Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Boomer Bust

Thursday, July 31, 2003
By Radley Balko

...Don’t get me wrong, some of my best parents are baby boomers. But the most self-aware, self-congratulatory, and self-destructive generation in American history is aging. Boomers are catching faint glimpses of their own mortality. They’re beginning to see themselves in nursing homes, convalescent centers and retirement communities. And so the generation that introduced us to political identity groups (search) and the culture of victimization now sees itself as an identity group, and an aging generation of victims. And now they want entitlements.

Consequently, my fellow Gen-Xers, you and I will be footing the bill, for example, for an $800 billion prescription drug benefit egged on, voted on and signed into law by baby boomers. Soon we’ll be paying for the God-given right of our parents to, for example, get erections well into their seventies....

Boomers I think suffer from a natural inferiority complex. The generation just before them -- the World War II generation (search) -- saved the world, after all. And when your parents saved the world, what, really, can you do to better them?

So when boomers aren’t busy voting themselves entitlements to prolong their lives, they’re striving for immortality -- if not for “Greatest Generation” (search) status, which is taken, then at least for “The ‘Damn the Results, At Least We Tried’ Generation.”

So we can also thank well-meaning leftist boomers for the litany of social safety net programs that have resulted in, ahem, more people in need of government-funded safety net programs. We can thank boomer idealism for the wars on poverty (search) and drugs that gave us, ahem, more poverty and more drug use.

Our current boomer president wants to change the world, too. And like his leftist boomer cohorts, he too will be sending us the bill....

Offshore Lore
Myths and facts of white-collar out-sourcing
Jeff Taylor

... But the catch is that out-sourcing is being embraced without much sign that it will actually make high-tech firms, particularly software companies, more effective. Highly collaborative, imaginative work might suffer in the hands of technically adept but inexperienced programmers.

The Times also passes along some dubious information on the actual cost of Indian outsourcing which makes the pay gulf between the U.S. and elsewhere seem impossibly wide. Stephanie Moore, vice president for outsourcing at Forrester Research, claims that "crackerjack" Indian programmers can be had for $5,000 a year. That might be close to what the programmers see, but it doesn't represent the cost to a U.S. company to outsource.

According to people who actually negotiate outsourcing contracts for a living, your costs are more like $22 an hour for each warm body once all the third-party finders' fees are paid. An experienced programmer's take in India would be around $11,000 out of total cost of over $40,000. That's still quite a gap from the $60,000 an American might demand but once the all-important question of productivity is factored in, it may not be much of a bargain.

Simply put, once you leave the U.S. you are leaving behind the world's best, most proven pool of programmers. That's is not to say that there aren't excellent programmers in Russia, China, India, and elsewhere. But large-scale, world-changing software development ain't easy. The Net bubble devalued just how hard it is to build neat technology. Shawn Fanning is the exception that proves the rule.

Or as one software engineer who has worked with out-sourced labor for years puts it, "If software development in India is so great, why don't they have a single software company worth a crap?" ...

'Conservative' Bush Spends More than 'Liberal' Presidents Clinton, Carter

by Veronique de Rugy and Tad DeHaven

Veronique de Rugy is a fiscal policy analyst and Tad DeHaven a policy researcher at the Cato Institute.

The Bush administration's newly released budget projections reveal an anticipated budget deficit of $450 billion for the current fiscal year, up another $151 billion since February. Supporters and critics of the administration are tripping over themselves to blame the deficit on tax cuts, the war, and a slow economy. But the fact is we have mounting deficits because George W. Bush is the most gratuitous big spender to occupy the White House since Jimmy Carter. One could say that he has become the "Mother of All Big Spenders."

The new estimates show that, under Bush, total outlays will have risen $408 billion in just three years to $2.272 trillion: an enormous increase in federal spending of 22 percent. Administration officials privately admit that spending is too high. Yet they argue that deficits are appropriate in times of war and recession. So, is it true that the war on terrorism has resulted in an increase in defense spending? Yes. And, is it also true that a slow economy has meant a decreased stream of tax revenues to pay for government? Yes again.

But the real truth is that national defense is far from being responsible for all of the spending increases. According to the new numbers, defense spending will have risen by about 34 percent since Bush came into office. But, at the same time, non-defense discretionary spending will have skyrocketed by almost 28 percent. Government agencies that Republicans were calling to be abolished less than 10 years ago, such as education and labor, have enjoyed jaw-dropping spending increases under Bush of 70 percent and 65 percent respectively. ...

...But perhaps we are being unfair to former President Clinton. After all, in inflation-adjusted terms, Clinton had overseen a total spending increase of only 3.5 percent at the same point in his administration. More importantly, after his first three years in office, non-defense discretionary spending actually went down by 0.7 percent. This is contrasted by Bush's three-year total spending increase of 15.6 percent and a 20.8 percent explosion in non-defense discretionary spending.

Sadly, the Bush administration has consistently sacrificed sound policy to the god of political expediency. From farm subsidies to Medicare expansion, purchasing reelection votes has consistently trumped principle. In fact, what we have now is a president who spends like Carter and panders like Clinton. Our only hope is that the exploding deficit will finally cause the administration to get serious about controlling spending.

Men--It's in Their Nature

This past spring, my son spent a month in Israel with his senior class. Only one activity disappointed him. While camping in the Negev Desert, special counselors from a progressive-socialist kibbutz paid a visit and led the students through a sensitivity exercise. The students were told to walk out into the desert until they were completely alone. The counselors (mostly American-born) supplied them with a pencil, paper, matches, and a candle and instructed them to absorb the quiet calm of the desert, to record their feelings, and to “find themselves.�

The girls happily complied. Most of the boys did not. They scattered into the desert, quickly became bored, and sought out each other’s company. Then they threw the pencils and paper into a pile, and used the candles and matches to start a little bonfire. The boys loved it; the sensitivity trainers were horrified. They viewed the boys’ behavior as an expression of primitive violence—a lethal masculinity straight from The Lord of the Flies. Later in the evening, the students sat in a circle while the girls read their impassioned reactions to the “haunting loneliness� of the desert; the boys could barely suppress laughter—confirming once again the worst fears of the sensitivity trainers....

by Srdja Trifkovic

...The neoconservative view of America as a hybrid, “imagined” nation had an ardent supporter eight decades ago: in Mein Kampf Adolf Hitler argued for a new, tightly centralized Germany by invoking the example of the United States and the triumph of the Union over states’ rights. He concluded that “National Socialism, as a matter of principle, must lay claim to the right to force its principles on the whole German nation without consideration of previous federated state boundaries.” Hitler was going to make a new Germany the way he imagined it, or else destroy it. In the same vein the Weekly Standard writers are “patriots” only insofar as the America they imagine is a pliable tool of their global design. Their relentless pursuit of an American Empire overseas is coupled by their deliberate domestic transformation of the United States’ federal government into a Leviathan unbound by constitutional restraints. The lines they inserted into President Bush’s State of the Union address last January aptly summarized their Messianic obsessions: the call of history has come to the right country, we exercise power without conquest, and sacrifice for the liberty of strangers, we know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation: “The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.”...

...Echoing the revolutionary dynamism and the historicist Messianism equally common to fascists and communists, Michael Ledeen wrote that “creative destruction” is America’s eternal mission, both at home and abroad, and the reason America’s “enemies” hate it: “They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence—our existence, not our politics—threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.”

The neoconservatives’ mendacity apparent in the misrepresentation of the Iraqi crisis to the American people recalls the Goebbelsian “hypodermic needle approach” to communication, in which the communicator’s objective was to “inject” his ideas into the minds of the target population. “Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering said when it was all over, in his prison cell in Nuremberg in 1946:
Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a communist dictatorship ... That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

It does indeed. Goering’s observation is echoed in our time by the Straussian dictum that perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is necessary because they need to be led, and they need to be told what is good for them. On this, at least, Trotsky, Stalin, and Hitler would all agree. (As Hitler had said, “The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble.”) In the Straussian-neoconservative mindset, those who are fit to rule are those who realize there is no morality and that there is only one natural right, the right of the superior to rule over the inferior.

That mindset is America’s enemy. It is the greatest threat to the constitutional order, identity, and way of life of the United States, in existence today. Its adherents have only modified the paradigm of dialectical materialism in order to continue pursuing the same eschatological dream, the End of History devoid of God. They are in pursuit of Power for its own sake—thus sinning against God and man—and the end of that insane quest will be the same as the end of the Soviet empire and of the Thousand-Year Reich.

Christain Right Waves Flag for Israel

By Ken Fireman

July 30, 2003

Washington - The Israeli prime minister wasn't due at the White House for another hour, but Richard Hellman and his friends were out early yesterday to show the flag - in fact, two of them, the Star of David side by side with Old Glory.

"We are a Christian group for a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship," Hellman said as he paraded along Pennsylvania Avenue. "We are Christians. We believe in the truth of the Bible. We believe America will be blessed as it blesses Israel, as the Bible says."

The activism of Hellman, a born-again Christian who heads the group Christians' Israel Public Action Campaign, reflects a growing trend in the conservative Christian movement. As its political influence has waxed since the Republican takeover, its agenda has broadened from traditional domestic concerns such as abortion to foreign policy issues like the Middle East.

