Mensch tracht, un Gott lacht

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Glassman: Exploiting Disasters for Political Gain Is "Disgusting"

In today's edition of TechCentralStation (a site for which this author writes regularly), James Glassman, who lived in New Orleans for several years and has strong ties to the community (including family members living there), writes about the efforts of some writers and public advocates to tie Hurricane Katrina to their political agenda:

[T]he response of environmental extremists fills me with what only can be called disgust. They have decided to exploit the death and devastation to win support for the failed Kyoto Protocol, which requires massive cutbacks in energy use to reduce, by a few tenths of a degree, surface warming projected 100 years from now.

Katrina has nothing to do with global warming. Nothing. It has everything to do with the immense forces of nature that have been unleashed many, many times before and the inability of humans, even the most brilliant engineers, to tame these forces.

After recounting some of the activists' statements, which have received much attention in the news, Glassman addresses their claims directly:

The Kyoto advocates point to warmer ocean temperatures, but they ought to read their own favorite newspaper, The New York Times, which reported yesterday:

"Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming. But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught 'is very much natural,' said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.'"

Finally, Glassman points out that the very premise that tropical storms are increasing in intensity is entirely unsupported:

[T]here is no evidence that hurricanes are intensifying anyway. For the North Atlantic as a whole, according to the United Nations Environment Programme of the World Meteorological Organization: "Reliable data…since the 1940s indicate that the peak strength of the strongest hurricanes has not changed, and the mean maximum intensity of all hurricanes has decreased."

Yes, decreased.

Not only has the intensity of hurricanes fallen, but, as George H. Taylor, the state climatologist of Oregon has pointed out, so has the frequency of hailstorms in the U.S. (see Changnon and Changnon) and cyclones throughout the world (Gulev, et al.).

Glassman makes a powerful case. Read it here.

Jude the Not So Obscure

Jude Wanniski has died. He was one of the great names of modern conservatism and will be remembered in the canon of that movement as long as it exists. I didn't know him, but our Alan Reynolds did and apparently quite well according to this article by James Glassman.

The Rev. RFK, Jr.

According to RFK, Jr.: God Hates Haley Barbour

You see, because Haley was insufficiently invested in environmental regulation, the Lord redirected Katrina from New Orleans and decided to slam Mississippi.

Look out, Haley. Greenpeace has a direct line to heaven.

Because the politician in question's last name is Kennedy (and you know that's not as in D. James Kennedy), he will receive somewhat different treatment for this pithy statement than he would have if he were surnamed Falwell or Robertson.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I Am Speechless Still

Sigh. Do we really need to teach Economics 1 here at Reform Club University Graduate School? Well, I see that indeed we do, as certain of our stalwarts seem to have swallowed various versions of the Broken Window fallacy (see my post below) whole, washed down with the old "planned obsolescence" chestnut.

Disasters cannot yield economic growth (that is, a bigger economy, or to say the same thing, greater aggregate wealth) because the resources used to repair the attendant physical damage---put aside the human suffering that cannot be redeemed at all---otherwise would have been used to produce other goods valued by individuals. Accordingly: Disasters must make the economy smaller in the aggregate. Yes, certain sectors (e.g., construction) will be bigger, and owners of inputs (labor and capital) in those sectors will be wealthier than otherwise would have been the case; but other sectors will be smaller, owners of inputs in those sectors will be poorer, and it is unambiguously the case that the losses exceed the gains, because in the absence of the disaster we would have both the housing and other physical capital as well as the other goods. Period. And please note that while owners of inputs in such sectors as construction might become wealthier, that does not mean that they are made better off (or happier) by the disaster, in that they might lose loved ones as well.

The "planned obsolescence" argument---as old as it is silly---assumes away the marginal cost of added quality, in this case added longevity. Consider the simple case of a razor blade that lasts forever; if we ignore such irrelevant complications as present value calculations (more on this below), risk aversion, and the like, consumers would be willing to pay for an infinite-life razor blade the expected lifetime purchase cost of ordinary razor blades. If the marginal ("extra") cost of producing such a blade is less than (or in the simple case, equal to) the added value of the blade to consumers, then profit-maximizing firms will produce the blade. If it is not, then the firms will not produce it, and that outcome is wholly efficient, that is, consistent with the interests of consumers, because the extra resources needed to produce the infinite-life blade would yield greater value for consumers in the production of other goods.

