Monday, February 28, 2005

Is Increased Longevity Good?

Here's some good news to cheer you:

Average life expectancy in the United States rose to a record 77.6 years in 2003 from 77.3 years in 2002, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although women on average still lived longer than men in 2003 - 80.1 years versus 74.8 years - the gender gap in mortality narrowed, continuing a 25-year trend, the CDC said in a report.

The Atlanta-based agency, which is responsible for monitoring and responding to health threats, attributed the improvement in life expectancy to corresponding drops in eight of the 15 leading causes of death. Chief among them were significant declines in mortality from heart disease, cancer and stroke, the three biggest killers. Death rates for these conditions fell between 2.2 percent and 4.6 percent.

An odd thing about this is that when I've asked students whether a pill which would enable users to live forever would be a good thing, they almost invariably answer in the negative. Even Christian students who fully expect to live eternally often say they wouldn't wish to live in a world in which there was no death (until I ask them what on earth, then, the attraction of Christianity is for them. Then they realize the strangeness of their reply and change it.). Yet the news that life expectancy is increasing will be universally acclaimed as positive.

Why is that? Do people want to live longer and longer life spans but just not too long? Why not, as long as the extra years are robust and not stretched out debility?

Anyway, three cheers for longevity!

Watching Our Kids Self-Destruct

Rebecca Hagelin recounts her experience as a substitute teacher in her local middle school. It's pretty depressing stuff. Perhaps most disturbing are these words:

Could it be that our kids are searching for meaning? Could it be that they are so numbed by the anything-goes society that they are pushing the envelope just to feel alive? Take cutting. It's a phenomenon now prevalent in even the best schools, and it's exactly what you're hoping it isn't: self-mutilation. Kids casually cut themselves with knives, safety pins and razor blades - just because. In Michelle Malkin's column of February 23, she refers to a school counselor telling the parent of a middle school student, "70% of the kids here cut or know someone who does. It's cool, a trend, and acceptable."

In a February 28, 2005 article entitled, "Left Behind, Kids Have Too Little to Respect" for The American Conservative, substitute teacher Marian Kester Coombs observes, "Those who give speeches about higher standards and more teachers typically lunch in places like the Senate dining room. They would do well to spend a noon hour in the cafeteria of a public school. Kids in super-tight or droopy jeans and t-shirts reading "Yes - but not with you" or "You forgot to ask if I care" shuffle through food lines that feature tater tots, fries, chips, pizza, Pepsi, and Little Debbie dessert squares. Ritalin offsets the sugar high." As Coombs says, "But bad fashion and worse nutrition are not these children's only common denominators. Their more defining trait is the forlorn look they share."

Kids often find themselves in an ironic situation. They may have everything they think they want but very little of what they really need. Too often their lives are barren, loveless, and meaningless. They're not aware of it, of course, youngsters not being capable of the degree of introspection and self-diagnosis necessary to perceive an existential vacancy, but they suffer from it nonetheless. These kids drift through school like they drift through life. Uncaring and unmotivated, their lives are burdened with a terrible loneliness and an awful sadness.

They cut their bodies because they see themselves as worthless and everything they do as pointless. They are the by-product of their parents' rejection of traditional views of marriage and of the purgation of all vestiges of an emotionally and intellectually rich religious heritage from our public culture. The one refuge where these tragic kids could find meaning and purpose for their lives, the one place where they could find true worth and dignity, is the one place they're not allowed to look and the last place they'd consider trying.

An obsessively secular culture has essentially removed from their reach the thing they most need and thinks it can compensate for the lack by imposing more rigorous academic standards and requiring them to take tougher courses in their schools. To paraphrase Mark Twain, there are thousands hacking at the branches of the problem for every one who is cutting at the root.

Society will not address the root of the malaise which afflicts so many youngsters because it would require that we recognize what the root of the problem is and there is little evidence that we do. Even if we did, to apply ourselves to the root would require a complete reversal of the secularizing trend of the last forty years, and an admission of its utter folly. Instead, oblivious to the harm we are doing, we continue to banish the only hope many of these kids have from our public places, intent on making our schools as sterile and barren as the hearts and minds of the young people most in need of that which is being put off-limits.

Putin's Understanding of America

For a former KGB guy Vladimir Putin has a very attenuated understanding of how things work in the U.S. as this MSNBC/Newsweek report makes painfully clear:

Four years earlier, in another castle in Central Europe, George W. Bush looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and saw his trustworthy soul. But what he saw inside Putin last week was far less comforting. When Bush confronted his Russian counterpart about the freedom of the press in Russia, Putin shot back with an attack of his own: "We didn't criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS."

It's not clear how well Putin understands the controversy that led to the dismissal of four CBS journalists over the discredited report on Bush's National Guard service. Yet it's all too clear how Putin sees the relationship between Bush and the American media-just like his own. Bush's aides have long feared that former KGB officers in Putin's inner circle are painting a twisted picture of U.S. policy. So Bush explained how he had no power to fire American journalists.

If this is a measure of how well-informed the Russian president is about how things work in the U.S. one wonders how, with agents such as Mr. Putin in its employ, the old KGB scored any successes at all during the cold war.

Time's Running Out for Zarqawi

An Australian news agency has this story predicting the imminent capture of Abu al Zarqawi:

Iraq's interim Government says security forces were closing in on Al Qaeda frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, 24 hours after announcing the arrest of another top aide of the Jordanian militant.

"We are really close to Zarqawi," national security chief Kassem Daoud told reporters in the Shiite Muslim pilgrimage city of Najaf. "You will hear very good news soon," added the secular Shiite, who was elected a Member of Parliament on the same ticket as outgoing prime minister Iyad Allawi in the January 30 elections.

Mr Daoud was speaking after talks with Iraq's Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who backed the main Shiite bloc that romped home to win 140 out of 275 seats in the new Parliament.

On Friday, the Iraqi Government said a senior Zarqawi aide had been arrested on Monday, along with a man who had acted as the militant's driver, west of Baghdad. It gave no reason for the delay in the announcement.

Zarqawi, Iraq's most-wanted man, has a $US25 million reward for his death or capture.

No one should get their hopes up too high, of course, but we certainly may hope that Mr. Daoud knows something of the matter about which he speaks. If he does it'll be interesting to see if Zarqawi allows himself to be taken alive.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Hollywood Narcissism

We took our yearly pass on the Oscars tonight. No doubt somebody cared about this annual celebration of Hollywood narcissism and tastelessness, but it wasn't us.

How You CanTell

IMAO lists ten indictors that you may be left of liberal. There's a chuckle or two in the list. Thanks to Cheat Seeking Missiles for the tip.

Rescuing Our Schools

American high schools are obsolete says Bill Gates, but this is really not news. That schools aren't doing the job we'd like has been common knowledge for decades. The question is why, and what can we do to fix them:

The nation's governors offered an alarming account of the American high school Saturday, saying only drastic change will keep millions of students from falling short. "We can't keep explaining to our nation's parents or business leaders or college faculties why these kids can't do the work," said Virginia Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, as the state leaders convened for the first National Education Summit aimed at rallying governors around high school reform.

Most of the summit's first day amounted to an enormous distress call, with speakers using unflattering numbers to define the problem. Among them: Of every 100 ninth-graders, only 68 graduate high school on time and only 18 make it through college on time, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Once in college, one in four students at four-year universities must take at least one remedial course to master what they should have learned in high school, government figures show.

The most blunt assessment came from Microsoft chief Bill Gates, who has put more than $700 million into reducing the size of high school classes through the foundation formed by him and his wife, Melinda. He said high schools must be redesigned to prepare every student for college, with classes that are rigorous and relevant to kids and with supportive relationships for children.

"America's high schools are obsolete," Gates said. "By obsolete, I don't just mean that they're broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools - even when they're working as designed - cannot teach all our students what they need to know today."

Summit leaders have an ambitious agenda for every state: to raise the requirements of a high school diploma, improve information sharing between high schools and universities, and align graduation standards with the expectations of colleges and employers. Governors say they're in a position to unite the often splintered agendas of business leaders, educators and legislatures.

But such changes will take what Gates singled out as the biggest obstacle: political will. Requiring tougher courses for all students, for example, could face opposition from parents and school officials, particularly if more rigor leads to lower test scores and costly training.

Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., said the most reliable predictor of success in college is a student's exposure to challenging high school courses - and that governors know they must act.

Unfortunately, if the question is why schools are broken and what can we do to fix them, then the governors' summit was like a meeting of the band on board the Titanic to discuss which songs to play as the ship sinks into the sea. The problems which beset high schools are not problems either high schools or state governments are equipped to solve. Student learning is a function of student attitude which in turn is shaped by the culture in which students live. We can redesign and restructure schools to our heart's content, just as an aquarium staff can create a beautiful coral reef for their tropical fish, but if the water the fish swim in is toxic, they will not thrive.

