Mitt Romney's Ethical Dilemma (II)

IN MY LAST POST, I pointed out that Mitt Romney, as an active, involved member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a liar. The lie was that he "came to" a belief in the wrongness of homosexuality and rightness of the anti-abortion cause. I asserted that no Mormon could possibly climb to the dizzying heights of Church leadership positions as he had and believe that homosexuality was not sinful and that abortion was anything short of murder. The only answer I could deduce from Romney's Mitt-flopping on these important issues is that when he was asked to choose between his private beliefs and his public actions, Mitt choose to lie, and he did it for the pathetic reason of personal and political gain.

Most men would much rather be found on God's right hand at the last day than be elected president of the United States, if it meant denying their faith. This is as it should be. An oath to God certainly trumps prior agreements made between men. And if a man makes an oath to God, and later makes another, conflicting agreement with man, the previous oath to God should take precedence. In the words of Thomas More, a man who would break a solemn oath "needn't hope to find himself again."

Fortunately, such conflicts are rare. In modern life, oaths exist almost exclusively in the church, the legal system, and politics. Occasionally, there are conflicts between man-made agreements and covenants with God. Some Americans were disturbed by the religion of 1960 presidential candidate John Kennedy, which hinted at a conflict between his duties as a Catholic and his duties as president. He responded that if elected, he would be under no obligation to obey the Pope. And of course that was true, for lay Catholics make no such oath of obedience to the Holy See.

But there is such an oath in Mormonism, and it is undertaken in the LDS temple ceremony, commonly called the "endowment," a term used in the sense of valuable knowledge granted to mortals by God. The knowledge is communicated in an allegorical ritual detailing mankind's journey from a pre-earth life with God himself, to mortality here on earth, where we are to be tested to see if we will be obedient to God's laws, thus enabling us to return to His presence after death. At each stage in the endowment, participants are required to make sacred covenants of obedience to such laws, including the Law of Sacrifice (the Mosaic Law), the Law of the Gospel (Christ's teachings), the Law of Chastity, and finally and ultimately, the Law of Consecration.

While much of the endowment is shrouded in mystery due to a covenant to not discuss it outside the temple itself, the covenants themselves are not mysterious; they are simple, straight-forward agreements made with God designed to hold the participant to high standards of moral and ethical behavior. Temple-going Mormons take these covenants very seriously; indeed until recently the endowment covenants were made under penalty of death should they be revealed to the outside world. Though that penalty was excised from the endowment in 1990, participants are still reminded that breaking or revealing those covenants will bring upon them the wrath of God. Yet there is nothing in the endowment covenants that conflicts with the actions of any patriotic American citizen. Most of the covenants originate in the Bible, encouraging Mormons to be "honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous," and to do "good to all men."

A covenant, by definition, is more than an agreement between men; it is a solemn oath made between man and God. In our secular society, such covenants are reserved for the courts, oaths of citizenship, and certain public offices. When a foreign national becomes a U.S. citizen, he makes a sacred covenent:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

A greater obligation is required, and a higher oath is taken, when a person becomes the president of the United States. The president-elect places his left hand on the Bible and raises his right hand and says:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The question in this presidential election cycle is whether Mitt Romney can, in good faith, take such an oath. The difficulty arises because Romney has sworn ultimate allegience to something other than the Constitution. In the LDS temple endowment, which Romney undertook over forty years ago, he raised his right arm and covenanted "before God, angels, and these witnesses" to obey the Law of Consecration:

You . . . consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.

Romney's oath wasn't made simply to God; it was made specifically to the Mormon church. And it wasn't simply to participate, obey the teachings, or financially support the Church; it was to consecrate ("set apart") everything he has, not to God in general terms, but specifically to the LDS church. The wording of the oath puts it in direct conflict with the presidential oath: his first and last fealty is to the LDS church, not to the Constitution of the United States.

We've already seen the how Mitt Romney lies to protect his personal beliefs. Can there be any doubt that should a real conflict arise, President Romney will choose the Mormon church over the United States of America?

Yet he lied again. In a recent speech, he said, "When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God." (emphasis mine). He continued, "Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin." He concluded by saying, "If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest."

Yet clearly, to temple-going Mormons, the Oath of Office of the President is not their highest promise to God. And while we do not know yet what kind of influence the LDS church will have on a President Romney, still he has made a solemn covenant to obey them and to place the interests of the LDS church above all else. Finally, it is an outright lie that a believing Mormon will separate the affairs of religion and politics. In the early 1970s, the LDS church entered the political sphere in a very public way to oppose the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. Though in recent years its public advocacy has been more muted, its philosophy has not materially changed since Joseph Smith ran for president in 1844 on a platform of a "theocratic democracy," with the goal of a U.S. government informed and influenced by Biblical and LDS theology.

Again, Mitt has proven that he will say anything to get elected. In the past he has lied about his views on homosexuality and abortion. And, as if that were not enough, he is now lying about the most serious, sacred oath an American can take, the Oath of Office of the President of the United States.

I hope American voters will not force Mitt Romney to choose between his church and our nation.

Mitt Romney's Ethical Dilemma (I)

"When lying to someone, look him straight in the eye."
-- Mason Cooley

Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President, is in a pickle. His qualifications to lead are being overlooked due to questions about his religion and his "Mitt-flopping" on key issues, including some very important to the Republican base, namely, gay marriage and abortion. Mike Huckabee's rise to the first tier of candidates has placed the religious differences between evangelical Christianity (40% of the Iowa Republican caucus voters) and Mormonism in sharp contrast. The media, of course, loves a good fight, and has fomented all those differences, up to and including the highlighting of an obscure LDS doctrine that Christ and Satan were brothers in their pre-earth lives.

These distinctions have created concern for many evangelicals, which eschew Mormon notions of Biblical errancy and the eternal nature of the soul. For Christians, humans are objects created by God for His own purposes; for Mormons, humans are the literal children of deity, and, in the words of Joseph Smith, the first Mormon, "co-eternal with God."

Though this makes for an interesting theological discussion, neither Romney nor Huckabee are running for Pastor-in-Chief. I find myself bored discussing the doctrines of Mormonism -- I'm much more interested in knowing whether Mitt Romney believes in anything beyond his own political aspirations.

Mitt Romney was raised a life-long Mormon. As such, he was expected to follow a path of moral rectitude, including the payment of tithing, dealing honestly with others, and living a chaste life. I gather Mr. Romney adhered to all these requirements, because at age nineteen he entered missionary service for the Church in France and later married his high school sweetheart, Ann, in an LDS temple. Only Mormons who abide by the most stringent requirements of their faith are allowed entry into the temples.

