October 05, 2007

Changes On The Way

This weekend, the Stones Cry Out blog will change web hosts. For almost 3 years, it has been hosted on a machine owned by Foundation Stone(tm) Rick Brady. Starting this weekend, it'll be hosted on a commercial web host that I use for my web sites. During the transition, it's a matter of luck which site you'll see while the pointer to the new host percolates throughout the Internet. Hopefully by Monday, you'll all be seeing the new site, but it takes 24-72 hours typically.

With this move, Rick officially bows out of the blogging biz. We here at Stones Cry Out are thankful for his time and efforts getting the blog going and keeping it going. While he's not been posting much of late, it was his system that kept the site going. He will be greatly missed (but I'm giving him a user on the new system just in case he changes his mind >grin<). And many thanks to his father-in-law, who was the techie behind the scenes. He helped make this move a smooth one.

We're going to be adding a few features to the blog which I'll enumerate on the first post at the new site. Also, access to all our old posts will (hopefully) be retained, if I do all this right.

See you on the other side of the move!

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October 04, 2007

The Ends Justify the High-Tech Lynching

James Taranto, in his "Best of the Web Today" today, notes that the accusations of "anger" against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas seem to be unfounded. But building on that is the idea that, since the travesty that was his confirmation hearing didn't manage to keep him off the bench, he shouldn't be upset about those accusations. "Hey, you made the highest court in the land. So what about the politics of personal destruction?"

Taranto has a great rundown of all the shenanigans that took place back then, including the observation that

"...Thomas's political foes managed to violate the integrity of the FBI, the Senate and the D.C. Circuit--that is, of all three branches of government. This behavior was unethical, unconscionable and possibly criminal, and no one has ever been held to account for it."

Thomas was treated unfairly, as well as illegally, but that didn't matter to the Democrats that opposed him.
Thomas's opponents believed that the end justified the means, as a former foe tells the justice's wife on page 232:
Years later a young woman who had worked for one of the many groups opposed to my nomination approached Virginia. "We didn't think of your husband as human, and I'm sorry," she said, tears streaming down her face. "We thought that anything was justified because our access to abortions and sex was at risk." The woman went on to explain that she had subsequently had a religious conversion and now felt that it was her duty to apologize to us.

Now, those who remain unrepentant are reduced to arguing, pathetically, that Justice Thomas--and the rest of us--should countenance the means because they failed to realize the end.

Taranto's analysis is why "BotWT" is a daily e-mail I never miss.

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October 03, 2007

The Limbaugh "Phony Soldiers" Kerfuffle

The crew at the Blogometer have a good round-up of the controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" phrase. What I find interesting, and sad, is how the Left has left the concept of "context" way behind them. When Media Matters criticizes Limbaugh, they lead one to believe that something said less than 2 minutes later, never mind the day before, is irrelevant to context.

Limbaugh himself suggests (and not without a little self-serving promotion) that you need to listen to his show for 6 weeks before you can get a good feel for it, especially his schtick. Media Matters and its liberal lemmings want to believe, at least for the moment, that Limbaugh began broadcasting yesterday, which is the only way they can say that he is abusive to the troops.

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October 02, 2007

Two-Party System, Like It or Not

Rudy Giuliani is not my first pick for Republican presidential nominee. He's got some troubling stands on some issues that are important to me. But whatever those disconnects, he'd be far better than anything the Democrats have to offer.

Except that's not what a number of conservative Christians are saying.

Some of the nation's most politically influential conservative Christians, alarmed by the prospect of a Republican presidential nominee who supports abortion rights, are considering backing a third-party candidate.

More than 40 Christian conservatives attended a meeting Saturday in Salt Lake City to discuss the possibility, and planned more gatherings on how they should move forward, according to Richard A. Viguerie, the direct-mail expert and longtime conservative activist.

Rudy Giuliani, who supports abortion rights and gay rights, leads in national polls of the Republican presidential candidates. Campaigning in New Jersey on Monday, Giuliani brushed aside talk of an upstart effort by religious conservatives.

"I'm working on one party right now _ the Republican Party," Giuliani said. "I believe we are reaching out very, very well to Republicans. The emphasis is on fiscal conservatism, which brings Republicans together."

Other participants in the meeting included James Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family evangelical ministry in Colorado Springs, Colo., and, according to Viguerie, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, a conservative policy group in Washington.


The problem with this approach is that if they act on this threat, they ensure the election of someone even further from their beliefs than Rudy. And they have to know this, which means they'd rather have someone in Planned Parenthood's back pocket, never mind all the other nanny-state, anti-growth policies that would get introduced and implemented, than someone with whom they could at least agree on most of the time. If you have a Republican in the White House, you at least have someone who'll give conservative Christians a fair hearing rather than just lip service.

Betsy Newmark has a better suggestion.

There is a candidate in the race right now who fits all the needs of these cultural conservatives - Mike Huckabee. They could be mobilizing behind him. If Huckabee started moving in the polls and surpassing expectations in the early states, these conservatives might be able to convince Giuliani (if he were to win the nomination) to put Huckabee on the ticket to alleviate some of this cultural conservative angst.

How much influence a VP would have is a matter of debate, as Betsy notes, but rather than bailing out, engage.

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September 28, 2007

A Cop-out of Biblical Proportions

John Edwards really need to rediscover his place in this world.

A fairy tale about two princes falling in love sparked a backlash - and a lawsuit - against a teacher and a school last year when it was read to a second-grade class in Massachusetts.

But the three frontrunners in the Democratic presidential race suggested Wednesday night at their debate in New Hampshire that they'd support reading the controversial book to children as part of a school curriculum.

Moderator Tim Russert asked John Edwards, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton whether they'd be comfortable having the story - called "King & King" - read to their children in school.

Edwards gave the first and most definitive answer - a resounding and instant "yes, absolutely" - although he added that it "might be a little tough" for second-graders.

...

The 2004 vice presidential candidate and former North Carolina senator said he doesn't want to influence his kids' opinions about the issue.

"I don't want to make that decision on behalf of my children," he said. "I want my children to be able to make that decision on behalf of themselves, and I want them to be exposed to all the information, even in - did you say second grade? Second grade might be a little tough, but even in second grade to be exposed to all those possibilities, because I don't want to impose my view. Nobody made me God."


Though nobody made John Edwards God, God made him a parent. To throw his hands up and say that since he's not The Almighty that he has no place in forming his childrens' views is a major cop-out. I'm sure he'd find some reason to inject himself in their upbringing if, let's say, the book were instead about a Kingdom where homosexuality wasn't practiced because everyone thought it was immoral.

And while we're on the subject of second graders making their own moral decisions, how about a book on adultery? I mean, it happens quite a lot, and some folks don't see the moral issue with it, so let's just show the kiddos an alternative. "The Open-Marriage Kingdom", in the children's section at a bookstore near you.

Careful, John. If the Lord wants that book out, He'll reach down with His own hand and smite it Himself. No one made you God.

Posted by Doug at 01:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ben Stein on Intelligent Design

In February, 2008, Ben Stein (yes, that Ben Stein) is coming out with a movie that exposes the scientific community's rather non-scientific silencing of those not towing the line.

Evolution – and the explosive debate over its virtual monopoly on America's public school classrooms – is the focus of the film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed."

In the movie, Stein, who is also a lawyer, economist, former presidential speechwriter, author and social commentator, is stunned by what he discovers – an elitist scientific establishment that has traded in its skepticism for dogma. Even worse, say publicists for the feature film, "along the way, Stein uncovers a long line of biologists, astronomers, chemists and philosophers who have had their reputations destroyed and their careers ruined by a scientific establishment that allows absolutely no dissent from Charles Darwin's theory of random mutation and natural selection."

"Big Science in this area of biology has lost its way," says Stein. "Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are. Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-American, it's anti-science. It's anti-the whole concept of learning."


Nice to see someone taking on this issue in what looks to be a funny and informative, Ben Stein sort of way.

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Serial Divorcers and the Divorce Rate

Liz Taylor is keeping the divorce rate high.

Eight-times married Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor could be heading for yet another trip down the aisle as she declared her love for a wealthy businessman she met last year in Hawaii.

As much as I believe the divorce rate in the country is too high, its people like Taylor that make it artificially high. She's been divorced 8 times, so 8 other married couples need to stay together for life just to keep a combined 50% rate alive.

And if past history is any indicator, two more couples need to be signed up real soon now.

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Change Begins With Us

I'm not one to post campaign material for one candidate or another here, especially since I've really not made up my mind. But this post by Mitt Romney at Redstate really hits the nail on the head with me. Key paragraph:

The blame for Washington's failures lies not just with the Democrats but with Republicans as well. We have to put our own house in order. We can no longer be a party of big spenders with ethical standards more fitting of a Jay Leno punch line. We can no longer pretend our borders are secure. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. It's time for change in Washington and change begins with us.

Read the whole thing.

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The Bulletproof Backpack

From Gizmodo comes word of this new item that, frankly, speaks volumes about our public school system.

Made from 13 layers of K-29 Kevlar, this thin, lightweight plate fits in most backpacks and can stop every bullet from a 9mm all the way to Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum.

Yeah, that's the kind of "socialization" my homeschooled kids are missing out on.

Posted by Doug at 08:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 27, 2007

Telling Comedy From Reality

It appears that too many on the Left are willing and eager to accept Jon Stewart at face value, forgetting that his show is, y'know, not an actual news show.

“Idiots are now convinced that Dubya doesn’t know Nelson Mandela is still alive,” writes Abu Wabu. “What has in fact died, and what a miserable, stinking death it was, is real intellectual rigor on the idiot left.” As made evident by followers of Daily Show host Jon Stewart, “a voice for democratic ideals and the noble place of citizenship”, at least according to Tom Brokaw. Pity, then, that Stewart’s idealistic nobility is wasted on an audience of morons:
Thursday’s episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Oh my God. How funny was it? And for a very wrong reason indeed. I’ve already shared it with others. George W Bush thought Nelson Mandela is dead? Dude! How wrong could he possibly be!

Hat tip to Tim Blair, who has a host of other examples. And, of course, if these Nuance Nabobs would take a look at the context, they'd see that Stewart's hack job just fed them plastic red meat, that they gobbled up. This wouldn't be so scary if "The Daily Show" weren't so many people's primary news source.

It's a comedy show, folks. Treat it with way more skepticism than your average nightly news program.

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September 26, 2007

A Win for Religious Displays

A Ten Commandments display in Kentucky will remain, beating back an assault by the ACLU.

A federal court in Lexington, Ky., has ruled that the Ten Commandments can remain on display in the Mercer County courthouse, rejecting an attempt by the American Civil Liberties Union to have them removed.

“This is a major victory for the people of Mercer County and for all Americans who don’t buy into the ACLU’s extreme misrepresentation of our Constitution,” said Francis J. Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which argued the case for the county.

“The First Amendment was never intended to remove all mention of God or religion from the public square,” said Manion. “The Supreme Court and many other courts have long recognized the foundational role of the Ten Commandments in the development of our legal system.”


Hat tip to Stop the ACLU, where Nathan Bradfield, after making his case for why the ACLU has been wrong in this and other efforts, states:
Those who would argue that our Founders intended to begin a secular nation with secular documents are living a pipe dream. A. H. Everett, said in the Legislature of Massachusetts, “In almost all of the distinguished states, the principal care of the community has been to provide for the support of religion.” Whether out of ignorance or lack of exposure, a minority of Americans neglect every Founder not named Paine, Jefferson, or Madison. And the latter two must be quoted out of context in order fit their secular, separation mold.

I wouldn't go so far as to say the tide is turning against the ACLU in cases like this, because it matters so much whether the judge takes the Constitution at its word or not. But it is good to see.

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September 25, 2007

Free Speech for Thee, But Not for Me...Sort of

The appearance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University was trumpeted by portions of the Left as a big win for "free speech". I'm reminded of the saying used quite often; an open mind, like an open window, still needs a screen to keep the bugs out. Just because our republic isn't going to collapse if we let an evil man speak doesn't mean we should offer up a forum for him.

But apparently, the Left has its own version of the screen. If the speech exposes the dirty laundry of the Left, it should be screened out.

Early this summer, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for president learned that the men’s magazine GQ was working on a story the campaign was sure to hate: an account of infighting in Hillaryland.

So Clinton’s aides pulled a page from the book of Hollywood publicists and offered GQ a stark choice: Kill the piece, or lose access to planned celebrity coverboy Bill Clinton.

Despite internal protests, GQ editor Jim Nelson met the Clinton campaign’s demands, which had been delivered by Bill Clinton’s spokesman, Jay Carson, several sources familiar with the conversations said.

GQ writer George Saunders traveled with Clinton to Africa in July, and Clinton is slated to appear on the cover of GQ’s December issue, in which it traditionally names a “Man of the Year,” according magazine industry sources.

And the offending article by Atlantic Monthly staff writer Josh Green got the spike.


Wasn't it supposed to be George W. Bush that participated in this kind of stifling of dissent?

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September 24, 2007

TV Screen Clutter

The clutter on your TV screen is getting worse.

Kyra Sedgwick, star of “The Closer” on TNT, walks under a police tape and scans the screen with her flashlight. And every time she does, she makes Gretchen Corbin, a technical writer in Berkeley, Calif., irate.

The promotional ads for “The Closer” run in the bottom right of the screen during other TNT programs — a graphic called a snipe. But for Ms. Corbin, who sometimes watches movies that have subtitles, the tiny images block the dialogue.

“Some ad just took over the entire bottom of the screen so I missed what the characters said to each other,” said Ms. Corbin, describing a recent experience. “And it’s TV, so you can’t rewind.”

Snipes are just the latest effort by network executives to cram promotions onto television screens in the age of channel surfing, ad skipping and screen-based multitasking. At first, viewers may feel a slight jolt of pleasure at the sight of a new visual effect, they say, but over time the intrusions contribute to the sense that the screen is far more cluttered — not just with ads, but with news crawls and other streams of information.


Not just "snipes" but full blown, full-color, moving ads that take away from the current show, sometimes obscuring it. This really is way too much.

This ranks right down there with a feature on news channels that appeared after 9/11: The Scroller(tm). On a day when terrorism hit the US, keeping up with more news than just what was being covered at the moment was very useful. But when The Scroller is noting who's won a local mustache and beard contest, it's usefulness has long, long been outlived. Give me some of my screen back, guys

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September 20, 2007

Unintentional Humor

Bruce Eckel wrote an article about how bad he thinks RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is as a tool for finding out what's new on the net. In "RSS: The Wrong Solution to a Broken Internet", he writes:

What are you, the consumer, trying to accomplish? You want to be notified when something happens. We have a well-known pattern for that problem. It's called publish-subscribe. The publisher keeps a pointer to the subscriber, and when something happens tells the subscriber about it. Maximally efficient.

Why doesn't it work? Because the internet is anonymous. People can behave badly because nobody knows who they really are, and enough people do behave badly that you can't risk giving out a pointer to yourself. So we don't. Instead, we need RSS where our readers are constantly, stupidly asking, "did it change yet?" "Did it change yet?" "Now has it changed?" "Now?"


And indeed that can be a problem, especially for RSS readers that poll far too frequently. Bruce makes the case for a less anonymous Internet, and I can agree with him on a number of points.

What gave me a chuckle was this bit at the end of the article, which, I imagine, is added to any article on the site.

RSS Feed

If you'd like to be notified whenever Bruce Eckel adds a new entry to his weblog, subscribe to his RSS feed.


With "RSS Feed" in big type. I know, gotta use the tools that currently exist, even if you think they're broken, but it got my day off to a good start.

Posted by Doug at 09:32 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 19, 2007

Our Standing In The World

Democrats have bemoaned the (alleged) loss of standing with the world that the US has suffered supposedly due to the war in Iraq. I guess before that, everyone just loved us, and since then we've lost the support of our allies. Well, the good news is, those Democrats can stop their worrying; France likes us again.

Sometimes it's not the message, but the messenger who delivers it. After spending much of this decade going head to head with the US over its invasion of Iraq due to nuclear weapons suspicions, France seems to be joining American bellicosity when it comes to those same suspicions about Iran. On French radio on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that it is time to "prepare ourselves for the worst" and indicated that he was talking about a possible war with Iran.

The remarks are simply the most recent indication that France under new President Nicolas Sarkozy is turning its back on the almost reflexive anti-US stance of his predecessor Jacques Chirac.


Democrats who have cited our "standing" as a reason to oppose Bush will now start supporting him, right? Well, no, of course it couldn't be that easy.
On Monday, the UN's head nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei blasted Kouchner, saying that diplomacy is still the best route and warned against "hyping" the issue.

"There are rules on how to use force," ElBaradei said "and I would hope that everybody would have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons."


Of course, the UN is still jittery. Yes, there are rules on how to use force, which, incidentally, we followed, and still we "lost standing". Sorry, I don't exert too much worry on what others might think of us even if we follow the rules. I want diplomacy to work, make no mistake. But I also want enemies to know that there will be a price if they continue to threaten us and our allies. That's all that Kouchner was saying; nothing's off the table.
Kouchner also indicated that the European Union might begin looking into imposing its own sanctions against Iran, should the UN continue to be unable to strengthen those currently in place.

Because we all know how well UN sanctions worked on Iraq. Exhibit A is:
China and Russia -- both of which wield vetoes on the UN Security Council -- have been reluctant to take a harder line against Iran, which is widely suspected of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Anyway, it looks like the world is starting to see things our way again, albeit slowly. Democrats should be sleeping better tonight.

Either that or the whole "standing" issue was just a smoke screen, as long as the "world" though the way they did. I'm kinda leaning that way.

Posted by Doug at 02:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Evolutionary Theory Challenged By Fossils

CBS News reports on new discoveries that are rewriting what evolutionists have thought about who begat whom.

Surprising research based on two African fossils suggests our family tree is more like a wayward bush with stubby branches, challenging what had been common thinking on how early humans evolved.

The discovery by Meave Leakey, a member of a famous family of paleontologists, shows that two species of early human ancestors lived at the same time in Kenya. That pokes holes in the chief theory of man's early evolution — that one of those species evolved from the other.

And it further discredits that iconic illustration of human evolution that begins with a knuckle-dragging ape and ends with a briefcase-carrying man.


Scott Ott at ScrappleFace nails it as usual.
Far from casting doubt on Darwin’s theory, experts say that the lack of evidence and contradictory discoveries have helped to build “a consensus of certainty in the field.”

“Finding little physical evidence to substantiate the theory only means there must still be a great deal of supportive evidence out there to be found,” said an unnamed editor of the journal Nature, which plans to publish a paper on the African skulls this week. “The more we realize how little we know, the more certain we are that we’re right. As I once read in a scholarly paper somewhere, ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’.”

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September 18, 2007

Democratic Candidates Continue to Show Partisanship

The Fox News Channel is somehow too biased, supposedly, for a fair presidential debate, but the Huffington Post and Slate aren't?

Democratic 2008 presidential hopefuls parried unusual questions about flatulent cows and "spoiled brat" voters, as well as Iraq and health care, in the first exclusively online campaign "debate."

The "mashup" forum hosted by Yahoo! in partnership with the blog Huffington Post and online magazine Slate, allowed voters to compare responses to similiar questions on burning issues, posed by talk-show host Charlie Rose.


Democrats are simply not interested in fairness and balance. Republicans are going to participate in their own debate hosted by left-wing political web sites. But for Democrats to complain about Fox's bias while embracing a host that is even more biased to the left than about any MSM outlet you can name is the height of hypocracy. Their concern about "bias" is all talk, and completely disingenuous. It is their problem that this highlights, not Fox's.

Posted by Doug at 08:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2007

When the Polls Don't Match the Narrative

I'm not a big fan of opinion polls, especially when average Americans are polled on a subject that they really don't know or can't know much about. One of the recent polls that the media has enjoyed reporting the results of is whether folks think the "surge" in Iraq is working.

Frankly, the average American, myself included, has no way to know definitively whether the surge is "working" or not. It mostly depends on your definition of "working" and what you're hearing from the news media. A poll of people without all the facts -- and if you're not in the military or the government, you probably don't have nearly enough facts -- is pretty much useless.

Still, the media like to use them to generate news, and back in July, CBS News polled Americans and found that 19% thought the surge was "making things better". However, when that poll started to go against the liberal media narrative of how bad things are going there, their coverage reflected their displeasure at the outcome.

On the day of the long-anticipated report from General David Petraeus on the "surge," the CBS Evening News ignored how its latest poll discovered the third straight month of an increase in the percent of Americans who believe the surge has "made things better" in Iraq. As the percentage has gone up, CBS's interest in the result has gone down. In July, anchor Katie Couric led with how only 19 percent thought the surge was "making things better" and a month later, in August, when that number jumped to 29 percent, CBS and Couric gave it just 12 seconds 20 minutes into the newscast..

While Monday's CBS Evening News skipped how the share crediting the surge for "making things better" rose to 35 percent in the survey conducted through Saturday, the newscast found time to highlight three other findings that stressed public opposition to the war and distrust of President Bush.


When the poll backs the narrative, it leads. When it doesn't, find some other way to ask the question to get the "right" response.

Oh, that liberal media.

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September 11, 2007

Six Years After

There's not much more that I can say about 9/11 than I've already said before (some in 2006, but mostly in 2004). I think the national memory is still fading, especially when many still can't come to face the fact that Islamo-fascists are really out to kill us. Some politicians want to remove preventative measures that nipped many attack, most recently in Germany, in the bud. They just don't realize the danger. 9/11 was a one-off, so far, because of better intelligence gathering. We need to keep it.

If we are attacked again because we forgot the stakes and the lessons, to a large extent we would have ourselves to blame. Remember.

Posted by Doug at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2007

He Who Pays is In Control

When you want to buy something, especially a high-ticket item -- let's say a car -- you want to do your research first. You have certain things that are important to you, as well as those things you think would be nifty to have, and balance that with how much your needs and wants are going to cost you. Then, you make your choice, good or bad, and you buy a car. You may buy just what you need, or you may buy more than that, but whatever the price, you are responsible for it. Your neighbor can neither tell you what to buy nor should your neighbor pay for any part of it, even the excess gas if you buy a guzzler. You pay the money, so you control the choice, and the consequences.

