Monday, June 30, 2014

Please Stop Helping

Jason Riley pleads with white liberals in a column at the New York Post to stop trying to help African Americans. In his view, liberal solutions seem rarely to work and almost always make matters worse. They've certainly made matters worse for American blacks as Riley points out. Here are some excerpts:
The civil-rights struggles of the mid-20th century were liberalism at its best. The efforts culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed racial discrimination in employment and education and ensured the ability of blacks to register and vote.

But what about the social policy and thinking that arose from the ruins of Jim Crow? Good intentions aside, which efforts have facilitated black advancement, and which efforts have impeded it?

While gains have been made, significant racial disparities persist in some areas and black retrogression has occurred in others.

The black-white poverty gap has widened over the last decade and the poverty rate among blacks is no longer declining. The black-white disparity in incarceration rates today is larger than it was in 1960.

And the black unemployment rate has, on average, been twice as high as the white rate for five decades. In fact, black America has long been stuck in a severe recession. Between 1963 and 2012, annual black unemployment averaged 11.6%, while the average annual national unemployment rate during recessions over the same period was only 6.7%.

Confronted with these statistics, liberals continue to push for the same “solutions” that clearly haven’t worked before.

Earlier this year, President Obama announced yet another federal initiative aimed at helping blacks. He called for more preschool education, even though studies — like the one on Head Start released by his admin­istration in 2012 — have found “no significant impacts” in educa­tion from such programs.

Obama said that he wants to increase reading proficiency and graduation rates for minority students, yet he opposes school voucher programs that are doing both. And he called for more of the same job-training programs that liberal politicians have been pushing for decades despite scant evidence of their effectiveness.

Obama was doing exactly what liberals have been conditioning blacks to do since the 1960s, which is to blame black pathology on the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws. And the president is conditioning the next generation of blacks to do the same. This is a dodge. Those legacies are not holding down blacks half as much as the legacy of efforts to help them “overcome.” The left’s sentimental support has turned underprivileged blacks into playthings for liberal intellectuals and politicians who care more about clearing their conscience or winning votes than advo­cating behaviors and attitudes that have allowed other groups to get ahead.

[Martin Luther] King’s successors, living in an era when public policy bends over backward to accommodate blacks, nevertheless insist that blacks cannot be held responsible for their plight so long as someone somewhere in white America is still using the N-word.

Liberalism has also succeeded, tragically, in convincing blacks to see themselves first and foremost as victims. Today there is no greater impediment to black advancement than the self-pitying mindset that permeates black culture.

White liberals think they are helping blacks by romanticizing miscreants. And black liberals are all too happy to hustle guilty whites. The result, manifest in everything from black studies programs to black media to black politics, is an obsession with racial slights real or imagined.
There's more at the link. One of the deficiencies of liberalism is that it tends to minimize the role of faith in our cultural and social life, it also minimizes the importance of strong two-parent families, and it makes excuses for personal failure which create the mindset that one's failures are not one's own fault.

Consequently, the policies that liberals promote are often corrosive to faith, families, and personal responsibility. This erosion hurts everyone, but, as Charles Murray explains in his important book Coming Apart, they hurt the poor far more than they hurt the better off. Liberal policies and attitudes have the unintended consequence of keeping the poor in poverty and impoverishing many who weren't poor to start with.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Being a Woman in a Muslim Land

Gabriel Said Reynolds, a professor at Notre Dame, gives us the details of Meriam Ibrahim's ordeal at the hands of Muslim fundamentalists. It's good that he does because it's hard to find anything about this in the mainstream media:
In August 2013 the Sudanese authorities arrested Meriam Ibrahim, daughter of a Sudanese Muslim man and an Ethiopian Christian woman, after a Muslim relative informed them of her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Catholic from South Sudan and an American citizen.

The authorities considered Meriam to be a Muslim because of her Muslim father, even though she had lived her whole life as a Christian. And as Islamic law forbids a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim man (although it permits a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman), her marriage was not a marriage at all in Sudan, where matters of personal and family law are controlled by religious courts. She was therefore guilty of zina, or fornication.

If fornication was the pretext for Meriam’s arrest, prosecutors decided to charge her as well with a still more serious crime: irtidad, or apostasy. According to Islamic law, Muslims cannot change their religion. When Maher Al-Gohari attempted to change his religious affiliation in Egypt in 2009 after he was baptized and received into the Coptic Church, his request was rejected. From the perspective of Islamic law, individuals such as Meriam or al-Gohari who are born Muslims can never legally enter into another religious community. Their rejection of Islam, however, amounts to apostasy: a crime against God and the Prophet Muhammad which is punishable by death.

With this logic Meriam Ibrahim was convicted of both fornication and apostasy. On May 15, 2014 she was sentenced to one hundred lashes for fornication, and death by hanging for apostasy. That Meriam’s Muslim father had left her Christian mother in Meriam’s infancy, and that Meriam never practiced Islam, had no legal importance in the case.
Meriam Ibrahim and husband
Reynolds, who teaches Islamic studies and theology at Notre Dame, notes that this is not some cultural aberration. This is the law in many Islamic countries. As British Prime Minister David Cameron said, it's barbaric to whip a woman simply for being in a marriage that Islam doesn't recognize and to execute her for leaving a faith she was never a part of. He might have added that it's also barbaric to have subjected her to the conditions she endured while in prison:
What made the case of Meriam Ibrahim particularly dramatic, and tragic, is that she was the mother of a young boy named Martin, and pregnant with a young girl (to be named Maya) at the time of her arrest. Since Martin was considered to be a Muslim, he could not remain with his Christian father but rather lived in (a bug-infested) prison cell with his “Muslim” mother (seen in pictures from jail with an Islamic headscarf). Moreover, Meriam was not admitted to a hospital to give birth but rather delivered Maya in that cell while she was shackled to the floor. When she was convicted, the religious court ruled that Meriam would be allowed to live for two more years in order to nurse her daughter. When Maya was weaned Meriam was to be hanged.

International pressure (particularly from the European Union) exerted on Sudan led to Meriam’s release on June 23. As her life would certainly be threatened by religious vigilantes (or even by her own relatives) in Sudan, she and her husband and children immediately sought to leave the country. They were not allowed to depart for reasons which are still unclear. In light of the involvement of diplomatic forces in the case it seems likely that she will eventually be allowed to leave, but it is still possible that some new legal action will be brought against her.
In fact, the latest is that she was rearrested and re-released, but not allowed to leave the country. Fearing for their lives, she and her family have taken refuge in the American embassy in Khartoum since her brother and many Muslim clerics want to kill her, and the government seems determined to get her to renounce her Christianity. Reynolds concludes with this:
We all can learn from the example of Meriam Ibrahim. After her conviction in May, Meriam was given three days to embrace Islam and save her life. This would have been an easy choice to make, but Meriam refused, declaring: “I am a Christian and I will remain a Christian.” Those who wonder whether heroic—and saintly—courage still exists can look to her.
Ibrahim is indeed a heroic figure. To stand fast against such enormous stupidity and terror takes tremendous courage.

It's not clear, on the other hand, what the Obama administration has done on her behalf, but it is clear that it has done nothing publicly. Perhaps if Ibrahim had said she had a lesbian partner whom she wished to marry, or if she had desired to abort her baby there would've been more sympathy for her in the White House.

In any case, the next time someone whines about a Republican "war on women" and how oppressive it is for women in America please enlighten this person about what a real war on women and real oppression look like. Tell him or her the story of Meriam Ibrahim.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Open Primaries

Amidst all the commentary I've seen on the recent runoff election in Mississippi in which the septuagenarian incumbent Republican senator Thad Cochran staved off a powerful challenge from a Tea Party endorsed candidate named Chris McDaniel I haven't seen any discussion of the thing about the election that most distresses me.

There's been oodles of commentary about all the millions of dollars poured into the race by the Republican "establishment" to push the wheezing Cochran over the finish line, and there's also been much written about the sleazy, dishonest ads this money paid for and the tens of thousands of African Americans who were bamboozled by those sleazy ads into voting for Cochran, providing him the margin by which he won.

What I haven't seen, though, and would very much like to see, is some discussion of why on earth any state or party has open primaries in which members of Party A get to pick, or at least strongly influence the selection of, the candidates Party B will run in the general election.

I asked a political scientist friend of mine in the wake of the Mississippi primary what the rationale was behind open primaries, and he told me that it's done so that more people can get involved in the process. I was dumbfounded. I know I'm not a very smart guy, but I don't understand why Republicans should be invited to choose the Democrats' candidate or vice versa. Nor do I see how that's much different than giving Russians a vote in our presidential election (Hmmm. Now that's got me wondering ....).

Anyway, Mississippi primaries allow cross-over voting so that anyone can vote in any primary contest the voter wishes to participate in, and Cochran relied on thousands of votes from black Democrats to give him his victory. Had he not had these votes he would've lost.

Some argue that in a congressional district that's overwhelmingly, say, Republican, Democrats and Independents are effectively disenfranchised because their party's candidate doesn't stand a chance. They should be allowed, the thinking goes, to participate in the Republican party's primary so that they can have some influence. That, we're told, is what democracy is all about.

