Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Attitude is everything

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."

--William James (1842-1910)

My son and I were comparing notes about air travel yesterday, since we had both recently returned from different trips overseas. He had gone with his high school music group on a ten-day tour to perform in Europe, and it had been his first flight apart from his family, his first visit outside the U.S. and Canada, and his first time on a plane since 9/11. His return trip home had been especially grueling since, to save money, the planners had booked a route that involved three legs and two stopovers and plane changes (in London and in Chicago). It took him 24 hours of travel to get home from Vienna. He was talking about how tiresome and arbitrary the security and customs procedures had been and how claustrophobic, long, and tedious the plane rides were (especially so since some of the other folks on the tour had gotten sick from drinking the water in Prague).

I, Pollyanna Mother, acknowledged that he was absolutely right. It had been a tough return home. But then I also pointed out that having driven all around the U.S. together, we now could appreciate the miracle that is air flight, despite the concomitant hassles. We have driven from one side of the U.S. to the other (it takes days), as well as studied how the pioneers made the same trek over rutted trails (that took weeks), and now, keeping those priors in mind, every time I get on an airplane I am purposefully cognizant of how incredibly lucky I am and how easy I have it compared to those in the past.

I can't fly over the Atlantic Ocean, eating my complimentary peanuts and gazing down from the clouds, and not think of my plucky ancestors making the one crossing of their lives. I can't not think of how they never got the chance to retrace their long, dangerous, expensive journey and see their homes, friends, and families again. I even think of icebergs and the S.S. Titanic.

That we modern Americans can wake up one morning in one far-distant part of the globe and, thanks to an uncomfortable and stressful air flight, go to bed in our own home that night, is a "fantastic voyage" almost beyond the realm of imagination for our ancestors.

The odd part is, these ruminations provide a useful buffer. This idea of my incredible good fortune is one of the miracle drugs I keep at hand while flying.

I made my children laugh when I told them about the small child on my own return flight home from the U.K. Two rows behind me: she was only about a foot tall, but had a set of lungs and wasn't afraid to use them. She sounded like an enraged gorilla with a five-octave range, and kept it up for most of the eight-hour flight. Before I'd had children of my own, this sustained invasion of my psychic space and eardrums would have infuriated me--it would have probably ruined my day. But having traveled myself at least once with a fractious, upset, tiny, and inconsolable child, I could only pity the mother having to deal with that for eight hours--and consider myself so incredibly fortunate that it wasn't me, as I turned to lose myself in my novel. What luxury--what incredible good fortune--I only had to listen to it, not struggle with it on my lap, and not have it ONE row behind me, kicking my seatback. No, I was free to snooze, muse, or tuck into my hot meal in relative but true peace, without having to mother in the trenches. Been there, done that, and it's a nightmare. So now, lucky me--with my past perspective delivering that instant miracle drug of happiness.

On Saturday my husband returned from the U.K.; after I'd come home, he had stayed there another week longer on business. He caught a cab from the airport to our home, and the taxi driver had been a particularly nice guy. An immigrant from Somalia, he spoke broken English, but had kept up a very interesting conversation. He couldn't get over how great America was, with all of its opportunities available for anybody willing to work, and how so many of his fellow Somalian immigrants, along with other immigrants he knew, had worked hard, saved their money, and become very successful. He said a local business concern had just hired around 100 Somalian women from his community and everybody was happy: the women, for getting jobs and making good money, and the business for finding employees willing to work so diligently. "They think the African-Americans don't want to work that hard," he said.

This was not the first time I'd heard this sentiment expressed about African-Americans (they being less-preferred employees than illegal alien Hispanics who are seen as having a much better "work ethic," for example), but it was the first time I'd heard it coming from a black Somalian. It drove home to me yet again the idea that modern-day America is not a particularly or unusually racist nation (despite the random racist acts or people here, as they are everywhere). Businesses and Americans as a whole no longer discriminate against blacks because of their skin color--no more, I'd daresay, than black Americans and businesses discriminate against whites. Now when Americans discriminate they are usually discriminating among people based on attitudes, and insofar as the attitudes are not based on false stereotypes but on truth, they are right to do so.

