Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
April 9, 2009 - April 2, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Unexpectedly Brilliant

Yeah, he's a liberal, French-loving weenie. But he has his moments.

THE NEWSPAPER THING. Honestly, I've never been a fan of Michael Kinsley, but I've always had a grudging respect for him. He played the liberal foil amicably and cogently on William F. Buckley's Firing Line, so I've never doubted that he was one of the diminishing population of lefties who don't stroke out at the mere presence of a conservative in the room. On the other hand, I had the impression that he was boringly predictable, a party-line kind of guy without much in the way of original ideas. Now I'm thinking I might have been wrong about that. His op-ed piece today in the Washington Post, "Life After Newspapers," is brilliant.

Regular readers here will know that I have a dog in this hunt. I've written about the financial catastrophe facing newspapers many times, most recently here, here and here. In the latest instance, I was responding to a newspaperman who took strong exception to my assertion that the crisis was one newspapers had brought on themselves, much of it through increasingly naked political bias. A representative excerpt of his argument and my response:

Don't take for granted the crucial role still played by newspapers in informing us about the world. If every newspaper abruptly folded tomorrow, we'd have a very empty Internet and a very clueless public. And we'd suddenly be living in a very dangerous society. Even if you don't read a single newspaper's website, you still know the news you know because of newspapers.

If you respond by saying, well, some other enterprise will step in and fill that role, then the burden is on you to explain how such a business could be any more sustainable than the ones that are struggling mightily to be sustainable as we speak.

Sorry for the lengthy post. I'm just getting weary of seeing this flawed argument about the newspaper industry's decline (i.e., various versions of "they're too biased!"), and it's hard not to wax on about it.

uh, well, "some other enterprise will step in and fill that role." And, no, I don't have any burden whatsoever "to explain how such a business could be any more sustainable than the ones that are struggling mightily to be sustainable as we speak."

But I will explain a fact or two about economics to our overwrought friend. The demand for clear, factual reportage is a constant, a market that will never go away so long as it is permitted to operate freely. Which means that it represents a huge economic opportunity, a source of enormous wealth potential to the person or entity who figures out how to meet the demand. Which also means that the demand will be met and profits will be made. It doesn't matter how.

Since then, of course, bailout fever has spread, not surprisingly, to newspapers who believe not that they're too big to fail but -- like my antagonist above -- too important to fail. Congress is actually considering the possibility of making newspapers nonprofit "foundations" subsidized by the very government they're supposed to be objectively reporting on. That should make liberals happy, shouldn't it? Well, interestingly enough, not in Michael Kinsley's case. It turns out he's the kind of old-fashioned liberal who still believes in quaint concepts like the market and an independent press. From his op-ed:

Two recent articles in Slate argued that newspapers (1) actually play a fairly unimportant role in our democracy and (2) are in this pickle because of financial shenanigans, not inexorable forces of technology. But let's say these are both wrong: that technology is on the verge of removing some traditionally vital organs of the body politic. What should we do?

How about nothing? Capitalism is a "perennial gale of creative destruction" (Joseph Schumpeter). Industries come and go. A newspaper industry that was a ward of the state or of high-minded foundations would be sadly compromised. And for what?

You may love the morning ritual of the paper and coffee, as I do, but do you seriously think that this deserves a subsidy? Sorry, but people who have grown up around computers find reading the news on paper just as annoying as you find reading it on a screen. (All that ink on your hands and clothes.) If your concern is grander -- that if we don't save traditional newspapers we will lose information vital to democracy -- you are saying that people should get this information whether or not they want it. That's an unattractive argument: shoving information down people's throats in the name of democracy.

He's also unsparing about how this crisis came to pass.

Few industries in this country have been as coddled as newspapers. The government doesn't actually write them checks, as it does to farmers and now to banks, insurance companies and automobile manufacturers. But politicians routinely pay court to local newspapers the way other industries pay court to politicians. Until very recently, most newspapers were monopolies, with a special antitrust exemption to help them stay that way....

And then along came the Internet to wipe out some of the industry's biggest costs. If you had told one of the great newspaper moguls of the past that someday it would be possible to publish a newspaper without paying anything for paper, printing and delivery, he would not have predicted that this would mean catastrophe for the industry. But that is what it has been.

Wow. That's an acute perception. And true. What's more, he's not particularly worried:

But there is no reason to suppose that when the dust has settled, people will have lost their appetite for serious news when the only fundamental change is that producing and delivering that news has become cheaper.

Maybe the newspaper of the future will be more or less like the one of the past, only not on paper. More likely it will be something more casual in tone, more opinionated, more reader-participatory. Or it will be a list of favorite Web sites rather than any single entity. Who knows? Who knows what mix of advertising and reader fees will support it? And who knows which, if any, of today's newspaper companies will survive the transition?

