Monday, October 31, 2005

Sam Alito

The conservative blogosphere is elated and reinvigorated by the president's pick of Sam Alito for associate justice of the Supreme Court. Michelle Malkin has a summary of conservative opinions with lots of links from around the community.

Meanwhile, the Left is taking it bitterly, which is how they take pretty much everything Bush does. They see in the Alito pick the end of an era of liberal hegemony in the courts and the end of their ability to implement the liberal agenda via judicial fiat rather than through legislation. If the Left loses the Courts, and cannot regain the House or the Senate in 2006, their future is bleak indeed.

Democratic Senators have been a little more subdued in their response than have the Lefty bloggers, but their disappointment is manifest. For example Senator Schumer:

"It's sad that the president felt that he had to pick a nominee likely to divide America, instead of picking a nominee like Sandra Day O'Connor that had united America."

And here's Senator Reid:

"I am disappointed in this choice for several reasons. First, unlike previous nominations, this one was not the product of consultation with Senate Democrats. Last Friday, Senator Leahy and I wrote to President Bush urging him to work with us to find a consensus nominee. The President has rejected that approach.

"Second, this appointment ignores the value of diverse backgrounds and perspectives on the Supreme Court. The President has chosen a man to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, one of only two women on the Court. For the third time, he has declined to make history by nominating the first Hispanic to the Court. And he has chosen yet another federal appellate judge to join a court that already has eight justices with that narrow background. President Bush would leave the Supreme Court looking less like America and more like an old boys club."

No mention here by Senator Reid about qualifications, of course, only a lament that the President didn't let the minority pick his Justice for him and the threadbare complaint that Alito doesn't add a diversity of perspectives to the Court. The reasons for Senator Reid's dismay are equally reasons why the rest of us should take heart from this nomination. Even were we not encouraged by what we've read about Judge Alito elsewhere (See Michelle Malkin's site linked above), we'd have to think that anyone who so distresses Senator Reid and the fine folks at the Daily Kos must be good for America.

Understanding Our Moment

Gideon Strauss has an essay at Comment wherein he discerns four challenges facing contemporary Christianity. The four he identifies are those posed by contemporary liberalism, Islam, China, and the emergence of Christianity in the third world.

Here are some excerpts. First are his thoughts on the challenge posed by liberalism:

The most perplexing of these root challenges is also the most immediate to most of us: the challenge of modern liberalism. I am at turns amused and frustrated by my academic colleagues who continue to insist that we live in postmodern times. The suggestion that somehow the spiritual force of modernity has been exhausted and replaced by something altogether different simply does not ring true to what I experience in my own daily work nor to the cultural forces I see at work in the world.

Lest I be misunderstood, this is not a screed against constitutional democracy or a market economy, both of which I belief are blessings to humanity with rich potential for responsible cultural action. Instead, I am concerned about the spiritual power that animates both liberal democracies and capitalist economies. It is a spiritual power that seeks to combine unfettered individual liberty with the commodification and bureaucratic subjugation of all of nature - and that recognizes no law or power beyond or independent of nature.

I am astonished by the power of liberal capitalism to persuade even those whose deepest commitments should predispose them against the libertarian erosion of communal ties and the grasping extension of market logic beyond its proper economic sphere that there is no alternative. Living in a society guided by liberal capitalism is like being submerged in an acid ocean stretching to the horizon - there seems no possible escape, and the very flesh is being eaten off our bones.

Having seen the pragmatic power of liberal capitalism in action up close, in the shaping of the decision-making of marxist politicians in Africa and of evangelical social activists in North America, I am perplexed by the difficulty of figuring out how to live faithfully to the gospel, in every sphere of life, in the smothering embrace of a society that is radically and comprehensively guided by this sweetly destructive force. Given that there is no new found land remaining to which Christians can repair to establish a new city on a hill, how should we now live, in the very midst of this often so seemingly welcoming but yet so profoundly antagonistic social order?

On the Islamic challenge:

What is not at all clear is how Christians should respond to the struggle between modernity and Salafiyyah Islam for global hegemony. I have heard Christians argue that within the context of North America we are more closely cobelligerent with Muslims, against liberal modernity, because of our supposedly shared concern for religion finding a space within a secularist political order, and because of our supposedly shared concern for what is here often term a "social conservative" stance on issues like marriage and abortion. I have also heard Christians argue that within the context of what first Bernard Lewis and then Samuel Huntington has termed the "clash of civilizations," Christianity and liberal modernity are - as the religious expressions of "Western civilization" - closely allied against the global expansion of the Islamic ummah.

Concerning China:

The relationship of China as a geopolitical entity to Christianity as a religion has fascinating and troubling world historical potential. David Aikman, the author of Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, suggests that China might in this century become substantially Christian, and explores (in an interview with National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez) some of the consequent options:

What would a non-Christian China be like if it became a superpower capable of rivaling the U.S.? Probably dangerous and unpredictable. A Christian China would be far more likely to view its role in the world as containing a global moral responsibility, an "Augustinian" national self-view, if you like.

China presents its own Christians with a cultural challenge very different from that presented by liberal modernity, but perhaps no less perplexing. How does one live within an established social and political order that is at once seemingly tolerant of and fundamentally antagonistic to one's most basic commitments and convictions. For Christians in North America, one additional question is how we relate to Chinese Christians as our co-religionists in a complex geopolitical situation, particularly given the high probability of serious international conflict between America and China in the twenty-first century, predicted by pundits like Robert Kaplan?

Finally, on third world Christianity:

While, from my Christian perspective, the growth of Christianity in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is an exciting historical development, this massive shift in religious adherence has as yet resulted in only limited positive social change.

The most obviously troubling problem in this regard is the devastating AIDS pandemic in Africa, which is almost entirely the result of personal sexual practices that are in every respect at odds with a Christian sexual ethic. In the long run, however - if we are to take as an example the slow emergence of Christian cultural influence in western Europe between, say, the deposition of Romulus Augustus as Roman emperor in AD 476 and the crowning of Charlemagne as Imperator Romanorum in AD 800 - it is entirely possible that Christianity will result in a rich cultural flowering in Africa, in every sphere of life.

Strauss offers much more in his article than has been excerpted here and much of what he says is very insightful. It would be good to read the whole thing.

Reformation Sunday

Yesterday was Reformation Sunday in the Lutheran Church and my thoughts turned this weekend to the endpoint the present trajectory of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) seems to be taking us toward. Ideological or theological designators like liberal and conservative often obscure nuance and require qualification, but they are also often useful. The ELCA seems to have fallen into the embrace of theological and ideological liberalism, and many conservatives are just beginning to wake up to the fact that the Church of their youth has been hijacked by a leadership that is moving steadily away from the traditional affirmations of the Faith.

The liberals (or progressives, as they fancy themselves) argue that the Church is called upon to do social ministry, and they are simply responding to that call by waging a decades-long campaign against sexism, racism and imperialism and contending on behalf of gay marriage, abortion rights, and the poor. What Christian, they ask, would or could oppose such causes?

The difficulty is this: There are two ways of looking at our social mandates and responsibilities. Conservatives hold that whatever policies we advocate must be rooted in, and governed by, Scripture. Liberals believe that our policies and support should be shaped by sociological consensus, and if contemporary theory conflicts with the Bible or the theological traditions of the Church then so much the worse for the Bible and tradition.

Thus the Lutheran Church, or at least that part of it represented by the ELCA, struggles against sexism by publishing a new worship book that minimizes references to the masculine in hymns, creeds, and liturgy, and by supporting expansive abortion rights even though all previous social statements of the Church, including the present one, condemn abortion.

It opposes racism by endorsing liberal Democratic approaches to welfare, affirmative action, and entitlement. It will surprise no one if we hear calls for racial reparations arise during future national assemblies.

It condemns imperialism by demanding that Israel tear down the wall that it has erected to protect itself from Palestinian murderers and that the U.S. turn over the global war on terror to the U.N. so that it can be treated as a police matter.

It is, finally, exceedingly sympathetic to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered agenda despite the fact that all sexual norms found in Scripture would have to be abandoned in order to accommodate it. Notwithstanding the Biblical proscription of same sex intimacy, large sectors of the Church, including the leadership, favor the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same sex relationships.

This is the direction of the contemporary ELCA, and this is why a growing number of Lutherans are praying for another Reformation (See here, for example). We need, they insist, a Martin Luther for the 21st century to rescue a Church whose membership is in free-fall and whose leadership seems committed to running this once great institution off the cliff of cultural syncretism.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

All A-twitter on the Left

It is a measure of the desperation of the Left that they are enormously excited about the indictment of a minor administration figure, of whom no one had ever previously heard, for lying to a grand jury in an attempt to cover up responsibility for behavior which, it turns out, wasn't even criminal.