Only if the discount rate used by producers to calculate present values is higher than that applied by consumers might some version of the planned obsolescence argument make any sense at all, and that outcome would not necessarily be inefficient. And, anyway, I rather doubt that the "planned obsolescence" crowd has anything quite so sophisticated in mind; their goal is to attack capitalism, however mindlessly. Precisely why would producers discount the future more heavily than consumers (on the margin)? The only plausible argument is the corporation income tax, which in a nutshell forces the corporate sector to discount the future more heavily than other sectors. Is the "planned obsolescence" argument really a left-wing call for fundamental tax reform? Please...

I Am Speechless

Well, not literally speechless; that would be so not Zycher. But in today's Wall Street Journal we are informed by some poor soul---oops, a journalist---writing about Hurricane Katrina that "amid the grief and heartbreak, it should be noted that growth often follows such catastrophe. Hurricanes Andrew in 1992 and Floyd in 1999, for example, both ended up boosting local and national growth rates as rebuilding efforts created jobs and increased spending."

If this is not the classic manifestation of the old broken-window fallacy, I know not what is. Why not nuke the whole eastern seaboard---I'd say California, but I live there---so that we can expand employment and spending in a rebuilding effort? Is this guy a moron? Or does he merely need to fill up twenty column inches with, well, whatever? That modern journalists are the political equivalent of hurricanes destroying public discourse everywhere they set foot would be amusing were their ignorance not so appalling.

The Political Usefulness of Disasters

One of the major techniques of modern politics is to take every important event and tie it to the back of one's own particular hobby horse. One of the more ludicrous examples was the utterly absurd claims that the Asian tsunami was caused by global warming. Hence it was inevitable that we would begin to see articles today with titles such as "Brace for more Katrinas, say experts," from today's edition of Agence Press France. The anonymous author correctly observes that hurricane activity has intensified and looks likely to remain so for a while:

"Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Risk, a London-based consortium of experts, predicted that the region would see 22 tropical storms during the six-month June-November season, the most ever recorded and more than twice the average annual tally since records began in 1851."

The piece also notes,

"Already, 2004 and 2003 were exceptional years: they marked the highest two-year totals ever recorded for overall hurricane activity in the North Atlantic."

That is all quite true. Then the article moves on to consider a possible relationship to global warming, as has been posited by advocates of controls over greenhouse gas emissions:

"This increase has also coincided with a big rise in Earth's surface temperature in recent years, driven by greenhouse gases that cause the Sun's heat to be stored in the sea, land and air rather than radiate back out to space."

The characterization of the rise in the planet's surface temperature in recent years as "big" is certainly an exaggeration. However, the article does go on to point out that hurricane activity is cyclical and almost certainly always has been:

"But experts are cautious, also noting that hurricane numbers seem to undergo swings, over decades.

"About 90 tropical storms -- a term that includes hurricanes and their Asian counterparts, typhoons -- occur each year.

"The global total seems to be stable, although regional tallies vary a lot, and in particular seem to be influenced by the El Nino weather pattern in the Western Pacific."

These are very important observations. The article then outlines, at some length, the arguments of global-warming advocates who claim that g.w. is creating more intense hurricanes, if not more such storms overall:

"On the other hand, more and more scientists estimate that global warming, while not necessarily making hurricanes more frequent or likelier to make landfall, is making them more vicious."

The evidence the article adduces for this argument is coincidental and not causal, however, and is clearly highly speculative at this point. The piece says, for example, "'The intensity of and rainfalls from hurricanes are probably increasing, even if this increase cannot yet be proven with a formal statistical test,' Trenberth wrote in the US journal Science in June. He said computer models 'suggest a shift' toward the extreme in in hurricane intensities." That is to say, Trenberth believes it although there is no statistical evidence for it.

