Sunday, August 31, 2008

Israelis Prepare to Strike Iran

Carl at Israel Matzav has a fascinating discussion of the Iranian nuclear situation. First he reports this:

The Israeli cabinet has reached a 'strategic decision' not to let Iran go nuclear.

According to the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, whether the United States and Western countries will succeed in toppling the ayatollah regime diplomatically, through sanctions, or whether an American strike on Iran will eventually be decided upon, Jerusalem has put preparations for a separate, independent military strike by Israel in high gear.

So far, Israel has not received American authorization to use US-controlled Iraqi airspace, nor has the defense establishment been successful in securing the purchase of advanced US-made warplanes which could facilitate an Israeli strike.

The Americans have offered Israel permission to use a global early warning radar system, implying that the US is pushing Israel to settle for defensive measures only.

Because of Israel's lack of strategic depth, Jerusalem has consistently warned over the past years it will not settle for a 'wait and see' approach and retaliate in case of attack, but rather use preemption to prevent any risk of being hit in the first place.

Carl goes on to talk about why Europe is not interested in either diplomacy or sanctions and how it therefore seems as if the only options left, unless the U.S. acts, are an Israeli strike or allowing Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

It's a very informative piece.


Objections to Palin

Ed Morrissey considers the arguments against Sarah Palin seriatim and gives each the back of his hand. Here are the objections that have emerged from different quarters. You'll have to go to Hot Air to read his replies:

  • It's a desperation pick - McCain didn't make up his mind until Thursday!
  • Why would he put a small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?
  • McCain can't talk about experience any more - he's shot himself in the foot!
  • Troopergate! (An alleged "scandal" involving the firing of her state trooper brother-in-law)
  • Palin's pick insults more qualified Republican women like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Elizabeth Dole, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, etc.
  • Sarah Palin wasn't REALLY pregnant - it's her daughter's child. (This came up on the DailyKos, as you might expect, but I hear that Democratic Underground is running with it, which is also not surprising.)

This last, of course, is very odd. Even if it were true, why is it an argument against Ms Palin's fitness to serve that she encouraged her daughter to birth the child and is raising it as her own? If anything, and given that the child has Down's syndrome, it would be to her credit were it true. Of course, the far-lefties at DailyKos think that one has a moral obligation to abort children in cases like this so they see this rumor as a stain on her character and a serviceable enough clump of sleaze with which to smear her.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dumb Mistake

My thanks to Jared for pointing out my mistake about sons of candidates in Iraq. It turns out that contrary to what I wrote, Senator Biden, like Governor Palin, does indeed have a son headed to Iraq later this year.

My apologies to the Senator and to our readers for the error. It was a dumb mistake.

Nevertheless, the main point is still valid. Both GOP candidates have children serving in the war zone so the criticism levelled at politicians, usually Republicans, that they have no personal stake in their decisions to use force, won't work against McCain and Palin.


Irena Sendler

Last October we wrote about Irena Sendler. It has come to my attention that Mrs. Sendler passed away last May. I missed the notice of her passing, but I'm not surprised at that. She wasn't the sort of woman whose life and death would attract much notice. She was not, after all, a celebrity. She wasn't young or beautiful as the world sees beauty. She wasn't rich as the world counts riches. There was no glamour or scandal associated with her life, like there was with Princess Di. Nothing about her was the sort of thing that would cause Americans, infatuated as we are with athletes, Hollywood stars and rap artists, to mourn her passing.

She did, though, possess extraordinary amounts of both courage and compassion, and her story is amazing.

Irena Sendler (March 2007)

I urge you to go to the New York Times' article on her to learn why her's was a life the whole world should honor and her death one that the whole world should mourn.

Then, after you've read about her, consider this: She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year, but didn't win it. The committee which decides who should be honored with the award concluded that the most deserving recipient was Al Gore who did a slide show on global warming.

I wonder if Mr. Gore ever thought that maybe the right thing to do would have been to decline the award and insist it be given instead to Irena Sendler. I'm sure he was ashamed to accept the prize which manifestly belonged to someone like Mrs. Sendler.


New Politics

Why is Barack Obama so reluctant to let reporters access to the records of his public life? John Fund at the Wall Street Journal urges reporters to refuse to be dissuaded by the stonewalling that has greeted their attempts to find out a little more about who Barack Obama really is:

Chasing the rest of Mr. Obama's paper trail is often an exercise in frustration. Mr. Obama says his state senate records "could have been thrown out" and he didn't keep a schedule in office. No one appears to have kept a copy of his application for the Illinois Bar. He has released only a single page of medical records, versus 1,000 pages for John McCain.

Then there's the house that Mr. Obama bought in 2005 in cooperation with Tony Rezko, his friend and campaign fund-raiser -- a move the candidate concedes was "boneheaded." Rezko was convicted in June of 16 counts of corruption. (Mr. Obama was not implicated in Rezko's crimes.)

Rezko's trial raised a host of questions. Was Mr. Obama able to save $300,000 on the asking price of his house because Rezko's wife paid full price for the adjoining lot? How did Mrs. Rezko make a $125,000 down payment and obtain a $500,000 mortgage when financial records shown at the Rezko trial indicate she had a salary of only $37,000 and assets of $35,000? Records show her husband also had few assets at the time.

Last April, the London Times revealed that Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi-born billionaire living in London, had loaned Mr. Rezko $3.5 million three weeks before the day the sale of the house and lot closed in June 2005. Mr. Auchi's office notes he was a business partner of Rezko but says he had "no involvement in or knowledge of" the property sale. But in April 2004 he did attend a dinner party in his honor at Rezko's Chicago home. Mr. Obama also attended, and according to one guest, toasted Mr. Auchi. Later that year, Mr. Auchi came under criminal investigation as part of a U.S. probe of the corrupt issuance of cell-phone licenses in Iraq.

In May 2004, the Pentagon's inspector general's office cited "significant and credible evidence" of involvement by Mr. Auchi's companies in the Oil for Food scandal, and in illicit smuggling of weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime. Because of the criminal probe, Mr. Auchi's travel visa to the U.S. was revoked in August 2004, even as Mr. Auchi denied all the allegations. According to prosecutors, in November 2005 Rezko was able to get two government officials from Illinois to appeal to the State Department to get the visa restored. Asked if anyone in his office was involved in such an appeal, Mr. Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times last March, "not that I know of." FOIA requests to the State Department for any documents haven't been responded to for months.

After long delays, Mr. Obama sat with the editorial boards of the Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune in March to answer their questions about his connection to Rezko. He had no recollection of ever meeting Mr. Auchi. He also said he didn't understand a lot about house buying, and gave vague answers to other questions. Since then, he has avoided any further discussion of the Rezko matter.

Is this what the "New Politics" looks like?


The Torricelli Gambit

Jim Geraghty at National Review Online makes a tongue-in-cheek prediction:

One month from now, the Palin pick has proven a bonanza for the McCain campaign. A large chunk of Hillary's 18 million voters have been won over. Conservatives are unified and energized, and the previously-undiscovered "Maxim magazine vote" is suddenly giving McCain large margins among young males.

Joe Biden will disappear from the campaign trail, and we will later learn it was to see a doctor. A previously-undiscovered, vaguely ominous health issue will be discovered, and Biden will sadly announce that he cannot continue as Obama's running mate. With a sudden need for a new one, Obama will turn... to Hillary Clinton.

Call it the Torricelli gambit.

This is a reference to incumbent New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Torricelli who fell under an ethical cloud just before the election in 2002. With his poll numbers dropping off the chart he was pressured by the party to drop out of the race so Frank Lautenberg could be appointed to run in his place. Lautenberg won.

Maybe Geraghty's idea is not so tongue-in-cheek.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin

Here's the video of Sarah Palin's speech today after John McCain announced that she'd be his running mate. It gives a good idea of the kind of woman she is.

Thanks to Hot Air.


On the Job Training

Senator Obama's candidacy is historic, and we can all rejoice that the country has arrived at the place where someone like him can be nominated to run for the presidency. Even so, there is reason to be gravely skeptical that this particular candidate is the best man to pioneer the advance of minorities into the White House.