Collapsing family structures, a depauperate entertainment culture, both affluence and poverty, an inability on the part of schools to set and enforce high standards of discipline, a legal system eager to haul an administrator or teacher into court at the slightest provocation, and a society which views education as the least important task that schools perform, all poison the cultural water in which our children swim and make it exceedingly difficult for schools to do their job.

Until we change the water, all the expressions of concern, all the tough tests and challenging courses the schools can muster, all the changes Bill Gates and others envision, are just so many fingers in the dike. The problem is not with our schools, it is with our culture, and any reform efforts which fail to recognize this fact will simply be a waste of time and money.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Skewering Academic Feminists

Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield has written an eloquent indictment of contemporary feminism, especially as it is encountered at the university, and particularly as it has been manifest in the events surrounding the Larry Summers faux pas. We offer you a few excerpts with hopes that you will want to read the whole essay:

Summers has supporters, and not all the faculty joined in the game of making him look sick. But the supporters, like Summers himself, were on the defensive, making concessions, and the critics were not. The critics consist of feminist women and their male consorts on the left. But since the left these days looks opportunistically for any promising cause, it is the feminists who are the core opposed to Summers. Together the feminists and the left make up perhaps half the faculty [at Harvard], the other half being moderate liberals who are afraid of the feminists rather than with them.

His accusers were relentless and, as always with feminists, humorless. They complained of being humiliated, but they took no care not to humiliate a proud man. They complained...of being intimidated, but they were doing their best to intimidate Summers - and they succeeded.

Summers lives by straightforward argument. He doesn't care whether he convinces you or you convince him. He isn't looking for victory in argument. But his forceful intelligence often produces it, in the view of those with whom he reasons. Sometimes the professors he speaks with come out feeling that they are victims of "bullying," as one of his feminist critics stated. As if to reason were to bully.

But feminists....insist on a welcoming atmosphere of encouragement to themselves and to their plans. If they do not get it, they will with a straight face accuse you of intimidating them even as they are intimidating you.

It takes one's breath away to watch feminist women at work. At the same time that they denounce traditional stereotypes they conform to them. If at the back of your sexist mind you think that women are emotional, you listen agape as professor Nancy Hopkins of MIT comes out with the threat that she will be sick if she has to hear too much of what she doesn't agree with. If you think women are suggestible, you hear it said that the mere suggestion of an innate inequality in women will keep them from stirring themselves to excel. While denouncing the feminine mystique, feminists behave as if they were devoted to it. They are women who assert their independence but still depend on men to keep women secure and comfortable while admiring their independence. Even in the gender-neutral society, men are expected by feminists to open doors for women. If men do not, they are intimidating women.

Feminists do not like to argue, and they consider you a case if you do not immediately agree with them. "Raising consciousness" is their way of getting you to fall in with their plans, and "tsk, tsk" is the only signal you should need and will get. Anyone who requires evidence and argument is already an enemy because he is considering a possibility hurtful to women.

Mansfield's pellucid analysis of university feminism will resonate with many academics all across the land, we're sure.

Peter Schramm at No Left Turns, who tipped us to this essay, adds this interesting anecdote:

A colleague, a reasonable and quiet gentleman, and I recently met with another professor on a curriculum issue. We engaged in perfectly balanced and quiet conversation for about an hour. Our interlocutor then made clear that the next time we make our case to anyone else (or a committee on campus) we should be less "bullying," less "intimidating." After we left the meeting my colleague and I spent a half an hour trying to figure out what she could have meant since we were certain we did not bully. We concluded that to give reasons for something was to bully, according to our interlocutor. It was a bit of a revelation, I'll admit. But it was true. Mansfield clarifies this problem, and it is a much larger problem than feminists running amok, or mere political correctness, and I thank him for it.

I might add that I have from time to time had students (in each instance they were female)comment that they felt somewhat intimidated by my insistence that they defend claims that they make in class or views that they hold. It always astonishes me that students in a philosophy class would assume that they should be able to say whatever strikes their fancy without being challenged to defend it and that if they are challenged, no matter how gently and politely, they should think this to be somehow intimidating and out of place.

It is not the tone or the demeanor that puts them off, mind you. It is the insistence that they be able to state the reasons behind their opinions, the premises supporting their conclusions, that makes them uncomfortable. In their view, all opinions should be respected and accepted, and to question their claims is to make them feel almost like they have been personally assaulted. It would be amusing were it not so sad.

A Caution and a Hope

Do you have children who will be selecting a college in a year or two? If so, Viewpoint recommends the following two reading assignments. The first is the new novel by Tom Wolfe titled I Am Charlotte Simmons. Wolfe's writing is always superb, and in this novel he is at his best, but that's not why the college parent-to-be should spend time with this particular story. It should be read because it details exactly what our precious sons or daughters are in for after waving goodbye on that first day when they're all moved into their new residence. I Am Charlotte Simmons may only be a novel, but it's not exactly fiction. It will send chills up the spine and knots into the stomach of any parent of a prospective college student.

The second reading is this essay in The American Enterprise written by Naomi Riley and titled God in the Quad. Riley offers hope for those parents who would prefer not to shell out twenty five to thirty grand a year to have their child exposed to the sorts of influences Wolfe describes. For many Americans, secular schools, no matter how highly rated, cannot be considered a viable option for their children, not if they care more for their hearts and minds than they do for the name of the school on their child's diploma.

Taken together the two works issue a caution and a hope. Wolfe lays bare the utter decadence that has befallen so many secular universities and how young people get ground up in them. Riley assures us that there is another, better, option for our children at the more than 700 religious colleges in North America.

Read them both if you can, but read Riley's essay regardless.

Canadian Veto

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said yesterday that if there are missiles aimed at the United States flying over Canadian airspace the United States must get permission from Canada before it attempts to intercept them.

This is not a serious man. If he honestly thinks that the United States will waste precious seconds trying to track down Prime Minister Martin while he dines at some fashionable restaurant or is indisposed in the men's room for several minutes while missiles are bearing down on American cities, then he's got some loose wiring somewhere.

It may make the Canadians feel all full of themselves to strut around saying that the Americans have to ask their permission in order to save American lives, but if that awful day ever comes no president is going to wait around until he receives, or is refused, permission from the Canadian Prime Minister to shoot down those missiles. If this reality offends Canadian pride, they'll just have to live with it.

The whole idea of insisting that permission be sought in the midst of some future crisis is silly anyway. Either permission would be granted or it would not. If there is any chance that the Canadians would refuse us permission to intercept an attack upon our territory, then not only should we regard them as a threat to our national security and treat them accordingly, but any refusal should, and would, be ignored.

If, on the other hand, the Canadians assure us that they would certainly grant permission, then why wait until the missiles are in the air to do it? Why not just agree with Washington now on the criteria for interception, etc. and be done with it?

By stating that permission must be obtained before the U.S. can save its nation and its people, Prime Minister Martin looks like either a fool or a grandstander. Maybe he's both.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Life on Mars

Is there life on Mars? Many scientists hope so.

Three-dimensional images from the Mars Express spacecraft of the European Space Agency suggest that flat, fractured plates near the Martian equator are remnants of ice that floated on a sea just a few million years ago, scientists said on Monday.

The ice, if it turns out to be ice, would fit with assertions that bacteria continue to live on Mars. Liquid water close to the surface, warmed by geothermal energy, could provide an environment for microorganisms.

Scientists are anxious to find life elsewhere in the galaxy because they keenly sense the problem that the uniqueness of the earthly biosphere poses for their philosophical embrace of metaphysical naturalism. If life can be shown to have emerged on other planets then it would lend support to the view that as improbable as a naturalistic origin of life may seem it is not so unlikely as to be uncommon or rare.

The problem is that finding simple life-forms on Mars would prove nothing about the origin of those life forms. Many astronomers believe that a meteor impact of sufficient magnitude on the early earth could have blasted trillions of encysted bacterial or algal spores into space. Some of those may well have rained down upon and colonized Mars and even thrived there for a time so that any life we find there may, for all we know, have originated on earth.

In other words, finding single-celled life forms on Mars would solve none of the intractable difficulties faced by naturalistic theories of the origin of life on earth.

Bush's Immigration Plan

Tamar Jacoby has written an excellent piece in the Weekly Standard on the immigration problem and argues cogently, if not quite persuasively, for the acceptance of George Bush's plan to deal with the problems of our southern border. Jacoby writes:

The Bush plan has two key components: a guest worker program and a transitional measure that would allow illegal immigrants already here and working to earn their way onto the right side of the law and participate legally in the U.S. labor market. Conservative critics lambaste both elements, not just as bad policy, but as inherently un-conservative--out of keeping with core principles and detrimental to Republican interests.

