Shouting 'Cross the Potomac

barstool philosopher,
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but never a Monday morning quarterback

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Saturday, December 28, 2002

You Light Up Hyattsville Life ...

Will Vehrs
Tony, "Mayor's Choice" trumps "Holiday House" any day. Congratulations to you and William for winning the Light Up the Sky Contest! Thumb your nose to your heart's content--you've earned it. My lights short out in the rain, anyway ....

Congressman McDermott was re-elected handily not long after his apologia to Saddam Hussein and much as it pains me, I have to respect that he represents his constituents' views. I wasn't suggesting that McDermott resign, just pointing him out as an example of someone having made remarks that a Republican might think should lead to resignation. You make a good point, Tony, about what someone like a McDermott would resign from. As I think about it, resignations are usually from a national post. An elected official usually needs a conviction before he/she resigns.

Can't Fight City Hall...

Tony Adragna
... and in this case, I don't want to!

See, we got a letter from The City of Hyattsville today
Dec 24, 2002

Dear Resident:

Congratulations, you are the Mayor's Choice winner of Hyattsville's Light Up The Sky Contest.

We would like to present you with a plaque at the Hyattsville City Council Meeting on Monday, January 6th, 2003...
Hey, if they "would like" to do that, I'm more than amenable to making it happen.

OK Will, you got a sign in your yard, but I get an engraved plaque — finally something I can thumb my nose at you over...

Cleland didn't pay for being "unpatriotic", but lost simply for being a feckless politician, more beholding to party & party interest than to any defensible position, and his failure to defend the challenge in debate just proves the point — or so I'm told.

OK, fine, I won't reargue the point on Cleland — y'all know what I thought 'bout what I saw, but since that example is in dispute I'll look elsewhere.

You mentioned McDermott, Will, as an example of one instance where "Democrats almost never receive enough pressure to cause them to resign." What would you have McDermott resign from — his leadership post? He doesn't hold such a post, not now nor then. If you're suggesting that he oughta been hounded out of office all the way, then you're arguing he shoulda been punished more severely than Lott.

Actually, the charge leveled against McDermott & Murray is that what they've done is "lended aid and comfort to the enemy". That's more than just calling them "unpatriotic" — the correct label, if the charge be true, is "traitor". Treason is punishible by impeachment & removal from office followed up with criminal prosecution. Is that the charge we want to stick?

Friday, December 27, 2002

Who's Spinning Murray?

Tony Adragna
Will, I'm looking forward to your 1st Annual PunditWrap...

In defense of mucking, I don't remember saying that Sen. Murray's speech was "a patriotic exercise", but neither was it particularly unpatriotic — not in the way that criticism is intended, anyway. Look, the charge that she's somehow speaking in support of bin Laden, or giving aid & comfort to the enemy, would be a risible suggestion if the matter wasn't so serious. What did Murray say that might be considered treasonous?
(This) is very highly debatable. I don't know which way I fall on it. But I want you to think about it.

Osama bin Laden has been very, very effective being we've got to ask, why is this man so popular around the world?

Why are people so supportive of him in many countries? He has been in many countries that are riddled with poverty.

People don't have phones, no sewers, no roads, no schools, no health care, no facilities just to make sure their daily lives are OK.

He's been out in these countries for decades building roads, building schools, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. It made their lives better.

We have not done that. We haven't been out in many of these countries helping them build infrastructure.

How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?

The argument back is that is going to cost a lot of money. Absolutely right.

And the second argument is that we have schools here and health care facilities here that are really hurting. Should our tax dollars go to pay for facilities in third world countries?

No easy answers, but expensive both ways. But war is expensive, too.

Right now we've decided that war is the way we are going to go, and your generation ought to be thinking about whether or not you believe that perhaps we should be better neighbors out in other countries so that they have a different vision of us.

It's going to cost money. You'll have to think about whether you want to do that or not, about whether we have the money to do that here. But it is a debate I think we ought to have.
Murray made those remarks as a food-for-thought kind of exercise for the highschool students she was addressing. The point she was making is indeed "debatable", notwithstanding her facile recitation of bin Laden's record. In fact, that recitation is helpful as it is the very rationale that bin Laden supporters use in criticizing the West and defending his campaign of terrorism. And how do we respond?

