Steven Den Beste has written an article about the misuse of antibiotics to treat infectious diseases. Tuberculosis is one of those diseases that can require many months of treatment to cure, while many more common ills only need a few weeks of antibiotic treatment. When I had a strep or ear infection, I only needed to be on antibiotics for about two weeks to be cured, but tuberculosis cannot be treated that quickly. One problem with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases is how some people stop taking antibiotics mid-way through the cure. Too often people will discontinue the drugs before the treatment is complete because they start feeling better and think they no longer need treatment.

When people stop taking antibiotics too early, the initial drug treatment starts to kill off the bugs in their system, but there hasn’t been enough time to complete the removal of the disease. The bugs most susceptible to antibiotic treatment have died, but the strongest bugs are still around, and if they aren’t killed off they will breed and pass on their antibiotic resistance. As Nietzsche said, “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” The over-prescription and misuse of antibiotics has generated strains of “superbugs” that are resistant to our modern medicines. Since tuberculosis is difficult enough to treat as it is, being infected with a highly resistant strain of tuberculosis is in effect a death warrant. And if you land in this most unfortunate circumstance, you may blame those who failed to follow their doctors’ direction and stopped taking their antibiotics before it was time.

This brings me to my main point: we are at war. You may not recognize this based on what you hear in the press and what the liberals in government are saying, but our nation is at war. Arguably, the first blow by terrorists against the U.S. came when Ramzi Ahmed Yousef plotted the bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993. Since that time, terrorists have continued to attack Americans both at home and abroad, but the fact that these terrorists had declared war on the U.S., the West, and all non-Muslims around the world didn’t ring loud and clear until Mohammed Atta slammed the first jet into the World Trade Center on a September morning in 2001. At this point, we could no longer ignore the existence of a wide-ranging body of people who hate the West and who want to see us dead.

Recognizing that we had been attacked, President Bush set out to deny a secure base of operations to these terrorists. This is why the U.S. removed the Taliban government from Afghanistan because the Taliban actively supported al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. The nation of Afghanistan supports them no more. This is why the U.S. removed Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq because Saddam actively supported al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. The nation of Iraq supports them no more.

This nation is at war, and as such there will be battles. People will die. As much as we value human life in the United States, there are those who do not feel this way. Omar Bakri Muhammad on April 18th: “We don’t make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has no value. It has no sanctity.” This comes from a cleric in the “Religion of Peace.”

There will be more attacks by terrorists. You can bank on it. We have been blessed with almost three years of no 9/11-type attacks on American soil, but we cannot assume this peace will last forever. In the three years since the attack in September, al-Qaeda has been busy attacking here, here, here, here, here, and here. Will al-Qaeda hit America again? It is not a question of if, it is a question of when. And it will happen this year. Count on it. Since the terrorists were so successful in terrorizing the Spaniards just before their elections, you can take it to the bank that they will strike the U.S. before our national elections in November.

What will be our response to the next big strike? Will we bury our dead, roll up our sleeves, and proceed to clean out the human cesspool that is terrorism? Or will we follow Spain’s lead? After the March 11th bombings, Spaniards marched in the streets shouting their anger and will to fight. But mere days later, they crawled to the voting booth and voted for a Socialist leader who pulled them out of Iraq and cried, “Don’t hurt us!” First they stood tall, then they rolled over on their backs and pissed themselves in fear. If this wasn’t a victory for the terrorists, what would be?

So when we get hit before the election, will we as a nation grit our teeth and strengthen our resolve to rid the world of this menace? Or will we give up and let the terrorists win? Having started the world-wide anti-terrorist medicine, will we see it through to the end when the terrorists are destroyed, or will we stop our treatment early and breed ourselves a group of “super-terrorists” who have survived our first wave of attacks and are that much stronger?

I guess you must ask yourself a simple question: will you stand up and fight, or will you die screaming as they cut off your head?

I filled up the car again this week. As much as I would like to avoid the gas bill, driving to work is better than the alternatives of walking, biking, or riding the bus, so I will continue to pony up the bucks at the pump.

But the cost of gas has been a political tool for John F@#$%ing Kerry’s campaign. He has been hammering President Bush over the cost of gas pretty relentlessly. “George Bush has no plan, doesn’t address it, doesn’t seem to care that every American family is paying more to go to work, for the products that they get, to be able to get to school, to be able to do all the things Americans do in the course of a summer.” Yawn. OK, let’s do the math. My car holds 11 gallons of gas, and I fill it up about twice a month. Let’s round up the increase and call it an extra 50 cents per gallon. That means I would be paying 11 gallons times 50 cents times two fill-ups per month for a monthly increase of $11. This is less than the cost of two movie tickets, and much less than the price of dinner at a sit-down restaurant. Even with my current meager wages, I can’t weep too much over these prices.

However, the increased cost of gas does indirectly raise prices for me, since every good that needs to be moved from one site to another will see a cost increase thanks to gas prices. This can have a serious ripple effect on prices in the U.S., and nobody really wants to see inflation kick in.

But the rising price of gas is too juicy an issue to leave alone. Some Democrats have criticized President Bush for continuing to fill up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve while oil prices are higher than they have been in decades. Kerry has suggested that the Bush administration stop filling the SPR so the oil that would be going into it could be used to help reduce the cost of consumer gas. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle went even further. “We’re at 96 percent of capacity at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve today,” he said. “If we can’t draw it down at 96 percent, when can we?” Daschle conveniently ignores the purpose of the SPR. It is not designed to stabilize the U.S. oil/gas market, but it is for the use of the U.S. military in times of crisis.

