Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Movie Review: The Passion of the Christ

I finally saw the film last Monday. Warning: spoilers ahead.

My first gut reaction: the press exaggerated the level of violence and gore in the movie. Reviewers gave the impression that Passion stood among the worst of film violence. Really? We see nails go through Jesus' hands and a spear thrust into His side, but neither are shot at tight closeup as some cinematic impalings. Malchus' ear is severed, but unlike some films, we don't see the actual severing. The scourging scene was itself an unprecedented depiction of the ripping of flesh on screen. But one can find more graphic fare in other films - clasps of bloody severed heads, aliens disembowel space travelers from the inside out, and a smorgasbord of internal organs being ripped from people. (Imagine if Quentin Tarantino or Wes Craven had filmed the raven's attack on the unrepentant thief.) The real difference is the length of the torture scene; it lasts minutes rather than seconds. I got the impression from the reviews that the graphic scenes took up a majority of the viewing time, which was certainly not the case.

Critics charge that, aside from the Apostles and the two Marys, fewer Jews than Romans exhibit any remorse over the events. We don't really know about Malchus' thoughts, other than his shock over the miraculous healing of his ear. We're also not sure about the Sanhedrin official who sees the wreckage of the Temple and (evidently) recalls Jesus' prophecy that He would destroy and raise it in three days. (Of course, the Temple to which Jesus was referring was Himself.) Several sympathetic Jews can be spotted on the Via Dolorosa and Golgotha. Simon of Cyrene stands up to the Roman brutality while helping Jesus carry the cross. And then there's Judas, who knows he did wrong (Matt 27:1-5). On the Roman side we have Pilate (who eventually chooses evil - and knows it), Claudia, and one or two guards.

What evil lurks in the hearts of men? Herod and his court are too absorbed in their leisure to even bother asking what will become of the prisoner brought before them. Various Roman guards take pleasure in abusing him. A few Jews laugh as they watch the Temple leaders pummel Jesus. The complicit Jewish leaders take no visceral glee in the harsh treatment of Jesus; they are simply bitter toward Him for challenging their reputations (Matt 23) and their dogma. The officer at the desk overseeing the torture session is cold and indifferent, caring about nothing but following orders; his kind would surface centuries later at the Nuremberg trials. Judas hands over Jesus for profit; to his credit he rejects the blood money when he discovers Jesus' eventual fate - but runs away from his turmoil through suicide rather than seeking redemption. (One can only guess what would have happened if he had stayed alive long enough for the Resurrection.) Pilate knows that Jesus is innocent, and tries to avoid executing him, but succumbs for the sake of political expediency.

Judas is tormented by demons three times - once at the bridge (where a ghostly figure emerges from the stonework), once outside the temple at night, and once at the field where he hangs himself. On the second occasion, it is uncertain whether the tormenters are possessed children or demons posing as children. At the field it is definitely the latter - one second they're present, the next they've vanished. Why children? Only Mel Gibson can answer that; such would certainly be an egregiously humiliating experience in a society where children almost never ridicule their elders. And the demon baby? Christianity Today records Gibson's official answer:

"Again," said Gibson, "it's evil distorting what's good. What is more tender and beautiful than a mother and a child? So the Devil takes that and distorts it just a little bit. Instead of a normal mother and child you have an androgynous figure holding a 40-year-old 'baby' with hair on his back. It is weird, it is shocking, it's almost too much - just like turning Jesus over to continue scourging him on his chest is shocking and almost too much, which is the exact moment when this appearance of the Devil and the baby takes place."

Barbara Nicolosi records an exchange between Gibson and a minister at a roughcut screening:

The minister was not happy with me. He waited a few cold seconds of silence and then talked past me to Mel. "And that scene with the ugly baby. What was that?"

Mel said, "I dunno. I just thought it was really creepy. Didn't you think it was creepy?"

Minister guy: "But what is it supposed to mean?"

Me: 'Satan brought a friend. He wanted to share it with a friend."

Mel laughed. "Yeah, he brought a friend!"

Minister guy persisted with exasperation, "But WHERE did you get that from?"

In other words, "You DIDN'T get it in the Bible, because I KNOW the Bible."

Mel, at this point was getting just as exasperated, "I dunno. I guess I just pulled it out of my a__."

FABULOUS! It still makes me laugh! The minister was appropriately horrified. I just thought it was perfectly appropriate.

There is a temptation to throw in visual special effects just because they look cool. The demon baby seems to be one of those examples. The snake in Gethsemene, on the other hand, was very well thought out; I suspect that dozens of viewers had to restrain themselves from yelling Genesis 3:14-15 in the theater as the snake approached Jesus' feet. The raven attack was petty vindictiveness - the unrepentant thief was gonna die anyway, Mel! The presence of the dove (which believers will recognize as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit) was cool. The earthquake splitting the temple floor was cheesy.