Well, we can either deny that past iterations of U.S. foreign policy a la realpolitik in pursuit of "strategic interests" has created some problems via our support of repressive regimes — i.e. Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia — while equivocating on support of democratic movements, human rights concerns, etc. — in effect, appearing unconcerned about the plight of folks living under those regimes we support. We can further deny that how the U.S. is percieved in the Muslim world has anything to do with the aforementioned record of U.S. foreign relations.

Or, we can seek to improve our image in the Muslim world, which is about a lot more than "regime change" for the most cynical strategic reasons. It's also about promoting America's "values interests", an exercise that ultimately serves our "strategic interests". We can accomplish this at the same time that we fight terrorism, and we should do it with the same vigour that we deal death to al Qaeda et al.

The untruth in this decrial of Murray's comments is that this need to win over the hearts of Muslims must be in Murray's mind opposed to the prosecution of bin Laden, but that's not so, as Murray notes in a Dec 20 press release on America's Role in the World
Osama Bin Laden is an evil terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. Bringing him to justice, dismantling his terrorist network, and protecting our nation from further attacks must continue to be our government's highest priorities, and I continue to vigorously support those efforts in the Senate.

While we continue to search every corner of the globe to destroy Osama bin Laden and his al Quaeda network, should we also consider the longer-term issue of what else can be done to improve relations with all nations including the Arab world?

How else can we bring America's values to those who do not understand us?

And while there are some whose hearts and minds may never be won, should we try to reach those who can?

The White House believes that we can do more, and has devoted an entire department to improving America's image in the Arab world.
The great irony in criticizing Murray over her remarks is that the immediately above and the question re America's committment to making life better for folks in the Muslim world inter alia are both in line with what Mr. Bush said on March 14, 2002
As you all know and we all know, America is engaged in a global struggle, a mighty struggle against the forces of terror. Yet, even as we fight to defeat terror, we must also fight for the values that make life worth living: for education, and health, and economic opportunity. This is both the history of our country and it is the calling of our times.

In World War II we fought to make the world safer, then worked to rebuild it. As we wage war today to keep the world safe from terror, we must also work to make the world a better place for all its citizens. (Applause.)

The advances of free markets and trade and democracy and rule of law have brought prosperity to an ever-widening circle of people in this world. During our lifetime, per capita income in the poorest countries has nearly doubled. Illiteracy has been cut by one-third, giving more children a chance to learn. Infant mortality has been almost halved, giving more children a chance to live. Nations from India to Chile have changed old ways and, therefore, found new wealth. Nations from Turkey to Mali have combined Islam with progress.

Yet in many nations, in many regions, poverty is broad and seemingly inescapable, leaving a dark shadow -- a dark shadow -- across a world that is increasingly illuminated by opportunity. Half the world's people still live on less than $2 a day. For billions, especially in Africa and the Islamic world, poverty is spreading, and per capita income is falling.

In Malawi, thousands of teachers die each year from AIDS, and life expectancy has fallen to only 38 years. In Sierra Leone, nearly one-third of all babies born today will not reach the age of five. And in Sudan, only half the children attend school.

This growing divide between wealth and poverty, between opportunity and misery, is both a challenge to our compassion and a source of instability. We must confront it. We must include every African, every Asian, every Latin American, every Muslim, in an expanding circle of development.

The advance of development is a central commitment of American foreign policy. As a nation founded on the dignity and value of every life, America's heart breaks because of the suffering and senseless death we see in our world. We work for prosperity and opportunity because they're right. It's the right thing to do. We also work for prosperity and opportunity because they help defeat terror.

Poverty doesn't cause terrorism. Being poor doesn't make you a murderer. Most of the plotters of September 11th were raised in comfort. Yet persistent poverty and oppression can lead to hopelessness and despair. And when governments fail to meet the most basic needs of their people, these failed states can become havens for terror.
Is Mr. Bush "unpatriotic" for admitting that part of the solution to combating terrorism is "a major new commitment by the United States to bring hope and opportunity to the world's poorest people"?

Will, the administration's own response to conditions in the countries we're talking about admits pre-emptively — by nine months — an answer to the question that Murray raised, and it's an answer she agrees with despite her "Nay" vote on the "Iraq Resolution".

On the comparative stickiness of charges, and discipline meted out in result of, let's cast our eyes on one case of each
Max Cleland: Got himself unelected — losing one's seat being the penultimate discipline (the ultimate being removal upon the successful prosecution of a bill of impeachment) — by an opponent whose campaign credits their win to a challenge of Cleland's record on national security. Not extraordinary, except that the challenge included charging Cleland with infidelity to his oath to the Constitution, and that charge stuck.