The article ends on that note, which is a pity because there is more to the story than that. Readers are not told, for example, that as an article in the forthcoming October issue of Environment and Climate News mentions, a group of prominent climatologists and other experts on climate change has noted, "according to a century of National Hurricane Center reports, the decade with the largest number of hurricanes to come ashore in the United States was the 1940s, and that hurricane frequency has declined since then. They also cited data from the United Nations Environment Programme of the World Meteorological Association that hurricane frequency has declined since the the 1940s."

The ECN story, unlike the APF one, quotes the environmental scientists as observing that "centuries-old evidence, as well as computer models, suggest warmer periods may actually generate a decline in the number or severity of such storms."

The ECN story quotes James J. O’Brien, director of the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies at Florida State University, as arguing that "the more likely cause of hurricane frequency might be found in variations in the Atlantic Ocean Conveyer, the movement of the warm Gulf Stream whose waters, taken from the South Atlantic, replace the cooler, sinking water in the North Atlantic.

"When the Conveyer is strong, O’Brien said, historic records have shown an increase in Atlantic hurricanes; when it is weak, so are the hurricane seasons. For a hurricane to grow stronger, it must keep moving over waters warmer than 80 degrees F, which leads some people to link global warming and the storms. But, he said, there’s no scientific evidence to show that such areas of warm water are increasing in size."

Casting a Spell

Hoosiers cannot win for losing with the mainstream press. The Washington Post et al. have been making fun of Dan Quayle for thirteen years because he can't spell. Now the New York Times is making fun of John Roberts because he spells too well.

And just in case being a Grammar Nazi isn't enough to derail the Roberts nomination, the Washington Post has decoded a 20-year-old first draft to conclude that Roberts is a crypto-secessionist (Hat Tip: Bench Memos.) You could stand in rebel territory and hit the Washington Post Building with a well-pitched rock, so I'm surprised I have to inform the staffers that Southerners do not call the Civil War The War Between the States, they call it The War of Northern Aggression.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Store My Article

For those cavemen (and women) whose club is Reform, here is a preview of my man-on-the-spot report on Katrina's Florida vacation.

Assault (And Searing Battery) On Good Taste

In possibly the most tasteless and inappropriate pun of all time, Jefferson County Parish President Aaron Broussard said of those who refused to evacuate New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Katrina: "I'm expecting some of the die-hards to die hard."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Here Comes the Real News

The Cindy Sheehan story reached its official terminus a few hours ago.

I remember Krugman saying Enron would be a bigger story than Sept. 11. Enron is going to be a footnote compared to Hurricane Katrina.

The Dictatorship of the Enlightened

Now listen up. This is some major league B.S. censorship nanny-state crapola.

The University of California system is refusing to take students from a Christian high school that teaches unorthodox views of biology and history. They say the students will be "unprepared."

I'm not sure when I've heard anything quite so insincere. It doesn't matter whether you slept through biology in high school, you will be aware of Darwin. In fact, these Christian students will have heard of Darwin and his theory, if only in the manner of refutation. Having been taught the "correct" version of the theory of origins has zero to do with one's eventual performance at the university.

Imagine this scenario: Benighted, fundamentalist Christian student goes to a school teaching a highly Christocentric version of history, science, etc. He also happens to be quite intelligent and trots out an SAT score around 1450.

Question: Will this young man have any trouble putting up A's in the University of Californa institutions? Noooooooooooooooooooooo.

Given that is the case, there can be only one reason for the policy recently announced. Intimidation. Welcome to secular totalitarianism lite.

(HT: Ted Olsen at Christianity Today on the web)

Friday, August 26, 2005

London's Human Zoo

The Times of London reports that the London Zoo has begun a new exhibit called the Human Zoo, in which eight people wearing scanty costumes lounge around in the institution's Bear Mountain enclosure and attempt to act like apes—rather amateurishly if the photos accompanying the article are any indication.

This is the kind of thing that seems like a pathetically silly gimmick on the face of it, but of course the zookeepers have a suitably serious and intensely political explanation, according to the Times article:

"We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man's place in the planet's ecosystem," London Zoo said.

