Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Semester in Twenty Minutes

I can think of few more profitable ways to spend twenty minutes than to spend them reading this speech by David Horowitz given last Monday at the University of Wisconsin.

Last week was declared by Horowitz's organization to be Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week on campuses across the country, and he took criticism for that because a lot of people thought that this was a slur and attack against all Muslims. Horowitz clarifies this misunderstanding in the speech and along the way provides some wonderful lessons in world and Middle East history as well as a seminar in current world problems.

Reading the speech carefully is like getting an entire college course in less than half an hour. I urge you to invest the time. It's well worth it.


Bunker Busters

A little noted item in the Defense Department's budget request leads the NewsMax staff to conclude that another step toward a strike against Iran is now being undertaken. I think that NewsMax might be reading more into this than is warranted, it may just be a precautionary move, but, on the other hand, they may be correct. Here's the gist of the report:

The Defense Department has asked for $88 million to retrofit B-2 Stealth bombers so they can carry a 30,000-pound "bunker buster" bomb called the massive ordnance penetrator (MOP), which has the capacity to destroy deep underground targets. The Administration says the request is in response to an "urgent operational need from theater commanders."

Some observers might conclude that the Pentagon is seeking weaponry to strike Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida in their caves in Afghanistan. But as Gerard Baker, U.S. editor of the Times of London, points out in the New York Post, that would not require Stealth bombers.

"The Americans own the skies over Afghanistan and Iraq and could, if they wished, blanket the two countries with all manner of bombardment from a few thousand feet in broad daylight," Baker notes.

Instead, the more likely targets are the subterranean nuclear enrichment facilities in Iran, according to Baker, who writes:

"The debate in Washington about what to do with the increasingly recalcitrant and self-confident Iranian regime has taken a significant turn in the past few weeks. And the decision to upgrade the bombing capacity of the military is perhaps the most powerful indication yet that the debate is reaching a climax."

The Newsmax report revealed that Northrop Grumman, the Air Force's prime contractor on the B-2, would retrofit the bomber to carry the new 30,000-pound MOP. "The U.S. Air Force's B-2 Stealth bomber would be able to attack and destroy an expanded set of hardened, deeply buried military targets" using the MOP, the company said....

Despite the ominous overtones of this report it doesn't necessarily follow from the retrofit that the administration right now intends to attack Iran. It could be that this is just a precaution in case an attack on Iran becomes necessary sometime in the future. It's possible, in other words, that the retrofit is being done now so that a President Clinton can use B-2s to attack Iran once she takes over. Wouldn't that be ironic?


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

From the Front

Embedded reporter Michael Yon sends along an encouraging dispatch from Iraq. It provides a sense of how things are going in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.


Behe v. Miller

This may not be of much interest to those who don't follow the debate between evolution and intelligent design, but theistic evolutionist Ken Miller of Brown U. has written a couple of reviews of IDer Michael Behe's Edge of Evolution which, Behe thinks, indicate a very slim difference between them. This is interesting because Miller has been a very outspoken critic of intelligent design, and testified against it at the Dover trial a couple of years back.

In fact the difference between Miller and Behe seems to be more theological and methodological than scientific. Miller thinks that if God is an active designer of the world then He would be responsible for the world's suffering and pain. Behe thinks that as scientists they should stick to the empirical facts and leave the theological interpretations of those facts to the theologians and philosophers.

Theistic evolutionists like Miller generally hold that God uses the evolutionary process to bring about the living things He wants to exist, but they don't believe that God's hand is empirically detectable in the process. In other words, they believe by faith that God is hidden behind the evolution of life. Intelligent design advocates, on the other hand, believe that there are some things in the living world which are best explained in terms of intelligent, purposeful engineering and that these constitute empirical evidence of the existence of a Designer. I.e. they believe that God's hand is visible in what has been made.

The difference probably seems very thin to many people, and this is Behe's point. Why, he and others wonder, do people like Miller get so out of sorts over a difference that seems so slight?

For those who follow this fascinating debate Behe's comments (there are three posts) on Miller's second review of his book can be read at the link.


Wheat for Nukes

DEBKAfile claims that U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies have in their possession documents written in Syrian president Bashir Assad's own hand that detail the arrangement Syria had with North Korea that eventuated in an Israeli airstrike on Syria last month. Here are a couple of excerpts from DEBKAfile's report:

In one, Assad hands down a specific order in his own handwriting that North Korea not be charged for Syrian goods, including an annual shipment of 100,000 tons of Durham wheat for five years worth a total of $120 million. This is the equivalent of the value of the reactor for producing plutonium up to its most radioactive stage, which North Korea promised Syria.

A high-ranking Western intelligence source speaking to DEBKAfile described the evidence against Assad in US and Israeli hands as solid and much closer to a smoking gun than the West has turned up against Iran's nuclear program.

The following sequence of events unfolds from the garnered documents:

Damascus and Pyongyang settled between them that the nuclear transaction would be masked as a joint venture to build a cement factory in northern Syria; meanwhile, North Korea would sell Syria cement for its development projects.

According to DEBKAfile's sources, North Korean freighters, which began putting in at Syria's Latakia and Tartus ports in January 2007, unloaded cargoes of cement in which nuclear reactor components and materials were concealed.

The North Korean traffic at these ports and the Durham wheat transaction attracted the attention of US and Israeli secret services.

The rest of the report can be read at the link.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Admitting Defeat

Bin Laden has admitted defeat in Iraq according to the analysis at Strategy Page, and it's not looking too good for al Qaeda elsewhere in the Muslim world either. Nor is the picture particularly rosy for former Saddamites and other dead-enders:

Bin Laden doesn't discuss how the Americans defeated him. It was done with data. Years of collecting data on the bad guys paid off. Month by month, the picture of the enemy became clearer. This was literally the case, with some of the intelligence software that created visual representations of what was known of the enemy, and how reliable it was. The picture was clear enough to maneuver key enemy factions into positions that make them easier to run down.

Saddam's henchmen, the main enemy, were no dummies. They were smart enough, and resourceful enough, to build a police state apparatus that kept Saddam in power for over three decades. However, for the last three years, that talent has been applied to keeping the henchmen alive and out of jail. But three years of fighting has reduced the original 100,000 or so core Saddam thugs, to a few thousand diehards.

Three years ago, there were hundreds of thousands of allies and supporters from the Sunni minority (then, about five million people, now, less than half that), who wanted to be back in charge. Now the remaining Sunni Arabs just want to be left in peace. Thus the Sunni nationalists off in the Baghdad suburbs are shooting at, and turning in, their old allies from Saddams Baath party and secret police. This isn't easy for some of these guys, but it's seen as a matter of survival. While the fighting in and around Baghdad is officially about rooting out al Qaeda, and hard core terrorists, it's also about taking down the Baath party bankers and organizers who have been sustaining the bombers with cash, information and encouragement.

It was just a couple of months ago, wasn't it, that Harry Reid and the rest of the Dems were bewailing that the war was lost and the situation was hopeless. It may eventually turn sour, who knows, but right now Reid looks pretty silly.

Read the rest at the link.


Indoctrinate U.

A documentary on liberal bias and other forms of left-wing nuttery in the academy is soon to be forthcoming from Evan Coyne Maloney who, according to PowerLine, is:

... a skilled filmmaker who has produced lots of conservative-oriented videos. Among other things, he likes to attend far-left demonstrations and interview protesters to find out how much they understand about the issues on which they are demonstrating. The results are often illuminating.

Evan's first full-length movie, I believe, is Indoctrinate U, a documentary about liberal bias in American higher education. No serious observer doubts that such bias exists, but not everyone wants to make a record of it. Evan did, and the resulting product is spectacular....No major distributor wanted to take a chance on Evan's film, so he is going it alone, with an innovative campaign that involves internet users registering their desire to see the movie

You can visit the website and watch the trailer here. You can also sign up to express your wish to have the movie shown in your area.


Darwinian Consequences

One of the accusations most vehemently denied by Darwinian materialists is that a consistent Darwinian worldview leads logically to eugenics, racism and the holocaust. Try as they might, though, they simply cannot evade the logic of their belief that we are engaged with every other species and race in a struggle for survival. Richard Weikert brilliantly draws the connections between Darwin and the 19th century eugenicists and from these to the holocaust of the 1940s in his book From Darwin to Hitler.

Now it seems that even prominent Darwinians are acknowledging the link. Over at First Things Edward Oakes reminds us of a statement made by the great knight of the Darwinian faith, Richard Dawkins, who, in an interview he gave to an Austrian newspaper in 2005, conceded that:

"No decent person wants to live in a society that works according to Darwinian laws. . . . A Darwinian society would be a fascist state."