But with something more personal, like health insurance, liberals seem to think that experts in their ivory tower should manage the health care spending of us all. The lure is that just pay them a fee and they'll run the whole healthcare system for you. Don't worry about cost. The upside, they tell you, is that you may get more healthcare than you pay for. The downside, they don't tell you, is that any money you don't use you also don't keep. This "forced charity" (oxymoron) is held up as the way to make sure we all get what we need. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. (Great line, wonder who said it.)

But that is just the foot in the door. As with the car, when you pay, you decide how much or little gas mileage you're willing to pay for, how much luxury you want, and what you can do without. You neighbor doesn't have a say because he's not paying for it. In a nationalized health care system, however, whoever is paying now has that power over you, and not just which doctor you go to. Folks in the UK are finding that out.

Failing to follow a healthy lifestyle could lead to free NHS treatment being denied under the Tory plans.

Patients would be handed "NHS Health Miles Cards" allowing them to earn reward points for losing weight, giving up smoking, receiving immunisations or attending regular health screenings.

Like a supermarket loyalty card, the points could be redeemed as discounts on gym membership and fresh fruit and vegetables, or even give priority for other public services - such as jumping the queue for council housing.

But heavy smokers, the obese and binge drinkers who were a drain on the NHS could be denied some routine treatments such as hip replacements until they cleaned up their act.

Those who abused the system - by calling an ambulance when a trip to the GP would be sufficient, or telephoning out of hours with needless queries - could also be penalised.

The report calls for a greater emphasis on the "citizen's responsibility" to be healthy and says no one should expect taxpayers to fund their unhealthy lifestyles.


Ironically, I heartily agree with the statement that "no one should expect taxpayers to fund their unhealthy lifestyles". However, because the government is forcing taxpayers to fund their neighbors' poor choices, now the government has to step in and make your lifestyle choices. It's not that I don't think people should be as preventative as they can health-wise, it's just that I don't think the Health Police should be, in effect, roaming the streets making sure you're running your daily 2 miles or doing your 25 situps, and shutting down food stores that don't serve items that are up to government standards. The result is the same, with or without a London bobby walking the beat.

When the government pays, the government calls the shots. All the shots.

Posted by Doug at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 04, 2007

Another Accountability Moment

Brought to you by Republicans.

Sen. Larry Craig said Saturday he will resign, succumbing to rapidly intensifying pressure from within his own Republican Party.

Not censured, not wrist-slapped, not frowned upon; resigned. As noted before on this blog, more than once, both sides have their issues with fallible human beings in positions of power. But it's Republicans that, far more often, do the right thing.

I heard Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday repeat what he'd heard from some sources that the number of Republicans leaving due to scandal shows how bad off the party is. I say that it shows how better off the party is. I repeat, both sides have their troubles, but the Republicans are ridding themselves of the bad apples, and they are better off for it.

Update: Looks like Sen. Craig is trying to undo his guilty plea and resignation. We'll see how that turns out. But if indeed he is still guilty on the other side of this legal maneuver, I believe the Republican party will continue to do the right thing.

Posted by Doug at 12:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2007

Religious Offense: A Comparison

What happens when art that offends people of a particular religion is displayed? Let's do a comparative look. First, the Christians, in an article headlined, "Christians Mull Offensive Art Works".

The inclusion of two provocative entries in Australia's most prestigious religious art competition has again highlighted the issue of distasteful art and Christians' reaction to it.

Critics ranging from Prime Minister John Howard to church leaders have questioned the appropriateness of the two exhibits -- one depicting the Virgin Mary wearing an Islamic burqa, and another, a holographic image of al-Qaeda terror chief Osama bin Laden morphing into an image of Jesus Christ.

The works, submitted for a 55-year-old annual award called the Blake prize, are on display at a taxpayer-funded gallery in Sydney. Howard has called them "gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians."

"Regrettably, attempts to insult Jesus and Mary have become common in recent years, even predictable," said the country's most senior Catholic leader, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney.

"Too often it seems that the only quality which makes something 'art' is the adolescent desire to shock," he said. "If this is the best the Blake prize can do, it has probably outlived its usefulness."

The chairman of the Blake prize, the Rev. Rod Pattenden, said in a statement it seemed that "a real nerve" had been hit.

"I have received several angry phone calls from people claiming religious allegiance who have expressed themselves with clear hatred and violence towards other religious groups," said Pattenden, a minister in the Uniting Church, a liberal Protestant denomination.


Mulling, questioning, and even some angry phone calls over this sort of art.

Let's look at the history of another religion.

The drawings show the head of a turbaned man attached to the body of a dog, in front of various settings including a football goal.

The publication, in the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, came after several galleries had refused to display the drawings, apparently for fear of violent retaliation from offended Muslims.

Early last year, violent demonstrations erupted throughout the Muslim world after the publication in Denmark of 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed which were also deemed blasphemous.

"Alongside the picture, we published a comment piece saying that it was serious that there is self-censorship among exhibition [galleries]," said the Nerikes Allehanda editor-in-chief, Ulf Johansson.

Last weekend, a small gathering of protestors gathered outside the newspaper's offices to demonstrate against the cartoon's publication.

That was followed this Monday by Iran summoning Sweden's chief diplomat in Teheran to express its own outrage. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed "Zionists" for the images but said he would not hold the Swedish people responsible.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said that Sweden's charge d'affaires had promised his government "shared the views of the Muslim community and termed the publication as unfortunate".

In Stockholm, the Swedish foreign ministry said it now considered the matter closed.

But last year's violent protests over the Danish cartoons has showed that initially little noticed drawings can eventually prompt widespread anger.


Yes, well, more than just "widespread anger"; over 100 people died. This particular situation has become an international incident, and it's working, since some places are afraid to display them.

Both situations -- the Christian one and the Muslim one -- are equal in that they offend some people of a particular religion and, in my view, also equal in that they should not be banned. I don't think public money should be financing them (and I have no evidence that they are), but banning insults is, to me, a slippery-slope freedom-of-speech issue.

But there is self-censorship happening in the case of art insulting Islam, not because of any sense of tact or taste (unfortunately), but because of the fear of what its adherents might do. For many, it's not OK to insult Islam because they might kill us if we do. Far too many folks who stand up for freedom of speech or for the arts are more than willing to throw out those principles before the angry mob show up. The "religion of peace" does not have a very good record at handling insults peaceably, with mulling and phone calls.

Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, I'm fully aware that a majority of Muslims don't take up arms over cartoons. But the point is, so many do, and so many Christians or Jews don't, that to the observer of these events, Islam does seem more violent than others.

Is Islam in need of a reformation?

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Remains of The Second Jewish Temple Found?

Might be.

Remains of the Jewish second temple may have been found during work to lay pipes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem, Israeli television reported Thursday.

Israeli television broadcast footage of a mechanical digger at the site which Israeli archaeologists visited on Thursday.

Gaby Barkai, an archaeologist from Bar Ilan University, urged the Israeli government to stop the pipework after the discovery of what he said is "a massive seven metre-long wall."

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August 30, 2007

It Should Have Come as No Surprise

As first noted here, talked about here, and with evidence here, the election results from 2006 were incredibly misread by Democrats. On the whole, conservatism won, with those Democrats coming in to power being far more right-leaning than those who were applauding the election results cared to see or admit.

But the chickens came home to roost, and the netroots are shocked -- SHOCKED -- at the outcome.

A leading liberal blogger has declared political war against centrist Democrats – the latest move in an intensifying show of dissatisfaction with the Democratic Congress by the once-friendly blogosphere.

Matt Stoller, who blogs at the well-trafficked OpenLeft.com, has compiled a list of 38 House “Blue Dog” Democrats who have voted with Republicans on key legislation, and called on the activist community to put pressure on them – and perhaps challenge them in primaries – if they fail to shape up.

“Some of these members may need to face a primary challenge, and it's useful for potential primary challengers to know that there is criticism of these members,” wrote Stoller, who refers to the 38 Democrats as “Bush Dogs.”


MoveOn.org is getting in on the act as well, targeting those who have become better informed and thus are no longer towing the liberal line.
Rep. Brian Baird’s (D-Wash.) recent conversion on the Iraq war is beginning to affect more than the national dialogue. On Wednesday, liberal group MoveOn.org announced an ad campaign against the congressman in his own district.

Baird recently returned from a trip to Iraq and reversed his position on a withdrawal timetable, citing military progress in the four-year-old war.


The far left's influence over the Democratic party is pushing that party further and further away from the mainstream. I wish Stoller and MoveOn all the success in the world in getting more fringe candidates. It'll push the government to the right when they lose.

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August 29, 2007

Private vs Public Disaster Relief: Which Works Faster?

Same conservative drumbeat, different song, but the beat goes on.

Two years after the devastating floods that followed Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans, and much of the Gulf Coast, has largely taken two paths: communities that have rebuilt themselves using private funds, insurance money and sheer will — and publicly funded efforts that have moved much more slowly.

Federal, state and local governments have struggled to speed up the release of funds and restore infrastructure. None of the 115 "critical priority projects" identified by city officials has been completed: For example, New Orleans' police superintendent still works out of a trailer, as do most of the city's firefighters. And analysts at the city's crime lab don't have a laboratory to match DNA samples.


Private funds also generally indicate that more personal effort is going into the project than those who, waiting on big government money, are also waiting on big government action. The more big government is relied upon, the slower things go, and the more people tend to avoid aiding in the cause because, hey, the government will help them. In that sense, government aid can be society's own worst enemy, in the long term.

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Conscience and the Pro-Choice Christian

Russ over at Pro-Life Pro-Logic had a post last month that covered the same topics as those in my response to Anne Rice. While mostly dealing with Christianity vs. the pro-choice viewpoint, he makes a very interesting and thought-provoking connection to the subject of charity to the poor.

The Left has, in my view, a totally one-sided view of poverty. They have abandoned one part of humanity – the unborn (the unseen), for the economically poor (the seen). Mary Meehan, in an article in “The Progressive” in 1980 stated it clearly: “the abortion issue, more than most, illustrates the occasional tendency of the Left to become so enthusiastic over what is called a "reform" that it forgets to think the issue through. It is ironic that so many on the Left have done on abortion what the conservatives and Cold War liberals did on Vietnam: They marched off in the wrong direction, to fight the wrong war, against the wrong people.”

That Christians would follow them off this cliff, given what should be a different view of God's creation, makes no sense to me.

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August 27, 2007

A Forced Moral Equivalence

Clayton Cramer watched CNN's "God's Warriors". While he was encouraged to see some programs, like "Teen Mania", covered, Christiane Amanpour appeared to him to be trying to draw moral equivalences where there weren't any.

As much as CNN may feel the need to draw bogus moral equivalences, they failed. What is wrong with Islam isn't a few kooks on the edges, but a large and dangerous faction of Islam.

Teen Mania runs a school in Texas where they train their people. They have all sorts of very strict rules: no smoking; no alcohol; no R-rated movies; and skirts have to be a certain length.

Amanpour had the nerve to suggest that this was like the Taliban. Yes, except the Taliban executed homosexuals, "loose women," prohibited girls from receiving an education; banned clapping at sporting events; made apostasy from Islam a capital crime; blew up the symbols of other religions. Yes, that's quite similar to a dress code. How did I miss the comparison?


Trying to keep kids on the straight and narrow used to be lauded. Now it's compared to extremist terrorism by our "mainstream" media.

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Covering the Genocide...Or Not

If we pull out of Iraq soon, and if there is a massacre there on the scale of the millions in the Killing Fields of Cambodia, will the news media tell us about it? If you look at the history of the media, probably not, since they didn't say much about those very Killing Fields. The Media Research Center highlights a 1982 study done by George Washington University professor William Adams, in which he documented how much coverage, between 1975 and 1978, the media gave this holocaust. The short answer:

Television coverage averaged "less than thirty seconds per month per network."

The study also compares the coverage to that of the Jonestown suicides, and debunks the excuse TV gave at the time that there were no pictures and without that there isn't a story. It also slams the print media for their lethargy.

Oh, that liberal media.

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August 24, 2007

Christians & Political Parties: A Response to Anne Rice, Part 2

This is the 2nd and final part of my analysis of an open letter from Anne Rice. Part 1 can be found here.

Abortion

Anne Rice spends most of her letter covering this issue, and she starts with an assertion that, to me, shows a lack of consideration of the history of the issue.

I want to add here that I am Pro-Life. I believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. Deeply respecting those who disagree with me, I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of abortion, it will be through the Democratic Party.

Ms. Rice does touch on these historical issues lightly later on, and I'll hit them more in-depth then, but even looking at how the abortion issue generally falls between the parties today, I don't see this as making sense. What I hear from Democrats are things like John Kerry with this sentiment:
I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views. But I disagree with them, as do many. I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith. I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God and her doctor. That's why I support that. I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade.

If one's commitment to Christianity should be "absolute", as Ms. Rice has said, there is a big problem with this statement, that is generally the line religious Democrats use when talking about abortion, and that is the canard about legislating one's religious faith, or sometimes call ramming one's religion down your throat. Civil rights are very much a moral issue, but does Sen. Kerry have the same problem with legislating that? No, he's very willing to impose his view on KKK members, and rightly so. It's right, it's moral and it's the law. Legislators all throughout our country's history, and more so in our early history, based many of their decisions partly or mostly on their religious faith. This excuse is disingenuous.

Regarding Hillary Clinton, NARAL gave her a 100% score on her 2006 voting record (PDF), and she's a big supporter of Roe v Wade. See here for other details. You won't curb abortions by voting the way she does. Like her husband, she'll talk the talk, but watch the way she votes.

When voting, as Ms. Rice says, "Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian". If there is a substantial difference between Ms. Rice's vote and Sen. Kerry's or Clinton's vote, I'd like to know what she thinks it might be. Both votes affect more than just the voter, and one's Christianity shouldn't be compartmentalized between private and public life.

In one sense, votes by representatives will, to different extents, reflect the people represented rather than the representatives views. At the same time, by that very title, the representative represents their constituents views and values, and his or her own views are part of that; he or she was voted in partially or mostly because of their views. It's certainly not always a perfect fit between the politician and the constituents, but Sen. Kerry's statement takes his religious beliefs totally and completely out of the equation. If Democratic politicians, in general, can't bring themselves to vote against abortion, how in the world they be better in stopping the horror of it?

I have heard many anti-abortion statements made by people who are not Democrats, but many of these statements do not strike me as constructive or convincing. I feel we can stop the horror of abortion. But I do not feel it can be done by rolling back Roe vs. Wade, or packing the Supreme Court with judges committed to doing this. As a student of history, I do not think that Americans will give up the legal right to abortion. Should Roe vs Wade be rolled back, Americans will pass other laws to support abortion, or they will find ways to have abortions using new legal and medical terms.
I agree that repealing bad legislation or overturning court decisions will not bring an end to abortion in and of themselves, but without them, how can we make real headway? For too many people, what's legal is what's right, or at least what's neutral. Our government's laws should reflect our country's shared morality. Do we or do we not value life in our culture?

The idea that Americans will just pass laws to support abortion is akin to saying that kids will just use drugs anyway, so let's give them clean needles, or that they're going to have sex anyway, might as well give them condoms and a clean room. None of those remedies will even stem the tide, so neither is a "solution to the horror". People are going to steal from each other and hurt each other and kill each other anyway; they do all the time. Should we throw our hands up and legalize those actions? And thus, keeping abortion legal isn't going to somehow reduce the number of abortions.

And while we're on the subject, one might ask if I'm also against passing laws against anything I find morally wrong. One might say that I'm inconsistent in my views if I favor the continued legalization of alcohol or tobacco. Fair question. I would also ask the religious left if they are in favor, morally, of state-sponsored gambling, since it's typically politicians on their side of the aisle pushing for state lotteries and the like. Just as fair. Let me answer that by saying that I believe there are some moral issues that should be decided on an individual basis, but there are other issues that should have the weight of our representative government behind them. Whether one drinks wine with dinner is, I think we can agree, an individual choice. Whether one is allowed to be born or not is the first right of them all, without which none of the others matter, and should have the force of government behind it.

And referring back to Sen. Kerry's statement on abortion, I wonder if Ms. Rice finds his comment "constructive or convincing". How constructive to the pro-life cause is that sort of declaration?

And much as I am horrified by abortion, I am not sure -- as a student of history -- that Americans should give up the right to abortion.

Try saying it this way: "As much as I am horrified by sucking a living being out with a hose and killing it, I am not sure -- as a student of history -- that Americans should give up the right to sucking out living beings with hoses and killing them." Depending on your opinion of the living-ness of the fetus, this is one reading of that statement, and it sounds almost comical, if not utterly incredible. How horrible can you really believe something is if you think we should retain some "right" to it?

And if you don't think the fetus is a human being, then how could it be described as a "horror"? It's no different than cutting off a fingernail. This is a major inconsistency I see with people who say they're pro-life, but think abortion should remain a right. If the fetus is alive, why are you for allowing it to be killed without cause, and if it's not alive, why use the label "pro-life"?

I am also not convinced that all of those advocating anti-abortion positions in the public sphere are necessarily practical or sincere. I have not heard convincing arguments put forth by anti-abortion politicians as to how Americans could be forced to give birth to children that Americans do not want to bear. And more to the point, I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians as to how we can prevent the horror of abortion right now, given the social situations we have.

I have to refer to Sen. Kerry's statement and Sen. Clinton's voting record again. Are they "practical or sincere" with regard to ending abortion? I honestly don't think so.

Ms. Rice is either deliberately framing the issue here to benefit her argument, or is naively parroting Democrat & Planned Parenthood talking points. The point at which the determination of whether or not to have a child is made is at the time of conception, but she doesn't mention this issue of responsibility. She might be talking about it regarding the "social situations we have", but she doesn't elaborate.

If that is what she's talking about, that our overly sexualized culture has to be addressed, then I would agree with that. But again, who is in the better position to work at retreating from that? Was it liberal or conservative values that brought us this rise in teen sexualization? Was it liberal or conservative values that brought us "free" "love" in the 60s? Was it liberal or conservative values that gave us a welfare system that allows absentee fathers to assuage their guilt? Again, the Republican party has not been completely true to conservative principles, but Democrats are certainly not anywhere near them, and many times deriding them.

And here's a nice irony: "I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians", so her solution to the horror of abortion is to vote for pro-abortion politicians? Completely upside-down.

Do I myself have a solution to the abortion problem? The answer is no. What I have are hopes and dreams and prayers --- that better education will help men and women make responsible reproductive choices, and that abortion will become a morally abhorrent option from which informed Americans will turn away.

I heartily agree that education is one of the keys to this; winning the hearts and minds. But that alone, like overturning bad court rulings, is not enough, yet essentially that's the only solution she talks about, and frankly overturning Roe v Wade by itself would curb more abortions than education itself. (Don't believe me? Say what you want about Prohibition, while it was in force as law there was less alcohol consumption. Generally, people respected the law. Legislation works.) Suggesting this remedy alone, I would argue, is what is not convincing.

Who would fund that education? Can we count on Democrats, who lobby for government money on behalf of Planned Parenthood, be the ones to entrust with this? Hen house, meet fox. Again, the unintended irony (and it is unintended, as far as I can tell) is just all over this letter, and especially with the next paragraph.

There is a great deal more to this question, as to how abortion became legal, as to why that happened, as to why there is so little talk of the men who father fetuses that are aborted, and as to the human rights of all individuals involved. I am not qualified as a student of history to fully discuss these issues in detail. I remain conscientiously curious and conscientiously concerned.

As much as Ms. Rice appeals to history, you'd think she would consider these questions rather important. Who got us into this mess is a serious question that would need to be answered as part of an informed decision as to which party is best to lead us out of it. For the edification of those interested, let's hit all her points.

How abortion became legal, and why it happened: Let me ask which side of the argument the two political parties were on at the time Roe v Wade was decided, and have been since then. The answer is obvious. The only dissenters in that decision were conservatives, and at least one conservative justice voted for it not understanding the gravity of that decision

In his concurring opinion, [Justice Warren E. Burger] explained, "I do not read the court's holdings today as having the sweeping consequences attributed to them by the dissenting justices; the dissenting views discount the reality that the vast majority of physicians observe the standards of their profession, and act only on the basis of carefully deliberated medical judgments relating to life and health. Plainly, the court today rejects any claim that the Constitution requires abortions on demand."
.
Apparently, physicians make 1,300,000 carefully deliberated medical judgements a year. So much for that thought. Conservatives, in general, opposed the decision. All the liberal justices voted for the decision.

Why there is so little talk of the men who father fetuses that are aborted: Ask John Kerry, who, in his list of people who the woman should consult about the decision, leaves out the father. This is the standard Planned Parenthood response, supported by the Democrats.

The human rights of all individuals involved: Indeed those of us who are pro-life are very concerned about the human rights of all individuals involved, including the one dead after the abortion. If you consider abortion a horror, I would hope you would be, too. It's not just a question that should be hand-waved away.

Conclusion

And so we wrap up.

But I am called to vote in this, our democracy, and I am called, as an American and a Christian, to put thought and commitment into that vote.

Again, I believe the Democratic Party is the party that is most likely to help Americans make a transition away from the abortion crisis that we face today. Its values and its programs --- on a whole variety of issues --- most clearly reflect my values. Hillary Clinton is the candidate whom I most admire.


The Democrats brought us here, and somehow Anne Rice thinks they're the ones to deliver us from it, too. She thinks a voter should consider their commitment to Christ in their vote, but backs a party that, in general, won't. She values charitable giving, won't support a party who's members give more, and yet supports a party that uses force to collect and inefficiently distribute "charity" money. She believes abortion is a "horror", but supports its continued legalization, and believes that a party that brought us that horror and has huge conflicts of interest regarding solving it will, in fact, solve it.
I repeat: I am a Christian; I am a Democrat. I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

I'd respectfully suggest that Ms. Rice, and any Christian considering voting for a Democrat and for whom these issues matter, reconsider.