Trent Lott: While under mounting criticism over a comment that at the very least implied support for segregationist policies, Lott stepped down from his position as Majority Leader. But, he didn't do so 'til he was challenged, and it's obvious to me that this bit of discipline was meted out not for the offense of racism. Rather, it was of political expedience — getting rid of a feckless leader who was becoming more feck deficient by the instant. Certainly the charge of racism played a role in this drama, but if punishment for that offense is what his colleagues in the GOP were seeking, then they could've done better than just forcing him out of the leadership. Lott is still in the Senate, and his colleagues are in full put-the-matter-behind-us mode.
Now, who got the bitter end in this comparison?

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Tony, I flunked Russian in college, so I'm not up to your challenge of translating that lovely Cyrillic text. Now, maybe if you made it into a different kind of Caption Contest--you supply the caption, we supply the picture, maybe I'd have a go at it ....

Sorry I've not posted much lately, but wants an end-of-year Punditwatch and I've been going through the painful process of reading all the dreck I've put out during the year, hoping to cull a few nuggets worth mentioning.

Murray's Muck The senior Senator from Washington, "Mom in tennis shoes," demonstrated a very tenuous understanding of the great issue of our time with her bin Laden comments. Trying to spin her remarks into a patriotic exercise of raising an important issue is ludicrous. If she had made a long, thoughtful speech--maybe. This was neither long, nor thoughtful, and it doesn't reflect well on a Democratic Party trying to get on the right side of the terrorism/national security issue.

Let's face it, Tony. When the chips are down, Democrats scream that Republicans are racists. Occasionally, they get a poster boy, like Lott, to keep the charge alive. Likewise, when the going gets tough, Republicans scream that Democrats are unpatriotic, and they get lots of help from the McDermotts and Murrays of the world. It forever frustrates Republicans that the "unpatriotic" charge never sticks quite as well as the "racism" charge and Democrats almost never receive enough pressure to cause them to resign.

I Can't Help It I don't know about the effectiveness of those anti-drug commercials that are running on television now, but I love the two guys who are doing them--the young guy and the older guy. I want them to have their own show.

Virginia Corner

A few of Governor Warner's budget items come under scrutiny today. In the Washington Post, Michael Shear points out that the Governor is using some of the "one time" fixes he previously criticized. Shear hits the nail on the head with this:

For Warner, who became governor on the strength of his business experience, the reality of governing during a financial crisis has set in. Like governors in many other states, Warner is discovering that sticking firm to tried-and-true business principles means demanding too many sacrifices from state employees, the poor, doctors, local governments and every other interest group.

Warner has no alternative. The Virginia chattering classes and a smattering of politicos want him to reinstate the car tax and raise other taxes. Most Republicans want to keep lowering taxes. The voters want their taxes to remain low or be cut further, but they still want the services the state provides. In this muddle, the Governor appears to be steering a middle course, trying to reform what he can and maintain as much as he can, using chewing gum and duct tape on the state budget. Only the tax-raising crowd has come close to engaging him in the "conversation" he has requested about how much state government is enough. Their message seems to be "enough to bring us into the top ten in state spending on all the things we think are good."

Meanwhile, one of the Governor's initiatives is examined in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Local government officials offered a mixed reaction to Gov. Mark R. Warner's cost-cutting proposal to pass along certain Department of Motor Vehicles office functions. Some officials wonder whether passing the buck also will mean passing enough bucks.

Henrico County Supervisor Richard W. Glover stumbled upon the real issue:

"It's going to cost us just as much as it does for the state to do it."

And if the state thinks moving functions to local government will save money, Glover said, he wonders whether there aren't larger issues with DMV's ability to carry out its function.

"Does this mean the localities can do it more efficiently than the state?" he asked. "If it does, maybe they need to rework what they're doing at the state.

Do we really need all the DMV requirements that we have? For example, when buying a new car, we usually finance it for five years and the car often comes with a warranty for five years or more. Why does DMV only offer a one or two year registration? Imagine the massive number of transactions that could be wiped away by a five year registration. Of course, a five year registration raises this question: are vehicle registration renewals really just a revenue producer? Would the savings in fewer DMV transactions be more than the lost revenue? Presumably, a five year registration wouldn't cost a lot more than the current two year registration.

