Saturday, February 22, 2003

Gods & Generals
Mrs. F and I are off this afternoon to see Gods & Generals, the prequel to the excellent Gettysburg.

I love movies like this, because they employ thousands of re-enactors, and I am one (though not a Civil War one). My own credits include A&E's The American Revolution, several Biographies, The Road From Runnymeade, and George Washington: The Man Who Would Not Be King, though sadly not The Patriot. I would have enjoyed being associated with that project, but the call never came, probably because I am not in the union. They did take some liberties I would not have been comfortable with, though.

With an AmRev movie, I'd be much nitpickier than I will be with a civil war movie. For the record, I spent a weekend as a guest of Berdan's Sharpshooters 8 years ago, but that is my only civil war re-enacting experience. So I can review Gods & Generals with more detachment and less concern for detail (Did they get the uniforms exactly right? Was this unit there then?) and can back up to the level of, "Did they capture the feel of re-enacted battle well?". Gettysburg was superb in that regard, especially the Little Round Top scene.

So, sometime next month I should be able to tell you something about Gods & Generals (kidding; it is nearly 4 hours long).

Friday, February 21, 2003

Twenty Percent of South Africans HIV+

The Cocoanut Grove Fire
The tragedy in Rhode Island reminds us of the terrible loss of life at Boston's Cocoanut Grove nightclub in 1942.

On the night of the fire, November 28, 1942, the club had approximately 1,000 occupants, many of whom were people preparing to go overseas on military duty. A lighted match used by an employee in changing a light bulb has been considered the possible cause for this tragic fire, which took 492 lives. Almost half of the occupants were killed, and many were seriously injured. Flammable decorations spread the fire rapidly. Men and women were reported to have clawed inhumanly in an effort to get out of the building. The two revolving doors at the main entrance had bodies stacked four and five deep after the fire was brought under control. Authorities estimated that possibly 300 of those killed could have been saved had the doors swung outward. It should be noted that the capacity of the structure had also been exceeded.

An aunt and uncle of mine were in the nightclub that night, but left an hour or so before the fire broke out. I believe the Cocoanut Grove was the deadliest nightclub fire in US history. Last night's at The Station becomes the second deadliest in New England history.

What will come out of this tragedy? Probably the result will be just the common sense rule of no pyrotechnics indoors. At least 65 dead, just to get that obvious common sense rule. Anyone with active brain cells could have made that rule before this.

Iraq Prepares To Defend
They are building field fortifications around Baghdad, dispersing jets, placing tanks and anti-aircraft artillery in civilian-occupied areas, and probably making preparations to destroy their oil industry, oil fields, dams and other infrastructure. This may look like the Anglo-American advance into Germany in 1945, but substantially speeded up. Since Saddam cares nothing for the future of the Iraqi people after he is gone, he will certainly make use of whatever options are open to him to slow us down or deprive us of the fruits of victory.

He Can Run, And He Can Hide. But He Can't Do Both And Run The Iraqi Government.

US Forces To See Combat In Philippines
US forces have been tasked with combat operations in support of the Philippine army's efforts to wipe out the Philippines' al Qaeda branch known as Abu Sayyaf. US forces advised and supported some successful Philippine Army operations against Abu Sayyaf last year. Now, larger numbers of US Green Berets and Marines will directly engage the Moslem guerilla/terrorist gang in unconventional warfare operations.

Abu Sayyaf's members have received training in al Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and have been conducting a terrorist campaign against non-Moslems in the Philippine province of Sulu (no Star Trek jokes, please). Abu Sayyaf is estimated to have some 300 remaining members. An Abu Sayyaf bomb killed a Green Beret last October.

The Bush administration has declared Abu Sayyaf a terrorist organization. A decade ago, when the group was founded with a goal to create an Islamic state, Osama bin Laden sent a brother-in-law to work with the group. He provided money and sought to arrange a merger between Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a much larger and more powerful group in the Philippines.

U.S. and Philippine intelligence officials have said the relationship never developed, and Abu Sayyaf degenerated into thugs who kidnapped for ransom.

The group kidnapped several Americans, including Martin and Gracia Burnham, missionaries from Kansas. Martin Burnham was killed during a botched rescue by Philippine soldiers on June 7. Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap also died; Gracia Burnham was wounded and has since returned to the United States.

