Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The President's Speech

The full text of the President's speech on Iraq that he gave today at the Naval Academy can be found here. Commentary on it can be found here and here. Here are just a few of the many highlights:

These terrorists have nothing to offer the Iraqi people. All they have is the capacity and the willingness to kill the innocent and create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will to achieve their stated objectives. They will fail. America's will is strong. And they will fail because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in liberty. (Applause.)

The terrorists in Iraq share the same ideology as the terrorists who struck the United States on September the 11th. Those terrorists share the same ideology with those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, murdered tourists in Bali, workers in Riyadh, and guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan. Just last week, they massacred Iraqi children and their parents at a toy give-away outside an Iraqi hospital.

This is an enemy without conscience -- and they cannot be appeased. If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people. Against this adversary, there is only one effective response: We will never back down. We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)

Some are calling for a deadline for withdrawal. Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere -- but I believe they're sincerely wrong. Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory. As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."

Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies -- that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America. To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)

Our strategy in Iraq has three elements. On the political side, we know that free societies are peaceful societies, so we're helping the Iraqis build a free society with inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all Iraqis. We're working with the Iraqis to help them engage those who can be persuaded to join the new Iraq -- and to marginalize those who never will.

On the security side, coalition and Iraqi security forces are on the offensive against the enemy, cleaning out areas controlled by the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy, and following up with targeted reconstruction to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.

As we fight the terrorists, we're working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces, so they can take the lead in the fight -- and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.

And on the economic side, we're helping the Iraqis rebuild their infrastructure, reform their economy, and build the prosperity that will give all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq. In doing all this we have involved the United Nations, other international organizations, our coalition partners, and supportive regional states in helping Iraqis build their future.

There is much, much else that President Bush said in this speech about the particulars of his strategy and the training of Iraqi military and police units as well as other matters of crucial interest to those concerned with our progress in that country. It was perhaps the best speech of his presidency (of interest to those who say he never admits mistakes will be several lines where he does precisely that).

He promised, moreover, that he will elaborate on themes only lightly touched upon today in speeches to come in the days ahead. The nation needs to hear it, and we need to hear it over and over again. The President needs to take control of the discussion and to explain to the American people why the negative analysis being reported by the MSM is only a small part of the whole picture. We wish him well.

The Unknown Designer

Often we hear mentioned the criticism that unless Intelligent Design proponents can specify who the designer of their alleged irreducibly complex biological structures and processes is, their theory is mere speculation and not science. Not only do the critics demand to know who the designer is but also how the designer actually accomplished such wondrous feats of engineering.

This demand to identify the designer is misguided, however. It is certainly possible to conclude that we are observing an intelligently designed phenomenon without knowing anything about who designed it or the process the designer employed.

Bill Dembski makes this point in chapter 32 of his book The Design Revolution. The salient passage is quoted below:

Consider the case of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. If we were to receive a radio signal from outer space representing a long sequence of prime numbers (as in the movie Contact), we would know we were dealing with an intelligence-indeed, SETI researchers would be dancing in the streets, the New York Times would be trumpeting the discovery, and Nobel Prizes would duly be awarded.

But what exactly would we know about the intelligence responsible for that signal? Suppose all we had was this signal representing a sequence of primes. Would we know anything about the intelligence's purposes and motives for sending the primes? Would we know anything about the technology it employed? Would we know anything about its physical makeup? Would we even know that it was physical? Our evidence for design in this case would be entirely circumstantial. We would be confronted with an effect but be unable to trace back its cause.

Consider a more extreme example still. Imagine a device that outputs 0s and 1s for which our best science tells us that the bits are independent and identically distributed with uniform probability. (The device is therefore an idealized coin tossing machine; note that quantum mechanics offers such a device in the form of photons shot at a polaroid filter whose angle of polarization is 45 degrees in relation to the polarization of the photons-half the photons will go through the filter, counting as a "1"; the others will not, counting as a "0.")

Now, what happens if we control for all possible physical interference with this device, and nevertheless the bit string that this device outputs yields an English text-file in ASCII code that resolves outstanding mathematical problems, explains the cure for cancer, and delineates undreamt of technologies?

The output of this device is therefore not only designed (and obviously so) but also exceeds all current human design. Yet our best science has no way of prescribing a causal account for how this design was imparted. By Hume's logic, we would have to shrug our shoulders and say, "Golly, isn't nature amazing!"

If it were demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the bacterial flagellum is a mechanism which must have been somehow designed by an intelligent architect of some sort, it would be foolish to refuse to acknowledge the fact in science journals simply because we don't know how it was done or who the designer is.

Indeed, Brian Greene points out in his book The Fabric of the Cosmos that theoretical physicists often posit the existence of entities and phenomena which defy observation and any kind of physical description. Nevertheless, their existence is inferred from the need to satisfy our theories about why the world is the way it is. Some examples of such entities or phenomena are entangled particles, the Higgs field, the inflaton field, other dimensions, branes, and strings.

The demand that ID theorists identify their designer is a red herring which is itself designed to deflect attention from the persistent and uncomfortable fact that biological structures give the appearance of having been exquisitely designed for a purpose. Critics insist on being told who the designer is so as to divert scrutiny from the additional fact that mindless mechanisms are disappointingly inadequate to account for the degree of intricacy that abounds in every cell in our bodies.

A Voice in the Democratic Wilderness

Finally, a voice of reason and sense from the Democratic side of the aisle. Unfortunately, since he is supportive of the Bush policy Senator Joe Lieberman's column won't get nearly as much play in the media as did John Murtha's call for an immediate pullout:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making.

We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

Follow the link to read the rest of Lieberman's outstanding article which includes this graph:

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

Good stuff.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The High and the Mighty

Wretchard at Belmont Club relates the story of Randy "Duke" Cunningham's heroics in the skies over Vietnam 33 years ago. In 1972 he was a marvelous hero, having shot down three MIGs in a single engagement.

Today he stands disgraced for tax evasion and accepting millions of dollars in bribes as a Congressman. He has resigned his office and will probably go to jail.

The level of his corruption is staggering, and he should go to jail for it, but, even so, it's a terribly sad story of human fallenness.

Circumscribing Harsh Measures

Charles Krauthammer writes with much more clarity on the subject of torture than he does on Intelligent Design. Indeed his recent piece in the Weekly Standard provides excellent insight into the debate over the McCain Amendment.

At the outset he draws some important distinctions between three kinds of prisoners. He distinguishes between the ordinary soldier caught on the field of battle, the captured terrorist, and the terrorist with information. Krauthammer discusses what each is entitled to and how each should be treated.

He also dispenses with the "torture doesn't work" canard and puts McCain's own inconsistencies in his defense of his amendment in bold relief.

Krauthammer is careful to stringently circumscribe both the conditions under which harsh measures should be employed and the people who should be allowed to use them, and his recommendations make a lot of sense. All in all it's quite a good article for someone interested in the moral and practical aspects of the question.

We naturally and rightfully recoil from the thought of employing pain in our interrogations of our enemies. We want to banish the idea from our minds, but Krauthammer argues cogently that in a world in which we are confronted by a mortal enemy bound by none of the rules that have at least partly constrained "civilized" nations, we cannot ban it absolutely. There must, he insists, be exceptions. The real argument should be over what constitutes a legitimate exception.

Strings Good, ID Bad

Slate has a piece on Lawrence Krauss, a physicist who has been critical of the scientific bona fides of Intelligent Design and modern string theory. Here's an excerpt:

Krauss' book is subtitled The Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions as a polite way of saying String Theory Is for Suckers. String theory, he explains, has a catch: Unlike relativity and quantum mechanics, it can't be tested. That is, no one has been able to devise a feasible experiment for which string theory predicts measurable results any different from what the current wisdom already says would happen. Scientific Method 101 says that if you can't run a test that might disprove your theory, you can't claim it as fact.