Many conservative Christians view support for Israel and its right-wing government as an obligation flowing directly from biblical prophecy. ...

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

"People shouldn't be treated like objects. They aren't that valuable."
-- P.J. O'Rourke

Poindexter's DARPA Casino
It's going to take me some time to wade through all the messages I've been
getting about an item on John Poindexter'sDARPA Casino (see "Pssst -- go
long on September truck bombings"). I received a number of thoughtful
messages on the issue, many of them from folks talking up the benefits of
"idea markets." They have been, to a one, quite compelling. But they've
failed to convince me that this brainstorm was a good idea. Yes, markets are
extremely efficient at aggregating information (given a broad, diverse and
informed market). Yes, futures exchanges sometimes predict events better
than other forms of analysis (and are sometimes delusional; take the tech
bubble and bust, for instance). And yes, traders on the Hollywood Stock
Exchange -- another idea market -- last year correctly picked 35 of the 40
Oscar nominees in the eight biggest categories (out of a very small universe
of possibilities with little hidden data). But that doesn't make anonymous
speculation on terrorist strikes a good idea. Especially when there are no
audit trails or other means for flagging terrorists who bet on their own
atrocities. And especially in a nation that still has enough common decency
to be repulsed by the idea of wagering on human suffering.

Onward. Here's another sidelight on the topic.

Hey John,

While the Feds were relentless in their pursuit and prosecution of Jim
Bell for coming up with the idea [assassination politics] and publicizing
it, they apparently have no problem with stealing and implementing it. I
guess it's just another of those things that are ONLY okay if the
government does them (though it seems as if Wolfowitz has "rethought" the issue) ...

He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.
-- Albert Einstein

Another day in Iraq

By Steve Gilliard

I was watching Rudy Giuliani talk about our "liberation" of Iraq on TV and I said aloud, "hell, he has a 17 year old. My dad joined the Marines at 17, why not Andy Giuliani. Big kid like him would do great behind a GPMG or M249 in a Marine infantry squad. Why, a few weeks at Parris Island and a few more at AP Hill would get him into fine shape. And then he could participate in the liberation of Iraq."

Which of course will never happen. ...

Priorities (via The Agitator)

We're spending $1 billion per week to rebuild Iraq, an effort, I guess to rid the country of terrorists (or, if you buy the latest, incredulous "flypaper" strategy, to draw all the terrorists in the region into Iraq -- more on that later).

We're also spending $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa, in part to help offset the damage we're doing to the continent by subsidizing American farmers to the tune of $246 billion.

I bring these figures up, because MSNBC is reporting this morning that despite recent intelligence hinting at an increased possilbilty of 9/11-style suicide attacks on airliners, the Transportation Security Administration is pulling federal air marshalls off all cross- country flights because -- are you ready for this? -- it's too expensive to put them up in hotel rooms when they fly across the country. All the planes used on September 11, by the way, were on cross-country routes....

Jessica Lynch and the Lies of the State
by Karen De Coster

...As one West Virginia resident said, "When you try to malign Jessica, that's fighting talk in West Virginia." In other words, the truth be damned while we are all feeling so sunny, singing our little verses and championing our pretend playhouse built around the government’s Jessicaisms. Are the masses this desperate for something to make them "feel good"? Alas, they are, and that provides the breeding ground for the State to exploit the usual, feelgood state of affairs and pass off its lies as truth.....

...Whenever the State has another one of its wars, it has to win support for that war, and it does so through that collectivist concept known as unity. Unity means that you don’t dare think for yourself. Unity means that you fold yourself into the collective mold, toss reason and critical thinking out the door, and let the lion's share of emotions around you dictate your next train of thought and any subsequent moves. It means you rally ‘round the Yellow Ribbon Campaign of Folly. And it means you don’t dare ask questions or seek facts, because the picture has already been painted for you, in total, and any additional brush strokes on your part will land you in the propagandist’s gulag because you disrupted the joy of unity. Your anti-unity, independent thought process denies Hillary’s Village and its justification for existence....

...So let’s say it – no matter how politically incorrect and "callous" it sounds: JESSICA LYNCH IS A CLERK, NOT A SOLDIER. You know, a paper pusher. A no-excel body that was just one of many bodies sucked into military service for economic reasons. A woman with no options better than some low-level job in the military. A barely-motivated welfare recipient. Yes, the military is a huge welfare program for lower class and working class kids who have no job, no future, no way of comfortably supporting themselves, and many of these young people turn to military service for instant paychecks, housing, medical insurance, cheap goods and services, and the assorted benefits that come after their service is over. Jessica Lynch had no immediate future, and that’s why she was a clerk in a maintenance unit in the Army. How dare the truth be spoken!...

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Virgo: (Aug. 23—Sept. 22)
More than anything, you want to mold and shape young minds. Unfortunately, most commercially available Jell-O molds are unsuitable for this purpose.

Gigli Focus Groups Demand New Ending In Which Both Affleck And Lopez Die

HOLLYWOOD, CA - Focus groups at advance screenings for Gigli, a romantic comedy starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez set to open nationwide July 30, have demanded a new ending in which both stars die "in as brutal a manner as possible," sources at Sony Pictures said Tuesday....

..."The danger here is succumbing to what people in the business call 'option paralysis' - being caught with so many good ideas that you're not sure which one to use," Brest said. "Getting shot is fine, but what about an automobile fire in which Ben and Jennifer are shown perishing in a slow-motion montage, their newfound love discarded as they try desperately to claw their way past each other's melting bodies, while slowly roasting to death in their own fat? You'd be surprised at how many people came up with that one. Or having them crawl through a field of broken glass while a safely booted and gloved Christopher Walken casually advances on them with a spray bottle of acid and a pair of bolt-cutters? I must say, a part of me loves the idea of them chewing each other to death during a 14-minute dolly shot."...

America is a religion

US leaders now see themselves as priests of a divine mission to rid the world of its demons

...Are we really expected to believe that the members of the US security services are the only people who cannot see that many Iraqis wish to rid themselves of the US army as fervently as they wished to rid themselves of Saddam Hussein? What is lacking in the Pentagon and the White House is not intelligence (or not, at any rate, of the kind we are considering here), but receptivity. Theirs is not a failure of information, but a failure of ideology.

To understand why this failure persists, we must first grasp a reality which has seldom been discussed in print. The United States is no longer just a nation. It is now a religion. Its soldiers have entered Iraq to liberate its people not only from their dictator, their oil and their sovereignty, but also from their darkness. As George Bush told his troops on the day he announced victory: "Wherever you go, you carry a message of hope - a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'To the captives, "come out," and to those in darkness, "be free".'"

So American soldiers are no longer merely terrestrial combatants; they have become missionaries. They are no longer simply killing enemies; they are casting out demons. ...

As Clifford Longley shows in his fascinating book Chosen People, published last year, the founding fathers of the USA, though they sometimes professed otherwise, sensed that they were guided by a divine purpose. Thomas Jefferson argued that the Great Seal of the United States should depict the Israelites, "led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night". George Washington claimed, in his inaugural address, that every step towards independence was "distinguished by some token of providential agency". Longley argues that the formation of the American identity was part of a process of "supersession". The Roman Catholic church claimed that it had supplanted the Jews as the elect, as the Jews had been repudiated by God. The English Protestants accused the Catholics of breaking faith, and claimed that they had become the beloved of God. The American revolutionaries believed that the English, in turn, had broken their covenant: the Americans had now become the chosen people, with a divine duty to deliver the world to God's dominion. Six weeks ago, as if to show that this belief persists, George Bush recalled a remark of Woodrow Wilson's. "America," he quoted, "has a spiritual energy in her which no other nation can contribute to the liberation of mankind." ...

The real hero behind the 'bravery' of Private Jessica
By Julian Coman
(Filed: 27/07/2003)

America's most famous woman soldier owes her fame to a case of mistaken identity, reports Julian Coman in Washington

As she watched Private Jessica Lynch's emotional homecoming on television last week, Arlene Walters struggled to suppress her growing anger.

For millions of Americans, Pte Lynch's first faltering steps in her home town of Elizabeth, West Virginia, were a moment of high emotion, a happy ending to one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

For Mrs Walters, however, the standing ovation and praise lavished on the young woman soldier, who was captured by Iraqi forces and later freed in a dramatic American raid, served only to highlight the contrasting treatment of her dead son, who fought in the same unit.

It was, fellow soldiers have told her, Sgt Donald Walters who performed many of the heroics attributed to Pte Lynch in the fanfare of publicity designed to lift the nation's morale, and Sgt Walters who was killed after mounting a lone stand against the Iraqis who ambushed their convoy of maintenance vehicles near Nasiriyah....

Internet filtering products are pretty notorious for blocking useful (and political) sites, as well as sites that you may not want your kids to visit. But here's what one gun-rights supporter found to be blocked by default when he installed Symantec's Internet Security filter....

