June 30, 2006
Would You Bet Your Life on a 30% Failure?
If your birth control pill only worked 70% of the time, would you consider that successful? Apparently, some folks would.
A new study on condom effectiveness in protecting against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus has shown a discrediting 30% failure rate. The report, however, is being praised as a breakthrough for its claim that condom use offers “significant” protection against the virus.
The study relied on the journals of 82 female university students who kept daily records of their sexual behaviour, and found that 70% of the women, who reported 100% consistent condom use, were virus-free at the end of three years.
The Illinois Family Institute criticized news reports of the study as misleading and inaccurate, saying the 30 per cent failure rate was far more important information than the limited success of the study.
“In fact, the study reports that 12 out of 42 women whose partners always used condoms did get HPV. Thus, 28.5% of the women got HPV even with 100% condom use,” said William Beckman, executive director of Illinois Right to Life Committee.
“Why isn’t the fact that condoms, even under ideal usage conditions, failed 28.5% of the time the real story here? Who would consider this an acceptable failure rate when dealing with a cancer-causing virus?”
Well yeah, 70% is significant, but which is better; being sexually active and having a 30% chance of killing yourself with an STD, or being abstinent with a 0% chance? The folks trumpeting this study are, of course, highlighting the fact that condom's are better than nothing. But even considering just that comparison, is 30% worth your life? If not, then this is not a "success"; it's a dismal failure.
Maybe with a better sampling, the results might be different.
Furthermore, Beckman points out, the study itself is inconclusive since it relies on the self-reporting of just 82 university-aged women.
“For those who are still impressed by the “70% less” infection rate, remember that with only 82 women, the sample size is so small that the results have very little statistical significance.”
So what we have is a fatally flawed study, praised by people who consider it's 30% failure rate a success. Here's an example.
Among those applauding the report was Markus Steiner of Family Health International in Research Triangle Park, NC, who co-wrote an accompanying commentary. He told the New Scientist that the research should put an end to calls for FDA warnings against condom failures in protecting against HPV, by groups advocating abstinence.
“We’re hoping the findings of the paper will dissipate this pressure,” he said.
I doubt Mr. Steiner would accept a 30% failure rate in many other, non-life-threatening parts of his life, but he's more than willing to do what he can to give others a false sense of security. Is this what his company considers family health?
June 28, 2006
An Illegal Education
Homeschooling in the US continues to grow, and slowly public educators are accepting it as a reasonable alternative given the studies that show how kids excel in it. However, in Germany, it'll get you jailed, and folks are fighting back.
German homeschooling parents who face fines or jail sentences are prepared to take their cause to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe recently turned down an appeal by Christian parents. According to the justices, the parents are required to send their children to state registered schools.
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany, even if parents object to institutional education for religious reasons. Many Christians, however, are defying legal requirements. Some have been fined or incarcerated after refusing to pay the fines. It is estimated at least 1,000 children in Germany are taught by their parents.
Germany is rather unique in this stance.
Germany takes a tougher line against homeschooling than other European democracies. France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland and Austria also require children to receive school education but leave the form of education up to the parents.
If you can't trust parents to make decisions for their own children, who can you trust?
Giving Up Land For...What, Exactly?
Israel moved out of Gaza last August as part of the land-for-peace roadmap. Since the following September, the Palestinians have used it for a place to launch rockets; more than 500 in the 10 months they've had it. The Israel Project has the details.
Yesterday, Hamas and Fatah agreed to recognize Israel. Well, "implicitly". Well, they agreed on a plan to endorse a document that implies Israel's right to exist, because they want to resume getting money. How far can we trust that plan? As far as a rocket can fly from Gaza?
June 27, 2006
Your Tax Dollars at Play
This just in; government aid wasted! Film at 11.
Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one: it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion.
While the staggering dollar amount is indeed news, the idea that big government produces big waste shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. I wonder how the percentage of waste compares to the private charities that responded.
Government cannot react quickly and efficiently, and the bigger it is the worse it gets. This was not news to those trying to respond.
Such an outcome was feared soon after Congress passed the initial hurricane relief package, as officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross acknowledged that their systems were overwhelmed and tried to create new ones on the fly.
"We did, in fact, put into place never-before-used and untested processes," Donna M. Dannels, acting deputy director of recovery at FEMA, told a House panel this month. "Clearly, because they were untested, they were more subject to error and fraud."
Unfortunately, the public has come to expect government to act on a moment's notice and turn on a dime. Somehow, they've been sold on the idea that it's government's job to solve all our problems, and that they'll do so with the utmost efficiency. (Gee, wonder who's been selling that bill of goods. Note that the only legislators expressing outrage are Republicans. The Times couldn't find any Democrats to speak out against wasteful spending?)
