Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Michelle Malkin has some very disturbing photos from the recent protests in California and elsewhere. The pictures illustrate the mindset of those who are demonstrating against tighter immigration enforcement and show that these protestors emphatically do not want to be Americans "just like us."

Here is one photo that illustrates what the protestors would like our future to be and what it will be unless Congress suddenly grows a spine and stops pandering for Hispanic votes:

Malkin has links and excerpts from lots of other sites and stories on this issue. Pay her a visit.

Beyond Good and Evil

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 95% of print journalists and 86% of broadcast journalists believe that the statement that it is not necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values comes closer to their views than does the claim that God is necessary in order to be moral and have good values.

This result cries out for a little analysis. How, we'd like to know, did the respondents interpret the question? Did they take it to mean that if someone believes there is no God they can still live according to the same standards of behavior as anyone else? If so, it's hardly surprising that most journalists would agree with that because it's certainly true.

Or did they take the question to mean that the existence of God has no necessary connection to morality? If this was their interpretation then an awful lot of journalists need to reread Dostoyevsky and Neitzsche.

As we have argued here on a number of occasions, anyone can live however they choose, but unless there is a God, or at least a transcendent moral authority, there are no grounds for saying that one way of life is more moral than another. In other words, there is no right or wrong behavior in a moral sense unless there is an objective standard for behavior, and there can be no objective standard unless there is someone or something with the authority to establish it. Whatever that being is, it cannot be man. One man or group of men cannot determine what is moral and what is not in any non-arbitrary way.

If there is no moral authority such as I describe then right and wrong are simply matters of subjective preference. Behaviors I like I call moral, those I don't like I call immoral. Your likes and dislikes might be different from mine, but that doesn't make them better or worse. It only makes them different.

So it's silly to ask whether God is necessary for people to live what most take to be a "good" life. The important question is, is God, or something very much like God, necessary for there to be a non-subjective, non-arbitrary morality in the first place? To this latter question the answer is clearly yes.

Journalist and author Robert Wright has conducted a series of fascinating interviews with philosophers, theologians, and scientists, and one of the questions he asks in the course of many of these sessions is essentially this one - can there be moral value if there is no transcendent moral authority? In almost every case the interviewee either hedges on the question or ducks it altogether, but one of the more interesting and straightforward responses is by Ursula Goodenough. The short video clip with Ms Goodenough can be viewed here.

The interview with E.O. Wilson is interesting, too, because Wilson, an atheist, prides himself on the goodness of his life, but the only reason he can give for thinking that his behavior is "morally right" is that it makes him feel good.

The link to Wilson can be accessed at the Goodenough page.

Promise 'Em Anything

We know that election year rhetoric and promises are often over the top, but this from Harry Reid and the Democrats is breathtaking:

WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats promise to "eliminate" Osama bin Laden and ensure a "responsible redeployment of U.S. forces" from Iraq in 2006 in an election-year national security policy statement.

Then, just when I thought that the Democrats might get my vote, I read this:

The [statement]...lacks specific details of how Democrats plan to capture bin Laden, the al-Qaida mastermind who has evaded U.S. forces in the more than four years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Oh. Well, maybe they don't want to make the details public because they don't want Osama to know how he's going to get snagged.

Or maybe they just don't have any bloody idea how they're going to eliminate bin Laden, but they figure there are enough idiots out there who'll vote for them just because they promise that they will.

Books on Iraq and the GWOT

Anyone who has been following events in Iraq knows that the post-invasion phase of the war has gone rather unhappily. The media is quick to blame the Bush administration, and for once they have a good, if too simple, case. A new book by George Packer titled Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq explains why.

Marine Colonel Keith Pavlischek writes an outstanding review of the book in Books and Culture and, although I haven't read the book yet, I certainly commend the review to anyone interested in the history of post-Saddam Iraq. Pavlischek notes that although the Department of Defense must accept much of the blame for the failure to secure Iraq after the initial invasion, the situation was very complex and a lot of the mistakes made are only obvious in hindsight. Nevertheless, this paragraph serves as a good summary of Pavlischek's piece:

So, the neocons in the DOD failed to plan adequately for the reconstruction and the counter-insurgency; the Army was perceived as lobbying for a larger invasion force at least partly out of institutional self-interest; and the State Department's experts were throwing a temper-tantrum. No wonder things turned out the way they did.

It is well worth the time to read the whole piece.

A book I have read recently that I also recommend is America's Secret War: Inside the Hidden Worldwide Struggle Between America and Its Enemies by George Friedman. Friedman takes us from the birth of al-Qaeda in the nineties, through 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq up to the summer of 2003. It's just packed with fascinating information about hardball diplomacy, behind the scenes machinations, and the war on terror, much of which has never really been publicized. At times the administration looks brilliant in Friedman's telling of the tale and at times it looks rather less so.

One interesting anecdote I had never heard before is that, according to Friedman, the much ballyhooed decapitation strike on Saddam at the outset of the war was actually military disinformation. The military wanted to instill in Iraqi field generals uncertainty about Saddam's status for a couple of days in hopes that the Iraqi generals would use it as an excuse to cut a deal with the Americans and that lives would be spared. As it happened, it didn't work, because Saddam, who was, of course, not at the house which was hit, was able to get on television some hours later.

Lots of other tactics and strategies employed during the dozen or so years covered by the book did work, however, and Friedman's account is captivating.

Both volumes can be ordered from our favorite place for books: Hearts and Minds Bookstore.

Punishing Heretics

Another Intelligent Design advocate and pro-life college instructor, Francis Beckwith, pays for his convictions by being denied tenure at, of all places, Baylor - a putatively Christian university.

Joseph Bottum of First Things has an excellent post on this affair as well as on Baylor's decline as a Christian institution. Telic Thoughts quotes a couple of anti-ID bloggers to fortify the case that it is most likely Beckwith's connection to ID and the theologically conservative Discovery Institute that did him in.