People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Virginia Blog Carnival Is Up

Check out this week's installment of the Virginia Blog Carnival over at Smyth County Conservative. Besides it being an attractive weblog, the entries this week are the most interesting and wide-ranging so far.

Breaking News Out Of Coal Country

Troubling (preliminary) news out of central West Virginia:
Blast traps 13 miners in West Virginia
Lightning might have sparked explosion, officials say

Updated: 2:06 p.m. ET Jan. 2, 2006

TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. - A coal mine explosion that may have been sparked by lightning trapped 13 miners more than a mile underground Monday, state officials said.

“There was some type of explosion either heard or felt by the miners attempting to go in the mine for a shift change,” said Lara Ramsburg, spokeswoman for Gov. Joe Manchin. “They then backtracked out of the mine.”

Rescue workers have not been able to reach the miners already in the mine, said Steve Milligan, deputy director of Upshur County’s Office of Emergency Management. (link)
Let's hope for the best ...

A Reasonable Request

I've held off rendering an opinion with regard to the NSA spying kerfuffle, in part because I never felt I completely understood it. Still being a bit unsure, but having gotten some help from the guy who claims he's not Emeril, I think I now understand the issue well enough to write on the matter.

Here's the deal:

Our military forces come across a laptop computer and assorted CD's in a cave in Afghanistan. Upon investigating, the National Security Agency retrieves a phone number of an al Qaeda terrorist who's known to be operating out of, say, Iran. The NSA, which has the capability of monitoring hundreds of thousands of phone calls a day, sets up the means by which to trace calls from that phone number.

Lo and behold, a call is generated one day to a phone in New York City.

Now in an ideal world, and by law if a U.S. citizen's phone is involved, the government would be required to obtain permission - a search warrant - from a judge in order to tap that citizen's phone and listen in to the conversation.

Two issues arise. (1) The call is in progress; how do you get a warrant fast enough? (2) The government claims that a warrant is not required in wartime; that a president has broad executive powers that allow for such activity that might not be permissible in time of peace.

On that second matter, the debate rages. Civil libertarians (and the looney Bush-haters who oppose his very existence) argue that our president has no Constitutional authority to do this, while past presidents (Carter and Clinton apparently did the same thing) and many Constitutional scholars argue that the president has the authority in time of war.

I'm going to let them fight it out. But the Roanoke Times editorial page has a reasonable expectation for all to consider in this very serious matter:

NSA spy program needs legal framework
Technological tools should be used against U.S. enemies, but liberties must be protected.

As more information comes to light on the scope and breadth of the National Security Agency eavesdropping program authorized by President Bush, two things are becoming clear:

· The technologically sophisticated effort may be an important tool in the vital effort to identify terrorists and disrupt deadly plots.
· No legal framework exists to ensure that such a program is not abused.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius makes a compelling argument that, although the NSA program raises vexing legal, ethical and political issues, such techniques should not be abandoned.

But, Ignatius says, without a clear legal framework, the program is not sustainable. "In that sense, continuing the current lawless approach would be the true gift to the enemy."

Congress, the president and the courts must work out a method for using such powerful technological tools against our enemies while safeguarding citizens from abuse. (link)

We all should be concerned about the abuses of civil liberties that have taken place during past wars (none more egregious than when President Roosevelt imprisoned en masse thousands of Americans because they were of Japanese ancestry), but we should also accept the fact that our president has a war to win. In order to do so, Mr. Bush needs all the requisite tools at his disposal, including the capablility to monitor calls coming into the country from terrorists overseas.

Congress and President Bush need to work through this issue together.

Interesting Stuff

Archaeological news from the City of David:

Artifacts with links to Bible unearthed
By Jay Bushinsky, The Washington Times

JERUSALEM -- Israeli archaeologists, screening tons of rubble scooped out of this ancient city's sacred Temple Mount, have discovered hundreds of artifacts and coins, as well as jewelry, some with biblical links dating back more than three millennia.

Among the unusual finds extracted by Bar-Ilan University's Gabriel Barkai and his team of students and volunteers is a "bulla," or seal impression, thought to be used to close cloth sacks of silver.

"It bears the name Gedalyahu Ben Immer Ha-Cohen, suggesting that the owner may have been a brother of Pashur Ben Immer, described in the Bible [Jeremiah 20:1] as a priest and temple official," Mr. Barkai said.

That verse says: "Pashur, the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the House of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things."

One of the finds is a stone weight equivalent to four shekels (an ancient Hebrew measure, about 2 ounces), marked with words written in the ancient Hebrew alphabet.

Some finds reflect the Temple Mount's unique and dramatic history. An example of this is an iron arrowhead with a shaft used by the Roman legions during the siege of the Second Hebrew Temple 2,000 years ago.

... scores of coins, many of them Jewish and minted by the Hasmonean and Herodian dynasty." This find might help explain why Jesus Christ drove the money-changers out of the Temple, as described in the New Testament.

"There also are beautiful objects that belong to the Crusader period," Mr. Barkai said, noting the many Byzantine coins, which testify to large attendance at the Temple Mount during the Christian conquest and rule during the 11th to 15th centuries.

