Russian Resolve in the Era of Moral Equivalency

Via PowerLine, we learn of Vladimir Putin’s response to the Islamo-Fascist thugs that kidnapped and murdered, most gruesomely, 4 Russian Embassy employees in Baghdad.  His nuanced decision, no doubt arrived at after multilateral talks with most European, Far-Eastern, African nations, plus the UN, reveals the Russian response to terrorism in a post-modern World. UPI reports his intentions in this dispatch.  The gist of his reasoned announcement:

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the country’s secret service to locate and kill the Iraqis who executed four Russian diplomats.

We await the predictable howls of outrage from the usual suspects.  The absence of a response will reveal their hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy.

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Pushback on the Times Revelations

The utter contempt expressed by the NYT’s decision to publish stories revealing operational secrets of the GWOT is continuing to generate replies from the blogosphere (and, to be fair, some elements of the MSM).  Armed Liberal, writing at WindsofChange, offers his analysis here.  It’s long, but damning in its content.

Neptunus Lex, in his blog, writes about Naval Aviation and all of its parts in a very moving and insightful way.  The nature of the men and women that answer the call to service is lovingly captured in his blog.  This post, written several years ago, ought to be memorized by the elements of our national media that willingly put their political leanings before the safety of our miltary men and women.

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Cockroaches – Part II

Cockroach Some time ago, we put up a short post on news about cockroaches, their gregarious nature, and the uneasy truce that exists between the creatures and the Agricoli. In a story found in The Observer (UK) comes a new development that may tilt the war in favor of we crafty humans.

In a breakthrough for the battle against mankind’s most diehard enemy – the cockroach – European scientists have hoodwinked a group of them into congregating in a place where they can be stamped on easily.

The kick in the mandibles comes from a Belgian-led team who spent three years developing a mini robot that can convince cockroaches to creep out of dark holes and gather in light places. The InsBot looks more like a pencil sharpener than a household pest, but it smells like a cockroach. Most importantly, the InsBot can pass for a Periplaneta Americana (American cockroach).

This is welcome news indeed, and a significant development in a war that has been bitterly fought by both sides for thousands of years; not quite a quagmire, but certainly a long, hard slog through the mud.  In fact, this is one conflict that does not recognize any political affiliation, serving as a uniter of all men in a common cause.  Would that our other conflicts were so.

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The New York Times Changes its Mind

The New York Times position, as of June, 22, 2006, on the Government’s (not the administration’s) efforts to track the funding of terrorist related financing through international banking records is here.

Excerpts:

Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.

The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.

Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said.

The Bush administration has made no secret of its campaign to disrupt terrorist financing, and President Bush, Treasury officials and others have spoken publicly about those efforts. Administration officials, however, asked The New York Times not to publish this article, saying that disclosure of the Swift program could jeopardize its effectiveness. They also enlisted several current and former officials, both Democrat and Republican, to vouch for its value.

Bill Keller, the newspaper’s executive editor, said: "We have listened closely to the administration’s arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration’s extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."

The New York Times’ position as of September 24, 2001, excerpted:

Organizing the hijacking of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took significant sums of money. The cost of these plots suggests that putting Osama bin Laden and other international terrorists out of business will require more than diplomatic coalitions and military action. Washington and its allies must also disable the financial networks used by terrorists.
The Bush administration is preparing new laws to help track terrorists through their money-laundering activity and is readying an executive order freezing the assets of known terrorists. Much more is needed, including stricter regulations, the recruitment of specialized investigators and greater cooperation with foreign banking authorities. There must also must be closer coordination among America’s law enforcement, national security and financial regulatory agencies.

Osama bin Laden originally rose to prominence because his inherited fortune allowed him to bankroll Arab volunteers fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Since then, he has acquired funds from a panoply of Islamic charities and illegal and legal businesses, including export-import and commodity trading firms, and is estimated to have as much as $300 million at his disposal.