How inefficiently? Way out of proportion.
Officials in Washington say they recognized that a certain amount of fraud or improper payments is inevitable in any major disaster, as the government's mission is to rapidly distribute emergency aid. They typically send out excessive payments that represent 1 percent to 3 percent of the relief distributed, money they then ask people to give back.
What was not understood until now was just how large these numbers could become.
The estimate of up to $2 billion in fraud and waste represents nearly 11 percent of the $19 billion spent by FEMA on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as of mid-June, or about 6 percent of total money that has been obligated.
And that's just the fraud they could find. They're just getting started.
To date, Mr. Dugas said, federal prosecutors have filed hurricane-related criminal charges against 335 individuals. That represents a record number of indictments from a single hurricane season, Justice Department officials said. Separately, Red Cross officials say they are investigating 7,100 cases of possible fraud.
Congressional investigators, meanwhile, have referred another 7,000 cases of possible fraud to prosecutors, including more than 1,000 prison inmates who collected more than $12 million in federal aid, much of it in the form of rental assistance.
Investigators also turned up one individual who had received 26 federal disaster relief payments totaling $139,000, using 13 Social Security numbers, all based on claims of damages for bogus addresses.
Thousands more people may be charged before the five-year statute of limitations on most of these crimes expires, investigators said.
Your tax dollars at work. Your charity dollars are, however, working a lot harder. Unfortunately, the idea that the government is this unending source of cash when disaster strikes, and the taxes levied in pursuit of that utopia, mean less for private charities and more for the layers of federal bureaucrats, the overhead of which isn't in this accounting of fraud and abuse.
June 22, 2006
Forgiveness Lifts the Chains
A wonderful story of healing and forgiveness.
Sir John Hawkins was a buccaneering Elizabethan seaman and adventurer, who helped his cousin Sir Francis Drake beat the Spanish Armada. And he was also one of the pioneers of the slave trade, becoming the first person to buy slaves in west Africa and sell them to Spanish landowners in the Caribbean.
Now his descendent, Andrew Hawkins, a youth worker from Cornwall, has delivered an extraordinary personal but public apology for his ancestors' involvement in the trade, kneeling in chains in front of 25,000 Africans in a stadium in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia.
Mr Hawkins, 37, from Liskeard, said yesterday: "I apologised on behalf of my family. I apologised for the adults and children taken. I recognise that it's a small, simple act to say sorry - but it was a handful of people who started the slave trade and the ripples of their actions caused evil throughout the continent of Africa.
After he had spoken, the Vice-President of Gambia, Isatou Njie Saidy, came forward to accept the apology and symbolically remove the chains.
What a powerful image that would have been to witness.
For whites who's ancestors did not own slaves or came here after slavery was abolished, an apology can still be meaningful. When our church was partnering with a nearby black church for a number of events, one of the things we did was have a meeting on reconciliation. Asking forgiveness for those who came before us, chronologically if sometimes not genealogically, and giving that forgiveness by those who, in most cases, do come from bloodlines that include slaves, was a powerful time. It wasn't just a matter of getting a good feeling from doing the "right thing". More importantly it helped both sides to lay aside any buried resentment for the other, any hints of racism that we may not have known of or acknowledged. Again, many of the whites did not have slave-owners in their pasts--me included--but it was a time to acknowledge the hurt cause by, and express sorrow and regret for, the sins of our race. Some of the black participants acknowledged resentment they had had towards whites in the past, asked for forgiveness, and received it. The walls were crumbling.
How much more powerful to hear the confession and the request for forgiveness of a man who's ancestors began the African slave trade to the Europeans. And the symbolism of the Vice President of Gambia removing his chains; chains not just symbolic of the slaves' chains, but of the chains that bind us when we hold grudges and don't offer forgiveness, even when unasked for.
Some are asking that money be given to those here who are descendants of slaves as reparations for what was done to their ancestors. Well, that may help things temporarily, but money never really solves the long-term problem. Nothing will repair what ails our country or our wold more than a changing of the hearts.
June 21, 2006
Christian Film PG Rating Update
An update to the story about the movie given a PG rating due to religious elements.
In the last week alone, the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which oversees the rating board, has been swamped with more than 15,000 e-mails arguing that "Facing the Giants" deserves a more family-friendly G rating. The complaints — the number of which may be 10 times the previous record for reaction to a ratings decision — say the movie is being unfairly targeted for its religious themes.
The filmmakers say they were told that those themes had prompted the PG rating. MPAA officials deny that was the reason.
Across the Internet and on talk radio, religious groups and conservative commentators have seized on the rating flap as evidence that Hollywood is anti-Christian. And the third-ranking House Republican has written to MPAA Chief Executive Dan Glickman demanding answers.