Meanwhile, if it is true that African-Americans as a group are perceived as being less willing or hard workers than others, and if it is true that as a group (for whatever reasons of culture, values, beliefs, or attitudes) they indeed are, it would be to their advantage both as a whole and especially individually, to quit beating the empty race card and work to counter the perception by changing the reality. In other words, they can go far by examining their own attitudes and changing what they can within themselves.

If you have an attitude of self-pity and persecution, it will ruin your day--and your life. If, on the other hand, you can find your way to an "attitude of gratitude," you will feel and be blessed. If you have the perspective of harder days, previous struggles, and less fortunate people informing your current outlook in a positive way, you will consider yourself truly lucky and you'll be able to see the glass around you as more than half-full. Extend that attitude to recognize, like our immigrants have done and continue to do, that America is an amazing place full of opportunities, adventures, and privileges, and you will be in a good position not only to be personally happy, but also to succeed.

You will have found the Miracle Drug.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Worth reading

I have been so busy since returning home from my vacation that I haven't had much chance or inclination to blog or even to keep up with news. I'm enjoying this position, since what I'm working on seems productive and rewarding to me, and so much of what passes for daily news in the media can only be categorized as crank emotional exploitation and/or worthless, posturing hot air--a waste of precious time and a unnecessary, draining emotional downer (unnecessary because there is little I can do about any of the most depressing stuff the media likes to hype). (As Peggy Noonan recently put it, "This is what TV will be like in Purgatory.") The tendency is for me to feel, after an interval of being away from it all, "Why bother with wading back into that?"

But in a spare moment or two of trawling the 'net I've found a few things worth passing on, and as usual, the best writers and thinkers are contributing some good work to the general public conversation (in the Sisyphusian effort to raise standards of discourse and argument):

Instapundit points out that compact fluorescent light bulbs, those newfangled things we're all supposed to be moving toward (even forced into using by proposed legislation) in the name of "saving the earth" contain mercury and propose a somewhat disputed (that means, I suspect, an unknown) health hazard if broken. How does having to dispose of these items at a recycling center (along with batteries, paint, etc.) save energy and help the earth? Has anyone done a really accurate cost-benefit analysis? Can anyone tell me what to do if I or my child happens to break one of these things in our home? And when are they going to invent three-way fluorescent bulbs?

Victor Davis Hanson has written one of the best blog posts ever (you can scroll down to read the subpart headed "The Killer" but the entire blogpost is excellent reading). It ends up with a warning to young people that they must go off to college or out into the world prepared to defend themselves and not count on any other authorities (neither college administration nor police) to take care of or protect them. This is sobering but valuable advice, and I have passed it on to my son. It's a dangerous world out there, where justice is an ideal but not a given, and most kids raised in the 'burbs need a heads-up about what they might encounter on a college campus or out in the world once they leave the home nest. They need to know that many places they will be expected to go are, at best, amoral and indifferent and, at worst, pathological or evil. The parts of Dr. Hanson's blogpost about the Duke lacrosse team and "What Duke Should Say" are also excellent.

Instapundit also pointed to this heartbreaking article by Claudia Rosett on how North Korea has been starving its people for years. She accurately sums up both the nature of the crime and the hypocrisy of the world in dealing with it.

Apropos of world hypocrisy, Besty's Page argues the misplaced righteousness of boycotting Israel. That always seemed obvious to me.

Betsy also points to this fascinating article by Christopher Hitchens, "Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates." If, like me, you never learned in school what early American involvement in "the Barbary Wars" was all about, how it affected our country in its infancy, or why the Marine Hymn includes that line about the "shores of Tripoli," this is essential historical homework.

Finally, Bookworm Room has been writing up her usual storm in my absence. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Full English breakfast

Here is a photo of the full English breakfast, with "chips" ("French fries," to you Americans). And here is another photo of a full English breakfast. And another. And another. And here is a stock photo of the full English breakfast elements. This photo shows the full English breakfast incorporating "black pudding" (which is, in American-speak, "blood sausage," and was a variation we somehow managed to avoid on our recent visit to the U.K.).

