Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Glasgow Car-Bombing

I know he's speaking English, but it's a completely different English than what I grew up with. In any event, Hot Air has video of an eyewitness report of the Glasgow airport bombing.

It sounds like the drivers of the car, two fine members of the Religion of Peace, were trying to get a bigger explosion than what they got.

How many more of these homicidal maniacs are there in Britain? How many are there here? Does anyone really think that the jihad will be over in a year or two? We are in a war for survival, and it will last as long as radical Muslims are still walking this earth or until they win.


Hammering Moore

I haven't seen Sicko and probably won't, but it's coming in for some blistering fire from those who are incredulous that Michael Moore actually lauds the Cuban health care system. Claudia4Libertad, for example, after sketching how Moore has wandered off the path of truth in past films, says this:

Ask any Cuban who has recently left the island (because they can't talk freely about this inside of Cuba) about their health care system and they will tell you that it is often a challenge just to get aspirin and they often have to get it on the black market. The run-down, dilapidated and unsanitary conditions in the facilities that the average Cuban must go to for care are a far cry from the hospitals and clinics reserved for high-ranking members of the communist party or the military. There are actually special facilities in Cuba that serve foreigners who can pay in foreign currency.

If the lauded Cuban healthcare system is so wonderful, perhaps someone can explain to me the following:

  • Why some patients are taken to the hospital in wheelbarrows instead of ambulances?
  • Why patients must bring their own linens for the hospital bed and often, a fan, to combat the stifling heat and lack of air-conditioning?
  • Why cockroaches and other vermin are present in what is supposed to be "sanitary" health facilities? Why many common medicines are not available? If Cuba can export cutting-edge biotechnological products to other countries, surely the US embargo cannot be blamed for not allowing medicine to enter Cuba.
  • Why, in a 185-bed cancer center in Santiago where some 6,000 people are treated MONTHLY, there is a shortage of basics such as codeine, anti-nausea drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, antacids, laxatives, high blood pressure medicine, antihistamines, anti-depressants, contraceptives, vitamins and minerals? This particular hospital, sadly, is the norm, not the exception.
  • Why 41% of patients in Cuban hospitals are undernourished, particularly after surgery. Malnutrition risks increase with extended stays in the hospital, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health.

Was any of this mentioned in "Sicko?" Of course not! The reason why is one to which I alluded earlier-- Michael Moore is so anti-American, despite the fact that he makes millions off of the American people every time he makes a film, that he will do anything he can to exaggerate and distort the truth to make the Bush Administration look incompetent, evil and silly.

As devastating as this is it's mild compared to the review given to Sicko by Kurt Loder of MTV Movie News of all places. What Loder writes is too good not to read in its entirety, but here's the gist of it:

The problem with American health care, Moore argues, is that people are charged money to avail themselves of it. In other countries, like Canada, France and Britain, health systems are far superior - and they're free. He takes us to these countries to see a few clean, efficient hospitals, where treatment is quick and caring; and to meet a few doctors, who are delighted with their government-regulated salaries; and to listen to patients express their beaming happiness with a socialized health system. It sounds great. As one patient in a British hospital run by the country's National Health Service says, "No one pays. It's all on the NHS. It's not America."

That last statement is even truer than you'd know from watching "Sicko." In the case of Canada - which Moore, like many other political activists, holds up as a utopian ideal of benevolent health-care regulation - a very different picture is conveyed by a short 2005 documentary called "Dead Meat," by Stuart Browning and Blaine Greenberg. These two filmmakers talked to a number of Canadians of a kind that Moore's movie would have you believe don't exist:

A 52-year-old woman in Calgary recalls being in severe need of joint-replacement surgery after the cartilage in her knee wore out. She was put on a wait list and wound up waiting 16 months for the surgery. Her pain was so excruciating, she says, that she was prescribed large doses of Oxycontin, and soon became addicted. After finally getting her operation, she was put on another wait list - this time for drug rehab.

A man tells about his mother waiting two years for life-saving cancer surgery - and then twice having her surgical appointments canceled. She was still waiting when she died.

A man in critical need of neck surgery plays a voicemail message from a doctor he'd contacted: "As of today," she says, "it's a two-year wait-list to see me for an initial consultation." Later, when the man and his wife both needed hip-replacement surgery and grew exasperated after spending two years on a waiting list, they finally mortgaged their home and flew to Belgium to have the operations done there, with no more waiting.

Rick Baker, the owner of a Toronto company called Timely Medical Alternatives, specializes in transporting Canadians who don't want to wait for medical care to Buffalo, New York, two hours away, where they won't have to. Baker's business is apparently thriving.

And Dr. Brian Day, now the president of the Canadian Medical Association, muses about the bizarre distortions created by a law that prohibits Canadians from paying for even urgently-needed medical treatments, or from obtaining private health insurance. "It's legal to buy health insurance for your pets," Day says, "but illegal to buy health insurance for yourself." (Even more pointedly, Day was quoted in the Wall Street Journal this week as saying, "This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years.")

What's the problem with government health systems? Moore's movie doesn't ask that question, although it does unintentionally provide an answer. When governments attempt to regulate the balance between a limited supply of health care and an unlimited demand for it they're inevitably forced to ration treatment. This is certainly the situation in Britain.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune this week, Helen Evans, a 20-year veteran of the country's National Health Service and now the director of a London-based group called Nurses for Reform, said that nearly 1 million Britons are currently on waiting lists for medical care - and another 200,000 are waiting to get on waiting lists. Evans also says the NHS cancels about 100,000 operations each year because of shortages of various sorts.

Last March, the BBC reported on the results of a Healthcare Commission poll of 128,000 NHS workers: two thirds of them said they "would not be happy" to be patients in their own hospitals. James Christopher, the film critic of the Times of London, thinks he knows why. After marveling at Moore's rosy view of the British health care system in "Sicko," Christopher wrote, "What he hasn't done is lie in a corridor all night at the Royal Free [Hospital] watching his severed toe disintegrate in a plastic cup of melted ice. I have." Last month, the Associated Press reported that Gordon Brown - just installed this week as Britain's new prime minister - had promised to inaugurate "sweeping domestic reforms" to, among other things, "improve health care."

Moore's most ardent enthusiasm is reserved for the French health care system, which he portrays as the crowning glory of a Gallic lifestyle far superior to our own. The French! They work only 35 hours a week, by law. They get at least five weeks' vacation every year. Their health care is free, and they can take an unlimited number of sick days. It is here that Moore shoots himself in the foot. He introduces us to a young man who's reached the end of three months of paid sick leave and is asked by his doctor if he's finally ready to return to work. No, not yet, he says. So the doctor gives him another three months of paid leave - and the young man immediately decamps for the South of France, where we see him lounging on the sunny Riviera, chatting up babes and generally enjoying what would be for most people a very expensive vacation. Moore apparently expects us to witness this dumbfounding spectacle and ask why we can't have such a great health care system, too. I think a more common response would be, how can any country afford such economic insanity?

As it turns out, France can't. In 2004, French Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told a government commission, "Our health system has gone mad. Profound reforms are urgent." Agence France-Presse recently reported that the French health-care system is running a deficit of $2.7 billion. And in the French presidential election in May, voters in surprising numbers rejected the Socialist candidate, S�gol�ne Royal, who had promised actually to raise some health benefits, and elected instead the center-right politician Nicolas Sarkozy, who, according to Agence France-Presse again, "plans to move fast to overhaul the economy, with the deficit-ridden health care system a primary target." Possibly Sarkozy should first consult with Michael Moore. After all, the tax-stoked French health care system may be expensive, but at least it's "free."

Having driven his bring-on-government-health care argument into a ditch outside of Paris, Moore next pilots it right off a cliff and into the Caribbean on the final stop on his tour: Cuba. Here it must also be said that the director performs a valuable service. He rounds up a group of 9/11 rescue workers - firefighters and selfless volunteers - who risked their lives and ruined their health in the aftermath of the New York terrorist attacks. These people - there's no other way of putting it - have been screwed, mainly by the politicians who were at such photo-op pains to praise them at the time. (This makes Moore's faith in government medical compassion seem all the more inexplicable.) These people's lives have been devastated - wracked by chronic illnesses, some can no longer hold down jobs and none can afford to buy the various expensive medicines they need. Moore does them an admirable service by bringing their plight before a large audience.

However, there's never a moment when we doubt that he's also using these people as props in his film, and as talking points in his agenda. Renting some boats, he leads them all off to Cuba.

