24 December 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

In Hoc Anno Domini

This editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vermont Royster and has been published in The Wall Street Journal annually since.

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression -- for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.

But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

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23 December 2007

Free Mark Steyn

At least in Canada, when the local Muslim interest group complains, they don't throw you in jail and threaten lashes and/or worse. Well, they haven't, yet.

Mark Steyn has been a favorite columnist of ours for some time now. We serialized one of his best (and funniest) columns here, here, here, and here. We mentioned him in a post about an experience at the Cambridge Intel Seminar where we met a critic of his here. And if that's not enough Steyn for you, he's currently filling in for Sean Hannity on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes.

First of all, it behooves us to understand that other Western countries do not protect speech the way the US does. In fact, they typically don't have a Bill of Rights in the way that America does. This bears repeating: speech is not protected anywhere the way it is in the United States. Mark Steyn, like others before him, is currently experiencing what it is like when one offends a powerful interest group in a country with limited speech protection.

Read the overview about the case at National Review Online. Then, read what prompted the current kerfuffle at Macleans.ca. Finally, check out more about the case in an article by John Robson. Then, if you like, return and comment here.

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18 December 2007

Our Fav Christmas Music

Originally posted on 4 December 2005, updated.

With 487 songs from 118 artists and 48 different albums comprising 1.1 days of music (thank you iTunes for that stat), our list is comprehensive and authoritative.

To be sure of our rankings, we've done nothing but listen to Christmas music the entire weekend, spurning invitations to dinner, movies, and other social events. Living on nothing but a steady diet of pop tarts and diet cherry coke, addled by way too much Kenny G, we present THE TOP 9 GREATEST CHRISTMAS ALBUMS EVER.

1. Christmas to Christmas - Lee Greenwood
Famous for his patriotic favorite, "God Bless the USA" (you know you sang it in elementary school) this country artist produced the best Christmas album ever. From "Tennesse Christmas" to "Lonestar Christmas" this one is a classic. But we're still waiting for "Evergreen (Washington) Christmas."

2. Home for Christmas - Amy Grant
"Breath of Heaven" is the signature song from this album that is a favorite of our erstwhile roommate Marc--he's a HUGE Amy Grant fan.

3. When My Heart Finds Christmas - Harry Connick Jr.
Not to be confused with the imposter, Michael Buble, this master of big band, jazz, and the silver screen (awesome performance in "Independence Day") is best known for "It Must Have Been 'Ol Santa Claus." This is our brother Matt's favorite.

4. An Airus Christmas - Kurt Bestor
More religious than the Top 3, the best songs on this album are "Coventry Carol" and "What Child Is This."

5. Once Upon A Christmas - Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
For all you young kids enjoying holiday romances, try this selection from Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. You say you've never heard of Kenny Rogers? Ask your parents. "A Christmas to Remember" and "Christmas Without You" are the best.

6. Faith - A Holiday Album - Kenny G
Good album, just don't listen to it repeatedly. Oh, and if you haven't seen it already, Jon Stewart did a great parity of Kenny G in a SNL sketch a few years ago. Spoontang. Download it.

7. White Christmas - Bing Crosby
The Godfather of Christmas music and Christmas movies. Before "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" there was "White Christmas." Was he the first to sing "The Christmas Song"?

8. Making Spirits Bright - Dean Martin
This Rat Pack member gets credit for having the best version of "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"--popularized by Elf. Check it out.

9. Christmas with the Beach Boys - The Beach Boys
Call this a concession and a shout out to all our friends from SoCal. Our mom likes this album too. "Merry Christmas, Baby" is the star-track.

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16 December 2007

Our Fav Christmas Movies

Christmas is the time for Christmas movies. We continue to be amazed by the number of people who have never seen National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or A Christmas Story (NN, we're talking about you). And so, we re-post this Christmas fav.

Originally posted on 20 December 2005.

1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
In the genre of Christmas films Cousin Eddie is possibly the best character ever. We also think he is a composite of several members of my extended family. If you've only ever watched this on tv, be prepared to fast-forward a couple parts.