The elements we encountered were invariably:

"Bacon" (to us recognizable as "Canadian bacon," or "Virginia ham")

Sausages (reminding us of that "Fawlty Towers" sketch where the pompous physician insists, "I'm a doctor and I want my sausages!")

Two eggs (they look like "sunny-side up," but I think they are "poached")

"Grilled cherry tomatoes" (these "cherry tomatoes" were invariably golf-ball sized, not cherry sized)

Heinz baked beans (straight from the can--how odd!)

Sauted mushrooms (for breakfast?)

and sometimes, a frozen hash brown patty.

What makes this breakfast arrangement "English" I wonder? When we encountered scrambled eggs at a breakfast buffet, that was part of the "American" breakfast. Why? Who decides these things, and how do they become received ideas across the whole of the British isle?

We happen to love what we call big, "greasy spoon" breakfasts, which I admit we used to tolerate much better in our younger, misspent days of youthful indulgence. But our first "Full English Breakfast" in Britain nearly slayed me. As the only guests at our first bed-and-breakfast in England, we were first urged by our kind hostess to help ourselves to the fruits, cereals and homemade yogurt and fresh rolls and homemade jams (all excellent), which we did.

Then, dangerously, we were served huge warm plates of freshly-cooked Full English Breakfast artfully prepared just for us. I tried to do it justice, beyond the point of pain. After that cautionary morning we knew to pace ourselves better, and gradually gravitated to Continental breakfasts (croissants, jam, juice and coffee) more in line with our stomach capacities.

Travel is broadening and so is the Full English Breakfast.

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Tea cakes

I have just returned from eight days "abroad" --lovely term, that, meaning having flown twice, back and forth, above the broad Atlantic to and from an "Old World" definitely not my home. I am still in the throes of jet-lag, and in the middle of picking up the dropped threads of my beloved domestic life (the kids have been hugged and hugged and hugged, the most pressing bills have been paid, the cat has settled down after finding me still alive, but the laundry is nowhere near finished. Priorities, priorities...).

To commemorate our latest wedding anniversary (and a big one), my Dreamboat and I spent ten days together traveling to and from and touring parts of England and Wales, with great thanks to my children and my mother for being willing to spend ten days with each other here at home. We put over 960 miles on the rental car and didn't do a single customary "touristy" thing, unless you count the professionally guided two-hour walking tour of Cambridge and the many photographs I took. Didn't see London, didn't see Stonehenge, didn't see Stratford-on-Avon--not because we didn't want to, but because there was so much to see elsewhere, and so impossibly little time. For a first look at England and Wales for this former English major, the trip was a smashing success, and I am still trying to assimilate all I encountered.

But the first thing I Googled when I returned from a ten-day hiatus from the internet was "tea cakes."

I thought I'd known what tea cakes were. Those petit four things, or those buttercream-icing-topped "cupcakes for grown-ups" or those shortbread or sugar cookies served with tea. But I learned on this trip that here is one of those British-U.S. divergences of vocabulary and meaning, and that what I knew as tea cakes were only the U.S. version.

The British version: Whether we ordered them in the Cotswolds, in Snowdonia, or in East Anglia, the British tea cakes were a sort of flat bread roll that came out of the kitchen freshly baked, warm and fragrant, lightly toasted, and buttered. They looked at first glance unappetizingly like oversized hamburger buns on the plate, but there the resemblance died a swift death. Once approached, caught up between the fingers, explored, and devoured, tea cakes proved to be light but substantial, flavorful, studded with currants, and were the perfect complement to a pot of hot English tea in the middle of the afternoon.

Who knew? I couldn't get enough of them, and didn't. I had to tear myself away from Britain before I'd had sufficient tea cakes. They were the perfect afternoon refreshment to brace you for another few hours of driving or sightseeing or anything else that may come along until supper. With their not being sickeningly sweet, you'd never feel guilty about packing on the calories (what's a few slatherings of warm butter on toasted bread compared to a pig's dollop of buttercream icing on supersweet cake anyway?). I craved them, and loved consuming them, whether in pubs, gardens, little out-of-the-way holes in the wall filled with the smells of fresh baking and the cooing of doves, or at a nondescript table in a "Little Chef" (sort of like a Denny's) at some service centre along the M-11.