When I asked physicists like Nobel Prize-winner Frank Wilczek and string theory superstar Edward Witten for ideas about how to prove string theory, they typically began with scenarios like, "Let's say we had a particle accelerator the size of the Milky Way..." Wilczek said strings aren't a theory, but rather a search for a theory. Witten bluntly added, "We don't yet understand the core idea."

If stringers admit that they're only theorizing about a theory, why is Krauss going after them? He dances around the topic until the final page of his book, when he finally admits, "Perhaps I am oversensitive on this subject ... " Then he slips into passive-voice scientist-speak. But here's what he's trying to say: No matter how elegant a theory is, it's a baloney sandwich until it survives real-world testing.

Krauss should know. He spent the 1980s proposing formulas that worked on a chalkboard but not in the lab. He finally made his name in the '90s when astronomers' observations confirmed his seemingly outlandish theory that most of the energy in the universe resides in empty space. Now Krauss' field of theoretical physics is overrun with theorists freed from the shackles of experimental proof. The string theorists blithely create mathematical models positing that the universe we observe is just one of an infinite number of possible universes that coexist in dimensions we can't perceive. And there's no way to prove them wrong in our lifetime. That's not a Theory of Everything, it's a Theory of Anything, sold with whizzy PBS special effects.

It's not just scientists like Krauss who stand to lose from this; it's all of us. Einstein's theories paved the way for nuclear power. Quantum mechanics spawned the transistor and the computer chip. What if 21st-century physicists refuse to deliver anything solid without a galaxy-sized accelerator? "String theory is textbook post-modernism fueled by irresponsible expenditures of money," Nobel Prize-winner Robert Laughlin griped to the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year.

Quick question: According to Krauss and many other physicists string theory is not science, it's metaphysics, so what's the difference between string theory and Intelligent Design?

Answer: You can teach string theory in public school science classes without precipitating a national outcry over the damage being done to science education in this country. It may not be science, it may be pure metaphysics, but it doesn't imply that there might be a G-O-D. Thus all the objections that are raised against the teaching of ID are set aside with a great gaping yawn when string theory is mentioned in physics classes, even though those objections all pretty much apply as much to string theory as they do to ID.

The Iraqis Are Stepping Up

ThreatsWatch has a good summary of the fighting in western Anbar province in Iraq, particularly Operation Steel Curtain.

Of particular interest amidst all the talk of the need for the Iraqis to "step up" and shoulder the load is this:

The western branch of the Euphrates River, what is known as the Al Qa'im region, which spans from Husaybah on the Syrian border to the town of Ubaydi, at a heart-shaped bend in the river, has long been a haven for al-Qaeda and the insurgency. While the problem was well known, for some time the right mix of forces was not available to address the problem.

Until these forces were on hand, the Coalition conducted a series of raids to keep the insurgents off balance and from gaining too strong a foothold in the region. Operations Matador, Spear, Quick Strike and a host of others are examples of such targeted strikes. Many insurgent and al-Qaeda commanders and foot soldiers were killed in these attacks, but until the Coalition could muster the forces to stay in the towns, their impact was limited.

The inclusion of Iraqi forces has been seen as vital to the efforts. These forces would have the knowledge of the local customs and language, as well as the ability to discern between domestic and foreign fighters.

The development and deployment of the Iraqi forces in the peaceful provinces of Iraq has also freed up U.S. Forces to conduct combat operations in Anbar province. As Iraqi units took responsibility for security in the Shiite and Kurdish regions, as well as in Baghdad, excess U.S. Forces became available to clean out the rat's nests along the Euphrates River. What was a limited Coalition presence in the Al Qa'im region in March of 2005 has now transformed into a major presence of Coalition forces, and allowed for the successful execution of Operation Steel Curtain.

There's an interesting phenomena unfolding on the domestic political front. For months the Democrats have been calling for timetables for withdrawal and the administration has been countering that when the Iraqis are ready to take over the task of providing security we'll step back. Now the Iraqis are assuming more of the burden and thus there will be a reduction of troop levels in Iraq following the election just as the administration has planned.

Look, however, for the Democrats to portray any future troop draw-downs as Bush caving in to their demands that the administration start bringing the troops home. The Democrats will seek to score political points from the fact that Bush will do exactly what he has said he will do all along.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Talk's Cheap

President Bush is finally starting to talk about the need to do something to stop the flood of illegal aliens pouring across our southern border.

Michelle Malkin, however, is unimpressed. We're with Malkin. We'll believe the President is serious about illegal immigration when he stops talking about it and starts proposing serious legislation to get it stopped.

We like the idea of a wall stretching from Brownsville, Texas to the California Pacific coast. We also suggest making Vicente Fox pay for it somehow since his countrymen are the reason we need the thing.

The Right Brothers

Why should liberals have all the good music? Here's some good hard pounding rock for conservatives. Go to Andrew Sullivan's site, scroll down to Bush Was Right, and click on the link.

Sort of reminds you of Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire, perhaps purposely.

What a Drag it Must Be to Be You

Just when Ward Churchill fades from the news a clone pops up to remind us that being a committed leftist in academia often means being a complete jerk:

Warren County Community College adjunct English professor, John Daly resigned last night before the school's board of trustees began an emergency meeting to discuss the professor's fate. On November 13, Daly sent an email to student Rebecca Beach vowing "to expose [her] right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like [Rebecca's] won't dare show their face on a college campus." In addition, Daly said that "Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors."

Daly's email to Rebecca came after she sent a note to faculty announcing the appearance of decorated war hero Lt. Col. Scott Rutter to discuss America's accomplishments in Iraq.

That's it? That e-mail provoked this wing-nut professor to threaten her? How can this guy face himself in the mirror in the morning after having tried to bully and intimidate a young college co-ed for expressing a desire to have people come out to listen to an Iraq War vet? How many John Daleys are out there threatening students for ideological reasons and endorsing the killing of American officers? Such people don't belong in the classroom at any level and we hope the guy never gets a job teaching again. It'll be interesting to see who, if anyone, hires him.

Perhaps somebody over at The Democratic Underground will be eager to find a position for someone like Mr. Daley who shares their general outlook and attitudes.

Lefty Politics in English Class

Ever wonder why parents home school or send their kids to private schools? Maybe this Boston Globe article will give some insight:

BENNINGTON, Vt. --The school superintendent whose district includes Mount Anthony Union High School has labeled "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" an English teacher's use of liberal statements in a vocabulary quiz.

"I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes," said one question on a quiz written by English and social studies teacher Bret Chenkin. The question referring to the president asked students to say whether coherent or eschewed was the proper word. The sentence would be more coherent if one eschewed eschewed.

Another example said, "It is frightening the way the extreme right has (balled, arrogated) aspects of the Constitution and warped them for their own agenda." Arrogated would be the proper word there.

Chenkin, 36 and a teacher for seven years, said the quizzes are being taken out of context. "The kids know it's hyperbolic, so-to-speak," he said. "They know it's tongue in cheek. They know where I stand."

He said he isn't shy about sharing his liberal views with students, but invites vigorous debate in the classroom. "Never once have I said, 'OK, you're wrong,'" he said. "Instead, it's, 'OK, let's open this up. Let's see where this can go.'"

Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Wesley Knapp said he would not want his children subjected to such teaching. "It's absolutely unacceptable," he said. "They (teachers) don't have a license to hold forth on a particular standpoint."

Knapp said he was recently informed of the situation and that it was a personnel issue that he took seriously.

Principal Sue Maguire said she hoped to speak to whoever complained about the quiz and any students who might be concerned. She said she also would talk with Chenkin about the context of the quiz.

"I feel like this needs to be investigated," she said.

