Mensch tracht, un Gott lacht

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hellish Overcrowding

The Los Angeles Times ran a long piece profiling a 70-year-old veteran abortionist from Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has personally dispatched 20,000 souls back to the big waiting list in the sky.

Apart from the bland horror of this urban abattoir, I was struck by this astonishing excerpt:

For the few women who arrive ambivalent or beset by guilt, Harrison's nurse has posted statistics on the exam-room mirror: One out of every four pregnant women in the U.S. chooses abortion. A third of all women in this country will have at least one abortion by the time they're 45.

"You think there's room in hell for all those women?" the nurse will ask. . . .

What heights of crassness and jejunity! What an insult to God and Man! What utter absolute irredeemable idiocy! A rape of the mind and the heart and the soul.

Not that it's necessary, but let us enumerate:

1) If a thing is wrong, it is not excused by its being commonly done.

2) If a thing is wrong, it should not be done, even if the perpetrator has a Get Out Of Hell Free card.

3) If people are sent to Hell by an infinite God for wrong behavior, and since every human being is given a choice of right or wrong behavior, then by definition there is room in Hell for every single human being, should they choose wrongly.

4) A variation on that point: if Hell has a limited capacity, then that might work to get you off on cold-blooded murder of a person who is walking around, too. Overcrowding, you know.

5) If you think that a vast number of people, by agreeing to all do a particular sin, can force Hell not to admit them, then why not do this for regular murder as well?

6) If large numbers doing a thing automatically make it into a good thing, does Islamic terrorism become a good thing, too? Or at least not a bad thing.

All in all, to make a remark like this to a person pondering a weighty decision with moral implications is the zenith of human crassness. Uggh.

My Inner Metrosexual Comes Screaming Out

My wife has a copy of the latest People magazine laying around and I noticed that Matthew McConaughey is the Sexiest Man Alive for 2005. In the issue, the magazine lists the winners of the honor for each year. For some reason, they did not name a winner for 1994. Can anyone explain why there was no Sexiest Man Alive for 1994?

I got's to know.

British PM Blair Moves to Right on Energy Policy, Endorses Nuclear Power

A story that has received all too little attention in recent weeks is the movement of British PM Tony Blair toward the American Right's positions on energy policy, positions that the Bush administration has held rhetorically but only fitfully in terms of action. (Although, for example, Bush has left Kyoto dead as it was when he entered office, and he has said the right things about it and other energy issues, his energy bill was loaded with pork, and he has done little to nothing to forward development of nuclear electric power in the United States.) Blair, by contrast, once supported Kyoto but has in recent months adopted the U.S. position.

(Kyoto would have set severe restrictions on U.S. emissions of chlorofluorocarbons, as well as those of other high-wealth nations, at great economic cost, while refraining from regulating emissions in highly polluting nations such as China and India, in an attempt to decrease global warming by a very small amount. The United States Senate voted down the bill to sign on to Kyoto during the Clinton administration by a margin of 95-0; then-President Clinton supported the bill but could not get a single vote for it in the Senate.)

The following excerpts from a forthcoming article in Environment and Climate News (which this author serves as senior editor) indicate the extent of Blair's change of policy:

In [recent weeks in] an editorial published in a leading British newspaper and in comments at a meeting of environmental ministers from the world’s leading economies, British Prime Minister Tony Blair distanced himself from the Kyoto Protocol and supported the longstanding U.S. position that developing nations must be included in any meaningful global warming treaties. Blair also agreed with the U.S. stance that technological development rather than top-down government mandates must drive carbon dioxide reductions.

“The difficulties with the current climate change debate,” Blair wrote in an October 30 editorial in the London Guardian and Observer (,3858,5321811-102273,00.html) titled “Get Real on Climate Change,” amount to “a reluctance to face up to reality and the practical action needed to tackle problems.”

“We must understand that neither issue [climate change and energy supply] can realistically be dealt with unless the US, the EU, Russia, Japan, China and India work together,” Blair explained. . . .

Blair noted that Kyoto will not do what its advocates claim, even if it had U.S. support:

Kyoto doesn't even stabilize [greenhouse gas emissions]. It won't work as intended, either, unless the U.S. is part of it. It's easy to take frustrations out on the Bush Administration but people forget that the Senate voted 95-0 against Kyoto when Bill Clinton was in the White House,” Blair observed. “We have to understand as well that, even if the U.S. did sign up to Kyoto, it wouldn't affect the huge growth in energy consumption we will see in India and China. China is building close to a new power station every week.”

“The first Kyoto commitment period ends in 2012,” Blair noted. “The challenge is what will come next. Will it be another round of division or what we need: a sound, rational, science-based unity, which ensures the right legally-binding framework to incentivize sustainable development?” Blair asked.

“None of this is going to happen unless the major developed and emerging nations sit down together and work it out, in a way that allows us all to grow, imposes no competitive disadvantage and enables the transfer of the technology needed for sustainable growth to take place,” Blair concluded.

Blair followed up on his editorial by telling the environmental ministers meeting in Britain, “The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge. But all economies know that the only sensible, long-term way to develop is to do it on a sustainable basis”\ForeignBureaus\archive\200511\FOR20051102c.html).

Moving from problems to solutions, Blair has embraced the production of electricity through greater use of nuclear power, which his party has long opposed. A week ago, November 22, Blair told the House of Commons liaison committee, "With some of the issues to do with climate change, and you can see it with the debate about nuclear power, there are going to be difficult and controversial decisions Government has got to take. And in the end it has got to do what it believes to be right in the long-term interests of the country. . . . About energy security and supply that will mean issues that are bound to be extremely controversial."

Speaking at a conference today, Blair made his position explicit:

"The issue back on the agenda with a vengeance is energy policy. Round the world you can sense feverish re-thinking. Energy prices have risen. Energy supply is under threat. Climate change is producing a sense of urgency. I can today announce that we have established a review of the UK’s progress against the medium and long-term Energy White Paper goals. The Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, will be in the lead, with the aim of publishing a policy statement on energy in the early summer of 2006. It will include specifically the issue of whether we facilitate the development of a new generation of nuclear power stations."

The Times of London noted that Blair and his top advisors have already made their decision:

"Although the Government remains officially neutral on the outcome of the review, environment campaigners say that Mr Blair has become convinced that building new nuclear power stations is the only way to secure future energy needs."

This decision led to a comically ineffectual protest by two Greenpeace members at the conference, which infuriated conference attendees despite its lack of effect. One suspects that the protests will increase in the coming weeks as Britain gears up to increase its production of electricity through use of nuclear power.

Now, if only President Bush would take a similarly bold stand on the subject.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pique Abu

Ahem! Why is no one mentioning the elephant in the room? The elephant's name, in case you missed his flicks, Beheading I, II, III et al, is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. My new column in TAS addresses this question.

Here is an excerpt:

This perfectly limns the schism between the Republican and Democrat perspectives of the war in Iraq. If you ask Republicans why our forces are still on the ground in Iraq, they will explain: "Because of our great success in defeating Saddam, we need to midwife the emergence of a historic new democracy. Because of our great success in luring the terrorists out of their hidey-holes, we now get a chance to mow them down far from our home turf."

Ask a Democrat that question, he will aver: "Because of our great failure in mistaking a tinpot kvetch for a fearsome tyrant, we're stuck babysitting the various corrupt and violent elements of a provincial society. Because of our great failure in waking a sleeping giant, we have spawned a new generation of terrorists that would not otherwise have existed." Whether this originated in sincere ideology or partisan one-upmanship, the fact is that we are witnessing a radical divergence of worldviews; to be honest, the chasm between the two positions looks to be unbridgeable.

You might also recall that I addressed aspects of this in a previous article at JWR. But as Inspector Clouseau said: "I will not rest until this problem is sol-vedd."

More Shameless Self-Promotion

Here's a link to my recent short essay on why the feds ought not negotiate drug prices. Comments welcome.

Anti-American Crime Within Lady Liberty's Shadow

Thousands of tourists each day travel to Battery Park in lower Manhattan to buy ferry tickets for the Statue of Liberty. Many are imbued with patriotic fervor recognizing Lady Liberty as the symbol of American exceptionalism. Some consider it a site to behold, an entry way to the nation. Others buy their ferry tickets because the statue is on the itinerary.

When these folks enter the park they are flanked by dozens of hawkers, most are Senegalese selling knock-off Prada and Louis Vuitton pocketbooks; others are selling faux Rolex watches. They wait for the tourist buses on the north side of the park in plain view of the police. What they are selling is clearly illegal; moreover, many are illegal immigrants. Yet this practice has been going on for years uninterrupted by the authorities.

Yet that is not the worst of it. Unbeknownst to most of the peddlers and all of the consumers is that the revenue from this ostensibly illicit, but seemingly innocent trade, ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations.