I can't find British tea cakes here at home, having scoured the grocery store and the internet to no avail. The Thomas' cinnamon raisin English muffins commonly available here are simply nothing in comparison. I think I'm going to have to be reduced to downloading recipes from the internet and attempting to bake some on my own. That is, if I can find out where to buy currants.

As they say, travel is broadening.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday morning round-up of links

I woke up wondering this morning if (apropos of all the race-based hate being expressed and talked about this week on the airwaves, with all the back-and-forth about Imus, Jackson, Sharpton, etc.) we as a nation aren't now reaping the sad harvest of decades of race-based policies designed to ameliorate the effects of racial discrimination (like Affirmative Action) but which have only served to increase the general amount of dissention and racial hatred.

Every time I have to fill out a form and must choose a box to check to describe my "race," I resent it. Every time I am typed or identified as a "white" or a "woman," and lumped in with some received idea of a stereotypical group presumed to represent me, I resent it. And in all the discussions on the airwaves this week I have heard from lots of angry blacks still simmering over historical discrimination against their race that did not happen to them (e.g. slavery), to the point where they feel justified and free to express and hold racial hatred against whites, despite decades of Affirmative Action and real progress in civil rights and social integration in this country.

Martin Luther King, Jr. would not be pleased by any of this.

Whoever decided that by focusing on the differences of heritage and skin color of us Americans (even if only to play favorites and hand out government goodies, power, or money to those "groups" deemed oppressed), we were going to increase peace, justice, harmony and understanding? It seems we have only increased racial hatred and strife--not so much among the whites as among the "victimized" class of blacks represented by the odious Al Sharpton and the equally ludicrous Jesse Jackson. Paradoxical, no?

And so, on into today's news of more of the same....

Instapundit has a couple of bon mots:

MICHELLE MALKIN GETS CALLED A "PROSTITUTE" ON THE AIR: No doubt there will be an Imus-like groundswell of outrage.

and this one:

ANDREA PEYSER wants the New York Times to apologize to the Duke Lacrosse players. Plus this: "But the biggest losers may be the ones you'll never hear about. These are the genuine victims of sexual assault: women who don't fabricate tales of brutality, or seek out the richest, whitest men to falsely accuse of forcing them into sex. Who will believe a rape victim now?"

UPDATE: More on the Times' coverage: "The worst journalist covering the case was the New York Times’ Duff Wilson."

Right. Betsy also weighs in on the ramifications of the Duke lacrosse case.

Victor Davis Hanson takes a look at Imus, Iran, and Illegal Aliens.

Power Line writes that "Sharia Descends in Minneapolis" and begins:
In her Star Tribune column yesterday Katherine Kersten reported on plans at Minneapolis Community Technical to accommodate Islamic ritual through the expenditure of MCTC funds to buy foot washers. One wonders how it can be that Islamic organizations can't provide for the religious needs of local Muslims....

I too wonder whatever happened to the separation of church and state so assiduously maintained in the public schools when it comes to Christianity or the mention of God (as opposed to Allah).

Meanwhile, there are a slew of good, thoughtful posts racked up over at Bookworm Room; take a look.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The media lemmings

My thought exactly: Michelle Malkin suggests "Ten Things More Newsworthy Than Don Imus." Or Anna Nicole Smith. Or the trumped-up media hype about the firing of the federal prosecutors.

Who decides these non-stories deserve wall-to-wall, non-stop coverage anyway? Who really is watching and listening? Not me, at least. When that's all that's on the car radio while I'm driving I turn to NPR and listen to (GASP!) classical music. A nicer way to spend the day.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin later wrote a rip-snorting righteous rant about the whole "incivility" of modern culture thing that I totally agree with. Betsy points it out and adds a few words.