Ideas have consequences, and the idea that the human race is engaged in an internecine Darwinian struggle leads ineluctably to the ideas advanced by the race purifiers who advocate eugenics and elimination of unfit elements from the race.

Darwin himself wrote that some races of men were inferior to others:

"The variability or diversity of the mental faculties in men of the same race, not to mention the greater differences between the men of distinct races, is so notorious that not a word need here be said."

"Many races, some of which differ so much from each other, that they have often been ranked by naturalists as distinct species."

He also believed that the extermination of inferior races was inevitable:

"At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world... The break between men and his nearest allies will then be wider."

Hitler was simply applying Darwinian logic when he sought to purge from the "Master Race" all gypsies, Jews, and the mentally infirm.

The logical oucome of a consistent Darwinian worldview, combined with atheistic materialism, is Auschwitz. Indeed, ideas do have consequences.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Is Religion the Problem

Dinesh D'Souza debated atheist writer Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) at King's College the other evening. You can read D'Souza's summary of the proceedings at his blog and you can watch the entire debate here.

The topic of the debate was the question Is Religion the Problem? but in my opinion, that's the wrong topic for a debate between a theist and an atheist. The fundamental question which should be addressed is whether belief in God is reasonable. Contemporary anti-theists like to recite a litany of egregious historical shortcomings and crimes of the various world religions and use that as evidence to justify the conclusion that God does not exist. What often gets overlooked is that there's no logical connection between whatever atrocities of which votaries of some religion may be guilty and the matter of God's existence. The historical record only counts against, or in favor of, the truth of a particular set of religious beliefs about God.

Anyway, watch the video of the debate and decide for yourself who you think won.


Catholic Judges

Antonin Scalia, in a recent speech at Villanova, made the perhaps surprising claim that there's no such thing as a "Catholic judge." Robert Miller at First Things agrees with him, and so do I. In fact, I would argue that there's no such thing as a Christian judge, or at least there shouldn't be.

It is the judge's duty to interpret the law. There is no Catholic or Christian interpretation of the law any more than there is a Christian interpretation of French. The law says what it says regardless of what we'd like it to say, and it is the judge's obligation to rule on what it says. It is the legislator's job to write the law and certainly one can be a Christian legislator, but their's is a duty toward the law much different than the duty of interpreting it.

Miller quotes Rick Garnett toward the end of his essay who:

agrees with Scalia's main point but thinks that he is still a "Catholic judge" whether he likes it or not. Garnett writes: "To be a Catholic judge . . . is to be a judge in the way a Catholic, like everyone else, should be a judge: To take seriously one's obligation to decide impartially, to submit to the rule of law, rather than one's own preferences, and to have an appropriate humility about the task one is charged to perform. Obviously, this is not a distinctively Catholic way of judging, . . . but it is, I think, the way a Catholic should judge. It's also the way Justice Scalia thinks he should judge and, I'm confident, he thinks this way (at least in part) because he is a Catholic."

As Miller points out, however, "a Catholic judge is not merely a Catholic who is a judge but someone who judges in a way different from other judges precisely because he is Catholic - and this is exactly what Scalia denies he does." Scalia, in other words, believes it is emphatically not his duty to make law but to interpret it. Would that all judges believed the same.


Empty Shells

One of my students has responded to our post about the second grader suspended for drawing a water pistol with this anecdote:

At my high school a classmate of mine was suspended for two weeks and expulsion was pending an administrative hearing for having spent shotgun shells in the bed of his pick up truck. He was not expelled but did have to wait for the hearing to determine that. What sense did that make? Spent shot gun shells can't hurt anyone. There was no gun and the only crime he was guilty of was not being neat enough to clean out his truck before going to school.

Perhaps there was more to this than what the student who relates it was aware, perhaps not. But if not, it's hard to think of words to express the utter mindlessness of the school officials who suspended this boy. It is as if their job requires them to be little more than unthinking machines or zombies who have no ability to actually reason their way through particular cases. A zero tolerance policy regarding firearms means to them that anyone who brings to school anything at all associated with a weapon faces suspension.

A spent shotgun shell, though, is no more a threat to someone than is a photograph of a gun in a magazine. I wonder if the school library has purged from its shelves every copy of Outdoor Life or other magazines likely to carry ads for guns. I wonder if students are allowed to wear membership patches for the NRA or Izaak Walton League on their clothing. I wonder if the boy had had a hammer or baseball bat in his truck, far deadlier implements than an empty shotgun shell, whether he would have faced a two week suspension.

These questions, however, would only occur to rational individuals to ask, and that appears to be a cohort in which school administrators are becoming increasingly uncommon.


Friday, October 26, 2007

The New Fascism

This week has been designated by a coalition of organizations as Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. It's a week given to the discussion on campuses of the nature and threat of Islamic radicalism. Speakers at over a hundred colleges have been addressing the problems before audiences of students, faculty and interested community members. Many of those audiences have been hostile and some of them have been appallingly so.

Consider, for example, what happened at Emory University, where the concept of the free exchange of ideas is evidently anathema to the neo-fascists of the left. At Emory, students and others took it upon themselves to deny listeners the opportunity to learn about global jihad by noisily and rudely disrupting the event until the speaker, David Horowitz, himself a former left-wing radical, finally had to give up.

As this report on the incident explains, this is precisely the tactic used by the Nazi brownshirts in the Germany of the 1930s, and it has, or should have, no place in America. Unfortunately, there's very little of traditional America which remains on some of our university campuses.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the report:

Throughout the lecture, many protesters were waving their signs, and yelling "Does George Bush respect anybody's rights?" and "Are we going to talk about who killed JFK?" The colorful expressions shouted by protesters included the generic, "Racist, sexist, anti-gay. David Horowitz, go away!" and "stop the war for oil," as well as more creative "why don't we talk about fascism in America?" and "no more torture in our name." When Horowitz warned the audience of the threat of a nuclear attack, someone yelled, "Be afraid, be very afraid," nearly bursting out into an impromptu dance. The audience used a lot of rancorous laughter to disrupt the speech.

As soon as Horowitz commented on radical Islam waging war against the West, someone predictably yelled, "do you think it has anything to do with Israel's treatment of Palestine?" When Horowitz talked about Christians burning Jews at the stake during the crusades and Jews finding Muslims to be more hospitable, someone shouted "That's exactly what Ann Coulter is calling for now." When Horowitz mentioned that Jews and Christians are now treated as second class citizens in much of the Muslim world, a loud applause shot up from the audience. When Horowitz tried to bring up the treatment of women and issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM), the audience chanted, "That's not Islam."

Although the actions of campus leftists culminated during David Horowitz's lecture, in reality what transpired is indicative of what has become a toxic environment on today's university campuses. Conservative viewpoints are repeatedly stifled and censored, and often those who dare to question the left-wing orthodoxy are treated as second-class citizens on campus. Emory University is no exception, and has once again demonstrated the campus community's utter intolerance and inability to engage in civil debate.

For Horowitz's thoughts on the evening's proceedings go here.

When your ideas are intellectually bankrupt it would be counterproductive to engage your opponent in debate. All you can do is shout him down. When you hate your country as much as these people do, any enemy of your country becomes your friend, even terrorists. It's pretty sick.


Cosmic Coincidence

Newsweek's science writer Sharon Begley talks about the phenomenon of cosmic "dark energy" which is thought to be responsible for the fact that the expansion of the universe is actually speeding up rather than slowing down. This dark energy is believed to result from sub-atomic particles popping into existence of the vaccum of space, but there's a problem. The energy that would be produced by this process is calculated to be 10 to the 55th power greater than the dark energy of the universe. Something must be cancelling out the surplus and doing so with an astonishing level of percision. Were there just a little more dark energy the universe would rip apart. As Begley puts it:

[S]omething else cancels out all but a smidgen of the energy from the popping particles. That something else is anyone's guess. Worse, the precision of the required cancellation-erase the ink on every magazine ever printed except for exactly one comma, here-strains credulity.

Indeed it does, and add to this incredible fine-tuning the fact that dozens of other cosmic parameters are similarly precise and it just boggles the mind. For example, it has been calculated by Roger Penrose that the initial entropy of the universe had to be exact to one part in ten to the 10 to the 123rd power or else a universe suitable for life would not have formed.

This sort of unimaginable number is an embarrassment to the materialist who is compelled by his metaphysical beliefs to argue that such incredible calibrations are merely a fortuitous accident. Many materialists, however, are so uncomfortable with this line of thinking that they've retreated to the refuge of the "many worlds" hypothesis. This theory, for which there is absolutely no empirical evidence, states that there are as many as 10 to the 500th power universes of all different types. With so many possibilities, the argument goes, there has to be at least one suitable for life and we're it. In other words, by raising the number of worlds we can lower the improbability of the existence of a world as finely calibrated as this one is.