The National Security Agency has been tracking this practice for some time well aware of the pernicious dimensions of this Battery Park commerce.

When I asked the Park Rangers if they were aware of what is going on they looked at me quizzically as if I were besotted. The local police contend that since the periphery of the park is federal land, they do not have jurisdiction over park matters. It turns out of course, that this isn’t entirely correct since the park itself is managed by the New York City Parks Department.

It is ironic that those coming to see the symbol of American liberty should be providing funds for organizations that want to destroy that liberty. Since the sales go on unabated, how is the consumer to know?

This is all happening several blocks from the World Trade Center site. In fact, the damaged dome that stood between the towers now stands as a permanent memorial for those who lost their lives on 9/11.

But the outpouring of patriotic sentiment after 9/11 which has encouraged many Americans to visit the perpetual flame in Battery Park, has been converted into a venal anti-American funding source. It is certainly horrible that a presumptive ally of the United States like Saudi Arabia is providing funds for al Qaeda, but it is an order of magnitude worse when patriotic Americans are being gulled into supporting terrorism at the very moment they wish to express national loyalty.

What can be done? First, it is imperative that police look into this matter instead of passing the buck. Second, this issue deserves publicity; these peddlers with knock-off products can be found in many other locations in New York and even on the streets of Rome, Paris and London. Third, fines can easily drive this trade out of business.

Surely some women may lament their inability to buy a fake Prada bag for $50, but they won’t sleep soundly if they know that money is being used to kill Americans and other innocent victims around the globe.

I should hastily note that most of the peddlers do not know what they are involved in. They are simply out to make a buck. In some sense, they are like the “mules” recruited to bring cocaine into the United States in pouches hidden in their stomach lining.

However, innocent or na├»ve they may be, their activity isn’t innocent. It is a threat to our very existence and it goes on as if it were a sale day at Macys. The police avert their gaze; the Park Rangers do not understand the issue and the consumers want a bargain.

This daily activity goes on within the shadow of Lady Liberty. No wonder I’ve noticed, when gazing at her impressive frame, that she has a tear rolling down her cheek.

Thinking 'Bout the Reality-Based Community

I was always struck a little weird by the leftist claim to inhabit "the reality-based community." Yesterday, I realized why. This is the same group of people who accept a basically Marxist methodology of economics and think that the solution to a recessed economy is to raise taxes. Reality-based community?

Listen, if you can't figure out why the Soviets failed and the socialism-lite nations of Western Europe have big problems with unemployment, reality is not the bottom line of your thought-life. Better to go back to the stoner thing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Dubai Them A Wedding Gift

Here's the new government-sponsored wedding gift for the couple who has everything: testosterone for the bride and estrogen for the groom.

Ushpizin: A Review

You really must see this movie. I saw it tonight. It is simply fabulous.

To me it means something a bit different, that's true. First of all, I understand the Hebrew and do not need the subtitles. Secondly, the Orthodox Jewish world that I grew up in is radically different than what this film portrays. I grew up in the environment of the Lithuanian-type Yeshiva, a super-intellectual society following a very cerebral system in which scholarship is the be-all and pretty much the end-all. My experience was similar to what you might have if your father was a Princeton professor and you grew up on campus. This movie, by contrast, is based in the Hasidic world, where most of the focus is on emotion and faith. (The Hasidic movement began in Eastern Europe in the 1700s and created a bitter war among religious Jews that lasted for about a century. Now the two sides tolerate each other, more or less.) Thirdly, I did live in Israel and encountered some of the types of people described.

But trust me, wherever you are "coming from", you need to see this film. It is extremely well-acted by the four main stars, and some of the secondary characters were quite endearing as well. The husband and wife acting team who play the husband and wife communicate genuine love, and are totally comfortable in each other's space, but they never touch each other in any scene.

The insight into Hasidic life in Israel, particularly for the born-again types who are accepted into these incredibly conservative communities despite their secular - and occasionally criminal - backgrounds, is very profound. It is absolutely pitch-perfect in its accuracy. There were scenes there that must happen every day in virtually the same language.

The star, Shuli Rand, wrote the script and it is full of wit and pathos. The moments of love, the moments of disagreement between husband and wife, the conflicts between doing the right thing or not, the analysis of trying to identify the right thing, and even the moments where he takes you right to the edge of violence, all ring true and register very passionately.

And at the end of the day its message is truly universal, but I won't tell you what it is: see the movie. It opened in Miami on November 23rd; check your local listings.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

From Thanksgiving To Chanukah

Here is the ultimate moment for a practicing author/editor who works mostly on projects that do not bear his name. That is, when he can publish a review on the very book he edited. Here is such a review, headed for publication in a prominent Jewish magazine:

A sort of orthodoxy of superficiality has long predominated in the public perception of Chanukah.

The narrative is simple enough: bad Greeks came and tried to stop Jews from being Jewish until a small heroic army known as the Maccabees fought back and won against overwhelming odds. They then entered the Temple in Jerusalem to restore Jewish sovereignty. There they found that the supplies had been raided and damaged by the Greeks to the point where there was not even oil with which to light the candelabra. They first thought it would be necessary to wait eight days until a delegation could travel to the olive-producing region, prepare new oil and return. Suddenly they managed to find a tiny flask that contained one day’s oil. They decided to light it, if only as a symbolic gesture for that day’s victory. Instead, the oil burned for eight solid days, which they took to be a miracle. We celebrate the victory by being happy and having parties with special foods; we celebrate the miracle of the lights by lighting candles.

Perhaps it was inevitable that a winter holiday, practiced at home after a full day’s work, would tend to drift toward the boisterous and rambunctious and away from the analytical and intellectual. And arguably the Jewish People has benefited from this shallowness: more Jews observe Chanukah than any other holiday and it has a wonderful effect of affirming a sense of positive Jewish identity. But now, in our era of unparalleled renaissance of Jewish scholarship, that will simply not do anymore. As Patrick Henry might say were he alive today: ‘Give me liberty and give me depth’.

Pinchos Stolper has undertaken to fill this void with his newest tour-de-force, HIDDEN LIGHTS: Chanukah and the Jewish/Greek Conflict. (Full disclosure: I worked as an editor on the project.) This is a book whose target is truth, no matter how many feathers get ruffled in the process.

Some ruffling may be inevitable. There are some very powerful historical premises that may be uncomfortable for people to face. Firstly, he makes the claim that the majority of Jews had given up the practice of Judaism in favor of the Greek lifestyle. Contemporaneous historical sources are cited to support that contention, then he follows up by proving that many recent scholars, such as Rabbi Jacob Kamenecki and Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, believed this to be the case. He also maintains that Rabbi Isaac Hutner seems to share that view, although Rabbi Hutner’s language on the subject is less than explicit.

Stolper even considers the far more shocking view that most of the oppression enacted against Jews during that period was the work of Hellenized Jews rather than the Greeks themselves. Once again, he quotes both Rabbi Kamenecki and Rabbi Soloveitchik at some length to establish that they held this opinion. In fact, they seem to believe that most of the Al Hanissim prayer recited on Chanukah is referring to victories achieved by the Jews against the Jews, and when they are celebrated as victories against the “evil Greek Kingdom” this is intended as a euphemism for turncoat Jewish Hellenists.

However, it is clear that Rabbi Hutner never accepts that conclusion: to him, the “Greek Exile” and the “Greek Redemption” are too bound up in the national history of the Jews struggling against the Four Kingdoms. The concept of the Four Kingdoms imposing Four Exiles is ubiquitous in the Midrash and to a thinker like Rabbi Hutner it is inconceivable to assert that the Hellenists made the exile happen. No, the Greeks made it happen and the Hellenists were their agents, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes involuntarily, sometimes eagerly and sometimes regretfully. Still, the presence of Jews in a significant role as proxies of the oppressor is treated in Rabbi Hutner’s work as a very important aspect of the theology of the Greek challenge to Israel.

Stolper is never more incisive than when he follows the trails laid out by Rabbi Hutner’s philosophical discourses. (It is noteworthy that Hidden Lights is being published simultaneously with Chanukah In a New Light, Stolper’s translation of the Pachad Yitzchok on Chanukah. This is the second in a series of translations by Stolper of Rabbi Hutner’s set of Pachad Yitzchok, volumes of theological/philosophical essays on the Jewish holidays.)

Probably the most significant premise laid out in Rabbi Hutner’s work on Chanukah, which he attributes to the Maharal of Prague, is that the physical conflict against the Greeks is secondary to the spiritual conflict. Or, more specifically, the intellectual conflict. The Jews are seen as the first people who created a complete system for living based on a set of intellectual principles. Although the Torah adds some elements of faith that go beyond the intellect, its foundation is set in reason. First the independent reason of Abraham, then the revealed reason of prophecy and ultimately the revealed reason of Torah at Sinai. The Greeks, as the first nation to found a national culture built around an independent system of reasoned principles – or at least facts derived through scientific investigation – become unalterably opposed to the idea that Torah constitutes a higher form of reason designed to connect the mind of man to the mind of God.