I can certainly agree that some human beings are a plague. Fortunately, if we can lure the London zookeepers into the Bear Mountain exhibit, we can isolate a major strain of it.

Conservative War Critics' Dilemma

My post from yesterday on the antiwar movement of the right has been extensively rewritten as an article for FrontPage magazine and appears in today's issue. Here's a very brief excerpt:

[I]n arguing against Western projects of nation-building in the "developing world," conservatives such as Auster and Warren (and Buchanan and the like) face a huge dilemma: their belief in a common human nature (though one that certainly permits a wide variety of human customs and organizing beliefs) is a strong argument against radicalism of the left, but it is not useful in refuting the logic of projects based on a belief in a common human nature, which Bush's nation-building action in Iraq most certainly is.

I believe that the interaction between human nature and human culture is more complex, variable, and flexible than Auster and other antiwar conservatives tend to think. The acknowledgment of this truth is central to the classical liberal (and modern conservative) position. . . .

You may read the article here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Is Cheerleading Raunchy or Innocent: A National Debate

If you’ve seen half time at a pro-basketball or football game half clad cheerleaders have become a source of audience delectation. The girls are sexy and the movements often suggestive. This is the new America that shuns modesty.

Recently, a Democratic Texas legislator, Al Edwards, sponsored a bill dealing with cheerleaders at high school football games. Needless to say, these cheerleaders tend to emulate their grown-up counterparts.

Mr. Edwards said, “Girls can get out and do all of these sexual performances and we applaud them and that’s not right.” He goes on to argue that lascivious performances distract high school students and can result in “pregnancies, school drop-outs, the contraction of HIV, and herpes… cutting off their youthful life at an early age.” He adds: “Any adult that’s been involved with sex in their lives; they know it when they see it.”

Exposed midriffs and ever shorter skirts are de rigueur for cheerleaders, but, for many, this exposure is offensive. Of course not every Texas legislator shares Mr. Edwards’ views. In fact, some call his proposed legislation “stupid” or “ridiculous.”

It is interesting to examine the evolution of cheerleading. Originally cheerleading was a male dominated activity, a way for men to assist their comrades in athletic competition and a method for displaying leadership potential. During the Second World War, with so many men at war, women replaced males in what became a source of inspiration. For the first time cheerleading became a beauty-obsessed pastime.

By the 1970’s, led in large part by the success of the Dallas Cowboys, cheerleading became highly sexualized. What worked for the Cowboys became the standard for other professional teams. In less than a decade the fully clothed high school and college cheerleader looked and moved very much like her professional counterpart.

Is this a problem?

For these who remember a more innocent time when cheerleaders were covered down to their shins, contemporary standards are vulgar. That said, the vulgar has colonized every aspect of popular culture. Even cheerleading has gone from, “Go back, go back, go back into the woods, cause you haven’t got, you haven’t got, you haven’t got the goods” to “you’re dead, you’re dead, we’ll bop you on the head.”

Yes, this is all said in good humor, but the humor has an edge to it which has changed the nature of sportsmanship. Fans routinely shout obscenities at the opposition.

On the other side of the social ledger, it could be argued that the problem is in the eye of the beholder. Cheerleaders may emulate their elders, but that doesn’t necessarily suggest they are sexually charged.

The real issue is the spread of pornography into every cultural crevice from ads on buses, to television programming and popular music. It has become inescapable. What effect it is having may be difficult to determine, but I would submit, based on empirical evidence, it is having some effect.

Cheerleading may, in fact, be one manifestation of this trend and, in its way, among the more innocent manifestations. But the trend line is a matter of concern for any American who believes the levers of popular culture affect and enhance or undermine the nation’s character.