"This incident raises the disquieting possibility that MPAA considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and mindless violence," said Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
The MPAA is denying they based the rating on the religious content.
Joan Graves, chairwoman of the MPAA's rating board, said Tuesday that the decision had nothing to do with Christianity but was based on football violence as well as the inclusion of mature topics such as depression and infertility.
In a rare interview granted in an attempt to defuse what she calls a controversy born of miscommunication, Graves said that although infertility and depression are involved in the coach's "crisis of faith," the religious story line itself did not raise a red flag.
"If we see somebody on the screen practicing their faith and indicating they have a faith, that's not something we PG," Graves said, adding that the board's goal is simply to alert parents to content in movies that they should research.
But the filmmakers stand by their original story.
A spokeswoman for the filmmakers, however, said they had expected a PG rating because of the infertility subject matter, but that's not the reason they were given.
"When we asked what the reason for the PG was, we were told it was the religious content," said Julie Fairchild, the spokeswoman. She added that the rating board representatives they spoke with "didn't even mention the infertility."
On the upside, some think the rating will be a draw for some demographics.
Ironically, some Christian groups believe the PG rating — not to mention the publicity — will attract more teenagers, who typically shun G-rated films.
"I think that a G for a lot of teenagers is the kiss of death," said Bob Waliszewski, a media specialist with Focus on the Family, a Christian group.
Waliszewski screened "Facing the Giants" and contends the PG rating isn't warranted. But, he said, "it's a case where unfairness will probably be a blessing in disguise."
June 20, 2006
Kim Jong Il's Countdown Clock is Ticking
As Kim Jong Il appears prepared to launch a missile, ostensibly as a test, the Pentagon says it's ready.
The United States has moved its ground-based interceptor missile defense system from test mode to operational amid concerns over an expected North Korean missile launch, a U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed a Washington Times report that the Pentagon has activated the system, which has been in the developmental stage for years.
"It's good to be ready," the official said.
Well, depends on what you mean by "ready". There have been some encouraging tests, but very few of them. Then again, this is just one missile, which should make things a little bit easier to be "ready" for.
Still, if North Korea had a nuclear payload on this missile, what should we do about it? Even if it's just a dud, but this test moves them forward technologically towards a Taepodong-3, which could hit all of the continental US, what should we be doing? Or should be sitting back and just watching it?
The doctrine of pre-emption, those who are for it and those who are against it, faces a big test right now. Even though the Taepodong-2 that is being fueled could hit Alaska, Hawaii and parts of California, I don't really think this is going to be aimed at any of those places. And yet, it has the capability. We have a few options available to us:
Destroy it on the ground: We could launch a strike against the missile even before it launches. Robbing them of the entire test would ensure they got nothing out of it.
This comes with a potentially big PR hit, most likely, ironically, from Jimmy Carter who trusted the North Koreans enough to bribe them with food so they wouldn't build the nukes they say they now have.
Intercept it in the air: As the anonymous source suggests, the Pentagon is "ready" to do this if need be.
On the upside, if it works it would potentially demoralize the North Korean military and push out any potential aggression on their part until perhaps they felt they could deal with interception. On the downside, it may tip our defensive hand to those taking notes. Also on the downside, the intercept may fail, which would be more of a blow to us than if the missile were allowed to just land in the ocean.
Do nothing: We could just watch it, and hope it isn't an attack. The North Koreans get valuable data to advance their own weapons program.
If it does hit something, I imagine the Left would be outraged at Kim for a while, until Cynthia McKinney suggested that Bush knew it was an attack all along, and John Murtha suggests leaving South Korea. If it doesn't hit anything, it it's truly a test, then it simply hastens the day when North Korea can put out a threat that covers 50 states instead of just 2.
It goes without saying that I'm glad I'm not the President. Not only is this an issue of national security, but it will be made a political football by his opposition when politics should be the last thing on their minds. As I said, I'm not fearful that this is anything more than just a test firing. But at the same time, it's a step--a big step--down a road. Which direction that step is depends on decisions made in the next 72 hours or so.
June 19, 2006
PCUSA Identity Crisis
The Presbyterian Church USA is having an identity crisis on multiple fronts. First there's the question of homosexual clergy.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), severely split over homosexuality, would maintain its ban on gay clergy but allow some leeway in enforcing it under a proposal headed to a national assembly vote on Tuesday.
A key committee, which divided 30-28, proposed keeping on the books a church law mandating that lay officeholders as well as all clergy restrict sexual activity to heterosexual marriage.
But another bill would give local congregations and regional "presbyteries" leeway on whether to require that rule in all cases.
A committee minority plans to propose an alternate to that proposal. Ten conservative Presbyterian groups have warned jointly that approval of what they call "local option" would "promote schism by permitting the disregard of clear standards of Scripture."