When one's political opponents say one is not ready to serve as president that can be dismissed as self-interested rhetoric. When one's own colleagues say one is not ready to be president it should give the electorate pause, but when the candidate himself says he's not ready to be president perhaps we should be very reluctant to see him ensconced in the Oval Office:

Senator Obama is correct in this clip. He has never run a business or a government, he has no military or foreign policy experience, his economic prescriptions seem untempered by practical experience, his past social associations and votes in the Illinois senate are not such as build confidence in his judgment, and his only demonstrated ability is in giving speeches off a teleprompter. He does do this exceedingly well as last night's acceptance speech demonstrated, but rhetorical grace is no substitute for a résumé.

John McCain could turn out to be a disaster, who knows? But as responsible voters we have the obligation to examine a candidate's qualifications and select the one who seems best prepared to do the job. It's quite likely that most of the people in your local chamber of commerce have a stronger set of qualifications than does Senator Obama.

HT: Hot Air


Liberal Fascism, Case in Point

A wealthy Texan by the name of Harold Simmons funded an ad which asks questions about Barack Obama's associations with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers. Now in a development that reveals something truly frightening about an Obama presidency, his lawyers are petitioning the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute Simmons and his organization, The American Issues Project.

Here's the ad that Simmons' group funded:

If the Obama people feel that Simmons has violated election laws why not take their complaint to the Federal Election Commission? By seeking an investigation by the Justice Department they're trying to use the Attorney General to intimidate political opponents and suppress political opposition. This is something that Democrats screamed about when they thought Nixon was doing it back in the late sixties.

If Obama wins in November will he be inclined to use his Attorney General as a political enforcer to silence his opponents and critics? He certainly gives us reason to think so by this move.

When Jonah Goldberg wrote that liberalism is a form of fascism he probably didn't expect Barack Obama to provide an illustration of the point.


McCain Picks Palin

John McCain has picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin has quite a story - she's a mother of five, the youngest of which is a Down's syndrome child that she and her husband chose to have rather than abort. She's a lifetime member of the NRA, a former high school basketball player, and has much more executive experience than either Senator Obama or Senator Biden. She's also been a relentless fighter against government corruption in Alaska.

Her acceptance speech today is worth watching. I'll post it as soon as it becomes available.

In the meantime, her selection raises two questions off the top of my head: Will Jacob Weisberg at Slate now write a column explaining how those who don't vote for McCain/Palin are sexist?

What will those critics of the use of American force who like to say that the politicians who send our young men to war have no personal stake in their actions say now? Both Republican candidates have sons in, or on the way, to Iraq. Neither of the Democrats have ever served or have family who has yet both of them support sending young men to fight and die. Obama promises to send more troops to Afghanistan and Biden voted for the war in Iraq.

This is turning into a fascinating election.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Search for a Cure for Deafness

New Scientist reports on a milestone in the search for a way to treat and perhaps cure deafness and hardness of hearing.

Since one of the major causes of hearing loss is exposure to loud sounds and since the amplitude of the noise to which we are exposed in modern life, particularly the noise to which young people who play their music at such high volumes are exposed, I suspect that a treatment for deafness will be in great demand in a decade or two.

This article offers hope.


The Ignoble Lie

Imagine for a moment that a Christian minister had written somewhere that even though he knows the stuff he tells children in their confirmation classes is factually wrong it's helpful in solidifying their faith and in making them committed church members. Suppose that the press got hold of such a statement falling from the lips of, say, Pat Robertson. What would be the reaction, do you think?

Well, it's happened, except it wasn't a Christian minister. It was a Darwinian evolutionist named Bora Zivkovic. In a rambling post on his blog in which he naively enthuses over liberalism and almost completely mischaracterizes conservatism, he talks about how it's necessary to be "sneaky" in presenting evolution in the classroom and how it's okay to lie to students about evolution if it helps them believe it:

You cannot bludgeon kids with truth (or insult their religion, i.e., their parents and friends) and hope they will smile and believe you. Yes, NOMA [the idea that science and religion deal with two different aspects or spheres of life, RLC] is wrong, but is a good first tool for gaining trust. You have to bring them over to your side, gain their trust, and then hold their hands and help them step by step. And on that slow journey, which will be painful for many of them, it is OK to use some inaccuracies temporarily if they help you reach the students. If a student, like Natalie Wright who I quoted above, goes on to study biology, then he or she will unlearn the inaccuracies in time. If most of the students do not, but those cutesy examples help them accept evolution, then it is OK if they keep some of those little inaccuracies for the rest of their lives. It is perfectly fine if they keep thinking that Mickey Mouse evolved as long as they think evolution is fine and dandy overall. Without Mickey, they may have become Creationist activists instead. Without belief in NOMA they would have never accepted anything, and well, so be it. Better NOMA-believers than Creationists, don't you think?

Evidently, Zivkovic doesn't think the facts are sufficiently compelling to persuade students to believe his brand of evolution so one must be prepared to forego the truth and resort to lies if that's what it takes to persuade the reluctant. One might wonder what evolutionary "facts" we believe today that the Darwinians have been lying to us about.

In his post, Zivkovic proudly proclaims that he's a liberal. Contemporary liberalism is a form of fascism, and fascists ever since Plato have believed the concept of the Noble Lie, the lie that's necessary to persuade those who are otherwise too reactionary to go along with the fascist program. Zivkovic stands in that ugly fascist tradition that stretches back to ancient Greece and runs through 20th century Europe into modern America. It's the tradition that holds that those who know what's best for us are justified in lying to us in order to get us to swallow the bitter medicine of social and political conformity. It's an idea that destroys freedom and democracy, which can only exist when people know the truth.

Next time someone tells you we should trust scientists who are, after all, only engaged in a dispassionate search for the truth, give them the name of Bora Zivkovic.

HT: Anika Smith



George Will weighs Obama's economic plans in the balance and finds them dangerously underweight.

Here's an excerpt discussing Obama's energy proposals:

But back to requiring this or that quota of energy from renewable sources. What will that involve? For conservatives, seeing is believing; for liberals, believing is seeing. Obama seems to believe that if a particular outcome is desirable, one can see how to require it. But how does that work? Details to follow, sometime after noon, Jan. 20, 2009.

Obama has also promised that "we will get 1 million 150-mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on our roads within six years." What a tranquilizing verb "get" is. This senator, who has never run so much as a Dairy Queen, is going to get a huge, complex industry to produce, and is going to get a million consumers to buy, these cars. How? Almost certainly by federal financial incentives for both -- billions of dollars of tax subsidies for automakers, and billions more to bribe customers to buy these cars they otherwise would spurn.

Conservatives are sometimes justly accused of ascribing magic powers to money and markets: Increase the monetary demand for anything and the supply of it will expand. But it is liberals like Obama who think that any new technological marvel or other social delight can be summoned into existence by a sufficient appropriation. Once they thought "model cities" could be, too.

Where will the electricity for these million cars come from? Not nuclear power (see above). And not anywhere else, if Obama means this: "I will set a hard cap on all carbon emissions at a level that scientists say is necessary to curb global warming -- an 80 percent reduction by 2050."

No he won't. Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute notes that in 2050 there will be 420 million Americans -- 40 million more households. So Obama's cap would require reducing per capita carbon emissions to levels probably below even those "in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood."

The piece is about more than just energy and is worth reading, as Will's work usually is.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Socialized Medicine

Barack Obama wants to bring us universal medical care. Sally Pipes explains why this is just a terrible idea in an essay at

Given the aspirations of Democrats to impose a European style health care system on us Pipes' column is both timely and important. For that reason I've placed almost all of it here on Viewpoint in hopes that readers will be more likely to examine it.

Pipes writes:

Take the much-vaunted Canadian system. More than 825,000 Canadian citizens are currently on waiting lists for surgery and other necessary treatments. Fifteen years ago, the average wait between a referral from a primary-care doctor to treatment by a specialist was around nine weeks. Today, that wait is over 16 weeks.

That's almost double what doctors consider clinically reasonable. As Canadian physician Brian Day explained to The New York Times, Canada "is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years."

