Friday, November 30, 2007

Re: Sudanese Orcs

Kelly asks a good question about Islamic outrage over the Teddy bear named for Mohammed on our Feedback page. Meanwhile, the teacher who allowed her students to name the bear was sentenced to fifteen days in jail and is to be expelled from Sudan.

The savages are not happy with the sentence, however:

Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad." In response to the demonstration, teacher Gillian Gibbons was moved from the women's prison near Khartoum to a secret location for her safety, her lawyer said.

The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gibbons, who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation. She avoided the more serious punishment of 40 lashes.

They massed in central Martyrs Square outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed. They did not try to stop the rally, which lasted about an hour.

"Shame, shame on the U.K.," protesters chanted.

They called for Gibbons' execution, saying, "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

That she was put in prison at all is an outrage although being expelled from Sudan is surely a great blessing.


Cure For Big Egos

Stefan links us to this video which takes the viewer through a size comparison of various celestial bodies. It gives a whole different perspective to life on earth and shows how microscopically puny our world and its inhabitants really are.

There are some other videos on the same page which are also pretty impressive.


More Media Bias (Yawn)

CNN hosted the Republican debate Wednesday evening and, through either incompetence or appallingly bad journalistic ethics, utterly squandered whatever credibility they had as an objective news organization. No less than four of the people they had ask questions of Republican candidates were Democrat plants and one was even a Hillary campaign worker.

It's hard to imagine CNN allowing Republicans to ask questions of Democrat candidates and it's just as hard to imagine them allowing Republicans to represent themselves as "undecideds" when in fact they aren't undecided at all. Indeed, it's also hard to imagine CNN allowing Democrats to be subjected to any of the questions that were asked of the Republicans the other night.

Michelle has the goods.


Morris Defends Huckabee

Dick Morris was Mike Huckabee's political advisor in the early nineties so he knows him pretty well. He argues that, contrary to a lot of the sniping at Huckabee for being a tax and spend populist, he really is a fiscal conservative:

A recent column by Bob Novak excoriated Huckabee for a "47 percent increase in state tax burden." But during Huckabee's years in office, total state tax burden - all 50 states combined - rose by twice as much: 98 percent, increasing from $743 billion in 1993 to $1.47 trillion in 2005.

In Arkansas, the income tax when he took office was 1 percent for the poorest taxpayers and 7 percent for the richest, exactly where it stood when he left the statehouse 11 years later. But, in the interim, he doubled the standard deduction and the child care credit, repealed capital gains taxes for home sales, lowered the capital gains rate, expanded the homestead exemption, and set up tax-free savings accounts for medical care and college tuition.

Most impressively, when he had to pass an income tax surcharge amid the drop in revenues after Sept. 11, 2001, he repealed it three years later when he didn't need it any longer.

He raised the sales tax one cent in 11 years and did that only after the courts ordered him to do so. (He also got voter approval for a one-eighth cent hike for parks and recreation.)

He wants to repeal the income tax, abolish the IRS, and institute a "fair tax" based on consumption, and he opposes any tax increase for Social Security.

Huckabee is gaining momentum because he appears to be one of the few genuine social conservatives in the race. If he turns out also to be a fiscal conservative he will be a force to be reckoned with in the Republican primaries. It remains to be seen, though, what his detailed position on illegal immigration is. On that issue very few candidates find themselves in harmony with the electorate and it could prove to be the undoing of more than one of them.

The rest of Morris' column can be read here.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Henry Hyde (1924-2007)

A good man has passed away and we would be remiss if we didn't note his passing. Henry Hyde died today at the age of 83. This column describes part of Hyde's contribution to the pro-life movement.



Trent Lott is a senator from Mississippi, not Missouri, as we mistakenly had it in our post titled Political Terrorists.

We've corrected the original post and thank Jason for pointing out the error.


Sudanese Orcs

This is the thanks Gillian Gibbons gets for forsaking a comfortable life in England to go to Sudan, a suburb of Mordor, to work among the poor. She and her students named a Teddy Bear Mohammed and members of the religion of perpetual outrage are now calling for her to be whipped and even executed:

Gillian Gibbons faces 40 lashes and a year in jail after after being charged with insulting Islam.

Extreme Islamic groups said Mrs Gibbons "must die" and urged Muslims to hold street protests after prayers tomorrow.

Read the whole story. You'll marvel at the utter savagery of the Sudanese who think it glorifies God to call for the death of a kind, generous woman for having named a Teddy Bear Mohammed. What a vicious, cruel, bloodthirsty, stupid and petty deity they must think Allah to be. What vicious, cruel, bloodthirsty, stupid and petty people they themselves must be.


Defining Dangerous Down

Here's a nifty example of solving a problem by defining it away. Some of our nation's schools have been designated "persistently dangerous schools" (PDS). They are PDS because they have high rates of violent assaults. So how does Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) address the problem? She has introduced a bill that changes the designation "persistently dangerous schools" to "schools which do not have a safe climate for academic achievement."

"This will remove the stigma," she explains, "associated with high violence."

Well. We certainly don't want to stigmatize violence in our schools. When you stigmatize something you usually get less of it and why would we want less violence? Besides, if we stigmatize violence somebody might get the idea that our schools are filled with dysfunctional cretins and sociopaths and that would be misleading. They're not really filled with them, after all.

The article linked to above tells us that:

Chuck Buckler, Maryland's director of student services and alternative programs, said the original term is unpleasant -- akin to telling parents that they were sending their children to a war zone.

To be sure, we absolutely don't want parents to think that they're sending their children into Fallujah everyday, even if all the evidence tells them that they are. It's a comfort to these parents, we're sure, to be told by school administrators that all the stories of classroom and cafeteria violence they hear from their children, though not exactly untrue, are just not helpful in creating a positive image of the school.

Another good way to avoid the appearance of being a war zone is to simply resist all but the most severe criteria that would identify your school as such:

In Virginia and the District of Columbia, offenses that meet the threshold (of being labelled a PDS)are those that would result in imprisonment: among them, homicide, arson and assault with a deadly weapon. In Maryland, they are offenses that would result in expulsion or a suspension of 10 days or more: bringing a weapon or drugs to school or engaging in repeated fights. Brawling, bullying and making threats generally do not count toward the designation.

So the day to day fear that many students and teachers live in doesn't count toward identifying your school as dangerous. Evidently, only if you've been murdered can you say that you attend a dangerous school.

More than half of the states require their benchmarks to be met for three consecutive years in order to receive the label PDS. In Maryland, a proposed policy that would have defined persistently dangerous schools based on only one year of data was thrown out because it would have identified 36 schools, according to the Department of Education report.

How clever. Everyone agrees that there can't possibly be 36 dangerous schools in the fair state of Maryland, or any other state, so let's simply not identify them as dangerous and then there won't be. What a wonderful solution. Let's try it with other things. Since there are too many poor people living in the U.S. let's lower the standard for poverty to, say, $5000 a year instead of $20,000 and we'll have solved the problem of poverty overnight!

At one school last year, Anacostia Senior High School, private security guards working under D.C. police recorded 61 violent offenses, including three sexual assaults and one assault with a deadly weapon. There were 21 other nonviolent cases in which students were caught bringing knives and guns to school. But Anacostia is not considered a persistently dangerous school and rightly so. After all, no one was killed.

Exactly. How can anyone say a school is violent if no one has ever been murdered there?


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Political Terrorists

Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi is resigning from the Senate and some lefty bloggers are gleefully insinuating that it's because he's been caught in a business relationship with a male escort. They offer not a shred of evidence, however, and the alleged escort has categorically denied it, but these people drag Lott's name through the slime anyway. See Right Wing Nut House for details.

For such people politics is total war. Whatever it takes to win is justified. They're the ideological equivalent of General Sherman burning everything in sight on his march to the sea. In total war there's no such thing as a banned weapon or a war crime. No tactic is too low for them to employ. They would be delighted, it seems, to assist in the utter ruination of every member of the Republican party if they could.

It's ironic that when conservatives talk about a culture war over values raging in this country it's people on the left who look shocked that such a thing would ever be suggested. Meanwhile, like political terrorists, some of them continue to assassinate their opponents every chance they get while denying that there's any ideological conflict going on at all.


Pat's New Book

The conservative movement in the United States is split between what are called neo-conservatives and paleo-conservatives, and there's not much love among the latter for the former. Neo-cons tend to be prone to use force abroad in the name of justice and to use government at home to meliorate social ills. Paleos find both of these tendencies abhorrent.