Facing seemingly endless acrimony on gays and other issues, a special task force spent four years pondering how the denomination could remain united. Its report to this assembly included the compromise plan to keep the sexual law intact but allow local flexibility in applying it.
Liberal caucuses protest that this will leave injustice in place. Conservatives call it an illicit means for the national assembly to rewrite church law.
Second, there's the issue of male vs neutral wording.
Another bill that could prompt intense debate would encourage gender- neutral worship language for the divine Trinity _ for instance "Mother, Child and Womb" _ alongside the traditional "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
(I guess here, the identity crisis is a question of God's identity. How would the Spirit be a "Womb", exactly?)
Third is the issue of financially supporting Israel.
The delegates also will consider a proposal to soften the 2004 assembly's decision to selectively pull Presbyterian investments from corporations involved with Israel.
I don't think that we as Christians are required to support every single action taken by the political rulers of Israel. Heck, I don't think Jews should. But divesting money from Israeli companies or companies that do business there seems rather counter- or non-productive, regarding either how the government acts or regarding the special place Israel holds in the Christian faith.
The thought is that the PCUSA may split over these issues.
UPDATE: Solomonia has more information on the divestment policy, including accounts of the recent discussions.
June 14, 2006
An Inconvenient Truth for Al Gore
You don't see this often enough in the mainstream media, so here's some exposure for this issue from a non-mainstream source. The Canada Free Press reports that Al Gore's new movie, and the claims it makes, actually have some critics. I know, you wouldn't think there were many of them at all, but it ain't necessarily so.
"Scientists have an independent obligation to respect and present the truth as they see it," Al Gore sensibly asserts in his film "An Inconvenient Truth", showing at Cumberland 4 Cinemas in Toronto since Jun 2. With that outlook in mind, what do world climate experts actually think about the science of his movie?
Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, in Australia gives what, for many Canadians, is a surprising assessment: "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention."
The obvious question comes to mind, given how global warming critics are covered (when they are):
But surely Carter is merely part of what most people regard as a tiny cadre of "climate change skeptics" who disagree with the "vast majority of scientists" Gore cites?
The answer is intriguing, and not one you'll hear from reporters who have their minds made up.
No; Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing significant global climate change. "Climate experts" is the operative term here. Why? Because what Gore's "majority of scientists" think is immaterial when only a very small fraction of them actually work in the climate field.I think that the "non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby" phrase is particularly noteworthy. So many people sounding alarms are being paid to say what they're saying, or have a vested interest in having man-made global warming become a subject of official policy by the government and grants from universities.
Even among that fraction, many focus their studies on the impacts of climate change; biologists, for example, who study everything from insects to polar bears to poison ivy. "While many are highly skilled researchers, they generally do not have special knowledge about the causes of global climate change," explains former University of Winnipeg climatology professor Dr. Tim Ball. "They usually can tell us only about the effects of changes in the local environment where they conduct their studies."
This is highly valuable knowledge, but doesn't make them climate change cause experts, only climate impact experts.
So we have a smaller fraction.
But it becomes smaller still. Among experts who actually examine the causes of change on a global scale, many concentrate their research on designing and enhancing computer models of hypothetical futures. "These models have been consistently wrong in all their scenarios," asserts Ball. "Since modelers concede computer outputs are not "predictions" but are in fact merely scenarios, they are negligent in letting policy-makers and the public think they are actually making forecasts."
The article goes on to show example after example of claims made by by the global warming crowd in general, or Gore's movie in particular, debunked by fellows who work in the fields that they're critiquing. Very little of this ever gets on the morning, evening or late night news, but it's worth knowing about.
In April sixty of the world's leading experts in the field asked Prime Minister Harper to order a thorough public review of the science of climate change, something that has never happened in Canada. Considering what's at stake - either the end of civilization, if you believe Gore, or a waste of billions of dollars, if you believe his opponents - it seems like a reasonable request.
You'd think that, but the Left and the media have made up their mind. Dissent will not be tolerated (or reported).
June 12, 2006
Are You Accepting Bribes? Your Congressman Would Like To Know.
From today's headlines:
If Democrats win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran said he would use his position in the majority to help funnel more funds to his Northern Virginia district.
Moran, D-8th, told those attending the Arlington County Democratic Committee's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on June 9 that while he in theory might oppose the fiscal irresponsibility of “earmarks” - funneling money to projects in a member of Congress's district - he understands the value they have to constituents.
“When I become chairman [of a House appropriations subcommittee], I'm going to earmark the s--- out of it,” Moran buoyantly told a crowd of 450 attending the event.
From the 19th century:
“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money” -- Alexis de Tocqueville
But you can only use it as a bribe if the "bribee" is willing to take it. Until we stop asking our politicians to bribe us with our own money, they'll keep doing it.