It is interesting that Kerry, Daschle and others have been calling for the release of oil from the SPR as a way of adjusting the price of gas, but these same people screamed about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. If it would make a difference to release about 115,000 barrels of oil per day from the SPR, why was it that ANWR’s expected 400,000 to 1,400,000 barrels of oil per day (pick your study) supposedly would not have amounted to a “blip” in the price of oil and gas if developed? You can’t have it both ways, can you?

Well, you can if you are a liberal Democrat, and the press is on your side.

With the release of the doom-and-gloom propaganda film The Day After Tomorrow, which tells us human beings are despoiling the earth with their SUVs, you’d think some people would be cheering about rising gas prices. And you’d be right. Here’s a bit of what Gregg Esterbrook wrote in the New York Times on May 25th:

The federal gasoline tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, while state gasoline taxes average 24.6 cents per gallon. Had federal gas taxes gone up 50 cents a gallon 10 years ago, several things might not have happened or would have had far less impact.

The SUV and pickup-truck crazes would not have occurred, or at least these vehicles would be much less popular; highway deaths would have been fewer; and gasoline demands would be lower, as would oil imports.

To continue, the world price of oil would have been lower, since petroleum demand in the United States is the first factor in oil markets; greenhouse-gas emissions in this country would be lower; Persian Gulf oil states would have less influence on the global economy and less significance to American foreign policy; fewer dollars would have flowed to the oil sheiks; and the trade deficit balance for the United States would be smaller.

Before you nod in complete agreement with Gregg, remember that he is reflecting the thinking of the people who predicted global cooling on the first Earth Day, then switched their tune to global warming a few years later, and now are back to global cooling in The Day After Tomorrow caused by [insert ominous music here] global warming. Just once I wish they would stick with one prediction.

While I don’t plan on seeing The Day After Tomorrow any time soon, I have to admit it looks like it has some spectacular effects. One of the most riveting is the flooding and subsequent flash-freezing of New York. But let’s play a wee bit with the science of New York freezing like that. Let’s imagine a cube of water 100 meters on a side, ready to freeze at 32 degrees. How much energy needs to be pulled out of this block of water to freeze it? About 33.5 billion joules of energy. That’s a little less than exploding a ton of TNT, or the same as running a 60-watt bulb for about 20 years. And that’s just for a single block of water 100 cubic meters in size. Since I’ve not seen the movie, I cannot tell how widespread the freezing is or how much water is affected, but I can easily guess that it is many times the cube of water used in my little math problem. To freeze this much water, the energy equivalent of about a ton of TNT must be evacuated per each 100 cubic meters of water. Just where would this much energy go? To put it another way, the energy released from this block of water to freeze it is enough to raise the temperature of 70 similar-sized blocks of air from absolute zero (as cold as anything can possibly get) to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (boiling). The website for The Day After Tomorrow claims the possibility of a global Ice Age is “more truth than hype.” Yeah, right.

So what is really fueling the rise of gas prices in the U.S.? Environmentalists. We don’t have a oil supply problem as much as we have a gas refining problem. You can’t fill your car’s tank with crude oil; it needs to be refined. But while the U.S. has grown in the last three decades, not a single new oil refinery was built during this time. What’s more, thanks to the increasing burden imposed on refineries by environmentalists, the number of refineries in the U.S. has shrunk steadily. We need to do more with fewer refineries, and if something were to happen with even a few of these refineries, we’d really be in trouble. Since we can’t refine as much gas as we need, the bottleneck is creating an artificial shortage, and the shortage is driving up prices.

Another culprit in the high cost of gas is differences in gas formulations. Thanks to environmental requirements, Utah County has a different gas formulation from Salt Lake County, just 25 miles away. These different gas formulations cannot be shipped to another area. So if Utah County were to run out of gas, we couldn’t get some of Salt Lake’s excess shipped here. Imagine if you ran out of sugar in the local grocery store, but rather than calling the warehouse for another sugar shipment, you had to wait for the sugar refinery to make a new batch just for you. How stupid is that? But this is the situation we find ourselves in, thanks to wacko environmentalists who have forced the closure of refineries, prevented the creation of newer and more efficient refineries, and mandated the special formulation blends of gas for various areas.

President Bush could reduce this artificial shortage immediately by telling the EPA that all their regulations for separate gas formulations are null and void.

On May 23rd, American author E. L. Doctorow was booed while he gave the commencement address at Hofstra University. Rather than using this opportunity to talk to the graduating class about their accomplishments or what they could expect in the near future, Doctorow used his time to bash President Bush and call him a liar.

One story he [Bush] told was that the country of Iraq had nuclear and biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction and was intending shortly to use them on us. That was an exciting story all right, it was designed to send shivers up our spines. But it was not true.

Another story was that the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was in league with the terrorists of al-Qaida, And that turned out to be not true. But anyway we went off to war on the basis of these stories.

Loud boos erupted at these words. At one point, Doctorow stopped speaking and just stood there at the podium. Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz stepped up to the mike and asked that the crowd allow Doctorow to continue, but some people continued to boo the author nevertheless. While this is one of the latest examples of commonly-held leftist ideas about the war in Iraq, this certainly won’t be the last time they are brought up. So let’s look at the “stories” that Doctorow claims Bush told.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

A common claim by the liberal left is that President Bush lied to us about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Leftists often claim (as does Doctorow) that President Bush said that “Iraq had nuclear and biological and chemical weapons,” but what President Bush really said was that “[Iraq] possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.” That is what President Bush said on Oct. 7, 2002. The President also didn’t claim that the threat was imminent:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

What did we know before we toppled Saddam’s regime? We knew that Saddam had both biological and chemical WMDs. How did we know this? Because Saddam had used them. This is not conjecture, nor is it speculation. This is a historical fact. Saddam had such weapons, and he was willing to use them. Since Saddam couldn’t account for these WMDs, nor would he allow inspectors to verify their destruction, the only logical conclusion is that Saddam still had them.