Now that the indictment has been handed down, we're hearing dark suggestions, based chiefly upon the Left's eternal hopefulness, that somehow this will lead all the way to the top, and they will be able to exorcize from the body politic the Great Satan in the White House.

We doubt very much that the Left will get significant traction from the indictment of the heretofore anonymous "Scooter" Libby, although they will certainly try. They'll attempt anything at this point, so great is their obsession with destroying this president and their hatred of him for his ability to dash their hopes every time they're raised to incandescent levels of intensity.

It'll probably happen again this time, too.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Glimpse at the Future

Let's grab a glimpse of the future that the Islamists envision for our children:

Three teenage Christian girls were beheaded and a fourth was seriously wounded in a savage attack on Saturday by unidentified assailants in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi.

The girls were among a group of students from a private Christian high school who were ambushed while walking through a cocoa plantation in Poso Kota subdistrict on their way to class, police Major Riky Naldo said.

Naldo said the heads of the three dead victims were found several kilometres from their bodies.

[Since 2002] there has been a series of bomb attacks and assassinations of Christians. These included a blast at a market in Poso, a predominantly Christian town, that killed 22 people in May.

Christian leaders have repeatedly accused the authorities in Jakarta of not doing enough to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Perhaps the authorities have no idea who the perpetrators might be. Let's try to help them narrow down the suspects. Let's ask where the perpetrators might most likely be found. Should the authorities look in a:

a. convent of nuns
b. monastery
c. missionary clinic
d. mosque

If you answered a, b, or c you get the Norman Y. Maneta award for dopey adherence to political correctness, named after our current Secretary of Transportation. The award is so named for Mr. Maneta's unswerving fidelity to such bedrock principles of left-wing ideology as that octagenarians in wheel chairs should be searched every bit as thoroughly for bombs before being permitted to board an airplane as sullen, twenty-something Arab males. To do otherwise, Mr. Maneta believes, is to betray an intolerable ethnic bias.

Heaven forgive us if we're guilty of thinking that we're far more likely to be blown out of the sky, or have our torsos relieved of our heads, by young Arab males than by elderly Anglo-Saxon women. It just reveals how ingrained our racism is that we can't seem to shake the thought that a young Muslim Arab is a far greater threat to our well-being than is a feeble great-grandmother.


I recently finished David McCullough's wonderful, if slightly mistitled, 1776. I say wonderful because once I got about a third of the way into it I didn't want to put it down. McCullough is a masterful writer and the story he tells is full of fascinating anecdotes and detail that seize the reader's attention and cause him to regret arriving at the last page of the book.

I say it is slightly mistitled because it's not really a story of the year 1776 so much as it is an account of the trials, travails, and tribulations of George Washington during those bleak twelve months.

McCullough tells a tale that one doesn't ordinarily read in popular accounts of Washington who is often portrayed as a man with near-perfect judgment and almost infinite wisdom. That his judgment was often excellent and that he was wise there is no doubt, but in the year 1776, the first year of the revolution, Washington made several serious mistakes and were it not for what McCullough refers to as miracles and the excessive caution of his adversary William Howe, the fledgling Continental army would probably have been destroyed at New York. Until the very end of the year the story of the war was a narrative of ignominious American retreats. As McCullough writes victories are not won by withdrawals no matter how well executed.

It is hard to imagine, although McCullough does a good job of describing it for us, the darkness of those months: the steady string of defeats, the abandonment by thousands of citizens who fled to the British, the demoralization and lack of training and discipline of the troops, the desertions, poor equipment, harsh living conditions, and the seeming indifference of the Continental Congress, and, not least, the utter despair that many, including Washington himself, must have felt. Yet, despite the fact that he didn't win a major engagement until late in the year when he caught the Hessians by surprise at Trenton, he never allowed himself to succumb to his forebodings and trepidations about the prospects for success, at least not for long. He learned from his errors, some of which were extremely costly in terms of lives lost, and he didn't permit the harshness of his critics nor the betrayals of friends to deter him. He truly was a great man.

As I was reading McCullough's narrative I thought of our current commander in chief. Like Washington, he has been pummeled, slandered, and ridiculed by his critics. He has faced dark days when success was anything but assured. He has had to bear up against a steady drumbeat of defeatism in the press. There must be times when he thinks that nobody cares about winning the war on terror but him, and yet he refuses to bend to the cavils of critics. Bush's situation is perhaps more like that of Lincoln than of Washington, but even so, some of the similarities with Washington are striking.

I recommend 1776 to anyone with an interest in American history and especially the history of the first year of the American revolution. There is much in it that we can apply to our own parlous times.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Make No Mistake

Lest anyone be uncertain concerning the aspirations of the radical Islamists, President Ahmadinejad of Iran dispels any misunderstanding. The following excerpts, made available by MEMRI, are from his recent speech at the World Without Zionism conference in Tehran. The conference was attended by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and hundreds of students:

"... They [ask]: 'Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?' But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved ...."

"Very soon, this stain of disgrace [i.e. Israel ] will vanish from the center of the Islamic world - and this is attainable."

"Regrettably, 27 or 28 years ago... one of the countries of the first line [i.e. Egypt ] made this failure [of recognizing Israel ] - and we still hope that they will correct it."

"The issue of Palestine is by no means over, and will end only when all of Palestine will have a government belonging to the Palestinian people. The refugees must return to their homes, and there must be a government that has come to power by the will of the [Palestinian] people. And, of course those [i.e. the Jews] who came to this country from far away to plunder it have no right to decide anything for the [Palestinian] people."

"I hope that the Palestinians will maintain their wariness and intelligence, much as they have pursued their battles in the past 10 years. This will be a short period, and if we pass through it successfully, the process of the elimination of the Zionist regime will be smooth and simple."

"Oh dear people, look at this global arena. By whom are we confronted? We must understand the depth of the disgrace imposed on us by the enemy, until our holy hatred expands continuously and strikes like a wave."

Mr. Bush's assessment of Iran as part of an axis of evil looks more trenchant with every passing week. Imagine that some unstable lunatic like Ahmadinejad gets his hands on a nuclear weapon. Does anyone seriously think that a man like this, so full of hatred, will decline to use it? This speech lends all the more urgency to attempts to put an end to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. And if diplomacy fails, which it almost surely will, the world, or at least a part of it, must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep such weapons out of Iran's arsenal.

Click on the link for more on the speech.

The Left Shouldn't Celebrate Yet

The media have been busy this week gleefully writing George Bush's political epitaph (see here, for example), but as Mark Twain might have put it, the funeral celebration is a bit premature.

To be sure, Mr. Bush has had a rocky couple of months what with Katrina, problems in Iraq, the unravelling of the Miers nomination, today's indictment of the Vice President's Chief of Staff, and a number of lesser travails. All of this has brought the president's media antagonists to the political graveyard to dance a conga around the tombstones in eager anticipation of the interment of the Bush presidency.

Nevertheless, it's not difficult to imagine this administration gathering itself up and rebounding from the present difficulties. Indeed, President Bush is well-positioned to execute a fourth quarter rally that could still place him among the greatest presidents of modern American history. Here's why and how:

The economy is growing steadily. Note that the Democrats rarely refer to the economy anymore by way of criticizing the president. Yet our economic health is the most crucial issue, as the Dems insisted in 1992, in determining which party will prevail in an election. If the Democrats could use our economic condition against Bush they would be doing it, but they can't so they aren't. If the economy continues to grow - and with gas prices falling to less extortionist levels there's reason for optimism in this regard - the public will forget the troubles of the last two or three months like one forgets a dream upon waking.

Iraq seems to be progressing steadily toward a historically unprecedented Arab democracy. Despite the steady drizzle of left-wing criticism and negativity, Bush's strategy in Iraq might well ultimately succeed. It's still unclear if it will, of course, but if it does, history will hail his effort, and that of our military, as an astonishing political, strategic, and human rights achievement, perhaps the greatest that any president or world leader ever accomplished. Success in Iraq will reverberate and ramify throughout the entire region and around the globe for generations. It's very difficult to overstate the significance and importance of such a consummation.

With the withdrawal of Harriet Miers the president has been given an unusual second chance to appoint someone of the very finest timber to the Supreme Court. Miers may have been a good appointment, but there was cause for serious skepticism. Mr. Bush can now name someone about whom there is no doubt. Another conservative justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia, as we were promised in the campaign, and the legal course of this country could be altered for the good for the next thirty to fifty years. Such a nomination would also unify the president's base and make him much more politically formidable.

Assuming there are no further indictments, the Scooter Libby affair will scarcely register on the historical record. On the other hand, it could serve, as did Katrina, as a prod to rouse the administration from complacency. There are signs that this is already happening. We're beginning to hear noises about getting the budget and our borders under control. Success breeds success. If the administration recovers its legislative momentum it may even try again to reform social security. If by 2008 just some of these things are happening, or at least appear to be under way, George Bush, to the everlasting chagrin of the portside media, will be regarded as surpassing even Ronald Reagan and FDR.

