"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Mind of Gerald Ford

In our comments area, a reader suggested that former president Gerald Ford was a stupid man.

Tha notion that Gerald Ford was a poor intellect is utterly false. Ford graduated from Yale Law School in the 1930s, and did not gain entry because of family connections but entirely through merit. He managed to get a law degree while paying his way by working as an assistant coach on the Yale football team.

During his undergrad years, Ford was a member of the academic honor society at the University of Michigan while working part time waiting tables AND holding down the position of center on the Wolverine football team, on which he was voted MVP during his senior year.

In 1960 Newsweek magazine polled the top 50 Washington correspondents to name the most able men in Congress. They rated Gerald Ford the ablest of the postwar generation. In Congress, Ford was widely respected as being pragmatic, thoughtful, and intelligent, and for this reason won the position of majority leader in 1964.

Behind his humble, homey demeanor, Gerald Ford was a very wise and capable man.

Bottom Line on Cindy Sheehan

The famed Iraqi author of the blog Iraq the Model has posted an answer to Cindy Sheehan. It is satisfying, empathetic, and true. I'm pasting it in below in full because it is absolutely worth reading:

A message to Cindy Sheehan

I realize how tragic your loss is and I know how much pain there is crushing your heart and I know the darkness that suddenly came to wrap your life and wipe away your dreams and I do feel the heat of your tears that won't dry until you find the answers to your question; why you lost your loved one?

I have heard your story and I understand that you have the full right to ask people to stand by your side and support your cause. At the beginning I told myself, this is yet another woman who lost a piece of her heart and the questions of war, peace and why are killing her everyday. To be frank to you the first thing I thought of was like "why should I listen or care to answer when there are thousands of other women in America, Iraq and Afghanistan who lost a son or a husband or a brother…”

But today I was looking at your picture and I saw in your eyes a persistence, a great pain and a torturing question; why?

I know how you feel Cindy, I lived among the same pains for 35 years but worse than that was the fear from losing our loved ones at any moment. Even while I'm writing these words to you there are feelings of fear, stress, and sadness that interrupt our lives all the time but in spite of all that I'm sticking hard to hope which if I didn't have I would have died years ago.

Ma'am, we asked for your nation's help and we asked you to stand with us in our war and your nation's act was (and still is) an act of ultimate courage and unmatched sense of humanity.Our request is justified, death was our daily bread and a million Iraqi mothers were expecting death to knock on their doors at any second to claim someone from their families.

Your face doesn't look strange to me at all; I see it everyday on endless numbers of Iraqi women who were struck by losses like yours.Our fellow country men and women were buried alive, cut to pieces and thrown in acid pools and some were fed to the wild dogs while those who were lucky enough ran away to live like strangers and the Iraqi mother was left to grieve one son buried in an unfound grave and another one living far away who she might not get to see again.

We did nothing to deserve all that suffering, well except for a dream we had; a dream of living like normal people do.

We cried out of joy the day your son and his comrades freed us from the hands of the devil and we went to the streets not believing that the nightmare is over.

We practiced our freedom first by kicking and burning the statues and portraits of the hateful idol who stole 35 years from the life of a nation.

For the first time air smelled that beautiful, that was the smell of freedom.The mothers went to break the bars of cells looking for the ones they lost 5, 12 or 20 years ago and other women went to dig the land with their bare hand searching for a few bones they can hold in their arms after they couldn't hold them when they belonged to a living person.

I recall seeing a woman on TV two years ago, she was digging through the dirt with her hands. There was no definite grave in there as the whole place was one large grave but she seemed willing to dig the whole place looking for her two brothers who disappeared from earth 24 years ago when they were dragged from their colleges to a chamber of hell.

Her tears mixed with the dirt of the grave and there were journalists asking her about what her brothers did wrong and she was screaming "I don't know, I don't know. They were only college students. They didn't murder anyone, they didn't steal, and they didn't hurt anyone in their lives. All I want to know is the place of their grave".

Why was this woman chosen to lose her dear ones? Why you? Why did a million women have to go through the same pain?

We did not choose war for the sake of war itself and we didn't sacrifice a million lives for fun! We could've accepted our jailor and kept living in our chains for the rest of our lives but it's freedom ma'am.Freedom is not an American thing and it's not an Iraqi thing, it's what unites us as human beings. We refuse all kinds of restrictions and that's why we fought and still fighting everyday in spite of the swords in the hands of the cavemen who want us dead or slaves for their evil masters.

You are free to go and leave us alone but what am I going to tell your million sisters in Iraq? Should I ask them to leave Iraq too? Should I leave too? And what about the eight millions who walked through bombs to practice their freedom and vote? Should they leave this land too?Is it a cursed land that no one should live in? Why is it that we were chosen to live in all this pain, why me, why my people, why you?

But I am not leaving this land because the bad guys are not going to leave us or you to live in peace. They are the same ones who flew the planes to kill your people in New York.I ask you in the name of God or whatever you believe in; do not waste your son's blood.We here have decided to avenge humanity, you and all the women who lost their loved ones.Take a look at our enemy Cindy, look closely at the hooded man holding the sword and if you think he's right then I will back off and support your call.

We live in pain and grief everyday, every hour, every minute; all the horrors of the powers of darkness have been directed at us and I don't know exactly when am I going to feel safe again, maybe in a year, maybe two or even ten; I frankly don't know but I don't want to lose hope and faith.

We are in need for every hand that can offer some help. Please pray for us, I know that God listens to mothers' prayers and I call all the women on earth to pray with you for peace in this world.

Your son sacrificed his life for a very noble cause…No, he sacrificed himself for the most precious value in this existence; that is freedom.His blood didn't go in vain; your son and our brethren are drawing a great example of selflessness.

God bless his free soul and God bless the souls of his comrades who are fighting evil.God bless the souls of Iraqis who suffered and died for the sake of freedom.God bless all the freedom lovers on earth.

G.K. Chesterton and Columbo?

I went on a G.K. Chesterton tear a few years back and thought I'd seen his best stuff.

I hadn't.

Please take my recommendation seriously. If you like G.K. Chesterton and you haven't read any of his Father Brown detective stories, you must partake. I picked up a collection on a whim recently and have been richly rewarded.

In Father Brown, I think I see some of the original source material for Columbo. He's underestimated by everyone, but is, in fact, hugely gifted. A lot of it has to do with his underwhelming appearance, but the bigger issue is the poor esteem in which the reason of clergy is held. The simple priest blows that bugbear out the window. He is mighty in the art of detection and much of it has to do with his theologically informed knowledge of man.

DiFi and Wars In Iraq

My colleague TVD argues in a comment (on my previous post on Diane Feinstein) that "At least DiFi voted for both Gulf War resolutions." I think that the argument for Operation Iraqi Freedom is quite solid, a good deal more so than even much conservative commentary would lead one to conclude, in that I view the evidence of Saddam's involvement and support of international terrorism as incontrovertible, and that of his involvement in 9/11 as highly credible, however indirect. (That is the best one can hope for given the involvement of a modern intelligence service such as the Mukhabarat.) But Operation Desert Storm? In precisely what sense was the restoration of the Emir of Kuwait to his throne a vital interest of the United States of America? The vital interest was the prevention of a huge wealth transfer to Saddam, with which he would have had nukes by the year 2000; but that could have been accomplished by a takeover of the Kuwaiti and Iraqi oil fields, with the sales revenues put into an escrow-like account. Instead, we got Desert Storm, ultimately rendered futile by the dumbest man to have held the office of the presidency in the postwar period, George H.W. Bush.

Back To Square One (Point)

In a clever but pernicious falsehood, our homegrown gadfly Tlaloc (see comment #9 to Genesis Sui Generis) has quoted Genesis as saying that the animals were created "after Adam". Now this may seem like a minor error, but it really is very critical. The system of evolution depends heavily on the fact that Man evolved last, and it would be a good trick to pretend that this was an idea original to that theory.

You only need to master one chapter of Bible to know that the contrary is true. The idea of Man emerging last is one of many ideas in Darwin's system that are plagiarized from the Bible. Here is the relevant text (my translation): "And the Lord said, let the Earth give forth the spirit of living creatures in its kind, ruminants and crawlers and livelier animals of the Earth in their kind, and it was so. And the Lord made the livelier animal of the Earth in its kind and the ruminant in its kind and all the ground-crawlers in their kind, and the Lord saw that it was good. And the Lord said: 'Let us make Man in our form, like our image, and they will manage over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the ruminants and over all the Earth, and over all the crawlers that crawl upon the Earth.' And the Lord created the man in His image, in the image of the Lord He created Him, male and female He created them. And the Lord blessed them, and the Lord said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth, conquering it, and manage over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and all the life that crawls upon the Earth.' " (Genesis 1:24-28)

Later, in a verse that reviews the creation of Man, it adds as follows: "And God, the Lord, fashioned Man, dust from the Earth, and He blew into his nostrils a soul of life, and the Man became an ensouled life." (ibid 2:7)

Strip this of the religious language and note the following points. 1) Man is created last. 2) He/she is designed to be stronger and more capable than the rest, sufficient to exercise control. 3) The Earth is an active agent in the process of "giving forth" all animal and human life forms. 4) All animal and human bodies emerge in some way from the physical materials already present in the Earth.

