Monday, January 31, 2005

Dispatches From the Democrat Left

California Senator Barbara Boxer, according to this article, is being touted on liberal blogs as the Democrats' best hope for the presidency in 2008. We don't know whether this is simply evidence of the woeful state of the Democratic party, or evidence that God looks out for Republicans, or a premonition that God has decided to punish America, or all three.

Meanwhile, George Soros, 74 year-old billionaire money bags of the Democratic party, who spent $26 million in last year's campaign against George Bush, said his effort was undermined by the candidate he supported.

"Kerry did not, actually, offer a credible and coherent alternative,'' Soros, said yesterday in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ``That had a lot to do with Bush being re-elected.''

The Kerry campaign "tried to emphasize his role as a Vietnam War hero and downplay his role as an anti-Vietnam War hero, which he was,'' said Soros. "Had he admitted, owned up to it, I think actually the outcome could have been different.''

In other words, in Mr. Soros' opinion, Kerry lost because he wasn't far enough to the Left. He should've portrayed himself as more of a radical anti-war protestor. He should've hugged Michael Moore more often. That would've swung those red state voters into his column, yessiree.

Maybe in 2008 Mr. Soros can persuade George McGovern to run, or Barbara Boxer.

Actually, rank and file Democrats probably would like to tell Mr. Soros to just shut up, but unfortunately for them you can't easily shut up a $26 million dollar sugar daddy.

Mice Brains

The following is excerpted from a National Geographic article which discusses research being done to blend human traits with those of other animals:

Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras-a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal.

Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. The embryos were reportedly the first human-animal chimeras successfully created. They were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.

In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.

And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.

Well, why not. They've evidently already put mouse brains in humans. At least that seems to be the most plausible explanation for the demands (see here and here) emanating from the political Left that we pull out now from Iraq.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Historic Day for Both Iraq and U.S.

Expressions of joy from a sampling of Iraqi bloggers: See here, here, here, here, and here.

Today has been a historic day not only for Iraq but also for the United States. No one knows what the future holds, of course, and things could certainly turn bad, but days like this make one awfully proud to be an American. What our country has done in Iraq is the sort of thing many Americans grew up believing was typical of the American people. This might be the grandest day in our history since the Marshall Plan era c.1950. If someone can think of a day that beats it, let us know because we can't think of one.

UPDATE: Ok. Maybe the day the Berlin wall was torn down has to be pretty high up on the list as well.

Winners and Losers

Today's WINNERS:

1) The Iraqi people

2) All who desire peace and freedom in the Middle East

3) George W. Bush

4) Neo-Conservatives

Today's LOSERS:

1) Islamo-fascist terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere

2) Tyrants in Syria and Iran

3) The Michael Moore/Ted Kennedy wing of the Democratic party

More on the Shroud has a story about the Shroud of Turin, which many believe to be the actual burial cloth of Christ. Radiocarbon dating tests run in the 1980s seemed to place the cloth in the medieval period, but more recently that analysis has been questioned. Now a chemist who worked on testing of the Shroud of Turin says new tests on the fiber indicates the cloth could be as much as 3,000 years old:

The analysis, by a scientist who was on [a] 1978 team that was allowed to study tiny pieces of the cloth, indicates the shroud is far older than the initial findings suggesting it was probably from medieval times, and will likely be seized on by those who believe it wrapped the body of Jesus after his crucifixion.

"I cannot disprove that this cloth was the burial shroud that was used on Jesus," Raymond N. Rogers, a retired chemist from the University of California-operated Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said in a telephone interview Friday from his home.

"The chemistry says it was a real shroud, the blood spots on it are real blood, and the technology that was used to make that piece of cloth was exactly what Pliny the Elder reported for his time," about 70 A.D., Rogers said, referring to the naturalist of ancient Roman times.

The American chemist said he decided to analyze the amount of vanillin, a chemical compound that is present in linen from the flax fibers used to weave it. Vanillin slowly disappears from the fiber over time at a calculated rate, he said.

Judging by those calculations, a medieval-age cloth should have had some 37 percent of its vanillin left by 1978, the year the threads were taken from the shroud, Rogers said. But there was virtually no vanillin left in the shroud, leading the chemist to calculate it could be far older than the radiocarbon testing indicated, possibly some 3,000 years old.

Asked why carbon-dating might have been off, Rogers contended that "the people who cut the sample didn't do a very good job of characterizing the samples," that is, taking samples from many areas of the cloth.

Apparently, however there's no chance of resolving the age discrepancy since secret alterations were made to the shroud which make it unsuitable for further analysis. You can read all about it at the link to

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Pure Genius

Quick: Who is the man most responsible for having developed the World Wide Web? If you said Al Gore you get demerits.

Captain Ed Morrisey at Captain's Quarters has this very interesting piece of modern computer history. Ed writes:

The inventor of the World Wide Web received an award for outstanding achievement in science and technology for Britons, the London Telegraph reports this morning....Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who first engineered the architecture of HTML and created the first browser that launched the commercial Internet, received the first annual honor that promotes British achievement.

Morrisey quotes from the Telegraph article:

"Sir Tim, 49, who now lives and works in America, where he heads the World Wide Web Consortium, accepted his accolade by video link."

"In an interview with The Telegraph, he said he was "chuffed to bits" to win the first of what is intended to be an annual award."

"The internet had already been in existence for 20 years when Sir Tim, a physicist then working in Geneva, developed the web in 1991 as a way of enabling people to share information. Despite its huge impact, he was for many years largely unknown in his own country before he was knighted last year."

Time Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Important People Of The Century and tells us this about him, according to Captain Ed:

[H]e cobbled together a relatively easy-to-learn coding system - HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language) - that has come to be the lingua franca of the Web; it's the way Web-content creators put those little colored, underlined links in their text, add images and so on. He designed an addressing scheme that gave each Web page a unique location, or url (universal resource locator). And he hacked a set of rules that permitted these documents to be linked together on computers across the Internet. He called that set of rules HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol).

And on the seventh day, Berners-Lee cobbled together the World Wide Web's first (but not the last) browser, which allowed users anywhere to view his creation on their computer screen. In 1991 the World Wide Web debuted, instantly bringing order and clarity to the chaos that was cyberspace. From that moment on, the Web and the Internet grew as one, often at exponential rates. Within five years, the number of Internet users jumped from 600,000 to 40 million. At one point, it was doubling every 53 days.

According to Morrisey:

Berners-Lee heads the W3 Consortium, a non-profit that keeps the Internet open-source rather than allow software developers to Balkanize it with competing, exclusive standards. Berners-Lee never cashed in on his invention, either; he works at MIT, preferring academia for his contribution. No wonder he's "chuffed" at getting 28,000 pounds Sterling, although of course it's the honor that thrills him most."

The part that we found most intriguing, although it's commonplace in the history of science, especially in the computer field, is that Berners-Lee realized this world-changing achievement while still in his mid-thirties, and that he accomplished it essentially by himself. Amazing.


Bill came across this withering attack on Euro-appeasers by Matthias Döpfner, Chief Executive of German publisher Axel Springer AG. The article was posted by Tom Heard at Heard Here. The post is a translation and so the style may in places seem just a bit uneven. The sentiments, however, translate with pellucid clarity:

Europe - Thy Name is Cowardice. Commentary by Mathias Döpfner

A few days ago Henryk M. Broder wrote in Welt am Sonntag, "Europe - your family name is appeasement." It's a phrase you can't get out of your head because it's so terribly true. Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to agreements. Appeasement stabilized communism in the Soviet Union and East Germany in that part of Europe where inhuman, suppressive governments were glorified as the ideologically correct alternative to all other possibilities.

Appeasement crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Kosovo, and we Europeans debated and debated until the Americans came in and did our work for us. Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance," now countenances suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians. Appeasement generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore 300,000 victims of Saddam's torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace-movement, to issue bad grades to George Bush.

A particularly grotesque form of appeasement is reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic fundamentalists in Holland and elsewhere by suggesting that we should really have a Muslim holiday in Germany.What else has to happen before the European public and its political leadership get it? There is a sort of crusade underway, an especially perfidious crusade consisting of systematic attacks by fanatic Muslims, focused on civilians and directed against our free, open Western societies. It is a conflict that will most likely last longer than the great military conflicts of the last century, a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by tolerance and accommodation but only spurred on by such gestures, which will be mistaken for signs of weakness.

Two recent American presidents had the courage needed for anti-appeasement: Reagan and Bush. Reagan ended the Cold War and Bush, supported only by the social democrat Blair acting on moral conviction, recognized the danger in the Islamic fight against democracy. His place in history will have to be evaluated after a number of years have passed. In the meantime, Europe sits back with charismatic self-confidence in the multicultural corner instead of defending liberal society's values and being an attractive center of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, America and China.