Begley writes:

...unless "the" universe is actually only one of many universes. Cosmologists are seriously entertaining that possibility. In the big bang that started our universe, little bits of space might have pinched off, said physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas. Each pocket universe could have different features. In one-ours-the improbable cancellation of most of the cosmological constant would have occurred, leaving just enough to explain the dark energy.

The irony of the many worlds hypothesis is that it's not a scientific idea because there's no way to test it, and neither is there any evidence for it. It's an ad hoc metaphysical theory developed to lower the astronomically high improbability that our universe exists purely by chance. Since it's a philosophical hypothesis it is on the same plane as its only real rival, the concept of cosmic design. This is bad news for the materialist, to be sure, since there is a way to test competing metaphysical claims - Occam's razor, i.e. the principle that the simplest explanation that fits all the facts is the best.

In the present case the simplest explanation is that there's just a single universe which has the parameters and laws that it does because it has been intentionally designed to support life. The alternative, that there are a near infinite number of undetectable universes which exhibit the entire range of possible values for their physical parameters, is refuted by its own extravagance. If it weren't that this theory is the only way scientists and philosophers could rescue their materialism, no one would be caught dead endorsing it.

In order to avoid the conclusion that the universe is intentionally designed materialists have to resort to a highly speculative and ad hoc theory that makes a shambles of the principle of simplicity. Not only that, but it doesn't really help anyway because it raises more difficult questions: If there are all these universes what is producing them and why should we expect they would have different parameters than our universe? Why not expect that they be identical to ours? And what's generating these different universes and their parameters and laws in the first place?

Perhaps Ms Begley will write about those questions in a future column.


Re: Taking a Bite Outa' Crime

A student of mine responds on our Feedback page to our post titled Taking a Bite Outa' Crime. He shares some interesting thoughts. Check it out. RLC

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A <i>Water Pistol</i>?

Just as a psychopath has no conscience, some people seem to be born with utterly no common sense. Consider, for example, the school administrators in this report:

A New Jersey second-grader's drawing of a stick figure shooting a gun has earned him a one-day school suspension.

Seven-year-old Kyle Walker's mom told an The Press newspaper of Atlantic City that her son was suspended for violating the district's zero-tolerance policy on guns. She said her son told her he'd drawn a water pistol.

Kyle gave the picture to another child on the school bus, and that child's parents complained about it to school officials.

The case is not the first in New Jersey in which students were suspended for depictions of weapons.

Four kindergarten boys were suspended in 2000 for playing cops and robbers, even though they were using their fingers as guns.

It's no wonder boys are becoming increasingly disaffected and alienated from our schools. The people that run them have no idea what a boy is and are trying to turn them into something they're not. Either we start weeding out the administrators who make school a form of earthly purgatory for these kids or we start segregating schools by sex and staffing boys' schools with men who were themselves once boys and who understand that you don't suspend a boy from school for drawing a picture of a water gun.

I wonder if Kyle would have been suspended if he'd drawn a picture of two men engaging in lewd conduct. I doubt it. They probably would have put him on the honor roll. No wonder people home school their kids.

HT: Hot Air


A friend passes this along to me, and I thought it interesting enough to post:

About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier:

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government."

"A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury."

"From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."

"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years"

During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  1. From bondage to spiritual faith;
  2. From spiritual faith to great courage;
  3. From courage to liberty;
  4. From liberty to abundance;
  5. From abundance to complacency;
  6. From complacency to apathy;
  7. From apathy to dependence;
  8. From dependence back into bondage"

Where do you think our society falls in this progression? I'd put us somewhere between 5 and 7, but maybe I'm being unduly pessimisstic. I hope.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Kurds

Michael Totten has an excellent article on the Iraqi Kurds in Azure.

There's much to learn from reading it and you won't find this kind of information many other places. Here are just a couple of excerpts:

Ethnic Kurds make up around 20 percent of Iraq's population. They, along with Persians, are indigenous to the upper Middle East, having lived there long before Arabs invaded from the south and Turks from the east....The majority live in the northern mountains, high above the dusty plains of Mesopotamia, in the officially recognized and constitutionally sanctioned Kurdish Autonomous Region. There, the war is already over. In fact, the war was hardly fought there at all.

Erbil, the largest city in Kurdistan, has suffered three terrorist attacks since coalition forces terminated the Baath regime in 2003. The second-largest city, Suleimaniah, was struck only once. The third-largest city, Dohuk, has never been hit at all. More people have been wounded or killed by terrorists in Spain than in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2003. No one has been kidnapped.

Indeed, it is hard to overstate how pro-American the people of Kurdistan are. They are possibly more pro-American than Americans themselves. If Bill Clinton was America's first "black" president, people in at least one part of the world say Bush is the first "Muslim" one: He is sometimes referred to in Kurdistan as "Hajji Bush" (meaning that he made the Muslim pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca), an undeniably high honor for a Republican Christian from Texas. No, Kurdistan is not a "red state," and Kurds are not Republicans. Nor does it occur to most of them to prefer America's conservatives over its liberals. Rather, their warm feelings of gratitude and friendship extend to all Americans and both political parties for having liberated them from the totalitarian dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

So Saddam launched the genocidal Anfal Campaign in 1986 to ethnically cleanse the Kurds from his country. "They wanted to remove all the Kurds from everywhere in Iraq," Rostam said. "They just destroyed whole villages and provinces and moved people into collective towns and concentration camps. Some of the Turkmen villages around here were demolished for the same reason. The point was to make it an Arab area, and no other."

Iraq's Kurdish cities were devastated by air strikes, artillery, and chemical weapons. Forests were clear-cut. Concrete was poured into wells. Between 100,000 and 200,000 people were murdered in massacres, and 85 percent of Kurdish villages were destroyed. Tens of thousands, including children, were tortured to death in prison blocks.

"We believe if the Americans withdraw from this country there will be many more problems," Colonel Mudhafer said. "The Sunni and Shia want total control of Iraq. We are going to get involved in that. Iran is going to be involved in that. Turkey is going to be involved in that. Syria is going to be involved in that. The Sunni and Shia fighting in Baghdad will pull us in. We are going to be involved. Turkey and Iran will make problems for us. It is not going to be safe. All the American martyrs will have died for nothing, and there will be more problems in the future. Americans should build big bases here." For obvious reasons, the idea of the American military garrisoning its forces in Kurdistan is wildly popular among the Kurds.

Those who work with the United States in the Iraqi government, the Iraqi army, and the Iraqi police are already on the hit lists of numerous death squads, terrorist cells, and militias. Doctors, lawyers, writers, journalists, and countless others have already been singled out for extermination for choosing democracy and civil society over politics by bullets and car bombs. The terror that plagued Pol Pot's Cambodia in the 1970s and Algeria in the 1990s now stalks every decent person in the center and south of Iraq.

There's much more information on the Kurdish people and their role in Iraq at the link.


The Myth of the Naked Public Square

There is a myth that has circulated throughout our culture for over a generation now to the effect that we must be vigilant to keep our public-policy debates free of all religious assumptions. Religion, we've been told over and over, has no place in our public conversation. It's all about the separation of Church and state, don't you know.

This myth does great harm to our civic life because it essentially undercuts the possibility that any position one takes on an issue will be grounded in anything more substantial than personal taste. Consider a controversial social issue like capital punishment and imagine two people, Joe and Carl, debating it. Joe says he's opposed to capital punishment, and Carl asks why. What does Joe say?

He may respond by insisting that it's wrong to kill people, but, if so, Carl can simply ask him why killing people is wrong. Ultimately, Joe is going to have to rest his opposition to capital punishment on something other than his own subjective preferences, but the only solid ground he could rest it on is a conviction that God forbids killing. In the naked public square, however, that option is forbidden. The most that anyone can give as a reason for their position on capital punishment, or any of the issues we debate, is that "I don't (or do) like it," but that's hardly a compelling reason why anyone else should agree.

In other words, in a public forum which has been scrubbed clean of all religious references all debate comes down to a dispute over personal tastes and feelings, and in such a debate no one has any more moral authority or insight than anyone else. There's no possibility of appeal to transcendent objective values which could help inform our decision-making.

Indeed, the only way to prevail in public disputes is by amassing on one's side enough people who share one's feelings that one has the political clout to impose them by law on those who don't. In a world in which God has been banished from political discourse we don't win debates by persuasion, we win them by coercion. The person who can shout the loudest or who can gather the biggest mob is the victor.

Genuine public debates can only be carried out among people who share a common value system. If everyone agrees that God disdains killing then we can debate whether there may be reasonable exceptions to that principle. But if we expel God from our civic and social life we have no basis even for thinking that killing of any sort is wrong and, that being so, there's no place to stand if we wish to argue that capital punishment, or torture, or abortion, or gay marriage, or anything else, is wrong.