In part, these waits are due to a doctor shortage. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada ranks 24th out of 28 countries in doctors per thousand people.

Why so few doctors? Over the past decade, about 11 percent of physicians trained in Canadian medical schools have moved to the United States. That's because doctors' salaries in Canada are negotiated, set and paid for by provincial governments and held down by cost-conscious budget analysts. Today, in fact, the average Canadian doctor earns only 42 percent of what a doctor earns in the United States.

Canada also limits access to common medical technologies. When compared with other OECD countries, Canada is 13th out of 24 in access to magnetic resonance imagings, 18th of 24 in access to computed tomography scanners, and seventh of 17 in access to mammograms.

The problems plaguing Canada are characteristic of all universal health care systems.

In Britain, more than 1 million sick citizens are currently waiting for hospital admission. Another 200,000 are waiting just to get on a waiting list. Each year, Britain's National Health Service cancels around 100,000 operations.

Britain even has a government agency explicitly tasked with limiting people's access to prescription drugs. Euphemistically called the National Institute for Health and Clinical Effectiveness, the agency determines which treatments the British health care system covers. More often than not, saving money takes priority over saving lives.

In 2008, for instance, NICE refused to approve the lung cancer drug Tarceva. Despite numerous studies showing that the drug significantly prolongs the life of cancer patients - and the unanimous endorsement of lung cancer specialists throughout the United Kingdom - NICE determined that the drug was too expensive to cover relative to its effectiveness. As of August 2008, England is one of only three countries in Western Europe that denies citizens access to Tarceva.

Britain's behavior is typical - every European government rations drugs to save money. Eighty-five new drugs hit the U.S. market between 1998 and 2002. During that same time period, only 44 of those drugs became available in Europe.

The evidence clearly indicates that patients under socialized medicine are suffering. Why, then, do countries with government-run health care consistently outrank the United States on international quality surveys?

It's not because the American health care system is inferior. It's because these surveys use deeply flawed metrics that don't reflect health care quality.

Case in point: The World Health Organization rankings of overall health system performance placed the United States 37th out of 191 countries. That's behind not only Canada, Britain and France, but even countries like Costa Rica, Morocco and Cyprus.

Life expectancy accounted for 25 percent of a nation's WHO ranking. But life expectancy is the function of a variety of factors. Medical care is just one of them. Just as important are a nation's homicide rate, the number of accidents, diet trends, ethnic diversity and much more.

Another factor accounting for 25 percent of a nation's ranking was "distribution of health," or fairness. By this logic, treating everyone exactly the same is more important than treating people well. So long as everyone is equal - even if they're equally miserable - a nation will do quite well in the WHO rankings.

In measuring the quality of a health care system, what really matters is how well it serves those who are sick. And it's here that America really excels.

According to an August 2008 study published in Lancet Oncology, the renowned British medical journal, Americans have a better than five-year survival rate for 13 of the 16 most prominent cancers when compared with their European and Canadian counterparts.

With breast cancer, for instance, the survival rate among American women is 83.9 percent. For women in Britain, it's just 69.7 percent. For men with prostate cancer, the survival rate is 91.9 percent here but just 73.7 percent in France and 51.1 percent in Britain.

American men and women are more than 35 percent more likely to survive colon cancer than their British counterparts.

It's no wonder then that foreign dignitaries living in countries with socialized health care systems routinely come to this country when they need top-flight medical treatment.

When Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi needed heart surgery in 2006, he traveled to the Cleveland Clinic - often considered America's best hospital for cardiac care. When Canadian Member of Parliament Belinda Stronach, who had denounced a two-tier health care system for Canadians, needed breast cancer surgery herself in 2007, she headed to a California hospital and paid out of pocket.

So much for the "free" health care they could have received at home.

As for the supposed cost advantages of socialized medicine? Those are illusory, too. True, other developed nations may spend less on health care as a percentage of gross domestic product than the United States does - but so does Sudan. Without considering value, such statistical evaluations are worthless.

And one of the primary reasons health care costs more in America is that we are a wealthy country that demands the best. And, we're investing a lot more in medical research.

The United States produces over half of the $175 billion in health care technology products purchased globally. In 2004, the federal government funded medical research to the tune of $18.4 billion. By contrast, the European Union - which has a significantly larger population than the United States - allocated funds equal to just $3.7 billion for medical research.

Between 1999 and 2005, the United States was responsible for 71 percent of the sales of new pharmaceutical drugs. The next two largest pharmaceutical markets - Japan and Germany - account for just 4 percent each.

While no one can deny that there are significant problems in the American health care system, overall it provides exceptional value. The ideologues who claim we'd be better off under socialized medicine are massively wrong. Government-run health care has proven to be heartless and uncaring - and the inferior treatments it provides come with a very steep price tag.

So, why do the Democrats want to kill the goose that's laying golden eggs? Maybe that's like asking why birds fly. It's just what birds do.


Brave New World

We've written much about Obama's vote to permit the killing of infants in Illinois hospitals and the seeming indifference to this among the media and other Democrat support groups.

That so few people seem to care is quite frightening for several reasons, one of which is that we seem to be well down a horrifying slippery slope. If people aren't roused about allowing infants who survive an abortion attempt to die, by what logic will we be able to persuade them that unwanted infants born in the normal fashion shouldn't be allowed to die? If the relevant criterion for life and death is whether the child is wanted there's no rationale for permitting infanticide of unwanted babies which the mother has tried to abort, but not permit it in the case of unwanted babies which were never aborted.

It's not hard to imagine the arguments that will be presented on behalf of allowing mothers to choose to allow their babies to die after they've been born: Many mothers, we'll be told, are too poor to have an abortion so why should we "burden her" with the child, to use Senator Obama's felicitous expression, when she wouldn't be forced to keep it were she wealthier? We're discriminating against poor women, don't you see, by not giving them the same right that wealthier women have. Besides, making infanticide an option will reduce the number of abortions. Et cetera.

We're headed for a day when a mother in labor will be asked whether she wants to keep the child, and, if the response is no, the child will wind up being discarded like the placenta and other medical waste.

This is the Brave New World of liberalism. It's change we can believe in. It's the future that awaits us under leaders who think as does Barack Obama.


Pelosi on Abortion

There are at least three peculiarities in Nancy Pelosi's Meet the Press analysis of Barack Obama's fumbling response to Rick Warren's question about when a child should be given human rights:

First, there is absolutely no question about when life begins. There is no point in the development of a human being from conception to death at which the individual is not alive. Life is a continuum, it had only one beginning and that was with the first cell.

Second, it's bizarre to say that the Catholic Church has only held its present policy on abortion for fifty years. The Church has opposed abortion for almost 2000 years. Ms Pelosi is getting hammered for her "mangling" of catholic doctrine, but she said today that she stands by it even though Catholic theologians and historians have said she's wrong.

Third, I have never heard of anyone in the GOP opposing birth control. Perhaps she's referring to the unwillingness of Republicans to subsidize birth control with tax dollars, but if this is what she means, her claim that the people who oppose a particular program are opposing birth control is either stupid or dishonest.

So what shall we conclude about Ms Pelosi? Was she making a simple mistake about the Church's position on abortion? How can that be if she has studied this matter for years as she claims? Was she misinterpreted? But we have the video. What other options are open to us short of concluding that she simply lied?


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Casey and the Dems

Jason sends along a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal concerning the convention address scheduled for tonight by Pennsylvania senator Robert Casey, son of the late PA governor. Casey, Sr., those of a certain age will recall, was humiliated by the Democrats at the 1992 convention because he was pro-life. Tonight his son gets what the father was denied, a chance to speak to his party on the issue of abortion. Whether he will take up that topic and do so forcefully is anyone's guess, but it'll be interesting to see if he seeks to "avenge" his father.

The WSJ article by William McGurn questions, inter alia, how anyone who is pro-life can align himself with a party whose standard bearer voted against protecting infants born alive after an "unsuccessful" abortion. It's a question that has occupied us here at Viewpoint as well. How can a party who is collectively outraged that we might make terrorists uncomfortable in their incarceration at Guantanamo turn around and have tingles running up their legs at the thought of a president who is willing to tolerate murdering birthed babies if the mother doesn't want the child?