Posted by Doug at 09:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 23, 2007

Christians & Political Parties: A Response to Anne Rice, Part 1

This is one of my longer posts, possibly the longest I've done on the blog. What happened was, I was reading an open letter from a Christian planning on voting a particular way, and as I read further and further into it, one objection after another kept coming to my mind, and one problem after another regarding the writer's reasons kept getting in the way. Finally, I realized I'd have to just set aside some of my typical day-to-day blogging of the link-and-quick-comment type, and go in-depth into the problems I see with the author, and Christians in general, who vote Democratic for specifically Christian reasons, and especially regarding the social issues brought up in the letter. Pull up a cup of coffee and sit back.

Anne Rice is a Catholic author. I'll admit to not being too well-read, but as a Protestant my knowledge of Catholic authors is even more limited. Therefore, I'm not sure how much Ms. Rice's views are mainstream Catholic, although whether or not they are really isn't the crux of this post. I do want to discuss the views she espouses, and espouses quite well as an author. That she is a Catholic and I am a Protestant has really no bearing on my criticism of her recent public letter dated August 10. I know Protestants who would agree with her on these issues, so this is not a denominational thing. She professes Christianity, as do I, and we have very similar goals, as far as I can tell, on the topics she discusses, and yet we're voting differently. Ms. Rice wrote a lengthy letter to her readers on her main web site (no permalink so don't know how long it'll stay on the front page) about why she is endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. They reasons she lists for that endorsement, to me, run completely counter to her list of important issues and goals. If she is truly concerned about those goals, I don't follow her endorsement, nor the endorsement of other of my friends and acquaintances of any Democrat in the current group. I want to address the inconsistencies I see in this post.

Ms. Rice starts out with her Christian and Catholic creds, which I respect and am willing to accept. She talks about how, while the separation of church and state is a good idea, the voter does not have that prohibition, and in fact must consider their vote based on their religion.

Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian. Commitment to Christ is by its very nature absolute.

I agree wholeheartedly. But, she also correctly notes, we have only 2 political parties in this country. (She believes, as do I, that a vote for neither Democrat or Republican, whether it's a non-vote or a vote for a 3rd party, is essentially a vote for one of the two major ones, no matter how you slice it.) In short:
To summarize, I believe in voting, I believe in voting for one of the two major parties, and I believe my vote must reflect my Christian beliefs.

Bearing all this in mind, I want to say quietly that as of this date, I am a Democrat, and that I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.


And that last clause is where the disagreement begins.

Charitable Giving

The first paragraph of explanation deals with giving.

Though I deeply respect those who disagree with me, I believe, for a variety of reasons, that the Democratic Party best reflects the values I hold based on the Gospels. Those values are most intensely expressed for me in the Gospel of Matthew, but they are expressed in all the gospels. Those values involve feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving ones neighbors and loving ones enemies. A great deal more could be said on this subject, but I feel that this is enough.

First of all, neither the religious right nor the religious left have a lock on charitable giving. At the same time, as was noted on this post regarding a study by Arthur Brooks, conservatives outgive liberals by quite a significant amount. How does this relate to how the political parties differ in their view of the government's role in this? Ms. Rice, I believe, falls into a trap by simplistically equating the advocacy of government charity with Jesus' admonition to the individual to be charitable. Democrats say the government should give more, so by her reckoning thy are more in line with her Christian view. However, it has always made me wonder how when Jesus tells me, personally, to be charitable, that somehow this means that I should also use the government to force my neighbor, under penalty of jail, to be "charitable". I put "charitable" in quotes because when there's force involved, there's no real act of charity. How Democrat Christians get from point A to point Z on this boggles my mind. Another statistic from Brooks' study brings this point home; People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.

On top of this, the bureaucratic inefficiency filter that we're all forced to funnel our "charitable" taxes through siphons money away from the needy, as does the massive fraud that goes on in a big government program that has little accountability.

Conservatives believe that forcibly taking money isn't charity, and that it is not government's role to rob from Peter to pay Paul, and that the way the government handles this creates dependency and causes further problems, like giving fathers a disincentive to stick around. Because of this, conservatives give more of their own money to local charities where the administrative costs are much lower. The Republican party, the current home of most conservative political ideas in this country, purports to support these goals, and while they don't always follow those principles, they have done better at this than Democrats. An expanded role of government in the area of giving to the poor is not the best way for that to happen, and as a Christian I believe it's not moral to force others to give when they don't want to. Again, Jesus asks me to give; He didn't ask me to force others to.

Ms. Rice, in ticking off a laundry list of values, seems to be falling for the framing of the issue that Democrats have put forth; welfare = caring. There are other ways to care, which can have much better results.

Part 2 tomorrow.

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August 20, 2007

Artificial Life

And not the robotic kind.

Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they're getting closer.

Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of "wet artificial life."

"It's going to be a big deal and everybody's going to know about it," said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. "We're talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways—in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict."


What's interesting to me is how they plan to solve some problems.
One of the leaders in the field, Jack Szostak at Harvard Medical School, predicts that within the next six months, scientists will report evidence that the first step—creating a cell membrane—is "not a big problem." Scientists are using fatty acids in that effort.

Szostak is also optimistic about the next step—getting nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, to form a working genetic system.

His idea is that once the container is made, if scientists add nucleotides in the right proportions, then Darwinian evolution could simply take over.

"We aren't smart enough to design things, we just let evolution do the hard work and then we figure out what happened," Szostak said.


This will be an interesting test of the evolution theory, but we're years away from that.

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August 15, 2007

Al-Qaida Is in Iraq

Christopher Hitchens is no fan of religious folks, and enjoys the infighting he sees among religions. However, there is one argument at least that he finds even lower than those.

Arcane as these disputes may seem, and much as I relish seeing the faithful fight among themselves, the believers are models of lucidity when compared to the hair-splitting secularists who cannot accept that al-Qaida in Mesopotamia is a branch of al-Qaida itself.

Hitchens takes apart the arguments that are used by folks to try to convince themselves that Iraq isn't really a front in the war on terror. A short but meaty read. He closes by putting it all in context.
We can not only deny the clones of Bin Ladenism a military victory in Iraq, we can also discredit them in the process and in the eyes (and with the help) of a Muslim people who have seen them up close. We can do this, moreover, in a keystone state of the Arab world that guards a chokepoint—the Gulf—in the global economy. As with the case of Afghanistan—where several provinces are currently on a knife-edge between an elected government that at least tries for schools and vaccinations, and the forces of uttermost darkness that seek to negate such things—the struggle will take all our nerve and all our intelligence. But who can argue that it is not the same battle in both cases, and who dares to say that it is not worth fighting?

Isn't that sort of idea, and indeed reality, worth fighting for?

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August 14, 2007

Eyes Wide Open at Venezuela

In Mark Weisbrot's article, "Eyes Wide Shut: The International Media Looks at Venezuela" at the Huffington Post yesterday, Mr. Weisbrot just glosses over the importance of some of the actions of Hugo Chavez in the recent RCTV controversy. According to Mark, it's no big deal, really.

Most consumers of the international media will be surprised to find that the controversy over Venezuela's oldest TV station, RCTV, is still raging. We were repeatedly informed that President Hugo Chávez "shut down" the station on May 27th. But in fact the station was never "shut down" - since there is no censorship in Venezuela. Rather, the Venezuelan government decided not to renew the broadcast license that granted RCTV a monopoly over a section of the publicly-owned frequencies.

This is a big distinction, although the U.S. and international press blurred it considerably. Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, noted last month that the "Venezuelan government is empowered to do what it did (non-renewal of the license)" and cited Brazilian President Lula Da Silva's statement that not renewing RCTV's broadcast license was as democratic an act as granting it. Insulza added that "democracy is very much in force in Venezuela."


See, it's legal for Chavez to do it, so nothing to see here, move along. All you thousands of Venezuelans who protested the closure, er, non-renewing action, you just don't know what's really going on in your own country.

The fact that it's legal doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. The fact that the Venezuelan government has survived lo these many decades with RCTV often being a thorn in the side shows just how out of the ordinary this action was. And to blame whatever perceived misunderstanding there might be on the international press blurs the fact that Venezuelans themselves were outraged at this. Some polls put the number of those against this as high as 70%. Who's eyes are "wide shut", exactly?

Agreed, RCTV has behaved rather poorly in the past, as Mark notes.

RCTV's owner, Marcel Granier, is an opposition leader who seeks to de-legitimize the Venezuelan government. He has had some success in this effort, most importantly in April 2002 when his station faked film footage to make it look like pro-Chávez gunmen were shooting down demonstrators on the streets of Caracas. This and other manipulations by the Venezuelan media helped provoke a military coup against the elected government. This is one of several reasons that the government of Venezuela declined to renew RCTV's broadcast license.

Wrong, even from a "free speech" point of view. That still doesn't mean that what Chavez did is right. Chavez took action against a media outlet for political reasons, and that brings the stakes up even higher regarding the politicizing of the media. A more appropriate action would be to bring Granier up on charges, not attempt to turn off the station.

And Mr. Weisbrot is completely failing to place the RCTV controversy in the context of further restrictions on free speech made by Chavez. Foreigners are not allowed to speak ill of him and his policies while in-country. Weisbrot says:

Granier is betting that the international media and other U.S.-dominated institutions will also frame his current battle as a "free speech" issue, rather than a legal dispute over whether his station is a national channel and hence subject to the same regulations as other Venezuelan cable stations. This is a good bet.

But regardless of the other reasons the Venezuelan government would use to attempt a shutdown, there is a free speech issue at stake. Perhaps not with the RCTV situation taken individually, because there's a lot more going on than just free speech, but it is an element of that and many other actions that the Congressinally-uninhibited Chavez has been taking recently. All of it must be looked at, but Mr. Weisbrot doesn't look that far.
So Venezuelans know that there is no "free speech" problem in their country. While there are problems with the rule of law, including street crime - as throughout most of the region - Venezuelans have not suffered a loss of civil liberties under the Chávez government, as we have for example in the United States since 2001. That is one reason why Hugo Chávez was re-elected in December by the largest margin of the 12 most recent Latin American presidential elections, despite facing an opposition-dominated media. Democracy is indeed "very much in force in Venezuela."

Does any of this sound like the Liberal descriptions of the Soviet Union back in the 60s? "They have it better than we do." "There's is a more fair government." Back then, eyes were wide shut, too.

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August 09, 2007

A Tale of Two Texts

Glenn McCoy says it all with one picture from August 2nd.

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August 08, 2007

Live By the Polls, Die By the Polls

Many on the Left try to disparage any action Bush has taken by citing his poll numbers, especially regarding the war in Iraq. If the public doesn't like it, it shouldn't be done, or so goes the argument. Well, as I've said here many times before, I hate polls, but if you want to live by them, are you willing to die by them? Whatever you said about Bush when his poll numbers were dropping, is the opposite true now that they're rising?

We're seeing some slight hints of positive news for the Bush administration. For one thing, Bush's job approval rating has stopped its downward trajectory. Bush hit bottom with his administration low point of 29% in early July (based on our USA Today/Gallup poll readings). Now - in the data just about to be released from our weekend poll - Bush's approval rating has recovered slightly to 34%. That's not a big jump, but it is the second consecutive poll in which the president's numbers have been higher rather than lower.

Is the war a better idea now because the "surge" numbers are going up? (Emphasis mine, for a point to be made later.)
Also, we are seeing a slight uptick in the percentage of Americans who say the "surge" in Iraq is working. That may not be a total surprise given the general tone of news out of Iraq recently, including the positive light on the situation put forth by Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack in their widely-discussed New York Times op-ed piece "A War We Just Might Win" on July 30. But it represents a change.

Indeed, the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll itself found a slight increase in the percent of Americans saying that the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action in Iraq, and were so uncertain about it that they redid the survey. And found the same results.


While public opinion can be important with regards to a war, the very transient nature of it shows that it's not a good idea to lean too heavily on it regarding public policy.

The role of the media should not be discounted, either. Most of the media folks are down on the war, and the stories they cover and how they cover them mirrors much of that. And, as emphasized above, those reports and opinion pieces shape the way people think about the war and other topics, so when the media ignore all the good stories coming out of Iraq and then trumpet poll results as bolstering their view, it is very disingenuous. They know full well how their actions game the numbers. A single opinion piece by liberals who finally decided to see for themselves what was going on was a big factor, Gallup says, in bringing the numbers up. This says to me that if the public knew all the good things happening in Iraq -- if they got the fair and balanced full story -- the poll numbers would be quite different.

I say again, I hate polls. My opinion on whether we should have gone to war in Iraq is not based on the feel-good (or feel-bad) story of the week, or how well the war is going today. But for enough folks, it does matter, and thus polls are the worst kind of "news" story. However, I am more than happy to hold those who do hold polls in high regard to their own standards.

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China's Economic Threat

This is another reason why the US government shouldn't be spending borrowed money to finance extra-constitutional spending.

The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.

Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress.

Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.

Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.

It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession. It is estimated that China holds over $900bn in a mix of US bonds.


When the federal government is asked to do things the Constitution doesn't tell it to do, and when more and more money flows through it, and with that more and more power, it's hard to stop spending. And with that comes borrowing. And with that comes slavery. The same thing could happen even if spending were kept in the context of the Constitution, but once you escape its limits, there is then no limit.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. - Proverbs 22:7 (NIV)

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August 07, 2007

Media Hall of Shame

What do Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, Gavyn Davies, Howell Raines and now Thomas Beauchamp all have in common? They're all in John Wixted's Liberal Media Hall of Shame for ruining their own careers because of lies told to promote a liberal agenda. Wixted notes that this appears to be very one-sided.

Career-ending journalistic insanity -- mostly attributable to the war in Iraq -- appears to be almost exclusively a phenomenon of the left. If you know of some prominent counterexamples, though, please set me straight.

This is why diversity of opinion within journalism is required, rather than the incredibly left-leaning crowd we currently have. As fair and balanced as they might believe they are, whenever we have scandal like this, it always seems to be coming from one side.

Wixted does try, though, to scrounge up at least one example from the right.

By way of comparison, who are the conservative reporters who are torpedoing their own careers by fabricating stories about Clinton or Reid or Pelosi? I can't really think of any. The only conservative reporter who comes to mind is an extremely minor one by the name of Jeff Gannon whose "offense" was to ask a softball question of Bush during a press conference. If liberal reporters were similarly slimed for asking questions of an opposite nature (i.e., questions designed to make Bush look bad), we would not have a White House Press corps.

But somehow the Left in this country can't see past their own partisanship, and instead whine about Fox News and the Washington Times.

Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, this is pot.

Update: Link fixed.

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August 03, 2007

Could a Same-Sex Divorce Result In Same-Sex Marriage?

Two women "married" in Massachusetts (and yes, I'll continue to put that in quotes) are seeking a "divorce", 3 years later, in Rhode Island, where they live. However, Rhode Island does not officially recognize the union. So the question is, if they are granted a "divorce", does this imply that Rhode Island considers their union a marriage and thus is a back-door to "same-sex marriage"?

Rhode Island politicians are divided.

PROVIDENCE — A state court can grant two Providence women a divorce without answering the highly charged question of whether a same-sex marriage performed in Massachusetts should be recognized in Rhode Island, Governor Carcieri and Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch agreed in legal briefs filed with the state Supreme Court yesterday.

But Carcieri and Lynch differed sharply over what the outcome of the case should be if the high court does take up the larger issue.

Carcieri, a Republican and a Catholic who has opposed bills to legalize same-sex marriage, argued that Family Court should not recognize the marriage between Margaret R. Chambers and Cassandra B. Ormiston.

“Marriage as a legal union of one man and one woman is clearly the bedrock of Rhode Island family law,” Carcieri’s brief said, citing gender-specific terms such as “husband and wife” in state law. “Because of the pervasiveness of this position throughout its family law statutes, Rhode Island has a strong public policy against recognition of any other marriage than that between one man and one woman.”

Lynch, a Democrat and a Catholic who has a sister who married a woman in Massachusetts, argued that Family Court should recognize the Chambers/Ormiston marriage under principles of comity, in which states recognize the laws and judicial decisions of other states.

“The crucial issue is whether there is a public policy in this state that is so strong it will require Rhode Island to except same-sex marriages from the traditional respect and recognition it has shown to laws of its sister states,” Lynch’s brief said. “Rhode Island’s case law and legislative enactments do not support such a finding.”


Predictably, the Republican insists that the people, via their representatives, should decide, while the Democrat believes that the osmosis that comes with free travel between states should be enough to change the laws. And actually, Lynch foresees a Family Court system that treats same-sex couples the same as married couples. While that by itself doesn't institute "same-sex marriage" in and of itself, once the precedent is set and the legal system is conditioned, it becomes much harder to keep it out. Lynch is innocently shortsighted at best, or an underhanded activist at worst.

And frankly, I believe that same-sex marriage supporters were banking on this all along. To simply get a friendly state to pass the law is all they would need, and then claim "comity" to make it a de facto law in the other 49 states. Never mind the people and their constitutions.

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The Salvation Army at the Minneapolis Bridge Disaster

One Salvation Army officer (minister) was in their car just before getting on the Minneapolis bridge when it collapsed, while an IT employee was on the bridge when it happened. Both were able to help those who were stranded. You can go to the web site for The Salvation Army's Minnesota and North Dakota Division to see more pictures and news, and contribute to the effort.

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August 01, 2007

The Roeaux Effect

James Taranto has given a name to the idea that the country is getting more and more anti-abortion partially due to abortion being legal. Calling it "The Roe Effect", it postulates that since those who favor legal abortion are more likely to get one, and assuming children generally follow the political leanings of their parents, more abortion foes are being born than abortion advocates, and thus over time support for legal abortion will dwindle. (See the Wikipedia entry for links to other articles on this.)

After the Roe decision, it would take at least 18 years for the effect to start being seen, when the post-Roe kids were of voting age. However, there's another trend occurring that may have an effect on American politics without the waiting period.

Blame Canada!

It may seem like a quiet country where not much happens besides ice hockey, curling and beer drinking. But our neighbor to the north is proving to be quite the draw for thousands of disgruntled Americans.

The number of U.S. citizens who moved to Canada last year hit a 30-year high, with a 20 percent increase over the previous year and almost double the number who moved in 2000.

In 2006, 10,942 Americans went to Canada, compared with 9,262 in 2005 and 5,828 in 2000, according to a survey by the Association for Canadian Studies.


According to this survey, the increase is mostly politically-related.
The current increase is fueled largely by social and political reasons, says [Jack] Jedwab [ACS's executive director].

"Those who are coming have the highest level of education - these aren't people who can't get a job in the states," he explains. "They're coming because many of them don't like the politics, the Iraq War and the security situation in the U.S. By comparison, Canada is a tension-free place. People feel safer."


If most of these folks are generally Democrat voters, depending on the places and districts they moved from, over time this could also help swing American politics more to the right. 10,000 may not be enough to swing a presidential election, but a Senator here and a Congressman there would matter after a while.

So I'm going to coin a term here for what happens when liberals move to Canada and take their politics with them: The Roeaux Effect (pronounced "the roe effect").

Aside from its effects on American politics, the article notes the reasons of a couple of the 10,000 emigrants, and they are indeed political and social.

One person is Tom Kertes. One of his thoughts on the move gives a peek into the liberal mind and its thoughts about soaking off the money of others.

Kertes, who moved with his partner, is happy in his new home. "Canada is a really nice country. My mother is thinking about it. My stepfather has diabetes and has health issues. So, he'd be taken care of for free if he moved up here."

Sure, his stepfather could go up and get it for free -- really free -- because he hasn't paid in to the system for his whole life. He'd essentially be living off the "forced charity" (oxymoron) of others. And, of course, it all depends on how long he wants to wait for treatment.

And here's another testimonial:

Jo Davenport, who wrote "The Canadian Way," moved from Atlanta to Nova Scotia in December 2001. She also cites political reasons for her move, saying that she disagreed with the Bush administration's decisions after 9/11.

"Things are totally different here because they care about their people here," she says, explaining that she's only been back home once or twice.


By December 2001, Iraq wasn't even on the Congressional funding docket, so Ms. Davenport couldn't even abide going after those who harbored bin Laden. Definitely a reliable Democrat vote gone north.

Her comment that "they care about people here" insinuates that they simply don't here. Well, there are some folks who might think differently about that. Earlier in the article it adds just a bit of perspective.

Of course, those numbers are still outweighed by the number of Canadians going the other way. Yet, that imbalance is shrinking. Last year, 23,913 Canadians moved to the United States, a significant decrease from 29,930 in 2005.

So over twice as many people come here as go there every year. First of all, you'll note that none of them were interviewed for the article. Secondly, if people here simply didn't care, I daresay the numbers would be quite different. One wonders how many of them come here to escape the waiting lists in the Canadian health care system.

And it would be interesting to find out the political and social leanings of those folks. It could be that the Roeaux Effect is not just about the 10,000 going north, but also the 20,000 coming south. Again, no mention of that in the article.

So now I'm going to put out the call to whoever has the resources to do a study on the effect of immigration & emigration from & to Canada has on American politics. If you just read the ABC News report, you'd think quite a lot, based on the interviews. But then again, this is the MSM. There might be nothing to it.

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July 31, 2007

Name That Scientist

Jeff Jacoby presents, in a style not unlike Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story", a story about a scientist, and the school that he applied to, that will amaze you.

DID YOU hear about the religious fundamentalist who wanted to teach physics at Cambridge University? This would-be instructor wasn't simply a Christian; he was so preoccupied with biblical prophecy that he wrote a book titled "Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John." Based on his reading of Daniel, in fact, he forecast the date of the Apocalypse: no earlier than 2060. He also calculated the year the world was created. When Genesis 1:1 says "In the beginning," he determined, it means 3988 BC.

So we have a young-Earth guy who seems really into this Christianity thing, and who is applying for a science job at a very prestigious university. Did he get the job?
Hire somebody with such views to teach physics? At a Baptist junior college deep in the Bible Belt, maybe, but the faculty would erupt if you tried it just about anywhere else. Many of them would echo Oxford's Richard Dawkins, the prominent evolutionary biologist, who writes in "The God Delusion" that he is "hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. . . . It subverts science and saps the intellect."

In today's academic climate, things don't sound promising for our intrepid physicist. Religion and science don't mix, so they say.
But such considerations didn't keep Cambridge from hiring the theology- and Bible-drenched individual described above. Indeed, it named him to the prestigious Lucasian Chair of Mathematics....

To find out who this guy was who beat all the odds to get hired, click here for the full column. (And if you're a regular reader of this blog, you may already know the answer. I covered it last month.)