Some U.S. officials believe that in recent months, Abu Sayyaf has established connections with Jemaah Islamiyah, a radical Islamic network that seeks establishment of an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.

One of the Worst Fire Disasters In New England In a Long Time
This morning we woke up to reports that a West Warwick, RI nightclub packed with some 300 people for a Great White concert burned to the ground in a matter of minutes last night. Some fireworks used by the heavy metal band apparently ignited styrofoam in the ceiling. At least 39 people are dead. Over 160 people were injured (around 2/3 of the occupants of the building are apparently dead or injured).

This is the second nightclub disaster this week. A stampede at a Chicago nightclub killed 21 and injured 50 after a guard used pepper spray to break up a fight.

Our prayers for all those who died in both situations, their families, and all those injured.

Update: The death toll is now confirmed at at least 60.

Update: As of 2:45 pm, the death toll had hit 85 and was expected to climb higher. The simple fact is that no one is sure just how many people were in The Station at the time.

Update: As of 6:30, the number who died has climbed to 95. The number injured was 187. About 56 people seem to have escaped unharmed. The club had a capacity of 300. If that 300 includes staff, the club was over the certified capacity. There seems to have been a police detail on duty at the club.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Father McDonagh Returns
There is little to praise in this story. McDonagh went too far in his opposition to Cardinal Law before he was suspended. But the allegation against him was based on such slender evidence that no prosecutor would have sought an indictment based solely on it. It is nice to see that McDonagh persevered through the ordeal. The parish survived, too, but in a state of rebellion.

And I'm not sure whether I can believe this:

Believe it or not, McDonagh says that until the scandal broke, he never realized that there were pedophile priests. ''I always knew who the drunks were, and the bad priests, the ones who didn't do their jobs.'' As for pedophilia: ''I was an ignorant idiot. I never associated the priesthood with that kind of activity.''

What I take away from this and the preceeding blog (Peter Gelzinis' priest source) is that the ranks of the Boston priesthood are full of men who take their intellectual and spiritual guidance from a rather haphazard variety of sources. There are few Father Rutlers, Father Wilsons, Father Schalls, or Father Fessios among them. But they do try to live Christian lives within their vows. The vast majority try to be good pastors, as they understand the concept (limited as that is by their training). That understanding is usually not informed by exposure to the growing "Let's get serious again" tone. All too often the frivilous psycho-babble of popular culture enters their vocabulary and how they see themselves. Their understanding is often superficial (as is the understanding of the world they live in). But they are what we have to work with. They would all benefit spiritually from an end to the Bing Crosby-Spencer Tracy model of priest-as-social-worker that has been prevalent for 60 years and more.

Concentration on the provision of the sacraments, saying Mass, preaching the Gospel, and administering their parishes (which, with the decline in the numbers of priests will increasingly be all they have time for) would be a healthy thing. The society needs prophets to testify against our sins, to warn us of the consequences of Satan's efforts. The society also needs the example of holy men utterly withdrawn from contemporary society; Vianneys, not Bernadins. Men who shun the corruption of the popular culture, not men who ransack it for relevant metaphors.

A Boston Priest Laments The Lack of Leadership
In today's Boston Herald, columnist Peter Gelzinis reports on one anonymous priest's views on the lack of leadership the Archdiocese is currently suffering with. Lawyers calling the shots, a sense of despair, combined with finger-pointing, the lack of any sort of good defense (there is none), and a power vaccuum on Lake Street all contribute to this sense that the Archdiocese is drifting steadily downward.

The priest quoted has some liberal tendencies, as we can see here:

The relationship between bishops, cardinals and the people will change . . . because it must.''

Not necessarily. How bishops conduct themselves and how they view their office has to change, as Father Wilson so ably pointed out in an essay I linked to yesterday.

But despite that, I think this priest sees some of the problems fairly clearly:

``Rich Lennon is a nice guy,'' he said, ``but he's no leader. There's the sense we're treading water right now . . . and not doing that very well. Nobody really knows what he (Bishop Lennon) is doing.

``It's not nearly enough to have him appear in those careful choreographed photo ops, show him smoking a pipe and like I said, keep suggesting he's a nice guy.

``We're in the middle of a trauma, the likes of which nobody around here has ever experienced. We can't go on conceding things to lawyers like Wilson Rogers, or that other guy . . . Owen Todd. They shouldn't be left to run the show.