A bronze pendant several hundred years old depicts the Holy Grail. (link)


Common Sense Will Someday Prevail

Joe Bastardi has been in the weather prognosticating business longer than we've had weather. Or so it seems anyway. Accuweather's Senior Expert Meteorologist, and all-around smart guy, Bastardi has one of the more cool - and may I add, sane - heads in the weather business as it relates to the global warming hysteria that has gripped much of the western world.

Here's Joe's take on the latest argument put forth by the gloom-and-doomers with regard to Hurricane Katrina, tsunamis, floods, pestilence and ... you name it, and the ties the hysterics are trying to make between weather patterns and global warming (in an article by Bill Hoffman for The New York Post entitled "Disaster Warning"):

"Many of us said for years that New Orleans was a sitting duck. The fact of the matter was that it was unusual that it hadn't happened there until now," he said.

"If you look at historical weather patterns, between 1900 and 1964, the United States in October and November was hit once every three years by a major hurricane.

"It's simply the odds evening back out again."

He said that in South Asia, businesses continue to build resorts, despite the threat of tsunamis and other natural disasters. "These disasters have gone on for years, and people go right ahead and build right on the coast anyway. We seem to forget we're tenants on the Earth — we don't own it," he said.

Bastardi added that a look at the weather history of the United States reveals that "there have been unbelievable storms before, and they'll be [sic] unbelievable storms again.

"What happened this year is just part of the natural cycle of the way the weather works." (link)

What? You mean we had bad weather before George Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol?

Impossible. The French, the Democrats, the U.N. General Assembly, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark say it ain't so ...

Be Christian or Be Intelligent. You Decide.

One Joseph Loconte, described by The New York Times as being "a research fellow in religion at the Heritage Foundation and a commentator for National Public Radio (which explains a good bit) and is the editor of 'The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering Storm,'" comes out against the Democratic Party's attempt to be more religious (it even sounds silly as I write it), in an op/ed appearing in this morning's paper:

Nearer, My God, to the G.O.P.
By Joseph Loconte

NANCY PELOSI, the Democratic leader in the House, sounded like an Old Testament prophet recently when she denounced the Republican budget for its "injustice and immorality" and urged her colleagues to cast their no votes "as an act of worship" during this religious season.

This, apparently, is what the Democrats had in mind when they vowed after President Bush's re-election to reclaim religious voters for their party.

A look at the tactics and theology of the religious left, however, suggests that this is exactly what American politics does not need. If Democrats give religious progressives a stronger voice, they'll only replicate the misdeeds of the religious right. (link)
The only reason I make mention of this guy's opinion piece is because he doesn't develop an argument beyond his disparaging the religious right - which comprises 75% of America. Why shouldn't the religious left (or "religious progressives" - I kinda like the telling meaninglessness of it) be embraced by the Democrats? What's so bad about it beyond the horrid thought that someone from the United Methodist Church might have to sit and debate a Southern Baptist on some dais somewhere?

This is as close to an argument as Loconte gets:

For starters, we'll see more attempts to draw a direct line from the Bible to a political agenda.

And that's a bad thing, you see.

We get a bit closer to his mindset with this:

When Christians - liberal or conservative - invoke a biblical theocracy as a handy guide to contemporary politics, they threaten our democratic discourse.
Wow. The Republic is threatened when God enters the conversation. I pause while you finish chuckling. Or scratching your head. Or both.

Finally - mercifully - there's this:

Christians are right to argue that the Bible is a priceless source of moral and spiritual insight. But they're wrong to treat it as a substitute for a coherent political philosophy.
So. That's the nut of it, folks. "You can espouse all that is good about your Christianity or you can have a coherent political philosophy." Those who do the former are incapable of embracing the latter.

Based on this fella's attitude toward Christians, I'll just bet Joseph Loconte is a Democrat in good standing. He fits the open-minded/empty-minded mold.

For the love of God.

And That's As It Should Be ...

Have you ever noticed the difference between the cost of a hot dog in Manhattan and the cost of a hot dog at the Citgo station in Bland, Virginia? Just as there is a perfectly good explanation for it, there is one for this as well:
States Take Lead in Push to Raise Minimum Wages
JOHN M. BRODER, The New York Times

Thwarted by Congress, labor unions and community groups have increasingly focused their efforts at raising the minimum wage on the states, where the issue has received more attention than in Republican-dominated Washington, said Bill Samuel, the legislative director of the national A.F.L.-C.I.O. (link)
Leaving aside the tender and heartwarming notion that Bill Samuel and the A.F.L.-C.I.O. have such concern for the plight of the poor (is the Transit Workers Union that went on struck in New York City just before Christmas stranding tens of thousands of passengers who couldn't afford other means of transportation a member of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.?), it is absolutely proper for the debate over the minimum wage to be kept at state level.

The purpose of this article is to nudge the federal government to get back in the game but this is as it ought to have been all along.

We don't want a $6.00 hot dog here in Bland.