On the contrary, we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to the intolerant, as world champions of tolerance, which even (Germany's Interior Minister) Otto Schily justifiably criticizes. Why? Because we're so moral? I fear it's more because we're so materialistic. For his policies, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt and a massive and persistent burden on the American economy, because everything is at stake. While the alleged capitalistic robber barons in American know their priorities, we timidly defend our social welfare systems. Stay out of it! It could get expensive. We'd rather discuss the 35-hour workweek or our dental health plan coverage. Or listen to TV pastors preach about "reaching out to murderers."

These days, Europe reminds me of an elderly aunt who hides her last pieces of jewelry with shaking hands when she notices a robber has broken into a neighbor's house. Europe, thy name is cowardice.

It's nice to know that not all the opinion-makers in Europe are waving the white flag of surrender to the Islamo-fascists with one hand while giving Bush the finger with the other.

Pray For Iraq and the Iraqis

This article suggests that things are not going well for the orcs, Urukai and other minions of Sauron in Iraq:

To try to bolster public confidence, Iraqi officials Friday announced the arrests of three more purported lieutenants of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, including his military adviser and chief of operations in Baghdad.

The arrested al-Zarqawi associates included Salah Suleiman al-Loheibi, the head of his group's Baghdad operation, who met with al-Zarqawi more than 40 times over three months, said Qassim Dawoud, a top security adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Dawoud said Ali Hamad Yassin al-Issawi, another associate, also was captured. Dawoud said the two arrests took place within the past several weeks.

Al-Zarqawi's military adviser, a 31-year-old Iraqi named Anad Mohammed Qais, 31, also was captured, said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh.

"We are getting close to finishing off al-Zarqawi and we will get rid of him," Saleh said.

Despite Saleh's assurances, al-Zarqawi's group posted a new Web message Friday warning Iraqis they could get hit by shelling or other attacks if they approach polling stations, which it called "the centers of atheism and of vice."

"We have warned you, so don't blame us. You have only yourselves to blame," it said.

This is typical thug logic. If we kill you for exercising your right to vote then you can only blame yourself. You placed yourself in the spot where we just innocently happened to have a bomb. Very careless of you.

Despite their fears, millions of Iraqis will take to the polls in a few hours in what will be a historic election. Nothing like this has ever happened in the Arab world before. The terrorists among the Sunnis are doing everything they can to suppress the vote, knowing that a successful election will demonstrate the utter illegitimacy of their cause, and be a crucial nail in their coffin.

In what should be a lesson to the nay-sayers and Chicken Littles of the effete Euro-Left and the Michael Moore/Ted Kennedy wing of the Democrat party, many Sunnis are so hopeful and so trustful of American determination to persevere that they are prepared to brave threats to their lives in order to vote. It is only because they trust us to see things through until they can defend themselves that they are willing to risk everything to install democracy and freedom in this most uncongenial soil.

This is why demands to establish timetables for withdrawal or to start pulling out immediately are so nefarious. The Iraqi people are placing their lives and those of their children in our hands and saying that they are counting on us to continue the fight against the murderous butchers who would kill them all if we left. To betray them now as The Nation and Ted Kennedy and others on the Left have insisted we do would be a crime against humanity that would earn us the world's eternal opprobrium and contempt.

There are many brave people in Iraq. They need our prayers this weekend, and they need our resolve in the months and years ahead.

Friday, January 28, 2005


According to an article in the Rocky Mountain News, Colorado University professor Ward Churchill displays an intellectual and moral obtuseness remarkable even by Left-wing professorial standards:

A University of Colorado professor has sparked controversy in New York over an essay he wrote that maintains that people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were not innocent victims.

Students and faculty members at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., have been protesting a speaking appearance on Feb. 3 by Ward L. Churchill, chairman of the CU Ethnic Studies Department.

Churchill's essay argues that the Sept. 11 attacks were in retaliation for the Iraqi children killed in a 1991 U.S. bombing raid and by economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations following the Persian Gulf War.

The essay contends the hijackers who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 were "combat teams," not terrorists.

It states: "The most that can honestly be said of those involved on Sept. 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course."

The essay maintains that the people killed inside the Pentagon were "military targets."

"As for those in the World Trade Center," the essay said, "well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break."

The essay goes on to describe the victims as "little Eichmanns," referring to Adolph Eichmann, who executed Adolph Hitler's plan to exterminate Jews during World War II.

"When you kill 500,000 children in order to impose your will on other countries, then you shouldn't be surprised when somebody responds in kind," Churchill said.

"If it's not comfortable, that's the point. It's not comfortable for the people on the other side, either."

The attacks on Sept. 11, he said, were "a natural and inevitable consequence of what happens as a result of business as usual in the United States. Wake up."

This essay is so sophomoric that we're reluctant to take it seriously. Surely, one suspects, the professor is baiting us, enticing us to think him a complete imbecile at which point he'll startle us with some surprising turnabout. Or, maybe, he just really is a complete imbecile.

In defiance of appearances, however, let's assume that he intends to be taken seriously. Where does he get the figure of 500,000 children killed in a U.S. bombing raid against Iraq in 1991? That's almost five times the total number of people killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Perhaps he's including in this figure the number of children who died during sanctions imposed by the United Nations. But if so, these were deaths caused by Saddam Hussein who used the money with which he was supposed to feed and care for his people to build palaces and to buy off the French and Kojo Anan. Why does Professor Churchill lay these tragic victims at America's feet? Churchill seems to think that it is America's fault that Hussein abused his people. This is typical of the Left to blame America for whatever evil there is in the world. It is also positively goofy.

We also wonder why the victims of the 9/11 attack deserve the epithet "little Eichmanns"? What was their crime? Being Americans? Being capitalist business men and women? Many of the victims, of course, were neither, but even if they all were American capitalists how does that make them legitimate targets of terrorism? This sort of slander against perfectly innocent and decent people is the toxic effluent of a mind that's been too often marinated in hallucinogenic cocktails at campus colloquies.

Maybe the looniest part of Professor Churchill's essay is his claim that 9/11 was a retaliation for American offenses against Iraq. We have been told ever since we began preparations for war against Saddam Hussein in 2003 that there was no connection between 9/11 and Iraq. We had been told that al Qaida despised the secular regime Hussein had established and didn't want anything to do with it. Now Professor Churchill wants us to believe that there is a direct link between U.S. (actually U.N.) policy in Iraq and the Saudis and other Arabs who made up the al Qaida hijacking teams.

We would be interested to see the evidence he has for this allegation, but we don't expect him to offer any. It is the Left's modus operandi to fervently assert whatever fits their view of how things are and not worry about whether there is actually any support for the assertion. In Leftist epistemology any claim that serves to dishonor the United States and its people is self-validating.

For more on Professor Churchill, including a charming photo, go here.

To Drink or Not to Drink

A study published last August by a team of researchers from Harvard claimed that consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. The problem with the study is that it contradicts a 2003 study which found no link at all between sugared soft drink consumption and diabetes. Oddly enough one researcher helped author both studies.

So do soda drinkers have an elevated risk of diabetes or don't they? Steve Milloy at Fox is on the case. He concludes his article with these reassuring words for all the soda addicts out there:

The Harvard researchers have yet to make a credible case that soda consumption increases the risk of type 2 diabetes - but I am becoming quite convinced that they don't really care about credibility in the first place.

Read the whole column at the link and be careful not to spill any of that coca cola on your keyboard.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Senator's Plan

In a speech today before the Johns' Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, Senator Edward M. Kennedy laid out what unsurprisingly calls a realistic and responsible course for America's future in Iraq. The plan consists of five points:

First, the Iraqis need to disengage from the United States politically, and we from them. The Bush Administration can't continue to pull the strings in Iraq. We need to let them make their own decisions, reach their own consensus, and govern their own country. The first point in a new plan would be for the United Nations, not the United States, to provide assistance and advice on establishing a system of government and drafting a Constitution. An international meeting, led by the United Nations and the new Iraqi Government, should be convened immediately in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East to begin that process.

Of course disengagement is exactly what is occurring in Iraq as we have transitioned from a military government to a civilian interim government to a freely elected Iraqi government to be chosen this weekend. Senator Kennedy is simply saying that we should do what we are doing.

His insistence that the United Nations should take over, however, is a prescription for disaster. The U.N. has never successfully brokered or protected a peace unless it was backed by American arms. The U.N. is deeply mistrusted by those Iraqis who saw their oil wealth diverted into the pockets of it's officials and who remember how the U.N. pulled up stakes and ran when their headquarters were bombed in 2003. If the U.N. had its way Saddam would still be in power. It's not likely that the blue helmets would have the resolve to stand up to Zarqawi and his thugs for very long.

Second, for democracy to take root, the Iraqis need a clear signal that America has a clear exit strategy. The President should say immediately that America intends no long-term presence.

This is so vague as to be meaningless. What does the Senator mean by "long-term presence"? Five years? Fifty years? Does leaving Iraq preclude maintaining military bases or depots there? What if the new Iraqi government wants such bases? We are still in Europe and South Korea fifty years after the wars that brought us there. Our presence around the globe has kept the peace where war would have otherwise been likely. Why should we pull our military completely out of Iraq if our presence there can prevent civil conflict or foreign invasion. Why not let the Iraqis decide what our long term relationship will be?