Thoughts on Iraq

In commemoration of the recent anniversary of Saddam Hussein's fall, here's a look (with photos) at "A Dormant Hell in Iraq" by Patrick S. Lasswell at the blog Moderate Risk. It's a look at a former Baathist detention and torture center, now a museum, in Suliamaniya, Iraq. See also the post (photos and video) on visiting a souk (flea market) for some Middle East flavor (links via Instapundit).

Meanwhile, at Power Line, a Marine sergeant shares his thoughts on being redeployed to Iraq.

Power Line also points to a new front for the surge to deal with in Iraq: Sadr's renewed aggression. As Laura Ingraham said on her radio show yesterday, it's long past time we took this "fat little jelly donut" out of the equation.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Celebrating Easter with Hollywood

I'm not talking about modern Hollywood, I'm talking about the glorious products of Old Hollywood, the real Hollywood now long gone that nevertheless quixotically lives on, and quite vibrantly, in the classic movies now available and looking better than ever on the Turner Classic Movies TV channel or on DVDs and via Netflix. For indeed, we are living in a Golden Age of restored classic Hollywood films, and by extension, a restored conveyance of classic American values.

My children and I watched George Stevens' "The Greatest Story Ever Told" today in celebration of the Easter holiday. You would think two modern iPod-and-Gameboy kids might find this film an unwatchable bore, but my two stuck it through the whole three hours to the end. And I was surprised and pleased to see how much they did get out of it. The measured pace (screenplay by George Stevens and Carl Sandburg, among others) and the remarkable visual impact of this epic movie portraying Jesus' life, death, and resurrection still succeeds, and clicked with all three of us.

In fact, I often had trouble hearing the movie's dialogue because my 16-year-old son and my 11-year-old daughter were picking over the characters, the narrative, and the theological implications of what was happening onscreen. Lots of questions were asked (revealing, unhappily, that my daughter is not getting much information out of her Sunday School classes at church) and answered (revealing that my son has accumulated a much better grasp of the events of the New Testament, as well as learned some ancient history and geography from his high school teachers). It was a joy to see them engaged and learning what I consider an essential part of our heritage, and a joy to see with them, for their first time, this beautifully artistic and moving film. My daughter now has a new grasp of what Holy Week and the Easter story are all about. My son has now seen how a great director tackled a subject and a story of immense import (including scenes filmed on location in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, which we have visited).

We as a family are devoted classic Hollywood film buffs anyway, so it is nothing new for us to all sit down for an evening and watch something black and white and hilarious, or some splendiferous Technicolor musical or grand adventure tale. We are movie nerds who think Old Hollywood still has it all over what little is left of the modern film industry today. We rarely go to see first-run new films, but we collectively watch probably 10 or more "old" movies every week. My daughter has lately become a fan of 1930s Busby Berkeley and 1950s Doris Day musicals because they are both "so weird!" (I'll say), while my son has become a fan of Hitchcock, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. My Dreamboat and I have made determined and sustained efforts to introduce our kids to the charms of the old Hollywood movies we love, and we have yet to reach the bottom of the barrel. In fact, as both kids grow older, the old classic movies that they can appreciate expand in number and deepen in subject matter. And all the background information about the old movies available on the internet now adds to our nerdy viewing pleasure.

But I never quite appreciated before how much these films convey our important common history and heritage until I sat down and watched "The Ten Commandments" with my kids a few weeks ago. Maybe most people these days would think this movie (complete with introduction and narration by Cecil B. DeMille) to be a hopelessly dead dinosaur, a towering mountain of obsolete corn. But no matter--who cares what such people think--my kids (and I) were enthralled by the brisk, grippingly-filmed story of the Jewish people enslaved by the Egyptians and finally led to freedom by Charlton Heston as Moses. (In fact, they liked that movie better than the slower-moving one we saw today--DeMille really knew how to do "gripping.")

Again, here was a movie that served to teach my daughter these Old Testament Bible stories she had vaguely heard of but had not firmly remembered or understood. It was then that I realized my kids weren't really getting the full education about our Christian heritage that they should be getting at church, and will never get at school.

