Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pieces of the Puzzle

First check out this article from the Telegraph:

...the BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action produced evidence yesterday that it [sharia] was being used by some Muslims as an alternative to English criminal law. Aydarus Yusuf, 29, a youth worker from Somalia, recalled a stabbing case that was decided by an unofficial Somali "court" sitting in Woolwich, south-east London.

Mr Yusuf said a group of Somali youths were arrested on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager. The victim's family told the police it would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail.

A hearing was convened and elders ordered the assailants to compensate their victim. "All their uncles and their fathers were there," said Mr Yusuf. "So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing.

That's just wonderful, but how does a country get to a point where it allows alternative systems of justice to operate freely within it's own borders? And what happens when those alternative systems come into conflict with the existing system? What happens when this same community decides to stone a woman for showing her ankles?

More importantly, why should we even care? It's England, not the good old US of A, right?

Not yet, at least.

But remember the flap in Minneapolis a month ago, where Muslim cabbies wanted the right to refuse to carry passengers carrying alcohol because according to the cabbies, it would be a violation of sharia for them to carry those passengers? In that case, the Metropolitan Airports Commission actually proposed an idea to allow the Muslim cabbies to refuse the fares without consequence. Once word of the MAC's proposal broke, the public outrage quickly put an end to that specific proposal, but the idea of "accommodating" Muslim beliefs hasn't.

Check out this article from the Tennessean:

"We need to forsake the Christendom model," Camp said. "The most basic Christian commitment … is that we say we believe in the Lordship of Jesus. But, if we claim that, how can a Muslim or Jew trust us, if we say Jesus is the Lord of all Lords?"

Co-sponsored by the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, the daylong conference was prompted by a desire to begin a dialogue about global religious conflict.

After five years of rising gas prices, disturbing privacy issues that followed the Sept. 11 attacks and the fear of terrorism, it became apparent that everyday life in Nashville is directly affected by religious conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, conference organizers said.

"We felt like the larger community is calling for this," said Larry Bridgesmith, executive director of Lipscomb's newly established Institute for Conflict Management.

Oddly, there's no similar call for Islam to give up it's central tenet of enslaving all those who refuse to accept Allah as God and Mohammed as his prophet.

How accommodating of us.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why I Can’t Trust Newt Gingrich.  Ever

The headline of the article reads "Gingrich: Free Speech Should Be Curtailed To Fight Terrorism." Now Newt didn't exactly say that, but what he did say is troubling enough.
Either before we lose a city or, if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people.

So it doesn't match the screaming headline, but it still worries me that anybody wanting a leadership role in our government can even think of curtailing our basic freedoms, and I sure can't think of any way to "break up their capacity to use free speech" that won't have some impact on my capacity to use free speech. Heck, we can't even manage to put together campaign finance laws that don't impact my capacity for free speech.

Besides, it's a stupid idea anyway. Let the bastards talk freely and openly. It sure would be a lot easier to track them, wouldn't it?
Via Captain's Corner

Posted by Rich
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Things I’ve Done

Barry did it.
So did TN Girl.
So I'm going to do it, but since I don't follow orders very well, I'm just going to freewheel it and create a list of my own. And then I'm going to do something that might be kind of fun.

After I post this list, y'all will have a week to comment and request stories about the things I've done and as time and my modesty permits, I'll tell them. Sound like fun? Here we go:

  • I've snorkeled with sharks and manta rays.
  • I've been to the top of Mt. LeConte.
  • I've seen the Sistine Chapel, the Great Pyramids, and the Colosseum.
  • I've visited 14 countries in Europe Asia, and Africa.
  • I've been thrown out of a bar.
  • I've seen shooting stars, solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, the northern lights, 5 planets, and the Orion nebula.
  • I've been arrested and put in jail.
  • I've ridden in a Lear jet and a hot air balloon.
  • I've sung karaoke in a bar and the National Anthem in a NCAA stadium.
  • I've built my own furniture.
  • I've knitted three sweaters and crocheted a fourth.
  • I've driven across country twice, once with children. And puppies.
  • I've swam two miles without stopping.
  • I've been to the top of Diamond Head in Hawaii, walked the Copacabana beach in Brazil, and gambled in the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco.
  • I've given a ballcap to a beautiful french girl in exchange for a kiss.
  • I've been in strip clubs on 3 continents.
  • I've played putt putt golf in a monsoon, and played tackle football in the middle of a security training exercise.
  • I've been in love three times, and married one time. I don't expect to do either again.
  • I've watched two of my children being born, one of them at home.
  • I've walked from the Port Authority terminal in NYC to the Empire State building, to the World Trade Center, and back.
  • I've been to the top of the John Hancock building and the Sears Tower.
  • I've been slapped by a stranger at a party. I've been kissed by a stranger at a party. Both action were appropriate.
  • I've fed wild monkeys in Singapore.
  • I've been in a car that was run over by an eighteen wheeler, and I drove away afterwards.
  • I've written a story that people other than those who liked me thought was good.
  • The only famous person I've met face to face is the wrestler known as Kane.
  • I've rushed the field in Neyland stadium following a win over Bama.
  • I've eaten unidentified meat on a stick from a street vendor in Thailand, fried baby octopus in Hong Kong, and pressed smoked squid in Korea.
  • I've been held at gunpoint.
  • I launched a model rocket that never came back down to earth.
  • I've slept on a beach holding a woman I loved.
  • I have a friend who I haven't seen in over a year, but who would do whatever he could to help me if I needed it. And I'd do the same for him.

I may update this list later as more tings come to me.

Posted by Rich
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Atlas Shrugged

I just finished reading it yesterday and I'm still processing it, but on the whole, it reminded me of reading Battlefield Earth. When you have complete control over your cast of characters, it's easy to make a utopian vision hang together. In real life, it's a bit messier.

My first impression is that Ayn Rand is spot on with her diagnosis of what's wrong with our society. However, her prescription appears to need a little work. Altruism, the thing that she damns as the downfall of mankind, is the only thing that separates us from the rest of the animals on the planet. I'm going to have to do some more thinking, and read some of her non fiction, just to make sure I'm understanding what it is she's saying.

Posted by Rich
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Why I Can’t Trust Bennie Thompson.  Ever

Via Captain's Quarters

It's flat out amazing. It really is. During the run up to the November elections, whenever we heard about combating illegal immigration, we heard somebody say something like "We have to make the employers of the illegals accountable. If there's no labor market drawing the immigrants across the border, then they won't cross." Yet every time a company takes steps to verify that their workforce is in fact legal, they face government obstruction. In this case, it's uniform company Cintas. House Democrat Bennie Thompson, who is going to be chair of the Homeland Security Committee sent a letter to Cintas, telling them that if they act to verify the hundreds of employees with incorrect SSN's on their job applications, then Cintas could face criminal legal action. Of course, if Cintas fails to verify the SSNs, they also could face legal action.

What kind of government do we have where a company can be penalized for following the law?

A broken one.

But here's what worries me. Mr. Thompson is soon going to be chairing the committee that oversees the department responsible for securing our borders against foreign attack, and he shows more concern over the rights of foreigners who may be here illegally than he does over the security of our own citizens.

Am I the only one that sees something wrong with that picture?

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why I Can’t Trust Charles “The Tick” Rangel.  Ever

Yeah, he made a stupid comment about our military, and I'll deal with that in a bit, but there's something much more troubling about this clip via hot air and Fox News something that I haven't seen anybody else comment on.. Here's a transcript:

: ...a recent and very detailed study from the Heritage Foundation, Congressman, found the following and we're going to put that up.

13% of recruits are from the poorest neighborhoods. That's less than the national average of people living in those neighborhoods.

97% of recruits have high school diplomas. Among all Americans, the graduation rate is under 80%

And blacks make up 14.5% of recruits for the military, the national average is 12%.

Congressman, in fact, contrary to what you've been saying, isn't the volunteer army better educated and more well to do than the general population?

Of course not. I want to make it abundantly clear that I have been advocating a draft ever since the President's been talking about war, and none of this comes within the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee. But I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.

Let's start by giving you the link to the Heritage report referred to by Chris Wallace. And here are a couple of key excerpts.

First, on recruit income levels:
From 2003 to 2005, the representation of the highest-income quintile rose 0.68 percentage point, from 22.17 percent to 22.85 percent. As conflict in Iraq continues, youth from wealthy areas continue to volunteer for duty despite increased risk. Addition­ally, over the course of these three recruit years, representation from the poorest quintile has decreased dramatically. The representation among recruits of the lowest-income quintile fell nearly a full percentage point, from 14.61 percent in 2003 to 13.66 percent in 2005.

