Saturday, August 13, 2005

What's it all about.

Michael Totten has more thoughts on why we're at war with Islamic fundamentalism. Sometimes I think that there's no point of repeating these points especially for those who are so wedded to their alternate explanation of things that they are impervious to facts, logic or reality. The Chomskyites of the world can not be reasoned with. You either got 9/11 or you incorporated it into your view that America is the source of all evil in the world. The media generally fall into the latter camp. Like drivers who see a horrible wreck, they drove slowly for a while, but then as the memory faded, they speeded up and took another hit of rum and they're still careening down the highway.

You can't argue with drunks, especially when they're driving. You have to arrest them.

What he said.

This letter to the editor on evolution and intelligent design is as clear and succinct a statement of my opinion as I could wish. There's a lot of hypocrisy among scientists. If you're honest, you don't rule out anything you can't disprove. It seems that quantum mechanics is as close to supernatural as anything else I can think of, but it still doesn't explain everything. Science is bumping up against infinity as the solution to its equations. If seems kind of arrogant then to suggest that there isn't any intelligence greater than ours at work in the universe.

I recognize that a lot of scientific hostility is based on an understanding of God as some kind of magician unbound by the laws of nature. But they must recognize the truth that Arthur C. Clarke stated, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magick." Pre-scientific societies resorted to magical explanations for things they couldn't figure out, but they didn't always give up on rationality. We have gone to the opposite extreme, but I don't think we should give up on faith, because science doesn't give us any explanation for why morality is moral. It's been struggling to come up with a theory for altruism conferring an evolutionary advantage, but it doesn't really explain why we're pulled in both directions. Why is it our impulses are selfish, cruel and pleasure seeking, but we feel guilt for obeying them. You could say that guilt is the product of socialization, as it is in part. But why does every society on earth have standards of good and bad? And why do people struggle with those standards? Science just doesn't cut it when it comes to giving us guidance for how to be happy.

Is this feminism?

I hadn't thought of this, but it strikes me as true.
Many women have abortions not because they want to but because their husband or boyfriend pressures them and makes them feel guilty for not being able to work or do other things that they normally could.
I wonder how many babies have been aborted for this reason and what toll it has had on the women. It would be interesting to see a study of this question, but you won't see NARAL funding it. This is the kind of thing you can't get objective results on because the subject is so political that neither side is interested in knowing the actual facts.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Are we really that stupid?

Well, yeah! We have allowed our government to become encrusted with people whose main loyalty is to political correctness, and there is precious little the president or even the department heads can do much about it.

Lending NARAL a helping hand

Kevin Drum is out of his depth as a logician, but I guess that puts him right at the level of those who read his yawp. People who conflate law practice with activism don't do either one very well. I've never thought that the law is all about winning. I believe in being an advocate, not an adversary. I believe that John Roberts thinks the same way. You serve your client, whether you personally agree with him or not, but you don't adopt his anger or hatreds. That's where NARAL's ad misses the boat, and why it and other similarly obsessive organizations are bad for this nation.

Just another Bush hater

About Cindy Sheehan, I sympathize with her loss, but I wonder how much she respects her son's decision to serve his country. She seems to have focused on her bitterness and has given herself over to anger. If her wishes were granted and we withdrew from Iraq forthwith, I would wonder what his life was given for. If it were my son, I would want to make darn sure that we stayed the course and built a free nation where there was only a brutal dictatorship before.

It strikes me as pathetic that she is allowing her pain to be exploited by anti-Bush and anti-war groups. Grief transformed to angry activism and political rancor is cheapened and starts to resemble egoism and an unattractive conceit. All her anger and becoming an anti-war celebrity will not make it any better.

Other mothers are showing how to handle it more constructively. The left seem to have become solely anger-based these days. They're becoming toxic, and they don't seem to realize how it comes across.

Update: The more I read and hear about Sheehan, the less sympathy I have for her. She is using her son's death so cynically, and adopting the blarney so recklessly that her son is probably ashamed of her. She sees herself as King Lear but she's become Crazy Mary instead, and the left is making her crazier. Her grief has become just more banal anger that Bush is President.

Update: James Taranto has a thorough round-up, including a post from Iraq the Model. It's pretty sad. Makes you want to avert your eyes.

Sandy Berger and Able Danger

Pat Santy thinks he may have found the motive for the former national security advisor's theft of documents from the national archives. Able Danger is the codename of a classified military intelligence unit which identified Mohammed Atta and three of his fellow terrorists a year before 9/11. The Clinton Administration is alleged to have blocked this information from being shared with the FBI.