The ghoulish excesses of the liberal media are as premature as they are inappropriate. Too much still hangs in the balance for them to be indulging their hopes of a failed presidency just yet.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Monkeying With Probability

No doubt you've heard the venerable Darwinian dogma that given enough time and enough monkeys banging away randomly on a typewriter keyboard one of them would eventually produce Hamlet purely by chance.

The claim is designed to illustrate that even though life on earth is unimaginably improbable on the naturalistic hypothesis, it's not impossible. Given enough time and enough molecular combinations even the improbable becomes probable, and the probable becomes actual.

Unfortunately for this argument, however, its persuasiveness does not survive an actual look at the math.

Bill Dembski directs us to a decade-old site where the math is actually worked out. It happens that even if we hypothesize 17 billion galaxies, each containing 17 billion habitable planets, each planet with 17 billion monkeys each typing away and producing one line per second for 17 billion years, the chances of the phrase "To be or not to be, that is the question" not being included in the results are:

0.99999999999994657593795077819 6079485682838665648264132188104299 326596142975867879656916416973433628

In other words, even given parameters unimaginably more lenient than those which actually obtained in the real world, it's about 99.999999999995% sure that the monkeys would fail to produce just a single sentence of Hamlet by random pecking.

The Darwinian objects, however, that this extraordinary improbability assumes that the monkeys have to get the whole sequence right or else they have to start over as soon as they make a mistake. What if there is a mechanism, though, which conserves any letters that come up correctly so that if, say, a TO is typed by some monkey somewhere it's preserved until a BE is typed and then that's saved, etc? If so, the target sentence would appear in no time at all, relatively speaking. The rest of Hamlet would then eventually follow on in like fashion.

This is essentially the argument made by Richard Dawkins in the Blind Watchmaker, and it's intended to send the doubter scurrying away in abject embarrassment at having had the temerity to challenge scientific orthodoxy. The problem with it, though, is that it must assume the very thing that Intelligent Design has been asserting ever since its inception. It assumes that there is some goal toward which life is striving. It assumes that somehow life knows to preserve combinations that "work" until they can be incorporated into the sequence of letters. It assumes that nature has the ability to see a goal and to strive toward it. In other words, it assumes that nature is somehow programmed to produce life.

Such a teleological aspect in nature is precisely what the Darwinian vigorously denies. There is no need to introduce purpose, he avers, since natural selection acting with no conscious purpose selects combinations on the basis of their survival value and thus acts as if it were intelligent. But again this answer won't work. The reason is that natural selection acts only on reproducing populations of organisms. What needs to be explained is how information far more complex than our target sentence (a strand of genetic material, for example) emerged before it developed the ability to replicate itself and thus be subject to the pressures of natural selection.

We suppose that technically speaking it could have happened, just as it's possible that a blind-folded man might select a single marked atom out of all the atoms of the universe just by luck, but it takes faith far greater than the size of a mustard seed to believe that it actually did happen in the few million years between the time the earth cooled sufficiently to allow bio-molecules to form and the appearance of the first living organisms. Of course, when one is a priori committed to the notion that only mechanistic, unintelligent forces were at work in the production of life, then one is constrained to accept the most outlandish and implausible of stories.

It took an intelligent writer to produce Hamlet. There is no basis for believing that any conceivable combination of chance, luck, and blind, impersonal force could accomplish it. Likewise, neither is there any basis for believing that blind, impersonal forces built DNA. The conviction that such mechanisms did indeed accidentally achieve this astonishing miracle is an article of faith that only true believers in the church of Materialism can convince themselves to embrace.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Pete Schramm, who is himself a lawyer, posts a joke at No Left Turns that some of you will think funny:

One afternoon a wealthy lawyer was riding in his limousine when he saw two men along the roadside eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop and he got out to investigate. He asked one man, "Why are you eating grass?" We don't have any money for food," the poor man replied. "We have to eat grass." "Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I'll feed you," the lawyer said. "But, sir! I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there, under that tree" "Bring them along," the lawyer replied. Turning to the other poor man he stated, "You come with us also." The second man, in a pitiful voice then said, "But sir, I also have a wife and SIX children with me!" "Bring them all, as well," the lawyer answered. They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as large as the limousine was. Once underway, one of the poor fellows turned to the lawyer and said, "Sir, you are too kind. Thank you for taking all of us with you." The lawyer replied, "Glad to do it. You'll really love my place -- the grass is almost a foot high."

My apologies to those of my friends (maybe they're now former friends) who are lawyers.

A Virtual Shoo-In

Here's John Fund's take on the Miers' imbroglio:

I believe it is almost inevitable that Ms. Miers will withdraw or be defeated. Should that happen, it is important President Bush understand how it really happened. While he acted out of sincerity, the nomination was quickly perceived by many as merely a means to a desired end: getting another vote for his views on the court. While some conservatives backed her because they honestly believed she would rule independently with an understanding of the limited role of judges envisioned by the Founders, that message was drowned out by accusations of cronyism and mediocrity.

The president also was let down by seven senators in his own party who in May agreed to scuttle plans to end judicial filibusters blocking nominees from ever getting a vote. It wouldn't have been unreasonable for him to think the Senate wasn't in a position to confirm a nominee with a long paper trail.

But he may soon have a chance for a fresh start and no choice but to have a fight over substance. When Douglas Ginsburg asked to have his nomination to the Supreme Court pulled in 1987 after allegations he had used marijuana, Ronald Reagan won unanimous confirmation in a Democratic Senate for Anthony Kennedy, then a judge with a decade-long conservative track record on a federal appellate court. Similarly, Mr. Bush recovered quickly from losing Linda Chavez as his nominee for Labor Secretary and Mr. Kerik as Secretary of Homeland Security. The damage to his relations with his conservative base would blow over quickly if Mr. Bush were to quickly name a well-qualified nominee who was not a sphinx when it came to judicial philosophy. Perhaps this time he might even expand the talent pool to include--gasp--men.

Pace Mr. Fund We have a somewhat different take on Ms Miers' prospects. If she doesn't withdraw, her persistence will set the stage for some novel political irony. She will be broadly disliked for quite different reasons by both Democrats and Republicans, but most of them will reluctantly feel compelled to vote to confirm her. Miers will likely be given a pass by many Democrats who will give her every benefit of the doubt since she's probably the best nominee, from their point of view, they can hope to see. If she's rejected, whoever comes after her is going to be far stronger, more ideologically conservative, and much more impressive than she, and far more difficult to oppose.

Republicans, for their part, will be unenthusiastic about Miers but also reluctant to vote against their president's pick, and indeed most of the current opposition to her is coming from columnists and bloggers, not senators.

Unless she's a disaster in the hearings, which she may be, Ms Miers will probably be confirmed by a comfortable margin, unless defections by Republicans, unlikely as they are, bring her down. In other words, nobody in the Senate will want her as a SCOTUS justice, but almost everyone in the Senate will feel constrained to vote for her.

Veto the Torture Bill, Mr. President

Congressional negotiators are currently haggling over an amendment to a military spending bill which would prohibit torture of anyone in American custody. This sounds good, but we're not enthusiastic.

The McCain amendment to the spending bill says this: "No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment." The amendment passed the senate 90 to 9 a couple of days ago, but it shouldn't have.

President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation and we hope he does, not because we don't think people suspected of terrorism should be given some protections from abusive treatment, but because this bill is so vaguely worded that it has the potential to severely cripple us in the fight against those who wish to destroy us.

For example, what exactly constitutes "degrading treatment"? Is it imprisonment? Solitary confinement? Ridicule? Being yelled at? Unless the word "degrading" is clearly defined almost anything done to a detainee could be interpreted, and will be interpreted by ACLU lawyers, as degrading, and our courts and military will be bogged down for years trying to get clarification on what is permitted and what isn't.

The same criticism could be levelled at the use of words like "cruel" or "inhumane." Where is the line between cruel and not-cruel? Is giving detainees institutional food cruel? What about the use of fake menstrual blood, or the use of deception in general? Does cruelty depend upon motive or is it merely a function of the act itself? If an interrogator uses methods which might be deemed cruel because he has reason to believe that the detainee has information about a terrorist attempt to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel in New York, would that be prohibited? If so, why? These and other questions need to be answered before the president should affix his signature to such a bill.

This is one of those pieces of legislation that politicians vote for in order to look good by appearing to be doing good. They're no doubt hoping that Bush will save them from their fecklessness and veto this charade.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Palestine Hotel Attack

Readers interested in learning about how the attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad was thwarted should visit The Fourth Rail. As always, Bill Roggio has good analysis and helpful satellite photos of the area.