Fidel Castro's island dictatorship, now in its 40th year of being listed as a human-rights violator by Amnesty International, is here depicted as a balmy paradise not unlike the Iraq of Saddam Hussein that Moore showed us in his earlier film, "Fahrenheit 9/11." He and his charges make their way - their pre-arranged way, if it need be said - to a state-of-the-art hospital where they receive a picturesquely warm welcome. In a voiceover, Moore, shown beaming at his little band of visitors, says he told the Cuban doctors to "give them the same care they'd give Cuban citizens." Then he adds, dramatically: "And they did."

If Moore really believes this, he may be a greater fool than even his most feverish detractors claim him to be.... What Moore doesn't mention is the flourishing Cuban industry of "health tourism" - a system in which foreigners (including self-admitted multimillionaire film directors and, of course, government bigwigs) who are willing to pay cash for anything from brain-surgery to dental work can purchase a level of treatment that's unavailable to the majority of Cubans with no hard currency at their disposal.

As the Caribbean sun sank down on Moore's breathtakingly meretricious movie, I couldn't help recalling that when Fidel Castro became gravely ill last year, he didn't put himself in the hands of a Cuban surgeon. No. Instead, he had a specialist flown in - from Spain.

HT: Michelle Malkin who has more on Moore and none of it is flattering.


Just the Facts, Al

James Taylor of the Heartland Institute has a column in the Chicago Sun-Times which casts grave doubt on the credibility of Al Gore's global warming claims. Here's part of what Taylor writes:

Many of the assertions Gore makes in his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," have been refuted by science, both before and after he made them. Gore can show sincerity in his plea [in his latest book] for scientific honesty by publicly acknowledging where science has rebutted his claims.

For example, Gore claims that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking and global warming is to blame. Yet the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate reported, "Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame."

Gore claims the snowcap atop Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro is shrinking and that global warming is to blame. Yet according to the November 23, 2003, issue of Nature magazine, "Although it's tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain's foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests' humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine."

Gore claims global warming is causing more tornadoes. Yet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in February that there has been no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes.

Gore claims global warming is causing more frequent and severe hurricanes. However, hurricane expert Chris Landsea published a study on May 1 documenting that hurricane activity is no higher now than in decades past. Hurricane expert William Gray reported just a few days earlier, on April 27, that the number of major hurricanes making landfall on the U.S. Atlantic coast has declined in the past 40 years. Hurricane scientists reported in the April 18 Geophysical Research Letters that global warming enhances wind shear, which will prevent a significant increase in future hurricane activity.

Gore claims global warming is causing an expansion of African deserts. However, the Sept. 16, 2002, issue of New Scientist reports, "Africa's deserts are in 'spectacular' retreat . . . making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa."

Gore argues Greenland is in rapid meltdown, and that this threatens to raise sea levels by 20 feet. But according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Glaciology, "the Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins and growing inland, with a small overall mass gain." In late 2006, researchers at the Danish Meteorological Institute reported that the past two decades were the coldest for Greenland since the 1910s.

Gore claims the Antarctic ice sheet is melting because of global warming. Yet the Jan. 14, 2002, issue of Nature magazine reported Antarctica as a whole has been dramatically cooling for decades. More recently, scientists reported in the September 2006 issue of the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A: Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, that satellite measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet showed significant growth between 1992 and 2003. And the U.N. Climate Change panel reported in February 2007 that Antarctica is unlikely to lose any ice mass during the remainder of the century.

Not only is much of Gore's evidence that global warming is occuring suspect, but it has never been clear to me that there was a definite link between the warming of the earth and anything that humans were doing. For a man who makes much of his scientific rationality and cool logical analysis Mr. Gore sure seems to be way out in front of what both logic and evidence will support on his crusade to smite the environmental infidels.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Semper Fi

This is certainly one way to take a bite out of crime. A 27 year old pick-pocket tried to pick the pocket of a 72 year old ex-Marine, retired iron worker, and former boxer and got a good whuppin' for his trouble. A store camera caught some of the action and the accompanying news report gives the details.


Turn Off the Spigot

Iranians are rioting, sort of, in Tehran over the government's decision to begin rationing gasoline. Iran is awash in oil but because the government spends so much of its wealth on subsidizing world-wide jihad and its nuclear weapons program it has too few refineries to turn the petroleum into gasoline and must import 40% of its fuel.

Rationing has been imposed because Tehran fears that the West will soon impose sanctions on fuel exports to Iran. We hope their concern is justified.

Iran has been the driving force behind Hamas and Hezbollah. They've been manufacturing and smuggling IEDs into Iraq that are killing and maiming our troops. They've been a major source of instability in Iraq - instigating, training, and funding the insurgency there. They're also responsible for kidnapping and imprisoning a half dozen or so American citizens, and they're working on developing nuclear weapons which they have all but promised to use against Israel.

We can either allow Iran to continue their deadly course toward nuclear war or we can stop them now. If we choose to stop them it can be via economic collapse or military force. Military force might ultimately become necessary but it should be a last resort.

Right now we can impose an embargo on Iranian fuel and let the people of that country decide whether they want to support the path their leadership is leading them along or whether they want to replace them. We should do it now because waiting will gain us nothing. Iran is not going to change course unless they're forced to. The alternative, it becomes clearer everyday, is war.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Stake Through the Heart

The call for cloture failed in the Senate today and the immigration bill, having been revivified earlier this week, is now completely dead. It will not be brought back to life until the Congress and administration give us a secure border instead of just empty promises. Once the door is locked then we can address the question of how to handle the crowd of people sitting in our living room. The vote was 46 to 53 to continue debate, which effectively prevented the bill from coming to a floor vote.

Michelle Malkin has an interesting recap of this morning's events from the time the voting began until the vote was over. Scroll to the bottom and work your way to the top.

Evidently, the advocates of the bill can't bring themselves to believe that the bill lost on it's merits. Senator Dick Durbin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a host of others are blaming bigotry, "ugliness" and hatred for their defeat.

This is amusing. These people failed to make a case for the bill, in many instances they failed to even read it, they put it together in secret, they could not tell us how much it would cost, or what its consequences would be. They just expected the American people to shut up and trust them, and because we didn't like what they were trying to foist upon us, they call us bigots, nativists, and haters. This despite the fact that the opposition to this bill cut right across ideological lines. Tom Harkin and Bernie Sanders voted against it for heaven's sake.

Anyway, the name-calling shows how much the Washington elites appreciate participatory democracy. We can now expect an all-out legislative war by these folks against talk radio and the blogosphere to try to shut down the voices of dissent that shine light on what they're trying to do to us.


Hunkering Down

The research of Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, has led him to conclude what anyone who has spent any time on a college campus knows empirically: Diverse communities are often comprised of people who prefer to stick with people like themselves. Putting people in communities with others unlike themselves makes them less trusting, less sociable, less involved in their community than they are in more homogenous settings.

Actually Putnam's findings are more profound than this brief summary make make them sound because they bear on the problem of immigration and its short and mid-term consequences. Putnam describes these consequences in terms which sound pretty dire.

John Leo writes about Putnam's conclusions at City Journal. He says:

Neither age nor disparities of wealth explain this result. "Americans raised in the 1970s," he writes, "seem fully as unnerved by diversity as those raised in the 1920s." And the "hunkering down" occurred no matter whether the communities were relatively egalitarian or showed great differences in personal income. Even when communities are equally poor or rich, equally safe or crime-ridden, diversity correlates with less trust of neighbors, lower confidence in local politicians and news media, less charitable giving and volunteering, fewer close friends, and less happiness.

Read Leo's whole column at the link.


Skeptical Skeptic

Famous skeptic Dr. Stan Scanton has recently grown skeptical of his skepticism and fellow skeptic Galapagos Finch is outraged at the betrayal. Indeed, Finch is skeptical that Scanton is really skeptical of his skepticism. Read all about it at The BRITES.


The Shape of Our Future

True or False: Free speech is a value embraced by all western countries. The answer, you may be amazed to read, is false. Consider Paul Belien's article in the Brussels Journal on what is currently happening in Europe:

Last week, a German court sentenced a 55-year old Lutheran pastor to one year in jail for "Volksverhetzung" (incitement of the people) because he compared the killing of the unborn in contemporary Germany to the holocaust. Next week, the Council of Europe is going to vote on a resolution imposing Darwinism as Europe's official ideology. The European governments are asked to fight the expression of creationist opinions, such as young earth and intelligent design theories. According to the Council of Europe these theories are "undemocratic" and "a threat to human rights."

Pastor Johannes Lerle compared the killing of the unborn to the killing of the Jews in Auschwitz during the Second World War. On 14 June, a court in Erlangen ruled that, in doing so, the pastor had "incited the people" because his statement was a denial of the holocaust of the Jews in Nazi-Germany. Hence, Herr Lerle was sentenced to one year in jail. Earlier, he had already spent eight months in jail for calling abortionists "professional killers" - an allegation which the court ruled to be slanderous because, according to the court, the unborn are not humans.