And now we hear that the 9/11 Commission never saw this information. If true, this could be dynamite.

Update: Meanwhile, Kevin Drum is telling us to move on, nothing to look at here. One has to wonder if the left would be treating it like this if it had happened after Bush became president. Drum fails to note what the scandal is really about, the fact that Jamie Gorelich, a member of the 9/11 commission, had instituted the policy that military intelligence could not be shared with the FBI. Obviously, we don't know whether the FBI would have acted on the information that Mohammed Atta was someone to be worried about, but this explanation has to make one wonder:
Weighing this with the information about Atta’s actual activities...the Commission staff concluded that the officer’s account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation.
Not sufficiently reliable to present to the commission members? Shouldn't that conclusion have been the Commission's to make? It does tend to shake one's confidence that the Commission's findings were complete and accurate. Maybe they would just have said that the policy of not sharing intelligence had already been sufficiently discredited, but shouldn't that conclusion have been the American people's to make?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Man from Plains

A little strange, Jimmy Carter's looking more like Nixon as years go by, after campaigning and winning with his promise to be the Un-Nixon in 1976. He apparently had his own enemies list and George Will was at the top of it, because of Will's role in Ronald Reagan's debate prep in his campaign against Carter for the presidency.

Maybe Carter's little note to Will was meant to be a friendly josh like snapping towels in a locker room, but if so, he certainly doesn't understand the etiquette of that kind of male bonding.

It wasn't me who said it

A new study by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research finds that "Being Liberal Now Means Being African American." It also indicts the Democrat party for insufficient diversity:
Despite being the core of America's liberal base, a major split exists between who the nation's liberals are and who leads them politically. White politicians still control the levers of power within the Democratic Party, and black faces are rare around the decision making tables of America's liberal advocacy groups.

Does Free Speech include incitement to violence?

Steve Chapman is attacking Tony Blair's policy of expelling Muslim Clerics who preach violence against Britons from the country. Predicable drivel, and then I hit this line:
The history of freedom of speech, in fact, is mainly the story of learning to tolerate statements that have the potential to cause real harm.
Hmm. Does that include shouting Fire! in a crowded building? Does it mean inciting revolution and violent overthrow of the government? Do we really want another Civil War? Do we want fear and loathing of peaceful American Muslims because of the "Great Satan" rhetoric?

The purpose of free speech is to encourage debate and exchange of views, not violence, hatred and murder. The ACLU's famous defense of the American Nazi Party to march in Skokie, Illinois seems to be some kind of sacred moment for the left, but it has always seemed wrongheaded to me. The marching wasn't just speech, it was a threat, like burning a cross on the front lawn of a black family. It was also pointless. There was no reason that they had to march in an area settled by a lot of Holocaust survivors other than the insult to these people.

In the first place, I'm not particularly impressed by marching, burning things, or carrying signs as a form of debate. It's more like skywriting. Where's the exchange? I've been amused in the past by people who express outrage that they organized a big demonstration, and it didn't change the president's policy. Where do they get the idea that because a few thousand people attend a rally, their opinion is binding on the government? Add to that the fact that a lot of the same people are beating the drum for laws against hate speech. Somehow, I don't think they'd apply them to Muslim clerics urging this twisted idea of jihad.

Is that really what the First Amendment means? I sure hope not, because it will mean the galvanizing of more young Muslims to commit terrorism, more deaths and a lot of trouble for Muslims who are entirely innocent and peaceful.

Keep the government out of my barnyard!

Michael Medved is doing an hour discussing whether bestiality should be illegal. A Washington state legislator has introduced a bill to prohibit having sex with animals. Medved had a bestiality advocate scheduled as a guest, but he failed to show up for the show.

When the gay rights movement started, I predicted that once you break down the barrier to one sort of deviant behavior, you lose the major argument against other types of altlernate sexuality as well, since one can claim that sex with children, animals, dead bodies, etc. are a personal preference people are born with and can't control. For that matter, does kleptomania excuse theft?

The main objection to such behaviors is that they are abnormal. But if you give up on that, the rest of the case is weakened. You can say that children are not willing participants, but does that apply to animals or corpses?

One of the things that is wrong with sin is that experience has shown that it is degrading, addictive, and has negative consequences. The excuse offered for ignoring Bill Clinton's use of Monica Lewinsky was that it was "just sex," as though it didn't have any social effect. I thought at the time that this argument ignored the harm to society done by adultery. Families are broken up; disease is spread; children lose parents or become alienated from them; murders are committed all because of "just sex." When we open society up to every depraved practice on the grounds that if doesn't hurt anybody else, we find that society becomes a hostile environment for families, children, and

No! Not Roger!

