Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Keep An Eye on the Pigtail

If the Three Little Pigs are verboten when Muslims do not yet comprise ten per cent of the British population, what else will be on the blacklist by the time they're, say, 20 per cent?

Regular visits to Mark Steyn's website are always rewarded with a reality check, delivered in hilarious fashion. I found his reports about British deference to Muslim sensibilities both incredibly pathetic and uproariously funny.

Okay, so now in Britain, "Islamic terrorism" must now be referred to as "anti-Islamic activity." Following that logic, I suppose the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor would be designated "anti-Japanese activity." And the Brits are serious!

It gets even better, or worse, depending on how you want to view this nonsense. The story of the Three Little Pigs was denied an education award in Britain because "the use of pigs raises cultural issues"--oh, I'm not making this up. But nobody can tell the tale like Steyn, so get ready to chuckle as you read his piece.

Further to the pork--I mean, the point--Steyn writes that: "A while back, it was a local government council telling workers not to have knick-knacks on their desks representing Winnie-the-Pooh's porcine sidekick, Piglet." He goes on to state that ~

"...first they came for Piglet and I did not speak out because I was not a
Disney character and, if I was, I'm more of an Eeyore. So then they came for the
Three Little Pigs, and Babe, and by the time I realized my country had turned
into a 24/7 Looney Tunes it was too late, because there was no Porky Pig to
stammer "Th-th-th-that's all, folks!" and bring the nightmare to an end.

But layered within Steyn's humor is the very real fact that we (the West) are not dealing adequately with the deadly goal of Islamists to dominate and subjugate the world to their philosophy. George W. Bush may be the butt of uncounted jokes, often deservedly so; but the man "gets it" in a way few world leaders do.

I'd like to see an Islamist try to stand between President Bush and his barbecued spare ribs. It's the kind of image every American should keep in mind as Election Day draws near.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

This Will Leave A Mark

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves ... and imagine that together we can do great things
~ Caroline Kennedy, speaking of Barack Obama

Ouch. I'll bet "Billary" are beside themselves, both of them unable to believe that this isn't just a terrible nightmare. Caroline Kennedy, the usually quiet Princess of Camelot, publicly endorsing the upstart senator from Illinois who is stepping all over their co-plans for the Clinton presidency, Part II.

The best part is, they dare not snipe at this revered American icon. Hill's screeching criticism, Bill's bony forefinger, would cost innumerable votes if ever directed at Caroline Kennedy. Bill may burst a blood vessel trying to contain himself, but he'll have to grit his dental veneers and bear it. Practicing a bit of self-control (for once) will do him good.

I admire Caroline Kennedy. She's a lady who maintains a very private life with her family and involves herself in worthy causes, such as the high-minded Profile in Courage awards. She has borne terrible loss and sorrow in her life, and she has done so with grace and dignity. Although she could have the world media at her feet if she was so inclined, Kennedy keeps her own counsel almost all the time.

Emotions are tricky things. We can easily get carried away by them, even in our most serious decisions. Yes, I can understand a child's longing for a lost parent, especially one taken so early and under such tragic circumstances. Of course, I realize that inspiration has been lacking at the head of our government for over twenty years. Certainly, I know that we need a strong leader. But I look for concrete facts from a candidate, not the nebulous imagination of great things. I already believe in America, and I vote as a citizen, not as a daughter.

Nevertheless, I appreciate Caroline Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama for president. I'm in favor of any wrench, thrown from any direction, that can jam the Clinton machine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Happy Coincidence

His spiritual guidance was based on allowing each soul to develop according to its own capacity and as God Himself gave it inspiration. His whole effort was always bent to the individual soul.
~The 33 Doctors of the Church
Father Christopher Rengers

Happy birthday to me, and happy feast day to St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of authors, journalists, and writers. It never ceases to delight me that he and I share a celebratory date.

Francis de Sales was a friend of St. Vincent de Paul, is a Doctor of the Church, and is called the "Gentleman Saint" because of his kindness.

We in the modern world could learn, and be reminded of, a great many important truths from reading his work.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Face for China

I must confess, I’ve spent my share of time worrying about China. The Red Dragon is a formidable force in the modern world, full of teeth, muscle and mystery. It’s bound to give an American pause for thought.