Next, on education:
The previous study noted the significant differ­ence between the national recruit high school grad­uation rate of 98 percent and the national youth graduation rate of 75 percent. This strong distinc­tion continues among the 2004 and 2005 recruits when compared to the national educational attain­ment levels reported by the Census 2004 American Community Survey (ACS).

So now we are assured that Chris Wallace wasn't just making this stuff up. It is true that today's military recruits are better educated and more well to do than the population in general.

And what was Rangel's response to these facts?

He rejected them out of hand. No facts, no numbers, no logical rebuttal. He just spouted his talking points without regard to reality. Denial may not be just a river, but Mr. Rangel is apparently drinking deep from its waters. Not ten seconds elapsed between a recitation of the facts and then the complete rejection of reality. It really points out the danger we are all in when politicians become more interested in running for government instead of running the government. Rangel is more interested in scoring political points than he is in making sound policy decisions for the United States. He's more concerned with beating down the Republicans than he is with beating the nation's enemies. That's why he ignores the facts; they are irrelevant to his mission.

That's why he isn't fit to be trusted.

As for the subject of his rant, our military, the important point isn't that he thinks only those who have no options join up, but this sentence right here:
No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits.

Notice anything missing in his statement? Something that reveals a blind spot in his outlook?

Isn't it possible that some young men and women join up because they feel they have a duty to serve their country? And maybe, just maybe, they believe that their duty is even more important when we are at war? Wouldn't that explain why the Heritage Foundation study shows that recruiting among the higher economic brackets has actually increased as the war progressed, while it fell off in the lower brackets? Could it be that those of us who have the most to loose are the ones most willing to fight to protect it?

But it seems that Mr. Rangel believes that the only reason to join the military is to get something out of it, like better job opportunities, or an education, and that the only time that is a decent bargain is when we are at peace. I know he must have believed differently at some point, since he joined the military in 1948 and fought with bravery in Korea. I don't know what has happened to him to change his mind over the last 50 years, but I think that Mr. Rangel has been in Congress so long that he's forgotten what it means to actually serve your country instead of feed off of it like a blood sucking parasite.

Posted by Rich
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Andrew Sullivan claims* to have coined the new word as a counterpart to Islamist.

Yeah, right.

Tell you what, Andrew. When the Christian right in the US begins to behead those who disagree with them, then I'll admit the validity of the word. Until then, you're just a ticked off heterophobe** pedaling spurious moral equivalencies in a fit of pique because most people do not support your sexual agenda.

* Ann Althouse gives a brief history of the word, which was used long before Sully thought it up.

**heterophobe n. one who insists that all who disagree with gay marriages are bigots, ignorant, or both.

Posted by Rich
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Pictures of Mason

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving, A Bit Early

My oldest daughter came home last night for a visit but sh won't be able to stay for Thanksgiving, so we had our first Thanksgiving dinner last night. My middle daughter's baby shower is tonight. My oldest son comes home from Fort Sill on Thanksgiving.

I'm going to spend this week with my kids. See you next week.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, November 20, 2006

Congratulation are in Order!!

Go by Katie's place and congratulate her on her Emmy nomination! It couldn't happen to a nicer person.

Unless it happened to me.*grin*

Posted by Rich
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My Take on Lumpy

If a man walked up to me and tried to rob me at gunpoint, and I was able to draw on him, get him to disarm himself, and contribute directly to his capture, all without firing a shot, I'd be pretty durn proud of myself.

And so would you.

Unlike most of the folks who have been commenting on Lumpy, I've actually been in his shoes.

Before I went into the Navy, my college career was interrupted when UT invited me to take a semester off to consider my options. During that educational interregnum, I worked the night shift at a convenience store in Maryville.

And I was held up at gunpoint.

Let me tell you folks, I don't care how big and bad you think you are, or how many Steven Seagal movies you've watched, if you haven't trained, practiced, or been in that situation before, you will freeze up. Period.

The guy walked up to the counter at a time when nobody else was in the store, pointed his gun at me and told me to empty the cash register.

I did.

I started to empty the drawer when he stopped me, and told me to take the drawer out so he could take the money himself. I pulled the drawer out and set it on the counter for him, and he proceeded to help himself to what little cash there was. At one point, he actually set his gun down on the counter to grab money from the drawer, and I had a choice to make. I could make a grab for his gun and try to disarm him, risking a confrontation that would lead to his death or mine, or I could stay still, let him go about his business, and hope he decided not to shoot me.

What would you have done?

I did nothing.