This sets up a new paradigm for conflict. Rather than wars designed for building power and wealth per se, we have wars to promote ideology and alter cultures. The Greeks are actually exporting a lifestyle, which they are delivering from the barrel of a gun – or the blade of a sword, as the case may be. Every other nation in the world, when Alexander of Macedonia comes sweeping through to establish dominion, finds that the physical requirements are very liberal. The conquest is not about slavery and taxation but about creating a universal lifestyle, moving civilizations and economies forward from the primitive to the sophisticated; from the mundane to the mondaine. Realizing this, the cultures of the occupied nations prove to be tractable and accommodating. Only the Jew fights back.

Thus the ultimate test of the Greek intellectual system, culture and lifestyle is their ability to compete with their Jewish counterparts. The initial foray to achieve cultural dominion involved the physical invasion of the land of Israel and a cultural outreach effort which seduced many Jews into subordinating themselves to that culture: this movement of Jews produced the Hellenists. Not satisfied with the results of this hard-fight soft-sell two-step, the Greeks (often with the enthusiastic support of their Jewish fellow travelers) laid it all on the line by initiating laws forbidding the study of Torah and the performance of various key Mitzvos.

The happy ending was provided by the Maccabees deciding that enough was enough and undertaking a campaign of guerilla warfare that ultimately enabled the Torah-observant Jews to regain control of the centers of political power and culture. This vision of the primary war as intellectual/cultural and the secondary war as military infuses this book with a rich texture. The military details are very well-covered, too. The result is a multi-tiered appreciation of Chanukah as something with more resonance than a crisp latke and more nuance than a spinning dreidel.

And to the question, "Did I edit the companion volume of translations as well?", the answer is "Yes". And I can tell you all this because the author/translator chose to acknowledge my work. The choice was his, however; had he preferred to hide my role I would have to remain mum.

Machina Ex Deus

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wrote a few words at The American Spectator about a matter that I revisit as often as possible in speeches and essays: namely, our regrettable tendency to thank God for sunsets and watermelons but not for automobiles and computers.

Here's a taste:

Let's start with electricity to power our homes. This was not imported from another galaxy, it was something built into the fabric of our world. Yet it hovered beyond our reach for over five thousand years of recorded history. All the great men of history, all of our ancestors, all the people who brought us to where we are today, did it without the benefit of a heater in winter and an air conditioner in summer. They spent many an exertive hour flailing at frozen trees with hatchets for a few cords of firewood or hacking at frozen lakes to dislodge blocks of ice for cooling.

Our mothers lost so much of their lives in the arduous painstaking tasks of washing dishes and clothing by hand. Without washing machines and dryers, without dishwashers, every speck of grime on a dish or a cloth exacted a toll in strenuous labor. And time, always time, as great lives ticked away with hands elbow-deep in murky water. We are gifted with a great bounty of hours freed from bondage, open for creativity. Pieces of our lives have already experienced their Exodus and their Messiah; no woman should ever again have to lose an afternoon churning butter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

"The Age of Unreason"

In a fascinating and insightful article in the current issue of the Spectator (UK), "The Age of Unreason," Frank Furedi points out that people today willingly turn over increasing amounts of authority to other individuals, a group of lifestyle gurus who teach us how to do everyhing from cooking to raising our children to how to shop:

To this day I am astonished when I hear that sensible, biologically mature adults allow themselves to be treated as if they were incompetent dimwits by a new army of professional surrogate parents. In days of old, traditional authority figures, like priests, instructed us how to behave in public and told us which rules to observe. Today’s experts are even freer with their advice. They do not simply tell us what to do and think, but also how to feel. A new army of life coaches, lifestyle gurus, professional celebrities, parenting coaches, super-nannies, makeover experts, healers, facilitators, mentors and guides regularly lecture us about the most intimate details of our existence. They are not simply interested in monitoring public behaviour but in colonising our internal life.

Furedi does not mention that religious bodies have long told people what to feel, but I think that this observation actually strengthens his argument:

Deference to the authority of the celebrity, makeover guru or healer is underwritten by the decline in the influence of conventional forms of authority. That is why the frequently asserted claim that we live in an age characterised by the ‘death of deference’ bears little relationship to reality. Yes, it has become fashionable to treat traditional forms of authority — monarchy, church, parliament — with derision. Criticism of traditional institutions has become so prevalent that it bears all the hallmarks of classical conformism. Scientists, doctors and other professionals have also experienced an erosion of authority. But the diminishing influence of conventional authority has been paralleled by the rise of a new ‘alternative’ one. We don’t trust politicians but we have faith in the pronouncements of celebrities. We are suspicious of medical doctors but we feel comfortable with healers who mumble on about being ‘holistic’ and ‘natural’. We certainly don’t trust scientists working for the pharmaceutical industry but we are happy to listen to the disinterested opinion of a herbalist. And, of course, alternative food and other consumer products gain our confidence because . . . they are alternative.

Furedi argues that the current rise of unreason involves a rejection of science in addition to a loss of traditional religion. Thus Furedi confirms G. K. Chesterton's observation that people who stop believing in God don't believe in nothing, they believe anything:

The cultural valuation of superstition over reason and the revival of ancient forms of mysticism testify to a profound crisis of meaning in contemporary society. . . . So how do we account for the ascendancy of the authority of the life expert and the mystical guru? Some argue that the rise of this authority is a response to the decline of religion and the rise of secularism. It is claimed that without clearly formulated moral signposts people are likely to be attracted to esoteric fads and therapies. However, it is important to remember that secularism and science have been around for a long time. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries society experienced phases of moral confusion. Nevertheless, people often gained a sense of direction from the guidance they received through secular and scientific authority. So it is not just the decline of religion but also of conventional forms of modern authority that distinguishes our times. In previous eras a loss of faith in religion was sometimes compensated for by the plausibility of science, a political ideology or the capacity of a public authority to act in the interests of all.

Furedi does not mention it, but the leveling of social authority probably has at least some roots in technological change. It strongly resembles the phenomenon of leveling of heirarchies in the workplace, where layers of management and authority are breaking down as technology makes it possible for individuals to manage their own work with increasing efficiency and effectiveness, without layers and layers of bosses in place to ensure that everyone does what they are needed to do. One sees a similar pattern in the media: in television, there were once three major voices, whereas now there are literally hundreds of choices. Each major city once had a few big newspapers, which fell to just one or two in most place in the past couple of decades, but with the internet as with cable and satellite TV, there are now a multitude of choices.

This leveling of authorities and media access allows people to rise quickly to public prominence, and those with charismatic personalities can easily spread plausible but wrong ideas widely and rapidly. That is the big danger in this great leveling, and the rise of the lifestyle guru is a powerful reminder that people do need authorities, and that when tried and tested authorities are undone, others will arise. In an antiauthoritarian society, however, these new authorities will have adherence but not legitimacy. Hence, people will continue to search for new authorities when these fail them, but the public will have to do so without sound principles to guide them in their quest:

A civilised and enlightened society requires institutions of legitimate authority, and public respect for them. That is why the attitude of the anti-authoritarian seldom conveys the spirit of critical thought. It is not criticism but uncritical criticism that motivates the current temper of cultural cynicism. The authority cultivated through human experience allows people to gain a measure of control over their destiny. Without such institutions to guide us people have no choice but to defer to Fate and its earthly representatives in the makeover industry.

There are many interesting and enlightening details in Furedi's article, and I encourage you to read it.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Or for the want of one of the former, as the case may be:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An unmarried teacher says she was discriminated against and fired from her job at a Roman Catholic school in New York for being pregnant and has filed a federal complaint.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said on Tuesday that McCusker's situation was difficult, but the Saint Rose of Lima School had had no choice but to follow the principles contained in its teachers' handbook dictating that "a teacher can not violate the tenets of Catholic morality."

McCusker, 26, was dismissed from the school after telling school administrators she was pregnant and did not plan to marry.

She and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a wrongful dismissal complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Monday asserting the firing was "intentional and unlawful discrimination based on McCusker's sex and pregnant status."

In a statement, McCusker said she did not "understand how a religion that prides itself on being forgiving and on valuing life" could fire her for choosing to have a baby.

In a termination letter to McCusker dated October 11, Theresa Andersen, the school's principal, cited the school handbook's provision on morality, but also praised McCusker's "high degree of professionalism."

