Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Monday, July 31, 2006

"They only win when they hide behind baby carriages."

An Israeli army boy sums it up in an essay by his mother.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Start of a taxpayer revolution?

Here are some images from Saturday's Fair Tax Rally in Orlando, Florida. Local police estimated the crowd size at 10,000-12,000 (despite the stifling heat). This second rally easily tops attendance at the first Fair Tax rally, in Atlanta last May. As radio commentor Neal Boortz (co-author of The FairTax Book) wrote before the rally:

We're trying to get a revolution going here. Revolutions take participation. The FairTax would be (all together now) the largest transfer of power from politicians to the people since this country was formed. Politicians aren't going to do this unless their jobs are on the line. Your purpose in showing up at the rally tomorrow in Orlando is to show them that their jobs are, in fact, on the line.

That this many obviously solid citizens (not professional protestors, students, or marginalized malcontents) who no doubt had many pressing things to fill their weekend with, would take the time and effort and face the heat and discomfort of joining a crowd like this to make a statement about a subject as "dull" and complex as taxation reform is, to me, astonishing.

I think by now our representatives in Washington have become aware of the news that a significant chunk of American citizens wants serious tax reform. Specifically, they want the Fair Tax enacted and the unfair, arbitrary, draconian, politically motivated, punishing and unnecessary income tax abolished. The Fair Tax as explained by Georgia Rep. John Linder, primary sponsor of H.R. 25, will provide the same tax income stream to U.S. federal government coffers while eliminating billions in disincentives and wasted time and expense. Additionally, under the Fair Tax, proponents claim, the U.S. would become an immediate tax haven for global investment.

The question now becomes: "What are lawmakers going to do about this?"

Has your Senator or House Representative signed on as a co-sponsor or a supporter of the Fair Tax legislation now before Congress?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sometimes war is the only answer

Charles Krauthammer states the obvious ("Lost Moral Bearings") about the Israeli-Hezbollah war. It astonishes me this even needs to be said, but I'm glad he said it:

What other country, when attacked in an unprovoked aggression across a recognized international frontier, is then put on a countdown clock by the world, given a limited time window in which to fight back, regardless of whether it has restored its own security?

What other country sustains 1,500 indiscriminate rocket attacks into its cities -- every one designed to kill, maim and terrorize civilians -- and is then vilified by the world when it tries to destroy the enemy's infrastructure and strongholds with precision-guided munitions that sometimes have the unintended but unavoidable consequence of collateral civilian death and suffering?

Hearing the world pass judgment on the Israel-Hezbollah war as it unfolds is to live in an Orwellian moral universe....

Bruce Thornton writes ("The Impossible Peace"):

The failure of the Arabs to recognize a legitimate state created by the same historical process that created their own nations, and their continuing failure to recognize Israel in deeds rather than in words, are the root cause of the ongoing crisis....

We have already had decades of diplomacy, talks, “road maps,” and any number of various “agreements” that have all shipwrecked on Palestinian intransigence. Worse yet, every concession made by Israel to further the elusive “peace” has been met with more attacks and more terrorism. ...

The idea that “diplomacy” is the silver bullet that will slay the monster of Middle-Eastern dysfunction is founded on false assumptions. Diplomacy works when both sides sincerely want an agreement and pledge in good faith to adhere to the terms of the agreement, when they have what contract lawyers call a “meeting of the minds.” And diplomacy works when there is a credible, serious deterrent to violations of the agreements. None of these requirements have been met by the major players in the Muslim Middle East. Indeed, for decades the Palestinians have continued to receive billions in aid from the West even as it has failed to live up to the core requirements of the various agreements: dismantling the terrorist networks and sincerely endorsing, in deeds rather than words, Israel’s right to exist....

The U.N. has once again proved to be a failure in this case, too, by not enforcing its own Security Council Resolution 1559, passed in 2004, which called for the disbanding of Hezbollah's military wing.

Personally, I think Israel has every right to start defending itself and its people by wiping out Hezbollah as it rains deadly missiles on Israeli civilians. I would say the same for our country if we were being similarly attacked. Clearly Lebanon, even if unwillingly, and tragically, qualifies as one of those states "harboring terrorists" that President Bush described following 9/11:

Victory against terrorism will not take place in a single battle, but in a series of decisive actions against terrorist organizations and those who harbor and support them.

