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

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Praying For Mr. Ho

We regret to report that Mr. Hawaii, Don Ho, is ailing.

It's always daunting to contemplate one's mortality, but probably a bit easier when you are leaving behind fifty or so children.

How I Became a Prophet

"Last night, I was awakened from a fitful sleep, shortly after two o'clock in the morning by a shrill, sibilant, faceless voice. I couldn't make it out at first in the dark bedroom. And I said, 'I'm sorry, you will have to talk a little louder.'

And the Voice said to me: 'I want you to tell the people the truth, not an easy thing to do because the people don't want to know the truth.'

And I said, 'You're kidding. What the the hell should I know about the truth?'

But the Voice said to me: 'Don't worry about the truth. I will put the words in your mouth.'

And I said, 'What is this, the burning bush? For God's sake, I'm not Moses.'

And the Voice said to me: 'And I'm not God. What has that got to do with it?'

And I said, 'Why me?'

And the voice said:

'Because you're on television, dummy.'" Posted by Picasa

Oh, well. Maybe The 700 Club will hire Diana Christensen to improve the ratings. She knows what to do in cases like this.

A Triumph for Animal Lovers

The Times of London reports that British animal rights activists have succeeded in closing down a guinea pig farm by literally terrorizing its owners, using tactics including vandalism, false accusations of pedophilia, and even a case of graverobbing:

The family of an 82-year-old woman whose body was stolen from her grave are to stop breeding guinea pigs for medical research after a six-year campaign of intimidation by animal rights activists.

A spokeswoman for David Hall and Partners in Staffordshire said that the business would shut down its guinea pig breeding operations at Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch in December.

The Hall family has been subjected to a hate campaign by animal rights extremists. They said that they hoped the decision would prompt grave robbers to return the body of Gladys Hammond, whose remains were stolen from a churchyard in nearby Yoxall.

In a statement, the Hall family said: "David Hall and Partners’ involvement in breeding guinea pigs for biomedical research will cease at the end of 2005. The business, which has operated for over three decades, will undergo a phased closure until then to ensure the welfare of animals involved. . . .

The campaign of intimidation against the Halls included firebomb attacks, a paedophile smear campaign and the cutting of electricity and phone lines.

A spokesman for Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs, who gave his name as Johnny and would not reveal his surname, said: "This is the most fantastic day of my life.

"It’s a victory for the animals and it’s a fundamental victory for the animal rights movement. I feel so unbelievably proud to be part of the movement. . . .

Asked for his views about the campaign of intimidation, he said: "We do not need to glamorise this sort of activity but Animal Liberation Front activists are intelligent human beings who have a particular mind set. They consider the horrors of vivisection, killing umpteen animals, as being a justification for what essentially is low level criminal damage.

"There hasn’t been any violence whatsoever at the farm. There hasn’t been a single person been hurt by any protester. In fact, it’s protesters who have been hospitalised by security guards from the farm."

The local police department's Environmental Protest Unit implied that officers had done all they could to protect the family:

Inspector David Bird, of Staffordshire Police’s Environmental Protest Unit, said that officers had policed hundreds of protests at Darley Oaks Farm since 1999.

"It has been our policy since 1999 to support the Hall family’s right to continue their lawful and legitimate business while upholding the rights of others to demonstrate within the law and taking action against unlawful protest," he said.

Ironically, the use of guinea pigs by British phamaceutical firms will not stop, and the breeding will simply be done under less salubrious conditions for the animals:

Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield which includes Darley Oaks, said: "It is an irony that the guinea pigs used for medical research will now have to be imported from France and Spain where, unlike in Britain, the animals are bred in overcrowded conditions and not subject to regular inspection. Far from improving the conditions of these animals, these narrow-minded extremists have worsened them.

The activists, it should be noted, chose to make violent attacks on the rodent breeders instead of, say, boycotting the products for the testing of which the animals are bred: the medicines that keep the activists alive and healthy enough to go outside the law to force their agenda on others.

NCAA Stands Down from Battle with FSU

FSU's in the clear! Now, we can get back to hating Gators, instead of the useless bureaucrats of the NCAA.

I'm pasting in the statement and you can ask yourself whether any of the below would constitute new info for the NCAA:

Statement by NCAA Senior Vice-President for Governance and Membership Bernard Franklin on Florida State University Review

"The NCAA staff review committee has removed Florida State University from the list of colleges and universities subject to restrictions on the use of Native American mascots, names and imagery at NCAA championships.