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Chavez Slips Down the Slope

First they came for the TV stations, but I didn't say anything because I didn't own a TV station. Then they came for the critical foreigners, but I didn't say anything because I wasn't a critical foreigner.

President Hugo Chávez said Sunday that foreigners who publicly criticize him or his government while visiting Venezuela will be expelled from the country.

Chávez ordered officials to closely monitor statements made by international figures during their visits to Venezuela -- and deport any outspoken critics.

''How long are we going to allow a person -- from any country in the world -- to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?'' Chávez asked during his weekly television and radio program.


So if someone comes to his country and calls him "the devil", that's a deportable offense. But if Chavez does it in America, the world applauds. (Well, the UN at least.)

Closed circuit for Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Cindy Sheehan, and other Chavez supporters: Can you say "stifling of dissent"? Can you recognize it when it's really happening? Do you remember this ever happening before in history? Do you remember how it all ultimately turned out?

Hat tip The Liberty Papers via Q&O (who points out the similarity with North Korea).

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New Blog

A work buddy of mine and fellow Christian has started his own blog "A Dim Light in a Dark Place". Rather eclectic in nature (family, politics, faith, humor (especially his proposed bumper sticker for use in Atlanta)), so give it a look.

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July 30, 2007

About Face!

James Taranto's analysis and humor on events of the day is not to be missed. On a daily basis, he writes Best of the Web Today for Wall St. Journal's Opinion Journal. Today is definitely no exception, and the rest of this blog post will be his analysis of a NY Times op-ed piece from today. It's something that needs to be said, and said loudly and often. When, instead of reading what the liberal media writes about the war, journalists actually go to Iraq and see what's happening, the results are amazing. And now, James Taranto.

On Second Thought, Don't Surrender
In an important and surprising New York Times op-ed piece, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both from the liberal Brookings Institution, describe a visit to Iraq, where they find that things are not as bad as--well, as New York Times readers have been led to believe. The piece is titled "A War We Just Might Win":
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily "victory" but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated--many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.


O'Hanlon and Pollack report that Sunni sheikhs in Anbar province "are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies," that "the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate" in the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul, and that "the American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners."

They say the situation "remains grave," especially on the "political front," but they counsel against a quick retreat, as many Democrats on Capitol Hill have been advocating:

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

In a way, though, what is most telling about this piece is the introduction:
Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration's critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

For the sake of argument, let us suppose that the authors are right when they claim the Bush administration has "lost essentially all credibility." Does this excuse the administration's critics for being "unaware of the significant changes taking place"--especially when some of those critics have, for reasons of partisanship, ideology or just plain animus, actively campaigned to destroy the administration's credibility?

In the critics' defense, one may say that they have not, by and large, been in positions of responsibility; that if things have gone wrong in Iraq, the administration deserves the lion's share of the blame.

On the other hand, those critics now include the leaders of both houses of Congress, as well as several politicians who would like to become president. For them, at least, it is a serious failure of leadership if they base their views on Iraq on their own disdain for President Bush, or the hope of exploiting voters' disdain for him, rather than on reality.

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July 24, 2007

Sunni and Shia Brought Together By...

...the US military.

TAJI, Iraq — U.S. forces have brokered an agreement between Sunni and Shi'ite tribal leaders to join forces against al Qaeda and other extremists, extending a policy that has transformed the security situation in western Anbar province to this area north of the capital.

The extremists struck back yesterday with a suicide car bomb aimed at one of the Sunni tribes involved in the deal, killing three militiamen and wounding 14.

Members of the First Calvary Division based at nearby Camp Taji helped broker the deal on Saturday with the tribal leaders, who agreed to use members of more than 25 local tribes to protect the area around Taji from both Sunni and Shi'ite extremists.


Our fighting men and women in Iraq are not some dumb, poor folks who got "stuck in Iraq" (thank you John Kerry), and they're not just fighting men and women, either. They're bringing peace (real peace, not the Saddam Hussein kind) to Iraq, one province at a time. It's slow going, no question about that, but I do hope the American people will let the military have the time to do the job right, because it is getting done.
Similar agreements in Anbar province have been credited with putting al Qaeda and its foreign extremists on the defensive while bringing relative peace to some of Iraq's most violent areas.

The Taji agreement, however, is the first involving both Sunni and Shi'ite sheiks, and the U.S. military hopes it will help temper the increasing influence of the Mahdi Army in and around Baghdad.

"A month ago, every single one of these people was shooting at us," said Sgt. Richard Fisk as he walked through Falahat pointing out places where his troops had been hit by roadside bombs.

Capt. Wohlgemuth said the tribal leaders approached the United States for support after a number of raids and detentions, coupled with increasingly brutal treatment of the local population by the group calling itself al Qaeda in Iraq.

The captain said that in some cases he has helped members of the new militia to get relatives released from U.S. and Iraqi custody, provided they were not linked to al Qaeda.


Things are getting better. But will Democrats notice come September?

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July 23, 2007

A "Subversive" Film

Arnold Kling exposes a new movie.

The Acton Institute has produced the most subversive movie I have ever seen. The Call of the Entrepreneur, which is being released on an agonizingly slow schedule, is a threat to tyranny everywhere, including here at home.

The movie's message is that entrepreneurs are creators of wealth, Wall Street financiers are enablers of economic progress, and the villains of the world are people like the Communist leaders in China and American religious leaders who rail against capitalism.


Here's the short description from the movie's website:
A merchant banker. A failing dairy farmer. A refugee from Communist China. One risked his savings. One risked his farm. One risked his life.

Why do their stories matter? Because how we view entrepreneurs - as greedy or altruistic, as virtuous or vicious - shapes the destinies of individuals and nations.


But there are probably too many impediments to it to be shown widely in this country. Kling explains:
But it has very little chance of being shown in public high schools in America. It is far too explicit. "Call of the Entrepreneur" features the Reverend Robert A. Sirico, including a full-frontal shot of his clerical collar. As producer Jay W. Richards points out, the movie uses "the G word."

As a Jew, I am certain that I missed a number of the religious aspects of the movie. There were subtle references to Christian doctrine that went right past me. Perhaps there are Christians who would be more aware of the context and, based on their knowledge, might even take offense at the film's stance. I imagine that passionate atheists would tend to be turned off. But I think that a typical high school student could be exposed to the religion in "Call of the Entrepreneur" without being permanently scarred or corrupted.

I would argue that "Call of the Entrepreneur" and "An Inconvenient Truth" are both religious films. However, unlike Al Gore's movie about global warming, "Call of the Entrepreneur" steers clear of sensationalism, dogma, and misleading half-truths. It is ironic that public teachers and parents are happy to see "An Inconvenient Truth" in the classroom, but "Call of the Entrepreneur" would probably be greeted with protests if it were shown.


Kling's being sarcastic, of course, but makes his point clear. The more we see government as savior, the less freedom we have. The more the entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged, the better it is for all of us, the poor included. Don't give a man a fish, teach him to fish, and allow him to open his own fish business without excessive interference. That's how freedom works.

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The Iran Hostage Crisis

Mark Steyn wonders...

How do you feel about the American hostages in Iran?

No, not the guys back in the Seventies, the ones being held right now.

What? You haven't heard about them?

Odd that, isn't it?


Very much so, especially since we're planning on negotiating with them regarding their nuclear program. Read the whole thing.

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July 19, 2007

...And the Walls Came Tumblin' Down

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury Baptists, attempting to clarify the roles of government and organized religion in the new United States, Jefferson wrote this:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Taken out of context, the "wall of separation" line has been misused over the generations. And the context is not just the letter Jefferson wrote, but it is a specific answer to a specific question from the Baptsts. Here is their concern, with emphasis added:
But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the basis of our government at the time of our revolution. And such has been our laws and usages, and such still are, [so] that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.

The Baptists were concerned specifically about the government imposing laws on religion that would tell them what to do with regards to their beliefs and the practice of them. Jefferson said government would not do that.

There could be no real question as to whether or not religion could have an effect on the government, since a chaplain and an opening prayer were part of Congress from the beginning. Jefferson himself used government money for the express purpose of evangelizing the American Indians. This from the man who wrote about a wall? By his words and his deeds, and in the full context of his words, it is clear that the wall he spoke of was one erected around religion to protect it and its followers from government intrusion, but the reverse situation was not addressed but, in fact, encouraged to a point.

I say this as a prelude to this news story coming from the BBC about an event in England that could occur here in the near future.

A gay man has won his case for unlawful discrimination after he was refused a youth official's job by a Church of England bishop.

The employment tribunal said John Reaney, 42, was discriminated against "on grounds of sexual orientation" by the Hereford diocesan board of finance.


And what law was broken?
Under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, it is illegal to discriminate against people as a result of their sexual orientation, but the law does contain an exemption for organised religion.

The Church of England has a position on the moral status of homosexuality. It is based on their religious beliefs. But today in England, not even the established church is allowed to act on its beliefs if the government has said otherwise. That "exemption for organised religion" isn't worth the paper it's written on.

This is the beginning of the end of religious freedom, when the government becomes the new arbiter of religious practice. And if you don't think it could happen here, then you're likely in for a surprise when the walls come tumblin' down.

Hat tip: Go, Pundit, Go!

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Christian Fantasy Literature, Minus Hogwarts

Someone once said (I'm thinking C. S. Lewis, but if you know the quote, please note it in a comment) something to the effect that we don't need more good Christian literature, we need more good literature by Christians. Does the trend mentioned in this news story portend more of the former or the latter?

Could the next Harry Potter be a devout Christian?

As the days tick down until Saturday, when a breathless world learns the fate of the teenage wizard, a new breed of fantasy fiction, with Potter-style stories, is emerging.

Like the Potter series, it has mystical creatures, macabre events, epic battles and heroic young protagonists.

But, unlike the Potter books, this genre has overt Christian tones: messiah-like kings who return from the dead, fallen satanic characters and young heroes who undergo profound conversions. What you won't generally find: humans waving wands and performing spells.

Christian fantasy, which had been a slow seller, has caught fire recently, industry analysts say, ignited by the success of the Potter series, which has sent some Christian readers looking for alternatives.


What could come of this is a boatload of Narnia knockoffs, most with the same redemption allegory. Now, I'm not knocking the allegory itself, per se; there's certainly nothing wrong with presenting the "old, old story" in a new way. But not everything written by Christians has to be a thin veneer overlaying the New Testament.

And there are a lot of good books written that happen to be written by Christians. In our house, Ted Dekker is a big name, not only for his incredible thriller and suspense novels, but because he went to the same missionary boarding school in Indonesia as my wife and was just a grade or two ahead.

The article notes that the Potter controversy continues (interestingly, Dobson has praises for the series), while the array of other options is on the increase. But with great popularity comes great mediocrity, and just because the author's a Christian doesn't mean it's a masterpiece. But trust me, those masterpieces do exist, and we need more of them.

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July 18, 2007

A Million Here, A Million There...

Pretty soon, you're talking real money.

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July 17, 2007

Bee Replaces Mouse as Kiddie Suicide Symbol

Ain't Hamas television just so cute?

Hamas’s Al-Aqsa television station recruited a new children’s character to “continue” the legacy of its star martyr, Farfur – the Mickey Mouse lookalike who was beaten to death by an Israeli on the previous program.

The new character on the children’s show Tomorrow’s Pioneers, a bee named Nahool, tells the hostess he is Farfur’s cousin and that he wishes to “continue the path of Farfur… the path of martyrdom, the path of the Jihad warriors… and in his name we shall take revenge upon the enemies of Allah, the murderers of the prophets...” The expression "Murderers of the prophets" is an Islamic expression used by the PA religious leaders to refer to Jews. Defining the Jews as the enemies of God is common in PA religious broadcasting.


Entertaining and educational as always.

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How Nuclear Disarmament Should Be Done

Surprisingly (to me) but welcome is the news that North Korea is shutting down its plutonium processor. Wasn't this supposed to be impossible with a president that talked tough to enemies rather than appeasing them with food and money? And wasn't this what the Carter administration was supposed to have accomplished?

Washington's chief negotiator on North Korea outlined a dramatic programme of rapprochement with America's long-time Stalinist foe yesterday after international inspectors verified that it had closed its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed a North Korean statement that the reactor, which processed the plutonium for the country's nuclear weapons test last October, had been shut down.

In response, Christopher Hill, American assistant secretary of state, said talks to sign a formal peace treaty between the two countries, which ended the 1950-53 Korean War only with an armistice, could begin next year.

America would also consider removing North Korea from its list of "state sponsors of terrorism".

"We'll see when we can complete that because we'll see how far the North Koreans are prepared to move on denuclearisation," he told reporters in South Korea, where he held talks.


For perspective, Saddam Hussein did not do this when given the chance.

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Title of the Post

The song, "Title of the Song", is by DaVinci’s Notebook, and is a hilarious take-off on every boy band song ever written. The video is by a group of guys from my alma mater, Asbury College and is a take-off on every boy band video ever produced. Nice to see scenes from the campus. Gotta go back there soon.

Click here for a good laugh.

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July 16, 2007

Gaza, Meet Rock and Hard Place

The popularity of Hamas in Gaza is tanking. Color me unsurprised.

Hamas swept through Gaza last month, vanquishing numerically superior forces aligned with Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who responded by dismissing the Hamas-led government and installing a new one with his backers.

The poll of Gaza residents shows a backlash. Hamas got only 23 percent support, down from 29 percent in the previous survey last month, while Fatah climbed from 31 percent to 43 percent.

The poll, the first major survey since the Hamas takeover, also showed that 66 percent of Hamas supporters said they would vote Fatah if it undertook reforms.


The Rule of the Masked Gunman proves to be inferior to the Rule of Law. Apparently this is a lesson that the Gaza Palestinians just had to learn the hard way. And learn it they have, but at quite a price. But there's a significant group of them that have learned even more; 43+23 = 68, so 32 percent don't support either group. Hopefully, this key demographic will encourage another party into power and (even more hopefully) seek peace with Israel.

The Captain has more information about the state of the Gazans and their plight at the hands of Hamas. Why voting for a terrorist organization ever made sense is beyond me, but things might be -- might be -- looking better. From the article:

Trust in the Gaza-based deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas stood at 37 percent, compared to 63 percent for Abbas. Prime Minister Sallam Fayad got higher trust marks than Haniyeh, 62-38 percent.

"A lot of people answering this question said we like Haniyeh more, but we want people who can really deliver," Rabah said. "People are becoming more realistic."


After 50 years of antagonism against Israel, it's about time. Becoming more realistic would mean suing for peace. Let's be watching to see how realistic they have become.

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Quick Takes

A couple short items for Monday morning.

* Heard a caller on "Bill Bennett's Morning in America" talk about an idea for a bumper sticker. "If you liked The Killing Fields, you'll love The Killing Dunes." And I would ask Democrats, if you didn't like the former, why would you want to do something to allow the latter?

* "Iran to invest in $4 billion Venezuela oil JV" Just what we need; an Iranian foothold in the western hemisphere.

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July 11, 2007

Anaylizing the Pope's Pronouncement

Danny Carlton analyses the Pope's latest document asserting that the Catholic church is the real Christian church and the rest of us are just posers. He thinks, as do I, that this is no real cause for concern among Protestants, since this is essentially a restatement of what the Roman Catholic church has always taught. No surprises there.

Well, except it does get a few folks in a knot. Read the post for details.

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July 10, 2007

The Greatest Threat to World Missions

You'd expect Glenn Penner's idea of the greatest threat to world missions is the persecution of the church. After all, he blogs for "Voice of the Martyrs", an organization who's central focus is the persecution of Christians worldwide. But you'd be wrong.

No, I do not believe that persecution is the greatest threat to the continuing spread of the gospel. I am much more concerned about something that, at first glace, seems benign and even helpful but which I contend is far more insidious. I am referring to the dependency creating practices that ministries are increasingly promoting in the name of "partnership."
Such programs are varied and wide-ranging. Some claim to be "revolutionizing" world missions through their approach of having western Christians sponsor national missions, churches, evangelists, missionaries and pastors. Claiming to be more efficient and culturally adaptable, such groups appeal to the western desire to be cost and labour effective by claiming that such an approach provides more "bang for the buck." Or alternately, they bemoan the fact that these poor servants of God have to labour so hard to meet the needs of their families that they have no time to spread the gospel (to which I respond, "Paul didn't seem to have that problem. See 1 Thessalonians 2:9." Indeed, Paul seemed to think that his approach was the best possible strategy for spreading the gospel. But then again, I suppose we know better in the 21st century).

A careful study of the issue, however, demonstrates that dependency on western resources to spread the gospel has proven, in most cases, to be an absolute disaster.


Read the whole thing for why he believe this is the case.

(The political animal in me also noted that this "absolute disaster" mirrors quite amazingly a US government program that is also, in my opinion, an absolute disaster, and for almost all the same reasons. Read Glenn's blog post and see if you find the same thing I did.)

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July 09, 2007

Why They Hate Us

In case you're still under the impression that al Qaeda hates us because of our foreign policies, here's some perspective.

The leader of an al-Qaida umbrella group in Iraq threatened to wage war against Iran unless it stops supporting Shiites in Iraq within two months, according to an audiotape released Sunday.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who leads the group Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing for four years to wage a battle against Shiite-dominated Iran.

"We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shiite government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you," he said in the 50-minute audiotape. The tape, which could not be independently verified, was posted on a Web site commonly used by insurgent groups.


It is not primarily a political struggle, but a religious one, at least on their part. If attacks by al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia weren't enough to sway opinion, perhaps this might. We are not Muslim, and we're the big guy on the block, so we make an enticing target. But al Qaeda's issue is their form of Islam.
Al-Baghdadi criticized Kurdish leaders for their alliance with Shiites in Iraq's government and accused them encouraging unsavory morals.

"The leaders of apostasy ... have impeded the march of Islam in Muslim Kurdistan and helped communism and secularism to spread. ... They insulted the religious scholars ... encouraged vices and women without veils," he said.


Insulting scholars and missing veils. Does this sound like a political group to you?

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Name That Film

What Warner Bros. movie has been translated into 1,000 languages (the most recent being finished this month), the most of any film (beating #2 by about 900)?

Click here for the press release.

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July 06, 2007

Million Man March Against Terrorism

Would be nice to see here. Instead we get marches supporting illegal immigration and against a President fighting terrorism. We'd need both sides of the political aisle to pull something like this off, but methinks one side would be difficult to recruit.

In the meantime, Gateway Pundit takes us to Colombia.

Over one million Colombians marched from the Amazon jungle outpost of Leticia to the Caribbean city of Cartagena to demand liberation of the country's kidnap victims from Leftist terrorists.

People attend a protest against violence and kidnapping, in Medellin July 5, 2007. Hundreds of thousands of Colombians headed for the streets on Thursday to show outrage at last week's news that 11 provincial politicians had been killed while held hostage by leftist rebels.


And guess who is backing the terrorists? The Left's favorite socialist.
The BBC reported that this was a rare national unity protest against the FARC terrorists who are known to be supported by the Chavez government.

Color me unsurprised.

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When Does a Massacre Matter?

Confederate Yankee has some serious questions for the AP.

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Scooter vs. Sandy

As I've said, I disagree with the clemency that the President gave Scooter Libby, but for perspective, here's Ace's suggestion:

Suggestion: Bush should have reduced the fine to a more reasonable $50,000, which just so happens to be how much Sandy Berger was fined for stealing and destroying classified documents and lying about it to investigators (he wasn't charged for the latter, but subsequent revelations has made it clear he did just that).

Making the fine $50,000 would have been more in line with Libby's transgressions, and it would have made it harder for Democrats to argue against it. The penalty -- no jail time, $50,000, probation -- would have been so similar to Berger's that one could scarcely mention it without also mentioning Berger.


I've noted before that the Sandy Berger situation has received far less press for a far larger transgression than the Libby trial. And now the disproportionate punishments are getting the same double standard applied. At least the press and the Democrats are consistent, if disingenuous.

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July 03, 2007

"Chavez and Farfour and Lenin, Oh My!"

When I returned from vacation and caught up on my news reading, a couple of items caught my eye.

Farfur the Mouse is dead. Back in May on my personal blog, I talked about the Hamas children's show "Tomorrow's Pioneers" and it's main character Farfur the Mouse, an obvious Mickey Mouse knock-off, that told kids of the wonders of martyrdom and of the ultimate destruction of the terrorist state of Israel. Fun for the whole family, no? At the time, the head of the Palestinian version of the FCC (a Fatah fellow) said the program would be removed and reviewed. The Hamas station basically said, "Nuts to you" and kept it on the air. Well now, for whatever reason, the station did cancel the show. According to this Jerusalem Post report, it had nothing to do with the government; they're just making room for new programs. Either that's a final statement of defiance just before succumbing to a government order, or it's the actual reason and the government really was toothless in this area.

Regardless, the mouse is dead. Literally. In the final episode (click here for the video) Farfur is martyred by a Jewish character in sunglasses when Farfur won't sell him his land. He's punched out on camera, and the little girl who co-hosts the show announces Farfur's martyrdom. Remember, this is the official TV station of the government that the Palestinian people voted to be their representatives to the world.

Hugo Chavez is still...Hugo Chavez. He's making common cause with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an "axis of unity" against North America, he's making enemies of his South American neighbors after they rightly criticize his silencing of dissent, and he's asking Russians to remember the lessons of Lenin. Chavez is talking about Lenin's anti-imperialism views (though the Soviet Union certainly had its imperialist streak), but I think there are other lessons of Lenin that millions of the dead in Russia would like to teach us.

And here's an interesting tidbit.

Insecurity, "malignant narcissism" and the need for adulation are driving Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's confrontation with the United States, according to a new psychological profile.

Eventually, these personality traits are likely to compel Chavez to declare himself Venezuela's president for life, said Dr. Jerrold Post, who has just completed the profile for the U.S. Air Force.

Chavez won elections for a third term last December. Since then he has stepped up his anti-American rhetoric, vowed to accelerate a march towards "21st Century socialism" and suggested that he intends to stay in power until 2021 -- a decade beyond his present term.