The impulse behind the challenge is understandable. Conservative criteria are different: not just security, but the rule of law, traditional values, and national cohesion--not to mention the interests of the GOP. It's also true that the president often touts his proposal in terms designed to appeal across the political spectrum. He talks about "compassion" and a desire to reward "goodhearted" workers, and sometimes this emphasis obscures the hardheaded, conservative case for his approach--a case that begins but does not end with America's economic interests. In reality, though, demonized as it has been on the right, the Bush plan meets every conceivable conservative criterion--with flying colors.

Jacoby goes on to explain why Bush's plan is the best possible solution. I'm not convinced. Bush's plan essentially allows millions of illegals to continue to burden the rest of society in terms of the goods and services they need and demand. They place an incredible strain on the tax base in southern California and elsewhere, and to say that we just have to accept their presence sounds like a call to surrender to an intolerable situation.

Immigration reform is a natural issue for Democrats who are sensitive to the impact of illegal labor on competition for jobs, and the Democrat that can run to the right of Republicans on this issue in 2008 could take Arizona, New Mexico and maybe even Florida. If that had happened in the last election George Bush would be a rapidly fading footnote to history right now.

The Mercy and Compassion of Islam

BBC News has yet another example of what passes for justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran:

A teenage girl and two young men in Iran have been sentenced to lashes for having sex. The court dismissed the girl's claim that she was raped. It said she had sex of her own free will, the official Iran Daily newspaper reported.

The girl was sentenced to 100 lashes because her accusations of rape and kidnap could have landed her partners a death penalty, the Tehran judge said. Sex outside marriage is illegal in Iran and capital punishment can be imposed. The young men in the case were sentenced to 30 and 40 lashes each.

The Iran paper quotes the girl, who has not been named, as confessing: "I trusted one of these young men, whom I got to know by phone, and went to his place. "But because he betrayed me, I filed the case against him and his friend out of revenge."

International concerns continue to be raised about women's rights in Iran. In December the UN General Assembly voted to censure Iran for human rights violations, including discrimination against women and girls. Tehran rejected the criticism as propaganda.

Under Iranian law, girls over the age of nine and boys over 16 face the death penalty for crimes such as rape and murder, while capital punishment can be imposed in certain cases of illegal sexual relationships.

That lashings were administered to the young girl in this case is horrifying enough, that she received two and a half to three times the number that the boys did is symptomatic of a mindset so depraved that we lack the words to describe it. If this is Islamic law one wonders what in the world the appeal of Islam is to anyone with a shred of human decency or compassion. One also wonders whether the world can afford to permit nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of men who think like these mullahs do.

Cult of Death

A Muslim calls on his co-religionists to "wake up." Kamal Nawash may be a voice crying in the wilderness, but American Muslims would do well to heed his words especially the last few paragraphs:

With all the evidence that Islam is facing a crisis, one wonders what it will take for Muslims to realize that those who commit mass murder in the name of Islam are not just a few fringe elements. What will it take for Muslims to realize that we are facing a crisis potentially more deadly than the AIDS epidemic? What will it take for Muslims to realize that there is a large, evil movement that is turning what was a peaceful religion into a death cult?

Will Muslims wake up before it is too late? Or will we continue blaming an imaginary Jewish conspiracy and entities like The Dallas Morning News for all our problems? The blaming of all Muslim problems on others is a cancer that is destroying Muslim society. And it must stop.

Muslims must wake up, look inward and put a stop to many of our religious leaders who spend most of their sermons teaching hatred, intolerance and violent jihad. We should not be afraid to admit that as Muslims we have a problem with violent extremism. We should not be afraid to admit that so many of our religious leaders belong behind bars, and not behind a pulpit.

Only moderate Muslims can challenge and defeat extremist Muslims. We can no longer afford to be silent. If we remain silent to the extremism within our community, then we should not expect anyone to listen to us when we complain of stereotyping and discrimination by non-Muslims. We should not be surprised when the world treats all of us as terrorists. And we should not be surprised when we are profiled at airports.

Simply put, not only do Muslims need to join the war against extremism and terror, we need to take the lead in this war.

It's not unrelated to Nawash's plea to note that the high school valedictorian who has been charged with plotting to assassinate the President was a Muslim citizen of the U.S. who studied in a Saudi madrassa in Virginia, a school which inculcates into its students a bitter hatred for the U.S. and Israel. Where are the moderate Muslims demanding that "schools" like this be shut down?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Keeping Tabs on the Left

For those who share our concern here at Viewpoint that the secular Left is the second greatest threat to freedom in the world today (second to Islamo-fascism with which it is often in covert sympathy) here is a new site you may wish to bookmark. It's called Discover the and its mission is to identify and track the people, agenda, ideas, tactics, and institutions that comprise the contemporary Left.

See here for a more detailed explanation of the purpose of this new site which may well become one of the most frequently consulted political sites on the web.


This note is for those of our readers who may be Korn fans:

A founding member of the popular hard rock band Korn has announced he accepted Jesus as his Savior and is leaving the band.

See here for details.

Argument From Personal Incredulity

Those who are unpersuaded by the Darwinian creation myth that blind, purposeless forces could randomly produce a strand of DNA and the biochemical machinery that attend it in the trillions of cellular factories that make up a living organism are often derided for their lack of imagination and for their childish capitulation to the argument from personal incredulity.

The argument from personal incredulity is a syllogism which concludes from one's inability to imagine that impersonal nature could accomplish such astonishing wonders as the machinery which carries out protein synthesis, for example, that therefore these machines and processes must have been the work of an intelligent Creator. The argument occasions much merry-making among the sophisticates in the Darwinian establishment at the expense of the incredulous, simple-minded folk who hold to it.

Ironically enough, however, the sophisticates often resort to the same argument from personal incredulity themselves when it comes to belief in God. They argue that they can't imagine a Being possessing the capacities of omnipotence and omniscience, that they can't imagine a genuine miracle such as the revivification of a dead man actually happening, and therefore they don't believe such a Being or such phenomena exist.

Lest the reader think we exaggerate by suggesting that there are otherwise intelligent people who think this way consider this passage from Albert Einstein which recently crossed our desk:

"I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts."

Set aside the question of whether the characteristics which Einstein associated with God are accurate, there is something very peculiar about the mind which thought up the near-incomprehensible implications of the theory of general relativity admitting that it cannot imagine individuals surviving physical death or conceive of a deity which possesses certain traits similar to those which humans possess. These are conceptions, after all, which mere mortals of average intelligence have been conceptualizing for thousands of years with little difficulty.

What, exactly, was Einstein's problem? It's not as if a personal God endowing the creation with some of the characteristics of His own Being is somehow logically contradictory, like the idea of a square circle. Nor, for that matter, is it like being asked to believe something akin to the claim that given enough time and resources the laws of physics, unaided by any intelligent input, could produce a computer with a Windows operating system.

We admit that we have a lot easier time imagining what Einstein could not than imagining what modern Darwinists apparently find so easy to conceive and believe. But then we're just simple-minded guys who find incredible things to be, well, incredible.

A Plea for the Life of Terri Schiavo

Bob Schindler, the father of Terry Schiavo, has an open letter at in which he pleads for help to save his daughter's life. Because there may be some who don't know the background of this case we reproduce the letter here. If you'd like to respond just click on the link to Newsmax.

Dear Friend of Life,

By now you have probably heard about a young woman who is threatened with starvation in Florida. That young woman is my daughter, Terri. In 1990, through circumstances which are shrouded in mystery (and may involve a criminal act by Terri's estranged husband), my daughter was left severely brain-damaged.

But before I go any further, I must put an end to the lies and misinformation that are circulating around the country through the media concerning my daughter's condition. Contrary to anything you may have heard, Terri is NOT brain dead; Terri is NOT in a coma; she is NOT in a "persistent vegetative state;" nor is she on ANY life-support system.

Terri laughs, Terri cries, she moves, and she makes child-like attempts at speech with her mother and me. Sometimes she will say "Mom" or "Dad" or "yeah" when we ask her a question. When I kiss her hello or goodbye, she looks at me and "puckers up" her lips. This may not seem like much to you, but it means everything to Terri's mother and me. It tells us she is still here, she still knows us, and with therapy and time she can have some level of recovery.

I know that there are some hard hearted people who believe that due to my daughters condition, she is better off dead. Words cannot describe the pain and anger such sentiments cause us. This is our daughter, our little girl, and even in her disabled condition, she still has the right to life and the right to be loved and cared for by her family.

Why, you may ask, is Terry in danger of death by starvation? It is a long and outrageous story, but I'll give it to you as briefly as I can.