Third, once the elections are behind us, we need to disengage [our] military, and negotiate a withdrawal. At least 12,000 American troops and probably more should leave immediately to send a signal about our intention. America's goal should be to complete the drawdown as early as possible in 2006.

This is another foolish proposal. We should not leave Iraq until Iraqis can provide for their own security. To do otherwise would be to condemn the Iraqi people to the vengeance of the Islamist terrorists and the avarice of its neighbors. It would betray Iraq and utterly destroy respect for America around the world.

Fourth, we need to conduct serious regional diplomacy with the Arab League and Iraq's neighbors to head off external intervention in Iraq or the large-scale revenge killing of any group.

This is not only foolish, it is a fantasy. Does Senator Kennedy really believe that the Arab League would lift a finger to stop Iran, Syria, or Turkey from invading Iraq? Where was the Arab League when Iraq invaded Kuwait? What forces can the Arab League deliver to Iraq should any of its neighbors choose to invade? How will the Arab League prevent al Qaida or Zarqawi from carrying out large scale revenge killings? Was anyone laughing when the Senator delivered this line in his speech?

Fifth, we need to train and equip an effective security force. The way to strengthen their allegiance is to give them a worthy cause to defend - a truly free, independent, and sovereign Iraq.

Again, the Senator is simply saying that we need to do what the Bush administration is already doing and trying to make it sound as if he's proposing something novel.

Through this plan, a democratic and stable Iraq will emerge.

Actually, the Senator's plan, if acted upon by the U.S. would result in nothing but chaos and war. It would be an unmitigated calamity for the U.S. and the world. Kennedy's plan, to the extent that it does not simply restate Bush policy, consists of rhetorical bubbles, pretty to look at, perhaps, but fragile, insubstantial and doomed to burst. They are ungrounded in the realities of the Iraqi situation. Perhaps the Senator should stick to strategizing about how to take best advantage of the many fine restaurants and watering holes in Georgetown and leave international affairs to more qualified and thoughtful people.

Tortured Emoting

Jonathan Schell over at The Nation vents his moral outrage at the application of torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's disgusted by the purely pragmatic objections to torture voiced by some senators at the confirmation hearings for Alberto Gonzalez and strives for moral clarity on the issue:

More striking were the arguments against torture by those skeptical of the nomination. Two dominated. One was that torture hurts the image of the United States in the world. In the words of Senator Lindsey Graham, "I can tell you that it is a club that our enemies use, and we need to take that club out of their hand." Or in the words of Senator Herb Kohl, "winning the hearts and minds of the Arab world is vital to our success in the war on terror," and "Photographs that have come out of Abu Ghraib have undoubtedly hurt those efforts." The second argument was that enemy forces would torture US forces in retaliation. In Biden's words, "This is about the safety and security of American forces." Even Gonzales, who declined at every opportunity to repudiate the policies that had led to the torture, was ready to agree that Abu Ghraib had harmed the image of the United States.

But are these the fundamental reasons that torture is unacceptable? Can this nation now understand pain only if it is experienced by Americans or, through some chain of consequences, it rebounds upon the United States? Have all the people in the world but Americans become invisible to Americans? Torture is not wrong because someone else thinks it is wrong or because others, in retaliation for torture by Americans, may torture Americans. It is the torture that is wrong. Torture is wrong because it inflicts unspeakable pain upon the body of a fellow human being who is entirely at our mercy. The tortured person is bound and helpless. The torturer stands over him with his instruments. There is no question of "unilateral disarmament," because the victim bears no arms, lacking even the use of the two arms he was born with. The inequality is total. To abuse or kill a person in such a circumstance is as radical a denial of common humanity as is possible.

It is repugnant to learn that one's country's military forces are engaging in torture. It is worse to learn that the torture is widespread. It is worse still to learn that the torture was rationalized and sanctioned in long memorandums written by people at the highest level of the government. But worst of all would be ratification of this record by a vote to confirm one of its chief authors to the highest legal office in the executive branch of the government.

Let's set aside the question of whether the allegations of torture are true, or whether torture is ever justified, and under what circumstances, and focus on Schell's indignation.

The pragmatic approach to ethical considerations that he here deplores is largely a consequence of Left-wing assaults on the notion of objective truth abetted over the years in no small part by his own magazine. The Left has assiduously gnawed away at the concept of moral absolutes for decades now, placing in its stead a relativism that ultimately means that each state has the right to decide what is right or wrong for itself. Mr. Schell is evidently unhappy with the decision that he sees the United States as having made, but as a man of the Left he can hardly make claims like "torture is wrong" because it abuses someone who is in a position of inequality and is therefore a "radical denial of common humanity." Why, after all, is denying someone's "common humanity" wrong?

One is compelled to ask of Mr. Schell exactly what he bases his moral outrage upon. Is he just informing us in vivid prose that he happens to find torture personally distasteful? Is he simply emoting? If so why does he bother? Would he take up his pen to complain that some people enjoy eating dog food, or paint their house black and pink? How are moral judgments any different than judgments about other matters of taste?

Perhaps he does indeed believe, if only subliminally, that torture violates some objective moral standard to which we should all be subject, but if so, what is that standard? Where does it come from? Does Mr. Schell believe in a Divine moral law? Perhaps, although it's not likely given that he's a writer for The Nation. But if he holds no such belief then all his ranting against the use of torture is just so much juvenile foot-stamping. He has no grounds whatsoever for his complaint beyond the fact that his sensibilities are offended by seeing one man inflict pain upon another.

Mr. Schell assumes we have a moral obligation (to whom?) to treat others with dignity. Very well, but where does the obligation reside? Where does it come from? What is it based upon? What precisely is the reason why one who has power over another should not cause pain and suffering to the other? What does it mean to say that such behavior is "wrong"? What reason does Mr. Schell give us for why the United States should not adopt a "might makes right" ethic? He can't say that torture is wrong, whatever that means, because it doesn't work or that it might be used against us, etc, because that would imply that if it did work or won't be used against us it would be morally acceptable, and he's already argued that pragmatic justifications for torture are inadequate.

In other words, unless Mr. Schell embraces the Divine moral law, he has no grounds for his tantrum other than the fact that, like a child being forced to eat food he doesn't care for, Mr. Schell is being forced to witness behavior he doesn't find palatable. But if that's all that's going on here why should anyone pay any attention?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Needed: Human Shields

Jonathan Gurwitz, a writer for the San Antonio Express News, wonders whether those whose superabundant compassion for the poor and oppressed of Iraq led them to that country in 2003 to stand in solidarity with Iraqis threatened by American bombs will be doing the same thing on Sunday.

Will these valiant human shields, Gurwitz asks, be positioning themselves around polling places to guard innocent Iraqi voters from the attacks that are sure to come?

This is an excellent question. Will these intrepid advocates for peace be taking the shrapnel in their own bodies on Sunday, sacrificing their lives for the sake of the Iraqi people, or do they only care about Iraqis insofar as they are useful in propagandizing against the U.S.? Is their courage and compassion universal or reserved only for victims of American violence? Will they defy the terrorists as they so boldly did the American military, at least until the shooting started? Are they really concerned with protecting lives or are they just Leftist hypocrites? We'll know Sunday. Well, actually, I think we already know.

Ayn Rand at 100

To call Ayn Rand, the high priestess of the human will, a mere force of nature would to her have been an insult as well as a cliche. But how else to describe this extraordinary, maddening, and indestructible individual? Born a century ago this year into the flourishing bourgeoisie of glittering, doomed St. Petersburg, Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum was to triumph over revolution, civil war, Lenin's dictatorship, an impoverished immigrant existence, and bad reviews in the New York Times to become a strangely important figure in the history of American ideas.

Even the smaller details of Rand's life come with the sort of epic implausibility found in - oh, an Ayn Rand novel. On her first day of looking for work in Hollywood, who gives her a lift in his car? Cecil B. DeMille. Of course he does. Frank Lloyd Wright designs a house for her. Years later, when she's famous, the sage of selfishness, ensconced in her Murray Hill eyrie, a young fellow by the name of Alan Greenspan becomes a member of the slightly creepy set that sits at the great woman's feet. Apparently he went on to achieve some prominence in later life.

To Rand, none of this would really have mattered (well, the fame was nice). To her, an intensely Russian intellectual despite everything, it was ideas that counted. They were everything.

So begins a piece by Andrew Stuttaford commemorating the centennial of Ayn Rand's birth in the New York Sun.

As implausible as it may seem to many readers a case can be made that Rand was the most influential American of the twentieth century, and I think it entirely likely that she was the most influential female American of the last century. This is not entirely a good thing because many of Rand's ideas, idiosyncrasies, and infidelities were hardly worth being influenced by. Yet no one made the case for freedom, individualism, and capitalism as compellingly as she did. This is no doubt why her novel Atlas Shrugged, written in 1957, was rated by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress as the most influential book of the twentieth century (other than the Bible).