The irony of this is that the only people who can engage each other in the public square, the only voices anyone should bother to heed, are those of people who share a common belief in God. The atheist is really irrelevant because all he's doing when he says that X is wrong is telling us that he doesn't like X, and that may be an interesting biographical tidbit but it's nothing to build a policy upon.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another Myth Laid to Rest

Darwinians have for a generation or so regaled us with the statistic that we share 99% of our genes in common with chimpanzees and that this is strong evidence that both species have evolved from a common ancestor and are closely related.

Now it's turning out that the 1% difference is incorrect. Not only that, but researchers have discovered that most humans differ genetically from each other by about that same amount. In other words, even were the 1% figure true (It appears that the correct difference is closer to 6.5%) we would have to conclude that humans were as genetically different from each other as they are believed to be from chimps, and that therefore chimps would be as closely related to us as are our fellow humans.

This is nonsense, of course, and most scientists are quietly putting the human/chimp myth to rest in the same graveyard as the myth of the vestigial appendix has been recently interred.


A Little More Honesty, Please

ProteinWisdom offers some examples of how the left is framing President Bush's SCHIP veto:

"I disagreed with the president's position because he wants to leave out all the children." Dennis Kucinich, Democrat Presidential candidate

"We're holding these members of Congress accountable for standing with President Bush and against our children." Noah Winer, head of's health care campaign.

"You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement." Congressman Pete Stark

"Why does President Bush hate American kids?" Keith Olbermann host of MSNBC's Countdown

As each of these men knows, the President actually wants to increase, not cut, the number of children covered by the program, but he wants to keep the focus of coverage on children in the lowest rungs of the middle class. The Democrats want taxpayers to pick up the coverage of millions of children who are already covered by private insurance. The President wants to expand SCHIP by 5 billion dollars, the Democrats by 35 billion.

Over this disagreement his opponents are willing to say the kinds of things that are quoted above.

It really is sad that the public debate can't be conducted with more integrity than this.


Monday, October 22, 2007

IFA Week

This week has been declared Islamo-Fascism Awareness week on many college campuses across the country. Despite the efforts of Muslims and leftists to prevent or curtail it many college students will have their eyes opened by speakers and films to exactly what the Islamists have in mind for us and our children. A glimpse of that glorious future can be had here.

If ever these people have their way it will be the end of civilization. Don't watch the video with children present, but by all means watch it, especially if you're a woman. It's important that we understand the nature of the people who seek to spread their religion across the globe.


PC Mindlessness

Readers who harbor an abiding disdain for political correctness and the "white guilt," as Shelby Steele dubs it in his excellent book of that title, often spawned by it, will find nothing in the e-mail below that would elicit doubt as to whether their disdain is merited.

The writer is replying to an old Viewpoint post titled Dunderhead Watch, and the story she relates tells us much about at least one of the schools our children attend:

This article [Dunderhead Watch] hit home because I had a "Dunderhead" experience of my own when my oldest son, who is now 26, was in the sixth grade. At that time I worked as a teaching assistant for the school district in the school where this happened. One morning I came to work to find a note from my son's principal to come to the office. When I arrived at the office I was asked to sit down and wait for him to call me in. I have to say that I felt like I myself was back in school again! Once I got over my surprise of being called to the office, I looked around the room and saw another set of parents waiting. They looked a little angry and I wondered what had happened.

It didn't take long to find out ... A few moments later, my son and a black female classmate of his also came into the office. I was to find out that she was the daughter of the other parents who were also sitting in the office. Once inside the principal's office, he began yelling at me saying "do you know what your son called this girl (I honestly forget her name)? I said no, what? I was clueless. He called her a (the N word). He used the full term, but I dislike it so much I refuse to use it. He went on to say "Where do you think he has heard this before?"

Quite honestly I was in shock because neither my husband, my parents, his parents or anyone else that we were close to used that word. I am not trying to be naïve, but we just didn't. It was not in our vocabulary. Due to my shock at what he had just said, I was not able to speak so the principal went on to say "Do you know that these parents can sue you and your husband for what he said" and so on and so on. It was unbelievable!

After I finally got over my shock, I looked at my son and asked "Mike, where did you hear that word". By then he was crying, but very quietly said "we have been reading Tom Sawyer in class and that is where I heard it. I called her that after she called me White Honky Trash".

You could have heard a pin drop in the office. The other parents asked their daughter if she had called my son that and she said yes. They could not have been any nicer once the truth came out. We both apologized for what we felt was a poor way to use an educational tool by both of our children and then left.

The principal could not have apologized enough to me, but at that time I just said thank you and left to go back to work and sent my son to class. After a few days, once I had my thoughts together, I went to visit the principal. I told him that I felt that he had used terrible judgment in how he had handled the entire situation. First of all, I felt like I had been ambushed. Why had he not spoken to me and let me know why I had been called in? I was totally unprepared and apparently the other parents knew what had happened to land them in the principal's office.

I also did not appreciate how it had affected my son. He was scared to death to be called to the principal's office because not only had he been called to the office for the first time in his life, but he then had to face some very angry parents and hear how his Mom and Dad were going to be sued over something he had done!

I felt better after I spoke my mind, but to be honest I lost quite a bit of respect for the principal. That is difficult not only because I was an employee, but he was the principal of my son's school which is supposed to be what I always believed was an esteemed position and one that you hope employs someone who knows how to not only make smart quick decisions, but rational ones.

There was one other aspect of this. I had to handle this is in a very cautious way with my son around. Even though I felt one way about the man, I had to be careful about what I said to my son about it. He had to continue school there and I had another child who would also be attending in the next year. I wanted them both to still hold respect for the person who was the head of their school.

I will tell you that it was a lesson on learning that there are unfortunately "Dunderheads" out there in positions that teach, and you have to be very aware of who they are. Let's just say I was not as naïve after that experience as I once was and that was a good thing.

I don't blame the girls' parents for taking the matter to the school administration, given what they knew at the time, but of all the ways this situation could have been handled it's hard to imagine one which would have been more maladroit than the way it was handled. The principal, rather than seizing the opportunity to teach the boy that some words are hurtful and inappropriate and to teach him the virtues of apology, sought instead, I suspect, to ingratiate himself with the girls' parents by showing them that whatever some white people are like, he himself is completely pure on the matter of race and that he isn't going to tolerate any budding young skinheads and their parents in his school. It's a textbook example of what Steele talks about in White Guilt.

I wonder if the principal, having heard the little girl admit to her racial insult, lectured the girl's parents the same way he lectured the boy's mom, and I wonder if he told them that they could be sued. Probably not. Maybe he was angling at the time for a job at Duke.


Political Skepticism

In response to a post last week titled Truth Matters my friend Byron e-mails to ask me why I seem skeptical of the intentions of those on the political left. It's a good question since I am indeed skeptical of the short-term aims and long-term goals of some, perhaps most, of those in Congress, the media and the blogosphere who tend to position themselves along the portside rail of the ship of state. Here's By's query. My slightly amended reply to it follows:

The only reason I take the time to keep this little sidebar conversation going is to ask why you are so singularly cynical and skeptical of the motives and ulterior motives of the Dems? Wait, on second thought, I am not sure I want to hear why.

Too late to change your mind. Here's the root of my concern, By. Today's liberal leaders wish to move the country to the left in several ways which I think are truly harmful. They want to secularize the nation, lower or erase standards of sexual morality, define deviancy down, and socialize the economy, including health care. They also wish to emasculate American power and influence around the world and restrict individual freedom here at home. They long to banish distinctions of class and values and level everyone to the lowest common denominator. They see each of these as a desideratum, but they realize that the general public, were they aware of this agenda, would not stand for it, so they seek to implement it gradually, hoping that, like the frog in the pot, the public won't notice the rising temperature.

You might say that this is true, perhaps, of Marxists, but that it's not true of liberals. As someone once said, however, Marxists and liberals are traveling along the same road. The only difference between them is that Marxists are in more of a hurry.

People of the secular left tend to share in common the desire to push the boundaries of culture, society, the economy, foreign policy, etc., ever leftward, and there's no endpoint to the push. If there were then progressives would have to change their name to conservatives when the endpoint was reached. No matter how much change we undergo as a society it will never be enough to slake the progressive's thirst for more.

Along the way traditional institutions like marriage are undermined, and education, especially in the humanities, is diluted and debased. People who have strong family attachments are not good raw material for the progressive project nor are people who have some historical understanding of the founding principles of this nation or the major lineaments of world civilization. As I said, the march leftward is a slow trudge that takes generations to complete, and I don't mean to give the impression that it's a conscious conspiracy or that all liberals are on board for the journey - some no doubt oppose it - but the overall ebb and flow of the American culture war has been relentlessly leftward for the last 100 years.