Fast forward a year after the overthrow of Saddam, and liberals are calling out, “Where are the WMDs? Bush lied!” But let’s look at a little bit of what has come out in the news recently. In May 2004, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said, “The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found.” This round of (all together now, kids) sarin nerve agent was hooked up as an improvised explosive device, or IED. But this wasn’t an isolated event — two weeks earlier, terrorists had exploded an IED that contained mustard gas. The servicemen were fortunate in that the shell had been stored improperly, making the mustard gas ineffective; the sarin shell was exploded incorrectly, reducing the threat from it as well.

But when you find two dead cockroaches, it is foolishness to claim that is the extent of the infestation.

“Gazi George, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist under Saddam’s regime, told Fox News he believes many similar weapons stockpiled by the former regime were either buried underground or transported to Syria. He noted that the airport where the device was detonated is on the way to Baghdad from the Syrian border.” (Fox News)

In April, Jordan broke news of a planned bomb plot that could have killed tens of thousands of people in the city of Amman. At least three trucks came over the border from Syria laden down with detonators, explosives and the raw materials to create more explosives. Amid these “raw materials” were VX, sarin and 70 other chemicals. Could Syria have created the VX and sarin? Sure, but only Iraq had the facilities to create them in the quantities that were found. Is it a coincidence that military convoys were seen heading from Iraq into Syria before the war, and now we are capturing terrorists leaving Syria with chemical WMDs? Not according to Jaffar Jaffar, regarded as the father of Iraq’s nuclear program, who recently surrendered to American forces.

But what about Iraq’s nuclear program? On Sunday, May 23rd, 2004, former Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus talked about the nuclear program in the Middle East. This is transcribed from my recording of his interview:

“Now the British discoveries date back to just after September 11th, when British intelligence wiretapped a frantic phone call from North Korea to Libya. The North Koreans were saying, ‘Oh my God! If the Americans do go into Iraq, they’re going to find all the documents about our nuclear weapons program.’ ‘And who’s going to pay,’ the Libyans inquired, ‘all the nuclear scientists from Iraq in Libya once Saddam falls?’”

We now know that Libya had an ongoing nuclear program, but why was Iraq paying Libya to house nuclear scientists there? The simplest answer is that Libya’s nuclear program was really Saddam’s nuclear program outsourced. Loftus continued:

“Well, that tape was played to the North Koreans. They said, ‘Yeah, we have a nuclear program. So what? Bribe us.’ We played that tape to Kaddafi and he said, ‘Let’s make a deal.’ So Kaddafi has secretly confirmed that there was this Arab consortium on nuclear weapons. That Saddam decided because he knew where the blind spots were in Hans Blix’s staff to move his key nuclear scientists into Libya. 408 were transferred into that country. Kaddafi provided a hollowed-out mountain…. Some of these guys were actively working on Saddam’s payroll. He knew where the blind spots were. That’s how they knew to hide the entire weapons of mass destruction program. Blix is going to go down in history as a bloated bureaucrat whose arrogance was only exceeded by his incompetence. The spread of nuclear weapons took place right under his nose.”

So Saddam had and used biological and chemical weapons, and these weapons have turned up in Iraq and surrounding countries. While it appears that Saddam may not have been active inside Iraq with a nuclear program, he had outsourced such a program into Libya with the assistance of North Korea. President Bush’s claims were true when he said that “[Iraq] possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

Any liberal who tells you otherwise either has his head buried in the sand, or is outright lying to you for his political gain.

Iraqi ties to al-Qaeda

So is Doctorow correct when he claims there is no connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda? Well, let’s look at what we know.

Czech intelligence reported in October 2001 that Mohammad Atta, the terrorist who flew the first plane into the World Trade Center, met with Iraqi Counsel Ahmad Al-Ani. Why would Atta break his cover a few months before the September attack to meet with an Iraqi in Prague? Could this meeting have been related to the plane hijacking training provided by the Salman Pak training camp in Iraq? According to Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami, an Iraqi military officer who defected from Iraq in 1999, Salman Pak was a training site for the Fedayeen Saddam in airline hijacking and sabotage. Also training in this camp were non-Iraqi groups, who received similar hijacking training using the Boeing 707 plane parked in the camp.

But there is another link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The Jordanian bomb plot mentioned above was planned by Abu-Musab al-Zaqawi, a close follower of al-Qaeda. The people captured in this plot confessed on Jordanian television that the plot was hatched by al-Zaqawi in 1999, while he was in Iraq, as an al-Qaeda attack. The attack was attempted with Iraqi WMD supplies, but fortunately was stopped before thousands died.

Does the name al-Zaqawi ring a bell? He’s one of the ghouls who chopped off Nick Berg’s head. Know where he is right now? If you say Iraq, go to the head of the class. So here we have al-Qaeda: trained in Iraq, supplied with weapons from Iraq, plotting attacks in Iraq, launching attacks now in Iraq and, thanks to the corruption of the U.N.’s “oil for food” program, funded by Iraq. But if you listen to people like Doctorow, there is no connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

Yeah, right.

Addendum (5/26/2004): Al Gore has stepped forward and bloviated about the war in Iraq. He is calling for the resignation of the Secretary of Defense, two deputies, the intelligence chief, the National Security Advisor, and the head of the CIA. If a bomb were to claim the lives of these six people, it would be a terrible blow to the American government. But Gore is calling for them to fall on their own swords. He is also calling for the removal of President Bush at the ballot box this November. Yep, Al Gore, the sore loser, is calling on America to cringe and crawl before the terrorists and piss on themselves, much as Spain did after the March 11th bombings in Madrid. Thanks, Al.