If this were all there were to it, Romney, by his faithfulness to the strict Mormon moral code, would be exactly the kind of person qualified to lead: his walk would echo his talk and we could confide that he was a person of integrity. He might be wrong, but at least he would not lie to us.

But the Devil is also in the details, and Romney has fallen well below the standards not only of his own faith, but of trust in general. While governor of Massachusetts, he promoted same sex marriage and ran as a pro-choice candidate. He now maintains that at that time his beliefs were "in flux" about these two controversial subjects, but is that truthful? As an LDS missionary, he was required to teach people that homosexuality was sinful, and that human life was sacred. Later, as an LDS Bishop and Stake President (akin to a Catholic parish priest and an archbishop, respectively), he was required to enforce Church standards of behavior upon erring members, with consequences for misconduct up to and including excommunication. So it is highly unlikely that Romney finally "came to" believe in the wrongfulness of homosexuality and abortion. In his entire life, he'd never been taught differently by anyone in his church, and he had acted as an officiator of the Church to implement those same beliefs and standards upon members over which he had a stewardship.

The truth, then, is one of the following: If Romney is an honest person who did not lie in the Church interviews, then he has always been anti-homosexuality and anti-abortion, or he would not have been allowed to serve as a missionary, bishop, or stake president. But if he lied during those interviews, then he is a man who would lie to God himself. Either way bodes ill for Romney the man and for the United States as a nation, for he is clearly capable of lying either to move ahead in religious circles (publicly subscribing to doctrines with which he did not agree) or to advance in political circles (stating that he was pro-choice and unopposed to gay marriage when he was Massachusetts governor). I tend to believe Romney would rather lie to voters than to God, so I subscribe to the first premise: he has always been in line with Mormon belief: anti-gay and pro-life, but in the past has tempered these views to obtain political power, just as he is "refining" them yet again in his quest for ultimate political power: the presidency of the United States.

Massachusetts is one of the most liberal states in the union, and Romney would have never been elected governor had he not disavowed his core personal beliefs, so he did. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that same-sex "marriages" were protected by the Massachusetts constitution, Romney ordered Justices of the Peace to perform same-sex marriages or be fired. He did not have to do this as the Court was simply advising the legislature to codify its opinion on changing the marriage statutes. Romney was not bound to enforce same-sex marriages prior to such legislative action, yet he did.

On abortion, his personal beliefs also likely took a back seat to his political aspirations: In a 1994, he ran for the U.S. Senate against Teddy Kennedy. During a televised debate, Romney declared: "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for twenty years, we should sustain and support it."

If this is the case, then in 1970, just a couple of years after his LDS mission, and mere months after he was married in the Mormon temple, he changed his mind, took views contrary to Mormon belief and practice, and embraced Roe vs. Wade. This strains credibility, given his continued involvement with Mormonism, both as a member and as a leader in the faith.

"Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world."
-- Mitt Romney

NEXT: The real reason Mitt Romney cannot (and should not) be president.

The Looming Tower & The Perfect Storm (III)

OVER THE LAST TWO POSTS, I've chronicled the remarkable events leading up to 9/11 from Lawrence Wright's work The Looming Tower. In this final post, I'll continue the "highlighter worthy" events of the eve of the terrorist attack. I'm sure many of these events will be a surprise to the reader, as they were to me.
  • Most men who joined the jihad did so in a country other than the one in which they were reared. Alone, alienated, and often far from his family, the exile turned to the mosque where he found companionship and the consolation of religion. Islam was more than a faith--it was an identity. (344)
  • The Hamburg Cell, the nucleus of what would become the co-conspirators of 9/11, were able to fly below the authorities' radar. The new Germany had enshrined tolerance into its constitution, including the most openhanded political asylum policy in the world. In recoiling from its extremist past, Germany inadvertently became the host of a new totalitarian movement. (345)
  • Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 masterminds, stated in his will: "No pregnant woman or disbelievers should walk in my funeral or ever visit my grave. No woman should ask forgiveness of me. Those who will wash my body should wear gloves so that they do not touch my genitals." The anger this statement directs at women and its horror of sexual contact invites the thought that Atta's turn to terror had as much to do with his own conflicted sexuality as it did with the clash of civilizations. (347) A fatwa was ordered on the Islamic journalist who dared suggest these young men would not have carried out 9/11 if they'd had a healthy sexual life.
  • Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khaled al-Mihdhar, both 9/11 conspirators, easily obtained U.S. visas because they were Saudi citizens. (349)
  • The CIA knew about Hamzi and Mihdhar withheld this information from other governmental agencies, fearing prosecutions resulting from specific intelligence might compromise its relationship with foreign intelligence services, notwithstanding there were safeguards to protect confidential information, and the FBI worked routinely with the agency on similar operations. May in the CIA feared, however, that the FBI was too blundering and indiscriminate to be trusted with sensitive intelligence. (352). Such turf-protection was the key weakness of American foreign intelligence before 9/11. I fear nothing has changed.
  • Ramzi Yousef, mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was being flown past the towers on his way to stand trial. One of the agents pointed and said, "See, they're still standing." Yousef said, "They wouldn't be if we had more money." (357) This is for those who think President Bush is responsible for all Islamic terrorism against the west. That was back in 1993, when the nation was suffering under the laconic and narcissistic Bill Clinton.
  • On October 12, 2000, the U.S.S. Cole was bombed by an explosives-laden skiff in the Aden, Yemen, harbor. OBL later said, "The destroyer represented the capital of the West, and the small boat represented Mohammed." (361) For those who do not believe Islamofascism is religious in nature.
  • OBL was born in Yemen, in an area known as the "Hadramout," which means "death has come." (364)
  • Yemeni authorities arrested Fahd al-Quso, who was supposed to videotape the Cole bombing, but overslept. Quso admitted that he had delivered money to one of his co-conspirators, Khallad, in Bangkok. Khallad was linked to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The FBI sent Khallad's photo to the CIA, asking about this connection. The CIA withheld information about the Malaysia meeting of Khallad and Quso, which hampered the pursuit of judstice in the death of 17 American sailors. (372). If this information had been given the FBI, they could have found Hamzi and Mihdhar in the U.S., and 9/11 might have been prevented!
  • Bill Clinton did nothing in response to the Cole bombing, as it came in the midst of his Monica problems and the upcoming presidential election. OBL's belief in American timidity had once again been proven. (374)
  • In April 2001, Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Afghan Northern Alliance commander and enemy of the Taliban, told American officials in Paris that he had learned of al-Qaeda's intent to perform a terrorist act against the U.S. that would be vastly greater than the bombings of the American embassies in Africa. (381)
  • Bill Clinton's Justice Department reversed intelligence policy in 1995. The new policy regulated the exchange of information between FBI agents and criminal prosecutors, but not among the agents themselves. FBI headquarters misinterpreted the policy, turning it into a straitjacket for its own investigators. (387)
  • In July, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams wrote headquarters, saying, "The purpose of this communication is to advise the bureau and New York of the possibility of a coordinated effort by OBL to send students to the U.S. to attend civil aviation universities and colleges." His warning was ignored. (395)
  • In mid-August, a flight school in Minnesota expressed concern to the FBI about a student, Zacarias Moussaoui, who asked about NYC flight patterns and whether the cockpit door could be opened during flight. The INS arrested him, but FBI headquarters would not allow agents to examine Moussaoui's laptop computer because the agents could not show "probable cause" for their search. (396) One wonders what probable cause would have sufficed? A cartoon showing a plane striking the towers?
  • If the FBI had been allowed access to the laptop, it would have discovered a letter of employment from Infocus Tech, which was signed by Yazid Sufaat, whose name meant nothing to the FBI, but the CIA knew Sufaat was at the conspirator's meeting in Malaysia. The FBI was not guiltless, either. It failed to give terrorism czar Dick Clarke any of the above information. (397)
  • On September 9, Ahmed Shah Massoud was assassinated by two men posing as Arab TV journalists. His murder was ordered by OBL. (401)
  • John O'Neill, the former FBI chief of counterterrorism and head of security for the World Trade Center for just three weeks, was killed in the attack when he went back inside the tower to help with the evacuation. (407)
  • Following the attack, America prepared to invade Afghanistan in pursuit of OBL, who escaped into Pakistan. (420)
9/11 was a devilish conjunction of evil intent, American hubris, and sheer luck. Though I do not believe it will happen again in the same way (airplanes used as bombs), I have no doubt that it will happen again. Most likely, a dirty bomb in a container shipment in a southern California harbor, which when detonated will kill thousands in this densely-populated area. The winds will then carry the radioactivity inland, sickening and killing tens of thousands more. Since at present U.S.Customs physically inspects only 6% of all incoming container cargo, this scenario has a high likelihood of success. God help us if we refuse to help ourselves.