Knowing that the Israeli troops are taking more casualties by their policy of warning Lebanese civilians in advance of bombings, and knowing that Hezbollah is targeting Israeli civilians, hiding behind U.N. peacekeepers and Lebanese civilian hostages and waging their attacks from civilian areas, including the Bint Jbail mosque, it should be more than clear to the world by now who are the terrorists, the bad guys, the war-mongers--and who in this conflict deserves America's support.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why I wash my hands of the U.N. and you should too

Claudia Rosett has written a ringing essay nailing the hypocrisy of the U.N. once and for all (via Instapundit)--as if her exposes of the Oil for Food corruption weren't already damning proof enough:

Over the past six years, Israel honored its commitment to peace. The U.N. — disproportionately — required in practice no such compliance on the Lebanese side of the border. The “peacekeepers” of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, called UNIFIL, sat passively looking on, costing about $100 million a year and doing nothing to stop Hezbollah from trucking in weapons, digging tunnels, and running the armed protection rackets with which it has kept a grip on swathes of Lebanon, including the southern border with Israel, parts of the Bekaa, and southern Beirut. Before the current fighting, UNIFIL had most recently distinguished itself for a run-of-the-U.N.-mill financial swindle involving a contingent of Ukrainian peacekeeping troops. On that subject, whatever laws might have been violated, the U.N. has — as usual with U.N. scams — refused to release details. Now, UNIFIL peacekeepers have been reduced to casualties of the crossfire, while Secretary-General Kofi Annan urges that we take what the U.N. has done wrong already, and do more of it.

Read the whole thing, she's just getting warmed up.

Bookworm Room also echoes my sentiments when she begins her blogpost with the words:

Decades ago, when I still naively believed that the UN was an organization that would preserve world peace, ...

Meanwhile, as long as there remains a U.N., Bolton seems like the kind of guy we want to send there.

I'm writing my representatives to urge them to cut off any further funding of the U.N. Surely there are better, more effective and less corrupt venues to accomplish justice and promote prosperity, freedom, and peace in the world. And if there aren't, we need to put our best heads together and create some. We should no longer continue to fund this stinking sinkhole.

Sic transit gloria mundi and conservative guilt

Sic transit gloria mundi is Latin for "Thus the glory of the world passes away." (There's your cultural literacy lesson for today, gratis.)

One of my favorite current historians, Victor Davis Hanson, has written a sobering reminder that life as we know it can (and eventually will) radically change ("The Fragility of the Good Life"):

...In our own new age of war, terrorism, huge debt, high-priced gas and frightful weapons and viruses that we try to ignore, we should remember that civilization's progress is not always linear. The human condition does not inevitably evolve from good to better to best, but always remains precarious, its advances cyclical.

The good life sometimes can be lost quite unexpectedly and abruptly when people demand rights more than they accept responsibilities, or live for present consumption rather than sacrifice for future investment, or feel their own culture is not particularly exceptional and therefore in no need of constant support and defense....

Once again he, like Peggy Noonan writing in the past on same and similar topics, has put my own thoughts into eloquent expression.

I too believe we should always, daily, be appreciative of the amazing appurtenances of affluence, ease, and security that we enjoy without having made many relative or ultimate sacrifices for them. We should render daily heartfelt thanks for our blessings where thanks are due, starting at the Top. And I believe that with that sense of appreciation and gratitude comes some responsibilities for action including a conscious, personal concern for the future welfare of those who come after us and for our precious nation that has cradled and nurtured us through its culture, its history, its rule of law, and its ideals.

Andrew McKnight (like me) finds reminders in traveling around our country of those who endured more than we do to find less than we enjoy. Are we appreciative enough? Do we remember often enough? Do we pay enough homage, and live up adequately and honorably to their inspiration and example?

It strikes me that these feelings of mine could be the flip side of what is commonly called "liberal guilt." Liberal guilt is the feeling of wanting to repay certain groups of perceived victims for certain offenses allegedly commited by certain other groups, of whom the liberal was not personally a member. "Liberals feel guilty for having undeserved advantages."

Conservatives feel thankful and obliged for having undeserved advantages.

Perhaps "conservative guilt" is the feeling of being inadequate to thank and live up to the edifying examples of certain individuals or groups of perceived heroes, of whom the conservative is not personally a member.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Free to Choose 25th Anniversary

The current issue of Hillsdale College's Imprimis features Larry Arnn's entertaining interview with Milton Friedman in honor of the 25th anniversary of his landmark book (co-written with his wife, Rose), Free to Choose.

As always, Dr. Friedman is sharp as a tack and never bashful, but I liked best in this article his bright idea for the people of Iraq (my bold below); the idea is so obviously right, once you hear it:

LA: Let me ask you about demographic trends. Columnist Mark Steyn writes that in ten years, 40 percent of young men in the world are going to be living in oppressed Muslim countries. What do you think the effect of that is going to be?