But will there be a Baghdad bureau? Will there be resources to expose a future Watergate? Will you be able to get your news straight and not in an ideological fog of blogs? Yes, why not -- if there are customers for these things. There used to be enough customers in each of half a dozen American cities to support networks of bureaus around the world. Now the customers can come from around the world as well.

If General Motors goes under, there will still be cars. And if the New York Times disappears, there will still be news.

It's enough to make you wonder if Michael Kinsley is becoming, um, conservative. I confess it; I'm impressed.

Now, if only we could extend the grand option of "doing nothing" to a bunch of other issues the Obama administration is interfering in so recklessly and disastrously. Then, maybe, I could begin to share CountryPunk's naive hopefulness. Although I'd also have to see some change in this depressing statistic.

YouTube WednesdayTuesday:

ELECTRICITY. An attractive concept. btw, follow
every link in this post, or you just won't get it.

NO POLITICS. Redemption lurks in the oddest corners. Reliable sources are telling me that the current nostalgia craze is for the Eighties, and my experience of the past weekend bears that out. My wife paid rapt attention to a five-hour VH1 special devoted to one-hit wonders of that decade, and I found myself enraptured, too, despite my reflexive allegiance to the much more serious sixties era of popular music. But constantly in thrall to this site as I am, I also took skeptical note of the canned intro that was repeated at the beginning of each one-hour segment -- the declaration that the 1980s were a "simpler time" and that without the music we all loved the decade would have "sucked."

A simpler time? Hardly. Unlike many who have fallen vicariously in love (or at least 'like') with distant decades, I actually lived through the eighties, just as I lived through the seventies and sixties, and I can report that there was nothing "simple" about them. Of course, I fully understand why the people who keep track of popular music have to say what they say, because the Eighties were the decade of Ronald Reagan, the twilight of the Cold War, a time of prodigious global challenges, and the last time that Americans were unashamedly proud to be American. Uncomfortable realities in the Age of Obama. It was a time when time might very well have suddenly ended for us at any moment, but also a time when our nation was finally, after several diffident decades, standing up to those who threatened us. It began, quite propitiously, with the "miraculous" 1980 Olympic hockey victory against the Russians. (All right. I was going to be content with just a link to Miracle, but I can't. I want to be sure you watch it. So, my apologies for interrupting the flow of this paragraph...)

The decade ended with the total collapse of the Soviet Union, engineered by a president whom the MSM hated so much it contrived to give all the credit for sudden peace to the Soviet leader who had the wit to fold an irretrievably bad hand.

Did the Eighties "suck"? No. Defiinitely no. After twenty years of economic stagnation and inflation, the Eighties were the beginning of a 30-year epoch of growth and prosperity. And oddly enough, prosperity also spurred a boom in the innovation and excitement of popular music. Within months of the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, MTV was born, and it became an international phenomenon. Are you starting to understand why the Eighties are the source of a current nostalgia craze? I have it on good authoriity that girls are suddenly wearing leg warmers again, just as they did in the aftermath of the movie Flashdance.

In fact, my own grown-up daughter -- she's 24 now -- tells me that the Eighties, especially the music, are all the rage now. I asked her what was so special about this era she's too young to remember. What one word characterizes her fascination with a long expired decade?

"Electricity," she told me. "The Eighties were electric."

That's an odd term to be used by a contemporary generation that carries electricity in its pockets and purses in a far more literal way than any denizen of the Eighties could have. There were no cell phones then, no Gameboys, and barely any internet connections. But I know what she means. In my somewhat retro vocabulary, her description translates to vitality, passion, aspiration, life. Particularly at the beginning of that decade, there was an explosion of possibilities that infected everyone, but most of all young people, even if they didn't know or credit the source. For just a moment, everything you could possibly imagine was conceivable. Like all such moments, it ended, long before the anguished 2000s, but the buzz of it still resonates in 2009.

Music, as always, is the key, the thing which gives us the feel and rhythm of the time. It's part of a continuum obviously, which is why we can look to the Rolling Stones (as usual) for bookends of eighties pop music. They kicked it off with Start Me Up, which is a new beginning by any measure and concluded it with Mixed Emotions, a monument to the end of the long simmering and incredibly dangerous Cold War between Mick and Keith. In between, there was a long ton of great music. Thanks to MTV, there was a profusion of one-hit wonders, which provide an unsurpassed insight into just how competitive the music industry is. So much talent harnessed to produce one fleeting moment of fame. Do you remember these?