UPDATE: And speaking of bribing, here's a story about private individuals getting in on the act.
Remember the Heroes (Even If the MSM Doesn't)
In the past 3 weeks, the Haditha coverage really kicked into high gear. The coverage of the allegations have garnered 3 hours and 30 minutes of news coverage on the big 3 news organization's shows; morning, evening, primetime and late night.
Since the war on terror began on 9/11, the military has awarded top medals to 20 people. The coverage of these heroes by the same news shows has totalled 52 minutes.
Let me say that again. In 3 weeks the bad news, all allegations and leaks and quotes from Congressman Murtha, got 3.5 hours of coverage. In the 5 years since 9/11, the top heroes of the war have rated only 52 minutes. The Media Research Center has the details.
Keep this in mind when anyone suggests that the media only reports the bad news because that's the only news to report. The excuse that the media only covers sensational stories is exposed when the MRC notes that indeed news coverage can pick up on the heroes, if it wants to and if it takes the time to. But more often than not, bad news, even it it's the same bad news that's been mentioned over and over for a week, gets pushed to the front. It fits the narrative they're trying to sell us on.
But don't forget the heroes just because the media does.
UPDATE: By the way, when the bad news about Haditha is countered, the networks go silent.
June 08, 2006
Movable Type's IP Banning feature has been giving us fits of late. That's the feature where you can ban comments from those coming from a particular network address. Twice in the past month this feature has spontaneously turned itself on, and banned everything. It usually happens after we go though and clear out a lot of spam comments, so we'll have to be more vigilant when sweeping up around here.
Sorry about any pearls of wisdom that have been rejected. Comment away!
(Quick updte: For the record, we have never banned anyone's IP address.)
Posted by Doug at 05:00 PM
Rated PG for Realistic Depictions of Faith
Depiction of religion--religion is really believed and acted upon, not just mentioned or scorned--now is enough to incur a PG rating for a movie.
A new family film featuring miracles and a pro-God theme has earned a rating of "PG" from the Motion Picture Association of America due to fears it might offend people who have no faith or a different faith.
The decision surprises many who believed the "parental guidance" warning was reserved for the likes of violence, foul language and nudity.
"Facing the Giants," the story of a Christian high-school football coach who uses his undying faith to battle the giants of fear and failure, was given the rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, the group which brands films according to their content.
"It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about," film spokesman Kris Fuhr told the Scripps Howard News Service.
Fuhr noted the association "decided that the movie was heavily laden with messages from one religion and that this might offend people from other religions. It's important that they used the word 'proselytizing' when they talked about giving this movie a PG."
Imagine the TV version if this movie. An announcer intones prior to the show, "This movie contains uplifting scenes, raw faith, and answers to prayer. Viewer discretion is advised." What is with this fear of religion?
Zarqawi Eliminated. Good News, Right?
The latest casualty in the war in Iraq is a major one; the most wanted man in Iraq.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's leader in Iraq who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings and kidnappings, has been killed in an air strike, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday, adding that his identity was confirmed by fingerprints and a look at his face. It was a major victory in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the broader war on terror.
It was rightly cheered by all present when it was announced.
Loud applause broke out among the reporters and soldiers as [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki, flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told a news conference that "al-Zarqawi was eliminated."
This is an opportunity for Iraqi insurgents to re-evaluate their purpose and their means to that purpose.
Thamir Abdulhussein, a college student in Baghdad, said he hopes the killing of al-Zarqawi will promote reconciliation between Iraq's fractured ethnic and sectarian groups.
"If it's true al-Zarqawi was killed, that will be a big happiness for all the Iraqis," he said. "He was behind all the killings of Sunni and Shiites. Iraqis should now move toward reconciliation. They should stop the violence."
These may be the words of an idealistic college student, but the hope is there that such a thing could happen Depending on how much al-Zarqawi's death becomes a blow to their morale, it could represent the perfect chance for this to happen.
On the other hand, it may not.
Amir Muhammed Ali, a 45-year-old stock broker in Baghdad, was skeptical that al-Zarqawi's death would end the unrelenting violence in the country, saying he was a foreigner but the Iraqi resistance to U.S.-led forces would likely continue.
"He didn't represent the resistance, someone will replace him and the operations will go on," he said.
I'd guess that this outcome is more likely, but at least now the chances for decreased violence have been given a renewed possibility.
But the Left is still looking at the cloud instead of the silver lining, just as they did when Hussein was captured.
Hesiod at the Daily Kos, in his diary about Zarqawi, starts out with promise...
Finally, some genuine good news from Iraq. Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed in an air raid last [n]ight in Northern Baghdad.
