Now the problem here was that even though I could see this dad was reveling in his fab daditude, like many guys he found it difficult to do two things at once — like watch a child while chatting with another adult. Men in charge of small children are like women and parallel parking: Attention must be paid or something's going to get dented."

It would hardly be kind for me to mention that I had to emend "to do things at once" to "to do two things at once," evidence that Ms. Seipp's proofreader is apparently incapable of doing even one thing at once. So I won't.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Double-Whammy Tasteless Line of the Day" Dept

You have been warned, by the title. From the comments to this don't-let-your-children-celebrate-Brazilian-holidays post:

"I'm so old that I can remember when 'The Big O' meant Oprah Winfrey."

"Words Fail Me" Dept

Somehow this never fails to cheer me up. By all means turn on the dance floor, the music, and the spotlights, and try out all the moves.

The Peril

Okay, Ann, you get points on this one...

...maybe we'll get something good from Molly in the next round.

From Ann Coulter's most recent column:

I repeat: Bolton has been nominated to be ambassador to the United Nations. It's not like it's an important job. Get a grip, people! He's not replacing Paula Abdul on "American Idol."

The U.N. is an organization with thousands of people from all over the world with one thing in common: They badly need to be yelled at, preferably by a guy who looks like Wilford Brimley.

Now, maybe I just think this is funny because I am a lone American Idol holdout in a family with seven other people who love the show, but it got a chuckle out of me, at least. I might add that Dessie tells me our two young daughters-in-waiting over in Karaganda are both devoted fans of "Superstar Kazakhstan" or whatever the name is of the Kazakhstani knock-off of American Idol; so my isolation will only grow more pronounced when Anna and Kristina get home. I may have to suck it up and start watching the show. And, as an aside, about that guy who claims to have slept with Ms. Abdul -- is there a more pitiful excuse for a man on the planet? I think it is safe to say that he has never heard the word cad, and also that he, most mistakenly, thinks he knows what the word manhood means. Wow, what a loser. If it turns out to be true -- and if, which is highly doubtful, we care about the issue enough to notice whether it turns out to be true or not -- then we will know two things about Ms. Abdul: (a) she is ethically challenged, and (b) she has execrably bad taste in men.

Ms. Coulter's little riff there is probably not quite so funny to people who actually take the United Nations seriously as a force for good in the world, but then I'm not one of those people.


UPDATE: Hard on her own heels, Ann scores more points here.

What we've learned from [comparing what Ann claims various people said would happen in Iraq to what actually did happen] is: Talking to liberals is much more fun now that we have Lexis-Nexis.

In a Nov. 9, 2003, news article, The New York Times raised the prospect that "democracy in the Middle East might empower the very forces that the United States opposes, like Islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia and Egypt."

Democracy in the U.S. might have put John Kerry in the White House, too, but you'll notice we didn't abandon the idea.

One difference is that the Islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia and Egypt were not democratically elected. Still, the Times said that "something similar" happened in Iran when "domestic pressures" installed the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. By "domestic pressures" in Iran, I gather the Times meant "the Carter presidency."

Monday, May 09, 2005

On grounds of incompatibility of vision...

I posted this a while back on a message board but don't remember where. Still, it sums up my own view on the necessity for ECUSA and conservative Episcopalians to go their separate ways, as amicably as may be possible.

[To a previous poster on the thread:] Hear, hear. I'm 100% with you on the belief that it's time for a split. Hell, it's way past time for a split; five years ago a split was grossly overdue. My Muslim friends (from several variants on Islam) and my Jewish friends and my Roman Catholic friends and I work together with mutual affection and respect in the areas in which we agree (such as the need of Kazakh orphans for loving families) while not papering over our genuine religious differences of opinion. But this is only possible because we aren't trying to pretend that we follow the same religion. If the money I donate to my Anglican church in Texas were to be hijacked by my friend Najmeddine to fund efforts to convert Christian children to Islam, it would seriously strain our friendship; and the same would be true if I were to take money donated to her synagogue by my friend Gail and use it to print pamphlets in Hebrew explaining why Jesus is the True Messiah.