John Hiatt
Beneath His Gruff Exterior

...My friend Al Anderson said, ‘When you listen to black gospel music, you go, “Maybe there is a God.” Then you listen to white gospel music and you go “No, there’s not.”’...

Senators condemn Pentagon futures market that would let investors bet on assassinations, terrorism
Associated Press Writer

The Pentagon is setting up a stock-market style system in which investors would bet on terror attacks, assassinations and other events in the Middle East. Defense officials hope to gain intelligence and useful predictions while investors who guessed right would win profits....

Bush and Clinton: Birds of a feather"
Printed on Thursday, July 24, 2003 @ 00:00:18 CDT

By Matthew Riemer Columnist (United States)

( -- Undoubtedly, all the die hard political partisans were shocked this week when Bill Clinton came out and essentially exonerated the
Bush administration for its manipulation of critical intelligence and lying to the world in support of its drive to war. ...

Monday, July 28, 2003

JULY 28--Yes, five months remain in the year, but we're ready to announce the winner of the prestigious 2003 Legal Document of the Year award. The below motion was filed earlier this month in connection with a criminal charge filed against a Colorado teenager. The boy's troubles started when he was confronted at school by a vice principal who suspected that he had been smoking in the boys bathroom. When presented to the principal, the kid exploded, cursing the administrator with some variants of the "F" word. For his outburst, the boy was hit with a disorderly conduct rap, which was eventually amended to interfering with the staff, faculty, or students of an educational institutional. Faced with what he thought was a speech crime, Eric Vanatta, the teen's public defender, drafted the below motion to dismiss the misdemeanor charge. The District Court document is an amusing and profane look at the world's favorite four-letter word, from its origins in 1500 to today's frequent use of the term by Eminem, Chris Rock, and Lenny Kravitz. The criminal charge, Vanatta argued in the motion, was not warranted since the use of the popular curse is protected by the First Amendment. TSG's favorite part of the motion is the chart comparing Google results for the "F" word and other all-American terms like mom, baseball, and apple pie. Sadly, Vanatta never got the chance to argue his motion before a judge. Because ten days ago he cut a plea deal that deferred prosecution of his client for four months--if the kid stays out of trouble during that period, the charge gets dismissed. (7 pages)

COLUMN: Vin Suprynowicz
Tinkering with the ballot

...Have taxes ever killed anyone? Heck, yes. People die in gun fights with revenue officers quite frequently. All kinds of folks commit suicide after the failure of businesses that might have prospered without the ever-increasing tax burden -- especially when the tax men then come after them again.

The fact that "60 Minutes" rarely does "trend pieces" on the huge social and economic cost of taxes doesn't mean they're not out there. Children come home to empty houses because mom is out working just to pay the taxes on dad's paycheck. Bumping up cigarette and liquor taxes makes it more profitable for bootleggers to haul in truckloads of untaxed goods. Police officers then risk their lives infiltrating those smuggling rings. ...

The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government's disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part.
-- Randolph Bourne (via The Agitator)

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Who Made George W. Bush Our King?
He Can Designate Any of Us an Enemy Combatant
July 25th, 2003 6:00 PM

... have not seen what I am about to quote from her dissent anywhere in the media. You might want to send what follows to your member of Congress and senator. Judge Motz said accusingly:

"I fear that [this court] may also have opened the door to the indefinite detention, without access to a lawyer or the courts, of any American citizen, even one captured on American soil, who the Executive designates an 'enemy combatant,' as long as the Executive asserts that the area in which the citizen was detained was an 'active combat zone,' and the detainee, deprived of access to the courts and counsel, cannot dispute this fact." (Emphasis added).

...Judge Motz is not engaging in scare tactics when she says that with the president having assumed the powers of an absolute monarch, in this kind of case, any American citizen can be hauled off an American street and stripped of all his or her rights. On June 5, Attorney General John Ashcroft unequivocally told the House Judiciary Committee that the streets of America are now "a war zone." ...

...This is an unprecedentedly serious assault, folks, on the core of our system of justice. As Judge Motz said in her passionate dissent, "[This court's] decision marks the first time in our history that a federal court has approved the elimination of protections afforded a citizen by the Constitution solely on the basis of the Executive's designation of that citizen as an enemy combatant, without testing the accuracy of the designation. Neither the Constitution nor controlling precedent sanctions this holding."

As for the government's "evidence" that Hamdi is an enemy combatant, Judge Motz emphasizes that all the Defense Department offered is a two-page, nine-paragraph statement by Michael Mobbs, a special adviser for policy in the Defense Department. The buck stops with Donald Rumsfeld.

..."A close inspection of the [Mobbs] declaration reveals that [it] never claims that Hamdi was fighting for the Taliban, nor that he was a member of the Taliban. . . . Is there anything in the Mobbs declaration that says Hamdi ever fired a weapon?" ...

Friday, July 25, 2003

The 9/11 Investigation

The attacks of September 11 might have been prevented had the US intelligence community been more competent. And the Bush Administration is refusing to tell the public what intelligence the President saw before 9/11 about the threat posed by Al Qaeda.

These are two findings contained in the long-awaited, 800-page final report of the 9/11 joint inquiry conducted the Senate and House intelligence committees, which was released on July 24. ...

Excessive Force?

The U.S. military is celebrating the deaths of Saddam’s sons. But some are questioning whether Uday and Qusay could—and should—have been taken alive...

Republican spending orgy
Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe Wednesday, July 23, 2003

AT THEIR national convention three years ago, Republicans pointed with pride to the GOP's record of fiscal rectitude.

"In the four decades from 1954 to 1994," the Republican platform declared, "government spending increased at an average annual rate of 7.9 percent, and the public's debt increased from $224 billion to $3.4 trillion." Those were the profligate years, when Democrats usually controlled both houses of Congress. ...

...Republican George W. Bush, backed by a Republican Congress, is on track to become the biggest-spending president since LBJ.

In the first three years of the Bush administration, government spending has climbed -- in real, inflation-adjusted terms -- by a staggering 15.6 percent. That far outstrips the budget growth in Clinton's first three years, when real spending climbed just 3.5 percent. Under the first President Bush, the comparable figure was 8.3 percent; under Ronald Reagan, 6.8 percent, and under Jimmy Carter, 13.3 percent. No, that's not a mistake: Bush is a bigger spender than Carter was....

Black-eyed monster

Theodore Dalrymple observes an increase in sexual jealousy and the violence that follows

If you exclude the hypothesis that most British official statistics have been manipulated for one political purpose or another, the latest crime figures appear strange and mysterious: while crimes of violence against the person have risen by 20 per cent in a single year, other forms of crime have fallen somewhat. Since most serious crimes are committed by people who also commit many lesser crimes, and clear-up rates are at an all-time low, the figures are surprising, to say the least.

The most parsimonious explanation I can think of (other than that people now know there is no point in reporting lesser crimes to the police unless it be for insurance purposes) is that the government wants things to look serious enough for it to be allowed to continue to erode genuine civil liberties — simultaneously continuing to confer scores of bogus ones upon us — while at the same time presenting its fight against crime as a success. ...

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The President Should Stop Saying Things That Aren't True

The more Bush works at creating his own credibility gap, the harder it becomes to take his word for anything

by Stuart Taylor Jr.

...What are we to make of such hokum? Had it come from Clinton, Republicans would have accused him of deliberately deceiving gullible voters, and so would I. In Bush's case, another hypothesis seems plausible: a disturbing ignorance of and insouciance about critical facts, combined with a reflexive urge to duck accountability. "The characteristic Bush II form of dishonesty," Michael Kinsley wrote more than a year ago, with perhaps a pinch of hyperbole, "is to construct an alternative reality on some topic and to regard anyone who objects to it as a sniveling dweeb obsessed with 'nuance.' "

Whatever Bush's mental process (and I don't think it is captured by the word "lying," now so fashionable among apologists for Clinton's perjuries), the more the president works at creating his own Iraqi-WMD credibility gap, the harder it becomes to take his word for anything. ...

Roman scandal
Bogus evidence from a bogus reporter
By Michael Young

It was with perverse pleasure that I learned over the weekend that an Italian journalist named Elisabetta Burba had admitted to turning over counterfeit documents to the US embassy in Rome last year suggesting that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Niger. It was based on these that President George W. Bush made his faulty allegation in his 2003 State of the Union address about Iraq's nuclear weapons capability.

According to wire reports, Burba, who works for the Silvio Berlusconi-owned magazine Panorama,...

... Observers will surely bring up the Berlusconi link to ask whether Panorama was doing the bidding of the Italian prime minister, its owner, when it gave the US administration evidence it was happy to later manipulate. Up to now there is no evidence of this. However, Burba's behavior hardly enhances the magazine's credibility or an impression that it is politically independent....

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

...One of the trends that's really struck me over the past couple of years has been the systematic trashing of the public reputations of so many "conservative" institutions -- the Catholic Church (pederasty), corporations (Enronitis), Wall Street (hyper-Enronitis), the FBI and the CIA (9/11), even the Bill Bennett virtue franchise (stupidity and gambling, roughly in that order.)...