Hmmm. She's not sure, but a teacher pressing his political views onto students in an English class just feels like something that ought to be looked into.

We have a question for the English teacher, Mr. Chenkin. We wonder how he feels about teaching Intelligent Design in schools. Want to bet that he's against it?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

For Movie Fans

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has a list of 100 films, broken down into fifty categories, that are, in his opinion, the most overrated in that category and the most underrated. It's amazing that he's actually seen all these movies plus all the others in each category he would have to have seen in order to compile this list, but evidently he has.

If you're a movie fan, you'll enjoy perusing Carter's 100.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Haute Couture For the Academically Mischievous

Philosophically risqu�; dressers and daring polemical provocateurs might wish to see this.

We wonder: If a student shows up wearing one of these to school will he/she be sent home? It doesn't say at the site how to obtain them, but it'd be great fun to send some along to students at Dover High School in Pennsylvania. It'd be even more fun to make a gift of one to each new member of the Dover school board.

This Is Huge

From the link:

It's "inevitable" that gold will top $US500 an ounce as central banks contemplate buying more of the metal, David Gornall, the head of foreign exchange and bullion at Natexis Commodity Markets in London, said. He recommends investors buy bullion this week.

Maria Guegina, the head of external reserves at the Russian central bank, last week said the bank may double its gold reserves. Five per cent of its reserves are currently held in gold, totalling about 500 tonnes, she said.

Hedge funds and other large speculators increased their net-long position in New York gold futures in the week ended November 15, according to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Speculative long positions, or bets that prices will rise, outnumbered short positions by 129,686 contracts on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

While you and I may purchase gold in ounces, CBs tend to buy in tons. If, in fact, Russia moves forward with their plan to double their gold reserves, it would mean 500 tons of gold will be taken out of the market! To suspect that gold will top out at $500 is silly.

There is a deeper, hidden message here if one looks more closely. If you care to do the research, you will see that countries around the world are starting to question the wisdom of their reserves being mostly U.S. dollars.

If this is true, those dollar reserves will be exchanged for assets which represent true wealth, i.e. gold. Also, and this point shouldn't be dismissed, those dollars will eventually find their way back to the U.S. and result in higher, much higher inflation. I suspect we are already experiencing this as the real rate of inflation is increasing. Not in terms of the government CPI (consumer price index) nor the PPI (producer price index) as they are manipulated to such an extent as to be worthless. And not in terms of computers, DVDs, large-screen TVs, or anything else we import from China, but rather food, real estate, or anything made from petroleum.

Got gold?

WSC

The War Against Children

The people Michael Moore and others on the Left refer to as "freedom fighters" and compare to the "Minute Men" of the American revolution are continuing their war against Iraqi children:

AL ASAD AB, IRAQ: The Thanksgiving Day car bombing in the town of Mahmudiyah encapsulates the nature of terror attacks directed at the Iraq people. Thursday's attack killed thirty and wounded forty. The location was a hospital, and the target was American troops handing out toys and food to children. ABC News voices the reaction of a stricken mother; "There was an explosion at the gate of the hospital... My children are gone. My brother is gone." Another car bombing in Hillah was directed at an soda stand, and killed eleven and wounded 17.

Outside of Abu Ghraib, Iraqi soldiers discover a car with children's dolls rigged with various forms of explosives. Iraqi government spokesperson Leith Kubba states "This is the same type of doll as that handed out on several occasions by US soldiers to children."

al-Qaeda's campaign against the innocent is nothing new. In July, twenty seven children were killed in a suicide attack on American soldiers who were giving candy to Iraqi children. There are numerous instances of al-Qaeda using disabled children - those with Downs Syndrome or other mental impairments - as suicide bombers or grenade throwers.

Those who advocate a withdrawal from Iraq wholly ignore the nature of the enemy we face, an enemy that has no compunction about slaughtering the innocent to achieve their political goals. Also lost in the debate is the fact that al-Qaeda is taking a real beating in Iraq, particularly in its former "Islamic Republics" in western Anbar province. Iraqi troops are entering the fight in battalion sized formations, the terror networks are being slowly and systematically dismantled, and leadership turnover due to precision operations is frighteningly high for the organization. The calls for withdrawal only embolden the terrorists to commit more spectacular acts of violence in order to paint a picture of chaos.

The people who do these things are subhuman savages and either the leftists who lionize them are terrible judges of character or they themselves believe that no atrocity should be condemned as long as it's perpetrated by those who hate America.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Illegal Aliens

This is frightening in its implications. After all, this man was in charge of the Canadian military at one time:

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada's Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Hellyer revealed, "The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell incident was unparalled. The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defence, were never in-the-loop."

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Hellyer's speech ended with a standing ovation. He said, "The time has come to lift the veil of secrecy, and let the truth emerge, so there can be a real and informed debate, about one of the most important problems facing our planet today."

We ourselves find it just a little hard to believe that the same president who won't raise a finger to prevent illegal aliens from flooding this country through Mexico is secretly funding the construction of military bases on the moon to kill aliens from space who haven't harmed a soul, as far as we know, and who don't demand welfare benefits, smuggle dope, or even take jobs from Americans.

There's even more lunacy in the original story, if you can imagine it. This, for example, from a spokesperson for a Canadian "Exopolitics" organization:

"Time is on the side of open disclosure that there are ethical Extraterrestrial civilizations visiting Earth," The spokesperson stated. "Our Canadian government needs to openly address these important issues of the possible deployment of weapons in outer war plans (sic) against ethical ET societies."

How does this spokesperson know that the aliens are "ethical"? Has he spoken with any of them? Has he posed ethical questions to them like, "Is it ever right to be an illegal alien?" Or, "If their exhaust emissions are depleting the ozone layer, shouldn't they stay away?" Until important questions like these are answered the spokesperson will have to forgive our doubts about the aliens' alleged ethics.

Going, Going, Gone

Here are fifteen things which are going, or probably will go, the way of rabbit ears, mens' dress hats, corner grocery stores, typewriters and record players over the course of the next twenty years. By the year 2025 it will likely be harder than it is today to find:

Phone booths, SUVs, movie theaters, newspapers, pennies, utility poles, service stations (esp. full service), camcorders, neckties, encyclopedias, bank tellers, recent tombstones, independent auto mechanics, wooden pencils, and standard transmissions.

Perhaps readers can suggest more candidates for our endangered species list.

No Way, Jose

This open letter to Jose Padilla reveals much about the mindset of the American Left. It drips with concern for a man who is believed to be a terrorist and who plotted to kill Americans. The writer, a lawyer with the ACLU, commiserates with Padilla because his rights were allegedly abridged by the government, and maybe they were. But can't the ACLU insist that American citizens receive their due process rights without making it sound like those who may have been denied certain rights are ipso facto persecuted innocents regardless of what may be the facts of their case? The writer sounds very much as if he believes that anyone who is believed to be a threat to Americans should receive our sympathies. Here's part of the letter:

I'll bet you're thankful that now you will have lawyers who can invoke American law to investigate and defend you against those charges, instead of having the Justice Department release an affidavit from a mid-level Pentagon official, quoting hearsay from unnamed sources, alleging that you were planning to detonate a "dirty bomb," although the "plot" was "still in the initial planning stages" and "there was no specific time set for the operation to occur" and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz acknowledged that he "didn't think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk and [your] coming in here obviously to plan further deeds" and that the government admitted that the information provided by the unnamed sources "may be part of an effort to mislead or confuse US officials" and that one of the sources had "recanted some of the information that he had provided" and that later press reports indicated that one of the sources identified you after being subjected to "waterboarding," a form of torture in which the suspect is made to think he is drowning.

I'm sure you are thankful for the day in 2003 when the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the government had no authority to hold you, an American citizen, as an "enemy combatant," despite the fact that you still had to remain in that Navy brig as your case was appealed to the US Supreme Court.