Now project your mind back to prehistoric time and you will understand that none of this was "necessary" in order to invent an effective religion or mythos. This is simply an amazing window into the science of Nature, one into which Darwin just took a little peek (and still got plenty of detail wrong).

Health Care Delayed Is Health Care Denied

In a situation that is all too common in single-payer, government-run medical systems such as those in Canada and Great Britain, a man in England died last week of a heart attack after his surgery was delayed because his doctor called in sick fifteen minutes before the operation was to take place. The Times of London reports:

A RETIRED businessman died of a suspected heart attack just 24 hours after his heart operation had been cancelled at the last minute.

The day after John Mosley, 65, died a nurse phoned his widow to give her a new date for the operation. . . .

Mr Mosley had already had pre-op medicine for a heart valve operation at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield when it was cancelled. Just 15 minutes before he was due in the operating theatre, his surgeon called in sick. . . .

Mrs Mosley said yesterday: “We feel we have been robbed. We feel if he had had his operation he would still be here today. The coroner has confirmed that he died because his heart valve packed up. I am hurt and very angry at the National health Service.

“The day after he died a nurse phoned me to say would he go in on Sunday, ready to be operated on the following day. I said, ‘He won’t be there. He has died.’

“I said if it had been done last Monday he would still be here. They could only apologise. I haven’t heard anything since then. I would have hoped someone would have phoned me.”

She added: “That would have helped a bit and it would have meant something to me. My son will complain to the hospital. There is nothing else we can do.”

She is right, of course. There is nothing else they can do. That is the reality of single-payer systems.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Philosophy In 60 Seconds

Lesson One: 20th Century Philosophy of Science

In olden days when Miltie wrote a lot
Empiricism was on top.
Now heaven knows,
Anything goes.

Carnap and Ayer, who Comte’s
successors were,
Guarded the paradigm and kept it pure.
If Popper blows,
Then anything goes.

And Kuhn-denying
Is not just trying
To show pigs flying
Above the head of Imre Lakatos.

Feyerabend a method won’t accept,
That Aussie prof’s verklept;
So don’t propose
Anything goes!

Change in Comments Policy

Due to some recent problems, and after a period of consideration among the team members, Reform Club has decided to turn off anonymous commenting. From now on, you will have to have a Blogger account to leave a comment here. We don't care if you want to give Blogger obviously fictitious information (after all, we've tolerated Tlaloc for months). We're just trying to slow down the comments spam problem. Also, we do think you'll find that conversations will become easier to follow, especially in those threads that generate fifty or sixty comments, if all participants have unique names.

We apologize if this inconveniences any of our loyal readers, but we think you'll find that the benefits outweigh the costs. And if you don't find that, well then, take a hint from Ronald Coase and pay us to change it back.

DiFi, Defender of Freedom

I have to go out of town Wednesday, again, but I thought I'd mention that somewhere recently I saw a report to the effect that our ineffable Senator Diane Feinstein, an object of utter respect from the mainstream news morons, now is pushing for a federal law requiring restricted public access to most cold remedies, as part of the Drug War madness now directed at methamphetamines. (Budget time is always clear, as the various bureaucracies conjure new crises.) It amazes me that conservatives and libertarians waste their time attacking Barbara Boxer, a comic-opera character if ever there was one in politics, truly one of the stupidest people in Congress, all the while giving DiFi a relatively free pass. Campaign finance restrictions. National ID cards. Gun control and confiscation. The drug war. Property takings under the guise of "environmentalism." Unlimited federal powers. Ad nauseam. Is there any part of the Bill of Rights that she would not destroy in pursuit of her political goals? Not as far as I can tell. Oh, wait: She apparently has never said anything that would jeopardise the Third Amendment restrictions on the quartering of soldiers. Thank God for small favors.

Charles Darwin, Call Your Office

Kudos to Time Magazine for the remarkable fairness of their issue on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design. I can assure you that such a thing was not possible ten and twenty years ago. Indeed it convinces me that talk radio and the blogs are making a real impact on pushing the media dinosaurs toward more balanced presentations.

Astoundingly praiseworthy is the forum on pages 34 and 35. They allow four brilliant individuals, three of whom believe in God, to present their personal assessment of religion and evolution. Each one is given enough space to offer a cogent and well-written exposition of a viewpoint. To prove how truly open and fair this was, I should note that one of the four is Michael Behe, the man who is pointedly excluded from the leftward-rigged forums, as Hunter Baker has observed.

Even the main article is remarkably close to being down-the-middle. A few coded stink bombs are thrown in to appease the New York crowd (like mentioning that Behe has nine children and home-schools them), but it is quite balanced and informative.

And since the Darwin Wars are heating up, this might be a good time to reread my widely quoted and reprinted battle plan, written at the beginning of this year.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Follow-Up on Planned Parenthood Cartoon

Joe Manzari offers an important observation on the Planned-Parenthood Golden Gate cartoon controversy that really tells you all you need to know about media bias. It's really this simple:

Imagine if Focus on the Family published a cartoon depicting their chairman, James Dobson, as a superhero blowing up non-violent Planned Parenthood protestors. Do you think the liberal media would just shrug it off? How about if that same cartoon depicted pro-choice demonstrators being decapitated and drowned in sex-lubricant? Can you imaging that slipping through the cracks of the New York Times editing room? I think not.

Manzari is right. There is simply no question that this story would have been covered differently if it had been, oh say, the Washington state branch of Christian Coalition in its heyday.

On another front, Manzari is wrong. He characterizes Planned Parenthood Golden Gate as an organization that advocates violence because of their cartoon. Let's be serious for a moment. We know that what they are really trying to do is satirize pro-lifers so potently as to make them seem completely unworthy of being heard. Still quite an unsavory tactic, but not quite in the realm of advocating violence.

Bummers Part Trois

Since today's theme seems to be the consideration of crummy things, let me add this poem from today's LA Times Book Review:


stone in water

water in stone

in the I whose eye
in the eye what sky
in the sky where's I


the nothingness of all
the whole in the hole

how perfect a fit

---Amy Uyematsu


The nothingness of this
hole in the whole.

What a perfect piece of

Roger Ebert Goes Postal

Check out his least favorite films. Wonderful, killer-critic stuff.

An excerpt:

"Freddy Got Fingered" This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.

Slow Fast Day

Today is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, known as the Ninth of Av. Tradition has it that both Temples were destroyed on the same calendar date, 490 years apart. Also, the actual expulsion of the Jews from Spain during the Inquisition in 1492 took place on this date. Among other things, observant Jews fast and recite a liturgy that includes much beautiful but tragic poetry written throughout the ages.

As a special project, I did my personal translation of the final song of this liturgy, which has a haunting melody that goes along with the text. I would like to share it with my Reform Club friends.

By Jay D. Homnick

(a translation of the ending prayer of the Ninth-of-Av liturgy, known in Hebrew as “Eli Zion”)

Alas, Zion amid her cities
A woman in her pangs, forsooth!
A lass cloaked in sackcloth
For the lost mate of her youth.

Woe for the palace abandoned
Wrought by the guilt of her flocks
And the entry of the blasphemers
Into holy chambers, past all locks.

Woe for those who in beauty served
With songs of music sweet, diverse
And their blood which was spilled
Like the flowing waters of her rivers.

Woe for the words of her poets
Which were silenced in her cities
And the academy sitting deserted,
The closing of her councils, pity!

Woe for the regular daily offerings
And the redeeming of the first-born
The profanation of her holy vessels
And the altars of her incense lorn.

Woe for the babies of her kings
Scions of David, leader unshaken
And their beauty which went dark
At the time her crowns were taken.

Woe for the honor which was exiled
When they destroyed her stronghold
And the oppressor who constricted
And made sackcloth her waist enfold.

Woe for the crushing, the many blows
Which struck her most special ones
And for the shattering upon the stones
Of her dear children, their youth undone.

Woe for the joy of her vicious haters
While laughing at her brokenness
And for the enslavement of a free people
Of her philanthropy, of her openness.