The minister held the unrealistic expectation of a film whose images and dialogue are all biblical. All historical films contain fictional plot devices that serve (when properly used) to add depth without changing history, or without adding events that are historically implausible. The splitting of the temple floor is a prime example of implausibility; you'd think that Matthew, Mark, and Luke would have recorded that more than just the curtain was torn in two. Simon of Cyrene's outburst stretches a little credibility, and his ability to do so without earning a lash from the Romans a little more so, but the scene still works. A classic example of well-employed artistic license is the flashback to Jesus' pre-ministry life with his mother and his carpentry trade; it gives the viewer a glimpse of the life between Mary and Jesus. Mary Magdalene is always the subject of artistic license in Jesus films, usually portrayed as a reformed prostitute. In Passion she is cast as the unidentified adulteress Jesus rescued from stoning. With all the demons present in the film, Gibson might as well have done a flashback to the one thing we do know about Magdalene's background - that she has been possessed by seven demons.

Only three of the original Apostles are recognizable in the film. Nine of them have completely abandoned Jesus after the arrest in Gethsemene. I mentioned Judas earlier. Peter stays close but hides in the crowd, and runs away when he disowns Jesus. Only John is there to the very end. Viewers will find gobs of scenes they wish had been included; the lack of illustration through flashback of John's close friendship with Jesus is the most glaring absence in the film.

Jesus is often portrayed as an emotionless ascetic delivering flatter dialogue than Samuel L. Jackson did in Star Wars: Episode I. (Rent The Greatest Story Ever Told for a prime example, and be sure and have plenty of caffeine on hand.) James Caviezel as Jesus is warm and engaging in the flashbacks, eloquent in conversation with Pilate, emotionally wrought as he ponders his fate in Gethsemene, and composed while mocked and beaten. Jesus' mother is the film's second most compelling character. Her love and her grief pour out on the screen, especially as she runs to Jesus at the Via Dolorosa. In a sense, I felt more empathy for her than for Jesus - He knew precisely where the events were leading; she didn't, and felt helpless as she watched her son die.

As stated previously, John is sadly underplayed. Mary Magdalene is also a bit underplayed, but at least she gets her nicely-done flashback. Jesus' allies Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are kept in the background; it would have been nice to see more of them. Peter and Judas are tortured souls, and even without the demons it's clear which one is the spiritually weaker. Pilate is masterfully portrayed. Regrettably, the viewer is not given a glimpse of the private faces of Annas and Caiaphas and the other complicit leaders; in public their anger is intense but not caricatured. The Roman guards are truly individuals and not clones of each other; contrast to the portrayal of Nazis and Japanese soldiers in old WWII B-movies. Herod and his court are preposterous buffoons - and, I fear, realistically so; quality control is definitely lacking in the institution of monarchy.

While on the cross, Jesus says twice, "Forgive them, they know not what they do" - once regarding the Romans, once regarding the complicit Jewish leaders. An earlier flashback recalls His instruction to love and pray for enemies. If nothing else, I hope these messages sink into everyone who sees the film.

RINOs Are Forever

SPECTRE Arlen Specter defeats James Bond Pat Toomey in the Pennsylvania Republican primary.

(For those unfamiliar with the acronym, RINO = Republican In Name Only.)

Monday, April 26, 2004

Blogroll Additions To Offend Everyone

Always Low Prices--Always Fellow blogger and LASIK customer Virginia Postrel discovered this site. Co-bloggers Kevin Brancato, Gerald Kanapathy, Robert Arne, J.H.Huebert, Angus McPhee, and Brett Conrad write on "The Best and the Worst about Wal-Mart." Kevin debunks a California ACORN activist's paranoia that Wal-Mart schemes to jack up prices once its cheap prices have destroyed the competition. Huebert quotes an article that cites New Rochelle city councilwoman Marianne Sussman's stated preference for "upscale" (read: more expensive) retailers over discount stores. These two instances involve legal efforts to prevent Wal-Mart from opening in certain states. Unions don't like Wal-Mart, either - unlike Japan, Sun-Microtel, and Blimpie.

The Beth Zone "Because being really opinionated and mouthing off is what Bethies dies do best!" I met Beth Elliott once several years ago, at Jay Manifold's wedding. Her bio describes her as "one of the most accomplished lesbian activists ever to be blacklisted by her own movement." No details on this divorce, but the libertarian attitudes exhibited by her writings - anathema to much of gay activism (and her native California) - should offer some explanation. Her site looks more like a four-column newsletter than a blog, and only some of the posts have direct links. One of those posts explores three fights the "pro-choice" faction should have left alone. One current offering without direct link outlines a proposal for dealing with Iraqi insurgents: "[M]ake and distribute a video of them being doused with pork products while executed, and thereby sent straight to hell." The title: "Pork, The Other Holy Water Dept." No reply yet from Allah.

Update: A typo has been corrected.

Update: And in case anybody gets the idea, I will not put up the Chinese flag icon by the blogroll link to reflect the source of much of Wal-Mart's merchandise :-)

Saturday, April 24, 2004

EU Will Be Assimilated

In keeping with a certain Star Trek theme that graces occasional Samizdata posts on the European Union, the nation of Malta has nominated its representative in the European Commission: Joe Borg.

(Link via Názory)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Remembering Pat Tillman - And His Mission

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"Let's get these people [civilians] to safety. Let's finish the job."

Danny "Doc" Kelley (Paul Francis), Tears of the Sun

"A shepherd must tend to his flock, and at times, fight off the wolves."

Reverend Oliver (Rene Auberjonois), The Patriot

"It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn't. Because they were holding on to something...That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for."

Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Today Is Earth Day

And in honor I plan to drive my pickup truck to a steakhouse that's in easy walking distance of my apartment.

(Hey, some environmentalists complain that methane from cow flatulence is causing global warming. So the problem must be that we're not eating them fast enough. Eat beef and save the global climate.)

Over at FrontPage Magazine, Michael Berliner of the Ayn Rand Institute explains the mindset that dominates modern environmentalism:

The expressed goal of environmentalism is to prevent man from changing his environment, from intruding on nature. That is why environmentalism is fundamentally anti-man. Intrusion is necessary for human survival. Only by intrusion can man avoid pestilence and famine. Only by intrusion can man control his life and project long-range goals. Intrusion improves the environment, if by "environment" one means the surroundings of man--the external material conditions of human life. Intrusion is a requirement of human nature. But in the environmentalists' paean to "Nature," human nature is omitted. For environmentalism, the "natural" world is a world without man. Man has no legitimate needs, but trees, ponds, and bacteria somehow do.

Let's put this another way. It's just another form of class warfare rhetoric. Last year I wrote the following in comments to this post at Shark Blog. Pay special attention to the final paragraph:

This is another way to describe the age-old concept of class warfare. The Achilles heel of this concept (at least one of them) is the assumption that one class of individual is inherently at war with another. The logical conclusion is that the "enemy" classes much be completely eliminated, either by getting members of the "enemy" classes to join one or more of the "allied" classes, or - as Communists and the proto-Communist French Revolution did - by physically destroying the members of those classes.

A relative few Far Leftists, Theodore Kaczynski and Johnny Muhammad being two exceptions, prefer to fight the perceived war through genocide. Many within the nonviolent majority will still excuse genocidal tactics when such are used against their enemies. South African apartheid therefore attracts greater emotion than does the Soviet gulag, even though the latter was astronomically more murderous.

The Left often supports the use of racketeering - affirmative action quotas, hate crime, hate speech crime, forced "multicultural" indoctrination, redistributionist tax policies, etc. - as a legitimate weapon in the War on Class. These people are divided into two camps. Some simply want to be able to beat up on the "wrong" classes from here to eternity. Others want to use such coercive programs for force people to convert to the "right" classes.

Oh, there's one part of the status ladder that the author forgot: all other life forms vs. humanity. The Pleistocene Liberation Organization's answer to this problem is a) vast reductions in the human population through birth control and a ban on malaria-destroying DDT, and b) an environmental apartheid program under which human access to most of the Earth is prohibited, effectively placing all people on reservations.

Think about the typical class warfare rhetoric. Western civilization is collectively guilty for the clashes of civilizations, and non-Western societies are blameless. (I guess the West is somehow to blame for the Moghul invasion of India - maybe the Moghuls wouldn't have gone there if Europe had been more conquerable.)

It's no different with the environment. Nature has killed hundreds of millions of humans by disease, pestilence, and earthquake, and we're the sole aggressors?

Nature denied the basic building blocks of civilization to sub-Saharan Africa by deploying the tse tse fly in the ecosystem; civilization begins with large-scale farming and ranching, which cannot survive such pestilence. But because DDT allegedly kills creatures of nature, humans must unilaterally disarm, while nothing is expected of nature - and despite the fact that the tse tse fly kills far more non-human creatures of nature than DDT. I guess a little collateral damage is acceptable as long as the human enemy dies in the process.

Nature stunted the development of pre-Columbian North America by denying horses and oxen to the continent. Civilization also demands international trade, and the Indians' lack of four-footed transportation limited those prospects. Europeans made it all the way to China, but Seminoles had no way to learn the existence of tribes of the Great Plains. Trade begets prosperity which begets technological advancement - which would have come in real handy when the Europeans came. Don't blame Columbus - blame Mother Nature!

The logical conclusion of class warfare theory is that one side must be totally defeated. The non-West must defeat the West, women must defeat men, blacks must defeat whites, every other religion must defeat orthodox Christianity, and nature must defeat humanity. The concept of mutually beneficial relationship is simply lost on these people.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Salvation And The Trinity

Pejman Yousefzadeh recently asked two questions of his readers: how the Trinity works, and whether Jesus' death lifts the curse of original sin.

The answer to the second question is straightforward - salvation removes not sin but punishment; it guarantees justification but not sanctification. The relationship to God is analagous to a marriage (without the possibility of divorce). Justification is that one-time-only event when the relationship is established. In a marriage, the degree to which a spouse lives up to the ideals of how to engage in relationship to the other varies moment by moment; that benchmark is known as sanctification. Falling short of God's will does not end the "marriage" but it reduces its quality.

The first question can be subdivided into three. In comments, reader Rev. Mike addresses the first one: where does the Bible document the doctrine of the Trinity? In short, the doctrine is deduced from passages that, as Francis Schaeffer would say, speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in "infinite-personal" terms:

Among the Christian scriptures, then, the Gospel of John presents the clearest declaration of the deity of Jesus. From the beginning of his gospel, John declares Jesus to be the logos, the fundamental animating principle of the universe in Greek philosophy, equating him with God.