2. A Christmas Story
Red Rider BB guns, the neighbor's hounds, the smiling Christmas duck, chocolate ovaltine--this movie has it all. And you can't beat the tongue on the flagpole, you really can't--that's the type of humor that appeals to all ages.

3. Scrooged
We love watching the angel/ghost beat the snot out of Bill Murray's character. If you like Groundhogs Day or What About Bob? or Ghostbusters you'll love Bill Murray in this movie. Ditto on the self-edit, the tv version cuts out some of the unnecessary crass material.

4. It's a Wonderful Life
We're sometimes sentimental, but never sappy. This is one you can watch with the whole family.

5. Elf
This movie is good, but not great. We particularly enjoy the scene where Will Ferrell tries to put the star on the tree. Also, answering his father's office phone, "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?" is classic and oft repeated. Speaking of oft repeated quotes from Will Ferrell, can we please be done with everything being "kind of a big deal?" Sure, we think more cowbell is just as funny as the next guy, and we know Ferrell is popular because even the dumb get his jokes, but still, can we let this one die, please? It's overused in the way "alrighty then" from Ace Ventura Pet Detective was abused. Apologies to those of you too young to remember that movie or the quote or, if you do, don't remember why it was funny. You probably don't remember because it wasn't that funny in the first place. But, in ten years when some little-read blog writes about Anchorman and how everyone used to wait around for the obligatory reference to something being "kind of a big deal," you'll wonder at the fact that you thought it was so frickin hilarious. And then, you'll know what we mean.

6. The Santa Clause
Our sister wanted us to include this one. And yes, we did watch Home Improvement growing up, and loved it.

7. Santa Claus The Movie
Before there was Elf there was this movie where an elf leaves the North Pole because he doesn't fit in. This movie has Dudley "need we say" Moore? Seriously. Need we?

8. White Christmas
We first watched this movie because Chevy Chase's character (Clark Griswold) referred to it in his famous rant near the end of Christmas Vacation. Watch this one with grandma.

9. Home Alone
What is it about pain that gets such big laughs? Suspend your hate of Macauley Culkin and watch this one with your younger cousins or neices and nephews--that way you can either laugh at the movie or their response.

10. A Muppet Christmas Carol
Our favorite version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This one should also appeal to your friends of the Angry Left. We don't know why we wrote that, it just felt right (no pun intended).

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14 December 2007

Echo, Echo: Democrat Lovefest

It's no wonder the Democrats trumpet the superficial diversity of their primary candidates--a woman, black, latino, etc.--there is no diversity of opinion.

We watched today's debate hoping to find out what was different about each candidate. Asked about taxes and the economy, each one blamed Bush and called for increased taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Health care? Each one wanted a universal, euro-style socialized system. At one point we closed our eyes and tried to guess which one was speaking--only Hillary's shrill voice set her apart from the rest, her politics certainly didn't.

Granted that Presidential primaries cause each candidate to appeal to the extreme base, but still, the Democrats might as well all have the same policies and platforms. Republicans may all be white and male (thought not all Alan Keyes!!!!!), but there are differences of opinion on abortion, the environment, taxes, campaign finance, immigration, trade, stem-cell research (though with recent findings, those differences are diminishing), Iraq (Ron Paul), etc. Among the Republican candidates, there exists a strong diversity of opinion.

For as long as we can remember, we've heard that the liberals were the open-minded party. Anyone listening to today's debate would know that's not true.

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13 December 2007

Iran: Beware Good News

As we consider the recent NIE revelation that Iran discontinued it's nuke program some 3 years ago, it's worth considering a couple of things:

- Iran recently tested a missile with a range of 2000 km--effectively allowing a strike against Israel.

- Israel does not agree with many of the basic assumptions in the NIE report.

- The French, specifically President Sarkozy, still believe Iran is a threat to acquire nuclear weapons. For all you doves, the fact that it is the French sounding the alarm ought to carry a bit of credibilty with you.

- At least two of the committee members who reviewed the final NIE report have been outspoken critics of President Bush. Though criticism has been warranted, much of theirs took on a very partisan tone.