Woe for the iniquity that corrupted
The course to which she harkened
And the battalions of her community
So blackened, so deeply darkened.

Woe for the shouts of her abusers
Amidst her many dead and dying
And the excitement of her cursers
Inside the courtyard of her shrine.

Woe for Your name so lightly profaned
In the mouths of those who rose against
And for the entreaty she gives to You
Pay attention, God, and hear her plaint.

Alas, Zion amid her cities
A woman in her pangs, forsooth!
A lass cloaked in sackcloth
For the lost mate of her youth.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Family Matters

I hope everybody caught Jay Homnick's check-yourself-before-you-wreck-yourself JWR piece about the racism that still, unfortunately, remains buried only about an inch deep in America.

Now, a look around the world shows that aside from the rare righteous country like Denmark, the rest of the planet is looking out for number one, foremost, first, and last. World civilization is being held together by the English-speaking peoples, the "Anglosphere": the US, UK, and our underappreciated friends, the Australians.

But also underappreciated is that after decades of partner-changing in the geopolitical dance, the Anglosphere may finally be embracing as its own the world's largest democracy, and it's high time. President Bush recently met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and a leading American Sikh, Satjiv Chahil, gushed, "It marked a turning point in US Foreign Policy and was an acknowledgement of the potential for India to become an invaluable strategic partner of the US from a global, political, economic and social perspective."

I hope so, because Dr. Singh followed with these remarks at Oxford while on a state visit to the UK:
Every time terrorists strike anywhere all of us who believe in democracy and the rule of law must stand together and affirm our firm commitment to fight this scourge resolutely and unitedly. I sincerely hope that all of those who cherish and value open and free societies will join hands in the war against terrorism wherever it is fought. I wish the people of London well. I pray that their lives will soon return to normal and they can resume their celebrations for having been chosen the venue for the 2012 Olympics...

Today, with the balance and perspective offered by the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight, it is possible for an Indian Prime Minister to assert that India's experience with Britain had its beneficial consequences too. Our notions of the rule of law, of a Constitutional government, of a free press, of a professional civil service, of modern universities and research laboratories have all been fashioned in the crucible where an age old civilisation met the dominant Empire of the day...

It used to be said that the sun never sets on the British Empire. I am afraid we were partly responsible for sending that adage out of fashion! But, if there is one phenomenon on which the sun cannot set, it is the world of the English speaking people, in which the people of Indian origin are the single largest component.

Of all the legacies of the Raj, none is more important than the English language and the modern school system. That is, if you leave out cricket!

More on cricket some other time mebbe, but India gets it, and maybe now so will we.

Next time you're tempted to play The Ugly American on an incompetent and/or incomprehensible voice from the subcontinent, blame the outsourcing corporation if you want, but not the person on the other end. They are feeding their families, and helping a great nation and a great people rise out of their heartbreaking poverty with education, a lot of hard work and a bit of Adam Smith.

I admit it's sure tempting to be rude, because overseas service lines are the pits and the frustration is nigh-unbearable. But we should ask ourselves honestly if our tempers would be so quick if we imagined a pasty-faced Irishman on the other end. We should ask ourselves if that's how we treat family.

When I next find myself consigned to the seventh circle of international call-center hell, I'll try to be patient. And if I think of it, I'll take a minute to welcome the heavily-accented voice on the other end to the family. We Anglosphere types gotta stick together. The future of civilization depends on it.

More on Bochco-ed Iraq War Story

Michael Fumento, at my request, sent me the following email exchange that took place today, initiated by a message to Mr. Fumento from a PR executive at FX. (Many thanks, Mike!) I reprint the message and Mr. Fumento's response here, verbatim:

Dear Mr. Fumento,

I'm writing in response to your column in the New York Post this morning.

In the future, feel free to call me if you have any questions about any programs on FX or need production notes on any of our programs. I would be happy to provide you with materials you need to write a more informed column.

It's obvious to me that you have no knowledge about the background of the military technical advisor for Over There. I think if you would have asked, you would know that he is, to use your word, a "true" military technical advisor. He is a former U.S.M.C. Staff Sergeant and his ten years of service included an 11-month tour in Iraq where he was a Fire Power Control Team leader with an ANGLICO unit.

While there have been some complaints with regard to the authenticity of the pilot (first) episode, the majority response from soldiers and military personnel was much more positive/favorable with regard to episodes two and three. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of reviews written about Over There were good to outstanding. The only negative reviews the show received were written by critics who believed that the series should have taken a political position but did not.

To buttress your opinion of Over There based on one posting from an antiwar blog is pretty weak. Yes, I know, you could have found plenty more postings to support that antiwar premise. That said, I assure you that I can provide you with as many, if not more, emails/blog postings/letters/etc. from soldiers/veterans of OIF that have a favorable opinion of Over There.

I respect the fact that you were an embed and have personal knowledge of what it is like in Iraq. I know other journalists who were embedded in Iraq who have seen the show and happen to believe it is an accurate depiction of what soldiers face in Iraq. They recognize that the series takes dramatic license at times but they clearly understand it is not a documentary. I screened the first three episodes individually for several soldiers who had served in Iraq and they had a few criticisms, but overall they believed the show got it right. Tony Perry, the military staff writer for the Los Angeles Times who was also embedded in Iraq, screened it for a dozen Marines who had served at least one tour in Iraq, most of them had served two tours. You should read his article published in the Los Angeles Times (July 27) to see those soldiers' comments.

Finally, I respect the fact that you're entitled to your opinion and it's fine if you don't like the show. However, for you to write that the military technical advisor on Over There deserves the firing squad is reprehensible. He has served our country honorably, fought to protect our freedom and has first-hand experience of service in
Iraq. If you had bothered to pick up the phone and ask a question, I can only assume that you probably would not have written such an insulting and irresponsible comment.

Please feel free to call because I really would like to discuss this with you.

John Solberg
Senior Vice President, Public Relations
FX Networks
[pnone number omitted]

Right. That's why a unit couldn't get air support for 36 hours, instead of the usual less-than-30 minutes. That's why the squad had no reinforcements, no artillery, no armor, and even the heavy machine guns on the two Humvees present weren't used. That’s why the enemy marks its IEDs with white flags, to make sure to warn off Americans. That's why the Humvee gunners (yes including episodes two and three, the “more accurate” ones) have no shielding? It's why a missile or bomb would be used to take out 20 Stingers in episode three, making it virtually impossible for forensics to determine all could be accounted for. (Yes, I know that was necessary to the plotline to make the intelligence officer a liar and make the Americans ruthless killers of civilians.) It's why even though some members of the squad carry grenade launchers only one grenade was fired during episode one with none during those oh-so-accurate episodes two and three; you know, the “more accurate” episodes.

In episode three, the GIs question why an airstrike would be used against two terrorists, without wondering why they won’t fire grenades or a mortar and wipe them out within minutes. Oh, but wait, even though they’re an infantry unit they have no mortar! It's why EOD simply fails to show up to disarm or detonate a car bomb in episode two, even though the incredibly-professional EOD makes it a point to be on-scene in 30 minutes. And sure, legs can keep moving forward even [when] everything above the waist has been blown clean off with that one fired grenade. After all, Washington Irving’s horseman rode without a head! Does a former Marine really not know all this? Even the water bottles are wrong! Evian in
Iraq? No, Mr. Solberg; Iraq is not LA. Americans in Iraq get their water from a Kuwaiti company, not the French. I could go on and on, but to what avail. You either haven't got a clue or you do have a clue and don’t care. All you care about is making money and slamming the military and the war effort generally.

Nor do I care about the favorable reviews you’ve gotten; that’s just the blind and biased following the Bochco. I would recommend to you the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article of
July 26, 2005. I believe the title speaks for itself: “These soldiers say 'Over There' is 'bogus.'”

If your military advisor does give accurate advice, then you're overriding him at every turn and he should have resigned in disgust. Since apparently he hasn’t, he sold out the uniform I and so many others have proudly worn. But maybe a firing squad would be too harsh; he should just suit up and have a real soldier rip every patch off his uniform.

Michael Fumento

Out There with Stephen Bochco's New Show on Iraq War

Michael Fumento has provided a keen analysis of Stephen Bochco's new TV show, Over There, now appearing on the FX channel. I have not seen the program and have no plans to do so, but I found Fumento's critique quite interesting. Fumento, a former Army Ranger, has spent time embedded in real frontline areas in Iraq, and his insights into the accuracy of Bochco's portrayal of the war are consequently well informed. Fumento is a strong supporter of the War in Iraq, and Bochco appears not to be, so sparks do fly. Here's an excerpt of Fumento's critique:

If "Over There" has a true military advisor, he deserves the firing squad. In the first episode a squad is pinned down while besieging a terrorist-filled mosque. The unit remains for about 36 hours with no air support, because "Air is dedicated to another area." Never mind that planes or choppers are always available within minutes. They request artillery, again to no avail. There's no armor.