The Conservative Dilemma

In a letter to interested parties, the writer and attorney Spencer Warren sent us the following interesting exchange from Lawrence Auster's View from the Right blog, in which the anti-Iraq War advocate Auster and a correspondent argue against what Warren correctly calls "the PC mantra that all societies and cultures are equal":

VFR reader Barbara Gilbert, R.N., brings up another Muslim custom that shows the utter incompatibility between democracy and Islam:

There are more, much more, painful questions than polygamy about Muslims' culture and traditions. As a nurse, I feel it is important that people demand that women's rights everywhere must be extended to include protection from the common brutal Muslim practice of female genital mutilation. The simplest form involves only circumcision, but it can extend to horrible acts of mutilation, and even result in death. For in depth descriptions, I refer you to this article at wikipedia.

It is the act of savage barbarians. It is butchery. How can anyone believe that Muslim men will ever respect women or women's rights in a democratic society when they are permitted to commit this heinous act?

I wonder if Mr. Bush or Ms. Rice is aware of the practice?

My reply:

The key point you're making is, given the prevalence of these practices (not just in black Africa and Muslim Africa including Egypt, but in the Muslim Near East as well including Iraq), sexual inequality is profoundly—to a degree inconceivable to us—built into these societies. Therefore, if women's equality is, as President Bush says, a "non-negotiable" feature of democracy, then on that basis alone these societies can never have democracy.

Of course, you're making a different argument. You’re saying that FGM must be rooted out, both to end this horror in itself, and also to further the conditions for male respect for women and thus the possibility of women's rights. I'm all for people working to bring this monstrous evil to an end. But right now, and for hundreds of years past, it exists. And changing the deep-seated customs of a people is extremely difficult or even impossible short of totalitarian measures. For Bush and his supporters to think that peoples who believe in such things and practice them are essentially like us and that, above all else, they desire individual freedom (if only someone will deliver it to them), is the wildest fantasy.

Barbara Gilbert:

Quite correct. And having been brought here by immigrants, it is being practiced in this country to a greater degree than is realized. While working in ER departments and on an paramedic team, I witnessed other practices of that culture. Women are "attended" by several men when brought to an emergency facility, for instance, and not allowed a private examination by a physician. It is my personal belief that the men do not wish to have the secret revealed.

While it is openly practiced and acknowledged in many countries in Africa, the Arab nationals take great pains to hide it. It is being discovered in the emergency rooms and private offices of physicians who are sought out secretly. Individual freedom? For an Arab woman? Ridiculous!

They are so different from us that they will never integrate into our society because of cultural, religious or political differences. Their customs and traditions eliminate the very concept of democracy. I consider the Muslim women who immigrate as imported chattel. Not only will they never practice democracy in their own countries, they cannot practice it in ours.

Auster and Gilbert make an important point about the persistence of cultural habits. However, what Auster fails to consider here is the multitude of effects of something in which he strongly professes belief in cases other than arguments about the War in Iraq and immigration of Muslims and other non-Westerners into the United States: the common characteristics that all people share as a result of human nature.

It is these characteristics that the Bush administration means to depend on in liberating Iraq, and which are essential to any strategy of assimilating immigrants into American society. The administration and its friends may well be wrong to believe such a liberation of these persons' inner nature possible, but the arguments that Auster and his followers make regarding human nature certainly lend support to a classical liberal view of human possibilities.

I think that the interaction between human nature and human culture is more complex,variable, and fungible than either Auster or his enemies on the left tends to think. An acknowledgment of this truth is central to the classical liberal position.

After citing Auster's blog entry, Warren then adds some insightful comments of his own:

In addition to the above, there have been several press reports in London newspapers about the Muslim practice of revenge killings of Muslim women in Great Britain by their husbands or fathers if they are believed to have violated some Muslim "law." The British police try to cover up the religious nature of these murders because they contradict the PC mantra of multicultural equality.

Consider that PC mantra in light of these two examples, plus the evil Muslim attitude toward dogs, discussed previously.

The foregoing prompts thoughts about PC and History, and about Radical Equality and Our Cultural Crisis.