MF: What happens will depend on whether we succeed in bringing some element of greater economic freedom to those Muslim countries. Just as India in 1955 had great but unrealized potential, I think the Middle East is in a similar situation today. In part this is because of the curse of oil. Oil has been a blessing from one point of view, but a curse from another. Almost every country in the Middle East that is rich in oil is a despotism.

LA: Why do you think that is so?

MF: One reason, and one reason only—the oil is owned by the governments in question. If that oil were privately owned and thus someone's private property, the political outcome would be freedom rather than tyranny. This is why I believe the first step following the 2003 invasion of Iraq should have been the privatization of the oil fields. If the government had given every individual over 21 years of age equal shares in a corporation that had the right and responsibility to make appropriate arrangements with foreign oil companies for the purpose of discovering and developing Iraq's oil reserves, the oil income would have flowed in the form of dividends to the people—the shareholders—rather than into government coffers. This would have provided an income to the whole people of Iraq and thereby prevented the current disputes over oil between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, because oil income would have been distributed on an individual rather than a group basis.

LA: Many Middle Eastern societies have a kind of tribal or theocratic basis and long-held habits of despotic rule that make it difficult to establish a system of contract between strangers. Is it your view that the introduction of free markets in such places could overcome those obstacles?

MF: Eventually, yes. I think that nothing is so important for freedom as recognizing in the law each individual's natural right to property, and giving individuals a sense that they own something that they're responsible for, that they have control over, and that they can dispose of.

What a great idea, and that it hasn't been implemented already in Iraq is a great tragedy and a lost opportunity.

Of course, Friedman says he would also like to see the Federal Reserve Bank abolished too, but as a visionary, he is reconciled to the fact that most of what he advocates he will not see brought about. The exciting thing about Friedman is just how much change his own ideas have brought about, especially since his book Free to Choose and his award-winning PBS television series of the same name entered the general public consciousness in the 1980s. The interview reveals many more of his ideas and opinions about current events that I found fascinating.

Meanwhile, Betsy's Page links to Tunku Varadarajan's interview with Rose and Milton Friedman that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. More good reading for those interested in this unique couple.

There is also a Free To Choose website:

I am overjoyed to see that the original PBS television series, "Free to Choose" at last is now available on DVDs, and I just bought the entire 10-part set. I think watching the entire series should be a required part of every high school civics class. John Stossel's currently available educational DVDs ("Greed," "Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?" and "Freeloaders") are a praiseworthy and valiant, but inadequate substitute.

By the way, you can also get the 40th anniversary edition of Friedman's book, Capitalism and Freedom, as well as the 50th anniversary edition of F. A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. These three books together are essential in any well-read person's library. Even if you don't agree with the ideas expressed in these books, you should be familiar with the arguments and firm in your rebuttals if you want to consider yourself conversant with modern thought. These books should certainly be part of everyone's college or university education (IMHO). If you read through the comments and reviews of these books on you can tell that they have been seriously life-changing for many--one person at a time.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sometimes it takes a man (to warn a girl)

Soon after I became a mother, I created a manilla file for myself that I labeled "Sex Ed, " into which has since gone many an article I hope to pass along to my children someday when the time is right. I consider it my job (and my husband's) to teach our children about love and sex; I don't believe it is properly the responsibility of a school teacher, coach, other children, the media, advertisers, corporate or non-profit representatives, or a "certified health instructor" to teach "the facts of life" to my children, as long as my husband or I are still breathing.

Other people, even if well-meaning, are not in a position to discuss sex in the context I use in discussing it with our children--as an integral part of the choices one makes, in order to attain the fulfilled, happy, healthy, and loving life one wants. To me, it's a BIG picture. Other people can't possibly care as much about my children and their future as their father and I do, nor can they possibly explain in the context of the values we hold, what we hope and wish for our children as we guide them. In fact, a part of the "sex ed" I impart to my kids is the sad necessity of being aware of how others, including self-styled "sex educators" and many in the general public and popular culture, may want to exploit them. No one knows better than their father and I how best to deal with our own children about these sensitive and intensely personal subjects at every stage of their development.

Anyway, Professor Mike S. Adams has just written an article I put into my file yesterday, entitled "I Had a Dream." The subject of the article is how some young college women today are sadly sucked into the sex industry, and constitutes a cautionary tale. I was most struck by the fact that a man (a thoughtful and compassionate man, it is true) has written a serious article as a cautionary tale for young coeds, which will probably do more actual, practical good for those girls who read it than innumerable semesters of "advocacy" or "consciousness-raising" by every feminist group, women's studies class, and women's center in their campus community.