I thought that Bochco did a wonderful job writing Columbo episodes back in the 1970s, but his subsequent efforts to make television entertainment into an overtly meaningful art form have always struck me as witlessly adolescent. I would greatly like to see him return to the intelligent style of writing he developed under the tutelage of the master mystery writing team of Richard Levinson and William Link, creators of Columbo, Ellery Queen (which was cancelled after only one season), and Murder, She Wrote. Oh, well.

We Hold... That All Men Are Created Equal...

My apologies, lady and gentlemen. Yesterday was a deadline day for me on a writing job, and in my flurry of race-the-clock frenzy I neglected to alert my mates to my column of yesterday at Jewish World Review.

In this important essay, I segue from a chatty reminiscence of my summer road trip into an anti-nativist point that needs to be heard; we all know it in our hearts but can benefit from periodic reminders.

Nero Wolfe: Too Many Cooks

Last time I wrote, I panned The Black Mountain, which disrupted the Wolfe formula by taking him away from his famed New York brownstone. I thought the break in the formula was the problem. Too Many Cooks proves me wrong. This time Wolfe and Archie go to a spa in West Virginia where the world's 15 greatest chefs are gathering for fellowship. One of them is hated and ends up assuming room temperature. Wolfe doesn't want to figure it out, but circumstances force him into it. Wonderful story. Pick it up.

But the point of this post is not so much to review the book as it is to note the interesting perspective on race. The book was published in 1938. At various points I was horrified by the references to the black men working at the spa. They are called boys, niggers, shines, etc. One black man's wife is said to have left him to raise three "pickaninnies." Local law enforcement is clearly racist (which plays a part in the way the facts develop) and Archie is not much better. Because author Stout chooses to speak primarily through Archie, I began to wonder about Stout. Not to worry. Once Wolfe goes into action we finally see a man who has his head on straight about race. He dispenses with racist language and attitude and is rewarded with a frank relationship with the black men who are very relevant to the story.

The longer one thinks about the book, the more one reflects on race and the times. I continue to be haunted by the way Wolfe tells the black waiters and cooks that he is told blacks and whites have a certain way of dealing with one another in a place like West Virginia, but then demolishes the notion by proving that individuals matter much more than race.

When did that strain of civil rights cease to be a mainstay of the discourse?

Genesis Sui Generis

Did I just hear someone say (see comments to my piece below about the Nightline debate) that if you believe in strict interpretation of Genesis species don't change over time? Where does it say something like that in Genesis?

Quite the contrary. The Book of Genesis is a shockingly counterintuitive religious document in that it specifically announces in its second sentence that God did not create a finished world at once. Instead He began with some kind of primordial matter and then began a staged process, including stages separated by time, of bringing it to completion.

In fact, the very first question that any serious student of the Bible asks is: why would an omnipotent Creator choose NOT to create all at once?

As to the creation of Man, it says specifically that he was fashioned out of some primal component of the Earth itself. If you ever stop to think about how shockingly this runs counter to the simple unscientific religious impulse you will get an inkling of just how subtly sound a philosophical work the Bible is - and it might just give you a clue why most of the smartest people in history have believed it and been moved by it to inspiration and passion.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Science And/Or Philosophy

So George Will thinks that intelligent design is worth talking about, just not in science class. I don't agree, but not for a reason I've seen anyone else mention. Intelligent design belongs in the science classroom not because it's science, but because it's philosophy.

I've had this gripe for a long time. Considerations of how a discipline is pursued, and its basic epistomological underpinnings, should not be put off until graduate school. It's a glaring weakness of secondary and undergraduate college education in the United States that it so often is. I'm not claiming the hard sciences are particularly bad in this regard; in fact, they're probably better than history and some of the social sciences.

I came to realize how ill prepared undergraduates were to make basic process critiques when I started teaching History of Economic Thought at the UT/Dallas. (Yes, this is an odd course to relegate to a teaching assistant. But until I offered to teach it, it had been in the catalog for ten years and taught once.) You have to start somewhere in a survey course like this; I started with the Scholastics. But you can't understand anything about how the Scholastics approached economic questions unless you know something about the philosophical structure they used, and in particular the ways they thought it was permissible to argue from individual observation to general theory. Then, when we moved on to the early French and English mercantilists, I realized that my students were no better prepared to understand their epistomology than they were with Aquinas. Most of them had picked up what the mercantilists believed in other classes; none of them had the foggiest notion why they believed it. And so it went, on up into Marshall and Keynes and the standard supply-demand and IS-LM analyses they'd all been suckling since they were freshmen.

And it's just the same in other disciplines. A student who majors in history spends his entire undergraduate career taking courses that teach him what happened when. They teach nothing about why historians think that happened then, how historians work, how evidence is weighed, how contradictions are reconciled. And students of evolutionary biology learn the evolutionary theories that are currently in vogue. They learn nothing about how those theories are formed and tested. They learn nothing about how one would challenge a standing theory, what constitutes a meaningful challenge, how a priori assumptions focus attention on some evidence and blind us to other evidence.

That is why students of biology should be introduced to intelligent design in the science classroom. I hold no brief for or against intelligent design. I don't know enough about it to have an informed opinion. But the little I do know seems to place it squarely in the Kuhnian tradition. Evolutionary biology as it currently stands, while it has significant explanatory power and a body of solid physical evidence, has unexplained mechanisms, apparent contradictions. Intelligent design is one approach to correcting those problems. There is nothing unscientific about the process that sometimes lead to scientific revolutions.

Republicans' Power Fixation

David Boaz of the Cato Institute has published a good oped on the Republicans' intoxication with federal power. Arguing for a classical liberal approach to government, Boaz correctly accuses the Republicans of acting much like the Democrats whom their party had criticized for a half-century:

Republicans have come down with a serious case of Potomac Fever. They believe that their every passing thought is a proper subject for federal legislation. They hold three-ring-circus hearings on steroids in baseball. They sharply increase the fines for alleged indecency on television. They hold hearings on whether college textbooks are too expensive. They threaten to punish Major League Baseball if the owners allow left-wing billionaire George Soros to be a part owner of the new team in Washington. They vote for a federal investigation of the video game "Grand Theft Auto."

Many of these gambits do target real annoyances and even real problems. But in a free society citizens don't turn to the national government to solve every problem. Indeed, a free society is measured by the amount of life that remains outside the control of government. We may all be tempted from time to time to say "There oughta be a law!" when we're angry or frustrated. That's why we write a Constitution -- to protect us from our own temptations to turn our exasperation into laws, and to protect us from our fellow citizens yielding to the same temptation.

Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 by declaring that Democrats had given us "government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money." Now, intoxicated with their own power, they have forgotten those words. They too use the powers of the federal government to lavish money on favored constituents, summon us before congressional hearings to explain ourselves, and intrude into our most local and personal decisions.

Sad but true.

Life's Ups And Downs

Speaking of Irwin Shaw, ponder this:

"An American, starting at any given point, believes that his career must go from success to success. In the American artist, of any kind, it is the equivalent of the optimistic businessman's creed of the continually expanding economy. The intermittent failure, the cadenced rise and fall of the level of a man's work, which is accepted and understood by the European artist, is fiercely rejected as a normal picture of the process of creation. A dip is not a dip to an American artist, it is a descent into an abyss, an offence against his native moeurs and his compatriots' most dearly held beliefs. In America, the normal incidence of failure, either real or imagined, private or public, which must be expected in such a chancy and elusive endeavor as writing novels or putting on plays or directing motion pictures is regarded, even by the artist himself, as evidence of guilt, as self-betrayal." (from Two Weeks in Another Town)

Parenthood and Skydiving

Sometimes NRO is more like feminine-RO, but I like it anyway.

I always enjoy the columns by Myrna Blyth. This little excerpt is worth noting:

At the wedding, my son told his guy friends that they had not been invited to a wild and crazy bachelor party because there had not been one. Jonathan explained that his brother, the best man, had come up with lots of suggestions for ending his bachelorhood in amusing, even spectacular, ways. He had suggested, for example, that they go skydiving together. Jonathan reported, “I said to him, 'You must be kidding. I don’t want to go skydiving.' And then I realized my brother has been married four years and has a baby. Does he know something I don’t know?”

