Saturday, January 13, 2007

Semen is Serious Business

Wait! Before you start throwing tomatoes, I am not trying to be prurient here. Semen is serious business when you’re talking about bulls and cows, horses, and who knows what other four, or probably even two legged, cash crops. Growing up in southern California as a good city boy I always thought that milk came from the grocery store. But then I moved to central Pennsylvania for too many years and discovered milk actually came from animals. Disgusting!

And then a few years ago I read Tom Wolfe’s “A Man in Full” and I’ll never be the same. Wolfe, he of the obsession with the most minute of details, and the ability to describe reality until it hurts, let me in on how the next generation of thoroughbreds are created. Not for those with a weak constitution. As everyone would agree, these are things we just don’t, and probably would rather not, think about. But there are a lot of people, and thank God for them, whose daily lives are lived in such worlds. I’ve always thought about the guys who pick up my trash, thank God for people who will take money to do such things. Ain’t capitalism grand!

So when I came across an article in the Denver Post titled, “The hot life of a Romeo bull: Semen sales are serious business,” I just had to click. As the writer sets it up, claaaasic:

They promise the bulls a quiet, tranquil, caring atmosphere where every need is met and there is no pressure to perform.

But really, all they are after is their sperm.

The business of extracting semen from prized bulls and then implanting it into a cow is so cut-and-dried that a mere suggestion that companies are taking the romance out of cattle production is met with a dismissive smirk.

"We are just providing something customers don't have," said Brian House, spokesman for Select Sires, an Ohio-based company that freezes and stores bull semen to inseminate dairy cows.


Hey, bub, what do you do for a living? Ever sit next to some guy in an airplane and ask what he does for a living? You’ve got to wonder what euphemisms these folks come up with in such circumstances. Not much else to say on this story, but the last sentence in the article is priceless:

Semen from bulls at Genex have spawned offspring all over the world. But the company is sending most of its sperm to South America, where beef production is high but the diversity of the cattle is minimal, Robertson said.

"Their industry is growing," he said, "and we hope to have a hand in that."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Fired For Mentioning Jesus!

Damn, what's the world coming to?

Our blog, thenewswalk.com (formerly The Reform Club), mostly leaves the reblogging to others, like Glenn Reynolds' essentially bookmarkable Instapundit.

But it's always nice to put in a plug for your pals, and I'm happy to do it today for Jonathan Rowe's excellent blog, which is oriented toward examining Christianity and the general role of religion in the Founding. His research is thorough and honest, and he was also linked the other day by the notorious and notoriously popular crooksandliars, whose name betrays its leftist bent. (Ooops, sorry, somehow I can't find a link to that one. What were the odds?) That this right-leaning blogger also links to him speaks very highly of Jon, I think.

In short, via the also-notorious World Net Daily, a Navy chaplain was fired for bringing up Jesus Christ in a White House benediction, even though he was ordered not to. (They were looking for something a bit more generic.) Law prof Rowe persuasively---to my mind---argues why the firing was justified and even necessary, and I add a few words of support for his conclusion in his comments section.

I often defend religious expression in the public square on general principles, specifically Christian religious expression, even when I find it obnoxious (also often). But this one's a slam dunk. As a practical matter, the issue of Jesus' divinity gives many people heartburn, and for whomever it doesn't, assertions of Muhammad's status as God's authoritative and final prophet by a different chaplain certainly would.

The Founders were wise in keeping G-d as generic as possible in order to gather us to Him, as a nation under Him, without setting us apart.

Flash: New Sin Invented!

"It's a sin not to do [embryonic stem cell] research," declared Rep. Al Green (D-Texas)...

A Google search shows zero hits in the mainstream press for this recent quote.

Now, I don't know where this leaves us on secular neutrality or the free exercise of religion, but if a congressman had argued that embryonic stem cell research itself is a sin, the creation of human life in order to us to cannibalize it, I think it would have gathered far more notice, not to mention derision and ridicule. The notion of sin is so, I dunno, quaint. Nice to see it making a comeback, though, even if inverted. One step at a time.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Benny and the Feds

Or maybe it should be Benny and the Meds.

In any case, longtime TRC/Newswalk member Benjamin Zycher has a piece up at National Review today explaining why the feds shouldn't negotiate prices on meds.