Lemme clear up one simple thing that Gore missed when he said “[Bush] decided not to honor the Geneva Convention.” The GC specifies how soldiers, prisoners and civilians are to be treated. But there are three basic caveats to the GC. First, the GC only applies to the nations who sign it. Second, if a signatory nation violates the rules of the GC, the other nation(s) are no longer bound by it. Third, the rules about treatment of soldiers apply only to people wearing uniforms, insignia or other clear indications of military membership. Clearly, al-Qaeda does not fit the last category since they are not a clearly identified military. Nor have they shown that they will honor the GC, setting off IEDs with mustard and sarin gas in them. And they are not signatory members of the GC. So how exactly do al-Qaeda and the other terrorist rabble attacking Coalition soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan fit with the Geneva Convention? They don’t, but this won’t stop liberals like Al Gore from beating their breasts over it.

This speech by Al Gore will be translated and broadcast throughout the Muslim world, and it will strengthen the resolve of those who delight in the shedding of American blood. With this speech, Al Gore is giving real aid and comfort to the enemy. This is treason. But because Gore is a Democrat, nothing will happen to him.

No, I will not vote for John F$#@*ing Kerry. I cannot. My principles won’t allow me. But let me explain why I won’t be voting for Kerry come this November.

Kerry is a liberal Democrat. That’s really sufficient in and of itself. The core beliefs that I have been writing about on this site for almost a year now are mostly at odds with commonly-held liberal beliefs. I am against abortion, as is Pope John Paul II. But John Kerry is for abortion, in direct conflict with his religious leaders. How can he be an active member of a religion when he does not follow the tenets of that religion? The answer is simple — Kerry is a liberal Democrat.

Kerry is vague when it comes to saying what he really believes. What are Kerry’s core values? Where does Kerry draw a line and say, “Beyond this line, I will not cross”? Kerry has demonstrated again and again that he will come down firmly on both sides of an issue, any issue. Kerry has flip-flopped on welfare reform, abortion issues, the 50-cent gas tax hike, gay marriage, the Patriot Act, and others. This is the man who tossed his medals over the White House fence in protest, only they were his ribbons – no, rather they were someone else’s medals he tossed, that he meant to toss his own, but he left them at home. Will the real facts please stand up?

I think this may be the best example of a classic Kerry flip-flop: on January 22, 1991, Kerry wrote to Wallace Carter explaining how he voted against the resolution for going to war with Iraq after it invaded Kuwait and wanted sanctions to run their course. A mere nine days later Kerry sent another letter to the same Wallace Carter, saying, “From the outset of the invasion, I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush’s response to the crisis…” Same Kerry, same constituent, nine days, two different positions. Even Kerry himself recognizes his own flip-flops, as when he said, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”

Speaking of military spending, Kerry has consistently voted against valuable military programs. Things like the B-2 bomber, the Tomahawk and Patriot missiles, the Apache helicopter, the M-1 Abrams tank, and numerous fighter jets. Had Kerry had his way with these votes, the United States military would not have the necessary equipment to protect itself and wage effective war on our enemies. When anyone brings up Kerry’s voting record on military spending, this liberal Senator from Massachusetts quickly deflects the question and complains it is an attack on his patriotism. Senator, your very own votes cast doubts on your patriotism. And you can bet that my military upbringing gives me a very dim view of Kerry’s record.

Kerry did serve in Vietnam, and for that, I do thank him. But when he came home, he shamed the very uniform he had worn before. He testified before Sen. Fulbright’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying, “I committed the same kinds of atrocities as thousands of others in that I shot in free fire zones, used harassment and interdiction fire, joined in search and destroy missions, and burned villages.” With strong language like that, you’d think he were guilty of something almost as bad as putting women’s panties on Iraqi prisoners’ heads. Senator John McCain testified in 1973, two years after Kerry’s testimony, that the North Vietnamese used Sen. Fulbright’s committee testimony of Kerry and others as “the most effective propaganda” against him and other POWs. The actions of Kerry and other Vietnam war protesters like Jane Fonda, Clark Clifford, and Ramsey Clark “gave aid and comfort to the enemy and probably caused some of my guys to get killed.” This quote is from Gen. George S. Patton III, speaking specifically of John Kerry. In case you haven’t realized it, Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution states that giving aid and comfort to the enemy is a form of treason.

“I’ve met with foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly,” Kerry said in Florida. “But, boy, they look at you and say: ‘You’ve got to win this. You’ve got to beat this guy. We need a new policy.’ Things like that.” Kerry has refused to back up this claim, or to say when and where he had the time to meet with these foreign leaders. While we can speculate over what nations would like to see Kerry win *cough* France *cough* Germany *cough*, there are some leaders who have stepped forward to be counted. Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain, is one. He was elected days after the March 11th bombings in Madrid. Spaniards marched in the streets to show that terrorists couldn’t break their spirit, then they crawled into the voting booths and voted for Zapatero, who promptly surrendered to al-Qaeda and bowed out of Iraq. Gee, what an ally. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (a self-proclaimed anti-Semite) said, “I think Kerry would be much more willing to listen to the voices of people and of the rest of the world.” In other words, stop doing your own thing, America, and start doing what the world tells you to do. I have just one thing to say to Mahathir: “John F$#@*ing Kerry you!”

Kerry stated in August of 2003, “And I’ll tell you, after I’m sworn in, one of the first things I’m going to do is go to the United Nations and turn over a new chapter in America’s relationship with the world, one that strengthens our security and our safety.” Yep. Kerry would go back, hat in hand, to the UN and get in their good graces. This is the same UN that was in the pocket of Saddam Hussein and his “Oil for Food” money. This is the same UN who was willing to stand up to a brutal dictator this way:

“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it.”
“Stop it. And this time we really mean it.”