"The NCAA Executive Committee continues to believe the stereotyping of Native Americans is wrong. However, in its review of the particular circumstances regarding Florida State, the staff review committee noted the unique relationship between the university and the Seminole Tribe of Florida as a significant factor. The NCAA recognizes the many different points of view on this matter, particularly within the Native American community. The decision of a namesake sovereign tribe, regarding when and how its name and imagery can be used, must be respected even when others may not agree.

"The NCAA position on the use of Native American mascots, names and imagery has not changed, and the NCAA remains committed to ensuring an atmosphere of respect and sensitivity for all who participate in and attend our championships. This decision applies to the unique relationship Florida State University has with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Requests for reviews from other institutions will be handled on a case-by-case basis."

Straw Man

Internet Electoral Data Demigod Patrick Ruffini has just posted his 2008 GOP straw poll. He provides lots of interesting ways to break down the poll data (by state, region, even by referring blog!) that make data nuts like me want to hug him and squeeze him and call him George. Go vote, and then take a look at the overwhelming popularity of one "fantasy" candidate.

Michael Graham Gets the Boot

Michael Graham, an author, political commentator, National Review contributor, and since last year, host of the 9 am to noon slot on the larger of Washington DC's two talk-format stations, WMAL, has been fired for comments he made on a show which aired three weeks ago, comments that were taken from a column he had written for Jewish World Review. Andrew McCarthy over at National Review has a good review of the facts.

There's a lot about talk radio I don't like, and there's more about it I dislike now than five or ten years ago. I think one of the worst trends, from the audience point of view, is the relentless homogenization of the airwaves. Yes, Rush is a force unto himself, and the premier talk outlet in each market has to carry him. But more and more stations, which used to have local talk for at least two or three of the remaining morning drive to 9 pm slots, eased out their local talent and replaced it with Sean Hannity, Michael Reagan, G. Gordon Liddy, et. al. When WMAL hired Michael Graham, it reversed this trend, replacing the anemic Sam Donaldson (who at that point was carried by about four stations, I think) and a couple hours of the by now unlistenable Dr. Laura show with a guy who was covering local news from a local angle.

Dr. Laura aside: I never understood conservative fascination with this woman. Sure, it was refreshing to hear a psychologist call for personal responsibility. The first couple of times. After that, you started to notice that a lot of Dr. Laura's idea of personal responsibility consisted of living your life exactly like Dr. Laura did, including details that had nothing to do with morality or uprightness. She completely lost me the morning she chewed out a woman for moving to a farm, because it was irresponsible to deprive her children of having friends across the street. She also seemed to think our armed forces should be manned entirely with 22 -year-old celibates, since she scolded more than one military family for contributing to the nationwide Army Brat crisis.

At any rate, I am disappointed in WMAL and their parent Disney for firing Michael, because I think they have caved in to a vocal minority who dislike having the light shine in certain dark corners. I admire Michael's humor and professional skill, and hope he will find another home on Washington's AM dial. If he doesn't, there's always the iPod. A lot of commuters and school moms will miss him.

Van Dyke's Petrie Dish

The great Tom Van Dyke (below), as ever, goads the lazy Western mind into firing up some of its dormant synapses. He calls our attention to an absolutely brilliant point (and I hope that it does not lose wattage in my paraphrasing). How can the Judeo-Christian world create a civilizational bridge to the Muslim world - one which the secularists call for the loudest - when the erosion in our own belief base makes our putative value system seem sickly and/or insincere?

Truly an irony. The religionists have a chance for a meeting-of-the-minds with Islam, based on the shared belief in the One God despite the debate over details of His program. But they are too passionate about the details and won't bend.

The secularists are only too glad to bend but the Muslims are certain to scoff at such a self-serving pragmatism-masquerading-as-idealism.

So if you won't sell out you're an enemy who may not be shown any mercy. And if you will sell out you're a spineless loser who's not worthy of mercy. How do you win? There is no secular way to win. The only hope is religious, if the shared belief in monotheism mediates and moderates a modus operandi.

Something like the founding in 1776, eh what?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Getting Back to the Basics

The late, great Dave Allen, speaking of the Irish, described us all when he said we have a lot of trouble deciding who God is, but once we do, we're willing to fight for Him.

Some of us decide there isn't any God, and are willing to fight for that, too.

You know, I never liked St. Paul much; he's not Jesus and he's very crabby. But as I take him as a severely flawed human being who does the best he can, well, I like him better with each passing year. Besides, I'm flawed, crabby, and I'm not Jesus, either.