Other German courts convicted pro-lifers for saying that "in abortion clinics, life unworthy of living is being killed," because this terminology evoked Hitler's euthanasia program, which used the same language. In 2005, a German pro-lifer, G�nter Annen, was sentenced to 50 days in jail for saying "Stop unjust abortions in [medical] practice," because, according to the court, the expression "unjust" is understood by laymen as meaning illegal, which abortions are not.

Volksverhetzung is a crime which the Nazis often invoked against their enemies and which contemporary Germany also uses to intimidate homeschoolers. Soon, the German authorities will be able to use the same charge against people who question Darwin's evolution theory.

According to a report of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, creationists are dangerous "religious fundamentalists" who propagate "forms of religious extremism" and "could become a threat to human rights." The report adds that the acceptance of the science of evolutionism "is crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies."

Everyone who prizes freedom should read the whole article. Those who value free speech will be disgusted that in the 21st century, less than a generation after the fall of totalitarianisms in Germany and the Soviet Union, good people would be imprisoned for opposing abortion, homosexuality, Darwinism, and for homeschooling their children. They will also be frightened by the realization that there are many in the U.S., especially among left-wing atheists, who look to Europe as forging the path to our common future.

On the lighter side (somewhat) there's this take on the move to use legislation to enforce belief in Darwinism:


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dishonest or Incompetent

You have to wonder why any conservative would go on a network talk show. You know they'll do whatever they can to make you look bad. Take Ann Coulter, for instance. Coulter goes on ABC's Good Morning America the other day and among other tendentious questions gets asked about her reference a few months ago to John Edwards in which she used the word "faggot."

ABC edited Coulter's reply to show her saying that she's learned her lesson. "If I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."

Sounds pretty awful, doesn't it? But of course ABC edited her comment so as to completely distort the meaning of what she was saying. Here's the full context of her remark:

"But about the same time (as her "faggot" remark), you know, Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack. So I've learned my lesson. If I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."

We here at Viewpoint have been critical of Coulter when we thought she deserved criticism, as she did in the John Edwards episode, but this time the criticism is deserved entirely by the dishonest or incompetent editors at ABC. Coulter was making the point that she was just joking about John Edwards when she used the slur "faggot," but that Bill Maher was not joking when he said that he wished Dick Cheney had been killed when he was in Afghanistan. Yet the media hammered Coulter and gave Maher a pass. So in the future, Coulter was saying, she should be safe from media criticism if she confines her remarks to the reprehensible sorts of things that Maher says about Republicans like Cheney.

Her point was well-made and she's exactly right. Anyone can say anything, no matter how vile, about a Republican and the media yawns, but they'll jump at the chance to distort a conservative's words in order to make them look cruel and mean-spirited.

As we said, the folks at ABC's Good Morning America are either dishonest or incompetent.



Michael Moore's film on health care in which he endorses the complete eradication of private health insurance and replacing it with a massive federal bureaucracy, puts Democratic candidates on the hot seat according to the LA Times:

Rejecting Moore's prescription on healthcare could alienate liberal activists, who will play a big role in choosing the party's next standard-bearer. However, his proposal - wiping out private health insurance and replacing it with a massive federal program - could be political poison with the larger electorate.

At a special screening in Washington this week, politicians, lobbyists, media pooh-bahs and policy junkies flocked to see Moore's film. And its slashing demand for action on an issue that voters care deeply about, and Democrats hope to capitalize on, generated plenty of buzz. Moore hopes that, after its general release June 29, "Sicko" will exert significant influence on the presidential campaign.

Instead of greeting the film with hosannas or challenging it head-on, however, the leading Democratic presidential candidates have sidestepped direct comment on Moore's proposals.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of South Carolina all have staked out positions sharply at odds with Moore's approach. But none of them is eager to have that fact dragged into the spotlight.

If Moore's fire-breathing proposal catches on among party activists, who tend to be suspicious of the private sector and supportive of direct government action, the candidates' pragmatic, consensus-seeking ideas could look like weak-kneed temporizing - much the way their rejection of an immediate pullout from Iraq has drawn heated criticism from antiwar activists.

In "Sicko," the filmmaker calls for abolishing the insurance industry, putting a tight regulatory collar on pharmaceutical companies and embracing a Canadian-style government-run system.

One good thing about Moore's film, assuming that it's more honest than Fahrenheit 911, is that it should stimulate a lot of healthy debate about what kind of health care system is best for America. That's a debate we need to have.


Behind the Scenes

The Washington Post has a fascinating article on the evolution of the administration's policy toward detainees in the War on Terrror. The article will cause Cheney-haters to salivate, but more objective readers will find much to admire, as well as to question, in the piece.

Many of those who commented on the article are among the haters and they see Cheney as an evil, power-crazed, megalomaniac. A power-crazed man, however, would show far more political ambition than has Cheney. He did not seek the office he's in nor does he aspire to go higher.

He may be wrong about what he sees as the right course of action in handling detainees, though except for denying citizens the right to legal representation I think he's largely correct, but he's trying to do what he believes is best for the survival of this nation, and he has demonstrated a tremendous amount of personal strength and courage in the face of near universal vilification to do it.

Footnote: Those who think Dick Cheney is the incarnation of evil might reflect on how many evil men have ever done as much for charitable causes as has Cheney. As this article attests the V.P. has given more money to charity than perhaps any elected official in the history of the United States:

Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne gave away nearly $7 million last year [2005] to help the poor and for medical research.

According to income tax information released by the White House, the Cheneys' adjusted gross income in 2005 was $8,819,006.

The sum was largely the result of Mr. Cheney's stock options from Halliburton and royalties from three books written by Mrs. Cheney.

The Cheneys gave more than three-quarters of their income - $6,869,655 - to several charities, including George Washington University's Cardiothoracic Institute and a charity for low-income high school students in the Washington, D.C. area, Capital Partners for Education.

Doesn't sound to me like the sort of thing evil people usually do.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Round One

Unfortunately, the first opportunity to stop the Senate immigration bill was lost today on a 64-35 vote which allowed the measure to be reintroduced for debate. Apparently a number of Republican senators who said they were going to vote no were persuaded by the administration to change their vote. Who knows what they were offered to allow this bill to come to the floor.

Amendments that were added to it will be debated until Thursday at which time a cloture vote to shut off debate will be taken. This takes 60 votes to pass. If cloture is invoked then the immigration bill will pass the senate (The vote to pass the bill only requires 51 votes to prevail and is pretty much a foregone conclusion). The bill will then move to the House where the process of debating and voting will be repeated.

Meanwhile, the administration is working furiously to get Republicans on board, even though rank and file voters (of both parties) are jamming D.C. switchboards to express their opposition. If you're a Republican the next time you're sent an appeal for a donation to the party, cut this out and send it to them:

Meanwhile, you can find your senator's phone number here. The National Republican Senatorial Committee number is (202) 675-6000.

For an explanation of what's wrong with this bill read the Heritage Foundation's report on the results of their study of the bill last month.


Putin's Problematic Problem

Vladimir Putin can't be serious. He says in a recent speech that:

"Regarding the problematic pages in our history, yes, we do have them, as does any state."

"But other countries have also known their bleak and terrible moments."

"In any event, we never used nuclear weapons against civilians, and we never dumped chemicals on thousands of kilometres of land or dropped more bombs on a tiny country than were dropped during the entire Second World War, as was the case in Vietnam."

"Problematic"? Is that we he calls the deliberate starvation of 15 million Ukranians by Joseph Stalin in the 1930s? It's true the Soviets never dropped an atomic bomb (though they certainly threatened to do so often enough), but the U.S. nuclear attacks on the Japanese, who had initiated war with us in 1941, took some 200,000 lives. Uncle Joe killed that many of his own countrymen on an average afternoon in the 1930s.

As for dropping bombs on tiny countries, the Soviets didn't refrain from bombing people out of some moral scruple. They didn't bomb because they didn't have to. They destroyed the souls and lives of two generations of East Germans, Czechs, Poles, and Hungarians with their armored infantry forces in the fifties and sixties.

Moreover, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of political and religious dissidents languished and perished in the Soviet gulag during the thirties, forties, and fifties.

The Soviets were also responsible for the spread of communism throughout much of Europe and Africa in the fifties, sixties, and seventies resulting in the deaths of millions more.

In all, almost 100 million people perished in the 20th century at the hands of Soviet or Soviet-supported communists and countless other lives were strangled by their oppressive totalitarianism. Some 20 million of those deaths occured within the Soviet Union itself.