Safety Dance / Men Without Hats. A guilty pleasure. Hallucinogenic and fun. What an odd combination.
Come on Eileen / Dexy's Midnight Runners. Oh those Irish. They never even look like they're trying.
Melt with you  / Modern English. Pure romance. A guaranteed lay. Still.
Let the Music Play / Shannon. A song that produced an entire genre (techno-dance) all by itself.
99 Luft Balloons / Nena. A novelty song about nuclear war by a hottie with tight pants and hairy armpits. Kewl.
She Blinded Me with Science / Thomas Dolby. A nerd star who went on to invent cellphone ringtones. The Eighties!
Party All the Time / Eddy Murphy. One Word. Fun.

How much harder must it be to read the times well enough to dominate them utterly? Here are the top ten songs of the entire decade:

10.  You Shook Me All Night Long / AC/DC. The most elemental beat of rock rocks on.

9.  Walk This Way / Aerosmith & Run DMC. Rock plus rap, a union that wouldn't be repeated until Linkin Park teamed up with Jay-Z about 20 years later.

8.  Like a Virgin / Madonna. Yes, she was a slut. Blatantly so. You could love her or hate her. But she never pretended her exhibitionism was somehow inadvertent. In that respect the Eighties were simpler.

7.  Sweet Child O' Mine / Guns N' Roses. The greatest trailer-trash love song ever recorded. It still makes me want to suck down a 40-ouncer in a brown paper bag while she whirls up a naked tornado of cheap perfume. How about you?

6.  I Can't Go for That (No Can Do) / Hall & Oates. Eh. My wife likes them. So does yours probably. Maybe we should listen more.

5.  When Doves Cry / Prince. The only guy still figthing the doomed battle against Internet sharing. So you'll just have to remember this fabulous song, along with the greater classic, Purple Rain.

4.  Billy Jean / Michael Jackson. uh, yeah. There was a time when he was absolutely great. That time was called the Eighties.

3.  Hungry Like the Wolf / Duran Duran. It was a new technology. Mistakes get made. So MTV created some stars who looked better than their music. You can't make a good looking omelet without coddling your eggs. (Don't even try to ask me what that means. I'll just ignore you while I'm watching Slash do this.)

2.  Pour Some Sugar on Me / Def Leopard. Metal. With a one-armed drummer. Those were the days. I'm not kidding. I'd be willing to bet he never tried to park in a handicapped spot. Those were the days.

1.  Living on a Prayer / Bon Jovi. A monogamous Catholic boy from New Jersey in the top spot. Who'd a thunk it? Those were the days.

The lists never tell the whole story, though. Time for me to come clean. Child of the sixties that I am, I still had a tape or two (or three) that I played every morning before I launched myself into corporate America in my expensive suit. And, yes, it was Eighties stuff. Come into my parlor...

The first one was actually the last gasp of the seventies, but it's no secret I was once a punk. The rest are the music of my life in the business world, about which I was as fierce and passionate as I am here. These aren't all the songs I listened to. But they are the ones -- apart from the obligatory Stones fix -- I remember most intensely. Psychoanalyze me at your own peril. In case you don't know it yet, I bite.

What were the Eighties? A vivid time. If you were there, you know what I mean. If you weren't, you probably wish you were. Which is a good sign that you can trust your gut. Nostalgia can be a kind of redemption. If it sends you in productive directions. I have a nostalgic decade or two that I look to as well. Maybe I'll tell you about them sometime. If you prove yourselves worthy. Until then, study this about me:

Eighties. Pure and (not so) simple. Just like me. Not to mention electric. After all, I am the undercurrent. Of everything.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Conservative Challenge
in the Age of Obamessiah

Everybody else seems happy to be headed downhill.

. The Y-Gen website where I found this titled it "Dumb.flv." But both the escalators in the shot are down escalators. We can think of them as the two parties in our political system. If you're determined to go up, what other choice do you have? Even though the editor chose to cut before this young woman made it to the top, it does look as if she's going to get there, doesn't it?

I've been searching, I admit it, for reasons, images, even excuses for hope in the face of the daily avalanche of catastrophic news. They've been few and far between. (btw I will personally eviscerate the next person who writes "far and few between," which is one of the latest viruses of illiteracy sweeping the internet, conservative websites included.) But I think I've found something. Not an item or two to cheer about but a pattern that provides a basis for cautious optimism. How to frame it? Simply. (I have a post in progress about the complex virtues of certain kinds of simple-mindedness, but you'll have to wait for that one; it's far from simple to write.) The Obamaniacs and their adoring lefties are overplaying their hand. Yes, Americans are patient and slow to anger, but they will eventually respond to the drip-drip-drip of liberal pessimism, insults, authoritarianism, and hysteria. In this context, many of the recent "bad news" occurrences are not really bad news but baby steps toward massive repudiation of a worldview most Americans will ultimately and forcefully reject.