Then John puts Jesus in conflict with the Jews in chapter 8 of his gospel when the Jews there invoke their Abrahamic heritage. Jesus responds there, "Before Abraham was, I am." From the response of the Jews there (they try to run him off the edge of a cliff, but somehow he seems to pass through their midst unharmed) it is clear they understood what he meant -- the Greek wording, ego eimi, is the same wording used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, in Exodus 3 to translate The Name of God, i.e., ego eimi ho on. This is just one of several specific instances of the equivalence being declared.

OK, so now we have Jesus saying he's God -- but when he's praying to his Father, who's he praying to? The conclusion the church draws from this is that the Son and the Father must both be God. Now, take this the next step. Judaism declares that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is Lord; Christianity picks up that thread and affirms that Jesus is Lord. Then Luke, writing in The Acts of the Apostles, describes the Day of Pentecost, wherein the Spirit of God, the ruach, is given to, i.e., falls upon, those who have professed faith in Jesus as Lord. Elsewhere in the Christian scriptures, the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Lord.

(For the record, the Synoptic Gospels also cite Jesus' claims to divinity. All record an incident in which Jesus, quoting Psalms 110:1, argues that King David equated the Messiah with The Lord (Matt 22:42-44, Mark 12:35-37, Luke 20:41-44). Jesus also claimed to be "Lord of the Sabbath" (Matt 12:6-8, Luke 6:4-5). Also, Matthew 28:18 reads (emphasis mine), "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.'")

Pej asks the second question - how the Trinity works - and Rev. Mike states that answer that frustrates us all: "[T]he Trinity is understood by the church universal to be a mystery. We simply have no ability within our conceptual framework to explain it." Logically, an infinite being has characteristics that finite beings cannot comprehend; the three-persons-in-one-entity concept happens to be one of them.

Anybody recall from English class the six basic questions? We know who (Father, Son, Spirit), what (Trinity), when (always), and where (everywhere), and we don't know how. What question is left? Why God exists as Trinity. Francis Schaeffer offers a partial answer in The Church Before the Watching World:

People may very well say to you, "Well, God needs the creation as much as the creation needs Him, because God needs to love something." Or they may say, "God needs to be face to face with something." But the reason this is not so is the Trinity. Because God is a personal God on the high order of the Trinity, God Himself was everything He needed in the area of communication and love. The persons of the Trinity loved each other and communicated with each other before the creation of all things. Therefore we must not cross this line: God exists, and He did not need to create. He willed to create.

If God is omnipotent, He must be 100% self-sufficient. He must be able to love and communicate without having to create something to love and communicate. So why three? Schaeffer doesn't say, but I think I know the answer. If God is self-sufficient, He must also be capable of sacrifice without dependence on creation. Sacrifice involves three components: the sender and recipient of the sacrifice, and the thing to be sacrificed. Prior to creation, what would the persons of the Trinity have to sacrifice? Attention. Remember the old saying, "Two's company, three's a crowd?" All things being equal, when two people are together each receives 100% of the other's attention. Throw in a third person, and each person present must divide his/her attention between two people. Jesus could sacrifice his life on Earth because He has always sacrificed.


Granma reports that Cuba is demanding "an investigation and report on the prison conditions" at Guantanamo.

Bring on the inspectors, and have 'em check out the rest of the island's prison population while they're in the neighborhood.

O'er The Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Braves

Over at FrontPage Magazine, David Yeagley discusses American Indians' profound respect for that star-spangled banner:

Indians use the American flag in precisely the same way that American schools use the image of the Indian. It’s all about strength. The human heart enshrines emblems of strength.

It happens at very Indian pow-wow. The evening begins with a grand entry of all the dancers into the arena. The color guard leads with the eagle staff and the American flag, together with a state flag, military flags, and whatever other flags are appropriate for the occasion.

Then there is a special flag song. This is the moment the American flag is honored by American Indians – in the way only Indians can do it.


Not only do we honor it with prayerful song, we wear it! American flag themes have been woven into our dance regalia for decades. Indians wear the flag in dance, in our cultural celebrations. It fascinates us. It is a sacred thing to us, not an article of daily dress.

And when Americans dress up like Indians, and use Indian images for their school teams, it’s really the same intuition. Most Americans have a deep appreciation for the awesome Indian warrior. He represents something very powerful to them – a natural strength, even savagery, which is dear to the heart of most every man. It’s a macho thing. It’s a warrior thing.

Adventures In Dentistry

Yesterday I had a followup exam to check on the progress of last January's dental surgery. The bone grafts are fine, and treatments to stimulate bone growth have had some success; in places the bone support has grown by a couple of millimeters. I'll be going for a followup in six months.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

115 Candles

David Kaspar marks the birthday of Adolph Hitler by posting a photo of Der Fuehrer meeting with Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem. During WWII, al-Husseini actively lobbied Muslims to pledge their support for Hitler. Kaspar excerpts a Wikipedia entry that contains this passage from the mufti's memoirs:

"Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: 'The Jews are yours.'"

Yahoo Headline

AP: Bush Administration to Revise OT Plan

What does "OT" stand for?