The Looming Tower & The Perfect Storm (II)

LAST TIME I TRACED THE HISTORY of Islamofascism from its inception to the late 1980s, when al-Qaeda ("the base") was formed by Osama bin Ladin (OBL) and his rival (later co-conspirator) Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, as detailed in Lawrence Wright's masterpiece The Looming Tower. I now continue with more "highlighter worthy" excerpts from this fascinating book up to the eve of 9/11:

  • OBL is reputed to suffer from kidney failure; there is no evidence of this. Rather, he likely suffers from Addison's disease, a disorder of the endocrine system marked by low blood pressure, weight loss, muscle fatigue, stomach irritability, sharp back pain, dehydration, and an abnormal craving for salt. (159)
  • Saudi Arabia, only 1% of the world Muslim population, supports 90% of the expenses of the entire fundamentalist and radical Wahhabi faith, overriding other traditions of Islam. (170)
  • Bin Ladin announced his murderous intentions back in 1982, "When America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon (to stop the shelling of Israeli towns), as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted." (172)
  • Although al-Qaeda was originally formed to oppose Marxism in Afghanistan, where it had America as an ally, OBL turned the organization into an anti-American terrorist cabal because he is rooted in the 7th century where Christianity (evidenced by his use of the term "Crusaders") was not just a rival, but the archenemy. (194)
  • Significance of September 11th to Muslims: On September 11, 1683, in Vienna, the king of Poland began the battle that turned back the farthest advance of Muslim armies. This is why that date was chosen for the attack on America. For the next 300 years, Islam would be in retreat. (194)
  • Al-Qaeda trained the suicide bombers that attacked the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983. (197)
  • Omar Abdul Rahman (the Blind Sheik), despite being listed as a terrorist on the State Dept. watch list, was granted entry into the US, and traveled to mosques nationwide, calling on Muslims to "cut the transportation of their (the West's) countries, tear it apart, destroy their economy, burn their companies, eliminate their interests, sink their ships, shoot down their planes, kill them on sea, air, or land." (201)
  • Though it is unclear whether OBL sent Ramzi Yousef to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993, Yousef did learn his bomb-craft in an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. (202)
  • OBL told trainees at al-Qaeda camps: "America appears mighty, but it is actually weak and cowardly. Look at Vietnam. Look at Lebanon. Whenever soldiers start coming home in body bags, Americans panic and retreat. Such a country needs only to be confronted with two or three sharp blows, then it will flee in panic, as it always has. For all its wealthy and resources, America lacks conviction. It cannot stand against warriors of faith who do not fear death." (214)
  • In Somalia, when the bodies of a downed helicopter crew were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Pres. Clinton quickly withdrew all American soldiers from the country. Bin Ladin's analysis of the American character had been proven correct. (215)
  • At the end of 1993, a Sudanese general had reportedly obtained black market uranium. OBL had been working with the Sudanese government to develop chemical agents that could be used against the Christian rebels in the south. OBL paid for the uranium, but it turned out to be red mercury (cinnabar), a substance used in nuclear scams for more than 25 years. (218)
  • The first man to betray OBL was Jamal al-Fadl, a Sudanese, who stole more than $100,000 from al-Qaeda. He sold his story to the Americans for $1 million. While in protective custody, he won the New Jersey Lottery! (225)
  • The Taliban ("students") in Afghanistan arose in 1994, most of them orphans who had been raised in refugee camps and who were outraged by the chaos and depravity of the rule of mujahideen. The liberators in the war against the Soviets had turned out to be more barbaric rulers than their enemies. (255) The Taliban became the largest growers of opium poppies in the world. (259)
  • August 23, 1996: OBL declares war on America: "Terrorizing you is a legitimate and moral obligation." (266)
  • Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, uncle of WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef, approached OBL in 1996 with several schemes to attack America, including one that would require pilots to crash airplanes into buildings. (268)
  • Iranian-backed terrorists Hezbollah were responsible for the 1996 explosion at the Khobar Towers, a military housing complex in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 and injuring 400. (271)
  • The tortured reasoning of the Islamists which license them to murder non-Muslims: The Islamic nation is in misery because of illegitimate leadership, due to the Christian-Jewish alliance that emerged after the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which Britain and France divided the Arab lands between them, and the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which called for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Soon after, the Ottoman Empire collapsed, and with it the Muslim caliphate. This is all seen as an ongoing campaign by the Christian-Jewish alliance to suffocate Islam, using such tools as the United Nations, compliant Arab rulers, multinational corporations, satellite channels, and international relief agencies. (294)