That, not to put too fine a point on it, is insane. If independents feel disenfranchised then the obvious remedy for their angst is to join a party. If one chooses not to be a member then one doesn't get to have a say in the party's business. It's the price one pays for the aura of sophistication with which one surrounds oneself when one chooses to be an independent.

If one's party has no chance to win and one wishes one's vote to matter then the recourse is to join the other party and try to pull them in the desired direction, but the argument that Party A should let members of Party B decide their ballot so that more people can be involved in the process is arrant twattle.

If a state has an open primary such that anyone can vote in either party's race then what's the point of belonging to a party, anyway? The only advantage there is to putting up with the incessant appeals for donations and the irritating robocall advertisements is that one gets to vote in one's party's primary. That's it. But if anyone can vote in any primary there's no reason why anyone should belong to any party at all. It would serve both parties right if in every state which has an open primary every voter simply re-registered as an independent.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Turning the Jihadis

Strategy Page has an interesting piece on an aspect of the war on terror we rarely hear about, the program to "turn" captured jihadis and use them as informants. This is extremely dangerous work and a number of those who have agreed to work as informants for the U.S. have been discovered and killed.
While the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison recidivism rate (over 25 percent) regularly makes the news you rarely (and for good reason) hear about those freed from Guantanamo who have been “turned” (into informants against their terrorist colleagues). Getting Guantanamo prisoners to talk is a well-known activity there. Less well known are efforts to convince some of these hard-core terrorists to switch sides.

Even before September 11, 2001, counter-intelligence experts had discovered that it was very difficult to get agents into Islamic terrorist organizations. Since then, it's become easier. But the process is difficult, and very dangerous for those who agree to go undercover in these terrorist organizations. So far, Islamic terrorists and the public know a few dozen.

Two of the most prominent double agents came from Guantanamo. There was Abdul Rahman, an Afghan, who was released, returned to terrorism in Pakistan and was found out as a double agent and killed by his terrorist associates. Another Islamic terrorist, a Saudi Arabian (Jabir Jubran Al Fayfi), was one of more than a hundred Saudi inmates released from Guantanamo in 2006-2007. He returned to Saudi Arabia where he went through a mandatory rehabilitation course. There he was apparently recruited by Saudi intelligence. Once out of rehab Fayfi went to Yemen and joined the al Qaeda organization. He made it back to Saudi Arabia in 2010 with all sorts of useful information. This included news of the printer toner cartridge plot that was disrupted (and failed) at the end of October 2010. It’s still unclear of Fayfi was a double agent or just someone who turned after being arrested again.

Indications are that there are apparently a lot more (perhaps hundreds) such agents out there. Most of these you will have to wait a long time to find out about. Even the details of the recruiting process are top secret, in order to protect the agents recruited, and make it more difficult for the wrong people (potential double agents) to be hired. But the process tends to work best on those who have become disillusioned with Islamic radicalism. There are a lot of these men, but most simply walk away.

Others wish to fight against the cause they lost faith in. All the Americans had to do was get hip to the cultural buttons, and learn how to push them. Apparently the Israelis helped with this, as the Israelis have long run extensive informant networks in Arab populations. The Israelis have a thick playbook, and the U.S. apparently got them to share. Some NATO nations (especially the French) have useful experience to add to this. Several NATO nations are known to regularly turn Islamic terrorists and use them as informants.
There's more at the link. One hopes that a lot of these released prisoners are, in fact, spying for the West. Given the reluctance of the White House to recognize that we are in a thousand year war against Muslim extremism, a war that will continue as long as the most radical forms of Islam do not rule the world, we need all the help we can get.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Obama's Foreign Policy

James Oliphant at National Journal assesses the President's foreign policy achievements and finds them pretty thin.
[Sending 300 military advisors to Iraq] is a tacit acknowledgment that many of the assumptions that Obama and his foreign policy team made about the world have proven to be incorrect:
  • That without the leverage of U.S. military power in the country, Iraqi leaders would pursue political change that wouldn't leave Sunnis alienated and antagonized and that its security forces could counter internal threats.
  • That Afghanistan would be stable enough for the U.S. to end that war and depart with confidence the government can keep the nation on a stable path.
  • That the U.S. could pursue a "reset" with Vladimir Putin's Russia—but then watched his troops take Crimea and threaten the rest of Ukraine.
  • That the civil war in Syria could somehow be contained within its borders—and could reach a resolution without American intervention.
Oliphant might've add to this list the assumption that Iran could be talked into giving up its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the assumption that the Palestinians are willing to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors if only the right administration were to initiate talks.

In short, none of the assumptions with which this administration arrived in Washington has been confirmed by experience, and the reason is simple. Much of the world respects just one thing, and it's not good intentions or smooth talk. The world respects what it fears and it fears the use of force. Mr. Obama's foreign policy has been a failure because none of our adversaries fears that he would actually use military force beyond the use of a few predator drone strikes off in the mountains somewhere.

Diplomacy can only work when the other side thinks there's something to lose by not cooperating. When there's no fear that there's something to lose then there's no incentive to make concessions. Mr. Obama inspires neither fear nor respect in the world's capitals.

He has, in fact, managed to create the worst of all possible frameworks in which to craft a foreign policy. Our enemies don't fear us and our friends don't trust us. Given that as the basis for our efforts in the world, it's not likely that the President will enjoy much success in his attempts to bend other nations to his will.

Oliphant's article suggests that it was Mr. Obama's hubris and disdain for Washington's foreign policy establishment that led to our current precarious predicament. No doubt he's right. Mr. Obama came to the presidency talking as if he truly believed that with his election the U.S. finally had a president who understood the way the world worked and who would be able to convince the lions to lay down with the lambs. All we had to do was show people that we were a kinder, gentler nation, to quote George Bush the elder, and everyone would come together and peace and love would reign. It would be a new Age of Aquarius.

It was delusional, and it was delusional to think that a man who had never accomplished anything other than get himself elected to office could make the world swoon the way he made teenage girls swoon when he gave speeches. Yet not only did he believe it, he managed to convince a sizable segment of the American electorate to believe it, too. Meanwhile, our friends wrung their hands and our enemies were jubilant. Alas.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What Good Does This Do?

The Presbyterian Church USA has voted to divest itself of shares in three American companies that sell products to Israel which uses them in ways the PCUSA folk find morally offensive. The three companies are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola. Their products have been employed in ways the PCUSA delegates believe oppress the Palestinian people on the West Bank:
On Friday, a group of church elders and ministers voted 310-303 to pull financial investments from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions -- a total of about $21 million, according to reports.

"It's so disgraceful," [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" news program. "Most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation."

He said that while much of the Middle East was "riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions," Israel is "the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians." Netanyahu advised the Presbyterians to "fly to the Middle East, come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour, go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference."

"I would give them two pieces of advice -- one is make sure it's an armor-plated bus, and second, don't say that you're Christian."

In a statement ahead of the vote, Presbyterian Church USA had said it was considering divestment in Caterpillar because the company provides bulldozers "used in the destruction of Palestinian homes" to make way for Israeli settlements. Hewlett-Packard, it said, "provides electronic systems at checkpoints, logistics and communications systems to support the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, and has business relationships with illegal settlements in the West Bank." And Motorola Solutions "provides military communications and surveillance systems in the illegal Israeli settlements."
At least it was a close vote.

Forget that PCUSA would probably not dream of divesting itself of holdings in companies that do business with the Palestinians whose constant attempts at terrorism are the reason why the Israelis buy what Caterpillar and the others manufacture in the first place. Forget that Israel is in a struggle with Palestinian groups for the very survival of its people and its state and is nevertheless the most humane, civilized, liberal entity in the Middle East, and among the most humane in the world, conferring on Palestinians rights that Palestinians would never grant to Israelis. Set all that aside and ponder this question:

What's the point of trying to punish the Israelis by putting American workers' jobs at risk? By pulling their money out of these companies, they're doing, presumably what they wish everyone would do, and if everyone did it the companies would go out of business. The Presbyterians may as well have voted to tell the Israelis that they'll show how angry they are at them by making it more likely that Americans get laid off.

I guess that makes sense to somebody, but that somebody will have to explain it to me. Until then it certainly looks like this was either very poorly thought out or that the PCUSA simply wants to indulge in sanctimonious moral posturing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bring Back the Special Prosecutor?

Carl Cannon explains why both political parties are understandably chary of special prosecutors, but also why the current IRS scandal seems to demand one anyway. President Obama insists that "there's not a smidgeon of corruption" at the IRS, but anyone who has not been subject to a prefrontal lobotomy finds the president's claim literally incredible.

If the IRS were trying to hide evidence of malfeasance what would they do differently than plead the fifth amendment at congressional hearings, refuse to cooperate at every step, and then claim that computer hard drives of a half dozen people whose correspondence would enable investigators to get to the bottom of the matter coincidentally crashed during just the time period in question with the hard drives having subsequently been destroyed.