Yep. Seventeen resolutions later, the UN wanted to write up an eighteenth when Bush said, “John F$#@*ing Kerry it!” and got the job done. This organization of thugs and dictators is the one that Kerry would approach to get his validation as President. Good move if you are the Secretary General of the UN, but a bad move if you are the President of the United States.

So, no. I won’t be voting for Kerry.

Addendum (6/29/2004): I have posted my reasons why I will vote for President Bush here.

The Captain and I managed to catch a theatrical showing of The Passion of the Christ before it finished its run. I’m sure he will write a more in-depth response to the film; for now I will say that The Passion was powerful, spiritual, very Catholic, and often difficult to watch. [Actually, you're doing a good job here, hon. *keess* Not being Catholic myself, I'd rather focus more on the Resurrection than the agonies He went through, but I thought Gibson did a good job of showing a living Christ at the end of the movie. *spoiler warning* When Satan tempts Christ in the garden, he sends a snake to attack Christ. Christ stomps on the snake, and his agony in the garden is done. A nice reference to Christ defeating the Devil. -The Captain] Those who have followed this film’s progress know of the problems associated with its filming—how some Jewish groups decried its anti-Semitism without having seen a frame of it; how no major distributor would touch the film, calling it “too controversial;” how Mel Gibson spent millions of his own money to ensure the project would be completed. Having seen the fruits of his labor, I can honestly say it was worth the trouble. [I liked that Gibson stuck very close to the Bible. It isn't 100% Biblical, but the differences do not detract from the story. *spoiler warning* There are some very nicely done flashbacks in the movie. My favorite shows a younger Christ working on a table. Mary calls him in to eat, and there is some playful and touching interaction here. Gibson does a good job showing that Christ was not an aloof stranger, but a loving son of His mother. There are some scenes that do not appear in the Bible -- for example, Judas being tormented by devil-children, a woman offering Christ some water, Pilate talking with his wife over the nature of truth, Pilate's wife giving Mary some clean linens, and the two Marys mopping up Christ's blood after the scourging. The last one was the most jarring to my non-Catholic eyes. -The Captain]

The Passion is effective because it is, above all other things, a work of faith. Its creation was driven by the passion of its creator to try to show the world a depiction of what Christians believe was the only perfect man ever to live on Earth, and what he willingly went through to offer us salvation from our sins. To its creator, Mel Gibson, and to millions of Christians worldwide, The Passion of the Christ portrays (in sometimes excruciating detail) the most vitally important event that has ever occurred on Earth—the Atonement, a sacrifice that affects every human being who has ever lived or ever will live. Orson Scott Card has suggested that Mel Gibson withdraw this film from consideration for any and all industry awards, and I agree—it’s not that kind of film.

One of the intriguing things about The Passion of the Christ was its relative lack of promotion. People knew about this film a long time before its release; there was hardly a need for advertising. Yet even with few ads and no preview showings for major news outlets, The Passion has done very well indeed. Works of faith are their own reward, but The Passion has additionally rewarded its risk-taking producers with gobs of money. Even if it had been a box-office flop, though, I believe The Passion would have been worth making. It is a film with something definite to say, something worth saying in a public forum—it is a declaration of faith and love.

There is another Passion being released this year, one very different from The Passion of the Christ. I was first made aware of this other Passion before this week’s American Idol, when a commercial break turned out to be a single movie preview. At 10+ minutes, it was the lengthiest film trailer I’ve ever seen, and it was visually arresting. In a series of fantastic special effects sequences, we saw people scrambling to stay alive as New York’s financial district flooded with torrents of water, then flash-froze.

“Wait a minute, isn’t this supposed to be a movie?” the Captain asked. “I thought this was being released in theaters.”

It is. But apparently the teaser trailers haven’t created quite enough positive buzz, and Roland Emmerich wants to make certain that everyone, but everyone, goes to see his movie The Day After Tomorrow, scheduled for U.S. release on May 28. Emmerich, who directed and wrote the film, has spun an apocalyptic, special-effects-laden tale of devastating climate change and the wholesale destruction of human civilization by Nature itself. The upcoming film’s official site features a second-by-second countdown, the extreme weather patterns of 2003, pseudo-scientific discussions of What You Can Do to Save the Earth, and pulsing, eerie background music. Every marketing method used for this film is designed to give it public placement as A Major Cinematic Event. Risk not seeing this film at your own peril! Check out this eye-candy of New Yorkers dying in droves! Look, we’re destroying Los Angeles again! [It's becoming as much a cliche as watching Tokyo get destroyed. "Look! It's Gojira!" *stomp* *stomp* -The Captain]

At some point during the long preview, I realized I was seeing something akin to The Passion of the Christ—even if, as I believe, it will fall far short in the quality of its message and in the realization of its delivery. It is, in a way, a public declaration of faith. To Roland Emmerich, the events portrayed in The Day After Tomorrow represent (in eye-popping detail) the most vitally important event that will occur in our lifetime, namely, global climate change and a subsequent massive die-out of humanity. Of course, Emmerich wants his movie to do well—hence the outrageously lengthy preview in the most expensive, desirable ad spot available—but more importantly, he wants it to change people. He would gladly take a loss on the film as long as it would guarantee to change the way our society thinks about human activity. Emmerich realizes that his movie is a work of fiction—but he believes, with all the passion and determination of a religious devotee, that if human life on Earth does not change now, it will soon become reality. “The threat of global climate change is the only problem big enough to force all the countries of the world to stop fighting and work together to save the planet,” he is quoted as saying on the official website.