And I'll bet you were thankful on April 28, 2004, when on the evening of the same day your case was argued in the Supreme Court, CBS News released the horrible photographs of the torture taking place in Abu Ghraib, alerting people to the dangerous and lawless lengths to which the Bush administration would go in its War on Terrorism.

I know you were thankful when the Justice Department called a press conference at the very time that the High Court was considering your case, to announce that you were not really being held for all that stuff about a "dirty bomb" but rather because they said you were planning to blow up apartment buildings in the United States by using natural gas.

Evidently, if Padilla is only guilty of planning to blow up an apartment building with natural gas instead of a couple of city blocks with a radiological weapon he can't really be such a bad guy. We should feel deeply sorry for him.

No, we shouldn't. We should feel contempt for him even as we agree that he needs to be granted every right that the American Constitution affords him. Even if he didn't actually plot to carry out the crime, but merely talked about doing it, he's still a despicable figure. There'll be time enough for sympathy if he's found to be completely innocent. Give him his legal rights, whatever they may be, but don't expect the rest of us to feel sorry for the man unless it turns out that he had nothing to do with plots to harm Americans nor expressed approval of such plots.

Materialism: The Teenage Princess

One of the charming quirks about the behavior of young girls - my daughter's friends, for example - is that they instinctively defer all decisions involving the group to a particular individual as if she were somehow anointed by God for preeminence. There need be no verbal communication in these interactions, they just happen as a matter of course, as if everyone tacitly understands that there's a hierarchy of status which no one in the group is to challenge.

If one of the lower ranking girls should have the temerity to dissent from the dictates of the alpha female the unfortunate young lady would suffer immediate social excommunication and be banished from the royal court. I once asked my daughter why girls accept this state of affairs as normal, to which she replied with a shrug which suggested that she had no idea and that no one really wonders about it except me.

I thought of this, oddly enough, after reading writer Susan Ives' complaint that "Intelligent design disrespects faith, discounts faith, destroys faith."

Faith, Ives avers, is:

...belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. Faith falls into the realm of metaphysics - literally, "beyond physics," the branch of philosophy that seeks to explain the nature of reality and the origin and structure of the world. When we try to prove and promote the metaphysical through the physical - when we muddle faith and science - we are, in effect, saying that faith is not enough, that faith, like science, requires proof. Faith that requires proof is no faith at all.

Ms. Ives constructs a strange argument. Suppose it were the case that science demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe and everything in it were indeed the product of purposeful, intelligent engineering. Would Ms. Ives then feel that her faith was devasted beyond repair? Would she greet the news with fascination or would it throw her into a religious crisis? Simply to pose the questions, I think, is to answer them.

Her confusion stems from a Kierkegaardian view of faith that makes it the more virtuous the less evidence there is to support it. Her view is that metaphysics and physics are sealed in airtight compartments without either ever leaking into the other. This is pretty naive. The idea that faith is somehow vitiated by empirical evidence is really quite peculiar. Jesus, after all, offered his disciples plenty of empirical evidence that he was the Son of God and he expected those demonstrations to strengthen their faith, not destroy it.

All of that aside, though, Ms Ives completely misrepresents Intelligent Design. ID is not an attempt to "prove" that God exists. Nor is it an attempt to demonstrate some tenet of religious faith to be true. It is simply a conclusion inferred from observations of the physical world that powerfully suggest that the universe in general, and life in particular, appear strongly teleological. If this teleology is not just an illusory appearance but a factual reality, it would certainly be of religious interest, just as Darwin's claims have been of religious interest to people, many of them atheists, but so what? Should we shrink from investigating the nature and structure of the cosmos just because it might bolster one's faith or encourage another one's skepticism?

Ms. Ives seems to be implicitly arguing that Christians and other theists should not be engaged in the scientific enterprise, nor should they be doing philosophy, because the more they understand about God's creation, and the more scientific and philosophical support they find for their religious beliefs in the creation they study, the more damage they'll do to their faith. This is ludicrous, of course. Most of the great scientists of the past, Newton, Boyle, Maxwell, Galileo and so on were Christians who delighted in the attempt to understand more about God through their science. They were all "intelligent design" proponents though the term wasn't in use during their era, and they saw no problem in deriving nourishment for their faith from the fruits of their science.

What does all this have to do with teenage girls? Well, Ms Ives is either arguing that Christians should not undertake to study the world or she's advocating a teenage girl version of theory precedence, viz. that Christians engaged in science and philosophy dare not presume to arrive at conclusions at odds with the reigning materialist paradigm. Materialism is the tacitly acclaimed alpha theory that all must acknowledge, to which all must pay deference and which no one dare flout on pain of social ostracism and intellectual banishment. It's the metaphysical assumption whose rightful place, like that of the teenage princess, at the very top of the theoretical hierarchy is always assumed and never challenged.

Why Ms Ives should think materialism should be granted this place of epistemological privilege, though, and what there is about materialism that has earned it such lofty status, she doesn't say. Perhaps the reason she doesn't is that, as with the teenage princess, there really is no good justification for the deference materialism expects to be shown. It survives atop the heap only so long as people like Ms Ives unthinkingly assume it just belongs there.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Proclamation

THANKSGIVING DAY 1789 BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - A PROCLAMATION:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor - and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be - That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks - for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation - for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war -for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed - for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions - to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually - to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed - to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord - To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us - and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789. GO. WASHINGTON.

All Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations can be found here. No doubt those who say that this country was not founded by religious men nor upon Judeo-Christian presuppositions would rather you not read these, but here they are.

We hope that each of us takes time this day to reflect upon all that we have to be grateful for and to reflect, too, upon our relationship to the God from whom all of our blessings flow. Have a great Thanksgiving Day.

,

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Harsh Interrogation

This ABC News report contains much of relevance to the current torture debate. It needs to be borne in mind in reading what follows that ABC very probably would like to put the worst construction on what they've uncovered, but if their aim is to make the CIA's methods look morally indefensible they don't succeed. Here are excerpts of the article with commentary:

Nov. 18, 2005 - Harsh interrogation techniques authorized by top officials of the CIA have led to questionable confessions and the death of a detainee since the techniques were first authorized in mid-March 2002, ABC News has been told by former and current intelligence officers and supervisors.

They say they are revealing specific details of the techniques, and their impact on confessions, because the public needs to know the direction their agency has chosen. All gave their accounts on the condition that their names and identities not be revealed. Portions of their accounts are corroborated by public statements of former CIA officers and by reports recently published that cite a classified CIA Inspector General's report.

"They would not let you rest, day or night. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down. Don't sleep. Don't lie on the floor," one prisoner said through a translator. The detainees were also forced to listen to rap artist Eminem's "Slim Shady" album. The music was so foreign to them it made them frantic, sources said.

Okay. We can agree that forcing someone to listen to Eminem is unkind, but it scarcely rises to the level of torture. What about the other methods the CIA uses?

The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

Note that these techniques have been used on only a dozen of the top al Qaeda detainees. They are not used indiscriminately, nor are they used by untrained personnel.

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An openhanded slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard openhanded slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

Of these, only the last three can be considered to cause extreme pain or suffering and how much suffering they cause is completely up to the detainee. This is an important point. Unlike abuse carried out as retribution, punishment or for the amusement of the abusers, the detainee has complete control over how much of this treatment he must endure.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.

Maybe, but do they believe they're actually being drowned or do they only feel like they're being drowned? If the latter then it's not a mock execution. The prisoner doesn't have to think he's going to be killed in order to be unable to withstand the treatment.

The techniques are controversial among experienced intelligence agency and military interrogators. Many feel that a confession obtained this way is an unreliable tool. Two experienced officers have told ABC that there is little to be gained by these techniques that could not be more effectively gained by a methodical, careful, psychologically based interrogation.