But Post -- who profiled foreign leaders in a 21-year career at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and now is the director of the Political Psychology Program at George Washington University -- doubts that Chavez plans to step down even then. "He views himself as a savior, as the very embodiment of Venezuela," Post said in an interview.

"He has been acting increasingly messianic and so he is likely to either get the constitution rewritten to allow for additional terms or eventually declare himself president-for-life."

Post portrays Chavez as "a masterful political gamesman" who knows that his popularity largely rests on being seen as a strong leader who takes on the United States, the Venezuelan elite and a host of other perceived enemies -- often with public insults that are rarely used by other leaders.

"To keep his followers engaged, he must continue outrageous and inflammatory attacks," Post said.

Even Chavez's most determined opponents concede that he is a gifted orator and has a rare ability to mesmerize audiences. In the language of political psychology, this is a "charismatic leader-follower relationship."


We've watch this script played out enough in history. Are we just going to sit back and watch the next act, or are we going to resist it?

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The Libby Clemency

President Bush's clemency for the prison time for Scooter Libby is, in my estimation, wrong. Certainly there is the case that the President said that whoever was responsible for the leak should be punished, and even though Libby wasn't the source of the leak (and the source of the leak goes uncharged for any crime) he was still found guilty of lying to a grand jury. That's the same crime that brought impeachment onto Bill Clinton. In my mind, Democrats are right in protesting this decision. Is 2 1/2 years too long for Libby, with the punishment being overkill for the crime? The President's statement notes that he thinks so, especially when the judge didn't take into consideration a number of mitigating circumstances. Nonetheless, even though Libby will still be on probation and still have a felony on his criminal record, I think the President should have stayed out of this. Lying in the justice system shouldn't be any easier when a politically-aligned President is in office.

President Clinton, in defending his pardon of Mark Rich, et. al., had this to say.

First, I want to make some general comments about pardons and commutations of sentences. Article II of the Constitution gives the president broad and unreviewable power to grant "Reprieves and Pardons" for all offenses against the United States. The Supreme Court has ruled that the pardon power is granted "[t]o the [president] . . ., and it is granted without limit" (United States v. Klein). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared that "[a] pardon . . . is . . . the determination of the ultimate authority that the public welfare will be better served by [the pardon] . . ." (Biddle v. Perovich). A president may conclude a pardon or commutation is warranted for several reasons: the desire to restore full citizenship rights, including voting, to people who have served their sentences and lived within the law since; a belief that a sentence was excessive or unjust; personal circumstances that warrant compassion; or other unique circumstances.

The exercise of executive clemency is inherently controversial. The reason the framers of our Constitution vested this broad power in the Executive Branch was to assure that the president would have the freedom to do what he deemed to be the right thing, regardless of how unpopular a decision might be. Some of the uses of the power have been extremely controversial, such as President Washington's pardons of leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion, President Harding's commutation of the sentence of Eugene Debs, President Nixon's commutation of the sentence of James Hoffa, President Ford's pardon of former President Nixon, President Carter's pardon of Vietnam War draft resisters, and President Bush's 1992 pardon of six Iran-contra defendants, including former Defense Secretary Weinberger, which assured the end of that investigation.


All true, none of it in question, and all of which applies here, too. It's just that most folks who would be inclined to do this don't pick up on the nuance and unique circumstances of a particular pardon. Punishment not only helps deter the offender from doing it again, it helps convince others not to try it. It needs to be allowed to work.

Sorry Dubya. Can't get behind you on this one. (In the post below, Tom agrees with the clemency. See, we don't march in lockstep here. >grin<).

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June 22, 2007

Liberals Miffed, See Government as Savior

OK, that's a "dog bites man" headline if there ever was one, but here's the latest example. A report by CAP, the Center for American Progress (PDF is here, though I had trouble loading it into Acrobat Reader), entitled "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio" notes how many more conservative talk radio stations there are than liberal ones. No news there.

What the report suggests is that the government should step in and "fix" this. Again, no news there. What's really funny is how they frame it. They play both the race and gender card, and bring up the non sequiter of who owns the radio stations. From the coverage on "Think Progress", here's the two paragraph they quote from the report discussing this (emphasis theirs).

Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management. […]

Ultimately, these results suggest that increasing ownership diversity, both in terms of the race/ethnicity and gender of owners, as well as the number of independent local owners, will lead to more diverse programming, more choices for listeners, and more owners who are responsive to their local communities and serve the public interest.


So if only more radio stations were owned by women and minorities, we'd have more liberal talk radio.

Short answer: No.

Liberals once again demonstrate their lack of familiarity with that concept called the "free market". People don't listen to a radio program -- music, talk, news, entertainment, whatever -- based on who owns the station. They listen to what they want to listen to based on content. They have their preferences, and that's what they listen to. This isn't to say a rock-and-roller won't occasionally peek over to the jazz station, or that folks can have very eclectic tastes, but by and large people stick with their preferences.

Now, a radio station stays in business, generally, by making money. (This is central to the "free market" thing. Liberals, please read this. Others can skip to the next paragraph.) They do this by finding a need or want in the community and filling it. Not enough hard rock? Play it! Not enough 18th century classical? Get it! Not enough hard news? Report it! Not enough comedy? Program it! But here's the catch: if you're wrong -- if there is enough 18th century classical music on the radio -- you won't have enough listeners to allow the advertising revenue pay for your expenses.

If you're operating at a loss, generally you go out of business, or try another idea (not enough 20th century avant-garde new age pipe organ music?). Unless you're Air America, in which you just get infusion after infusion of cash from big, corporate rich guys, and if that fails, you legislate.

And that's precisely what CAP is suggesting; making laws to determine how much anybody can own in a market so that they can, maybe, get people to listen to their programs. As I said, a non sequiter. When Air America came to Atlanta, the radio station carried the whole slate of talkers, morning til night. I would occasionally listen to Randi Rhodes on the way home just to hear how the other half thought, but I just couldn't believe that's what the other half really thought. Way too much conspiracy theory. So I didn't listen to her with any regularity. A year or so later, the station is sold (most likely due to coming in last in the market with a 0.0 rating), changes format to an Eclectic Arts station and Air America was off the air in Atlanta. Didn't matter who the owner was. It was unprofitable in the extreme. (And the new owner went from owning 1 to 2 radio stations; definitely an "independent local owner".)

And that's why Air America and "progressive" radio in general isn't out there on the airwaves as much as conservative talk. Hardly anyone listens to them. It's a simple business calculus. But instead of making their product better, the Left seeks to get the government to force the issue.

Are you now waiting for the Left to propose the same thing for the newspaper or broadcast TV media as well? Hold not thy breath. A "Fairness Doctrine" that covers more than just radio? That'll never happen, because those other outlets generally lean left. Which goes to show that when the Left whines about fairness, it's all one-sided. Nothing fair about it.

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June 21, 2007

Meet the New Boss, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda

From Redstate.org:

Freshman PA Democrat says no new investigations needed

U.S. Representative Chris Carney, under pressure from constituents in his Pennsylvania district to probe fellow Democrat Paul Kanjorski, now says he believes previous Republican Congresses have done all they could to investigate possible corruption and ethical lapses.


Now that they're in power, all of a sudden Democrats are loathe to do anything about "the culture of corruption", especially in their own ranks. "Move along, nothing to see here. The Republicans already cleaned up this mess."
Carney, like most members of his Democrat freshmen class, ran his 2006 campaign on an anti-corruption platform. “I came to Congress with a promise that corruption should not be tolerated from either party,” Carney recently noted.

But following a call to initiate an investigation into a fellow Democrat, Carney balked, with his office telling the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice “if the Republican-controlled Congress chose not to investigate this matter in 2002, I’m unclear as to why the issue would be resurfacing now.”


Carney and his freshmen class should be charged with a "truth in labelling" violation.

And here's his leading indicator of whether or not someone is corrupt.

Not long after being elected, Carney told the Pittsburgh Press Gazette “Jack (Murtha) has our back,” and that he didn’t believe ethical questions would harm Murtha, who has been a controversial figure since being named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1980s ABSCAM trials.

Despite his anti-corruption platform, Carney has come to Murtha’s defense. “If it's questionable,” Carney said of Murtha’s reported ethical lapses, “why has he been elected with such large majorities over the years?”


Well there you go. If the people love you, you must be OK.

Obligatory disclaimer: Neither party has a lock on the "culture of corruption". Washington, DC and any seat of power foments it. The problem is that the American people have been sold on the idea that if there's a problem, it requires a central government solution, and thus money and power flow in ever increasing measure to one place. We need to decentralize both to reduce the corruption in Washington and bring the solutions back to the states (who are closer to the problem and have a better track record in general). I'm not saying the states are pure as the driven snow, either, but the locals keep better tabs on their own close to home. If you really want to reduce corruption, the solution is smaller government.

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Christians Persecuted, Major Christian Group Silent

Meryl Yourish gathers up the information. First off, here's the first paragraph from the World Council of Churches web page about "Who Are We?":

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity.

So this is a specifically Christian organization. Yet their "Latest News" page, as of now, has an article condemning the Israeli "occupation" and how it hurts human dignity, but absolutely nothing about this 3-day-old story on Muslims in Gaza attacking a Christian school and church. How about any stories about the endless rockets launched into Israel from Gaza ever since Israel held up their part of the peace process and pulled out? Nothing.

Nope, Israel is the big problem. Odd, then, that those in Gaza are fleeing...to Israel.

Many Christians said they were prepared to leave the Gaza Strip as soon as the border crossings are reopened.

Where they can't get along and where they kill innocents in order to take power, the WCC is silent. But they condemn the country where the refugees flee to. What an awful double-standard.

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Only At the UN Does This Pass For "Reform"

I've criticized the UN on human rights before. Their Human Rights Commission was a sham and a joke, often headed by countries with the worst human rights abuses, and very often condemning those with better records on it while ignoring egregious acts by member states.

The Commission was disbanded in a "reform" move, and the Human Right Council was created. Living up to my low expectations, the Council is virtually identical to the Commission in its actions.

Members of the UN's new human rights watchdog on Tuesday formally agreed to continue their scrutiny of Israel while halting investigations into Cuba and Belarus - a move that immediately drew fire from Canada and the United States.

Palestinians are trying to get into Israel to escape the human rights abuses in Gaza (the subject of an upcoming post). Yet they excuse Cuba, ignore Hamas and Fatah, and single out Israel. Such "myopic zeal".
The United States - which is only an observer to the 47-nation body - has been skeptical since the beginning.

Any wonder?
The large Muslim and African groups, which dominate the council, had lobbied hard to minimize the scope for naming and shaming countries over their human rights records, ...

Any wonder?
...but make an exception for Israel, the only government explicitly criticized so far by the body.

This is absolutely preposterous. The United Nations has absolutely no credibility in this area, and its pronouncements on this should no longer be taken seriously.

And if this is what they call "reform", they make their own case for dismantling.

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June 20, 2007

Mixing Science and Religion (It Can Be Done)

Richard Dawkins, scientist, atheist, and author of "The God Delusion":

Refusing to believe that science and religion could ever be happy bedfellows, the self-confessed atheist said that professional scientists who did promote that theory needed to prove the existence of god because it was a scientific question.

Emphasis mine, to point out that there have been many scientists who indeed were very religious. For instance:
Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible — exhibited this week for the first time — lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history's greatest scientist.

Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law — even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters — and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end.


Any scientist who does that today would no doubt be considered a nut by Dawkins and his supporters. And yet I'm certain that Dawkins has no problem accepting the scientific conclusions of someone he'd consider a religious fanatic today.
In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.

"It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," Newton wrote. However, he added, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."

In another document, Newton interpreted biblical prophecies to mean that the Jews would return to the Holy Land before the world ends. The end of days will see "the ruin of the wicked nations, the end of weeping and of all troubles, the return of the Jews captivity and their setting up a flourishing and everlasting Kingdom," he posited.


This is not someone with just a passing interest in a popular religious text of the time, this is someone who takes it seriously. Oftentimes, this sort of religious display is handwaved away as purely cultural, but I don't think you can do that here.
Yemima Ben-Menahem, one of the exhibit's curators, said the papers show Newton's conviction that important knowledge was hiding in ancient texts.

"He believed there was wisdom in the world that got lost. He thought it was coded, and that by studying things like the dimensions of the temple, he could decode it," she said.

The Newton papers, Ben-Menahem said, also complicate the idea that science is diametrically opposed to religion. "These documents show a scientist guided by religious fervor, by a desire to see God's actions in the world," she said.


They are not mutually exclusive.

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June 18, 2007

BBC Internal Report Admist Bias

As if we needed them to tell us this.

The BBC has failed to promote proper debate on major political issues because of the inherent liberal culture of its staff, a report commissioned by the corporation has concluded.

The report claims that coverage of single-issue political causes, such as climate change and poverty, can be biased - and is particularly critical of Live 8 coverage, which it says amounted to endorsement.


OK, first off, major kudos to the BBC for looking into this and admitting it. However, this is long, long overdue. The Biased BBC blog could have told them this, for a lot less money, I'm sure.

Continuing on in the Telegraph story comes another "shocking" revelation.

The report concludes BBC staff must be more willing to challenge their own beliefs.

It reads: “There is a tendency to 'group think’ with too many staff inhabiting a shared space and comfort zone.”


Indeed when it's pointed out that 80+% of American journalists voted for Clinton, the retort is that it doesn't matter since they can still be impartial. However, the lesson from this is that the herd mentality is stronger than the Left gives it credit for, and that real diversity in the newsroom should consist more of diversity of opinion than just skin color. After all, the news businesses' product is information, and "group think" (or perhaps "myopic zeal") is more likely to slant news coverage than ethnic makeup is.

And this is just rich.

A staff impartiality seminar held last year is also documented in the report, at which executives admitted they would broadcast images of the Bible being thrown away but not the Koran, in case Muslims were offended.

No real need to expound on that; the bias (and fear) speaks for itself.

So now what? The Times of London's editorial on this nails it.

That the BBC should investigate itself is perhaps admirable, but only if it acts on the conclusions. The likelihood is that it will lament its shortcomings, pledge to do something and carry on much as before. Changing its cosy culture will take more than a report; some who have worked there say it would require a small neutron bomb. The BBC is a self-perpetuating liberal arts club. Recruitment is the key. It needs to employ more nonconformist journalists whose paper of choice is not The Guardian.

Indeed, diversity of opinion is what's required. Will it happen? Well, another arena that supposedly encourages full debate on subjects is academia, and the Left is heavily entrenched there as well, and they show no signs of wanting their orthodoxy and stranglehold challenged. A prediction that the Left in the media will do so is equally slim.

Posted by Doug at 09:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

Congressional Approval Ratings Tank

I'm not a big fan of polls, but there have been so many on the left who have trumpeted Bush's low approval ratings that I just had to report on this.

Fueled by disappointment at the pace of change since Democrats assumed the majority on Capitol Hill, public approval of Congress has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

Just 27% of Americans now approve of the way Congress is doing its job, the poll found, down from 36% in January, when Democrats assumed control of the House and the Senate.

And 63% of Americans say that the new Democratic Congress is governing in a "business as usual" manner, rather than working to bring the fundamental change that party leaders promised after November's midterm election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the first woman to hold that position, has also failed to impress many Americans. Only 36% approve of the way she is handling the job, the poll found.

In contrast, 46% of Americans in the current poll said they approved of the way Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia handled the job after he led the GOP into the majority in 1994.


Live by the poll, die by the poll.

Frankly, the Gingrich number surprises me. Perhaps the emotions of the time, and the awful press coverage ("The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas", indeed) have ebbed so that folks are looking more objectively, and comparatively to what's happening now. Or perhaps it's just they've forgotten their specific qualms with Newt. But really, to have the general public looking more fondly of the Gingrich past than the Pelosi / Reid present doesn't speak well of the Democrats.

Again, polls like this don't mean much to me. I want a President or Congressman to lead, not follow the polls. But I've had Bush's poll numbers used as some sort of argument against him, so I just thought these numbers worth noting.

Posted by Doug at 12:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Deaths During the Iraq War

Almost 5 and a half million have died during the Iraq war, and you hear virtually nothing about them on the news. They were not killed with guns, bombs, chemicals or nukes, but the mass destruction is real, all the same. And the killing continues day after day. If you really care about violence and deaths, this is where we should start.

Abortion as WMD may sound over-the-top, but consider that George Bush has been called the worst terrorist on the planet because of deaths one or two orders of magnitude lower than this. Some perspective is in order.

(Click on the graphic to be taken to a page with how the stats are arrived at.)

Posted by Doug at 10:09 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

Speaking Truth to Evil

Twenty years ago today, the President of the United States did what every single diplomat told him not to do, but he did it because he believed it was the right thing to do.

And it was.

Powerline highlights Peter Robinson's story of how he researched and then wrote a speech to be delivered by Ronald Reagan at West Germany's Brandenburg Gate. It was Robinson who wrote the lines, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." No one at the State Department or the National Security Council liked it because it was too confrontational and raised false hopes.

Indeed it was confrontational, but you don't slink away from confronting evil. It only raised false hopes if you had no faith in your cause and a belief in the ultimate victory for what was right. If you didn't want to offend evil, and if you didn't think winning was really possible, you really wouldn't like that tone.

But that tone was what was needed then. And too many haven't learned the lesson even today. Read the whole thing to find out what Robinson learned in Berlin that gave him the idea for the line.

These days, the world talks tough to countries like Iran and Syria, and groups like Al Qaeda. But the difference is that Reagan acted on his words. He walked away from the table in Iceland when he determined the Soviets were acting in bad faith. The Left was hysterical, condemning this action as confrontational. They were right, it was. But they were wrong, because they didn't realize that that's the language the Soviets understood. They learned that Reagan would act on what he said, and they respected it. And thus, without the nuclear exchange the Left was sure Reagan was leading us to, very soon the gate did open and the wall did come down.

Bin Laden's lesson from observing America's retreat from Somalia was that we would tuck tail and run at the first sign of a serious resistance. That is why he was bold enough to plan the 9/11 attacks; because a different President sent a different message.

BIN LADEN: We experienced the Americans through our brothers who went into combat against them in Somalia, for example. We found they had no power worthy of mention. There was a huge aura over America -- the United States -- that terrified people even before they entered combat. Our brothers who were here in Afghanistan tested them, and together with some of the mujahedeen in Somalia, God granted them victory. America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat, and ruin, caring for nothing.

America left faster than anyone expected. It forgot all that tremendous media fanfare about the new world order, that it is the master of that order, and that it does whatever it wants. It forgot all of these propositions, gathered up its army, and withdrew in defeat, thanks be to God.


To bin Laden and his supporters, this is not a policy war, nor a political war, but a religious war. It must be fought differently than the Cold War, but some things never change. Speaking truth to evil, and backing up your words with confident actions, whether on the diplomatic field or the battle field, are required to defeat that evil. Reagan understood that. It's a lesson that needs to be relearned by the diplomats of our present time.

Posted by Doug at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

"Stop Sending Us Aid!"

An Kenyan expert in economics, James Shikwati, was interviewed by the German magazine Der Spiegel. The interview got off to a quick start as Shikwati surprised the journalist.

SPIEGEL:Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.


Massive injections of money, good intentions, and virtually nothing to show for it. Sounds just like the welfare state here. The journalist is confused, bewildered.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Why is it a paradox if it simply a case of doing what doesn't work on a much larger scale? This exposes the incredibly simplistic assumption on the part of liberal ideology that throwing money a a problem really should work...in theory. As conservatives have been arguing for decades, however, an understanding of economics helps explain this "paradox". In answer to the question, Shikwati explains.
Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

Being taught to be beggars, dependence on government, dampening entrepreneurship, and government corruption involved in the cash transfer. Sounds just like the welfare...well, you get the idea.

Well, now our journalist is flummoxed. Doesn't someone have to help them? Shikwati slaps down this dependency thinking, and explains how food shipments both prop up corrupt governments and at the same time destroy the local economy's incentive.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.


And it just gets better after that. It included an admission from a tyrant that they indeed waste the aid, a exposure of exaggerated AIDS numbers for profit, and an African biochemist stuck being a chauffeur to aid workers. You simply must read the whole thing. It really turns on its head the idea that huge amounts of aid helps a nation, or even a continent. Giving to the poor is one thing. Destroying the individual spirit by destroying their livelihood is entirely another. The interview concludes with the journalist, playing the part of the liberal to the hilt (and, based on the full interview, not really play-acting) asking in desperation...
SPIEGEL: What are the Germans supposed to do?

Shikwati: If they really want to fight poverty, they should completely halt development aid and give Africa the opportunity to ensure its own survival. Currently, Africa is like a child that immediately cries for its babysitter when something goes wrong. Africa should stand on its own two feet.


Rugged individualism, combined with personal, not massive, charitable giving. That is the responsible position.

Posted by Doug at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2007

Will They Step Up and Do the Right Thing?

Republicans have ejected legislators in the recent past who have done wrong (Foley, Ney). Now the Democrats, who ran on the issue of getting rid of "the culture of corruption" in Washington -- a culture they attributed to Republicans -- have a chance to finally stand up for that conviction of theirs.

An indictment charging Rep. William Jefferson, D- La., in a long-running bribery investigation is being announced Monday, federal officials said.

The indictment is being handed up in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. A press conference was being organized for late Monday in Washington to discuss the case.

A Justice Department official familiar with the case said the indictment outlining the evidence against Jefferson is more than an inch thick and charges the congressman with crimes that could keep him in prison for up to 200 years. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

Almost two years ago, in August 2005, investigators raided Jefferson's home in Louisiana and found $90,000 in cash stuffed into a box in his freezer.

Jefferson, 63, whose Louisiana district includes New Orleans, has said little about the case publicly but has maintained his innocence. He was re-elected last year despite the looming investigation.


As I've noted before, Republicans have plenty of examples to point to of people who are gone -- not censured, not reprimanded, gone -- such as Foley, Ney, Cunningham, DeLay, and Livingstone. The Democrats have an opportunity to show that, unlike how they handled Bill Clinton, they can kick out those in their party who break the rules.

It's not like Jefferson is the current Majority Leader (as was DeLay) nor nearly the next Speaker of the House (as was Livingstone). If Republicans could do that, Democrats should be able to do this.

