Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all in the blogosphere. It’s a light posting day for both the obvious reason that I’m spending time with family today rather than scanning the news and the less obvious but equally weighing reason that blogging on a dial-up is a drag. Here’s hoping you and your families are celebrating in happiness.

Special prayers to our military members stationed away from home. We’ve got a candle in the window for you and wish you speedy success in your mission.

Changing The Minds Of Those That Hate Us

Greetings again from the land of the dial-up. Pardon the low level of linking in my posts this week – I don’t have the leisure of staying on-line to search for them. Perhaps I can update these entries when I get a reliable broadband link somewhere.

I watched 60 Minutes last night with my in-laws here. There were several stories on and the usual short editorial piece by Andy Rooney. Andy’s commentary dealt with the “fact” that the war has been a complete loss and that we needed to stop putting money into it in favor of spending it to “change the minds” of the nearly 100% of foreigners who hate, despise, and revile Americans. Rooney overstates his case on how hated we are around the globe. Make no mistake, there are lots of folks who do, but there are plenty who view us favorably or – this keeps getting missed – don’t care about us 1 way or the other. Polls on the matter are some of his premises, however, not his conclusion. The conclusion (unspoken here) is that we can attain the goal of security for ourselves without resort to military force at all. That we can keep people from attempting us harm by changing their minds about… well, about the fact that they want to do us harm. With that conclusion now serving as a premise, he adds the unspoken premise that attaining any goal with military force is the bad option and should be avoided at all costs and arrives at the conclusion, spoken, that we should therefore spend our resources not on military actions but on methods to change the minds of those that wish us harm.

Assume for the moment that we’re going to accept that conclusion completely. The first step in proceeding with such a plan is to determine why “they” wish to harm us. After all, you can’t very well change their minds if you don’t know 1) where their minds are now and 2) why their minds are where they are. Have they given us any hints? Sure they have. The most outspoken of the people that want us dead have had all manner of reasons. Our filthy infidel feet are standing on ground they claim as their own. Our filthy infidel friends, the Israelis, aren’t evaporating into thin air and leaving all their lands to the Palestinians. (Better they not actually evaporate, but rather suffer an incredibly painful withering disease that disolves them, screaming, into piles of cash. But hey, why quibble?) Our filthy infidel manufactured products are showing up in their marketplaces, forcing their pristine peoples to buy them and listen to music, watch TV, and wear clothes that don’t look like they were produced in the 16th century. Finally, our filthy infidel lifestyles are being paraded around showing women who can expect to vote, hold property, not be raped and killed at a moment’s notice, and people in general who can follow whatever religious path they choose without fear.

That’s the real issue here. The fact of the matter is that if their people really believed that radios, TV’s, and CD players were hugely bad, they wouldn’t buy them. And they don’t really care that Americans are on the ground in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region so long as those Americans are spending money and helping them build better oil production facilities. They might also hate the Israelis, but it appears that they don’t really believe that killing Americans will change the Israelis one bit. Ah, but that part about the lifestyle… The imams and mullahs have made it quite clear in their writings and fatwahs what they think about our freedom of religion and the freedoms our women citizens enjoy here. Lightly ignored by our media is their viewpoint and reaction to homosexuals of all stripes – they want them killed. Their tolerance of abuse of children – and I refer primarily to sexual abuse of girls – is also documented but not portayed in our media very prominently. We stand in opposition to their stance on these matters, not just culturally but by law. There are those of our society who don’t, of course, but these represent the minority and their actions are not protected by law or society in general. For these people that wish us harm, these views are considered the norm. They are considered correct and are endorsed by their religious authorities.

So I ask you: which of your religious beliefs can an avowed opponent convince you to give up or overlook?