I guess that's a "problematic" history, but it's certainly not a history which should be compared favorably with that of the United States.


Evolution and Religion

Darwinian materialists Gregory Graffin and Will Provine of Cornell sent a detailed questionnaire on evolution and religion to 271 professional evolutionary scientists elected to membership in 28 honorific national academies around the world, and 149 (55 percent) responded. The results were interesting:

Religious evolutionists were asked to describe their religion, and unbelievers were asked to choose their closest description among atheist, agnostic, naturalist or "other" (with space to describe). Other questions asked if the evolutionary scientist were a monist or dualist-that is, believed in a singular controlling force in natural science or also allowed for the supernatural-whether a conflict between evolution and religion is inevitable, whether humans have free will, whether purpose or progress plays a role in evolution, and whether naturalism is a sufficient way to understand evolution, its products and human origins.

The great majority of the evolutionists polled (78 percent) [regarded] themselves as pure naturalists. Only two out of 149 described themselves as full theists, two as more theist than naturalist and three as theistic naturalists. Taken together, the advocacy of any degree of theism is the lowest percentage measured in any poll of biologists' beliefs so far (4.7 percent).

Most evolutionary scientists who billed themselves as believers in God were deists (21) rather than theists (7).

[The respondents] were strongly materialists and monists: 73 percent said organisms have only material properties, whereas 23 percent said organisms have both material and spiritual properties. These answers are hardly surprising given previous polls. But the answers to two questions were surprising to us.

Only 10 percent of the eminent evolutionary scientists who answered the poll saw an inevitable conflict between religion and evolution. The great majority see no conflict between religion and evolution ... because they see religion as a natural product of human evolution (emphasis mine). Sociologists and cultural anthropologists, in contrast, tend toward the hypothesis that cultural change alone produced religions, minus evolutionary change in humans. The eminent evolutionists who participated in this poll reject the basic tenets of religion, such as gods, life after death, incorporeal spirits or the supernatural. Yet they still hold a compatible view of religion and evolution....These eminent evolutionists view religion as a sociobiological feature of human culture, a part of human evolution, not as a contradiction to evolution. Viewing religion as an evolved sociobiological feature removes all competition between evolution and religion for most respondents.

These scientists believe religion is compatible with evolution in the same way they believe that vestigial structures like the appendix are compatible with evolution. It's not that they believe that any religious claims are true but rather that evolution gave rise to religion because it served a particular function in our racial history.

Seeing religion as a sociobiological feature of human evolution, while a plausible hypothesis, denies all worth to religious truths.

Actually this last sentence is a non-sequitur. Even were it the case that religious awareness dawned slowly in man's evolutionary history, it doesn't follow that there's no truth to the beliefs that men came to hold. It's quite possible, perhaps even plausible, that men originally developed a belief in God because that belief conformed to the way the world really is. Indeed, it seems to me much more plausible to think that we evolved strong beliefs that were accurate representations of reality than that we evolved strong beliefs that were fundamentally illusory. If evolution is all about survival value then I think the former would better suit us for our environment than the latter.

Anyway, I have a question. If belief in God is a consequence of evolutionary forces why is not disbelief deemed also to be a result of evolution? How did atheism arise in a population of organisms (humans) that is so overwhelmingly theist? Is atheism a dysgenic mutation, like sickle cell, that coincidentally confers some sort of benefit upon those who have it? If so, what does that say about its truth value?

It would seem that truth has nothing to do with whether one is a theist or an atheist, our beliefs are all programmed by our genes, and apparently the genes for atheism are linked to the genes for studying biology so that those who have one often have the other. In other words biologists are atheists for completely non-rational reasons.

Aren't evolutionary explanations cool?


Monday, June 25, 2007

Free Speech in the Dock

Another left-wing assault on free speech has been launched by the infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California. The sages who sit on this august body have handed down a ruling which, well, let's let George Will describe what has happened:

Marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family values. That sentence is inflammatory, perhaps even a hate crime.

At least it is in Oakland, Calif. That city's government says those words, italicized here, constitute something akin to hate speech and can be proscribed from the government's open e-mail system and employee bulletin board.

When the McCain-Feingold law empowered government to regulate the quantity, content and timing of political campaign speech about government, it was predictable that the right of free speech would increasingly be sacrificed to various social objectives that free speech supposedly impedes. And it was predictable that speech suppression would become an instrument of cultural combat, used to settle ideological scores and advance political agendas by silencing adversaries.

That has happened in Oakland. And, predictably, the ineffable U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ratified this abridgement of First Amendment protections. Fortunately, overturning the 9th Circuit is steady work for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some African American Christian women working for Oakland's government organized the Good News Employee Association (GNEA), which they announced with a flier describing their group as "a forum for people of Faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of the day. With respect for the Natural Family, Marriage and Family Values."

The flier was distributed after other employees' groups, including those advocating gay rights, had advertised their political views and activities on the city's e-mail system and bulletin board. When the GNEA asked for equal opportunity to communicate by that system and that board, it was denied. Furthermore, the flier they posted was taken down and destroyed by city officials, who declared it "homophobic" and disruptive.

The city government said the flier was "determined" to promote harassment based on sexual orientation. The city warned that the flier and communications like it could result in disciplinary action "up to and including termination."

Effectively, the city has proscribed any speech that even one person might say questioned the gay rights agenda and therefore created what that person felt was a "hostile" environment. This, even though gay rights advocates used the city's communication system to advertise "Happy Coming Out Day." Yet the terms "natural family," "marriage" and "family values" are considered intolerably inflammatory.

The treatment of the GNEA illustrates one technique by which America's growing ranks of self-appointed speech police expand their reach: They wait until groups they disagree with, such as the GNEA, are provoked to respond to them in public debates, then they persecute them for annoying those to whom they are responding. In Oakland, this dialectic of censorship proceeded on a reasonable premise joined to a preposterous theory.

The premise is that city officials are entitled to maintain workplace order and decorum. The theory is that government supervisors have such unbridled power of prior restraint on speech in the name of protecting order and decorum that they can nullify the First Amendment by declaring that even the mild text of the GNEA flier is inherently disruptive.

The flier supposedly violated the city regulation prohibiting "discrimination and/or harassment based on sexual orientation." The only cited disruption was one lesbian's complaint that the flier made her feel "targeted" and "excluded." So anyone has the power to be a censor just by saying someone's speech has hurt his or her feelings.

Unless the speech is "progressive." If the GNEA claimed it felt "excluded" by advocacy of the gay rights agenda, would that advocacy have been suppressed? Of course not -- although the GNEA's members could plausibly argue that the city's speech police have created a "hostile" environment against them.

There was a time back in the sixties when the left, headed by the likes of the late Mario Savio and the Berkeley Free Speech movement, fought for everyone's right to say whatever they pleased, but nowadays they've become much more selective about who should have the right to speak and who shouldn't. They still campaign for the rights of pornographers and movie-makers to pollute the culture, of course, but if you wish to extoll traditional notions of marriage and family, well, then you better be prepared to be fired from your job.

At the next candidates' debate every Democratic candidate ought to be asked which side they support in this case, and they should be compelled to answer without waffling. It would be a far more enlightening line of questioning than asking the Republicans, as CNN did in the last debate, how many of them believe in evolution.

Meanwhile, Chip Bok offers his opinion of the state of free speech in America:


SloppyThinking from the Dawkster

Philosopher Francis Beckwith writing at First Things, points out an interesting inconsistency in the thinking of Darwinian atheist Richard Dawkins:

In his 2006 book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins laments the career path of Kurt Wise, who has, since 2006, held the positions of professor of science and theology and director of the Center for Theology and Science at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Prior to that, Wise had taught for many years at Bryan College, a small evangelical college in Dayton, Tennessee, named after William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic presidential candidate and associate counsel in the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial."

According to Dawkins, Wise was at one time a promising young scholar who had earned a degree in geology (from the University of Chicago) and advanced degrees in geology and paleontology from Harvard University, where he studied under the highly acclaimed Stephen Jay Gould. Wise is also a young-earth creationist, which means that he accepts a literal interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis and maintains that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. It is not a position I hold, and for that reason I am sympathetic to Dawkins' bewilderment at why Wise has embraced what appears to many Christians to be a false choice between one controversial interpretation of Scripture (young-earth creationism) and abandoning Christianity altogether.

At one point in his career, Wise began to understand that his reading of Scripture was inconsistent with the dominant scientific understanding of the age of the earth and the cosmos. Instead of abandoning what I believe is a false choice, he continued to embrace it, but this lead to a crisis of faith. Wise writes: "Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible. . . . It was there that night that I accepted the Word of God and rejected all that would ever counter it, including evolution. With that, in great sorrow, I tossed into the fire all my dreams and hopes in science." So Wise abandoned the possibility of securing a professorship at a prestigious research university or institute.