Dumb and Dumber

I know. It's not nice to laugh at people nor is it polite to call them stupid, but what else can you do when you read something like this:

Amherst Regional High School will stop using the term 'freshman' to refer to ninth-grade students because the term is not inclusive enough for some members of the faculty there, according to the Concord Monitor.

Students in ninth grade will now be referred to as .... "ninth-graders" in all official documents and morning announcements.

ARHS Assistant Principal Marta Guevara, who pushed for the change, said the decision to move away from 'freshman' came about after a production of the The Vagina Monologues two years ago.

Guevara said the school wants to make students "aware of the possible misogynistic, oppressive or non-inclusive language."

As absurd as Ms Guevara proudly makes herself sound this is even worse:

A columnist for the Naples Daily News in Florida says the University of Miami should ditch the Hurricanes nickname because it's insensitive to folks in storm-ravaged areas.

"Hurricanes is no longer an appropriate nickname for a sports team....Even the threat of a hurricane can bring hysteria and fear," writes Tom Hanson. "The NCAA can complain about Seminoles, Utes and Illini, but how many people need to die or become homeless before someone calls Miami's moniker out of line?"

"Hurricanes should be taken seriously. They shouldn't be cheered."

Taken seriously is exactly what Mr. Hanson cannot be. We'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that perhaps he was writing a parody of liberalism or political correctness, but a visit to the full editorial doesn't add much weight to that hypothesis. He appears to be writing a parody, to be sure, but it is entirely unintentional.

Laughing With Al

If you're under ten years old here's an uproarious example of lefty humor for you. It'll have you rolling on the floor trembling in fits of laughter. How could one man be so funny, you'll want to know.

Go to the Drudge Report and click on the Al Franken video skit.

This is an ideological as well as an emotional maturity litmus test. If you're over ten and you laugh then you've self-identified as a leftist who has a long way to go before you're grown up.

Get Whitey

Mike adams at Front Page Mag fills us in on the latest results from the Can't We All Just Get Along front. It seems that the good people of North Carolina are subsidizing calls for their own extermination. As you read the following article just imagine a white person saying about blacks what Dr. Kambon says about whites:

Columnist Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, NC, has written a blog entry that....demonstrates how the diversity movement is bringing people together in the great state of North Carolina.

Sanders' recent blog directs readers to C-SPAN online, where they can click on the recent archives and scroll down until they find the "Black Media Forum on the Image of Black Americans in Mainstream Media." This was a program presented on October 14th at Howard University. Dr. Kamau Kambon makes his appearance about three hours into the four-hour event.

Dr. Kambon's closing remarks - given about twenty minutes before the program's conclusion - are chilling:

"And then finally I want to say that we need one idea, and we're not thinking about a solution to the problem. We're thinking about all these other things, but we're not dealing with a solution to the problem. And we have to start to think about a solution to the problem so that these young brothers and sisters who are here now, who are 15, 16, or 17, are not here 25 years later talking about these same problems.

Now how do I know that the white people know that we are going to come up with a solution to the problem? I know it because they have retina scans, they have what they call racial profiling, DNA banks, and they're monitoring our people to try to prevent the one person from coming up with the one idea. And the one idea is, how we are going to exterminate white people because that in my estimation is the only conclusion I have come to. We have to exterminate white people off the face of the planet to solve this problem.

Now I don't care whether you clap or not, but I'm saying to you that we need to solve this problem because they are going to kill us. And I will leave on that. So we just have to just set up our own system and stop playing and get very serious and not be diverted from coming up with a solution to the problem and the problem on the planet is white people."

Dr. Kambon also said that "white people want to kill you ... because that is part of their plan" and that "the only n**ger on the planet is the white man and the white woman, and our people are not n**gers, they are imitation n**gers."

An official at North Carolina State University claims that Dr. Kambon - once a visiting professor being paid by the taxpayers of North Carolina - is no longer affiliated with the university. But, if that is true, why is he still listed on the university's Africana Studies faculty page?

After you visit that site, I bet you'll have the same question. And, like me, I hope you'll write the Africana Studies Department demanding an answer. And while you're at it, ask them why they hired a genocidal racist in the first place.

And while we're asking the Africana Studies Department (whatever that is) why they would hire a genocidal racist who promotes Hitlerian "final solutions", they might also be asked what sort of country they think this will be when Dr. Kambon's dream of exterminating all whites is realized. We wonder what Dr. Kambon's vision of a white-less America might be. Sudan, perhaps? Somalia? Liberia? Zimbabwe? New Orleans? If reading is part of Dr. Kambon's skill set, he might lay hold of a copy of Animal Farm to gain some insight into what happens when societies do the sort of thing he recommends. Unfortunately, the lessons of that book would doubtless find the mind of such a colossal dunce as Dr. Kambon impenetrable.

UPDATE: According to Brit Hume, Dr. Kambon is, ironically enough, an opponent of the death penalty.

For links to the sites to which Adams refers go to the link at the top of this post.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Thinking About College?

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) has released a book titled Choosing the Right College: The Whole Truth about America's Top Schools. The book can be ordered free by following this link to

NewsMax itself has "delved into Choosing the Right College to find the best schools for conservatives - campuses where a core curriculum requires a rigorous exposure to the great thinkers who have shaped our political, religious and cultural heritage, and where the atmosphere for learning is nurtured by genuine intellectual freedom, tolerance and tradition."

Here's their list:
1. University of Chicago
2. Hillsdale College
3. Christendom College
4. Wheaton College
5. Thomas Aquinas College
6. Baylor University
7. Catholic University of America
8. Grove City College
9. University of Dallas
10. Washington and Lee

The article discusses each of these schools and explains why they were selected.

Who Will Defend Excellence?

George Will has been one of Harriet Miers' most eloquent critics and his current essay on the matter is perhaps his best. The whole argument is elegantly written and tightly reasoned but perhaps the highlight is the second half of the essay:

As Miers' confirmation hearings draw near, her advocates will make an argument that is always false but that they, especially, must make, considering the unusual nature of their nominee. The argument is that it is somehow inappropriate for senators to ask a nominee -- a nominee for a lifetime position making unappealable decisions of enormous social impact -- searching questions about specific Supreme Court decisions and the principles of constitutional law that these decisions have propelled into America's present, and future.

To that argument, the obvious and sufficient refutation is: Why, then, have hearings? What, then, remains of the Senate's constitutional role in consenting to nominees?

It is not merely permissible, it is imperative that senators give Miers ample opportunity to refute skeptics by demonstrating her analytic powers and jurisprudential inclinations by discussing recent cases concerning, for example, the scope of federal power under the commerce clause, the compatibility of the First Amendment with campaign regulations, and privacy -- including Roe v. Wade.

Can Miers' confirmation be blocked? It is easy to get a senatorial majority to take a stand in defense of this or that concrete interest, but it is surpassingly difficult to get a majority anywhere to rise in defense of mere excellence.

Still, Miers must begin with 22 Democratic votes against her. Surely no Democrat can retain a shred of self-respect if, having voted against John Roberts, he or she then declares Miers fit for the court. All Democrats who so declare will forfeit a right and an issue -- their right to criticize the administration's cronyism.

And Democrats, with their zest for gender politics, need this reminder: To give a woman a seat on a crowded bus because she is a woman is gallantry. To give a woman a seat on the Supreme Court because she is a woman is a dereliction of senatorial duty. It also is an affront to mature feminism, which may bridle at gallantry but should recoil from condescension.

As for Republicans, any who vote for Miers will thereafter be ineligible to argue that it is important to elect Republicans because they are conscientious conservers of the judicial branch's invaluable dignity. Finally, any Republican senator who supinely acquiesces in President Bush's reckless abuse of presidential discretion -- or who does not recognize the Miers nomination as such -- can never be considered presidential material.

The line about it being easy to cobble together a senate majority on behalf of a concrete interest but "surpassingly difficult to get a majority anywhere to rise in defense of mere excellence" is a classic.

Meanwhile, Peter Schramm at No Left Turns offers his reasons for believing that Miers will not go through with the hearings:

I now have an opinion on what will happen with Harriet Miers: She will withdraw her nomination before the start of the Judiciary Committee hearings. This opinion is not based on the latest George Will column that explains why she cannot be defended, nor is it based on my discovery of the tacky Harriet Miers's Blog. My opinion is based on overhearing private conversations (i.e., reading between the lines in press reports), getting a sense of her declining fortunes from Senators and staffers who have been inclined to support her, and my visit to the local watering hole last night.

Even overlooking the congenital anti-Bush bias in the MSM, press reports make clear that the more would-be-defenders of Miers get to know her (visits to their offices, reading responses to written questions, etc.), the less they like her. This is supported by private, off-the-record opinions I get a whiff of now and then indicating that almost everyone who has had dealings with her during the last few weeks has come to regret that she has been nominated. And, if she doesn't withdraw, this negative opinion will come to a peak during the Judiciary Committee hearings, to everyone's huge embarrassment. Since neither political interest nor honor will not allow this to happen, she will not make it to the scheduled hearings.