Money quote:

Federal price negotiations will cause sharp price reductions, but this will yield less research and development investment in new and improved medicines over time. Recent economic analysis published by the Manhattan Institute yields projections that the effect would be a reduction of about ten new drugs per year on average, causing a loss of about five million life-years each year, valued conservatively at $500 billion annually, a sum far in excess of total U.S. spending on pharmaceuticals.

It is no mere cliché that life and liberty are always at risk while Congress is in session, and Congress in haste makes the most waste of all. The proposal for drug-price negotiations is an example of a sweeping government measure that ostensibly aims to improve public health and well-being, but will actually result in the redistribution of huge amounts of wealth from the private sector to various constituencies, without the stigma of a “tax increase.” And all that in the first hundred hours.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The "Surge"---Iraq's Last Chance



Yeah, I cried when I visited Reagan's Tomb. With my dad, about this time last year. I cried right now pulling up this image of it, to tell you the truth.

I've thought for some time now that neo-conservatism (to which I've subscribed) will be buried in Iraq, not in an unmarked grave, but with flashing neon signs. Bush and the Vulcans completely missed that Iraq would throw its first chance in generations for peace, freedom and dignity into the mud. Into its own blood.

Conservatism prides itself on figuring the depravities of human nature into its human equation, and Bush, et al. (including me), seem to have got caught dreaming that there is a universal human nature that is pulled towards the right and the good. But Ronald Reagan's decidedly unconservative epitaph still haunts me. The "surge" is probably the last attempt to secure a successful outcome for the Iraqi people, and if we are genuinely interested in doing the right thing and pursuing a just peace, we must try this.

I, like most Americans and I think our troops as well, am skeptical that it'll work, and admit to a despair in the Iraqi people themselves, or to be more circumspect, the Iraqi culture. Very soon, the only reasonable alternative will indeed be to step back, "redeploy" if you're fond of euphemisms, and let them butcher each other to their little hearts' content.

I can take being wrong, and certainly George W. Bush. But please, God, not Ronald Reagan. Let this work.

After Decades, Gangs Still Kill

Gang violence in America’s big cities has been an issue for decades, and no matter what law enforcement seems to do the killing continues. In today’s LA Times a story covers how the city is changing tactics because they simply are not making progress. Sound familiar?

Los Angeles' top law enforcement officials have agreed on a new attack on gang violence, one that focuses more enforcement on smaller neighborhood gangs and uses a new legal tool tried last year on skid row.

The effort comes as L.A. officials are trying to quell a 14% increase in gang-related crime during the last year, marked by several high-profile incidents of race-motivated violence.

LAPD Chief William J. Bratton met this week with Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and representatives of City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo to begin formulating the plan.


Think about this in relation to Iraq. The American people, impatient as we are, expect total victory in a few years over vicious terrorists who make gangbangers look like boy scouts. And check out this statistic:

Police have identified 720 street gangs in Los Angeles, with 39,315 members. But officials said a small number of them are causing a disproportionate amount of crime in the hardest-hit neighborhoods.


Almost 40,000 gangsters just in LA alone! And after 30 or 40 years of trying to wipe them out. That is amazing. But if we are having such a tough time snuffing out the insurgency in Iraq we must understand that this is the nature of what is called asymmetric warfare. It is a cultural thing as much as it is a law enforcement or military thing. And Iraq’s culture is a whole lot more screwed up than that of south central LA or the Bronx or the south side of Chicago.

The president tonight will lay out his plan for a change in his Iraq strategy. Democrats and liberals are already bitching and moaning that, well, there are little green men on the moon so it won’t work. It doesn’t matter what the president does, they will revert to their natural selves, i.e. they are inveterate political opportunists devoid of principle, and complain. City government and law enforcement officials in LA are fortunate they don’t have to put up with lying unprincipled louts as they seek to make their city a better place.

Blegging Michael Simpson

Michael, you know a lot more about Christian Democracy than I do. How about putting up a post about it? I'd be particularly interested in whether you think a Christian Democrat party might emerge in the U.S. and what such a party might look like. To me, it looks like the potential third party that would have the best shot possible at becoming one of the two big guys or at maybe holding place as a third party.

