Re: James G. Poulos's Abkhazia: Europe's Trap Door:
Although I liked your special report about Abkhazia I missed the larger background.
Abkhazia is the result of ethnic cleansing. Before the region broke away (with Russian help) from Georgia the ethnic Abkhazians formed only a third of the population. In the south ethnic Georgians formed a clear majority. In the secession war all Georgians were driven away. Anyone who has studied the effects of ethnic cleansing (empty houses and abandoned businesses that can be pilfered and occupied; serious problems for many companies because key personnel has left the country) can understand that this helped to create a state with a strong organized crime.
Restoring Georgian control of the area is probably the best solution. It will take some effort to convince Russia, but in the end it is in their interest too to have stable borders.
-- Wim Roffel
PASSING OF THE CHAIR
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Death of an Anchor:
Your column captured the appeal of Peter Jennings perfectly. He was handsome and a gifted broadcaster and there was something quite likable about him, even when he said "aboot" for "about." Peter was my preferred news anchor for many, many years. One thing that comes to mind is that ABC World News Tonight featured religion correspondent, Peggy Wehmeyer, who covered topics from a spiritual perspective. That seemed to be an effort to address an often overlooked segment of their audience. I'm sorry he's gone -- but once I discovered the Fox News Channel -- I never again turned to Peter for my evening news. I much preferred his former colleague, Brit Hume -- and still do.
-- Cathy Thorpe
The recent passing of Peter Jennings has called to mind one of my rare brushes with history. Back in 1992 I was a student at the University of Houston when I heard word through the political science department that some coordinator was looking for insurable students (i.e., those over 25 years of age) to work as drivers for members of the press corps covering the Republican Convention in the Astrodome. I stepped up and got a gig as a driver for U.S. News and World Report. It was my duty to shuttle the journalists between the Astrohall press "tent" and their hotels or whatever off-site events they wished to cover. The week for me alternated between the tedium of sitting around waiting and the excitement of meeting someone famous and/or powerful. I got to shake a lot of well-known hands (Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, and more); I got to have an extended conversation with Michael Barone at a reception to which I had driven him; I had an amusing exchange with a woman circulating a press release from Utah Republicans for Choice ("Are you both here?" I asked); and the other drivers and I would trade celebrity sightings.
One of these last is of particular note this week. When we weren't needed, we drivers were allowed temporary floor passes to the convention. On one such occasion, I stopped at a men's room on my way to the Dome. There I found Peter Jennings, adjusting his necktie in a mirror. I stopped and remarked, "My mother watches you regularly: I'll have to tell her that I saw you." Unperturbed, he turned and coolly answered, "You're not going to tell her where, are you?"
I denied that I would, but of course I did. Mom really liked his neckties.
Though his broadcasts could often raise my otherwise quiescent blood pressure, I'll raise a glass of something Canadian over ice in his honor nonetheless. That crown-shaped bottle over there will do nicely. R.I.P.
-- Stephen Foulard
This is a nice piece on the unfortunate death of Peter Jennings. Mr. Pleszczynski is most correct; his courtly manners will be sadly missed.
And how amazing to learn that he was a high school drop-out. Well, the real pros have already taken over. Mr. Jennings will be missed by me for one, despite the many times I threw the TV remote control at him. May God truly rest his soul.
-- Jessica O'Connor
Bayonne, New Jersey
While I am sorry to hear about Peter Jennings, I think the press has overemphasized his importance to humanity. Family and friends will miss him but the rest of us will move on to the next person in journalism who takes his place. This might sound cruel, but the self importance of the press is aggravating, to say the least.
-- Louise Williams
I remember Jennings discussing, with a smile, being raised in an anti-American household in Canada. I knew then I didn't want him deciding what news I heard. (I also wished that Frank Reynolds had stayed with us longer.)
-- David Govett
Perhaps you don't live in Washington, D.C. so it's possible you didn't hear Chris Core's remarks about Peter Jennings as he closed his WMAL 630 radio talk show at about 8:50 pm on Monday evening.