Pat Buchanan is perhaps the most prominent of the paleo-cons, a segment of the conservative population which tends to be isolationist, nationalist, nativist, and fiscally libertarian (low taxes, small government). His new book, Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart looks to be a very controversial and very provocative read. I haven't read it yet so I don't know whether it's aimed at neo-cons or at liberals. Probably both.

You can read a summary of it here.


The Irrationality of Science

Paul Davies points out the flaw in any science which claims to be based upon reason rather than faith in an essay in the New York Times. Here are a few highlights:

Science, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith....In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

The last sentence is an irritatingly common misrepresentation of faith. Faith is not believing despite the lack of evidence, faith is believing despite the fact that the evidence falls short of proof. Anyway, Davies is going to argue that science, like religion, is ultimately based on faith:

You couldn't be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.

The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs....But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do?

Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from "that's not a scientific question" to "nobody knows." The favorite reply is, "There is no reason they are what they are - they just are." The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality - the laws of physics - only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.

Can the mighty edifice of physical order we perceive in the world about us ultimately be rooted in reasonless absurdity? If so, then nature is a fiendishly clever bit of trickery: meaninglessness and absurdity somehow masquerading as ingenious order and rationality.

A second reason that the laws of physics have now been brought within the scope of scientific inquiry is the realization that what we long regarded as absolute and universal laws might not be truly fundamental at all, but more like local bylaws. They could vary from place to place on a mega-cosmic scale. A God's-eye view might reveal a vast patchwork quilt of universes, each with its own distinctive set of bylaws. In this "multiverse," life will arise only in those patches with bio-friendly bylaws, so it is no surprise that we find ourselves in a Goldilocks universe - one that is just right for life.

The multiverse theory is increasingly popular, but it doesn't so much explain the laws of physics as dodge the whole issue. There has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and bestow bylaws on them. This process will require its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from? The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.

Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith - namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

This is correct if ultimate reality is physical but not if the ultimate reality is God. If beyond our universe lies something else that is physical then it's true that we lack an exhaustive explanation of physical reality because we have not explained that part of it which transcends our world, but if underlying all physical being is a non-physical Being then that Being provides an exhaustive explanation, at least in theory, of the physical reality.

Davies concludes:

But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.

Beyond the fact that this essay is guaranteed to send materialists into a tizzy it's also notable that Davies is saying what many philosophers - most prominently, perhaps, Alvin Plantinga - have been saying for decades: If the physical is all there is then ultimately the universe is non-rational. The rationality that scientists impute to the universe and which forms the epistemic foundation for their investigations of it can only be justified if the ultimate explanation for the universe is an intelligent, rational mind.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Coming to a Theater Near You

Here's a seven minute preview of the forthcoming expos� titled Expelled featuring Ben Stein. The film addresses the attempt by Darwinian materialists to suppress and purge any and all challengers to Darwinian orthodoxy from positions of influence in the academy. It's must viewing for anyone who still clings to the idealized view of the university as a forum for the free exchange of ideas.

Since the 1960s many universities have come to see themselves not as places where students are taught to think critically, challenge ideas, and learn "the best that has been thought and written," but to serve as reeducation camps for indoctrinating students in left-wing ideology and materialist philosophy. It's an unfortunate development and one that has taken place largely beneath the radar of the parents who are paying for their child's indoctrination.

Expelled will be released in February.

HT: Uncommon Descent


Birth of a Friendship

This article in the Chicago Tribune has a fascinating account of how a Sunni insurgent became an ally of American troops:

Earlier this year, Abul Abed, a disgruntled Sunni insurgent leader, began secret talks with the Americans about ending Al Qaeda's reign of terror in this run-down, formerly middle-class Baghdad neighborhood, renowned as one of the city's most dangerous. He had been gathering intelligence on the group for months.

One day in late May, he said, he decided it was time to act.

He hailed the car carrying the feared leader of Al Qaeda in the neighborhood, a man known as the White Lion, on one of Amariyah's main streets. "We want you to stop destroying our neighborhood," he told the man.

"Do you know who you are talking to?" said the White Lion, getting out of his car. "I am Al Qaeda. I will destroy even your own houses!"

He pulled out his pistol and shot at Abul Abed. The gun jammed. He reloaded and fired again. Again, the gun jammed.

By this time, Abul Abed said, he had pulled his own gun. He fired once, killing the White Lion.

"I walked over to him, stepped on his hand and took his gun," Abul Abed, which is a nom de guerre, said at his new, pink-painted headquarters in a renovated school in Amariyah, as an American Army captain seated in the corner nodded his head in affirmation of the account. "And then the fight started."

It was the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda in Amariyah. The next day, a firefight erupted. Al Qaeda fighters closed in on Abul Abed. Most of the 150 men who had joined him fled. Holed up in a mosque with fewer than a dozen supporters, Abul Abed thought the end was near.

"The blue carpet was soaked red with blood," he recalled. Then the imam of the mosque called in American help.

A friendship was born.

It is common to hear critics of the war argue that the reason things are better in Iraq today has nothing to do with the surge and everything to do with the fact that many Sunnis have turned against al Qaeda, but this is a puerile argument. It seems much more likely that both the American surge and Sunni desperation at al Qaeda tyranny have combined to turn the course of this conflict.

As the above account makes clear people like Abul Abed would not have survived were they not able to call upon beefed up American forces to defend them against al Qaeda. Nor would the Sunnis have been eager to challenge al Qaeda despite the terrorists' atrocities were it not for the knowledge that the U.S. would be there to support them and wasn't going to abandon them.

The surge may not be the only reason things are looking up in Iraq, but it is certainly a necessary reason. Without it there no progress would have been made at all.


How Science Explains Stuff

In an article on the origin of life (OOL) in Scientific American physicist Paul Davies says this:

In 1995 renowned Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve called life "a cosmic imperative" and declared "it is almost bound to arise" on any Earth-like planet. De Duve's statement reinforced the belief among astrobiologists that the universe is teeming with life. Dubbed biological determinism by Robert Shapiro of New York University, this theory is sometimes expressed by saying that "life is written into the laws of nature."

In other words the laws of nature are such as to make the origin of life an inevitability, notwithstanding that no one at present has any idea how it happened or could have happened. Even so, De Duve and others say, it had to have happened through purely material processes and forces because the laws of nature dictated it. And how do we know they dictated it? Because it happened.

So, when materialism can't explain the exquisite fine-tuning of the cosmos materialists posit a multitude of other universes that are empirically undetectable in order to increase the probability that one like ours would arise by chance.

When materialism can't explain consciousness materialists simply deny that such a thing exists.

Now, because they can't explain how life might have evolved by purely mechanistic processes they posit the existence of laws that have never been detected that make the appearance of life a matter of course.

This is great sport, but it causes us to wonder where it will end. Will someone someday rub his chin and say, "Hmm, maybe the simplest explanation for all these phenomena is not an infinite number of worlds, or inscrutable laws of nature, or the denial of a consciousness that we're all conscious of having? Maybe the simplest explanation is that there's an intelligence out there somewhere behind all these phenomena which are so hard to explain in terms of materialism."

Such a possibility is certainly no less speculative than mumbo jumbo about other universes and mysterious, unknown laws of physics. It would also be, in its way, a Grand Unifying Theory of dozens of otherwise hard to explain phenomena.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Right/Left Hemisphere

This optical illusion is pretty amazing. According to the article, if you see the girl spinning clockwise, that means you're using the right side, or more creative side, of your brain. If she appears to be moving counter-clockwise, then that means the left side, or more logical side of your brain, is dominant.

What the article doesn't say is that if you focus on where her legs pass each other and visualize the elevated limb passing in front of the other when it appears to be passing behind it you can actually get her to switch directions. I guess this means that your brain is switching hemispheres.

Of course, you have to ignore the fact that the young lady appears to be in her altogether to get the illusion to work at all.


Huckabee's Populism

We here at Viewpoint have been following Mike Huckabee's progress in the Republican nomination wars and have found much about him to like and some things about which are troubling. Some conservatives, however, like Jonah Goldberg, find him, or rather his economic populism, actually scary.

I agree that there are reasons for concern, and it will be important for Huck to allay some of the fears being expressed by conservatives. Goldberg says this about him:

So what's so scary about Huckabee? Personally, nothing. By all accounts, he's a charming, decent, friendly, pious man.