The story of how Paul lifted Greco-Roman paganism and ushered in the modern world by turning it toward the true and living God is related in an fascinating work by Sir William Ramsay, who later was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry. (Not that that matters, but it does mean the source isn't some crank like me.) It was written in 1897, and is available in full here.

The surprise is that notorious cementhead Paul didn't replace Zeus & Co. with the mystical Christ who died for everybody's sins, but began by steering the already extant hunger for and love of Good toward its true source, the God of All Things.

This God was not terribly different from Aristotle's theoretical and philosophical God, except Aristotle's was devoid of mercy and love, which are essential components of All Things. Neither would an Aristotle suffer as Paul did for a god bereft of these things: that God is kinda mellow and laissez-faire, not worth dying for or even preaching about. So the majority of the Hellenic world still sacrificed to Zeus and his crew.

"(W)e turn to the speech at Athens. So far was Paul from inveighing against the objects of Athenian veneration that he expressly commended the religious feelings of the people, and identified the God whom he had come to preach with the god whom they were blindly worshipping.

He did not rebuke or check their religious ideas, but merely tried to guide them; he distinctly set forth the principle that the pagans were honestly striving to worship "the God that made the world and all things therein".

In this speech Paul lays no emphasis on the personality of the God whom he sets forth: "what ye worship in ignorance, this set I forth unto you,"and "we ought not to think that the Divine nature is like unto gold or silver or stone, graven by art and device of man".

The popular philosophy inclined towards Pantheism, the popular religion was Polytheistic; but Paul starts from the simplest platform common to both---there exists something in the way of a Divine nature which the religious try to please and the philosophers try to understand."

This is the One, True, and Living God who is or should be recognizable to Jew, Christian, and Muslim alike, Aristotelians and Deists, and even to the pagans whom Paul converted. In our doctrinal thises-and-thats, we so often lose sight of that God, and certainly if the West is to achieve a rapprochement with the Muslim world, (which respected Aristotle so much they called him the "First Teacher"), we're going to have to have the wisdom of Paul to locate Him and make Him our common ground.

And if our militantly secular friends are going to get along with the billion and a half Muslims on this earth, they need to leave a little breathing room in things for this Living God. Mebbe they could start with the Jews and Christians already in their own countries, just to practice up. We gotta get back to the basics---if prickly Paul could touch the human heart instead of bashing brains, surely the more highly evolved children of the Enlightenment can do as well as some crabby ol' cementhead.

(Personal note---I wrote this a few days ago and thought it might be too "We Are the World." But after Pope Benedict's very important words yesterday, I realize some things can't be said too often. We are the world, and that's an empirically provable fact. Kumbaya, y'all.)

Dems' Strategy in Roberts Confirmation

Today's New York Times reports that the Senate Democrats are having difficulty agreeing on a strategy for the forthcoming confirmation hearings for Judge John G. Roberts:

Two weeks before senators begin questioning the Supreme Court nominee, John G. Roberts Jr., the debate over his confirmation is becoming a test of Senate Democrats as well.

The party's liberal base, whose contributions during judicial confirmation fights earlier this year have helped the Senate Democratic campaign fund amass twice as much as its Republican rival, is pressing for another vigorous fight against Judge Roberts as documents from the Reagan administration clarify his conservative credentials.

But as Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and other liberal stalwarts on the Judiciary Committee step up their criticism of Judge Roberts's record, other Democrats are reluctant to join them.

"I am turned off by senators trying to act like they have already found the guy out and they know what he is like," said Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Democratic committee member from Wisconsin who spent last week focused instead on calling for a pullout from Iraq. "I am not part of any Democratic effort to 'set the table' " for the hearings by laying the groundwork to criticize Judge Roberts, he said.

Several Democratic senators said the hearings on Judge Roberts were shaping up as a risky balancing act. Failing to press him could look weak to their liberal base. But attacking too hard could draw Democrats into a losing battle on the treacherous turf of abortion, race and religion at a time when Republicans appear vulnerable on other fronts.

What's particularly interesting and rather unexpected here is to see the Times state that the Republicans have the advantage in public discussions about abortion, race, and religion. I wonder if Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich read the front pages of their paper?

In the Name of Order on the Border

Very enjoyable article on the Minutemen by Weekly Standard's Matt Labash. Labash likes making fun of his interview subjects, but you can tell he admires these guys a little bit.

I tend not to want to pay a lot of attention to immigration for fear of being labeled a racist, but the leader of the Minutemen doesn't have that problem. His son is bi-racial (half white/half African-American).