Yes.I'm kidding. Kidding, I say. (I've been married ten years and have two kids under 3.5 years of age.)

I'm going skydiving next week with an outfit named Cooter's Budget Skydive. The motto is "Y'all pack yer own parachute now, y'hear?"

A Koppel Of Errant Knights Align

I'm still seething at the awful mishandling of the debate about Intelligent Design on Nightline tonight.

Cal Thomas missed the point by seguing into the politics of red-state disenfranchisement, leaving the viewer with the impression that there was no reason to advocate the teaching of ID beyond pandering to the rubes.

George Will missed the point by arguing that the question of whether there was design is properly left to the philosophy classroom and has no place in the science classroom; true enough, but disingenuous in the current controversy: the fact is that the anti-design viewpoint is presently taught in science class.

It was a sad day for intelligently designed debate.

The Iraq Budget? He Can Budge It!

Perhaps it's uncharitable of me, but I simply love the fact that the inspector-general for the Interior Ministry in the new Iraqi government is Noori Noori. That's the kind of guy whom I would want as my inspector-general: there's a man who knows how to recycle a valuable resource.

Defending Dobson on Stem Cells

Watch me do it at The American Spectator. I'm dealing with two issues in this piece.

1. Is Dobson totally out to lunch on the Nazi comparison? (Nope.)

2. Is David Gelernter correct to say Dobson doesn't belong in the major leagues of public discourse? (Nope again.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Holding Corporate Boards Accountable

The limited-liability status of corporations allows them greater latitude in decision-making, by taking away the risk that corporate owners and decision makers will be held personally responsible for their actions. It also makes corporations less likely to respond wisely and decently to concerns raised by people outside the main circle of decision makers. As a result, it invites government to step in and regulate corporate behavior directly.

Recent corporate scandals have place increased pressure on management and boards to institute more effective ethical self-policing. Without the incentives of real liability, however, such actions are not likely to have much effect.

Hence the recent court decision regarding Disney's $140 million payoff to former Disney president Michael Ovitz, who served in that capacity for all of 14 months, has greater implications than just the relief it brings the Disney board, whose actions in hiring, firing, and paying off Ovitz "did not violate duties to shareholders," according to the judge's ruling.

The judge, however, was highly critical of the Disney board's behavior, writing in his opinion, "Many lessons of what not to do can be learned from defendants' conduct here." Today's New York Times story on the matter noted that even though Disney won the case, scrutiny over corporate boards and management will increase:

[B]oard members have good reason to adopt a more conservative stance in compensation matters and avoid second-guessing, said Charles M. Elson, head of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware's Lerner College of Business and Economics.

Although the judge ultimately found that the Disney board did not breach its duties, he discussed a tough standard for the diligence required of board members, Mr. Elson said. The standard has been clarified, and directors at other times and at other companies could be held accountable under it.

"It means that you can't just make a decision with a devil-may-care attitude," Mr. Elson said, adding, "it has altered director behavior forever."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bono as EveryChristian . . .

Because we are a multi-faith weblog, I generally try to stay away from straight-out proselytizing. However, since I can peg this to a celebrity, a major world rockstar (who is very newsworthy in his activities), I'll proceed with a humble spirit and ask that co-bloggers grant me a little latitude.

I was reading an excerpt from a new book made up of extensive interviews between a journalist and Bono, the lead singer and songwriter for the band U2 and came across this segment that could speak for virtually any Christian you know. You think I sometimes get overly aggressive with a commenter or am maybe too sarcastic or uncharitable in a post? Believe me, I know that and much worse about who I am. Bono puts his finger on what all of us (Christians) are counting on:

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

When asked to make his confession by the journalist, Bono replies:

That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

A Prayer for Europe

Today, August 9, the Roman Calendar of Saints commemorates St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, a 20th Century Carmelite nun.

St. Theresa's birth name was Edith Stein. She was the youngest of a large Orthodox Jewish family, born in Breslau in 1891. From her earliest days she demonstrated uncommon intellect; she was one of the first women in Germany to attend university on the same footing with the male students, and she early came under the tutelage of Edmund Husserl, the "Father of Phenomenology." She completed her PhD dissertation, On the Problem of Empathy, under his direction in 1916. (The late Pope John Paul II was another student of phenomenology, and his writings on the philosophy of personalism were influenced by Husserl's ideas.)

Stein's dormant Jewish faith, colliding with the implications of Husserl's philosophy, and tempered in the grief and sorrow experienced by much of her generation in the wake of World War I, led her into an intense search for religious meaning. Her journey ended on the pages of St. Teresa of Avila's autobiography. Stein was baptised in 1922, took up a post at a Dominican school for girls, and began translating the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas into German.

Stein's conversion did not shield her from the coming Nazi storm. She was dismissed from a lectureship at Munster in 1933; unable to find work in Germany under the anti-Semite laws she instead professed vows to the Order of Discalced Carmelites and entered their convent in Koln in 1934. She continued to write works of philosophy and theology, both in Koln and in Holland, where the Carmelites transferred her in 1938 in an attempt to keep her safe.

On Sunday, July 20, 1942, the Dutch Catholic bishops ordered read from every pulpit in the Netherlands a statement condemning Nazi racism. In swift retribution, the Nazi occupation authorities in Holland began arresting Jewish Catholic converts. Edith Stein was taken from the Echt Carmel on July 26 and sent directly to Auschwitz. She died in a gas chamber 63 years ago today, on August 9, 1942.

Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross left behind her a remarkable body of work. Her collected writings run to nine volumes, and include important contributions to philosophy and theology. She was beatified as a martyr in 1987, and canonized in 1998.

Today, Europe is shaken by another storm, remarkably like the one that swept away Sister Theresa Benedicta and millions more. It is a storm that would gladly crush before it thousands of Edith Steins if it could. May we always remember what happened when the men of Europe ignored the massing hatred, sought to appease it, and too late recognized it for what it was. Pray for us, St. Edith Stein, Patroness of Europe, that God will never allow us to forget.

Why Sex Isn't Fun Anymore

"Speak for yourself, Karny," you're probably thinking. But it's not for myself that I bring up Topic A here. It's a matter that affects us all, as J. Budziszewski makes clear in an excellent article, "Designed for Sex," for Touchstone magazine. What I like most about Budziszewski's article is the sympathy he shows for those caught up in the mayhem released by the Sexual Revolution of the past half-century—which includes, after all, practically any American who has not been living in a cave. Budziszewski writes:

Midnight. Shelly is getting herself drunk so that she can bring herself to go home with the strange man seated next to her at the bar. One o’clock. Steven is busy downloading pornographic images of children from Internet bulletin boards. Two o’clock. Marjorie, who used to spend every Friday night in bed with a different man, has been binging and purging since eleven. Three o’clock. Pablo stares through the darkness at the ceiling, wondering how to convince his girlfriend to have an abortion. Four o’clock. After partying all night, Jesse takes another man home, not mentioning that he tests positive for an incurable STD. Five o’clock. Lisa is in the bathroom, cutting herself delicately with a razor. This isn’t what my generation expected when it invented the sexual revolution. The game isn’t fun anymore. Even some of the diehard proponents of that enslaving liberation have begun to show signs of fatigue and confusion.

Budziszewski uses the subject as an apt occasion to discuss natural law theory, and even draws a bit on human biology, though much less than he should. It would be interesting to see a theist use the insights of sociobiology (which require, after all, only a consideration of microevolution, variations within a species over time, which no one doubts) to bolster an argument from natural law. For example, when Budziszewski correctly notes, "the longing for unitive intimacy is at the center of our design," it would greatly aid his argument if he were to use some of the copious scientific evidence regarding human behavior that seems to be wired into our very nature.

His concerns are more on the philosophical level, however, and within those limitations I think he does a fine job. I think that Budziszewski's emphasis on tying sex to procreation is too strong, but at least he does consider its value in strengthening "unitive intimacy." As noted earlier, Budziszewski is not a scold who wishes to upbraid people whom he imagines are having too much fun. On the contrary, he laments that the Sexual Revolution has largely taken the fun out of sex, and he writes with great compassion for the victims of that great disturbance. It is an article well worth reading.

Picture Perfect: Wlady P. on Peter Jennings

Longtime American Spectator editor Wlady Pleszczynski strikes just the right note in summing up Jennings career and legacy. Check it out here.

Planned Parenthood's Cartoon Fantasyland

You have simply got to drop everything and read this amazing post by Dawn Eden at The Dawn Patrol. She's got a scene by scene analysis of an animated feature Planned Parenthood uses for agitprop purposes (actually, it can't be agitprop when you're the establishment).