The best way to stop this march to the cliff, perhaps, is to first recognize its manifestations and to then hold it up to the light of day. The more people see what's happening the better chance there is of heading it off.

None of this is to say that there is nothing good about liberalism. I've talked about this with you on occasion and explained that I think liberals are often much more attuned to human problems than are conservatives. Liberals also provoke conservatives to question assumptions and convictions they hold which may be indefensible. But the problem with liberalism is that their solutions to our problems - more government control, higher taxes, more spending, a weaker military, a libertarian socio-cultural milieu, a radically secular public square - are all, in my mind, dangerously wrong-headed.

So, when I see intelligent government officials and others doing and saying things that prima facie make no sense, and which would appear to people whose opinions and thoughtfulness I respect to have deleterious consequences for our nation or society, I have to wonder whether there is some reason they are saying and doing these things other than the reason they give. What is it, exactly, that they're trying to gain by doing what they do?

Anyway, even though you didn't want to hear it, that's why I'm skeptical of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid et al. They're the pawns and front men for people even more radical than themselves, and what they have in mind for my children and grandchildren is not what I hope for them.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Perversity of Modern Culture

James Watson the co-discoverer, along with Francis Crick, of the double helix structure of the DNA molecule, is an atheistic Darwinian evolutionist. He has recently created a furor in England with his comments that black Africans are simply not as intelligent as Europeans. The Sunday Times in London writes:

[Watson] says that he is "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really", and I know that this "hot potato" is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because "there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don't promote them when they haven't succeeded at the lower level". He writes that "there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."

Watson's remarks raise several interesting questions. Let's focus on just one for now: Which view of human origins is most likely to lead to genuine racism, the view that men have evolved the traits they have because those traits had survival value in the competition for resources, or the view that all men are created by God in His image and are loved equally by Him?

Ideas have consequences. The idea of materialistic Darwinism, what some scientists call "the greatest idea anyone has ever had," leads directly, as Richard Weikert has pointed out in his masterful book From Darwin to Hitler, to eugenics, racism, and final solutions. The Christian idea of equality before God, on the other hand, leads to the notion that all men have equal dignity, worth, and rights in the eyes of God.

The paradox and perversity of modern culture is that it wants desperately to condemn racism while at the same time embracing Darwinian assumptions that logically entail it. Moreover, modern culture, while professing its abhorrence of racism, is nevertheless eager to minimize, mock and reject the only worldview that is philosophically incompatible with racist ideology, Christian theism.

Very curious.


Not Too Thin

One of the considerations, or perhaps reservations, expressed by people when the topic of a military strike against Iran is brought up is how we can do such a thing when our military is stretched so thin in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The fact is, according to a Newsmax report, a strike against Iran would be carried out primarily by air and naval forces, neither of which are heavily involved in the ongoing conflicts elsewhere:

The new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that despite the commitment of U.S. forces elsewhere, the military is capable of conducting operations against Iran if called on to bomb nuclear facilities and other targets.

Adm. Michael Mullen told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday: "From a military standpoint, there is more than enough reserve to respond if that, in fact, is what the national leadership wanted to do, and so I don't think we're too stretched in that regard."

Defense and military officials have been preparing American forces within striking distance of Iran, according to the Washington Times. Attacks on the Islamic Republic would be carried out largely by the Navy and Air Force.

Officials say one target of any U.S. military action would be Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps facilities because of their role in providing insurgents in Iraq with armor-piercing roadside bombs. One official said the factory where Iranian bomb materials are being produced has been located.

A second target would be Iran's nuclear facilities, which are chiefly underground and spread across the country.

Appearing with Mullen at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it would probably spur other nations in the region to obtain those weapons themselves. That in turn would raise the risk of nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists.

But Adm. Mullen said the use of military force against Iran would be an option "of the last resort."

Let us hope that it remains a last resort but let us also hope that it remains a resort.


Friday, October 19, 2007

The Attack on Bhutto

Bill Roggio has details of the attack against former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The Islamists promised they would try to kill her if she returned to Pakistan and they did. She's a very brave woman.

As the toll from yesterday's ambush on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto convoy rises to 132 killed and upwards of 500 wounded, the details of the strike emerge. The attack was a sophisticated, coordinated strike carried out by professional terrorists. Conflicting reports exist, but it is clear at least one suicide bomber, and possibly two, conducted the attack, possibly in conjunction with snipers, a car bomb and a person throwing a hand grenade. The target of the attacks was the large truck carrying Bhutto and her senior advisors. Bhutto's convoy was surrounded by a massive cordon of police and party volunteers. The security arrangement had two rings: an outer cordon of 20,000 police and inner cordon of 5,000 volunteer's from Bhutto's political party as well as police.

At least one suicide bomber penetrated the outer cordon and hit the inner ring of security. The suicide bomb came close to hitting Bhutto's truck. "The blasts hit two police vehicles which were escorting the truck carrying Ms Bhutto. The target was the truck," senior Karachi police official Azhar Farooqui told Reuters. Witnesses said two dozen police vehicles "were completely shattered." About 15 to 20 kilograms of explosives were used in the attack.

There's more at the link.


Twilight of a Theory

Jerry Fodor is a philosopher and a cognitive scientist. He's also an atheist who has no time for creationism or intelligent design, so this article in which he concludes that it's time to discard one of the two main pillars of Darwinian theory, natural selection (adaptationism), is a bit of a shocker. Fodor says this:

The high tide of adaptationism floated a motley navy, but it may now be on the ebb. If it does turn out that natural selection isn't what drives evolution, a lot of loose speculations will be stranded high, dry and looking a little foolish. Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon. In science, as elsewhere, 'hedge your bets' is generally good advice.

Traditionally the two engines that drive evolution have been thought to be random genetic mutation and natural selection. Michael Behe has delivered a blow to the hamstrings of the first of these in his book The Edge of Evolution, and now a prominent atheistic materialist is forecasting the demise of the second. Soon all that will be left of Darwin's theory will be the concept of descent by modification, but how that descent occurs will be anyone's guess.

One guess that might appear more and more frequently will be that life was front-loaded into the evolutionary process. There will be speculation, I speculate, that laws are somehow woven into the cosmos that direct the evolutionary process toward the production of man. Human beings, it will be suggested, were the inevitable outcome of the first primitive chemical reactions that lead to the genesis of biomolecules. This teleological explanation, of course, sounds very much like the view that mankind, or at least, higher life forms, were consciously intended, and once that sort of speculation breaks out people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens will be suffering apoplectic seizures.

HT: Uncommon Descent



Joe Carter identifies a new taxon in the ideological zoo. It's comprised of individuals from Generation X who gravitate toward conservative ideas. He labels them X-Cons, a startling nomenclature, perhaps, given its similarities to the designation for former felons.

In any event, Carter talks about the characteristics of X-Cons here. Check it out and see if you qualify for membership.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another Headache in Iraq

If Turkey invades Iraq to punish the Kurds and we don't stop them will that give a green light to Iran to launch raids on the Kurds? And if we do try to stop the Turks what would be the ramifications of that?

This is a real mess and how well it's handled will be a measure of the Bush administration's diplomatic adroitness. Every American should hope that Turkey relents because if they do not the whole region could go up in flames.

Fortunately, good sense seems to have prevailed in the Democratic caucus and enough Democrats are backing away from the resolution to condemn Turkey for the massacre of Armenians in 1915 to place its future in doubt. The last thing we need right now is to offend the Turks with a formal condemnation of a crime committed by the long-gone Ottoman Empire ninety years ago.


Taking a Bite Outa' Crime

Apparently the criminals in this town don't read the papers. Either that or they're suicidal. Whichever it is one thing is fairly sure, there are fewer of them today than there were a month ago.


On Time and the Age of the World

Scientists tell us the universe is some 13 billion years old while young earth creationists maintain that according to the biblical book of Genesis it's only about 10,000 years old. So which is it? It may be that both sides are correct - it all depends on how we look at time.

Time is generally considered to be an objective dimension of reality. It's believed to exist independently of our human experience of it. If there were no humans, according to this view, time would still roll on. Perhaps this is correct, but there is another possibility. Suppose that time is not an objective phenomenon at all but rather a subjective phenomenon. Suppose that time, not just our sense of time, is actually something that our minds impose upon the world just like they create color, fragrance, sound, and so on. If there were no minds there'd be no color, only electromagnetic radiations. Color is the mind's interpretation of these radiations and perhaps time, too, is a creation of the mind.

If so, then time, like color or sound, did not exist until there were human perceivers (for the sake of brevity let's ignore animal perceivers) on earth.

