Wednesday, September 27, 2006

An Evening with Elie Wiesel take 1

My father managed to score a couple of standby tickets to Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel's lecture at Viterbo College in La Crosse and we were fortunate to get in. While we ended up in the Black Box theater in the basement watching it by very poor quality TV feed, it was quite an occasion. It was announced it was the largest turnout in the 35 years of hosting such lectures and the atmosphere was electric with anticipation. It started out with an emotional performance of "The Cry", a Jewish folk song, on the viola. Following that, a wonderful prayer was given by Rabbit Saul Prombaum and the Spirit could be felt powerfully, setting the mood for the night. The lady most involved in getting Mr. Wiesel to speak there introduced him by referencing the first time she saw him speak several years ago. Darryle Clott mentioned that up until then, the biggest moment of her life had been when she'd seen Elvis perform and crashed the police barricade to get to the front of the stage.

Elie was greatly amused by this, he'd never been compared to Elvis before. The afore mentioned music and prayer had deeply touched him, leading him to mention if felt like it was a special night. What followed was a special night, with what was supposed to be a symposium on the Holocaust branching out into something more like a revival meeting. I was surprised by the frank and unabashed spirituality of his talk which touched deeply on his relationship with God and how we should treat one another. The Holocaust was talked about in relation to other subjects and was an ever present backdrop, but the main word that kept being repeated was "moral." The gist of his charming and sincere presentation was that humanity needs to be more moralistic in confronting hate. We must take action and never stand idly by.

All in all it was a wonderful night and I'll go into more detail in a future post, after watching the program again. WKBT Channel 8 will be showing it at 10:35 Saturday night and I plan to record it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

After being really ill for the past week, I've had time to think on the whole subject of being disabled by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I usually don't like to think about it much, as just dealing with it eats enough precious time as it is. But I've been so sick that I haven't been able to read anything of depth, whether it be scriptures, non-fiction, editorials, or fiction. Even TV shows and movies have been hard to focus on this week. So I've been left to think about things and contemplate things (cue ominous music). Or not so ominous, just a good Animals tune.

One thing that jumped out at me is how relatively healthy people simply can't comprehend the disability I have. I don't "look" sick, I'm not in a wheelchair, I'm not walking with braces, I don't have hair falling out... In other words it isn't apparent to the naked eye. Oh there are times I am pale as a ghost, had my father worried the one night I went out to get some things done this week, but most of the time I look normal. This leads to people thinking I don't try hard enough, or that it is in my head, or I'm just lazy. Oh the irony in the last, as I have a very bad tendency to push with every ounce of energy I've got. Which isn't always the smartest thing to do as it makes me even more ill, but there's that whole being "type A personality" thing I've got going. So I end up being misunderstood, which adds insult to injury on occasion. I can't stand being misunderstood.

Interestingly enough, this line of thinking takes me to the spiritual side of things. So I'm not understood, perhaps thought less of -- does this give me the right to be angry about it? Not really. Jesus Christ taught us that we must forgive others in order to be forgiven ourselves (Matt 6:14-15, Luke 6:37). Not always the easiest thing to do, but a necessary thing to do lest bitterness creep into my soul. I often think, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34) when I run into people who wronged me in the past or who are wronging others. So much cruelty and meanness comes from simple ignorance or unwillingness to walk in another's shoes. Even more comes from the simple sin of not thinking at all, for reason is one of our more Divine gifts and when exercised properly leads to compassion and caring. It also can lead to forgiveness.

I'll finish this post with a quote from Doctrine and Covenants, section 64, verses 10-11:

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts -- let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.

Something to contemplate on a sunny Sabbath day.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


While addled by being really ill, first thing I ran into on the net today was this little horror story about what happened Alistair Cooke's remains. There is an astounding problem with medical ethics these days, ranging from organ donations to research fraud. But this takes the cake, it is ghoulish in the true sense of the word. Grave robbing is what I consider it to be. Meanwhile, I discovered the teens who tried to dig up a young woman's corpse for sex won't face any sexual deviancy charges. It turns out there is no law in Wisconsin against necrophilia.

And here I thought the Romans were bad.

Testing BOINC stats

Being ill right now, hence the lack of posting. Trying out something meant for message board signatures to see if it will work here at all. I've found a decent distributed computing app called BOINC and have my dual core AMD PC crunching data for a variety of projects...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11: The Aftermath

We now know that El Qaeda believes they were the ones who brought the Soviet Union down. This is predicated on the idea that the war in Afghanistan bankrupted the USSR. So Reagan's policies had no effect? Amazingly dumb thinking on their part. We also know that Osama thought taking down the WTC would devastate the US economy. So much so it would collapse completely. The latest dispatch from El Qaeda talks about how the war in Iraq is bringing our economy to ruination. Once again, amazingly dumb. It also had a call for all Americans to convert to Islam, which makes every one of us fair game if we don't. This shows that they think they have the way to beat us and they are in it for the long term. It is a step towards the global caliphate, when the whole world is forced to convert to Islam.