What's troubling about The Man From Hope 2.0 is what he represents. Huckabee represents compassionate conservatism on steroids. A devout social conservative on issues such as abortion, school prayer, homosexuality and evolution, Huckabee is a populist on economics, a fad-follower on the environment and an all-around do-gooder who believes that the biblical obligation to do "good works" extends to using government -- and your tax dollars -- to bring us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

For example, Huckabee has indicated he would support a nationwide federal ban on public smoking. Why? Because he's on a health kick, thinks smoking is bad and believes the government should do the right thing.

It will be interesting to see how Huck responds to this sort of critique over the course of the campaign. I am especially anxious to hear his views on illegal immigration. He has said that he favors a robust enforcement of the border but then everybody says that. We'll see.


A Man's Got to Know His Limitations

A lot of people have drawn the conclusion that because intelligent design proponents lost the Kitzmiller v. Dover Board of Education case a couple of years ago that therefore ID was somehow refuted. This is an unfortunate misconception. As we have written elsewhere, the case may have been rightly decided but much of the reasoning and at least one of Judge John Jones' conclusions was deeply flawed.

The judge almost certainly exceeded both his proper role and his expertise when he gave as part of the rationale for his ruling the claim that intelligent design is not a truly scientific hypothesis. This is not something that a judge is competent to decide, and for Judge Jones to try to do so was as absurd as if he tried to rule on what constitutes art or sport.

The Judge, in fact, tacitly admits that he strayed beyond his purview in an interview on the Lehrer Report. Casey Luskin reports about it here.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Re: Common-Good Conservatism

Byron offers some dissenting thoughts on our post titled Common-Good Conservatism on our Feedback page. As always, he makes some good observations.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Do the Right Thing

We noted over a week ago the good news that recent developments in stem cell research have made the use of human embryos as a source of stem cells unnecessary. The LA Times has a story on this by Richard Hayes, the executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland. In the course of the story Hayes makes a rather stunning admission:

But the great unreported story of the cloning debate is that research using cloning also has been viewed skeptically by many scientists and public interest advocates who identify as liberals, progressives and supporters of women's health and reproductive rights.

Many have noted the immense technical hurdles that would have to be overcome before cloning could ever be used therapeutically. Others are concerned about access and affordability, given that cloning-based stem cell therapies would likely cost upward of $100,000 a treatment. Still others recognize that the development of cloning techniques for research would open the door to human reproductive cloning and an array of high-tech eugenic and "designer baby" applications. And many women's health leaders are concerned about the risks posed by the fact that millions of women's eggs, which are the raw materials of cloning, would be needed each year if the promised era of personalized medicine through cloning were ever to materialize.

As soon as religious conservatives called for embryo cloning to be banned, however, liberal leaders reacted by uncritically embracing it. From that point on, it was an uphill struggle for liberals who otherwise supported stem cell research to raise questions about cloning without being portrayed as dupes or fellow travelers of the Bush administration.

In other words, at least some of the apparent support for cloning human embryos was based on nothing more than a desire not be associated with Christians or George Bush. Apparently some liberals would rather keep their concerns to themselves rather than be found on the same side of an issue as George Bush or religious conservatives. It gives us a warm feeling to think that so many of our nation's citizens are so highly principled.

I wonder how many scientists are also skeptical of Darwinism but dread being associated with creationists, or skeptical of some aspect of the current global warming enthusiasms, but quaver at the thought of being on the same side of the issue as the Bush administration.

It's all reminiscent of high school social dynamics. These people would rather be popular and politically correct than do the right thing.


Common-Good Conservatism

Further evidence to support the belief that most people who vote have no idea what they're voting for: In one of the most inscrutable political moves ever made by the voters of Pennsylvania the man who wrote the following lost his senate seat a year ago to an all but anonymous liberal Democrat for no discernable reason other than that the challenger was a Democrat:

Let's be honest: How much credit do Republicans get for helping the poor? Let me tell you from firsthand knowledge - none, in terms of votes.

Understanding the reason requires a quick look back over how voter attitudes changed over the last 70 years. In the 1930s and 1960s, the Democratic Party, with huge congressional majorities, began giving tax dollars to the poor based solely on need. A dispirited Republican minority acted like cheap Democrats: agreeing to these big-government programs, but for less money. As a result, Democrats have been rewarded with the enduring allegiance of poor and working-class voters. It is easy to conclude that money talks in politics. I would suggest that initiative and caring do, too.

But after 50 years, Americans woke up to the ill effects of no-questions-asked government giveaways: welfare dependency, family disintegration and hopelessness among the poor. They also awoke to the effects of liberal class warfare: high taxes and a stagnant economy with high inflation.

The Reagan revolution rung in an era of lower taxes across the board and a push to scale back the size and scope of government. The revolution succeeded in cutting taxes and transforming the economy, but it was less successful in actually shrinking government than it was in limiting its growth. However, the rhetoric further convinced the poor and working poor that even though they knew the current system wasn't working, Republicans were not on their side. That was in spite of the passage of the most successful policy aimed at helping the working poor, the Earned Income Credit.

In addition to policy successes, the Reagan revolution realigned the country politically. "Reagan Democrats" came to the party because of their belief in core American values of respect for life, support for the traditional family, and a strong national defense. Many of these voters were Catholics who also brought with them more of a concern for the poor and less of an aversion to government programs.

In the 1990s this integration resulted in a conservative movement based on the Catholic concept of subsidiarity. Described by Pope Leo XIII in the late 1800s, the principle of subsidiarity suggests that social ills should be addressed by institutions that are as close to the need as possible, starting with the family and working out.

What I call "common-good" conservatism not only relies as much as possible on private charities and faith organizations, market forces, individual choice and decentralized decision-making, but also sees a role for government in empowering the nongovernmental institutions of civil society that serve the common good.

For example, with the use of government vouchers, individuals are better able to choose a nonprofit service provider that is better for their families than a government program is. Similarly, taxpayers are at least as capable as Washington bureaucrats of choosing an effective charity that aids the poor in their communities. So why not eliminate most government grants and give a tax credit to individuals who give to poverty-fighting nonprofits? Unlike past conservative proposals, that measure would be aiming not to save money but to save lives.

Common-good conservatism creates the opportunity for services to be more effectively delivered to those in need, while helping to re-create a community, a place to reconnect. And for Republicans, it creates an opportunity to reconnect to the millions of Americans who think we don't care.

This is former senator Rick Santorum sounding like Mike Gerson sounding like Mike Huckabee sounding like George Bush. For fifty years the preferred solution to poverty among Democrats has been to take from the rich and give to the poor. Unfortunately, six trillion dollars later, the poor are as numerous now as ever because simply throwing money at them does nothing to resolve the reasons they are poor in the first place.

Government has largely usurped the role of meliorating poverty previously filled by community organizations like churches and charitable organizations which are best suited to provide the oversight and discipline necessary to help people lift themselves into the middle class. Not only does government tend to perpetuate by its policies a culture of poverty, not only is it poorly equipped to teach the values needed to eliminate that culture, but, as Marvin Olasky writes in his wonderful book The Tragedy of American Compassion, government usurpation of the role played by local institutions has caused those institutions to largely abandon those roles and to atrophy like a limb that's no longer used.

Whether we call it Compassionate Conservatism (Bush), Heroic Conservatism (Gerson), or Common-Good Conservatism (Santorum) the key to winning the struggle to truly help the poor requires empowering those institutions closest to the people to instill in them the set of attitudes, disciplines, and moral values they must have in order to join the middle class. Simply sending people a check every month almost guarantees that they and their children will remain stuck where they are for the rest of their lives.

Booting out of the senate people who have a strong record of assisting the poor and replacing them with an empty suit - just because the empty suit belongs to the party that wants to send the monthly checks - doesn't help much either.


Friday, November 23, 2007

The Ultimately Real

Go here and look at the upside down pictures of George Bush. They appear to a casual observer to be pretty much identical, but they're very different as you quickly see if you click on the image.

What is it about the brain that causes it to process upside down images differently than the same image right side up? How much of the world do we fail to see because our brains simply don't recognize it? How much different is reality from what we perceive it to be?

Perhaps the world in which we live and move is to the ultimately real world like the world of actors in a movie projected onto a screen is to the three dimensional world of the audience in the theater. Perhaps the ultimately real is comprised of additional dimensions in which we are embedded that our brains are simply unable to process and to which we are oblivious.