I remember remarking to a friend last summer -- during the worst of both the corporate and the Catholic scandals -- that the only two "conservative" institutions still standing, PR-wise, were the military and the White House. But unless destroying Saddam's demonic offspring really is a magic cure for the quagmire blues, they may not be on their feet much longer, either....

9/11 report: No Iraq link to al-Qaida

By Shaun Waterman
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor

WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- The report of the joint congressional inquiry into the suicide hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001, to be published Thursday, reveals U.S. intelligence had no evidence that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks, or that it had supported al-Qaida, United Press International has learned.

"The report shows there is no link between Iraq and al-Qaida," said a government official who has seen the report.

Former Democratic Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who was a member of the joint congressional committee that produced the report, confirmed the official's statement.

...The revelation is likely to embarrass the Bush administration, which made links between Saddam's support for bin Laden -- and the attendant possibility that Iraq might supply al-Qaida with weapons of mass destruction -- a major plank of its case for war.

"The administration sold the connection (between Iraq and al-Qaida) to scare the pants off the American people and justify the war," said Cleland. "What you've seen here is the manipulation of intelligence for political ends."...

Cleland accused the administration of deliberately delaying the report's release to avoid having its case for war undercut.

"The reason this report was delayed for so long -- deliberately opposed at first, then slow-walked after it was created -- is that the administration wanted to get the war in Iraq in and over ... before (it) came out," he said....

When Bush lies, people die

...We thus far have two certified lies in Bush's SOTU address. They total 62 words. We have 282 US and UK deaths in the war.

Pulling out my trusty calculator, that comes to 4.5 deaths per lying word. ...

Again and again

...But it is almost as if administration war-hawks told the public a vastly simplified, fairy-tale version of the Iraq war's connection to stopping terrorism and justified this benign deception because the story contained a deeper truth, almost in the way we tell children similar stories because their minds aren't advanced enough to grasp or process all the factual details connected to the lessons or messages we're trying to convey. Got all that? Good.

Of course, one might also say that the public might have intuited that fighting this sort of war was too risky, improbable and costly than anything it wanted to get involved in. ...

First human tongue transplant successful
The world's first human tongue transplant has been successfully carried out by doctors in Austria....

The Christian Divorce Culture

Syndicated columnist Geneva Overholser believes that churches will eventually approve of homosexual unions. Why? "I think in due time this thinking will change, just as most churches' opposition to divorce, for example, has changed," she writes....

As a recent study by George Barna showed, the percentage of born-again Christians who have been divorced (27) actually beats the national average by 2 points. "While it may be alarming to discover that born-again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce," says Barna, "that pattern has been in place for quite some time." ...

US names the day for biometric passports
By John Leyden
Posted: 22/07/2003 at 14:41 GMT

A senior US government official has laid out detailed plans for the timing and form of US government issued biometric passports.

Frank Moss, deputy assistant secretary for Passport Services, presented his organisation's plans to evolve to a new, more secure "intelligent document" from today's paper-based passports at the Smart Card Alliance's Government Conference and Expo conference last week.

"Our goal is to begin production by October 26, 2004," Moss announced. ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Iraq row over fate of seized scientists

Red Cross urges US to clarify status of three dozen prisoners held in unknown conditions near Baghdad

Jonathan Steele in Baghdad
Sunday July 20, 2003
The Observer

American efforts at finding top Iraqi scientists who can attest to Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mass destruction have turned out to be as fruitless as the search for the weapons themselves.

The continued detention of leading Iraqi scientists and other officials by US forces is swiftly turning into a major human rights row. ...

GOP Frets About Bush Re-Election Chances

By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer

WASHINGTON - For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, rank-and-file Republicans say they are worried about President Bush (news - web sites)'s re-election chances based on the feeble economy, the rising death toll in Iraq (news - web sites) and questions about his credibility. ...

CENTCOM: Uday, Qusay killed

By Steve Gilliard

Ok, while I'm no expert, a four hour firefight is an extremely long time to fend anyone off. You have Task Force 20 supported by a company from the 101 attacking a house. People who can move fast. Now, either they shot this house up until the mice had .223 rounds in them, there were a LOT more than four people killed inside, or Uday and Qusay Hussein learned to fight from American gangster movies.

...Now, you have two martyrs for the Baathists, who died violently resisting US forces, who took four hours to kill them. These guys went out like freaking heroes. Now, if they had been caught napping, or eating a kebob, that would have made them look like the criminals they were. Now? They're going to be spun as heroes throughout the Arab world. Going down with guns blazing against an airborne unit is not a bad way to be remembered. You can bet within the month, drawings of their last gunfight will be all over walls throughout the Gulf. The commanders on the scene did what they thought was right, but if they really died in a gunfight, we've replaced two perverted killers with two Arab martyrs who would rather die than cower to the Americans.

Think it can't happen? Jesse James, who would probably be considered a war criminal today, is one of America's greatest heroes. People forget his brutal war record and his criminal career and remember his personal courage. We may well be shocked to see the kids of Gaza and Cairo with t-shirts lionizing Uday and Qusay, but we shouldn't be surprised to see it happen. ...

Power Grows Arrogant, Ct'd.

Hang on, kids. It gets worse.

So it was in this Robert Novak column that the identity of whistle-blower Joe Wilson's wife was revealed. Wilson's wife happens to work undercover for the CIA, and the revelation of her identity to Novak by "senior administration officials" ruined her career, and potentially endangered the lives of her contacts overseas. It's also illegal.

The ultimate irony in all of this is that Wilson's wife worked on "weapons of mass destruction issues," which means the revelation of her identity undermines a carreer of work for the CIA to control the proliferation of WMDs -- the very reason we allegedly went to war with Iraq in the first place. These "senior administration officials" are willing to sacrifice national security vis-a-vis WMD proliferation in order to save face on those "sixteen words."

Novak told Newsday today that he didn't seek out the information, but that administration officials brought it to him, clearly an effort to ruin the life of a man who has dared to question the integrity of the White House case for war....

Pay no attention to the neocon behind the curtain
By Timothy P. Carney

Debates among and about “Neoconservatives” and “Paleoconservatives” recently have bounced between being enlightening, mendacious, vicious, and dangerous. But easily the most bizarre aspect of the fight is the claim that neoconservatives don’t exist—that they are the hallucinations of fevered minds. ...

...Conservatives usually leave it up to the left to play the race card. Byron York of National Review sums up nicely the “standard rhetorical device of the Left: If you can’t win an argument with a conservative, call him a racist.”

Sadly, this device has been employed by a handful of conservative writers who have called those who criticize the neocons anti-semitic. “Neocon,” we are told, is a code word for “Jew.” Even though, as Boot points out:

First, many of the leading neocons aren’t Jewish; Jeane Kirkpatrick, Bill Bennett, Father John Neuhaus and Michael Novak aren’t exactly menorah lighters. Second, support for Israel—a key tenet of neoconservatism—is hardly confined to Jews; its strongest constituency in America happens to be among evangelical Christians.

This bizarre reasoning—that “neocon” secretly means “Jew”, but neoconservatism isn’t particularly Jewish—reminds me of another absurdity. Some will call you a racist for opposing welfare, and in the next breath bring up that most welfare recipients are white. Doesn’t the latter fact discredit the former accusation?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Open microphone catches California Democrats talking about prolonging budget crisis
(07-22) 14:55 PDT SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)

Unaware that a live microphone was broadcasting their words around the Capitol, Assembly Democrats meeting behind closed doors debated prolonging California's budget crisis for political gain.

Members of the coalition of liberal Democrats talked about slowing progress on the budget as a means of increasing pressure on Republicans.

A microphone had been left on during the closed meeting Monday, and the conversation was transmitted to about 500 "squawk boxes" that enable staff members, lobbyists and reporters to listen in on legislative meetings. ...


Driving Jesus crazy

Sooner or later, there had to be a backlash against the largely American phenomenon of preempting political debate by injecting "Jesus" into whatever social or political argument happened to dominate the hour. The fad started several years ago and quickly found favor among a surprisingly broad swath of the U.S. population, young and old, men and women, right and left....

Last year, the all-purpose slogan got a bit more specific, and quite a bit more risible, with the launch of a campaign (complete with a Web site) urging people to ask themselves, "What Would Jesus Drive?"

...The backlash was inevitable for several reasons. "WWJD?" was far too easy to make fun of (best joke, attributed to a San Francisco Chronicle contributor: Jesus would tool around in an old Plymouth, because the Bible says God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden in a Fury)....

I'm Not A Conservative Christian

Dare I say it? I don't need Rush, Sean or O'Reilly to tell me what's important.

by Michael Spencer

...How many conservative Christians are listening to multiple hours of Rush Limbaugh every week? I wonder how many include a couple of hours of Fox News Channel's conservatives, Hannity and O'Reilly, on that menu? I wonder how may regular listen to Marlin Maddux's "Point of View" program, or Pat Robertson's "700 Club?" How many surf, Conservative News Network or WorldNet, the tabloids of conservative web journalism? If we were to take the total hours devoted to these- and many, many other- conservative information and opinion outlets, how would it compare to the amount of time spent under the teaching of scripture? How would it compare to time spent in acquiring a Biblical vision of God? Does the total amount of time spent by that same random evangelical in "the renewing of the mind" with the Word of God come even close to the amount of time spent seeing the world through the eyes of conservative pundits and journalists?