Readers not familiar with this eccentric, complicated, and brilliant woman will gain some insight by reading Stuttaford's column.

Senator Simpleton

Minneapolis' Star Tribune recaps the Democrats' unseemly assault on Condaleeza Rice's integrity, and from their story it would appear that the most egregious thug in the present round of character muggings was Minnesota's own senator, Mark Dayton:

Dayton said he is voting against Rice to protest what he labeled the administration's "lying" about Iraq.

"My vote against this nomination is my statement that this administration's lying must stop now," Dayton said on the Senate floor. "I don't like to impugn anyone's integrity, but I really don't like being lied to repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally," he said. "It's wrong. It's undemocratic, it's un-American, and it's dangerous. And it is occurring far too frequently in this administration. And this Congress, this Senate must demand that it stop now."

Well, Senator, we don't like to impugn anyone's intelligence, but there is a vast difference, of which you are apparently unaware, between saying what you mistakenly believe to be the truth in order to persuade, and saying what you clearly know to be false in order to deceive. The latter is lying, the former is not.

If the honorable gentleman from Minnesota has proof that Ms Rice was lying in 2003 then he should produce it. If he does not have such proof, then he's ripping someone's character and reputation to shreds for nothing more than cheap political points with Democratic voters back home. Either that or perhaps he's just a simpleton and doesn't understand the distinction elucidated in the previous paragraph, in which case we should just politely avert our eyes from his embarrassing performance.

The distinction between believing what is an almost universal consensus and telling the president and the public what you know is not true is not lost on all Democrats in the senate.

Dianne Feinstein, for example, said that Rice "should not be blamed for wrong and bad" intelligence that influenced the administration in deciding to go to war and convinced 78 senators to vote in favor of military action.

Rice is a "remarkable woman," said Feinstein, asserting that "she can be a strong and effective voice" for the United States."

Unfortunately, Senator Dayton was probably playing video games on his cell phone during Senator Feinstein's remarks.

Summers <i>Agonistes</i>

Lawrence Summers is an outspoken former Treasury secretary and current president of Harvard University who made news recently at an economics conference for having ventured the heretical opinion that women are not generally found in the top tier of the mathematical sciences because the female genome simply doesn't churn out mathematical geniuses at the rate that the male genome does.

Well, this was a completely uncontroversial comment as far as the yokels out here in JesusLand were concerned, but in the Northeast, where there are certain taboos which cultured liberals simply do not violate, one might have thought that the Harvard president had called for the establishment of a campus chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. One of his listeners, a faint-hearted MIT biology professor by the name of Nancy Hopkins, reported that she had to leave the room, so close was she to collapsing in a swoon, an admission that probably didn't earn her any style points with feminists.

President Summers, like Galileo, was hauled before an Inquisition of "Progressive Opinion" and forced to abjectly recant his heresy and to promise never, ever to transgress the bounds of acceptable liberal opinion again. If he had said that women were smarter than men, a male eyebrow or two might have been raised, but the world would scarcely have taken notice. As it was, he didn't get the catechism quite right and was forced to meekly offer profuse and ignominious apologies for having violated the orthodoxies of political correctness. And this at a premier American university, no less, where one might presume that unpopular minority opinions might be cherished.

Caught up in the mob hysteria surrounding the event, few media commentators could be bothered to wonder whether Summers was, in fact, right about what he said, but then truth does not occupy a very lofty perch on the liberal totem pole. Thankfully, however, Judith Kleinfeld has come forward with the pertinent scholarship which, it turns out, supports what everybody knew but no one, least of all president Summers, would say, which is that he was essentially correct.

Viewpoint sides with Stephen Pinker on this one. When Pinker, the Harvard psychologist who argues that significant innate differences exist between men and women, was asked by The Harvard Crimson whether Mr. Summers's remarks were within the pale of legitimate academic discourse, he said, "Good grief, shouldn't everything be within the pale of legitimate academic discourse, as long as it is presented with some degree of academic rigor?"

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Perpetual Infancy

Political activists on the secular Left have a systemic problem. In order to remain Progressive they must constantly push all social and moral boundaries back and overturn whatever traditions they may encounter in their quest for perpetual change. Like early 19th century pioneers who, when they stopped moving westward, ceased to be pioneers and became settlers, Progressives must continually drive Leftward lest they cease to be Progressives and be absorbed into the status quo.

What this means in practice is that no achievement, no amount of change, can ever satisfy them. For example:

Once abortion on demand was securely entrenched as the law of the land, the Left turned its guns on preserving the right to have a partial birth abortion. Once the right to partial birth abortion is secured, the struggle will then focus on legalizing infanticide and euthanasia for the elderly.

Once prayer was removed from public schools the next step was to banish Christmas as well. As soon as that is accomplished the very mention of the word God will be proscribed from our schools, unless used as an imprecation or expletive, in which case it'll be okay.

Once obscene language restrictions were relaxed on television broadcasts then the struggle began to get them abolished altogether.

As soon as society began to show tolerance and acceptance for gays as people the movement to redefine marriage so that gays can marry was initiated. Once gays win the right to marry, prohibitions against polygamy and other forms of polyamory will come under assault.

As environmental pollution was reduced to minimal levels by legislation a push began to eliminate it altogether, regardless of the enormous cost and the relatively marginal benefits.

If people are paying 50% of their income in taxes Progressives insist they be required to pay 60%. Once the tax rates are raised to 60%, the Left will demand that they be raised to 70%. Likewise with the minimum wage.

If implied sexuality in movies has yielded to more explicit scenes, then the filmmaker should be free to make those scenes as sexually vivid as he wishes.

If the voting franchise is extended to all citizens, then it needs to be extended to non-citizens and illegal aliens as well.

If the voting franchise is lowered to age 18, then it should be lowered to age 16.

If 18 is the age of legal majority, then it should be lowered further so that sex with minors violates no laws.

If the U.S. defeats Iraq in a few weeks worth of combat, it's not to be considered a victory as long as there's looting and economic chaos. Once looting and disorder are placed under control there still is no success until there's an interim government. Once there's an interim government in place, the American effort is still not to regarded as successful until there democratic elections. But elections will be said to be meaningless as long as there's an active insurgency in the Sunni triangle.

The appetite for change is voracious and insatiable. The horizon is always receding. No achievement is ever sufficient. There is no goal or end-point to which we can strive. Once one objective is achieved the ultimate goal is pushed further back in a never-ending dystopic quest for the Progressive paradise. Government must grow ever larger and control ever more of our individual lives. Personal freedom, except insofar as it is freedom to indulge our appetites, must be hemmed in and constrained by a crushing mountain of rules, laws, and regulations.

The Left can never stop and say we've come far enough. Like locusts, they must keep devouring everything in their path, they must keep pressing on in search of new fields to ruin. Like bicyclists, to halt is to lose their balance. To stop is to lose their grip on the meaning of their existence. The animating force of the Left, at least the secular Left, is a neurotic impulse to destroy what has been built by others.

This is why so much of twentieth century Leftism devolved into nihilism, and it is why so many contemporary Leftists offer nothing constructive as solutions to the problems we face today. Their only answer is to tear down or wear away the principles, institutions, and beliefs of earlier generations.

George Santayana once said that "When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement; and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual." It is distressing that perpetual infancy is so appealing to so many in Europe and the U.S.

Inaugural Fallout

An Iranian blog posts this tidbit of news. Apparently the President's speech was boffo, if not in some sectors of the American media and the salons of effete Europe, then at least everywhere that matters:

Reports from across Iran are stating about the massive welcoming of President George W. Bush's inaugural speech and his promise of helping to bring down the last outposts of tyranny.

Millions of Iranians have been reported as having stayed home, on Thursday night which is their usual W.end and outgoing night, in order to see or hear the Presidential speech and the comments made by the Los Angeles based Iranian satellite TV and radio networks, such as, NITV or KRSI.

The speech and its package of hope have been, since late yesterday night and this morning, the main topics of most Iranians' conversations during their familial and friendly gatherings, in the collective taxis and buses, as well as, among groups of young Iranians who gather outside the cities on the Fridays.

Many were seen showing the " V " sign or their raised fists. Talks were focused on steps that need to be taken in order to use the first time ever favorable International condition.

Many Iranians, who were looking for the World's super power firm moral support and financial aid to credible secularist opposition groups, are now becoming sure that Mr. Bush's agenda is indeed to help them to gain Freedom, Secularity and Democracy. They do believe correctly that such way will avoid an unnecessary US invasion or military strike against Iranian facilities which will help the Mullahcracy to consolidate its illegitimate and unpopular power, while causing heavy financial damages and human causalities.

What had always been missing in order to create a wide scale Iranian democratic revolution, such as what happened in Georgia, was till now a firm and noticeable World pressure on the Islamic regime and a trustable Opposition Council with a correct agenda.