There may be humanitarian projects on which those of us who call ourselves Episcopalians can all agree, such as AIDS or famine relief. But when it comes to theology, we have for twenty years been serving different gods while trying not to admit the fact. By this I mean that, even if we both turn out to be serving the same God, one of us has to be disastrously, destructively wrong in our conception of him. The church that progressives wish to create is a church that, if conservatives are right, will drag numberless souls into eternal damnation. The church that conservatives wish to maintain is a church that, if progressives are right, will continue needlessly to destroy lives that commit no sin other than failure to conform to conservative bigotry. Which of us is right, God only knows; but to pretend that we can coexist in charity while engaged in a desperate tug-of-war between mutually exclusive and hostile visions of what the Church should be, is an exercise in hypocricy, dishonesty and folly.

American Anglicans and Episcopalians manage to live in charity with people from all walks of life...except each other. It is the false, vain and doomed pretence of unity that makes true charity impossible between us. The sooner we admit that we are two separate religions and should therefore be two separate churches, the sooner we can begin genuinely to work together on matters where we truly agree while being honest and straightforward and unhypocritical about our disagreements.

I have heard much about the Episcopalian "family" in the last decade. But we are not a family. We are a walking corporate pathology trying pathetically and vainly to convince ourselves and a rather scornfully observing world that we are a family, while bringing shame onto the name of Christ through our quarreling and our lawsuits and our politicking. No true love ever arose from lies and pretence. No grace of God ever begins in anything but truth. Let the truth be told: we are not one church, we do not follow the same religion, we are not a family in anything but habit and shared ritual syllables, lacking shared meaning and shared vision to give wholeness and the power of true unity to the formulae.

Let the split come, with all practical speed. Perhaps then, having abandoned the lie that we are brothers, we can learn truly to be friends.

"Things You Learn From Small Boys" Dept

I've seen this come around several times over the years and have no idea whether it's anything but urban myth -- but as an Austin, Texas father of three boys, including identical twins, it sounds perfectly realistic to me (as anybody who's read The Boss's book already knows, of course).

Hat tip to Randy Guidry, whom you probably don't know 'cause he's my blogless supervisor at British Petroleum.

The following came from an anonymous Mother in Austin, Texas...

Things I've learned from my boys:

1.) A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2,000 sq. ft. house 4 inches deep.

2.) If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.

3.) A 3-year old boy's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.

4.) If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42-pound boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20x20 ft. room.

5.) You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.

6.) The glass in windows (even double-pane) doesn't stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.

7.) When you hear the toilet flush and the words "uh oh," it's already too late.

8.) Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it.

9.) A six-year old boy can start a fire with a flint rock even though a 36-year old man says they can only do it in the movies.

10.) Certain Legos will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year old boy.

11.) The words play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.

12.) Super glue is 4-ever.

13.) No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool you still can't walk on water.

14.) Pool filters do not like Jell-O.

15). VCR's do not eject "PB & J" sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.

16.) Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.

17.) Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.

18.) You probably DO NOT want to know what that odor is.

19.) Always look in the oven before you turn it on; plastic toys do not like ovens.

20.) The fire department in Austin, Texas has a 5-minute response time.

21.) The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.

22.) It will, however, make cats dizzy.

23.) Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.

24.) 80% of men who read this will try mixing the Clorox and brake fluid.

And The Peril can add from his very own personally verified experience:

25.) The emergency rooms in Austin, Texas give neither volume discounts nor frequent-visitor incentives.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

"You Know Something I Don't, Kiddo?" Dept

I walked up to one of my daughter's 9-year-old friends on Mother's Day morning at our church, as the young lady stood holding roses to pass out to the moms. Now no young lady is ever too young (or too old, for that matter) for me to tease her; so I assumed an air of mock outrage and said, "What, Danielle, you're not going to give ME a flower?"

She looked me straight in the eye and said with deep seriousness, "No, Mr. Pierce, you're not a mother yet."