If so, the ultimately real could surround us and yet be impossible for us to imagine. We could no more conceptualize it than a blind man could conceptualize the color red. Trying to imagine it would be like a man born deaf and blind trying to imagine what he feels and smells as he sits on a crowded seashore is really like.

Among our philosophical prejudices is the prejudice that the world is pretty much as we experience it. This was the conviction of the prisoner chained in Plato's cave until he was able to break free and climb out of his prison and behold the world in the light of the Good, the Beautiful, and the True.

Perhaps reality is in fact something like it is portrayed in this parable titled Plato's Cave for Modern Man.


Huck and Chuck

Mike Huckabee's first campaign ad is out. I'm not sure it makes much sense, but then few campaign ads do, I guess.

Joe Carter takes issue with a National Review piece critical of Mike Huckabee's fiscal populism as governor of Arkansas and makes a case that between Huck and Romney the Huckster was the more fiscally conservative governor.

If Huckabee finishes strong in Iowa, which polls show him doing, he will be a major player the rest of the way out because he will have a great deal of appeal for Republican moderates and social conservatives. He will also seem an attractive alternative for many Evangelicals who would have otherwise gone to Romney.

I just wish he didn't look so much like Richard Nixon.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Wishes

Bill and I wish all our readers a wonderful Thanksgiving. Each year on this day we've run the original Thanksgiving Day Proclamation issued in 1789 by George Washington. It's worth reading. Here it is:


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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let's Humiliate Our Friends

First the Democrats sought to pass a bill that would censure Turkey for an atrocity committed 90 years ago. Then they wanted to cut off aid to Pakistan as long as Pervez Musharraf was running the show, now they want to cut off aid to Ethiopia. Quick quiz: What do Turkey, Pakistan and Ethiopia have in common? Time's up. They're all allies of the U.S. in the war against radical jihadism. Ethiopia, especially, is fighting the Islamists in Somalia which takes a lot of pressure off of us.

Next question: What principle is driving the Dems to embarrass and weaken those who are helping us in our fight against the extremists? If you said the desire for justice you might be right, but you'd have a hard time proving it. The Democrats have been relatively silent in the face of injustices elsewhere in the world. Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Iran, China, North Korea, and Sudan are all tyrannical states or on their way to becoming so, yet there's very little stomach on the left for doing much of anything significant to change them. Why, then, are they suddenly aroused from their slumbers when they find abridgements of democratic principles among our friends but not when they occur among our foes?

Perhaps you reply that we don't have as much leverage with our enemies as we do with our friends. This is true, of course, but if one is concerned with justice there are ways to embarrass the perpetrators of injustice other than withholding aid. The condemnation of Turkey wasn't a matter of withdrawing money, it was a matter of passing a resolution. If Ethiopia's lack of a totally free press is the reason for the left's displeasure where are the vocal denunciations of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe and the rest of their fellow malefactors?

Third question: Since all the bad guys in the second paragraph are hostile to the U.S. is there a pattern here? Do the Democrats seek to punish those who are useful to our national security while giving those who despise us a pass? If so, why?

Last question: Can people so perverse or so maladroit be trusted to run the foreign policy of this country?


My Grandfather's Son

I recently finished reading the much talked about memoir by Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas titled My Grandfather's Son. Thomas describes a rather turbulent life from his days as a poor boy growing up in Pinpoint, Georgia through the rebellion of adolescence to his historic tribulations as a Supreme Court nominee.

The entire book is a good read, offering as it does valuable insights into the complex character and thinking of one of the most powerful men in America, but to anyone who followed the debacle of his Supreme Court nomination, the last several chapters are riveting.

One comes away from the book with his political cynicism intact, if not reinforced. Consider, for example this passage where Thomas, while employed at the Department of Education during the 1970s, asks a staffer to find a study that would show that black students do better in integrated schools than in segregated schools:

[I was told] that none existed. I asked why it was so widely accepted that black children were better off in integrated schools. He replied that integration had nothing to do with education: the point of busing white and black children to each other's schools was to encourage their parents to move to those neighborhoods. I was aghast, and had no doubts whatsoever that most blacks would have felt exactly the same way. All the black parents I knew tolerated the disruption of busing solely because they wanted better educational opportunities for their children, not so they could live next door to whites.

When Thomas gets to his confirmation hearings in 1991 the reader's cynicism soars even higher. The account of what he was put through, the attempt to destroy him personally, the lies and treachery he experienced at the hands of Anita Hill and others (Senators Howard Metzenbaum and Joe Biden don't fare well in Thomas' telling of the story), is beyond disgraceful. Yet Thomas treats those who acted so shabbily toward him with fairness and grace.

Even if Anita Hill were telling the truth when she accused Thomas of once, a decade earlier, making inappropriate remarks in her presence, the fact that she never expressed any disapproval to him and instead treated him as a friend - someone she admired - until the day he was nominated for the Supreme Court is beyond contempt. That she made the accusations for no apparent reason other than to destroy his career and to prevent him from taking a seat on the Court is an astonishing betrayal of a man who had helped her several times in her career. One wonders how she and those who used her can sleep at night.

In any event, there are heroes in the book as well as villains. Thomas' grandfather is one of the former (although it's sometimes hard to see why). Senator Jack Danforth is another, and there are more.

All in all it's a very good read, especially for those interested in recent American history and for those who like biography. I know that Hearts and Minds has the book in stock.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Nose of the Camel

Why can't they ever just tell us what they're really trying to accomplish? Why does the left so often package their agenda in camouflage gift wrap?

All through the S-CHIP debate conservatives were saying that the ultimate goal of the Democrats was to impose universal socialized health care on the nation by gradually expanding the coverage beyond just the poor and the young. Progressives denied the allegation by arguing that their intent was to do nothing more than help poor kids. Now, however, former Democratic governor of Iowa, and early presidential candidate, Tom Vilsack has tacitly admitted that conservatives were right and that S-CHIP was just a ploy to get the camel's nose inside the tent. In a speech at Drake U. last week Vilsack acknowledged that:

"I think there is going to be a commitment to universal coverage. I don't think it's necessarily going to be a sector by sector process. I think you either need to go in whole hog or not. We tried to sort of squeeze the middle here with doing children and doing seniors, and trying to squeeze it. If anything happens, it would more likely look something like this: you would extend eligibility for children from 200% of poverty to 300% of poverty, and create resources to insure the parents of those children."

In other words, the plan was to expand coverage to middle class children, then their parents and eventually to everyone.

Universal coverage is what they have in Canada and England. It doesn't appear to be working well there and there's little reason to think it'd work well here. What it would do is raise everyone's taxes and, if other countries' experience is any indication, lower the quality and accessibility of health care.

It's the dream of the left to fold more and more of the economy into the government in order to realize socialist nirvana but nowhere has socialism ever lived up to its promise. In every western nation in which it has been implemented it has sapped the country of its economic energy and vigor. For the left, however, it's better to have a limping economy than economic disparity.

Even so, there may be a case to be made for universal health care in the U.S. I just wish that its proponents would be forthright about what they're trying to do and let the case be judged based upon its merits. To try to sneak universal health care into our social structure without people realizing what's going on only causes one to doubt that there's a compelling case to be made for it.

HT to the ever vigilant Michelle Malkin who has more on this.


Tears of the Sun

The movie Tears of the Sun is about a team of Navy SEALs sent into Nigeria during a fictional civil war to extract an American doctor. The team is leading a group of civilians out of the country when they come upon a village in which the people are being raped and murdered by Nigerian soldiers. The team's orders for the mission are to take no action unless in self-defense, but the viewer can't help but think that the right thing for them to do is to intervene to save the lives of these poor people. As the Americans watch from a hillside the thugs douse a man with gasoline and prepare to burn him alive. A girl has her breasts cut off and is then raped while she bleeds to death.

As this scene of the movie unfolded I couldn't help wonder, is it not immoral to be able to stop such atrocities and yet refuse to do so? Is it not itself an atrocity to have it within one's power to protect people from the horrors of evil men and yet demur? Do we not have a moral obligation to save those we can from such a fate, even if it means the resort violence?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then should we not have intervened in Rwanda in 1994 to save the Tutsis from the Hutus (Watch Hotel Rwanda or Beyond the Gates)? Should we not have intervened in Darfur to save the victims of that genocide from the Sudanese Islamists in Khartoum? If the answer to those questions is yes, then why should we not also have intervened in Iraq to save the millions of people who were being slaughtered by Saddam Hussein?