I note this not out of paranoid fantasy, but out of watching my friends immerse themselves in this new world of conservative media. Whether it is the Christian variety or the secular flavor, it doesn't matter. Millions who seldom open a Bible are spending hours under the "preaching" of the conservative political movement in America....

Let somebody else's kid do it

By Jeff Danziger
Special to the Los Angeles Times

In 1969, it took between 10 and 18 hours to get to Vietnam on the Flying Tiger contract planes. A long, numbing flight to a war with no liquor, not even a beer. The stewardesses, who were the last American women we thought we would see, served low-bidder airline meals, a little sorrowfully I thought, treating us like doomed children. Stops were made in Hawaii, where a special lounge separated us from the tourists and honeymoon couples.

At Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon, the main entry point for American troops, the first whack of reality was the heat. We walked down the stairs from the plane into the boil of the Saigon humidity, weighted by duffle bags and weapons, swaddled in fatigues and canvas boots.

This was going to be awful.

But the one thing that kept us mildly sane was the knowledge that it would last only a year. That was guaranteed. You could, you told yourself, put up with anything for a year. Three months later, especially in combat units, you weren't so sure. Even so, it was the knowledge that every day brought you closer to deliverance from the heat and the noise and the violence and the death that kept most of us from losing it.

This week, the Pentagon informed the 3rd Infantry Division troops in Iraq that they would not be going home on the dates previously promised. In fact they will be extended in their duty "indefinitely."

Errors of judgment and planning have been made in the Iraq operation, but I can think of no other error so grave. What this means to the average soldier, being cooked by the Iraqi summer sun under his flak jacket and helmet, is that there's no longer any schedule against which they can hope for escape. ...

High-Ranking Officials Admit 9/11 Could've Been Prevented

RNC overacts to "Bush lied" DNC ad

You remember the ad, we criticized it last week. (We're a tough crowd around these parts.)

Well, the DNC scrounged up enough change under the couch cushion to air it in Madison, WI.

Now, rather than let the DNC run the ad in one of the most liberal corners of the country, where it could do the least amount of damage, the RNC has overreacted. In a fit of unfathomable pique, the RNC's attack-dog lawyer sent the following letter to Madison station managers...

U.S. Said to Seek Help of Ex-Iraqi Spies on Iran

AGHDAD, Iraq, July 21 — Relying on the help of an Iraqi political party, the United States has moved to resurrect parts of the Iraqi intelligence service, with the branch that monitors Iran among the top priorities, former Iraqi agents and politicians say....

Careful: The FB-eye may be watching
Reading the wrong thing in public can get you in trouble


"The FBI is here,"Mom tells me over the phone. Immediately I can see my mom with her back to a couple of Matrix-like figures in black suits and opaque sunglasses, her hand covering the mouthpiece like Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder. This must be a joke, I think. But it's not, because Mom isn't that funny....

...Then they ask if I carried anything into the shop -- and we're back to me.

My mind races. I think: a bomb? A knife? A balloon filled with narcotics? But no. I don't own any of those things. "Sunglasses," I say. "Maybe my cell phone?"

Not the right answer. I'm nervous now, wondering how I must look: average, mid-20s, unassuming retail employee. What could I have possibly been carrying?

Trippi's partner speaks up: "Any reading material? Papers?" I don't think so. Then Trippi decides to level with me: "I'll tell you what, Marc. Someone in the shop that day saw you reading something, and thought it looked suspicious enough to call us about. So that's why we're here, just checking it out. Like I said, there's no problem. We'd just like to get to the bottom of this. Now if we can't, then you may have a problem. And you don't want that."

You don't want that? Have I just been threatened by the FBI? Confusion and a light dusting of panic conspire to keep me speechless. Was I reading something that morning? Something that would constitute a problem?

The partner speaks up again: "Maybe a printout of some kind?"

Then it occurs to me: I was reading. It was an article my dad had printed off the Web. I remember carrying it into Caribou with me, reading it in line, and then while stirring cream into my coffee. I remember bringing it with me to the store, finishing it before we opened. I can't remember what the article was about, but I'm sure it was some kind of left-wing editorial, the kind that never fails to incite me to anger and despair over the state of the country.

I tell them all this, but they want specifics: the title of the article, the author, some kind of synopsis, but I can't help them -- I read so much of this stuff. ...

The House That Roared
In Ways and Means Brawl, Names, Police and Sergeant at Arms Are Called

By Juliet Eilperin and Albert B. Crenshaw
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 19, 2003; Page A01

It started with the mind-numbing reading of a 200-page pension overhaul bill, erupted into a remarkably bitter name-calling match between House Republicans and Democrats, and ended with a GOP lawmaker summoning Capitol Police to evict an outraged gaggle of Democratic colleagues from a congressional library....

...When Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) had told Stark to "shut up" during the committee meeting, Stark denounced him as "a little wimp. Come on, come over here and make me, I dare you. . . . You little fruitcake. You little fruitcake. I said you are a fruitcake." ...

I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq.
-- U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, 7/21/03

Monday, July 21, 2003

Kosher Coupling
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

The Bible's Erotic Book
What's a long erotic love poem doing in the biblical canon? Teaching us how to improve our ordinary lives.

For all our material prosperity and our technological marvels, it still seems that something is missing from life. For all our successes, we in the West don¹t feel good about ourselves.

We're insatiable and we don't savor our achievements. We're medicated, materialistic, and divorced. Some say we've become shallow and have dedicated our lives to insubstantial pursuits. Others accuse us of being narcissists, too self-absorbed to rise to the level of sacrifice of previous generations. Still others fault our ambition. We have no time for relationships. We're all working too hard. We're driven by insecurity and fear.

All of the above are symptomatic of a more fundamental problem....

That is the reason, in my opinion, that the Jews have always read the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) on the holiday of Passover, a holiday which celebrates the birth of our nationhood. Being freed of Egyptian slavery made our bodies free, but it did not necessarily make our spirit come alive. God wished to free us not only from the chains of slavery, but from the bane of an unanimated existence. God did not wish for us simply to exist, but to live; to subsist not merely with necessities, but with magic. For this reason He gave us the Song of Songs to teach us the power of discovering an erotic existence....

The California massacre story you didn't read

Mass murder in California
Elderly man mows down dozens with automatic weapon

An 86-year old man wielding an automatic weapon of immense destructive power murdered 9 people and wounded 45 others, 10 critically, in a deadly rampage in Santa Monica, California. The dead and injured far outnumber the totals of the infamous Columbine shootings, and represent one of the largest mass killings since the murder of 86 people in their Waco, Texas church in 1993. Police chief Police Chief James T. Butts Jr. characterized the slaughter as "The worst I've seen" in his 30+ year career.

Police say the man had a valid license for the powerful weapon, whose speed and power match anything owned by the police department. Why the elderly man needed such a large, powerful weapon, and why he was granted a license for it, were not disclosed. One police source, speaking anonymously, said

that the elderly and gang members tend to favor the automatic version of these weapons as they are both large and powerful while being easier to aim and use than the manual versions.

The power of the weapon was evident in both the speed and efficiency of the massacre. It took less than 30 seconds to kill 9 people, including a 3-year old child, and wound at least 45 others. The weapon was barely warm to the touch after its deadly work was done. State Police impounded the weapon and confirmed that it remained fully functional after the rampage was over, fully capable of inflicting still more carnage. The murderer was found with one body at his feet and another draped over his weapon. All ambulances and medical helicopters in the area were required to evacuate the dead and injured. At least 10 people remain hospitalized in serious or critical condition....

Freedom to Fly? Civilian Rocketeers Face Regulatory Roadblocks
By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
posted: 06:50 am ET
21 July 2003

DAYTON, OHIO - For companies and individuals building suborbital rockets aimed at the civilian transportation market, government indecision and bureaucratic wrangling about flight certification, licensing, and overall regulations is proving to be a greater obstacle than either the laws of physics or financing their sky-high projects....

Life strategies with Dr. Jesus
Jamey Bennett on evangedork worship oddities

I’m just going to say it: Evangelicals can be dorks.

This year, as liturgical Christians around the world were pulling out the
ancient bells and whistles for Easter Sunday, Calvary Chapelites in Southern
California were busy being dorks. A whole slew of these Jesus junkies donned
their Sunday best – Hawaiian shirts and leather sandals – and made their way
over to the Padre Stadium for church. Err, umm, I mean fellowship celebration....
The Crime and the Cover-Up
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 21 July 2003

...The main OSP source of data on Iraqi weapons, and on the manner in which the Iraqi people would greet their 'liberators,' was Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi was the head of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group seeking since 1997 the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Chalabi had been hand-picked by Don Rumsfeld to be the leader of Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein, despite the fact that he had been convicted in 1992 of 32 counts of bank fraud by a Jordanian court and sentenced in absentia to 22 years in prison. It apparently never occurred to Rumsfeld and the OSP that Chalabi had a lot of reasons to lie. It seems they were too enamored of the data he was providing, because that data fully justified the course of action they had been set upon since September 11, 2001.