After the "incident" that left Terry in this condition, her husband Michael Schiavo sued various members of the medical community for money, saying that they did not treat or diagnose her properly at an early stage, and that he needed this money to provide for Terri's therapy and rehabilitation and care.

After lengthy court battles, he finally won upwards of $1.7 million under the guise of caring for our daughter, and then to our horror, he immediately began spending the money on himself and his Playboy lifestyle. Terri's estranged husband Michael Schiavo has been living with another woman for years, and has two children by her. He is determined to see Terri dead. Why? We believe it's because he gets to keep whatever money is left... and he may have even darker motives than that.

To add insult to all of this injury toward my daughter, Michael Schiavo is still her "legal husband" and therefore is her "guardian." And since they are not legally divorced, he controls whatever health care she will and will not get. We are not even allowed to know if she is getting aspirin.

In 1993 my family initiated litigation against Michael Schiavo solely for the purpose of acquiring medical, physical and neurological assistance for our daughter Terri. The litigation escalated in 1998 when Michael Schiavo petitioned the court to stop Terri from receiving food and water, thereby starving her to death.

In filing this legal action, he retained the services of a high profile euthanasia attorney and the financial backing of powerful euthanasia organizations. He also used Terri's medical rehabilitation money to underwrite much of the legal expenses associated with his effort to starve our daughter to death. We know that he has spent nearly $500,000 of Terri's money in attorney's fees for just one attorney trying to obtain a court order to have Terri starved to death. The very money that was supposed to be used for Terri's rehabilitation is being used to have her killed.

We very quickly discovered it was impossible for us to compete with the abundance of financial and legal resources the pro-death organizations were providing Michael Schiavo in their effort to kill Terri. They are pouring time and effort into her starvation because they want to use this case to further the agenda of legalized euthanasia.

My wife and I are not wealthy people. Throughout those years, we did not have any large organizations trying to help rescue our daughter. Consequently, we had to rely on the generosity of attorneys who were willing to offer their legal expertise at no cost or at reduced fees. The bottom line is that we are in the final weeks or months of our struggle to rescue our daughter from an untimely death by starvation. Death by starvation is very slow, and extremely painful. As you must know, it is against the law to deliberately starve an animal to death. There are members of the Florida court who would not treat a dog the way they plan to treat my daughter.

At this point we must pull out all the stops in our fight to rescue our daughter. As parents, we are desperate to save our daughter's life. As people who love life, we are determined to deprive the euthanasia advocates of successfully legalizing this form of homicide. We believe that their efforts to kill Terri are designed to set a precedent for the future eradication of defenseless disabled human beings. I was alive when Americans fought the Nazis; I do not want my daughter to meet the same fate of thousands of disabled people in Nazi Germany, and I do not want our country to go down that same dark path.

Friend, though we have never met, I'm asking you for your help. We desperately need your financial assistance to help our family continue the battle to keep our daughter from being starved to death. There are so many expenses in a case like this it is mind-boggling and overwhelming. Please click below to make a contribution now:

Our adversaries believe that by our family's financial attrition and difficulties, they will attain their objective of killing our daughter. Presently, Terri's starvation may only be a few weeks away, unless we find the financial resources to prevent this atrocity from becoming a reality. I implore you to please help us. We are writing to you, because we believe you have a heart for justice and mercy. I'm asking you to put yourself in my shoes, and then do whatever you can to help our family. Whether it is $10 or $1000, we are desperate for the resources to fight this battle for our daughter's life at this critical juncture.

Please do whatever you can, and forward this e-mail to any friends or family that you have who you think might be interested in saving Terri's life. I thank you for your time, your concern, and I solicit your prayers for Terri and our entire family. These have been very trying times for us all.


Bob Schindler Sr.

It's hard to believe that the courts are prepared to grant Michael Schiavo his wish to remove his wife's feeding tube, especially since there's some reason to believe that her condition may have been brought on by an act of physical violence by Schiavo himself. Schiavo has refused to divorce Terri so that her parents could take over her care and instead, with the help of various right to die groups, has decided that she is better off dead. One can only wonder at his motives. The culture of death has found some useful allies in the Florida legal system.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Disappearing Relevance of Truth

I sometimes get the feeling that if Viewpoint were devoted purely to bringing Left-wing dopiness to our reader's attention we could work at it full time and still not exhaust the riches that are out there to be mined. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, for example, reports on Ward Churchill's recent speech at the University of Hawaii. In the speech Churchill finally acknowledged that he's not an Indian after all:

Churchill did address the issue of his ethnicity, admitting that he is not Native American. "Is he an Indian? Do we really care?" he said, quoting those he called his "white Republican" critics. "Let's cut to the chase; I am not," he said. His pedigree is "not important," Churchill said: "The issue is the substance of what is said."

Ah, yes. After years of passing himself off as an Indian, after having secured his chairmanship of Colorado University's ethnic studies department under the pretense that he was an Indian, now it doesn't actually matter whether he is or not. The objective facts are of concern only to those who still think in the categories of an obsolete worldview, one in which the word Truth meant something other than one's own personal preference.

What really matters to Churchill and his epigones is not whether he's an authentic Native-American, but that he's an authentic America-hater. The man has been lying all his life about who he is, and now he's telling people that all that matters is what he says about American tyranny and the condign deaths of the financial wizards in the WTT on 9/11.

There's an important lesson here, I think. Truth just isn't what it used to be. For the Left, especially, truth is purely pragmatic. Whatever works to achieve one's agenda, to gain power for one's group, to advance one's cause, is true. Anything which hinders these is false. For the Leftist a lie is truth if it promotes the destruction of imperialist Amerika. The lie becomes true, and virtuous, because it is useful. The objective facts surrounding the lie are irrelevant. All that matters is whether it promotes the agenda.

It's important to bear this in mind when reading or listening to anything those on the left side of the ideological divide write or say. Their concept of truth and the moral virtue associated with it are not what they are for most of us who suffer from never having attended a major university.

As if to illustrate the point, at the end of the article we read this disturbing passage:

UH student Kirsten Chong said her professors assigned her to listen to the speech. "He was humorous and he certainly didn't pull any punches," she said, adding that because she is native Hawaiian, she agrees with much of what he said.

Ms Chong agrees with Churchill not because what he says is "true" but because she's a native Hawaiian. We may wonder what her ethnic heritage has to do with the truth of Churchill's words, but the answer is it really doesn't matter. He was talking, presumably, about alleged American imperialism, and she's an ethnic Hawaiian so what he said had "purchase" with her. Don't look for a logical connection because none is needed or desirable. His words charmed her, resonated with her on some visceral level, and that's all that's necessary for them to become her "truth" as well as his.

If this is what colleges and universities all across the United States are churning out year after year, Lord help us.

For more on Churchill see here.

Telling it Like it Isn't

The folks at are a real hoot. One of their favorite tactics for gulling the gullible is to run a headline guaranteed to disturb the unwary and to follow it up with a story that does nothing to warrant the headline. A recent example was a story titled Experts See Military Draft as Inevitable which they borrowed from

The story at the site gives no support at all for the headline. There is much talk among politicos and others about how we need to grow the force, to be sure, but a draft is hardly the only way to accomplish that. The closest the article comes to living up to the headline is this passage:

As a result, McNeil and other anti-war activists such as Sally Milbury-Steen, executive director of the Wilmington-based peace organization Pacem in Terris, said they think a draft is on the horizon.

"I think there's a very good chance of a military draft in the next two years. We have soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq and now they're heating up the rhetoric on Iran. Where else will the soldiers come from?" Milbury-Steen asked.

Whether McNeil and Steen are experts on military matters we can't say, though we have our doubts, but quoting their opinion that they "think" a draft is "on the horizon" and that they "think there's a very good chance" is hardly the same as saying that reinstating the draft is inevitable.

Maybe should consider changing its name to something a little more precise. Let us suggest

Degenerate Discourse

The Daily Standard has yet another example of the Left's depraved idea of political discourse. Does this degree of coarseness, tastelessness, and sheer hatred exist anywhere among conservatives? If readers know of an example we'd appreciate being apprised of it. As far as we can tell, however, the Left has had a pretty solid monopoly on degenerate political discourse for at least the last two decades.

For another disgusting example of the same sort of thing see here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Good News From Afghanistan

An article in the U.K. Telegraph tells of heartening developments in Afghanistan:

One of the Taliban's most senior and charismatic commanders has become a key negotiator as more and more members of the Islamic militia in Afghanistan give up the fight against the Americans. The commander, Abdul Salam, earned the nickname Mullah Rockety because he was so accurate with rocket propelled grenades against Russian troops.