- Iran still has hegemonic aspirations. And they want to obliterate Israel.

- Iran continues to enrich Uranium. This is one of the more difficult steps in the bomb-making process. Ostensibly, they are doing so for energy production. We should know better.

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Lincoln on Persuasion

In a post last week, we mentioned our love of dailylit.com and admiration for Abraham Lincoln. We wrote this in the context of a letter we'd read that day, written by Lincoln, to a friend, regarding his recent marriage proposal. The response from friends who've read this in email (we forwarded it to some) and on the blog has been overwhelmingly positive.

Though not all letters are as funny and interesting and revealing as that letter, they often contain nuggets of information that seem to have present application. Or, at least they do to us. Bear in mind that we are a historian in training.

From an Address before the Washingtonian Temperance Society. Springfield, Illinois. February 22, 1842

When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim "that a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall." So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what you will, is the great high-road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one.

On the contrary, assume to dictate to his judgment, or to command his action, or to mark him as one to be shunned and despised, and he will retreat within himself, close all the avenues to his head and his heart; and though your cause be naked truth itself, transformed to the heaviest lance, harder than steel, and sharper than steel can be made, and though you throw it with more than herculean force and precision, you shall be no more able to pierce him than to penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw. Such is man, and so must he be understood by those who would lead him, even to his own best interests....

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Participate In Our Poll!

As a part of our ongoing effort to make this blog more interesting (yes, it's possible), we recently added a weekly poll--located immediately to the right of this post.

Since our readership has dwindled--owing to our sporadic posts--we'll start out with a question-of-the-week. If/when we start getting a few more hits (shameless plug--please tell your friends about OL&L), we'll shorten the duration of each poll, thereby giving you, dear reader, more opportunities to weigh in.

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11 December 2007

National Review, Our Fav Conservative Mag, Endorses Mitt

Generally, we believe that newspapers should not endorse candidates. Rather, we think they should advocate issues, ideas, and positions. We're not quite sure what to make of it when an outspoken conservative publication endorses a particular candidate.

Drudge called our attention to this development and it appears the Drudge traffic is overloading National Review's servers, so good luck getting at the article here.

Like National Review, we appreciate the totality of Mitt Romney's conservative positions. His current stated positions more closely match ours than any of the other Republican candidates for President. However, we still have reservations about Romney. How sure is his conversion to conservative principles? Was his change of position the result of a change of heart? Or was he just endorsing moderate to liberal positions to get elected in MA? Or, even worse, is he only now adopting conservative ideals to get past the Republican primary?

Point by point, Mitt is our ideal candidate. But if he is not a true conservative believer, we'd rather have a candidate with whom we disagree, but believe is telling the truth.

***Update 11:23PM MST - Transcript of chat between Hugh Hewitt and Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review. This provides great insight into NR's decision making process vis-à-vis their endorsement of Romney.

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10 December 2007

From the Journal: On BYU & Mormons

In the Friday, December 7th edition of the Wall Street Journal Naomi Shaeffer Riley, deputy Taste editor wrote on "What Iowans Should Know About Mormons." Good stuff, this article.

Riley spent some time at BYU while researching religious universities. Based on her experience then and there, she recommended not that readers vote for Romney, but that they do not discount him because of his religion.

About BYU and its students she wrote:
The young men and women at Brigham Young University are among the smartest, hardest-working and most pleasant college kids you will find anywhere. (For better or worse, I have visited dozens of college campuses.) The student body lives by the Mormon principle: "The glory of God is intelligence." Most reside off campus without adult supervision, yet they adhere strictly to curfews, rules about contact with the opposite sex and every other church directive. They are purposeful but seem to enjoy themselves, spending their free time hiking in the sprawling desert. And BYU has America's largest ROTC program outside of our military schools.

This last fact is one I had occasion to think about on my trip. I left for BYU on Sept. 7, 2001, and returned home a week later. On 9/11, the students gathered for a campuswide devotional. The university president tried to comfort the students with "the eternal perspective." My eternal perspective is not the same as theirs, of course. But hearing more than 20,000 young people around me reciting the Pledge of Allegiance made me realize that our temporal perspective is the same. I'm sure Sam Adams would have agreed.
While we personally haven't spent much time "hiking in the sprawling desert," we much prefer this characterization of BYU students to others we've read.