Indeed, Dr. Adams has been for some time now reporting how college feminist groups around the U.S. have been advocating porn and the sex industry ("Buck naked at Bucknell" by Mike S. Adams, Monday, May 15, 2006--warning, graphic content). Back in my college days, feminists and campus groups were content to advocate pre-marital sex, promiscuity, and abortion under the rubric of reproductive rights; these days they seem to have added advocating homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and mainstreaming pornography and the sex industry, messages which have also saturated the popular culture throughout entertainment and advertising and right down to children's clothing (you can now dress your little girls in clothes from Target and Wal-Mart to make them look like minature sluts).

As the mother of a boy and a girl, I need to stay on top of this kind of trash that sooner or later will make its ways into the lives of my children. Thanks to writers like Mike Adams (doing yeoman's work from the campus culture wars), Mona Charen, Jennifer Roback Morse, and Thomas Sowell, and to groups such as Modesty Zone and The Independent Women's Forum, I can stay informed, supported, and, I hope, proactive.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Running to catch up (or not)

So, I leave town for a few short weeks and what happens as soon as my back is turned? North Korea lobs missiles in the world's face, and war breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah.

I've been slowly trying to catch up on news (reluctantly, since much of it awful), wading back into the details of big stories only half-heard in transit while we were away on vacation. The usual suspects (my habitual and/or favorite blogs, as listed in my sidebar here) seem to have faithfully covered all topics with their usual deep contemplative focus and eloquence, so there is really no crying need for me to jump in, except as an appreciative reader.

I note that The Bookworm Room has been offering an extended, great discussion of the Middle East conflict and what it all means, as well as the promised First Crypto-Conservative/Neo-Conservative Carnival. This gracious and prolific blogger has also added my blog to her blogrole, for which I offer much thanks! This is a first for me. Now I feel even more of an obligation to keep posting.

But again, it's clear to me I'll never be authoritative, deep, or timely when it comes to blogging about current events. I just can't keep up, don't have the time or the physical stamina (or the interest?) or the talent to devote, as my favorite bloggers (again, see sidebar) do. So I am going to have to find or devise a niche apart from those I most admire, and be comfortable in that.

I am glad they are there, doing what they do. I can certainly blog that feeling of gratitude! And while they are hard at work, today I'm off to the local water park with a minivan full of kids. I'm grateful for that, too.

It's a great country we're living in now, despite all the faults we keep tripping over. And believe me, it's a bigger land, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, than we usually realize or remember-- bigger than the sum of all of us individuals pursuing our goals in our own little niches. Or perhaps it's partly great because of individuals pursuing our own goals and achieving our niches. I was reminded of the greatness (on so many levels) of our country while on our vacation, and I intend to remember and savor that now that I'm home.

Life is good. Keep working and playing, enjoying all the blessings that are ours.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Our vacation (in a rather large nutshell)

We were two adults, a 15-year-old and a ten-year-old in one Honda Odyssey, driving 8,100 miles across the U.S. in 36 days:

The Alamo

San Antonio’s Riverwalk, including Jim Cullum’s Landing

Kerrville—a nice little town in the Texas Hill Country

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (awesome!!)

Guadalupe Pass

Texas Canyon Summit Rest Area, I-10, Arizona (voted most picturesque rest stop by me)

El Paso, Texas—you can see Juarez, Mexico across the Rio Grande from I-10

Saguaro National Park

Mt. Lemmon and Summerhaven

Sabino Canyon, Tuscon, Arizona

Gates Pass (where "Winchester '73" was filmed)

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (Five Stars!)

The Paradise Café, Tucson, Arizona

Joshua Tree National Park

Carousel Café, 29 Palms, California

Windfarms of Banning Pass, California

Palms to Pines” National Scenic Byway

The Bread Basket and The Grey Squirrel, Idyllwild, California

Palm Desert, California

Shield’s Date Gardens, Indio (still serving date shakes since 1924, including the one I had in 1965)

The Euro Café in the Paseo, downtown Palm Springs

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway into the San Jacinto Mountains

San Jacinto Mountain State Park

Cabazon Dinosaurs

740 Sound Design, Santa Monica

Tony P’s, The Marina del Rey Flyer, Marina del Rey

Two Harbors, Santa Catalina Island

Corona, California

Palos Verdes Estates

Redondo Beach Cafe

Howdy’s Taqueria, Malibu

Carpinteria, California, including the Portola Sycamore

The Nugget, Summerland

Pierre LaFond, La Super Rica, Alameda Park, the Courthouse, East Beach, UCSB, The Italian Grocery, Francesci Park, Camino Cielo and La Cumbre Peak, and Joe’s (all in or near Santa Barbara)