My second reason for thinking that she will withdraw is the sampling of the opinion of local citizens, culminating in last night's visit to the tavern....These are good, conservative, Republican folks, always giving Bush the benefit of the doubt; trusting Bush. Not this time. They have become convinced that this nomination is a huge mistake and their thoughtful conversation convinced me that they are right: the best thing Bush can do is to ask her to withdraw because she has no support. I was a bit surprised how deliberate and thoughtful their logic was; neither bitter nor vengeful, just the common sense of the subject. One man, a Marine, said this was like a bad love affair: the more you got to know Miers, the less you liked her. Very clarifying, I thought. It's over. Never mind the justice of the thing. It's over. Now the only thing left is for either Bush or Meirs to find a graceful way out.

Anecdotal, to be sure, but when staunch defenders of the President like No Left Turns, Michelle Malkin, and the Power Line guys are telling the Big Guy that he whiffed on this one the outcome looks very bleak indeed.

It's so unfortunate that this happened, particularly in light of the fact that it was so easily avoidable. The Miers nomination has done more to shake conservatives' confidence in the competence of the Bush administration than all their other putative misteps put together.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lost Liberty Hotel

In case you haven't heard, matters seem to be moving along in Weare, NH, with plans to seize the property of Supreme Court Justice David Souter to convert it into a hotel (the Lost Liberty Hotel) consonant with the decision Kelo v. New London in which Justice Souter concurred and which allows municipalities to sieze property by eminent domain in order to give it to private companies for private use.

There will be an initiative on the March 14, 2006 Weare ballot in which voters can indicate to the Selectmen their desire to have the town government use eminent domain to seize 34 Cilley Hill Road (currently owned by Supreme Court Justice David Souter) for the purpose of a promoting economic development (a valid seizure according to Souter's vote in Kelo vs. City of New London).

Also, a list of over thirty interested developers has been narrowed to seven. They are seeking a developer who has experience building a similar type of structure and is enthusiastically supportive of the purpose of the project. The name of the developer is expected to be announced by mid-November.

They can use financial support so anyone who'd like to see this project come to fruition can go here to find out how they can contribute. It would be nice to see our judges and politicians forced to accept the same consequences of their rulings and laws that the rest of us must accept.

Why There's No Vaccine

Why don't we have a vaccine for the avian flu? Why will it take so long to produce enough tamiflu to mitigate the symptoms of a potential flu pandemic? Is it that the drug companies are failing us? The Wall Street Journal explains:

Our political leaders keep telling us to fear the avian flu, and in one sense they're right: We should all be scared to death about how much damage our political leaders will do responding to the avian flu.

Consider Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who declared this month that he hoped concern for "intellectual property" wouldn't "get into the way" of procuring widespread vaccines for a potential avian-flu outbreak. In other words, companies that make vaccines should abandon their patents at Mr. Annan's whim. This kind of hostility to property rights is precisely the reason we now have a shortage of vaccines and drugs to combat this potential pandemic.

Whatever the risk, some good will come out of this public alarm if we use it as an opportunity to understand why the U.S. is now so poorly armed to cope with a deadly flu outbreak. The reason is that our political class has spent the past 30 years driving the vaccine industry out of business with its own virus of over-regulation, price controls, litigation and intellectual-property abuse.

The U.S. today has only three large vaccine makers--down from 37 in the 1960s. This is the reason that, as recently as 2001, there was a shortage of eight of 11 critical childhood vaccines. It is also the reason the U.S. fell drastically short of flu vaccine a year ago, after a shut-down of one of two major flu-vaccine makers. And it is the reason only one company, Switzerland's Roche, is being counted on for a drug that would potentially protect against bird flu.

Despite these warning signals, Washington has done almost nothing. One problem is the Food and Drug Administration, which puts safety above developing rapid cures. Flu-vaccine makers face particular difficulties because they must effectively gain approval for a new product (for each new flu strain) every year. The vaccine is still grown in chicken eggs--a process that takes up to eight months. The industry has revolutionary new technologies--reverse genetics and mammalian cell culture--that would dramatically reduce the time and cost of development. Europe is moving toward products using these new techniques, but the FDA refuses to adapt and allow more rapid approval.

The feds have also done their best to remove any financial incentive--i.e., profit--for developing new vaccines. The Vaccines For Children program, a pet project of Hillary Clinton back in her First Lady days, has been especially destructive. The program now buys more than 50% of all private vaccines, and it uses this monopsony clout to drive prices down to commodity levels.

When one pharmaceutical company offered to sell a new pneumococcal vaccine to the government for $58 a dose, the Centers for Disease Control demanded a $10-a-dose discount. Politicians want companies to take all the risk of developing new vaccines, but they don't want the companies to make any money from taking those risks. Then the politicians profess surprise and dismay that there's a vaccine shortage.

Vaccine makers are also a favorite target of tort lawyers, who've spent 20 years trying to get around the 1986 Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP)--which was specifically designed to protect vaccine makers from liability abuse. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been trying to update the VICP for several years, and Republicans did pass a liability provision as a rider to a homeland security bill in 2002. But three GOP Senators--Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Lincoln Chafee--created a media ruckus and demanded that it be killed. The Senators promised more debate on the subject, yet once the headlines vanished so did their interest.

The larger point is that if politicians want private industry to develop new cures and vaccines, they can't steal their patents or confiscate their hope of making money. Private companies developed the AIDS drugs that have extended millions of lives, but countries like Brazil want to force those companies to give the drugs away at cost.

The solutions to getting more vaccines aren't complicated: Push the FDA for faster approvals, shield companies from tort robbery and get the government out of the business of buying routine vaccines. Politicians can't be held responsible for knowing when the next animal virus will strike the human race. But they will be responsible if their hostility to business leaves us unable to cope with its consequences.

Bureaucrats and politicians excel at two things: Wasting money on worthless projects and over-regulating businesses upon which our welfare depends. Other than these, the federal government, at least in its civilian sector, tends to be pretty incompetent.

Who'll Do the Test?

Michelle Starr of the York Daily Record, which has done some fine work reporting on the Dover ID trial, has written an interesting article on the testability of ID's claims. She writes:

Intelligent design and evolution proponents agree that a test on bacterial flagellum could show if it was or wasn't able to evolve, which could provide evidence to support intelligent design. But neither side wants to test it.

The test calls for a scientist to place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under selective pressure and let it grow for 10,000 generations - roughly two years - to see if a flagellum or an equally complex system would be produced, according to testimony on Wednesday. A flagellum is a whip-like structure that can propel the bacteria.

Michael Behe, biochemistry professor at Lehigh University, testified in U.S. Middle District Court that he didn't know of anyone who had tested bacterial flagellum that way, including himself. During cross examination by plaintiffs' attorney Eric Rothschild, Behe said he hadn't completed the test because he has better ways to spend his time. He also said he already knows intelligent design is science. "It's well-tested from the inductive arguments," Behe said. "When we have found a purposeful arrangement of parts, we have always found this as designed."

Outside court, Dover school board members Alan Bonsell and Sheila Harkins said if anyone should perform the test, it should be the evolutionists. "Somebody could do that if they wanted to," Harkins said. "If somebody believes intelligent design is not science, certainly they have a means to prove it's not."

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said scientists - who widely accept evolution as the cornerstone of modern biology - aren't going to take two years on an expensive test to disprove something they don't consider science.

They wouldn't bother, she said. "This is not the first time creationists have tried to get scientists to do their work for them," Scott said.

This time around, even if the flagellum grew, Scott speculated that intelligent design proponents would say the test refuted the design of bacterial flagellum, not intelligent design. They could still point toward design of the immune system and blood-clotting cascade as evidence, Scott said.

Behe has testified that if evolutionists ran the test and it didn't work, they would provide a reason such as they didn't have the right bacteria, selective pressure or length of time. Evolution is harder to falsify than intelligent design, Behe said. He describes intelligent design as a fully testable, falsifiable scientific theory.

The design, he testified, is inferred from the purposeful arrangement of parts. During his time on the stand, he also testified about the concept of irreducible complexity, which means organisms are too complex to have evolved by natural selection or genetic mutation, so multiple systems had to arise simultaneously.

Scott said scientists couldn't disprove the purposeful arrangement of parts because too much could qualify. Anything outside of purposely arranged parts would be in state of chaos, she said. The purposeful arrangements of parts is quickly taking over as the essence of intelligent design from the idea of irreducible complexity, Scott said.

Bonsell and Harkins believe intelligent design qualifies as a testable and falsifiable scientific theory, and Bonsell said he was ready for it to be put to the test. "I'm all for scientific discovery and doing scientific experiments," Bonsell said. "They're the ones that are not."