Take the new Newsweek cover story celebrating the impending death of Christianity in America:

It's just flat overstated. Twenty years ago, 86 percent of Americans described themselves as Christians. Today it's only 76 percent. That still sounds like an overwhelming majority to me. And probably more realistic than the old number anyway. If current events affect your religious affiliation, you weren't very spiritual to begin with. And even if the figure declines to 60 percent a decade or so from now, it will remain a large enough majority to 1) take punitive umbrage at cover art that translates its faith's most sacred symbol into political propaganda and 2) recoil in disgust at the image of an American president genuflecting to a muslim plutocrat who's in the business of secretly subsidizing terrororism against Jews and Christians. I have no doubt that Newsweek editors yearn for the death of Christianity in America, but declaring that it's imminent doesn't make it so. It merely exposes their own prejudice in the matter. Drip-drip.

I've been wondering quietly about the lack of media coverage of the two journalists seized by North Korea. Two young women in the clutches of the most indisputably evil political regime on earth. It's not even clear that they were captured inside the North Korean border. Regardless of their professional stature or lack of it, these are media people. They work for Al Gore's television network for heaven's sake. How is it possible that this is not a day-after-day-after-day headline story in the nation's leading newspapers? No matter how left wing these girls are, even conservatives would raise hell to secure their safe return. But it's been only a rueful footnote in coverage of the "Hundred Days" of Obama. And the few leaks we've been permitted to date suggest they're facing ten years of imprisonment. Americans. Journalists. Women. Young women. Imprisoned in North Korea. Under who knows what godawful, abusive conditions.

Ironically, the only outrage I've heard expressed about their plight came from MSNBC's leftwing Gorgon Rachel Maddow. I was actually applauding to myself when I heard her say she was so mad about the situation she wanted to scream. That's how I feel too. But then.... BUT THEN she transitioned smoothly into video clips of Guantanamo and actually blamed the Bush administration for creating the precedent of institutional oppression that somehow enabled the North Koreans to justify their actions. American journalists are kidnapped and imprisoned under the Obama administration without the least sign that that administration is trying to secure their release and IT'S THE FAULT OF GEORGE W. BUSH??!! As if Kim Jong Il would be more reasonable if the United States were more tolerant of muslim terrorists... Yes, she said it with a perfectly straight face, but it's over the top. The unavoidable inference is that she doesn't care at all about the fate of her unfortunate media sisters. They're just convenient chips on the table in the game she's playing against the opposition party. Americans will subscribe to this bizarre interpretation of responsibility? No. Drip-drip-drip.

The new six-dollar-a-carton cigarette tax to pay for S-CHIP went into effect this week. No matter how anyone wants to spin it, including the troglodyte conservative Neal Boortz, it's a huge and hugely regressive tax increase on exactly the people Obama promised to give tax relief. Nothing could demonstrate more convincingly that Obama doesn't care at all about the disadvantaged, underprivileged folk he promised to care for as his first priority. He isn't about happiness. He's about punishment. For all the sins against his own personal conception of right and wrong. Wherever Americans transgress his own own peculiar code of morality, he will be there with a stick and a slick self-justifying platitude. Drip-drip-drip-drip.

We're on the verge of the NFL draft, which is interesting in the wake of the AIG and other bonus scandals. Obama and the mass media may think they've successfully blitzed the question of how much talented Americans should make in a free (or controlled) market economy, but once again, they've overplayed their hand. How many people watched the Super Bowl? Precisely. You can whip them up to a fever pitch over the course of a few weeks of intense indoctrination, but at a level deeper than the NYT or White House press office can ever get to, they understand the market economy. When their NFL team selects the most talented quarterback in the draft this year, they'll be clamoring on sports talk radio for team ownership to make whatever compensation deal is necessary and then they'll stand in line to shake the hand of the brand new mega-millionaire they prayed would join their team. Contrary to all the wouldas and shouldas of the MSM and the libs, Americans do know that outstanding talent deserves -- and earns -- outstanding compensation. One or two news stories may temporarily stir their emotions in an opposing direction, but they still know what they know and in time they will remember it. Drip-drip-drip-drip-drip.

Meanwhile, President Obama stands up before an audiene in France and declares that Americans have been arrogant in their dealings with Europe. Excuse us? We've been arrogant? Whose side is this guy on? Is it somehow wrong to expect that a president of the United States of America should be on our side?

Which perfectly highlights and crystallizes the essentials of the mistake the Obamaniacs are making. They secured 53 percent of the vote in the presidential election. In popular terms that's not exactly a landslide. It's a decisive win but not a mandate equivalent to, uh, say, the 76 percent of Americans who still describe themselves as Christians. Chances are very good that a big chunk of the 53 percent who voted for Obama didn't think they were signing up for a regime that despises the country it's sworn an oath to protect and the religion that gave rise to that country.