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I Like the Way This Guy Thinks

Matt Huisman has a few profound thoughts in comment world:

The tricky thing about moral condemnations is that you actually have to reference an agreed upon moral that has been violated. And the truth is that we’re not really capable of telling anyone that extra-marital sex is immoral anymore. We have developed the means to eliminate the physical harm - and why be upset with someone who has done no harm? What’s that? You say that some of us still slip up and make a mess? What a shame, but who can really blame someone for getting caught up in the moment and forgetting to take the necessary precautions – there but for the grace of God go I. Better make a note to redouble our appeals before the god of education, who is no doubt merciful and good, and able to save us from our current condition.

So where does this leave us as Christians? Should we be spitting fire and brimstone at those who scoff at their creator? Or do we simply need to recognize that the world has passed us (and God) by, and we’ve become irrelevant?

Neither. For while our compassion dictates that the church be useful to its fellow man as counselor, insurance policy and all-around handy man – it was never our central purpose.

General revelation is a good thing, and the world’s ever amassing competence and ability to overcome the obstacles that used to turn them to the divine will soon expose the hard reality of loneliness (or meaninglessness) that lurks behind every would-be panacea. Perhaps it is here where our efforts are best spent – where the real love of Jesus can best be understood.

We may be getting close to the time where ‘I told you so’ is no longer relevant as an introduction to the eternal – and that too is a good thing.

The Imminent Threat

Republicans and Democrats shouted, hurled insults and in the end gave new and ferocious meaning to partisanship. A debate over withdrawal from Iraq has descended into rancorous accusations that exemplify a nation divided.

As some noted, this is a replay of Vietnam, a war decided in the corridors of Congress rather than the Southeast Asian battlefield. Surely, the lessons of the past are not lost on al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. They cannot defeat us in Iraq, but they can certainly test American fortitude.

Yet the ugly exchanges in the House of Representatives overlook critical dimensions of this war on terror, matters that have potentially catastrophic implications for the nation.

On November 5 the Global Islamic Media Front, a propaganda creation that disseminates al Zarqawi’s positions, announced a prize for the best proposed logo at its new website. The winner of the contest will be “privileged” to launch “three long range rockets against an American military base in Iraq (…the pressing of a button by a blessed hand.”

The announcement went on to note that Jaysh Al-Ta’ifa Al–Mansura, a radical Sunni Islamic organization composed of former military officers who served Saddam Hussein, has developed “a rocket, effective and precise, as we had promised you, using the highest level of technology …capable of launch from long range via remote control from anywhere in the world.” As these radicals note, they have the means – or claim to have the means – “to destroy the fortresses of polytheism and the infidels… .”

Whether this is merely an empty threat designed to appeal to adherents remains to be seen. However, it should be noted that this website has received more than 50,000 “hits.”

This website proposal is not unique. The Sunday Times of London reports that another al Qaeda website contains detailed instructions in Arabic on how to make nuclear, “dirty” and biological bombs. This site has 80 pages of instructions and pictures of kitchen bomb-making techniques.

Under the heading of the Nuclear Bomb of Jihad are instructions on ways to enrich uranium as a gift to the commander of jihad fighters, Osama bin Laden. Readers are encouraged to look for materials such as radium, which it claims is an “effective alternative to uranium and available on the market.”

Quoting the Koran, the anonymous architect of the site notes, “Fight them so that Allah will punish them at your hands and will put them to shame and will give you victory over them.”

John Hassard, a physicist at Imperial College London, maintains that this website offers “a proper instruction manual” for would-be terrorists. “It is a very real threat and one we can’t afford to ignore,” he said.

If this website is to be taken seriously, al Qaeda is striving to move directly from a stage where weapons of mass destruction are obtained to one in which they are deployed. Moreover, these threats serve as a propaganda vehicle and a recruitment device.

While the Congress dithers over whether we should leave Iraq precipitously or remain, our enemy is building or attempting to build weapons of mass destruction. There can be little doubt that if fissionsable material is obtained and converted into a weapon, it will be used.

This threat must be taken seriously. If it requires preemption, then preemption we must have. If it requires enhanced counter intelligence, then we must put that in place. If it means draining the Middle East swamp of fanatical jihadists, then we must be prepared to do so.

The websites that call for attacks against the United States and its allies cannot be dismissed as sheer hyperbole. We are at war and our survival is at stake. Those in the Congress who cannot recognize that do not deserve to represent the American people.

The appeasers in our midst believe that if we keep on feeding the carnivores red meat, they will become vegetarians. But history teaches a very different lesson. Those who refuse to fight are likely to die with their hands in the air. History can be merciless to those who won’t defend themselves. That is a point that must be shouted on the House of Representatives floor.

Charm City Offensive

I'm going to have to stop making fun of Maryland politics. There's no sport in it anymore.

Earlier this week, Baltimore was honored with a top ten spot in Morgan Quitno's annual Most Dangerous City award, snagging the coveted number six from Washington DC, which fell to 13th this year. So of course the Baltimore City Council took swift action. Faced with evidence that their city continues to be plagued with failing schools, corrupt and incompetent police, and drug dealer turf wars, they suspended all regular business to....pass a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. One council member, Keiffer Mitchell, said he had been moved by "the deaths of soldiers from Baltimore and Maryland" to vote in favor of the motion.

Hold on there, Mr. Mitchell. If you want to protect the young men of the Old Line State, maybe you should leave them where they are. Since March 2003, there have been 1,647 US fatalities attributable to hostile action in the entire country of Iraq. During the same time, there have been 885 murders in Baltimore, a city with a total population of about 650,000.

I can understand if Baltimore wants some military assistance in dealing with the war-torn streets of Park Heights and Canton, but I think we could spare a few from Quantico or AP Hill; there's no need to bring them all the way back from Iraq.

Yes, I Do His Evil Bidding, Too!

TRC's founder, S.T. Karnick has a dizzying rapid-fire survey of the new fall shows out at NRO. For those who need to catch up on what used to be a little box and is now a rather large screen, check it out.

Happy 10th Birthday, Dayton Accords

Yes, as of this week, it's been 10 years since President Bill Clinton assured peace in our time by settling the Yugoslavian question with diplomacy and sealing it with a treaty signed in the Versailles of Ohio, Dayton. Sure, war and a bunch of death followed, but making peace stick is a bitch, ain't it? The original Treaty of Versailles wasn't realized all that smoothly, either.

Ah, we remember it all so clearly, n'est-ce pas? Clinton lied (exaggerated? misled? made an honest mistake?) about 100,000 "missing" victims of Milosevic, et al. But it was a good war, because Milo was unmistakably bad. The actual bodies were never actually found, although I'm sure we looked hard. Where were the Women & Men Deceased (WMDs) we were promised?

Now, although he lacked UN authorization (or even an act of his own Congress), Bill Clinton did what he thought was right, and I'm cool with that because the bad guys had it coming and no innocent dictators were framed. Even though by reliable accounts the NATO bombing got a bit too indiscriminate, some felt the price, to quote Madeleine Albright, was "worth it."

What's done was done. As Stan from South Park might say, what have we learned from all this?

"Julian Lindley-French of the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Switzerland says
that Dayton offered a two-phased approach to resolving the Bosnia conflict."

"It recognizes that conflicts of this variety have a short-term and a longer-term component," Lindley-French says. "The short-term is simply to end the hostilities and to end the threat with the threat of credible external coercion. But in the longer term, what it said was, 'Look, we are here, we are here to stay, and we are going to invest in you, and we are going to invest in you to help you reach a regional political settlement in which all parties who have influence or interest in this conflict feel that there is something to invest in.' That was the very strong message of Dayton 10 years ago."

Yah, that's about it, and we should trust anybody with "French" in his name, especially if he's in Switzerland. One does not create peace from whole cloth. One invests in it and holds on, even when its stock price goes up and down.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Shame, Shame

The idea that the irresponsible use of sex should carry some moral condemnation has been kicked around here lately. But how? Shunning?

Well, that might have been OK for the Bad Olde Days, but who can deny that there are no illegitimate children, only parents? Surely we wouldn't visit the sins of the parents on an innocent child. That happens all by itself.

And the pro-life crowd, to its credit, has realized that shaming unmarried mothers will only engender the Gordian Knot solution of abortion.

By coincidence, or perhaps not, my colleague Jay Homnick mentioned abstinence counselling below. Songs are (unfortunately) better at conveying emotions than ideas, even in the lyrics, but I haven't forgotten a word of this since I first heard it, perhaps the greatest lyric of the entire Motown era:

You think that I don’t feel love
But what I feel for you is real love
In other’s eyes I see reflected
A hurt, scorned, rejected

Love child, never meant to be
Love child, born in poverty
Love child, never meant to be
Love child, take a look at me

I started my life in an old, cold run down tenement slum
My father left, he never even married mom
I shared the guilt my mama knew
So afraid that others knew I had no name

This love we’re contemplating
Is worth the pain of waiting
We’ll only end up hating
The child we may be creating

Love child, never meant to be
Love child, (scorned by) society
Love child, always second best
Love child, different from the rest

Mm, baby (hold on, hold on, just a little bit)
Mm, baby (hold on, hold on, just a little bit)

I started school, in a worn, torn, dress that somebody threw out
I knew the way it felt to always live in doubt
To be without the simple things
So afraid my friends would see the guilt in me

Don’t think that I don’t need you
Don’t think I don’t wanna please you
But no child of mine’ll be bearing
The name of shame I’ve been wearing

Love child, love child, never quite as good
Afraid, ashamed, misunderstood

But I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you...