I also wondered what pacifists like Howard Yoder or Jim Wallis at Sojourners would say if they were watching Tears of the Sun with me. Would they maintain that the SEAL team should bypass the village and allow the slaughter to continue? If the SEALs intervened and rescued some of the Nigerian children and women would Yoder and Wallis condemn them for their choice?

What would Jesus do, I hear someone ask. I don't know, but I can't imagine that He would just pass on by and let those women and children be savagely slaughtered, or that He would want us to.

If you think that the SEALs should avoid confrontation with the soldiers in that tragic village I urge you to watch the movie and then explain to someone why you think it would have been wrong for the Americans to use violence to help those people. I wonder if your words won't sound hollow even to yourself.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Joe Carter on Waterboarding

As a contribution to the ongoing debate on torture and waterboarding Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost offers up a couple of posts. In the first he asserts, amidst some disappointingly insulting rhetoric, that torture should never be legal. In the second he seeks to clarify his position, but his clarification seems a little muddled.

He says this:

I have almost no reservations when it comes to opposing torture or saying that it is immoral in almost all circumstances. But because I am neither a utilitarian nor a deontologist (my ethical view could best be described as a form of virtue ethics), I cannot say that there are no situations where these actions would not be morally justifiable. But torture should always be illegal and the price of breaking this law should be so high that we can expect that it will be used only in the most absolutely urgent of circumstances.

Because the torture victim must bear the cost of incredible pain and even death, the benefits to the torturer must be worth bearing some of the costs. Torture must not be cheap. But if the "ticking-time bomb" scenario is real, the interrogator should be willing to pay the price--even if it means his own death--to protect the lives of the innocent.

There are at least two things wrong with what Joe says. The first is that it is a confusion. If there are circumstances in which torture should be carried out then torture in those circumstances is, as Carter acknowledges, morally justifiable. This means that it may, under those circumstances, be the right thing to do, and it is folly to say that the right thing to do should nevertheless be illegal and that the person who does the right thing and perhaps saves thousands of lives thereby should be punished and perhaps even executed.

In his first post he had claimed that "As Christians we must never condone the use of methods that threaten to undermine the inherent dignity of the person created in the image of God." Now he is saying that a man who uses torture against a terrorist to save thousands of innocent lives might himself be legally put to death. This is an odd thing for one to say who has just insisted that we should never do anything to undermine the dignity of someone created in the image of God. Nothing undermines someone's dignity like taking his life away.

What Carter should say is that the torturer bears the responsibility of knowing that he must never resort to torture unless extraordinary circumstances obtain. To do otherwise would be to incur the risk of punishment, but, given those extraordinary circumstances, torture may be considered not only justifiable but perhaps even morally obligatory.

The second thing that's wrong with his clarification is that it seems that Carter has been arguing all along for a position he himself doesn't really hold. After excoriating Christians who refuse to adopt an absolutist position against torture he admits that he doesn't take an absolutist position either. He admits that there may be times when torture should be used and that's all anyone in the debate has ever said.

No one, certainly no Christian, thinks that torture should be undertaken lightly. Everyone agrees that torture should never be used as punishment, revenge, amusement, or as an ordinary interrogation tool. But neither should someone be guilty of a capital crime if, in order to save thousands or millions, he employs a technique like waterboarding which induces panic in someone who has the information needed to save those lives.

After many words and much insult Carter's argument seems to reduce to the truism that torture is wrong except when it isn't. But if that's all he's saying why does he bother to say it?


New Stem Cell Source

Amazing news out of Japan, via England, offers real hope for developing stem cells which can be used to heal numerous diseases without destroying human embryos. The technique is so promising that the scientist who developed the first cloned sheep, Ian Wilmut, has decided to adopt it for his own work.

Here are the basics:

Prof Yamanaka has shown in mice how to turn skin cells into what look like versatile stem cells potentially capable of overcoming the effects of disease.

This pioneering work to revert adult cells to an embryonic state has been reproduced by a team in America and Prof Yamanaka is, according to one British stem cell scientist, thought to have achieved the same feat in human cells.

This work has profound significance because it suggests that after a heart attack, for example, skin cells from a patient might one day be manipulated by adding a cocktail of small molecules to form muscle cells to repair damage to the heart, or brain cells to repair the effects of Parkinson's. Because they are the patient's own cells, they would not be rejected.

In theory, these reprogrammed cells could be converted into any of the 200 other type in the body, even the collections of different cell types that make up tissues and, in the very long term, organs too. Prof Wilmut said it was "extremely exciting and astonishing" and that he now plans to do research in this area.

This approach, he says, represents, the future for stem cell research...

There's much more about this development at the link.


What's That Smell?

Hard on the heels of the Norman Hsu campaign contribution scandal comes word that three of the people pardoned by Bill Clinton as he was on his way out the White House door have contributed thousands of dollars to his wife's presidential campaign.

Why is it that scandal and impropriety cling to the Clintons like a bad odor? Do we really want four, or eight, more years of all that all over again?


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Observing Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving it might be a good idea, just to deepen our understanding of why we celebrate the day, to watch a movie. Not just any movie but a movie that will impress upon us how glad we should be that we live in the United States and not somewhere else.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • The Lives of Others
  • The Pianist
  • Schindler's List
  • Beyond the Gates
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • Blood Diamond
  • Tears of the Sun

They're each R-rated, with all that that entails, so be advised, but each of them in its own way will make you thankful every minute that you watch it that you're an American living in this country at this time in history.

If anyone can think of other suggestions send them in via our feedback function by Wednesday, and I'll post them.


Coming to a Mosque Near You

This is a glimpse of what radical Muslims are blowing themselves up for in order to impose it upon your children:

A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

A court source told the English-language Arab News that the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism and forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public.

This story actually gets worse. Read the rest at the link.


A Uniquely Human Gift

Perhaps you've been wondering lately about the state of research into demonstrating the close kinship between apes and humans by teaching apes how to express themselves in language.

If so, you might be interested in an article by Clive Wynne in Skeptic. Wynne concludes that, contrary to popular misconception, all attempts to teach genuine language to apes have failed.

He notes that:

[T]he French philosopher Ren� Descartes observed that, "it is very remarkable that there are none so depraved and stupid, without even excepting idiots, that they cannot arrange different words together, forming of them a statement by which they make known their thoughts; while, on the other hand, there is no other animal, however perfect and fortunately circumstanced it may be, which can do the same." Descartes' opinion had survived three centuries unthreatened by possible contradiction....

But then researchers set about in the 1960s and 70s to teach apes to express themselves using signs and symbols. The hope among some was that if apes had the ability to develop language skills of some sort it would provide evidence of our evolutionary relationship. After some initially exciting results enthusiasm subsequently waned, and Wynne concludes:

Descartes was right, there really are no beasts, no matter how fortunately circumstanced, that can make known their thoughts through language. Next time you see [an ape] on a television documentary, turn down the sound so you can just watch what he is doing without interpretation from the ape's trainers. See if that really appears to be language. Somewhere in the history of our kind there must have been the first beings who could rearrange tokens to create new meanings, to distinguish Me Banana from Banana Me. But the evidence from many years of training apes to press buttons or sign in ASL (American Sign Language), is that this must have happened sometime after we split off from chimps, bonobos, and gorillas. Since then we have been talking to ourselves.

The problem is that apes can be taught to manipulate symbols but they cannot be taught (or have not been taught) grammar, which is the essence of language. This appears to be a uniquely human capability and thus the distance between us and our alleged anthropoid cousins seems to widen the more we learn about both them and us.

As we've noted before, it must be frustrating to be a Darwinian materialist nowadays. So little of what science is discovering about the world seems to support that view.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Twelve Myths

Ralph Peters discusses twelve myths of the 21st century:

  1. War doesn't change anything.
  2. Victory is impossible today.
  3. Insurgencies can never be defeated.
  4. There's no military solution; only negotiations can solve our problems.
  5. When we fight back, we only provoke our enemies.
  6. Killing terrorists only turns them into martyrs.
  7. If we fight as fiercely as our enemies, we're no better than them.
  8. The United States is more hated today than ever before.
  9. Our invasion of Iraq created our terrorist problems.
  10. If we just leave, the Iraqis will patch up their differences on their own.
  11. It's all Israel's fault. Or the popular Washington corollary: "The Saudis are our friends."
  12. The Middle East's problems are all America's fault.