This article will stir you up and make you wonder why we aren't working harder on the border issue.

Think Pink

This is one area where a Big Ten team has outdone the SEC: psychological warfare.

The Iowa Hawkeyes have had the visitor's locker room completely covered in bright pink. The old room had pink walls, which Bo Schembechler of Michigan famously ordered his assistants to cover, but this version is pink from the ceiling to the floor.

I think the only thing that's missing is a Barbie border.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Instant Karma Done Got Him

SAN RAFAEL, California (AP)---A former personal assistant to Carlos Santana has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the veteran rocker, claiming he was fired after his consciousness was calibrated and determined to be too low.

Bruce Kuhlman, 59, charges that Santana's wife, Deborah, brought in a man known as "Dr. Dan" so employees could grow closer to God and become better workers.

"In Deborah's view, the higher a person calibrated with Dr. Dan, the better employee they were because they were more 'spiritually evolved,'" the lawsuit said.

Unknown at this point is whether Carlos' own consciousness has been calibrated and if it's found lacking, Deborah can fire him from his own life.

What Are the Saudis Up To?

I'm a nominal Trinitarian, but I must admit that I've always admired the strict monotheism of Islam.

We know that the Saudis have been pumping Wahhabism across the Islamic world, Wahhabism being an extreme fundamentalist reading of Islam, and the one that seems to be the theological underpinning of violent extremism.

Now, in their distaste for anything resembling idolatry, they're about to pave over Mohammed's birthplace.

No sage conclusion here, just pointing out a story that's gotten zero attention, and merits a bit of wonder.

Historic Mecca, the cradle of Islam, is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots.

Almost all of the rich and multi-layered history of the holy city is gone. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.

Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of Saudi religious authorities whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage.

It is the same oil-rich orthodoxy that pumped money into the Taliban as they prepared to detonate the Bamiyan buddhas in 2000. And the same doctrine - violently opposed to all forms of idolatry - that this week decreed that the Saudis' own king be buried in an unmarked desert grave.

A Saudi architect, Sami Angawi, who is an acknowledged specialist on the region's Islamic architecture, told The Independent that the final farewell to Mecca is imminent: "What we are witnessing are the last days of Mecca and Medina."

According to Dr Angawi - who has dedicated his life to preserving Islam's two holiest cities - as few as 20 structures are left that date back to the lifetime of the Prophet 1,400 years ago and those that remain could be bulldozed at any time. "This is the end of history in Mecca and Medina and the end of their future," said Dr Angawi.

Mecca is the most visited pilgrimage site in the world. It is home to the Grand Mosque and, along with the nearby city of Medina which houses the Prophet's tomb, receives four million people annually as they undertake the Islamic duty of the Haj and Umra pilgrimages.

The driving force behind the demolition campaign that has transformed these cities is Wahhabism. This, the austere state faith of Saudi Arabia, was imported by the al-Saud tribal chieftains when they conquered the region in the 1920s.

The motive behind the destruction is the Wahhabists' fanatical fear that places of historical and religious interest could give rise to idolatry or polytheism, the worship of multiple and potentially equal gods.

Theology, or the House of Saud trying to lessen the paramount political importance of the Land of Two Holy Places, Mecca and Medina? Dunno.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Puncturing the Housing Investment Balloon

An interesting story in today's New York Times outlines the largely illusory nature of gains in personal wealth created by rises in housing values. The story makes it clear that the stock market is still by far the best form of investment:

The housing boom of the last five years has made many homeowners feel like very, very smart investors.

As the value of real estate has skyrocketed, owners have become enamored of the wealth their homes are creating, with many concluding that real estate is now a safer and better investment than stocks. It turns out, though, that the last five years - when homes in some hot markets like Manhattan and Las Vegas have outperformed stocks - has been a highly unusual period.

In fact, by a wide margin over time, stock prices have risen more quickly than home values, even on the East and West Coasts, where home values have appreciated most.

When Marti and Ray Jacobs sold the five-bedroom colonial house in Harrington Park, N.J., where they had lived since 1970, they made what looked like a typically impressive profit. They had paid $110,000 to have the house built and sold it in July for $900,000.

But the truth is that much of the gain came from simple price inflation, the same force that has made a gallon of milk more expensive today than it was three decades ago. The Jacobses also invested tens of thousands of dollars in a new master bathroom, with marble floors, a Jacuzzi bathtub and vanity cabinets.