True, Jefferson hasn't yet been convicted, so technically speaking he's still innocent in the eyes of the law. The news story notes, however, that two associates (who have already pled guilty) and a videotape are waiting in the wings as witnesses for the prosecution. Things are not looking good for the Congressman.

But he's not convicted yet. If he is, the question is, will Democrats hold their own accountable? If they do, Washington and the nation will be better for it, and I'll be glad to give them their due credit. Accountability is key. If they don't, the Democrats completely lose any moral high ground they've claimed.

It's not that one party's politicians are more corrupt than the others; humanity is what it is. It is all about accountability. Without that, there is no check on the fallibility of our elected representatives.

Posted by Doug at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2007

Dems Demonstrate Why Smaller Government Is Needed

I'm shocked. Or not.

After promising unprecedented openness regarding Congress' pork barrel practices, House Democrats are moving in the opposite direction as they draw up spending bills for the upcoming budget year.

Democrats are sidestepping rules approved their first day in power in January to clearly identify "earmarks"-lawmakers' requests for specific projects and contracts for their states-in documents that accompany spending bills.

Rather than including specific pet projects, grants and contracts in legislation as it is being written, Democrats are following an order by the House Appropriations Committee chairman to keep the bills free of such earmarks until it is too late for critics to effectively challenge them.


Smaller government is the only way this kind of abuse can be reduced, not just a change in party power. The more Washington does -- the more responsibility we hand over to them -- the more money they get. The more money, the more abuse of it. Divide up some of that power into 50 pieces (commonly referred to at "states"), and you have more accountability and less abuse, mostly because when you centralize things in Washington, abusers have one-stop shopping for largesse.

Posted by Doug at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 01, 2007

Serve Me, Or Else!

With a tip of the hat to Ron Coleman at Dean's World comes word of a certain clientele that will take a company to court for not catering to them.

Now, would it make sense for used of Macintosh computers to sue software companies that only write for Windows, complaining that they should have equal access to that software as well? No, it would be silly, and certainly not allowed. I mean, after all, those Windows programmers know the PC, not the Mac. You'd want someone who knows the hardware you're using to write for it. And besides, can't a company choose it's market?

Perhaps not. Depends on who you are.

The popular online dating service eHarmony was sued on Thursday for refusing to offer its services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

A lawsuit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Linda Carlson, who was denied access to eHarmony because she is gay.


Define "denied access" for me, will you?
Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a "men seeking men" or "women seeking women" option.

They were seeking to make it a class action lawsuit on behalf of gays and lesbians denied access to the dating service.


So to "deny access" means to not offer the specific options in a service that you want. Mac users, your time is coming if this lawsuit makes it through the court system.
eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.

There might even be some anti-Christian bias going on here. But that doesn't even really have to enter the picture to show how meritless this suit is, or should be. Using my previous example, would you want Windows programmers writing your Mac software? Dr. Warren has said that he doesn't consider himself an expert in homosexual relationships, and eHarmony is essentially selling his knowledge.
eHarmony could not immediately be reached for comment. Commenting in the past on eHarmony's gay and lesbian policy, Warren has said that he does not know the dynamics of same-sex relationships but he expects the principles to be different.

Let's sue the butcher for not knowing how to prepare tofu.

And this is just silly...

"This lawsuit is about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love," said Carlson lawyer Todd Schneider.

How in the world does one business not catering to you somehow deny you the right to do...anything? The very first comment at the "Likelihood of Success" blog (second link above) puts the lie to this immediately.
I’m happily married now for 18 years, so I have zero experience with the on-line dating world. So it was news to me that eHarmony didn’t offer same-sex services.

But it wasn’t news I learned here. No, I learned it when one of their competitors’ ads came on: a somewhat clever ad where a guy looks at some listings of attractive women, and then says, “Nope. Still gay.” Point made: “Hey, if eHarmony won’t help you, we’ll be happy to.”

So the market has already solved this problem: eHarmony’s business choice created an opportunity, and a competitor is taking advantage of the opportunity. If this leads the competitor to get better known and better liked overall, then you can bet eHarmony will reconsider. If this remains a niche market and doesn’t have any carryover impact on brand loyalty, then eHarmony will continue to ignore the niche, and the competitor will find it a profitable niche to serve.

Problem solved. Leave the courts out of it.


(I've left off the last line of his comment, since it would become obvious where I got the Mac/Windows analogy from.)

If this lawsuit succeeds, it will cement homosexuality as a seriously privileged class, and be a giant step towards telling churches that consider homosexuality a sin that they don't have the religious freedom they thought they did. If this lawsuit does not succeed, it will not be because society is homophobic. When Catholic adoption agencies decide not to give children to same-sex couples due to religious reasons, it's the same situation. And in both cases, the market can, and has, dealt with it. A lawsuit over it is just narcissistic.

Posted by Doug at 03:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Real Human Shields

Before we went into Iraq, there were folks who volunteered to be human shields to protect the country. But instead of being placed near schools and hospitals, these folks were shocked to find out that they were being located, by Saddam, near army bases. Having been whacked by reality, they bailed out.

But today's human shields have a lot more honor and courage. And they know who the real enemy is. This picture highlighted by Gateway Pundit, and appropriately tagged with a Psalm by Military Motivator, is what a real, honorable, human shield looks like. A soldier mom commenting at Gateway Pundit describes it best.

The boy doesn't know why or care why that soldier is in Iraq: he simply has learned that the American soldier is the Good Guy and that the Soldier would give his own life to protect the child.

Posted by Doug at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 31, 2007

Blogs4God Relaunches

Blogs4God used to be a Yahoo!-like categorization of blogs by Christians. It's now been relaunched as a digg-like social bookmarking site for the same target audience. If you sign up, you can nominate and vote on blog posts you find interesting (hopefully, including some of ours).

Posted by Doug at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2007

Freedom of Religion Returning to Texas

The right to freely exercise one's religion outside of the 4 walls of a place of worship was affirmed by the Texas legislature. It's unfortunate that it had to be affirmed at all, but in today's church-and-state climate, it's necessary.

The House embraced legislation Monday that seeks to clarify the rights of Texas public school students to offer public prayers at football games or graduation, hand out religious messages or hold religious meetings during the school day if they want.

Supporters said the Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act, which passed on a 110-33 vote, would protect districts from lawsuits by setting guidelines for students' religious expression while protecting students from being admonished, for example, if they talk about Jesus in an assignment about Easter.


You can't keep people insulated from each other, and this bill takes the common sense step of acknowledging that.
"Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion," Gov. Rick Perry said. "This was a vote for tolerance of diverse views in our education system so that students are not admonished for wishing a soldier overseas a 'Merry Christmas' or for any other harmless forms of expression."

Precisely. The "diversity" crowd is the very group trying to remove diversity in the public square.

The bill has its opponents, who, as usual, use exaggerated language when describing religious speech.

"The intent of this bill is to enable people to impose their religious beliefs on people, and I stand four-square against that," said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, who is a Quaker.

"I was one of those students of a minority religion who was frequently subjected to unwanted ... advice and insults when I was in the public schools. I do not believe the intent of the author [to avoid lawsuits]. I believe the intent of the author is to facilitate imposing certain religious values on students regardless of their religious faith."


Sorry, but freedom from getting unwanted advice is not in the US Constitution. Those who insult you because of your faith should be punished by their parents or, for adults, marginalized, but it's still not a legal issue, and it doesn't mean that because some kids were mean to you in school that now all kids must be silenced on religious issues. Bathwater, meet baby.

And rather than dream up your own view of what the bill's author intended, let's just ask him.

Author Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, said repeatedly that the bill "does not allow anything that isn't in the current law."

What the bill does is specify that "a school district shall treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint" as long as the expression isn't obscene or vulgar and doesn't discriminate against homosexuals or religious beliefs.

Further, the bill says students may not be penalized for expressing religious views in classwork, and they may organize religious meetings and use school facilities like any noncurricular group.


Not sure why homosexuality was specifically singled out, but this is a good step in the right direction.
Plano ISD has been at the center of this debate since 2003, when school officials told a student he could not hand out candy cane pens with a religious message during a holiday party.

Rep. Burnam can hand-wring all he wants about how hearing religious speech is somehow imposing values onto him (is he that impressionable?), but if we can't give away pens in the name of religious freedom, things really are upside down.

Posted by Doug at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2007

The Rising Tide Works as Documented

It raises all boats, including, and especially, the poorest. (Via Captain Ed, because I don't have a WSJ subscription.)

It's been a rough week for John Edwards, and now comes more bad news for his "two Americas" campaign theme. A new study by the Congressional Budget Office says the poor have been getting less poor. On average, CBO found that low-wage households with children had incomes after inflation that were more than one-third higher in 2005 than in 1991.

The CBO results don't fit the prevailing media stereotype of the U.S. economy as a richer take all affair -- which may explain why you haven't read about them. Among all families with children, the poorest fifth had the fastest overall earnings growth over the 15 years measured. (See the nearby chart.) The poorest even had higher earnings growth than the richest 20%. The earnings of these poor households are about 80% higher today than in the early 1990s.


A vibrant economy for all is a better long-term solution. Government taking a smaller percentage of peoples' earnings give the poor more to spend and encourages investment by the rich which creates jobs. When government doesn't encourage welfare, the poor, indeed, work, which is inherently better.
What happened? CBO says the main causes of this low-income earnings surge have been a combination of welfare reform, expansion of the earned income tax credit and wage gains from a tight labor market, especially in the late stages of the 1990s expansion. Though cash welfare fell as a share of overall income (which includes government benefits), earnings from work climbed sharply as the 1996 welfare reform pushed at least one family breadwinner into the job market.

Earnings growth tapered off as the economy slowed in the early part of this decade, but earnings for low-income families have still nearly doubled in the years since welfare reform became law. Some two million welfare mothers have left the dole for jobs since the mid-1990s. Far from being a disaster for the poor, as most on the left claimed when it was debated, welfare reform has proven to be a boon.


Far from throwing families out on the streets, welfare reform encouraged work. The work was there because the richer folks had money to start businesses or invest in them. The moral advantage of work over hand-outs should be self-evident. That doesn't mean there should be no hand-outs, but policies that give families little incentive to work do not help them in the long run, no matter how it makes the policy makers feel in the short run.

More stats are discussed by the Captain.

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May 21, 2007

A Dictator in All but Title

Hugo Chavez isn't officially "President For Life", but the permission he has for ruling outside Venezuela's legislative body and his crackdown on dissent shows he's acting like one.

Tens of thousands of protesters on Saturday denounced President Hugo Chavez's plans to close an opposition television channel, accusing their leader of maiming Venezuelan democracy as he forges a socialist state.

Chavez says RCTV, the country's oldest private broadcaster, supported a bungled coup against him in 2002. He has had a long-running battle with opposition television stations, calling them "horsemen of the apocalypse."

"Let us defend democracy, let us defend freedom, let us defend free independent media such as RCTV," RCTV's managing director, Marcel Garnier, told demonstrators in Caracas.


The majority that voted him in is now getting a taste of what real dictatorship is like. Buyer's remorse is setting in.
Chavez, re-elected by a landslide last year, still enjoys support of about 60 percent of the public on the back of massive social spending. But a leading pollster has also found a majority of Venezuelans oppose the closure of RCTV.

Datanalisis found almost 70 percent of Venezuelans would rather RCTV kept broadcasting, but worried more about the loss of their favorite soap operas than free speech.

RCTV has been showing a nostalgic collection of clips from comedies, soap operas and Christmas specials that have been part of life in the Caribbean country since it started transmission in 1953.

"It is like losing a close relative," said Renaldo Gonzalez, a student at the protest, whose family members have worked at RCTV as actors, producers and directors.


Do Venezuelan's really aspire to be like Cuba? It's a few steps backward. Hopefully, this will wake up the populace, even if their concept of free speech comes mostly from which entertainment shows are available.

Posted by Doug at 10:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 17, 2007

Mental Torture in George Bush's America

The BBC reports on claims that we're mentally torturing inmates at Gitmo.

US detainee 'mentally tortured'

A Pakistani-born US resident detained at Guantanamo Bay has said he was "mentally tortured" there, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.

Majid Khan, who has been accused of planning to blow up petrol stations in the US, also described how he tried to commit suicide by chewing on an artery.


After tales of how Mr. Kahn denies being an enemy, the last 3 paragraphs of the story described this awful "mental torture".
Mr Khan complained about how US guards had taken away pictures of his daughter, given him new glasses with the wrong prescription, shaved his beard off, forcibly fed him when he went on hunger strike, and denied him the opportunity for recreation.

This led him to attempt to chew through his artery twice, Mr Khan said.

Later, Mr Khan produced a list of further examples of psychological torture, which included the provision of "cheap, branded, unscented soap", the prison newsletter, noisy fans and half-inflated balls in the recreation room that "hardly bounce".


Oh, the ever-luvin' humanity. And this is what passes for "news" from the BBC. You can't just scan the headlines at the BBC; they may say the exact opposite of the truth. No mention in the headline that this was just a "claim" of mental torture.

And is this really newsworthy; a guy at Gitmo proclaiming his innocence while claiming that cheap soap and noisy fans are mental torture? It is to the BBC, apparently. Wild claims of torture where there is none are featured on their "Americas" front page. It has about as much validity as the latest UFO conspiracy theory, but that doesn't make the front page.

It's still all about the narrative.

Posted by Doug at 02:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Global Warming...on Neptune

The World Climate Report blog notes a report about the warming temperatures on Neptune, and how closely they correlate with Earth's changes.

Neptune is the planet farthest from the Sun (Pluto is now considered only a dwarf planet), Neptune is the planet farthest from the Earth, and to our knowledge, there has been absolutely no industrialization out at Neptune in recent centuries. There has been no recent build-up of greenhouse gases there, no deforestation, no rapid urbanization, no increase in contrails from jet airplanes, and no increase in ozone in the low atmosphere; recent changes at Neptune could never be blamed on any human influence. Incredibly, an article has appeared in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters showing a stunning relationship between the solar output, Neptune’s brightness, and heaven forbid, the temperature of the Earth.

Click on the link to find graphs of how changes in Neptune's temperature, Earth's temperature, and the Sun's output are strangely similar; about a 90% correlation.

Posted by Doug at 02:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Dead

Jerry Falwell has died at the age of 73. Love him or hate him, he did have a huge impact on US politics; US News named him one of the 25 most influential people in America in 1983.

Put a person in front of a camera long enough, and you're sure to get fodder for plenty of Saturday Night Live skits. Falwell was certainly no exception to that, and did his share of apologizing for comments he made. Little is typically noted about what he did that didn't cause a stir--schools, homes for unwed mothers, a home for alcoholics--but those weren't headline-grabbing.

Falwell's fumbles were sometimes notable, sometimes infamous (the Tinky-Winky incident, and where he placed blame for 9/11, for examples), but he did get many conservative Christians out of the closet, so to speak, and get them involved in politics.

He was the go-to guy for many media networks whenever a Christian perspective was needed, giving the impression of a monolithic interest group that all thought like him. That's more a reflection on lazy journalists than it is on Falwell, but he handled them with aplomb, virtually always with a smile.

(And now that he's gone, what'll the MSM do for "Christian reaction"? Pat Robertson, clear your calendar. >shudder<)

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May 14, 2007

An Inconvenient Debate

While some schools are showing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" without rebuttal, a university class is demonstrating that perhaps the global warming alarmists can't handle balance.

Nick Shipley, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University freshman, had just spent a week of classes watching two films with polar-opposite conclusions about global warming.

"After watching 'An Inconvenient Truth,' I was relatively convinced," Shipley said one day last month in class. "(Al Gore) did a good job in presenting his points very methodically one after the other. They all build up to essentially prove his point.

"After watching 'The Great Global Warming Swindle,' my thinking completely changed," he said. "I kind of did a complete flip-flop."


It appears that the reason we have more global warming alarmists, especially on college campuses, is that the liberal activists and media are simply not...well....fair and balanced.

To be fair, both sides do their share of exaggeration, but both sides should still be allowed evaluation.

[James] Wanliss [space physicist who teaches the class] said he doesn't necessarily subscribe to either film, but believes his students -- and the public -- should remain skeptical of theories such as Gore's explanation of global warming.

Other Embry-Riddle scientists are less outspoken than Wanliss, but one -- John Olivero, professor and chairman of the department of physical science -- allowed that skepticism is an essential tool of the scientific method.

"Science lives with internal conflict all the time," Olivero said. "Part of what we have to do is continually challenge each other."

That process, they say, leads scientists closer to truths that may be elusive for lifetimes.

The truths of global warming are, if not inconvenient, incomprehensible, Wanliss argues.

"The atmosphere is incredibly complicated, and we know very little about it," he said. "We are studying a system which is so big . . . we don't know what all the variables are."

Pointing to quotes in magazine articles, Wanliss says Gore and the producers of the "Swindle" film are purposefully overstating their science as a means to a political end.


And yet the Left talks of their foes in Holocaust-denial terms. The stifling of dissent in Al Gore's America.

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May 11, 2007

The Blame Game, CBS Edition

Why are Katie Couric's ratings in the tank? Linda Mason, CBS News' Senior Vice President for Standards and Special Projects has a thought during this interview.

Linda Mason: I'm just surprised at how, almost 30 years after I worked on the "Evening News" as the first woman producer, that Katie is having such a tough time being accepted by the public, which seems to prefer the news from white guys, and now that Charlie's doing so well, from older white guys. I guess they want the reassurance of a Walter Cronkite.

So why, then, has CBS been in 3rd place since the mid 90s? Couric didn't start that trend. Neither did she start the trend of a ratings dive. That's been going on for at least a quarter century.

So blame the viewers. Suggest sexism and racism. Keeps you from having to answer the hard questions.

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Newsworthy. Or Not.

With a hat tip to Clayton Cramer, a not-so-hypothetical question. If 3 retired generals (out of several thousand) come out against the war, and if almost 3,000 active-duty military come out asking for full support and full funding and don't want to retreat, are both these items newsworthy?

If you said Yes to the first part and No to the second part, you too could work for CNN or just about any other mainstream media outlet. (Except Fox News, of course. They covered both news items.) As of this posting, two days after the presentation to Congress, CNN has no mention at all of the "Appeal for Courage". Were it not for blog coverage, this might well have been swept under the rug by a media for whom this doesn't fit the narrative.

As John Hinderaker notes at Power Line, this is sort of a lab experiment. And the media failed, as is their habit.

Click here for more details on this petition.

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"Public School? Aren't You Worried About Socialization?"

That's the bumper sticker that Linda Whitlock used to have on her car. She's got a great article on the socialization of homeschool kids, including her grandchildren. OK, she may have a conflict of interest, but she still makes great points.

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May 09, 2007

Pope Warns Catholic Politicians Who Back Abortion

In no uncertain terms.

Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.

It was the first time that the Pope, speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him on a trip to Brazil, dealt in depth with a controversial topic that has come up in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy.

The Pope was asked whether he supported Mexican Church leaders threatening to excommunicate leftist parliamentarians who last month voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.

"Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ," he said.

"They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church... which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)".


And he took on the motivations of those who pass pro-abortion legislation.
"Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation," he said. "We in the Church have a great struggle to defend life...life is a gift not a threat."

Well said.

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"Under God" Gains Ground in Texas

Michael Newdow must be having a conniption.

The Texas House voted early Friday to inject a little religion into the Texas pledge.

House lawmakers voted 124-5 to put the words "under God" in the Texas pledge of allegiance recited by thousands of school children every day. The change mirrors the national pledge, which has included "under God" since 1954.

Under the bill, the Texas pledge would be: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God and indivisible."

The bill still needs a final vote later Friday before it is sent to the Senate.


The bill overwhelmingly passed in the Texas State House, and doesn't appear to have much opposition in the State Senate.

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May 08, 2007

Santorum Validated

Time magazine reminds us of a little history.

When the Supreme Court struck down Texas's law against sodomy in the summer of 2003, in the landmark gay rights case of Lawrence v. Texas, critics warned that its sweeping support of a powerful doctrine of privacy could lead to challenges of state laws that forbade such things as gay marriage and bigamy. "State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are ... called into question by today's decision," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, in a withering dissent he read aloud page by page from the bench.

Rick Santorum was one of those critics.
"If the Supreme Court says you have the right to consensual sex within your home," Santorum said at the time, "then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

As [Boston Globe columnist Jeff] Jacoby noted, Santorum was given "holy hell" and handed "nail-spitting" by some critics.


Where are the folks now who gave conservatives such a hard time? Given what Time is reporting, they're probably being very, very quiet.
It turns out the critics were right. Plaintiffs have made the decision the centerpiece of attempts to defeat state bans on the sale of sex toys in Alabama, polygamy in Utah and adoptions by gay couples in Florida. So far the challenges have been unsuccessful. But plaintiffs are still trying, even using Lawrence to challenge laws against incest.

The key phrase is "so far". I'm glad to hear that lower courts are now expanding the Lawrence decision, but these attempts at overturning state laws (joined by the ACLU, unsurprisingly) are unprecedented, and the outcome is by no means assured.
The issue does not appear to have been challenged in federal court previously, though the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2005 that a Wisconsin law forbidding incest among blood relations (but not including step-relations) did not conflict with Lawrence's ruling. But in upholding prison sentences for a brother-sister couple in that case, the court acknowledged that the language in Lawrence is all but certain to prompt more challenges to prosecutions for sex-related crimes on privacy grounds.

Hey there, liberals. Pandora left this box for you. Enjoy.

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May 07, 2007

Environmentalist Roundup

Found a number of interesting articles regarding some of the radical environmentalist mentality, although the "radical" adjective is becoming less and less applicable, soon to be replaced by "mainstream", methinks.

Paul Watson, one of the founders of Greenpeace and now founder and president of "Sea Shepherd Conservation Society", says that humans are a virus (the "AIDS of the Earth"), and that we should reduce the earth's population by 83%. Watson may have broken away from Greenpeace because they weren't radical enough, but Wikipedia notes some high-profile supporters, some adored by the Left.

Sea Shepherd has many critics, but also many outspoken supporters including actors Richard Dean Anderson, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Sheen, Sean Penn, and William Shatner, environmental activists Dave Foreman and Farley Mowat, and the late writer Edward Abbey. Corporate sponsors include John Paul Mitchell Systems and Patagonia.