Core related that one of his duties was to occasionally substitute for Jennings on am ABC Radio program Jennings did. I can't recall all the details, but the story Core told about Jennings was that Jennings was a "class act." Let me just say there aren't many "big people" who treat the "little people" with respect. Jennings did.
-- Tim Wise
RELIGION OF CONQUEST
Re: George Neumayr's The Secular Missionary:
After 9/11 I read some 15 books on Islam to better understand it. The inescapable conclusion I arrived at â€" considering Muhammad's early acts of murder, pillage, thievery, rape, betrayal, conquest and the increasingly fortuitous "revelations" that justified those acts "theologically" -- considering Islam's history and impact on the world -- is that Islam is not a religion. Rather, Islam is a conquest ideology masquerading as a religion.
Given Islam's fundamental requirements for the believer and ultimate goal of total world domination, it seems to me akin to the 20th century totalitarian movements of National Socialism (Nazi) and Communism. Those people who identify Islam itself, not "Islamic radicals," as the problem and think it incompatible with the world of the 21st century are, I believe, correct.
-- Walter F. Gray
I don't disagree with George Neumayr's criticism of Salman Rushdie, but it is easy to criticize. What are his positive proposals for responding to the militancy in Islam?
-- Demetrio Munoz
New York, New York
TAKE IT BACK
Re: Ralph R. Reiland's Giveaway Governance:
I live in Williamsport. What would be the possibility of launching a ballot initiative to rescind the pay raise and also to rescind the Medicare law change that funded it? Could we do it before November?
If there is anyone out there who knows how to do these things and has the guts to get it started, I'm in. Contact me to handle Lycoming County.
-- J. Stroble
Fast Eddy strikes again. Out buying votes in Pittsburg with the tax increase he pleaded for to pay off SEPTA. Snooker is his game (and not the table version). If the citizens vote him a second term, we deserve all the screwing we get from these crooks.
TONY'S ALIEN AND SEDITION ACTS
Re: Jed Babbin's What Are We Prepared to Do?:
Perhaps you can call me naive, but when I was in grade school we defined free speech as pretty much being able to say whatever you chose to say without committing slander or libel vs. yelling out the word "fire" in a crowed movie theater.
In today's PC climate it's a wonder anyone can say anything at all, but I digress.
The point that I am trying to make is simply this; inciting people to riot, kill, maim, terrorize and basically cause destruction against there fellow citizens in a cause of bringing down those same citizens elected government is, in my mind, an act of sedition. It should not matter as the where-about these inflammatory words are issued. Nor should it matter as to who has spoken them in the first place. Whether from a pulpit, (amazing how the left has no problem with church-state issues when these words are spoken in a mosque), or from a street corner. The preaching of the violent overthrow of society should not be viewed lightly, but should be scrutinized for what it is, that being hatred. This includes all extremist groups from both side of the political aisle.
Perhaps it might be wise to look at the historical context of the alien and sedition acts of 1798, and see wherein the advantages and pitfalls were in the acts themselves. I do believe that the Sedition Act was passed but the Alien Act was not, however upon reading the act) "respecting alien enemies" one finds that section one seems to fit today's current world climate.
It appears that Prime Minister Tony Blair has decided to issue his own version of the aforementioned acts, yet the question remains as to how far would the US willing to go in a similar manner.
-- Richard Woitowitz
Freedom of speech does NOT include screaming FIRE in a crowded room, if there is not a fire.
-- Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas
CALCULATING YOUR CHANCES
Re: John McGinnis's and Paul Merda's letters (under "Eroding Faith in Science") in Reader Mail's Intelligent Science and Dan Peterson's The Little Engine That Could...Undo Darwinism:
I'd like to thank reader John McGinnis for promoting a healthy debate on the Darwin vs. Intelligent Design debate. Unlike many of his fellow travelers, he did not descend into bullying or name-calling.
