Friday, July 22, 2005

The Patriot Act

The sound we're not hearing is the tonsil-shredding shriek of outrage from civil libertarians and leftists following the House of Representatives' resounding reauthorization Thursday of the Patriot Act. Why the calm?

Is it because proponents of the Ashcroft is Satan school of political discourse realize that in the wake of 7/7 the American people are likely to look upon their protests as the outbursts of a mentally impaired child? Is it because it has become obvious even to its detractors that none of the horrors so stridently predicted to attend the Act have come to pass? Is it that the left cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time, and their minds are already at maximum capacity with the Karl Rove contretemps and the John Roberts nomination?

Whatever the reason, the silence following this 257 - 171 vote is remarkable given the passionate outpouring of contempt for the measure when the Ashcroft justice department first implemented it in the wake of 9/11. Maybe it's beginning to dawn on some critics of the Act that the Islamists really are serious about wanting to destroy us, that the threat is imminent, and that the law has helped to stave them off.

Quick Lesson in Recent History

Australian Prime Minister John Howard gives a news reporter, who should be embarrassed but probably wasn't, a much needed history lesson. The question from the reporter was whether British policy in Iraq has made them a target for terrorists. Howard replied:

The first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it has given the game away, to use the venacular, and no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq? And can I remind you that the 11th of September occured before the operation in Iraq? Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor? Are people by implication suggesting that we shouldn't have done that? When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio DeMillo was murdered in Iraq, a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, immensely respected for his work in the United Nations, when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that DeMillo had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations adminsitrator in East Timor. Now I don't know the minds of the terrorist. By definition you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts. And the objective facts are as I have cited.

The objective fact is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq and indeed all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggest to me that this is about hatred of a way of life. This is about the perverted use of the principles of a great world religion that at its root preaches peace and cooperation, and I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.

Lord, please send us more John Howards.

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for the transcript.

Julian Robertson Speaks Out

From the link:

Specifically, he is very worried about a world that is sustained by American consumer spending which is in turn 1/4 sustained by a property bubble. He predicts that 20 million people could lose their homes once the property bubble bursts.


They have now consolidated power and money on the planet to the maximum extent possible. The planet's net liquidity, that is its net free cash flow is now a negative number. The planet is not simply sinking into a sea of red ink; it is already sunk. The people just don't realize it yet," he said.

Got Gold?

Stand and Deliver

Why does Sean Hannity think it's a good thing that Judge Roberts' views on Roe v. Wade are too ambiguous to provide his opponents with grist for their mill? Whenever he talks about it on the air Hannity seems to be saying that Roberts' foes will not be able to nail him for thinking Roe was poorly decided because there's no judicial ruling or writing in his past which makes it certain that he feels that way. The implication is that Roberts is free to fudge or even duck the question, and this elicits gloating from Mr. Principled Conservative who lectures us regularly on the need to be intellectually honest.

The worst thing Roberts could do in the hearings would be to sound weasely on the issues that the Dems will try to nail him on. Why not say, if he really believes it, that the Roe decision was an example of judicial overreach? Why not use the hearings to instruct his august inquisitors and the general public on exactly why he believes there is no constitutional warrant for a right to abortion? The people who are going to vote against him and those who are going to vote for him are going to do so regardless of what he says. Why does Hannity seem so gleeful that Roberts can, if he wants, temporize on the question?

Conservatives, or anyone for that matter, should stand up for what they believe and state honestly what their views are on past cases. If they can make strong arguments for their views then we'll all benefit from hearing them. If they can't mount good arguments then we should know that, too.

Sen. Schumer, as much as we hate to say it, is right on this one. The problem with Schumer is that he's such a hypocrite. He would never expect a Democrat nominee to explain his or her judicial philosophy. He'd be piously denouncing "litmus tests" and the impropriety of asking potential justices to prejudge cases which might come before them. Nor is he genuinely interested in hearing Judge Roberts' arguments. Schumer is more interested in twisting and distorting whatever he says to discredit and smear him.

Even so, Roberts should not waffle and Hannity shouldn't delight in the prospect that he could.

Creationists in Convention

Ronald Bailey at ReasonOnline has a slightly satirical report on the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference at Lynchburg, VA this week. Bailey is not a sympathizer, but there is much of interest in his report, including this succinct summary by John Whitcomb, co-author of the classic creationist work, Genesis Flood, of the difference between Special or Young-Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design and Progressive Creationism:

Whitcomb doesn't just take godless evolutionists to task; he is also critical of Christians who accept progressive creationism or intelligent design. Progressive creationism as represented by Dr. Hugh Ross fails because Ross accepts (1) the Big Bang; (2) that animals were supernaturally and periodically created over many millions of years; (3) that Adam's rebellion did not introduce death into the animal kingdom for the first time; and (4) that the Flood was local to Mesopotamia.