(Pam Sawyer/R. Dean Taylor/Frank Wilson/Deke Richards)

Even without any of us taking it upon ourselves to cast shame, the sins of the fathers visit themselves on their children, not just for the lack of his strong right arm, but for lack of what he alone can teach them.

In No Sense

The Sunday Miami Herald featured the following headline: Innocence Lost is Not Easily Restored.

I was curious to see what had suddenly led the Herald to take an interest in abstinence counseling. However, closer scrutiny revealed that this was an article about young Iraqi kids who have lost their innocence about violent death by being in a war zone.

In theory, such an article could have been sensible. But predictably, it was not.

Two examples:
1) One four year old has been affected by seeing beheadings on the Internet. Presumably, we are meant to sympathize. Hello-o?! That has nothing to do with being in a war zone. That has to do with having imbeciles for parents. Creepy imbeciles, too.

2) An example of the terribly traumatized children is cited: two kids are playing a game in which they pretend to shoot each other. Whoever kills the other, wins. Hello-o?! I grew up in Brooklyn and I played that game, too. Sometimes it was called Cowboys and Indians; sometimes Cops and Robbers.

Then again, maybe 1960s Brooklyn was a war zone.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Advancing the Discussion on Prostitution: Another Comment Promotion

M.J. Watson offered something particularly interesting to our conversation about prostitution. So here it is:

At the root of the view that prostitution is harmful to women, and men, is (the idea) that there is something intrinsically valuable about our sexuality that should not be commodified. To engage in prostitution is to treat oneself as a means rather than an end. Connie's view seems to rely only on the criterion of consent. Whatever one consents to is legitimate.

My view is that one can consent to an activity that nonetheless is demeaning and immoral. I don't know that there is a prior principle to appeal to that would prove either of us right or wrong, but let me give two illustrations of why sex is intrinsic to us in a special way, even at the risk of making this too long of a comment.

1. Imagine Fred says to Steve, "Hey Steve, Betty and I are playing tennis on Thursday night. But I can't make it, would you be willing to fill in?"

Now imagine Fred says, "Hey Steve, Betty and I are having sex on Thursday night, but something has come up and I can't make it. Would you be willing to fill in?"

We may laugh at this, but our laughter reveals that we know there is something not quite right about this scenario. Sex is not just another activity.

2. On a more serious note, consider why we think rape is wrong. Leon Kass has an amazing article about the rape of Dinah in Genesis. He notes that today rape is seen as wrong merely because it violates a women's consent and because of the physical harm. But on the older view rape is also considered wrong because it also violates her "womanliness", or, to really use antiquated language, her virtue (her specifically sexual virtue).

But on the consent-only view it's hard to understand what makes rape the specifically awful crime that it is. It is a violation unlike any other because of the special nature of our sexuality, and thus the act of rape is intrinsically different from a punch in the nose or another violent assault.

I grant these examples don't prove that the consent-only view is wrong. As I said, I'm not sure what would do that. But I hope they illustrate why we have good reason to think there is something intrinsically valuable about our sexuality and that it thus should not be treated like a widget to be commodified.

Friday, November 18, 2005

St. Thomas and the Ho's

I'm a feminist more than a moralist on prostitution. It hurts women.

My friend and colleague Mr. Homnick writes:
However, we must also recognize the right of polities to place transactions of that nature outside the law. The vast majority of localities have exercised that right and most of them enforce those laws to some degree.

I think the right of a society, namely ours, to uphold its mores and sensibilities is under great scrutiny these days, if not outright attack.

Although the philosophical father of our constitution John Locke pays homage to "natural law," which asserts that one doesn't require a Bible to believe that prostitution should be proscribed because it is intrinsically harmful, I wonder if he meant it. I'm tempted to think he would view it as a question of the property rights of a vulva's legal owner.

Thomas Aquinas, the champion of natural law, holds that prostitution is a violation of natural law because it's a misuse of the teleology of sex, that is, the purpose of marital act, to engender intimacy and love. The Catholic obsession with procreation is in there too, but not even a Darwinist could argue that procreation is anything but a natural function. Interestingly and compassionately, Thomas' objection is mostly that the unintentional products of such unions will grow up without fathers, which he sees as indispensible to the proper development of a human being.

The repercussions of prostitution are harmful on the personal level in a number of ways then, and we religionists maintain that natural law does not descend from revelation (i.e., the Bible, etc.), but that the two cannot help but be in harmony as they are both functions of a moral order that supercedes man's will and desires. There's a vibe to things. Prostitution hurts women, and everybody else involved, too.

But Aquinas, as political philosopher, is pretty pragmatic: the open toleration of prostitution would be harmful to the social order, but a jihad, if you will, against it would create even greater social ills. Political philosophers are good that way--even the best of a society's laws, constitutions or aspirations should not be suicide pacts.

Thomas (scholastic types call him "Thomas"), as any good philosopher should, defers to practical wisdom but recommends that we gear the law to the highest, not the lowest or easily achievable in man, because the latter is incapable of fostering what Aristotle saw as the true end of a society, to enable and inspire civic (and individual) virtue, virtue being a positive thing, not an absence of "sin."

I myself am very uncomfortable with discussions of hypocrisy. It's a word thrown around far too loosely these days, and has become a rhetorical weapon instead of an tool for understanding things. Yet I seem to be defending it. I find our drug laws ridiculous, yet here in Los Angeles, we saw firsthand the carnage of the crack epidemic, which was mostly not the result of crack being illegal but of the overwhelming hunger for it that addiction creates. It strips the individual of every shred of his or her human dignity. We cannot legalize drugs.

But I can also say that consideration of these things led me to change my mind and disagree with the administration about its opposition to proposed laws banning torture of terror suspects. The law must be morally directed toward the best in us, not to accommodating the worst, toward moral progress rather than regression to the slime we rose from. There are circumstances where some of us would break anti-torture laws to save innocent life, but the law should not make such moral courage easily achievable.

To requote Mr. Homnick, "we must also recognize the right of polities to place transactions of that nature outside the law." If we can proscribe the soul-numbing effects of prostitution and drugs (and I believe we must), then surely torture should be one of those transactions that our polity places outside the law as well. If it's true of an addict or a whore (or a drug dealer, or a pimp, or a john, or the john's poor bastard), how could being a torturer (or the tortured) not numb one's soul?

A Bit of Biblical Archaeology

I wouldn't suggest making too much of this at present, but it is an interesting tidbit: archaeologists recently discovered that there was indeed at least one person named Goliath living in Gath during the time that the Bible says David slew a Philistine giant of that name from that village.

According to the UPI story on the subject, the archaelogist responsible for the find, Prof. Aren Maeir, thinks it very unlikely that the Goliath referred to on the tiny ceramic shard mentioning the name is the Goliath mentioned in the Bible. However, as noted in the Yahoo! story on the matter, Maeir "said finding the scraps lends historical credence to the biblical story."

Many scholars have argued that the story of David and Goliath is a myth made up hundreds of years after the reign of the Jewish king. The scrap indicates that, at the very least, there was indeed at least one person named Goliath in the region during the time the encounter is supposed to have taken place.

WFB's Birthday Tribute

NRO is celebrating Bill Buckley's birthday party today, even though it's really on Nov. 24. I'm wistful in hearing about it because while I've been blessed to meet many of my heroes and even become friends with some of them, I've never managed to meet Buckley. I've read about him, written about him, carefully followed his career, and heard him speak. The recurring thought is that few persons have lived a more interesting life or worked more tirelessly for what they believed.

The website has an interesting page of tributes. This one jumped out at me:

James Piereson

I recall an event from the 1970s, a debate on a midwestern college campus between Bill Buckley and a liberal or left-wing speaker whose name I have justly forgotten. I had never met Mr. Buckley at that time, though (as the saying goes) I had seen him on television and was taken by what he had to say, though not yet persuaded on all counts. That would come later. Of course, having spent time on that campus, I had become accustomed to the boorish and juvenile manners of academic leftists, who were not beneath screaming insults at those with whom they disagreed or, more politely, stalking out of the lecture room in disgust at the thought that another person should be allowed to advance views that they did not endorse. During the course of the exchange, Mr. Buckley presented his views articulately, as he always did, and in good humor, which was something I had not expected and which left a deeper mark on me than anything he actually said. He made his case amid hisses and boos from some members of the audience, and some less than dignified remarks from his opponent on stage. I was astonished, when the debate was over, to see Mr. Buckley walk across the stage with his wide smile to extend a hand to his adversary in debate, who was surprised as well, not being accustomed to gentlemanly conduct of any kind. Indeed, that is precisely the kind of conduct one never expected to see on a campus at that time.