Chalabi was the main source behind claims that Iraq had connections to al Qaeda. Chalabi was the main source behind claims that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Chalabi was the main source behind claims that the Iraqi people would rise up and embrace their American invaders. Chalabi's claims on this last matter are the main reason post-war Iraq is in complete chaos, because Rumsfeld assumed the logistics for repairing Iraq would be simple - The joyful Iraqis would do it for him.

According to a story entitled "Planners Faulted in Iraq Chaos" by Knight-Ridder reporters Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, published on July 13, Chalabi proved to be a dangerous wild card. Chalabi's association with and influence over the OSP, however, continued unabated:...

..."I met the man who was hired to create a new civil government in Baghdad, to bring Baghdad back to order," said Evans. "His name was Gerald Lawson. I asked him what his background was that allowed him to get this job. He said he was in the Atlanta Police for 30 years. I asked how this gave him the ability to create a stable, civil government. He said he was a manager. I asked him what he knew about Iraqis. He knew nothing, and didn't care to know anything. He didn't know their history, their government, didn't speak a word of Arabic and didn't care to learn. This guy doesn't work for the American government, doesn't work for the State Department, and doesn't work for the CPA. He works for a corporation created by ex-Generals. Their job is to create the new Iraqi government structure."

"We met the man whose job is to make sure the hospitals have what they need," said Evans. "He is a veterinarian. We met a British guy who showed up at the Compound gates one day and said he was a volunteer who wanted to help. The next day he was named the head of rubbish control in Baghdad, which is a huge problem there because there is garbage all over the street. I asked him what he had been doing with his time. He said he'd been hanging out at Odai's palace playing with the lions and the cheetahs. I met the guy in charge of designing the airport, where major jumbo jets are supposed to land. He had never designed an airport before." ...

U.S. May Be Forced to Go Back to U.N. for Iraq Mandate

ASHINGTON, July 18 — The Bush administration, which spurned the United Nations in its drive to depose Saddam Hussein in Iraq, is finding itself forced back into the arms of the international body because other nations are refusing to contribute peacekeeping troops or reconstruction money without United Nations approval. ...

1st Cav, 25th ID may be deployed to Iraq

By Steve Gilliard

Buried at the end of a story by Joe Galloway on US troop shortages is the following:

Pentagon officials said even more National Guard and Reserve troops may have to be called up for deployment to Iraq. Elements of the Army's 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas, and the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii are likewise under consideration for deployment to Iraq.

Kim Jong Il must be laughing hard. With elements of the 1st Marine Division already in Iraq, moving the Cav or the 25ID to Iraq would leave forces in Korea exposed. The 25ID has trained to fight in Korea since the end of the Vietnam War. The entire history of the unit has been fighting in the Pacific and East Asia.

The 1st Cav is the only uncommitted heavy division left in the US Army and has fought in every major war since its creation in 1921.

The situation is going from bad to worse. In reality, the US has lost most of their strategic flexibility and can barely commit a force to Liberia. We now must risk our strategic reserve, with 21 of 33 brigades already deployed overseas. ...

White House Didn't Gain CIA Nod for Claim On Iraqi Strikes
Gist Was Hussein Could Launch in 45 Minutes

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 20, 2003; Page A01

The White House, in the run-up to war in Iraq, did not seek CIA approval before charging that Saddam Hussein could launch a biological or chemical attack within 45 minutes, administration officials now say.

The claim, which has since been discredited, was made twice by President Bush, in a September Rose Garden appearance after meeting with lawmakers and in a Saturday radio address the same week. Bush attributed the claim to the British government, but in a "Global Message" issued Sept. 26 and still on the White House Web site, the White House claimed, without attribution, that Iraq "could launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given."...

...Virtually all of the focus on whether Bush exaggerated intelligence about Iraq's weapons ambitions has been on the credibility of a claim he made in the Jan. 28 State of the Union address about efforts to buy uranium in Africa. But an examination of other presidential remarks, which received little if any scrutiny by intelligence agencies, indicates Bush made more broad accusations on other intelligence matters related to Iraq.

For example, the same Rose Garden speech and Sept. 28 radio address that mentioned the 45-minute accusation also included blunt assertions by Bush that "there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq." This claim was highly disputed among intelligence experts; a group called Ansar al-Islam in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, who could have been in Iraq, were both believed to have al Qaeda contacts but were not themselves part of al Qaeda....

...The White House use of the 45-minute charge is another indication of its determination to build a case against Hussein even without the participation of U.S. intelligence services. The controversy over the administration's use of intelligence has largely focused on claims made about the Iraqi nuclear program, particularly attempts to buy uranium in Africa. But the accusation that Iraq could launch a chemical or biological attack on a moment's notice was significant because it added urgency to the administration's argument that Hussein had to be dealt with quickly.

Using the single-source British accusation appears to have violated the administration's own standard....

We are never deceived: we deceive ourselves.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Marriage, Horror and Susan Reimer

Take Horror. It's a Better Bet.

by Fred Reed

Were I to offer thoughts on marriage to young American men today, in these the declining years of a once-great civilization, my advice would be as follows: Don't do it. Or, if you do, do it in another country. In America marriage is a grievous error.

And why so? Because of The Chip. The Attitude. The bandsaw whine of anger, anger, anger that makes American women an international horror. It's there. It's real....

John Gilmore: I was ejected from a plane for wearing "Suspected Terrorist" button

Your readers already know about my opposition to useless airport
security crap. I'm suing John Ashcroft, two airlines, and various
other agencies over making people show IDs to fly -- an intrusive
measure that provides no security. (See
But I would be hard pressed to come up with a security measure more
useless and intrusive than turning a plane around because of a
political button on someone's lapel....

Sunday, July 20, 2003

U.S. Troops Fix Bayonets Against Iraqi Crowd
Sun July 20, 2003 04:07 PM ET
By Miral Fahmy
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. Marines fixed bayonets on Sunday to disperse an angry crowd of 10,000 Iraqi Shi'ites in the holy city of Najaf after tempers flared over rumors of U.S. harassment of a radical cleric.

Marchers dispersed after two hours but some of the Shi'ite cleric's supporters warned of an "uprising" in the city if the Americans failed to pull out within three days....

Classified Iraq Data Released
White House seeks to defend war case. Report cites strong CIA concern that Hussein would attack U.S., but it casts doubt on other claims

...The release was part of a new effort by the White House to emphasize its broader case against Iraq, and take attention off the now-disputed claim President Bush made in his State of the Union speech that Baghdad was seeking uranium from Africa.

But the newly declassified material also underscored some questions about that charge because the text indicates that there was considerable doubt in the intelligence community about the uranium allegations before Bush's Jan. 28 speech.

The excerpts also include wording that seems to undercut Bush administration claims before the war that Hussein had links to Al Qaeda. The report makes clear that the intelligence community believed cooperation with the terrorist network would represent an extreme step for Hussein....

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Demystifying the State
by Wendy McElroy

.... . . The battle against statism today is not a battle against any particular politician. The issue is deeper. It is a battle against a way of thinking, a way of viewing the state. The main victory of the state has been within the minds of the people who obey. In commenting on the British rule over India, Leo Tolstoy wrote:

A commercial company enslaves a nation comprising two hundred millions. Tell this to a man free from superstition and he will fail to grasp what those words mean. What does it mean that thirty thousand men . . . have subdued two hundred million? Do the figures make clear that it is not the English who have enslaved the Indians, but the Indians who have enslaved themselves?
People today enslave themselves when all that freedom requires is the word "No."

The Foreign Policy of 20 Million Would-Be Immortals
by Gary North

The title of this essay appears on first reading to be a joke – an attempt, perhaps, at satire or maybe irony. It is neither. It is not a joke. It is quite real. I am deadly serious about the 20 million would-be immortals.

An immortal is someone who does not die. There are approximately 20 million people in the United States who devoutly believe that there is a very real possibility that they will not die. Their belief rests entirely on the existence of the State of Israel. This is why they regard current affairs in the Middle East as a life-and-no-death matter.

I am speaking of American fundamentalists. More specifically, I am speaking of those fundamentalists who are users of the Scofield Reference Bible (Oxford University Press, 1909, 1917) and who have read Hal Lindsey's 1971 best seller, The Late, Great Planet Earth, which at latest count – depending on who is doing the counting – has sold between 28 million and 35 million copies. (Mr. Lindsey continues to weave his eschatological tapestry on the improbably named Web site, ...

Friday, July 18, 2003

Christian History Corner: European Christianity's 'Failure to Thrive'
Why Christendom, born with an imperial bang, is now fading away in an irrelevant whimper.

...While no single factor can exhaustively explain the stark differences between these Western strongholds, the contrast between Europe's long legacy of government-sponsored religion and America's historically recent and unique separation of church and state provides one wide window on European Christianity's decline....

...Yet from its inception, Christendom suffered the ill effects of the church's intimate relationship with the state. While in an environment of open religious competition American Protestant denominations have thrived both in numbers and—often—in spiritual health, European Christianity's disputes have historically proven bloody and spiritually costly....