The Peril

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Too bad Mr. Sedensky doesn't understand ethics

Associated Press writer Matt Sedensky -- who of course is entirely objective on this point -- is relieved to discover that our nation's reporters are some of our most ethical citizens. And his evidence?

A new study that shows that reporters are more ethical than anybody except seminarians, doctors and medical students. Take that, you foul naysaying blogosphere-dwellers.

I hate to interrupt Matt's self-congratulation, but there's just one problem: even a kindergartener knows that ethics are about what you actually do, not what you say you would do in a hypothetical situation. And this test of ethics consisted entirely of giving people several hypothetical situations and saying, "Now what would you do in this case?"

Back when I was a certified Commodity Trading Advisor and a licensed futures broker, several floor traders got caught cheating and taking money from their clients. The CFTC promptly went into damage-control PR mode: We Will Solve The Problem. The solution? We all had to take ethics training. And a typical question on the ethics exam was something like this:

"You make an error on a client's order and buy when the client asked you to sell. When you realize your mistake you go back, sell back the position you bought by mistake, and fill his original sell order. It happens that you sell back the bad position at a higher price than the price at which you bought it. Do you put the profitable buy/sell in the client's account, or in your own account?"

Hm, now, let me see, I wonder what the correct answer might be to that one?

But of course the real issue wasn't education. The traders who had bilked their clients out of money hadn't done so because they didn't realize stealing was wrong. They had done so because they were crooked and they thought they could get away with something.

If I want to know whether somebody is ethical, I'm not going to try to come up with some bizarre and complex situation where it's difficult to figure out what the right thing is to do, and then see whether they're sophisticated enough at playing intellectual games to solve the puzzle. That's not a test of ethics; it's a test of intelligence and educational advantages and facility at verbal manipulation. No, if I want to know about somebody's ethics, then I'm going to put him in a situation where he is sorely tempted to do something he knows is wrong, and where it looks like he can get away with it, and I'm gonna watch what he does. The people who look down on the "MSM" do so not because they think the folks in the MSM are too stupid to know that it's dishonest to flaunt on Page 1 under banner headlines any story that can be presented in a way that reflects badly on Republicans while burying in small type on page 32 any story that reflects well on Dubya. Those who hold the MSM in contempt do so precisely because they think the MSM know damn well that what they're doing is dishonest -- and yet the MSM does it anyway.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

"What, This Is News?" Dept

Major hat tip to Dave Barry, naturally.

"This Day In History" Dept

Okay, here's my blogosphere discovery of the day. This is my kind of this-day-in-history column. I presume that I don't have to remind you of the immortal words of George Sayonara (well, okay, for those of you who aren't as well read as I am, those words were, "See ya later, hosers").

Notable entries for today:

1952 - Joseph Fletcher became the first person to reach the exact geographic North Pole, other than indigenous people, who do not count, since they have no PR. Explorers Robert Peary and Frederick Cook had previously claimed to reach the North Pole, and had disputed one another's claims. Neither is likely to have made it to the exact spot. On the other hand, they walked, while Fletcher flew. So, they were both dumb and failures.

1982 - Argentina lost its only cruiser to a British submarine in the Falkland Islands War, leading them to send in their plane.

Yesterday was a good day at the Christoblog Institute for Historical Research, as well.

1598 - Henry IV signed the Treaty of Vervins, which forever brought peace between Spain and France.

1668 - The War of Devolution ends in France. I'm just going to pretend I know what a War of Devolution is.

1670 - The Hudson's Bay Company was chartered under England's King Charles, to take advantage of the valuable fur to be found in the part of North America now generally forgotten, except by modern day Canadians, who apparently still live there.

1776 - Under the premise that it's better for "the enemy of my enemy to die fighting my enemy than for my enemy to kill its enemy when that enemy is me", France and Spain choose to give arms to American rebels fighting the British.

1808 - Spanish rebels led a revolt against French rule in Madrid during the Peninsula War. This was back in the days of Napoleon, before the French were into surrender, and the revolution was put down, with many civilians shot in order to teach them a lesson. No wait, it was in order to kill them.

1813 - Napolean defeated the Russian and Prussian army at Grossgorschen, using only a toothpick and comb.