If the IRS in general, and Lois Lerner in particular, had nothing to hide they surely wouldn't be doing everything they could to give the appearance that they do.

Cannon writes this:
The anniversary of the Watergate burglary arrived this week, along with the disquieting revelation that it’s not just disgraced former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner who’s taking the Fifth. Her email is clamming up, too.

More than a year into the controversy over the tax agency’s targeting of conservative non-profit groups, IRS officials casually told congressional investigators last week that a 2011 computer crash caused thousands of sought-after Lerner emails to disappear. So, can the mess at the IRS now objectively be called an Obama administration scandal?

White House officials don’t concede the point. “You’ve never heard of a computer crashing before?” presidential spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. “The far-fetched skepticism expressed by some Republican members of Congress,” he added, “I think is not at all surprising and not particularly believable.”
That's the White House's position - to criticize the Republicans for not believing that six or seven computers all crashed at the same time and the very emails the Republicans requested were lost. It's like faulting the Republicans because they refuse to be idiots.

Cannon continues:
With its unprecedented abuse of executive power, no modern scandal was ever like Watergate, but this was a passable imitation of Richard Nixon’s press secretary Ron Ziegler, who said two days after five suspects were arrested in the Watergate break-in that “certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it is.”

President Obama himself hasn’t been above channeling Nixon, either. When the story first broke that the IRS was targeting groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names, he told reporters aboard Air Force One that these machinations were all the work of a few rogue agents in an Ohio IRS office -- “two Dilberts in Cincinnati” was the president’s phrase.

After it turned out that the Washington office was actually calling the shots, Obama didn’t change his story. Yes, some “bone-headed decisions” were made, he told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly -- but it didn’t entail “even a smidgen of corruption.”
If that's true, why are they stonewalling Congress? This is not a minor peccadillo on the part of the IRS. This is an abuse of power that's worse than any in the history of our government. It's the illegal use of the taxing agency of the government to punish an array of citizens for their political views by denying them tax exemptions that similar organizations on the left are granted. It's the attempt to actually prosecute some conservatives in a court of law for no reason other than that they oppose the President's policies.

Cannon goes on to explain how the special prosecutor's role was abused in the past to the discomfiture of both Republicans and Democrats and why the law was allowed to expire:
One way to get those missing emails would be with a federal inspector general complete with subpoena powers. Another -- and God help me for saying this -- would be a special prosecutor.

Watergate begat the independent counsel system, enacted by law as a post-Watergate reform by a Congress burned by the memory of the “Saturday Night Massacre” -- Nixon’s firing of one attorney general after another until he found someone willing to sack special prosecutor Archibald Cox. It was only a temporary victory for the beleaguered president, but it convinced most Americans -- and not just Democrats -- that the Justice Department couldn’t be trusted to investigate executive branch wrongdoing. Problems with the new reform arose from the start, however. Theoretically, special prosecutors were subject to judicial oversight, but in practice they were on their own....

For years, Republicans complained that congressional Democrats were abusing the law by demanding independent counsels for Republicans in the executive branch who thwarted their policy goals. Every Republican had their favorite horror story. One of the most egregious involved Lawrence Walsh. His zealous Iran-contra probe produced an October surprise -- the indictment of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and sliming of GOP presidential candidate George H.W. Bush a week before the 1992 presidential election.

For the better part of two decades these GOP complaints fell on deaf ears. All that changed when Bill Clinton was elected president, and congressional Republicans began using the independent counsel statute -- with its absurdly low standard of proof for triggering a special prosecutor -- against administration officials. Initially, Attorney General Janet Reno defended the statute, but as the 1990s rolled by Democrats began compiling their own list of fanatical special prosecutors....
There's more at the link. Despite the long list of prosecutorial excesses and abuses Cannon recites, the IRS scandal is so serious and so intractable, given administration stonewalling, that he adds this:
Eventually, the law was allowed to lapse during the Clinton administration. Many of us thought this was a good thing. Now, many executive branch observers are second-guessing themselves.

The current scandal has featured lying to Congress and stonewalling, and now missing evidence. The very fact that it appears to involve the Internal Revenue Service infuriates Republicans, as it should. Once upon a time, liberals were outraged by this sort of behavior, too -- one in particular.
In closing, Cannon reminds us that one of the articles of impeachment that was to have been brought against President Nixon in July of 1974 was that the president had “in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens [caused] income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner," and that the president had been guilty of “withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States.”

One of the House Judiciary Committee staff attorneys who helped prepare those articles was Hillary Rodham Clinton. “It’s important to get back to very professional inquiries that can’t be accused of politicizing things,” Clinton said in a recent interview. “Let’s try and find out what the facts are.”

Yes, let's. It'd be a lot easier, however, if Democrats didn't feel the need to defend bureaucrats who are obviously hiding the truth from the American people and to obstruct in whatever ways they can the efforts to find out exactly what that truth is.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Delivering the Mail

Ann Gauger, a biologist at Evolution News and Views has a brief but fascinating piece on the cellular "postal system." She points out that cells need a directed delivery system to make sure that proteins are distributed to the locations in the cell where they're needed. This transportation system is very complex and features at least three types of molecular motors that carry cargo throughout the cell. One of these motors, kinesin, is described in this short video:
Different "cargos" have different destinations. Gauger explains:
Some cargos go to the growing front end of a migrating cell. Others must travel the length of a neuron's long axon to get to their destination. And some have to be exported outside the cell. As an example, epithelial cells have three distinct surfaces, top, bottom, and sides. Each surface needs a different set of molecules delivered to it. Without this differentiation, tissues and organs made of epithelial sheets could not form or function properly. In embryos, special "determinants," either protein or RNA, have to be delivered to the right location in the developing egg or embryo. Once again, without these determinants the body plan of the nascent embryo is disturbed.
These facts raise some inevitable and extremely provocative questions:
How is all this coordinated? How does the cell know where to deliver its products? What is the address system? Where precisely is the map that matches all these addresses?
The cell acts as though it's an automated distribution system, but how is this system programmed? What part of the cell does the programming? It doesn't seem to be DNA since DNA codes for proteins, that is, DNA codes for hardware, not software.
This system is present in most if not all eukaryotes. In fact, it appears to date back to the first eukaryotes. Let's consider how this system might have come about. All parts are necessary for it to work. To return to our metaphor, if the postman just started transporting things at random, what benefit would that be? Yet address molecules are of no use without a postman, or without paths to travel on. Thus directed transport requires a complicated set of interacting parts, each of which is essential.

Without these motors and their interacting proteins, migrating cells wouldn't have the materials they need to move forward. Axons would die from lack of mitochondria and/or they would send signals very inefficiently. Epithelial cells would have their bottoms and tops confused. And embryos? A mess.

Oh, and I haven't mentioned that both kinesin and dynein (another transporter molecule) are essential for chromosome movement and spindle formation during cell division.
In other words, this distribution system must have evolved before cells developed the ability to reproduce, which means that this highly complex system evolved before there was evolution. Gauger concludes with this:
Amazing. Hard to sort out how it happened, isn't it?
Yes, it is. It's especially hard to sort it out if one is committed to a naturalistic explanation (i.e. an explanation in which only material, physical causal factors are allowed) for how it all came about. The naturalist account of the origin of such systems reminds me of the Queen in this exchange with Alice in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass:
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things.

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Carroll would have a lot of fun with today's Darwinian naturalism.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Where Atheism Leads

Last November I wrote a post titled Atheism and Nihilism in which I quoted a commenter on another blog who outlined the nihilistic implications which he believed followed from his atheism. He said this:
I’m a nihilist because it shows reality. If there is no higher power, then everything humanity holds dear was constructed by humanity and therefore not real.

There is:
  • No objective, absolute, inherent meaning in life or the universe
  • No objective, absolute, inherent purpose in life or the universe
  • No objective, absolute, inherent value in life or the universe
  • No objective, absolute, inherent morality in life or the universe. No good, no evil, no right, no wrong
  • No objective, absolute, inherent truth in life or the universe
  • No objective, absolute, inherent knowledge in life or the universe
  • No objective, absolute, inherent logic in life or the universe
There's more:
  • We are the cobbled together Frankensteins of billions of years of trial and error
  • We have no free-will, mind, consciousness, rationality or reason. They are illusions and [the notions of] personhood, identity and humanity are not real.
  • The emotions we express are just chemicals in our brain. The very things we seek in life like happiness, peace, contentment, joy are just chemicals reducing us to nothing more than chemical addicts.
  • We are no more important than other animals. A dog is a rat is a pig is a boy.
  • There is no afterlife. Once we die, we fade from existence and all our memories, experiences, knowledge etc goes with it. In time, we are forgotten.
  • All the things we do in life are just for survival. Learning, loving, seeking, being positive, eating, relating, having fun are created for the sake of ignoring the real reason we are here and that’s to live as long as we can.
  • There is no help coming to save humanity as a species or as individuals. We are all alone and on our own. If you can’t survive, you die.
Following the appearance of these remarks on Viewpoint a reader wrote to express his own agreement with what this commenter said:
I agree very closely with what this person commented. I am an atheist, and many people have called me a nihilist. I would also consider myself a nihilist in many aspects. Life cannot have any meaning. Humans exist only for the purposes they give to their own lives. If there is no higher power above us, morals must also be illusions created in the mind. Morals only exist because they help to achieve the most benefit. When people create the idea of morals, it changes their behavior and helps them to make decisions that they believe will benefit themselves. I don't understand why people want to believe things can be right or wrong outside of the mind.

