“Handel” with care

Your feel-good video of the day

This is a miracle of modern science that will make you smile:

Hat tip:  Hit & Run (Reason Magazine)

Daniel in the lion’s den

I’ve written about the warriors among us.  By that, I do not mean people who are simply willing to kill.  That’s easy, if you have the right mind set.  Instead, I mean people armed with an overwhelming sense of justice and morality, who will push themselves far above and beyond ordinary people in order to do the right thing.  This teenager reminds us that age is not a necessary requirement for this kind of moral courage:

Hat tip:  Hot Air

Honoring both the dead and the living on Memorial Day

Yeah, I know it’s not quite Memorial Day yet, but sometimes things come my way that I can’t wait to pass on.  This morning, it’s two posts from Greyhawk, at the Mudville Gazette.  The first one is both a memorial to the dead, and a bit of background to the second one, which honors the living.  Both will make you feel incredibly proud of our American families and their children and, if you’re like me, at least one of them will make you cry.

Remembering Ed Freeman

I got an email from a friend about Ed Freeman, a Medal of Honor winner due to his courageous and inspiring service during the Vietnam War.  The email implies that Freeman died recently, which isn’t true — he died in August 2008.  Nevertheless, having learned of his service history, I would be remiss if I did not reprint it here, at my blog.  I think we all benefit from learning about those people who, because of transcendent courage, values and generosity of spirit, go far above and beyond the call of duty.  Here is the citation from Freeman’s Medal of Honor (which I’ve edited to add paragraph breaks, to make it easier on the eyes):

Captain Ed W. Freeman, United States Army, of Boise, Idaho, who distinguished himself by numerous acts of conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary intrepidity on 14 November 1965 while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

As a flight leader and second in command of a 16-helicopter lift unit, he supported a heavily engaged American infantry battalion at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The unit was almost out of ammunition after taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, fighting off a relentless attack from a highly motivated, heavily armed enemy force.

When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone because of intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his life by flying his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire time after time, delivering critically needed ammunition, water, and medical supplies to the besieged battalion. His flights, by providing the engaged units with supplies of ammunition critical to their survival, directly affected the battle’s outcome. Without them the units would almost surely have gone down, with much greater loss of life.

After medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area because of intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew 14 separate rescue missions, providing lifesaving evacuation of an estimated 30 seriously wounded soldiers-some of whom would not have survived had he not acted. All flights were made into a small emergency landing zone within 100 to 200 meters of the defensive perimeter, where heavily committed units were perilously holding off the attacking elements.

Captain Freeman’s selfless acts of great valor and extraordinary perseverance were far above and beyond the call of duty or mission and set a superb example of leadership and courage for all of his peers. Captain Freeman’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

By the way, if you feel like being inspired, please visit the Medal of Honor website.  Pick any war, and fall back in amazement when you read of the courage our troops have shown over the years.  It’s certainly a nice website to visit when you feel soiled by the tawdry headlines about so many of today’s pop culture “heroes.”

What a day this has been….

I love the old Lerner and Lowe song:

What a day this has been,
What a rare mood I’m in,
Why, it’s almost like being in love….

As I get older, though, the song has become somewhat bittersweet. One of the shames about growing older is that emotions don’t feel as strong. It’s nice that I don’t cry as much, but I don’t laugh as much either.  My intensity is simply reduced.  Sometimes, though, something will happen that punches through the emotional carapace age has created.  (For those who don’t know me, I’m not that old.  Haven’t hit 50 yet, but it’s in striking distance.)  If you’re unlucky, the emotional punch is something rotten, such as the death of someone close to you.  On a lucky day, though, that moment comes when two thinkers you admire tremendously give you an accolade on the same day.

I woke up this morning to discover that my post about Rush Limbaugh had been Instalanched.  I was thrilled.  A nod from Glenn Reynolds has two pleasures:  someone whose intelligence and world view I admire has looked approvingly on my work and I get lots of hits.  I may blog obsessively (that is, I’d write even if no one reads), but I’d be a liar if I denied the pleasure I get from traffic. As far as I was concerned, my day was already off to a healthy start.