He finished cleaning out the drawer, picked up his gun, and headed for the door, telling me not to move for 5 minutes after he left. As he left the store, he paused by the door, and looked over at me for 5 of the longest seconds of my life. I had time to realize that my decision not to act had placed my life squarely in his hands, and that I was dependent on his goodwill for my survival. I knew that I had missed my one chance to take control of the outcome out of fear, and a false sense of security. I believed that if I didn't hassle him, he wouldn't shoot me.

I was gambling on the kindness of a criminal.

And I won. He walked out of the store without killing me, but that was the beginning of the end of my convenience store career.

Lumpy was in the same boat I was, but his actions were totally different. He had practiced; he had trained, and at the moment of truth, he acted. Instead of letting the criminal control the encounter, he took control. And even more impressively, he took such complete control that he didn't have to shoot the criminal. He took a situation that normally results in a dead citizen or a dead criminal and came out with a live citizen and a disarmed captured criminal.

Yeah, I'd be a bit proud of myself.

And so would you.

Posted by Rich
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Whoah!  Listen to the Music!

Has anybody else noticed that the background music on many cooking shows sounds a lot like the background music for, feature films?

Or is it just me?

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

But Bush Outlawed Stem Cell Research, Didn’t He?

The News Sentinel has an AP story in today's paper about a successful study using stem cell therapy to treat Muscular Dystrophy in dogs.
Stem-cell injections worked remarkably well at easing symptoms of muscular dystrophy in a group of golden retrievers, a result that experts call a significant step toward treating people.

Sharon Hesterlee, vice president of translational research at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, called the result one of the most exciting she's seen in her eight years with the organization. Her group helped pay for the work.

She stressed that it's not yet clear whether such a treatment would work in people but said she had "cautious optimism" about it.

Weren't we told in campaign commercials that President Bush and the heartless Republicans had outlawed stem cell research?

The study used stem cells taken from the affected dogs or other dogs, rather than from embryos. For human use, the idea of using such "adult" stem cells from humans would avoid the controversial method of destroying human embryos to obtain stem cells.
The scientists worked with golden retrievers that suffer a crippling form of dystrophy very much like the human one. Researchers studied the effect of repeated injections into the bloodstream of a kind of stem cell extracted from blood-vessel walls.

Weren't we told that adult stem cells weren't as flexible as embryonic stem cells, and couldn't be used to generate different tissues? Here, we've got blood vessel wall cells being used to cultivate nerve tissues.

Cossu said he hopes to start a small experiment in children in the next year or two.

Weren't we told that embryonic stem cells were the best hope for treatments for muscular dystrophy, Parkinsons, multiple sclerosis and other diseases? And that adult stem cells just weren't promising enough?

I guess we were told wrong.

Posted by Rich
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Generally Speaking

My belief that the media is driven primarily by profit notwithstanding, has anybody else noticed that for the last few weeks of the election cycle, the only generals we heard from in the media told us we were losing in Iraq and that we should pull out quickly, but now that the election is over, the only generals we're hearing from are saying that leaving early or setting a timetable would lead to disaster.

Most curious.

Posted by Rich
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The American People Have Spoken, and They Want Change

Which is why we're hearing the same old names coming to the front for leadership positions in congress on both sides of the aisle.

"We represent change, and to prove it, we're going to change our minds about change."

By the way, way back in the past, almost two years ago, I compared Howard Dean to Newt Gingrich:
The ascension of Howard Dean as DNC chair has the potential to reform and revitalize the left just as Newt Gingrich's Contract With America did for the right. (I can hear jaws from both sides of the ideological aisle ricocheting off of their keyboards right now as I compare The Scream © to St. Newt. It's kinda fun when I do that.)

Just think back to 1992 when we really didn't know much about Newt, who he was, or what he was. He was the Minority Whip, and had a reputation as an extremist, a rabble rouser, and the kind of guy you use to rally your base, but hide in the closet when the campaign goes national so as not to scare off the swing voters.

Sound familiar?

And all this supposedly scary man did was to take core conservative values, frame them in a way that made them acceptible to those very same swing voters, and used those values to create a platform that in 1994 wrested control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats for the first time in 4 decades. He did this in a time when his party had suffered an embarrassing defeat in a presidential election and was fragmenting into a loose coalition of special interests.

Again, sound familiar?

And now the Dems have taken Congress. So obviously, it's time to fire Dean.

Posted by Rich
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