  • An al-Qaeda computer was obtained in 1997 by the CIA. It was owned by Zawahiri's closest political confidant. Called the "Rosetta stone of al-Qaeda," it was nevertheless not made available to the FBI because the Bureau would use the information as evidence at trials, and therefore public, which would ruin its value as intelligence as far as the CIA was concerned. (305) This kind of stand-off, resulting in no intelligence passing between the agencies, would contribute in large part to 9/11.
  • Another captured al-Qaeda computer in 1998 linked OBL to the killing of American servicemen in Somalia, which resulted in a criminal indictment against him in Federal District Court in New York. ( 302)
  • August 1998: Al-Qaeda suicide bombers attack American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya (213 dead, 4,500 injured), and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania (11 dead, 85 wounded). (308) Five embassies had been targeted, but luck and intelligence had saved the other three. FBI investigators were stunned to learn that nearly a year earlier an Egyptian member of al-Qaeda had walked into the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and told the CIA about the bombing plot. (311)
  • Shortly after the embassy bombings, Monica Lewinsky testified before a Washington grand jury about her sexual relationship with Bill Clinton. In the minds of Islamists, the relationship between the president and the intern perfectly symbolized Jewish influence in America, and any military response to the bombings was likely to be seen as an excuse to punish Muslims and divert attention from the scandal. (319)
  • Soil samples at a Sudanese chemical plant purportedly owned by OBL contained traces of EMPTA, an essential chemical in the nerve gas VX. On August 20, Clinton authorized missiles to destroy the plant, which turned out to be a pharmaceuticals plant, which OBL had nothing to do with. Sudan then let the two accomplices in the embassy bombings escape and the FBI lost an invaluable opportunity to capture al-Qaeda insiders. (320)
  • Though the NSA was able to monitor satellite phone calls, it refused to share the raw data with the FBI, the CIA, or even the White House. (321)
  • At the same time as the aspirin factory attack, intel indicated OBL was at the Khost al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Several of the 66 Tomahawk missiles that rained down camp failed to detonate. OBL sold them to China for $10 million. (323)
  • Iraq was an ally in al-Qaeda's war on the west; there had been a series of contacts between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda operatives. Iraqi delegations met with OBL, who asked for weapons and training caps inside Iraq. (335) Nevertheless, FBI director Louis Freeh reportedly stressed in White House meetings that al-Qaeda posed no domestic threat. OBL did not even make the FBI's most wanted list until June 1999.
  • In December 1999, al-Qaeda-trained Ahmed Ressam was arrested at the Port Angeles, Washington, border crossing. In his trunk were the makings of an Oklahoma City-type bomb, intended for LAX. (337)
  • January 3, 2000: a plot is accidentally foiled by Yemeni fisherman who encountered a fiberglass skiff containing C-4 explosives destined for the USS The Sullivans, which was refueling in the Aden harbor. (339)
  • Between ten and twenty thousand trainees passed through Afghanistan al-Qaeda training camps from 1996 until they were destroyed in 2001. (341)
  • The media helps the terrorists: Zawahiri was keen on the use of biological and chemical warfare, saying, "Despite their extreme danger, we only became aware of them when the enemy drew our attention to them by repeatedly expressing concern that they can be produced simply." (343)
  • Hollywood helps out, too: Al-Qaeda trainees spent considerable time planning how to pull of terrorist maneuvers. At night they would often watch Hollywood thrillers, looking for tips. The movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger were particular favorites. (343)

  • NEXT: 9/11 and the aftermath.

    The Looming Tower & The Perfect Storm (I)

    OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS, I've read a number of books about 9/11, as well as a few about Islam. I even slogged through the Koran. But after reading Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower, I can save you a great deal of time: if you read any book about Islamofascism, let it be this one.

    Instead of writing a review, I'd just like to list the "highlighter worthy" sections of the book, followed by the page number in parenthesis, as well as an occasional comment or clarification of my own.

    In short, 9/11 was a "perfect storm" of gross incompetence and petty in-fighting among the U.S. "intelligence" agencies, the numbingly self-assured cosmology of the Koran (which has just three responses to everyone on the planet: convert, subjugate, or kill), the repressive, insular Islamic culture, simple luck, and the hubris of the American people, who see themselves as good and so cannot imagine anyone else in the world being evil. Mix into this stew the modern technology of cell-phone-activated detonators, radioactive payloads, satellite phones, and the fluidity of modern bomb-transportation vehicles, and you've got a very combustible combination, to wit:

    • The beginnings of Islamofascism started in an American college town: Greely, Colorado, in 1949. (23)
    • The first violent jihadists (the Muslim Brotherhood) made their purpose entirely clear: "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations, and to extend its power to the entire planet." (29)
    • Egyptian president Anwar Sadat had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, who tried to kill his predecessor, Gamal Abdul Nasser. (31)
    • The Koran prohibits the killing of fellow Muslims. Therefore, death-worthy Islamic foes are termed takfir, ("excommunicants") illegitimate Muslims, and therefore infidels to be treated as such. (34)
    • When Israel won the 6-day war in 1967, Muslims felt God had turned against them. The only way back was to return to the "pure" religion: fundamentalism. (45)
    • "Salafism" is the most backward of all fundamentalist Muslim dogmas. It does not recognize any Islamic traditions after the time of Mohammed. (49)
    • Azzam Zawahiri, bin Ladin's second-in-command, fought with him in Afghanistan against the Russians. When asked why they took aid from America, he said, "Sure, we're taking American help to fight the Russians, but they're equally evil." (54) He was also jailed in connection with the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. (59)
    • The Ayatollah Khomeini, who ousted the Shah of Iran from power in 1979, said, "Islam says: Whatever good there is, exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors!" Ponder that statement again. Feel that chill running up your spine? That is the man whose followers want to use the sword on you.
    • Shia vs. Sunni: After the death of Mohammed in 632 A.D., a quarrel arose over the line of succession. Sunnis supported the election of caliphs (rulers), but the Shia believed the caliphate should pass through the Prophet's descendants alone. (56)
    • The Sadat plotters were imprisoned in Egypt and tortured by fellow Muslims. Strikingly, this treatment radicalized them against the West, who they saw as responsible for corrupting and humiliating Islamic society. Indeed, the theme of humiliation, which is the essence of torture, is crucial to understanding the Islamist's rage. (61)
    • The "Blind Sheik," Omar Abdul Rahman, who was convicted in America for his part in a plot to destroy NYC landmarks, was previously charged as a conspirator in the Sadat assassination. (65)
    • "Wahhabism" (aka "Salafism") has its origin in the teachings of Abdul Wahhab, an 18th century revivalist who believed Muslims had drifted away from the true religion. The Wahhabi sect is located primarily in Saudi Arabia, bin Ladin's adopted homeland. (72)
    • Osama bin Ladin's father, Mohammed, began his life in Saudi Arabia working for Aramco, the Saudi-American oil cooperative. He became a wealthy man, primarily because of his connection with this company. (74)
    • Mohammed bin Ladin divorced Osama's mother, Alia, when Osama was just four years old. Mohammed then "awarded" her to one of his employees. (84)
    • Though OBL has never traveled to America, his favorite TV shows growing up were Fury and Bonanza.
    • OBL's view of women: "One [wife] is okay, like walking. Two is like riding a bicycle: it's fast but a little unstable. Three is a tricycle, stable but slow. And when we come to four, ah! This is the ideal. Now you can pass everyone!" (94)
    • Prince Turki (head of Saudi security and charged with bringing bin Ladin to justice), was a classmate of Bill Clinton, who coached him on an ethics test. (98)
    • Though OBL and other Arabs often brag about how they ran the Soviets out of Afghanistan, there were never more than 3,000 Arabs involved in the war, and most of them never made it out of Pakistan. (121)
    • "The lure of an illustrious and meaningful death was especially powerful in cases where the pleasures and rewards of life were crushed by government oppression and economic deprivation." (123)
    • Arab countries are incredibly unproductive. If one subtracts the oil revenue from the Gulf countries, 260 million Arabs export less than the 5 million Finns. (123)
    • "Radicalism usually prospers in the gap between rising expectations and declining opportunities. This is especially true where the population is young, idle, and bored; where art is impoverished; where entertainment---movies, theater, music---is policed or absent altogether; and where young men are set apart from the consoling and socializing presence of women. Adult illiteracy remain[s] the norm in many Arab countries. Unemployment [is] among the highest in the developing world. Anger, resentment, and humiliation spur young Arabs to search for dramatic remedies. (123) And when you focus that anger on a large target (America), you have thousands of willing martyrs.
    • Sharia law: "It is only when the rule of man has been eradicated and Sharia imposed that there will be no compulsion in religion, because there is only one choice: Islam. (125) George Orwell would be proud.
    NEXT: More highlights from The Looming Tower.

    A Simple Solution to Illegal Immigration

    I GUESS I'M OLD ENOUGH, and have seen enough, to state unequivocally that the people who run this country are no smarter than you and I, but they are definitely more self-dealing. A cursory look at illegal immigration makes this abundantly clear. The solutions to this problem are so simple, and the politicians so attuned to ignoring them, that only one explanation is possible: they don't want to solve the problem.

    Why? Illegal immigration costs this country millions of dollars in social services, education, health care, and border enforcement each year. Clearly, we could afford to pay a little more for our burgers if these costs were reduced. Again, the only clear answer is that the politicians see a benefit to illegal immigration. The most direct is gaining potential voters; the other is cheap labor for the millionaire industrialists who donate to the politicians. Either way you slice it, politicians' failure to enforce current immigration law benefits primarily themselves. Which is why they have the lowest approval ratings of all.

    I have a solution, though I have no illusions it will be adopted by the political class. It is simple, will cost very little, and will result not only in a vast, voluntary reduction in the presence of illegals in this country, but will transform Latin America into a true partner for progress and peace in his hemisphere.

    It is this: Latinos are here to work. We all know that. Latino men do not loiter in front of Home Depot pleading for hand-outs---they are pleading for work. And who employs them? Everyone from landscapers to multinational corporations. The solution is to remove the incentive for these people to be here, to deny them employment. And the way to do it is not to round them up, load them in vans, and transport them back to Calexico. It is to enforce current laws which make it illegal to employ undocumented aliens.

    But we won't be going after Joe's Landscaping Service. Instead, we should prosecute and imprison a small number (say ten or so) of the CEOs of the largest law-breaking corporations. This will send a message: employ an illegal, go to jail. The word will spread like wildfire. Before long, Joe and his competitors will not dare employ illegals. Yard maintenance costs will go up, but with the reduction in taxes due to lower health care, education, courts, border fence, and ICE costs, we will be able to afford higher landscaping fees when Joe hires a 17-year-old kid to run the leaf blower instead of 42-year-old Juan from Chiapas. All it will take are a few high-profile prosecutions. No ridiculous and ineffective wall, no 24-7 border patrols, no immigration court hearings. Just a few weeks in federal court prosecuting the president of General Mills.

    What will happen then is Econ 101: since Latinos are here to work, if there is no work, they will go home. By the millions. If there is no employment, no school enrollment, and no access to health care, they will return to their own countries.

    Having spent a substantial amount of time in Latin America, I know the kind of governments they have there: most are dictatorships or are ruled by a small cabal of rich families. What Americans fail to recognize is that most illegal Latinos in the U.S. are the best and brightest in their native lands. They saw the dire state of their home state and looked northward for opportunity and freedom. If I was a campesino in Nicaragua, I would do the same and so would you. To realize this dream, they leave home, family, and culture, travel thousands of miles, and risk their lives crossing the border, all to run a leaf blower for ten bucks an hour. I admire these people, but they are still law-breakers and a tremendous drain on our health, education, security, and court system. And if I were one of them, I would not be surprised that the U.S. is trying to enforce its borders---after all, Mexico's southern border is tighter than James Browns' pants. Ask any Guatemalan.

    So what happens when the best and brightest return to their pueblos? They will look around with new eyes, eyes that have seen the possibilities of a free country. As they ran a leaf blower across your driveway in Malibu, they did not fail to notice your million dollar home and the new BMW parked out front. They now know what they only dreamed of before: the possibilities of freedom.