Dawkins is disturbed by Wise's judgment and its repercussions on his obvious promise as a scholar, researcher, and teacher. Writes Dawkins: "I find that terribly sad . . . the Kurt Wise story is just plain pathetic - pathetic and contemptible. The wound, to his career and his life's happiness, was self-inflicted, so unnecessary, so easy to escape. . . . I am hostile to religion because of what it did to Kurt Wise. And if it did that to a Harvard educated geologist, just think what it can do to others less gifted and less well armed."

So what's inconsistent about this? Beckwith continues:

But Dawkins, in fact, does not actually believe that living beings, including human beings, have intrinsic purposes or are designed so that one may conclude that violating one's proper function amounts to a violation of one's moral duty to oneself. Dawkins has maintained for decades that the natural world only appears to be designed. He writes in The God Delusion: "Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that - an illusion."

But this means that his lament for Wise is misguided, for Dawkins is lamenting what only appears to be Wise's dereliction of his duty to nurture and employ his gifts in ways that result in his happiness and an acquisition of knowledge that contributes to the common good. Yet because there are no designed natures and no intrinsic purposes, and thus no natural duties that we are obligated to obey, the intuitions that inform Dawkins' judgment of Wise are as illusory as the design he explicitly rejects. But that is precisely one of the grounds by which Dawkins suggests that theists are irrational and ought to abandon their belief in God.

So if the theist is irrational for believing in God based on what turns out to be pseudo-design, Dawkins is irrational in his judgment of Wise and other creationists whom he targets for reprimand and correction. For Dawkins' judgment rests on a premise that - although uncompromisingly maintained throughout his career - only appears to be true.

Dawkins holds that there is no basis for something like moral duty and then criticizes Wise for violating his moral duty to himself. This is yet another example of the propostion that people cannot live consistently as atheists unless they embrace a thoroughgoing nihilism. And any worldview that is impossible, or nearly impossible, to hold consistently is quite likely to be very wrong.


Alzheimer's Cure?

A news report out of England brings us wonderful news:

A revolutionary drug that stops Alzheimer's disease in its tracks could be available within a few years.

It could prevent people from reaching the devastating final stages of the illness, in which sufferers lose the ability to walk, talk and even swallow, and end up totally dependent on others.

The jab [injection], which is now being tested on patients, could be in widespread use in as little as six years.

Existing drugs can delay the progress of the symptoms, but their effect wears off relatively quickly, allowing the disease to take its devastating course. In contrast, the new vaccine may be able to hold the disease at bay indefinitely.

Early tests showed the vaccine is highly effective at breaking up the sticky protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer's, destroying vital connections between brain cells.

When the jab was given to mice suffering from a disease similar to Alzheimer's, 80 per cent of the patches of amyloid protein were broken up.

The vaccine is now being tried out on 60 elderly Swedish patients in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer's. Half of the men and women are being given the vaccine while half are being given dummy jabs.

This would be an astonishing breakthrough, and we certainly hope the drug treatment works well on humans, but we have a question: We're frequently admonished that belief in Darwinian evolution has been absolutely essential for developments in modern medicine, so we'd like to know what role Darwinian belief played in the research leading to this vaccine. After all, one doesn't have to believe that we're closely related to mice to think that if a cure works on a disease in mice similar to Alzheimer's that it might also work on Alzheimer's in humans. But maybe I'm missing something.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Why Some Guys Are Liberals

There are lots of reasons why people lean toward the conservative or liberal side of social and political issues. There's little doubt that among them are intellectual considerations, but I suspect that one's temperament, the nature of one's religious commitment, and one's experience in life also play prominent roles in whether one tends to list toward starboard or port.

Be that as it may, these factors don't explain everything. A long time ago I read an essay that argued that there's another, more urgent, reason which accounts for why a lot of young men at least profess to be liberal and that is that they're profoundly interested in girls. I can't recall much about the essay except the general gist of it. It went something like this:

It is, from the perspective of some young men, an unfortunate fact of life that conservative girls often believe it is their duty to preserve their chastity until they are married. A young man, interested in exploring and exploiting a young lady's charms, could invest a great deal of time and treasure in such a girl only to have his investment come to naught. Thus conservatism has limited appeal for many men under a certain age.

Liberal girls, contrarily, are often convinced that such rules are remnants of an oppressive male patriarchy that must be rejected root and branch, and that they have an obligation to stand in solidarity with the sisterhood by liberating themselves through free expression of their sexuality. This, of course, is precisely the attitude that makes the eyes of oppressive males light up. They couldn't agree more. They, too, support a woman's quest to liberate herself from the shackles of puritanical prudery and male subjugation. The sooner she consummates her liberation the better, and he wants her to know that he will always be there for her to help her in any way he can to accomplish her emancipation.

Moreover, if a conservative girl gets pregnant she often feels it is her moral duty to bear and raise the child. This is a horrifying prospect for many a young man. Liberal girls, however, believe themselves to be sovereign over their bodies and that it is some sort of sin to let a baby ruin her life. This conviction is sweet music to the ears of said oppressive young men who dread the idea of child support or, worse, marriage. By all means, a woman should have the right, even the duty, to abort her child. Why should she, and by extension he, be tied to an unwanted child for the rest of their lives?

Thus it is in the interest of many young males, as they see it, to reinforce liberal beliefs about sexuality and abortion among their female friends and in society at large. To be credible, of course, they also have to adopt liberal poses on other issues as well, and so they do, not out of any principle, except perhaps the principle of pragmatic expediency: Whatever works is right.

So, for at least some young men, and you know who you are, their liberalism is simply a means to an end.


Homeschooling Is Child Abuse

When it comes to tolerance, choice, and diversity some lefties only find some choices and some diversity tolerable. If we're tolerating sexual heterodoxy or various marital permutations or the choice to kill the child in one's womb that's all just peachy, but if we're talking about choice and diversity in education and religion then the voteries of tolerance suddenly transmogrify into Robespierres.

Consider this example of left-wing tolerance from the pen of Darwinian atheist P.Z. Myers:

"I do wish we could arrest all those parents who use homeschooling as an excuse to keep their children ignorant."

Nice. No doubt if parents persisted in home-schooling their children despite having been arrested, Myers would have them carted off to Madame Guillotine.

Having taught lots of home-schooled children at the college level I can say that they're just as well-educated in all important respects as those who matriculate through most of our public schools. If Myers wants to arrest people for child abuse he should turn his attention to the people responsible for the sorry state of many of the public schools in this country.

But it's not education people like Myers are really concerned about. It's religious education that has their shorts in a wedgy. If the public schools aren't teaching kids history, literature, writing, and math that can be overlooked as long as they're indoctrinating them in materialist science and philosophy.

What cannot be permitted is the circumvention by homeschoolers of the materialist indoctrination students receive in many government schools. Escaping that indoctrination would be a crime in any world in which P.Z. Myers had any influence because, as Richard Dawkins asserts in The God Delusion, it's a form of child abuse.


Another Nifong Casualty

Kathleen Parker argues that one of the big losers in the Duke rape case will be ideological feminism. The sort of standard claim made, for example, by feminist law professor Wendy Murphy on CNN's The Situation Room, "I never, ever met a false rape claim, by the way. My own statistics speak to the truth," will, if they are made at all, likely in the future be met with looks of astonished incredulity.

Parker also notes that another big loser will be actual rape victims:

Already we may be witness to Nifong's dubious offspring in Cupertino, Calif., where a nearly unconscious 17-year-old girl was sexually ravished at a party by a De Anza College baseball player while several teammates stood by watching. The girl's face was covered with vomit -- not her own -- by the time three other young women burst into the room, rescued her from a mattress on the floor and took her to the hospital.

To any sane mind, a drunk, semi-conscious girl on the receiving end of sexual intercourse doesn't sound like consensual sex, yet the Santa Clara County district attorney has decided not to pursue charges. The problem, she says, is that everyone involved was drinking, including witnesses -- and the girl remembers nothing -- making it difficult to prove lack of consent.

What any reasonable person knows, of course, is that anyone too drunk to wipe someone else's vomit from her face is too drunk to give consent. We also can assume that Nifong, given a similar scenario, would have prosecuted this case (with our blessings) and been declared a hero.

Instead, his abuse of the justice system, indicting three innocent men for his own political gain, may have set the stage for other guilty parties to walk free and at least one 17-year-old girl, thus far, to be denied access to justice.