Anyone who pays attention to the news outlets or reads what Democratic senators and congresspersons have been saying for the last five years has heard each of these in one form or another. Often they're stated with no supporting evidence and they're rarely questioned. Yet each of them is either false or, like #5 and #6, they make a point that's relatively trivial.

Read Peters' discussion of the errors of these twelve myths at the link.


Two Questions

There's something revealing about this line from a story at American Scientist:

"Civil engineers may be able to design more innovative and improved structures by borrowing from genetics."

Why are structures like bridges and buildings, whose engineering is borrowed from the biological world, considered to be well-designed, but the biological structures which they copy are just the product of blind chance?

Why do we repeatedly find structures in nature which have a design far superior to anything that intelligent engineers have developed yet those biological structures are assumed to be the result of blind, unintelligent, unintentional accident while the relatively inferior efforts of engineers are evidence of intellectual brilliance?

Just asking.


How They Did It

Kimberly Kagan at The Weekly Standard writes a thorough account of how the Surge accomplished the task of largely eliminating the threat of al Qaeda in Iraq. The strategy and tactics she describes may well be a major part of the curriculum in our war colleges in the decades ahead.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Our Next Prez?

Senator Clinton boning up for her first term:

Thanks to Hot Air for the pic.

Trojan Horse

Reading a rather confusing column by Mort Kondracke on illegal immigration recently I was reminded of the old proverb, born at ancient Troy, to the effect that one should be very skeptical of Greeks offering gifts. Kondracke is so very concerned that the Republicans avoid the fatal mistake of making illegal immigration an issue in the coming campaign that he offers them the gift of some advice that contains within it the seeds of their own defeat.

Rather than opposing illegal immigration, which, Kondracke kindly reminds Republicans, is likely to alienate Hispanic voters, we should instead be digging into our wallets to help illegals cope with life in the U.S.

He thinks Congress should:

temper legitimate concern in the country about the local burdens resulting from failure of the U.S. government to control its borders ... [by extending] federal "impact aid" to communities whose schools and health facilities are especially affected.

What a wonderful idea. Don't stop illegals from entering the country, just pour more money into those areas that are hardest hit by the costs imposed by tens of thousands of poor people flooding their communities. That will be a winner at the polls.

This is the best we can do, Kondracke wants us to believe, since any less generous measures will only cost Republicans the Hispanic vote. Anti-illegal immigrant efforts are a political loser, he assures us, and out of deep concern for Republican electoral prospects he urges them to resist the temptation to embrace such efforts. The voting public, he avers, is not sympathetic to attempts to close down borders and to deny illegals citizenship. This strange claim he supports with very tenuous evidence.

For example, he writes:

Even though past election results overwhelmingly indicate that enforcement-only campaigns don't succeed - indeed, by offending Hispanics, pose a long-term threat to the GOP - Republicans seem bent on making illegal immigration a centerpiece of their 2008 campaigns.

GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson are accusing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani of having run a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants, and Giuliani is trying to turn the fire onto Democrats. At this rate, things could get ugly next year, with Republicans waving the "A" word - "Amnesty" - like a bloody shirt.

The latest election results demonstrate anew that it doesn't work. In Virginia, where Democrat Tim Kaine was elected governor two years ago despite late anti-immigrant attacks by his GOP opponent, nativist campaigns failed in key state Senate and county board races.

Kondracke then totally undermines his narrative by citing cases where anti-immigrant candidates have indeed won and also by acknowledging that measures such as awarding driver's licences to illegals are extremely unpopular:

It's true that in Prince William, county board members bent on ousting illegal immigrants by denying them public benefits and having them arrested were handily re-elected.

So which is it? Does the public want the tidal wave of illegal immigration to continue or does it not? What happened in New York recently may offer some insight.

Governor Eliot Spitzer had proposed giving illegals driver's licenses but has since been forced by the massive public pressure that Kondracke says doesn't exist to abandon the idea.

One gets the feeling that Kondracke doesn't want Republicans to take a strong position against illegal immigration precisely because he fears that it would be popular with the voting public and that it would put Democrats at a serious disadvantage. They would be seen not only as the party of defeat in Iraq but also as the party of open borders, a combination that could be electorally fatal. Better, in Kondracke's view, to persuade Republicans not to alienate Hispanics by doing nothing much on immigration and thereby decline to take advantage of Democrat weakness on this issue.

We have made the case at Viewpoint that we cannot allow our borders to remain porous and have offered a solution that would combine justice and compassion. It's a proposal that should be adopted by every politician who wants to get out front on this issue.


McCain's Macaca Moment

I suppose I should say something about Senator McCain's "macaca" moment, i.e. his inappropriate response to a questioner who asked him "how we beat the bitch" (meaning Senator Clinton). I think several things:

1. The faux outrage by the likes of Keith Olberman over McCain's failure to admonish the questioner is as hypocritical as it is fatuous. Where was the outrage among Democrats when Senator Harry Reid called George Bush "a loser" in front of school children or when Senator Kerry called him a "f-ing idiot" or when lefties of various denominations call him or the Vice-President murderers, liars, Hitler clones, chimps, etc? Senator McCain's reaction to Senator Clinton being called a bitch is to what Democrats have called President Bush as a burp is to a hurricane.

2. Sen. McCain's apparent acquiescence in the questioner's insult of Sen. Clinton is not incompatible with other things that I've read about his temper and his mean-spiritedness (See The Ugly Side of John McCain). It is symptomatic of a character that I would be uncomfortable voting for even though I agree with Sen. McCain on many of the issues at stake in the coming election.

3. If the election next year is between Senator McCain and Senator Clinton I would still vote for Senator McCain. He is not only much the better qualified of the two, he is not the one, after all, who used the derogatory term. Senator Clinton, however, has been reliably reported to have on occasion used demeaning language to describe Jews. She is reported to have once called a campaign aid an "f-ing Jew bastard," and she essentially called General Petraeus a liar. That seems to me to be far more offensive than any alleged shortcomings in John McCain's character.

4. My favorite all along has been Mike Huckabee. It still is.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Heroic Conservatism

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President Bush, has written a wonderful book based on his years in the White House. The book, both a manifesto and a memoir, is full of insights into the events of the last eight years and also into the character of George Bush. Gerson titles it Heroic Conservatism and in it he calls for a conservatism that refuses to turn its back upon the poor. He thinks that conservatism is the best hope for the country's future, and one gets the impression that he thinks liberalism, about which he says almost nothing, is pretty much incompatible with, or irrelevant to, our national well-being.

In some ways the book is mildly self-serving. Gerson praises Bush's vision, for example, by quoting throughout the volume what Bush said about this or that issue, but these words were often written for Bush by Gerson himself.

He's also a little unfair to traditional economic conservatives who he faults for lacking sufficient compassion for the disadvantaged. He says that traditional disdain for big government leads many to a libertarian view that market forces will by themselves somehow pull the poor out of the mire of destitution, and he faults some for opposing welfare reform and other initiatives to help the poor. This all seemed a little strange to read since it's not so much government itself that conservatives abhor but rather the tendency of bloated, profligate government to squander our tax dollars, wasting them on ineffective programs.

It's bureaucratic ineffectiveness and incompetence that provoke conservative contempt, not government per se. It was also strange that Gerson chose to criticize conservatives for opposition to welfare reform in the nineties when in fact this was a reform initiated by Republicans and opposed almost exclusively by liberal Democrats.

Such quibbles aside, however, Gerson's prose scintillates and the portrait he paints of George Bush will be a real eye-opener for anyone who gets their news from the mainstream media and who believes Bush to be both stupid and evil.

Heroic Conservatism is a call for conservatives to stand against oppression and tyranny around the world and to make the poor a priority here at home. He grounds this call in an explicit Christian worldview that informs everything Gerson (and Bush) believes. It's a book that gives the reader a good idea of the conservative thinking embodied in Ronald Reagan and George Bush and which appears to be the brand of conservatism represented in the current crop of presidential candidates by Mike Huckabee. It is, one hopes, the kind of thinking that will set the agenda of our nation for decades to come.

You can get the book at Hearts and Minds Bookstore. If you're interested in politics and political ideas you're certain to enjoy Heroic Conservatism.