He later joined the Taliban as a corps commander in Jalalabad before being captured by the Americans after September 11. Now he is a supporter of President Hamid Karzai and is tempting diehard Taliban fighters to accept an amnesty offer and reconcile themselves to Afghanistan's first directly elected leader.

"The Taliban has lost its morale," he said, speaking by satellite phone from the heartlands of Zabul province, a Taliban redoubt. "But you have to go and find the Taliban and call to them and ask them directly. If they believe they will be secure and safe they will come down from the mountains."

After the Taliban's three-year struggle against a superior US force, there is growing optimism among the Americans and Afghan government that the end is close. More than 1,000 people have died in violence in the past 18 months, but attacks have tailed off since the guerrillas failed to make good their vow to disrupt the presidential election in October, which saw a huge turnout and was won by Mr Karzai.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, said yesterday that a group of Taliban militia including senior officials will soon join the Afghan government's peace initiative. "They are in Kabul seeking peace and to boost the reconciliation process," he said, adding that he was hopeful that the Taliban surrender would take place before the parliamentary elections, expected in the summer.

Afghan officials claimed in recent days that four unnamed senior figures from the former Taliban government have accepted the US-backed offer of amnesty extended to them by Mr Karzai's government and will form a new party for the elections. "This step is a great encouragement to other Taliban to end their struggle," said Mullah Rockety. "I have said to the Taliban that now is the time for unity, the time for Afghan brother to stop killing Afghan brother."

He claimed that negotiations are close to success with Mullah Mohammed Ghaus, the former Taliban foreign affairs minister. The amnesty offer is expected to be available to all but Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, and a list of about 150 named Taliban suspected of war crimes and links to al-Qa'eda.

Mullah Khaksar Akhund, once the Taliban deputy interior minister, said: "This [reconciliation] is a very good step for the people of Afghanistan. It is very good that the Karzai government has chosen to negotiate with the Taliban. "The government should not consist of one party, everybody has the right to a part of the government."

The Taliban are giving up in Afghanistan and the Baathists appear to be looking for a way to give up in Iraq. One doesn't wish to get one's hopes too high, but surely this is cause for optimism. We can only wonder why the American MSM haven't seized upon this story. Well, maybe we don't have to wonder.

Thanks for the tip to Captain's Quarters

It's Just as Well

The French are opposed to having their military train Iraqi security forces. No doubt this is just as well. We probably don't want the Iraqis to be trained to fight like the French anyway. Come to think of it, maybe we could persuade the French to train the insurgents.

Making Your Opponent's Case

A recent issue of Discover magazine carried an article by science writer Carl Zimmer on the work of a research team at the University of Michigan which is doing computer simulations of evolution with a program called Avida. Zimmer was rather excited about the implications of the Avida team's work, suggesting that they were on the verge of proving Darwinian evolution. A careful reading of the article, however, fails to give much support to this hope.

Jonathon Wells of the Discovery Institute has written something of a parodic review of the original Zimmer piece titled Darwinists Prove That Computers Work:

For centuries breeders have been modifying existing species by selecting desirable variations, yet this procedure has never produced a new species. Still less has it produced new organs or body plans. In 1859, however, Charles Darwin wrote that variation and selection explain the origin of species and all of life's diversity, and his faithful followers are still looking for evidence that he was right. Frustrated by the obstinate refusal of real organisms to obey Darwin's dictates, researchers at Michigan State University have turned to computers. Using a software program called Avida, they have now succeeded in proving that if a computer is instructed to generate a program capable of doing basic arithmetic it can eventually ... do basic arithmetic!

Naive amateurs might think that Darwin's theory is supposed to be about the evolution of living things, and that neither computers nor computer programs are alive. But Darwin's followers have cleverly overcome this naive objection by re-defining "life" to mean "that which evolves by mutation and selection." Reporting on the Michigan State research in Discover magazine, science writer Carl Zimmer writes: "After more than a decade of development, Avida's digital organisms are now getting close to fulfilling the definition of biological life."

Zimmer backs this up by quoting several of the Michigan State researchers. One of them is philosophy professor Robert Pennock, who said: "More and more of the features that biologists have said were necessary for life we can check off." Apparently mistaking a paper checklist for life itself -- as philosophers sometimes do -- Pennock concluded: "Avida is not a simulation of evolution; it is an instance of it."

Another Michigan State researcher is microbiologist Richard Lenski, who has spent decades trying to produce new species of bacteria through artificial selection. Having failed at that, Lenski is now tempted to get rid of his smelly and uncooperative cultures and turn to Avida: "In an hour I can gather more information than we had been able to gather in years of working on bacteria."

This leads Zimmer to conclude that "the Avida team is putting Darwin to the test in a way that was previously unimaginable." Having moved beyond the old-fashioned prejudice that evolution is about living organisms that are actually alive, the team is now "beginning to shed light on some of the biggest questions of evolution." Those questions include:

(1) How did eyes evolve? According to Zimmer, creationists irrationally claim that eyes show "signs of intelligent design." Avida has "hit a nerve in the antievolution movement" by proving that this is false. All we need is "a patch of photosensitive cells" that has "evolved into a pit." By simply plugging the parameters of this pre-existing eye into a carefully designed computer program, we can prove that eyes originated without the need for design.

(2) Why many species instead of one? If one plant in the forest does a better job of capturing sunlight than all the other species, Darwin's theory might predict that it would eliminate all of its competitors; yet this doesn't happen. Avida solves this problem by proving that a computer programmed to find more than one way to do simple arithmetic can (are you ready?) find more than one way to do simple arithmetic.

(3) Why be nice? The existence of altruism has always been a problem for Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest, because an organism can't enhance its own survival by sacrificing itself for another. According to Zimmer, Charles Ofria (director of the Digital Evolution Laboratory)thinks that it may someday be possible to program digital "organisms" to work together if we can "get them to communicate." The result could be an "altruistic" computer code that can solve "real-world computer problems." Who needs Mother Teresa?

(4) Why sex? Sexual reproduction has also been a big problem for Darwinian evolution, because an organism that can reproduce by simply splitting in two seems more fit than an organism that cannot reproduce without the help of another. The standard explanation is that sex increases fitness by mixing genes that enable organisms to deal with different environments. To test this, Michigan State biologist Dusan Misevic has spent the past few years programming Avida's digital "organisms" to "have sex" by exchanging chunks of computer code. Unfortunately, his efforts have met with such limited success that Misevic concludes: "We must look to other explanations to help explain sex in general." Thank goodness.

(5) Is there life on other planets? Cal Tech digital-evolution researcher Evan Dorn has found a pattern common to life on Earth and "life" in Avida that he thinks may help us to recognize extraterrestrial life. According to Zimmer: "If Dorn is right, discovery of non-DNA life would become a little less spectacular because it would mean that we have already stumbled across it here on Earth -- in East Lansing, Michigan." UFO buffs, however, may want to hold out for something more substantial.

(6) What will life on Earth look like in the future? Zimmer writes that project director Ofria "acknowledges that harmful computer viruses may eventually evolve like his caged digital organisms." Ofria himself said: "Some day it's going to happen, and it's going to be scary. Better to study them now so we know how to deal with them." Like, by writing anti-virus programs?

So the Michigan State researchers have proved that a computer can simulate undesigned eye evolution as long as it starts with a functioning eye and a suitably designed program; that a computer instructed to solve a simple problem can sometimes solve it in more than one way; that computer codes programmed to communicate with each other might someday be able to solve real-world computer problems; that computers don't understand sex; that a computer in East Lansing, Michigan, may become the next Area 51; and that our future may be plagued by scary computer viruses.

These Earth-shaking results, according to Zimmer, "prove evolution works."

It is rumored that the Michigan State team tried to sell its stuff to a video game company but was told that its simulations wouldn't fool an eight-year-old. Not to worry, though: Given the publicly funded group's inestimable contributions to science and human welfare, American taxpayers will probably continue to support this important work.

Discover magazine seems to have over-hyped the results of the Avida research. Even so, attempts to show Darwinian evolution by using intelligently designed computers and software programs always struck us as something of an exercise in self-refutation, anyway. How, after all, does one prove that intelligence wasn't necessary for the development of biological diversity by showing that an intelligently designed software program can provide the instructions for the development of living things ?

Post-Modern Congressman

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs has the transcript of yet another Democratic lemming plunging over the cliff of sanity. This time the poor deranged soul is a New York congressman named Maurice Hinchey who is as certain as he can be that Karl Rove somehow tricked Dan Rather and CBS into running the phony National Guard document story that has so discredited the liberal media.

When the congressman was asked if he had any evidence for his allegation he replied that he did not. Shouldn't that prevent him from making libelous charges and defaming a man's reputation, he was asked. No, it should not and would not, was the congressman's bold reply.