So what better way than to turn to Old Hollywood for the real homeschool goods? Why not teach my children their Christian heritage in the most vivid and memorable way possible, thanks to Old Hollywood's help?

Now I've added some more Biblical epics to our Netflix queue: The Story of Ruth (features a score by Franz Waxman, who, along with Billy Wilder, was one of my favorite Hollywood German refugees); The Robe (1953); The Bible: In the Beginning...and when will Samson and Delilah (Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr, 1949) be out on DVD?

See also: National Review's Best Conservative Movies for more ideas on great old movies to revisit. So many of these gems, like "The Longest Day" and "Mrs. Miniver" should be a part of every American schoolkid's education.

UPDATE: Bookworm Room offers a review of the recent kids' movie, "Happy Feet," which points out some of the reasons why we rarely go see (or buy) modern movies anymore.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

"Friend, if you’re so brave, say that about Islam."

Indeed, it is the very faith we mock that has made us so safe.

Just in time for a happy Easter, here's a witty and wise essay today by Andrew Bolt (via Michelle Malkin) and he's not even a Christian (here's a snippet--read the whole thing):

I wouldn’t be alone in thinking each time an artist or commentator insults Christians: friend, if you’re so brave, say that about Islam.

Show us your chocolate Mohammeds. Show us your Korans dipped in urine.

Where is the singer who will rip up a Koran as Marilyn Manson ripped up a Bible? Or will on television tear up a picture of Islam’s most honoured preacher as Sinead O’Connor shredded one of the great Pope John Paul II?

It’s not as if Islam doesn’t threaten our artists more than does Christianity.

See only the murder of film director Theo van Gogh or the fatwa on writer Salman Rushdie or the stabbing of Rushdie’s translator. Or see those deadly riots against the Mohammed cartoons.

So when I see a Western artist mock Christ, I see an artist advertising not his courage but his cowardice – by not daring to mock what would threaten him more.

Noted and appreciated.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

San Francisco's values are not family values

As a former resident of Sodom-by-the-Bay, and a current mini-van-driving mother of an 11-year-old daughter, I was personally affected to find Michelle Malkin this morning pointing to this San Francisco Chronicle news story about mobs of bicyclists attacking a mini-van filled with a family and children in San Francisco last week. What was supposed to be a birthday party excursion into the city for an 11-year-old little girl and her friends became an occasion of terror:

Things took a turn for the worse at about 9 p.m., when the family was leaving Japantown -- just as the party of about 3,000 bikers was winding down its monthly red-lights-be-damned ride through the city.

Suddenly, Ferrando said, her car was surrounded by hundreds of cyclists.

Not being from San Francisco, Ferrando thought she might have inadvertently crossed paths with a bicycle race and couldn't figure out why the police, who she had just passed, hadn't warned her.

Confusion, however, quickly turned to terror, she said, when the swarming cyclists began wildly circling around and then running into the sides of her Toyota van.

Filled with panic, Ferrando said, she started inching forward until coming to a stop at Post and Gough streets, where she was surrounded by bikers on all sides.

A biker in front blocked her as another biker began pounding on the windshield. Another was pounding on her window. Another pounded the other side.

"It seemed like they were using their bikes as weapons,'' Ferrando said. One of the bikers then threw his bike -- shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside.

All the while, Ferrando was screaming, "There are children in this car! There are children in this car!"

She had the presence of mind to dial 911 on her cell phone -- and within minutes, the squad of motorcycle cops who were assigned to keep an eye on the ride descended on the scene.

The cyclists were loudly demanding that Ferrando be arrested for hit and run.

According to police, Ferrando had allegedly tapped one of the cyclists' tires.

When the alleged bicycle victim was approached, however, he said he wasn't hurt. He also refused to give his name or any other information.

Then, after a few swear words, the alleged victim took off on his bike while the rest of the crowd continued to yell at both the cops and the van.

Sgt. Ed Callejas -- the lead cop on the scene and a veteran of Critical Mass rides since their inception -- said he'd never seen anything like it before.