Holiday Travel & Holiday Wishes

Well, we made it to the northern tundras of Ohio and, as of Sunday afternoon, they’re living up to the name. The dry temperature was about 15 degrees F (if the old thermometer is still working right) and the wind chill made it… well, it was a damn sight colder than that. Nothing like up in North Dakota, where I hear it hit close to -30 with the wind chill or Wisconsin where some places were -15 but still cold enough for this 15-year resident of Virginia. What is considered a light flurry has left about 1.5 – 2 inches of snow on the ground here today with more projected to fall later tonight and early tomorrow. That kind of forecast would be sending my neighbors in Virginia into a panic and have them calling out the National Guard. To say nothing of the projected 12-13 inches falling in Cleveland right now. (Better them than me…)

I have been reading on a variety of my favorite blogs about the attempts in many circles to remove the concept of Christ from Christmas and, indeed, Christmas from the holiday vocabulary at all. I’ve been paying attention to the greetings offered me by the various people I meet, specifically those in the stores as I shop and those in the public service sector. Seems they’re right: hardly anyone has said “Merry Christmas” to me this year, mostly substituting “Happy Holidays” instead. I’m not sure I buy the ACLU conspiracy theories, however. Now, there’s no denying the continous efforts of the ACLU to remove any and all references to Christianity from public life. I am interested in hearing if they’ve been as diligent in their efforts to keep all manner of Jewish or Muslim references from being mentioned in public settings as well, but that’s the price of blogging off-line: I can’t go check. To the point, however, I think it’s more a matter of the kind of lives we lead these days that’s seeing the change in greetings.

Once upon a time, 2 holidays separated by a week were far enough apart that one didn’t begin talking about the second until the first was past. Within my lifetime, I’ve seen the beginning of Christmas decorations and shopping move ever earlier in the year. As a boy I remember quite well that you absolutely, positively did not see a Christmas tree go up until the day after thanksgiving at the earliest. Not putting up trees and wreaths until 2 weeks before Christmas was as common an event as putting them up earlier. This year I went to the local Mall and saw JC Penney’s had Christmas signs and decor up the week before Halloween. Halloween! Passing up Thanksgiving was a few years ago, but to reach over a month further back into the year and get past Halloween? What’s next, Fireworks and Christmas trees displayed on the Mall in DC in July?

So when I hear someone wishing me “Happy Holidays” these days, it’s not jut Christmas they’re talking about. They’ve included New Years in on the deal and, more often these days, Thanksgiving as well. I’m serious. I got a “Happy Holidays” from a clerk in a store this year and we both knew she was referring to everything between then and the end of the year. Conspiracy? No. Laziness? Oh yeah. It’s way too much effort to remember that we’re approaching Thanksgiving and say “Happy Thanksgiving.” Then to recall that the day after it’s “Merry Christmas” until December 26th. Then “Happy New Year.” Just a quick “Happy Holidays” covers all those bases and you don’t even have to look at the calendar.

I do honestly believe there are people working very hard to suppress any public affirmation of spirituality that references a specific religion. (Christianity, mostly, but since the vast majority of America is Christian, that’s the one you’re likely going to hear the most about.) But I don’t think the rank-and-file of store clerks and managers are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas. I think they’re just not taking the time. The best way to get them to notice it is to notice it ourselves. I’ve made a point of wishing people I meet “Merry Christmas” and some have responded in kind. And that’s fine with me.

Was It Really Close?

I have more than a few liberal friends and colleagues out here and I get along with all of them for the most part. The election this year has actually strained some of the relationships, I’m sad to say. I keep getting the impression that they’re expecting me to pull out a huge crucifix from my jacket and repeatedly beat the nearest gay person over the head with it. While that topic of conversation has already been explored, the one that finally got out of my mouth this week was the insistant claim from one of these folks that the President’s second term isn’t really going to be legitimate because the results were so close.

Now I’ve been putting up with that one for over a month and I finally turned to him and asked him to explain himself. The defining factor in winning an election being that you get more votes than anyone else running, how can the winner’s presidency be illegitimate even though he won the election? His reply to me was that the vote had been so razor-close that Bush – and anyone who supported him – should recognize that for almost every person who voted for him, there’s one who voted against him. After all, it was “51 to 49″ in the end. (His words.)

Well, let’s address something right away: According to the results posted from the popular vote counts, there were 118,304,480 votes cast between Bush, Kerry and Nader. Bush took 60,608,582 (51.2%), Kerry took 57,288,974 (48.4%), and Nader took 406,924 (0.3%). So even if you’re going to use the simple, rounded percentages, it’s “51 to 48″, not 49. But I have a problem with using the percentages like this at all to describe how close the vote was. My friend is using the numbers and saying it’s so close as though we’re talking about 100 people. Now if we’re talking about 100 people and only 3 need to change their minds, then that’s close. How many individuals need to move from supporting 1 candidate to another in this case? Three. Not terribly difficult to see 3 people change their minds.