It will take time. But within the next four years, a majority of Americans will come to understand the worldview of Obama and the people who back him most fervently. Drip-drip-drip-drip-drip-drip. And guess what. Even people who are dumb as rocks don't enjoy being insulted, derided as racists, arrogant imperialists, foolishly obsolete for their religious beliefs, and incapable of making decisions for themselves about their own lives. The media are cutting their own throats -- and Obama's. They just can't help their delirious impulse to parlay a modest electoral victory into a license to assert their own twisted vision of utopia as a fait accompli.

This is an act that will get old in a hurry. Maybe not tomorrow or next month. But soon -- and permanently. Here's the news that's NOT being reported during this disastrous Hundred Days. Americans have 300-plus years of experience at being Americans. Meaning that at some very deep level they do not accept being told what to do, how to live their lives, where and who to work for, what (and what not to) smoke and drink and eat and fuck, and especially how they should regard themselves and their own lives vis a vis the rest of the non-American world and the God who made us all.

The media do NOT have the power they think they have in such matters. Nor does the Obamessiah. When the people finally realize he is not one of them but something else, with an alternate agenda, they will turn on him with a vengeance and all the bad that has been done will be undone.

In the meatime, all you conservatives, keep working your way up the down escalator. It may seem like you're bucking the tide, but remember that they're going down because that's the way the escalator is going. Ever so slowly, they'll remember that down is the wrong way to go, and before you know it, they'll arrive en masse at the escalator switch box and reverse its direction.

Yeah. I know. Come on, all you gloom and doomers. Do your worst. I don't care. I'm an optimist. Because I'm...

Friday, April 03, 2009


Redding & Ragsdale. Sounds like a BBC comedy team or something, doesn't it?

C of E. Whenever I think there are no more belly laughs in the world of current events, the Episcopal Church, or its senile cousin the Church of England, always comes galloping to the rescue. Sometimes it's the Archbishop of Canterbury supporting sharia law, and sometimes it's the latest church-sponsored vandalism of the denomination's liturgy and theology. This week, though, it's a hilarious "spiritual" dilemma whose only possible answer is a thigh-slapper of post-modern irony.

A dilemma always has two horns. (Or should I say 'prongs'? I guess.) The first prong this time probably struck the enlightened Episcopal flock as excellent news. The Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, has unanimously elected a new dean, Father Katherine Ragsdale. The origins of the school are closely associated with Harvard University, which is why it should surprise no one that the present-day institution is described as "socially liberal, particularly with regards to the inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the priesthood." Father Ragsdale is herself a devout Lesbian, which may partially account for the glowing treatment she received in a current Boston Globe profile, despite her worrisome status as a Christian cleric. Another factor may have been her theological position on abortion, articulated in a recent speech to a pro-choice group:

[W]hen a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion - there is not a tragedy in sight -- only blessing. The ability to enjoy God's good gift of sexuality without compromising one's education, life's work, or ability to put to use God's gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember - abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

But just as the announcement of Father Ragsdale's unanimous election was on the verge of precipitating a crescendo of release in the spiritual G(od)-spot of the Church's most enlightened, uh, members, this terribly disturbing report broke the mood entirely:

Episcopal Priest Ann Holmes Redding has been defrocked

The Episcopal Church has defrocked Ann Holmes Redding, the Seattle Episcopal priest who announced in 2007 that she is both Christian and Muslim.

Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, who has disciplinary authority over Redding, informed the priest of her decision in a letter today.

Wolf found Redding to be "a woman of utmost integrity and their conversations over the past two years have been open, honest and respectful," according to a press release from the Diocese of Rhode Island.

"However, Bishop Wolf believes that a priest of the Church cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim."

"I am very sad," Redding had said Tuesday. "I'm sad at the loss of this cherished honor of having served as a priest."

She also said she was sad at what seems to her to be a narrow vision of what the church accepts.

Redding, who had formerly served as director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill, announced in June 2007 that for more than a year, she had also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Muslim prayers moved her profoundly.

It was an announcement that perplexed many, though Redding said she didn't feel a need to reconcile all the differences between the two faiths, believing that at the most basic level they are compatible.

Redding's defrocking — formally called deposition — comes almost 21 months after Bishop Wolf first told the priest to take a year to reflect on her beliefs. [emphasis added].

Of course it's perplexing. How could a church which believes in none of the obsolete Christian articles of faith be incompatible with a religion that also believes in none of the Christian articles of faith? Even the most tolerant among us is tempted to the dark suspicion that there's something arbitrary, something personal in this Inquisition-like act of exclusion. Perhaps Father Redding is not herself a Lesbian, and Bishop Geralyn got snubbed at the sYnod. That would be a sorry rationale indeed for fucking up a promising church career.