"I've seen the bikes swarm cars, and scratch them as they go by. I've seen guys get out of their cars and start fighting with the bikers, but if you had seen the faces on those little girls in tears,'' Callejas said. "All I could do was apologize for what they had been through."

The sergeant suggested that Ferrando write a letter to the mayor.

Estimated damage to the car: $5,300....

The article goes on to relate that this cycling mob was not an aberration, but is a regular occurrence in San Francisco. It coalesces on the last Friday of every month, and has a name: Critical Mass. Without evident leadership or administration it constitutes regular mob lawlessness evidently tolerated by the police, who look on as helpless bystanders:

For starters, San Francisco is a "green" city, and bike riding is about as green as you can get -- yet residents and commuters complain endlessly about getting trapped in the rides.

The city tries to ignore the unplanned rides, but there are always cops on hand to monitor the gatherings, even though any kind of traffic planning is impossible because no route is announced.

And even though the rides are held every month, Critical Mass has no organized leadership -- so no one can be held accountable for the group's actions.

In 1997, then-Mayor Willie Brown tried to control the rides. The result was anarchy and mass arrests.

Since then, the rides have shrunk in size. The city's generally hands-off attitude leaves cops as little more than bystanders.

"We sit there and they just go right through the red lights,'' Sgt. Callejas said. "What else can we do? Arrest one rider while 500 keep going?

Mmmm, quite a dilemma, all right. I can see how law enforcement's hands would be tied, and how a mayor just wouldn't be able to get a handle on this matter. What ya gonna do when a mob erupts, especially a regularly-scheduled, community-tolerated, politically-correct one ostensibly touting environmentally pure values? Why, it would take a child's death, maybe, to put a dent in some of that renowned political and environmental self-righteousness and sense of entitlement for which so many San Franciscans pride themselves.

I think it would just be best to advise all families, visitors, minivan drivers, and tourists to steer clear of San Francisco. Let it be known that mob rule regularly has the upper hand and the nod from the government and the police in that fair city. It will always be one of the most physically beautiful spots in the world, but let's face it, if you're a family (or an outspoken Christian or a supporter of the Army or the Navy) visiting San Francisco, you are not high on the civic list of desirables, and you don't play a part in the city's view of itself as "America's most tolerant and progressive city."

I'm just doing my part to get the word out. Know what you're getting into before you take your children there. Be informed and vote with your dollars and your feet.

For background reading: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

UPDATE: Bookworm was personally affected by this story, too, and posted her take in "Critical Mess." She aptly points to Zombie's page of instructive photos of some of the leftists of San Francisco (oh, yes, these people do exist and flaunt themselves constantly like this in the Bay area). Zombie points to Cinnamon Stillwell's story about the "Anti-War Miseducation" in the San Francisco public schools. Truth has given way to leftist propaganda in so many of this beautiful city's institutions.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

More on the clash of cultures

This picture disgusts me, too (via Instapundit). For so many reasons (read the comments). Ms Pelosi could take some lessons on strong female leadership from Ms. Merkel.

Meanwhile, for my friends who refuse to understand how incremental jihad works, Bookworm points to an interesting summary at the Gates of Vienna about Muslim incursions (through violence and intimidation) in Sweden and the rest of Europe. Just one excerpt here:
It is hardly accidental that while Muslims make up about ten percent of the population in France, they make up an estimated seventy percent of French prison inmates. Muslims are over-represented in jails in countries all over the world, and a striking number of non-Muslims in jail also convert to Islam. There could be many reasons for this. Some observers have suggested that prison inmates generally lack control over their personal lives, and thus seek a strict code which provides them with the discipline they themselves don’t have. Perhaps, but personally I suspect that the most important reason is much more simple: If you’re a Muslim you can continue doing criminal things yet at the same time claim to be morally superior. If you rob and mug non-Muslims you are not a thief or a thug, you are in fact a brave Jihadist doing God’s noble work...