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Ty Warner Sea Center

The Saugus Café (oldest still-operating restaurant in Los Angeles County)

Visalia, California (one of the gateways to the Sierras in the San Joaquin/Central Valley)

Kaweah Lake and Three Rivers in the Sequoia Foothills

Sequoia National Park and three nights in our tent at Lodgepole Campground

The General Sherman (world's largest tree)

Moro Rock, Crescent Meadow

Kings Canyon National Park, Road’s End and Zumwald Meadow

Fresno, California (another gateway to the Sierras in the Central Valley)

Katie’s Country Kitchen in Oakhurst, California (Gateway to Yosemite)

Yosemite National Park and two nights in a tent-cabin in Curry Village Campground in Yosemite Valley

Glacier Point

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan, the Ansel Adams Gallery, Bridal Veil Falls

Daddy’s hike up to the top of Vernal and Nevada Falls

Tenaya Lake, Tuolomne Meadows, Tioga Pass, Inyo National Forest, in the Sierras

Long Valley Caldera

Mono Lake and the June Lake Loop

Cathy’s Candies, June Lake

Jack’s Restaurant and Bakery and a demon red horse in beautiful Bishop, California)

Lone Pine and Highway 395

Whitney Portal and the views of Mt. Whitney

The Alabama Hills in the beautiful Owens Valley

Coleville, Topaz, and Walker, in the Antelope Valley

Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay

Winnemucca, Nevada

Butte, Montana

East Helena, Spring Meadow Lake State Park, The Lamplighter Motel (Helena, Montana)

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, Montana

Museum of the Rockies, Emerson Art Center, Burger Bob’s, Country Bookshelf, The Leaf and Bean, NU2U, Bozeman Hot Springs, (Bozeman, Montana)

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

General Store, Kaycee, Wyoming

Ft. Collins, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado

Meridy’s Restaurant and Lounge in Russell, Kansas (hometown of Bob Dole)

Salina, Kansas

Junction City, Kansas

Olathe, Kansas

…and finally home.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Back to the grind

I confess my family and I have been home safe from our long vacation for almost a week now. I have been avoiding returning to my blog until this morning, when the leisure to lie in bed and just think for awhile, after awakening, turned into the will and the wish to get up and finally blog, to say “Hello, again!”

After spending so many days in Big Sky Country out west (California, Montana, and parts in between), where for over a month I was beyond regular reach of the media, the news, televisions, radio, the internet, my computer and my email, and often even cellphone service, it is only with an odd reluctance I return to investing so many minutes (a good chunk of them seemingly obsessive and/or addictive) planted in front of a computer screen. Part of me senses by doing so I am turning from a certain kind of “Real Life” that is more essentially human and inherently more healthy to a sort of fantasy construction that often gets the better of me.

Delightful and powerful as self-expression and surfing the internet may be, looking inward instead of living outward can be a trap if done in excess. It can also pinch nerves in your back and legs, deplete your bone calcium, keep you pale and crabby, make your thighs fat and your shoulders hunched, and cut into the housekeeping. Taking the time to blog early this morning before the kids are up, I am foregoing my daily three-mile walk before the heat of the day sets in. Is this a good trade-off? Quiet morning time when this old brain is most clear, is at a valuable premium. What is the balanced and the well-lived life?

I think my vacation has taught me that I am ready to try some changes from previous habits.

All I know is, the older I get, the more precious every minute of my time becomes. I know I have to spend it all wisely and productively. My vacation taught me that I need and want to spend more time living outwardly than I did before. My aging body tells me I can’t do all the sitting for hours that I did and wanted to before, without physical consequences. Yet my inner life that drives me to blog (or write in journals, emails, or letters, or want to write essays, articles, and fiction) is still there and will always be a part of me as long as I breathe.

Maybe if I keep my blog posts short and don't check email or anything else, and if Blogger cooperates in uploading this, and I can resist spending too much time tweaking and re-editing, I can still squeeze in a walk....

I can see it happening as well as you. My airy vacation head, with my looking-outward eyes, is receding fast; it'll be gone before I even get all our digital photos organized and captioned. I'll be back into full normal squeeze (spending way too much time at this computer, in this seat) before I know it.

Anyway, hello again. I'm back. More later.