Sean Penn is often held in high regard with respect to his Iraq war sentiments, and he's in the company of others not typically considered fringe. (I'll still watch "Stargate SG-1" until the upcoming end of the series, in spite of Anderson's name being on this list.)

In a similar vein, the "Optimum Population Trust" (Wikipedia entry) says that having more babies is a bad thing, at least with respect to carbon dioxide output. Well, at least here's one left-wing organization that can say without a hint of irony, "Don't have children, for the sake of the children." The article notes that the developed world isn't really the problem; it's the developing countries (who probably won't read the report) that he has issues with.

The population of developed nations is expected to remain unchanged and would have declined but for migration.

The British fertility rate is 1.7. The EU average is 1.5.


(As an asidee, this really proves Mark Stein's point when he says that the Arab/Muslim world could install a Caliphate without firing a shot, by simply migrating and reproducing, since the Western world isn't.)

What I find ironic is that the Left, where you often find imagery of back-alley abortions to buttres their points, is likly encouraging another back-alley practice.

China faces a looming baby boom as newly-rich couples find they can afford to pay fines incurred from having more than one child.
...
[G]rowing numbers of pregnant women are risking their own lives and those of their children by seeking back-alley deliveries to avoid fines for having more than one child, Xinhua quoted vice health minister Jiang Zuojun as saying.

Back-alley procedures are bad if more babies are saved overall, but they're acceptable if they save the atmosphere. I'd rather that people didn't choose either of these dangers, but look at the priorities on display. Someone's holding a magnet to these folks' moral compasses.

And then, appealing to our spirituality, Al Gore holds an evangelistic meeting.

"It's in part a spiritual crisis," Gore told the crowd in the Convention Center at the American Institute of Architects national convention. "It's a crisis of our own self-definition — who we are. Are we creatures destined to destroy our own species? Clearly not."

I will agree that poor stewardship can be a spiritual issue, but I see some problems with the connection he's trying to make. First, self-definition is circular, and from my religious point of view Someone Else does the defining. Secondly, in spite of evidence to the contrary, Gore continues to preach about that global warming / hurricane connection that the climatologists say doesn't exist.
These looming problems involve flooding and severe coastal erosion from rising seas and increasingly severe storms, more common and prolonged drought, and changes in the growing seasons and migration patterns of many wild species.

He's got his own crisis to deal with. He shouldn't bring in a generic religious message for pandering purposes.

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May 04, 2007

MSNBC: Fair and Balanced?

From watching the Republican debate, Mark Kilmer at Redstate notes some nuttiness on the part of the host.

Chris Matthews was moderating, and he used his forum to blast the Bush Administration in front of a group of Republicans who needed to keep their distance from that Administration. (NOTE: It was the same with Clinton (Bill) when he left office with half the contents of the White House in tow.) He asked Jim Gilmore if President Bush should shakeup his Administration. It's not a question for a Presidential candidate, one who would serve after the Bush Administration had left town, but it was part of Matthews' prank. He later asked Gilmore if he would keep Karl Rove in his Administration.

Is this the kind of shenanigans that Democrats allege would happen on Fox News, and why some of them decided to opt out? Fox-sponsored debates have had, as other debates have had, multiple questioners asking their own questions, and not just questioners from Fox. This one, however, essentially was a platform for Matthews to get in his digs. If MSNBC ever hosts a Democratic debate, it's a safe bet that none of them will opt out. It's not, by any means, a complaint about bias. It's simply that Fox doesn't drink the KoolAid (tm) that apparently MSNBC has a fridge full of.

But we're Republicans. We can take it. >grin<

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May 03, 2007

ABC to Webcast Christian/Atheist Debate

Kudos to ABC for webcasting a debate between 2 Christians and 2 atheists this coming Wednesday. It won't be on network TV, but will be on their website live. Speaking for the Christian side will be Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron (yes, that Kirk Cameron).

Two Christians are meeting two atheists in a televised debate with the subject the existence of God, and Ray Comfort, a best-selling author and expert on Christian evangelism, says he can prove the existence of the Almighty in his allotted 13 minutes – without mentioning the Bible or faith.

"The network originally offered me only four minutes to present my case," Comfort said. "After speaking with Kirk [Cameron, former Growing Pains and Left Behind series movie star] and conferring with the atheists, they settled on 13 minutes. I'm ecstatic. I can prove the existence of God in that amount of time."

The debate will be Saturday in New York, and ABC had originally planned a live webcast of the 90-minute event, but changed plans to capture a larger audience, officials said.

ABC instead will broadcast the entire debate on ABC.com on May 9, at 1 p.m. EST.


The old adage goes that no one was ever argued into heaven, but some are at least influenced by reasoning. I'm not really concerned about what the atheists might say.
The idea for the debate developed after several atheists launched the Internet site Blasphemy Challenge, which offers to send people a DVD if they post on Youtube.com a video of themselves condemning themselves to hell.

The self-described "Rational Response Squad" said its DVDs, "The God Who Wasn't There," was described by the Los Angeles Times as "provocative – to put it mildly."


These guys have some sort of special vendetta against Christianity specifically, and their MO is shock. No, not worried about what these guys will come up with.

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May 01, 2007

How Did They Survive Before?

Muslim cabbies refusing to service customers who have alcohol or a dog, even a guide dog. Muslim cashiers refuse to scan pork products. Now, they're asking for, and getting, special ceremonial foot basins to wash their feet just prior to their prayer time.

How did these folks survive 20th century America? Or is this, as the first link asks, a battle of the vision for the Muslim religion? And are the radicals winning?

Posted by Doug at 02:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 27, 2007

Coretta Scott King Memorialized in Israel

Now here's a very fitting memorial to Coretta Scott King.

Israel will name a forest in northern Galilee after Coretta Scott King as the country replants thousands of trees destroyed during last year's war with Hezbollah.

The Coretta Scott King Forest, which will contain at least 10,000 trees, will be a living memorial to King's legacy of peace and justice, Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor said Thursday at a Washington ceremony launching the initiative.


I may not agree with points in her politics, but she and Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly deserve to be honored, and this forest--one that is being reborn after a war--seems to me to be appropriate.

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April 25, 2007

Check Your Religious Beliefs at the Door

Left-wing activists are trying to keep religious ideas from informing anyone's opinion or public behavior.

A coalition of religious leaders took on the Catholic Church, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Bush administration on Tuesday with a plea to take religion out of health care in the United States.

They said last week's Supreme Court decision outlawing a certain type of abortion demonstrated that religious belief was interfering with personal rights and the U.S. health care system in general.

The group, calling itself the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said it planned to submit its proposals to other church groups and lobby Congress and state legislators.


I think these folks would be really surprised to learn how the religious beliefs of our Founding Fathers informed their lawmaking.

And it's not just judicial opinions they're trying to censor.

The group also complained about Catholic-owned hospitals that refuse to sterilize women who ask for it, refuse to let doctors perform abortions and do not provide contraception.

"Doctors, pharmacists and nurses are also increasingly exercising a so-called 'religious or moral objection,' refusing to provide essential services and often leaving patients without other options," the group said in a statement.


They don't want religious organizations to be able to practice their religious beliefs, at least (for now) where those beliefs contact the public. Keep 'em in the closet.

As usual, a history lesson would go a long way.

"And now, to make it worse, the government is codifying these refusals, first through legislation and now with the recent Supreme Court decision, where five Catholic men decided that they could better determine what was moral and good than the physicians, women and families facing difficult, personal choices in problem pregnancies," it added.

What lovely anti-Catholic bias and sexism going on from these "tolerant" Leftists. But let's not forget that the 281 House members and 64 Senators were a combination of religions and genders, and that they were democratically elected by the people. Doesn't matter to these folks; any vote for a law that can be traced back to the beliefs of Catholic men should not be counted.

For the two-fer, we have some media bias at work here as well. As noted above, this group is initially characterized as "a coalition of religious leaders", giving it the appearance of broad support in the religious community. Not until the 11th paragraph do we get a hint of the size and makeup of the group. "The group includes ordained Protestant ministers [how many?], a Jewish activist [one], an expert on women's reproductive rights [one, and religious leader?] and several physicians [how many? religious leaders?]." The initial description of the group is charitable in the extreme, but something we've come to expect from our ever-vigilant, left-wing media.

(Hat tip: James Taranto.)

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Religious Freedom, Canadian Style

If you are requested to do something that goes against your religious beliefs, and you refuse, but you refer those who asked to someone who will, are you guilty of anything? Perhaps not here in the US, but in Canada, the same-sex marriage legislation's draconian measures consider you so.

A Canadian Christian civil marriage commissioner in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Orville Nichols, could face up to $5000 in fines for having referred a homosexual couple to a different commissioner.

Human Rights Commission lawyer Janice Gingell asked the tribunal to find that Nichols contravened the code and order him to pay $5,000 in compensation to the complainant.

The 70 year-old Mr. Nichols used a clearly religious-based conscience argument for his refusal, saying his faith guides his daily life, that he prays and reads the Bible every day. He told the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal that his faith “takes first place” in his life. He said, “I couldn't sleep or live with myself if I were to perform same-sex marriages.”

The other commissioner to whom the two men were referred performed the ceremony on the same date they requested of Mr. Nichols.


The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lists as its first "fundamental freedom" the freedom of conscience and religion". But for those pushing this agenda, the plain language of a Charter or a Constitution is not worth the paper it's written on, and your "fundamental rights" are not recognized. Americans should take note.

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April 24, 2007

Gideons Cleared, then Re-Charged

In February, a couple of folks from the Gideons were arrested for trespassing while on a public sidewalk in front of a school handing out Bibles. A comment on my personal blog to that story noted that the trespass charges were related to the two men staying in their cars on school property after being asked to leave. Well, regardless of the actual act that was the cause of the charges, they have been dismissed by the state.

Only to be replaced with new charges.

"Following the initial motion to dismiss filed by [Alliance Defense Fund] attorneys, the state dismissed the charges but then filed new ones under a different statute," the ADF said.

"The distribution of Bibles on a public sidewalk is not a criminal offense," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. "The attempts by Florida officials to continue pressing for the prosecution of Mr. Mirto and Mr. Simpson is not only blatantly unconstitutional, it borders on religious persecution."

The incident developed Jan. 19, when the two men were distributing Bibles on a public sidewalk outside Key Largo School but did not step onto school grounds, the ADF said. Both men were arrested, booked, and charged with trespassing after the school's principal called police. On March 8, ADF attorneys filed a motion to dismiss and the state did dismiss those counts.

However, it filed new charges under a different law that prohibits anyone from being within 500 feet of any school property, including on public sidewalks and streets, without having either "legitimate business" or permission, the ADF said.

"The facts are clear: Mr. Mirto and Mr. Simpson are guilty of nothing more than peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights," Cortman said. "For whatever reason, the state is grasping at straws in order to justify the punishment of these men."

The state of Florida is now in the "untenable position of trying to justify the punishment of fundamental First Amendment activities in a quintessential traditional public forum," the law firm said. Under U.S. Supreme Court precedents over the last century, that is a "blatant violation of their constitutional rights."


The school disputes that they were on a public sidewalk, saying that they were in fact on school property, but one imagines that if that were so then the initial charges would have stuck.

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April 23, 2007

From the Heart

Our pastor's sermon this week, as I imagine for many pastors, was regarding the Virginia Tech massacre. A one-sentence summary I'd use to describe it (that doesn't do it justice) is "The problem with evil in the world is that it exists and is active, and this is a wake-up call to the church." I want to touch on these two points, and riff off Mark's earlier post. (UPDATE: Audio for the message can be downloaded here.)

What I read Mark as saying is that society wasn't asking the right questions about what really is affecting our youth. There are surface issues that, I believe, are just symptoms, not the causes, that Mark touched on; video games, movies, meds, etc. But in his post was an assumption he makes that I don't think society accepts, at least not like it used to. And without that assumption, even his list of real issues can't be addressed until this one is.

Chuck Colson, in a recent Breakpoint podcast, noted that in at least one society, we can't even agree on this base assumption.

I witnessed an extreme example of this therapeutic thinking during a visit to a Norwegian prison years ago. Throughout the tour, officials bragged about employing the most humane and progressive treatment methods anywhere in the world. I met several doctors in white coats.

That prompted me to ask how many of the inmates, who were all there for serious crimes, were mentally ill. The warden replied, "Oh, all of them." I must have looked surprised, because she said, "Well, of course, anyone who commits a crime this serious is obviously mentally unbalanced."

Stated differently, there is no such thing as sin and evil, and the only reason why people might commit serious crimes is that they are mentally ill. Thus, the best-and perhaps, only-response to crime is behavior modification and all of those other up-to-date psychological techniques.


The assumption I refer to is the existence of evil, and of man's predisposition to it. I know how some folks avoid church because they don't want to hear that, but without understanding the very nature of our being, how can we ever hope to properly deal with it. Here's how Jesus put it in Mark chapter 7.
He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "

Jesus tells us that evil is primarily a spiritual issue, not primarily a psychological one. This is not to say that there are no psychological results of evil-there certainly are--and this does not absolve society, video game makers or Hollywood writers of their role in creating an environment where we marinate in and, in many cases, uphold that which is evil.

While we in American generally allow this idea to have some effect on our thinking, it has been less so during this generation. Colson notes that we're not that much different from Norway, and we, like them and anyone else, have one real way out.

While the Norwegian approach would strike most Americans as very naïve, the difference between them and us is one of degree not kind. We also blame crime on external factors, like mental illness, culture, dysfunctional childhood, and the like.

We are uncomfortable attributing events like this to human evil, much less to a kind of evil that seeks to undo God's creation-what Christians call the demonic.

Yet without this idea, events like this massacre can never be understood. We might learn that the killer was "mentally unbalanced" or on anti-depressants. But, absent evidence that he was clinically delusional, this knowledge will not explain why he walked onto a college campus, locked people in a lecture hall, and killed them

Events like this not only horrify us-they unsettle us. We think of sin and the demonic as not-so-quaint relics from a superstitious age. And even more destructive, random events like this remind us how little we know about ourselves and what we are capable of, as well. But failing to call evil evil misleads us about the world we live in and our need for God's grace, the only real answer and hope for any of us.


We cannot save the house until we save the foundation, and only God, the Master Builder, who drew up the blueprints, knows what can be done.

The families and friends of the victims of the VT shootings, and even the family and friends of the shooter, deserve the most love and grace we can give them. Our desire to help them, grieve with them, and comfort them must come from the heart. But going forward, if we ever hope to rescue our society from further events such as this, we must remember what else Jesus said comes from the heart. It is the hearts of people that need God. The psychological, emotional and physiological will follow, but not until the hearts are changed. That's the church's mission; to bring the God that can change the heart to society.

(One thing I would want to note, lest an incorrect assumption be made; I don't dismiss out of hand the science of psychology; not by any means. I believe it has an important contribution to make in understanding the human mind and how it can be helped. But, using my earlier analogy, modifying the house without understanding the foundation may, in some cases, give us relief from problems without dealing with the underlying flaws, keeping us from seeking the One who can truly help.)

Our pastor asked and answered the burning question: "How long will events like this continue to happen? As long as the church lets them." The "salt of the earth" must not hunker down in its salt shaker. As it was used in the first century, it must be rubbed, not on, but into the meat before it rots any further.

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April 19, 2007

Guns By The Numbers

Year Kennesaw, GA passed a law requiring every head of household in the town to own a handgun: 1982
Kennesaw crime rate prior to enactment: 4,332 per 100,000
National average: 3,899 per 100,000
Kennesaw crime rate today: 2,027 per 100,000
Number of residents involved in fatal shootings since enactment, as either victim, attacker or defender: 0
Population growth, 1980 to 2000: 425% (5.095 to 21,675)

Click here for more information and dire predictions about Kennesaw that never came true. More stats here, and a NY Times editorial by the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds here.

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April 18, 2007

Supreme Court Upholds Partial Birth Abortion Ban

Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with the majority on this one, and wrote the opinion.

The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure Wednesday, handing abortion opponents the long- awaited victory they expected from a more conservative bench.

The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.

The opponents of the act "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

The administration defended the law as drawing a bright line between abortion and infanticide.


Finally, there is some pushback to those who love to keep blurring the line. I believe that this will help hold back those who intend to blur the line even further, beyond birth. This is a good ruling.

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April 16, 2007

Podcasting Again on Shire Network News

It's been over a year since I hosted the last Homespun Bloggers Radio, a podcast of the late, lamented blogging group Homespun Bloggers. I was also a sometimes-contributor to the show, and I'd been looking for a opportunity to do that. Hosting took some time, but I figure I could handle a weekly short commentary.

Well, turns out I'm getting the chance. One of the podcasts I listen to, Shire Network News, recently advertised for more contributors since some of theirs were having scheduling issues. I gave it a shot and sent in an audition that fit their style; right-of-center politically with humor rather than anger. Turns out they liked it and actually used it in this week's podcast, and now I'm officially an SNN contributor, joining Meryl Yourish and another new contributor, Tomer Israeli. I'm honored to have been added and I hope to hold up their standards. (Though if they'll accept me, how high can those standards be, really?)

Click here for the latest show's notes and links.

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April 13, 2007

Apologies for "Gay Marriage"

The group "Restore Marriage, Canada" is giving Canadians an opportunity to apologize for their country's legalization of "gay marriage". It starts:

To the world's leaders and people,

We, the people of Canada who support marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman, apologize to the people of the world for harm done through Canada's legalization of homosexual marriage.

We are grieved and troubled as we consider the impact this is having in weakening the fundamental institution of marriage in countries and cultures around the world. We understand that because Canada does not impose citizenship or residency requirements in order for same-sex individuals to be "married" here, couples are coming to Canada to seek legal sanction for their homosexual relationships with the intent of returning to their own countries to challenge those countries' legal definition of marriage.

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April 11, 2007

Diabetics Cured with Stem Cells. But What Kind?

An amazing medical breakthrough reported in the London Times today. In a small trial of patients, 13 of 15 diabetics given injections of stem cells did not need daily insulin injection 3 years after the treatment. Truly remarkable.

Now, there are 2 types of stem cells; adult and embryonic. What kind were these. The articles doesn't say specifically, but it leaves it to the reader to deduce that.

In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood.

Unless we're talking about fetal diabetics, the stem cells must be adult ones. Chalk up another win for stem cells that lack any ethical issues.

But note that the writer is more than happy to bring up the other type of stem cells specifically.

Previous studies have suggested that stem-cell therapies offer huge potential to treat a variety of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neuron disease. A study by British scientists in November also reported that stem-cell injections could repair organ damage in heart attack victims.

But research using the most versatile kind of stem cells — those acquired from human embryos — is currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush.


By positioning these two paragraphs this way, the writer begs the reader to make the connection between this breakthrough and Bush's refusal to have the feds fund embryonic stem cell research. Even the linked article about heart attack victims won't use the word "adult" when talking about the stem cells.

What's worse, blatant media bias like this really works. Just read the comment section at the end (which I believe is in reverse chronological order) to find those who are against Bush's position but fail to realize the distinction.

Interesting that a major medical breakthrough, promising hope to millions of Type 1 diabetics and their families gets overshadowed by a debate on morality....

...

If you've had to stick a needle into your 11 year old twice/thrice daily would you object to stem cell research?
Get real this is the 21C. Blair n' Bush should spend the war money on this research!

Kids want fun/childhood, not adult ethics.

...

How sanctimonius some of the opinions on this discussion are. My brother and I have type 1 diabetes. I really don't care what type of stem cells are used if it finds a cure for this disease. Do you really equate a bunch of cells with an actual child or adult life? Is that serious? You would condemn people like me & my brother and countless others to living with this disease for ever because you believe that embryos are so important. That isn't moraility, its drivel.


And one fellow seems to think that if the government doesn't pay for it, it doesn't get anything.
You use your religious beliefs to prevent my tax dollars from funding embryonic stem cell research. Only adult stem cell research is funded, so only adult stem cell cures are produced. Then, you use the success of some adult stem cell research to deny the value of embryonic stem cells? What kind of twisted circular logic is that? Of course there aren't embryonic stem cell treatments if the research isn't funded.

All victims of media reporting.

Finally, one commenter makes a great point. Follow the money.

Let's not forget one of the biggest reasons that pharmas want to use embryonic stem cells. Money. If they use stem cells that come from a source other than a bonafide "Person", they can patent it and make lots of money from the treatment. You cannot patent adult stem cells as they come from and belong to a particular individual.

Posted by Doug at 01:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2007

Washington, DC

Our Spring Break jaunt this year was to the nation's capitol. I hadn't toured there since I was around 10, so it was high time I went back, this time with my own kiddos. I'm not going to give a full travelogue here (that tome will go out to family), but here are some thoughts.

Point #1: Bring a bike. DC is rather bike-friendly, and the National Mall is a longer walk than it looks. There is a place right downtown to rent some, but bring what you can. You can cover a lot of ground that way.

The first thing we did was a bike tour (free, as are many things in DC) run by the National Parks Service. It hit many spots in DC but I had no idea how much into DC we'd be. I have pictures of us biking down the middle of Pennsylvania Ave. with the Rangers leading the way. Not down the sidewalk; down the center lane. That by itself was cool (though I kept a good eye on the kiddos with me). There were enough stops along the way to rest my 40-something legs, so it wasn't a killer. They like to theme the tour with a "This Week in History" feel, and the week we went was the week World War 1 started, so at each stop there were talks about how this monument or that feature related back to the war, the run-up to it, the culture of the time and/or how events of the period affected the DC landscape. It went from the Jefferson Memorial, down and back up that peninsula, to the Capitol, to the Pershing Memorial (directly related to WW1 of course) and over to the White House, where we broke away from it to rejoin those of the family doing their own thing on foot. (With 6 in the family, you can only carry so many bikes.) A good learning experience and a good workout.

We hit all the usual spots during the week; the monuments along the Mall, the Smithsonian museums, Ford's Theater, the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery. The Cherry Blossom Festival had just started, and the trees bloomed on cue. Unfortunately, this brings crowds, and while the National Parks Service has a nice Tourmobile bus service for a reasonable price, our use of it was marred by long lines and slow traffic. Again, bikes are your friend.