I cannot understand why people believe humans are more important than any other animal. What could make us any more special than a more primitive animal? We have just become more advanced through evolution, but we are not special. Humans just happen to have evolved more through the process of evolution, which does not make us special. Any other animal could have evolved more, but by chance we happened to evolve more than the other animals.

I live a life filled with the love of knowledge, but I don't believe knowledge means anything to me. I desire to acquire knowledge. I want a thorough, organized understanding of my environment, but I understand that this desire is only the result of the desire to make the most beneficial decisions in life. If I know more about how the universe operates, I can make decisions that will bring me the most benefit. All people make decisions that they believe will benefit themselves and I want to have more knowledge so I can make better decisions and achieve the most benefit. Although I can never know if my understanding is accurate, I believe I can search and try to find an accurate understanding.

Nihilism is not a mentally healthy way to think, but it is what I believe to be accurate. I will never give up my nihilism, although it has been problematic for me. My nihilism sent me to therapy and eventually to the hospital, but the struggle was worth the pain as it was the only way I could believe I could be finding an accurate understanding of my reality.
I replied to this reader with this:
I sympathize with the ordeal you've undergone, and I hope you're able to overcome the problems you wrestle with.

You say that it's your nihilistic mindset that's the source of your mental health problems and that you'll never give it up because you believe it's true. I think you're right to want to commit yourself to what's true, even if the consequences are not good, but, as you're aware, your nihilism is an inference from your atheism, and I'm convinced that atheism is false.

I don't know what has persuaded you that it's true, but I urge you to keep an open mind and to honestly continue to investigate the matter. It would be a tragedy if you spent your whole life living with what you describe as a mentally unhealthy way to think if, in fact, it's all unnecessary because it's all based on a false assumption about God.
This reader's sad letter and the earlier thoughts by the anonymous commenter that precipitated it reminded me of the words of Kirilov in Dostoyevsky's novel The Possessed. Kirilov, an atheist, says "I don't know how an atheist can know there is no God and not kill himself on the spot." Kirilov himself committed suicide. In light of the above I can understand why. Atheism may be true, but if so, God help us.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

God and Cosmology Pt. II

Yesterday I mentioned the interview by Notre Dame philosopher Gary Gutting of atheist philosopher Tim Maudlin who made the claim that neither the earth nor mankind occupy a "privileged place" in the cosmos.

I explained yesterday the sense in which I thought mankind could very well enjoy such a status. There's a video soon to be released based on the work of biochemist Michael Denton which draws a similar conclusion based on different arguments.

Others have written about why the earth itself occupies a "privileged" position. Interested readers can check out the book Privileged Planet by astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay Richards. Philosopher Robin Collins has made similar arguments as well.

Here's more of Gary Gutting's interview with Prof. Maudlin:
Maudlin: Theism, as religious people typically hold it, does not merely state that some entity created the universe, but that the universe was created specifically with humans in mind as the most important part of creation. If we have any understanding at all of how an intelligent agent capable of creating the material universe would act if it had such an intention, we would say it would not create the huge structure we see, most of it completely irrelevant for life on Earth, with the Earth in such a seemingly random location, and with humans appearing only after a long and rather random course of evolution.
As I argued yesterday, if God chose to create the universe in the fashion cosmologists think it was created then the "huge structure" of the universe was a by-product of creating a world which contained the elements necessary to produce and sustain human life. These elements were created in the cores of stars which had to run through their life cycles and ultimately explode, dispersing their material throughout space. Those life cycles take billions of years, during which time the universe was expanding to it's present size.

But beyond that, Maudlin presumes to know why, and therefore how, God would have created the world had he wanted to create a habitat for humans. He elsewhere says we know very little about the cosmos, but he here assumes he knows enough to say how the universe should be structured if indeed it were created for humans. How does he know that the vastness of space wasn't created simply for the pleasure of the creator, just as people plant gardens or paint pictures that no one else will ever see simply because it gives them pleasure to create such beauty?

Anyway, here's more of the interview:
Gutting: I’d like to hear your thoughts on a recent effort to find scientific support for religious views. Some theists have appealed to scientific cosmology to argue that there’s a “fine-tuning” of physical constants that shows that the universe is designed to support living beings and, in particular, humans. It’s said, for example, that if the ratio of the mass of the neutron to the mass of the proton were just slightly different, there couldn’t be sufficient structure to allow for the existence of organisms like us.

Maudlin: At this point, our physical theories contain quite a large number of “constants of nature,” of which we have no deeper account. There seem to be more of them than most physicists are comfortable with, and we don’t know for sure whether these “constants” are really constant rather than variable. This gives rise to questions about “fine-tuning” of these constants....One thing is for sure: If there were some deity who desired that we know of its existence, there would be simple, clear ways to convey that information. I would say that any theistic argument that starts with the constants of nature cannot end with a deity who is interested in us knowing of its existence.
This is a remarkably presumptuous and inadequate reply. Maudlin claims that if God wished to make his existence known he could do so unambiguously. But because, if he exists, he doesn't make his existence unambiguously known to us he must therefore not really be interested in whether or not we know he exists. The unspoken corollary is that therefore whether we believe in his existence or not is not a matter of any real importance or concern to God.

The reason this is presumptuous is that in order to make the argument you have to presume to know an awful lot about what God is thinking and why he does what he does. Maudlin seems to believe that the theist's conception of God is a sort of giant version of Maudlin himself, and that God would think and act just as Maudlin himself would were he God.

For my part, I suspect that God has so ordered things that those who don't wish for God to exist will fail to see evidence that those who do want God to be there will see as clear indications that he exists. In other words, people tend to see in the "fine-tuning" of the universe, the amazing complexity of living cells, and their own personal existential yearnings either no evidence or strong evidence for God depending upon what they want in their heart to be true. Those who are determined not to see a divine Mind behind the origin and structure of the cosmos, won't. Those who are open to the existence of such a Mind, might.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

God and Cosmology

Gary Gutting interviews philosopher Tim Maudlin for the New York Times' Opinionator. I'm reluctant to disagree with such an accomplished scholar but I fear that some of what Maudlin says is just nonsense. Here's an example:
Gary Gutting: Could you begin by noting aspects of recent scientific cosmology that are particularly relevant to theological questions?

Tim Maudlin: That depends on the given theological account. The biblical account of the origin of the cosmos in Genesis, for example, posits that a god created the physical universe particularly with human beings in mind, and so unsurprisingly placed the Earth at the center of creation.

Modern cosmological knowledge has refuted such an account. We are living in the golden age of cosmology: More has been discovered about the large-scale structure and history of the visible cosmos in the last 20 years than in the whole of prior human history. We now have precise knowledge of the distribution of galaxies and know that ours is nowhere near the center of the universe, just as we know that our planetary system has no privileged place among the billions of such systems in our galaxy and that Earth is not even at the center of our planetary system. We also know that the Big Bang, the beginning of our universe, occurred about 13.7 billion years ago, whereas Earth didn’t even exist until about 10 billion years later.

No one looking at the vast extent of the universe and the completely random location of homo sapiens within it (in both space and time) could seriously maintain that the whole thing was intentionally created for us. This realization began with Galileo, and has only intensified ever since.
So, those ignorant pre-scientific theists thought the earth was at the center of the universe and we know today that it's not, but do we? It all depends on what one means by "center," does it not? It's true the earth is not at the spatial center because there is no spatial center. The fact that the ancients thought there was was due to the common sense view, easily confirmed by the senses and held by almost everyone prior to 1543 when Copernicus published his theory of a geocentric universe, that everything revolved around the earth.

Nevertheless, it's not a mistake to assert that man really is, in some sense, at the center, and that the earth really is privileged. Assume for the sake of discussion that the consensus cosmological view is correct, and that God chose to create the universe just as cosmologists describe with a cosmic explosion of space/time and energy about 14 billion years ago. Then about 5 billion years ago the earth formed, giving rise to mankind about 200,000 years ago (the actual numbers are not important here). If so, the universe would have to go through all those billions of years of stellar birth and death in order for the elements necessary for life to be formed and dispersed through space.

In other words, it took billions of years to produce the elements of life. Man could not have arisen much sooner than he did, and during those billons of years the universe has been expanding, ultimately attaining it's current enormous size.

If all this is stipulated then in order for man to exist at all the universe would have to be at least as old as it is and thus would have to be as vast as it is. If God did all this then all of creation exists solely so that man could exist, in which case man is indeed the center or focal point of the universe.

Some have objected to the idea that man is the reason for the universe's existence by citing how insignificantly small we are on a cosmic scale, but why base significance on size? Our significance lies in the fact that we are purposely created by God, who made the whole universe so that we could be here, and on the fact that God loves us.