Bishop Geralyn Wolf

No wonder so many Church of England Brits are taking the morally progressive step of getting "debaptised" this month.

If you don't blunt the horns prongs of a dilemma, it can become a schism, a potentially devouring split in the body of the church. That's why I'm happy to weigh in here with a close-cropped explanation that makes perfect sense with, for once, no resort to ad-feminam attacks.

It appears that Father Redding, in her 21 months of reflection, missed a detail of incompatibility (isn't the devil always in the details?) between her two faiths. Understandable. It took me 0.00002 seconds of Google searching to find it. But here's the rub:

Basically, Islam considers life as a sacred gift from God Almighty. No one is allowed to take or stop the life of anyone else except by way of justice or according to the Islamic law. Thus, the Holy Quran says: "Say: Come, I will rehearse what God has really prohibited you from: Join nothing as equal with Him; be good to your parents, kill not your children on a plea of poverty; We provide sustenance for you and for them; approach not shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which God has made sacred, except by a way of justice and law (Chapter 6, Verse 151).

In another verse, the Holy Quran says: "Kill not your children for fear of want; it is We who provide sustenance for them as well as for you; for verily killing them is a great sin.
(Chapter 17, Verse 31).

What should we understand from these two verses? First of all, it is a grave sin to take the life of children for fear of want as was the habit during that period. Neither is it allowed to do so for any other reason unless a great evil is caused by the presence of the fetus that may cause the death of the mother.

But is the fetus a human being? Is it part of the woman's body and she is free to do what she likes with it. This is the logic of modern materialistic way of life. Islam has something else to offer. It is completely different from all other concepts or religions. Here are a few details. As a comprehensive and unique way of life, Islam does not at all agree with those who say that a woman has full control over her body. This does not mean that Islam subjugates woman and puts them under men's control. Islam considers our bodies as a trust, which we have to preserve and maintain. It also confirms that the fetus is the creation of Almighty God. No one, not even the mother, has the right to get rid of it unless its presence threatens the life of the mother. For in that case, Islam allows abortion within those limits only. [Emphases added]

In a religious denomination which regards abortion as a blessing, this lone, sad backwardness of Islam is unfortunately sufficient to justify the removal of Father Redding from the clerical elite of the Episcopal Church.

Tragic. But final.

Nevertheless, I'm glad I could be of help. In these trying times, we don't need any more torrid controversies based on frivolous rumors rather than matters of deeply spiritual conscience. They lead to disappointing climaxes and catastrophic divorces. The Episcopatooty Church deserves much better than that. Time to open the windows and let fresh air wash away the dank clouds of suspicion and innuendo. What is Christianity if not a lavage of love dispelling destructive heat?

Penny's onto something...!

A QUINN MARTIN PRODUCTION. Never ignore your commenters. We do our sententious bit and then the locusts commenters arrive to chew us down to size. Like Penny. She's been a thorn in our side for months, and lately she's been obsessed with fingers, starting with this -- we thought -- lighthearted post about an Obama float in a German parade. She pointed out that the display was a finger short on each hand. uh, who cares? Who cares, Penny?

Did that deter her? No. When we did our post for April Fools Day, she returned laserlike to the question of fingers:

I find it ironic that the punks FINALLY show a picture where everyone has five fingers instead of four...and on April Fool's day, no less.

Take a look at the Brown's wave. Perfect compliments or...?

"Just April fools for YOU, goddammit!"

Mrs. Brown seems to be surrendering, while the Prime Minister is holding that line.

Awww...the Obama's are still honeymooning. How dear.

The generally acute commenter Beckoning Chasm noted Penny's obsession and struggled to understand it:

Penny, are you really counting the fingers on all the pictures posted here?

Do you think Obama might be a Hanna-Barbera creation? ZOINKS!

But Hanna-Barbera was the last thing on Penny's mind. Can you see what she was homing in on in this photo?

No. Obviously, you can't This is where you have to be a genius professional blogger to pick up on the coded hint from a commenter who is actually a black ops intelligence agent on a mission. Thankfully, we are a genius professional blogger, and then some, which is why it was the work of a moment for us to remember this 40-year-old CIA anti-disinformation campaign that ran on the ABC television network:

The Invaders is a 60's science fiction series which originally ran for two seasons. The first episode was aired January 10th 1967 and the last, March 26th 1968.

The Invaders is very much a period piece, and reflects the public concerns of the time: Unlike Star Trek, which ran concurrently with it, the Invaders is set in the present.

The Invaders draws influence both from America's first missions into space which made ordinary people think about the possibility of contact with life from other planets, and also from the paranoia of 'Reds under the Beds' brought on at the height of the Cold War.