Add it all up, and they ended up making an inflation-adjusted profit of less than 10 percent over the 35 years.

That return does not come close to the gains of the stock market over the same period. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index has increased almost 200 percent since 1970, even after accounting for inflation.

The article notes that real estate is a good investment, but for the traditional reason: "You can live in the house you own." If you sell your house, you have to buy or rent housing somewhere.

The article doesn't talk about the ubiquitous practice of taking out home equity loans, which is an additional danger in seeing one's home more as an investment than as simply a place where you want to live.

A Lawyer, a Feminist, and a Housewife Walk Into a Bar

It being August, and it being the first Supreme Court nomination in eleven years, I expected some fairly daft commentary from the White House press beat. But the Washington Post has set the bar very high with today's stinker, Roberts Resisted Women's Rights. The substantive gender issues concern the then-hot topics of the Equal Rights Amendment, state legislative forays into workplace gender discrimination, and the economically addled demand for "comparable worth" wage mandates, about which I'll have more to say later. However, the Post places front and center a scribbled aside on a 1985 memo from Roberts to Linda Chavez, who was then White House Director of Public Liason.

Chavez proposed to nominate her deputy, Linda Arey, for a contest sponsored by Clairol to honor women who had made significant career changes after the age of 30. Arey, once a schoolteacher, had later gone to law school, eventually becoming assistant dean of the University of Richmond Law School before joining the Reagan administration. Chavez ran the idea by Roberts, who found no legal problem with the nomination. In a marginal aside, however, Roberts noted that at Richmond Arey had actively promoted older homemakers' law school attendance and added, "Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good, but I suppose that is for the judges to decide."

As the Post phrases it: "Roberts's comment about homemakers startled women across the ideological spectrum." The article's authors managed to collect hyperventilating quotes not just from usual suspect Kim Gandy, but from Phyllis Schlafly, who moderates her criticism of the "smart-alecky comment" by recalling that Roberts, then 30, was "a young bachelor and hadn't seen a whole lot of life at that point."

Oh, for crying out loud in a bucket. Roberts's comment was not condescending to housewives, or women, or anyone at all -- except lawyers. He was telling a lawyer joke!

American humor mines lawyer jokes like the Spaniards mined Potosi. If you Google "lawyer joke" you will get 920,000 hits. ("Knock-knock joke" gets you a third that number.) Is it really possible that out of six Washington Post staff writers, three research assistants, the head of NOW and the head of Eagle Forum, not one of them recognizes a lawyer joke when she hears it? Smart alecky -- you betcha. This man has marinated in the pompous narcissism of Washington for twenty-odd years and yet demonstrates the capability of such self-mockery. I liked him before; I love him now.

Gaza's Trip

Well, the great Wlady Pleszczynski flattered the heck out of me by leaving a message on my cell phone saying that he hoped I might "capture" the "enormity" of the Gaza disengagement for American Spectator readers.

I hope that I did him (and the historical moment) proud with my effort today.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Minute Chance of Suffering, Averted by Death

The Times of London reports,

PEOPLE with an inherited cancer that is almost always treatable have won the right to select embryos lacking the gene that can trigger the disease.

[Note that "selecting" embryos actually means killing embryos until one without the gene arises.]

Four couples affected by retinoblastoma, a rare childhood eye tumour, will start the screening procedure within weeks after a London clinic was granted a licence by the Government’s fertility watchdog.

The ruling breaks new ethical ground in the debate on “designer babies”, because retinoblastoma is rarely fatal, 95 per cent of cases are successfully treated, and only 90 per cent of those with the defective gene develop the disease.

Embryo screening has so far been permitted to prevent only conditions such as cystic fibrosis that are incurable or difficult to treat, and which always strike people with faulty genes.

The decision caused further controversy as it came days after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) began a consultation about approving the technique for a wider range of disease genes. Embryo rights campaigners accused the watchdog of disdain for the public’s views, and called for a moratorium on new licences until the consultation is complete.

The retinoblastoma test, they said, would lead to the destruction of embryos that might be perfectly healthy, and others with a high chance of a normal life once their cancer has been treated. Doctors and patient groups, however, welcomed the decision, pointing out that women are already allowed to screen for retinoblastoma 11 weeks into pregnancy and abort affected foetuses.

Conceptual Illiteracy: Public Intellectuals and Intelligent Design

I just read an interesting post by a brilliant legal mind, Richard Posner, on the Ten Commandments decisions. His comments were interesting and worth your time. However, I stopped short when he made a side remark about intelligent design being nothing more than thinly veiled biblical inerrancy.