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Maureen Dowd is a hack

This morning we received the following email, having been forwarded to us mass-style:
Hello Everyone:

New York Times columnist Maureen Down wrote a hateful, offensive, and untruthful article about the Mormon Church yesterday (Sunday, Dec. 9th). In it, she describes Church leaders as "authoritarian", asserts that the Church today does not "grant[] women and blacks equal status", and declares that Joseph Smith was a "lusty, charismatic Prospero." (Prospero, in case you are not aware, is a character in Shakespeare's The Tempest that uses sorcery to control the play's other characters.) She exclusively quotes Jon Krakauer (author of "Under the Banner of Heaven") as her "expert" on Mormonism.

Ms. Dowd's column falls far below the standards of professional journalism. She is loose with the facts. Her disdain for Mormons is apparent. You may recall that radio talk-show host Don Imus was forced to publicly apologize and leave his job for calling the women of the Rutgers basketball team "nappy-headed hoes." Ms. Dowd's comments were equally offensive to Mormons. I believe that she, like Don Imus, should apologize and lose her job.

Please take a few minutes to complete the following three steps:

1. Read the article entitled "Mitt's No JFK"

2. Send one short, RESPECTFUL email to publisher@nytimes.com and president@nytimes.com requesting that Ms. Dowd apologize and step down from her position.

3. Forward this email to all potentially interested friends/family in your email list.
Our first reaction to this email was surprise. We can't believe anyone still reads Dowd--a columnist whose scurrilous and spurious work would fit in better over at the Daily Kos or the Huffington Post.

If this email writer or anyone else thinks this is the first or worst or last of these types of columns, they had better brace themselves. Attention: much, much more to follow.

When you do write your email to the NYT publisher and president, make it a form letter. You'll be filling in a lot more names before this campaign is over.

***Update 1:26pm MST: From the Washington Post, a more "balanced" look at Mormonism (you know, one that doesn't rely on sensationalist John Krakauer for its information) by Michael Otterson entitled "Are Mormons Christians?"

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06 December 2007

Lincoln on Love

A week ago we subscribed to two books or collections over at dailylit.com: Pride and Prejudice and the Speeches and Letters of Abraham Lincoln. Among the latter was this gem of a letter Lincoln sent to his friend, Mrs. Browning regarding his recent attempt at marriage. We guarantee you'll laugh out loud or get your money back (most books at DailyLit are, like this blog, free).

Most people know Lincoln as America's great liberator--one of the two best Presidents in American history. Letters like these humanize Lincoln, they help us realize that he was a normal man with normal concerns and worries and, as this letter shows, an incredible sense of humor (self deprecating) and humility. Lincoln is one of our heroes.



A Letter to Mrs. O.H. Browning. Springfield, Illinois. April 1, 1838

Dear Madam, Without apologising for being egotistical, I shall make the history of so much of my life as has elapsed since I saw you the subject of this letter. And, by the way, I now discover that in order to give a full and intelligible account of the things I have done and suffered since I saw you, I shall necessarily have to relate some that happened before.

It was, then, in the autumn of 1836 that a married lady of my acquaintance, and who was a great friend of mine, being about to pay a visit to her father and other relatives residing in Kentucky, proposed to me that on her return she would bring a sister of hers with her on condition that I would engage to become her brother-in-law with all convenient dispatch. I, of course, accepted the proposal, for you know I could not have done otherwise had I really been averse to it; but privately, between you and me, I was most confoundedly well pleased with the project. I had seen the said sister some three years before, thought her intelligent and agreeable, and saw no good objection to plodding life through hand-in-hand with her. Time passed on, the lady took her journey, and in due time returned, sister in company, sure enough.