Where's ABC's substantiation that "many" feel this is an unreliable tool? They cite the opinion of two officers who so believe. Very well, but how many others are convinced that the information gained from these dozen or so terrorists was reliable? Moreover, if other techniques are effective in extracting valuable information then why does the CIA go to the trouble and legal risk of employing less effective methods?

According to a classified report prepared by the CIA Inspector General John Helgerwon and issued in 2004, the techniques "appeared to constitute cruel, and degrading treatment under the [Geneva] convention," the New York Times reported on Nov. 9, 2005.

This raises an important question. Exactly what constitutes cruelty? Surely it's not just a matter of inflicting severe pain on someone. If it were, then surgeons in Civil War field hospitals would have been cruel. They were not so regarded, of course, because they were trying to accomplish a long term good. For an act to be cruel the actor must be motivated by a desire to hurt or degrade another simply to punish, amuse, exact retribution, or to vent his own frustrations. Any of these motivations would make the administration of pain cruel and thus evil, and any agent of the government who acts upon such motives should face punishment.

The motivation to save lives, however, is in a completely different moral category. If there is adequate reason to believe that the detainee is withholding information that could prevent the loss of life then inflicting severe pain or discomfort in order to elicit that information is not "cruel" as long as it is reasonably assured to work, and as long as there are no more effective or reliable methods available.

The cruelty of an act also depends on the amount of control possessed by the prisoner as we discussed above. A detainee who is powerless to stop the administration of pain is in a much different position than one who has complete control over how much he wishes to endure. If the pain is inflicted in order to obtain lifesaving intelligence from a terrorist who otherwise refuses to yield it, and the treatment stops when the terrorist gives up that intelligence, and the terrorist knows it will stop when he gives up that information, then the treatment is not intrinsically cruel.

It is "bad interrogation. I mean you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture's bad enough," said former CIA officer Bob Baer.

Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a deputy director of the State Department's office of counterterrorism, recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust ... than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets."

I leave it to the professionals to determine the extent to which harsh methods are reliable. My only concern is to make the case that, if they are, they are not immoral, or at least not necessarily so. It would be helpful to know how effective conventional techniques have been in gaining significant information from top al Qaeda people. ABC doesn't tell us, but they do say that Kalid Mohammad was pleading to be able to divulge what he knew after only two and a half minutes. That seems pretty effective.

One argument in favor of their use: time. In the early days of al Qaeda captures, it was hoped that speeding confessions would result in the development of important operational knowledge in a timely fashion.

However, ABC News was told that at least three CIA officers declined to be trained in the techniques before a cadre of 14 were selected to use them on a dozen top al Qaeda suspects in order to obtain critical information. In at least one instance, ABC News was told that the techniques led to questionable information aimed at pleasing the interrogators and that this information had a significant impact on U.S. actions in Iraq.

The use of the conjunction "however" in the above paragraph implies that what follows is somehow contrary to what precedes it, but the content of the "however" paragraph is completely irrelevant to the preceding paragraph. Is ABC just sloppy or is it trying to discredit the argument that there are advantages to the use of "harsh measures" without having to do the heavy lifting involved in actually refuting it?

According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

"This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear," one source said.

However, sources said, al Libbi does not appear to have sought to intentionally misinform investigators, as at least one account has stated. The distinction in this murky world is nonetheless an important one. Al Libbi sought to please his investigators, not lead them down a false path, two sources with firsthand knowledge of the statements said.

This is an example of one of the weakest of the arguments in the torture debate. The fact that questionable information was acquired on one occasion is hardly reason to think the practice is generally unhelpful. Nor is it a reason, eo ipso, to refrain from harsh measures. After all, any interrogation technique is going to yield some unreliable information. What we need to know is the overall quality of the information gleaned from all detainees who were subjected to the treatment. Was it all unreliable? If not, the salient question becomes how reliable does it have to be in a given circumstance to warrant the use of harsh measures.

When properly used, the techniques appear to be closely monitored and are signed off on in writing on a case-by-case, technique-by-technique basis, according to highly placed current and former intelligence officers involved in the program. In this way, they say, enhanced interrogations have been authorized for about a dozen high value al Qaeda targets - Khalid Sheik Mohammed among them. According to the sources, all of these have confessed, none of them has died, and all of them remain incarcerated.

While some media accounts have described the locations where these detainees are located as a string of secret CIA prisons - a gulag, as it were - in fact, sources say, there are a very limited number of these locations in use at any time, and most often they consist of a secure building on an existing or former military base. In addition, they say, the prisoners usually are not scattered but travel together to these locations, so that information can be extracted from one and compared with others. Currently, it is believed that one or more former Soviet bloc air bases and military installations are the Eastern European location of the top suspects. Khalid Sheik Mohammed is among the suspects detained there, sources said.

The sources told ABC that the techniques, while progressively aggressive, are not deemed torture, and the debate among intelligence officers as to whether they are effective should not be underestimated. There are many who feel these techniques, properly supervised, are both valid and necessary, the sources said. While harsh, they say, they are not torture and are reserved only for the most important and most difficult prisoners.

ABC belatedly acknowledges here what they elided above - that although one or two officers think these measures are not effective, "many" others think they are. Although ABC expatiates on cases like al Libbi's where the results are questionable, they don't bother to give us specific examples of cases where the intelligence gained from these techniques has saved lives. Is that because there are no such cases, is it because the information is classified, or is it because they just don't want to tell us about such cases? They should at least tell us which of these possibilities explains their silence.

According to the sources, when an interrogator wishes to use a particular technique on a prisoner, the policy at the CIA is that each step of the interrogation process must be signed off at the highest level - by the deputy director for operations for the CIA. A cable must be sent and a reply received each time a progressively harsher technique is used. The described oversight appears tough but critics say it could be tougher. In reality, sources said, there are few known instances when an approval has not been granted. Still, even the toughest critics of the techniques say they are relatively well monitored and limited in use.

Two sources also told ABC that the techniques - authorized for use by only a handful of trained CIA officers - have been misapplied in at least one instance.

The sources said that in that case a young, untrained junior officer caused the death of one detainee at a mud fort dubbed the "salt pit" that is used as a prison. They say the death occurred when the prisoner was left to stand naked throughout the harsh Afghanistan night after being doused with cold water. He died, they say, of hypothermia.

According to the sources, a second CIA detainee died in Iraq and a third detainee died following harsh interrogation by Department of Defense personnel and contractors in Iraq. CIA sources said that in the DOD case, the interrogation was harsh, but did not involve the CIA.

Every effort should be made to prevent these sorts of incidents, of course, and if they occur through negligence or wantonness they should be met with discipline appropriate to the case just as any careless shooting of civilians by troops should be disciplined. But the fact that there have been a relatively few deaths (compared to the 82,000 people who've been detained since 2003) no more discredits the use of harsh interrogation than does the tragic deaths of a small number of civilians at checkpoints discredit the procedures followed by the military at these locations.

The ABC report is useful in describing exactly what sorts of interrogation practices are permitted by the CIA and what the limits of those are. Whether other agencies work under similar strictures and whether they are as closely monitored we can't say, but it seems that the images that the word torture usual connotes -- electric shocks, fingernail pulling, savage beatings, mutilations, etc. -- are not acceptable treatment for detainees in our custody. For that we can be grateful.

WFB @ 80

Anyone who looks back on his life and seeks to identify the influences which led him to the place he presently finds himself will probably be able to point to a half dozen or so people, in addition to his parents, who exerted a strong push on his life in at least one of its aspects.

There are those who help shape one's character, one's ambitions, one's religious, philosophical, and political views, and so on. In my own life there have been several such men, some I knew personally and others whom I never formally met but whose influence I nevertheless soaked up through their written work like leaves soak up sunshine.