And then, just as I was about to leave to take my Mom to an appointment, I suddenly got a slew of emails from the many wonderful friends I’ve made since I’ve started blogging, and all said the same thing:  Rush is talking about your post.  “Oh, my God,” I thought, “they’re kidding.”  Higher rational brain kicked in.  Twenty different people who have no connection to each other cannot be kidding.  “Oh, my God!  Oh, my God!  Oh, my God!”

And — here’s the bad part — I can’t do anything about it.  Because I’ve got to go, I can’t sign into my blog, which has crashed anyway.  And because my mother needs my undivided attention, I can’t listen to Rush on the radio, nor will I have access to the KSFO archives on which I rely so heavily.  I’ve had my biggest moment ever as a blogger, and I’m completely paralyzed.

But there is a good side to that.  Had I instantly gone on line and instantly been able to participate fully in my own exciting moment, the thrill would have been over as quickly.  As it was, while driving and sitting with my mom (very pleasant experiences on their own merits), I was also able to nurse a little excitement.  I knew something big was out there, but I just had to wait patiently, take care of things, run errands, etc.

So here I am at home, almost four hours after this whole thing started, and I’ve finally heard Rush reading from my post.   And I’m excited all over again.  I wasn’t kidding in my post when I said those nice things about Rush (i.e., it wasn’t just a publicity stunt).  I’ve come to believe that Rush is one of the most brilliant conservative commentators on the scene.  I trust my analysis about Rush’s ability precisely for the reasons I mentioned when I opened this post:  I’m not young anymore, and I don’t rock ‘n roll purely with my emotions.  I’m an analytical person who avoids the highs and the lows.  I hear Rush with my brain, not my heart, and my brain tells me something very good is going on there.

Given the respect I feel for Rush, you can imagine how utterly delighted I was to hear him read the words I wrote, and say my blog name aloud.  He may not know me, but I’ve spent enough hours in his company to know him, and I am mighty flattered.  As they said in the old days, and don’t say much anymore (shame, too, ’cause it’s a great expression), “Praise from Caesar is praise indeed.”

UPDATE:  Two post scripts I want to add here.

First, I cannot thank enough those of you who sent me your congratulations and your kind words.  For the last six years, I’ve lived in two different worlds simultaneously:  the corporeal world, which is made up of family, work and friends; and the cyberworld, which is made up of politics and those friends I’ve made through my blog.  Although I’ve met very few of my cyberfriends face-to-face, I value these friendships every bit as much as I do the corporeal friends I meet and greet on the street.  (Whoo, and she’s a poet too.)  That means that, when you write to me to congratulate me, or to say nice things about me, I value those words as much as I would if I were in the room with you.  So thank you, and many cyberhugs (which you should really appreciate, because I am so not a huggy kind of person).

Second, since I’ve had this launch, please believe me that I will take seriously this opportunity to write more thoughtful posts, and not just ruminate about the wonders of Las Vegas, as I did all last week.  But really, I do think Las Vegas was deserving of some posts.  Barack Hussein Obama may diss it, but I think it’s an awesome place, one that has something for everyone, even a tee-totalling, non-gambling, non-smoking mom with two kids in tow.

This is why they’re called the Greatest Generation

I remember the floods and slides of 2005.  Significant parts of Marin were inundated with water.  One of my friends, an elderly lady, was homeless for almost a year (living in various friends’ houses) while her house was being repaired.  Harold Lezzeni’s house was under repair for four years, but it wasn’t a dilatory insurance company that caused the delay.  It took so long because Lezzeni, who is now 85 years old, repaired the entire house by himself:

THERE’S A Celtic blessing embedded in the stone wall near Harold Lezzeni’s Fairfax home. The sign, placed there by his father almost a century ago, reads, “May God bless the dwelling, Each stone and beam and stave, All food and drink and clothing, May health of men be always there.”