Please again consider the countless examples of systematic atrocities by Japanese armed forces in WWII, for which Japan to this day has refused to apologize. Three I omitted last time are: 1) during the Bataan Death March, in which about 10,000 U.S. and Filipino prisoners were murdered, one U.S. soldier was crucified with nails; 2) according to the book Flags of Our Fathers, by the son of one of the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in the famous photo, when one of those men was found killed on Iwo, after having been taken prisoner by the enemy, a certain organ of his body had been cut off by the enemy and placed in his mouth -- this is how his body was found; and 3) also according to that book, the Japanese made a regular practice in combat of first shooting our medics, who under the Geneva Convention were supposed to be spared in battle because they bore the Red Cross.

We are reminded of the relevance of this history to current debates by the NY Times review of the new film The Great Raid, about the 1945 liberation of a prison camp holding survivors of the Bataan Death March. The critic, Stephen Holden, complained that the film would revive wartime "stereotypes" of treacherous "Japs." Well, in light of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor (as the enemy sailed into position for the attack, remember, two Japanese diplomats were in Washington to negotiate a peaceful settlement of differences), as well as the systematic atrocities detailed above and in my last comment, how else should they be described? Americans of that perilous time did not view events from the critic's luxurious perch.

Holden, a typical left/radical liberal working at the beacon of that faith, essentially is denying historical fact in order to promote the PC mantra that all societies and cultures are equal. Either drag us down to the enemy's level, or deny the enemy was any different from us. Deny our identity in order to eliminate differences from alien Enemies. Either way he is lying about the past. In 1984 George Orwell wrote that he who has the past has the future. That is why leftists are always attacking our history and rewriting the past. Remember the controversy about ten years ago concerning the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's exhibit of part of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb? The exhibit was filled with so many falsifications that protests forced it to be withdrawn and replaced with a simple, non-political description of the aircraft and crew. In the case of the NY Times movie review and the Enola Gay exhibit, the PC mantra of equality and abolishing differences went so far as to embrace our enemy in WWII!

The movie review and cancelled exhibition are two of countless examples of the insidious growth of what I call "soft" totalitarianism in our country -- falsifying facts and history, distorting human nature and traditions, to advance radical egalitarianism. (This is not the American tradition of equality of all individuals before the law, but of the absolute equality of result, custom and historical tradition, including absolute equality of every society and culture on Earth -- and the elimination of any differences dividing peoples.) Since such extreme equality that abolishes difference is not the natural order, state power, media power, or other power must be employed to coerce thinking in the "progressive" direction. After all, the goal of totally erasing all differences is so "moral", are not any means therefore justified to advance such an end?

In this respect, the NY Times movie review and the cancelled exhibition are illustrations -- minor, but noteworthy -- of communistic thinking. Note the word -- communistic -- an adjective. The drive toward coerced absolute equality has been the radical project for more than 200 years, since the French Revolution. It failed economically in the communist world (where the State waged a massive war on human nature and society) and led to its implosion and collapse. But a similar way of thinking and emotional/"moral" impulse is driving the PC movement in the West to remake our culture and society. State power is not being employed remotely on the scale of a communist dictatorship, but the way in which the courts are usurping legislative authority is also tyrannical (e.g. imposing homosexual "marriage"). And that State/judicial power is being supplemented by the left/liberal media and other private institutions. That is why Political Correctness is more correctly termed Cultural Marxism.

Ironically, this egalitarian view, in the broadest sense, is the premise of Pres. Bush's policy in Iraq -- that societies in that region -- including their religion -- are not so different from ours and can develop into free societies with some help and a good constitution. Time will tell. But the bizarre conjunction of this policy premise with the PC agenda demonstrates the profound contemporary influence of the radical egalitarian ideal.

Warren is perfectly correct to point out that some societies and ways of life are indeed better than others. In addition, he correctly shares Auster's concern about the persistence of cultural habits when Warren criticizes "the premise of Pres. Bush's policy in Iraq -- that societies in that region -- including their religion -- are not so different from ours and can develop into free societies with some help and a good constitution." Warren, however, improves on Auster's argument by acknowledging that the belief in total freedom from restraints of human nature is not a liberal idea but a radical one, and that the idea traces back to the beginnings of what has been commonly called the Enlightenment: "The drive toward coerced absolute equality has been the radical project for more than 200 years, since the French Revolution," Warren writes. (Full disclosure: Warren has borrowed this distinction from my article "The Origin of Modernity," published in the Summer 2005 issue of The National Interest.)