    And standing in the muddy calle of their tiny, poor hamlet, they will ask their neighbors, "What is going on here?" And their neighbors will tell them about the malvado down the block who boldly extorts money from them in full daylight; about the corrupt politician who skims local revenues for his own profit; about the greedy factory owner who works their children mercilessly for mere pesos.

    And the people who have returned will say, "Well, then, let's put a stop to this now." For they have seen a country of laws, where the police are not uniformly corrupt, where politicians can be thrown out of office if they misbehave, and where most of the rich achieve their wealth through honest industry.

    What will follow will be bloody but necessary: the town mafioso will be found dead outside his home; corrupt politician will be ousted in the next election; and factories will be shut down as people organize and make their voices heard.

    We should and must support this kind of grassroots revolution through financing, fomenting, and even special ops if necessary. It is time to take the gloves off. Vicente Fox is no less corrupt than his predecessors have been; he just speaks better English. The CIA and other covert agencies must help the Mexican people especially (since they are our closest neighbors) run the half-dozen families that control Mexico out of the country and help the Mexican people take control of their homeland. No Mexican (or Guatemalan or Ecuadorian) wants to live thousands of miles from his family and country. They, like you, want to be near their homes and friends. If their own countries were not so corrupt and the ruling regimes so ruthless, they would not be here raking your leaves. So we must aid and abet revolution in these countries, the kind of revolution that built our country. Remember "No taxation without representation"? That is going on in Chiapas, Guatemala City, and Guayaquil.

    If the U.S. wants democracy in Latin America, then we must make it happen. And I'm not talking about propping up petty tin-pot dictators. I'm talking about making it possible for villages to operate under democratic principles: honest and verifiable elections, secure banks, and access to proceeds from the great natural resources of these countries: mining, oil, forests, the ocean. In short, remove dictators and ruling cabals from their positions by helping the very guy who is mowing your lawn to achieve the same kind of life you have. Give him, by the sword if necessary, freedom and security, and you will be astonished at the near over-night transformation of Latin America.

    In short order, tens of millions of Latinos will stream across the border---southward this time---and in Mexico, instead of slave-labor farms and factories, we will see the advent of an industrial revolution. The U.S. has graduated from its manufacturing phase; it is a service economy now. Our greatest talent lies in creativity: software, entertainment, business, medicine, innovation. Instead of yard workers, we should be importing automobiles, microwaves, and cellphones from their countries. It is Mexico's (and Latin America's) turn to enter the industrial phase, to follow in our footsteps. As such, it needs steelworkers, automotive assembly line workers, and oil rig wildcatters.

    And in the short term, Americans must pay more for a burger and teach their kids how to mow the lawn again.

    Warming to Climate Change (II)

    THE EARTH'S AVERAGE TEMPERATURE has risen a little less than a degree Celsius over the past century. Although almost half of this warming occurred before 1940, greenhouse gas emissions (95% water vapor) began to rise substantially only after the 1950s. And one degree isn't much anyway, by any historical standard.

    But it matters little, as 40% of all U.S. CO2 emissions are reabsorbed, mostly by vegetation. And CO2 is only one factor in GCC. Other factors are solar irradiance (Mars is warming, too), linear contrails, black carbon on snow, stratospheric water vapor, methane, and ozone. In addition, other factors contribute to global cooling: aerosol cloud albedo (reflectivity) effects, aerosol direct effects, surface albedo land use, and stratospheric ozone. The only factors we know much about are CO2 and methane; the others are largely mysteries.

    But let's suppose that the planet is warming and let's also assume that's bad. High Priest Gore and his minions predict dire consequences of this one degree of warming. But how accurate a prophet is Gore?

    There is no scientific consensus as to which climate change model should be used. In the last twenty years, no fewer than four major models have been created, with divergence in predictions of cataclysm, ranging from a 1995 prediction of five degrees Celsius rise by 2100, to a 2007 prediction of a 3 degree rise by 2100. And only half of all scientists believe humans are to blame for the present warming. The other half is silenced, frozen out as heretics by the mainstream media that has embraced the church of GCC.

    But again, let's pretend Gore is right: the sky is falling. The melting ice caps will drown the polar bears and put NYC under fifty feet of water, right? Wrong. Sea levels have risen since the Earth began to come out of the last ice age, yet since 1961, the rise has been far lower than the historic average. Also, though the arctic ice sheet is melting, Antarctica's glaciers are thicker than ever, due to increased precipitation (remember that pesky greenhouse gas, water vapor? It takes the form of snow in Antarctica). And polar bear numbers have increased from around 5,000 in the 1950s to almost 25,000 today. That's a lot of Coke to share with the penguins.

    Gore also predicted yearly hurricane disasters like Katrina. Yet the season that just ended was historically calm. In fact, there has been no change in either the occurrence or strength of hurricanes outside the natural range of variability.

    But what about droughts and weather-related deaths? Also a false doctrine: since the 1920s, weather-related deaths have decreased from almost 500 per year to just under 20. And the chart for U.S. lands affected by drought looks like the NYC skyline, with many ups and downs and a gradual decrease since 1935.

    Finally, what the prophets of doom fail to reveal are the many benefits from increased CO2: plants grow bigger and faster, which means more available water, greater farm productivity, less food scarcity, and less starvation of polar bears and man alike.

    Mankind is the most adaptable creature on earth. If it's cold, we put on a jacket; if it's hot, suntan oil. If the sea rises 2", we build the seawall 2" higher. The real danger of the GCC orthodoxy is how it misplaces the scarce resource of money. If everyone in the U.S. drives a Prius (which costs thousands more than its conventional counterparts), there will be less money spent on real threats: malaria, water purification, nutrition research, starvation, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, and cancer.

    On May 1, 1970, on our high school quad we had a speaker for the first "Earth Day" celebration. She warned us of the impending ice age that mankind had brought upon itself by its selfish use of the world's resources. My friends and I, even at that tender age, knew a loon when we saw one: she was wearing a parka in eighty degree heat.

    So to Al Gore, I say, "You're a false prophet, your god is a fraud, and I already have a religion."

    NEXT: An easy and inexpensive solution to illegal immigration.

    Warming to Climate Change (I)

    ANOTHER EVIDENCE of God's existence is the apparently built-in need mankind feels to seek a "higher power." But with the traditional God effectively dismissed by a modern secular society, a vacuum has been created, abhorred by nature. Enter the new god (a dismally ineffective and wholly uninspiring god): the god of Global Climate Change.