Wouldn't such a party have a strong chance of holding together a coalition with people like Jim Wallis and James Dobson in the same structure? Wouldn't it have a better shot at bringing in African-American Christians and maybe Hispanics, as well? It seems to me to have the capacity to do a lot better than Ross Perot ever did.

Valentine to the Memory of Jim Baen


I was happy to see this piece by Hal Colebatch on his association with James Baen, founder of Baen Books, who died in 2006.

My friend Lars Walker is a Baen author with three books published by that house.

His memories seem to be in accord with Mr. Colebatch's, who writes about a man who performed a cultural service as an ex-hippie combatting the suicide of the West through the publication of sci-fi that elevated honor, duty, chivalry, patriotism, and military valor.

Colebatch also includes anecdotes about the personal affection Baen had for authors and illustrators. He was the kind of man who would guarantee future work (wow) to help talent get a mortgage and would give advances larger than those requested!

I once worked for a pharmacist who owned a little neighborhood apothecary. After my half year driving his truck around town and manning the cash register, he gave me a $500 check as a going away bonus. He knew I needed the money for getting set-up at graduate school. When he gave it to me, he said, "This isn't a loan or a gift, it's an obligation. When you see an opportunity to help someone who works for you or with you, then it will be your turn." Jim Baen sounds a lot like my old pharmacist friend and I imagine he's left a lot of obligations out there in the world that his friends will gladly fulfill.

The New Atheists

Interesting article from Gary Wolf in an unlikely source (Wired Magazine?) about ‘The New Atheists’, a group of non-believers seeking to inspire (evangelize just doesn’t seem appropriate) atheists everywhere to ‘come out of the closet’. The idea here being that: 1) there must be a great mass of people out there who call themselves agnostics when they are really atheists; 2) these people need to be mobilized in order to put down the destructive force of religion. Wolf, who identifies himself as part of their target market, takes the reader along for the ride on his own personal journey to discover whether he should respond to their call.

Wolf’s conversion adventure is centered around his interviews with three of the movement’s leading members - evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, neuroscientist Sam Harris, and philosopher Daniel Dennett. Each man world-renowned in his field; each with his own special point of emphasis in the reason and need for an un-revival. Yet, despite his favorable disposition towards their non-theistic foundations (along with an understanding of Christian apologetics so pathetic that it could only have come from its opponents), the call does not resonate with Wolf.

Wolf concludes:

When prophets [i.e. the New Atheists] provoke real trouble, bring confusion to society by sowing reverberant doubts, spark an active, opposing consensus everywhere – that is the sign they've hit a nerve. But what happens when they don't hit a nerve? There are plenty of would-be prophets in the world, vainly peddling their provocative claims. Most of them just end up lecturing to undergraduates, or leading little Christian sects, or getting into Wikipedia edit wars, or boring their friends. An unsuccessful prophet is not a martyr, but a sort of clown.

“Where does this leave us, we who have been called upon to join this uncompromising war against faith? What shall we do, we potential enlistees? Myself, I've decided to refuse the call. The irony of the New Atheism – this prophetic attack on prophecy, this extremism in opposition to extremism – is too much for me.”

But why does he arrive at this conclusion? Despite the gaping holes he pokes in the arguments of Dawkins, Harris and Dennett (one wonders if there might there be more:), it's not as if Wolf is about to lose his faith in the non-existence of God (…if we continue to have respectful conversations even about things we find ridiculous…).

But perhaps I should stay quiet, maybe even relieved or grateful for his conclusion. Perhaps he is serious about his agnosticism, and is genuinely open to the possibility that God exists.

Or perhaps he has discovered that it is just easier to shut down the investigation there and remain in a position that is extremist in its own right - one that requires no defense and nothing of you. He can have it; sounds a little too much for me.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Realism and Bible Films

Still image from The Nativity Story filmSurface realism is a perfectly nice thing for a movie to have, but it's a mistake to elevate it beyond its real importance — and that is true for audiences, critics, and filmmakers alike.

In the case of films based on Biblical events, the temptation in recent years has been to deride movies of the past as unsophisticated and kitschy, and to elevate current-day religious films as superior. This is a mistake, as there are many excellent films with Biblical themes that viewers obsessed with surface realism would miss, as I noted in my National Review Online review of the excellent 2004 film The Gospel of John.