To say that the vast sweep of space and time makes it absurd to think that man and earth are in some sense privileged is to commit the mistake of looking at the cosmos solely from the human standpoint, but surely it's an act of intellectual arrogance to think that the human point of view is the only appropriate view to take. In fact, what Maudlin does by assuming that man's point of view is the only meaningful one is to privilege man in the very attempt to deny that man is privileged.

If we look at space and time from the Creator's viewpoint the whole cosmos might be little more than the contents of a kind of divine petri dish or, as I sometimes prefer to think of it, a projection of God's thought. For a being which possesses the attributes of God enormous stretches of space and time are as nothing at all.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Holocaust Washington Ignores

All over the world, anywhere there are Muslims living in proximity to Christians, Christians are being murdered. Indeed, anyone who is not a Muslim, or not a Muslim of the proper sect, as we're seeing in Iraq, is living in fear as you read this.

Paul Marshall, who has done as much as anyone to make sure the world knows about the slaughter being carried out against Christian believers in the Middle East and elsewhere, perpetrated almost exclusively by Islamists, has a must-read article in the Weekly Standard detailing the horrors. There's another important piece at The Daily Mail with photos of the atrocity committed by Muslims who murdered 48 mostly Christian men in Kenya over the weekend.

Here are some excerpts from Marshall's essay:
For at least three reasons, the contemporary persecution of Christians demands attention: It is occurring on a massive scale, it is underreported, and in many parts of the world it is rapidly growing.

A few cases do get press coverage—the desperate plight of Meriam Ibrahim, for instance, who gave birth in a Sudanese prison just the other day. She was raised a Christian, but after officials learned that her long-absent father was a Muslim, she was sentenced to death for apostasy—for leaving Islam. And since in Sudan a Muslim woman may not be married to a Christian, her marriage to her American husband was declared void, and she was convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes to be administered before her execution. These punishments will be dropped if she renounces her Christian faith, which she steadfastly refuses to do.

Another case receiving attention is North Korea’s sentencing of a South Korean missionary, Kim Jong-uk, to life with hard labor. On May 30, he was convicted of espionage and trying to start a church. North Korea also still holds Kenneth Bae, an American sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor on charges of trying to use religion to overthrow the political system.

The Chinese government’s demolition of the 3,000-member Sanjiang church in Wenzhou on April 28 was newsworthy partly because of the church’s size, but also because Sanjiang was not an “underground” church but an official, approved, government-registered “Three-Self” church. Some 20 other official churches in the area have had all or parts of their buildings removed or demolished, and hundreds more are threatened with destruction.

And, most notorious, the abduction into slavery of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria on April 14 by the al Qaeda-linked Boko Haram led news cycles and tweets for a time, though the religious dimensions of the story were often played down. While the kidnapped girls include Muslims (Boko Haram regards them as apostates because of their Western education), most are Christians, seized in a predominantly Christian area and now subjected to forced conversion.

These events get media attention because they are particularly poignant, or dramatic, or involve foreigners, but our media miss countless other stories. Since the kidnappings, Boko Haram has killed—not kidnapped, killed—hundreds of people, many in the predominantly Christian Gwoza area of Borno State, destroyed 36 churches, and kidnapped at least 8 more girls. On June 1, it attacked a Christian area in neighboring Adamawa state, killing 48 people. In Sudan, a second woman, Faiza Abdalla, has been arrested on suspicion of converting to Christianity, and on April 8 a court terminated her marriage to a Catholic. Iran is imprisoning and torturing pastors from the rapidly growing house church movement, including an American citizen, Pastor Saeed Abedini.

Vietnam has imprisoned over 60 Christian leaders. Eritrea holds more than 1,000 Christians in conditions so inhumane that prisoners die or are permanently crippled. In Somalia, in an ignored religious genocide, Al-Shabaab systematically hunts Christians and kills those it finds.

Traditionally, the United States has been regarded as the country that advocates religious freedom for all, often to the disdain of other Westerners. In recent years, however, that has changed. Now America is quieter, while others speak up.

British prime minister David Cameron said recently that “our religion is now the most persecuted religion around the world” and “We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other religious groups wherever and whenever we can, and should be unashamed in doing so.” German chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly stressed that Christians are the world’s most widely persecuted religious group. Probably most outspoken of all is Vladimir Putin; no doubt this reflects geopolitical calculation, but the fact remains that he is stressing the matter.

In the United States, meanwhile, the position of U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom is vacant, as it has been for over half of President Barack Obama’s tenure. Even when the position has been filled, in the last decade it has usually been marginalized. President Obama gave a great speech on religious freedom at the National Prayer Breakfast, but little action followed.

The United States has marginalized the issue in other ways, too.

After the massacre of 25 Copts by the Egyptian military on October 9, 2011, the White House lamented the “tragic loss of life among demonstrators and security forces” (emphasis added) and called for “restraint on all sides.” As my colleague Sam Tadros commented, “I call upon the security forces to refrain from killing Christians, and upon Christians to refrain from dying.”

On Easter morning in 2012, a church in Kaduna, Nigeria, was the target of a Boko Haram suicide car bombing that killed 39 and wounded dozens. (The previous Christmas, Boko Haram had bombed St. Theresa’s Catholic Church outside the capital, Abuja, killing 44 worshipers, and also attacked churches in the towns of Jos, Kano, Gadaka, and Damaturu.) There was no official comment from the Obama administration about the Kaduna massacre on Christians’ holiest day. Instead, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a press release celebrating the Romani people and demanding that Europe become more inclusive of them.

At the beginning of the State Department’s annual report on international religious freedom for 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “While Christians were a leading target of societal discrimination, abuse, and violence in some parts of the world, members of other religions, particularly Muslims, suffered as well.” The assertion is incontrovertible, yet the wording elides the truth: Christians are not just “a leading target,” they are the leading target. American officials seem so scared of being accused of selectively defending Christians that they consistently overcompensate and minimize what is happening.

Although the persecution of Christians is widespread—Nigeria is where most are actually being killed, North Korea is the most repressive, China represses the largest number—the Pledge of Solidarity focuses on the Middle East and specifically on Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. These are countries where the situation has deteriorated rapidly to the point where Christian communities—along with smaller religious minorities such as Mandeans, Yezidis, Baha’is, and Ahmadis—now face “an existential threat to their presence in the lands where Christianity has its roots.”

In the last decade, half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country, and many others have fled to the Kurdish region. In three days last August, Egypt’s Coptic Christians experienced the worst single attack against their churches in 700 years—with 40 churches utterly destroyed and over 100 other sites severely damaged. Tens of thousands of Copts are estimated to have fled their homeland. Syria’s Christians, like all Syrians, are caught in the middle of a brutal war, but, according to the pledge, they “are also victims of beheadings, summary executions, kidnappings, and forcible conversions, in deliberate efforts to suppress or eradicate their religious faith.” Still missing is any large-scale mobilization of free people on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world.
Meanwhile, like Nero who fiddled while Rome burned, President Obama spent much of the weekend in Palm Springs playing golf. Again.

There's much more by Marshall at the link. Radical Islamists are engaged in a war of extirpation of any and all who see the world differently from the way they see it. Their war is savage, barbaric, and based on an invincible ignorance. The feebler the opposition to it the sooner it will reach our shores just as it did in 2001. We need political leadership in Washington that will not be silent in the face of this global holocaust. We apparently don't have it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

How the West Won

I recently finished Rodney Stark's excellent new book titled How the West Won. Like all his books HWW is history that reads like a novel. He argues in the book that all of the progress we've enjoyed in the world since the medieval period has had it's genesis in the West.

His theory, convincingly defended, to my mind, is that progress only occurred in areas with high levels of personal liberty, low taxation, and strong property rights. To the extent these were absent, as they have been in most parts of the world throughout history, progress died in the crib, as it were. He also argues that the crucial soil for progress was a Judeo-Christian worldview in which the universe was seen as an orderly, law-governed, rational product of a personal God. Where this belief was absent, as it was everywhere but Europe, science and technology, medicine and learning, never developed.

Along the way Stark punctures a host of myths that have become almost axiomatic on the left but which are at complete variance with the historical facts. He makes a strong case for the claim that capitalism and even colonialism have been blessings, that the fall of Rome was one of the single most beneficial events in world history, that the "Dark Ages" never happened, that the crusades were not at all the rapacious ventures by murderous Christians of gentle, pastoral Muslims we've been told they were, that historical climate change had many salubrious effects on Western progress, that there was no scientific "revolution" but rather a continual and accelerating unfolding of scientific discovery that began at least as far back as the 13th century and probably earlier.

I urge anyone interested in history to get a copy. Stark includes a lot that he covered in earlier works, but much of it is new and what isn't new bears repeating anyway.

An example of something that's both myth-busting and new was Stark's discussion of the work of Robert D. Woodberry. Woodberry's research makes it clear that much, if not most, of the progress made around the world is due to the work of Western missionaries who labored a century or more ago.