In arguing, from conservative premises, against Western projects of nation-building in the "developing world," conservatives such as Auster and Warren (and Buchanan, etc.) face a huge dilemma: their belief in a common human nature (though one that certainly permits a wide variety of human customs and organizing beliefs) is a strong argument against radicalism of the left, but it is not useful in refuting the logic of projects based on a belief in a common human nature, as Bush's nation-building action in Iraq most certainly is. From a classical liberal point of view (which is one that accepts the belief in human nature), it appears that antiwar conservatives would make much more headway by two means:

1. Accept the idea that the Bush administration is reasoning from what conservatives believe to be a valid premise (that all human beings share commonalities through what is called human nature) when the administration argues that the people of Iraq have the potential to live democratically. (By the way and to make it perfectly clear, I personally consider the commonalities of human nature to a rock-solid truth based on science, strongly confirmed by modern insights in sociobiology.)

2. Argue that the mission the administration has set itself conflicts with human nature, specifically the persistence of cultural notions that, however perversely, accomplish certain things necessary to human existence (such as the need for physical and emotional security, etc.).

I would be very interested in any such arguments.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's Only About Sex

A fascinating politico-sexual drama is being played out in Spokane.

The Washington State Supreme Court has just allowed a recall effort to proceed against Spokane Mayor James E. West. In the wording of the recall petition are allegations that West cruised the internet for gay lovers, and dangled the prospect of city jobs as a reward for amenable fellows.

Of legal relevance is that the charges are still unproved in a court of law. Of moralizing relevance is that West is a Republican and further has publicly opposed the gay political agenda, which I imagine includes gay marriage and the like. (I find the legal part of more interest than the moralizing, but permit me to move on, as they say.)

As for the political principle involved, with which it's hard for any to disagree, "(the) petition alleges that West used his elected office for personal gain," according to the article.

Wayne's World-type Flashback

The year was 1988, and I wasn't terribly crazy about Ronald Reagan's anointed successor, the philosophically inert career pol, George H. W. Bush. Michael Dukakis seemed like a good man and had pulled off the Massachusetts Miracle, so I gave him my vote.

Fast Forward, But Still a Flashback

It was 1992. Bush 41 had done OK in a caretaker sort of way, but I still wasn't diggin' him. Gov. Bill Clinton of Bumfunk, Arkansas was his opponent, and was a much cooler guy than Dukakis. I mean way cool, like Ferris Buehler. Now, I wasn't surprised when his ideological ally, the American press, detoured the story, but one thing kept bugging me---

Governor Clinton had undeniably given a state job to his mistress, one Gennifer Flowers (who had the tapes), and whose only qualification (reputedly according to the governor himself), was that she "could suck a tennis ball through a garden hose."

The feminist and democrat in me just found it all so totally offensive that I voted for the loser for the second election in a row.

Present Day

2005. I'm trying to puzzle out the fundamental and essential differences between the two cases, but I'm suffering from a lack of imagination. The vision thing. Perhaps our resident sophists can help.

Otherwise, if there are no legal or moral objections, I think I'll run for governor myself. Secretary of State Paris Hilton has a nice ring to it. Folks tell me she's highly qualified---they have the tapes.

Thought of the Day

I think it's time Matthew Broderick considered playing a cool guy again. He's played so many milquetoasts since Ferris, he can probably not worry about getting typecast.

Dead Brain Cells in O-Hi-O

"I'm not sure I fully understand what exactly intelligent design
." -- Ohio Governor Robert Taft

The current state of the Ohio Republican party does seem more like thermodynamic equilibrium, doesn't it.

The Continuing Burden of Bad Philosophy

"They have been so nice, I would hate to break it to them that I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible."

-- Convicted murderer Eric Rudolph, sometimes called a "Christian terrorist" for his attacks on two abortion clinics, a gay nightclub, and the 1996 Summer Olympics, on "good people … mostly born-again Christians looking to save my soul."

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.