The signpost is almost all that’s left of the wall. The rest – as well as the blackberry bushes that grew behind it, the orchard that grew behind that and the hillside that supported them both – came crashing through Lezzeni’s living room on New Year’s Eve 2005, filling his home with mud and debris 4 feet deep.

Lezzeni, 85, has spent the past four years restoring his home in the Fairfax hills. He’s rebuilt the walls, replaced the windows and painstakingly restored the inlaid oak floor his father designed in the 1930s. And he’s done it without financial support from his insurance company, the federal government or the owner of the property whose slide damaged his home.

“I had a lot of people tell me it was too big a chore, too much to handle. But I kept at it,” said Lezzeni, an architect who designed the post offices in Fairfax, Ross and San Anselmo.

Lezzeni had been asleep for only a few hours on New Year’s Eve 2005 when he was awakened by what sounded “like a freight train” striking his home.

“The mud was approximately 4 feet deep in his living room,” said Fairfax Building Official Mark Lockaby. “The picture windows in his living room were bashed out, and his kitchen was completely full of mud. (Lezzeni) was trapped upstairs. The fire department had to rescue him out a window.”

The wall of mud hit Lezzeni’s home with such force that it knocked the tiles from the walls of his kitchen and bathroom, pushed his ’85 Buick up and over his retaining wall and twisted the trunk of a massive oak tree.

Read the rest here.  It’s inspiring.

Someone you have to meet

You have to meet Dan Cnossen, who found himself in the middle of an IED four months ago.  I won’t say much more.  Just go and check it out (with specific attention, perhaps, to the climbing wall incident on December 9, 2009).  What a truly admirable human being, although I think it must help that he is supported by an equally admirable crowd of family, friends, and medical personnel.

Hat tip:  Brutally Honest

Two brave people, one of whom finally gets a deserved reward

It’s palette cleanser time.  This time I’m not whining about the political scene.  Instead, I’m leading to the stories of two brave people.  I’ll start with the more recent, less complicated story first.  Once upon a time there was a very pretty young lady who worked at a little coffee kiosk.  And once upon a time, there was a teenage boy with a gun and attitude.  See what happened when these two intersected.

That was the first, simple story.  The second is a much more complicated story about war, heroism, torture, bureaucratic limitations, incompetence and hard-heartedness, and a few good people who never gave up.  Read it here.

Merry Christmas!

The year 2009 has been a trying year for many of us.  In our personal lives, the recession has hurt people’s jobs, diminished their savings, and placed enormous stresses on their day-to-day functions.  Nationally, watching the Democrats at work at home and abroad has provided us with all the thrills of watching a polar bear rip apart a seal.  There’s a certain bizarre fascination with this spectacle, but it’s still sickening.  Today’s Senate vote was just the coup de grace in this Democrat blood sport.  But still….

For those who are Christians, I know that this time of year goes well beyond gifts and lights and holiday sales.  It is about the birth of the Messiah — the moment in the earth’s darkness when a light burst forth upon the earth, with the promise of grace and redemption.  Every year, this celebration matters deeply but, in times of trouble, honoring Christ’s birthday has, I think, more resonance than usual.

Even if we do not share in this celebration (whether because we worship in a different faith or in no faith at all), this should still be a time of light in the darkness.  For those of us who are Jewish, and who have just finished celebrating Hanukkah, this season is a reminder that a small band of committed warriors can take on and bring down an empire.  Whether God makes his hand visible, or acts invisibly through people who refuse to give up their beliefs really doesn’t matter — what matters is that we keep on fighting because we have faith in our commitment to America, a faith that translates, quite simply, to a bone-deep commitment to freedom.

So to all of you, new friends and old, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, one that fills your heart with light and hope.  We have a new year coming to us and, if we keep the faith and the focus, we can — and will — make a difference in the coming months.