Here's what Stark writes about the role missionaries played in making life better for millions:
Perhaps the most bizarre of all the charges leveled against Christian missionaries (along with colonialists in general) is that they imposed "modernity" on much of the non-Western world. It has long been the received wisdom among anthropologists and other cultural relativists that by bringing Western technology and learning to "native peoples," the missionaries corrupted their cultures, which were as valid as those of the West....But to embrace the fundamental message of cultural imperialism requires that one be comfortable with such crimes against women as foot-binding, female circumcision, the custom of Sati (which caused women to be burned to death, tied to their husbands' funeral pyres), and the stoning to death of rape victims on the grounds of their adultery.

It also requires one to agree that tyranny is every bit as desirable as democracy, and that slavery should be tolerated if it accords with local customs. Similarly, one must classify high-infant mortality rates, toothlessness in early adulthood, and the castration of young boys as valid parts of local cultures, to be cherished along with illiteracy. For it was especially on these aspects of non-Western cultures that modernity was "imposed," both by missionaries and other colonialists.

Moreover, missionaries undertook many aggressive actions to defend local peoples against undue exploitation by colonial officials. In the mid-1700s, for example, the Jesuits tried to protect the Indians in Latin America from European efforts to enslave them; Portuguese and Spanish colonial officials brutally ejected the Jesuits for interfering. Protestant missionaries frequently became involved in bitter conflicts with commercial and colonial leaders in support of local populations, particularly in India and Africa....

A remarkable new study by Robert D. Woodberry has demonstrated conclusively that Protestant missionaries can take most of the credit for the rise and spread of stable democracies in the non-Western world. That is, the greater the number of Protestant missionaries per ten thousand local population in 1923, the higher the probability that by now a nation has achieved a stable democracy. The missionary effect is far greater than that of fifty other pertinent control variables, including gross domestic product and whether or not a nation was a British colony.

Woodberry not only identified this missionary effect but also gained important insights into why it occurred. Missionaries, he showed, contributed to the rise of stable democracies because they sponsored mass education, local printing and newspapers, and local voluntary organizations, including those having a nationalist and anticolonial orientation.

These results so surprised social scientists that perhaps no study ever has been subjected to such intensive prepublication vetting....

Protestant missionaries did more than advance democracy in non-Western societies. The schools they started even sent some students off to study in Britain and America. It is amazing how many leaders of successful anticolonial movements in British colonies received university degrees in England - among them Mahatma Ghandi and Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya....

Less recognized are the lasting benefits of the missionary commitment to medicine and health. American and British Protestant missionaries made incredible investments in medical facilities in non-Western nations. As of 1910 they had established 111 medical schools, more than 1,000 dispensaries, and 576 hospitals. To sustain these massive efforts, the missionaries recruited and trained local doctors and nurses, who soon greatly outnumbered the Western missionaries....

[Woodberry's] study showed that the higher the number of Protestant missionaries per one thousand population in a nation in 1923, the lower that nation's infant mortality rate in 2000 - an effect more than nine times as large as the effect of current GDP per capita. Similarly, the 1923 missionary rate was strongly positively correlated with a nation's life expectancy in 2000.
These missionaries battled every kind of pestilence, hardship, and deprivation. They were often murdered or died from disease, all in an effort to make life better for people living in miserable circumstances, while leftist academics sit in their comfortable, air-conditioned offices, never having made anything better for anyone, blithely and foolishly condemning those who did for being "superstitious" and "cultural imperialists" who imposed their values on idyllic societies that would be better off if left alone.

Some might call these academics intellectually arrogant or even stupid, but if nothing else it's certainly a display of moral blindness.

Woodberry's paper can be read in pdf here.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers' Day Thought

Happy Fathers' Day to all the men who have chosen to "man up" and take responsibility for the children you've created and to do all you could to give them a loving, wholesome, well-disciplined family life, especially if you chose to stick with a difficult marriage for the sake of your children. You're the kind of men who make this country great. You deserve every bit as much respect and admiration as the vets returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

To those who took an opposite path, who shirked your paternal responsibility, who left your kids as soon as the going got tough, what's the matter with you?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

How Many?!

The President recently delivered himself of the startling claim that there's been a school shooting almost every week since the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012.

It turns out, though, that, like much else that President Obama says, this statistic is misleading at best (See also here). In fact, it appears to be based on a study by an anti-gun group called "Everytown For Gun Safety" which lists 74 school shootings in the 18 months since Sandy Hook. The implication is that these are incidents in which innocent students are randomly killed by deranged shooters.

But, no. The 74 shootings number includes all sorts of violence that only by coincidence occurred on a school campus - suicides, gang drive-bys, spouse killings, etc. The number of school shootings which fit the description implied by the "Everytown" study turns out to be seven. This is, of course, seven too many, but it illustrates Mr. Obama's willingness to deceive the American people in order to pursue his goal of the elimination of guns in the hands of civilians.

So far from being more common today, mass shootings, on campuses or elsewhere, are actually no more frequent than they've been for the last two decades. A post by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air contains a chart by CNN that shows this at a glance.

As I think about it, it may be a teensy bit unfair to Mr. Obama to accuse him of deliberately misleading the American people. It could be that he actually believes the statistic he cited - much like he may have actually believed that there are 57 states in the United States - and is thus not deliberately misleading anyone. Of course, if that's the case then our president, whose IQ we were assured in 2008 by historian Michael Beschloss is "off the charts" and higher than any president's in history, is either an intellectual mediocrity or is intellectually irresponsible for not doing his homework.

The actual facts about gun violence are much less depressing than we might have thought, but they're not helpful to the President's purposes. For example, since 1993 gun violence is actually down a whopping 49%:
National rates of gun homicide and other violent gun crimes are strikingly lower now than during their peak in the mid-1990s, paralleling a general decline in violent crime, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades.
This is relatively good news, but I doubt we'll hear it touted by Mr. Obama or the liberal media.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Best Explanation

Media talking heads have had a hard time explaining Eric Cantor's loss in last Tuesday's primary election contest to an unknown economics professor named David Brat.

Ann Coulter takes a look at the sundry hypotheses being floated out by the media and superbly sinks each one. In the end there's only one explanation that makes sense, and it's one that a lot of people don't want to acknowledge. Coulter convincingly and deftly makes the case that Brat's upset victory was due to Cantor's desire to grant amnesty to illegal aliens.

Here are some excerpts:
Economics professor Dave Brat crushed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary Tuesday night, in a campaign that was mostly about Cantor's supporting amnesty for 11 million illegal aliens. This marks the first time a U.S. House majority leader has ever lost a primary election. His crushing defeat reinforces a central point: Whenever the voters know an election is about immigration, they will always vote against more immigration -- especially amnesty.

Cantor spent more than $5 million on his campaign. Brat spent less than $150,000. But Brat made the election about Cantor's support for amnesty, so he won. The pro-amnesty crowd -- i.e., everyone except the American people -- promptly lost its collective mind. The amnesty shills went on the attack, insisting that Cantor's historic defeat had nothing to do amnesty. Brat's triumph was touted as simply a victory for the "tea party."

In fact, however, the tea party had nothing to do with Brat's victory. Only the small, local tea party groups stand for anything anymore, but they're as different from the media-recognized "tea party" as lay Catholics are from the Catholic bishops. National tea party groups did not contribute dime one to Brat. Not Freedom Works, not Club for Growth, not the Tea Party Express, not Tea Party Patriots. They were too busy denouncing Sen. Mitch McConnell -- who has consistently voted against amnesty.

Nonetheless, the claim that Brat's victory was a win for the tea party is everywhere -- pushed with suspicious insistence by people who do not usually wish the Republican Party well. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz, for example, said: "Tonight's result in Virginia settles the debate once and for all -- the tea party has taken control of the Republican Party. Period."

On Fox News, Mark Thiessen assured viewers that Brat's victory was not about amnesty at all, but was an expression of the same anti-establishment sentiment we've seen elsewhere this year. He specifically cited Ben Sasse's victory in the Nebraska Senate GOP primary, and Chris McDaniel's forcing incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran into a run-off in Mississippi.

Let's take those:

(1) Ben Sasse was running for an open seat -- there was no "establishment" Republican to defeat.

(2) McDaniel has made his opposition to amnesty the centerpiece of his campaign.

We're 0 for 2, so far. What else you got?

There were, in fact, a couple of tea party challenges this year to so-called "establishment" Republican incumbents such as McConnell and John Cornyn. They both voted against the Schumer-Rubio amnesty. They both won.

That's 0 for 4.

Sen. Lindsey Graham's win last night is hardly a counter-example. His $8 million war chest discouraged serious challengers, he ended up with six opponents and, as a result, that race attracted no national anti-amnesty attention. Graham sure didn't stress his support for amnesty during the campaign. (He's saving that as a surprise!)
There's more of Coulter's incisive reasoning on this issue at the link.

Among the more contemptible and ridiculous attempts to explain Brat's win were the persistent innuendos and outright assertions that the Republican voters in Virginia's 7th district are anti-semites who couldn't bring themselves to vote for a Jew (Cantor). Never mind that Cantor won the district seven times since 2000 and won his previous primary with 58% of the vote. Some commentators apparently think that the voters of Cantor's district suddenly, within the last two years, realized that a man with his name who attends synagogue and who talks about Judaism must be Jewish and deemed that fact dispositive in deciding their vote.