If this is the case, then there may have been a vast sequence of events that led up to man's appearance on earth - a Big Bang, stellar life cycles, stellar nucleosynthesis, the origin of our sun and earth, the origin of living things, etc., but these events did not occur in our time frame. They were tenseless events.

To understand this, imagine videotaping a friend going about his everyday life for, say, two hours. Your friend would experience two hours of time elapsing, and, were you to view the tape, it would take two hours to watch it. The tape, however, could be sped up so that every event is still witnessed and still stands in the same relative spatio-temporal relation to every other event on the tape, but it only takes two minutes to watch it, or two seconds. Theoretically the information on the tape could be compressed so that it takes virtually no time at all.

To your friend "in" the film time would be unchanged, but from the perspective of you the viewer "outside" the film the lapse of time would be whatever you chose it to be. You, as an observer, are not in the same time as is your friend in the video and your perspective on the amount of time it takes for the events on the tape to unfold is completely different.

Perhaps, were we an observer embedded somehow in the universe during the events leading up to the appearance of human beings, it would seem to us to have taken billions of years, but since there were no observers to these events, at least not observers in our temporal frame of reference, it's really meaningless to talk about how long it actually took to go from the moment of creation to the first appearance of human beings. All the events that precede man's arrival might be compressed like a zip file, occurring almost instantaneously, though in the same relationship with each other, and then, once human minds appear, the occurrence of those events gets "stretched out."

Our minds place the events that scientists believe happened into a temporal context so that as we extrapolate back we say that an event that would today take one year would also have taken one year before there were minds, but in fact what we mean is that the event would have taken one year if there had been human witnesses to observe it. If there were no such observers, however, it is meaningless to talk about how long events took to occur. It's like asking what is north of the north pole. The events literally took no time at all.

Perhaps, the writer of Genesis is trying to put something like this into words we can understand when he talks about the days of creation. God creates the universe in a relatively brief period of time, perhaps instantaneously, perhaps more slowly. If this is so, then the Genesis account gives us a good idea of the age of human civilization, but how much time preceded the appearance of humans is inscrutable. It may have been very long or it may have been relatively brief or there may have been no time at all. We can only say that were those same events to occur in such a way that we could observe them they would take billions of years. Whatever time it actually took, however, was determined by God's temporal context, not ours, since He was the only observer.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Willful Suspension of Belief

Bill Roggio observes that even The Washington Post has taken note that things are looking much better in Iraq than they were just last spring:

Ten months after the announcement of the new counterterrorism strategy in Iraq -- often misleadingly referred to as "The Surge" -- and four months after the last combat brigade was positioned and major operations against al Qaeda and the Shia extremist groups began in mid-June, the US military can point to real results in the security field. Violence has dropped in Iraq, and dropped significantly.

The Washington Post laid out the evidence of the drop in violence in Iraq. Iraqi deaths are plummeting. US combat deaths -- which can be a poor indicator of success or failure -- are at a near all-time low. Al Qaeda's declared Ramadan campaign did not materialize. "The evidence of a drop in violence in Iraq is becoming hard to dispute," The Washington Post reported.

Maybe the Post will send the column to Senator Clinton. Having told General Petraeus that his testimony before the Senate required "a willful suspension of belief" and effectively branding him a liar, she would no doubt appreciate learning that Petraeus was telling the truth.


Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

You may have heard reports that an Air America (a liberal broadcasting network) radio host named Randi Rhodes was mugged in New York the other day. Without bothering to check with Ms Rhodes the left wing blogosphere and her co-host at Air America immediately deduced that the villains were conservatives who were trying to shut Ms Rhodes up.

You can read the details along with samples of the bizarre and hate-filled allegations here. They're pretty funny given that what actually happened was that Ms Rhodes fell while walking her dog and bumped her head. No mugging, no right-wing fascists, just a common accident and a lot of egg dripping down the faces of the left-wing paranoids at Daily Kos and Air America.


Do it Yourselfers

So you think you'd like to try nationalized health care. That's the system being touted by Senator Clinton who promises to get it for us if she's elected. It's also the system they have in Canada where those who are able come south for American medical treatment and those who can't often wait for months for the simplest procedures. It's also the system they have in England where dental patients, in pain and unable to find a dentist, are so desperate they're pulling their own teeth with pliers.

When was the last time you couldn't get an emergency appointment for dental care, or any other kind of medical attention? Looks like if Senator Clinton is elected President a year from now a lot more of us might be able to give an answer to that question. On the other hand, it may be good for us to learn the virtues of rugged individualism, self-reliance, and the use of hand tools.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Getting it Wrong

I was watching a talk show on Fox Saturday night, and a couple of the members of the panel roundly condemned conservative bloggers for "attacking" (I think scrutinizing is a much more accurate word) Graeme Frost and his family and for thrusting them into the media spotlight. The fact is that it was the Democrats who used this 12 year-old boy in an ad criticizing Republicans and the President for not supporting SCHIP. If Democrats are going to publicize his story then it seems inappropriate for them to complain if their opponents question the boy's family's circumstances and whether they really should be receiving taxpayer paid insurance.

Conservatives have indeed made a number of claims about the family's financial status (the value of their house, their income, the businesses the father owns, etc.). I have read that the data that has been cited is either mistaken (value of the house) or outdated (the business didn't do well) so the question of how wealthy the Frost family is seems to be up in the air, but it's a legitimate issue nonetheless.

What would not be legitimate would be to attack the twelve year old boy, which, to my knowledge, no one has, or to accuse conservatives of attacking him - as some certainly have - if, in fact, they did not.

One has to wonder why people would make such a terrible accusation if it were not true. For example, the progressive blog Think Progress has a post on this brouhaha that is either very dishonest or very dumb. They take information put out by conservatives about the family's financial abilities and present it as an attack on the boy. That sort of thing is inexcusably shoddy or malicious.

As I said, the financial circumstances of this family that some have cited may be out of date or otherwise incorrect, but for pro-SCHIP people, having introduced the Frosts into the debate, to say that their ability to buy their own insurance should not be part of that debate is absurd. To furthermore misconstrue references to that ability as an attack on the boy, as Think Progress does, is pretty low.

Here's another fact that makes this smear all the worse: The boy was not denied medical coverage. He actually received the help he needed under the old SCHIP program, the same program the President wants to expand. The President and others, though, are being maligned by their opponents because they don't want to expand it as much as the Democrats do. Bush wants to increase the program by five billion dollars. His opponents want to increase it by 35 billion.

Michelle's been following the whole thing here.

Parenthetically, one pro-SCHIP blogger has claimed that the left would never do anything like attack a child for political reasons, only the right would resort to such reprehensible tactics. Aside from the fact that no one has "attacked" this child at all, this claim is absurd for another reason. It turns out that two years ago the left actually did launch a vicious attack on young Noah McCollough.

Allahpundit reminds us that in 2005 the Republicans used nine year old Noah to tout their Social Security reform proposals, and the bloggers on the left savaged him. They made sexual references to him, called him a "budding young fascist" and made up a derogatory nickname for him.

Pretty disgusting stuff, but when all that matters is winning this is the sort of thing you get.


New Abortion Documentary

British filmmaker Tony Kaye tackles the subject of abortion in what is called a powerful and graphic new documentary.

"Lake of Fire," currently on limited release in the United States, unwinds over more than two and a half hours of interviews with some of the leading figures from the pro-life and pro-choice camps. But it is the graphic and disturbing depiction of termination procedures, filmed like the rest of the movie in black and white, that marks the film out.

"From the moment I started making the film I thought I have to show an abortion, which at the time had never been done before," Kaye, best known for his 1998 neo-Nazi feature "American History X," told AFP in an interview. "There was no question about whether or not that was the right thing to do because if I'm documenting two sides of the argument, that is one side of the argument and you have to show it," he said.

One scene depicts a doctor sifting through a surgical tray after performing a late-term abortion, where the grisly residue of an arm, a foot and part of a face can be clearly made out. "It's about as shocking as any motion picture can ever get. It's illegal to film someone being killed," said Kaye.

They may be the kind of images used by anti-abortion activists, but Kaye also doesn't shy from showing pictures of a kneeling and bent-over naked woman who died after performing a botched abortion on herself with a wire coat hanger.

Kaye worked for more than 15 years on "Lake of Fire" -- anti-abortion activist John Burt's description of the hell awaiting abortionists -- and said his goal when he set out was simply to show both sides of the argument.

"The concept was to make a film about the debate over the issue of abortion but to make it in a non-propagandist way and to create a kind of war of words." He said he wanted "to create this kind of a weave where we really explore the issue without taking any sides."