  1. Old Testament
  2. Overtime pay
  3. Oil takeover
  4. Oklahoma trip

The correct answer is b. Bush looking to revise the Fair Labor Standards Act. Separate proposals from Congress and from Labor secretary Elaine Chao seek to reduce the number of upper-income workers and increase the number of lower-income workers eligible for mandatory overtime pay rates for working more than 40 hours a week

Technical Difficulties Ended

Agent Smith Everyone's Internet has fixed the problems with the Matrix user webspace servers. My online images are back.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Mister Anderson, We Missed You

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Your income tax returns have not arrived at the proper time. You must fill out the appropriate forms and pay all taxes due plus the appropriate penalty. Please do not disappoint us.

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Today's Guest Blog At Sasha's

Another reprint from the blog vault - my anniversary post on the Branch Davidian inferno.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Campus Idiocy

From The Digital Collegian, a Penn State student publication (link via Rand Simberg):

Some students said they believe Coulter does not accurately represent the Republican Party.

Penn State College Democrats secretary Alex Smith said Coulter is so far right that she does not represent most of the Republicans' views.

"It reminds me of the recent ads featuring Sen. [Arlen] Specter against running Sen. [Patrick] Toomey," he said. "Toomey's slogan is, 'He's not far right, he's far out.' Far out is exactly how I would explain Coulter."

Dude, Ann Coulter is there to represent Ann Coulter, not the Republican Party. She has some ideas on the conflicting natures of "conservatism" and "liberalism." Try addressing her actual ideas instead of applying subjective political labels.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Bojinka, Part Deux

Yahoo has an Associated Press story reports that the CIA has released "National Intelligence Estimates and other secret briefings" to the 9/11 commission. A report drafted in 1995 "specifically warned that civil aviation, Washington landmarks such as the White House and Capitol and buildings on Wall Street were at the greatest risk of a domestic terror attack by Muslim extremists."

The article does not cite the details of the report. But I think I can guess where the CIA got the idea that American landmarks might be targeted by Islamic terrorists.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Technical Difficulties

If a lot of the images on this site (such as the flag icons) are missing, that's because my ISP has been doing maintenance on the user webspace servers for well over 15 hours. Everyone's Internet tech support has no idea when it will be complete. Grrr.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Today's Guest Blog At Sasha's

I've reprinted one of my old "Roiters" posts - the one about England's pre-emptive war against the Spanish Armada.

How Will This Affect My T-Shirt Sales?

Glenn Reynolds links to a Howard Kurtz column about various opinions regarding a hypothetical John Kerry/John McCain ticket.

Buy yer McCain/Feingold gear here. Silence the vote!

Remembering Davy Crockett

John Fund explores the Tennessean frontiersman's libertarian roots. One item that struck me was his opposition to Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830, which brought about the infamous "Trail of Tears." (The text of the Act is here.) That stance cost Crockett his political career, and he decided to go west as well. The rest is history.

Forgetting The Alamo

Don Feder points out political correctness in the currently-released flick about the War for Texas Independence.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Bojinka: The Missing Link

Okay, the news is out. The famed Presidential Daily Briefing addressed by Condoleezza Rice states that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida attacked US targets in the past and are likely to do so in the future, and that the FBI was at the time conducting 70 related investigations. Max Sawicky has an image of the declassified document, and has drawn some diagrams which one Brad DeLong commenter likens to the Bible Code. The PDB does not acknowledge any known ongoing al-Qaida plots.

The memo also mentions Ramzi Yousef by name, citing his role as engineer of the original WTC bombing in 1993. Not mentioned is that in 1994 and 1995 he (with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed) engineered the aborted Operation Bojinka; Wikipedia has a detailed entry on the plot here. The plot was funded by bin Laden and Indonesian terror lord Riduan Isamuddin (aka Hambali).

Bojinka was to be carried out in two phases. First, a suicide bomber would try to kill Pope John Paul II during a trip to the Philippines, serving as a diversion from the true goal of that phase - to set off bombs on 11 American airliners flying over the Pacific. Wikipedia lists the airports and flights (some with known flight numbers) to be affected. Second, a small explosives-laden plane would be flown into CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia. (A commercial airliner was considered in an alternate plan.) Wikipedia documents that the terrorists were considering future attacks:

Another plot the men were cooking up would have involved hijacking of more airplanes. The Sears Tower (Chicago, Illinois), The Pentagon (Arlington, Virginia, the Washington Capitol (Washington, DC), the White House (Washington, DC), the Transamerica Tower (San Francisco, California), and the World Trade Center (New York, New York) would be the likely targets.

A January 6, 1995 fire in a Manila apartment killed the plan. It had started when one of the plotters was mixing explosives. This led to an investigation that eventually led to the seizure of Yousef's computer, which detailed the Bojinka plans. Although the computer contained a brief reference to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, his role in Bojinka was not known for several years. Yousef and other plotters were tried and convicted, and remain incarcerated after an attempt at appeal.

Why wasn't Bojinka mentioned in the PDB? David Horowitz offers an explanation:

If, on the other hand, Bush had known what the Clinton Administration knew - that alQaidaa had plans to use commercial airliners as bombs and fly them into buildings - specifically the CIA -- this would be a serious charge. But they did not know it, because the Clinton team never told them.