355px-Christmas_Tree_Cluster(That’s the Christmas Tree Cluster, deep, deep in space, a reminder of the lasting miracles in the world around us.)

Start your Friday by getting inspired

Go to Tom Elia’s post, following the link, and then feel inspired for the rest of the day.

Get a handkerchief — you’re going to need one

There are some very special people out there.  This woman is one of those people.

Hat tip:  Brutally Honest, who saw it at Confederate Yankee, who found it at Argghhh!

Go ahead! Make your day.

The Anchoress is right.  You’ll LOVE this video.

Wow! One of my favorites, performed the way it deserves to be.

A thrilling surprise awaits you here:


Hat tip:  Radio Patriot

Your morning dose of inspiration

This is not a silly political slogan.  This is the real “yes, you can”:

Hat tip:  Earl

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? *UPDATED*

I’m a nincompoop when it comes to learning languages.  My pronunciation is flawless, but my inability to grasp foreign language grammar structures (despite being quite adept at my own), coupled with my lazy memory, mean that, despite have studied myriad languages, I’ve never mastered any.

Daniel Tammet is a linquistic horse of a different color.  (And yes, I hear the moans of agony about that strained,, even broken metaphor, but I’m feeling metaphoric today, and just can’t seem to stop myself.)  A language savant, who sees words in color and numeric patterns, he recently mastered German in a week.  He’ll add this skill to the more than ten other languages he’s already taught himself:

Tammet is a savant. As a child he had epileptic seizures. Doctors later diagnosed him with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism. He mastered the world of emotions only through hard training.

Numbers and foreign words, on the other hand, come to him naturally. He sees colors and shapes where most people see only plain words and numbers. He’s memorized the number pi to 22,514 digits. He knows instantly that January 10, 2017, will be a Tuesday. And he’s a fleet-footed traveler in the rocky terrain of languages.

Tammet can speak Romanian, Gaelic, Welsh and seven other languages. He learned Icelandic in a week for a TV documentary, at the end of which he gave a live interview on television. He felt somewhat nervous, but was able to speak quite fluently with the show’s host. He even dared to make a joke in Icelandic, which is generally dreaded for its complexity. He still speaks the language today.

You can read more about this fascinating man here.

UPDATE:  Here’s a video of his Icelandic challenge:

Stopping to smell the roses

The very first time I met Sol Shankman, at my wedding, many years ago, he told me that he’d walked the length of the California coast.  I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the only walking he’d done.  Nor did I know, when I saw him a few years ago for his 90th birthday, that he’s still walking.  As you can see from the article, he’s quite a lovely man.


Courage and a clear head.

When God closes a door, he sometimes opens a window

In the wake of Sarah Palin’s appearance on the national political scene, some Obama supporters made some pretty deranged statements about the Palin family decision to go ahead with a pregnancy when they knew that the baby would have Down Syndrome.  There was a lot of eugenics-type talk about the social utility of handicapped children (none) and the societal wisdom of destroying them (huge).

To those of us who have been paying attention for periods longer than this political season, these ugly outbursts weren’t surprising.  After all, Pete Singer, “dean” of American ethicists (with a chair at Princeton), and founder of the American animal rights movement, has long advocated that it is ethical to give parents a 30 day window after a child’s birth within which to destroy the child should the parents deem it defective.  Singer, like others with his statist views, have a peculiarly Utopian view of the perfectibility of humans, one which depends, not on moral growth, but on government force.

And yes, you’re not imaging it — Hitler did in fact put this ideology into effect.  Aside from trying to kill entire races he deemed defective, such as Jews and Gypsies, he was also big on genetic management, which involved prostituting German women to SS forces to make “perfect” Aryan babies and, on the flip side, killing those Aryans he deemed defective.  My uncle on the Christian side of the family was gassed because he was a manic-depressive.  This is what happens when the state makes decisions because, as I’ve said before, the state has no conscience.