Some of these businesses move funds through major commercial banks that lack the procedures to monitor such transactions properly. Locally, terrorists can utilize tiny unregulated storefront financial centers, including what are known as hawala banks, which people in South Asian immigrant communities in the United States and other Western countries use to transfer money abroad. Though some smaller financial transactions are likely to slip through undetected even after new rules are in place, much of the financing needed for major attacks could dry up.

Agricola asks, what has changed in the nearly 5 years since the NYT staked out its original position, which, to us, seemed eminently reasonable and entirely proper?  Dare we think that political goals of the NYT and its ownership trump the nation’s war with global terrorism?  Could a media giant be willing to sacrifice victory, in what is arguably our nation’s most important struggle in its history, to help the opposition party gain control of the White House and Congress?  Have our citizens sunk to such a level?

H/T Michelle Malkin

Update: H/T also to Captain Ed

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Sanders, Murchison, & Henninger

Recently, The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, published a letter to the Editors wherein the author, a respected former legislator and state judge named Alex Sanders, found inspiration from an article on the Episcopal Church and it’s travails.  To quote the learned scribe and jurist:

The world is at war over which religion has the one true path to God; women and children are being systematically raped, tortured, and murdered, notably in African nations where the Anglican Church is most prominent; 11 million children went to be hungry last night, not in Africa but right here in America, the weatlhiest nation in the history or the world; and the Epicscopal Church is mightily concerned about, of all things, boys kissing.  I can’t imagine a more profoundly trivial issue under the circumstances.

My advice: Boycott "Brokeback Mountain", raiser the terror alert to pink and call me when the culture war is over.  I am a conscientious objector.

Spoken as a true post-modern, secular, moral relativist, whose condescension towards another groups’ moral position is so typical of that weltanschauung.  He seems to be saying, if I may impose my understanding on his words (how current!), that hunger, crime, and homosexuality must trump any concern over the morality, values, and doctrines of a Church. To argue about fundamental issues of Church Doctrine when there is so much wrong in the world is "profoundly trivial".

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Ghana 2 – USA 1

2278053034 Out of the Cup after so much promise.  Exposed, completely, as a team not quite ready to play on the world stage.  Often a step slow, lethargic, and seemingly less skilled than all of our opponents, the team never seemed to be in a position to win a game.  Noted in a news report today was the fact that Team USA had more college degrees than any other side, as if that could make up for our other shortcomings.  We are not yet a soccer nation, and may never be as long as the game is played in private schools, on manicured fields, as a secondary sport. 

When living in England many years ago, I was one Saturday walking past a community gymnasium where a crowd was gathered.  Curious, I walked in; a professional soccer team (I can’t remember who, but it might have Tottenham Hotspurs) was holding tryouts for their developmental team.  All of the boys were 13 – 15, and were being put through drills.  Their touch, deftness with the ball, and power when making shots on goal were unbelievable.  The skills were at least as good as college players in this country, and the boys at that tryout were ready to give up school at say, age 16, and dedicate themselves to developing into top level soccer players.  As a comparison, think about our high school football, basketball, and baseball players. Until we get to that point with soccer, we will never develop the skills necessary to compete with the rest of the world. 

68 Days til college football.

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Summer Solstice

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The Summer Solstice is upon us. The folks in Santa Barbara, CA have a jam up festival that Agricola managed to attend, once.  It was bacchanal in every sense, but lots of fun:

We were also fortunate to have visited Stonehenge, outside Salisbury, England before the site was ringed with a fence to keep the odder elements of the human race from despoiling the site.  Our old friends at Astonomy Picture of the Day have selected as today’s picture the moment for which Stonehenge was built by our ancestors.  A beautiful picture with detail to follow:

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Sunrise Solstice at Stonehenge
Credit & Copyright: Pete Strasser (Tuscon, Arizona, USA)

Explanation: Today the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the planet Earth’s sky. Called a solstice, the date traditionally marks a change of seasons — from spring to summer in Earth‘s Northern Hemisphere and from fall to winter in Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. Pictured above is the 2005 Summer Solstice celebration at Stonehenge in England. The event was rare because Stonehenge was not always open to the public, and because recent summer solstices there had been annoyingly cloudy. In 2005, however, thousands of people gathered at sunrise to see the sun rise through the 4,000 year old solar monument. Due to the precession of the Earth’s orbital axis over the millennia, the Sun no longer rises over Stonehenge in an astronomically significant way, although the photographer was able to find a good spot where the rising Sun appeared over one of Stonehenge’s massive standing stones.