But this week, I am in a training class with a coworker from China. Her name is Elizabeth. She is delicate, smiling, beautiful, and intelligent. Tonight we shared a table at dinner, and I had an unexpected, golden opportunity: the chance to ask a Chinese citizen about life in her country.

When I asked, Elizabeth told me that she received her Anglo name from a teacher at her academy, where they began learning English in early grades. She is happy to be from China and eager to answer a Westerner’s questions. She is frank about both the problems and the advantages of her nation’s rapid growth. The white collar employees “do well”; the blue collar workers struggle. It sounds like a very familiar economic story. It also sounds very unlike a classless communist system.

In answer to my question, Elizabeth told me that she does “feel free”—but, when I asked specifically about political protest, she said one should never speak out against the government. That’s just not done in China, at least not by wise people. Religion is not restricted, in her opinion. People are free to worship, if they so choose. They are also free to travel abroad, for the government knows that Chinese citizens will surely come home. Remembering news stories in my childhood covering the latest Soviet defections, I found this fact of willing Chinese returns quite noteworthy.

Gun ownership in China is simply against the law, which nullifies that debate. Local mayors are appointed by higher government officials, and so on up the political chain. The higher-ups of the Chinese Communist party leaders select their own leaders.

I learned that it costs the equivalent of $7,000 (USD) to buy a license plate for an automobile in China. That would explain the plethora of bicycles in Chinese photos. But I also learned that there are many who can afford the hefty price tag—businessmen, corporate executive types, have no trouble funding the fees attendant upon their cars.

It may be restrictive, but our conversation hinted that Chinese society is most certainly not classless. Again, that would indicate that it’s not precisely communist. I suppose we in the West had already had guessed that, but the affirmation was somehow reassuring.

After spending a delightful dinner hour with Elizabeth, the image of an open and animated young lady--one about my children’s ages--will materialize whenever I think of China. It’s one Chinese export most worthy of welcome.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

For the San Diego Chargers

If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother and hope your guardian genius. ~ Joseph Addison

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Remember Japan?

China has all the sizzle so far this century, but it wasn't so long ago that Japan threw a huge shadow across global economics. During the 1990s, there was outrage from many voices in the U.S. when Japanese businesses and banks were considering buying New York City skyscrapers and landmarks.

So what happened? This overview of Japan's recent trends and current status gives us a clue. It's lengthy, but worth reading, if only for some perspective and the reminder that there are a lot of dynamics in motion in today's geopolitical world. A rising star it well may be, but there's no denying that China has big problems of its own.

Times change quickly. During the 1940s, could any American have imagined that Japan would be our ally? There are lessons for the present day within the past half century of Japan's story.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Legend in Her Own Mind

You ain’t nuthin’ but a mule in hawse harness. You kin polish a mule’s feet an’ shine his hide an’ put brass all over his harness an’ hitch him ter a fine cah’ige. But he a mule jes’ de same. He doan fool nobody.
~ Mammy, in Gone With The Wind

Oh, Hillary. You can’t be serious.

After railing against Bush’s "failed policy” in Iraq for literally years, after voting against the surge, after insulting General Petraeus by calling him a liar in front of Congress, after continually slamming the current administration’s war strategy at every twist and turn of the campaign trail, after refusing to allow one iota of credit for progress in Iraq--Hillary Clinton now steps forward to take credit for the success of the surge. On national television, no less.

Below is her take:

And I believe in large measure because the Iraqi government, they watch us, they listen to us. I know very well that they follow everything that I say. And my commitment to begin withdrawing our troops in January of 2009 is a big factor, as it is with Senator Obama, Senator Edwards, those of us on the Democratic side.

That’s predictably outrageous Clinton chutzpah for you. There is neither shame nor truth in her ridiculous claim, nothing but self-serving ambition at its core.

The success of the troop surge didn’t happen, according to Hillary—but she wants credit for it. Like Norma Desmond, she'd ready for her close-up. Clinton self-obsession is the tiresome embodiment of the old joke about a conceited, egomaniacal conversationalist:

But enough about me…now let’s hear what you think about me!

Power Line has a stunned and angry reaction from one of our troops to Hillary Clinton’s outrageous baloney. And Christopher Hitchens gives a blistering review of Clinton's nonsense.