...Rome's fall, Constantinople's forsaking, and Christendom's eventual collapse during the Reformation era's wars of religion reveal the perils of uniting the church so closely with temporal earthly regimes. Bluntly put, the church that lives by state power, dies by state power—its fortunes are too closely tied to political vicissitudes....

Pat Robertson must think God really is a conservative

Pat Robertson has decided that our Supreme Court has got to go, and he wants us all to call on the Lord to drive them out of their overstuffed leather chairs....

An interesting presupposition inherent in Robertson's court purification plan (though it is never spelled out) is that God is a political conservative, and is therefore inclined to insert himself into our political process to support right-wing political causes. One might assume that Robertson would have cause to question the depth of the Lord's dedication to far right politics since he failed to install Robertson in the White House when he ran for president on the "God's candidate" platform, but I suppose he is much too busy for such intense self-reflection....

... As usual, God has not issued any direct statements regarding the makeup of the Supreme Court or any of other political issue, so we are forced to either accept the veracity of self-proclaimed prophets like Pat Robertson or make up our own minds about what God would have us do in regards to our government, if anything.

After all, if the Lord is really a huge Pat Robertson fan, you'd think Pat would be issuing these proclamations from the Oval Office now, instead of from his website.

U.S. Had Uranium Papers Earlier
Officials Say Forgeries on Iraqi Efforts Reached State Dept. Before Speech

By Walter Pincus and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 18, 2003; Page A01

The State Department received copies of what would turn out to be forged documents suggesting that Iraq tried to purchase uranium oxide from Niger three months before the president's State of the Union address, administration officials said.

The documents, which officials said appeared to be of "dubious authenticity," were distributed to the CIA and other agencies within days. But the U.S. government waited four months to turn them over to United Nations weapons inspectors who had been demanding to see evidence of U.S. and British claims that Iraq's attempted purchase of uranium oxide violated U.N. resolutions and was among the reasons to go to war. State Department officials could not say yesterday why they did not turn over the documents when the inspectors asked for them in December.

The administration, facing increased criticism over the claims it made about Iraq's attempts to buy uranium, had said until now that it did not have the documents before the State of the Union speech....

A White House Smear

Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security--and break the law--in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?

It sure looks that way, if conservative journalist Bob Novak can be trusted.

In a recent column on Nigergate, Novak examined the role of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV in the affair. Two weeks ago, Wilson went public, writing in The New York Times and telling The Washington Post about the trip he took to Niger in February 2002--at the request of the CIA--to check out allegations that Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium for a nuclear weapons program from Niger. Wilson was a good pick for the job....

...Soon after Wilson disclosed his trip in the media and made the White House look bad. the payback came. Novak's July 14, 2003, column presented the back-story on Wilson's mission and contained the following sentences: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate" the allegation.

Wilson caused problems for the White House, and his wife was outed as an undercover CIA officer. Wilson says, "I will not answer questions about my wife. This is not about me and less so about my wife. It has always been about the facts underpinning the President's statement in the state of the union speech."

So he will neither confirm nor deny that his wife--who is the mother of three-year-old twins--works for the CIA. But let's assume she does. That would seem to mean that the Bush administration has screwed one of its own top-secret operatives in order to punish Wilson or to send a message to others who might challenge it.

The sources for Novak's assertion about Wilson's wife appear to be "two senior administration officials." If so, a pair of top Bush officials told a reporter the name of a CIA operative who apparently has worked under what's known as "nonofficial cover" and who has had the dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material. If Wilson's wife is such a person--and the CIA is unlikely to have many employees like her--her career has been destroyed by the Bush administration. (Assuming she did not tell friends and family about her real job, these Bush officials have also damaged her personal life.) Without acknowledging whether she is a deep-cover CIA employee, Wilson says, "Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames." If she is not a CIA employee and Novak is reporting accurately, then the White House has wrongly branded a woman known to friends as an energy analyst for a private firm as a CIA officer. That would not likely do her much good.

This is not only a possible breach of national security; it is a potential violation of law. Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent. The punishment for such an offense is a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in prison. Journalists are protected from prosecution, unless they engage in a "pattern of activities" to name agents in order to impair US intelligence activities. So Novak need not worry. ...

The Myth of "Humanitarian" Intervention
By Ivan Eland

Refusing to learn his lesson from the nascent quagmire in Iraq, President Bush is likely to risk the lives of U.S. armed forces again in Liberia in a Clintonesque "humanitarian" intervention, which he heaped scorn upon in the 2000 election campaign. Such idealistic justifications for war have been used over the centuries and have been particularly successful in the United States. In modern history, remember Woodrow Wilson, with the "war to end all wars," and Clinton, who used the "humanitarian" facade to become the most interventionist president in the last twenty years (of course, the jury's still out on whether George W. Bush will surpass him). But what is so wrong with deposing petty despots and bringing democracy and free markets to the world at the point of the bayonet?

First, we may liberate others, but enslave ourselves. ...

Intelligence Dispute Festers as Iraq Victory Recedes

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 17, 2003; Page A15

...ABC's "Good Morning America" showed soldiers from the Third Infantry Division in Iraq criticizing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and questioning their mission. Minnesota Public Radio this week quoted Mary Kewatt, the aunt of a soldier killed in Iraq, saying: "President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said 'bring it on.' Well, they brought it on, and now my nephew is dead."...

French Neo-Nazis, Jews Unite in Web Hate - Report
Thu July 17, 2003 09:01 AM ET
By Joelle Diderich

PARIS (Reuters) - French neo-Nazis formed an alliance with extremist Jewish groups on the Internet to publish a torrent of hate messages directed against Arabs and Muslims, according to a report by a leading anti-racist group....

The Quisling Effect
Government is not the only destroyer of freedom

By Claire Wolfe

...Juan Fuentes was just a man minding his own business. On the morning of August 23, 2000 three neighbor children, Jessica, Anna, and Vanessa Carpenter, rushed up pounding his door. Anna was bleeding from dozens of puncture wounds. All three were desperate. A naked intruder had broken into their home and was at that moment savaging their little brother and sister with a pitchfork. The girls begged Fuentes to get his gun and save the little ones' lives. But Fuentes said no. It wasn't that he was afraid to confront the intruder; with his rifle he could easily have dropped a pitchfork wielder. No, it was the government he was more terrified of. They'll take my gun away if I do that, he told the desperate girls, whose brother and sister were dying horribly at that moment. To compound the horror, the girls' own father, John Carpenter, had locked away the family pistol in obedience to California's "child-safe" storage laws. All five Carpenter children knew how to shoot and how to handle guns safely, but because their father feared the law more than he feared an armed intruder, they couldn't save themselves or each other....

A Quantum Leap in Cryptography
Visionaries are using photons to develop data-security systems that may prove the ultimate defense against eavesdropping hackers...

Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fed's truly scary idea: tax you into spending

It's positively diabolical. Some Dallas Fed economists suggest perking up the economy by taking a piece of every dollar you have the gall to save.

By Bill Fleckenstein

...There’s a lot of chatter in this paper about the Fed helping the economy by buying real goods and services, or other domestic securities, such as longer-term Treasurys. But here’s the most staggering idea in the paper: It contemplates taxing your savings.

Koenig and Dolmas propose what they admit is a radical idea: a "stamp tax." In this, a currency would have to be stamped periodically, and you would be charged for your currency, "in order to retain its status as legal tender. The stamp fee could be calibrated to generate any negative, nominal interest rate the central bank desired." They toss out a few numbers, say 1% a month, to validate your currency. In other words, it would cost you 12% a year to have the gall to save money.

So basically, these unelected morons are contemplating a new law -- "Thou shalt not save, thou shalt spend." And, if you don't, we're going to confiscate your money, via a tax, after we've already confiscated your money via debasement.

It is truly breathtaking to witness the measure of hubris, arrogance and wanton disrespect of people's money on the part of these idiots. That they would even entertain the idea of such a penalty (not that they will necessarily be able to get away with it) boggles the mind. That's the mindset of this group of lunatics, that it would cast itself as a dictator from ancient times, with the public there to do its bidding. ...

COLUMN: The Iraq War, or America Betrayed

One day, this Iraq War will be thought of as the Intellectuals' War. That is, it was a war conceived of by people who possessed more books than common sense, let alone actual military experience....

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Rocketeers…Start Your Engines! X Prize Cup Planned

A new twist in the X Prize competition to foster privately built suborbital spaceships is soon to be announced, Peter Diamandis, head of the X Prize Foundation, said Wednesday. An X Prize Cup is to be staged, hosted at one of over a dozen spaceports now under development.

..."What we’ll be announcing very soon is called the X Prize Cup. We are in discussions with 15 spaceports in the U.S. today that want to capture this kind of business," Diamandis said. A Request for Proposals is to be issued next week inviting spaceports to vie for the locale to stage the X Prize Cup, he said. ...

Is "finding the will of God" really a pagan notion?