We can all analyze what this means for the Iraq occupation later. But, right now, we should all be happy that a man who was responsible for the murders of hundreds, if not thousands of men women and children in Iraq -- and for the demise and maiming of our troops -- has been taken out.
...yet he soon degenerates into back-handed slaps.
No matter whether you support, or oppose the war. No matter whether you believe Bush is doing the right thing, or is a lying snake who got us into this war for the most cynical of reasons and then screwed it up -- this is good news.
Yes, I know. Bush had a chance to take out Zarqawi BEFORE we ever invaded Iraq and "allowed him to escape" because he didn't want to eliminate one of his principle excuses for the invasion.
But, still -- this is good news!
And, yes, I know that the major problem in Iraq isn't so much the insurgency anymore, as it's the growing sectarian civil war that we are barely able to keep from exploding.
But, this is good news, right?
And, true...the Haditha killings are not exactly endearing us to the Iraqi population.
But...this is some good news!
So, tip your hats to Jordanian intelligence and our military forces. Everything is now hunky dory in Iraq, and we can all declare victory! And , more importantly, we can all expect our military forces to start coming home now because the war is over!
As the news story noted, Zarqawi was one of the essential elements in the sectarian violence, so this indeed does deal a blow to that situation. Hesiod can't manage to report good news without "balancing" it with 3 or 4 problems, real or perceived. There are always problems in war, always setbacks, created by ourselves or the enemy. This is not new, but Hesiod has to bring this up to keep his opinion of the war in Iraq consistent in his own mind. When Hussein was captured, Hesiod was the most positive of all the tier-A lefty sites. He's losing his objectivity.
The same goes for Steven Benen, guest blogging for Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly.
Iraqi and U.S. officials agreed that his death would not necessarily stem the violence and insurgency -- and as if to prove the point, an explosion ripped through a busy outdoor market in Baghdad just a few hours after Zarqawi's killing was announced. Regardless, when a dangerous terrorist can no longer wreak havoc, it's good news.
One relevant angle to this story, however, that has not been emphasized (or even mentioned) by most news outlets this morning is that Zarqawi could have been taken out years ago, on several occasions, but Bush decided not to strike.
Benen goes on to quote an NBC article that says the National Security Council couldn't decide how to proceed; no mention of Bush in that meeting. No mention of what the causes for concern were, but here's an idea; the intelligence they were acting on talked about Zarqawi making ricin and cyanide production. Yet we haven't really seen those chemicals used by the insurgency. As we all know, pre-war intelligence gave us some false positives on a number of fronts; perhaps this was one of them and the NSC was wary of it. Imagine if we'd sent in cruise missiles and wound up destroying, oh, say something like an asprin factory. Imagine the outrage by Democrats then. So here's Benen speculating that maybe, not knowing himself the nature of the intelligence, that we might have been able to take out Zarqawi before the war. He calls the intelligence "air-tight". Interesting he doesn't use the phrase "slam-dunk", a phrase used about other pre-war intelligence. Thus he has to form the wisp of a cloud just so he can try to tarnish any silver lining that appears during a Republican administration.
Was never quite sure why we didn't go after him when we had the chance.
Anyway, I'm supposed to give the obligatory "YAY USA!" cheer here, but while it's good to get the bad guys I don't really think it's going to improve much. Hopefully I'm wrong.
Top al-Qaeda guy in Iraq out of the picture, and the best he can do is be curt and "obligatory".
Josh Marshall leaves us all wondering what he thinks, since he doesn't say.
Zarqawi dead. Juliette Kayyem explains what it means. Ivo Daalder explains that one thing it doesn't mean is an end to the violence in Iraq.
For the deeper background, just out from The Atlantic: Mary Anne Weaver's The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
That's the sum total of his response; curt and not even obligatory.
As I said before, the view of the Left, as it was for the Hussein capture, is "This is good news, but let us remind you of all the bad news and our dire predictions." Some don't even say much at all about the good news. Nope, there's a Republican in the White House, you see, and we can't bee seen as cheering for anything. I'll close this blog post as I did the one for Hussein.
You gotta wonder what these folks said when Milosevic was captured. Ah, but you see, that was a non-UN-sanctioned war run by a Democrat. Therein lies the whole story. Leftists are showing their true, extreme partisan colors all over the blogosphere.
June 06, 2006
"Why I Published the Muhammad Cartoons"
The culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that originally published the particular group of Mohammed cartoons, says that European political correctness is to blame for the riots, not his newspaper. It's a question that was on a lot of peoples' minds and he answers "Why I Published the Muhammad Cartoons". Flemming Rose lays it on the line for Europe.