Yet so many people in America (and the rest of the West) simply don't get it. They think that we are the bad guys, that we are evil and have persecuted the downtrodden Arabs at the Jews behest. Aside from the lunatic fringe conspiracy theories about Jews, there is a hatred of Christians who actually profess their faith while being in public office. I've run into so much hatred and histrionics from leftists that I despair about the Democratic Party ever returning to rationality.

But it isn't just the far left who are wavering, a lot of people in the middle are too. Maybe being overly educated has become a problem. My theory is that we've gotten so civilized, we've forgotten the majority of the world is still barbaric and riven by tribal and regional violence. The presumption is that they think like we do, which they very obviously don't. What seems reasonable to us is insane or corrupt to them; what we consider crazy and violent is considered normal in their circles. Amongst the greatest of mistakes humans make is to think that others think in the same manner they do. You'd think married couples would have figured out this isn't true, given the different ways the sexes think! But it applies to different cultures as well.

It is time to start thinking about the way radical Islamists think and start communicating to them in their own language. Unfortunately, that language is one punctuated by bullets, comma'd by threats, and uses bombs for exclamation marks. Which means we are going to have to become a more hardened people if we are to survive. We'll never love death the way radical Muslims do, so I don't see us becoming blood thirsty by nature. But we must tolerate more civilian casualties on the other side and more military casualties on our side. Otherwise, we'll see a lot more civilian deaths on our side.

The wheels of history are in full motion right now, so I think a lot of very bad things are unstoppable now simply because we have been terribly short sighted in the West. The enemy thinks in the long term and has been patiently maneuvering for decades. That's something we need to learn, how to operate and plan for the long term. That will require a massive change to our culture and those things don't happen overnight. Or, when a massive catastrophe happens. I'd prefer it not to be the latter, so we must remain steadfast and vigilant.

9/11 continued

We managed to tear ourselves away from the TV set as the WTC towers burned and headed to the small clinic in Spring Grove to check in with the family doctor before heading to Gunderson Clinic in La Crosse. When we arrived there, the latest news was that the Pentagon had just been hit by another plane and several others had been hijacked. The Capitol was being evacuated and so was the White House. I turned to my dad and said, "It's war." He agreed and the fear in the rest of the waiting room was tangible. At that point, I felt complete calm as I usually do during times of crisis. Dad and I discussed the idea that we were experiencing the feelings people had when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened.

At Gunderson, it was more of the same, except a flight was reported down in the woods of Pennsylvania. After the tests, we headed home instead of shopping. We got home in time to see the towers collapse, adding new horror to the day. The shock of that happening could be heard in the voices of the reporters and anchors as they realized there wouldn't be anymore rescues. That's when I began to get angry, Bin Laden had finally succeeded, a man we could have killed many times before when the Clinton administration was playing games.

But there was something bugging me already and I discussed it with my parents. It was that I was sure the American public would forget this day due to the complete softness of the Western mind. They'd go back to life as usual once the MTV sized attention span wandered and the political left sued for peace. Even then, it was apparent how contemptibly weak we are as a culture and how the enemy is fully aware of and is using it. We have freedom but not the will to protect it once faced with a long, drawn out war.

Today, we are faced with the Democratic Party doing just what I'd feared, wanting to pull back on everything and talking. Talking hasn't worked with militant Muslims, it has been an abject failure unless backed up by force. Culturally speaking, force is what is admired and respected in Islam, it is an integral part of spreading the religion and can't be separated from it. The war in Iraq was a noble attempt to introduce the virus of western freedoms and culture, but it was done on the cheap. Why? Fear of public opinion and the Democratic Party taking advantage of discontent.

So what does that mean in the overall scheme of things? It means we will not be firm in resolve until we are hit again. Inevitably, we will get hit again because they will not stop attacking until we convert to Islam, or they are utterly broken. To utterly break them will require killing millions at a minimum, or having western ideals corrupt them. Disengagement will only encourage them that they are winning.

Someone Who Gets It

I'm not a fan of Frank Miller's comic book work, I find it overly sexed, overly violent, and overly stylized. Some of his early work was good, but he became a superstar in that industry and I think that leads to a lack of discipline and an increase in excess in artists. That said, he wrote and recorded an essay for NPR that is quite good. I particularly liked this part:

Patriotism, I now believe, isn't some sentimental, old conceit. It's self-preservation. I believe patriotism is central to a nation's survival. Ben Franklin said it: If we don't all hang together, we all hang separately. Just like you have to fight to protect your friends and family, and you count on them to watch your own back.