Various reports from underground groups are stating that Iranians will be increasing the Civil Disobedience Movement by making more strikes and demos in the days ahead.

It appears that the sourpuss mullahs of Iran are sitting atop a boiling pot trying to keep the lid on. Our President didn't do much to make their task easier. God bless him.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Is Villanova a <i>Catholic </i>School?

A popular teacher at Villanova University, a professor of Islamic studies, dies in 2003 and the University seeks to memorialize her life by dedicating a new section of their library to her. Nothing odd about that except that Villanova is putatively a Catholic University. And the teacher, one Mine Ener, died in jail. By her own hand. She was in jail because she'd killed her daughter by slashing her throat with a knife. The daughter was a Down's Syndrome child.

Even so, the University officials say, Dr. Ener made many valuable contributions to the life of the school and was much loved by her students. She was suffering from post-partum depression, which, as everyone knows, makes women want to kill their babies, and so her tragic end shouldn't detract from the good that she did.

Well, perhaps not, but we thought infanticide and suicide were frowned on by Catholics, and so we were a little surprised that Villanova had chosen to honor this woman by naming part of the library after her, as opposed, say, to establishing some sort of endowment for troubled mothers.

It's too bad that the guy who tried a couple of decades ago to assassinate the pope wasn't on the Villanova faculty. They would've named the football stadium after him.

Ugly American

American troops are charged with committing yet another savage atrocity against the Iraqi people. This one will turn your stomach as you read the Washington Post's dramatic telling of American cruelty and brutality. Many more instances of this sort of thing and Americans will be ashamed to show their faces anywhere in the world, at least that's what the Post presumably thinks. Why else would they print it?

See Tim Blair for line by line deconstruction of the Post's article. In fact, you can read the Post's whole piece just by going to Blair's site and reading his analysis.

Thanks to Power Line for the tip. As Hindrocket at Power Line says, if this story is true, American troops must be about the best behaved occupation troops in history. They're certainly better behaved than the Iraqi whose home they entered.

UPDATE: Little Green Footballs has uncovered more material on this story that the WaPo columnist, for reasons that aren't clear, chose not to use. Perhaps she felt that although unmasking American soldiers' barbarism is a desideratum of liberal journalism, one can have too much of a good thing. In any event, as a public service, LGF is publicizing this sordid evidence. The stories of how American troops have turned young Iraqi men into radical jihadis is tragic, but our readers are urged to read it for their edification nonetheless.

Ambushing a President, Destroying a Nation

The premier journal of far-left opinion in this country, The Nation, offers insight into the Left's current strategy to ambush a president and extinguish American influence in the world. They urge that:

[F]or the sake of Iraq's future and the safety of our young men and women, the United States must begin an orderly withdrawal, coordinated with stepped-up US and international economic assistance. We recognize that further violence and internal fighting among Iraqis may follow, but to believe that a continuing US military presence can prevent this is naïve or disingenuous; it will, rather, contribute to the instability. The best long-term outcome is for Iraqis to regain control of their own country and sort out their own future.

This is a solution that could only be advanced for the purposes of discrediting the president, destroying American credibility around the world, and devastating American morale here at home.

As soon as the United States announced an intent to withdraw, the Left would raise deafening howls of derision at the American failure to defeat a rag-tag band of insurgents, and excoriate the president for getting us involved there in the first place. If George Bush were to follow The Nation's advice he would succeed in humiliating both himself and the country, and no one would participate in that humiliation more gleefully than the good folks at The Nation.

If we were to begin to withdraw now, the al Zarqawis of the region would commence a nightmarish purge of all those who collaborated with the coalition that would result in the brutal murders of many thousands of Iraqis. Our withdrawal would constitute an unconscionable betrayal of trust that disturbs the editors of The Nation not at all.

Moreover, Iraq would be plunged into civil war as the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds all vied to fill the power vacuum left by our withdrawal. Such a war would result in the deaths of tens of thousands more from violence and pestilence. Iran, Turkey, and perhaps Syria which have all long lusted after the Iraqi oil-wealth and the sweeter pleasures of revenge for the Iran/Iraq war of the eighties would doubtless seize the opportunity to grab what they can while a weak, debilitated Iraq thrashes about in the throes of civil strife.

As the conflict widened, even more carnage would result. Any more hopeful view is naive, and The Nation's cavalier remark that "the best long-term outcome is for Iraqis to regain control of their own country and sort out their own future," is simply reprehensible. The best way to regain control of their own country and sort out their own future is at the ballot box and in democratic debate. This may not happen if we stay, but it will surely not happen if we leave.

Once we withdrew Americans and Iraqis alike would ask what was the point of the sacrifice made by our troops and their people? A withdrawal would shatter our confidence in ourselves, and destroy the confidence of the world in our resolve. It would be generations before Americans would ever be able to muster the will to help anyone in any way. Withdrawal would vindicate Osama bin Laden who attacked us on 9/11 because he was convinced that as soon as the fight got tough we'd pull out just like we did in Lebanon and just like we did in Somalia. Not only would bin Laden be seen as an infallible prophet of Islamo-fascism, but radical Islamists all over the world would redouble their efforts to destroy us, convinced that we were low-hanging fruit delivered into their hands by a vengeful Allah.

Further, an American retreat from Iraq would make an attack on Israel virtually inevitable. The Arab world would be rightly convinced that we had lost our appetite for conflict. They would sense weakness and exploit it, assured that we would betray Israel like we betrayed the Iraqis. And what of Taiwan and South Korea? A withdrawal from Iraq would be an invitation for China to invade Taiwan and for North Korea to attack the South. An irresolute, defeated, humiliated America would be expected to do little more than complain in the U.N.

The United States abandoned the Cubans at the Bay of Pigs, we abandoned the Vietnamese in the 1970s, we abandoned the Kurds in the early '90s, we stood by and did nothing while a million or so Africans were slaughtered in Rwanda, and now The Nation urges us to add to this record of shame with yet another ignominious act of treachery.

Their proposal is a recipe, in effect, for Europeanizing the United States. We need to keep in mind that the first consideration of any Leftist when he or she offers a policy proposal is not whether it is the right thing, or the best thing, to do, but rather whether it is the course of action most likely to disgrace the United States. The paramount goal of the Left is to emasculate and cripple America. Seen through this interpretive lens their proposal makes perfect sense.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Banning Christianity

Free Republic has this report from Canada on what happens when a Catholic bishop stands up for the traditional teaching of the Church on matters of sexuality:

TORONTO, January 19, 2005 ( - In an editorial appearing on the website of the homosexual activist group, "Equal Marriage," members of the lobbyist organization, EGALE, (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) have revealed their intention to make illegal the public practice of Christianity or teaching of Christian moral doctrine.

Bishop Fred Henry, in his recent pastoral letter on homosexuality, openly recognized that the purpose of the "gay marriage" push is the destruction of the traditional family and of any religious opposition. Bishop Henry wrote, "The goal (of changing the definition of marriage) is to acquire a powerful psychological weapon to change society's rejection of homosexual activity and lifestyle into gradual, even if reluctant, acceptance."

The authors of the EGALE editorial, Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, in an enraged attack on Henry, admitted that the purpose behind the move to approve Gay "marriage" is the suppression of traditional Christianity. They wrote, "We predict that gay marriage will indeed result in the growth of acceptance of homosexuality now underway, as Henry fears. But marriage equality will also contribute to the abandonment of toxic religions, liberating society from the prejudice and hatred that has polluted culture for too long."

Bourassa and Varnell, apparently oblivious to the irony, indulge in a tirade of abuse, calling Bishop Henry a "religious extremist," "bigot," and "bishop of bigotry," and calling his preaching "toxic and prejudiced." They conclude with what has become one of the most common anti-Catholic slurs. "It's good to remember that bishops like him supported Hitler."

The group's assessment has been endorsed, albeit in more measured terms, in an editorial in the Toronto Star, Canada's most widely circulated newspaper, that said Henry had "disgrac(ed) his office and the Catholic church."

The Star editorial said, "This is a stand the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops should promptly distance itself from. So should leading individual Catholic prelates."

The Star editorialist, however, seems unaware that Bishop Henry has thus far stood alone in his defence of Catholic teaching on human sexuality. While the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops organization, has said that each bishop is free to say what he wants in his own diocese, no public endorsement or support has so far come to Henry from the heads of any of Canada's remaining 71 dioceses and eparchies.

While a few Ontario bishops have published altered versions of a generic pastoral letter encouraging their flock to ask MPs to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, unlike Henry, the bishops have all so far conspicuously avoided any mention of Catholic teaching on homosexual activity, its sinfulness and its harm to both the persons engaged in it and to the general society.

To send a note of support to Bishop Henry

Much of the anti-Christian bigotry in evidence in the last election campaign is due to the fact that Christians, in the main, oppose both abortion on demand and gay marriage. Proponents of these practices realize that Christians are the only serious political threat they face. Except for politically insignificant Orthodox Jews and Muslims, no one else who opposes the right to kill unborn babies, or to marry members of the same sex, can adduce any substantive reason for their opposition other than that it offends them somehow.