One example of the latter is William F. Buckley. When I was fresh out of college in 1969 I stumbled across Mr. Buckley's Firing Line television show. I was just beginning to develop an interest in political affairs, having somehow managed to scoot through college in the ideologically charged 60's with hardly a political thought in my head to show for it.

I was impressed with all the things about Buckley that impress everyone who watches him - his wit, his breadth of knowledge, his mastery of the language, his ability to articulate conservative ideas with an eloquence and charm that disarmed his opponents - but most of all I was impressed with his demeanor. He was never rude or overbearing. He never got nasty or raised his voice. His colloquies with his guests were always marked with courtesy, good humor, and unfailing graciousness. In those early years of my adulthood he was an exemplar of how political disagreements should be debated and how discourse should be conducted.

Although I possessed none of his gifts, I subliminally decided that I wanted to be like him anyway, to the extent that I could. I read his books and National Review, the magazine he founded in the 1950s, and found myself wishing to learn all the things I should have learned in college but was too busy being a jock to trouble myself with. I regretted, having fallen under his sway, that I had squandered so many years and opportunities that could have been devoted to the cultivation of a fuller intellectual life.

Eventually, my interests evolved in various directions and followed channels not closely related to politics, but those other pursuits were always in some sense a product of the appetite he had stimulated in me for learning. He had given my appreciation for what Hannah Arendt calls the "life of the mind" a spark, a sturdy kick start, and I have always been grateful for the richness that that has added to my life.

I heard Bill Buckley give a lecture a few years back, and I wanted to tell him after his talk how much he has meant to me, but he was surrounded by adoring fans and besides, I thought, he probably hears stories similar to mine all the time anyway. I've regretted not taking the opportunity then, and I thought I'd write him and tell him what I wanted to tell him that night, but I somehow never got to it. I suppose I assumed that WFB has always been around and always will be. There'll be other opportunities.

Now I see that his 80th birthday is the 24th of this month, and I realize that if I don't do it soon it might never happen. That would be an omission I would deeply regret, so as Mr. Buckley approaches this milestone in his life I've resolved to contact him and tell him what he has meant in mine.

Happy birthday, Bill.

Just Go Kill Yourselves

Well, if you are a Republican and you tend to support the current administration you might wish to know that there are certain precincts in the Left-wing blogosphere in which you are quite unpopular. One of these is Democratic Underground where one ranter goes on at great length telling us how much he hates us, what loathesome creatures we are, what morans (his spelling) we all are. He finally concludes by urging us all to kill ourselves.

Perhaps this represents the Left's new strategy for winning in 2008.

Anyway, not everyone on the Left is this sick, of course, but judging by the comments he received on his post, many of them are. They're evidently consumed by a hatred so vile and irrational that it seems demonic. Don't take my word for it. Read it yourself and tell me that this guy and the people he speaks for are not quite simply stark, raving lunatics.

Thanks for the tip to Michelle Malkin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Go For the Gold

Bill has been predicting that the price of precious metals is going to continue to rise, perhaps precipitously, making it a very attractive investment. It looks like he knows what he's talking about. The spot price of gold has currently reached $493 an ounce. This time last year it was around $425 an ounce. Investors are buying and pushing the price up, and it will be interesting to see if they regard $500 as a benchmark signalling them to sell and score profits.

If not, it may soar several hundred more dollars. Yikes!

Searching For the Mainstream

Stuart Taylor at National Journal has an excellent analysis of charges by the Democrats that Judge Samuel Alito is outside the "mainstream" of American judicial thought. Among his numerous trenchant comments Taylor quotes from Alito's 1985 job application to the Reagan Justice Department:

"I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate.... In college, I [strongly disagreed] with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the establishment clause, and reapportionment.... I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."

Taylor then says this:

These are certainly the words of a Reagan conservative. But are they outside the mainstream? Somebody should tell The New York Times that Reagan won 49 states in 1984. And that in exit polls, many more Americans identify themselves as conservatives (34 percent in 2004) than as liberals (21 percent).

Generalities aside, let's locate Alito, and [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, on the spectrum of public opinion on three of the hottest issues: abortion, racial preferences, and religion.

If Alito is outside the mainstream on abortion, then so are the very large percentage of constitutional scholars -- including many pro-choice liberals -- who agree that Roe was a judicial usurpation of legislative authority with no basis in the Constitution. Even Ginsburg herself wrote (also in 1985) that Roe was "heavy-handed judicial intervention [that] was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict."

Take the now-defunct Pennsylvania law requiring married women to notify their husbands before having abortions, unless they fear a violent response. And indulge, for the sake of argument, critics' cynical assumption that Alito's vote to uphold this provision was driven by his political views -- contrary to the explanation in Alito's 1991 dissent that he was seeking only to follow binding Supreme Court precedents.

Outside the mainstream? Hardly. While The New York Times calls spousal-notice laws "extreme limits on abortion," some 70 percent of poll respondents favor them.

As for racial preferences, Alito's 1985 assertion that "racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed" places him squarely in the middle of public opinion -- unlike Ginsburg, who has voted to uphold wholesale use of quota-like preferences in college admissions, contracting, and other areas.

Polls show overwhelming public opposition to quotas. And neutrally worded polls that avoid the word "quota" show that more than two-thirds of Americans oppose racial preferences.

Some critics fault Alito's 1996 vote to uphold a white teacher's racial-discrimination lawsuit against the Piscataway, N.J., school board, for laying her off ahead of a black teacher, in the name of "diversity."

Alito's response should be: Go ahead. Make my day. Let's discuss the legality of race-based layoffs. This one was so indefensible that racial-preference champions -- facing almost certain defeat in the Supreme Court -- paid the white teacher a large sum to drop her lawsuit before the justices could rule.

Democrats who think the mainstream is to be found on the leftmost shore of every river will be unmoved by Taylor's piece, but if you're interested in the coming battle over Alito's nomination you'll want to read the rest of his argument. It's well worth it.

When Is a Cut Not a Cut?

Amidst the sky-is-falling rhetoric of the media over the vote last Thursday night to cut social programs from the budget there is this scarcely mentioned fact tucked away in an AP report:

The broader budget bill would slice almost $50 billion from the deficit by the end of the decade by curbing rapidly growing benefit programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and student loan subsidies. Republicans said reining in such programs whose costs spiral upward each year automatically is the first step to restoring fiscal discipline. "This unchecked spending is growing faster than our economy, faster than inflation, and far beyond our means to sustain it," said Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa. (Italics mine)

In other words, Congress did not make any cuts in benefits, they merely cut the rate at which the amount the government spends on these programs would increase every year. A report on NPR the other morning quoted one congressman as saying that instead of the budget increasing over the next several years at a rate of 7.5% the "cuts" will slow its increase to a rate of 7.3%.

In almost none of the other reports on this vote that I could find was this brought out. Instead the reader was given the strong impression that money was being taken out of poor peoples' wallets and put into the greedy hands of the rich.

In an e-mail from Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine, he makes this completely unsubstantiated and irresponsible allegation:

It is a moral disgrace to take food from the mouths of hungry children to increase the luxuries of those feasting at a table overflowing with plenty. This is not what America is about, not what the season of Thanksgiving is about, not what loving our neighbor is about, and not what family values are about. There is no moral path our legislators can take to defend a reckless, mean-spirited budget reconciliation bill that diminishes our compassion, as Jesus said, "for the least of these." It is morally unconscionable to hide behind arguments for fiscal responsibility and government efficiency. It is dishonest to stake proud claims to deficit reduction when tax cuts for the wealthy that increase the deficit are the next order of business. It is one more example of an absence of morality in our current political leadership.