Anyone who read “Dereliction of Duty” by Robert Patterson is well informed on exactly what importance—or, more accurately, lack of same--the Clintons attach to the U.S. armed forces. In a time of war, we can’t afford a defeatist in the White House—especially one with a proven track record of disdain for our military. We, as a nation, will be in inconceivably deep trouble if Clinton somehow snows the country into making her president.

There is a scene in Gone With the Wind where the character Mammy sniffs to Scarlett O’Hara that phonies can’t really fool people. It's quoted at the start of this post. I would love to hear Mammy deliver that speech to Hillary Clinton and her co-candidate, Bill.

I can’t think of a more apt description of “Billary” than that of them both as "mules in horse harness." The Clintons are, most assuredly, a couple of jackasses dressed up for show. I can only hope and pray that the majority of voting Americans have enough horse sense to know it. Accepting a President Hillary requires a suspension of disbelief that I’m certainly not willing to deliver.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gratitude Campaign

This short film is a heartwarming reminder of a simple way to show the members of our military that we are thankful for their service and sacrifices.

Nine more of our servicemen died in Iraq fighting this week. The Iraq war is unpopular--dying usually is. But thank God we have young people of such quality and courage who are willing to stand in the breach on our behalf. It is because of them that we continue to enjoy the good life we have in the U.S.A. It is because of their bravery that we sleep soundly and live freely, as they keep watch, and guard us with their lives, on the other side of the world.

The war against the Islamic radicalism can not be wished away, as much as all of us would like that. The next president may well pull the troops home, but the war won't end simply because s/he says so. Our military men and women will face another fight on another day if we are to live in freedom.

Remember to be grateful for our troops. We can never repay them. But whenever we see them, we can say "thank you."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wish I'd Said That

What I dread most in this political season is the “genuine” moment - and it is coming, soon, sometime between today and tomorrow, or tomorrow and New Hampshire - when Mrs. Clinton, in her ongoing effort to turn herself into whatever the polls says she must be, cries in public. It’s going to be genuinely ghastly.
The Anchoress, Jan. 2, 2008

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Debating Change

Last night, I caved to politics. For the first time, I watched the 2008 contenders debate. The lengthy two-party marathon on ABC made me feel as though I have more than made up for lost time.

Some observations on "fight night," as it was rather accurately termed. The fact that so many political balls are in the air at the moment is exciting and invigorating for the American electorate. Voters are usually wary of candidates who become too smug too soon, which (in my opinion) is a big part of Hillary Clinton's current problems. It's as though voters in Iowa decided to send a "slow down there, girlfriend" message to the "inevitable" Democratic candidate.

That being said, Hillary held her own last night, with some unfortunate lapses into her characteristic shrillness when defending herself against Barack Obama. She did manage to pull off a classically feminine "cute" moment--referring to her hurt feelings, followed up with an eye-batting smile and a clever remark or two. As the only woman on the docket, naturally she's the only candidate who can get away with such wiles, and she played them to her advantage.

As for her "experience," that doesn't ring quite so true. I'd like to see the Clintons reaction to a former Republican first lady trying to parlay her White House years into valid experience for president. I shiver to think of it.

John Edwards seems to have thrown his chips in with Obama, in view of his "status quo" attack on Clinton. Expanding on the incessant "change" theme that every candidate has embraced, Edwards may see visions of the VP slot dancing in his head if he and Obama can knock Hillary out of the race.

For his part, Obama didn't screw up--but he really didn't add anything of substance to the discussion, either. He keeps talking about re-involving the American people in government and, of course, "change." Nice idea, but I haven't heard real specifics on how he's going to accomplish that. It will be interesting to see if charisma and idealistic generalities will be enough to carry him to victory in New Hampshire.

The genial Bill Richardson seemed like an afterthought, but it was a positive to hear more about his extensive background in government--"experience" and "change" were the buzzwords, almost to the point of exhaustion.

As for the Republicans....well, well. Whoever thought that John McCain, who is leading in the New Hampshire polls, would waste that much time and energy being so downright nasty? We all know he's an admirable war hero with a life of public service to his country, but my goodness--what an unpleasant man! His continuing personal slams at Mitt Romney, however deserved they may or may not be, distracted everyone from the issues and served only to highlight McCain's petty egotism. McCain's defensiveness and unwillingness to admit that the defeated immigration bill was anathema to a huge percentage of the American voters--who brought it crashing down through grassroot activism--was very telling of a man who refuses to be wrong. That's a terrible trait in a president. Let's hope we won't need to worry about it.