...Many Christians talk about "the will of God" as though it were a version of the old con man's ruse, the three-shell game. You remember the game: A pea is hidden under a walnut shell; two other walnut shells are placed on either side of the first, then all three are quickly moved around the table. The con man then asks you, the spectator or "mark," to guess which shell the pea is under. No matter which shell you guess, you are always wrong. You can watch as carefully as possible, trying to unlock the secret of the manipulations, but you can never quite keep up with the manipulator.

When I hear Christians talking about the will of God, they often use phrases such as "If only I could find God's will" as though He is keeping it hidden from them, or "I'm praying that I'll discover His will for my life, " because they apparently believe the Lord doesn't want them to find it, or that He wants to make it as hard as possible for them to find so that they will prove their worth.

Unfortunately, these concepts do not mesh with the balance of Scripture. Isaiah tells us that "there is no one worthy," and the story of the Old Testament is that man, no matter how hard he tries, can never attain to God. If we really believe in God as the perfectly loving Father, we can do away with our notion of Him as an almighty manipulator and con man. ...

...The word "finding" we normally use in the sense of learning or obtaining or attaining to God's mind. When we seek to "find" God's will, we are attempting to discover hidden knowledge by supernatural activity. If we are going to find His will on one specific choice, we will have to penetrate the divine mind to get His decision. "Finding” in this sense is really a form of divination.

This idea was common in pagan religions. As a matter of fact, it was the preoccupation of pagan kings. Most of our texts from the ancient Near East pertain to divination. The king would never act in something as important as going into battle until he had the mind of the god as to whether he should or should not go to war. Many Christians follow this same path in seeking the divine mind in decisions. I have talked with people who perform certain rituals before going to God with an important request, as though they could make themselves more acceptable to God and therefore be more likely to get an answer. But that sort of pagan behavior is what Christ saved us out of. We don't have to slaughter lambs or make great promises or offer special sacrifices as a means of bargaining our way into the presence of God. Christ, with His death on the cross, tore apart the veil in the Holy of Holies. Access to God is no longer limited to one human priest providentially born to the right family, who came to the Lord on behalf of the chosen people. You now have access to God through Jesus Christ. You now have guidance from God through the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the problem is that not enough Christians are walking in close relationship with the God who loves them.

The New Testament gives no explicit command to "find God's will," nor can you find any particular instructions on how to go about finding God's will....

Why This Bush Lie? Part 1
It wasn't his first.
By Timothy Noah

Chatterbox is gratified that the country has come to share his enthusiasm for dissecting the lies uttered by or on behalf of President Bush. Or rather, for dissecting one lie: Bush's assertion, in this year's State of the Union address, that Saddam had "recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." This information, the Bushies now concede, was based almost entirely on documents that the CIA and the White House knew to be false. (Pedants' corner: Bush actually said that British intelligence had "learned" about Saddam's yellowcake safari, but the attribution amounted to a lie because you can't "learn" something that isn't true.)

But what makes the yellowcake lie so special? That it was a justification for going to war? Then what about Bush's comic insistence in May that "We've found the weapons of mass destruction"? That lie was arguably worse than the yellowcake lie, because it was retrospective rather than speculative, and more demonstrably untrue. What about the cost of the war, which the Bush administration insisted couldn't be estimated in advance? Larry Lindsey reportedly lost his job as chairman of the National Economic Council for blabbing to the Wall Street Journal that the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. Mitch Daniels, then White House budget director, scoffed at Lindsey's estimate and said the cost would be more like $50 billion or $60 billion. But now the Washington Post is estimating the cost of the war and its aftermath at … $100 billion....

Family sues over prediction of hell

July 18 2003

Members of a New Mexico family are suing their local Catholic church over a funeral mass in which the priest allegedly said their relative was only a middling Catholic and going straight to hell.

Lawyers for the family of Ben Martinez said this week they had filed a lawsuit in June against the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe and one of its priests.

Court papers say that Father Scott Mansfield said at Mr Martinez's funeral last year that the deceased was "living in sin", "lukewarm in his faith" and that "the Lord vomited people like Ben out of his mouth to hell".

Mr Martinez, 80, died on June 17 last year. About 200 people attended the funeral at St Patrick's Parish in Chama, New Mexico, a small town north of Santa Fe. Family members say he was a practising Catholic all his life, but was too ill to attend church in the last year of his life. ...

Re-live the Columbine experience for yourself in our indoor paintball Columbine High-School re-creation.

(Note: Its a joke).

Fishing for the Will of God

About 2,000 years ago Jesus left Earth. He gave us the Holy Spirit, Scripture and general principles to help us on our path, but what He didn't give us is a blueprint for every decision we'll encounter. So as Christians, how do we know when we're doing what God wants us to do? While we may never be certain that each decision we make is the one that God would choose for us, we do have the tools available to us to make wise, Christ-centered decisions and to have confidence in them.

I've often been instructed to ask God for guidance before making a decision, which is sound advice. But how that guidance is communicated is an important point. To look to Scripture, seek Christian counsel, and then make the best decision is not enough for some. I have been told to listen for the still, small voice, to wait for instruction. But where does that leave us, caught between a mystery and a whisper? The will of God is more than spiritually-minded hindsight. It is the difficult work of bringing our desires in line with His. I get frustrated as a Christian person wanting to do the right thing, to find God’s will for my life, to make decisions that God will applaud. People say, “Don’t let yourself get in the way,” or “Is that your decision or God’s?” But what does that really mean? It seems that they are saying, “Wait, hold still, and don’t move unless God tells you to!” But, we can immobilize ourselves by making the will of God a mystery that can only be worked out by a supernatural event.

In 1 Kings 19, the Lord comes to Elijah as a “gentle whisper,” a passage often quoted to emphasize the subtlety of God’s instruction. But God was not elusive with Elijah....

It seems God leaves decisions up to us to figure out by using discernment and good judgment. We do not need a voice in our head to tell us we have made the right choice. God did not need to tell me where to go to school. I had applied to several good schools and had the tools to choose the one that fit me best. God answered my prayers for guidance by providing trips to the campuses and conversations with students at each school. He then allowed me to make a decision with the information in front of me....

Discovering God's Will

...When we ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” we say more about our culture than our God. The question usually arises over career issues. “What major should I choose?” “What job should I pursue?” “Do I move to this city or that city?” Whatever the specific question, the concern often centers around the workforce. The concern is valid, since we will spend a good deal of life as employees. And if God is so intimately acquainted with us that He has the hairs on our heads numbered, then certainly He is interested in our careers. But I wonder if perhaps we focus too much attention on this matter, as if our specific courses in life were the supreme concern of the Heavenly Father.

No generation or society has ever been afforded such luxury of choice. Our country’s founding principles give us basic rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But it is our nation’s prosperity which has created this virtual sea of specific freedoms, and has in turn created many of our speculations about God’s will for our individual lives. Do I become a doctor or an engineer? Maybe a minister or a politician? Or both? The options for us are almost limitless. We have the happy fortune of choosing work that is both meaningful and lucrative. Many before us simply worked to put food on the table. Do we then conclude that their work was somehow less meaningful or pleasing to God because it came with no individual choice? One can hardly make a case for such a view....

Romans 12 gives us a picture of how universal God’s will can be. Paul writes, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual ferver, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

In just 10 verses, Paul lays down enough instruction to keep us busy for a lifetime. And not one word of it has anything to do with God’s will for us as individuals. Could it be that God is less concerned about what we do for eight hours a day than He is with what we become in the process? And could it be that our excessive concern for our own lives is more a reflection of our narcissistic culture than a reflection of our Creator? ...

Faith Without Peace

In the Christian subculture, we often hear the phrase, “I just don’t have a ‘peace’ about it.” This mindset can be harmful to the way we approach the world and our own human experience. Where did this phrase come from? How has it so successfully infiltrated our vernacular? Why do we adopt this idea despite its inconsistency? This pedestal of “peace” is a highly subjective and often unattainable “feeling,” which I believe the biblical narrative calls into question, particularly in the following two stories.

Jonah. We know the story. After God directly instructs him to go to Nineveh in Jonah 1:2, Jonah runs. He boards a boat, goes below deck and falls into a “sound sleep,” despite the fact that the storm outside is so great that the boat was “about to break up.” This is no small feat. How many times do we hear people, in the midst of decision-making, talking about their inability to sleep? Jonah, in direct disobedience, was able to sleep, even though his bed was on the verge of sinking to the bottom of the sea. Sounds to me like Jonah had a “peace” about “fleeing the presence of the Lord.”

...These two stories highlight the dangerous and volatile subjectivity that characteristically surrounds our experience of “peace.” ...

...Larry Crabb wrote on the darkness of decision in his book, The Silence of Adam:
“[God] is telling us what to do, but it’s not a code. He tells us … to love him, and then do whatever we think is best … When it finally dawns on us that God is waiting for us to move and to speak into darkness, that his instruction is to choose a direction consistent with what we know of him, then we stop asking … We have to. He simply won’t tell us specifically what to do. We begin to face the loneliness of choice, the terror of trust.”

We have been given a Counselor in the Holy Spirit, not a drill sergeant. “The Spirit more often whispers encouragement (‘You can do it. I am with you’) than directions (‘Now go tell her this’). ...