That's a seriously uninformed perspective and I'm surprised to see it from a thinking machine like Posner. I can only conclude he has failed to investigate ID for himself and trusts the characterizations of ID set out by opponents.

Intelligent design is primarily a critique of the neo-Darwinian synthesis. It looks at things like statistical probabilities and irreducible complexity to sharply question whether Darwinian evolution could have occurred as postulated. There is NOTHING. Read NOTHING in ID theory to harmonize with the content of the Bible with the exception of an agreement about likely creation of the complicated life on the planet. ID does not reference Genesis or any other book of the Bible to make its case. It has a real intellectual content to it that can be debated without reference to revelation of any kind. In short, it is absurd to describe intelligent design as "thinly veiled biblical inerrancy."

Now, I have no idea whether ID theorists are ultimately correct. I have read some of the books and articles and certainly do know that Posner's characterization is ridiculous, irresponsible, and unusually slothful in his case.

The NCAA Nickname Ban

The P.C. police are at it again. Fed up with what it considers “hostile” and “abusive” American Indian nicknames, the NCAA announced it would ban those words and images from post-season tournaments.

Starting in 2006 any school with a nickname or logo considered racially or ethnically “hostile” by the NCAA (National College Athletic Association) would be prohibited from using them in post-season events. Mascots will not be allowed to perform at tournament games and cheerleaders will be barred from using American Indian images on their uniforms.

Major college football teams are not subject to the ban since there isn’t an official NCAA tournament associated with college football.

Needless to say, not everyone greeted this decision favorably. Some schools affected by the ban were quick to complain. Florida State University – home of the Seminoles – threatened legal action. “That the NCAA would now label our close bond with the Seminole people as culturally ‘hostile and abusive’ is both outrageous and insulting,” Florida State president T.K. Wetherall said.

The NCAA committee also recommended that colleges follow the example of Wiscosin and Iowa by refusing to schedule contests against schools that use American Indian nicknames.

While NCAA officials cannot force colleges to change their nicknames or logos, it is hoped that this decision will have a chastening influence on intended targets - eighteen mascots, including Florida States’ Seminole and Illinois’ Fighting Illini, were on the list of NCAA offenders.

These colleges will not be permitted to host future NCAA tournament games, and if events have already been awarded to these sites, the colleges must cover any logos or nicknames that appear.

Left unsaid, of course, is what constitutes “hostile and abusive”? The president of the NCAA, Myles Brand, noted that some institutions using the “Warrior” nickname will not face sanctions because it is not specifically an Indian symbol. One college, North Carolina – Pembroke – which uses the nickname Braves – will also be exempt from censure because the school has historically had a high percentage of American Indian students.

For the Politically Correct police officers at the NCAA the issue is cut and dry. “We believe hostile or abusive nicknames are troubling to us and it can’t continue,” noted NCAA committee chairman, Walter Harrison.

However, the examples, used for censure suggest “hostile and abusive” may be in the eye of the NCAA beholder. What precisely is hostile about Seminole and Illini? One might make the claim these names have something to do with the unquenchable spirit of these tribes.

Moreover, while taste may be an issue, so too is free speech. Is the lesson conveyed to colleges and universities that only certain names can be employed? Is the NCAA arrogating to itself the role of censor?

In fact, I cannot conceive of a college with an Indian nickname that has the intent of hostile usage. Most colleges that use these nicknames and logos do so as a form of admiration for the spirit of indigenes.

What appears to be at play is the left wing orthodoxy on campus that is in search of some offense against a designated victim group or subculture. Brand and his band of P.C. acolytes have found the holy grail with this campaign against Indian symbols.

One might think with all the abuses in college football and basketball, these avatars of P.C. might consider ways to control corruption, degradation of academic standards, and steroid use. Instead they have found an issue that satisfies campus orthodoxy.

Several years ago the St. Johns’ basketball team changed its nickname from the Redmen to the Red Storm. Although it is hard to make a connection, when that decision was made the fortunes of the St. Johns’ basketball program went into decline. As I see it, the gods are watching. Those colleges engaged in the silly enterprise of changing their nicknames in order to appease the P.C. police will pay a price in diminished performance. The ban is simply an action that makes some feel superior, while reducing the freedom that makes Americans unique.