1919 - The first domestic air service began. Four passengers were flown a total of eleven feet. Each was charged a different price, but one earned frequent flier miles. Nevertheless, the flight netted a negative $42,000. Major airlines have followed this model ever since.

1933 - The Iverness Courier of Loch Ness in Scotland reported the sighting of a monster in the local lake, after several men reported seeing the beast water skiing behind a UFO. Newspapers all over sent reporters to cover the story. You would think Nessy had faked her own abduction to get out of a wedding or something.

Yours in the service of our children's education,

The Peril

Monday, May 02, 2005

He didn't stop talking quite soon enough

I've been saying for several years, even before the Robinson brouhaha, that I couldn't imagine why progressives wanted to stay in the Anglican Communion in the first place. Finally, came the day the Robinsonites crossed the Rubicon, and from that moment on I've felt that ECUSA's behavior has consistentently, unrelentingly and patently the behavior of persons who in their hearts want to break away, and are indeed acting in such a way as to force the Communion to expel them, but who want to bring all this about in such a way that they can reassure themselves that it's not their fault. This is of course highly uncharitable of me, but then the alternative has been to assume that progressives are really, really, really stupid, which doesn't seem particularly charitable either. The best I've been able to do is to try to remain relatively agnostic about what is going through the ECUSAn mind, and to hope that their motives are good and their tactics merely ill-considered.

But if a progressive were to simply stand up and say, "Look, we don't buy the conservative BS, and we aren't going to live by it, and if the Anglican Communion expects us to live their way then they can kiss our, um, relationship good-bye and we'll go our separate ways" -- now that's something I can respect. I disagree with ECUSA's Therapist perspective and don't think it's compatible with the Gospel, but hey, an honest disagreement is always preferable either to hypocricy or to stupidity. If I can get along with my Muslim friends then I can certainly put up with progressive Episcopalians -- as long as they, like my Muslim friends, don't try to make me pretend we follow the same religion, and as long as they don't try to take the money I give to God's service and employ it for goals of which I don't think God approves. In short, I have long felt that if we would just abandon the hypocritical pretense that we're a family, we might actually discover that we can be friends.

So I was glad to see James Bradberry come along with this little piece, in which he is refreshingly up-front about his disdain for the Communion. The piece opens with the words, "A colleague asks what smooth word we would use while the rest of the world calls our departure from the Anglican fellowship 'excommunication.' That is easy to answer. ECUSA would not be excommunicated; it would be liberated."

Now that is exactly what I have thought for years is the inevitable conclusion of the progressive logic, and why any progressive would want to stay constrained by the likes of the Primates of the Global South has always been beyond me. So I gave the Judge a hearty "Amen" on that one. If the core beliefs of the progressives are true, then the sooner they get out of the Anglican Communion the better off they'll be.

The Judge wanders on for a while with the standard progressive catchphrases, of course, which isn't likely to impress the average conservative. But I don't have a problem with that; they are progressive catchphrases because progressives think they are true (despite their oft-expressed belief that there is no absolute truth in religion), and we conservatives have our own cliches for much the same reason.

I mean, I know most conservatives aren't going to find the Judge's piece impressive, and that they'll have plenty of things in it to complain about. Sure, when the Judge says that he "cannot imagine being part of a denomination that is deal with controversy," he of course really means he can't imagine being part of a denomination that takes any action on controversial positions that is not in line with his preconceptions. ECUSA dealt with the controversy by consecrating Robinson; and now the Anglican Communion is dealing with the controversy by drawing a line. What the Judge actually objects to, is precisely the fact that the Anglican Communion is dealing with the controversy -- namely, by telling ECUSA there are lines that she cannot cross. So, sure, his phrasing shows a lack of rigor in his thought. But I would still maintain that his basic point is valid: I quite agree that he will never be comfortable in a denomination that takes action on the politically incorrect side of any controversy, and that's mostly what he's trying to say.