Go see it here. You will not be disappointed. (Hat tip: Southern Appeal)

Odd Man Out

The metaphysical makes some folks uncomfortable. If it gets under your skin, I'd hate for you to get undermined. So it might be rash for you to continue.

But here is my feeling about Peter Jennings. When you're part of a three-man generation -Brokaw, Jennings, Rather - and the other two retire, that's your signal not to hang on. Enough said.

Monday, August 08, 2005

TRC Rocks

The Carnival of the Capitalists rightfully and righteously recognizes the excellence of our own Kathy Hutchins' post exploring the economics of the dental hygiene and chocolate businesses, Mr. Wonka's factory, misappropriation of trade secrets, undocumented Oompa Loompas, and John Locke. (Spoiler: Properly capitalize labor, and you don't have to eat cabbage soup.)

Follow the link (above) back here to the post (below) in case you missed it; let's give the COTC some traffic. Cheers, Kathy. It's an everlasting gobstopper.


Got one of those pass-it-on emails from an English friend, so I thought I'd, well, pass it on:

Following the events in London last week the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from 'Run' to 'Hide'. The only two higher levels in France are 'Surrender' and 'Collaborate'. The rise was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralysing their military.

Updates from around Europe...

The Italians have increased their alert level from "shouting excitedly" to "elaborate military posturing". Two more levels remain, "ineffective combat operations" and "change sides".

The Germans have also increased their alert state from "disdainful arrogance" to "full dress-uniform and marching songs". They have two higher levels, "invade a neighbour" and "lose".

Seeing this reaction in continental Europe the Americans have gone from "isolationism" to "find somewhere ripe for regime change". Their remaining higher alert states are "take on the world" and "ask the British for help".

Finally here in GB we've gone from "pretend nothing's happening" to "make another cup of tea". Our higher levels are "chin-up and remain cheerful" and "win".

After years of assault by their chattering classes, the BBC News and The Guardian, the English getting a bit of their pith and vinegar back does my heart good. I have a little more in praise of the Englanders' bottle ("guts" to us in the US) over here.

Karnick Steals Time From Family

To write this cutting and necessary bit on the "family" excuse for either quitting in disgrace or being an absolute promise-breaking renege-meister.

Here's a tidbit:

What is interesting is that (Terrell) Owens claims he is doing this for his family. "The most important thing is my family," he said.

This assertion has become so common and familiar among public figures as to become something like punctuation, a mere indicator of seriousness without any real content.

I won't back down on this matter, it suggests, and not because I'm a pompous, selfish donkey, but on the contrary, because I am so selfless that I will forego my own interests in order to avoid letting down my family. The invocation of family says: Even though my actions indicate otherwise, I'm not a fool, nor a scoundrel; I'm selfless and devoted to others.

Patriotism used to be the last refuge of a scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson said-until phony patriots destroyed the positive connotations of the term. Today, family is the scoundrel's first, last, and paramount refuge.

Stick around and browse a bit TCS readers.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Paleface Scalps Indian

The NCAA is banning the use of Native American mascots for college sports teams even though the Seminole tribe thinks being Florida State's symbol is pretty cool, and probably not bad free advertising for their casinos and smoke shops. As tribal councilman Max Osceola puts it:

"It's like history--they left the natives out...They have non-natives telling natives what's good for them or how they should use their name. You have a committee made up of non-natives telling people that they can not use a native name when you have a native tribe--a tribal government, duly elected and constituted--that said they agree with Florida State."

It figures. The fascist patronizing paternalistic racist oppressor white male power establishment screws the Red Man once again "for his own good." I've half a mind to call the ACLU, but I lost their number. (Permanently.)

Just Call Him Governor Slim

The once rotund Christian governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee (sort of an anti-Bill ideologically speaking) went on a diet and lost a person. He's now slim, trim, and has apparently run a marathon!

I bring him up because he has a new book out with the best title for a diet book I've ever seen:

Stop Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Palm A Hero Off On Us?

By all external indications, my body appears to have returned to Miami, driving 1550 miles in three days. My mind, if it still exists, is clearly elsewhere.

But for what it's worth, some ruminations on Rafael Palmeiro, a Miami product, suspended for using steroids to enhance his performance at the great national pastime of baseball. Earlier, Palmeiro had angrily asserted to a Congressional committee that he had never done such a thing nor would he condone it in others.

Rush Limbaugh says that it seems like a Clinton-type situation, where the sins are not so great, but they are compounded by the finger-wagging moralizing against what he was secretly doing. (There are folks who try to put the same thing on Rush himself, but I never remember him as a big anti-drug crusdaer. Nor Bill Bennett as vocally anti-gambling either.)

President Bush says that Palmeiro is a friend and "I believe him" that he did not intentionally introduce steroids into his body. I would like to believe that, too. The recent update - to the effect that this particular steroid is not found in any over-the-counter supplements - makes such credulousness less tenable.

The irony is that until this year steroids were not illegal in baseball. Palmeiro could have said that he indulged in the past but would honor the new restrictions. And even if that was too embarrassing to say and do, wisdom would have dictated that he not try to beat the system now.

Or do you go with the other logic, the one used by Clinton's defenders? Since it's crazy and irresponsible to do this, it must be that he did not do it. Well, yes, wouldn't it be a lovely world if intelligent people never behaved crazily or irresponsibly?

This being a family magazine, we'll forgo the obvious humorous possibilities afforded by Palmeiro's role as pitch-man for Viagra. It would take an Act of Congress to change my position on this moratorium.

One last thought, apropos of nothing: 'Rafael' means Healer-for-God in Hebrew and is the name of the Angel of Healing. If nothing else, Raffy will have to... er, take his medicine.

Terrorist Chic

Rush Limbaugh tore into Anne Applebaum yesterday afternoon for this opinion piece, which appeared in Wednesday's Washington Post. And I don't understand why; it seems right on target to me. The support of the IRA by comfortable Irish-American Catholics, including prominent citizens and political figures (both Democrat and Republican) is a blot on American history. We could perhaps mitigate that blot in some small amount by examining the sorry episode for lessons that would help us understand, and deal with, the latest terrorism chic.

I am one of those melting-pot Americans who is a little bit of a lot of things, but as much or more Irish than anything else. I hold paper on the British too; I can work up a burst of righteous indignation about the famine and the Penal Laws without too much effort. Understanding why, thirty years ago, people like me were raising money in bars in Boston to buy guns for a bunch of thugs in Belfast is not making excuses for the arms-length applauders of the London bombers, it's just trying to learn from experience and introspection. Sometimes I think Limbaugh shouldn't be in such a Rush to criticize.

Faith, the Court, and John Roberts

I've spent a lot of time this week working on a post about John Roberts's Catholicism and why all the discussion I had seen was way off-base from the viewpoints of both Catholic moral theology and constitutional law. I knew what I wanted to say, but was having a harder time than usual making my argument cohere.

Well, I spend too much time on the post. Professor Steven Bainbridge has already published the article I wanted to, but was never going to be able, to write, complete with learned references and his trademark clear thinking. Go read it and I'll work on torture narratives in the lyrics of ABBA or something.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The State vs. The People

Philosophers agree that language is an imperfect representation of reality and we get into trouble when we confuse the two. The word is not the idea.

For the same reason, at least one philosopher rightly observed that "thinking in terms of Law is inevitable for man but it is the obstacle par excellence to the understanding of reality." The letter of the law is not its spirit, and as the Law is the demigod child of both, in its clumsiness it's often an ass.

We also know that a key technique of sophistry, which is entirely unconcerned with the search for truth, is using the limitations of language as a weapon when it suits its purpose. Meaning, that is to say truth, is sacrificed for victory.

In its ruling and application of a recently passed law, in the now-historic Gay Golf Case, the California Supreme Court wrote:

The Legislature has made it abundantly clear that an important goal of the Domestic Partner Act is to create substantial legal equality between domestic partners and spouses...We interpret this language to mean there shall be no discrimination in the treatment of registered domestic partners and spouses.

This in spite of another recently passed direct initiative by The People of California (with 60+% of the vote):

308.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

It's indeed proper to note that the court did not address Proposition 22; it bulldozed over it. Its meaning was plain, designating marriage between men and women as a unique societal institution. This wasn't a problem for the state--they simply erected an institution of equal legal force right alongside it, decreed it equal in substance, and named it something else. It's not marriage. It's exactly the same as marriage but it's not marriage. Get it?

Look, I don't know if the court's interpretation of the legislature's intent is correct or not, or if they "overinterpreted." No matter; the court's final word is now law. I'm not even a fan of the California's initiative process, and I'm not even commenting on the moral rightness or wrongness of gay marriage.