Terms Lefties Don't Understand

Ann Coulter playing rough with Cindy and Maureen:

Fortunately, the Constitution vests authority to make foreign policy with the president of the United States, not with this week's sad story. But liberals think that since they have been able to produce a grieving mother, the commander in chief should step aside and let Cindy Sheehan make foreign policy for the nation. As Maureen Dowd said, it's "inhumane" for Bush not "to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute."

I'm not sure what "moral authority" is supposed to mean in that sentence, but if it has anything to do with Cindy Sheehan dictating America's foreign policy, then no, it is not "absolute." It's not even conditional, provisional, fleeting, theoretical or ephemeral.

The logical, intellectual and ethical shortcomings of such a statement are staggering. If one dead son means no one can win an argument with you, how about two dead sons? What if the person arguing with you is a mother who also lost a son in Iraq and she's pro-war? Do we decide the winner with a coin toss? Or do we see if there's a woman out there who lost two children in Iraq and see what she thinks about the war?

Dowd's "absolute" moral authority column demonstrates, once again, what can happen when liberals start tossing around terms they don't understand like "absolute" and "moral." It seems that the inspiration for Dowd's column was also absolute. On the rocks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Mind of Bin Laden

"But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where--after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order--you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you.

Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge , but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the "heart" of every Muslim and a remedy to the "chests" of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu."
---from bin Laden's 1996 fatwa against the West

It is weakness, not strength, that feeds jihadism. In calling for withdrawal from Iraq, our friends on the left and the Pat Buchanan right aren't listening to what civilization's enemies themselves are telling us.

Also of great interest in the fatwa is bin Laden droning on about the US/UK military presence in Saudi Arabia, the Land of Two Holy Places. Since Western troops are no longer needed there to "contain" Saddam, they (to little notice) have been withdrawn, robbing bin Laden of a key recruiting point. This was no small factor in the decision to "fix" the Saddam problem once and for all. "Containment" was doomed.

When the NCAA Profited From the Seminole Image . . .

Not so long ago.

Walker Percy on Bourbon

Do savor this marvelous essay by the master of alienated existentialism. Don't be scared by the fancy words. Here's a sample to convince you:

I can hardly tell one Bourbon from another, unless the other is very bad. Some bad Bourbons are even more memorable than good ones. For example, I can recall being broke with some friends in Tennessee and deciding to have a party and being able to afford only two-fifths of a $1.75 Bourbon called Two Natural, whose label showed dice coming up 5 and 2. Its taste was memorable. The psychological effect was also notable. After knocking back two or three shots over a period of half an hour, the three male drinkers looked at each other and said in a single voice: 'Where are the women?' I have not been able to locate this remarkable Bourbon since.

Two For The Price Of None

Two articles were added today to the Homnick canon by a pair of fine Editors. The one over at Jewish World Review may anger some by its willingness to concede the unlikeliness of Roe vs. Wade ever being overturned. A mordant critic might even compare it to conceding Gaza before a peace treaty has been signed, a comparison that would surely leave me devastated and distraught. But I am very concerned about that old bugaboo of the passionate - 'the ideal is the enemy of the possible' - thwarting our ability to get the Constitution somewhat righted.

Over at the American Spectator, I identify an important "unexamined premise", the idea that our ancestors' lives have a relationship to our own and that our lives, in turn, are linked (beyond the technical laying of their groundwork) to the lives of our descendants. In a brief way, I allude to an important philosophical/theological principle which I dubbed (not sure if this is original): "Time is horizontal."

And all this is FREE. (Well, kinda free; if I ever publish a book and you don't buy a copy, I will be mortally offended.)

Little Black and White Lies

Hunter and Sam's discussion of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mystery Too Many Cooks was sloshing in my brain during an emergency trip to Borders last Sunday night. (Yes, other families make emergency diaper and milk runs to 7-11, the Hutchinses make emergency book runs to Borders.) Too Many Cooks wasn't on the shelves, but A Right to Die, the thirty-years-hence sequel with some of the same characters, was available, and that's what I bought.

I'm probably running the risk of Reform Club excommunication by admitting I've never read a Nero Wolfe mystery before. On the other hand, the knowledge that I've been deprived of these engaging characters for forty years surely counts as penance. But my post doesn't concern Rex Stout, but "no-relation-to" David Stout, who wrote the introduction to the Bantam edition, and who has committed one of my pet peeves, the Ignorant Little Lie.