Andrew Bostom has demonstrated in his book The Legacy of Jihad that the basic patterns have remained remarkably similar throughout the centuries, regardless of whether the non-Muslims in question were Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists. Jihad and dhimmitude frequently have less to do with huge terror attacks or spectacular invasions than with accumulated daily humiliations and insults. A small group of Muslims move into an area, then gradually expand their numbers and with continuous verbal and physical harassment of non-Muslims and sexual harassment of their women force them to leave their homes or convert to Islam. Here is an example from Iran where the non-Muslims are Zoroastrians, but it might as well have been certain areas of Amsterdam, Birmingham or the suburbs ... of Paris today...

The history lesson for today: Smyrna conquered by the Turks in the 1920's.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

The troop surge and Al-qaeda in Iraq

Objective measures? Statistical analysis proves that casualties are down in Baghdad since the troop surge, but beyond that, Back Talk points out what's really going on there (via Power Line):

Al Qaeda has killed more innocent people in Iraq in the last few days than it has killed elsewhere in the world in the last year (including Afghanistan, which is where leading Democrats preposterously want to go to fight al Qaeda). If more Americans understood this, their interest in seeing us withdraw from Iraq -- thereby effectively surrendering to the terrorist organization that attacked us on 9/11 -- would diminish considerably. I think that might be why Democrats refuse to discuss al Qaeda in Iraq even as it slaughters hundreds of innocent civilians there every month. It is downright surreal that al Qaeda can fill your TV and computer screens with the blood of hundreds of innocent Iraqis every other week, yet Democrats act as if they are not there and are wreaking havoc in Afghanistan instead (where al Qaeda is largely dormant).

Americans don't realize that we are in a fight with al Qaeda and their affiliated jihadists in Iraq. And they don't know because the media equates attacks by al Qaeda with the phrase "sectarian violence."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

For the further study of Islam

This weekend I found two websites that have a lot of material to absorb (for those of you still wondering after 9/11 "why those strangers from another part of the world would hate us enough to fly planes into our New York skyscrapers"):

Islam: The Religion of Peace keeps a list of updated news bulletins and is devoted to documenting daily tallies of specifically Islam-driven violence around the world. I had not realized there was so much constant killing by Muslims of Buddhists going on in Thailand, for example.

Meanwhile, Islam Undressed offers a long discussion of the true nature and history of Islam and summarizes implications for today. The author admits
After Sept 11th, 2001, it became apparent that few were searching for the root cause of the war declared on us, and my natural curiosity and a certain passion has driven me to explore in some detail the true source driving the varied violent acts of Islamic zealots. My studies have revealed unexpected data, which it appears is not widely known, or is often very much misunderstood. The initial curiosity and effort was to identify for myself just exactly where and how Muslim militants erred in deviating from peaceful Islam by choosing a violent path. Much to my chagrin, I could not discover any error, only support. As it turns out, it’s not the wrong interpretation of the Qur’an (Koran) that produces terrorists; it is the exact interpretation of it which creates them. These findings, and the inescapable inferences that must be drawn thereby, served to inspire this effort to share this vital knowledge with my fellow citizens. This book, considered in its entirety, could and should alter convictions and politics for the sincere searcher of truth and knowledge of all political persuasions.
I want to post one other excerpt from Islam Undressed here, a quote from an earlier "Islamaphobic" scholar (who would no doubt be called a "racist" by CAIR):

In 1861 Sir William Muir Esq. studied Islam in great depth and detail and in his work ‘The Life of Mahomet’ issued the following warning, still applicable today:

… chief radical evils flow from the faith, in all ages and in every country, and must continue to flow so long as the Koran is the standard of belief.

FIRST: Polygamy, Divorce, and Slavery, are maintained and perpetuated; - striking as they do at the root of public morals, poisoning domestic life, and disorganizing society.

SECOND: freedom of judgment in religion is crushed and annihilated. The sword is the inevitable penalty for the denial of Islam. Toleration is unknown. …Many a flourishing land in Africa and in Asia, which once rejoiced in the light and liberty of Christianity, is now overspread by gross darkness and a stubborn barbarism. … The swords of Mahomet, and the Koran, are the most fatal enemies of Civilization, Liberty, and Truth, which the world has yet known.