I think Eugenie Scott is technically correct that the emergence of a flagellum wouldn't definitively falsify the ID position because many ID theorists assert that the design is front-loaded, i.e. it's programmed into biology at the Big Bang, or at the creation of life, so that bacteria could well be intelligently designed such that they would respond to certain selection pressures by developing a flagellum. Nevertheless, it would seem that Darwinian scientists would want to carry out the test if for no other reason than scientific curiosity.

Moreover, if such a structure were seen to emerge with no significant tinkering from the experimenter, it would be, for all practical purposes, the death knell for ID. It would be the biological version of the O.J. Simpson verdict: Technically his guilt was not proven, but everyone knows that he was guilty of the crime.

Likewise, and this is one reason that Darwinians are unlikely to actually attempt this test, if the experiment were to fail to produce a flagellum, logically the result would be meaningless, but psychologically it would give a big boost to ID among the masses. The Darwinians know that the chances of a flagellum evolving are vanishingly slim, and the chances of giving their ID opponents a propaganda coup if no flagellum appears are significant. Consequently, the test won't get done, or if it is done the public will not hear about it unless a flagellum were indeed to materialize. It's just easier, and less dangerous, to accuse ID of being untestable than to actually try to test it.

This leads to another reason that Darwinians won't conduct the test, of course, which is that doing so has a very serious drawback for the argument that has been consistently employed by the anti-ID folks. Simply by carrying out the test the experimenter would be demonstrating that the Darwinians' claim that ID is not testable, and therefore not science, is false. What an interesting predicament. The Darwinians argue vehemently that ID is not a scientific theory, but they dare not try to actually prove it is false because in so doing they undercut their argument that it's not science.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Chiefs and Indians

Tongue-Tied informs us of a marvelous specimen of liberal hyper-sensitivity and hypocrisy all wrapped into one.

It appears that the Kansas City Chiefs football team recently enjoyed a win over the Washington Redskins, but the Kansas City Star referred to the losing side only as "the Washington team". The Star's various accounts of the Chiefs' victory Sunday over Washington never used the word "Redskins." The paper piously declared that, "The Star's policy is not to use Washington's team name because it is a racial slur."

Well, then, what about the Chiefs? The paper explained that, "the Chiefs were actually named for former Mayor H. Roe Bartle -- known as The Chief -- who was key in getting the team to come to Kansas City in the 1960s." The name has nothing to do with degrading ethnic insults.

Tongue-Tied is amazed: "A racial slur? I thought 'Redskins' conveyed an heroic image! Why else would a sports team have adopted it? I don't think they meant to portray themselves as primitive morons, do you? Or is it a slur to portray someone as heroic these days? I guess it is in certain loony Left circles."

As a reader of Tongue-Tied notes, the Kansas City Star's ridiculous rationale for refusing to say "Redskins" but having no problem with "Chiefs" is nonsense. If it were true that the name has nothing to do with Indi.., er, Native-Americans, why would the Chiefs' helmets have an arrowhead on them, and why would they be playing in Arrowhead Stadium?

Maybe Mayor Bartle, aka The Chief, also walked about with an arrow wrapped around his head.

A Training Ground For Terrorists

The Fourth Rail's Bill Roggio addresses the criticism that the United States has made Iraq a training ground for foreign terrorists. The claim, according to Roggio, is doubtless correct but also trivial (Our word, not his):

Al Qaeda is pushing fighters into the country, and some of those who leave will impart their knowledge to others and potentially conduct attacks against their home countries. But al Qaeda has been doing this in other countries; in Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Afghanistan and a host of countries throughout the world. Absent Iraq, the jihadis would enter these countries for their training.

Proponents of the Iraq War believe the establishment of democracy in the heart of the Middle East and the accompanying ideological defeat for al Qaeda, the drawing in of senior al Qaeda operatives into the country, the high casualty rates among foreign terrorists, the valuable combat experience and intelligence gained by U.S. forces, the establishment of an Iraqi intelligence agency and security forces hostile to al Qaeda's operations, the exposure of al Qaeda networks outside Iraq, the pressure placed on Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and other benefits far outweigh the negative of potential bleedback by the terrorists fleeing Iraq.

In the course of explaining why the claim that Iraq is a terrorist training ground is of very little moment Roggio mentions that over half of the foreign terrorists who have come to Iraq to fight so far this year have been killed or captured:

In an October 20th press briefing, Major General Rick Lynch reports that 376 foreign fighters had been captured this year, and over 400 killed. The foreigners come from countries that are outside the reach of U.S. forces. With an estimated 150 terrorists entering the country monthly, well over half of the year's total have been killed or captured, an exceedingly high attrition rate. General Lynch also points out that al Qaeda in Iraq's leadership is often of foreign origin. al Qaeda is not in the habit of putting green recruits into leadership positions.

There's much more at the link, including a graphic which breaks down the captured terrorists by nation from whence they came.

Republican Hypocrisy

Freshman Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) recently introduced an amendment to the budget resolution which would have taken money from an incredible piece of pork, a 220 million dollar bridge in Alaska that connects the mainland to an island with a population of about fifty people, and used that money to rebuild a bridge in Louisianna that was damaged by Katrina. The Alaskan bridge, often referred to as the bridge to nowhere, is just a wallet-stuffer for Alaskan workers. The money could have reduced the amount that taxpayers will otherwise be handing over to Louisianna by almost a quarter of a billion dollars.

It's the kind of legislation on which Republicans campaign for office. It's the sort of thing we vote for Republicans to support. The Senate vote was Thursday. It was defeated 85 to 15. Only fifteen senators had enough character to vote on behalf of the American taxpayer and against a spectacular waste. The rest of them voted to squander our money on a bridge that will service no more than a few people a day.

The roll call on the vote can be found here.

The fifteen heroes are: Allard (R-CO), Allen (R-VA) [Our early favorite for '08], Bayh (D-IN), Burr (R-NC), Coburn (R-OK), Conrad (D-ND), DeMint (R-SC), DeWine (R-OH) [Partial redemption for joining the gang of 14], Feingold (D-WI), Graham (R-SC) [Partial redemption for joining the gang of 14], Kyl (R-AZ), Landrieu (D-LA) [We were surprised, too, until we remembered that Louisianna gets the money], Sessions (R-AL), Sununu (R-NH), and Vitter (R-LA). Eleven Republicans and four Democrats.

Noticebly missing from the list are such stalwart Republican opponents of governmental profligacy as John McCain, Rick Santorum (This is Santorum's second offense against principle. His first was endorsing Arlen Specter in his primary race against Pat Toomey), Bill Frist, and, well, the vast majority of the Republican caucus. One expects Democrats to vote for fleecing the public, but it's an outrage that people who advertise themselves as fiscal conservatives have done it. Santorum is in a tough race in '06 in Pennsylvania. He upset a lot of his base with his endorsement of Specter. This vote may have alienated many of them. It certainly has made me consider withholding my vote for the office of senator on election day. Too bad Toomey won't challenge Santorum in the primary.

To make matters worse this amendment was just one of several that Coburn introduced that would have stripped another $500,000 from a sculpture park in Washington, $200,000 from a proposed animal shelter in Rhode Island, and another $200,000 from a parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, and redirect these monies to disaster relief. Those proposals also lost by similar margins.

The Grich has the pathetic reactions of porkmeisters Ted Stevens of Alaska and Patty Murray of Washington to Coburn's attempt to introduce sanity and integrity to the Senate.

Stevens threatened to resign if he didn't get his bridge. We urge the voters of Alaska to assist him in finding his way out the door.

Murray threatened to block the pet projects of any senator who voted against her sculpture park. May we recommend that the first sculpture will be a huge hog feeding at the public trough.

Andrew Sullivan lists the number of pork projects by year and shows the dramatic increase from 958 in 1996 to 13,997 in 2005. The fat has actually doubled since President Bush came into office.

Ironically, I received a call yesterday afternoon from the RNC asking for a donation. I told the caller, who was not just a hired telemarketer, that I won't be contributing another cent to the Republican party until they start acting like Republicans and start acting like a majority party. Why, I asked her, should we vote for Republicans if they're just going to morph into Democrats? She gave me a number to call to voice my concerns. I suspect that the number, like the bridge in Alaska, goes nowhere.

Friday, October 21, 2005

<i>Sic Semper Tyrannus</i>

Mohammed at Iraq the Model discusses how Iraqis of his acquaintance are viewing the trial of Saddam Hussein:

Today I was talking to victims of Saddam who are friends of the family; a mother (52) and her daughter (25). The rest of their family was exterminated by Saddam; the daughter lost her grandfather, father and uncle.

"I was one year old when that happened and I didn't realize the situation until years after but I tell you one thing, I never said 'DAD' in my life...