McGurn's column is a good piece with a lot of background on both the Casey debacle of 1992 and the current thinking of the Democratic party on the issue of life.


Persistent Confusion

Uncommon Descent presents a video made by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) which seeks to discredit intelligent design (ID). The video features remarks made by biology teachers from the Dover Area School District as well as Francis Collins, noted head of the human genome project. These people share in common two things: They're all theistic evolutionists (TE), and they're all confused about what ID is.

Theistic evolutionists believe that God used natural processes like evolution to bring about the diverse forms of life we find on our planet but that there is no empirical evidence of his having done this. One can know that God is the creator through the eyes of faith but not through empirical investigation, according to TE.

ID, on the other hand, says that however life came about, it's the product of intelligent purpose and that there are marks of that intelligent agency in the design of both the cosmos as a whole and of life in particular.

With all that in mind watch the video and see how many confusions find voice in the words of the speakers:

One Dover teacher says that God created the world but he did it through evolution. She looks for natural causes, she tells us, of the phenomena she observes. Yet she seems unaware that there's no conflict between what she says and what a proponent of ID would say. The teacher seems to think that the belief that God uses natural causes entails the further belief that there is no evidence of intelligent agency in the effects of those causes, but of course it does not.

Francis Collins claims that it's a great tragedy of the ID "furor" that it gives the impression that you have to be in one camp or another. This is a terrible position to put people in, he laments, but what he says is simply untrue. There are in the ID camp evolutionists, atheists, agnostics, deists, Jews, Muslims and Christians. The only camps that ID divides people into are those who believe that there's empirical evidence of intentional design in the creation and those who believe that there isn't. For someone who accepts the bible as authoritative, as theistic evolutionists often do, to balk at the proposition that the cosmos shows evidence of having been intentionally designed is curious since the bible itself makes the same claim (see, for instance Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:20).

Another Dover teacher states that he "Never had a problem seeing how God's hand works in nature", a claim that puts him comfortably in the ID camp - although ID doesn't identify the designer as the teacher does - but is an awkward position for a theistic evolutionist to take. I doubt that this teacher realizes that by seeing "God's hand" in nature he's closer to the dreaded ID position than he is to his fellow theistic evolutionists.

It's also stated in the video that ID isn't science because it's not testable and invokes supernatural explanations. Both claims misconstrue ID. There are predictions made on the basis of ID assumptions which can be tested. For example, ID'ers argue that so-called "junk DNA" will be found to have function. This, in fact, is starting to be born out, but even if ID cannot be tested that doesn't make it any less legitimate as a topic of discussion in a science classroom than, say, the many-worlds hypothesis.

ID says that natural processes alone are inadequate to account for the multiplicity and complexity of biological information. That fundamental claim enjoys the same level of testability as the contrary assertion that natural processes are adequate to account for the world. If the latter is a legitimate claim of science then so is the former.

Another claim made in the video is that ID proposes that evolutionary theory has gaps and that the gaps are filled by God. This too is false. ID does not identify God as the designer, although he is certainly a possible candidate.

Nor does the designer, whoever or whatever it is, "fill" the gaps. The gaps result from the sheer implausibility of natural processes being able to explain, for example, how living things arose in the first place. Just as intelligent scientists may someday be able to direct such processes so that they can do under direction what they could never do by themselves - i.e. organize themselves into an independent living cell - so too, intelligent input is posited by ID to help natural processes and laws bridge other apparent gaps in the development of living things.

Finally, it's claimed in the video that ID pits science against religion, but, on the contrary, ID has no formal religious component whatsoever. A designer of the universe is not necessarily an object of worship or the object of religious devotion. ID itself (as opposed to some of its advocates) has nothing to say about religion just as evolution (as opposed to some of its advocates) has nothing to say about religion. Indeed, TE is more religious than ID since theistic evolutionists believe that God exists and created the world. ID does not make any claims about who the designer is, which is why one can be an atheist and still embrace ID.

Here's the point that needs to be repeated, apparently, over and over: Intelligent design is not in conflict with evolution. It's in conflict with the claim that natural processes are adequate by themselves to account for evolution, and it's in conflict with the claim that there's no empirical evidence of any intelligent agency in the design of the universe or of living things.

I'm beginning to think that the failure to understand ID, or at least to represent it correctly, is a kind of metaphysical blindness. Like any blindness you can't heal it by simply describing the things the blind person can't see. These people are persistently confused, and their inability to grasp the simple claims of ID borders on being a kind of philosophical or intellectual handicap.


Colin Powell for Veep?

Would he accept an offer from McCain to serve? Would rank and file Republicans accept a pro-choicer on the ticket? The answer to both questions is unclear, although he would probably be more acceptable to them than either Joe Leiberman or Tom Ridge, two other pro-choicers being mentioned as veep candidates.

One thing is clear, though, Powell would cancel whatever advantage Obama's selection of Biden gave him with moderates and independents, and may even cut slightly into Obama's dominance among black voters.

It's disappointing that there are so few conservatives of national stature in the GOP that every major candidate in the primaries, and every name being bandied about for VP, is a "moderate". Where have all the Reagans gone?

Ed Morrissey has some additional thoughts on a Powell selection at Hot Air.


Antisemitism in the DNC?

Is the Democratic National Committee anti-semitic? Ed Morrissey at Hot Air says they certainly cause one to wonder.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Woody's Sad Worldview

Everyone knows someone with whom they feel a kind of intellectual resonance. For me one such person is Woody Allen. Allen is a very successful contemporary filmmaker who's among the seemingly small group of individuals who sees clearly the existential predicament of modern secular man. His films, like those of his hero Ingmar Bergman, consistently drive home the message that, as he has a character say in Hannah and Her Sisters, "The only absolute knowledge attainable by man is that life is meaningless. I don't want to go on living in a Godless universe." Allen is himself an atheist and, unlike most atheists, Allen sees clearly that his atheism offers him no comfort or peace in life. Nor does he try to paper over the awful implications of his worldview.

Newsweek's Jennie Yabroff interviewed Allen recently. Here are some excerpts:

Allen has devoted his career to making films that consistently assert the randomness of life. That they do so in a variety of genres - comedy, drama, suspense, satire, even, once, a musical - only partially obscures the fact that, in Allen's eyes, they're all tragedies, since, as he says, "to live is to suffer." If there were a persistence-of-vision award for life philosophy, Allen would be a shoo-in.

At 72, he says he still lies awake at night, terrified of the void. He cannot reconcile his strident atheism with his superstition[s] ..., but he knows why he makes movies: not because he has any grand statement to offer, but simply to take his mind off the existential horror of being alive. Movies are a great diversion, he says, "because it's much more pleasant to be obsessed over how the hero gets out of his predicament than it is over how I get out of mine."

So why go on? "I can't really come up with a good argument to choose life over death," he says. "Except that I'm too scared." Making films offers no reward beyond distracting him from his plight. He claims the payoff is in the process - "I need to be focused on something so I don't see the big picture"

When it is suggested that others may get a great deal out of his films - that there are fans for whom an afternoon watching "Love and Death" or "Manhattan" provides solace in the way a Marx Brothers film soothes a depressed character in "Hannah and Her Sisters" - he resists the compliment. "This can happen, and this is a nice thing, but when you leave the theater, you're still going back out into a very cruel world."

"Your perception of time changes as you get older, because you see how brief everything is," he says. "You see how meaningless ... I don't want to depress you, but it's a meaningless little flicker."

"You have a meal, or you listen to a piece of music, and it's a pleasurable thing," he says. "But it doesn't accrue to anything."

I said above that I find Allen's view of the world oddly sympathetic. The reason is that I believe that his pessimism is precisely right given his assumption that there is no God. Were I not a Christian, I would feel exactly as he does. Indeed, I feel exactly as he does anyway about a lot of what he says, even though I think he's wrong about life having no meaning. It does have meaning, of course, but only because death is not the end.

It's very sad that Allen seems to have foreclosed the only escape from his despair that's available to him, or anyone -the existence of a God who created us to be happy and fulfilled forever.