Guiliani, Romney, Huckabee all put forward their now-familiar agendas with the usual gusto, although Romney struggled to deflect attacks from not just McCain, but Huckabee and Guiliani also. Ron Paul's answers, as usual, railed against American foreign and economic policies. Fred Thompson did better than I expected him to, maybe because he took the day off from campaigning and probably caught a nap.

The outcome of Tuesday's election should be fascinating for both parties. There's no telling where the top contenders will find themselves come Wednesday morning. But let's hope they'll find some comfort in one certainty--things will be definitely be changed.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Legendary Storytelling

It was a grim entree into 2008, but I went to see “I Am Legend” on New Year’s Day.

Having read the novel by Richard Matheson several years ago, I didn't have high expectations for the movie. Hollywood often butchers good books as it translates them to the screen. But, in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. Will Smith, portraying the tortured hero Robert Neville, is a one-man show for much of the film, and he makes it work.

The inherent drama of the plotline—last man standing in a brutal, apocalyptic world—is further enhanced with personalized details. Rather than Matheson's random survivor, Neville is portrayed as a military scientist directly involved in the wild evolution of the killer plague, who is now a relentless crusader for its cure. The adopted stray dog of the novel has become the beloved pet Sam, which Neville cherishes as the surviving link to his doomed family. Flashbacks to the early days of the plague supply the horrifying back story of a world now ruled by “dark seekers,” the undead who survived only to mutate into human flesh-eating monsters, stalking the world at night.

The original story has been relocated from Los Angeles to New York City, providing a lavish canvas for vivid and imaginative special effects. From the ubiquitous weeds sprouting up through midtown pavements to the images of famous bridges blasted in half, sealing off Manhattan during the initial days of panic, there is an end-of-days feel to the deserted, ruined city.

There are a few “what-the?” moments. For example, Neville passes some time watching videos on television and has surrounded his home with a protective barrier of massive floodlights. That made me wonder, hmmmm….Did a few hidden Con Edison employees also survive the scourge, and do they still trek into work each day to keep the juice flowing? Disbelief lies in such details.

However, one mustn’t let mundane reality get in the way of a good horror story. “I Am Legend” will sweep you along for a nerve-wracking thrill ride if you allow it to, and I did. Those frightening vampires can really move, and if you ever had a childhood nightmare that involved terrifying monsters leaping out of the darkness and/or giving chase, prepare to have your blood pressure elevated.

I’m pleased to notice that the book “I Am Legend” is registering on bestseller charts since the film’s release. Richard Matheson is one of America’s best scary story tellers and deserves more recognition as such. I’ve heard some viewers registering complaints about the final scenes, but I found the film’s conclusion more uplifting than the novel’s last chapter. No spoilers here; for further information, go see the movie.

Or, better yet, first read the book.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Read It and Weep

~ Mark Twain

To a lifelong daily reader, this New Yorker article about the decline of reading's popularity is more chilling than any headline about nukes in Iran. Could it really be that reading, for the sake of reading, is gradually becoming extinct?

I can't imagine not reading for fun. I've been doing it since I was a pre-schooler. How is it possible that a person would prefer to watch another lame hour of caterwauling on "American Idol" instead of reading a gripping, well-written story?

One of the most somber days of my life was when I realized that there isn't enough time to read every book I want to read before I die. As a teenager, when I liked a book, I would read it over and over again for sheer enjoyment. Now, deep into midlife, I don't allow myself such a luxury. The clock is ticking, and I haven't finished reading Dante's "Inferno," or even half of Shakespeare's plays. (And I dared to call myself an English major!)

There is a pile of fiction and non-fiction bestsellers stacked on the floor next to my bed. My goal is to read a book a week. But, as I dash through life "getting and spending," if I finish two books in a month, I'm fortunate. People who are close to me know that I love to read, and they shop accordingly for my gifts. So despite my best efforts, the tower of unread bedside books builds ever higher.

That's okay. I'd much rather be backed up on reading than on reruns.