Although the Clinton security team knew that Operation Bojinka included blowing up the CIA building in Langley, Virginia, it kept this information from the rest of the government. When Dale Watson, chief of the FBI's International Terrorism Operations Section testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 1998, he withheld this vital information. He identified Operation Bojinka only as a plot to blow up U.S. air carriers, and assured the senators that the FBI had the situation under control.

It is possible that Clinton never received the information about Operation Bojinka, since his lack of interest in national security matters throughout the course of his administration has been noted by many - including his chief political advisor Dick Morris, and his chief "biographer" Joe Klein. February 1998 - the date of the FBI testimony -- is also the month after Monica Lewinsky became a national celebrity.

Former Clinton aide Robert Patterson claims that information about Bojinka did lead to then-President Clinton's desk. Allan J. Favish quotes a passage from the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel's book Dereliction of Duty:

One late-summer Saturday morning, the president asked me to pick up a few days' worth of PDBs that had accumulated in the Oval Office. He gave them to me with handwritten notes stuffed inside the folders and asked that I deliver them back to the NSC.

I opened the PDB to rearrange the notes and noticed the heading "Operation Bojinka." I keyed on a reference to a plot to use commercial airliners as weapons and another plot to put bombs on U.S. airliners. Because I was a pilot, this naturally grabbed my attention. I can state for a fact that this information was circulated within the U.S. intelligence community, and that in late 1996 the president was aware of it.

At the time of Favish's article (October 14, 2003), Patterson had not been contacted by the 9/11 Commission.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Slippery Slope?

Here's Andrew Sullivan's April 9 Derbyshire Award Nominee (scroll down):

"If you still think homosexual "marriage" won't affect you, think again. Your job may be at stake! Legal recognition of unnatural unions is the ultimate societal affirmation. Once the state approves of homosexual "marriages," the full weight of the law will be brought down against men and women of faith who believe in Judeo-Christian values." - Gary Bauer, in his newsletter for his organization, Campaign for Working Families. Actually, you won't only lose your job, you'll be forced to sing show-tunes every Sunday. Is there no end to the humiliation?

Where could Gary Bauer possibly get the idea that failing to toe the line of the gay lobby could cost you your job? Maybe this April 8 post at the Volokh Conspiracy?

A federal judge has awarded back pay and damages for emotional distress to a Christian employee who objected to his employer's policies requiring him to "respect and value" the differences of his gay colleagues. Specifically, Albert Buonanno objected to language in an AT&T Broadband employee handbook stating that "each person at AT&T Broadband is charged with the responsibility to fully recognize, respect and value the differences among all of us," including sexual orientation. The company fired Buonanno after he refused to sign a "certificate of understanding" acknowledging that he agreed to the policy.

Why should anyone expect that no other part of society would ever emulate academia's equivocation of affirmation and tolerance? The former means liking someone's beliefs, actions, and psychological orientation; the latter means getting along with people despite real or perceived shortcomings. The social environment, whether at work or campus, requires only tolerance.

Since the Left in general is greatly similar to campus radicals, and since the latter favor suppressing "hate speech" at the university level, I imagine that a sizeable chunk of the Left (including many gay activists) supports statutes similar to those in Canada that criminalize "hate speech." I do recall seeing an image of a woman carrying a placard reading "HATE SPEECH = HATE CRIME" in an article about protests in favor of hate crimes legislation. If anyone can spot any info on American-based protests calling for "hate speech" laws, send it my way.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Another Granma Article

Our fearless Cuban state press reports that a tiny percentage of relatives of the 9/11 attacks are disappointed with Condoleeza Rice's testimony. Oh, except Granma left out the "tiny percentage" part. And no mention of anyone who was satisfied with her answers.

You Get What You Pay For

From Granma:

CUBAN universities have welcomed more than 13,945 foreign students from 113 countries, via a cooperation program that is systematically growing.

This program, which is free of cost to the students, began in 1961 and increased during the 1970s in response to requests by African and Middle Eastern countries, mainly for middle-level education, according to an April 10 article in Granma daily.

I'll bet there's not a whole lot of ideological diversity to go with that ethnic diversity.

Rush Limbaugh Speaks Out

NewsMax has a complete transcript of Rush Limbaugh's remarks from earlier this week about his ongoing legal travails. Here are some key excerpts (emphasis added):

There's a Florida statute which is very clear -- the Florida legislature wrote it for the express purpose -- it's very clear that a subpoena must be used, and the purpose of the subpoena is to notify the patient.

Then there's a hearing where the law enforcement authorities tell a court what they're looking for, and narrow the search so that they don't get to see the whole medical file.

There are things in people's medical files that are irrelevant to whatever it is would be searched. But this prosecutor ignored the statute, a statute, by the way, he had been admonished for ignoring two years ago by this same appellate court and stormed into the offices of four of my doctors with search warrants, with the sole purpose of intimidating the doctors and their staff.


You know, probable cause, which is what the state said they had to seize the records, can be manufactured out of thin air, and a judge, as has been demonstrated in my case, says, okay, yep, you've got probable cause -- but they didn't have probable cause, because if they did, they wouldn't have written in their brief they had no idea what to charge me with till they could see all the medical records.