Why do you think the trial was fine? It was pathetically weak and you cannot imagine the pain I felt when I saw the bloody murderer being allowed to speak and to defy the court. I could see the smiles on the faces of the Ba'athists and the Arab mercenary who speak of Saddam as a brave lion, haven't you heard what Raghad (Saddam's daughter) said on Al-Arabiya? She said: I never saw a greater or a braver father.

She killed me again, killed me and my mother whom Saddam stole her life. I was small when my dad was murdered but I see sadness in my mother's eyes everyday, that woman had to bury her father, brother and husband.

I cannot celebrate justice now because to me justice means that Saddam must be cut into pieces and burned with his gang and family...justice means that the suffer like we suffered.

I am so depressed today, he ought to be kicked, slapped and humiliated in front of us. Where was justice when my grandfather, my dad and my uncle were murdered just because they had a different opinion than that of Saddam!!"

I stood silent and I couldn't answer back, I just told her that Saddam stole my life too but she wouldn't listen, she was only crying and repeating her words...

The mother who lost her father, husband and brother was calmer and actually she sounded happy when she told me "yesterday we avenged the blood of our martyrs, I can't say how happy I was to see fear and anxiety in Saddam's eyes. You don't know how much I awaited this moment, only yesterday I felt safe and I don't really care if they hang him or leave him to rot in jail, all I care about is that this time HE is in the cage, isn't that great? I don't have much time left son but you and your children shall harvest the fruits of this victory..."

If you're interested in knowing about the background of this family's story, I'd like to include snapshots from it:

Back in 1972, the Ba'ath created the "National Patriot Progressive Front" in order to attract the opposition parties, especially the communists, the Kurds and the pan-nationalists. These parties didn't realize that it was a trap designed by the Ba'ath to infiltrate the parties and identify their cadres. So after the Ba'athists seized control over the country they thought it would be a good idea to eliminate those in the opposition who naively thought the Ba'ath fascists wanted to share governance. My guest begins telling her story:

"It started first when they executed 34 members from the leadership of the communist party and this forced the rest of the higher ranks to runaway and hide. One woman activist (Ayda Yasin) sought refuge in my father's clinic (he was a dentist) and he did hide her there until she was spotted by the Ba'thists.

He was attacked and arrested in his clinic and then taken to some unknown location. We were scared and we felt the family was being watched including my brother who carried a PhD in geology. We kept a low profile waiting for news about my father but then we were fired from our jobs and the pressures increased upon us. Then came the horrible news that my father was executed and that the rest of us were on the hit list.

We decided to head north to the Kurdish region; me, my husband and brother joined the "Ansar" movement and we fought for years defending ourselves in the mountains that were besieged by the government's army.

I was pregnant with my 2nd daughter and I had to leave the mountains and escape to Syria and in 1983 I learned that my husband and my brother among 94 other heroes fell in a battle in the mountains outside Erbil. The world became black in my eyes, I lost everything and I'm responsible for two babies who know nothing about the disaster that fell upon us.

You know, we never thought of carrying arms and fighting, we were good citizens serving the country with the knowledge and degrees we earned with hard work and we never imagined we would be forced one day to carry arms and battle the Ba'athists in the mountains and deserts but it's Saddam and his oppressive regime that left us with no other choice...

I'm telling you this and I'm free again and I'm proud of what I and my family did while that miserable coward is sitting in a cage and about to beg for mercy."

Yes, I do feel that justice is winning....

Mohammed describes his friends' thoughts as they watched the trial on television:

We all sat in front of the TV; there were 8 of us hushing each other as we didn't want to miss a single word of the conversations and we wanted to catch every small detail of the trial just like we suffered every small detail of the disasters brought upon us by the hateful tyrant.

"Does he deserve a fair trial?" this was the question that kept surfacing every five minutes...he wasn't the least fair to his people and he literally reduced justice to verbal orders from his mouth to be carried out by his dogs.

Why do we have to listen to his anticipated rudeness and arrogant stupid defenses? We already knew he was going to try to twist things and claim that the trial lacks legitimacy or that it's more a court of politics rather than a court of law, blah, blah, blah...

"Why do we have to listen to this bull****?" said one of my friends. "I prefer the trial goes like this:
Q:Are you Saddam Hussein?
Then take this bullet in the head."

Everyone could find a reason to immediately execute a criminal who never let his victims say a word to defend themselves "let's execute him and get over this."

When the day of reckoning comes for Saddam it should be broadcast around the world with the words scrawling continuously along the top of the picture - sic semper tyrannus! Such a scene might have a salutary effect on tyrants throughout the globe.

The Roots of Their Animosity

Why is there so much animosity on the Left for conservatives in general and George Bush in particular? Perhaps there are several reasons. One surely is that for many on the Left politics is an ersatz religion. They view opposition to their politics in the same way that some religious people view opposition to their religion. Any threat to one's deepest convictions is as dangerous as a threat to one's physical being. It is a causus belli.

Another reason is frustration amounting to bitterness. The movers and shakers on the contemporary Left came of age in the social and cultural rebellions of the 1960s. As the 60s morphed into the 70s many of those who were committed to pulling down the establishment realized that smoking dope, grooving on the Mommas and the Poppas, and looking scruffy would not, by themselves, accomplish much. So they cleaned up, entered the mainstream, and began their long march through the institutions. If they couldn't bring down the system from without, they'd do it from within. The revolution wouldn't be the sudden cataclysm they'd hoped for, but would instead be a gradual evolutionary process, like the frog which discovers too late that he's boiling in hot water. The brightest of the revolutionaries went into law, education, the arts, the media, the church, and politics. They advanced from entry level positions in the 70s, to mid-level positions in the 80s, and reached the zenith of their professions in the 90s. By this time, many of these fields were dominated by recast rebels who still held fast to the values, ideals, and dreams of their youth.

By the 90s social and cultural power was concentrated largely in the hands of those who wished to use it to transform the United States into the economically Marxist, socially libertine, militarily impotent nation they envisioned back in those hallucinogenic, halcyon days of the 60s. They were clearly succeeding. The culture was happy to throw off traditional moral norms and let it all hang out. Education had been transmogrified into a feel-good party for kids and sinecures for instructors, especially at the college level. The Church had largely abandoned traditional beliefs and doctrines, especially as these related to social matters like sexuality, and had thrown in its lot with the Zietgeist. The courts and the media were on board. Bill Clinton, the first president from the 60s generation, had been elected to the highest office in the land after the aberration of the Reagan years. Everything was ripe for the final stages of the transformation of America into a modern utopia. It seemed that success after all these decades of ideological toil was ineluctable. It would happen in their lifetime, as a result of their efforts, and the anticipation of it was doubtless intoxicating.

Then came 2000 and a Republican running on a Reaganite platform garnered fewer votes than their champion but was nevertheless ensconced in office by the Supreme Court. This was infuriating enough, auguring as it did another delay in their ultimate ascendency, but George Bush's retrograde first term witnessed a resurgence of enthusiasm for the American military, tax cuts, and conservatives being placed in high judgeships. Suddenly everything was threatened by this interloper from Texas. It was bad enough, too, that Rush Limbaugh was on the air, but now there was the Washington Times, Fox News, Sean Hannity, and the blogosphere and the feeling that all they had worked so hard for for so many years was coming undone.

Then came 2004 and an even more genuine left-wing candidate was also defeated by Bush who seemed now, despite numerous difficulties, to be in a position to have his way with the courts, the crucial linchpin in any success that the Left would have. The resentment boiled over in the aftermath of the election. Unable to mask their disappointment, resentment, and bitterness the Left launched a vicious assualt on the President and his supporters, especially Evangelicals, and has been determined ever since to do everything it can to punish and discredit Bush to limit the damage that he's done.

If he can be made to look weak, stupid, and venal, the thinking evidently goes, the Left will have a much better chance of persuading the electorate to repudiate all things Republican at the polls in 2006 and 2008. Thus nothing is out of bounds. There are no rules to limit what may be done. Spurious memos on Bush's National Guard service, phony indictments of Republican leaders, repeated allegations of deliberate deceptions by the administration to get us into war, discrediting the administration's ability to respond to disasters like Katrina - every slander on the character of the President and his appointees is in play.

The Left, having been denied its prize after having come so close to grasping it, is lashing out with vitriolic hatred at the people who have frustrated their designs, and demanding of its Democratic surrogates in Congress that there be total all-out war against the President and everything he stands for. Any Republican attempt to reach across the aisle in a quest for bi-partisan cooperation for the good of the country is to be rebuffed. Every Republican initiative is to be opposed, every Bush policy is to be condemned no matter what the cost. The Left is determined to gain its revenge and to recover its momentum by adopting the words of Malcolm X as their tacit slogan: "By whatever means necessary."

And that's why, and how, we've come to be where we are today.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

C, DE, and ID

There continues to be a great deal of confusion, much of it seemingly deliberate, over the nature of the Intelligent Design (ID) hypothesis as well as the nature of the basic assumptions of Darwinian evolution (DE) and creationism (C). This post is an attempt to clarify things a little.