In other words, evidence doesn't matter. This man feels it in his gut that Rove planted the fraudulent documents, and that's all the evidence he needs to believe it and to level the accusation publicly. Fine folks, these Democrats:

Audience Member: So you have evidence that the papers came from the Bush administration?

Congressman Hinchey: No. I - that's my belief....And I said that. In the very beginning. I said, 'It's my belief that those papers, and that setup, originated with Karl Rove and the White House.'

Audience Member: Don't you think it's irresponsible to make charges like that?

Congressman Hinchey: No I don't. I think it's very important to make charges like that. I think it's very important to combat this kind of activity in every way that you can. And I'm willing - and most people are not - to step forward in situations like this and take risks.

Audience: [Clapping and cheering.]

Congressman Hinchey: I consider that to be part of my job, and I'm gonna continue to do it.

The congressman sees it as his job to spread unsubstantiated allegations accusing people of fraud? We pay congressmen to be malicious gossips? It's depressing to realize that an elected representative of the people could be this obtuse and be cheered for it, no less.

Monday, February 21, 2005

An Unheeded Plea for Sanity

Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, perhaps the chief journalistic organ of American liberalism, has written a remarkable essay titled Not Much Left. The article is a lament for what he sees as a Left in its death throes and a call to return to some semblance of idealogical sanity. It is not too late to resuscitate the victim, he thinks, but time is rapidly running out. Here are some excerpts from a piece that should be read in its entirety:

It is liberalism that is now bookless and dying. The most penetrating thinker of the old liberalism, the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, is virtually unknown in the circles within which he once spoke and listened, perhaps because he held a gloomy view of human nature. However gripping his illuminations, however much they may have been validated by history, liberals have no patience for such pessimism.

Ask yourself: Who is a truly influential liberal mind in our culture? Whose ideas challenge and whose ideals inspire? Whose books and articles are read and passed around? There's no one, really. What's left is the laundry list: the catalogue of programs (some dubious, some not) that Republicans aren't funding, and the blogs, with their daily panic dose about how the Bush administration is ruining the country.

So let's admit it: The liberals are themselves uninspired by a vision of the good society--a problem we didn't have 30 years ago. For several years, the liberal agenda has looked and sounded like little more than a bookkeeping exercise. We want to spend more, they less. In the end, the numbers do not clarify; they confuse. Almost no one can explain any principle behind the cost differences.

[A]mong liberals, the usual hustlers are still cheered. Jesse Jackson is still paid off, mostly not to make trouble. The biggest insult to our black fellow citizens was the deference paid to Al Sharpton during the campaign.

This patronizing attitude is proof positive that, as deep as the social and economic gains have been among African Americans, many liberals prefer to maintain their own time-honored patronizing position vis-a-vis "the other," the needy. This is, frankly, in sharp contrast to President Bush, who seems not to be impeded by race difference (and gender difference) in his appointments and among his friends. Maybe it is just a generational thing, and, if it is that, it is also a good thing. But he may be the first president who apparently does not see individual people in racial categories or sex categories. White or black, woman or man, just as long as you're a conservative. That is also an expression of liberation from bias.

The conservatives have their ideas [about improving education], and many of them are good, such as charter schools and even vouchers. But give me a single liberal idea with some currency, even a structural notion, for transforming the elucidation of knowledge and thinking to the young. You can't.

The heavily documented evidence of Fidel Castro's tyranny notwithstanding, he still has a vestigial cachet among us. After all, he has survived Uncle Sam's hostility for more than 45 years. And, no, the Viet Cong didn't really exist. It was at once Ho Chi Minh's pickax and bludgeon in the south. Pose this question at an Upper West Side dinner party: What was worse, Nazism or Communism? Surely, the answer will be Nazism ... because Communism had an ideal of the good. This, despite the fact that communist revolutions and communist regimes murdered ever so many more millions of innocents and transformed the yearning of many idealists for equality into the brutal assertion of evil, a boot stamping on the human face forever.

Peter Beinart has argued, also in these pages ("A Fighting Faith," December 13, 2004), the case for a vast national and international mobilization against Islamic fanaticism and Arab terrorism. It is typologically the same people who wanted the United States to let communism triumph--in postwar Italy and Greece, in mid-cold war France and late-cold war Portugal--who object to U.S. efforts right now in the Middle East. You hear the schadenfreude in their voices--you read it in their words--at our troubles in Iraq. For months, liberals have been peddling one disaster scenario after another, one contradictory fact somehow reinforcing another, hoping now against hope that their gloomy visions will come true.

I happen to believe that they won't. This will not curb the liberal complaint. That complaint is not a matter of circumstance. It is a permanent affliction of the liberal mind. It is not a symptom; it is a condition. And it is a condition related to the desperate hopes liberals have vested in the United Nations. That is their lodestone. But the lodestone does not perform. It is not a magnet for the good. It performs the magic of the wicked. It is corrupt, it is pompous, it is shackled to tyrants and cynics. It does not recognize a genocide when the genocide is seen and understood by all. Liberalism now needs to be liberated from many of its own illusions and delusions. Let's hope we still have the strength.

Will liberals listen to Beinart and Peretz? Will they rebound from their infatuation with big government and class warfare at home and tyrannical regimes abroad? Nah. They just had an opportunity to recover their equilibrium in their recent election for chairman of the party, and they responded by demanding Barabbas. This act alone may well have sealed their fate and doomed liberalism to eternal irrelevance.

Left-Wing Debating Technique

Howard Dean recently engaged foreign policy neo-con Richard Perle in a debate on America's conduct abroad. The exchange was marred by disruptive elements in the audience who booed loudly when Perle spoke and, in the case of one man, even threw his shoe at Perle (see here for a rather low quality video of the episode).

This is, of course, how brown-shirted lefties do politics. No one fears the free dissemination of ideas more than does the Left. No one will do more to prevent ideas from being heard than will the Left. Like totalitarians everywhere, whether Stalinists, Nazis, or the Taliban, they don't trust people with the freedom to make up their own minds because they know that majorities will not sympathize with their bankrupt ideas. Thus views which clash with their own must be suppressed, even if it means making a fool of oneself by throwing one's shoes.

This helps us, perhaps, to understand why leftists seek to impose their will on the public by way of the judiciary rather than through legislatures. In order to have laws and policy enacted through the legislative branch they need to persuade a majority to agree with them. In order to have it enacted by judicial fiat they need only persuade a single judge. It's much easier to find one congenial jurist than to persuade half of a legislature, especially when one is saddled with ideas as impoverished as most of those held by the political Left.

The shoe-tossing incident wasn't the only strange moment on the video linked to above. At one point Dean criticizes the Bush administration for attacking Iraq but leaving Iran and North Korea unscathed. He seems to be implying that we should have attacked Iran and North Korea instead of Iraq. If we had focused our military assets on these two legs of the axis of evil, he seems to be saying, he would have endorsed the effort.

Can this be? Can the hero of the anti-war crowd have only opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom because we had simply chosen the wrong target? Of course not. To conclude that he would have supported the administration if it had taken on Iran instead of Iraq would be to impute to Mr. Dean a level of consistency and integrity that would be misplaced in his case. He's simply trying to score rhetorical points by sounding tough and hoping that his audience is comprised mostly of unthinking lunkheads like the shoe-thrower.

Senator Kennedy Call Your Office

Time magazine reports that secret back channel talks with Baathist insurgents have been going on for some time in Iraq. It may be that they will come to naught, but it may be that the Baathist faction of the Iraqi insurgency is ready to throw in the towel. Most Iraqi insurgents are former Baathists. Abu al Zarqawi's al Qaida insurgents are comprised of a lot of foreigners, and their situation is bound to grow much more precarious if the Baathists reach an accommodation with the Coalition:

WASHINGTON (Feb. 20) - U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers are conducting secret talks with Iraq's Sunni insurgents on ways to end fighting there, Time magazine reported on Sunday, citing Pentagon and other sources. The Bush administration has said it would not negotiate with Iraqi fighters and there is no authorized dialogue, but the U.S. is having "back-channel" communications with certain insurgents, unidentified Washington and Iraqi sources told the magazine.

The magazine cited a secret meeting between two members of the U.S. military and an Iraqi negotiator, a middle-aged former member of Saddam Hussein's regime and the senior representative of what he called the nationalist insurgency.

A U.S. officer tried to get names of other insurgent leaders while the Iraqi complained the new Shi'ite-dominated government was being controlled by Iran, according to an account of the meeting provided by the Iraqi negotiator.

"We are ready to work with you," the Iraqi negotiator said, according to Time. Iraqi insurgent leaders not aligned with al Qaeda ally Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi told the magazine several nationalist groups composed of what the Pentagon calls "former regime elements" have become open to negotiating.

The insurgents said their aim was to establish a political identity that can represent disenfranchised Sunnis.