Mr. Buckley thus impressed upon me the enduring truth that there is a connection between the way leftists think and the manners by which they conduct themselves, and also between his own gentlemanly conduct and his conservative ideals. Mr. Buckley is a powerful debater, but that night he went a long way to making a convert through his own exemplary character.

I have met Bill Buckley on many occasions since, and on every occasion I have walked away with one over-riding thought: What a wonderful man this is!

My own thought upon reading this reflection is that it's not so difficult to be gracious in victory. And Buckley experienced a great deal of that.

Wanna See the New Zorro Flick?

S.T. Karnick, the greatest living film critic in the English language™, has a new review of the latest Banderas/Zeta-Jones bash over at Tech Central Station.

As usual, you will emerge refreshed, edified, and just a little bit smarter than you were going in.

For instance, did you know this?

First, a little history. McCulley began publishing his Zorro tales in pulp magazines in 1919, with the serialization of The Curse of Capistrano, which was published in book form as The Mark of Zorro after being adapted for a highly successful Douglas Fairbanks movie of the same name in 1920. McCulley published his last Zorro tales in 1951. Although the series evolved over time, especially the film adaptations, the central premise remained constant: an unprepossessing young nobleman assumes a disguise as Zorro ("the fox") and uses his wits, sword, and whip to fight an unjust and oppressive political order. (The concept is obviously based on Baroness Orczy's hugely successful "Scarlet Pimpernel" series.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

For Love Or Money

A friend of mine who has a political role in a country other than our own was describing to me her battle on behalf of free government health care for prostitutes. She maintains that she is doing this on a moral as wall as a pragmatic basis. The efforts of the Catholic Church to thwart her initiative were viewed by her with disdain.

I made the following points in my response.

1) I am not convinced that prostitution should be illegal, but I think it should be against public policy so that we don't get absurd anomalies like the German government denying a woman unemployment benefits because she had a job offer - as a prostitute - that she was not accepting. I would be perfectly content to live in Nevada where the populace has deigned to allow prostitution as a legal enterprise subject to licensing and registration requirements.

2) However, we must also recognize the right of polities to place transactions of that nature outside the law. The vast majority of localities have exercised that right and most of them enforce those laws to some degree.

3) Inasmuch as this is an illegal activity in these venues, it is inappropriate to attach any special rewards to this activity. The conferring of a free health-care program is a sizeable financial award.

4) Furthermore, this constitutes a benefit attached to this field that is not present in waitressing or house-cleaning or other things that unskilled people do to scrape by until they can better themselves. So besides for the reward for those already engaged, we are now offering an incentive for those who are considering.

5) The same set of inferences that are drawn from illegality as a profession (contrasting prostitutes to waitresses) can be drawn from the conflict with social mores (pitting prostitution against marriage). We cannot give advantages to a prostitute that we are not giving a wife.

6) In general, there is no such thing as "free" health-care. This is a euphemism for taking money from taxpayers to give to others. This means that we are making those waitresses and wives pay taxes so the prostitutes can receive a benefit that they do not. This is a palpable absurdity.

There are more details that could be added to this, but for now this should suffice to the case.

Europe: Revitalization Or Decline?

The question that any analyst of Europe asks is whether the E.U. can be revitalized or whether it is fated to continue an incremental downward spiral to marginality. While pundits on both sides of this political equation have opinions, answers aren’t readily available.

All one can look at are signs, but these are available in abundance.

The French who often tell rude jokes about Boring Belgians are now seeing rich French figures who have found their next door neighbor an escape from draconian French taxes. The Halley’s of the Carrefour supermarket chain have settled in Belgium as has Philippe Jaffre former head of Elf Aquitaine, the state oil company.

Fiscal exiles include singers Charles Aznavour and Patrica Kaas; the actress Emmanuelle Beart and Isabelle Adjani, among others.

For those who are obliged to pay at the highest income bracket (80 percent) as well as a “solidarity tax on wealth,” it often means an annual tax bill greater than their income. In order to conceal the effect of onerous taxes, the French government estimates that the flight of capital accounts for a loss of about $2 billion a year while unofficial estimates have it closer to $30 billion.

France obviously needs this tax revenue to support the generous compensation for the unemployed. All an out-of-work person has to do to maintain generous benefits is call in every six months to confirm that no new job has been secured. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has proposed giving the unemployed a bonus of $1200 for taking a job, even as the government weighs a three strikes rule - a loss of payments if three job offers are turned down.

When the government tried to make it easier for small companies to lay off workers, thousands of strikes took to the Paris. Apparently French workers don’t realize the easiest place to lose a job is also the easiest place to find a job.

Whenever enlightened French officials discuss the value of privatization, they are obliged to retreat from that position because union leaders refuse to give ground from the commanding heights of the state guided economy.

According to one study the average French pay stub lists more than 40 deductions, compared to two in Britain and four in the United States. The government says it doesn’t want anyone’s tax bill to exceed 60 percent of household income, but as long as it refuses to eliminate the anomalous wealth tax, the proposal is little more than an empty wish.

France, of course, is not alone on the socialist scale. Germany has a minimum wage almost twice as high as the one in France and it also suffers from an unemployment rate of over eleven percent.

Mrs. Merkle’s lead during the recently completed campaign virtually evaporated when she discussed the need for social welfare retrenchment. A dose of the medicine needed to put a charge in the lackluster German economy is still not politically acceptable. As a consequence, the near tie in the election has left Germany without a policy direction and close to political paralysis.

Clearly if things get worse, change might be more readily accepted. Yet the downward slope in Germany with the precarious status of the banks and the intractable high unemployment rate might well have served as a catalyst for reform. But a mandate for change did not emerge from the election.

This analysis, of course, is a snapshot. History, on the other hand, is a montage. Yet a montage is composed of snapshots. What one sees is ominous. Decline is palpable. In fact, the axis of the world’s economy has already shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. World shaking events surround us and for most Europeans the news cannot be good.

Alito Bit Of This, Alito Bit Of That

Although they were written without knowledge of the other, R. Emmett Tyrrell's essay and the one penned by yours truly form a perfect complementary tandem in today's American Spectator. Both are responses to the Alito job application which was discussed below by the estimable Mr. Karnick, who astutely assayed its radioactivity.

Tyrrell focuses on the fact that liberals have been pretending for at least a quarter-century that Reaganite ideas do not exist, and to the extent that they do exist they are outside the "mainstream" - this despite these ideas being in the political ascendancy since 1980.

I concentrate more on the need within the conservative camp for a pact of total loyalty, not to abandon Alito come Hell or high water. Here's a teeny excerpt:

All the gung-ho movement types were itching to volunteer for the battlefield. Okay, here it is. They had better be as good as their word. Because there will not be another chance. If Alito ends up twisting in the wind, with conservatives suddenly finding some taint in an obscure ruling of his and leaving his carrion in the open field for the vultures, then it's over for them. They won't get another chance. Not now, not ever. Not with this President. Not with any future Republican President.

It's very nice that everyone thinks of himself or herself as a person of principle. Not a sell-out. Motivated by morality. Informed by reason. Modified by experience. Calibrated by individuality. Guided by the spirit of the past. Animated by the spirit of the present. Inspired by the spirit of the future. We know all the lines, pal, but now is not the time: now it's time to put up or shut up. To, er... do your business or get off the pot. Push, as we have noted, has in fact come to shove.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My Other Favorite Blog . . .

Is The American Scene, written primarily by Ross Douthat of The Atlantic Monthly. Ross just has an endlessly interesting grab bag of topics that typically hit my sweet spot of Christianity, politics, law, etc.

His latest entry is a very good discussion of whether the Narnia stories are actually allegory, which they are typically assumed to be. If you like Narnia or discussions of literary genre, you should check it out.

Crime Doesn't Spay

A wonderful headline from today's news: San Francisco Passes Sweeping Dog Laws.

I'm against it. I say that we should let sweeping dogs lie.

(Great line from the article. Attorney Dawn Capp, a lib, hits this one out of the park: "Bad legislation far outnumbers dog bites in the history of humanity.")

Runaway Bride

(Hopefully not a poem about the Alito nomination.)

Ah, once the joy seemed nigh
And the ecstasy quite soon
The valiant knight rode high
The jaybird sang his tune.
Midnight heard love's sigh
And its ardor roared at noon
Stars twinkled in the sky
In the merry month of June.