Racist America

The only reason Obama would lose the election is white racism. At least that's what Jacob Weisberg at Slate thinks. For such addled minds as Weisberg's a vote for McCain is proof of one's racism. Here are a couple of excerpts:

But let's be honest: If you break the numbers down, the reason Obama isn't ahead right now is that he trails badly among one group, older white voters. He does so for a simple reason: the color of his skin.

Is that the main reason he trails among older whites? Is it even a significant reason? Could it not be that older whites are generally wiser, more educated and more conservative than young people and they just don't like Obama's lack of experience, his arrogance, his ideas, his ability to take all sides of an issue, his affiliations with people like William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko, his support for infanticide, his threat to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq, his wife who believes that this is a "downright mean country", his refusal to drill for oil in the U.S., his promise to raise taxes, and on and on?

Is it not possible that older whites actually vote on issues rather than on a candidate's charisma and rhetoric? Weisberg seems unable to comprehend that people might actually do such a thing:

Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives. The rest of the world would embrace a less fearful and more open post-post-9/11 America.

You could replace Obama's name in the above paragraph with that of Clarence Thomas or Condi Rice and much of what Weisberg says would still be true, but I'd bet my house that Weisberg wouldn't vote for either of them. Does that make him a racist?

He then embarrasses himself with this bit of witless treacle:

But does it not follow that an Obama defeat would signify the opposite? If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.

Notwithstanding Weisberg's lachrymose hand-wringing what an Obama defeat would signify is that the Democrat party can not win the presidency by running a far-left elitist as a candidate. Every time they've tried since 1950 (McGovern, Gore, Kerry) they've lost. Every Democrat president elected in the last fifty years has run as a moderate.

Weisberg thinks we should vote for Obama no matter how bad we may think his policies so that we can make some sort of feel-good social statement. That's very liberal of him and very shallow. Weisberg has things exactly backward: If Obama loses it would be because the American voter decided to put our national interest ahead of our crazy irrationality over race.


The Breakenridge Gambit

Rob Breakenridge, a Canadian talk radio host, submits a rather puerile column to The Calgary Herald in which he voices his dismay that so many Albertans are skeptical of Darwinian explanations of the origin of man. As is so often the case among Darwinian critics of those who are skeptical of their Darwinism, he gives little reason why they should think otherwise beyond some standard name-calling and other insults directed at creationists and intelligent design proponents.

Denyse O'Leary responds to Breakenridge in a column which she wrote for the Herald and which she also posts at Uncommon Descent. The heart of her reply is this:

Breakenridge hopes that we can enlighten backward Albertans by teaching more "evolution" in Alberta schools. But that won't help. Textbook examples of evolution often evaporate when researchers actually study them (instead of just assuming they are true).

For example, the peacock's tail did not evolve to please hen birds; hens don't notice them much. The allegedly yummy Viceroy butterfly did not evolve to look like the bad-tasting Monarch (both insects taste bad). The eye spots on butterflies' wings did not evolve to scare birds by resembling the eyes of their predators. Birds avoid brightly patterned insects, period. They don't care whether the patterns resemble eyes. Similarly, the famous "peppered moth" of textbook fame has devolved into a peppered myth, featuring book-length charges and countercharges.

And remember that row of vertebrate embryos in your textbook years ago? It was dubbed in the journal Science one of the "most famous fakes" in biology-because the embryos don't really look very similar. And Darwin's majestic Tree of Life? It's now a tangleweed, or maybe several of them.

We seldom see evolution happening. Michael Behe's Edge of Evolution (2007) notes that for decades scientists have observed many thousands of generations of bacteria in the lab. And how did they evolve?

Well, they didn't. Worse, when evolution is occasionally observed (and widely trumpeted), it often heads the wrong way. For example, bacteria evolve antibiotic resistance by junking intricate machinery, not by creating it. Cave fish lose their eyes. But we don't need a theory for how intricate machinery gets wrecked. We need a theory for how it originates and how it develops quite suddenly. Evolution, as we understand it today, apparently isn't that theory.

This last point is worth dwelling upon. So much of the evidence that is adduced to support the belief that man has emerged out of the primordial soup is really not an example of evolution at all. Rather it's an example of devolution. Christopher Hitchens was all aquiver at having hit upon the cave salamander example of this phenomenon a few weeks back, but the cave salamander is nothing that a Darwinian can take solace from. The problem for the Darwinian is not why the blind salamander lost the eyes it had but trying to come up with a plausible explanation of how eyes evolved by random chance in the first place.

Breakenridge, of course, doesn't even try. He's content to simply insult people who are skeptical of the Darwinian just-so stories, but he hasn't the intellectual wherewithal to explain why they're wrong. Name-calling is just so much easier.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama's Choice

I guess this'll be tough to explain away:

HT: Hot Air


Obama's Pick

Obama has shown his gratitude to Joe Biden for having declared him "articulate, bright, clean and nice-looking" by selecting him for his running mate. Perhaps now the media can get about the important business of finding out whether the Chinese gymnasts were really old enough to compete.


Possible Cure

Here's good news on the medical front:

A new study conducted by researchers at Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland shows that a century-old drug, methylene blue, may be able to slow or even cure Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Used at a very low concentration - about the equivalent of a few raindrops in four Olympic-sized swimming pools of water - the drug slows cellular aging and enhances mitochondrial function, potentially allowing those with the diseases to live longer, healthier lives.

One of the study's co-authors, Bruce Ames, PhD, a senior scientist at Children's and world-renowned expert in nutrition and aging, says that, "What we potentially have is a wonder drug. To find that such a common and inexpensive drug can be used to increase and prolong the quality of life by treating such serious diseases is truly exciting."

Read the rest of the story at the link. If this drug pans out it would be an incredible development.

I wonder how a working knowledge of evolution led to the discovery.


The Other Front

Stephen Brown gives us an encouraging report on the war in Afghanistan at It's not the sort of thing you're likely to read in the MSM, but then the MSM isn't widely known for providing encouraging news about American attempts to keep people free from oppression.

After lamenting media negativism and recounting coalition successes and Taliban failures, Brown notes that the Taliban has achieved some success:

Indeed, just about the only area where the Taliban has enjoyed success is in its attacks on undefended schools. A German report shows that Taliban fighters staged 44 raids on schools last year alone and 440 such attacks have been registered since 2004. According to the report, such attacks have become a weekly occurrence. "It is better for my children if they live, even if they have to be illiterate," one fearful father was quoted as saying. Having failed to drive out coalition forces, the Taliban is training its sights on that other threat to its theocratic vision: schoolchildren.

These are the people we're fighting throughout the Middle East, people who murder children whose only offense is that they're alive. Come to think of it isn't something similar happening in Illinois hospitals with the complete connivance of the Democratic candidate for President (see following)?

Read Brown's whole essay at the link.


Change We Can Believe in

During the Saddleback interview with pastor Rick Warren Barack Obama quoted the passage from Matthew where Jesus says that "whatsoever you do for the least of these my brothers you do for me" in order to illustrate his view of social justice.

Unfortunately, while Democrats everywhere check their cell phones to see if the glorious text message has arrived heralding the senator's choice for running mate, and the television networks are giddy with speculation about who it will be, few among them seem to be able to find the time to ask the question how Obama has applied this verse in his own life. How does a millionaire who lectures us on alleviating the suffering of our brothers allow his own brother to live on a dollar a week? How does a man who expresses compassion for the least of us, the weakest, the most vulnerable, vote against a bill that would protect children born alive after a failed abortion? These questions don't seem to have occurred to those in the media whose hearts pound with excitement over The Text Message, but they have occurred to Andy McCarthy at National Review Online.

McCarthy lays out Obama's history of protecting the weakest among us in Illinois:

In the Illinois senate, he opposed Born-Alive [the bill that would have made it illegal to allow infants to perish from inanition] tooth and nail.