Offended sensibilities, however, invariably collapse like wheat in a wind storm in arguments between antagonists who assume, as a point of departure, the value of individual rights. It is only those who believe that the behaviors in question offend the will of God who have any non-subjective grounds for resisting them, and their resistance frequently incurs the hatred of those who embrace the behavior. Let's hope that it does not get worse.

From the Feedback Forum

A reader writes to correct us on an error we made in a January 17th post titled Reply to a Muslim. I wrote there that the opinion among Muslims that we are trying to colonize the Arab world is misguided:

"[A Muslim] says that [Muslims] hate us because we're trying to colonize them, but where is the evidence of that? Did we stay in Kuwait? Did we not leave Saudi Arabia when the Saudis insisted? Did we colonize Afghanistan?"

To which our reader replies:

Actually, yes, we did stay in Kuwait (with the Kuwaiti government's cooperation, blessings, and partial funding). We have had a continuous military presence in Kuwait since the first Gulf war. I am a retired reserve military officer, and in 1998 I served at one of the two main American military bases in Kuwait. Those bases are still there, and have in fact been expanded since then. We never left Saudi, either. We still have air bases there (they were there before the Gulf war, and they are still there - we only withdrew the extra invasion troops that came to liberate Kuwait). We also have a large contingency of troops still in Afghanistan, as well as large military bases in Qatar and Bahrain.

None of these military presences are attempts at "colonization," of course, as they are all with the full support and cooperation of the various native governments involved (who give that support and cooperation out of their own self-interest, not ours). Our presence in the Arabian Peninsula has a dual purpose - both out of benevolence to discourage mischief by Iran, Syria, and other rogue states, AND out of protecting our own national self-interests against the radical regimes of the region (again, principally Iran, Syria and the remaining extremist factions in Iraq).


BP is right, of course, and I thank him for the clarification (His e-mail can be read in its entirety at the Feedback Forum). What I should have said was that we didn't stay to colonize those countries; that our presence in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia is similar to our presence in England, Germany, and South Korea. We have military bases there, but it would be difficult to make the case that these nations are colonies of the U.S.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Good Blog

A lot of blogs (I don't think I'll ever get comfortable with that word) specialize on a single theme while some seek a more eclectic audience. A good example of the latter is Loren Kohl's Almanac of the Mundane which has a lot of good reading on a lot of different topics. It takes a very bright guy to do the work he does on his site, and we recommend that our readers check him out.

A Speech For the Ages

A friend passes along this selection of opinions, culled from newspapers and commentators across the country, of George Bush's Second Inaugural Address:

Editorials and Op-Eds:

The Wall Street Journal: "Not Since JFK In 1960 Has An American President Provided Such An Ambitious And Unabashed Case For The Promotion Of Liberty At Home And Abroad." (Editorial, "Liberty Bell Ringer," The Wall Street Journal, 1/21/05)

David Broder, The Washington Post: Called The Speech, "Brief But Eloquent..." (David S. Broder, Op-Ed, "Big Goals, Unshakable Faith," The Washington Post, 1/21/05)

Broder: "[O]ne Essential Truth We Have Learned About Bush: His Faith That The Quest For Freedom Is A Universal Truth, Rooted In Human Nature And Intended By God." (David S. Broder, Op-Ed, "Big Goals, Unshakable Faith," The Washington Post, 1/21/05)

William Safire, The New York Times: "I Rate It Among The Top 5 Of The 20 Second-Inaugurals In Our History. Lincoln's Profound Sermon 'With Malice Toward None' Is Incomparable, But Bush's Second Was Better Than Jefferson's Mean-Spirited Pouting At 'The Artillery Of The Press.'" (William Safire, Op-Ed, "Bush's 'Freedom Speech,'" The New York Times, 1/21/05)

USA Today: "When George W. Bush Was Inaugurated For The First Time Four Years Ago, He Devoted Only Seven Sentences To Foreign Policy. Thursday, A More Seasoned And Confident Bush Delivered A Stirring Inaugural Call To The Longstanding American Ideal Of Spreading Freedom And Democracy Around The Globe." (Editorial, "Bush Shares A Stirring Vision. Now, How To Apply It?" USA Today, 1/21/05)

Los Angeles Times: "His Second Inaugural Address Was That Of A Large Man Indeed, Eloquently Weaving The Big Themes Of His Presidency And His Life Into A Coherent Philosophy And A Bold Vision Of How He Wants This Country To Spend The Next Four Years." (Editorial, "No Country Left Behind," Los Angeles Times, 1/21/05)

New York Post: "President Bush Stood Tall Before America And The World Yesterday And Marked The Beginning Of His Second Term With An Affirmation Of Liberty That Will Resonate For Years To Come." (Editorial, "Bush's 2nd Inaugural," New York Post, 1/21/05)

John Harris, The Washington Post: "[T]he 21-Minute Address He Delivered At The Capitol Yesterday Was Startling In Its Reach." (John F. Harris, Op-Ed, "An Ambitious President Advances His Idealism," The Washington Post, 1/21/05)

Harris: "His Pledges To Promote Liberty And Aid The Oppressed, Along With Predictions Of The United States Leading The World To The Ultimate Triumph Of Democracy Over Tyranny In Every Land, Were Issued With Some Of The Most Expansive And Lyrical Language Bush Has Summoned." (John F. Harris, Op-Ed, "An Ambitious President Advances His Idealism," The Washington Post, 1/21/05)

Dallas Morning News: "The President, Exuding Both Gravity And Confidence, Was Indisputably Presidential. His Speech Embodied Everything That Makes Him The Leader He Is: Unembarrassed Religious Faith, Moral Certitude, Persistence, Determination And Self-Assuredness." (Editorial, "Values-Laden Vision: Bush Shines As He Delivers Second-Term Ideals," The Dallas Morning News, 1/21/05)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "President George W. Bush Delivered An Eloquent, Idealistic Second Inaugural On Thursday That Was An Ode To America's Special Role In Promoting Freedom Around The World." (Editorial, "Bush's Second Inaugural: Ode To Freedom," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/21/05)

The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer: "In A Scant 21 Minutes, Bush Delivered What May Have Been The Speech Of His Presidency, A Thematic Symphony Keyed To The Unalienable Rights Of People - The Same Truths This Nation's Founders Held To Be Self-Evident." (Editorial, "Bush's Call To Freedom," The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer, 1/21/05)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "George W. Bush's Second Inaugural Address, Given In A Time Of War And Doubt, Was An Inspiring Call For Selflessness And Sacrifice. It Was A Call For Americans To Advance The Cause Of Freedom From Tyranny Worldwide." (Editorial, "A New Bush Doctrine?" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/21/05)


NBC's Tim Russert: "Well-Crafted, Well-Delivered. The Themes Of Freedom And Liberty ... I Thought The Call To National Service Will Resonate With All Americans - Democrats, Republicans, Independents." (NBC's, "Special Coverage Of The 55th Inaugural," 1/20/05)

CBS News' Bob Schieffer Said Speech Was "Eloquent And The Rhetoric Lofty." (CBS' "Evening News With Dan Rather," 1/20/05)

ABC News' George Will: "It's Not Just The Survival Of Liberty He's About. He Is About The Expansion Of Liberty Into Every Nook And Crevasse Of The Planet." (ABC's "Inaugural Coverage," 1/20/05)

Howard Fineman, Newsweek: Called The Address "Powerful. I Think It Is The Biggest Statement Of American Purpose In The World Of Any President I Can Think Of. It Is Woodrow Wilson On Steroids. It's Big." (MSNBC's "Hardball," 1/20/05)

Dick Morris, Former Aide To President Clinton: "Was The Greatest [Inaugural Address] ... Since John F. Kennedy's And One Of The Five Or Sixth Greatest Of All Time. It Was Beautiful, It Was Poetic. ... And It Articulated A Bold New Doctrine For American Policy. It Was A Very Substantive Speech." (Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," 1/20/05)

Viewpoint: What happened to the MSM dogma that Bush was all hat and no cattle?

Bad News From Iraq

Bill Roggio cites an Arthur Chrenkoff tally that shows that on a single day, January 19th, the world's media ran 10,938 negative stories on Iraq, 123 which were neutral, and 407 which were positive. This despite the fact that as Chrenkoff's Good News From Iraq series has chronicled, the amount of positive news being generated in Iraq is enormous.

The reprehensible element of this is that, to the extent the American media have contributed to the lop-sidedness of this reporting, they are deliberately trying to sabotage the reconstruction effort in Iraq. And to this end they are willing to sacrifice Iraqi lives, to render American casualties vain, to thwart an historic opportunity to liberate millions of suffering people, and to alter the political dynamic of the Middle East for perhaps decades, even centuries to come, all because they don't want to see a Republican get the credit for whatever success Iraq enjoys. It is the basest of motives producing the most contemptible journalism.