The Invaders revolves around the character of David Vincent (played by Roy Thinnes), who has discovered that the Earth is being invaded by beings from another planet. These beings have taken human form, and are virtually undetectable [by] human beings.

"Virtually undetectable," yes, but not if you're in the know. Which we are. There is a way to identify the aliens who are intent on conquering earth and subjugating the human population. The "QM initiative" made it clear:

Some of them have an awkwardness about their hands -- a mutated fourth finger.

Hmmmmmmmmm. Why is "Penny" drawing our attention to fingers? Take a closer look:

Gordon and Mrs. Brown

Barack and Michelle Obama. Like those aren't mutated pinkies...

Note Penny's otherwise inexplicable comment that "Mrs. Brown seems to be surrendering, while the Prime Minister is holding that line." This makes sense only in terms of the finger behavior. There are no other visual cues of such emotional reactions. . Mrs. Brown is trying as best she can to emulate the manual mutation of her superiors. Her husband is obstinately resistant. Call it the "stiff upper pinkie" of British resolve. As opposed to the digital idiosyncracy of the invaders.

Well, that's the best we can do. It's possible and even likely we won't be here at the same old stand when you come back. (Ask Roy Thinnes how many ways they have to find and silence you.) So remember. Isn't that what Charles I said to D'Artagnan from the scaffold?

(If you're looking for us, we'll make it easy. This is what we look like. All of us.)

At least you can see we're earnest and solid. And handsome.

It's been nice knowing you all.

Have we done our duty, "Penny"? We can only hope...


Behind the Headlines

WORLD BOOTY CALL. Honestly, nobody is more delighted than I am about the wonderful reception Michelle Obama got in  London. What American wouldn't love this kind of purple Brit prose?

When she stepped off Air Force One on Tuesday evening, her gold silk dress scything through the half light, women all over the world let out a collective gasp. The First Lady had done it again: she had wrapped up her most winning attributes - her intellect, lack of fear and love of fashion - in an outfit, a sassy, sexy, above-the-knee one at that. Better still, she and Mr Prez were holding hands - like they meant it. If power is sexy, a modern power-couple in love is even sexier.

If one thing is for sure, it is that Mrs O understands the subtleties of power and the power of a working wardrobe. She uses clothes like Gordon Brown uses her husband: to forge a special relationship with the rest of us. Love-bombing us with her image, her signals shoot like missiles: I am in control (I wear clothes I feel comfortable in, not clothes that others might deem appropriate) , I am part of the solution, not the problem, and share the G20's commitment to an end to unfettered capitalism (I don't throw money at designer clothes, I wear pieces more than once); and I am not afraid of change, nor of doing things differently.

Wow. But at the same time, I couldn't help thinking about the forgotten woman. Hillary. And to a lesser extent, of course, the forgotten related subject, the massing of the Orcs in North Korea and Afghanistan. It's hard to remember these unpleasant distractions, I admit. The scintillating image of Michelle in London is mostly bright enough to blot out the sun.

So much so that I find it hard to remember such trivialities as the fact that this graduate of the Harvard Law School never passed the bar exam and somehow never needed to be replaced when she quit her $300,000 a year job with the University of Chicago Hospital corporation. She's just so lushly lovely. Who wouldn't glom onto her and forget the grim travails of the used-to-be most important woman in the world, Hillary Clinton, who's been dragged through the mire of having to negotiate with the damn Jews in Israel of all things.

You wouldn't look so good, either, if you had to pretend to like Zionists.

Which is not to say that the new American female Caesar of diplomacy hasn't had her share of stunning moments in recent days. For one thing she seems to have concluded the War on Terror:

U.S. Drops 'War on Terror' Phrase, Clinton Says

THE HAGUE -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration has stopped using "war on terror," breaking with the Bush administration's terminology in describing the conflict with al Qaeda and militant Islam.

"The administration has stopped using the phrase, and I think that speaks for itself," Mrs. Clinton told reporters as she traveled here for a United Nations-led conference on Afghanistan.

What a relief. I've been weary of the War on Terror since it began. Who knew that you could end it by renaming it? Given this glorious diplomatic innovation, who would make the case that Hillary isn't also behind the administration's discovery that there are no such things as enemy combatants:

The Obama administration Friday jettisoned the Bush-era term "enemy combatant" but maintained a broad right to detain those who provide "substantial" assistance to al-Qaeda and its associates around the globe.

The disclosure came in a court filing by the Justice Department in response to orders by federal judges, who sought clarity on the government's legal justification for holding about 241 detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Though dropping the term "enemy combatant" was a symbolic break from the Bush administration, the practical effects of Friday's action will not be known for months.

Bush administration officials had long argued they had a broad constitutional power to detain almost any terrorism suspect for an indefinite period. For those at Guantanamo, the government had said it needed to prove only that the detainees were supporting the Taliban, al-Qaeda or associated forces to justify their confinements.