The allegation is especially ironic when one considers that the locus of most of the anti-semitism in this country today and in the past has been among liberal progressives, but facts don't much matter when you're a journalist determined to find an explanation that discredits conservatives.

Anyway, Molly Hemmingway has a great piece on this and other examples of journalists putting their ignorance on display as they try to find something insidious about Dave Brat who is, after all, a conservative, a Christian, and a Catholic and must therefore, in their minds, be a very evil man. Hemmingway takes these adolescent opiners to the rhetorical woodshed and gives them a condign spanking. If it weren't so amusing one might almost feel sorry for them.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Losing Iraq

Al Qaeda is making a resurgent comeback in Iraq, having taken control of several major cities formerly liberated by American troops and threatening next to take Baghdad. How has this happened? Max Boot writes in Commentary that the main reason, aside from Iraqi incompetence, is the failure of President Obama to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq that would have allowed a deterrent American force to remain in Iraq after the withdrawal of the main body of troops.

President Obama's failure to leave troops in Iraq is making it increasingly likely that the cost in blood and treasure of the American undertaking in Iraq, whether that undertaking was justified or not, will prove to have been a huge waste. Thousands of young Americans will have died and been maimed for no purpose because Mr. Obama wanted to be able to say that he ended American involvement in Iraq.

Here's Boot:
There is, of course, no guarantee that events would have played out any differently even if U.S. troops had been present, but the odds are they would have. After all the event that triggered the current cataclysm was Prime Minister Maliki’s vindictive and short-sighted attempt to persecute senior Sunni politicians – something he waited to do until U.S. troops had withdrawn. As long as U.S. troops were present in significant numbers, their very presence gave extra leverage to American generals and diplomats to influence the government and their aid, especially in intelligence-gathering, logistics, and mission planning, allowed the Iraqi military to more effectively target terrorists.

Now all that is gone. The Iraqi military seems to be falling apart. Many Sunnis are embracing ISIS militants while many Shiites, for their own protection, are drawing closer to Iranian-backed militants. And what is the U.S. doing? It is selling Maliki F-16s that will only exacerbate the violence without addressing its causes.

This is all very dismaying, even heart-breaking, considering how close the U.S. had come in 2011, after so many early missteps, to achieving an acceptable outcome in Iraq. Now Iraq appears increasingly lost and the entire region is threatened by the growing power of the extremists.
It really is difficult to identify what Mr. Obama's foreign policy actually is, other than universal capitulation and disengagement. Nor is it any easier to identify a single foreign policy success of this administration or any area of the world which is better off today than it was in 2008 because of anything Mr. Obama has done. The last six years have been six years of retreat and growing American irrelevance on the world stage. Of course, that may be what Mr. Obama wishes, but, if so, it's very foolish. On the other hand, if it's not what he wishes then he is unprecedentedly incompetent.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The First Domino

Lost in the noise surrounding the bombshell primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia last night to a guy no one expected to come close was another bombshell in California. A judge ruled that the state's teacher tenure laws are in violation of the state's constitutional right of students to an education.

No doubt the ruling will be appealed and who knows what the state supreme court will decide, but this is a major blow, nevertheless, to teacher's unions across the country and portends a shift in attitudes toward teacher accountability.

To be sure, teachers need some form of protection from capricious, vindictive administrators, of which there are more than a few, but it's so difficult and expensive to fire incompetent teachers that many districts find it easier to just shuffle them around. Where they wind up is usually in schools with large numbers of economically disadvantaged kids, mostly minorities, and it's simply unjust that these kids are given the worst teachers. It's hard enough to learn in the settings they find themselves in without saddling them with teachers who simply pass out worksheets or show irrelevant videos every class, or let the kids run wild.

Here are some excerpts from the New York Times article:
A California judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprive students of their right to an education under the state Constitution and violate their civil rights. The decision hands teachers’ unions a major defeat in a landmark case, one that could radically alter how California teachers are hired and fired and prompt challenges to tenure laws in other states.

“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court wrote in the ruling. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

The decision, which was enthusiastically endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, brings a close to the first chapter of the case, Vergara v. California, in which a group of student plaintiffs backed by a Silicon Valley millionaire argued that state tenure laws had deprived them of a decent education by leaving bad teachers in place.

In his harshly worded 16-page ruling, Judge Treu compared the Vergara case to the historic desegregation battle of Brown v. Board of Education, saying that the earlier case addressed “a student’s fundamental right to equality of the educational experience,” and this case involved applying that principle to the “quality of the educational experience.”

He agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that California’s current laws make it impossible to remove the system’s numerous low-performing and incompetent teachers, because the tenure system assures them a job essentially for life; that seniority rules requiring the newest teachers to be laid off first were harmful; and that granting tenure to teachers after only two years on the job was farcical, offering far too little time for a fair assessment of the teacher’s skills.

Further, Judge Treu said, the least effective teachers are disproportionately assigned to schools filled with low-income and minority students. The situation violates those students’ constitutional right to an equal education, he determined. It is the believed to be the first legal opinion to assert that the quality of an education is as important as mere access to schools or sufficient funding.

“All sides to this litigation agree that competent teachers are a critical, if not the most important, component of success of a child’s in-school educational experience,” Judge Treu wrote in his ruling. “There is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teacher currently active in California classrooms.”

In essence, Judge Treu ruled that a quality education is guaranteed for all students in the state — which relies on effective teachers — and that anything less undermines the quality violates the equal protection clause in the state constitution.

In his ruling, Judge Treu added his voice to the political debate that has divided educators for years. School superintendents in large cities across the country — including Los Angeles, New York and Washington — have railed against laws that essentially grant teachers permanent employment status. They say such job protections are harmful to students and are merely an anachronism....Under state law here, administrators seeking to dismiss a teacher they deem incompetent must follow a complicated procedure that typically drags on for months, if not years. Teachers are eligible for tenure after 18 months, and layoffs must be determined by seniority, a process known as “last in, first out.”

Judge Treu...wrote that “both students and teachers are unfairly, unnecessarily, and for no legally cognizable reason (let alone a compelling one), disadvantaged by the current Permanent Employment Statute.” He added that current dismissal statutes are “so complex, time consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory.”
Making it easier to get rid of people who would otherwise simply collect a paycheck for 35 years and then live out their days off their tax-payer subsidized pension will do more to improve education in this country than all the standardized testing and curriculum reforms put together. Maybe Judge Treu just toppled the first domino in bringing about real reform of American education.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Nietzsche Bad, Marx Good

Blake Neff at The Daily Caller gives us an example of how the left views freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas on campus. It turns out that the student government of the University College of London (UCL) has denied recognition of the school's Nietzsche Club. The club is thereby prohibited from advertising its meetings or using facilities controlled by the University College of London Union (UCLU). Here are some excerpts from Neff's piece:
Posters for the group had advertised discussions of Nietzsche, as well as fellow philosophers Alain de Benoist, Martin Heidegger and Julius Evola. That, according to UCLU, was unacceptable.

“The aforementioned philosophers and thinkers are on the extreme-right, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, homophobic, anti-Marxist, anti-worker and have had connections, direct or indirect, with Italian fascism and German Nazism,” the UCLU’s motion said.

“Fascism has no place at UCL or UCLU, and ... any attempts by fascists or the far-right to organize on campus must be met with unconditional resistance,” they continued.
The Union is certainly correct about the connection of these philosophers to fascism. Heidegger was a member of the Nazi Party and Nietzsche's writing, pace his apologists, played right into the aspirations of those who wished to create a master race and suppress or eliminate all others. His exalted descriptions of the will to power, his praise of savagery, cruelty, and the moral overman, and his hatred for Judeo-Christianity resonated with the Hitlerians who saw themselves as the embodiments of Nietzschean virtue.

But the leftists who would stifle any group wishing to promote thinking that would reinforce fascist ideology have, hypocritically enough, no qualms about promoting ideas which reinforce communist ideology, an ideology whose consequences have been even more horrific than those of Nazism.
While thought characterized as right-wing or “fascist” is evidently unacceptable, the UCLU clearly sees no trouble with the far left, with the motion also citing the group’s commitment to ”the program of a socialist transformation of society” as a reason for the club’s abolition. The motion is peppered with numerous other instances of leftist rhetoric, and occasionally veers off into complaining about modern political issues.

“Fascism is used by the ruling class to divide workers… and thus weaken their effectiveness as a force and undermine their resistance to policies of austerity, attacks on living standards and public services, and other consequences of the crisis of the capitalist system,” the motion says.

In a follow-up statement released Friday, UCLU said their actions were necessary for student safety.

“UCLU recognizes the existential threat that the fascist movement poses to our members, and we believe that it is therefore necessary to prevent and disrupt the ability of fascists to organize — on our campuses, on our streets and in our society,” the organization said. “This is not a question of petty or bureaucratic ‘meddling’ but of protecting ourselves as students and members of society from the real dangers posed by the fascist movement.”