Whitcomb reproaches the leaders of the intelligent design movement for believing that evolutionism can be defeated without any reference to the Bible or the Creator of the World. He agrees with them that tax supported schools need to be purged of the errors of evolutionism, but he then rhetorically asks a very pointed question: "Are people believing in Christ their Lord and Savior as a result of hearing the message of intelligent design scholars?"

Creationists also differ from the other groups in denying the Big Bang, primarily because it conflicts with a literal reading of Genesis:

Why? Because Genesis explains that God created the waters and the Earth on the third day of Creation (Genesis 1:9) and THEN the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of Creation (Genesis 1:16).

Nor could there have been vast stretches of prehistorical time, in the Creationist view, because this also conflicts with a literal rendering of Scripture:

Like Whitcomb, Ken Ham brooks no compromises and dismisses the soft-headed idea that "you can believe in millions of years so long as God was involved." Why not? Again because that implies that death and disease occurred before there was "sin." In Genesis, Adam and Eve and all the animals were vegetarians (Genesis 1:29-30) and there was no death or disease. God pronounced his Creation "very good." It was perfect. Then Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:6) thus introducing death and disease into the universe for the first time.

Bailey also reports on yesterday's discussions of cosmology, aspects of which pose serious problems for the young-earth view. Bailey relates the attempts of the speakers to come to grips with the problem of distant galaxies, for example. Bailey writes:

Dr. Jason Lisle took up the challenge distant starlight poses to young-earth creationism. Lisle has an astrophysics Ph.D from the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he apparently researched solar physics and black holes. "We are told that galaxies are so far away that it should have taken billions of years for their light to reach earth," notes Lisle. "We see these galaxies, so it is argued that the universe must be billions of years old."

Lisle declared that distant starlight "is the best argument against a young universe, but it is not a good argument against a young universe." Lisle noted that according to Genesis the stars were created on Day 4, after the land, seas and plants were created on Day 3. He affirmed his belief that God created the world in six 24-hour days. Nevertheless, Lisle admitted, "We do see galaxies that are many billions of light years away."

He hastened to warn his fellow creationists against adopting some overly facile and seductive "solutions" to the distant starlight problem. For example, Lisle warned against arguing that perhaps those stupendous cosmological distances aren't real. "Science does confirm that galaxies are that far away," he insists. But what about the idea that when God created the stars He created the beams of light emanating from them as though they had already traveled billions of light years across the universe so that they would reach the earth by Day 4 of Creation? In other words, the universe was created "mature" as though it had experienced history. This brings to mind the old conundrum: How do you know that you, your memories, and the whole universe with its "history" weren't called into existence just 5 minutes ago?

Lisle agrees that God could have created a mature universe, but he harbors reservations about that "solution." Why? Supernova 1987A. Lisle points out that the star that exploded into Supernova 1987A is 170,000 light years away. Since the universe is only 6000 years old that means that the light which appears to be a supernova is actually from an object that never existed depicting an event that never happened. Lisle declares, "God would not create little movies of things that never happened." However, I am wondering how Lisle knows for sure that the heavens are not just a divine planetarium projection on a gigantic crystal sphere enclosing the solar system? Never mind.

So what are possible creationist solutions to the distant starlight problem? First, Lisle suggests that perhaps the speed of light was not constant over time and that when God created the universe it was so much faster that it could travel across nearly 14 billion light years to arrive at the earth by Day 4 of Creation. He does acknowledge that if the speed of light had been significantly greater in the past, there would have been dramatic changes in the energy and mass of everything in the universe. Remember Einstein's famous equation E=mc2 (Energy = mass multiplied by speed of light squared).

Lisle also offers "gravitational time dilation" as a possible solution to the distant starlight problem. He claims that the Milky Way might really be the center of the universe and thus at the bottom of a deep universal gravity well. In which case time would pass much more slowly in our galaxy-perhaps only thousands of years elapsed on earth while billions of years of physical processes occur in the universe. Something like the above scenarios must have happened because according to Lisle, "We know from the Bible that the light got here in thousands of years."

The Young-Earth Creationists may be correct. It may be that everything sprung into being complete and with an apparent age of billions of years only a few thousand years ago. Or they may be wrong and the universe appears to be billions of years old because it really is. If the simplest explanation that fits the facts is the best then the YEC have some work to do if they're going to convince people, including other Christians, that their explanation for the vast size of the cosmos is more parsimonious and conforms better to the facts than does its competitors.