The shocking extremism of that position - giving infanticide the nod over compassion and life - is profoundly embarrassing to him now. So he has lied about what he did. He has offered various conflicting explanations, ranging from the assertion that he didn't oppose the anti-infanticide legislation (he did), to the assertion that he opposed it because it didn't contain a superfluous clause reaffirming abortion rights (it did), to the assertion that it was unnecessary because Illinois law already protected the children of botched abortions (it didn't - and even if it arguably did, why oppose a clarification?).

What Obama hasn't offered, however, is the rationalization he vigorously posited during the 2002 Illinois senate debate. When it got down to brass tacks, Barack Obama argued that protecting abortion doctors from legal liability was more important than protecting living infants from death.

McCarthy adduces into evidence the transcripts of the senate debate and concludes that Obama's rationalization then and now is indefensible morally and logically. Read the entire piece at the link, and ask yourself whether the media would be so disinterested had John McCain voted, say, to allow torture at Guantanamo.

Senator Obama offers hope and change for the weakest among our brothers but he offers little hope or change for his brother George languishing in a hovel in a Nairobi slum, and he offers no hope or change for children dying a slow death of thirst and hunger in hospital closets. Given the chance to choose to protect the lives of poor infants or the convenience of wealthy doctors he chose to sacrifice the children so that the doctors wouldn't have to miss their tee times and wouldn't have to be pestered by lawyers.

I suppose for his devoted followers that's the sort of change you can believe in.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sloth or Gluttony?

Everyone has heard that we've become a nation of fatties, but what's the reason for this? Some say we're slothful layabouts who get too little exercise. Others say that it's our diet that's the culprit. It turns out that people burn as many calories, on average, today as they did twenty five years ago. The problem is, apparently, that we just eat too much.

I don't think it took a study to arrive at this conclusion, but there you have it.


Since You Bring it up

Senator Obama recently made merry over Senator McCain's apparent inability to recall how many houses he owns. Obama suggested in an ad that McCain was so wealthy as to be out of touch with the common man. Actually, it's his wife, Cindy, who owns their properties, and I don't recall Democrats thinking one's wife's wealth was a problem for John Kerry, but anyway here's the ad:

Well, Senator Obama might be sorry he brought up the matter of houses:

David Freddoso reminds us in a passage quoted at NRO that:

In October 1998, Obama wrote city and state officials, urging them to give Rezko $14 million to build an apartment complex outside of Obama's state Senate district. The Chicago Sun-Times noted last year that Obama's request included $855,000 in "development fees" for Rezko and for another developer, Allison Davis, who happened to be Obama's old law-firm boss. Obama's spokesman said it was just a coincidence that the state senator wrote letters to obtain millions of dollars for his two longtime friends.

In fact, Obama was a dependable ally of subsidized developers in the Legislature, giving Rezko and others broader help as well. In "The Case Against Barack Obama," I identify and parse six housing bills with which Obama was closely involved.

No wonder Rezko helped Obama get a house below market value.

HT: Hot Air



Some McCain supporters not affiliated with his campaign have obviously decided, rightly, in my view, that the American people need to know more about the man forty-some percent of them intend to vote for:

Obama aide Tommy Vietor calls the ad "despicable", but it's only despicable if it's in some way false. If it is false then the Obama campaign should explain exactly what about it is incorrect and what exactly Obama's relationship with Ayers is. As matters stand the records of the board on which they served together have been sealed and no one can get access to them. Why doesn't Senator Obama allow them to be released?

Speaking of ads, this one is getting some notice. It's kind of funny, actually:

According to Hot Air more such ads are on the way. Let's hope so.


Olby Daft on the Draft

Keith Olbermann strove mightily last night to make something significant out of an answer John McCain gave at a town hall meeting yesterday in which a lady made a lengthy plea to do something about the deplorable state of the Veterans' Administration. She concluded her petition by saying, almost inaudibly, that she doesn't see how we'll be able to attract enough young people to military service to get bin Laden unless we reinstate the draft. McCain responded to the woman that he didn't disagree with anything she said and then proceeded to give an equally long response to her complaints about the VA. In other words, he was clearly affirming her critique of the VA, not her coda about the draft, which he appears not to have even heard.

Nevertheless, Olbermann declared that McCain obviously plans to reinstitute the draft, and the MSNBC talk host wanted to be sure every young person and parent knew this so that they'd punish McCain on election day.

Well, here's the video of the woman's question and McCain's response. You decide whether you think McCain is saying he intends to resurrect the draft:

It's just bizarre that Olbermann would see this as anything more than something which might merit requesting a clarification. To assert in confident tones that he has espied in McCain's words an intention to reinstate the draft is absurd. It strikes me as an interpretation born of desperation to find some way to reverse McCain's rise in the polls. It also strikes me as fundamentally dishonest, especially in light of McCain's previous insistence that he has no intention of calling for a draft short of world war III.

HT: Hot Air


Obama's Compassion

The controversy over Senator Obama's vote against a bill that would have protected infants from being allowed to die subsequent to having survived an attempt to abort them continues despite the fact that the MSM has had almost nothing to say about it.

Ramesh Ponnuru adds some thoughts in his column at NRO. He writes:

Nurse Jill Stanek said that at her hospital "abortions" were repeatedly performed by inducing the live birth of a pre-viable fetus and then leaving it to die. When she made her report, the attorney general said that no law had been broken. That's why legislators proposed a bill to fill the gap.

Obama did not want the gap filled. He did not want pre-viable fetuses/infants to have any legal protection. In the Illinois legislature, he argued that providing them with legal protection would both be unconstitutional in itself - a violation of the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence - and undermine the right to abortion.

Obama was wrong about these points. The Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence treats the location of the young human organism, not its stage of development, as the key factor in whether it can be legally protected.

It's not clear yet how many people are aware of Obama's stand on infanticide since the MSM seems disinclined to inform the public about it, nor is it clear how much the public will care even if they do know. One thing we can say for sure, though, is that the issue certainly won't help him.

Meanwhile, the candidate who reminds us that we are our brother's keeper turns out to have a brother living in abject penury in a six foot by nine foot shack on the outskirts of Nairobi. Surely, some of the ample proceeds from Obama's book could have been diverted to helping this suffering brother. Evidently they weren't.


The Mystery of Consciousness

Denyse O'Leary at The Mindful Hack relates an interesting passage from a book by philosopher Roger Scruton. Scruton, writing about the mystery of consciousness, says this:

Consciousness is more familiar to us than any other feature of our world, since it is the route by which anything at all becomes familiar. But this is what makes consciousness so hard to pinpoint. Look for it wherever you like, you encounter only its objects - a face, a dream, a memory, a colour, a pain, a melody, a problem, but nowhere the consciousness that shines on them. Trying to grasp it is like trying to observe your own observing, as though you were to look with your own eyes at your own eyes without using a mirror. Not surprisingly, therefore, the thought of consciousness gives rise to peculiar metaphysical anxieties, which we try to allay with images of the soul, the mind, the self, the 'subject of consciousness', the inner entity that thinks and sees and feels and which is the real me inside.

To be conscious is to be aware of a world outside oneself, but how does this awareness come about? What, exactly, is it? The brain is a lump of matter. How does such a thing give rise to the experience of green or of a sweet flavor? And the greatest mystery of all is how blind, purposeless processes could ever have conferred upon matter this astounding ability.

Materialistic atheism cannot give us even the beginnings of an explanation. Why then does it scoff at the hypothesis that our conscious minds are derivatives of another conscious Mind, a Mind that is the ontological ground of all reality?


Gentle Persuasion

Being armed certainly made a difference for this 85 year old lady:

An 85-year-old woman boldly went for her gun and busted a would-be burglar inside her home, then forced him to call police while she kept him in her sights, police said.

"I just walked right on past him to the bedroom and got my gun," Leda Smith said.

Smith heard someone break into her home Monday afternoon and grabbed the .22-caliber revolver she had been keeping by her bed since a neighbor's home was burglarized a few weeks ago.

"I said 'What are you doing in my house?' He just kept saying he didn't do it," Smith said.

After the 17-year-old boy called 911, Smith kept holding the gun on him until state police arrived at her home in Springhill Township, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh.