And yet the unbalanced reactions to the not-so-provocative caricatures -- loud denunciations and even death threats toward us, but very little outrage toward the people who attacked two Danish Embassies -- unmasked unpleasant realities about Europe's failed experiment with multiculturalism. It's time for the Old Continent to face facts and make some profound changes in its outlook on immigration, integration and the coming Muslim demographic surge. After decades of appeasement and political correctness, combined with growing fear of a radical minority prepared to commit serious violence, Europe's moment of truth is here.
Rose goes on to explain his hippie creds, and his eventual awakening to the lie of a leftist, utopian bliss. That relates to Europe's current problem, as exposed in the riots, because he shows how out of that mindset came incorrect views on the integration of immigrants.
This kind of thinking gave birth to a distorted approach to immigration in countries like Denmark. Left-wing commentators decided that Denmark was both racist and Islamophobic. Therefore, the chief obstacle to integration was not the immigrants' unwillingness to adapt culturally to their adopted country (there are 200,000 Danish Muslims now); it was the country's inherent racism and anti-Muslim bias.
Sound familiar? Sounds like the "why do they hate us" blame-America-first mentality we hear from the Left in this country. There's nothing wrong with legal immigration, but integration with the culture of the new host country, including accepting a shared morality and value system, is critical. Instead, Europe became a continent of self-loathing, and there are many in America who think we should take that route as well.
A cult of victimology arose and was happily exploited by clever radicals among Europe's Muslims, especially certain religious leaders like Imam Ahmad Abu Laban in Denmark and Mullah Krekar in Norway.
"A cult of victimology". Sounds so familiar.
The role of victim is very convenient because it frees the self-declared victim from any responsibility, while providing a posture of moral superiority.
And again, such familiarity. It's as though Rose is reading from the playbook of our very own American Left. Never mind self-determination; there's got to be someone to sue or blame or stick it to. Let someone else pay for it or provide it or do it instead. This kind of thinking, Rose contends, led to the sort of riots and killing and mayhem over cartoons. They didn't happen here, and America is clearly to the right, politically speaking, of most of Europe. Those two facts are not coincidence.
So what's the answer? Rose answers this first by noting what the problems are.
I am a Dane because I look European, speak Danish, descend from centuries of other Scandinavians. But what about the dark, bearded new Danes who speak Arabic at home and poor Danish in the streets? We Europeans must make a profound cultural adjustment to understand that they, too, can be Danes.
Our melting pot in America has aided us in this. We didn't have as much of that to overcome, though it certainly did exist and still does, but to a lesser extent.
Another great impediment to integration is the European welfare state. Because Europe's highly developed, but increasingly unaffordable, safety nets provide such strong unemployment insurance and not enough incentive to work, many new immigrants go straight onto the dole.
Professing to be caring, they instead discourage self-reliance and encourage slothfulness. We, too, have this problem. Should society care for its needy? Absolutely, but not on a way that bankrupts society both financially and morally. As Rose notes, however, we are still ahead of Europe in this respect.
While it can be argued that the fast-growing community of about 20 million Muslim immigrants in Europe is the equivalent of America's new Hispanic immigrants, the difference in their productivity and prosperity is staggering. An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study in 1999 showed that while immigrants in the United States are almost equal to native-born workers as taxpayers and contributors to American prosperity, in Denmark there is a glaring gap of 41 percent between the contributions of the native-born and of the immigrants. In the United States, a laid-off worker gets an average of 32 percent compensation for his former wages in welfare services; in Denmark the figure is 81 percent. A culture of welfare dependency is rife among immigrants, and it is taken for granted.
In America, for those who can work, there is a big incentive to work. In Europe, there is a disincentive. Again, I don't think these two statistics are a coincidence. They go together.
Rose has other points to make as he discusses how Europe must go forward. But why did he publish the cartoons? His answer is one, interestingly, of inclusion.
Equal treatment is the democratic way to overcome traditional barriers of blood and soil for newcomers. To me, that means treating immigrants just as I would any other Danes. And that's what I felt I was doing in publishing the 12 cartoons of Muhammad last year. Those images in no way exceeded the bounds of taste, satire and humor to which I would subject any other Dane, whether the queen, the head of the church or the prime minister. By treating a Muslim figure the same way I would a Christian or Jewish icon, I was sending an important message: You are not strangers, you are here to stay, and we accept you as an integrated part of our life. And we will satirize you, too. It was an act of inclusion, not exclusion; an act of respect and recognition.
An act of inclusion. Some may find that ironic, and I confess that wasn't the first thing that popped into my head. But it makes sense. If you want equality, you must take the bad with the good, the satire with the atta-boys. If you won't, you don't really want the equality. This doesn't mean you can't protest over the satire, of course. It just means that you must still act within the law if you want the law on your side.
A very interesting piece, and there's quite a bit more to it. Worth the read.
June 05, 2006
Why They Really Hate Us
An editorial in the NY Sun puts the lie to the idea that if we'd just play nice with terrorists, they'd leave us alone.