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APOD

From our favorite link, Astronomy Picture of the Day, comes another hauntlingly beautiful picture.  Is it real, or is the latest digital creation?  Read on, gentler reader…….

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Hideaway
Illustration Credit & Copyright: Inga Nielsen

Explanation: Is this a picture of a sunset from Earth’s North Pole? Regardless of urban legends circulating the Internet, the answer is no. The above scene was drawn to be an imaginary celestial place that would be calm and peaceful, and therefore titled Hideaway. The scene could not exist anywhere on the Earth because from the Earth, the Moon and the Sun always have nearly the same angular size. This is particularly apparent, for example, during solar eclipses. Still, the scene drawn is quite striking, and the crescent part of the "moon" shown is approximately accurate given the location of the parent star. In reality, the North Pole of Earth looks different. Starting earlier this month, the North Pole even has a web camera returning near-live pictures

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“A White Individual”

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an editorial on the possible extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act by Congress, with the votes scheduled for this summer.  Among other things, the WSJ points out that most of the provisions of the VRA were intended to be temporary measures designed to eliminate methods by which Black voters were being denied the right to vote. We are now in the 41st year of the VRA, and Congress is considering extending the provisions for another 25 years.

The editors note:

New York’s 11th District is a product of racial gerrymandering linked to passage of the Voting Rights Act. When Congress passed the law 40 years ago to address black disenfranchisement primarily in the Deep South, some provisions were made permanent and others temporary. Gone forever were poll taxes and grandfather clauses, but Section 5 provisions of the law dealing with "preclearance," or federal oversight of local election practices, were meant to be short-term.

Study after study shows that preclearance is no longer necessary. Black voter registration and participation rates, along with the growth of minority officeholders–often elected with white "cross-over" votes–demonstrate that blacks are no longer disenfranchised. Yet Congress continues to reauthorize these Section 5 provisions because they allow both Republicans and Democrats to keep drawing racially gerrymandered districts in the name of protecting voting rights.

"A law passed to protect minority voters–to ensure free and fair access to the polls–has become much like every other affirmative action policy," says Edward Blum, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of a forthcoming book on the unintended consequences of the Voting Rights Act. "It has become, literally, a racial set-aside. The law is being used to justify actual racial proportionality."

It’s bad enough that such gerrymandering has all but eviscerated inter-party competition for seats in Congress, creating so many "safe" Republican and Democratic strongholds that the outcome of most races is a foregone conclusion. But another pernicious byproduct of gerrymandering is the racial polarization and hyper-partisanship that we see in places like New York’s 11th District. These so-called "majority-minority" gerrymanders tend to nurture political division and extremism by reducing incentives for candidates to make appeals to anyone other than their racial or ethnic voting base.

The dysfunctional entity that is called Congress is the consequence of politics trumping Democracy. In striving to satisfy "White Guilt", as defined by Shelby Steele, we are turning our backs on the principles of a true democracy.  Instead of seeing words like merit, competence, idealism, honor, and pride used to describe our elected representatives and our national goals, we see instead words like greed, race-baiting, entitlement, polarization, gerrymandering, and guilt.  Hardly principles to govern by.

As the WSJ editorial concludes:

Congress has never let balkanization of the electorate get in the way of protecting it own political hide, especially when it can claim to be siding with the "voting rights" angels.

Folks, it’s time to sit at the adult table and do something about this nonsense.

UPDATE: The House has taken the VRA Extension off their calendar…details here.

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