Even after spending years working on the project, Kaye, however, admits to not knowing where he stands in the debate. "My position on the subject is that I don't really know what's right. I didn't know much in the beginning... and at the end I was just as confused."

Well, he doesn't seem to be confused about the fact that he has been filming "someone being killed." If that is the case then surely Mr. Kaye can acknowledge that many abortions involve killing someone and at the very least we shouldn't be able to just do that for any reason whatsoever, which, in the U.S., we pretty much can.

By the way, Mr. Kaye states that no one has ever filmed an abortion before but I think the sequel to the 1980s anti-abortion film "Silent Scream," a film called "Escape From Reason," did that. Maybe not.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Dangerous Resolution

The Democrats are intent on getting us out of Iraq no matter the cost, and their latest tactic could wind up having calamitous consequences. It consists of a non-binding resolution, approved by the House Foreign Affairs committee, to censure Turkey for its massacre of Armenians over 90 years ago. Turkey is extremely offended by this resolution, which Speaker Pelosi promises to bring to a vote by the full House in November, and threatens to retaliate by shutting down access to our air base in Incirlik from which we supply troops in Iraq.

Turkey is also threatening to invade the north of Iraq to deal with the Kurds who are fighting a low grade insurrection against Turkey to carve out a Kurdish state in the eastern part of the country adjacent to Iraq. Our State department has been trying hard to talk Turkey out of such a move, but the Democrats' insult may have hardened Turkish hearts to our entreaties.

It may be that this resolution is not an attempt to make it harder for us to succeed in Iraq, but if it's not, what other purpose could it possibly serve? President Reagan already condemned the Armenian massacre back in 1981 and there are plenty of other massacres going on today (Burma, Darfur) that Congress could devote its energies to condemning. Why pick one that's almost a century old, and what purpose is served by it other than deliberately antagonizing an ally?

Jed Babbin's column on this at the link is an excellent overview of the situation and the Democrats' rationale for their resolution.


Good News on Cancer

Here's more good news on the battle against cancer: Death rates are dropping faster than ever, thanks to new progress against colorectal cancer.

A turning point came in 2002, scientists conclude Monday in the annual "Report to the Nation" on cancer. Between 2002 and 2004, death rates dropped by an average of 2.1 percent a year. That might not sound like much, but between 1993 and 2001, deaths rates dropped on average 1.1 percent a year. The big change was a two-pronged gain against colorectal cancer.

While it remains the nation's No. 2 cancer killer, deaths are dropping faster for colorectal cancer than for any other malignancy - by almost 5 percent a year among men and 4.5 percent among women.

One reason is that colorectal cancer is striking fewer people, the report found. New diagnoses are down roughly 2.5 percent a year for both men and women, thanks to screening tests that can spot precancerous polyps in time to remove them and thus prevent cancer from forming.

Still, only about half the people who need screening - everyone over age 50 - gets checked.

If you're over 50 and have never had a colonoscopy done call your doctor to get an appointment for one. The procedure is painless (although preparation for it is a bit tedious) and very effective. If you've never had one it's probably one of the most important things you can do this week.


Assassination Target

News agencies are reporting a terrorist plot to kill Russian president Vladimir Putin during his visit this week to Tehran. DEBKAfile has some details about the plot that I haven't seen elsewhere:

Vladimir Putin has decided not to accept his security services' advice to call off his trip Tuesday, Oct. 16 to attend the Caspian Sea summit and meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Its cancellation would damage Russian-Iranian relations.

Iran's foreign ministry dismissed the reports as "completely baseless and part of a psychological war to disrupt Russian-Iranian ties."

DEBKAfile's intelligence sources report that the assassination plot, hatched by three gangs which joined hands ad hoc, was betrayed to the Russians by a Chechen who was detained before he managed to slip into Iran and join the conspirators.

The three groups are: Chechen separatists, whose revolt is almost completely crushed in Russia; an al Qaeda-Taliban group bidding to settle scores with Putin for his denial of Muslim rights in Kosovo; and an ultra-extremist wing of the clerical regime, which accuses Russia of selling out Iranian interests as an American vassal.

Putin aroused their ire by his "treacherous" offer to transfer Iran's uranium enrichment program to Russia, his calculated foot-dragging on the delivery of fuel for the Bushehr reactor and delays in completing its construction. Moscow moreover is held accountable for voting twice with the United States on UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.

The cancellation of his trip would "damage Russian/Iranian relations," according to the above report. Does this imply that his murder would be less damaging to relations than cancelling the trip?


The Education Gap

The local Sunday paper yesterday ran another in the series of op-ed pieces I've been invited to write for them. The column (below)was based on a couple of posts I'd done for Viewpoint:

Recent test scores in the California reveal a glaring disparity in student performance between blacks and Latinos and their white and Asian counterparts - regardless of family income. According to state Superintendent of Instruction Jack O'Connell, "These are not economic achievement gaps. They are racial achievement gaps and we cannot afford to excuse them."

Statewide, only 30 percent of black students and 29 percent of Latino students scored proficient or better in English/language arts. In contrast, 62 percent of white students and 66 percent of Asian students scored proficient or better. In math, only 26 percent of black students and 31 percent of Latino students scored proficient or better, compared to 54 percent of white students and 68 percent of Asians.

O'Connell said the new state test scores clearly show that lower achievement by black and Latino students cannot be "explained away" as the result of poverty. "The results show this explanation simply is not true."

So what is the explanation?

Randolph Ward, San Diego County superintendent of schools claims that the achievement gap persists for several reasons. One is that the most experienced and talented teachers often work at more affluent schools, while younger and less experienced teachers fill slots at poorer schools, which typically enroll minority students. Less experienced teachers, Ward believes, have lower expectations of their students and that students unfortunately live down to what is expected of them.

I doubt, however, that this is the real reason for poor minority performance. Whether these students had highly experienced teachers or not their difficulties would likely persist. In fact, it's younger educators who often have the highest expectations from their students and are most enthusiastic about making a real difference in their students' lives. It's only through years of bitter experience that teachers come to realize that disproportionate numbers of minority students simply don't achieve at the level other students do.

Teachers usually love their students. They want them to do well. They long for them to succeed, but teachers also know their students' capabilities better than anyone, and they know that too many of them simply don't have the tools to compete.

The problem is not confined to California, of course. It afflicts almost every community and school across the nation.

So, why do relatively fewer minority students possess the tools necessary for academic success? If the reason isn't their teachers, nor racism, nor economics, we're left with two obvious possibilities. One is that Charles Murray was correct when he wrote in The Bell Curve in 1994 that some groups are, on average, inherently less capable than others. The second possibility is that the problem is cultural. Before we resign ourselves to Murray's very controversial thesis we really should make a concerted effort to take the second seriously.

Many minority students come from communities where, for whatever reason, neither traditional family nor educational excellence is valued. Many youngsters are allowed to dress, speak, and act as if they are mentally handicapped and proud to be so, and the culture in which they are immersed not only permits this perversity but often encourages it.

Moreover, students who grow up with only a single parent invariably find school more of a struggle than do those who grow up with both biological parents. The job of keeping after children to do their homework, or taking them to libraries, historical sites, and cultural events, is daunting to many moms who exhaust themselves just putting food on the table. When children, especially sons, grow to be about twelve or thirteen they're often very difficult for a single mother to control, and mom's pleas that the boy focus on academic work frequently go unheeded. Instead, young men, flush in their incipient manhood, often prefer to gravitate to the streets to affirm their masculinity by identifying with thugs, siring another generation of fatherless children, and dressing and talking as if their IQ were somewhere around the freezing point of water.

The problem certainly exists in every racial group in the country, but it's most severe in minority communities where almost 70 percent of children are born to unwed mothers (It's close to 90 percent in some urban neighborhoods). Until we begin to take the plight of fatherless children seriously all our talk about improving minority academic performance is just going to be so much wasted time and breath, and all our efforts to help minorities close the achievement gap will be like bailing floodwater out of New Orleans with a spoon.

The fundamental solution to the problems of our inner cities, whether the problem is educational achievement, poverty, or crime, requires reinvigorating and restoring the biological family and discouraging behaviors which send the message that it's cool to be stupid. Nothing else will make any real difference unless we do.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Truth Matters

Many of us grew up thinking that truthfulness was the highest of human virtues. Dishonesty was seen as a contemptible character trait and the liar was among the worst sort of people. To tell a lie as a child, especially to one's parents, was the source of considerable guilt. Without honesty and integrity, we believed, none of the other virtues could flourish, trust would diminish, character would become obsolete and society would unravel.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much what has happened. It's no longer the case that truth holds an exalted place in the catalogue of virtues. For many, especially among secular progressives, truth has been stripped of its status as an objective good in itself, and reduced to a pragmatic function, a tool to be employed in the service of promoting higher goods. Truth, in our post-modern world, is now seen as whatever works to advance whatever goal or project to which one aspires.

