Friday, April 15, 2005

What would Reagan do?

In this case, I think he'd respond to Democrat threats to shut down the Senate with his favorite quote from Dirty Harry, "Go ahead. Make my day." This is the time for a showdown. I think I know what Reagan and George W. Bush would do. If Bill Frist wants to be a leader, he needs to lead with decisiveness.

Glenn Reynolds is attacking Frist for being willing to use the Family Research Council to build support for ending the filibuster. This is alarmist thinking. I don't know anything about the Family Research Council, but even if they're as radical as Glenn thinks, I don't read anything into the fact that Frist is seeking their help in reaching part of the Republican base. We've been hearing that we're in danger of a theocracy if George Bush gets to appoint some justices to the Supreme Court, ever since he got elected, but I would remind the worriers that what Republicans are asking for it to give these nominees a floor vote. If they were such raging theocrats as they're being portrayed, I don't think they'd get past that vote.

Most religious people in this country believe in religious freedom and in many libertarian principles. Glenn and others are trying to portray us as want to impose religion on everybody, but the fact is that the courts have been hostile to many peoples' religious beliefs, as many neolibertarians are. I don't think that wanting to restore the traditional standard of tolerance is an effort toward theocracy, or "tyranny of the majority." When the default rule allows atheists to veto everybody else, that's not theocracy.

This is what I find so odd about the argument that the religious right has too much influence or is a danger to minority rights. It portrays society as being tolerant only when it won't allow anybody in public office to mention his/her religious beliefs. I belong to a church which suffered real persecution, to the extent that they moved out of the states to be able to practice their religion without being physically attacked. The failure of the government to protect their rights to live in peace and the security of their property rights is more shameful than anything except slavery. Now we're being told that politicians need to steer clear of association with religious people. That's anti-libertarian in a country that was founded in part on freedom of religion, speech and association.

I've always found Instapundit to be respectful of the views of others, but his alarmism about the indignation with judges is as over the top as the calls for impeaching justices. Why is it that liberal Democrats can openly campaign in African American churches and nobody brings up Church and State, but if Republicans even appear on the same stage with Evangelical Christians, of which I am NOT one, the very Constitution is being threatened.

The future of IT

According to Intel CEO Craig Barrett the health care field needs to become more efficient and take advantage of miniaturization and new methods of chip design and production, both for information management and for sensors to aid diagnosis and treatment.

The May issue of Scientific American has a cover story on something called neuromorphic chips which mimic human nerve cells.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Gut Check Time

Hugh Hewitt is fretting over Republican senators who are making noises like they won't vote to stop filibusters. I don't know how serious this is, but I hope these senators, like McCain, Chaffee and a few others remember the rules of the game of chicken. McCain seems motivated to try to improve the bitter atmosphere between the parties, but he will only succeed in making it worse. The majority has an obligation to rule, not to go weak kneed at the first showdown.

This is one of the major reasons people voted Republican in the last election. They wanted to appoint judges who will give more deference to laws made by bodies who represent the people. What do we vote for, if our representatives can be overruled by appointed judges with life tenure? Yes, minorities have rights, but those are limited exceptions to the general rule that the majority rules in a democracy.

The boldness and impudence of federal judges has become alarming when they become willing to tinker with the definition of marriage in the face of election after election where the people have voted well over 50% to outlaw gay marriage.

I think it may be time to require judges to be put on the ballots as to whether they should continue in office. They are appointed to serve during "good behavior." Whether they are behaving well should be determined by the voters.

Update: A day later, and Hugh is more worked up than yesterday. John McCain has stated flatly that he will vote with the Democrats to support the continued filibustering of Bush's judicial nominees. May he never be able to run for political office again. He is too dim to realize what this issue is about.

He says he wants to go back to the good old days when the White House contacted the senators and didn't send nominees they wouldn't support. Senators could blueslip judges. That was when the Republicans didn't have control of the Senate. If he can only think like a member of the minority, he should retire and make way for someone with some fire in his belly.

Thank you, Mr. Vieira, . . .

for helping reinforce the left's worst stereotypes of the right. Sheesh!