The most clear and recent statement of this principle came from yet another famed “ethicist,” this one in England (emphasis mine):

Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock.

The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are “wasting people’s lives” because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain.

She insisted there was “nothing wrong” with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society.

The 84-year-old added that she hoped people will soon be “licensed to put others down” if they are unable to look after themselves.

Her comments in a magazine interview have been condemned as “immoral” and “barbaric”, but also sparked fears that they may find wider support because of her influence on ethical matters.

Lady Warnock, a former headmistress who went on to become Britain’s leading moral philosopher, chaired a landmark Government committee in the 1980s that established the law on fertility treatment and embryo research.

In the statist world, it is impossible for those the statists deem defective to have any value.  It’s the one gaping hole in their identity politics world view.  Everyone has a protectible identity except the handicapped who are either very young (fetal and infantile) or very old.

I mention all this for a reason.  Don Quixote forwarded an email to me about Paul Smith.  Have you ever heard of Paul Smith?  I hadn’t ’til now, but I think meeting him and his work is very important as we tremble on the brink of becoming a truly statist state, with the same universal health care that led the “moral philosopher” of Britain to advocate the mass slaughter of Britain’s helpless elderly.

Here’s an abbreviated version of Smith’s bio from the Foundation set up to honor him and his work:

Paul was born in Philadelphia on September 21, 1921.

Although severe cerebral palsy kept him out of school, it didn’t prevent him from having a remarkable life.

Never having a chance as a child to receive a formal education, Paul taught himself to become a master artist as well as a terrific chess player.


His incredible visualization and calculation skills helped to make him a formidable chess player. Paul would stop doing just about anything else when he had a chance to play a game!

When typing, Paul used his left hand to steady his right one.

Since he couldn’t press two keys at the same time, he almost always locked the shift key down and made his pictures using the symbols at the top of the number keys.

In other words, his pictures were based on these characters …

@ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _

Across seven decades, Paul created hundreds of pictures. He often gave the originals away. Sometimes, but not always, he kept or received a copy for his own records.

You should read the whole bio, which you’ll find here.

And what work are we talking about? The incredible pictures he created using ten keys on an old fashioned typewriter.  You can see those pictures here, at the Paul Smith Foundation’s Web Gallery.

Are they the greatest art in the world?  Nope.  Not even close.  The Louvre or the Met would not be interested.  Nevertheless, they are extraordinary and very pleasing to the eye — and that’s entirely separate from the awe one feels when one considers the physical work and the mental vision that went into creating them.

I’m no saint.  I give thanks daily that, despite being an older mother, both my children were born without Down Syndrome or any of the other genetic diseases nature tosses out.  I’d like to think that, had something bad happened, I could have handled it, but I simply don’t know.

I do know, though, that I’m am finding increasingly horrifying the open-faced calls from the statists demanding the death of the imperfect.  I’ll therefore end this post with a slightly modified version of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous poem (versions of which you can see here):

First they came for the Communists,
– but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for those born with handicaps,
– but I was born without handicaps so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
– but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews,
– but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

It’s frightening how neatly my little interlineation fits into that poem, isn’t it?

(Right now, the gallery links aren’t working, but you can still get an idea of his work just by going to the gallary main page.  I’ll contact the gallery and see if they can fix the problem.)

UPDATEMore on those gifted lives that the raving Left now freely discusses snuffing.

A lovely, lovely story

Read and be uplifted.

A lady with a big heart

You’ll see why if you watch this video.

The joy of teaching

I think most of us watched Randy Pausch’s last lecture, delivered when he was retiring due to terminal cancer.  Although the cancer finally claimed Pausch, the messages about getting the most out of life, about living with joy and immediacy, linger on.  Charles Lipson, himself a teacher, concludes that Pausch not only taught life lessons, he taught an important lesson about what it means to be a true teacher (as opposed to someone who merely stands in front of a class).  As for me, I can look back in time and see vividly each of the wonderful teachers I had, all of whom inspired me in ways that transcended the curriculum.