I could take all kinds of exceptions to that comment. In fact, since this is my article, I will. [This is what happens when the Captain takes a business trip when an article is due. -The Captain]

The countries of the world will not stop fighting because of the threat of global climate change, Roland. In fact, human nature being the destructive beastie that it is, global climate change on a scale you envision would probably cause more fighting, not less, as displaced people around the world would battle each other for control of the few remaining livable areas of the planet. That’s how we are as a species, and how we have always been. We are kind when we can afford to be, but we can also be heartless when it comes to questions of survival.

One of the things I’m learning from the study of biology is that every ecosystem has built-in safeguards; if one population gets too plentiful, there are natural methods in place to make sure the population is regulated by plague or predation. Nature seems designed to protect itself against dangers from within. If Nature could destroy us all with a wave of her anthropomorphized hand, wouldn’t that just be a form of biospheric self-correction? If we really want to save the planet, should we even try to stop humanity from being wiped out by Nature?

I say this with tongue firmly in cheek, of course, since I believe that destructive weather patterns are not a sign of human ecological destruction. (They may well be a sign of something else, but that’s another article.) Humans contribute such a piddling amount to the carbon cycle that one would have to be either stupid or egotistical to believe that puny human-related carbon emissions are the primary cause of global climate changes. The global warming theory is just that—a theory, open to intense debate among serious climatologists. But numerous persons now trumpet global warming theory as though it were fact. Why? Well, if global warming is real, then the world will have to listen to the people who claim to know how to fix it, right? And those who yell the loudest that they have a cure for global warming also have, to put it mildly, an agenda. They embrace global warming for no other reason than that it supports their faith.

Faith? Certainly. Those who hold this worldview—let’s call them Ecofreaks—are supremely unconcerned with scientific findings unless those findings serve their purposes. Instead, they base their words and actions on the conviction that Earth is a living thing and that most human beings who inhabit it are a virulent cancer. Hard-line Ecofreaks think the world would be an infinitely better place without all the people—just a tiny population of devoted Ecofreaks who could properly tend to Mother Gaea’s needs, thank you. Ecofreaks welcome perilous climate change such as that seen in The Day After Tomorrow because, to borrow a phrase from Scrooge, it would “decrease the surplus population.” Self-professed Ecofreak Stuart Brand, writing for the Whole Earth Catalog in the ’70s, made the most bald-faced Ecofreak declaration of faith to date: “We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into the Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion—guilt-free at last!”

There are thus two movies about Passions this year: one of Christ, one of Ecofreaks. How do these two very different passions compare? Let’s see.

  • Both films show lightning, earthquakes and other natural phenomena causing widespread destruction. In The Passion, this is meant to symbolize the wrath of God; in TDAT, the purgative anger of Earth itself.
  • Both films portray realistic-looking pain, torture and death. In The Passion, Christ willingly undergoes such misery for a specific purpose; in TDAT, masses of human beings die for no other reason than to titillate and terrify the audience.
  • Both films strongly suggest an underlying philosophy of the value of human life. In The Passion, every soul is sacred and worth making sacrifices to save; in TDAT, every human being over an arbitrary “sustainable” number contributes to the problem and is probably better off dead. [And dying in vivid detail. Unlike The Passion, TDAT would certainly love some Oscar attention. -The Captain]
  • Both films require a response from the audience. The Passion is designed to provoke personal, inner change based on response to a demonstration of eternal love; TDAT is designed to make people change nearly every aspect of the way they live out of unreasoning fear.

I could go on, but this article is already too long. My point is that the passion of Roland Emmerich seems to me to be far more dangerous than The Passion of the Christ, simply because some people will see The Day After Tomorrow and be moved by it in precisely the way Emmerich intended they would be. I don’t believe the world would be harmed by an influx of true Christians, but I think it could be harmed by a determined barrage of true Ecofreaks. Environmental skeptic P.J. O’Rourke put it this way:

The whole dreadful history of twentieth-century politics has been made up of “coordinated, collective” responses to supposed threats that were always said to be “complex and diverse” and “sprawling and massive.” Nazis, Fascists, Bolsheviks, Maoists, Islamic Fundamentalists, and my silly commune in Baltimore in 1970 responded “in a coordinated, collective way” to the Jews, the bourgeoisie, private property, class enemies, decadent Western culture, and the pig cop on the local beat. The results were universally horrendous (except at my commune, which got busted for marijuana).

I believe all human life is worth saving, and I am appalled to find those who do not share this conviction—people who believe that humans are unnatural and expendable. To Stuart Brand and those of his ilk, modern eco-Scrooges who believe humanity is nothing but a scourge upon the planet: “Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? …. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

Addendum (5/16/2004): In the original article I forgot to mention a link from the official The Day After Tomorrow website to the Future Forests website. Future Forests is a for-profit group which specializes in making people and organizations CarbonNeutral, a trademarked term that apparently means “contributing zero balance to the carbon cycle.” For a fee, Future Forests will assuage your guilty eco-conscience by planting trees and performing other unspecified projects to balance out your personal, household or business level of carbon dioxide production. If Ecofreakism is a pseudo-religion, then Future Forests is selling indulgences.

The major news continues to be the photos depicting the acts of some American soldiers in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. I am disturbed by these images since I do not think these acts are necessary, nor do I think they are acceptable. Are they just the pranks of some bored GIs? Or were these acts ordered by their superiors to break the will of the prisoners? I do not know.

But I have some questions.

  • Has the military been investigating these acts? Yes, it most certainly has been. So why the need to publicize the investigation now? What is gained by it? It makes the U.S. look horrible — that is the only way I can answer.
  • Were these investigations classified? Yes, they were. Will anyone be charged with leaking this classified information? Probably not, since the investigations have since been declassified.
  • Is it a crime to leak the facts of a criminal investigation in progress? Yes, it is. Will anyone be charged with leaking this information? Again, probably not. To put this in context, if I were to leak information about the rape trial of Kobe Bryant, I would be quickly charged.