James Wolcott is scolding Roger Simon and other 9/11 liberals for siding with the enemy, i. e. George Bush.

It's really pathetic how little time it took the left to resume their carping ways after seeing the WTC towers collapse. All it takes for denial, apparently, is repetition of fatuities. Once normal life returns, those images of toxic dust billowing down the canyons of Manhatten become just another scary dream. When we have another terrorist attack, they'll have no shock or sorrow or sympathy; they'll jump on it as just another thing to blame on Bush.

Update: Christopher Hitchens is the sun of clearthinking in contrast to Wolcott's lunar eclipse. Is there a term for some one who is dumber than a twit?

What's My Line

James Lileks had a piece in the latest AEI magazine about the old game show, which is now being shown via kinescopes on the Game Show Network late at night. I watched this show live when I was a child, so I tuned in for a little nostalgia. These early game shows were based on party games such as 20 questions, charades, et al. This show's charm is a form of 20 questions with some personable, classy and charming panelists. As a little kid in Utah, Iowa and possibly Illinois, I now realize, this program taught me a lot about manners, urbanity, intelligence and pleasantry.

The panelists were from the arts, theatre and publishing. They understood that they were being invited into people's homes and they behaved that way. No bleeps. No profanity or vulgarity. Everyone is called by Miss or Mr. and as Lileks noted, the men stand to shake hands goodbye to the guests and fellow panelists.

Watching them now makes me realize how far our entertainment, including the quality of our celebrities, has sunk.


I think I'm in love

With Heather Mac Donald, if only for the first sentence of her essay about surveillance cameras:
Will the civil libertarians please shut up now?
Another of the current dumb conventional wisdom is that everybody has a right to be anonymous. That might be true if there were no criminals, sexual predators, terrorists and other slime among us. Until that day, we need to be able to spot the creeps, especially after they harm us, and surveillance cameras in public places serve that need far better than any number of eye witnesses, who only think they were watching.

Just after the London bombings, Glenn Reynolds posted that the surveillance cameras in the London tube hadn't protected the Brits. I thought at the time, that's not why they're there. Within a day or two, we were seeing photos of the suspects being sought and then they were in custody. America had to get photos of the 9/11 hijackers from ATM cameras. One wonders if they'd have ever been identified if they hadn't used their cash cards. I'm sorry, but I want the FBI to be able to track people who are out to harm us, even if it requires me to prove who I am. So does Ms. Mac Donald.

Update: Dorothy Rabinowitz has a similarly beautiful mind. The ACLU doesn't seem to think that life is all that important a civil liberty, or at least that safety is outweighed in its view by the right not to be searched before entering the subway. So if the NY subway gets bombed, you'll know whom to blame, in addition to the Jihadists.

The blogging problem

I had a moment of deja vu reading Theodore Dalrymple's column, describing his reaction to a nitwit post-modern "educationist," when I hit this passage:
Halfway through my own reply, however, I suddenly became bored. Why do I spend so much time arguing against such obvious rubbish, which should be both self-refuting and auto-satirizing the moment someone utters it? Why not just go and read a good book?
I guess most bloggers have that experience, especially those whom nobody reads.

I realize that I could pull more readers by promoting myself, but to tell the truth, I'm not sure I dare. Sometimes I write stuff that, returning to it later, seems very well expressed, but a lot of the time I'm just struggling to be coherent. I'm sure I have ADD, especially since I started having tinnitus, thanks to which I hear a high-pitched tone constantly. What I end up with is less a stream of consciousness than a housefly of consciousness--flitting, buzzing, lighting and taking off again before it can be swatted down on one thought.

I, like all old farts, have my own set of pet peeves, war stories and theories. My cousin, who's an M.D., knows that one of my buttons is the idiocy of the wilderness issue, which I view as an elite landgrab aimed at closing public lands to the public which owns them. Of course, there is no end of the letters to the editor from those who believe that the earth cannot survive its crowning creation, humanity. I keep responding, but like Dalrymple, I keep wondering why I waste my time. The people who think that they are being brilliant when they buy into vastly vapid ideas will never learn or cease to come along. I think they are a natural consequence of our leisure society. In the past, they'd be too busy making a living to come up with such nonsense, let alone spout it publicly.

On the other hand, maybe blogging is the answer. Give everybody his own blog, and let the newspapers glean from blogs instead of letters to their editors. And leave the rest of us out of it.

That ain't spam!