HT: No Left Turns


Friday, June 22, 2007

How It Works

The Senate is going to re-introduce the immigration bill next week by using a procedure that will bring it directly to the floor without having to subject it to committee hearings. At that point there will be floor debate on the bill. A motion will then be made to close off debate so that the bill can be voted on. Closing debate is called "cloture," and it requires 60 (out of 100) votes. Once debate is closed the bill itself will then be voted upon. It takes only 51 votes to pass.

Some Republican senators who want the bill to pass but who don't want to anger their constituents by voting for it are likely to cover themselves by voting for cloture and then voting against the bill. Since it'll be harder to get cloture than to pass the bill they can tell their constituents that they voted against the bill when in fact, by voting for cloture, they almost guaranteed that the bill would pass the Senate, even without their vote.

If the bill succeeds in the Senate it will then go to the House of Representatives where it will be voted upon (there's no cloture in the House). If it passes it will then be sent to the President's desk where he will sign the bill into law.

The Senate cloture vote is projected to be very close and the following Republican senators are still uncommitted:

  • Richard Burr (N.C.)
  • Kit Bond (Mo.)
  • Gordon Smith (Ore.)
  • Thad Cochran (Miss.)
  • Norm Coleman (Min.)
  • Orrin Hatch (Utah)
  • and Bob Bennett (Utah).

You can contact your senators to urge them to vote against cloture by going to this site which lists their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

To read more about why senators should oppose this bill go here to read Congressman Dr. Dave Weldon's (R-FL) excellent critique of it.


Do As I Say Not As I Do

Senator Reid just introduced an amendment to the energy bill to raise CAFE standards for all cars, trucks and SUVs to 35 mpg by 2020. One might think that Senator Reid is concerned about conserving energy, but then there was this photo in the June 21st Roll Call:

That's Sen. Reid getting out of a Chevy Suburban he had just driven across the street to a meeting on energy efficiency.

Some men lead by example. Then there's Senator Reid.


Who Is an Enemy Combatant?

John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute is no touchy-feely liberal looking for an excuse to discredit the Bush administration. He's an evangelical Christian whose organization has fought a lot of legal battles against the ACLU and others on behalf of religious, church, and parental rights. So when Whitehead sounds the tocsin alerting us of an impending loss of liberties as a result of current Bush administration policies, the twenty five percent or so of the country that still supports the President should sit up and listen:

The fabric of our nation is unraveling, and our freedoms are hanging by a thread.

In a world where the president has the power to label anyone, whether a citizen or permanent resident, an enemy combatant and detain that person indefinitely without trial, no liberty exists and everyone is potentially an "enemy combatant."

According to the Bush Administration, Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri is such a person.

This legal alien, residing in Peoria, Ill., with his wife and children, was attending college when he was swept up by government agents. He was held in a military prison for four years without ever being charged with a crime. And for the first 16 months of his imprisonment, this man's family was not even allowed to see him, speak to him or reassure themselves that he was alive and well.

Because Al-Marri is not a U.S. citizen, the government denied him basic constitutional protections such as the right to hear the charges against him, consult an attorney and appear before a judge to determine if, in fact, he is guilty of anything. To some people, this is as it should be. But that's not the way things are supposed to work here in America. Even the worst criminals in American history, from flesh-eating Jeffrey Dahmer to terrorist bomber Timothy McVeigh, were afforded an attorney and a trial.

This issue is bigger than Al-Marri. It's even bigger than the Bush Administration and its so-called war on terror. The groundwork is being laid for a new kind of government where it will no longer matter if you're innocent or guilty, whether you're a threat to the nation or even if you're a citizen. What will matter is what the president-or whoever happens to be occupying the Oval Office at the time-thinks. And if he or she thinks you're a threat to the nation and should be locked up, then you'll be locked up with no access to the protections our Constitution provides. In effect, you will disappear.

Read the rest of this essay at the link.

There may be more to this story than what Whitehead has included here. Indeed, in such cases there often is, but nevertheless, it should give us pause that a legal resident has been imprisoned for four years without having charges brought against him. It's one thing to hold prisoners taken on the battlefield as POWs and to treat them differently than citizens. It's quite another to hold a legal resident in the way al-Marri has been detained. I am all for the use of whatever means the law does not explicitly prohibit for apprehending those who pose threats to the United States, but if someone who is in this country legally is taken into custody they have the right to hear the charges against them and to be granted legal representation and ultimately a trial. If we deny these rights to legal residents it won't take much for some future president to deny them to citizens, and then we will have ceased to be the United States of America.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Believers and Unbelievers

The Barna Group has released the results of a new survey which examines differences and similarities between people who claim a religious faith commitment, primarily Christianity, and those who embrace atheism/agnosticism:

[The] new survey shows there is indeed a significant gap between Christians and those Americans who are in the "no-faith" camp. For instance, most atheists and agnostics (56%) agree with the idea that radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam. At the same time, two-thirds of Christians (63%) who have an active faith perceive that the nation is becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity. ("Active faith" was defined as simply having gone to church, read the Bible and prayed during the week preceding the survey.)

The "reality-based" folk, as they are pleased to call themselves, see no difference between those who balk at killing babies and legalizing non-traditional forms of marriage and those who strap bombs to their babies' carriages so that they can blow to bits other people's babies. The reality-based crowd, or at least a majority of them, sees no difference between those who prefer that gays not demand that their relationships be endorsed by the larger society and those who hang gays for being gay. One marvels at the strange reality the majority of atheist/agnostics are living in.

One of the most significant differences between active-faith and no-faith Americans is the cultural disengagement and sense of independence exhibited by atheists and agnostics in many areas of life. They are less likely than active-faith Americans to be registered to vote (78% versus 89%), to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20% versus 30%), to describe themselves as "active in the community" (41% versus 68%), and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41% versus 61%). They are also more likely to be registered to vote as an independent or with a non-mainstream political party.

In other words, atheists/agnostics tend to be more oriented toward themselves than toward others. No surprise here. The default position in human ethics is egoism. Atheism affords no non-subjective basis for caring about the welfare of others. People have to have a transcendent incentive to teach their young to respect and care about those they don't know, and they have to be able to give their young a reason when their young ask them why they should do it. Unfortunately, if there is no God there is no reason.

One of the outcomes of this profile - and one of the least favorable points of comparison for atheist and agnostic adults - is the paltry amount of money they donate to charitable causes. The typical no-faith American donated just $200 in 2006, which is more than seven times less than the amount contributed by the prototypical active-faith adult ($1500). Even when church-based giving is subtracted from the equation, active-faith adults donated twice as many dollars last year as did atheists and agnostics. In fact, while just 7% of active-faith adults failed to contribute any personal funds in 2006, that compares with 22% among the no-faith adults.

Like I was saying....


The Materialists' Tar Baby

The editors at Nature are a bit confused. They want to take Senator Sam Brownback to task for an editorial he wrote in the New York Times defending his position on evolution, but they wind up producing an argument whose conclusion is that either Brownback is right or Intelligent Design is scientific. I doubt that they want to advance either of these claims, but that seems to be the logic of their position as Michael Egnor explains:

In a remarkable editorial, the editors of Nature recently responded to Senator Sam Brownback's essay What I Think about Evolution in the New York Times. Senator Brownback wrote:

"The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it...."

Referring to materialistic evolutionary theories for the emergence of the human mind, Senator Brownback notes:

"...Aspects of these theories that undermine [the] truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science."

Natures' editors took Brownback to task for 'crossing lines':

"...there are lines that should not be crossed, and in a recent defence of his beliefs and disbeliefs in the matter of evolution, US Senator Sam Brownback (Republican, Kansas) crosses at least one."

They asserted, with confidence in their science:

"Humans evolved, body and mind, from earlier primates. The ways in which humans think reflect this heritage ... the idea that human minds are the product of evolution is not atheistic theology. It is unassailable fact."

The editors assert that the emergence of the human mind without intelligent design is an 'unassailable fact'. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this claim, aside from the problems with their interpretation of the scientific evidence itself, is the admission by the editors that the question of intelligent design in biology can be adjudicated by the scientific method.

If the evidence for or against intelligent design can be evaluated scientifically - as the editors at Nature firmly assert that it can - then intelligent design is a real scientific inference, albeit, according to the Nature editors, a mistaken one. And if they are asserting that intelligent design is mistaken from a non-scientific standpoint, then the editors are advancing an atheistic theology, as Brownback pointed out.

The mainstay of the materialists' argument against intelligent design has been that it isn't science. Yet, as the Nature editors inadvertently demonstrate so clearly, the materialists' argument against intelligent design is self-refuting; they argue that intelligent design isn't science, and that it's scientifically wrong. Yet if intelligent design is scientifically wrong - if it is an 'unassailable fact' that the human mind is the product of evolution, not intelligent design - then the design inference can be investigated (and, they claim, refuted) using the scientific method. Then intelligent design is science.