``And if they've got something in the way of a plan,'' the priest added, ``all it seems to be is tie things up in court and hope that sooner or later the plaintiffs lawyers will eventually dry up. Not much of a strategy, but there it is.''

Of course, when huge damage awards hang over an institution of large but finite resources, the lawyers do tend to dictate things. The financial impact of the Scandal hangs over the Archdiocese like a Sword of Damocles. Is this school seeing a drop in enrollment? Close it to save money. Can we open a new medical facility for the needy? No, can't risk the money now. How about teaching more priests Spanish to more effectively reach the growing Hispanic population? No, it might cost money.

Of course delay is the preferred course for lawyers on the defense. Better to spend 100 million dollars six months from now than now. The longer the reckoning can be put off, the better, as far as the insurance companies are concerned. And the insurance companies will put up the bulk of the eventual settlement. So they do, in fact, call the shots of this litigation.

The simple fact is that, despite what we were told about Bishop Lennon being given full powers as an Apostolic Administrator, he is not able to lead the Archdiocese forward. He is a caretaker, and knows that he is. The litigation hangs over every aspect of his job. He knows that his one job is to settle the litigation, and then hand over to a new Archbishop. But settling the litigation at as low a cost as possible is a job that would make a less prayerful man than Bishop Lennon despair.

The Archdiocese needs to get this litigation behind it (and be sure that there are not another 300-400 claims waiting to be filed). An unhappy omen was last year's settlement with 86 victims of Father Geoghan. As soon as it was settled, Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer who represented those victims, filed a new suit on behalf of more Geoghan victims. Only bankruptcy can force all claims to be brought within a set time frame, and make the litigation managable. But the Archdiocese dares not take that step.

This situation can only drift further to the detriment of he Archdiocese and the practise of the Faith in Greater Boston without some decisive action.

German Justice Inadequate
The accomplice of the September 11th terrorists convicted in a German court on about 3,000 counts of accessory to murder got the maximum sentence: 15 years.

"Al-Shehhi said, 'There will be thousands of dead,' and the defendant said, 'We will dance on their graves,' " Judge Mentz said, citing witness testimony.

To make matters worse, he will probably only serve about 10 years. At age 28, that means he may very well be out of prison before he turns 40. He will still be young enough to do that dancing. Fifteen years for helping to murder over 3,000 people does not even begin to exact the punishment due for such harm. This is one of those cases in which simple justice cries out for the death penalty. Failing that, concurrent life setences, so that he never sees the light of day, would be appropriate. In Germany's too liberal criminal justice system, even those given life sentences often serve no more than 15 years.

There is a saying that, "In the halls of justice, the only justice is in the halls." Informal means of punishing crimes, outside the realm of the official sentence, are well known. When the law is a ass, there is little choice. One hopes that the US intelligence services have some discreet contacts within the German prison system, and that they make sure el Motassadeq does not live to be released on parole ten years from now.

That would not be just a matter of vengence, but a matter of national security. El Motassadeq will be young enough on release to still do harm, and is unlikely to come out of prison any less a terrorist. The problem with the al Qaeda prisoners is that they are not like members of the Wehrmacht, who could be released after Germany was defeated, Hitler was dead, and the Nazi party destroyed. Their cause is not tied to any state, or even to bin Laden personally. It is a cause they have stored up individually in their hearts and minds. They will be no less a threat when the "war is over". In fact, while they live and are capable of acting against the US or training or inflaming the minds of others, the war will never be over.

Negotiations With Turkey Push Offensive Back
The Washington Times Rowan Scarborough reports that the start of the offensive on Iraq has been pushed back to mid-March, because the negotiations with Turkey for use of that country as a jumping-off point are dragging. Also, the Pentagon has been slow in deploying units (probably because the 4th Division has no place to go yet).

Just the other day, it became clear that the sticking point with Turkey has nothing to do with geo-political concerns, but centers on how large an aid package the US will give it. Maybe it is time to give the Turks what they ask for, since further delay means US forces will be very uncomfortable fighting in summer heat in NBC equipment. Sparing them that is worth a few billion.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Catholic Radio Host Al Kresta In Serious Need of Prayer
Catholic radio show host Al Kresta has developed some sort of flesh-eating bacteria. His leg has been amputated, but doctors are not sure if that will save him. Be sure to remember him and his family in your prayers.