I hate to complain, but why does the world's richest company collect $7 million from a spammer, and those of us who have to filter it out get bupkis?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Apparently, the new version of Internet Explorer with not comply with W3C standards. Big surprise. When you've built a monopoly by making other peoples' software work less well with the OS than your own competing software, why change now?


Will conservatives snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory? If there's much of this kind of stupidity, they just might. John Roberts is a lawyer, and lawyers cannot afford to look at everything they do in an ideological light. His helping a colleague prepare to appear before the Supreme Court, even if the case was one which he might not agree with, does not, nor should it, disqualify him from being appointed.

I'm beginning to wonder if I even want to be associated with people this stupid. They will never be the majority in this nation, because they don't understand what freedom and democracy really means.

Update: It appears that I may have been slightly hasty. Apparently the group in question is more of the idiot fringe variety than a mainstream conservative one.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Journalist's Death in Iraq

There's a lot of interesting blogging, by Martin Kramer, Juan Cole, and others going on about the death of Steven Vincent in Iraq. One version is that he was killed by relatives of his female translator in an honor killing.

He was a journalist, not an Arab-studies scholar, and may have stepped beyond the bounds of Arab propriety. Kramer takes offense at what he sees as Cole's condescending attitude toward Vincent, whose own blog had not shown Cole much respect. Maybe if he'd studied some Orientalists, like Raphael Patai, he'd still be alive. But Patai is anathema to the likes of Cole, even if they sometimes sound very much alike.

Harry Potter and the Messiah

I just finished the new Harry Potter novel. I can see why pre-teens might find it less fascinating than earlier ones. Harry is now 16, and finds himself in love, as do his friends. There is a lot of snogging at Hogwarts.

These stories set against a single major story arc, the struggle of the wizard community against Voldemort, which is one of good and evil. The evil is growing toward a climax, presumably to be resolved in the final book, the next one. I can see how this could be unsettling to younger kids, but then fairy tales have always featured evil in the form of wolves, witches, dragons, evil queens and step-parents, etc.

While there are some evangelical Christians denounce these books as stirring up an unhealthy interest in witchcraft and the occult, I would argue that they are very Christian books, this one more so than the others. Like the Lord of the Rings saga, they are providing lessons about good and evil, the necessity of courage and the counterintuitive idea that good can win by the individual courage and faith of the small and weak. It is the nature of evil that we cannot avoid confronting it. It will never leave the world in peace. However, we can't defeat it by adopting its methods, nor by abandoning our faith and principles.

Jesus and Politics

Linda Valdez wants to claim Jesus as a radical liberal, and thereby reclaim voters who have abandoned the Democrats on the basis of moral values:
It's time to say the liberal Democrats are the ones who have consistently supported the Jesus-taught principles of helping the powerless. Ditto for championing the interests of middle-class working people.

Somehow, Democrats let others define them as elitist snobs. That label, not the liberal label, is the one Democrats have to shake.
She seems to think that reading the New Testament would make it clear to anyone that Jesus was a Democrat,
At a time when conservatives are suggesting that providing health care to workers is not an employer's responsibility, Democrats should be pointing out the inherent immorality of the existence of a "working poor" class.

They should be "for" better wages.

They should be "for" national health care.

They should be "for" being liberals. They should point out that Jesus was a liberal, too.. . .

[Hillary] needs the guts to take a proud left turn and loudly proclaim that the United States is not a "Christian nation" in any pinched or exclusionary way.
Good luck with that. The Jesus
I've read about in the scriptures didn't advocate eliminating the death penalty. He said that anyone who would harm children would be better off to have a millstone hung around his neck and be cast into the sea.

He taught that his kingdom was not of this world. He was no political subversive. He advocated not resisting the impositions of the Romans. And he or his apostles taught that his second coming would cleanse the earth of all sin. Not very tolerant or diversity-oriented that.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The realm of Science

Bush's endorsement of explaining the debate over intelligent design to students has the Wall of Separation folks pretty unhappy. Some of them are angry and dismissive, insisting that science classes should only teach "science" and intelligent design is NOT science. I guess what bothers me about this is the assumption that they have been authorized to determine what is science and what is not.

That argument reminds me of the assertion that the fact that rocks are found which have had one edge chipped into a sharp edge proves that they were made by humans or human ancestors. Scientists accept the basic principle of intelligent design, that we can deduce the existence of a creator from his creations, but only of the creator is the missing link or some more primitive intelligence than our own. The appeal of natural selection for many scientists is that it allows them to eliminate a creator from nature, which seems to have become a rigid law for science.