I recognize that Motor Voter laws probably limit certain DMV reforms, but the Governor's effort to move functions to localities points out an absurdity of Motor Voter: if you can make it to the local government office to renew your vehicle registration, why can't you make it to the voter registration office that's usually in the same government complex? There are certainly enough complaints that voter registration at DMV often doesn't make it to the local registrar.

Virginia's General Assembly should be grappling in a serious way with the Governor's reform plans come January, but some 3,000 bills, many of dubious necessity, have been pre-filed. Why deal with the tough stuff when delegates not on the budget committees can grandstand with special interest/hot button measures?

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Ñ÷àñòëèâîãî ðîæäåñòâà?…
Americans Aren’t The Only Folks With Cultural Amnesia!

Tony Adragna
Back to it, Will, and I'll start with a question: When do Russians celebrate Christmas?

The answer from Orthodox tradition is: January 7th. For post-Soviet Russia, however, that answer from tradition may no longer be correct, and this is troubling for several reasons. To explain, let’s read what Anne has to say about "Santa's Russia..."
[...] At first glance, all seemed to be well in the capital of the former Soviet Union: Communism is gone, Christmas is back, good tidings all around.

Look a little harder, however, and the picture changes. For one, seasonal goodwill does not explain the proliferation of Christmas lights in Moscow. On the contrary, shopkeepers are only obeying the law: Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, has made Christmas decorations obligatory. Some grumble, some do the minimum -- a single red bulb, a moth-eaten wreath -- but most just shrug. It's not the first time they've been ordered to be happy.
Generally, I have no problem with City Hall getting into the festive mood and decking out public spaces with themes seasonal. But, for government to make compulsory that private entities observe the holiday — and worse, dictate how the holiday is to be observed — is in an important aspect antithetical to the "western ways" that cosmopolitan Russians are wanting to emulate.

Of course, there is some level of compulsory observance in the West. But that which our government compells of us on holidays is limited to allowing individuals to observe according to their own consciences, and mandating the setting aside of time for such observances (or compensation for not providing time). Most important in our civic tradition is the protection of an individual's right to not observe the holiday at all.

The civic clebration with government officiating, and its equivalent in the commercial sector with merchants presiding, comes at the risk of losing some — if not all — of our traditional cultural & religious understanding of Christmas. This risk is minimized in the U.S., where government & commerce recognize that their roles in the celebration are superficial (notwithstanding the holiday's impact on those segments of our society: i.e. retail merchants depend on heavy sales during the holiday season). But in Russia, where religious observance has never been but obligatory — first under the Patriarchs (the current still exerting influence toward the suppression of non-orthodox expression), then under the Soviet's communism as civic religion — the true value of celebrations like Christmas is lost.

What's lost can be recaptured, but not in the way that Russians are going about the exercise
Even [Russians who identify themselves with the West and wish to celebrate in a Western way], there remains a good deal of confusion about what Christmas is actually about. One Russian friend explained with great confidence that "Christmas is the day Jesus was crucified."
This "confusion" is about "adopting the trappings of Western culture (Christmas decorations and Christmas sales and Santa Claus) without much understanding of the Western values that lie beneath the surface." But it's also about "how to be Russians in the post-Soviet world", and the answer resides not in simply importing and imposing someone else's traditions, but in relating the underlying values to one's own exercise.

George F. Will worries 'bout another holiday: the "1990s holiday from history". George is of course correct that the political correctness school of teaching history suffers from not actually... well... teaching history. I do think, though, that this "holiday" has been going on since well before the '90s. George admits as much by implication when he notes that "Bush may have passed through Yale largely unscathed by what his professors were professing (which is just as well, considering campus conditions in the 1960s)."

What the '90s were to the teaching of history, and what George fails to note, has just as much to do with a de-emphasis of liberal arts in general in favor of emphasis on education for success in the business world[something which I failed to note has been happening since the '80s at least], as it does with a decline in the quality of liberal arts instruction. And I'm not even sure that this decline is across the board — it seems from converstations I've had that the smaller liberal arts schools are just as good at instruction and scholarship as they've ever been. Rather, it's the large prestigious schools — the Harvards, Yales, Princetons, and Berkeleys whence our "elite" are graduated — where liberal arts are akin to the neglected step-child, and lacking supervision that child has become unruly.

But what do I know...