But what I do know is it's time to dispense with our comforting fairy tale that in this nation The People are sovereign.

Sophistry rules.

On Torture and a Full-Orbed View of Human Rights

There exists great outrage about the possibility that some interrogation tactics used at the Guantanamo facility may constitute torture.

Some leftists, perhaps motivated more by the desire to score points than out of any righteous feeling, have drummed on the torture theme with great determination. If one accuses me of being less than charitable, I must ask leave in light of the tremendous lack of left-wing intellectual outcry against massive human rights violations of the worst type by governments that carry leftist premises to their full conclusions.

Nevertheless, to say certain persons never cared much for the fate of brothers who didn't go along with coercive state socialism or those who are snuffed out in the womb or dismembered in the birth canal simply ends the conversation by making the charge of hypocrisy and determining that these individuals have no right to complain or at least have no integrity in so doing.

So, let us assume that the concern with torture is righteous and should be dealt with on its face. There are several problems that arise and do not go away simply because the complainants raise their voices and charge others with stupidity, mercilessness, etc.

First, what is torture? Dictionary definitions include "infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion," "excruciating physical or mental pain; agony," "something causing severe pain or anguish." When individuals are asked, they frequently come up with notions of limbs being amputated, bones broken, sexual organs mutilated, blinded eyes, burnt flesh, etc. If methods like emotional intimidation and sleep deprivation are to be included, then it MUST be admitted that they are down the line on the torture scale and any rational person describing their choice of torture to endure would surely prefer the latter to the former.

Second, is torture (by a state) ever justified? If we agree the primary end of the state is to protect its citizens and maintain the peace, then there are a number of means that may be employed to attain that goal. In the case of secret conspiracies, particularly those knit together by fierce fanaticism, then it will come to pass that the state will at times apprehend members of said conspiracies and have them in their custody. It would be sheer folly (and perhaps negligence of the worst sort) not to attempt to gain information about planned mass murders from these individuals. Serious interrogation tactics will have to be considered as a means of obtaining that information.

In the case of tactics that are universally agreed to constitute torture, a large percentage of us will likely be unable to support the permanent mutilation or even summary executions that would come of them. (Though some would and perhaps an absolute majority if the crisis were great enough and enough innocents had been killed.) However, for a government to be unable to employ even the lesser measures of intimidation on the level of sleep deprivation is to tie that government's hands in such a way as to value the lives of the guilty more than the lives of the innocent.

Now, the answer may come back that we will make up the deficiency with better police work or that these tactics don't work anyway, but I have no idea how we can be expected to trust these answers. Where exactly do we come by these carefully constructed studies on whether these tactics work? If they don't and it is so clear, then why are they being used? Further, why would the prospect of being extradited to regimes that engage in real torture be a potentially useful threat? If better police work is so much more effective than strong interrogation of suspects, then why hasn't that yielded all the answers?

We don't know how much information gained through interrogation has prevented terror attacks, but imagine that even one mass murder had been blocked. Weigh that versus the misery of sleep deprivation or fear of dogs experienced by a likely terrorist or terrorist in training and determine for yourself whether these tactics cross the line.

For my part, I hold a high view of human rights. Some leftist is sniggering, but those giggles are supremely undisturbing given their own regrettable view of the disposability of unborn and elderly life and their utter lack of care for the victims of leftist governmental projects gone awry. So, as I state, I hold a high view of human rights. But such a view cannot be a full or fair one unless it likewise considers the stakes for both wrongdoers and their victims, actual and probable. Thus, a view of the situation that obsesses over the difficulties experienced by those who have associated themselves with wanton murderers, while paying little or no attention to what must realistically be done to protect innocent persons can only be an immature one.

If I must choose whom I shall protect with the greater zeal, it will be the innocents.

UPDATE: I removed the incorrect statistical claim wherein I confused attacks blocked by the Patriot Act with the unknown quantity blocked by information gained at Guantanamo. That's the accountability of the blogosphere.

Those Who Deny The Terrorist Threat

In the 1930’s Adolph Hitler made no attempt to conceal his ambitions. Mein Kampf spelled out a dark strategic vision. Yet the West chose to either avert its gaze or deny reality. The prospect of fighting a major war so soon after the horror of World War I catalyzed the rationalizers. Some said Hitler was engaged in mere bravado; others said, he was a reflection of German national sentiment, not imperial ambition.

Whatever the rationalizers said, they stood tremulous in the face of Hitler’s goals. Now the West is engaged in its latest act of denial vis-à-vis radial Islam.

The civil libertarians contend any modification of our laws in order to hunt down and destroy these shadowy killers in our midst represents a threat to the nature of our government and the Constitution. Therefore fighting an all-out war only damages our side.

The second group of deniers might be called “the rationalists” who assume there is a justifiable hatred directed at the West because we invaded Iraq, support Israel, have a degraded popular culture or some other reason which, if only corrected, would lead to peace and harmony.

The third is composed of those who actually hate the West even as they derive the blessings of an open society. Michael Moore serves as an exemplar of this position. In the view of self haters any position which undermines the status of the U.S. and the West is desirable. This is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” syndrome.

Each stance, in my judgment, is deeply flawed. The civil libertarians ignore American history which suggests that even though President Lincoln abrogated habeas corpus during the Civil War, it was restored immediately thereafter. And while the U.S. took steps to intern Japanese citizens during World War II in order to prevent espionage activity, restitution occurred once the war was over.

If the Patriot Act helps ferret out those who want to kill Americans, it may be a desirable short term measure even as the civil libertarians speak glibly about the threat to our Constitutional liberties. So far more than 165 violent acts against the U.S. have been thwarted by the Patriot Act according to the Justice Department.

The “rationalists” suffer from post hoc analysis. We invaded Iraq; hence radical Islamic violence has increased. Overlooked in this exegesis are the many violent acts which occurred before the invasion in Iraq, e.g. the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Khobar Towers, U.S.S. Cole, the missions in East Africa, etc.

It is as if the rationalists suffer from historical amnesia. After all, they note, “there must be a valid reason for this hatred directed at the West.”

The idea that people hate us for who we are rather than what we do is a condition the rationalists cannot accept. Theirs is what I call the Enlightenment flaw: there must be a rational answer for all events.

Rationalists also contend that only a tiny fraction of the Moslem world shares extremist sentiments. That is true of course, but it glosses over a key fact: radical Islamists may represent an insignificant percentage of Moslems, but every terrorist is a Moslem. Even if one percent of that population which numbers 1.3 billion is extremist, more than a million Moslems can cause a lot of death and destruction.

Last, are the subversives from within who detest America so much they would prefer to see Osama bin Laden as president rather than George Bush. One might assume these people aren’t taken seriously; alas they shouldn’t be taken seriously, but in some circles they have influence.
So filled with hate is this group that they do not even respect the laws that offer their freedom to resist. Herbert Marcuse offered an explanation for the haters when de described America as the land of “repressive tolerance.” I wonder how this group would react to Sharia law. Can you imagine Jeanine Garofolo in a burkha?

These three groups may always be present in nations that promote self examination and allow protest. But when one considers the nature of the present threat, these groups can jeopardize national security or undermine our defense. The West should value its freedom, but first it should fight for survival, notwithstanding all the doubting in our midst.

Jacoby's First Law of Politics

Jeff Jacoby reminds us that Jacoby's First Law of Politics is directly relevant to the GOP/pork business:

Whenever One of Our Guys Achieves Significant Political Power, He Stops Being One of Our Guys.

So true, Jeff. Thanks for the wisdom.

Taxpayers Porked Again

Jeff Jacoby has written an excellent column on the highway bill Congress just passed. The bill really is a scandal, and Republicans are entirely to blame, as Jacoby notes:

At $286.4 billion, the highway bill just passed by Congress is the most expensive public works legislation in US history. In addition to funding the interstate highway system and other federal transportation programs, it sets a new record for pork-barrel spending, earmarking $24 billion for a staggering 6,376 pet projects, spread among virtually every congressional district in the land. The enormous bill -- 1,752 pages long -- wasn't made available for public inspection until just before it was brought to a vote, and so, as The New York Times noted, ''it is safe to bet that none of the lawmakers, not even the main authors, had read the entire package."

That didn't stop them from voting for it all but unanimously -- 412 to 8 in the House, 91 to 4 in the Senate.

Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the bill, too, of course, but Republicans have continuously presented themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility. They have once again proven the absurdity of that posture.