Fine. I just don't think that it has to be a settled issue. There are reasonable arguments on both sides, and there are still open questions in science, as there should be. One good one would be why we have been able to observe adaption, as with Darwin's finches, but not the complete change to a new species, no longer able to breed with the first group. There are lots of questions about the rate of evolution and what makes life fill certain ecological niches. Why are some scientists suggesting that life could have come to earth from Mars before it became so cold? How do scientists determine the pace of change and creation of new species?

In fact, I'd like to see some scientists explain a number of things:

Why don't scientists use the language of evolution as they discuss it? Over and over, I hear them speak as if evolution or nature were intelligent beings, with purposes and strategies.

Why do they talk like they know all about the lives of ancient animals what happened when they only have the fragmentary evidence of fossils. They continually talk about extinct species as if they know more about them that is possible to know.

Why, when they talk so much about being openminded, are so many of them so contemptuous of belief in a creator? Why are they so adamant about the points raised by intelligent design theorists not being science? Why do they insist that science cannot admit that there is an intelligence at work in the universe other than themselves?

Keeping up on Roberts

I'm beginning to really like John Roberts, as a person and as a lawyer. I read some of his legal writing, and saw him speaking at to a small informal group in Maine about what it is like to argue before the Supreme Court, vs. arguing before a State Supreme Court. He not only knows his law, but he explains things in such a clear and well-reasoned way, that I kept thinking how easy it would be to understand his opinions. I also am attracted by his understanding of the most important point of our time about the courts, that they should not make policy for the rest of society. By leveraging its assumed role as the only and final interpreter of the Constitution, the Supreme Court seems to have accepted that it's duty is to render America scrupulously fair so that no one will feel stigmatized, or have the state intruding in their bedrooms. How it can resist the pressure to grant gays the right to marry, given the privacy right cases it has decided, without overturning them would be a feat of what lawyers call distinguishing the precedents.

It seems to me that the cases that emphasizing various provisions of the Bill of Rights without recognizing that the basic presumption is majority rule. If anyone can analyze this dilemma and propose a logical solution to it, John Roberts could, especially if he has four other justices to agree.
One thing he could do is persuade some erstwhile conservatives to come home.

If we keep appointing juges like Coughenour, the terrorists will will

Are judges supposed to use sentencing as an opportunity to make political statements?
U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour[, Seattle,] sentenced a defendant to prison for plotting to bomb the Los Angeles airport. In the course of the sentencing, the judge criticized the Bush administration's post-Sept. 11 policies, such as the use of military tribunals and the detention of enemy combatants. He said that "the message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart." Some people, the judge said, believe that the terrorist threat "renders our Constitution obsolete. . . . If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won."
What pronouncing sentencing on one man who was arrrested before 9/11 has to do with post-9/11 policy is pretty obscure, particularly when judges are not supposed to be involved in setting policy.

I'd like to see the source for his remark about "some people" and the Constitution being obsolete. I've never heard it anywhere before. The message Judge Couchenour's sermon sends is that Al Qaeda should keep trying.

The authors of the piece, Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule, note:
[W[orse than the judge's logic is the underlying sentiment that yesterday's law enforcement procedures are adequate for today's security threats -- and that any deviation from them is a betrayal of the Constitution.
They examine several "judicial cliches" that show the confused thinking of important judges:
(1) the terrorists will "win" if legal rules and policies are changed in ways that restrict the package of civil liberties in place before the terrorist threat emerged.

(2) [A] nation that permits incremental reductions in its civil liberties in response to threats to its citizens is not worth defending.
The former assumes that the terrorists' aim is to cause us to abandon civil liberties, while the latter suggests that the liberties we enjoy are more important than life itself, and that the most important of these is privacy.

The piece does a masterful job of demonstrating the sophistry of these arguments:
The spurious assumption behind both cliches is that whatever package of civil liberties happens to exist at the time a terrorist threat arises must be maintained at all costs; adjustments that reduce liberty are bad even if they produce greater gains in security, potentially saving people's lives. This is a virulent form of the fallacy of the status quo -- that whatever exists must be good.. . .

The two cliches about terrorism are familiar from debates among commentators and politicians. What is new and surprising is their citation by judges as self-evident truths.
What is self-evident to most people is that if one is dead, his rights of privacy, free speech, religion and property are no longer relevant. The number one obligation of government is to protect the lives of its people, which is why you never heard people in London complaining about their rights being violated when they were told to head for the bomb shelters during WWII, and why people are willing to submit to delays and searches at airports. The fact that such searching is being so scrupulously kept free of racial profiling, is starting to get a lot of criticism as wasting time searching little old ladies and other passengers, while scrupulously avoiding focus on young Middle Eastern or South Asian men.