Words to enrich your spirit

Tony Snow, writing in 2005:

The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don’t. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift – a field of vision others don’t have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not. You also feel obliged to share these insights – the most important of which is this: There are things far worse than illness – for instance, soullessness.

(Originally published in the Jewish World Review.)

Closed doors and open windows

Children are not fungible — you can’t lose one and just replace it with another. Nevertheless, no matter the tragedy, life goes on and sometimes it seems as if a greater force than mere human will is determining the outcome.

Here’s an inspiring story

It’s inspiring at two levels:  modern science and human decency.

If you’re in the Bay Area, you can give yourself a holiday treat

We went on Saturday to the Christmas concert given by the Grammy award winning San Francisco Boys Chorus.  It was an auditory delight. The SFBC doesn’t pretend to any PC Christmas white out, but instead, inundates you with truly beautiful Christmas and Christmas music.  This year’s program included Oh Holy Night, I Saw Three Ship, and Joy to the World.  In addition, the boys sang Ava Maria, led by a soprano and an alto doing a duet so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes and ran chills up and down my spine.  If you like choral music, the SFBC is one of the best groups performing today.

And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can hear a replay of their concert from last year.   As the SFBC website says:

KQED-TV will broadcast the San Francisco Boys Chorus in concert on Sunday, December 23rd at 1:30pm and again Monday 24 7:30pm. In the special 30-minute program recorded in 2006, the Chorus will perform selections from Marc Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum and other holiday favorites, under the direction of Maestro Ian Robertson. KQED Life (Comcast channel 189) will air Monday December 24th at 1:30pm.

Having attended last year’s concert, I can assure you that you will be delighted with what you hear.

If you’re in the Bay Area, you can give yourself a holiday treat

We went on Saturday to the Christmas concert given by the Grammy award winning San Francisco Boys Chorus.  It was an auditory delight. The SFBC doesn’t pretend to any PC Christmas white out, but instead, inundates you with truly beautiful Christmas and Christmas music.  This year’s program included Oh Holy Night, I Saw Three Ship, and Joy to the World.  In addition, the boys sang Ava Maria, led by a soprano and an alto doing a duet so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes and ran chills up and down my spine.  If you like choral music, the SFBC is one of the best groups performing today.

And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can hear a replay of their concert from last year.   As the SFBC website says:

KQED-TV will broadcast the San Francisco Boys Chorus in concert on Sunday, December 23rd at 1:30pm and again Monday 24 7:30pm. In the special 30-minute program recorded in 2006, the Chorus will perform selections from Marc Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum and other holiday favorites, under the direction of Maestro Ian Robertson. KQED Life (Comcast channel 189) will air Monday December 24th at 1:30pm.

Having attended last year’s concert, I can assure you that you will be delighted with what you hear.

NPR picks up inspiring story

Rather surprisingly, NPR picked up and did a nice job with the story of Bill Krissoff, the 60 year old man who enlisted in the Navy’s medical corp to honor his son, First Lt. Nathan Krissoff of Reno, Nev., who was killed in Iraq last year.

Deeply, truly, awesomely good people

I heard it from the Paragraph Farmer, who heard it from the PalmTree Pundit, who read this incredible story of sacrifice, nobility and generosity at CDR Salamander. It’s not going to be a big story nationwide, of course, because it’s not about being a victim, it’s about being a hero. Still, I feel honored even to share the same country with people like this.

Ecumenicalism where it counts

Americans like to talk about ecumenicalism, which is an idea that concerns itself with “establishing or promoting unity among churches or religions.” We in America have proven to be very good at it, so much so that we think nothing of little news stories about the rabbi giving a talk to his neighbor’s church, or the minister from one Protestant church joining a prayer meeting from another Protestant Church. The difficulties many conservatives are having with the Romney candidacy (Mormon!) and the Giuliani candidacy (Catholic and pro-Choice!), or even the nasty smears the Democrats leveled against Bobby Jindal during his successful candidacy for governor, are about as bad as religious differences get here. No blood is shed, no villages are destroyed, no people are persecuted or driven from their homes. We are, therefore, exceptionally blessed.