Some Democrats, smelling blood in the water, and a few stupid Republicans are making political hay from these photos to call for the resignation, firing, or impeachment of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. President Bush has stood firm behind the Secretary of Defense, even while Rumsfeld has taken full responsibility for these acts happening under his watch. Does his taking responsibility mean he should step down? I would say no. Why not? We need not look further than the example of past Attorney General Janet Reno. When she took “full responsibility” for the deaths of the men, women, and children at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, she didn’t step down. And she was much more personally involved with the making of that tragedy than Secretary Rumsfeld has been with the prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

But today, everything is different.

Today, an appalling video of the beheading of an American hostage in Iraq at the hands of terrorists was released. On this tape, the masked thugs made their threats, pronounced their hatred for all things American, and proceeded to cut Nick Berg’s head off.

Fox News published the following today:

“Senators … are in a virtual state of shock about the beheading,” said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., recalling earlier concerns that the prisoner abuse could lead to retaliation against Americans.

Gen. Ronald L. Burgess told Warner “there has been an increase” in threats in the days since the prisoner abuse became known through the publication of photographs.

Earlier this month President Bush went on Arab television and apologized for the abuse. If I were President Bush, I would call a press conference today and rescind that apology, based on today’s video from Iraq. And while I am feeling particularly bloodthirsty today, I would like each of the thugs on today’s video hunted down and dispatched in precisely the same fashion that they brought death to Nick Berg.

While I have been upset over the prison abuse photos, I refuse to be upset anymore. Let me see if I can put the acts of these GIs in perspective with the acts of the followers of the “religion of peace:”

Religion of Peace U.S.
Being dipped feet-first into acid. Americans smiling behind a pyramid of naked, hooded Iraqis.
Having hands and feet macheted off, then allowed to bleed to death. A group of clothed but bound prisoners.
Tossed off multi-story buildings while bound hand and foot. Hooded and naked prisoner handcuffed to cell bars.
Dead bodies mutilated, burned, dragged through the streets and hung. Hooded prisoner standing on a box with hands wired together, but not connected to anything.
Beheading Daniel Pearl. Naked Iraqis bound together.
State-run rape rooms. Naked Iraqi with panties on his head.
Beheading Nick Berg. Simulated sex acts.
Being tossed into a wood-chipper. Iraqi on a leash.
Slamming two airliners into the World Trade Center. A naked dogpile.

They don’t really compare, do they?

A common biology lesson deals with how energy is passed from one layer of creatures to another, as demonstrated by the graphic on the right. The yellow bar is 1000 pixels tall, representing the energy that comes from the sun. The next bar is only 100 pixels tall, and this represents the energy taken from the sun by plants for their own use. The next bar is 10 pixels tall, representing the energy which herbivores get from the plants they eat. The final bar is 1 pixel tall, representing carnivores and the energy the get from the animals they eat. I could go on a few more levels, but it’s hard to draw a bar only a tenth of a pixel tall. Each level only gains about 10% of the energy from the layer below.

Vegetarians often use this principle to illustrate how much more efficient it would be if we switched from the carnivorous level to a plant-based diet. Doing so would mean that we would have a tenfold increase of energy available to us. But there’s one big problem with this idea — a carrot just doesn’t barbecue as well as a steak. The carrots slip right through the bars and onto the coals.

Ignoring grilling carrots for the nonce, the laws of thermodynamics explain how energy moves from one layer of life to another and why the energy levels keep dropping in each layer. While an in-depth discussion of thermodynamics is way beyond the scope of this article, it’s still worth taking a quick look at the principle.

1st Law of Thermodynamics — energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed.
2nd Law of Thermodynamics — the disorder in an isolated system will never decrease.
3rd Law of Thermodynamics — absolute zero, the absence of any kinetic energy, cannot be reached, only approached closely.

Since that’s a little dry, here’s how C. P. Snow, a British scientist, described these three laws:

1st Law — you cannot win
2nd Law — you cannot break even
3rd Law — you cannot leave the game

The laws of thermodynamics tell us that any time we do work, we are converting energy from one form to another. Dams take potential energy and convert it into kinetic and electrical energy. Cars take chemical energy and convert it into kinetic energy. That’s the 1st law in action. The 2nd law explains that each time energy is converted, at least some energy is lost in the process. No car engine can convert gasoline into kinetic energy (the vroom) with complete efficiency. Some of the energy from the gasoline is turned into noise and waste heat, neither of which is used. The same thing happens in living machines like you and me. As we eat our grilled steak and carrots, we imperfectly convert that chemical energy into new skin, muscles, and 5K runs.

The 2nd Law describes entropy. Entropy is the spreading out of energy in a system, going from more organized and useful energy into disorganized and less-useful energy. There is no way to reverse this trend other than on a small scale, and doing so will still increase the overall disorder and energy change in the total system.

Bored already? Have you remembered why you didn’t like science classes? Now for the kicker — these laws, but most especially the 2nd Law, apply to life, as the diagram above shows. On average, only 10% of the energy from one layer makes it into useful energy for the next layer. This loss of energy also applies to people, nations, and organizations.

So what is the most efficient way to move money (that’s financial energy for you and me) from one person to another? Notice the trend below:

– You give $100 to someone.
– The Federal Government taxes $100 from you and gives money to someone.
– The Federal Government taxes $100 from you, gives money to a state welfare department, which hands money to the local welfare department, who hands money to someone.

