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.