Iraqi Election Ad

MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) has a video clip of an ad carried on Al Arabiya tv out of Iraq that is as poignant and powerful as it is brief. Go here and click on "view clip".

To see links to other such ads go here.

Three's Company, Four's a Marriage

Viewpoint has argued since our inception last May that legalizing same sex marriage will ultimately destroy marriage as an institution because it will remove any rationale for proscribing unions of any or all conceivable permutations. Once marriage is no longer limited to one man and one woman there is no logical basis for placing any limits on the number or gender composition of any union. When marriage can be anything at all it will cease to exist in any meaningful sense.

Now comes this story. from the Ottawa Citizen essentially placing an exclamation point at the end of the previous paragraph:

Just weeks before it introduces divisive same-sex marriage legislation, the federal government has launched an urgent study into the legal and social ramifications of polygamy. Critics say the study underscores a deep concern in the Martin government that legalized homosexual marriage may lead to constitutional challenges from minority groups who claim polygamy as a religious right.

It also suggests that the government is suspicious that multi-marriage is more commonplace in Canada than widely realized. Polygamy, outlawed in Canada but accepted and practised in many countries, typically means a man having several wives at the same time.

"In order to best prepare for possible debate surrounding Canada's polygamy policy, critical research is needed," says a Status of Women Canada document. "It is vital that researchers explore the impacts of polygamy on women and children and gender equality as well as the challenges that polygamy presents to society."

Conservative party justice critic Vic Toews says there is a direct link between the Status of Women concern and the same-sex marriage legislation due to be introduced by the government in February.

"This government understands it has a problem on its hands," said Mr. Toews, a former Manitoba constitutional lawyer. "What they are looking for is evidence to demonstrate that polygamy is inconsistent with Charter and Canadian values. If I was a lawyer prosecuting a polygamist that's the type of evidence I would be looking for."

But when same-sex marriage becomes legal, the door will open to more Charter challenges, said Conservative critic Mr. Toews. "Once you change the definition of marriage from one man and one woman and you move to two persons," he said, "what then is the distinction between two persons, or three or more persons? If I was a lawyer defending polygamists, I'd say 'hey this is a constitutional right, a freedom of religion.' Why can't freedom of religion trump this new definition of marriage?"

The article includes comments from lawyer Peter Hogg, who argued the federal government's case for same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court of Canada. Mr. Hogg said that he doubts legalizing homosexual marriage will lead to legal challenges from polygamists, but his reasoning sounds to us to be either naive or disingenuous.

"We have to recognize that over time society changes and marriage changes to mirror the attitude, mores and needs of a particular society," said Mr Hogg. "If some kind of cataclysm occurred to make women far more numerous than men for a long period of time then a significant movement might develop to change the institution of marriage to reflect that. But that is unlikely."

The fact that bigamy is a crime in Canada is also a huge obstacle for a polygamist launching a Charter of Rights challenge, he said.

"I don't think you can say there are any inexorable steps here," added Mr Hogg. "What has sparked the concern over same-sex marriage is a series of Charter decisions holding that opposite-sex marriage discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and you can't make arguments of that sort with respect to polygamy."

Mr. Hogg elides the real point. The issue is not whether bigamy is currently a crime or how the majority of people feel about marriage, it is rather whether there is or can be any legal or philosophical basis more solid than simply arbitrary preference for preventing groups of people of whatever gender combinations from marrying. The fact is that once marriage is separated from its Biblical definition and two thousand years of tradition there is nothing left to rest it upon. Any law against it will be overturned just as laws against sodomy have been overturned. The whole society may believe marriage should be limited to two people, but they have no grounds for imposing what is a mere personal preference upon others who decide that they are sexually oriented toward polyamory and want the right to marry for themselves.

Friday, January 21, 2005


A friend recommends to us the web site of the devotees of a religion which calls itself Universism. On their Main page the Universists ask a series of provocative questions:

What if there was a religion announcing no universal religious truth exists? The meaning of your existence is yours to determine.

What if there was a religion generating respect among all humanity by making us equals in the most important questions we will ever face?

What if there was a religion uniting freethinkers, including atheists, deists, transcendentalists, pantheists and agnostics?

What if there was a religion with no prophet or holy book?

What if there was a religion announcing no moral authority exists, religious or secular?

What if there was a religion born in 2003 that instantly included millions of people on the planet - maybe even you?

Would it even be a religion? Yes. But it's unlike anything you've ever seen before. Welcome to the future of religion. Welcome to Universism.

Universism is the world's first rational religion. Reaching to the heart of humanity's religious impulse, we have uncovered not faith, but mystery. Not complacency, but awe. We have found an essential element of the human experience in harmony with reason - not in spite of it. Universists know the fuller our understanding of the universe, the greater our appreciation for a reality beyond our imagination. We celebrate faith in reason, inspiration in nature, and hope in progress.

We don't have the space to say everything about this that we would like, so we'll just pick out a few items to critique. The Universists ask:

What if there was a religion announcing no universal religious truth exists? The meaning of your existence is yours to determine.

The Universists are off to an inauspicious start with this question. In addition to having selected for their name an exceedingly difficult word to pronounce, the implied answer to the question they pose is self-refuting. The claim that there are no universal truths about religion purports to be itself a universal truth about religion. So, if it's true then it's false.

Beyond that, if each of us is the sole author of the meaning of our existence then there really is no meaning, not in any but the most ephemeral sense. We live, we suffer, we die and when we die whatever we did in life makes no difference whatsoever. Eventually, the human race will die out, as will the earth and the sun, and no one's existence will have mattered at all. A human life has no more "meaning" or significance in a universe without God than does the life of an ant. Billions of years of time and an unimaginably vast cosmos render our lives and our achievements vanishingly quick and paltry.

What if there was a religion generating respect among all humanity by making us equals in the most important questions we will ever face?

Well, actually there is such a religion. It's called Christianity. Christianity has been virtually the sole engine for human equality throughout the last two thousand years of history. Racial and gender equality may have been slow in coming, but they have only come at all because of the convictions of Christian people in predominantly Christian nations. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the American ideal of political and legal equality derived from the Christian notion that all men are equal in the eyes of God. People who believed that we are all equal in the eyes of God, he wrote, could hardly deny equality to some in the eyes of the state.

What if there was a religion announcing no moral authority exists, religious or secular?

If there is no moral authority beyond ourselves then each of us is free to construct our own idea of right and wrong. Thus, whatever I decide to be right, no one else can say is wrong. Morality is purely subjective. All the great criminals and tyrants of history believed this very idea, of course, and it is a prescription for chaos and oppression.

We celebrate faith in reason, inspiration in nature, and hope in progress.

It is unclear what their faith in reason leads them to conclude about the world. Universists place their trust in reason to do what, exactly? To lead them to truth? What do they base this trust upon? If all of our cognitive functions are reducible, as the universist no doubt believes they are, to non-rational chemical reactions in the brain, what warrant does he have for believing that these non-rational processes reliably produce truth?

In order to justify his faith in reason the universist has to construct some sort of argument to show that reason is trustworthy, but arguments rely upon reason. Thus he has to use reason to demonstrate the trustworthiness of reason. He has to assume that reason is reliable which is the very thing he's trying to demonstrate. this, unfortunately, is irrational. In other words, faith in reason is no more rational, and perhaps less so, than faith in God.

In what sense, moreover, does nature inspire? Everything about nature that fills one with awe points away from the universist belief that nature is all there is. To be inspired is to be moved to express some feeling or sentiment. What feeling or sentiment is a universist moved to express? Awe? Wonder? At what, exactly? Our insignificance? The incredible complexity, intricacy, and order of the world? The beauty of the world? The first of these pretty much cancels out any hope for meaning to life, and the others point to a creative Mind behind nature.

The inspiration Universists experience as they contemplate the glories of the world and of life is fundamentally at odds with their basic assumption that the world is just the product of mindless, purposeless forces which, purely by accident and random coincidence, somehow brought it into being. This may be astonishing, but it's hardly inspiring.

What ground, finally, does the Universist have for hope in progress. Whatever moral progress man has made in his history has been largely the result of Judeo-Christian belief. It has likewise been frequently argued that our technological progress was also the fruit of the Christian worldview which prevailed in Europe and which saw creation as the product of a rational God. The physical and biological worlds were seen, therefore, as not only worthy of study but also spheres of mystery whose secrets would yield to rational inquiry.

But setting that aside, technological progress in a world where everyone determines their own morality and no one has any basis for choosing one moral opinion over another except their own preferences and biases means that technological achievements, if they can be sustained, will fall into the hands of the most ruthless, egoistic, and powerful among us. We can be assured that such men will not use the fruits of progress to benefit mankind. There's not much reason to exult in a "hope in progress" in such a world.

The President's Priorities

Commentators could be heard yesterday and today claiming that Social Security reform is the most important item on the President's domestic agenda. We don't know how the President sees it, but we don't think Social Security reform is as important right now as are some other much-needed reforms. We would argue that the most important item on the President's domestic agenda should be getting conservative judicial appointees approved. He has an excellent window of opportunity to accomplish this now, and he may not have it again after 2006.