Yesterday Jim Martz, the prosecutor on the case representing the Palm Beach state attorney, said that the reason they used a search warrant was that they were afraid that I or my doctors would alter or remove the records if they had used a subpoena...[D]octor shopping means I am misrepresenting a medical condition to doctors. That means the doctors are victims, so this whole notion that I would collude with my doctors to have them remove records (a crime punishable by a 15-year conviction on a felony for tampering) is absolutely offensive and outrageous. And senseless.

How can I be deceiving and colluding with the doctors at the same time?


I'm just pointing out here that an excuse was offered by the state attorney prosecutor, why they skirted the statute requiring the subpoena, and in the process they impugned the reputation of these doctors by claiming that they had to go this route because the doctors might have destroyed or altered the records.

In a society that presumes innocence, for this man to go before the court of appeal and presume guilty on the part of these doctors, is offensive to me, and I wanted to take time here to explain this in a way satisfactory to me as well as to you.

Remember El Dictador

Catherine Seipp offers some fascinating history on General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Check it out before you see the latest war flick.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Today's Guest Blog At Sasha's

I've excerpted that Tim Kane article mentioned in this previous post.

Private Enterprise Treks Into Space

Burt Rutan gets the first license ever for a private-sector suborbital rocket.

Times Square Is A Hundred Years Old

Happy birthday! Hope there aren't too many pickpockets at the festivities.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Alanis, You Ignorant Slut

Alanis Morisette makes arrogant, childish statements about US censorship:

Not another wardrobe malfunction ... feisty rock singer Alanis Morissette poked fun at Janet Jackson's notorious breast-baring episode by stripping on stage to reveal cartoonish fake nipples and pubic hair.

Morissette, hosting Canada's annual music awards, said the stunt, in which she appeared in a provocative skin-hugging body-suit was intended to expose US "censorship."

The singer, renowned for her angst-ridden lyrics, told the audience at the Juno Awards in Edmonton "we live in a land where we still think the human body is beautiful and we're not afraid of the female breast."

Children were watching the game, you idiot! One reason that civilized folks don't allow nudity in such settings is that it violates the authority of parents over their children's education regarding modesty and sexuality. (Yeah, nudity isn't always displayed in sexual context, but how do you explain that idea to a kid who's too young to understand what sexuality is?) Mores vary from parent to parent, and some standards of out-in-plain-view-of-everybody conduct must be in place to prevent others from overstepping parental jurisdiction.

Morisette also displays that contempt for the customer I wrote about last February. (And yes, the NFL is guilty of the same with regard to its advertising - I addressed that in the post.) The Super Bowl reaches certain audiences, only some of which are shared by MTV, the organizers of the sleazy halftime show with its crotch-grabbing and erotic lyrics and partial disrobing and female dancers rubbing against each other. MTV was a guest. It should have adapted to the NFL's entire customer base without alienating two huge segments: those who morally object to erotic voyeuristic entertainment, and those who do not unless such entertainment is being viewed by children.

"Screw the customers, they have to take what I dish out" is the voice not of an open market but of imperialism.

Ted, You Ignorant Slut

The senior senator from Massachusetts had some unkind words about the Bush administration at the Brookings Institute. "Vigorous debate" should not involve "false and misleading arguments," according to the guy who once said this:

"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens."

The people must "trust their government," said the guy whose government allows people who receive a slap on the wrist for vehicular homicide to run for office.

"[T]he Bush Administration misled the American people about the threat to the nation posed by the Iraqi regime," said the guy who did not speak out against Bill Clinton's lies about the scope of Serb-led genocides in Kosovo and the level of threat they posed to the rest of Europe.

If "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam," as Senator Kennedy claims, that must mean that Colin Powell is preparing to pull a Henry "Let Saigon Be Bygone" Kissinger and engineer a military pullout that will guarantee Iraq's conquest by totalitarians in a couple of years.

I'll let Larry Elder and Byron York tackle the "Bush lied" myth. As for Kennedy's words on the economy, I'd like to hear from anybody who's crunched the numbers.

Update: New York Times guest columnist Tim Kane crunches the employment numbers.

John Robert, You Ignorant Slut

The latest EIA Communiqué reports a dubious proposal for education reform :

"If it were up to me, I wouldn't teach long division until high school." - Robert Hetzel, eighth-grade math teacher at O'Keefe Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin. Hetzel is a supporter of the Connected Math Project, a controversial curriculum that claims it teaches "far more than proficiency with computation and symbol manipulation. It encompasses the ability to use mathematical tools, resources, procedures, knowledge, and ways of thinking to make sense of new situations." Critics say the program eschews fundamental math skills in favor of essay writing. (April 3 The Capital Times)

Update: John? Where did I get John? It's been a long week.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Googling For Conspiracy Geeks

Emily Jones doesn't like the #1 result for Google searches on "Jew." The site has a long list of "Jewish Communities & Organizations Worldwide" - from a, shall we say, unfriendly perspective. One item caught my eye: listed under the heading "Jewish Religions" are "Judaism, Atheism, Christianity, Millenialism [sic], Magic/Wiccan Cults..." Abraham Foxman and Tim LaHaye are part of the same conspiracy! Alert the media! Wait - the Jews control the media. But they don't control Google!

Do your part to clean up Google's act and bump the Wikipedia entry for Jew to the top of the Google search results.

Bucking A Trend?