Word of the Year

The New Oxford American Dictionary has chosen its "word of the year." It is ... locavore. Never heard of it, you say? Neither have I. You can check it out here.


House to House

Michael Totten has an excerpt on his site from a book written by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia about the battle for Falluja. In the excerpt Bellavia describes an encounter he had as he and his men were going house to house to clear insurgents.

The language is rough, the violence is ghastly, but it is gripping stuff. The book is titled House to House: An Epic Memoir of War.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007


A few days ago a young man walked into a high school in Finland and opened fire, killing several students. What motivated the attack? It turns out that the killer, who called himself the natural selector, was a zealous Darwinian. The following is from his website:

Today the process of natural selection is totally misguided. It has reversed. Human race has been devolving very long time for now. Retarded and stupid , weak-minded people are reproducing more and faster than the intelligent, strong-minded people. Laws protect the retarded majority which selects the leaders of society. Modern human race has not only betrayed its ancestors, but the future generations too. Homo Sapiens, HAH! It is more like a Homo Idioticus to me! When I look at people I see every day in society, school and everywhere... I can't say I belong to same race as the lousy, miserable, arrogant, selfish human race! No! I have evolved one step above!

Humans are just a species among other animals and world does not exist only for humans. Death and killing is not a tragedy, it happens in nature all the time between all species. Not all human lives are important or worth saving. Only superior (intelligent, self-aware, strong-minded) individuals should survive while inferior (stupid, retarded, weak-minded masses) should perish.

The lawyer who represented families of the Columbine High School victims says this about the Columbine killers:

As the attorney for the families of six of the students killed at Columbine, I read through every single page of Eric Harris' jounals; I listened to all of the audio tapes and watched the videotapes, including the infamous "basement tapes." There cannot be the slightest doubt that Harris was a worshiper of Darwin and saw himself as acting on Darwinian principles. For example, he wrote: "YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE??? Natural SELECTION! It's the best thing that ever happened to the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak organisms . . . but it's all natural! YES!"

Elsewhere he wrote: "NATURAL SELECTION. Kill the retards." I could multiply examples, but you get the picture.

Yes, we do. Ideas have consequences. When people believe that they're animals like any other and that morality is an illusion created by our genes to get us to cooperate, who should be surprised that acts of nihilistic mayhem follow?

Materialistic Darwinism drains the human soul of all meaning and purpose. It empties us of all moral value and human worth. And then its votaries, like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, perversely accuse Christianity, the only belief system which actually offers a basis for exalting human beings, of being a bane upon the earth. How long will these people be allowed to get away with such fatuousness?


The Bottom Billion

There are a lot of people who wish to be able to do something to help the world's poor, but have no idea how best to do it. Indeed, a lot of the poverty aid we send abroad either never gets to the intended recipients (In some African states only one cent out of every aid dollar gets to the people who need it) or actually hurts the people it is intended to help.

The problems of the world's poorest people are almost intractable and cannot be solved simply by throwing money their way. Oxford's Paul Collier explains the difficulties in a book that is both depressing and hopeful. It's titled The Bottom Billion and in it Collier notes that there are roughly five billion people in the world. Approximately one billion are living in relative comfort and affluence. About three billion of the remainder are moving in the direction of increasing prosperity (an unprecedented historical achievement), but one billion, the inhabitants of about two dozen nations concentrated mostly in Africa, but including places like Haiti, Afghanistan, and Burma, remain mired in poverty and failure. Not only is their standard of living not rising relative to the other four billion, it's not rising in absolute terms either. In fact, in many of these countries it's declining.

Collier explains why this is with analytical and dispassionate professionalism and suggests what can be done to change it. Reading him one is struck with a confidence that one is reading a man who knows what he's talking about.

The problems he describes are so ingrained that no solution can be guaranteed to work, but there are some things that have a chance.

The first thing, though, is that we have to recognize that the bottom billion live in countries afflicted by one or more of four poverty traps that are like deep wells from which it is nearly impossible to escape. These are the conflict trap (war), the landlocked with bad neighbors trap, the poor governance trap, and the natural resource trap (having an abundance of a single valuable resource like diamonds or oil). This last seems counter-intuitive but Collier explains why being blessed with a valuable resource is often more of a curse than a blessing to the development prospects of the country.

Most of the book is spent explaining how these four traps keep the bottom billion in abject poverty. In the last few chapters he offers some suggestions as to what rich countries can do to meliorate their predicament. His prescription includes elements likely to displease both liberals and conservatives, but Collier is not an ideologue. He's a pragmatist who is not shy about criticizing the "headless hearts" who seek to assuage their pity for the poor by just doing something without really understanding what the problems are.

He argues that if we're serious about helping the poor in many of these failed states we have to be prepared, among other things, to use military force, a suggestion bound to cause fainting spells in liberal salons across Europe and North America. Nor is he shy about challenging those conservatives who think that we should either leave the poor alone or teach them capitalism. He argues (not very persuasively, I'm afraid) that we just can't do the former and (much more persuasively) that the latter is much too simplistic.

I recommend this book to anyone concerned about the problems of the world's poorest people and especially to students doing international studies or who are thinking about doing mission work in places like Africa.

You can order it at our favorite bookstore Hearts and Minds.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Puzzling Strategery

Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post is a consistently lucid foreign policy thinker who has written a critique of U.S. Middle East policy that one hopes is required reading at the State Department and the White House. If she's right, and she certainly makes a lot of sense, this administration has lost its way in how it addresses the problems posed by both our putative allies as well as our enemies.

The fact that Iran is undeterred in its quest to build nuclear weapons, that Saudi Arabia has jacked the price of oil to $100 a barrel, that Hezbollah and Hamas are as virulent as ever, that the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and that Pakistan is on the brink of collapse, all suggest that an all carrot no stick diplomacy isn't working very well. Indeed, the only thing going well in the Middle East right now is, remarkably enough, Iraq, but unless the issues in play in Pakistan, Iran and Syria are resolved, even that success, bought at such a high price, is at risk.

Read Glick's analysis at the link.


Wealth Undergoes a Global Shift

The Washington Post has an excellent article on the effects rising oil prices are having around the globe. There are winners and losers, but the winners are not necessarily the people who inhabit the oil-exporting countries. The residents of Chad for example see little of the wealth their oil has generated. Most of the oil revenue is going to buy weapons. Other winners are nations we wish weren't winning - Venezuela, Iran, Russia. One winner, perhaps surprisingly, is Alaska.

Losers include almost all third world oil importers plus China, South Korea, Japan, etc.

One country the article doesn't mention is Mexico which has a lot of oil. Evidently the revenues they're accruing from this blessing are not finding their way down to the poorest Mexicans, otherwise why would they risk the ordeal of a border crossing to come here to do stoop labor for a few dollars a day? Apparently, the Mexican government is getting rich while their poor throw themselves on the mercies of the American taxpayer.

Anyway, check out the Post article. It's an education.


New Oil Find

Here's interesting news: Brazil has discovered a major oil field lying just offshore. It has the potential to be as big as the reserves in Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Now if only our Congress would allow us to drill offshore and in Alaska we'd be awash in oil. As it is some analysts are predicting $4.00 a gallon gasoline within a couple of months.

If this prediction should come to pass don't blame the oil companies, blame a Congress which has blocked new drilling, made refineries prohibitively expensive to build and pretty much regulated nuclear power to the point where no one wants to build new power plants. If Congress had wanted to make us dependent on foreign oil they couldn't have devised a more effective way of guaranteeing that we would be.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thought for a Sunday

E.W. Bullinger provides an interesting commentary of the letters of apostle Paul in his The Church Epistles - Romans to Thessalonians and offers some fascinating insights.

In the beginning of the book, he discusses the organization and structure of the epistles and explains how the seven books can be grouped into two sets of three and four. Romans, Ephesians and Thessalonians making the set of three, and then Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and Colossians making the set of four. At first I was going to attempt to provide my own interpretation but I quickly came to see that it would be more expedient simply to use his words. He goes on to explain that Romans stands first, containing the A, B, Cs of Christian education...

Until its great lesson is learnt we know nothing. If we are wrong here, we must be wrong altogether. The Spirit has placed it first because it lies at the threshold of church-teaching.


The doctrinal portion, consisting of the first eight chapters, shows what God has done with "sins" and with "sin," and how the saved sinner has died with Christ, and is risen with Christ = made a son and heir of God in Him.