    The GCC god, however, is still a woefully traditional god who demands unquestioning obedience of its believers. "The debate is over," says the Al Gore, High Priest of GCC, and everyone must bend the knee or be labeled a "denier" and a heretic.

    In order to be considered orthodox, one must also know the core doctrines of the Church of GCC (formerly the Church of Global Warming), the chief doctrine of which, the one worshipped in the sanctum sanctorum of the GCC Temple, is that the earth is warming and mankind is to blame.

    The genius of many frauds is to link a truth with a falsehood in order to legitimize the latter. The earth is likely warming just now, but is it really mankind's fault or just the cyclical ebb and flow of temperature?

    The High Priest, in his gospel Earth in the Balance, asserts that carbon dioxide levels are dangerously high, a large contributor to global warming, and that mankind is the culprit. But before we are baptized into the religion and forced to live in caves and hunt saber-tooth tigers for dinner, let's examine more closely this article of faith.

    The truth is, greenhouse gases are a small part of the earth's atmosphere but are critical to making the planet hospitable. Without them, the earth and the moon would be twins. Mankind adds to the level of greenhouse gases by burning fossil fuels and deforestation. High Priests in the Church of GCC believe this has caused the present warming trend. But has it?

    Greenhouse gases form less than 2% of the earth's atmosphere. The rest is made up of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, etc. And CO2 and other trace gases are only 5% of the greenhouse gases. The other 95% is water vapor. Humans contribute less than 4% of the annual CO2 emissions; the other 96% comes from nature. And so humans add about one-quarter of one percent to the total greenhouse effect. Almost 5% is attributable to oceans, volcanoes, decaying plants, and animal activity. The other 95% is merely water vapor (clouds and rain).

    One of the hallmarks of a "true" religion is its permanence. Truth is not usually a flavor of the month. So how have CO2 levels changed over time? Are the levels today higher than in the past? Well, 600 million years ago, during the Cambrian Period, atmospheric CO2 was in excess of 7,000 parts per million. What is it today? .03ppm. Indeed, it has been steadily declining during the entire span of life on earth.

    During the age of the dinosaurs, the average temperature was about 18 degrees F warmer than today. As recently as 20 million years ago, the temperature was about the same as during the Cambrian Period, 600 million years ago. It simply tracks up and down within a 20 degree range, even as CO2 levels steadily declined over the same period of time. Therefore, there is no relationship between CO2 levels and temperature.

    The earth is a giant analog clock, the hands continually re-tracing their paths across recurrent cycles of heating and cooling. Over the last 400,000 years, there have been five major warming phases, followed by lesser warming and cooling periods. Various ice ages generally last about 100,000 years, interrupted by warming periods lasting about 10,000 years. We are currently at the tail end of a warming period.

    What comes next? Why Global Cooling, of course. Get out your parka!

    NEXT: Following the second hand into the present... and future.

    Iraqi WMDs: The Proof (II)

    WITH THE EXISTENCE of WMDs established beyond controversy, still the question remains: If Saddam had WMDs, why didn't we find any after the invasion of Iraq?

    This is where we access the best evidence of all: our own logic circuit. Saddam was a tyrant who ruled his country (quelling the internecine quarrels with which we are all so familiar now) with totalitarian efficiency and cruelty. Dissent was quashed, those speaking against his tyranny disappeared, and neighbors were encouraged to spy on neighbors. In such a world, it would be easy to hide evidence, hide the perpetrators, hide the murders, and hide the mass graves. (Except we've found a few of these, haven't we?)

    But even so, it's hard to imagine an entire country being completely emptied out of WMDs by the time we got there. OK, here's where logic kicks in: Suppose you have a 15-year-old son whom you suspect of doing drugs. One day you poke your head into his disheveled room and announce, "All right: in two weeks I'm going to turn this room upside down, and if I find any drugs in here, you're in big trouble, mister!"

    Now, do you really think you'll discover anything incriminating in that room two weeks from now? Of course not. Your son might be a druggie, but he is not stupid. Neither was Saddam.

    Now imagine your son's room is the size of California, and has doors to his doper-buddies' rooms: Syria, Jordan, Iran. Your son doesn't want to destroy his drugs; he likes them. So he's going to move them elsewhere. So, while you're ticking off the days on the kitchen calendar until your inspection begins, he's quietly moving those drugs into his friends' rooms where he can still get to them when he wants to get high.

    This, of course, is precisely what Saddam probably did. His allies received his "drug" cache in return for payment or threats.

    "But," you ask, "why hasn't anyone squealed on him? Is there truly honor among thieves?"

    During the Egyptian Empire (3100 - 300 B.C.), the pharaohs, obsessed with living as well in the afterlife as they did in mortality, filled their tombs with food, creature comforts, and even facsimilies of chariots and riverboats. Some even had their own servants murdered and buried with them! So why wouldn't Saddam Hussein send a convoy of WMDs out into the seemingly endless Iraqi desert, bury the offending weapons, and then order that everyone involved be shot and quietly buried with them? Is this something you cannot imagine him doing?

    The reason we didn't find WMDs in Iraq is because of we gave him ample time to hide the evidence. In addition, the half-hearted and ineffective U.N. inspection regime wasn't designed to find anything anyway. The United Nations has devolved into an anti-American cabal of leftists tinpot dictators, many of whom aspire to the cruelty and barbarism of Saddam Hussein. And the impotent powers of the west, represented by the ineffective and feckless Hans Blix, no more wanted to find WMDs than did his third-world cheer leading squad.

    We gave Saddam years to prepare for our invasion, and he did what any drug-addled 15-year-old kid would do: he hid the evidence.

    And if you cannot see this logic, I can only say, "You are smoking your own stash, man!"

    NEXT: Warming to Climate Change

    Iraqi WMDs: The Proof (I)

    JUST LIKE THE 9/11 "truthers," the "There-Were-No-WMDs-In-Iraq!" nutters have taken their shoddy product retail. Up to 30% of the American public now believes that 9/11 was an inside job, and an even greater portion (I'm guessing here, but since the country is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, it's probably nearing 50%) believe there were never any WMDs in Iraq.

    Of course the logical conclusion of such a belief is that Iraq was also an "inside job," one designed not to free the Iraqis from the clutches of a murderous madman, but to secure cheap oil for Bush's cronies and work for Cheney's co-conspirators at Halliburton.