In the case of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, the passion for realism manifests itself in a shocking luridness that happens to serve the film very well. (For a full analysis of Gibson's film, see my National Review Online article on it.)

In The Nativity Story, now in theaters, a similar sense of the violence, corruption, and dirtiness of the Israel of that time prevails, but here too, the filmmakers make sure that it serves the story.

The film depicts the Israel into which Jesus Christ is born as a rather dirty, poor place under Roman occupation. The focus of the film is nonetheless strongly on the widespread belief that the Messiah is about to arrive. Following the Biblical account accurately, Mary's cousin Elizabeth conceives a child late in life, which God sends as a sign of the One to come. The child, of course, will grow up to be John the Baptist.

Still shot from The Nativity Story filmUpon realizing that his fiancee, Mary, is with child, Joseph is understandably appalled by what he can only assume is an act of unfaithfulness on the part of his betrothed, and the actors do a fine job of playing these scenes. By introducing the specter of the Jewish punishment for adultery at the time—stoning to death—the film gives a strong motivation for Joseph's decision to accept the child as his own; it will save the lives of both Mary and the as yet unborn child. Afterwards, as in the Biblical accounts, Joseph is visited by an angel who confirms Mary's story. This entire story line is presented very well indeed.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the distant East, three wise men interpret the stars and some old texts and conclude that a savior for the entire world will soon be born. Guided by a unique star formation, they set off to greet this individual. Debating amusingly among themselves, the magi provide a welcome lightening of tone in their scenes.

Of course wicked Herod, King of Israel, fears the coming Messiah and plots to avert his arrival (and Herod's presumed downfall as the new king comes) by killing everyone who fits the varying interpretations of the descriptions of the Messiah in the Tanakh, what Christians call the Old Testament. This leads, of course, to some violent movie action, suspense, hairsbreadth escapes, and the like.

It's all, however, in great accord with the Biblical accounts and illustrates the story quite well. (The biggest factual quibble I noticed is that the magi seem to arrive on the night of Jesus's birth, whereas the Gospel of Matthew makes it clear that they must have come at least a few days later, and even that's a pretty minor complaint.)

I wouldn't throw away De Mille's King of Kings, William Wyler's Ben-Hur, or any of my other old favorites, but The Nativity Story is a fine addition to one's collection of films based on the Bible.

The Nativity Story is in theaters now.

Recommended.

From Karnick on Culture.

Christian Democrat Party USA?


There never has been a need in the United States for a Christian political party because avowedly anti-Christian forces have been historically rare. Instead, we've had a continual alliance between moderate Enlightenment thinkers and Christians who have had similar agendas.

I sometimes wonder whether it is this coalition that is under more strain than the one between conservatives and libertarians that everyone talks about.

I also sometimes wonder whether the United States will ever see the emergence of a Christian Democrat party of the kind we see so frequently in Europe, though the U.S. version would surely be a tad more laissez-faire simply because of the American heritage. Such a party in the U.S. would be pro-life, pro-traditional family (through promotion rather than making alternatives illegal, probably), pro-modest welfare state tied to moral requirements, and soft on immigration. It would come down more or less in the center of American politics economically with a rightward tilt socially. I suspect it would also be typically pro-Israel given the sympathies of the great majority of American Christians.

There are a few fellows working on the Christian Democrat United States version on the web. For an interesting thought experiment as much as anything else, check 'em out at www.cdusa.org.

(This fella off to the right is Abraham Kuyper, former university professor, newspaperman, prime minister of the Netherlands, and probably not a bad mascot for Christian Democracy.)

Monday, January 08, 2007

NC Bar Charges Nifong with Ethics Violations

The North Carolina Bar has filed charges against Durham District Attorney Thomas Nifong. The Center for Individual Freedom's Freedom Line reports:

On December 28, 2006, the North Carolina State Bar filed ethics charges against Durham, North Carolina District Attorney Michael B. Nifong for public statements made related to the so-called Duke University rape case.

As noted earlier on this site and on Karnick on Culture (see articles here, here, and here), the case was a blatant instance of false prosecution from the beginning. The Freedom Line article nicely summarizes Nifong's motives in pressing the entirely groundless case forward:

As most everyone now knows, Nifong was a career prosecutor until he got appointed District Attorney to fill out an uncompleted term. He liked the top job. He decided to run for election to keep it. At the time, he had some competition. He needed a political edge.