But we’re not talking about 100 people. We’re talking about 118 million people. That’s a bit over 3.3 million voters, half of whom would need to have changed their minds and that’s not close. The percentages are what’s misleading about the closeness of the race. Want an example of what I mean? Thow a dart at a target. Let’s say you’re aiming dead center of the bullseye but throw it just 3% to the side of your intended target. If you’re standing 20 feet away, that 3% means you strike 7.2 inches to the side of the center target. At 200 feet, that’s 72 inches , or 6 feet. Still 3%, but now you’ve not only missed a regulation target, you’d have skipped over the one directly beside it, too. Ask someone from NASA or anyone involved in long-distance navigation what they think about a 3% difference in their intended course versus their actual course. The Cassini probe left from Earth to Saturn. A 3% off-course condition even assuming a straight line at the closest approach between these two planets, would cause you to be off by 406,020,000 km on arrival. That’s over 3 times the diameter of Saturn. That ain’t close.

The problem comes when you use the percentages alone as a guage. As I said, it’s misleading.

Now the argument my friend hasn’t used – and one that would be far more compelling – is that you’d only need half of the difference in Ohio to do the same job, about 60,000 voters. While that’s still no small deal to convince that many people, it’s a great deal more possible than converting 1.6 million voters . But if this is your approach, why are we not calling any of Kerry’s State wins into question? Oregon, for example, where there was only 67,000 vote difference. You’d only have needed to change 34,000 voters’ minds. Or Hawaii, showing a difference of 47,000. You’d only need 24,000 voters. How about Wisconsin where there was only an 11,000 voter difference? Only 6000 needed to go for Bush over Kerry to change that State. Or New Hampshire, where the difference was just under 10,000? Curiously absent in any debate on the topic are these “squeakers” for Kerry.

The bottom line is that voters of all stripes are independently thinking items, not random beans for the counting. Talk about the closeness of the matter as a method of determining how to govern is a non-issue in any case. The men ran on platforms to do certain things and work toward certain ends. That the winner seems willing to stick to his word on the subject and do what he claimed he’d do should be something to be encouraged of all our political electee’s.

Good bye, Sarge…

Sgt. Hook has been on my must-read list for months, since before he deployed to Afghanistan. His reports on the ground there were an invaluable source in an area where – shall we say – you’re not hearing much from these days on the nightly news. (Amazing how that happened since the elections and President Karzai’s inauguration, isn’t it?) Hook returned home recently after having been “kicked upstairs”. His promotion to Sgt. Major Hook resulted in the unforseen event that his unit in Afghanistan didn’t have a slot for his position any more. That, and as Hook was to find out, his training of his subordinates had produced a crop of up-and-coming Sergeants that needed a shot at being “Top.” So, ahead of schedule, he returned to his home on the Paradise of the Pacific, Hawaii.

I noted over on Smash‘s site that Hook had decided to call it quits with the blog. To say I was stunned didn’t cover the emotion at all. Following the link Smash left, I posted a comment asking him to reconsider.

It appears now I was too late.

I hope he reconsiders and returns. His was a valued perspective and his departure is felt by a larger number than he knows. Until then, aloha, Sgt. Hook.

Via: Smash, Blackfive

Good News From Afghanistan – Updated!

Chrenkoff comes through again with more good news. This time it’s Afghanistan where there are stories of a new democracy you’re likely not going to hear from the MSM. Yes, indeed, that Afghanistan. I’ll comment more after I’ve read it.

Update: I just had to highlight this section of Chrenkoff’s post for the benefit of certain of my family members who read this. Check out where this guy’s going to school! (Ha!)

:::::::: …read this truly inspirational story from “USA Today”‘s Walter Shaprio:

“On a reporting trip to Afghanistan in December 2001, six weeks after the Taliban was routed, I met Jawad Sepehri Joya at a Red Cross rehabilitation facility in Kabul. Although he was just 16 and confined to a wheelchair because of polio, Jawad was not a patient. Instead, he was working at his part-time job programming computers for the Red Cross. And in near flawless English, this young man – who had never attended any school, who had been illiterate until 1998 and who had never left Kabul – earnestly confided that he wanted to go to college in America.”

Jawad is now attending Earlham college in Indiana on full scholarship.