Regarding this passage in Mr. Peterson's article: "If we wrote a program to run on a supercomputer that would generate random strings 22 characters long, and our supercomputer could run through a trillion tries every second, the odds would still be against producing this exact sequence by chance in 20 billion years. The fact that it's very improbable to produce this precise sequence by chance is another way of saying, in information theory, that it is highly complex." Mr. McGinnis stated that, while this may be true, such a thing could be accomplished by 10 billion computers.
That is true, but let's look at the math. The number of seconds in 20 billion years is 6.3072 x 10^17. Multiply that by one trillion and you get 6.3072 x 10^29. Now multiply that by Mr. McGinnis's figure of 10 billion and you get 6.3072 x 10^39.
That odds of producing the exact 22 character string is 27 (all the letters of the alphabet, plus the space. For simplicity, I'll leave out punctuation) to the 22 power, which is 3.0903 x 10^31. So, yes, 10 billion computers performing as Mr. Peterson described can produce THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR. However, if you just increase the length of the string to 28 characters, you get odds of 1.1973 x 10^40, defeating the efforts of billions of supercomputers working for billions of years.
By not actually working out the math, Mr. McGinnis made a very common error. Most people think of billions, hundreds of billion, and trillions as being practically infinite. As demonstrated, these numbers become very finite when dealing with probabilities of producing even extremely short strings of letter, much less extremely long strings of DNA. I can't tell you the number of times people have used the "3.5 billion years of life on Earth is more than enough time for any kind of organism imaginable to evolve" argument. It just it's so in the absence of design.
Lastly, I must comment on reader Paul Merda of Ohio. It takes a lot of chutzpah to argue against design by pointing to a bunch of "evolving" algorithms that were DESIGNED. Hello!!??
-- Benton Taylor
An excellent article by Dan Peterson on intelligent design. And, the letters to the editor were equally interesting. I would like to address two of them.
First, Roy Hogue's assertion that the Creator had to have a creator. God is eternal, that is, He is, was and has always been. This "assertion" is found in the Bible. Of course, in today's society, taking the Word of God is tantamount to believing Fox News is an honest network -- at least comparatively so. However, physicists have known for a long time that other dimensions exist and that these dimensions are not bracketed by a space-time continuum such as ours. To be blunt, science has already ruled out the "Creator must have a creator problem," but the Bible beat them to it.
Second, Martin Owens: whose complaint is that not all design is intelligent. Mr. Owens does so by raising questions about the human appendix ("no known function"), painful human child birth, and the extinction of the dinosaur and dodo bird. If the function of the appendix is unknown -- because of our human limitations -- then how can any conclusion regarding design be made? As for painful child birth and the "relative ease" of other mammalian birth, the "hard core Genesis crowd" knows the answer lies in the Garden of Eden [Gen. 3:16] and the fall of man, which explains every question by Mr. Owens.
I have a question for Mr. Owens, how do you know the Creator did not design the dodo bird and dinosaurs to be extinct after a time? A God who can create the earth and all life upon it, and then task Moses, 6,000 years ago, to reveal, with scientific perfection, the mode and timing of His creation [in a time that viewed the earth as the center of the universe and flat, only the Bible envisioned a sphere for earth] is worthy of our praise and all the glory. Not some two bit naturalist or his devotees who can not explain or prove one tenet of their evolutionary faith.
-- Steve Shaver
Re: Dan Peterson's The Little Engine That Could...Undo Darwinism:
What an excellent article!! I have not read such a comprehensive, coherent presentation of ID vs. Darwinism -- ever! I feel duped and manipulated by the education system for not at least presenting the ID point of view for my consideration. Dan Peterson is so right at the end of his article when he said that ID and evolution theory is at the heart of this country's Cultural Revolution. With an intelligent designer or agent, then moral structure debates are likely to follow. With debate the changing (decline) moral structure of our country will therefore be reconsidered. However, this time the debate won't be based o emotional or religious grounds, but on scientific data and rationality. This is a critical battle to win, for our current moral structure, grounded in materialism (Darwinism), of "If it feels good do it" is "evolving" mankind to extinction. This article should be sent to every school board in the country (several times a year)!