John Derbyshire Almost Ready To Admit It Will Happen
For months now, National Review's John Derbyshire has been a skeptic on the will of the US to actually do unto Saddam before he does unto us, and on whether Tony Blair's Britian would be really coming along for the ride. But events are moving in such a way that he is preparing to back down from those views.

Being skeptical of the will of modern Western democracies to protect themselves is healthy, and often right (look at lonely prophet Michael Ledeen and the issue of Iran). A good dose of such skepticism taken well in advance of the onset of Munich Syndrome symptoms serves as a preventative.

No More "French" Fries
And Salisbury Steak got its name in World War I, because Brits no longer wanted to call it Hamburg (A German city).

Read this all-too-true reflection on what the office of bishop is like in reality in the US today. E-mail it to every thinking Catholic you know. Father Wilson pulls no punches. This is a telling indictment of the American Catholic bishops. Would that it were not so, but everything I have observed tells me it is thus.

Thanks to neighbor Domenico Bettinelli for the link.

Role Of Pius XII In Trying To Prevent Persecution of the Jews Further Documented
The Vatican Archives have released an April, 1933 letter drafted by then-Cardinal Pacelli (secretary of state to Pius XI) to the papal nuncio in Berlin directing him use his best efforts to appeal to the new German government not to persecute Jews.

"Important Israeli personalities have appealed to the Holy Father to ask for his intervention against the danger of anti-Semitic excesses in Germany,"

"Given that it is part of the traditions of the Holy See to carry out its mission of universal peace and charity toward all men, regardless of the social or religious condition to which they belong, by offering, if necessary, its charitable offices, the Holy Father asks your Excellency to see if and how it is possible to be involved in the desired way."

So much for the contention that Pius XII never spoke up in favor of the Jews or other victims of Hitler's bloodthirsty manias.

We've Been Getting Better Cooperation From Jordan, Saudi Arabia, & Turkey Than From France, Germany, & Belgium
That really should not surprise anybody. Old Europe has been dragging its heels on this because the collapse of the Iraqi regime will show the world that France, Belgium, and Germany have been deeply complicit in forbidden weapons programs in Iraq.

Also, something else occurred to me recently. Don't think that the opposition of those three states is an unalloyed curse to US policy. F,G,&B have been the dominant forces in the European Union and its associated bureaucracies. Under their tutelage, the EU has been developing into an anti-US coalition. This issue has had the effect of isolating them in Europe, and promoting British leadership. It was Britain that got the other 7 counties to sign the letter of support. British (and US) fingerprints will be found on the subsequent decision of the 9 former Warsaw Pact counties to join in. Now France is trying to bully counties that want to join the EU. Making Chirac look like a thug to Eastern Europe is a very good thing. Given the fragility of Schroeder's government, expect it to lose a no-confidence vote after the US takes out Saddam's government, and waves the bloody shirt of German complicity in Iraq's forbidden weapons programs.

The US, unwisely I think, has backed a united Europe for a long time. But the dynamics of such a thing dictate Franco-German dominance. Unless something happens to knock those two off their perches. That is why the Administration persists in pushing the diplomatic route. They know the French and Germans will not change their minds. But the more F,G,&B resist, the more isolated they become. So the Iraqi war has the side benefit of promoting the leadership of Britain in the EU, and isolating the Franco-German bloc. Expect the Administration to continue using this tactic as long as it is effective.

The Bush Administration has been amazingly adept in foreign affairs. First, they used Russia to outflank the Western European socialists. Now they are using the Iraq issue to break down Franco-German dominance of the EU and NATO. Not bad for a stupid frat boy/cowboy from Texas. Metternich, Bismarck, and Kissinger would be pleased. Only wild cards like al Qaeda and North Korea have been stumbling blocks. But in the realm of traditional foreign policy, the Bush Administration has been following a very sophisticated course. We are not just battering our heads against a brick wall in trying to get European support for the Iraqi campaign. We have other goals in mind. And with every stall by F,G,&B, those goals are closer to completion.

Update: Checking yesterday's postings in The Corner, I see that National Review Editor Rich Lowry perceives something of the same thing going on.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Everyone Is Talking About Joe Millionaire
Except me. While many were watching that program, we were having a February vacation Francis Urquhart video marathon.