Impeaching a justice is not in the cards. It would only drive away moderates and gain nothing. Justice Kennedy's appeal to foreign jurisdictions for support of his opinions is odious, but it isn't an impeachable offense.

What I would rather see is an Amendment that would make it easier to overrule judicial decisions that strike down democratically enacted legislation. I'm not sure how it should be done, but I think that the framers expected that it would be easier to amend the Constitution than it has turned out to be. Amendment was to have been the check on the power of the judicial branch. I don't know whether the Constitutional Convention discussed judicial review of statutes, or even if they realized that it would become an issue or create an imbalance of power among the three branches. In any event, the question for Americans now is whether we will see this problem and support measures to make judges more accountable to the public.

Another idea would be a Constitutional amendment that requires all judges to stand for retention elections. The voters could vote on whether to retain each one or not. The question is "good behavior" and I think that the voters, being the source of all government power are well-qualified to make that determination.

Religious revival, or just the Freedom Clause

Glenn Reynolds seems worried about "signs of a revival in religious interest." We just celebrated Easter and fretted over whether Terri Schiavo life signs should have been terminated, and then the Pope, who most people feel was a saintly man who helped bring about the end of the Iron Curtain, expired. So naturally, there's a lot of religion in the air.

I think that we're nearing a climax of the steady progress of causes like those espoused by the ACLU which, coincidentally or not, seem always to oppose most religious views. The gay marriage issue may have pushed it too far.

Now NBC has launched a miniseries called Revelations. I thought it might be interesting. It reminds me a lot of the old Millennium series in which Lance Henriksen played a profiler tracking down serial killers. It was an attempt by the creator of The X-Files, Chris Carter to follow up his big hit. It started out quite well, but Carter had to hand it off to some less talented producers who allowed it to veer off into a lot of silly stuff from Holy Blood, Holy Grail. I've been a fan of Lance Henriksen since I first saw him in Aliens, but he's seldom been allowed to play heroes.

Anyway, Revelations stars Bill Pullman as a physics professor whose daughter is murdered by a satanist and is sought out by an Oxford-trained nun who is searching out signs of the Second Coming. It disappointed me with its depiction of religion as some kind of eerie superstition which sees miracles in mysterious shadows that seem to be cast by Jesus' crucifixion and evil as something like what was in The Exorcist. It's kind of an eery program which doesn't promise to resolve anything, but suggest that there's more in heaven and earth than we can learn by reading Scientific American. Being a believer, I felt kind of betrayed, although I shouldn't have expected anything better. The things that happen in this show are what I call Catholic miracles, like those visions of the BVM witnessed by young girls. Joseph Smith, the prophet who Mormons believe was the instrument God chose to restore the original Christianity as taught by the original apostles, taught that visions were given to convey knowledge and that angels don't just appear and stand there. They are messengers who deliver instructions and teach. So all these people who see the face of the Savior in the stripped paper of a billboard, or, as happened in Salt Lake City, where people saw the face of the Virgin in the stump of a tree branch that had been cut off, fail that test.

Mormons arent mystics. The miracles we believe in are less dramatic--they don't produce the feeling of being one with God, the Universe and everything. They're much more subtle, and usually leave room for doubt. Joseph Smith described the effect of the Holy Ghost as feeling intelligence come into your mind, ideas and insights that occur seemingly out of nowhere. The only reason this matters, is that it has been foretold that one of the signs of the times before Christ's return is many false prophets.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

How will this affect global warming?

The Independent reports that " Millions of tons of dandruff are circling the Earth, blocking out sunlight, causing rain and spreading disease . . .." I wonder if this is the same story as "Killer Dust" on the cover of a recent Discover magazine. Environmentalists won't be happy until we're all afraid to leave our homes. Then the formaldahyde in the carpets will get us.

I'm waiting to find out whether Procter and Gamble funded the research.

Riding the Tiger

Amir Taheri reports that Al Qaeda its support among Muslims waning has refocused on overthrowing the Saudi regime. Will the Saudis finally figure out that their alliance with Wahhabism is coming back to bite them? Stay tuned.