The proposer and seconder of the approved motion, Sam Bayliss and Timur Dautov, are both members of the recognized group UCLU Marxists. Among other activities, the group holds regular reading groups on the writings and thought of revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, who killed and suppressed millions while imposing communism on Russia.
Indeed, Marxist-Leninism was responsible for the murders of more than 100 million people in the 20th century and the terrible suffering of countless others. I wonder who will protect the students of the University College of London from the Leninists.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The New Clerisy

The creeping totalitarianism being imposed on America by the ideological left is drawing increasing notice not only from the right, which has been warning about it for some time, but also from the moderate middle and even some liberals. Joel Kotkin at the Daily Beast has a column on this that's well worth a careful reading, although he would have done well to have had an editor give it careful reading before posting it online. The essay contains a lot of grammatical miscues, but nevertheless the content is very good.

The gravamen of Kotkin's argument is that there is a new progressive Clerisy emerging, comprised of three main constituent parts: the creative elite of media and entertainment, the academic community, and the high-level government bureaucracy. This elite constitutes a genuine threat to Americans' individual liberties, and the first step in stopping it is recognizing what it is and the agenda it's pursuing. Kotkin writes:
In ways not seen since at least the McCarthy era, Americans are finding themselves increasingly constrained by a rising class—what I call the progressive Clerisy—that accepts no dissent from its basic tenets. Like the First Estate in pre-revolutionary France, the Clerisy increasingly exercises its power to constrain dissenting views, whether on politics, social attitudes or science.

An alliance of upper level bureaucrats and cultural elites, the Clerisy, for for all their concerns about inequality, have thrived, unlike most Americans, in recent years. They also enjoy strong relations with the power structure in Washington, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Wall Street.
The three constituent groups of the modern Clerisy have ballooned in numbers, power and influence in the last several decades.
Since 1990, the number of government workers has expanded by some five million to some twenty million. That’s four times the number who were employed by the government at the end of the Second World War, a growth rate roughly twice that of the population as a whole.

The upper bureaucracy have been among the greatest beneficiaries — along with Wall Street and the green crony capitalists — of the Obama Administration’s economic policy. The number of workers, particularly at the federal level, continued to rise even at the height of the great recession. Between late 2007 and mid-2009, the number of U.S. federal workers earning at least $150,000 more than doubled. The ranks of federal nomenklatura — combined with a host of related private contractors — have swelled so much that Washington DC by 2012 replaced New York as the wealthiest region in the country.

More important still is the bureaucracy’s ability to control society through unelected agencies, something that grew even during Republican administrations, but has achieved unprecedented scale under President Obama. Increasingly, agencies such as the EPA and HUD, seek to shape community development patterns — for example on land use policies — that traditionally fell under local control.

With their power, the agencies have harassed unfriendly conservative organizations, as seen by the IRS, and monitored the populace’s private conversations, seen in the case of the NSA. But to some prominent members of the Clerisy, these power grabs haven’t gone far enough.
The modern Clerisy, in Kotkin's telling, seeks to aggrandize its own power while stifling, even punishing, dissent whenever and wherever it can. Commencement speakers are hounded into withdrawing, climate-change skeptics and, he might have added, those who question Darwinian materialism, are punished, while questioning the prevailing orthodoxies about race, gender, class, gay marriage and abortion will make one a target for angry personal attacks, if not worse:
Today’s Clerisy attempts to distill today’s distinctly secular “truths”—on issues ranging from the nature of justice, race and gender to the environment—and decide what is acceptable and that which is not. Those who dissent from the accepted point of view can expect their work to be simply ignored, or in some cases vilified. In the Clerical bastion of San Francisco, an actress with heretical views, in this case supporting a Tea Party candidate, who was pilloried, and lost work for her offense.

The pattern of intolerance has been particularly notable in the area of climate change....Climate scientists who diverge from the warming party line, even in a matter of degree, are routinely excoriated by the Clerisy as “deniers” of “settled” science even in the face of 15 years of relatively stable temperatures. The media also participates in this defense of orthodoxy. The Los Angeles Times as well as the website Reddit have chosen to exclude contributions from skeptics.

The stifling orthodoxy from the technocrats and media elite is benign compared to the inquisitional behavior ... seen in institutions of higher education. It is nothing short of tragic, notes civil libertarian Nat Hentoff, that a 2010 survey of 24,000 college students found that barely a third thought it “safe to hold unpopular views on campus.”
There are, however, grounds for hope that the condition is not terminal:
The fact that Republicans continue to maintain considerable power in both Washington and the states suggests that the Clerisy’s power is not yet determinative. And indeed after President Obama leaves office, the Clerisy’s reach may be temporarily diminished, but its ability to set the social and political agenda will likely persist and even grow given their influence to shape perceptions, particularly among the young.

The current atmosphere of ideological unanimity — in academia, the arts and much of the government bureaucracy — set the stage for the outrages of this commencement season, making painfully palpable the growing authoritarian spirit in so many of our leading institutions. They often see themselves as a liberating force in our society, but in their dislike of conflicting ideas and open debate,today’s Clerisy increasingly resembles the closed-minded dogmatists of the Medieval church.
Religious heresy got one burned at the stake in some quarters of medieval Europe. Modern inquisitors on the left eschew the stake, but one sometimes gets the impression that that's only because they so far lack the political power to impose that punishment. They seem content, for now, to destroy dissenters' careers and smear their reputations rather than taking their lives.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Should We Really Take All Measures Necessary?

Some foolish things have been said in the course of trying to defend President Obama's trade of five Taliban leaders for the American soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

Susan Rice, for example, the President's National Security Advisor, declared that Sgt. Bergdahl served his country "with honor and distinction." It may not be surprising that in this White House walking away from one's commitments to one's fellow soldiers and possibly giving aid and comfort to the enemy are considered honorable and distinguished behaviors.

Ms Rice, it must be said, is a woman from among whose virtues a deep respect for the truth is lamentably missing. She is, after all, the official who adamantly purveyed the falsehood that the Benghazi attack was in response to an offensive video, so perhaps we shouldn't assign too much weight to what she says, despite her high rank and influence in the Obama administration.

David Brooks, however, has a more serious reputation, a reputation for being thoughtful and objective, so it's a bit startling to read a column in The New York Times in which, in the course of defending the President's decision, he claims that:
[Americans] will not abandon each other; we will protect one another; heroic measures will be taken to leave no one behind. Even if it is just a lifeless body that we are retrieving, it is important to repatriate all Americans.

The president and vice president, the only government officials elected directly by the entire nation, have a special responsibility to nurture this national solidarity. So, of course, President Obama had to take all measures necessary to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Of course, he had to do all he could do to not forsake an American citizen.
"All measures necessary"? What if the Taliban had insisted that we release Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the 9/11 mastermind? What if they insisted that we abandon support for Israel? What if they demanded that in exchange for Bergdahl we send nuclear technology to Iran? Brooks' claim is ludicrous on the face of it. It's simply ridiculous to say that the nation should pay any price to get back any single American soldier, much less one who deserted his post. If Bergdahl did in fact commit desertion (and then treason) he could be executed. Isn't it ironic that Mr. Obama would give up five murderous thugs to get back a soldier so that he can stand in front of a firing squad?

But Brooks isn't finished:
It doesn’t matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn’t matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share.
Well, if we should do whatever we can to get back our citizens being held by foreign authorities what is this administration doing to repatriate Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi who languishes in a Mexican jail? What's the administration doing to repatriate the numerous other American citizens, some of whom have been imprisoned for years in foreign jails, although they committed no crime?

Does Brooks think we should take all measures necessary to repatriate these citizens? If so, why is he not outraged that the administration, at least by outward appearances, is content to let them all rot? But there's more silliness to come. Brooks writes:
Soldiers don’t risk their lives only for those Americans who deserve it; they do it for the nation as a whole.
This is nonsense. Talk to any combat veteran, and he'll tell you that he risked his life for the other guys in his squad, not for some nebulous national goal or purpose. Indeed, many of them are very cynical about such abstractions.
It is not dispositive either that the deal to release Bergdahl may put others at risk. The five prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a swap for Bergdahl seem like terrible men who could do harm. But their release may have been imminent anyway. And the loss of national fraternity that would result if we start abandoning Americans in the field would be a greater and more long lasting harm.
Yes, it may have been imminent, but it's absurd to use that as a defense of the President's action. The point is that release of murderers, men charged with crimes against humanity by the U.N., shouldn't have been imminent, and especially while hostilities still rage in Afghanistan. Finally there's this:
[T]his is the dirty world we live in. Sometimes national leaders are called upon to take the sins of the situation upon themselves for the good of the country, to deal with the hateful and compromise with the loathsome. That’s their form of sacrifice and service.
Perhaps, but then they shouldn't be conducting Rose Garden ceremonies as if they'd achieved some great and noble victory. To his credit, Mr. Brooks makes that same point later in his essay. Unfortunately, the rest of his column is comprised of so much flummery that it sounds like Susan Rice's talking points for a Sunday talk show.