We don't watch broadcast (or cable cast) TV. I've never seen Star Trek Voyager (though I liked the three preceding series), Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Friends, Beverly Hills 90210, ER, Seinfeld, Melrose Place, The Weakest Link, Survivor, Who Wants To Marry a Multimillionaire?, Oprah, Rosie O'Donnell, Jerry Springer, Phil Donaghue, or any of the other degrading litany of network programming.

When something worth watching comes out on TV, we wait until it comes out on VHS or DVD (DVD increasingly, though our only DVD player right now is this computer) and buy it to watch on our own. We tend to buy whole series and movies. We have around a thousand titles now. The collection is heavily weighted towards Brit Vid, westerns, war movies (we have Band of Brothers, which I have found quite good so far), black & white classics, religion, and comedy. We just bought The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on DVD for an amazing saving. We had taped most of them, but wanted a clean, studio-fresh version that would take up less space on our shelves. When complete, the 5 DVD series of Holmes will replace about 20 home-taped VHS cassettes on our shelves (giving us more room to expand the collection in the same space). It will look a lot nicer, too.

We are not, obviously, a completely TV-free household. However, we have successfully divorced ourselves from the networks' regular programming. We have been network-free for 5 years now. When a tape is re-winding, and we see a few minutes of network programming, we invariably look at each other and say, "You know, we are really not missing anything."

In fact, we are not missing anything. We get our weather reports from AccuWeather on line. I can order up a brief radar loop whenever I want. All my news, obviously, comes from on-line sources and radio news. And I am able to glance through all the news sources I want on any given day. In fact, the depth of information I am getting from these sources is infinitely greater than the depth of what those dependent on TV network news are getting. And it is much less liberal-biased (OK, I read the Boston Globe, which is the epitome of liberal media bias, but I balance it with Fox and other sources).

And the nasty cultural messages given out by the networks can be severely limited by our method. The relentless PC drumbeat of the networks largely passes us by. Programs that promote immoral and pathological social values don't make it into our collection. I choose what I want to see.

Our viewing is also much more limited this way. We only turn on the VCR or DVD player 3 nights out of 7, at most. The rest of our time is spent talking, reading, listening to music or talk radio, playing games, and generally having family time. I've learned how to handle a computer (very basic stuff only) and developed an appreciation for baroque music (at least I can tell a Scarlatti harpsichord concerto from any of Vivaldi's string concerti; I wouldn't have been able to distinguish the instruments being played before I gave up TV). I've also learned a great deal more about the Faith since then.

Am I out of the loop? I don't think so, at least not about things that matter. Water cooler conversations about the latest reality TV series are quite outside my scope, but are they worthwhile? Who cares who Joe Millionaire decides to marry? Who cares who the people on Survivor kick out next (even without watching, I can pick up the gist of it all by osmosis)? Conversations that shallow are not worth having. If that is all I would have to talk about with some co-worker, better not to have the conversation. Even when I watched regular programming, I wasn't interested in that stuff anyway.

Television can be a useful entertainment tool, but don't put yourself at the mercy of network and cable programmers to determine when and how you spend your time. Also, don't take the political agendas of the networks like a baby takes pap. Choose what is worth seeing. It's only about ten percent of what is available.

More From Michael Novak
Michael Novak, writing in National Review On Line today, emphasizes the Just War case for the Iraqi campaign. I think he does a better job in making the case here than in his lecture in Rome. More importantly, he really makes it plain that the ultimate responsibility for deciding that the war is just or not resides in the civilian leadership of the nation, not in the leaders of the Church.

Novak emphasizes that unprecedented efforts to limit civilian casualties will be made, which is of course necessary under Just War theory. This is not 1943. We don't need to carpet bomb Basra with napalm. The Iraqi people are eager to be rid of the tyrant, just as the people of Afghanistan were eager to see the end of the Taliban (remember, when they could, they massacred bin Laden's al Qaeda fanatics with farm implements, rocks, and anything else that came to hand).

We don't need to break the will to resist of the Iraqi people. Saddam's loyalists aside, they would like nothing better than to sell their oil freely for the benefit of their own people, not to finance a huge conscript army. They want to be able to speak their minds without fear of their door being broken down in the dead of night and Saddam's Gestapo subjecting them to their tender mercies. They want prosperity. They want to be at peace with Iran, at peace with Kuwait, at peace with the Kurds, at peace with Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, at peace with the US and the rest of the world. Only Saddam and his loyalists stand between them and that objective.