And what about Sen. Murray? Weblogs got a mention on WaPo's editorial page yesterday
Sen. Murray's (D-Wash.) crime, it seems, was to make an ill-worded and rather silly speech last week to a high school in Vancouver, Wash., that was then excerpted by the Columbian, a newspaper in Vancouver, Canada. In a normal week, the Columbian's Web site receives 60,000 to 70,000 visitors. The day following the paper's story about Sen. Murray's speech, it had 230,000 visitors. As the Web site put it, "There are top stories, and then there is Patty Murray." Other Web sites, Web logs and talk shows picked up the story, and by the weekend, the chairman of the Republican Party in Washington state had publicly questioned Sen. Murray's patriotism.
I haven't had much to say on the Murray offense, but what I did say is in perfect agreement with where the editors find themselves
Nevertheless, there is a deeper point that Sen. Murray, with extraordinary ineptitude, seemed to be trying to make -- a point that is worth preserving: At the very least, it ought to be possible to discuss America's image in the Islamic world, and the kinds of mistakes the United States has made there. For decades, American governments have spent remarkable amounts of money in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, relatively little of which is visible on the ground. Yet if successive American administrations had identified the United States more closely with good works in the Middle East and had tried more assiduously to explain American values, then American relations with the Islamic world might look different today.

Or they might not. Either way, this is a point worth debating, and no one should be called "unpatriotic" for bringing it up.
The Blogosphere don't like inneptitude, but it's not a moral failing, and certainly not un-America.

Marshall v. Kaus Will Saletan steps into the ring and pronounces Frist the winner. As much as I like Josh, I can't but admit that he's just plain ol' vanilla wrong on this one.

Does that mean Kaus is right? Argh... this hurts, but the answer is: Yes!

Am I caught up now? Not yet, I'm sure there's lots of news I've stayed away from during the holiday, but yesterday is as far back as I'm willing to venture, and I've covered those items of interest to me...

Bonus QP I know we've got some Russian linguists out there: Anyone who translitertes and translates the Russian in this entry's title will not get any rewards...

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

"Shhh.... Santa is sleeping!"

Just look at himAwww...

If ya wanna know why Him is pooped, just check out The Itinerary of The Flight — complete with color footage of The Claus making his rounds — or read QP's commentary on events as they unfolded in the wee hours [won't get that on FOX, CNN, MSNBC, or C-SPAN]

Now that I've opened my presents — and I did get a good haul this year ['cause I was good, as I am every year, which is why I always get the same] — I can go to bed, too........

Gloria In Exelcis Deo Et In Terra
Pax Hominibus Bonae Voluntatis

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David's throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!
Isaiah 9: 1-6

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2: 1-14

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Santa Tracking

A yearly service linking NORAD's Santa Tracking Radar to QP commentage

All times are 25 Dec 02

0230 GMT Santa has been sighted in North American airspace. Two Canadian military aircraft have vectored out of New Foundland. Not to "intercept" The Claus, mind you, but to provide an escort...[ No, the report didn't come from that slacker Newfie, but, in The Spirit of The Season, he's forgiven, and we're wishing a Merry Christmas to him & all the rest of the Blogosphere!]

0300 GMT I'm sure that Santa appreciates the Canadian offer of assistance, but "military power" just can't keep up with "eight flying reindeer power"... The Sleigh is enroute to its next destination...

0330 GMT We have reports that His Elfish Jollyness has been seen in the City of Brotherly Love... More than half way through his rounds, and still going strong — Don't know how him does it, but I'm certainly full of happyness that him do does it!

0400 GMT OK, gotta do this quick so's I can jump in the rack & 'tend like I'm asleepin' — Santa's in da house!... I'm just knowin' that near a quarter of what's left in The Sleigh has mine own name on it... I'm not greedy, just been veeery good this year... More to follow upon His HO-HO-HO-ness' departitude...[p.s. Check out that instrument panel — if Santa isn't averse to high-tech, then I'm not knowing why anybody should be!]

0500 GMT Whew! That was close! I was able to well enough feign asleepness... well, I think The Claus knew I was awake, but for a good cause. The Reindeer & Sleigh Delivery System is now working St. Louis, MO — notwithstanding what the FAA might classify a near miss with the Gateway Arch [don't worry child-folk, Santa knows what he's doing], everything is running smoothly!