Again, it is very typically vague, progressive language to talk about how "embrac[ing] change as our understanding of God evolves" is (if I understand the Judge correctly) "an essential element of every faith, if it is to grow." The characteristic unquestioned assumptions and stylistic faults are all there, of course. There's the Therapist conception of "faith" as something only loosely, if at all, related to factuality. There's the scrupulous care to make sure that starkly decisive resolutions such as, "we think the Church has been evil, wrong and homophobic for two thousand years and by God it stops here," are expressed soothingly as, "we think faith must embrace change as our understanding evolves" (note that the Judge admits up front that his train of thought started with a discussion over what euphemism progressives could use in place of the precisely accurate "excommunication"). There's the unquestioned assumption that "change" and "growth" are axiomatically good things, where the implicitly harmless connotations of the mild word "change" are expected to hold even when "change" is extended to the point of flat contradiction and open schism, and where the carefully peaceful word "growth" is defined vaguely and progressively and as broadly as the ocean blue, so that complete abandonment of the fundamental axioms of the Faith can still be called "growth" as if it were an organic flowering of an orchardful of cherry blossoms rather than a lopping down of the orchard to make room for a Gap store. Yes, Virginia, progressives do talk, and yes, when they do, they usually sound like the Judge. I'll grant that.

Yet still, mushy and flabby as the language is, it all still seems to be an honest opinion freely expressed, and that's something I can admire. And what's more, it all does go to establish the Judge's point, which is that progressives aren't likely to miss the hidebound old Anglican Communion very much once they get a taste of life without the ol' dinosaurs...and that point, I think, is entirely valid.

But then, just when all is looking well and congratulations seem to be in order, Judge Bradbury apparently decides he wanted to make sure we don't fully rule out the Stupid Progressive Theory. As he's wrapping up, he tosses in the following Deep Thought:

...if we must [leave the Communion], we will be sorely missed, frequently imitated and acknowledged, and often asked for help. Our presence will be felt, and our example admired.

Let us set aside my suspicion that the Judge really means that the progressives' absence, rather than their presence, will be felt, and therefore let us assume that in this little nugget he has said exactly what he believes and exactly what he wished to say. Either he means, "We will be sorely missed, etc., by unfortunate progressives left stranded in conservative provinces," in which case he is simply uttering the truism that those who agree with him, will be on his side. Or else he means, "The conservatives will wish we were still around and they'll discover how much they liked and admired and needed us."

If the latter is the case, then I certainly can't accuse him of uttering a truism. Au contraire, the only adjective adequate for such a conviction would be "delusional." If that really is what the Judge means by this astonishing sentence, then even if we know nothing else about him, we can be confident of at least this one thing: he does not even begin to understand the perspective of those with whom he disagrees. And you don't have to buy my theory about how the ECUSA schism is fundamentally about Religion-as-Therapy vs. Religion-as-Truth to perceive the Judge's utter cluelessness.

Now, given the clarity with which the Primates and the rest of the orthodox Anglican community within and without North America have spoken to the issue over the last several years, this would seem to imply that the Judge is deaf and illiterate. All in all, that would be a very disappointing ending to a quite encouraging beginning. So we will hope that the problem is merely that I'm not smart enough to figure out what he was trying to say in that last bit, and we'll just set it aside and leave it out of consideration.

And where that leaves us is this: with all due regard to the criticisms we conservatives could level at the Judge's piece, I still maintain that we ought to congratulate him on some refreshingly straight talk and thank him in all sincerity for his honesty and openness. I'm pretty sure I disagree with the Judge's basic beliefs and assumptions about religion, to the point where I doubt there's any meaningful sense in which he and I practice the same religion, any more than I and my Muslim friend Najmeddine and my Jewish friend Gail practice the same religion. But I can disagree with a person and still find them admirable. So, Judge, here's a sincere tip of the hat to you for your candour.



As of Saturday I am a member of the Board of Directors for Williams International Adoptions, Inc., based in Memphis, Tennesee.

This means that while you can continue to consider my opinions on adoption agencies to be honest, you can no longer consider them to be objective.

New blog on the roll

The Manolo he is not to be described, only experienced.

Nor, Mr. Barry, is the Manolo to be confused with the Manilow.