Nifong got that edge when, in March 2006, a stripper hired to perform at a party for the Duke lacrosse team claimed she had been gang raped there.

Talk about a prosecutor's political dream. The stripper was black, poor, a single mother working her way through college. The lacrosse players were mostly rich, mostly white, going to that school of privilege and prestige. In the . . . South! (Harper Lee, call your agent.)

Nifong went public, talking, talking, talking. The media, scandal-starved after months of not discovering the dastardly deed or doers thereof to little Natalee in Aruba, took the story global. The Duke University administration, after years of carefully cultivating its reputation to match its ivy-covered facades, looked ever so presumptuously at the prosecutor's edge and decided to jump over it with him. (Now, Duke is clumsily trying to jump back.)

Exactly. There may well be additional charges in the bar association's action, the Freedom Line article notes:

The ethics charges filed against Nifong thus far cover only violations resulting from his public statements. Based on subsequent developments, including collusion with a DNA lab to obfuscate exculpatory evidence, amended complaints and other actions should soon follow. . . .

For those who pay attention to such arcane proceedings, several aspects of the North Carolina State Bar complaint against Mr. Nifong are noteworthy.

First, the State Bar said that it opened a case against Nifong only weeks after the original rape charges were made. Second, the State Bar seems to have initiated the ethics action itself. Third, the complaint is about as public as any could get, while most such actions by state bars are secret.

All three of those initiatives – speed, responsibility, transparency -- are to be commended, because all are so rare.

Your intrepid correspondent, as you will remember, called for Nifong's impeachment and removal from office last May, and for the prosecution of the unnamed accuser and the firing of Duke University President Richard Brodhead at the same time. I branded this "the North Carolina false prosecution scandal" from the start.

It is good to see that the state's bar has finally gone on record as agreeing with that assessment. Now it is up to other state authorities to follow suit. Let justice be done.

From Karnick on Culture.

Bow Before the Worldwide Leader . . . in Sports!


ESPN is, as it likes to tell you over and over, the Worldwide Leader in Sports (TM). And they don't mind leaning on you a little to establish it.

I was listening to Colin Cowherd, who I can't stand but is the only thing going at 10-12 noon in Athens, GA, talk to Kirk Herbstreit about tonight's national title game.

They bemoaned the fact the game was spaced out so far beyond the other bowls. I agree. They said the game had lost momentum. Again, I agree.

But here's the kicker. Herbstreit suggested that people weren't as interested as they might be in the title game between Florida and Ohio State because it was a Fox property rather than an ABC/ESPN production. He and Cowherd then went on to discuss how maybe in successive years BCS bowls would consider that ESPN/ABC might not give as much coverage to events that aren't owned by the Worldwide Leader and that therefore the games not under that rubric might suffer a disability in publicity.

I'm not sure they realized how much they sounded like the kind of Evil Monopolists that made Teddy Roosevelt wanna bust trusts like a soft-spoken bad boy with a big stick.

Some Positive Words for Alan Reynolds

I have a link at my blog for Donald Luskin’s website and I love the name: “The Conspiracy to Keep you Poor and Stupid.” In a post yesterday, Luskin has some very powerful words of praise for one of our esteemed contributors, Mr. Alan Reynolds. Income inequality is a liberal shibboleth, one that goes without saying condemns capitalism as a cold, hard-hearted system that liberals must save us form. Mr. Reynolds has obviously done some amazing work to destroy this supposed self-evident truth.

Here’s the first paragraph, but I’m going to be checking out some of the links and resources about the debate he references. So check it out.

In the true spirit of science, in which competing researchers test each other's hypotheses and experiments in search of a higher truth, Alan Reynolds -- author of “Income and Wealth” -- has been doing brilliant work in investigating the widely held hypothesis that income inequality has increased steadily over the last 20 years. Yes, that is just an hypothesis, though it is so widely believed and frequently quoted as to have the air of fact. What makes Reynolds' work so powerful is that he's patiently and systematically demolished the apparent experimental evidence behind that hypothesis, and dared to stand nearly alone against the conventional wisdom of economic science. When it comes to income inequality, Reynolds is a modern Galileo.


High praise indeed.