After stocking the federal and Supreme courts with men and women who see their role as interpreting the law and the constitution and not as making law and amending the constitution, we hope the President tackles immigration, tort, and perhaps tax reform, along with reducing runaway health care costs.

Social Security reform, as important as it is, is not as critical in the near term as are these other matters, and it would be very unfortunate if these reforms were overlooked in the political hurley-burley of a fight to mend Social Security.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dropping The F - Bomb

Some commentators heard echoes of Natan Sharansky in yesterday's Inaugural Address. Others, like Fraters Libertas, discerned the source of much of the Left's hatred for George W. Bush. Their remarks are worth reading in their entirety:

Why does the Left feel such a visceral hatred for George W. Bush? Look no further than today's Inaugural Address for the answer. It isn't because he's a unilateralist cowboy or that he believes in God and isn't afraid to say so. And it's not because of the "lies about WMD" or because he didn't sign the Kyoto Treaty.

No, it's all about one word. The F word. I imagine that your average Lefty would have been apoplectic if they actually listened to today's speech and heard Dubya drop the F-bomb twenty-seven times.

You see, as much as they would seek to deny it, FREEDOM is a dirty word to the Left. Oh sure, they like to spout off about how they're all for it, but when it comes down to the heart of the matter, most of their core beliefs contradict it. Can someone please tell me what anyone on the Left has done to advance the cause of freedom in the last thirty-five years?

Were they really interested in the freedom of the people of Vietnam? Or Laos or Cambodia? No. They were more interested in damaging the United States than actually helping those who would fall under the boot heel of communism in Southeast Asia.

What about the freedom of people behind the Iron Curtain? What did the Left's moral relativism during the Cold War do for them? Nada. Again, it wasn't about spreading freedom to oppressed people, it was about reflexively opposing the United States.

The same could be said for the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador. Or the Kuwaitis.

Today, it's the fate of the Afghanis and the Iraqis whom the Left pretends to be concerned about. But how much Leftist outrage did you hear about Afghanistan under the Taliban? And, other then the grossly exaggerated suffering that was attributed to sanctions, did you ever hear a peep from the Left about the brutal suppression of the Iraqi people under Saddam?

What of the Iranians? The North Koreans? The Left loves to kiss Castro's ass and strut around in their Che Chic outfits, but do they care about real freedom for the Cuban people? Hell, for that matter does anyone honestly believe that most Lefties would give a damn about the Palestinians if their cause wasn't a tool to use against Israel (and thus indirectly the United States)?

I'm not saying that Bush's crusade for freedom is based solely on the virtue of helping others attain what we so greatly cherish. There is obviously an American self-interest in seeing the world become more free (the rarity of democracies going to war and all that). But, the fact of the matter is that, whatever his motivations may be, George W. Bush has done more to advance the cause of freedom in the world than any president since Ronald Reagan. And like Reagan, the Left vilifies him for it.

And it's more than just the international front. While Bush's record is far from perfect on domestic matters, his push for tax cuts, reform of Social Security, and creating an "ownership" society are all about freedom. Freedom to keep more of your money. Freedom to invest for your retirement. Freedom to choose your health care options.

What do we get from the Left? Restrictions on what we can eat. Where we can smoke (if we're even allowed to smoke at all). Where we can live. What kind of car we can drive. Where are education tax dollars can be used. What we can say on college campuses. The list could go on and on.

The bottom line is that the Left despises George W. Bush because of his embrace of the one word that they can't abide: Freedom

Despite being marred by what seemed at times an awkward delivery, the content of today's speech was historic. Not just because of the principles the President articulated, although they were truly inspiring, but because unlike most speeches delivered by politicians, the world knows now that what George Bush says, he means.

The Left will object, as Jeannene Garafolo did tonight on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, that Bush's rhetoric about freedom rings hollow because he opposes a woman's right to kill her unborn child or because he opposes granting gays the freedom to marry, or because the Patriot act imposes onerous restrictions on Americans, or because the incarceration of radical Islamists in Guantanamo shows that Bush doesn't really care about freedom at all.

These cavils give further evidence, if any were needed, of the Left's increasing self-imposed irrelevance. People like Ms Garafolo would have us believe that unless one advocates letting everyone do anything they please one doesn't really favor liberty and justice at all. Americans, we are to assume, are toiling under the lash of oppression because we are denied gay marriage and other freedoms that truly liberated people enjoy. Perhaps Ms Garafolo might ask twenty five million Afghans, especially Afghan women, if they have a greater degree of liberty now, even though they don't have gay marriage and abortion on demand, or whether they were freer under the Taliban. Perhaps she might ask twenty five million Iraqis, particularly the Shi'ia and the Kurds, if they are freer now, even though some of them were wrongfully abused at Abu Ghraib, than they were under Saddam Hussein. We suspect that many of them would regard the inquiry as the question of a hopeless naif, and refrain from laughing in Ms Garafolo's face only out of courtesy and pity.

George Bush's speech yesterday raised the anxiety level of oppressors everywhere and gave hope to millions of people who still groan under the weight of tyranny. It was a speech for the ages.

On the Democratic Fringe

Not many Democrats understand that America is still largely a Christian nation and that explicitly secularist agendas will not play well with the majority of voters. Hillary Clinton is one of the few who does, however, and she evidently intends to play her understanding to advantage over the next few years as she seeks to position herself for a run at the presidency in 2008. The following excerpt is from a Boston Globe story:

On the eve of the presidential inauguration, US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton last night embraced an issue some pundits say helped seal a second term for George W. Bush: acceptance of the role of faith in addressing social ills. In a speech at a fund-raising dinner for a Boston-based organization that promotes faith-based solutions to social problems, Clinton said there has been a "false division" between faith-based approaches to social problems and respect for the separation of church of state.

"There is no contradiction between support for faith-based initiatives and upholding our constitutional principles," said Clinton, a New York Democrat who often is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008.

Addressing a crowd of more than 500, including many religious leaders, at Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza, Clinton invoked God more than half a dozen times, at one point declaring, "I've always been a praying person."

She said there must be room for religious people to "live out their faith in the public square."

The issue of faith in politics has been at the center of debate following the presidential election, with some arguing that Bush's strong identification with religious values was a key to his victory over Senator John F. Kerry.

Whether Senator Clinton is sincere or not is another question. Right now she seems to be at least saying the things which will distinguish her from the Michael Moore/Ted Kennedy wing of the party. We look for Hillary to continue to define herself well to the right of the Democratic mainstream. It really will be ironic if, two years from now, her political opponents in her own party start hinting that Hillary Clinton is a fringe candidate and an extremist.

Most Influential Spokesperson

The Barna Group has the results of a survey that asks Christian pastors to name the individuals who have the greatest influence on the Church in the U.S., and who they regard to be the most trustworthy spokespersons for Christianity. Here's a summary of just part of their findings:

Greatest Influence On Churches:

The 614 Senior Pastors interviewed were asked to identify up to three individuals whom they believe have the greatest influence on churches and church leaders in the U.S. Pastors named more than 300 different individuals, but only 10 of those leaders were listed by 4% or more of the clergy. Billy Graham was chosen by 34% of the pastors, with Rick Warren (pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the multimillion-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life) second with 26%. The only other individuals listed by at least 10% were President George Bush (14%) and radio broadcaster and family advocate James Dobson (11%).

Other influencers who were among the ten most frequently listed were Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church (9%); Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter's House (7%); author and motivational speaker John Maxwell (6%); researcher and author George Barna (5%); Pope John Paul II (5%); and author and speaker Max Lucado (4%).

Most Trusted Spokesperson:

Billy Graham also led the pack as the most trusted spokesperson for Christianity, garnering the support of six out of ten pastors (58%). James Dobson was a distant second, with 20% naming him, followed by the 14% who identified Rick Warren. T.D. Jakes placed fourth (7%), followed by veteran pastors Charles Swindoll and Jerry Falwell, each at 6%; and by Bill Hybels and author and prison ministry pioneer Charles Colson (5%). Pastor D. James Kennedy, President Bush, broadcaster Pat Robertson, and author Max Lucado rounded out the top ten individuals, each mentioned by 4% of the clergy.

Billy Graham has had an enormous impact on Christianity in this country and around the world over the last half century and his legacy will ripple and reverberate throughout this century and doubtless into the next. Indeed, it may be that no one since St.Paul will have had a greater impact for the Gospel than has Graham.

Even so, it seems that at the present moment the nod for most influential has to go to Rick Warren. No one has done more to energize the Church in the last few years than has Warren. His influence is different than Graham's because his ministry is different, but millions of people have been inspired by his books and their participation in the small fellowship groups that use them to reorient and recommit their lives to Christ.

We would not be at all surprised to learn that Rick Warren is not only one of the most influential leaders in Christianity right now, but that he has also been one of the most influential people in our society as a whole for the last three or four years.