The Justice Department said yesterday that it would seek to hold only terrorism suspects who "substantially supported" those groups and not those who "provide unwitting or insignificant support" to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Isn't that what we pay Secretaries of State to do? Talleyrand himself couldn't have arrived at a better resolution of his own spot of trouble between Bourbons and Bonapartists. Just change the vocabulary. That does it every time. Which is why the toughest and smartest woman in the history of American politics has also figured out how to bring the Taliban to heel:

Clinton offers olive branch to Taliban

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday at a U.N. conference on Afghanistan that Taliban members in Afghanistan who abandoned extremism must be granted an "honourable form of reconciliation."

"We must also support efforts by the government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al Qaeda and the Taliban from those who have joined their ranks not out of conviction, but out of desperation," Clinton said at an international conference on Afghanistan in the Hague.

"This is, in fact, the case for a majority of those fighting with the Taliban," she told delegates from more than 70 countries at the meeting.

Clinton's comments echo those of U.S. President Barack Obama who said this month that he was open to the idea of reaching out to moderate elements of the Taliban.

"They should be offered an honourable form of reconciliation and re-integration into a peaceful society, if they are willing to abandon violence, break with al Qaeda, and support the constitution," Clinton said.

You know... why the hell didn't that moron George W. Bush think of this simple gambit? Oh. Hadn't thought of that. The Taliban isn't smart enough for the Talleyrand runaround. They actually got mad:

U.S. reconciliation offer "lunatic": Taliban spokesman

KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents reject a U.S. offer of "honorable reconciliation," a top spokesman said on Wednesday, calling it a "lunatic idea" and saying the only way to end the war was to withdraw foreign troops...

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an international conference on Afghanistan on Tuesday that those members of the Taliban who abandoned extremism must be granted an "honorable form of reconciliation."

"This matter was also raised in the past," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, referring to comments last month by Obama, who spoke of reaching out to moderate Taliban.

"They have to go and find the moderate Taliban, their leader and speak to them. This is a lunatic idea," Mujahid said by telephone from an unknown location.

And vengeful:

Taliban threatens attack in D.C.

U.S. counterterrorism specialists are taking seriously a threat Tuesday by Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud to attack the White House and "amaze" the world.

Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head and has taken responsibility for a string of terrorist attacks in Pakistan - including a bold assault on a police training center in Lahore on Monday that killed more than 30 people - has made similar threats before.

In recent years, however, Mehsud has gained strength and territory. In February, he united with two other Pakistani Taliban groups and pledged allegiance to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. The U.S. has tried repeatedly to kill Mehsud with drone attacks.

Well, they say they're mad and vengeful. You know how that goes. They don't really mean it. If they attacked the White House, they'd never get to meet "the One" in person. Nobody would pass that up. Hillary knows. Wait till they get some of Obama's DVDs or iPods. They'll come around. Eventually, everybody's going to love the Clinton steel inside the velvet Obama glove. The War on Terror is over. When the muslims understand that President Obama refuses to do more than nod to the Brit queen while he's perfectly willing to bow down to the Saudi king, they'll get the picture:

The video's here if you doubt it. Skip to 51 seconds in.

Nobody's going to want to hurt Obama's America. Not Even this guy.

Watch the whole video here. The WHOLE video.

Yes, I know it's a disturbing video, but you have to realize that he's the kind of guy who's exactly in the Obama-Clinton wheelhouse, an Oxbridge intellectual who just has to be amenable to reason and nice tea cakes at some level.

How to Kill 330,000 Americans in an Hour

The answer involves a "courageous fighter" willing to smuggle "four pounds of anthrax in a suitcase" over the U.S. border with Mexico, and then "spread this confetti" in American population centers: "9/11 will be small change in comparison."

 This scenario is outlined by a Kuwaiti scholar and political activist who goes by the name of al-Nafisi. A lecture by him has been translated by our friends at MEMRI. They also have provided me with a bit of background on him: He has studied in Cairo, at the American University of Beirut, and he received his doctorate from Churchill College in Cambridge. He has been a visiting professor at Exeter University in England. In the 1990s he served as a political advisor to the head of the Kuwaiti Parliament. He is not known to be a member of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Hamas but, as you’ll see, he — and his audience — are partial to such groups.

And if reason and tea cakes don't do the trick, Obama can just bow down to him and Hillary can suck his, well, you know. Like she hasn't done that before...

Trust me. It's all going to work out. Everything's fine now that George W. Bush is gone. Go back to what you were doing before -- admiring Michelle in her haute couture togs in high-toned London..

Feel better? Sure you do. And if you don't, just remember that Hillary is on the case.

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