Watch for a quick collapse of Iraqi resistance.

Pyongyang Maniac Threatens To Back Away From Armistice
Most people are aware that there was never an end to the Korean War. It ended, like most of the Arab-Israeli Wars, in a cease-fire agreement, or armistice. There has never been a peace treaty. Technically, North Korea remains in a state of war with the South and with the United Nations. Now, Kim Jong Il is threatening to withdraw from the armistice.

You can't ignore the fact that North Korea and Iraq are allies. North Korea is acting up not just to support its Iraqi ally, but also because it is badly miscalulating that the US is too engrossed in the coming Iraqi campaign and the war on terrorism to do anything about its own intransigence. It might very well take advantage of the Iraq campaign to make some sort of strike against either the South (or US forces in the South) or Japan.

Kim Jong Il is the number one reason to hurry up with Iraq, and get that job done in the next three weeks. Once the US can focus overwhelming forces on North Korea, that will probably be the end of his current demarche. North Korea will crawl back into its fever swamp to nurture its absurd fantasies until some general puts a bullet into Kim Jong Il, and plays General Monk for a restoration of Korean unity under a democratic government. Then the Korean situation will be greatly improved.

FrontPage Magazine Offers Many Views On the Anti-War Movement
To be honest, I have nothing but contempt for the anti-war crowd. They don't interest me. They are merely one aspect of the enemy within. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing more to be said about them other than that they are obviously, consistently, astonishingly wrong. They were wrong about Vietnam, wrong during the Reagan Administration, wrong in 1991, wrong now, wrong always and everywhere. These astonishingly self-centered relics have nothing to teach us or anyone. There is nothing of Truth in anything they say, think, or do. The faster they age and die off the better.

Nevertheless, the reformed leftists at FrontPage Magazine find them interesting. John Perazzo describes Saturday's anti-war demonstration in New York. In a piece originally written for the Times Union, Maamoun Youssef tells us that Saddam could take comfort in the demonstrations. The anti-American and anti-semitic aspects of London's protests were highlighted by Barbara Amiel, in an article written originally for the Daily Telegraph. Brendan Steinhauser discusses the grand poo-bah of anti-American twaddle, Noam Chomsky.

The Pope Will Be Forgiven For Spending More Time On Other Parts of the World
American Catholics are given to complaining that the Vatican does not understand our problems, and does not focus on them enough. This is true. The American Church is indeed in crisis, and not just the crisis caused by pervert priests and enabling bishops and chanery officials, but a crisis of orthodoxy, or lack thereof, throughout both clergy and laity.

Still, this is small potatoes compared to what Catholics in other parts of the world face. Heterodoxy might be preached here. An altar boy might be buggered there. A lovely old church might be wreck-o-vated here. The entire batch of US bishops may make total jackasses of themselves by protecting the perverts and sanctioning the deconstruction of traditional devotions. But in China, faithful Catholics face imprisonment, torture, and death.

Today's Washington Times reports on the bishop of Hong Kong, who fears that repression of Catholics is coming there, as it has to the mainland.

Catholics and other Christians in mainland China are required to attend churches sanctioned by the state, although scholars estimate that roughly half the 12 million Chinese Catholics worship in underground churches loyal to the Vatican, risking arrest. Church leaders sometimes have been imprisoned for years.

So, if Rome seems to be giving short shrift to American affairs, I think we can understand it, and find a way to deal with our problems on our own. We are, in the view of the Vatican, grown-ups now. We can be left to shift for ourselves, at least until we cock it up too so badly we need the Vatican's attention.

Blogging Has Been Fairly Content-Free For A While
Looking back on the last week or so, I was astonished to find that my blogging has been pretty light and pretty much lacking in substance. There are a few contributing factors. I've been busy with work and recreation. One's best blogging does not come when one is either busy or happy. Thoroughly disgruntled is the best attitude for interesting blogging. I'll work on that.

The Scandal is making very few headlines. The heat is very much off for the bishops, which is a mixed blessing. Normality is naturally good, but normality for our bishops means leftward drift without being held to account. When laity are not paying rapt attention, the bishops can get away with a great deal of ugly stuff. Time to focus the gimlet eye and the admonitory howl again, I think.