This astonished me a little, for it appeared to me that her coming so readily showed that she was a trifle too willing, but on reflection it occurred to me that she might have been prevailed on by her married sister to come, without anything concerning me having been mentioned to her, and so I concluded that if no other objection presented itself, I would consent to waive this. All this occurred to me on hearing of her arrival in the neighbourhood--for, be it remembered, I had not yet seen her, except about three years previous, as above mentioned. In a few days we had an interview, and, although I had seen her before, she did not look as my imagination had pictured her. I knew she was over-size, but she now appeared a fair match for Falstaff.

I knew she was called an "old maid," and I felt no doubt of the truth of at least half of the appellation, but now, when I beheld her, I could not for my life avoid thinking of my mother; and this, not from withered features,--for her skin was too full of fat to permit of its contracting into wrinkles--but from her want of teeth, weather-beaten appearance in general, and from a kind of notion that ran in my head that nothing could have commenced at the size of infancy and reached her present bulk in less than thirty-five or forty years; and, in short, I was not at all pleased with her.

But what could I do? I had told her sister that I would take her for better or for worse, and I made a point of honour and conscience in all things to stick to my word, especially if others had been induced to act on it, which in this case I had no doubt they had, for I was now fairly convinced that no other man on earth would have her, and hence the conclusion that they were bent on holding me to my bargain. "Well," thought I, "I have said it, and, be the consequences what they may, it shall not be my fault if I fail to do it." At once I determined to consider her my wife, and this done, all my powers of discovery were put to work in search of perfections in her which might be fairly set off against her defects. I tried to imagine her handsome, which, but for her unfortunate corpulency, was actually true. Exclusive of this, no woman that I have ever seen has a finer face.

I also tried to convince myself that the mind was much more to be valued than the person, and in this she was not inferior, as I could discover, to any with whom I had been acquainted.

Shortly after this, without attempting to come to any positive understanding with her, I set out for Vandalia, when and where you first saw me. During my stay there I had letters from her which did not change my opinion of either her intellect or intention, but, on the contrary, confirmed it in both.

All this while, although I was fixed "firm as the surge-repelling rock" in my resolution, I found I was continually repenting the rashness which had led me to make it. Through life I have been in no bondage, either real or imaginary, from the thraldom of which I so much desired to be free. After my return home I saw nothing to change my opinion of her in any particular. She was the same, and so was I. I now spent my time in planning how I might get along in life after my contemplated change of circumstances should have taken place, and how I might procrastinate the evil day for a time, which I really dreaded as much, perhaps more, than an Irishman does the halter.

After all my sufferings upon this deeply interesting subject, here I am, wholly, unexpectedly, completely out of the "scrape," and I now want to know if you can guess how I got out of it--out, clear, in every sense of the term--no violation of word, honour, or conscience. I don't believe you can guess, and so I might as well tell you at once. As the lawyer says, it was done in the manner following, to wit: After I had delayed the matter as long as I thought I could in honour do (which, by the way, had brought me round into the last fall), I concluded I might as well bring it to a consummation without further delay, and so I mustered my resolution and made the proposal to her direct; but, shocking to relate, she answered, No. At first I supposed she did it through an affectation of modesty, which I thought but ill became her under the peculiar circumstances of the case, but on my renewal of the charge I found she repelled it with greater firmness than before.

I tried it again and again, but with the same success, or rather with the same want of success.

I finally was forced to give it up, at which I very unexpectedly found myself mortified almost beyond endurance. I was mortified, it seemed to me, in a hundred different ways. My vanity was deeply wounded by the reflection that I had so long been too stupid to discover her intentions, and at the same time never doubting that I understood them perfectly; and also that she, whom I had taught myself to believe nobody else would have, had actually rejected me with all my fancied greatness. And, to cap the whole, I then for the first time began to suspect that I was really a little in love with her. But let it all go! I'll try and outlive it. Others have been made fools of by the girls, but this can never in truth be said of me. I most emphatically, in this instance, made a fool of myself. I have now come to the conclusion never again to think of marrying, and for this reason--I can never be satisfied with any one who would be blockhead enough to have me.

When you receive this, write me a long yarn about something to amuse me. Give my respects to Mr. Browning.

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