Let's start with the commonly heard refrain that DE is science whereas ID is religion.

The fundamental claim of DE is that all of life has arisen solely as a result of blind, unguided, impersonal processes. ID is, in its essence, simply the denial or contrary of this claim. ID states that mechanistic processes are inadequate by themselves to account for what we find in the realm of living things and that one of the causal factors which must be invoked to fully account for life is intelligence. Whatever philosophical status the basic assertion of DE enjoys its contrary also enjoys, and vice versa. If the proposition that life is completely explicable in terms of blind, impersonal processes is a scientific assertion then so is it's denial. If the proposition that life bears the impress of intelligent purpose is religious then so is it's contrary.

ID is not C. Creationism is an attempt to vindicate the Genesis account and to reconcile it with science. It starts with the assumption that Genesis is true, and it will not accept any explanation that is incompatible with this assumption.

Similarly, DE starts with the assumption that only naturalistic forces can be employed to account for living things and will not accept any explanation which is incompatible with this assumption.

Both C and DE are inferences from an a priori metaphysical commitment and are more like each other in this regard than either is like ID.

ID starts with observations of living things and infers from the empirical data that intelligence must have played a role in the development of life. As such, ID is an observation-based hypothesis and is therefore more scientific, in this sense at least, than either of its competitors. It's inference that purpose and intentional design underlie life on earth is based not on a presupposition that there is a designer (though many ID theorists doubtless hold such a presupposition in their private lives), but rather upon several obvious facts about the world. Here are three:

1) The abundance of specified complexity (information) in the biosphere: Information is not generated by purposeless processes. A computer, for example, does not produce simulated organisms by blind chance. The computer must be programmed to follow an algorithm which is itself the product of intelligence. Likewise, DNA and proteins which carry far more information than does the average library, are not adequately explained by purposeless processes any more than are the books in the library.

2) The existence of ostensibly irreducibly complex structures and processes: If irreducible complexity exists in living things - and despite the claims of critics, no one has been able to put forward a convincing case that it does not - then this would be evidence of an intelligent agent at work. The nature of biochemical machines and pathways, cellular assembly lines and factories, and highly complex chemical cascades (like blood clotting) all point to purpose. The idea that these things could have arisen through random mutations and natural selection apart from any intentional engineering would be regarded as extremely implausible were it not necessitated by a prior commitment to materialistic explanations.

3) The telic nature of the cosmos: That life is telic (i.e. evinces purpose) is in dispute. That the cosmos is telic is much more difficult to gainsay. Cosmologists can invoke no mechanism like natural selection to explain the exquisite fine-tuning that is being discovered to exist throughout the warp and woof of the cosmos. If the cosmos as a whole bears witness to having been intricately engineered for a purpose, it is plausible to think that certain aspects of the cosmos, like the structures in living things, which appear to be designed for a purpose, actually are.

Indeed, we must keep in mind that the current debate is not about whether there is design in the biosphere. Everyone agrees that there is. The debate is over the source of that design. Is it nature blindly selecting for survival advantage, or is it an intelligence of some kind, a "World Soul", a Platonic demiurge, an idealist "Absolute", or the God of classical theism? ID offers no opinion.

It must be stressed that, strictly speaking, ID does not conflict with evolution (E), the theory of descent by modification. It conflicts only with DE, which insists that descent is a thoroughly naturalistic, mechanistic process. E simply asserts, however, that organisms share common ancestors. It does not require one to believe that the process of descent from these ancestral forms was purely mechanistic.

Thus there are among the top ranks of ID advocates a number of evolutionists of various stripe, and there are also some who are more creationist in their beliefs. ID is compatible with both, although either, or both, could be wrong and ID would be unaffected. What ID is not compatible with is DE.

ID is scarcely even related to C except insofar as both theories hold that an intelligence was involved in the emergence of life. To see the vast difference between them one need only realize that all of Genesis could be proven wrong but, although C would be thoroughly devastated, the theory of ID would be unscathed. ID is not dependent upon Genesis or any other religious or metaphysical book or doctrine for its content.

Contrary to the insistent claims of its critics, and the hopes of some of its advocates, ID is not religious. It requires no commitment to a god, it prescribes no worship nor doctrine. It has no clergy nor holy books. It simply holds that blind, unguided processes are inadequate by themselves to account for living things and that at some point, in some way, intelligence must have played a role. This is hardly a religious assertion, and unlike religious assertions, may even lend itself to testing. If it could be shown, for instance, that some mechanistic process does indeed produce information or an increase in information, if it could be plausibly and convincingly demonstrated that DNA or proteins could have arisen by chance through purely natural processes, then intelligent agency will have been shown to be a superfluous add-on, and ID will be decisively refuted.

Some may wish to use ID as a wedge to get religion into schools, but ID should be judged on its merits and not on the motives of some of its proponents. There are some who insist, after all, that DE be taught because they see it as a way of inculcating atheism into students. There are others who have used DE to justify social Darwinism and even genocide. It would be an error to judge DE on the basis of such misuses by its votaries, and it's equally wrong to judge ID by the misuses to which some of its adherents wish to put it.

There can be no harm, despite the hysteria of the ACLU and its allies in the scientific community, in informing students, when they are studying evolution, that although many scientists believe the process requires only mechanistic engines like mutation and natural selection, others disagree. It hurts no one to inform students that there are many scientists and philosophers who believe that whether evolution accurately describes how life came to be or not, the fundamental causes of life must have included intelligent purpose among them.

Things Are Better Than You Think

Everything that you thought was true about the state of the world is apparently false. If you don't believe it, read the Commission on Human Security Report titled War and Peace in the Twenty First Century. The report is filled with fascinating information. Did you know for instance that:

Over the past dozen years, the global security climate has changed in dramatic, positive, but largely unheralded ways. Civil wars, genocides and international crises have all declined sharply. International wars, now only a small minority of all conflicts, have been in steady decline for a much longer period, as have military coups and the average number of people killed per conflict per year.

*Armed conflicts around the world have actually declined by 40% since the early nineties.
*Between 1991 (the high point for the post-World War II period) and 2004, 28 armed struggles for self-determination started or restarted, while 43 were contained or ended.
*There were just 25 armed secessionist conflicts under way in 2004, the lowest number since 1976.
*Notwithstanding the horrors of Rwanda, Srebrenica and elsewhere, the number of genocides and politicides plummeted by 80% between the 1988 high point and 2001.
*International crises, often harbingers of war, declined by more than 70% between 1981 and 2001.
*The dollar value of major international arms transfers fell by 33% between 1990 and 2003.
*Global military expenditure and troop numbers declined sharply in the 1990s as well.
*The number of refugees dropped by some 45% between 1992 and 2003, as more and more wars came to an end.
*The period since the end of World War II is the longest interval of uninterrupted peace between the major powers in hundreds of years.
*The number of actual and attempted military coups has been declining for more than 40 years. In 1963 there were 25 coups and attempted coups around the world, the highest number in the post - World War II period. In 2004 there were only 10 coup attempts - a 60% decline. All of them failed.

According to the Report each of the following examples of conventional wisdom is actually little more than myth:

� The number of armed conflicts is increasing.
� Wars are getting deadlier.
� The number of genocides is increasing.
� The gravest threat to human security is international terrorism.
� 90% of those killed in today's wars are civilians.
� 5 million people were killed in wars in the 1990s.
� 2 million children were killed in wars during the last decade.
� 80% of refugees are women and children.
� Women are the primary victims of war.
� There are 300,000 child soldiers serving around the world today.

The Report states that, "Not one of these claims is based on reliable data. All are suspect; some are demonstrably false. Yet they are widely believed because they reinforce popular assumptions. They flourish in the absence of official figures to contradict them, and conjure a picture of global security trends that is grossly distorted. And they often drive political agendas."

Then there is this astonishing fact:

According to the World Bank, the September 11 attacks on the US in 2001 pushed millions of people in the developing world into poverty, and likely killed tens of thousands of under-five year-olds, a far greater toll than the total number of deaths directly caused by the attack.

The report gives the lion's share of the credit for the decline in violence to the end of both colonialism and the cold war, which is certainly a major factor, and to the efforts of the U.N., which is certainly a singularly ludicrous attribution. Nowhere in the report is there mention of the fact that since the 1980s, evil-doers have been put on notice that if they persist in doing their neighbors ill they may well receive a knock on the door from an American JDAM precision guided munition.

Such a prospect has probably done more to concentrate the minds of the world's villains than all of Kofi Anan's proclamations, programs, and thieveries put together. Yet it receives no mention. Nor have we seen this report in the MSM. Too much good news for the chronically dyspeptic gloom and doomers to assimilate, we suppose.

Thanks to Belmont Club for the tip.