One of those Democrat-majority districts in Texas may go to Henry Cuellar, a politically moderate Hispanic. At the moment, his narrow primary victory against incumbent Ciro Rodriguez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is being challenged over charges of voter fraud. But Cuellar, whose heresies include support for school vouchers, challenges conventional wisdom regardig attracting Hispanic voters:

In the end, the race came down in part to regional loyalty: Mr. Rodriguez swept his San Antonio base, and Mr. Cuellar won 85% of the vote in Laredo. But many political observers believe there was an ideological component as well. "Henry proved that you can run as a moderate, get the community to listen to you and win," says a former Hispanic colleague of his in the Legislature.

Not knowing how much of Bexar County (San Antonio) is in the district, or how the votes are distributed through the rest of the district, it's hard to tell how much of the divide can be explained by regional differences. Since Laredo represents less than one-third of the district's population of roughly 670,000 (dividing the number of Texas districts into Texas' population - see here for 2001 population estimates), and assuming that voter turnout is even throughout the district, I would expect a heavily lopsided showing for Cuellar in the Rio Grande Valley to support the "regional rivalry" hypothesis. Then again, sometimes regional rivalry is rooted in ideology.

What Does The Romulan Catholic Church Think Of This?

Klingons for Christ

(link via Andrew Ian Dodge)

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Today's Oxymoron: Nonpartisan Religion

NewsMax reports that Representative Walter Jones is fighting to remove a 1954 law that bars churches from speaking out on "partisan" issues. HR 235 (no direct link, you can search for it here), reads that a church will not lose its tax-exempt status "because of the content, preparation, or presentation of any homily, sermon, teaching, dialectic, or other presentation made during religious services or gatherings." Churches are still prohibited from "any disbursements for electioneering communications, or political expenditures, prohibited in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971."

Religions by their very nature speak out on morality. This includes the ethics of private-sector activities that are also the focus of political issues, and the moral obligations of the government. The State must not be allowed to dictate which part of a religion's code may or may not be discussed in formal services.

This brings to mind a puzzle regarding tax-exempt status. Planned Parenthood Federation of America has 501 (c)(3) status - it is nonprofit and donations are tax deductible. Its political wing, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, like other lobby organizations has 501 (c)(4) status - it is nonprofit but donations are not tax deductible. But I recall receiving several PP fundraising letters during the '80s and '90s asking for my tax-deductible donation to support its fight to "defend a woman's right to choose." What gives? Is there a third wing of Planned Parenthood that has 501 (c)(3.5) status, allowing tax-deductible political donations?

Today's Guest Blog At Sasha's

Some musings over the Henderson Prize.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Another Reason To Buy That T-Shirt

NewsMax reports that John McCain is blasting the GOP. The story doesn't specify why he perceived the party as "reckless," but he does state, "Many people in this room question, legitimately, whether we should have gone in or not." He was present at a Democrat-led seminar when he made the remarks.

Silence the vote!

FrontPage Magazine Roundup

Chuck Yeagley writes about calls to reform the Indian reservation system. Check out this passage:

But with the BIA in charge, "it's pure communism," says Russell Means, "and it's an abject failure. Just like it was in the Soviet Union. It's failure. You've created a dictatorship by the Bureau of Indian Affairs."

Evidently Means is referring to the "[t]reaty obligations [which] require the government to provide health care, education and housing," quoting the story linked above, and to the fact that, as addressed in the Libertarian Party platform, property rights are severely restricted in the reservations, "including rights of easement, access, hunting, and fishing." But I think the comparison to the Soviet Union is a bit over the top.

Ann Coulter outlines the history of our war on terrorism, from the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis up to 9/11. Note the common refrain regarding events during the previous administration: "Clinton, advised by Dick Clarke, did nothing."

Tammy Bruce wants to raze Fallujah.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Take That Issue Out Of The Closet!

At The New Republic, Andrew Sullivan fisks a WSJ column by Shelby Steele, who objects to the equivocation of the black and gay civil rights movements. The key statement in Steele's column is this:

But once this issue is buttoned into a suit of civil rights, neither homosexuality nor marriage need be discussed.

Later, Steele follows a track that many critics follow, and like many of those critics he stops there:

The civil rights movement argued that it was precisely the utter innocuousness of racial difference that made segregation an injustice. Racism was evil because it projected a profound difference where there was none--white supremacy, black inferiority--for the sole purpose of exploiting blacks. But there is a profound difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality. In the former, sexual and romantic desire is focused on the same sex, in the latter on the opposite sex. Natural procreation is possible only for heterosexuals, a fact of nature that obligates their sexuality to no less a responsibility than the perpetuation of the species. Unlike racial difference, these two sexual orientations are profoundly--not innocuously--different.

There is an even greater "profound difference" that Steele does not note: that more than a small amount of evidence supports the claim that homosexuality, unlike heterosexuality, is a sexual dysfunction linked with several types of trauma.

The State may allow activities that aren't altogether healthy, but it must not license them; government license implies government approval, and sends the message that citizens should be equally approving. Furthermore, the government is rarely 100% neutral regarding what it does allow; religious liberty doesn't exempt churches from building codes, for instance. We need an open, honest debate about the very nature of homosexuality; we cannot properly determine where the State can and cannot remain neutral without it.

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