    Never mind that one has to climb over a mountain of evidence to the contrary to find the tiny stone labeled "We Never Found Any WMDs!" The important thing for all truthers/nutters is to maintain their world view that our government is evil, corrupt, and conspiratorial. Never mind that the U.N. inspections regime was notoriously incomplete, incompetent, and was denied access to any important Iraqi weapons sites. Never mind that politicians of every stripe went on record to say that Saddam had WMDs. Never mind that Saddam used WMDs on his own people when he gassed the Kurds.

    Never mind all that. So long as your world view is maintained, facts are irrelevant. And when your world view is that you are a pawn, a tiny part of a terrible, grinding machine, that great forces are arrayed against you, that everyone in power is corrupt and evil, then you maintain your virtue, your wisdom, your innocence. Your nuttiness.

    You are, in other words, Chicken Little, the sole possessor of core truths that the other 99% of humanity is either too dumb to realize or too credulous to debunk. Such beliefs are not designed to find and understand truth; they are designed to maintain a glowing self-perception of moral and intellectual superiority at all costs.

    But I must add another cost---a stone, if you will---to the mountain of evidence that Saddam Hussein had WMDs in Iraq. In his remarkable book The Demon in the Freezer (Random House, 2002), Richard Preston almost throws away one of the most startling and chilling evidences of WMDs: the manufacturing of the smallpox virus, the most dangerous of all infectious diseases. Since the book was published in 2002, a year before the war began, this can be excused. What cannot be excused is the evidence itself, which bears a complete hearing. I have posted the short two-page section from the book here. Please read it now and then return to the post.

    Of course the nutters will maintain, in spite of this evidence, that Preston is a shill for the Bush administration. But the book was written well before the war, and this part of the book is almost a sidebar to his general proposition of the imminent danger of our enemies using Ebola, Marburg, anthrax, and smallpox as bioweapons. And smallpox is the most dangerous weapon ever seen. While it has taken AIDS twenty years to reach 50 million infectees, smallpox could reach that number in just 8 to 10 weeks. "If smallpox were to appear anywhere in the world today," writes Preston on page 103, "the way airplane travel is now, about six weeks would be enough time to see cases around the world. Dropping an atomic bomb would cause casualties in a specific area, but dropping smallpox could engulf the world."

    The World Health Organization (WHO) effectively eradicated smallpox from the earth by 1979. Yet into the the late 1990s, Saddam Hussein was still making it in his labs in Iraq. Preston's book also explains (well before the issue ever came up) why France declined to be part of the coalition to free Iraq: they had been effectively building bio-weapon factories for Saddam Hussein for many years.

    NEXT: The best WMD evidence of all: inside your own head

    One Eternal Round

    A FEW YEARS AGO, I had a radio talk show called "Common Sense with Kenny Kemp" in which I discussed four important areas of life: the mind (science and politics), the heart (relationships and culture), the body (health and medicine), and the soul (spirituality).

    I chose the four points because of Da Vinci's perfectly proportioned drawing of the "Vitruvian Man," in which the figure touches the circle (symbolic of eternity in many cultures) at four points.

    For material, I drew from my own experiences, books I had read, and on-air interviews with learned and erudite people. Among others, I discussed evolution and intelligent design with microbiologist Dr. Michael Behe, relationships with Greg Godek, flaws in our educational system with Martin Gross, forgiveness with Fred Luskin, child rearing with Hal Urban, and reincarnation with Dr. Michael Newton.

    With the advent of the "blogosphere," a term taken from "blog" (a redaction of "web-log") and "sphere" (a less accurate but more sonorous term than "blogiverse," I suppose), anyone can post their ideas, pictures, rants, wild ravings, and even a few educated, well-thought-out ideas and viewpoints.

    It is into this last category I hope to fall with this latest permutation of "Common Sense with Kenny Kemp," but of course you will be the judge.

    It is my intention to post once a week, when I have the time. I am a working writer, after all, with deadlines. That being said, I do intend to take this blog seriously. I will continue my investigations into new and interesting ideas, books, ponderings on current events, and timeless spiritual concepts. And I'd like very much to share the results with you.

    If you bookmark this blog and find yourself coming back, then I will be satisfied that I have achieved my purpose. You may find many of my ideas liberal and others quite conservative. I know I do!

    Your comments are welcome, as well as your suggestions for books I should read, websites I should visit, people I should interview, and current events I should discuss. You may e-mail me at or post comments here. Either way, I look forward to a spirited and honest exchange, with respect extended to all viewpoints, even if they're not mine!

    I'm your host, Kenny Kemp.

    The wind is at our backs
    The road lies before us
    And the journey . . . continues!

    NEXT: The case for the existence of WMDs in Iraq

    Countdown to a Miracle: The Battle with ALS

    1939: Lou Gehrig, baseball’s “Iron Horse,” was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), cutting short one of the sport’s longest and most remarkable careers. There was (and still is) no cure and no treatment for ALS, which afflicts people of all ages, sex, color, and ethnic background. The diagnosis was (and still is), quite literally, a death sentence.

    1990: My father, O.C. Kemp, succumbed to ALS after a courageous three-year battle. He was one of 5,000 people who die each year from ALS.

    2005: Fitness entrepreneur Augie Nieto was diagnosed with ALS and decided to fight back. He joined forces with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) to form a new fund-raising and public awareness foundation called “Augie’s Quest.”

    Summer 2007: MDA-funded scientists isolated the genes that code for ALS, bringing us another crucial step closer to the cure.

    August 2007: John Ondrasik of the band Five For Fighting dedicated his hit song “100 Years” to the ALS struggle. A video was produced to accompany the music, entitled “Augie’s Quest.”

    September 2007: Two families who have been touched by ALS, the Glenn Tullman-Allscripts and Bert and Cindy Silvia, have agreed to together donate $2 to Augie’s Quest every time the video is viewed on John’s site. No phone calls, no e-mails, no fund-raising letters, and no donations. Just a simple click of the mouse and $2 is added to the $11 million already raised to fight ALS through Augie’s Quest. Nothing could be simpler.

    Today: You can help make a miracle happen. Take five minutes and help us fight ALS by watching the video here . . . you will save someone’s life! And while you’re there, add your comments to the others who have been touched by this heartfelt video and its message.

    I believe in miracles and I hope you do, too -- won’t you please let your friends and family know about this wonderful opportunity?