Monday, April 11, 2005

America's Prince Charles

After the 2000 election, Al Gore became a gloomy presence like a Banquo wannabe in our news. Now, it's John Kerry, who's whining to the media about how he was robbed in the election, but with far less cause. He sounds like a psychotic street person mumbling on and on about things only he remembers or considers real anymore. The Democrats are still burning, but I think that by now the media have moved on. Kerry doesn't seem to understand that he lost the election by chalking up gaffe after gaffe and making himself look like America's Prince Charles, who will also never be king.

Mushy, middle-of-the-road--The perfect judicial nominee?

Mickey Kaus is usually pretty clear headed but, on keeping the filibuster he leaves reason behind. He writes that the politicization of the judiciary requires that appointees be "mushy middle-of-the-road consensus candidate[s]" and that the filibuster will help force compromise. I don't think Bush is interested in repeating the Souter nomination.

This is a battle created by justices who have politicized the courts and it must be fought out and won by the advocates of a cautious judiciary who are nevertheless willing to pull the courts back from their past overreaching. Otherwise, the democracy on which the Constitution is built will be in peril.

Against Impeachment

As sympathetic as I am with the goal, I don't think impeachment of Justice Kennedy is a stupid idea. We need a better way to allow the public to overrule bad decisions on the basis that they intrude upon the rights of other branches and of state governements, in the cloak of interpreting the Constitution which mentions neither abortion nor homosexuality. Justice Kennedy's invoking of international trends as a ground for overruling legislative decisions is a clear showing that some justices see themselves as representing an elite class, rather than being impartial and handling cases individually while leaving policy and lawmaking up to those who are elected. Occasionally, as in the case of Jim Crow laws, the court may have to strike down democratically enacted laws, but that is a very rare situation where no basis other than skin color, ancestry or ethnicity can be cited to support the law. That's why the court has not explicitly prohibited any discrimination on the basis of sex.

65% Solution

George Will gives a boost to a proposal by Patrick Byrne to require more of school budgets to be devoted to classroom teaching. I've thought for years that we encourage our best and most ambitious teachers to go into administration. We give them incentives to get more education and leave the classroom. Too often, those who remain as teachers are the ones without the drive to get ahead. This isn't true of all teachers or even the majority of them. Many do it because they love the job and take great satisfaction in seeing kids learn. But increasingly teachers get caught up in the union mentality and silly educational theories driven by the need to debunk existing methods.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Last Days

I'm watching the movie Supervolcano on the Discovery Channel. It's real Old Testament End-of-the-World stuff, but it's based on good science. The prophecies about conditions leading up to the Second Coming of Christ look pretty plausible. The tsunami in South Asia is another case, as is the possibility of much greater ones which could be caused by parts of islands in the Canary and the Hawaiian Islands, up to 500 0r 1000 feet high. Then there's the potential for plaque represented by the failure of antibiotics, flooding and the destruction of infrastructure like clean water, sewage treatment, etc. such natural disasters would entail, not to mention the breakdown of law and order.

The film begins with a scientist at Yellowstone dismissing the possibility of a new eruption there. There's not much point in worrying about it, except for storing food and water, because it would make short work of our vaunted technology and civilization. FEMA wouldn't stand a chance. Global warming looks pretty puny in comparison.

School Daze

Steve Goodman, an educational consultant, writes:
[N]ow the professors and administrators are more likely to be playing politics -- and more and more Americans with college-age kids are getting fed up with it. In 18 years of in-the-trenches experience counseling kids on their college choices, I've never seen the unhappiness as widespread as it is today. If colleges don't tone down the politics, and figure out how to control ballooning costs, they run the risk of turning off enough American consumers that many campuses could marginalize themselves right out of existence.
And that includes those that depend on state taxpayers, like the one where Ward Churchill makes close to $100 grand a year. Harvard, Yale and Princeton don't need to worry; they have huge endowments. I have a son who went to Harvard, but I wouldn't encourage anyone else to send kids there.

Eugene Volokh has penned a succinct primer on blogs. I don't know why it is needed or why the people he wrote it for have to go to a conference to figure it out. They must be afraid to venture onto the internet without a seminar to tell them what to think about the experience.

Good Question

Maggie Gallagher asks: Will the next pope be Catholic?