What's morally unconscionable is to mislead people into thinking that spending on these social programs is actually being reduced. There's no mention in Wallis' message as to what the rationale is for the "cuts", whether current recipients will indeed lose benefits, whether it will be duplicate benefit programs which are to be cut, whether the eligibility for benefits is being tightened -- no context whatsoever. Just pure rhetoric and propaganda.

Evidently Wallis is of the view that we should just throw every penny we have at the problem of poverty because to withhold anything is morally unconscionable. Mr. Wallis needs to be asked exactly how much of our national wealth he thinks we should be transferring to the poor. At what point, exactly, do we say that we have done enough? When we are transferring 100% of our GDP? If not that, why not?

Is it too much to ask that the media and other liberals report these things competently and accurately?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey

Gary Glitter, the impressario of Rock and Roll, Part Two, a favorite theme at high school and college football games and other sporting events, is facing a possible sentence of death by firing squad in Vietnam, believe it or not. If you're interested you can get the details here.

Simple-Minded Solutions

How many ways can the Democrats demonstrate that they have no responsible or intelligent alternative to the President's policy in Iraq? This article in the L.A. Times by Ron Brownstein summarizes some of the Democrats' recent proposals. They're stunning in their shallowness:

Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), a possible 2008 presidential contender, ... adopted the most aggressive position among elected officials: Feingold has urged Bush to withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2006, although he has softened his demand somewhat by describing that as a "target date."

In the House, war opponents have rallied behind a resolution from Reps. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) and Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii). That plan - which has about 60 co-sponsors, almost all of them Democrats - would require Bush to formulate a plan by the end of this year for removing American troops from Iraq and to begin that withdrawal no later than Oct. 1, 2006.

The foolishness of this is hard to overstate. If these plans were adopted the insurgents would know that if they could just cling to life for another year Iraq would fall into their laps. The Iraqi people and even much of their military would have little more to do with the Americans and intelligence on terrorists would dry up. No one would want to be seen as helping the Americans if they knew that in a year the insurgents would be exacting their revenge.

If the Iraqi military is not yet fully ready to control the country by next October when the Americans withdrew their support, literally all hell would break loose. Civil war between Shia and Sunni would almost certainly ensue. Iran would then move into the Shia south, Syria would move into the Sunni triangle, and Turkey might well invade the Kurdish north. The oil and other wealth of Iraq would be up for grabs. Al Qaeda would romp through the country lopping off the heads of anyone who had had dealings with the United States. No one in the region would have cause to fear an American return so small states like Kuwait which sit on vast wealth would be gobbled up by predatory neighbors. Terrorists would train openly without having to fear American arms, and would operate with impunity throughout the region. The whole world would sit by, unable and unwilling to do anything to prevent the region from crumbling into war, famine, and chaos.

John Murtha created a huge fuss in the House with his plan to begin pulling out now and to complete the withdrawal within six months. He envisions an over the horizon quick reaction force of Marines to be reinserted if any trouble flairs up. With all due respect to Rep. Murtha, his idea is just stupid. Why pull the Marines out at all if you think you may have to reinsert them later? Sending them in after having surrendered the Iraqis to the tender mercies of the insurgents would be lunacy.

Even if this country would stand for their reentry into Iraq, which they surely wouldn't, where would they go? They'd have to rebuild their bases and supply lines and, most improbable of all, their relationships with the same Iraqi people they had recently deserted. They'd get no help from resentful, embittered Iraqis and the maelstrom that would ensue in Iraq after an American withdrawal would make anything short of a total re-invasion of the country a suicide mission.

Last month, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the party's 2004 presidential nominee who is considering another run in 2008, offered a competing plan. Kerry proposed a phased withdrawal "linked to specific, responsible benchmarks" of progress with Iraq. As a first step, he said, the U.S. should withdraw 20,000 troops if December's Iraqi election goes well; this approach, he said, could allow the U.S. "to withdraw the bulk of American combat forces by the end of next year."

In other words, Kerry is saying that we should do pretty much what the administration has said we will do. Question for Sen. Kerry: What should we do if the election doesn't go well? Pull out anyway? Stay until the country is politically stable? If the latter, how is that in any way different from what the President is already doing?

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, has proposed the inverse approach. Levin says the U.S. should pressure the contending Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish forces in the Iraqi government to resolve their differences by threatening to accelerate the withdrawal of American troops if they don't.

Now there's a bright idea. Many Shiites and Sunnis would relish getting at each other's throats. What better incentive can we give them to tear into each other than to tell them that if they don't behave we'll just have to get out of their way?

It boggles the mind to think that these ideas come from the minds of United States Senators. Little wonder that the American people fear to turn over the reins of national security to the Democrats.

At one point in his piece Brownstein says this:

Many Democratic political strategists and foreign policy analysts have long believed the party can benefit more from criticizing Bush's handling of the war than from specifying an alternative.

Precisely. It's always easier to criticize others for not doing what you think they should be doing than to offer a coherent plan for doing it yourself. Especially when you have no idea at all of what you're talking about.

Krauthammer's Cluelessness

The normally astute Charles Krauthammer demonstrates that he's not infallible and that on the matter of the philosophy of science he's in fact quite clueless:

Let's be clear. Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological "theory" whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God. It is a "theory" that admits that evolution and natural selection explain such things as the development of drug resistance in bacteria and other such evolutionary changes within species but also says that every once in a while God steps into this world of constant and accumulating change and says, "I think I'll make me a lemur today." A "theory" that violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science -- that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution -- or behind the motion of the tides or the "strong force" that holds the atom together?

Well, "clear" is what he's not being. For the umpteenth time we reiterate. ID is:

1. not incompatible with evolution even if some of its advocates remain skeptical of many aspects of evolution.

2. not a contest between evolution and God. No ID advocate, qua scientist/philosopher, claims that God is the designer. The most ID can claim is that God could be the designer.

3. not a "god of the gaps" theory. It's not a theory that reacts to things we don't know by positing a god. It's a theory that bases its conclusions upon what we do know. Most relevantly, what we do know is that information, everywhere we see it being generated, is the product of intelligence, and there's no sufficient reason to think that things would have been otherwise in the generation of the information contained in biological machines, cells, and processes.

4. not asserting that God was behind the lemur. ID asserts that the mechanisms which produced lemurs and everything else in the biosphere include among them intelligence. The claim that intelligence is at least in part responsible for life is no less scientific than the claim that natural selection and genetic mutation and other blind, purposeless mechanisms are the exclusive cause of the evolution of life.

Krauthammer adds:

How ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God. What could be more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet interactive, all ultimately derived from accumulated variations in a single double-stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to give us mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein?

In an amusing example of sawing off the branch upon which one is sitting, Krauthammer argues that the earth shows forth elegance, simplicity, brilliance, economy, creativity, and implies that these are the marks of divine intelligence. But if so, intelligence, whether divine or otherwise, is empirically detectable, since Krauthammwer has detected it, and he nicely refutes his own position stated above.

He goes on to ridicule those who criticize the Darwinian claim that evolution is an "unguided process." Finding fault with this definition, he writes,:

[I]s as ridiculous as indicting Newtonian mechanics for positing an "unguided process" by which Earth is pulled around the sun every year without discernible purpose. What is chemistry if not an "unguided process" of molecular interactions without "purpose"? Or are we to teach children that God is behind every hydrogen atom in electrolysis? He may be, of course. But that discussion is the province of religion, not science.

In fact, physics and chemistry never use these terms for precisely this reason. To assert that the processes of physics and chemistry are unguided and purposeless would be to remove them from the province of science and deposit them in the arena of metaphysics, which is exactly where all such claims belong, including those of the Neo-Darwinists. You cannot test the claim that any physical force is purposeless, and so the claim is not made in science, except in biology, and it is as out of place there as, say, a political journalist, even a good one, holding forth amongst controversies in the philosophy of science.