The change has had seriously deleterious, even tragic, consequences in our personal and corporate life. It has also had a terribly corrosive effect on our political life. Politicians, for some of whom power is the highest good because without it none of the lesser goods are possible, can lie about themselves and other people, and the lie, like base metal transmuted to gold, is transformed into something "true" and virtuous by the fact that it helps the liar succeed in acquiring the power, influence, and success he needs to promote his agenda.

Politicians all along the ideological spectrum lie, of course, but conservatives still generally believe that lying is a moral wrong. Liberals, particularly secular liberals, are less likely to feel bound by traditional moral assumptions, and thus more likely to distort and misrepresent the truth than are conservatives. Thus our recent politics is befouled by unseemly allegations which are at best irresponsible and at worst exceedingly harmful:

1. George Bush is labelled a liar for telling us there were WMD in Iraq when there apparently weren't. This charge was itself false because it was clear to anyone who looked at the matter that the intelligence services of the whole world thought Saddam had WMD. So did most Democratic senators. Bush may have been mistaken, but a mistake is not a lie.

2. Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh have had their reputations smeared by allegations of racism (O'Reilly) and insulting the troops (Limbaugh). Their accusers, including senators on the floor of the Senate, allege them to have said things the transcripts and witnesses affirm they clearly did not say. Nevertheless, the accusers have not relented or withdrawn their charges.

3. Senator Clinton insinuates that General Petraeus is dishonorable because his testimony doesn't conform to what she and others in the Senate expected to hear., without offering a shred of evidence, accuses the General of betraying his country in a full page New York Times ad which the Times originally gave them at a fraction of the going rate for ad space. Neither MoveOn or the Times has apologized.

4. Opponents of SCHIP are accused of not caring about the poor or the elderly because they do not wish to see health care be taken over by the government. Bush is accused of heartlessly cutting the program when in fact he wants to expand it but not as much as its proponents want.

5. False or misleading statistics are used to color the debate on everything from racial discrimination to the number of homeless, the severity of the threat of HIV, the prevalence of rape on college campus, the number of uninsured people in the U.S., and much else.

Lies and deception are an acid eating away at the fabric of our society. When our politicians lie to us and we lie to each other it dissolves trust and spawns suspicion. A society which has lost the ability to trust its leaders and to trust each other is a society doomed to disintegrate. John Adams wrote that our form of government was designed for a moral people and cannot survive under any other.

Progressives don't disagree with Adams, necessarily, but many of them simply don't think that lying about people or promoting falsehoods is really immoral as long as the cause is in their eyes just. Since the most just cause for them is the promotion of the liberal agenda, whatever works to advance that agenda is by definition good, even if they know, or should know, that it's not true.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Peace Prize

A blog called The Daily Gut speaks for many (including us) in presenting the case for who should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday:

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this morning, and I'd like to congratulate Irena Sendler. Sendler was a former history teacher who rescued 2,500 children during the Holocaust and was a top contender for the wondrous prize. Back during the early 1940's, Sendler was a Catholic social worker who had gone into the Warsaw ghetto to rescue Jewish kids who were destined either to starve there, or die in death camps. She would sneak the kids past Nazi guards, sometimes hiding them in body bags, or would provide them with false documents - inevitably getting them to Polish families for adoption, or hiding them in convents or orphanages. She also made a list of the children's real names, put them in a jar and buried them, so that some day she could dig them up and find the kids to tell them their true names. The Nazis captured her and beat the crap out of her, but she later escaped, and she went into hiding. She's now in her late 90's , living in a nursing home in Poland.

I want to congratulate her, because she didn't win the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead it went to Al Gore, the guy who invented the Internet. Go figure.

Actually, it's not all that hard to figure. The Nobel committee swoons over liberal nominees who hold all the "correct" views and who also hold celebrity status. The Goracle is all of those and more. There's no way he wasn't going to receive the prize despite the fact that Ms Sendler displayed personal courage that Mr. Gore has never had to exhibit and has saved more lives and done more good for humanity than has Mr. Gore. Ms Sendler is now a feeble old woman and Mr. Gore is a famous member of the glitterati. Ms Sendler is yesterday and Mr. Gore is the future. Ms Sendler risked her life to save lives but Mr. Gore risks nothing to make millions lecturing a fawning world about global warming.

The Nobel Peace Prize is a joke.

HT: Hot Air


Dim Prospects for Social Conservatives

First Things has a series of fine essays by Nat Hentoff, John DiIulio, and Joseph Bottom on the current crop of presidential candidates.

Hentoff is the rarest of political commentators, a staunch pro-life atheist leftist. Every paragraph of his portion of the article is a gem. For example:

I wish - although I know it is not going to happen - that at least one contender for the presidency would repeat what Cardinal O'Connor asked at the Harvard Law School (not a friendly audience for him but a challenge he enjoyed) in April 1986: "How safe will the retarded be, the handicapped, the aged, the wheel-chaired, the incurably ill when the so-called quality of life becomes the determination of who is to live and who is to die? Who is to determine which life is 'meaningful,' which life is not? Who is to have a right to the world's resources, to food, housing, to medical care? The prospects are frightening."

Hentoff thinks Hillary would be a disaster for the pro-life cause, but DiIulio argues that, from the standpoint of meeting our obligation to help the poor, Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee are the best candidates in their respective parties.

Bottum dejectedly observes that we should "be honest and admit what we all know: The weakest set of candidates in living memory has taken the field, and we still have more than a year left of watching these people, lumbering and blumbering toward the goal line." He goes on to make a strangely contradictory claim. He argues that Hillary has a lock on the nomination but will almost certainly lose to any candidate the Republicans put against her except Ron Paul. But oddly Bottum then goes on to express doubt that Guiliani would beat her.

He makes an excellent point, though, about what Americans have to look forward to should a Republican win the presidency and the Democrats pick up more seats in the Senate:

Nonstop congressional investigations of everything the president does, rejections of Cabinet members and Supreme Court justices, the Democrats freed of responsibility for actually prosecuting foreign policy - all pushed by a netroots base of leftist activists convinced that, once again, the presidential election had been stolen from them. No wonder some conservatives seem to think it would be better to go ahead and elect Hillary Clinton.

Bottum concludes that 2008 looks grim for social conservatives:

A Fred Thompson nomination, a slim election victory over Hillary �Clinton, a stealth pro-lifer slipped on the Supreme Court through a Democratic Senate - that weak �scenario is about the best a social conservative can hope for today. Everything else is bad. Very bad.

In my opinion this is much too pessimistic. The right man in office can still prosecute the war on terror, enforce existing immigration laws, keep spending and taxes down, and appoint at least two good justices to the Supreme Court. This last may be difficult, but depending on who the President is, it may not be impossible.

The country may be Slouching Toward Gomorrah, to employ the title of Robert Bork's famous book, but the right man in the White House, though he may not be able to turn things around without a sympathetic Congress, can at least keep us from falling completely over until the American people, perchance, come to their senses.


Hubris and Stupidity

For sheer hubris and stupidity it may be hard to beat the letter from some prominent Muslim scholars in which they warn that the "survival of the world" is at stake if Muslims and Christians do not make peace with each other. This claim is true enough, of course, but then they go on to say that:

"As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes."

I see. And this, one is expected to suppose, is what those evil Christians are doing everywhere one looks - waging war against Islam, driving poor Muslims out of their homes, teaching anti-Muslim hatred in their Christian schools, etc. Meanwhile, we find no mention in the report on the scholars' letter of the Muslim endorsement of executing Muslims who convert to Christianity or of the murders by Muslims of Christian missionaries in Afghanistan, Africa and Indonesia. Nor do we find mention of the fact that where Christians live as minorities among Muslims, as in Iran and Syria, they're being systematically driven from their homes and churches. There's no mention of the fact that in virtually every conflict being fought around the world Muslims are involved, often on both sides of the bloodshed, and that the hostilities are invariably initiated by Muslims. There's no mention of the fact that virtually every act of terrorism in the last twenty years has been perpetrated by Muslims, and virtually every case of murder and persecution involving actual Christians and Muslims has been perpetrated by Muslims against Christians.

For these scholars to suggest that Christians, qua Christians, are oppressing Muslims, qua Muslims, is ludicrous. Christianity does pose a threat to Islam, however, and it is this threat that probably provides the impetus for the scholars' letter. Wherever Muslims are actually free to choose between genuine Christianity and Islam, Islam is at risk, and it is this that the mullahs and imams interpret as an attack on their faith.

What Muslim scholars should be doing, if they feel compelled to compose such letters, is urging each other and their flock, if they really want peace, to emulate Christians instead of killing them.