Things are looking as bad for the credibility and prognostications of the doom and gloomers like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry as they are for the future of the insurgency.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Whom the Gods Would Destroy

PowerLine has been following the Jeff Gannon affair and is amazed at how ugly it has gotten. Remember that what Gannon did was infiltrate the White House press conference by misrepresenting himself as a reporter and lob a belt-high pitch toward the President's wheel house. This simple political prank has opened the spigots of Left-wing venom in the blogosphere.

The Left has dug up every ounce of dirt on the man that they could find and have worked themselves into a frenzy with it. It is as if these people have actually gone mad in their hatred for anyone who would try to make Bush look good and they're determined to tear to pieces anyone who is sympathetic to the president. Here's Power Line's account of recent developments:

I can't count the number of emails we've gotten from Democrats on the Jeff Gannon "story." For the most part, they drip with venom and irrational hatred. I'd like to believe that there is some kind of a respectable left in this country, but where is it? It sure isn't showing up in our email inbox.

This missive, which came in this morning, is typical:

"I guess you 'holier-than-thou moral values conservatives' don't have a problem with gay male prostitutes who pose as conservative reporters as long as they are republican, huh? Hypocrites. If there is a god, you hypocrites are all going to hell. (I don't think God will forgive you, even if you ARE republican.)"

The stupidity of these people, as well as their malice, is mind-boggling. Can anyone discern what this guy, and the dozens if not hundreds of Democrats who have sent more or less identical emails, are talking about? Why are liberals obsessed with the fact that Jeff Gannon was once a gay escort? Beats me. Why does this character think that as conservatives, we are duty-bound to hate gay escorts? Beats me. We've done close to 10,000 posts on this site, and I doubt that we've ever mentioned gay escorts one way or another. Would I want my son to be one? No. Do I think that having once been a gay escort should disqualify Jeff Gannon from becoming a reporter, or entering any other occupation? No. Why do liberals find this so hard to understand? And how on God's green earth does this make us "hypocrites"?

Of course, what we've criticized the left-wing blogs for is posting nude photographs of Gannon. How does the twisted "logic" manifested by these emailers justify that contemptible practice? Once again: beats me. The only conclusion I can come to is that a great many liberals are so consumed by hate that they have gone stark raving mad.

UPDATE: The meltdown continues. Here is the latest from our email inbox: Jeff Gannon and Karl Rove are secretly lovers! I'm not making this up; not only have we heard about this theory via hate mail from lefties, a reader (a sane one, that is) also says this is popping up all over AOL's political discussion sites. It's just about time for the men in white coats to intervene, I think.

To get a deeper sense of the foulness of the sewers these people inhabit check out Cheat Seeking Missiles for the Left's latest bizarre slander. Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad (Euripides).

With Friends Like This

A man who claims to have been a friend of President Bush secretly taped phone conversations with Mr. Bush before his election in 2000 and has now made the tapes public. His reasons seem painfully inadequate to the task of justifying the betrayal of the confidence of a friend.

The conversations revealed on the tapes show Bush to be pretty much the man that most observers deem him to be. He means what he says and isn't easily swayed by political considerations. Nor does he say much that we don't already know. Even so, we expect that the MSM will try to squeeze something out of this material that will discredit Bush either as a politician or as a man. It's hard to see from accounts like this one, however, what that would be, but they will surely try to manufacture something.

The individual who comes out looking tawdry in this business is the man who released the tapes, one Doug Wead, a "friend" and former aid to Bush 41. That he secretly taped private conversations with a friend is bad enough. That he made them public without seeking the President's permission is inexcusable, even if the tapes make the President look good, which in most respects they do. He will especially be admired, in my opinion, for his stand on gays, on the one hand, and gay marriage on the other:

Early on...Mr. Bush appeared most worried that Christian conservatives would object to his determination not to criticize gay people. "I think he wants me to attack homosexuals," Mr. Bush said after meeting James Robison, a prominent evangelical minister in Texas.

But Mr. Bush said he did not intend to change his position. He said he told Mr. Robison: "Look, James, I got to tell you two things right off the bat. One, I'm not going to kick gays, because I'm a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?"

Later, he read aloud an aide's report from a convention of the Christian Coalition, a conservative political group: "This crowd uses gays as the enemy. It's hard to distinguish between fear of the homosexual political agenda and fear of homosexuality, however."

"This is an issue I have been trying to downplay," Mr. Bush said. "I think it is bad for Republicans to be kicking gays." Told that one conservative supporter was saying Mr. Bush had pledged not to hire gay people, Mr. Bush said sharply: "No, what I said was, I wouldn't fire gays."

As early as 1998, however, Mr. Bush had already identified one gay-rights issue where he found common ground with conservative Christians: same-sex marriage. "Gay marriage, I am against that. Special rights, I am against that," Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead, five years before a Massachusetts court brought the issue to national attention.

When asked why he would make the recordings without the knowledge of Mr. Bush, Mr. Wead said he recorded his conversations with the president in part because:

...he thought he might be asked to write a book for the campaign. He also wanted a clear account of any requests Mr. Bush made of him. But he said his main motivation in making the tapes, which he originally intended to be released only after his own death, was to leave the nation a unique record of Mr. Bush.

"I believe that, like him or not, he is going to be a huge historical figure," Mr. Wead said. "If I was on the telephone with Churchill or Gandhi, I would tape record them too."

Why disclose the tapes? "I just felt that the historical point I was making trumped a personal relationship," Mr. Wead said. Asked about consequences, Mr. Wead said, "I'll always be friendly toward him."

Or maybe it was to achieve his own fifteen minutes of fame. It's doubtful that the President is much in need of friends such as Mr. Wead. Friends, after all, don't betray the trust of their friends.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Standing Out From the Crowd

Hillary Clinton seeks to align herself with the tide of history, a move which distinguishes her from most of her colleagues in the Democratic Party:

Sen. Hillary Clinton said that much of Iraq was "functioning quite well" and that the rash of suicide attacks was a sign that the insurgency was failing.

Clinton, a New York Democrat, said insurgents intent on destabilizing the country had failed to disrupt Iraq's landmark Jan. 30 elections.

"The concerted effort to disrupt the elections was an abject failure. Not one polling place was shut down or overrun," Clinton told reporters.

"The fact that you have these suicide bombers now, wreaking such hatred and violence while people pray, is to me, an indication of their failure," Clinton said.

Senator Clinton has seen the future and knows that the success of our efforts in Iraq will destroy the political aspirations of those on the Left who adamantly opposed them and who have offered nothing but carping and cavil since OIF began. Her words are a thumb in the eye of the Kerry/Kennedy faction of her party which has been relentlessly negative and morose about our efforts in the Middle East.

Clinton realizes that the majority of Americans want a positive message, not Kerry-style gloom and doom, and that the way to an American's heart is by making him feel good about what his country is doing. She also sees something that most on the Left either can't see or are too churlish to admit: American policy in Iraq is, as a matter of fact, succeeding.

Bullish on the Economy

David Malpass, an economist with Bear, Stearns, is bullish on the American economy:

Some economy watchers have been looking for a slowdown, but a speed-up is more likely. Right now the U.S. is in the early to middle stages of a long, durable, and relatively fast expansion - one that has positive implications for U.S. and foreign equities (but not for bonds). The growth engines include the dollar's exit from deflationary territory in 2002, low interest rates, the 2003 tax cuts, and the increasing level of U.S. employment.

Except for the third quarter of 2003 when GDP grew at 7.5 percent, annualized quarterly growth has been between 3.3 percent and 4.5 percent for each quarter since the second quarter of 2003. In all likelihood, growth for the fourth quarter of 2004 (soon to be revised) and the first quarter of 2005 will fall within that range.

When the U.S. breaks out of that range, it is more likely to be toward the high side than the low side. The U.S. economy will probably register a 5 percent growth quarter before it turns in a 2.5 percent quarter.

Read Malpass' analysis at National Review Online to discover the reasons for his optimism.

Letting the Consumer Decide

Here's some good news in the battle against pain:

Withdrawn arthritis drug Vioxx may make a comeback on the market after advisers to the Food and Drug Administration narrowly voted it was safe enough to be sold despite an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The FDA panel concluded Friday that popular painkillers Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra pose an increased risk for heart problems but should remain on the market because the benefits outweigh the dangers.

The panel strongly favored keeping Celebrex on the market, split over Bextra and favored Vioxx - which is currently not on sale - by a vote of just 17-15. Vioxx is substantially worse than the others, panel chairman Alistair J.J. Wood of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine said. "The data is very compelling," Wood said.

Vioxx is manufactured by Merck and Co. while Celebrex and Bextra are manufactured by Pfizer Inc....It was a stunning turnaround for Vioxx, which was withdrawn in September by Merck after a study showed Vioxx doubled heart attack and stroke risk compared to a placebo.