Do you see the extra layers appearing? Remember, as money moves from one layer to another, this movement costs money. So as this $100 passes through the layers of bureaucracy, some is skimmed off to pay for salaries, the buildings and maintenance, and petty cash expenditures. Of our original imaginary $100 taxed from you, the end recipient on welfare gets less than $25. That means over $75 of your hard-earned tax money was lost in pushing your taxes from one department to another. In other words, for every one welfare person you help with your taxes, you have funded three bureaucrats. Gives you a nice warm fuzzy feeling, doesn’t it?

This is one reason why I instinctively favor smaller government over larger government. Smaller organizations cost less to staff, not only in numbers of people on the payroll, but because with fewer layers of bureaucracy there is less entropy as money (energy) passes through. We do need government and the services it provides, but these services come at a cost, both seen and unseen. This is why Thomas Jefferson was correct when he said, “That government is best which governs least.” This is true even on a thermodynamic level.

Some people discuss and fantasize over a world-wide government that would make world-wide laws and policies just as the Federal Government currently makes national laws and policies. But I cannot look on this idea with as much eagerness, because the principles of thermodynamics tell me that adding this extra layer of bureaucracy will sap even more of our financial energy. Knowing how inefficient government already is, why would I want to add yet another layer?

I see no benefit of a world-wide government that would outweigh the cost of having it in the first place.

Oil

One of the rallying cries during the lead-up to the liberation of Iraq was the oft-shouted “No blood for oil!” This is a cute and snappy slogan, but it has no basis in fact. If the U. S. were really that greedy for oil, Kuwait would have become the 51st State a decade ago. Nor would it take much force to occupy Saudi Arabia. But oil did play an important part in the lead-up to the fighting in Iraq.

In 1996, a U.N. plan was implemented to feed the people of Iraq. For years Iraq was under a trade embargo as a result of invading Kuwait. The plan was informally called the “Oil for Food” program, and it allowed Iraq to sell its oil at dirt-cheap prices in exchange for humanitarian aid, mainly food and medicines. This plan ran for about seven years under the direct control of the U.N. In January of this year, the Iraqi newspaper al-Mada published a list of 270 names of people and organizations whom the newspaper found in Iraqi oil ministry documents. These were the people and organizations who took part in the Oil for Food program. Dick Morris sums up some of the people involved in a New York Post article:

The list of those receiving these bribes includes France’s former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua (who’s a leader of Chirac’s party) and Patrick Maugein, the head of the French Oil firm Soco International. France’s former U.N. ambassador, Jean-Bernard Merimee, got vouchers to sell 11 million barrels.

In Russia, the payoff chain reached right into the “office of the Russian president.” President Vladimir Putin’s Peace and Unity Party also got vouchers, as did the Soviet-era Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov and the Russian Orthodox Church. Nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky shared in the largesse.

Who were the three biggest opponents to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq? Who were the three biggest beneficiaries of the Oil for Food program? Why, in both cases these were France, Russia, and the U.N. Basically, Saddam had bought their opposition to the war with oil bribes. Oil certainly did play a part in the fighting in Iraq, but oil wasn’t the reason why the U.S. invaded. Oil was the reason behind the people crying out for the status quo. After all, they had a sweet deal going on.

If someone tells you the U.S. invaded Iraq because of oil, congratulations! You have just discovered someone who doesn’t have a clue. Feel free to give them their sign.

Torture

In April, news broke of Americans and other Coalition soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners. In one photo, soldiers grin behind a pile of naked Iraqis. Another shows a female soldier grinning and pointing to naked Iraqis. Americans and Arabs are understandably upset about this. After all, Americans value human dignity, and the Iraqis in the pictures have had this dignity robbed from them. And Arabs are upset because the photographs seem to show just how evil the satanic American crusaders have become.

I want a full investigation of those involved because I value human life and dignity. But to be honest, I’m not all that torn up by these photos. Regardless of how much is true and how much is fake, the “torture” displayed by the Coalition doesn’t hold a candle to the real torture the Iraqis endured under Saddam’s rule. On one hand we have a pile of naked people, and on the other hand we have thousands shot, starved, macheted, stung, and maimed by Saddam.

America is being blamed for this because we have standards and we clearly failed to live up to them. But Saddam didn’t have any standards, and the world seemed willing to give him a pass. If France, Russia, the U.N., and American liberals had their way, Saddam would still be in charge, and the real torture and rape rooms would still be in full swing.

The Draft

Early this year, Democrat Rep. Charles Rangel introduced a bill to reinstate the military draft. “I truly believe that those who make the decision and those who support the United States going into war would feel more readily the pain that’s involved, the sacrifice that’s involved, if they thought that the fighting force would include the affluent and those who historically have avoided this great responsibility,” Rangel said.

Liar. This has nothing to do with making sure the children of the rich serve, and everything to do with forcing people to serve against their wishes.

During the Vietnam War, college campuses rocked with anti-war demonstrations. One main reason was the understandable anger of being forced to serve a cause that one did not believe in or support. Modern liberals like Rep. Rangel hope that by reinstating the military draft, they will foment the same anti-war emotions and demonstrations in which they participated during the ’60s and ’70s. These liberals care less about making sure our military is fully staffed and funded than they do about creating the same kind of anti-war demonstrations they remember from their younger, less informed days.

I cannot support this push for the draft because I can see the cynical purpose behind it. But even if the draft were proposed by conservative leaders, I would still be against it. This is one area where my libertarian feelings rise to the surface, and I agree wholeheartedly with what Robert A. Heinlein said back in 1961:

Conscription is slavery – and I don’t think that any people or nation has a right to save itself at the price of slavery for anyone – no matter what name it is called. We have had a draft for twenty years now; I think this is shameful. If a country can’t save itself through the volunteer service of its own free people, then I say: Let the damned thing go down the drain!

America will go down the drain if it cannot inspire enough citizens to put their lives on the line to defend it. Or as stated in another place:

Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.