People don't realize it, but we are in a fight for survival and the odds don't look to good for us. Islam is much closer to world domination than it appears, for it only takes a certain percentage of people in a nation to rule it. They just have to be ruthless, focused, and extremely violent. The rest will follow out of fear, history shows that.


Like most bloggers on this fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I'm writing about that fateful day. Unlike many Americans, I refuse to ignore the photos, the footage, and the bad memories of the attacks. Those who willfully try to bury it so that they can "heal" are in terrible error, the kind of error that will guarantee defeat in what is really a massive cultural war. I've heard it said that Islamic fundamentalists are a small minority of Muslims, with a conservative estimate of ten percent (likely more). So, what is ten percent of 1.2 billion? That's over one hundred million. This is a war they started long ago and one that will drag on for decades if it continues to stay a low level war. So we must look at those pictures of still living people jumping and falling from the WTC towers, we must look at the wounded and maimed at the embassy bombings, and we must remember if we are to prevail!

Five years ago, my family was preparing to take my mother to the clinic to try to get to the root of her breathing problems. At the time, I couldn't drive and neither could she, so it was up to my dad to be the sole provider of transportation. So there was milling about, as trips to La Crosse were all day affairs with shopping wedged into the schedule. We turned on the DirecTV receiver and tuned into the CBS affiliate we got from satellite. At that time it was the one in New York City and they were showing live footage of the World Trade Center. Apparently a small plane had flown into one of the towers and it was being called an accident. I said it was probably a terrorist attack, as there had been talk of them using private planes loaded with explosives for some time. For some years I'd been keeping track of Islamic terrorists and the failed Millennium plot, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the assassination of the Northern Alliance warlord Massoud a few days earlier had my antenna up. Right away, Osama Bin Laden came to mind with his obsession at destroying the towers being well known.

As we were watching the live footage with the airheaded anchors babbling on, I saw a jet streak into the other tower. I said "That was another plane." Then I began ranting at the idiots on air to shut up and roll back the tape, while telling my parents another plane had hit the WTC. I knew it was Bin Laden and that the first plane hadn't been a small one like they'd said. We watched a little longer and I knew we were at war, one that probably would last the rest of my life.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Victory for the Little Guy

Great news for those of us concerned about government spending and earmark abuses, Bill S2590 aka the Coburn-Obama bill passed the Senate unanimously. A big thank you to the bloggers of all political persuasions who worked on finding the identities of the two senators who placed holds on it. Now we will have some accountability on spending that is long overdue!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Romney Acting Presidential

It is always fun to predict who will be the front runners for a presidential election and lately Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is emerging from the pack. Hugh Hewitt noticed that Mitt had issued a wonderful press release denying state protection to former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami when he lectures on the eve of 9/11 at Harvard. If only President Bush had the intestinal fortitude to buck the State Department and bar this fundamentalist from our country! Unfortunately, the State Department still believes Khatami is a moderate and probably think they are wooing the moderates in Iran. The same people who are being forced out of all positions of power in government and education right now. But that's State, they are controlled by bureaucrats who believe that talking can solve every problem.

Enough with that, I want to talk about Gov. Romney. Despite his accomplishments in turning around the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and taking a firm stand for conservative positions on gay marriage and health care reform, I admit I was suspicious of him. The reason why may surprise some -- it is because he is a Latter-day Saint. Now why would I be so wary of someone who is of the same faith I hold? It took me awhile to figure that out myself and no, it isn't just because Harry Reid is LDS too.

It is because I hold Mormons to a higher standard than I do other people. Our faith is more rigorous than most and more demanding of the individual due to our emphasis on accountability. As a result, I expect more honesty and compassion out of my fellow Church members, especially the active ones. More is expected of us due to our Church having a lay ministry and I'd like to think that we improve as people due to that service. Then there is an added layer of the history of persecution of Latter-day Saints, leading to a feeling that we will never be fully accepted by others, yet yearning for that very acceptance.

I wonder if Roman Catholics had the same feelings about John F. Kennedy when it first became apparent he would be seeking the nomination?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Heck of a Way to Start a Labor Day

The world is a tiny bit darker today, as I just read that Steve Irwin was killed by a giant stingray while filming off the Great Barrier Reef. World famous as "The Crocodile Hunter", he was always a lot of fun to watch when pursuing dangerous wild animals. While some cringed at his enthusiastic boyishness, it was clear that he really loved animals. After so many close calls, it is a shock that he died while filming a tame segment for a children's show. I suspect he never even saw the buried stingray and the hit from its barb was an astronomically high rarity. My sympathies and prayers are with his family.