Oh, who loving tongue did tie?
Who trampled poetry to ruin?
Thrust the valiant knight awry
Jaybird whimpering like a loon?
Darkling vultures overhead fly
Casting shadows on the moon.
Who dared Love's truth deny
In the teary month of June?

Can the tears those lovers cry
Bring the heart back its boon?
May the new respect they try
Refresh joy from the jejune?
Or was it just a seductive lie
As Fate drew a grim cartoon?
That's for you to say, not I
In the weary month of June.

(Or would you prefer some Byron?)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Judge Found in Hot Tub with Dead, Underage Male Prostitute

No, it's even worse than that, as regards the prospects for Judge Alito to be confirmed for the Supreme Court: a document that suggests he has opposed Roe v. Wade has been found, the Chicago Tribune reports:

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in 1985 that he "very strongly" believed the Constitution "does not protect a right to an abortion," and he said he was proud of his work as a lawyer in the Reagan administration arguing against the position enshrined in the landmark decision Roe vs. Wade.

Alito made the comments in an application for a job as deputy assistant attorney general, when asked about his "philosophical commitment" to the Reagan administration's policies. He also staked out conservative positions opposing racial and ethnic quotas and said he disagreed with Supreme Court decisions that kept a high wall between church and state, as well as those that gave criminal defendants greater procedural protections from police.

The story did not say exactly how the document came to light, which is an interesting side question. In any case, the revelation suggests that Democrats will question Alito even more aggressively on this issue during the confirmationg hearings:

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats said Monday that in light of the revelations in the newly revealed document, they expect Alito to be more open about his current views than previous nominees.

Perhaps Judge Alito will be able to survive by parsing his words carefully, as Judge Roberts did during his confirmation hearings, seeming to endorse Roe while leaving room to vote to overturn it later, but it is a certainty that the War over Judicial Philosophy conservative Republicans have hoped for is about to begin in earnest—with Alito right in the center of the crossfire.

Promoting a Comment on Science: Evolution and I.D.

I'm going to do something I think will make our blog even more interesting. We had a commenter on the thread about evolution and intelligent design that Jay started who put in some serious effort to moving the conversation forward. So, I'm moving the comment up to the main page for the edification of any who would like to read it.

The identity of the commenter is a secret. We know him only as . . . Bubba.

Here it is:

Ok, since I WAS a Science major, not a Literature or a PolySci major as it appears most of those who post are, please let me ramble on for a minute.

The "Scientific Method" starts with a hypothesis, and tries to systematically go about to prove or disprove the hypothesis. “Science” is publishing your conclusions, along with your methods and materials, so that other “scientists” may review and prove or disprove your work with their own work, thus creating an open debate.

“Science” relies upon “laws” (e.g., Gravity, Thermodynamics, Motion) which have come to be relied upon as fact after multitudes of experiments and an innumerable number of blackboards of mathematical equations seem to be able to describe and predict the outcome of experiments relative to these “laws”.

OK, where am I headed? The statement was made “Scientifically there is no debate about evolution”. Balderdash. Go read some scientific journals. Open up a “Chemistry (or Physics) For Dummies” book. Use some intellectual integrity to subject your beliefs and theories to serious scrutiny.

Evolution is a theory that has been propounded, promulgated, and legislated without the accompaniment of hard scientific experimentation and data. In fact, the theory of Evolution is believable only after one has blinded one’s self to laws of Science which have been overwhelmingly proven and been accepted as fact for hundreds of years, such as Newton’s laws of thermodynamics, and the definitions of Entropy and Enthalpy.

Alternatively, there is no debate about the veracity of Evolution only if debate has been outlawed in the public forum, or the debaters are shouted down or called “religious extremists” by those who are afraid that open, honest SCIENTIFIC debate would not substantiate their pet theory.

Q: Where did the large molecules come from?

A: They were put together from small molecules after having been zapped with solar radiation.

Q: Where did the small molecules come from?

A: Energy fused micro-molecules together.

Q: Where did the micro-molecules come from?

A: Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.

Q: Where did the Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms come from (since “Matter is neither created nor destroyed”)?

A: (no answer)

Q: Where did the solar radiation or the energy required to overcome the laws of Entropy come from?

A: (no answer)

The statement was made: “…I have no problem debating it and even reconciling it, but as tbm says, ID is not science, it's religion…”

It is clear that to believe in the theory of Evolution as though it had been proven factually has become such a matter of complete 'faith', and is no less 'a religion' for its believers than the Evolutionists accuse those who believe in Intelligent Design, or “Heaven” forbid, those who believe in the Bibical account of Creation of having.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Terrell, Jesse, Jesus and Steve

Jesse Jackson has come out in support of Terrell Owens' Right As A Black Man to act like a total buttface.

Presumably because Mr. Owens has been oppressed for like 400 years.

For you Wal-Mart shoppers who gravitate to the books, CDs, major appliances or frozen foods aisles instead of the toy department, Terrell Owens is a fabulously talented wide receiver. (For our overseas friends, that's a job in American football.) He recently, majorly and publicly, disrespected his corporate employer, the Philadelphia Eagles; his boss, coach Andy Reid, a solid/stolid walrus-like fellow in both girth and facial hair; and his team leader, quarterback Donovan McNabb, he of Rush Limbaugh fame.

Consequentially, Terrell has been suspended indefinitely, meaning that according to the terms of his contract he will continue to collect $200K a game to sit on his butt instead of aiding/torturing his team.

Now I've seen Terrell's life story, and folks, it actually is heartbreaking. He was raised by a strict if not psychotic grandmother, and his mother was a substance abuser who could not tell Terrell who his father was.

Until the day the older man from across the street came over, warning Terrell to keep away from his daughter because she was Terrell's half-sister.

So one might think that Terrell was jealous of gruff but fatherly Andy's affection for Donovan, who is one of the classiest and cuddly guys in all of football, and is the ultimate company man. He's the spokesman for Campbell's Chunky Soup. (Although his mom has become the star of the commercials, it just makes Donovan all the more cuddly.) Donovan throws the ball at a receiver's feet instead of forcing it in there and risking an interception, playing his coach's game instead of his own. Donovan is also Black, and I mention this only because I have not known Jesse Jackson to stand up for a White Man's Right to be a buttface.

I don't want to get into Terrell's head, but he reminds me of Steve Christ: "Dad, you always loved Jesus best. Jesus this, Jesus that..."

Steve's brother had a story they call The Prodigal Son, where the disenchanted son took all of his inheritance contract up front in cash, and promptly went forth and blew it all. He saw the error of his ways and resolved to go back to the family home, not to get his old place back, but just to get a job cleaning the stables or something. Home was good.

Terrell has apologized to the Eagles, to Andy, and even to Donovan. He wants to play football, and he wants to play it for the Philadelphia Eagles, whom he considers family.

Fair enough, Terrell. Tear up your contract and the $200K per game it pays, and offer to work for your Eagle family on the suicide squad, the guys who ram full speed into each other on kickoffs. For whatever the union-mandated league minimum is.

Andy Reid is known as a very religious person, and I bet he's familiar with the tale. Donovan McNabb seems to be a well-grounded man, too, and even though his counterpart in the story is the Faithful Son who gets aggravated at the welcome return of the Prodigal, I think he would welcome Terrell back, too.

Jesse Jackson is reputed to be a Reverend, which implies some familiarity with the Bible. It would be good if he passed Steve's brother's story on to the newest member of his congregation.

Late Disclosure: I'm a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and Terrell's criticism of his quarterback is not unwarranted, making this all the more tragic. Whoda thunk that a Proud Black Man and Rush Limbaugh might end up with the same conclusion? Mr. Chunky Soup just threw a game-losing interception on Monday Night Football, for lack of a reliable receiver. (Terrell's replacement zigged when he shoulda zagged.)

Hurry back, Terrell. We can work this out. Read some scripture, eat a little crow, overlook your quarterback's inadequacies, and get us to Super Bowl XL. All will be forgiven, I assure you.

Welcome to Hell, aka American Culture

Journeyman professional basketball player Paul Shirley writes in his latest column of his visit to a rock music show in which a band he likes, Stellastarr* [sic], opened for the Bloodhound Gang. Shirley and his brother enjoyed the opening act greatly, though the sound quality was poor, and they stayed to check out the first three songs by the headliner, expecting "some semi-funny rap/rock by some guys from Philadelphia."