In an ideal world there'd be no need for guns. Unfortunately, this isn't an ideal world.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bangkok on the Pacific

This essay in the San Francisco Chronicle by Deb Saunders paints a grisly picture of where the sexual revolution is taking us. San Francisco voters will decide a ballot measure in November that would essentially decriminalize prostitution, but the wording of the measure would mean that children exploited for sex would be less protected than before and those who traffic in the sex trade will be more protected. Saunders writes:

Yet the San Francisco ballot measure completely ignores the prostitution of children. The measure simply states, "Law enforcement agencies shall not allocate any resources for the investigation and prosecution of prostitutes for prostitution." Astonishingly, there's no exemption that encourages police to enforce the law for minors.

If the measure passes, the city is likely to become an international haven for pimps who peddle girls and boys, and perverts seeking sex with minors.

The other big problem: The measure prohibits city law enforcement from applying for grants to prosecute human traffickers. That's right, this measure gives a free pass to the human sex-slave trade -- in a city that is a central stop for international sex-trade rings.

This may strike you as terrible news but look at the bright side. Think of what it'll do for tourism.

You can read Saunders' entire piece at the link.

HT: Byron


Never Forget

This ship, the USS New York, is designed for anti-terrorist operations and carries a crew of 360 plus 700 combat-ready Marines who can be delivered ashore by helicopter or assault craft. It's the fifth such ship in its class, but it's nevertheless unique. The USS New York was made with 24 tons of steel from the World Trade Towers. It's motto is "Never Forget".

HT: Carol


Ad Wars

The McCain campaign has put out this ad which hits hard at Obama's economic views:

Meanwhile, the Obama people have tossed out this subtle slam at McCain:

It seems inoffensive enough until you realize that the implication of it is that Barack Obama has been faithful to his family in contrast to you-know-who. Classy.

There are two kinds of negative ads. One kind criticizes an opponent on the basis of his or her record. These types of negative ads are perfectly acceptable in a political campaign. The other type of negative ad criticizes an opponent on the basis of matters mostly irrelevant to the campaign. Obama's ad, while ostensibly a positive look at Obama's character, is actually a swipe at McCain for the circumstances by which he came to be married to his current wife almost thirty years ago.

I leave it to the reader to decide which type of negative ads these two are.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Byron writes to dissent somewhat from my portrayal of Jim Wallis in God's Politics. His letter can be read on our feedback page.

I also received from Caleb this question:

I have two very good friends here at college; one a pro-life Republican, and the other a pro-life Democrat. Both obviously stand in stark opposition to Senator Obama's stance on abortion. For the Republican, Sen. Obama's extreme pro-choice stance is but one of many reasons why he will be (albeit reluctantly) pulling the lever for Sen. McCain in November.

For the Democrat, while he strongly disagrees with Senator Obama's stance on abortion, he feels that he "cannot be a single-issue voter...and [neither] should other Christians." The question I have, therefore, is this. While there are serious doubts amongst conservatives that McCain is truly "conservative" enough, would his generally pro-life stance be enough of an issue to tip the balance in his favor? By extension, is it proper to be a "single issue" voter, or is that dangerous naivety, especially with an issue such as abortion?

I know I don't really have an answer to that; I hope you might?

Well, I don't know if I have a good answer, but here's basically how I replied to Caleb:

I don't see anything wrong with being a single issue voter as long as the issue is of paramount importance. There are a lot of people who will vote for Obama solely because he opposes the war. There are others who will vote for him solely because they know he'll keep abortion legal. These are single issues, and for those voters they trump everything else.

The question is whether a person thinks that protecting the unborn is of such great importance that it overrides all else. If they do, then there's nothing wrong with voting on the basis of the candidates' position on that issue.

People who complain about single issue voters are generally those who don't like the issue, or the position taken on the issue, that the single issue voters assign such significance to. In other words, they have no trouble with voting for a candidate on the basis of his stance on just one issue as long as the candidate is one they themselves would support and the issue is one they themselves feel strongly about.

You won't hear too much complaining from Obama supporters, for example, about the single issue voting of those who will vote for Obama simply because he's African American or because he's against the war in Iraq. It's only when someone says that they can't vote for Obama because he's willing to tolerate infanticide that his supporters intone about the shortcomings of being a single issue voter.


In God We Trust

MSNBC is conducting a poll asking whether the motto "In God we Trust" should be removed from our currency. You can vote on the question here, but I don't know how long the poll will be up.

It would be interesting to see how the results, which can be accessed at the link, break down according to liberal/conservative voting preferences.


Why We Should Study Evolution

Olivia Judson offers three reasons in a New York Times opinion piece why evolution should be taught in our schools. I agree with her conclusion, but her reasons are riddled with confusions.

First, she makes the same error that so many make by contrasting evolution and intelligent design. ID is not incompatible with evolution. It's incompatible with the belief that evolution is a purposeless, random process guided only by unintelligent forces. Perhaps the most prominent of ID theorists, Michael Behe, believes in descent by modification. So do many others.

Judson then makes the claim that because there's controversy over evolution, "[I]t's discussed as though it were an optional, quaint and largely irrelevant part of biology. And a common consequence of the arguments is that evolution gets dropped from the curriculum entirely."

I would certainly like to see the data she relies on to make this assertion. I can't imagine that there's a public school anywhere in America that has dropped evolution from the curriculum, nor do ID people want them to.

Having raised our suspicions about her reliability on this topic, Ms Judson goes on to offer three reasons why evolution should be taught:

First, it provides a powerful framework for investigating the world we live in. Without evolution, biology is merely a collection of disconnected facts, a set of descriptions.... Add evolution - and it becomes possible to make inferences and predictions and (sometimes) to do experiments to test those predictions.

Fair enough. Evolution provides a coherent framework for thinking about relationships, but evolution can be taught without the materialism, and despite what Judson says, biology can be taught from a creationist perspective with no reference to the idea of common descent at all. Indeed, most of the actual evidence we have of evolution fits both models equally well.

The second reason she gives for teaching evolution is that "the subject is immediately relevant here and now. The impact we are having on the planet is causing other organisms to evolve - and fast."

Hunting animals to extinction may cause evolution in their former prey species. Experiments on guppies have shown that, without predators, these fish evolve more brightly colored scales, mature later, bunch together in shoals less and lose their ability to suddenly swim away from something. Such changes can happen in fewer than five generations. If you then reintroduce some predators, the population typically goes extinct.

Thus, a failure to consider the evolution of other species may result in a failure of our efforts to preserve them. And, perhaps, to preserve ourselves from diseases, pests and food shortages. In short, evolution is far from being a remote and abstract subject. A failure to teach it may leave us unprepared for the challenges ahead.

This is rather fevered rhetoric. In the first place what she's calling evolution here is not evolution as it's understood by most people. No one doubts that small changes can occur in populations of organisms because of stresses in their environment. Nor does anyone oppose teaching what we know about such variation (usually called microevolution). The controversy is over whether natural unguided forces can produce the molecules-to-man kind of evolution (macroevolution) that most people think of when they hear the word "evolution".

The third reason to teach evolution, Ms Judson tells us, is more philosophical:

It concerns the development of an attitude toward evidence. In his book, "The Republican War on Science," the journalist Chris Mooney argues persuasively that a contempt for scientific evidence - or indeed, evidence of any kind - has permeated the Bush administration's policies, from climate change to sex education, from drilling for oil to the war in Iraq. A dismissal of evolution is an integral part of this general attitude.

Moreover, since the science classroom is where a contempt for evidence is often first encountered, it is also arguably where it first begins to be cultivated. A society where ideology is a substitute for evidence can go badly awry.

This is plainly ridiculous. The science classroom is often the one place in our postmodern world where evidence is actually honored. If anyone is impervious to evidence it's the evolutionary materialists who believe steadfastly in their theory despite the lack of evidence for it. By this I mean that there's no evidence that blind, undirected forces plus chance are capable of creating a universe fit for life, originating life, or evolving the complex structures and pathways that are ubiquitous in living things. Nevertheless, every materialist believes that it happened despite the enormous odds against it and the total absence of evidence that it did.