0530 GMT Clearance through Cheyenne Mountain's airspace was about as pro forma as 'twas last year — that is, no problems. Mr. Kris "St. Nicholas" Kringle-Claus does seem more relaxed this year, though — he's actually taken a hand off the controls & given a wave! Either he got a flight control software upgrade, or he's not so stressed out by knuckleheads what forgot to send their letters this year [see episode 53]

0600 GMT 'Tis a nice treat for The Reindeer, this annual pilgrimage to Reindeer Lake, Canada. Yes, there really is such a place

0630 GMT Completing his final stop in CONUS, Father Christmas departs San Francisco via the scenic flight path over the Golden Gate — good thing Rudolph was along to deal with the fog!

0700 GMT That Silly Ol' Elf pulled a slick one on me 'n headed for points North steada West over the Pacific. Stopping in Seattle, WA, making a quick zip 'round the Space Needle, then a fly-over of Butchart Gardens, Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada... Gonna hafta keep a closer eye on this Fella Slippery 'Nuff to Sneak Into Locked Houses [not alleging anything untoward]...

0830 GMT Mele Kalikimaka! Kahuna Kringle has a summer home in the islands where he spends the off-season bulking up on roast pig — It's a pork-fat thing [ Oh Yeah, Babe!]

Santa Declassified

NORAD has decided to share some previously calssified material on Santa, including a good spy cam shot of The Big Guy getting his grub on!

Of particular interest to we Claus-ologists is the secret of how His Jolly Rotundness gets hisself down those chimneys
NORAD scientists believe they have discovered how Santa gets down the chimneys. Based on flight profile configuration data gathered from decades of NORAD's radar and satellite tracking of Santa Claus, the scientists have concluded that Santa probably stands about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs approximately 260 pounds. From fighter aircraft cockpit photos and other details NORAD has gathered from SantaCams about Santa over the years, we know he has a generous girth (belly), rosy cheeks from sleigh riding in cold weather, and a flowing white beard and hair. Santa does not appear to age. A photo taken in 1959 appears to be almost identical to an image taken recently. New this year, NORAD has set some special high tech cameras to show Santa on some rooftops as he delivers his toys.
Thank The Spirit of Christmas that there are some things government still can't find out!

Merry Christmas!

'Twas the Night Before Christmas
or Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas

by Major Henry Livingston Jr. (1748-1828)
(previously believed to be by Clement Clarke Moore)

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

241515L Dec 02
FM: CB Det Hyattsville, MD
TO: SC, Enroute Annual Rounds
INFO: CB Det Chesterfield, Virginia


Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Tony Adragna
Thanks to the folks at NORAD for ensuring us that The Claus is on track. QP's Full Claus Coverage will begin later this evening as The Merry Ol' Elf approaches North America.

QP Christmas Eve

Will Vehrs
Tony, the big man is loading up his sleigh. I think he'll have lots of nice things for you ... he knows you are a true believer in the spirit of Christmas. May you have a joyous holiday.

Happy holidays, too, to all of QP's loyal, occasional, and even brickbat throwing readers. We appreciate the time you spend with us.

Embrace your family and friends today and tomorrow. Vow to do it more often in the coming year.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Mental Onanism

Tony Adragna
Jim Holt, who believes "that the universe is presided over by a being that is 100 percent malevolent but only 80 percent effective (which explains pretty much everything)", presents athiests with a Christmas challenge: Can you prove God doesn't exist?.

What I remember from my own [limited] study of metaphysics & logic is that proving the existence of God is an exercise in making sense of that which makes no sense. Certainly, the arguments make sense — circumstancial as they are, and without recourse to habeas corpus — but God ultimately doesn't.

This pursuit of "proof" in re God is an intellectual exercise that I like to label "mental onanism". Our ontological pursuit of God is nothing more than an effort to make ourselves feel good about not knowing that which we... well... can't know.

But what about Santa? I can prove positively that The Claus exists. To wit: I keep getting presents every year marked "From: Santa"; my housemates are punctilious about making sure that things are properly labeled; ergo Santa exists!

This proving that I do in re Santa is decidedly not mental onanism...

Sunday, December 22, 2002

The "B" Word Gets Mentioned on Meet the Press!

Will Vehrs
Today's Punditwatch notes the mention of a previously forbidden word on Meet the Press. There's also a recap of the critical Confederate flag issue and a not-so-surprising admission by First Lady Laura Bush. All that and more in the next to last Punditwatch of 2002.