They were treated to a bit more than that, in an experience the likes of which we have all had, where a fairly dubious but essentially trivial cultural product suddenly turns perfectly putrid:

The fact that their first tune was perhaps the worst song I have ever seen performed live did not help their case. Their fate was sealed when, between songs, one of the members of the band had the tank top he was wearing torn off by the lead singer in order that we in the paying audience could be treated to a viewing of his naked torso. The now-shirtless troubadour played along, in that staged-funny way, and acted as if he were surprised by the action. He then gathered up his shirt, rubbed it into his already-sweaty armpit and faked a toss into the crowd -- which probably would have been enough to convince my brother and me to leave the scene. But he took it to another level. Seeing the madness in the eyes of the crowd, he jammed the shirt down the front of his pants and pulled it, through his crotch, out the back. And then threw it into the crowd, where people actively clamored to catch it. If I had been in possession of a hand grenade at the time, I would be writing this from prison.

Any reasonably civilized American today knows exactly how he feels.

Goodbye, Genius: Peter Drucker Dies

I'm a history/law/religion type guy, but I didn't know myself as a younger person and studied social sciences like economics/political science/public administration. One author who stands out to me from that period and whom I still enjoy reading is Peter Drucker. Here was an individual who wrote penetratingly about management and organizations and who launched no fads. There was no "Theory X" or "Re-engineering" with Drucker. He simply had an awesome sense of effectiveness and strategy. Accordingly, he was paid astronomical sums for his advice. Tom Peters, for instance, is fun, but he's just a cheerleader compared with Drucker.

Fortune magazine has a good obit/homage to Drucker available:

He had a brilliant line that skewered both groups: “The reason reporters call these people gurus is that they’re not sure how to spell ‘charlatan.’”


Drucker simply didn’t care about the conventional view on any management topic, since he had thought them all through and knew where he stood. Yet I was still surprised by the vehemence with which he disdained the modern vogue for exalting leadership, as distinct from paltry old management. It infuriated him, though he was too polite to say so unless you asked him about it, which I did. His reasoning was extremely simple: “The three greatest leaders of the 20th century were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. If that’s leadership, I want no part of it.”


There were many things Drucker wanted no part of. Big universities, for instance. He scorned them all to remain at tiny Claremont College—payback, perhaps, for the scorn they’d heaped on him early in his career. Economists dismissed his work as cheap sociology. Sociologists had no use for business. And Drucker was dismissive of them all. “No economists were interested in organizations,” he explained in a 2001 interview with my colleague, Jerry Useem. The field “was based on the asinine assumption that organizations act like individuals. They don’t.” Here, Drucker had sensed a huge opportunity. Like any great entrepreneur—“somebody who creates something new,” as he once defined the term—he was raiding these older disciplines to create one that didn’t yet exist. Physics sprang from Newton, economics from Adam Smith. And Peter Drucker became the undisputed father of management—the discipline devoted to the study of organizations.

Last time I went on a really good vacation, I took two books with me. One was David Brooks' Bobos in Paradise. The other was Drucker's The Effective Executive. He'll be missed, but some of his predictions are still probably good for twenty more years or so. Start reading.

Debate And Switch

What is a small club like this for if not to have a convivial place in which to let off some steam?

In this context, I would like to comment about the debate in the Kansas school board about whether Intelligent Design should be afforded some diminutive mention in the science curriculum. The strategy of those who would deny the right to mention that "some believe that only intelligent design can explain such a high level of systematization" is to say that there are no serious scientists who believe such a thing. They say that one cannot legitimately make reference to the debate between random evolution and intelligent design because no such debate exists. We all recall Ted Koppel's breathless report that his staff had polled ten heads of Biology departments in universities and not one acknowledged that such a debate exists among legitimate scientists.

After a telephone conversation today with a friend who was parroting that position - a conversation in which I uncharacteristically blew a gasket - it occurred to me that I could vent in this venue my true thoughts and feelings. So, if the members of the Reform Club will forgive me, I will address my next remarks to these activists:

You f***ing liars. You outright frauds. You miserable creeps. To stand up there and pretend that the only legitimate scientific position in positing the origin of staggeringly complex organisms with trillions of interactive components is random non-systematic mutations modified only by the fact that the flawed ones are likely to burn themselves out?

It's one thing to pick that as the better choice in the debate. My side says that you can't create a thing with trillions of components and geometrically compounded amounts of possible permutations. And if you could get one with all the parts just right, there would still be plenty of intermediate ones that could survive. Your side says that it is reasonable to assume that all the guys without eyebrows died out, the ones without armpit hair, the ones with one eye, the ones with one nostril, the ones with one testicle, the ones without male nipples; none of them could endure the grueling survival-of-the-fittest reality show. (Survivor MMDDCCLLXXVIII was especially exciting, when they voted the males without nipples off the island into the sea.)

If the audience determines that you have the better argument, you win. If mine prevails, then I win.

But to say there is no f***ing debate? To say that no sane person can make a scientific argument for the existence of design, system, structure, plan? What total garbage! What absolute tommyrot, bilge and poppycock! Shame on you for your lack of elemental academic integrity.


Thanks. I feel better now.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

On The Commission of Lies

2 out of every 3 top lefty bloggers agree:

What this country will end up needing is something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission because what the country needs is not so much for particular people to go to jail but for the lies and the lies to cover up earlier lies to stop. The country can't get past what has happened or move forward until we can get the truth on the table, deal with it and move on.

Not really making a partisan point here, but I myself don't think people are ever satisfied with commissions. There's usually a minority dissent, and folks go on believing the side they came to dance with.

I've been interested in the investigations into the Pearl Harbor attack, which might be the closest historical analogue to this, and with parties reversed. Surely someone had blundered. This article seems to be a fair recap.

Seems right after Pearl Harbor, the Roberts Commission found the Hawaii commanders culpable, and FDR and Washington in the clear. Then as the war was winding down in '44, a court-martial was held, and one of the commanders was vindicated.

In November '45, after the war had ended, there was yet another commission which voted along party lines, and with an election coming up, the majority Democrats once again vindicated FDR, even though he was already dead.

In 1995, the Democratic administration's Undersec of Defense killed another inquiry. Finally, in 1999, the Republicans passed a Senate resolution vindicating the naval officers.

Almost sixty years later, and still they were voting along party lines. There will be no reconciliation.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


There has been a good bit of well-deserved media scrutiny of the UC Irvine Medical Center's troubled liver transplant program in the wake of this LA Times story exposing the deaths of over thirty patients who waited in vain for organs that the center was silently declining. However, the last paragraph of the story, which I have seen no one else comment upon, is what caught my eye:

"[I]n 1999, UC Irvine fired Christopher Brown, the director of its donated cadaver program, amid suspicion that he had improperly sold spines to an Arizona research program. The buyers paid $5,000 to a company owned by a business associate of Brown. Brown was not prosecuted."

The market price of a spine is $5000?!? Igor, order me four dozen and have them delivered to Capitol Hill. STAT. Less than a quarter of a million for a GOP that might actually pass some spending cuts and stand firm on tax reductions? What a flippin' bargain that would be.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Original Sin, Mea Culpas, and the GOP

I'm a Republican, and it's my fault. My most grievous fault. Mea maxima culpa. Now, then, and in advance.

Picking through the MSMspeak auspices of my LA Times (one must learn how to read the entrails of his newspaper), I discover/divine that budget cuts are being thwarted by the smaller number of GOP "wobblies" and those from heavily Democratic districts. And, it should be needless to say, every single Democrat.

Of course the GOP as a whole is blamed. Even in the Times' headline and in the lede itself. (Duh.) Some things will never change. Perhaps it's original sin or the Mark of Cain, but it's not exactly media bias (altho every little bit helps):

When the Democrats shut down the government in 1990, demanding more taxes to maintain spending, it was the GOP's fault. GHWBush gave in, and read my lips on this, it cost him the 1992 election.

When Newt Gingrich shut down the government in 1995 over spending, it was the GOP's fault. Bill Clinton hung tough, and that helped him toward his 1996 re-election victory.

Spending wins, but even more precisely, opposing spending cuts is a winner.

Fact is, if the Democrats wanted spending tamed (or illegal immigration for that matter), it would already be so. The threat of their demagoguery hangs like a veritable Sword of Damocles over the GOP pols, who are learning to like being the majority party.

But there's a structural weakness in being an anti-government party that finds itself in charge of the government: The GOP gets credit neither for cutting spending nor for increasing it.

Now, the Democrats have the same problem on foreign policy, where they are the anti-government party. The impotence of the Carter and Clinton administrations was palpable and near-disastrous, and each time ushered in a Republican. But Democrats enjoy a structural advantage: when (and if, ever again) they are remotely credible on national security, their home field advantage on domestic policy will take home all the marbles.

Progressivism in domestic policy is enticing; things can always get better. Wi-fi for the disadvantaged, geez, why not? Anyone who can promise cost-effective dental care for stray dogs has our complete attention. Or if anyone can promise to ease the plight of the poor, boy, we feel good about voting for that, too. We see poor people everyday, and not just on TV. Somebody ought to do something, even if it only requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part. Everybody knows that it's the Democrats who are just the guys to do it.