But for me, the most important thing about studying evolution is something less tangible. It's that the endeavor contains a profound optimism. It means that when we encounter something in nature that is complicated or mysterious, such as the flagellum of a bacteria or the light made by a firefly, we don't have to shrug our shoulders in bewilderment.

Instead, we can ask how it got to be that way. And if at first it seems so complicated that the evolutionary steps are hard to work out, we have an invitation to imagine, to play, to experiment and explore. To my mind, this only enhances the wonder.

Very well, but this is an aesthetic reason for studying evolution. Why couldn't someone reply that the mystery of nature fills him with far more wonder when he considers that these things were engineered just for our enjoyment by a loving Creator? If a sense of wonder and optimism is to serve as justification for teaching something should we not insist that the view that there is a purpose underlying the world we study also be taught?

It's interesting that Ms Judson nowhere argues that we should study evolution because it's true. This, of course, would be the salient reason for including it in the curriculum, but its truth is, despite the adamantine asseverations of its proponents, notoriously difficult to establish.

Nevertheless, I agree that we should study evolution but for a reason having little to do with those advanced by Ms Judson. It should be studied because most practicing scientists believe some version of it, and we should therefore examine the theory and the evidence both for and against it in order to be familiar with the current state of scientific thinking. If and when it falls out of favor and is no longer thought to be true then we should no longer spend time on it, other than as a historical curiosity, regardless of whether it still performs the functions adduced by Ms. Judson.


Say it Ain't So, John

John McCain could very well defeat Senator Obama in November, and he has certainly helped himself toward this end by being resolute on all the issues that separate him from his rival. One of those issues is abortion, concerning which McCain said Saturday at Saddleback church that, "As president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies. That's my commitment. That's my commitment to you." Such assurances are catnip to conservatives, and they sound so much more robust than the rather weasely refusal of Senator Obama to answer Rick Warren's question Saturday night about the point at which a human being should have the right to life.

Obama bobbed and weaved and finally opined that such questions are "above his pay grade". The man is running for president, and such questions are matters that government leaders must decide. If he has no opinion on a question of human and civil rights then he should not be holding an office in which he must vote on legislation that involves such rights nor should he be running for an office in which he will appoint jurists who will rule on the matter. It's ironic that as an Illinois senator Obama felt it well within his pay grade to vote to allow born infants to be left to die, but now that he's running for president he suddenly finds himself unqualified to make such judgments.

The abortion issue is a winner for McCain, especially if he points out Obama's implicit support for infanticide. No one to the right of Peter Singer and Barack Obama thinks letting babies die is anything other than evil and when the American public finally learns that Obama voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act they'll no doubt lose a lot of their enthusiasm for him. So why then the talk in the McCain camp of selecting a pro-choice veep? McCain has mentioned both Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge as possible running mates and both have been accompanying him on his campaign town hall meetings (both spoke to the audience at York, PA last week).

McCain is beginning to not only win conservatives' votes but also their enthusiasm. He'll lose both, though, if he picks a liberal like Leiberman who is as far left as Obama on almost every issue besides the war, or Ridge who is moderate to liberal. If he picks a pro-choice running mate, how, conservatives will wonder, do we know he would keep his implicit promise to appoint pro-life jurists to the Supreme Court?

The safe choice for McCain is Mitt Romney, but anyone less conservative than he is himself would be a disaster. The election is within his grasp today only because of his efforts to allay conservative fears that he'd sell them out. If he turns around and sticks his thumb in the eye of his pro-life supporters millions of them will just stay home in November.

The editors at NRO agree that a pro-choice veep would be an epic political blunder.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Who's Telling the Truth?

We have repeated here claims made by others that Barack Obama voted against a bill in the Illinois state senate that would have prevented abortion facilities from treating infants who survived abortions as though they were medical waste. The bill was in response to a case where a facility was discarding living children and allowing them to die.

Senator Obama was asked about this on Saturday evening by a reporter and claimed that those making this allegation are simply lying about his vote.

Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker adduces the record of the vote, however, and states that it's Obama who's lying. Lifson certainly seems to have the goods to back up his claim. He links the reader to the bill, the amended bill, and an almost identical bill that even NARAL supported that passed the U.S. Senate and which Obama says he would have supported had he been in the U.S. Senate at the time.

Lifson also shows the record of Obama's committee vote on the bill in the Illinois senate. It shows him voting for the amendment that would have granted protection for Roe v. Wade, a protection he insisted on, but after the amendment passed he voted against the bill itself, in effect denying protection to born infants.

The video of Obama insisting that the National Right to Life Committee is lying about his record is astonishing if in fact it is Obama who is misrepresenting the facts. Such convincing prevarication, if that's what it is, must make even Bill Clinton envious.

Despite Lifson's evidence, though, I'm still not prepared to conclude that Obama is consciously lying. It's possible, I suppose, that despite his degree from Harvard he's really not too bright and didn't know what he was voting for. It's also possible that the senator simply forgot this vote (although having voted "present" so much of the time one would think he'd remember the votes he actually did take a stand on). Nevertheless, if he sticks with his story that pro-life groups are lying about his vote against protecting new borns, he's either going to have to explain why the paper trail only seems to support his accusers or else forfeit altogether the presumption of integrity.


Doing Business the Old Way

William Voegeli at No Left Turns traces Senator Obama's rhetoric on fixing the social security problem. It turns out that despite what he said last year about Senator Clinton's reluctance to address social security, he himself appears to have no intention of fixing it at all.

This quote from last November is pretty funny given Senator Obama's numerous equivocations and tergiversations on other issues:

In an interview with National Journal on November 6, 2007, Obama said, "[The] American people have a right to judge how clear and how consistent have the candidates been in their positions. Because if they're not clear and consistent, then it's pretty hard to gauge how much they're going to fight on these issues. You know, Senator Clinton says that she's concerned about Social Security but is not willing to say how she would solve the Social Security crisis, then I think voters aren't going to feel real confident that this is a priority for her. . . . [The] voters should be concerned that she is running the textbook, classic Washington campaign, which is to avoid giving clear answers and getting pinned down, for fear that somehow you're going to be tagged, either in the primary or the general election. I think that's an old way of doing business."

What Senator Obama calls the old way of doing business looks remarkably like his new way of doing business.

Read the whole article at NLT to see how the senator has retreated from each solution to the social security problem he's proposed until arriving at a position that is essentially no solution at all.


The "White" Party

Howard Dean said the other day that, "If you look at folks of color, even women, they're more successful in the Democratic party than they are in the white, uh, excuse me, in the [laughs] Republican party."

The "white" party. Good one.

Whatever the opportunities may be for blacks within the Democratic party I think a good case can be made that Democrat policies have been a disaster for blacks over the last forty years. Entitlement programs, to take but one example, have fostered a dependence on government that made black males superfluous in the lives of many poor women. This led to a disproportionate number of illegitimate births and single parent families. It also pushed black men into lives of promiscuity, drug abuse, and violence. The rarity of stable black two-parent families perpetuates poverty across the generations and spawns a host of dysfunctionalities, including misogyny and crime.

None of these problems existed in the black population to anywhere near the extent they do today prior to LBJ's Great Society of the 1960s. Black opportunity was severely and cruelly attenuated in the first half of the twentieth century, yet blacks had stronger families and much lower levels of male violence then than we find today. Six trillion dollars has been transferred from the American taxpayers to the American poor in the last fifty years, but poverty remains as obdurate as ever.

Mr. Dean may boast about the occasional bone Democrats throw to their African American serfs, like medieval royalty tossing coins from their carriages to the paupers in the streets, but Democrat policies have not only failed to alleviate their abject circumstances, they actually exacerbate them.

Why blacks stay in a party that keeps boasting about how it helps them while in fact doing little to give them the kind of opportunities they really need (e.g. committed, two-parent families, choice in schools, a sense of self-reliance) is one of the big mysteries of modern politics.


Saturday, August 16, 2008


And what will the pretext be when they invade Ukraine?

HT: Ramirez


Never Mind

Given the recrudescence of Russian imperialism and conquest here's one campaign ad the Obama people are probably going to quietly abandon:

I wonder how many of these promises Senator Obama will be repeating over the next couple of months. Events have a way of making idealists look naive.