"Merck has appreciated the opportunity to present data at this advisory committee meeting," the company said in a statement. "We look forward to discussions with the FDA." The FDA usually follows advice from its panels. Officials have said the agency will make final decisions on Celebrex and other pain relievers in a matter of weeks. All three drugs are part of a class called Cox-2 inhibitors.

The panelists suggested restrictions on the drugs such as placing a severe "black box" warning on them, including more patient information with the drugs, restricting which patients could get the drugs and possibly banning direct-to-consumer advertising for the products. The panelists were unanimous in saying the drugs, known as Cox-2 inhibitors, pose risks of heart trouble. Studies of Bextra were limited, but showed a greater risk than Celebrex, the committee noted.

Wood of Vanderbilt University Medical School said it is important to find some way to help the public better understand the nature of risk. "People worry about crime and then drive drunk," he said, indicating they don't really understand relative risks.

Dr. Steven Nissen, medical director of the heart center at the Cleveland Clinic, said "What we really want is to make sure it's available for patients that need it and is unavailable to patients who whom it's inappropriate."

The committees were asked to assess the drugs after Merck pulled Vioxx from the market last fall because of health concerns. Since then questions have been raised about Bextra and Celebrex. The excess risk from Celebrex varied in different studies and the panel didn't seek to determine just how much more hazard a user faces than someone on another drug.

However, the panel was told that no cardiovascular problems were seen at the normal prescription dose of 200 milligrams. Heart trouble began to appear in colon polyp study patients who took 400 milligrams. (emphasis ours)

Earlier in the meeting, Wood said the safety problems reported in connection with Cox-2 inhibitors exceed those of products that have been withdrawn from the market. However, since the side effect involving heart attacks, irregular heartbeat and stroke is a relatively common problem, that makes it harder to pin it to the drugs than if it were a rare side effect.

Dr. Peter S. Kim, president of Merck Research Laboratories, had told the FDA committees earlier that new studies indicated the side effects aren't unique to its product."There are unique benefits to Vioxx," he said. "The science has progressed and we need to take that science into consideration."

While the committees heard evidence that all drugs in the group can increase the risk of heart attacks, irregular heart beat and strokes, it noted that Vioxx seemed to have more such reports than the other drugs. On the other hand, Kim said, Vioxx is the only one of the drugs approved for people with certain allergies and did better at preventing the stomach and intestinal problems often caused by over-the-counter painkillers.

The FDA's decision seems to us to be the right one. Inform consumers of the risks, and then let them decide whether they wish to place themselves at increased hazard or to live in pain.

Peculiar Choice

Does it not strike you as odd that the navy is commissioning an attack submarine named for former president Jimmy Carter, known around the world as something of a pacifist? It does this cartoonist.

It's almost like naming a destroyer after an Amishman. We understand there are plans afoot, by the way, to name the next aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Mother Teresa.

Don't Fix It, End It

Ask yourself one simple question. Why does our government insist on total control of our well being when it comes to the issue of Social Security? Where, in the Constitution of the United States, is it mandated that the Federal Government insure our retirement years? And if, by some stretch of imagination, one could make the claim that it does exist, then our government has failed miserably with regard to their charge.

President Bush speaks of an "ownership society" and at the same time is trying to control and direct that "ownership". It is a fact that conflicting messages from parents can make a child schizophrenic. The mixed message here is "I advocate an 'ownership society'. One where Americans take 'ownership' of their Social Security accounts by privatizing them, but we will control those private accounts." Ok. Just give me another shot of thorazine and I'll be fine...honest.

Presently, employees pay 6.5% of their wages into Social Security up to a cap of $90,000. The standard operating procedure of our government when faced with a failed system like Social Security is to raise the cap so they collect more dollars, raise the age at which individuals are able to collect their benefits so they pay out fewer dollars, and decrease the amount of benefits the individual eventually receives...if they live long enough. That's not my idea of a "fix".

The fact of the matter is that over the years our government has broken many promises to the American people and Social Security is just one of them. Raising the age at which one is eligible to collect what they have paid into all their lives, raising the cap and paying out a lesser amount in benefits are perhaps the most recent examples.

You can be sure you will be hearing more about these "solutions" as our government attempts to "fix" Social Security".

In addition, the Social Security reform plan anticipates the need to borrow $2 Trillion dollars to keep Social Security solvent. Ask yourself who is actually expected to pay off that "loan"? The interest alone could probably go a long way to keeping the plan solvent but the interest doesn't go into the Social Security system. So where does it go? And who pays it?

And given the government's proclivity to conservative estimates when it comes to spending, the cost is likely to go much higher. The "estimate" to fix Medicare was $400 billon dollars. Now, before prescription one has been written under the new, improved, "fixed" Medicare plan, the cost is now estimated at $700 billion to $1 trillion dollars.

I submit that the best way to fix Social Security is to discontinue payments into the system...immediately.

Those who are 65 get full benefits. Those who are 64 get 98% of the benefits, 63 get 96%, etc. Those who are 16 pay nothing into the system and get nothing from it. They have their entire working lives to provide for their own well being when they retire. Responsibility for one's own well being. Now there's a concept.

How can this work? Simple. Instead of individuals paying 6.5% of there wages into the plan each year they get to allocate their new found savings into their own retirement plans. That's "ownership".

In addition, presently, employee Social Security tax contributions must be matched by their employers. Eliminating those contributions would mean a 6.5% windfall to corporate America that goes right to the bottom line. Businesses will be better able to compete in the global economy, thus, more likely to create more jobs hiring more Americans who will be able to contribute to the economy in the form of increased purchasing power as well as increasing revenues of the government through income taxes. Businesses would also have a new-found ability to raise matching contributions to employee IRAs.

Currently, self employed individuals have to pay 13% into Social Security. That savings would also surely be used to fund their personal retirement plans and perhaps stimulate the economy as well.

Once again we see that when government butts out of private individuals lives, things have a much better chance of working just fine.

For more reading on the subject of Social Security, see here, here, and here.

Lastly, my proposal for Social Security just might not be viable. If, as has been alleged, the Social Security fund has been looted by our government and replaced with I.O.U.s in the form of bonds (loans), then there is no money in the system at the present time to pay anyone. You be the judge.

Friday, February 18, 2005

A Natural Ally

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail makes a case for cultivating India as an ally in the war on terror. The Russians have demonstrated themselves to be unreliable companions in the fight against Islamism, having foolishly decided to cooperate with Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and that leaves India as the most logical choice:

Russia has indicated that it will continue with assisting Iran's nuclear program, increasing the likelihood of a nuclear-armed Iran. Between the soft efforts of the European Union 3 (EU-3) to stop the Iranian nuclear program and Russia's encouragement and support, the Mullahs of Iran are sure to continue their quest to become a nuclear power.

The impact of Russia's support of Iran's nuclear program is both far-reaching and short sighted. Russia is indicating that it is separating itself from the West by co-opting the theocratic regime of Iran.

Russia's myopia is clear: they do not recognize the interrelated threat from Islamist states and terrorist groups. The murderers of Beslan ultimately receive support from the Iranians via their tacit support of al Qaeda and Hezbollah. The net of the Islamic terrorist groups is cast far and wide.

In light of Russia's defection, the United States must think long and hard about finding a new and powerful strategic ally in Asia. India is that natural ally.

India is a large, democratic, developing nation strategically positioned in Asia, bordering on Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and close to other nations in Southeast Asia where terrorists operate. Pakistan is a nuclear power that is potentially susceptible to an Islamist takeover. No doubt any operation to secure or destroy Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the event of an Islamist takeover would be conducted in cooperation with India. Bangladesh is becoming a haven for radical Islamists.

India has a longstanding problem with Islamist terrorists, most notably in Kashmir. These Kashmiri terrorists work in close conjunction with al Qaeda and its International Islamist Front. Denying Kashmir as a base of operations for al Qaeda is a strategic goal in Asia.

The Indian people also are supportive of an Indian-American alliance. A recent poll was conducted in India about America, and the results are encouraging. Americans were viewed in a positive light by a large majority of Indians. The main reason cited was terrorism.

The time is right to actively pursue a strategic relationship with India. The loss of Russia as an ally on the war on terror is both disappointing and difficult to offset, but a strong relationship with India can mitigate the damage and improve our odds in fighting against the enemies of civilization.

As terrorists find the room in which they can freely move about shrinking, Pakistan will look increasingly necessary to the Islamists, especially given the prize of access to nuclear weapons. If an American attack on Iran occurs, an Islamist uprising in Pakistan would seem likely as the jihadis seek both refuge and nukes. India would be indispensable in countering such a dangerous move.