Either the conclusion that the editors reached is the result of a scientific analysis of the design inference, or the conclusion that the editors reached is the result of a non-scientific analysis of the design inference, which would be, as Senator Brownback observed, atheistic theology posing as science.

Either intelligent design is science, or Senator Brownback got it right.

Intelligent Design is the materialists' tar baby. The harder they flail about trying to discredit ID and its advocates the more they entangle themselves in their own confused rhetoric. It's pretty funny to watch.


Fire Up Ol' Sparky

Here's why we need capital punishment, but I'd settle for mandatory emasculation:

British police, aided by U.S. authorities, have smashed a global Internet pedophile ring that broadcast live-streamed videos of children being abused, investigating more than 700 suspects worldwide and rescuing 31 children in a 10-month probe, officials said Monday.

The ring was traced to an Internet chat room called "Kids the Light of Our Lives" that featured images of children being subjected to horrific sexual abuse, including the streaming live videos.

Read the rest of the article at the link. The electric chair used to be called "ol' Sparky." For people like these a ride in ol' Sparky would be an act of consummate mercy given the punishment they actually deserve.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Me and Him

Mike Mentzer, writing for the Clapham Commentary (E-mail subscription only), laments the erosion of grammatical standards in the King's English:

During halftime of the NCAA lacrosse finals, two Duke players were describing the key to successful passing and shot making. "Me and him have to have eye contact."

Me and him?

There was a time not too long ago when "me and him" would have been considered bad form and poor grammar. More formal language was the key to success in making the world a better place. Today however casual language like "me and him" is considered more "authentic." Formal language is deemed to be detached. The poles have been reversed. Should we care? How does formal language make our world and us better?

Movies migrated to our lips in the 1960s, writes linguist John McWhorter. The sixties' rebellion against authority included overthrowing formal language for the casual language of everyday life (or, in McWhorter's words, beer-drinking speech). Casual language gained a reputation as intimate and "authentic." Formal language was disdained as detached and distant, boring and insincere.

Well, maybe that's part of it, but I have another theory about why standards in grammar have declined.

I suspect that in the sixties and seventies white guilt placed a lot of teachers in a dilemma. Minorities, particularly African-Americans, speak in a patois that is often grammatically atrocious even if culturally endearing. White teachers, confronted by minority students who seemed unable or unwilling to conform to grammatical convention, were faced with a difficult choice. If they demanded proper grammar from their students they looked like whitey imposing his standards on the black man by trying to make him "talk white." This would surely be seen as racist and oppressive and no self-respecting liberal white person wanted to be tarnished with that brush. But what to do?

The answer was simple in a relativistic world: abandon traditional grammatical rules and just let everyone decide for himself what was proper speech. Rather than maintain one standard for whites and a different one for blacks it was easier to just relax standards for both.

As with morals in the post-modern world so with everything, what's right is whatever works for you ... and he.


They Walk Among Us

Now we read that teams of Taliban suicide bombers have been dispatched to the U.S. to kill as many of us as possible. Makes you wish there was a fence in place along our southern border:

Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape obtained by the Blotter on

Teams assigned to carry out attacks in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany were introduced at an al Qaeda/Taliban training camp graduation ceremony held June 9.

A Pakistani journalist was invited to attend and take pictures as some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12, were supposedly sent off on their suicide missions.

"It doesn't take too many who are willing to actually do it and be able to slip through the net and get into the United States or England and cause a lot of damage," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism official.

No, it doesn't take too many, especially when the net is as porous as our border and those whose responsibility it is to protect us see no urgency in securing that border.


Israel Prepares for War

The London Times Online reports that war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is inevitable:

Israel's new defence minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush the Hamas militants who have seized power there. According to senior Israeli military sources, the plan calls for 20,000 troops to destroy much of Hamas's military capability in days.

The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks against Israel or a resumption of suicide bombings.

Barak, who is expected to become defence minister tomorrow, has already demanded detailed plans to deploy two armoured divisions and an infantry division, accompanied by assault drones and F-16 jets, against Hamas.

The Israeli forces would expect to be confronted by about 12,000 Hamas fighters with arms confiscated from the Fatah faction that they defeated in last week's three-day civil war in Gaza.

Israeli officials believe their forces would face even tougher resistance in Gaza than they encountered during last summer's war against Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

A source close to Barak said that Israel could not tolerate an aggressive "Hamastan" on its border and an attack seemed unavoidable. "The question is not if but how and when," he said.

Presumably, the Israelis will fight this war more aggressively than they fought Hezbollah last summer. The question is, assuming they defeat Hamas, what do they do then with Gaza? None of the options seem appealing. They could reoccupy it, or they could turn it over to Fatah, or they could set up a government more congenial to Israeli interests. Unfortunately, such a government is not likely to be popular with the masses.

Israel may rid itself of Hamas but they're not likely to rid themselves of the problems indigenous to Gaza.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Where the Preposterous is Normal

From time to time I've opined that when we focus upon and celebrate the things that make us different it divides us rather than unites us. When we pigeon-hole ourselves on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation we are no longer one nation but a loose confederation of competing interest groups tied together by nothing more than cultural inertia.

John Leo writes in City Journal about one particularly risible manifestation of the Frankenstein monster that our fascination with "diversity" has created:

Commencement weekend is hard to plan at the University of California, Los Angeles. The university now has so many separate identity-group graduations that scheduling them not to conflict with one another is a challenge. The women's studies graduation and the Chicana/Chicano studies graduation are both set for 10 AM Saturday. The broader Hispanic graduation, "Raza," is in near-conflict with the black graduation, which starts just an hour later.

Planning was easier before a new crop of ethnic groups pushed for inclusion. Students of Asian heritage were once content with the Asian-Pacific Islanders ceremony. But now there are separate Filipino and Vietnamese commencements, and some talk of a Cambodian one in the future. Years ago, UCLA sponsored an Iranian graduation, but the school's commencement office couldn't tell me if the event was still around. The entire Middle East may yet be a fertile source for UCLA commencements.

Not all ethnic and racial graduations are well attended. The 2003 figures at UCLA showed that while 300 of 855 Hispanic students attended, only 170 out of 1,874 Asian-Americans did.

Some students are presumably eligible for four or five graduations. A gay student with a Native American father and a Filipino mother could attend the Asian, Filipino, and American Indian ceremonies, plus the mainstream graduation and the Lavender Graduation for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students.

But the core reason for separatist graduations is the obvious one: on campus, assimilation is a hostile force, the domestic version of American imperialism. On many campuses, identity-group training begins with separate freshman orientation programs for nonwhites, who arrive earlier and are encouraged to bond before the first Caucasian freshmen arrive. Some schools have separate orientations for gays as well. Administrations tend to foster separatism by arguing that bias is everywhere, justifying double standards that favor identity groups.

As in so many areas of American life, the preposterous is now normal.

Read the whole sad story at the link. It's ironic that a nation which, at the prompting of the left, did so much to banish all forms of invidious segregation, is now, again at the prompting of the left, doing so much to reestablish it.


Stuck in the Cave

At the Claremont Institute Tom West reflects on the philosophical assumptions of the late Richard Rorty:

In the New York Times obituary Rorty is quoted as saying, "At 12, I knew that the point of being human was to spend one's life fighting social injustice."

Rorty saw his life as fundamentally political (fighting injustice on the basis of conviction, not knowledge) and not philosophical. At the age of 12, after all, one does not "know" the purpose of life; one has opinions or faith.

In his book Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Rorty wrote, "About two hundred years ago, the idea that truth was made rather than found began to take hold of the imagination of Europe." In other words, it was believed that human reason can discover nothing of importance about the world except for man's utter dependency on his contingent historical setting and circumstances - on "truth" that is "made" by man. The meaning of reality is determined not by reason but by will or command. Rorty's postmodern "philosophy" was perfectly consistent with his choice for the political life over the philosophic life, the life of faith or submission to authority over the life of reason.

In his book Persecution and the Art of Writing, Leo Strauss wrote that "it is in contrast to the essentially solitary philosopher that the truly good or pious man is called 'the guardian of his city,' phulax poleos." Rorty saw himself deep down not as a philosopher in Strauss's sense, but as "fighting social injustice." Rorty saw himself as a "guardian of his city" (the utopian "city" of today's liberalism). To justify his political-religious commitment, Rorty enthusiastically embraced postmodernism. One wonders, then, if postmodernism is nothing more than a sophisticated set of arguments which are meant to make men at home with what Locke called "the smoke of their own chimneys," i.e., with whatever authoritative opinions they happen to be shaped by, whether before or after the age of 12.