This is where Ephesians starts from! It begins not with man, but with God. It approaches its great subject, not from man's necessities, but from God's purposes. It is occupied not so much with what the saved sinner is made in Christ, but with what Chris is made to be unto him. It is God's point of view rather than man's.

In Romans we have the Gospel: in Ephesians the Mystery.

In Romans the saved sinner is shown as dead and risen whit Christ: in Ephesians as seated in the heavenlies in Christ; while in Thessalonians he is seen for ever in glory with Christ.

Romans takes up the sinner in his lowest depths of degradation: and Thessalonians leaves him on "the thrown of glory for ever with the Lord": while, midway between, Ephesians views us now by faith as already seated with Him there. Our feet have been taken out of the mire and clay (Romans 1); they are now set upon the rock (Eph. 1) and presently we shall be upon the throne 1 Thess. 4).


Viewed together, they form the A, B Cs of the Christian faith, as distinct from all else in the whole Bible - nothing like it is found elsewhere. All the rest is written for us, for our learning. But this is all about us. The course of instruction is complete, and it is perfect. It commences at the lowest point and leaves us at the highest.

Looking at the second set of four books we find that they are in pairs - Corinthians and Galatians follows Romans because they exhibit departure from its special teaching. The second pair - Philippians and Colossians follow Ephesians because they exhibit departure from its special teaching.

So that we have the whole course of church teaching; the complete curriculum of Christian education, set before us as a whole, positively and negatively.

In the three (Rom., Eph., and Thess.), we have "doctrine" and "instruction". In the four (Cor., Gal., Phil., and Col.) we have "reproof" and "correction". Here is seen how "profitable" these Epistles are for the perfection (i.e., the complete education) of "the man of God", fitting him out for every duty and every emergency.

But there is a further correspondence between these four Epistles.

The first of each pair, (Cor. and Phi.) exhibits practical departure, while the second of each pair (Gal. and Col.) exhibits doctrinal departure. That is to say, in Corinthians we have practical failure as to the teaching of Romans, while in Philippians we have a failure to exhibit in practical life the teaching of Ephesians as to the unity of the members of Christ's Body.

On the other hand, in Galatians we have doctrinal failure as to the teaching of Romans. This is why Gal. and Rom. are so much alike, as everyone knows; though, all that most can see in this likeness is that they were "written about the same time"! The real difference is that what is stated as "doctrine" in Romans is repeated as "correction" in Galatians.

So in Colossians we have doctrinal failure as to the teaching of Ephesian truth. In Ephesians, Christ is revealed and set forth as "the head of the Body". In Col. we have the doctrinal evils which come from "not holding the Head" (Col. 2:19)

Given this, we have an outline "structure" as follows:

A ROMANS. "Doctrine and Instruction." The Gospel of God: never hidden, but "promised afore". God's justification of Jew and Gentile individually - dead and risen with Christ (1-8). Their relation dispensationally (9-11). The subjective foundation of the mystery.

B CORINTHIANS. "Reproof". Practical failure to exhibit the teaching of Romans through not seeing their standing as having died and risen with Christ. "Leaven" in practice (1 Cor. 5:6)

C GALATIANS. "Correction." Doctrinal failure as to the teaching of Romans. Beginning with the truth of the new nature ("spirit"), they were "soon removed" (1:6), and sought to be made perfect in the old nature ("flesh") (3:3). "Leaven" in doctrine (5:9).

A EPHESIANS. "Doctrine and Instruction." The Mystery of God, always hidden, never before revealed. Jew and Gentiles collectively made "one new man" in Christ. Seated in the heavenlies with Christ.

B PHILIPPIANS. "Reproof." Practical failure to exhibit the teaching of Ephesians in manifesting "the mind of Christ" as members of the one Body.

C COLOSSIANS. "Correction." Doctrinal failure as to the teaching of Ephesians. Wrong doctrines which come from "not holding the Head" (2:9), and not seeing their completeness and perfection in Christ (2:8-10).

A THESSALONIANS. "Doctrine and Instruction." Not only "dead and risen with Christ" (as in Romans), not only seated in the heavenlies with Christ (as in Ephesians); but "caught up to meet the Lord in the air, so to be for ever with the Lord". In Rom., justified in Christ; in Eph., sanctified in Christ; in Thess., glorified with Christ. No "reproof". No "correction". All praise and thanksgiving. A typical Church.

The rest of the book provides a commentary on the seven Epistles and expands considerably on the structure and content above.

What a fascinating individual Bullinger must have been to have been able to glean such insights from his study. I am continually amazed as I read his work. I haven't finished The Church Epistles - Romans to Thessalonians yet but I already know that, like some of his other work, I'll read it again a second or third time. This is definitely a must-read volume that anyone who is serious about the Bible will want to have in their library. I suspect the folks at Hearts and Minds Books would be happy to get a copy to you.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Totally Uninspiring

Dinesh D'Souza talks about his recent debate with atheist Christopher Hitchens at his web site. Among other interesting morsels he offers this:

One of the most interesting questions in the debate was posed to Hitchens by a man from Tonga. Before the Christians came to Tonga, he said, the place was a mess. Even cannibalism was widespread. The Christians stopped this practice and brought to Tonga the notion that each person has a soul and God loves everyone equally. The man from Tonga asked Hitchens, "So what do you have to offer us?" Hitchens was taken aback, and responded with a learned disquisition on cannibalism in various cultures. But he clearly missed the intellectual and moral force of the man's question. The man was asking why the Tongans, who had gained so much from Christianity, should reject it in favor of atheism.

In my response, I noted that when the missionaries came to India, they sometimes converted people by force. Even so, many Indians rushed on their own to embrace the faith of the foreigners. And why? Because they were born into the low caste of the Hindus. As long as they remained Hindus, there was no escape; even their descendants were condemned to the lowest rungs of humanity. By fleeing into the arms of the missionaries, the low-caste Hindus found themselves welcomed as Christian brothers. They discovered the ideal of equal dignity in the eyes of God.

If we look at the history of Western civilization, we find that Christianity has illuminated the greatest achievements of the culture. Read the new atheist books and make a list of the institutions and values that Hitchens and Dawkins and the others cherish the most. They value the idea of the individual, and the right to dissent, and science as an autonomous enterprise, and representative democracy, and human rights, and equal rights for women and racial minorities, and the movement to end slavery, and compassion as a social virtue. But when you examine history you find that all of these values came into the world because of Christianity. If Christianity did not exist, these values would not exist in the form they do now. So there is indeed something great about Christianity, and the honest atheist should be willing to admit this.

By contrast, does it make any sense to say, as Hitchens does in his book's subtitle, that "religion poisons everything"? Religion didn't poison Dante or Milton or Donne or Michelangelo or Raphael or Titian or Bach! Religon didn't poison those unnamed architectural geniuses who built the great Gothic cathedrals. Religion didn't poison the American founders who were for the most part not Deist but Christian. Religion didn't poison the anti-slavery campaigns of William Lloyd Garrison or William Wilberforce, or the civil rights activism of the Reverend Martin Luther King. The real question to ask is, what does atheism offer humanity? In Tonga, as in America, the answer appears to be: Nothing.

Indeed. Atheism offers nothing to society except perhaps "gangsta" rap and art that consists of crucifixes immersed in urine. Atheism has inspired no charities, no hospitals, no feats of moral greatness, no great art or music. It inspires nothing because it is essentially nihilistic. It denies the existence of meaning, purpose, and hope in the world. It tells us that human beings are nothing but cattle, that we have no dignity or worth, that morality is an illusion. All of this leads to ugliness and despair. It's certainly not very inspiring.

On the other hand, it does inspire one question: Why, given the bleakness and sterility of the atheistic worldview, does anyone embrace it? I suspect that at least part of the answer for at least some atheists is that the denial of God enables one to reject certain moral constraints placed upon our sexuality. A recurrent theme in the biographies and writings of atheists from Bertrand Russell to Michael Onfray is the sexual liberation they desire and which atheism facilitates.

Like a man in the grip of homosexual lust who is willing to risk contracting HIV if only he can gratify his need in some anonymous bathhouse encounter, some are willing to embrace a meaningless, hopeless existence as long as they can have sexual pleasure. It's the same sort of bargain Dr. Faustus made with Mephistophilis and which proved his undoing. It's a bargain that has been destroying lives ever since the dawn of civilization.