The arrest of 17 residents of Canada with three tons of ammonium nitrate in a plot to attack targets in Ontario is a reminder of the nature of the enemy that America faces in the war on Islamic terrorists. Contrary to the beliefs of some on the American extreme left and extreme right, the terrorists aren’t simply reacting against the American-led war in Iraq or against America’s support for Israel.
Canada sent no troops to liberate Iraq. Our neighbor to the North so opposed the Iraq War that at least one American deserter fled there for safe harbor, as draftdodgers did during the Vietnam War.And while Canada is mildly pro-Israel, and more so under its new conservative government, its arms sales to the Jewish state are peanuts compared to America’s, and at the United Nations on key votes it’s likely to abstain rather than join the America, Micronesia, and Palau in voting with Israel.
This is in reference to the arrest of 17 Canadian residents "mainly of South Asian descent", a number of whom go the same mosque. According to police, they had a list of targets. "At the news conference, officials emphasized that the targets were all in Canada." Thus these were terrorists who were there, not to use Canada as easy entrance to the US, but to attack Canada itself.
The idea that our Mideast policies or support for Israel were some sort of understandable reason that we "asked for it" on 9/11 are completely, and have always been, wrong. The editorial brings the point home.
What the Islamic extremists oppose in Canada is neither its support for Israel nor its behavior in Iraq but the mere fact that it is not a country governed by Islamic law. An Associated Press dispatch on the bomb plot noted that Canada, with the America, Britain, Spain, and Australia, was listed by Osama Bin Laden as a “Christian” nation that should be a target for terrorism. Nothing short of dropping Christianity and converting to Islam will satisfy the Islamist terrorists.
"Living While Christian" is the charge by the Islamic terrorists, for which their punishment is death. Reasonable debate can be had about choices made in our public policy, and hindsight can be employed ad infinitum, but the reason we were attacked in New York, or on the USS Cole, or even in Beirut, and the reason even Canada is a target, is not because of a policy debate. It's because simply we are who we are, and because we stand for freedom (take a look at these pictures, especially the 4th one down). Certainly that is no legitimate reason for the war that has been waged against us.
June 04, 2006
A Talk at Lunch, A Change in Stance
Based on some sources from the inside, the NY Times has a rather good article on what went into Bush's decision to offer direct talks with Iran--which haven't happened for decades--on the nuclear situation. Changes in postures and a talk over lunch. A very interesting read.
June 01, 2006
Creating Rights Out of Whole Cloth
Where do the abortion issue and teacher-student sex intersect? At the "Constitutional right" to privacy.
A former high school teacher facing sexual assault charges says his arrest on suspicion of having sexual relations with a student violates a fundamental right guaranteed by both the state and federal constitutions.
Matthew Glasser, a former music teacher at Northwest Catholic High School, was arrested last year under a provision of the state's criminal code that makes having sex with students a crime, even if the student has reached 16 - the age of consent.
But in a motion filed in Superior Court in Hartford, Glasser claims the statute infringes on his constitutional right to privacy, which, he argues, includes engaging in a sexual relationship with another consenting adult. Glasser was 29 when the relationship is alleged to have taken place; the girl was 16.
"We believe that the statute infringes on a fundamental right to sexual privacy and therefore does not hold up under constitutional scrutiny," said Jeremy Donnelly, one of Glasser's lawyers.
The "Constitutional right" to an abortion was based on the idea that the Constitution itself, in its "emanations" and "penumbras", conferred a general right to privacy. Now, that right isn't specifically enumerated, so there's no way to legally explain what it really means. It meant whatever Justice Douglas said it did then, and it'll mean whatever a judge today says it does now. If we need a right to privacy (and I think we probably do these days) then either that should be written specifically into the Constitution or privacy issues should be dealt with at the local level. But when you create a right out of whole cloth, there's no way to limit it.
Which brings us to Mr. Glasser, who says that this emanation encompasses him and his 16-year-old, legal adult, student. Were it not for those pesky sexual harassment laws that prevent him from using his position of authority, this wouldn't be an issue.
I'm don't intend to speak on age-of-consent laws specifically, although 16 does seem to be quite young for someone to make a rational sexual decision. But I'm really hoping that folks who have been proponents of this "Constitutional right" to privacy will see how playing fast and loose with what is and isn't Constitutional is affecting society and what doors it is opening that ought to be kept shut.
Being a "strict Constitutionalist" is something of an insult liberals put on conservative judges and justices. When you consider cases like this, however, it ought to make more sense why our judiciary ought to be just that. The "Constitutional right" to privacy is not concrete; it is a a vapor. The penumbras of that vapor will continue to emanate out unless more strict Constitutionalists insist on text that has been properly ratified by the States.