Plato's metaphor of the cave implies that most of us live most of the time blinded by the smoke of our own chimneys, stuck inside our contingent political, religious, and moral convictions. But for Plato, unlike Rorty, there is an escape. Philosophy, as Plato understood it, was the successful effort to ascend from the cave to the light of the sun, to see things as they really are.

Rorty's response to Plato was that there is no escape from the cave, and so there is no point in even making the effort. Rorty's position seems to have been anticipated in this 1948 remark of Strauss: "People may become so frightened of the ascent to the light of the sun, and so desirous of making that ascent utterly impossible to any of their descendants, that they dig a deep pit beneath the cave in which they were born, and withdraw into that pit."

This use of arguments borrowed from philosophers to deny that philosophy in the Socratic sense is possible or necessary is an old story. It is no accident that the philosophers whose teachings were most influential in the American founding held views closer to the Socratic understanding of philosophy as ascent from the cave (from the smoke of one's own chimney) than to Rorty's understanding.

Rorty was typical of many thinkers whose starting point is atheism. From that assumption everything Rorty said is understandable. Atheism leads one who follows its implications consistently, to epistemological and metaphysical despair. If there is no God then there is no truth worth knowing and no values which are any better than any other. We are chained in our philosophic caves, truth is whatever we want it to be, and there's no escape.

Ideas have consequences and no opposing pair of ideas is more gravid with consequences than atheism and theism, both for this life and the next. Richard Rorty's thought is an outstanding example.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Open to Amnesty

National Review's David Frum, like many conservatives, is open to discussing amnesty for illegals. Here's how he puts it:

I for one am absolutely open to considering an amnesty plan at any date after the FIFTH anniversary of the completion of border control measures, including an effective employment verification system.

I am open to an amnesty plan after the flow of new illegals has been halted and we have seen significant attrition from the existing illegal population.

I am open to amnesty after - and only after! - federal judges start assisting local law enforcement agencies that wish to enforce the law rather than forbidding them to do so.

I am open to amnesty after a US president demonstrates a willingness to respond with some modicum of respect to the immigration concerns of the American public - and is not looking for any transparent gimmick that will get him from here to the bill signing.

Hey, here's a thought: Why doesn't President Bush condemn the decision by federal judge Colleen McMahon to require the town of Mamoreneck, NY, to pay $550,000 to illegal aliens and create a center from which they may violate the immigration laws of the United States conveniently, publicly, and with impunity? If ever one legal case destroyed what little "confidence" remained in the seriousness of the US government on immigration, this was that case. And the president has said ... what exactly?

If we have learned anything from the hard experiences of the recent past it is that amnesty must be the last step in any intelligent program of immigration enforcement. When it is the first step, it rapidly becomes the only step - or rather, the first step to the next amnesty and the next after that.

We have learned, too, that the political leadership in Washington wants a radically different outcome to this immigration debate from that desired by the large majority of the American people.

Confidence? Well in the words of an expert on the subject (President Bush):

"Fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again."

Amnesty for illegals is not something most people reject out of hand, but they do reject an amnesty that doesn't secure our borders and which puts illegals on a path to citizenship. There's no reason why the American taxpayer should be saddled with the enormous expense that illegal immigrants will impose on our nation if they are entitled to the benefits of citizens. Indeed, it has been estimated by some to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Politicians are learning that the times have changed. No longer can they do whatever they please without the American people knowing about it. With talk radio and the blogosphere they're under a magnifying glass and they don't like it. Too bad.


Zero-Tolerance Dopiness

We need to follow rules, certainly, and we need the stability that rules bring to a society, but some people seem to believe that mindlessly adhering to rules is some sort of virtue. For a certain kind of person rules serve as a substitute for common sense and thoughtfulness.

No where is this more evident, unfortunately, than among public school administrators. Consider for example the actions taken by these educators:

Fifth-graders in California who adorned their mortarboards with tiny toy plastic soldiers this week to support troops in Iraq were forced to cut off their miniature weapons. A Utah boy was suspended for giving his cousin a cold pill prescribed to both students. In Rhode Island, a kindergartner was suspended for bringing a plastic knife to school so he could cut cookies.

It's all part of "zero tolerance" rules, which typically mandate severe punishments for weapons and drug offenses regardless of the circumstances.

Lawmakers in several states say the strict policies in schools have resulted in many punishments that lack common sense, and are seeking to loosen the restrictions.

"A machete is not the same as a butter knife. A water gun is not the same as a gun loaded with bullets," said Rhode Island state Sen. Daniel Issa, a former school board member who worries that no-tolerance rules are applied blindly and too rigidly.

Some have long been aware of the problems of zero tolerance. For the last decade, Mississippi has allowed local school districts to reduce previously mandatory one-year expulsions for violence, weapons and drug offenses.

More recently, Texas lawmakers have also moved to tone down their state's zero-tolerance rules. Utah altered its zero-tolerance policy on drugs so asthmatic students can carry inhalers. The American Bar Association has recommended ending zero-tolerance policies, while the American Psychological Association wants the most draconian codes changed.

It is astonishing that these school districts have had to reword their rules so that asthmatics can carry inhalers and water guns. Why can't administrators figure out for themselves that these are not the sort of items that the rules were intended to prohibit? How much intelligence does it take to realize that an asthmatic kid is not the same as a drug dealer or user?

How can these people possibly think that suspending elementary school students for the infractions given above is a rational interpretation of a zero-tolerance policy? Perhaps there's more to these stories than what we're being told, but we hear so many of them that we have to wonder.

In any event, if there's not more to them then it's very hard to think very highly of the intellectual powers of these administrators. Indeed, its a good thing for them that school districts don't have a zero-tolerance policy for dopiness or a lot of educators would be out of a job.


Arrogant Indifference

As everyone knows by now Michael Nifong, the prosecutor in the Duke "rape" case, has been found guilty of gross professional misconduct and disbarred.

Incredibly, the guy was so arrogant and so indifferent to the harm he was inflicting on the young men he charged, that he broke 27 of 32 rules of professional conduct in order to try to get his conviction. How he thought he would get away with it is beyond me.

Go here to see a list of his derelictions. It really is amazing.

Disbarment may be the least of his worries right now. No doubt the parents will press suit against him and take him for everything they can get. When next we see Mr. Nifong he'll be wearing a barrel and holding a cup on the street corner.

It's too bad there's not some way to disbar the Duke president, Richard Brodhead - who's now making himself sound like a victim - and the faculty members who went out of their way to pronounce these students guilty when there was no evidence against them except the completely unsubstantiated claim of an unstable black woman that she had been raped. In the intellectually arid precincts of left-wing faculty lounges any allegation of a minority against rich white kids is evidence enough, I suppose, but that seems likely to change after this sleazy episode. If so, then something good will have come from Nifong's abuse of prosecutorial power.

UPDATE: Duke University has settled with the families of the victims. The report doesn't name the amounts, but one wishes that they'll garnish the salaries of the faculty who were ready to hang these kids from the nearest tree to pay for it.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

God and Family

Mary Eberstadt of the Hoover Institution advances an interersting thesis in an article in Policy Review.

Most people, she says, assume that religion induces people to have bigger families. Eberstadt believes this gets it backward:

People who have larger families tend to be more religious. In Europe the decline in religiosity began after the decline in family size. In America where families still tend on average to be larger than their European counterparts religion is still relatively popular, though family size and religious popularity are both in decline.

To begin sketching an explanation of religious belief complementary to this one, one must answer this question: What could it be about the experience of the natural family that might make an individual more disposed toward religion than he is without it? Though merely a preliminary attempt at an answer, several lines of explanation suggest themselves.

You can read her reasoning at the link.

Oddly, Eberstadt omits perhaps the biggest reason why family-oriented people are more committed to church. This is the recognition by parents that children need all the moral instruction they can get and they're not likely to get it in any other institution in our society. If religion or the church should ever die it won't be too many generations afterward that the family will die as well.

Eberstadt makes a very good point when she notes that women are usually more invested in family than men and are also usually more invested in church than men. Churches are like a glue that helps hold families together. When churches are vibrant and strong the families which attend them are generally stronger. Women, on balance, are more conscious of their family's welfare and are much more likely to turn to the church for the help it can give.

Take away religion, as the secularist urges, and human beings soon come to see themselves as nothing more than autonomous random particles bouncing aimlessly through their meaningless lives until death puts an end to their empty, absurd existence. There's not much point to the commitments and sacrifices required to sustain a family in the cold, sterile world the secularist would create for us.