Other nations, and particularly Middle Eastern nations, are less blessed. In Muslim dominant countries, Jews are banished and Christians are persecuted. Once that’s done, the Muslims turn on each other, with the varying sects diving into blood baths to attain religious and secular predominance.

That’s why Michael Yon’s most recent photograph out Iraq, which you can see here, at his blog, is so important. On its face, it shows something wonderful: a cross going up on a Church in Iraq. What’s even more amazing, though, is the text that accompanies the photograph, since it explains that this is not just a Christian church that is taking a risk at reestablishing a place of worship. Instead, it is ecumenicalism in action, in the heart of the Middle East:

I photographed men and women, both Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John’s Church in Baghdad. They had taken the cross from storage and a man washed it before carrying it up to the dome. (Emphasis mine.)

Some regimes are cancerous. They grow and swell, and make the body politic look strong and full, but they are, in fact, slowly killing it from within, with their poisonous tentacles reaching out to destroy every organ in their path. Cancer does not yield easily, preferring to kill its host rather than to give up.

With real cancers, we go in with knives and chemo and radiation. And with political cancers, sometimes the only answer is troops and weapons. The body bleeds and suffers but, if it is fundamentally strong and if the disease is stopped in time, it can recover fully.

I’d like to think that this is what we are seeing in Iraq — after the removal of the cancerous Hussein leadership from the Iraqi political scene, and after the trauma of that removal, the Iraqis are recovering and going on to be stronger and healthier than ever before.

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Chris Muir has the last and best word:

Awe inspiring at so many levels

It’s inspiring because of the human spirit, because of compassion, because of bravery, and because of the reaches of modern surgery.  Watch it and be impressed.

How little we know

As you may recall, I thought it was a mistake to stave and dehydrate Terri Schiavo to death.  We know so little about the human brain and, as long as her parents were cheerfully willing to care for her, I thought it was out and out murder to bar them from providing that care.

It’s been a long time since Terri Schiavo died, but I thought of her when I read a story in the L.A. Times about Samantha Palumbo, a 16 year old girl who lost almost her entire left frontal lobe in a car accident.  As good as dead you’d think, right?  Wrong.  Read the story and then look at and listen to the photo essay.  If, at the end, you’re not tremendously moved and awed by the human capacity to recover, you’d better read and listen again, because you missed something.

A rose amongst the ashes

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to read a whole bunch of quite uplifting symbolism into this story:

An 800-year-old, gold-plated crucifix that went missing after being seized by the Nazis has been found in a rubbish skip in Austria, police said.

The crucifix, made of copper and enamel, was crafted in Limoges, France, and was part of a Polish art collection brought to Austria during Nazi rule, Josef Holzberger, police spokesman in Salzburg, said on Thursday.

It was found in 2004 in the lakeside winter resort of Zell am See by a woman combing through a skip filled with the discarded possessions of a neighbor who had just died.

“The lady had a soft spot for old crockery and was rummaging for plates when she found the crucifix,” said Holzberger. “She asked the deceased’s family, and they said she could have it.”

Last month the woman showed the crucifix to a friend who realized it might be something special and took it to a museum.

In the run-up to World War Two, the owners of the crucifix had hid it and other treasures by walling them inside the basement of a house in Warsaw.

They were discovered by the Nazis in 1941, brought to the Polish National Museum and later transferred to a castle in the Austrian village of Bruck an der Grossglocknerstrasse, near Zell am See, police said.

“We lost track of what happened then — we don’t know how the crucifix ended up in Zell am See,” Holzberger said.

The crucifix might be worth up to 400,000 euros ($539,000) at auction. Poland’s culture ministry has contacted the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which represents the heirs of former art collectors, Holzberger said.