Troubling Trend Line

South Africa seems to be drifting the way of many another black African nation toward an accomodation with tyranny and corruption. The people of Africa must feel cursed. Why, they must wonder, can't they ever seem to get relatively competent, honest, and humane leadership that has some staying power?

Brian Maloney writes about South African president Thabo Mbeki's coziness with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe at Michelle Malkin's blog:

Apparently, it isn't bad enough that Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe first destroyed his country's economy by forcibly removing white farmers from their land. Then, after successfully chasing away every hard currency generation means Zimbabwe had ever known, Mugabe turned against the poor. Demolishing the modest shanties and businesses of hundreds of thousands of black city dwellers, he left innocent people with nothing and nowhere to go.

For what rational reason did all of this happen? Nobody knows. American liberals have remained virtually silent on these daily atrocities, partly because they still see Mugabe as a "freedom fighter" who battled white minority rule three decades ago. And the American media largely looks the other way, as well.

In Britain, however, the crisis regularly makes headlines. It BEGS to become top news here in America. How can we possibly continue to ignore it? Another reason it's blown off: Zimbabwe's not important for the left because there's no known way to blame the mess on Bush and the GOP.

Tonight, the story gets worse: rather than provide a strong voice for freedom and democracy in the region, increasingly suspect South African President Thabo Mbeki has pledged to HELP Mugabe torture dissidents and maintain one of the world's worst human rights records. No joke, Mbeki has actually signed a new agreement to cooperate on intelligence and security matters, the BBC reports. It's truly a deal with the devil:

"The two neighbours undertook to share security information and to co-operate in enforcing immigration laws. After the signing, South Africa's intelligence minister scolded a journalist who raised questions about Zimbabwe's record on human rights.

"Details of the deal were not released but Zimbabwe's secret police is accused of torturing opposition activists. South Africa is a key player in attempts to negotiate an end to Zimbabwe's political crisis. President Thabo Mbeki has been criticised at home and abroad for not putting more pressure on President Robert Mugabe's government to end abuses.

'This week's historic meeting further consolidates a long-standing socio-political and economic relationship between our two countries,' South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils said at the signing of the agreement in Cape Town on Thursday. After the signing, a journalist asked Mr Kasrils how South Africa, with a 'good human rights track record', could sign agreements with Zimbabwe, which had a 'poor human rights record'.

Mr Kasrils apologised to his Zimbabwean counterpart, Didymus Mutasa, for the question. 'We have very strong ties with our neighbour and we are indebted to our neighbour for achieving freedom and liberty,' Mr Kasrils said. Mr Mutasa suggested praying for the journalist. 'Lord forgive him for he does not know what he is saying,' Mr Mutasa said.

Numerous activists from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have said they have been detained and assaulted by Zimbabwe's secret police - the Central Intelligence Organisation."

Next up for South Africa: deals with North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Iran?

At this point, I defy anyone to tell me how Mbeki's policies are ANY better than what existed under Apartheid? In both cases, Africans are needlessly suffering and dying, all to protect corrupt rulers. Is it time to recall diplomats from South Africa? Or reimpose sanctions? More? Possibly.

First, we need to get the Bush Administration and Republicans to take a hard line against both countries. Yes, the American media will pound away at any tough proposals, but so what? South Africa has today shown itself to be an enemy of humanity and freedom and it's time to stop mincing words here in America. I hope Bush is alarmed tonight. Under Apartheid, South Africa was a pariah state and remains that way under Mbeki's sleazy rule.

Well, that last paragraph may be a little premature, but the trend lines for South Africa surely aren't comforting. Nor is it comforting to reflect that the MSM is snoozing through this story. You can bet that had South Africa still been under white rule and there were signs of oppression brewing reveille would've sounded in the journalists' barracks a long time ago.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Is Zarqawi Dead?

There are rumors afloat that Abu al-Zarqawi was killed in a raid on a house in Mosul although White House sources are calling the reports unlikely. We can hope, though.

Political Quiz

Perhaps you are unclear as to what distinguishes the two political parties which dominate our current political scene. If so, you might try this little quiz:

Ask yourself which party is least likely to:

1. believe that poverty is largely a function of attitudes about sex, marriage, and education.

2. believe that taking wealth from those who have it and giving it to those who don't is a counterproductive way to alleviate poverty.

3. tolerate mentions of God or expressions of Judeo-Christian religious belief in public spaces.

4. aggressively prosecute the war on terror.

5. maintain low tax rates.

6. impede the development of oil reserves and refineries.

7. protect innocent human life either at its inception or toward its conclusion.

8. make it easier to convict and punish criminals.

9. strengthen the military.

10. favor free trade.

11. protect free speech.

12. protect the right to bear arms.

If you answered "the Democratic Party" for each of these questions then you scored 100%. If you found yourself in agreement with the Democrats on more than two or three of questions then you're probably a political liberal. If you agreed with roughly half of them then you're probably a moderate, and if you disagreed with all but one or two then you're probably a conservative.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

An Open Letter to the President

A friend at the University of Michigan has sent an open letter to President Bush. I thought it was worth being seen by others as well so I'm posting it here:

AN OPEN LETTER TO GEORGE W. BUSH

Here in November, 2005, you are down in the polls, just one year after being elected by the greatest number of votes in U.S. history. Your enemies, Al Qaeda, Fidel Castro, Kim Jung Il, Mohammad Khatami, terrorist everywhere, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Jimmy Carter, Harry Reid, Michael Moore, the entire Hollywood left, the mainstream press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and the Democratic Party are gleeful beyond words.

I would like to remind you about another President, Abraham Lincoln, and what happened to him. Here is what the press was saying about him in the 1860's:

"Mr. Lincoln evidently knows nothing of ... the higher elements of human nature ... His soul seems made of leather, and incapable of any grand or noble emotion. Compared with the mass of men, he is a line of flat prose in a beautiful and spirited lyric. He lowers, he never elevates you ...When he hits upon a policy, substantially good in itself, he contrives to belittle it, besmear it in some way to render it mean, contemptible and useless. Even wisdom from him seems but folly." The New York Post

Today, Lincoln is considered, by virtually every survey, to be the greatest of all U.S. Presidents. One of his speeches, The Gettysburg Address, is considered among the greatest speeches ever given, but here is what the press said about it at the time:

"We did not conceive it possible that even Mr. Lincoln would produce a paper so slipshod, so loose-joined, so puerile, not alone in literary construction, but in its ideas, its sentiments, its grasp. He has outdone himself. He has literally come out of the little end of his own horn. By the side of it, mediocrity is superb." The Chicago Times about The Gettysburg Address

President Bush, please take heart, ignore your critics and continue to do the right thing. As Harry S Truman said, "It will gratify some and astonish the rest."

Richard H. Francis Jr.

Well put, Richard.

Iraq's WMD

Former UNSCOM weapons inspector Bill Tierney speaks out in this interview at Front Page.com about Iraq's WMD. His conclusion: Iraq had them and Bush was right to go to war. If you're skeptical read his reasons. If you do you will almost certainly understand why George Bush came to the conclusion he did about Iraq's possession of WMD.

You will also understand why his opponents' claims that he deceived the nation about the presence of WMD in Iraq is both unfair and foolish.

Diversity vs Unity

Back in July of this year I posted an article on the topic of diversity.

While the concept of diversity is a corner stone of political correctness, I showed my concern in that post for how it will devastate our country.

To elaborate further, and hopefully drive the point home, I have included the following quotes from President Theodore Roosevelt who even in his day saw the danger of such wrong thinking...

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.
- Theodore Roosevelt

In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
- Theodore Roosevelt

I can't help but wonder if the concept of "hyphenation" applies to the last names that women choose these days when they get married.