Thousand Oaks, California
I'm a geologist who has worked in the oilfield. I am currently a recruiter.
I believe in intelligent design AND evolution. I've seen the fossils. I've tramped the hills. I've used the provable evolution to find oil.
Huge evolution explosions don't make sense. I've done field work in Cambrian rocks. Evolution does not explain it. Catastrophism (Noah's flood laid down all the rocks and fossils on earth) doesn't work either.
Evolution and intelligent design together make sense of the rock and fossil record.
-- Bryan Dilts
IRAN WILL ARM
Re: John Tabin's Moving on the Mullahs:
Well, a dissident who accurately informed us in 2002 of Iran's nuclear weapons program provides still more detailed information about who, what, when, where and how. What will the United States, the United Nations, the IAEA, and the world democracies and super powers do with this information? Nothing.
Because some nations will choose not to believe for their own hidden agendas. Some government or politician has or will make money from selling them technology, parts or dual use equipment that can be converted from peaceful to military use.
Because they'll lie, obfuscate, confuse and shadow box like Iraq, North Korea, China, Libya and every other nation that belies their hidden agenda by pouring forth whatever palliatives the world's ears require.
Because weak men are always afraid to confront an evil or a threat until it is too late. Because socialist, liberals, communists and humanists will fill the airwaves with a thousand reasons for patience, dialogue, communication and avoiding misunderstanding. Until it is too late.
Israel took unilateral action once with an air strike and bought the world community another decade or two. Secretly many were grateful but publicly Israel was reviled.
What did the world community do with that grace period? Well, France and Russian sold nuclear technology and equipment to Iraq fully knowing that it could, might or would be converted to military use. America, under Clinton, sold long range missile technology to China. When they couldn't get it to work just right in the early '90s, Clinton's administration allowed our defense contractors to train them in how to refine the missile guidance technology. Voila! ICBMs in China.
So, we will stand by impotent, mute, paralyzed, muzzled, befuddled and do absolutely nothing until it is too late to reverse. On this course the only policy of the U.S. will be Mutually Assured Destruction with several nations instead of just Russia or China. The Cold War redux. Because men are mad, dictators are numerous, greedy men and nations abound.
-- R. Jones
FOR THE TAKING
Re: Patrick Hynes's As Goes Ohio:
As a Republican activist and longtime secretary of the Houghton County Republicans (in Michigan), I have argued that the Democratic incumbent in the 1st Congressional District of Michigan should be targeted by the Republicans.
The district, the most sprawling in the country outside Alaska, includes all the Upper Peninsula and about fifteen counties in the northeastern Lower Peninsula. In the 2004 Almanac of American Politics, it is listed as having a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R + 4. Bush carried the district in 2004 by 54 to 46 percent. In the set of down-ballot races used to compute relative party strength in Michigan, the 1st CD has been trending Republican for the last three or four election cycles.
The incumbent Bart Stupak (D) won by a landslide in the last two cycles, but that was because the Republican candidate, a yahoo who came out of the woodwork, was a total embarrassment who raised only $12,000.
For years I've said, every time the subject of making Washington, D.C. into the 51st state came up, that we should define D.C. as only the areas around Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court buildings, and the major monuments. Put up two high-rise public housing units next to Congress for the representatives and senators to live in while Congress is in session. A smaller unit next to the Supreme Court for the same purpose. No one other than Congressmen, Senators, Supreme Court Justices, the President, Vice President, and their immediate families could stay in these buildings. Every other part of what is now Washington, D.C. would be returned to Maryland or Virginia. All areas of the building would be covered by security cameras which would feed to the internet so all citizens could keep track of their public servants lifestyles. Landlords have to keep track of their unruly tenants so as to know who to evict.
-- Geoff Bowden