The last reason is that war news has been scarce. The Iraqi campaign seems to me to be inevitable. Nothing short of a "road to Damascus" reaction by Saddam is going to stop it. Troops, supplies, and equipment are being positioned and are becoming seasoned to the environment in which they will have to fight. This is a lengthy process because of the limitations of our air and sea-lift capacities. From the time the DOD issues an order for a division to deploy, it is 6-8 weeks before that unit is in position in the Persian Gulf theater, with its equipment ready, its personnel accustomed to the heat and conditions. The fact that Turkey only approved deployment of US troops in the last 10 days is a further delay. Much is going on behind the scenes, but it rarely appears in the press.

At this point world opinion counts for little. Minds are made up and are not going to change until victory is won. The mindless twits can protest in the streets of Europe and the US all they like. It will change nothing. Let them paint themselves into a corner. The more Democrats line up on the anti-war side, the better, in terms of post-war politics. It just gives us a nice big club to clobber them with in 2004. And it is showing their true colors. They are anti-military, anti-defense, anti-US. The more people see them for what they are, the better.

We're Fairly Well Buried
The only thing this bone-chillingly cold and snowy winter was missing was a gargantuan snowstorm to make our misery complete. Yesterday, we got it. We had roughly 20 inches of snow dumped on top of our existing snowcover. There is more snow currently hitting New Yuck City headed our way, though it will seem as nothing compared to the lashing we got yesterday. The snow didn't start until around 11:30 am, but picked up quickly, and fell at times at a rate higher than 2 inches per hour. Logan reports 27.5 inches, in under 20 hours, which eclipses the 27.1 inches we got in the Blizzard of '78 (over 30 hours). This time, though, there was no devastation of the coastal areas, less wind, and many fewer people lost electrical power. Since it hit on a holiday, people were generally at home taking it in, as we were.

But there is hope. The end of the week may see temps in the 40s, and some melting.

Man Starts Fire On South Korean Subway
A South Korean man apparently started a fire aboard a subway train in Soth Korea's third largest city, Daegu. There are at least 50 dead. The man, according to witnesses, lit a milk carton with a cigarete lighter. South Korean authorities are not sure what was in the milk carton. There does not appear to be a direct link to terrorism. The man is in custody and has a record of disgruntled behaviour.

So far, this appears to be just a senseless act of an unstable man. But it does point to vulnerabilities in our mass transit systems that terrorists could exploit.

Update: The BBC is reporting at least 100 dead. God rest them.

Monday, February 17, 2003

I'm Tired Of It
We've had nothing but below-freezing temperatures, snow, wind, icy sidewalks, leafless trees, the sound of snowplows on cobblestones, and below-zero wind-chill factors since before Thanksgiving, it seems. We didn't even get a January thaw. I for one am very, very tired of it now. The heart is longing for a great many days (March to Novemeber would be nice) with temperatures in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, low humidity, gentle warm breezes, birdsong, budding flowers, and green grass. We have been winter's long enough. It is time for spring to take over. Alas, there is no sign of vernal days. Even the groundhog said mid-March at the earliest.

It Hasn't Started Yet
We've been watching the big snowstorm working its way ever so slowly up the coast from points south all weekend. As of 9:45 this morning it hasn't started here yet, but forecasters tell us to expect up to 2 feet of snow. I guess we're going to be snowed in for a couple of days. For those of you in areas affected by the storm, I hope all is well. As long as people take it easy with shoveling snow and don't lose their electricity, snowstorms can be fun.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

A Hard Day's Work
For someone who sits by the computer analyzing movements in the equities markets, releases of economic data, tax policy, and corporate earnings, yesterday was exhausting. We had planned to "de-Christmas" the house the weekend after Epiphany, our traditional time for it. But I hurt my knee that Thursday. Since then, we have been either too busy or not feeling up to it. At New Year's we had spoken lightly of leaving it up until Candlemas, the last date for taking it down. Little did we dream that we would go past even Candlemas.

But yesterday, as Mrs. F. started her week's vacation, we decided it all must be taken down and packed away. The result is that, after about ten hours of work, the house has, for the first time since September, no seasonal decorations. We also feel as if some demon has been working on our ankles, knees, hips, backs, shoulders, and wrists. It was not easy hobbling up and down the stairs so many times with a knee that still only has about 40% flexibility (and yesterday it was stiffer than usual with swelling). Today will be a much less active day.

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