Unlike Goebbels's Big Lie, the Ignorant Little Lie is so tiny, and so superficially unimportant, that people get irritated with you for pointing them out. You're picking at nits. You're being anal. But that means accretions of Ignorant Little Lies build up, unchallenged, and become over time something more like conventional wisdom. The most enduring little lies always confirm a notion someone already holds, and the person who perpetrates one is probably not even untruthful so much as lazy. It fits with what he knows, and he doesn't bother to check it twice.

David Stout's introduction focuses on the then (1964) somewhat more sensational theme of interracial romance that is at the center of A Right to Die: a white woman, engaged to a black man, is found murdered, and the black man is the prime suspect. But this is the graf that irked me:
The hunt takes us to the Midwest, where the victim, Susan Brooke, grew up and went to college. The Midwest seems the best place to look, for there was a tragedy in Susan's earlier life there, and Stout-Wolfe understood that tragedies spawn their own avenging ghosts. (Not for nothing does that quintessentially midwestern state, Indiana, call itself the "Main Street of America." A black man and a white woman would draw stares on the Main Street of 1964.)
The problem here is that Indiana does not, either officially or in the unofficial banter of its citizenry, call itself "The Main Street of America." Indiana does, however, call itself the "Crossroads of America." Indiana adopted this motto in 1937, in honor of its position as a central hub for rail and motor transport. Before the completion of the interstate highway system, US 40 was a coast-to-coast route from Atlantic City to San Francisco. US 31 was the major north-south artery connecting the Michigan Great Lakes ports with the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. They intersect at Monument Circle, in the very center of Indianapolis.

The implication of being the "Crossroads" is rather different from that of a "Main Street." The city at the crossroads sees traffic flowing through it from all corners of the country. The addition of port traffic extends that flow internationally. Rather than the insularity of an elm-lined Main Street, the crossroads makes a community more cosmopolitan, more aware of and accepting of difference. More tolerant, in today's impoverished argot. I realize it runs counter to the conventional wisdom that the hayseeds of the Midwest might be less committed bigots than urbanite Washingtonians or New Yorkers or Angelinos, but telling lies about the Midwest does nothing to buttress the argument.

There is a "Main Street of America" -- the old Route 66. Unfortunately for David Stout's thesis, Route 66 never went through any part of Indiana, and most of it ran through the southwest, not the midwest. Interracial couples might have been stared at on various sections of Route 66 as it meandered through eight states in 1964, but I'd like to see a little proof, instead of a little lie, that such stares were more likely on the Midwestern legs than elsewhere.

Speaking Ill of the Dead

(First in a series that allows a period of proper mourning before explaining why the world is better off for someone's passing):

Former UK (Labour) Foreign Secretary Robin Cook died suddenly August 6. Mr. Cook had previously resigned his post in protest of the Blair government joining the US in erasing the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein and his lovely sons Uday and Attila.

For four years as Foreign Secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment. Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam’s medium and long-range missiles programmes.

Equally proud of the "strategy of containment" was Cook's American counterpart, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:

Lesley Stahl, on 60 Minutes: “We have heard that half a million children have died (in Iraq). I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And you know, is the price worth it?"

Madame Albright:“I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

Osama bin Laden, after consulting Islamic scholars, has determined that 4 million Westerners must die to square accounts with the Muslim world. About a million are attributed to the sanctions that "contained" Saddam & Family. Osama is cruel but fair.

A half-million kids? A million altogether? I don't know, but the West has never effectively denied it, and it is now taken as gospel truth in the Islamic world.

What we do know is this Iraq War cost far fewer lives than the "peaceful" sanctions, and most of those who've died were guilty-as-hell enthusiastic al-Qaeda or Ba'athist homicidal maniacs, and that any further deaths today are from Muslims killing innocent Muslims.

What we do know is that Osama's 4 million strong butcher's bill will be justified not by Bush's action against Saddam, but by Cook's and Albright's.

Rest in peace as well as you can, Mr. Cook. By your own admission, you are partly responsible for the "strategy of containment," the sanctions that killed only the innocents in Iraq, because you lacked the guts to pull the trigger on a sadistic mass-murderer and his even more psychopathic anointed successors. Starvation is eco-friendly, and seldom makes the front page.

If Osama has any justification at all, it was you, Mr. Cook, who provided it. You and Madame Albright killed more Muslims than the Crusaders ever did. You expected to wash your hands and walk away? No, moral vanity isn't absolution. You thought war was bad? Your cowardly version of peace, "containment," was far more deadly.

Now it's up to we the living to clean up your mess. I hope you wish us luck from wherever you are now, Mr. Cook. I suppose you did your best, but the price was not worth it.

(Next: Peter Jennings)

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)