It is especially revealing and contemptible that the bill's authors did not make it public until the vote was about to take place. No need to hear from the taxpayers before deciding how to spend our money. Perhaps there would have been less support for "highway" projects meant to benefit no one but the constituencies of particular legislators, such as the following:

Meander through the bill's endless line items and you find a remarkable variety of ''highway" projects, many of which have nothing to do with highways: Horse riding facilities in Virginia ($600,000). A snowmobile trail in Vermont ($5.9 million). Parking for New York's Harlem Hospital ($8 million). A bicycle and pedestrian trail in Tennessee ($532,000). A daycare center and adjoining park-and-ride facility in Illinois ($1.25 million). Dust control mitigation for rural Arkansas ($3 million). The National Packard Museum in Ohio ($2.75 million). A historical trolley project in Washington ($200,000). And on and on and on.

John McCain (R-AZ) was one of the few who voted against the bill, as Jacoby notes:

Arizona Senator John McCain, one of the four who voted no, called the bill a ''monstrosity" and wondered whether it will ever be possible to restore fiscal sanity to Congress. If ''the combination of war, record deficits, and the largest public debt in the country's history" can't break lawmakers' addiction to overspending, he asked, what can? ''It would seem that this Congress can weather any storm thrown at it, as long as we have our pork life-saver to cling to."

McCain is a Republican, and it might surprise younger readers to learn that spending discipline was once a basic Republican principle. Hard to believe in this era of bloated Republican budgets and the biggest-spending presidential administration in 40 years -- but true. Once upon a time Republicans actually described themselves with pride as fiscal conservatives. That was one of the reasons they opposed the promiscuous use of pork-barrel earmarks, which are typically used to bypass legislative standards, reward political favorites, and assert congressional control over state and local affairs.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Lord Acton said. And those whose power is not absolute, I would add, will find ways to augment it. Fiscally, the Republicans have just pushed us farther down the highway to hell, once again.

Michael Barone: Blogger

My goodness, the meister of American Politik has opened up his own blogshop under the auspices of U.S. News and World Report. Color me impressed.

Raises a question. Will the ranks of the independent blog operators survive as more than a footnote once blogging becomes the norm for the big-league commentators? I think so, primarily because blogs expose the talents of those who would ordinarily never have a platform beyond their immediate circle? Look at Ed Morrissey. The guy is a superb writer/commentator/aggregator of info. He has a large readership. Where was he ten years ago? Frustrated, probably.

In any case, Barone is in the game and looking good with both short posts and the longer essay style stuff. I particularly liked this one:

There are two postings in www.powerlineblog.com on Ted Kennedy's changing responses to recess appointments today and during years when we had Democratic administrations.
Surprise: he is against them now and was for them then. You could probably easily find similar inconsistent statements by Republicans. All of which only illustrates my First Rule of Life: All process arguments are insincere, including this one. My Second Rule of Life, if you're interested is: Never eat in a Chinese restaurant next door to an animal shelter. I am still working on my Third Rule. Suggestions welcome.

Third rule is, "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line."

A Little UN Humor

The real story on John Bolton's recess appointment.

And a candid look at his first day on the job.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Wisdom from Dorothy Sayers on End of Life Issues

I read Dorothy Sayers's excellent 1927 murder mystery Unnatural Death recently, and noticed the following interesting passage, in which readers may find insights into some recent controversies:

[Detective Lord Peter Wimsey said,] "Supposin' somebody knows someone who's very ill and can't last long anyhow. And they're in awful pain and all that, and kept under morphia—practically dead to the world, you know. And suppose that by dyin' straight away they could make something happen which [someone else] really wanted to happen and which couldn't happen if they lived on a little longer (I can't explain exactly how, because I don't want to give personal details and so on)—you get the idea? Well, supposin' somebody who knew all that was just to give 'em a little push off so to speak—hurry matters on—why should that be a very dreadful crime? . . . [D]o you honestly think it's very bad? I know you'd call it a sin, of course, but why is it so very dreadful? It doesn't do the person any harm, does it?"

"We can't answer that," said [priest] Mr. Tredgold, "without knowing the ways of God with the soul. In those last weeks or hours of pain and unconsciousness, the soul may be undergoing some mecessary part of its pilgrimage on earth. It isn't our business to cut it short. Who are we to take life and death into our hands?"

It is easy to see how a disbelief in the soul and an afterlife would remove one of the important factors Tredgold cites as making it wrong to cut off the life even of a person in very bad condition.

Tredgold cites an additional problem: "I think . . . that the sin—I won't use that word—the damage to Society, the wrongness of the thing lies much more in the harm it does the killer than in anything it can do to the person who is killed. Especially, of course, if the killing is to the killer's own advantage. . . . That puts it at once on a different plane from just hastening a person's death out of pity. Sin is in the intention, not the deed. That is the difference between divine law and human law. It is bad for a human being to get to feel that he has any right whatever to dispose of another person's life to his own advantage."

Wimsey and Tredgold go on to observe that the ability to justify one murder makes it easier for an individual to justify others: Tredgold says, "Society is never safe from the man who has committed murder with impunity."

The conversation revolves around the likely effect on the individual murderer, because, of course, that is the subject of a murder mystery. (It is important to note that the characters are not referring to socially approved killings such as capital punishment and war, which are a matter for separate arguments.) At the time Unnatural Death was written, however, the eugenics movement was making very public claims about the positive social value of killing some types of persons. From our current perspective, after nearly a century of pro-eugenics arguments and policies, it is easy to see the greater significance of the situation Sayers describes: the effect on individuals when society accepts claims about the positive value of killing people who strike us as inconvenient.

Kim Jong IL and Eleven Aces in a Round!

According to a North Korean website (reported by Reuters), the magnificent leader posted eleven holes in one in a single round of golf. Who says Tiger Woods is number one in the world???

Church-State and Postmodernism

For those of you with access to services like JSTOR and Hein Online, I'd like to announce the publication of my article "Competing Orthodoxies in the Public Square" in the Journal of Law and Religion.

The basic thesis is that all of us, including the Court, are moving into a more postmodern way of looking at religion versus the alternatives (like say, Marxism, feminism, or various race-centrisms), and thus a strict separationist view is untenable because it singles out religion without treating functional equivalents the same way. As proof of the phenomenon at work, I discuss the movement of free exercise cases into the free speech realm.

No Chickenhawk

Steven Vincent was an eyewitness to the 9-11 attacks who went to Iraq to write about the war on terror from a different ground zero. His work was published at the New York Times and NRO, as well as several other outlets. He was also the author of the book In the Red Zone published by the Spence company.

Mr. Vincent has been found dead in Iraq, a victim of violence. Michelle Malkin has the round-up.

Short-Term Church Missions

[Our friend Greg McConnell, a reporter based in the Midwest, kindly sent us the following message. You may visit the web link below to see photos from the trip Greg mentions.]

While the popularity of short-term mission trips has been skyrocketing, many Christians aren't convinced that this is a positive development. Recently, Christianity Today examined whether or not short-term mission trips are even good stewardship (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/127/22.0.html). At the heart of the debate is a study by Kurt Ver Beek, professor of sociology and third-world development at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which essentially concludes that most short-term mission trips don't accomplish much.

I think that this is a healthy discussion, and accountability on such matters is very important.
Besides, Ver Beek doesn't seem to have a vendetta against short-term missions; he wants to understand them and, if possible, improve the system.

On a personal note, I went on a short-term mission trip to Costa Rica this past June
(http://gjmc.blogspot.com/). I suspect that most anyone who goes on a short-term mission trip will tell you it was good stewardship, and I am no exception. However, I honestly do think that special relationships were formed with the Costa Ricans who hosted us. Only time will tell if this partnership lasts to bear long-term fruit.—Greg McConnell

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Taps for Mr. Scott

"Jimmy" Doohan died on July 20 at age 85.

I found this letter in Los Angeles' other paper, The Daily News, today and thought it worth passing on before it's gone forever.

I met Doohan 30 years ago, at the bar of a New York hotel where he was the guest of honor at a "Star Trek" convention. We were chatting over beers when another Trekkie asked him for his autograph. I vaguely noticed something odd in the way he held his pen, but it was the Trekkie who shrieked, "Jeez, Scotty, what happened to your middle finger?"

"Oh, that," he said. "In the war, I was under fire, diving for a foxhole, and I was so glad I made it, I gave the enemy the finger...and they shot it off!" He told it like it was a joke. I was stunned to read in his obituary that this took place during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, and that he was shot six times. What a modest, as well as charming, man.

Henry C. Parke
Van Nuys

Beamed up safely. Posted by Picasa

A man of duty, honor and good cheer, not only in fiction, but in fact. Rest in peace, Mr. Doohan. Well done.