Point #2: Staying in a hotel close to DC can be worth the money. I was looking at some hotel web sites for places under $100, but everything was way outside the beltway. The Metro Rail is nice, but we'd have had to drive to the farthest out station first, taking lots of time out of our day. Hotwire.com saved the day, and I've become a big fan. For the same price as the Super 8, we stayed near the Reagan National Airport for a couple of days, and then splurged to stay downtown for a couple more. (Nice to just walk 4 block to the Mall.) Now, I said it can be worth the money because there are some things you'd probably get at the Super 8 for free that you either can't get or cost extra at the nicer hotels. Like Internet access ($10 per day), free simple breakfast, microwave ($25), fridge ($25), coffee maker in the room (1 of our hotels didn't have that) and even park (around $25 per day). Now, this may not been news to those who've stayed at these spots before, but this was my first real experience with it, so it was news to me. Fortunately, we brought a cooler with lots of food, and Pizza Hut delivers to the lobby. (Where else in DC can you feed 6 for $20?) A pool the size of my office cubicle was OK...once enough people left to allow us to go in. I understand that we're probably not the target market, but they could do just a bit more to fill those empty rooms and do just a little more to make it family friendly. So yes, it can be worth the money for the location, if you understand the amenity situation.

Point #3: Spend the time. There were a number of things we'd hoped to do but just didn't have time to do after doing the things we did do. DC is big in the two senses that there's so much to do, and that everything is so...big. The monuments are, of course, generally done on a grand scale, but when you go to the Smithsonian museums, there's so much in there. We spend Sunday afternoon through Wednesday, and really just hit the highlights. Maybe this point is better expressed "Spend the time well". Don't try to do a little bit of everything; do some things well and leave the rest for perhaps another visit.

We had a great time. Learned some history, some science, and got to see those things you see only on TV or the back of your money. I highly recommend a visit there some day if you've never gone.

Posted by Doug at 12:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2007

"The Other Iraq"

Recently on the Public Radio program Open Source, Christopher Lydon did a show on Iraqi Kurdistan, or, as it's PR campaign calls it, "the other Iraq". You can listen to the show and read the show notes here on Radio Open Source. He interviewed Qubad Talabani, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Representative to the United States and son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG Representative to the United Kingdom, and Peter Galbraith, former (and first) Ambassador to Croatia under Clinton, Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control, and Non-Proliferation Advisor to the KRG.

For some, it may be an eye-opening program. From the discussion of how Americans were indeed greeted as liberators, to the economic prosperity, to the lack of sectarian violence among the Sunni, Shia and Christian Kurds, this program should give pause to those saying we should get out of Iraq ASAP. In fact, both the Kurdish guests warned against a withdrawal too early. (Ambassador Galbraith, predictably, disagreed. More on that in a moment.)

The program was quite a departure from Lydon's show's usual fare. As is typical for public radio, the slate of guests is often slanted liberal, and many time 100% so. Lydon calls his show a "conversation", but it usually is a monologue from the Left. To have a program extolling the good things that have come from the war (even if the host can't bring himself to agree, insinuating that some of the responses sounded like "fantasy") is equal time that has been sorely missing from the media at large. Kudos to Lydon and the PRI folks for finally, if really belatedly, bringing the news.

The cognitive dissonance was deafening when Peter Galbraith did disagree at the end of the show with the idea of staying in Iraq. Here were the very people he's working to help asking for our continued help, and all he can do is shill for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid (by name) and say that, as she does, we need to get out of there because the Iraqi experiment has failed.

I'd ask him, and anyone else who said that the war in Iraq was and is a failure; what do you say to the Kurds? Were they and all other Iraqis not worth the effort to get rid of Hussein and his terror supporting and practicing regime? Just because some may not be handling freedom as well as we'd hoped, should we have left them all to the designs of the Ba'athists? If you blame the US for the violence in the south, are you prepared to credit the US for the peace and prosperity in the north?

Posted by Doug at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

Abstinence Considered Offensive, University Surrenders

Welcome to the age where encouraging abstinence until marriage is considered offensive. OK, truth be told, we've been in this age for quite some time now, except that the sentiment wasn't quite as outspoken. Now that abstinence groups are being formed in places like Harvard and MIT, however, the ridicule is boiling over.

This article talks about the new group at Harvard, secular in nature, that is trying to promote abstinence on campus. Seniors Sarah Kinsella and Justin Murray started "True Love Revolution" in response to all the other overt encouragment of sex on campus, and to the white flag waved by the administration. In response, those oh-so-tolerant folks on the Left are outraged.

Some feminists, in particular, have criticized True Love Revolution's message.

Harvard student Rebecca Singh said she was offended by a valentine the group sent to the dormitory mailboxes of all freshmen. It read: "Why wait? Because you're worth it."

"I think they thought that we might not be `ruined' yet," Singh said. "It's a symptom of that culture we have that values a woman on her purity. It's a relic."


Yeah, who needs self-control, eh?

A little common sense, however, is seeing the light of day.

In the student paper, The Harvard Crimson, columnist Jessica C. Coggins praised the group's low-key approach and scolded Harvard students for their "laughter at the virgin." She said students on the campus, which has 6,700 undergraduates, should "find a different confidence booster than making fun of celibate peers."

As usual, the administration gets it wrong.
Dr. David Rosenthal, director of Harvard health services, disputed the notion that the university promotes sex.

He said students mistakenly think everyone on campus is having sex. The National College Health Assessment Survey, which included Harvard and hundreds of other campuses, found that about 29 percent of students reported not having sex in the past school year. For the 71 percent who are having sex, it is crucial to promote safety, Rosenthal said.

"Some students may have a feeling that acknowledgment is condoning," he said, "and it's not."


But it's not just "acknowledgement", as noted earlier in the article.
True Love Revolution members say the problem starts with the university. They say Harvard has implicitly led students to believe that having sex at college is a foregone conclusion by requiring incoming freshman to attend a seminar on date-rape that does not mention abstinence, by placing condoms in freshmen dorms, and by hosting racy lecturers. (Harvard students have also launched H-Bomb, a magazine featuring racy photos of undergraduates.)

Acknowledging is one thing. But this is encouraging. When you remove the consequences of bad decisions, you get more bad decisions. Shouldn't take a university degree to understand that.

Posted by Doug at 02:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2007

Public Schools Teaching Student to Lie to Parents

When the public school system starts forcing kids to lie to their parents about what they're being taught, you know it's time to homeschool.

And when what they're being taught is homosexual sensitivity training, you have to wonder why they feel they can't be open and honest about it. Yeah, I know the presumed reason; that parent might object. But if parents are not allowed any say as to their children's education, it's no longer public education anymore, is it? It's state education. (And I really hope this school district doesn't ever complain about not enough parental involvement.)

Click here for a link to audio from Concerned Women for America, and click here for the WND news story.

Posted by Doug at 02:15 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

German Homeschool Family Update

It's only getting worse.

A German appeals court has not only affirmed a lower court's decision that ripped a 15-year-old homeschooler from her family and subjected her to a forced stay in a psychiatric hospital because she is homeschooled, but also ordered her parents to be given psychiatric evaluations, an international rights organization says.

The government psychologists, who had previously diagnosed Melissa Busekros with "schoolphobia", would now get a shot at labelling the parents. What's more, the court ignored the fact that the parents have been willing to accept a government compromise.
The appeals court ruling came despite the fact that all three of the lawyers representing Melissa Busekros clearly stated in their request to the court the family had accepted a compromise offered by a lower court for her to return home under government supervision.

"In spite of [that] … the appeals court held that the family refused the court's initial compromise to let Melissa become an outpatient," Thornton said.


Read the whole thing for details, and to get caught up if you hadn't seen this before.

Posted by Doug at 02:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2007

Democrats Throw Another Tantrum

Of all the childish tantrums and manufactured outrage that have come from the Democrats, this has surely got to be near the top. First it was John Edwards, then the Nevada State Democratic Party pulled out completely from the debate they themselves set up to be hosted by Fox News. The far left essentially owns the Democrats now, as it was pressure from the like of MoveOn.org that nixed the debate.

Not content with the charge that Fox leans right (which I'll grant, but what are CNN and the NY Times; centrist?), they had to make up a reason that might actually carry some weight with the folks who do watch Fox. The supposed reason that "proved" Fox was a right-wing shill were comments by Roger Ailes.

But [state party chair Tom] Collins and [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid wrote that comments on Thursday by FOX News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, when he jokingly compared Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, to Osama bin Laden, "went too far," and prompted Nevada Democrats to end the partnership.

"We cannot, as good Democrats, put our party in a position to defend such comments," the letter said. "In light of his comments, we have concluded that it is not possible to hold a presidential debate that will focus on our candidates and are therefore cancelling our August debate. We take no pleasure in this, but it is the only course of action."


And what was this awful comment, comparing Barak Obama to a terrorist?
And it is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don't know if it's true that President Bush called Musharraf and said, 'Why can't we catch this guy?'

For cryin' out loud, this is a joke about George W. Bush! See here for the entire transcript so you can see it in context. If they're going to boycott Fox for that kind of a remark, are they going to boycott Leno and Letterman for the very same jokes? For the state party leader and the Senate Majority Leader to engage in such blatant partisan lying says a lot about their party and a lot more about those who are fooled by such rhetoric.

And we're not done with the lies. On the John Edwards site, on the page trying to drum up campaign money over this manufactured controversy (hmm, maybe this was the whole idea in the first place), his headline is "Fox Attacks". In it, Edwards castigates Ailes for putting forth the perfectly reasonable idea that this sets a bad precedent.

Fox has already started striking backat John for saying no. (There's a surprise - Fox attacking a Democrat.) Last night, Roger Ailes - the life-long Republican operative who is now Chairman of Fox News Channel - said that any candidate "who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake" and "is impeding freedom of speech and free press."

The Left is so ready to yell "McCarthyism!" and "the stifling of dissent!" if their ideas don't get the publicity they want, and yet here they are dismissing what is a very reasonable concern about McCarthy-like tests for news organizations to pass if they'll be allowed to air Democrats. The irony is that they're trying to accuse Fox of not covering Democrats while ensuring that they can't. What kind of tortured logic is that?

One more thing: the article is called "Fox Attacks" and there is an accompanying graphic, a screenshot of a website. The screenshot is captioned by the Edwards site "Fair and Balanced?" and "You Decide. They'll Retort." And the screenshot is of, not the Fox News site, the Drudge Report, with a headline that the Edwards folks considers biased. Talk about bait-and-switch and misdirection. Conflating the two is simply dishonest, but Edwards contributors are just eating it up.

This is a new low for Democrats.

As usual, ScrappleFace nails it.

Posted by Doug at 04:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2007

Edwards Doesn't Want Your Vote

At least if you watch the Fox News Channel. John Edwards will simply not tolerate any group that will not tow the liberal line.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards won't participate in a debate co-hosted by Fox News and the Nevada Democratic Party, his campaign said, as party officials tried to settle a dustup over their partnership with the cable network.

Edwards' campaign said the involvement of Fox News, which is often accused by liberals of having a conservative bias, was part of the decision to pass on the Aug. 14 debate in Reno.

"There were a number of factors and Fox was one of those."


Far-left blogs have been pushing for this,and Edwards has caved. The Left has set yet another lower standard. Unless you can name a Republican that has ever skipped a major debate based solely on the slant of the network carrying it. That may be difficult, even considering, for example, CBS's "myopic zeal" against Republicans. Edwards will take his ball and go home unless you're slanted his way.

This says as much about the media as it does about Edwards. He knows the networks who are in bed with him, and you don't get access if you aren't. Oh, that liberal media.

Posted by Doug at 02:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 07, 2007

Evidence of "The Great Misreading"

After the election, I noted that some right-of-center pundits were saying that while the Democrats won big in the election, conservative values won big as well. No, that's not a contradiction. I said that the actions of the Democrats has been a great misreading of the election results which, as had been noted by others, was the election of more moderate Democrats, not the leftist kind.

Today comes proof of it. Blue Dog Democrats are asserting their power.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced scorn from fellow Democrats during a recent closed-door meeting for not moving more aggressively on Iraq, it was conservative Blue Dogs _ her ideological opposites _ who rose to defend her.

The unlikely support reflected an emerging dynamic in the House, where the 43 right-of-center fiscal hawks are increasingly asserting their power, working to moderate the policies and image of a party with a liberal base and leaders to match.

The coalition's name is a play on yellow dog Democrats, an epithet that came into being in the 1920s to describe party loyalists in the South who, it was said, would vote for a yellow dog if it ran on the Democratic ticket. Democrats who said their moderate to conservative views had been "choked blue" by the party's liberal flank started referring to themselves as blue dogs and formed their group after Republicans swept control of the House in 1994.

With Democrats in charge again, the Blue Dogs have played a key role in halting an emerging plan to place strict conditions on war funding. Their revolt helped beat back that proposal, by Pelosi ally John Murtha, D-Pa. Leaders are now considering a watered-down version.


These moderate Democrats push fiscal responsibility and are putting the brakes on the Pelosi/Murtha wing who are charting a course for Iraqi killing fields. As much as the anti-war crowd would hope for it, and as much as the Democrat leadership talks it, support for cut-and-run is weak. Further, fiscal irresponsibility (from either party) is not what the election was about, either. The last election was indeed a referendum on how Republicans have been running the government, and while the public doesn't like how the war has gone, they elected more Democrats who don't want to just bail out post haste. Any suggestion otherwise is to blindly ignore those very election results they continue to trumpet.

Posted by Doug at 04:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Search for "The Real Leaker"

"Scooter" Libby was found guilty on 4 of 5 counts of lying to investigators, and the fallout is landing on Dick Cheney.

In legal terms, the jury has spoken in the Libby case.

In political terms, Vice President Dick Cheney is still awaiting a judgment.

For many weeks, Washington watched, transfixed, as the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. cast Cheney, his former boss, in the role of puppeteer, pulling the strings in a covert public relations campaign to defend the administration's case for war in Iraq and discredit a critic.

"There is a cloud over the vice president," the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, told the jury in summing up the case last month.

Cheney was not charged in the case, cooperated with the investigation and expressed a willingness to testify if called, though he never was. Yet he was a central figure throughout, aggressively fighting back against suggestions that he and President George W. Bush had taken the country to war on the basis of flawed intelligence, showing himself to be keenly sensitive to how he was portrayed in the press, and backing Libby to the end.


The jury considered Libby the "fall guy", and the prosecutor and Joe Wilson have a lower opinion of Cheney. Yet no one has been charged with the actual leak in this case. I guess, in a similar manner to OJ Simpson looking for "the real killer", pundits and talking heads will continue the hunt "the real leaker". In yet another eerie similarity to the Simpson situation, Wilson has filed a civil suit against Cheney.

There is one major difference, though, between this situation and OJ's. The real leaker has admitted to it. The problem is, the Left doesn't want to focus on Richard Armitage because he was an Iraq war skeptic in the State Department. No neo-con, he. And going after someone who, if not a Democrat, at least had views that the anti-war crowd appreciated, would not fit the narrative that they have written for this whole kerfuffle. "It was a neo-con revenge hit!" "Karl Rove should be frog-marched!" "The stifling of dissent!"

And in the article detailing who lost face in this whole matter, how many times is Armitage's name mentioned: 0. He's not a neo-con, he's not a White House official, and he was, in fact, a voice of dissent. Doesn't fit the narrative, so the Left and the Media stop paying attention to him.

If there was any intellectual honesty left in those pounding on Cheney, we'd see Armitage's name a whole lot more. Instead, it's not about the truth or the policy or whatever high hobby-horse they're riding. It's all about the politics.

Posted by Doug at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Safe Targets

First James Cameron trotted out bones to the Discovery Channel and made claims about them--that they were the bones of the biblical Jesus--that not even the man who discovered them claimed. Now ABC highlights a nut in Houston, giving him a platform to be legitimized, who claims to be Jesus. And the Anti-Christ. And who grew up stealing to pay for his heroin addiction. The headline reads, "Jesus Might Be Alive and Well in Houston", giving the story a "hey, it could be true" air.

(Hat tip to WorldViews.)

Amazing how the ever-sensitive media that blushed and turned away when the Danish cartoons of Muhammad came calling have no problem with airing the flimsiest story that calls Christianity into question. The gatekeepers have a very selective gate. As one commenter to the WorldView post said, "Do you think ABC would do a similar story about some character claiming to be Mohammed, Martin Luther King, Abraham etc?"

Yeah, me neither

Posted by Doug at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 06, 2007

Being Pro-choice (on Education)

Via Betsy's Page comes word of a chance for South Carolinians to get a bit more choice regarding schooling. In the report, Brendan Miniter give the example of a school operating on a shoe-string budget with low-paid teachers and just 42 students, but that is outperforming the local public school on SAT scores by 46%.

The idea that the public school system should be reformed from within has had plenty of time to be tried. It's not working. one member of South Carolina's state House has been there and done that.

Two years ago similar reforms were defeated in the state House by seven votes. But school-choice supporters picked up several seats in the last election, one of which is now held by Curtis Brantley, an African-American from rural Jasper County who picked off an incumbent in a Democratic primary last year. "It's time," he told me recently while sitting in his sparsely furnished office, "to try something new."

As a former public school official who, as he tells it, was forced into retirement after trying to reform the school system from the inside, Mr. Brantley is now becoming a powerful voice for reform in Columbia. And he was only too happy to organize buses for school-choice supporters from his district to attend the rally [at the state Capitol].


I wouldn't call it "something new", exactly. We've had school choice in higher education for a good long time, and it has resulted in one of the best systems in the world, while at the same time not deal a death blow to state schools. It can be done, it has been done, but those with a vested interest in the status quo (and those politicians beholden to them) simply won't let it happen, if they can help it.

As time goes by, they may not be able to help it.

Posted by Doug at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2007

Conservative Conservationists

Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina had an article in the Washington Post a week ago Friday (just pointed out to me) regarding conservative conservationists. No, nowhere near an oxymoron. His point is how the right should deal with the global warming issue, because if we don't deal with it, the Left will, and you know what sort of big-government, economic takeover solutions they'll come up with. (Think Kyoto Protocol.) Gov. Sanford make 3 points:

First, conservatives must reframe the environmental discussion by replacing the political left's scare tactics with conservative principles such as responsibility and stewardship. Stewardship -- the idea that we need to take care of what we've been given -- simply makes sense. It makes dollars as well, for the simple reason that our economy is founded on natural resources, from tourism and manufacturing to real estate and agriculture. Here in South Carolina, conservation easements are springing up across the state as landowners see the dual benefit of preserving the environment and protecting their pocketbooks.

Second, conservatives must reclaim lost ground from far-left interest groups by showing how environmental conservation is as much about expanding economic opportunity as it is about saving whales or replanting rain forests. When corporations such as BP and Shell America pursue alternative energy sources, they not only cut carbon emissions but help cut our petroleum dependency on OPEC nations. When South Carolina restaurants recycle their oyster shells, they not only restore shellfish habitat but take a job off local governments' plates and ensure continuing revenue streams for local fishermen.

Third, conservatives must respond to climate change with innovation, not regulation. This means encouraging private research and implementation of more eco-friendly construction, more energy-efficient workplaces and more sustainable ways of going about life -- all of which cuts costs and protects God's creation. It means looking past the question of whether your car's exhaust melts polar ice caps and instead treating our environment as an investment our future depends on.


Read the whole thing. That last point is the key, but is predicated on the first two.

Posted by Doug at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2007

Prayer Request from Former SCO'er

From former SCO contributor Matt Stokes comes this prayer request related to the severe weather we had down here in the South the past couple of days.



Those of you who know me know that I'm something of a weather nerd. I always keep a close watch on the news just to see how things will go throughout the week. Today was obviously no different; I stayed close by the internet and I was also pretty excited to my first wall cloud up close. I also realize that in the Deep South, severe weather is not a joke. My dear wife knows how I struggle to not lash out at those foolish knuckleheads in the checkout line who dismiss the weathermen on days like this. It is indeed severe and quite often has very serious consequences. If you've not seen in the news, todays weather has had tragic results in south Alabama. A tornado struck Enterprise High School, killing at least five people; some accounts have that number as high as 18.

For those who don't know, Enterprise is moderate sized town about 100 miles south of Montgomery, Alabama. My dads best friends family is from Enterprise, so I was concerned to see if they were alright. They weren't. My father, Mark Stokes, has served as pastor of Southern Baptist churches throughout Alabama; his best friend is Mike Jackson, a pastor for many years who now serves in a position at the Alabama Baptist State Convention. We learned tonight that Uncle Mikes nephew (his brothers only son) was found among the bodies at Enterprise High School. Hes not my real uncle obviously, but he and my dad have a very close relationship, and my siblings and I regard him and his family as our own. This is particularly hard for Uncle Mikes family both he and his two brothers have all lost their only sons to tragedy. It is an understatement to say that right now the Jackson family is experiencing deep grief.

It is also comforting to know that the Jackson family is one that believes in the risen Christ, and can trust in the mercy and compassion of a sovereign God. I do not know why these things happen, but I believe wholeheartedly in the sovereignty of God. This was no accident, and God was not asleep at the wheel when tragedy struck Enterprise. I cant begin to understand why things like this occur, but I can trust that God will work all things to His glory, even in the midst of our own sorrow and grief. I send this e-mail simply to ask my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to keep the Jackson family, and my own, I suppose, in your prayers. Pray that in the Lord the family will find strength and comfort. Pray that the Church in Enterprise, Alabama will be there for all who mourn the loss of friends and family. And pray that in all things, lives will be drawn to the Cross, whereupon we all may lay down our sorrows and burdens, and find great relief.

Grace and peace to you and yours,

Matthew and Lori Stokes

Posted by Doug at 04:05 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 28, 2007

What's Good for the Goose...

Now that James Cameron is making a new documentary suggesting he's found the bones of Jesus, will Andy Rooney now castigate him for making money off of Jesus? He certainly took Mel Gibson to task for this. Think he'll do the same for Cameron?

Yeah, me neither.

Posted by Doug at 05:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Name That Warmonger

Who said this in a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting while questioning John Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence?

I was just wondering, does the military have a plan to, if necessary, to go into Syria to go to the source of any weapons coming from Syria? That are going to Sunni insurgents? That are killing our troops? … I think we ought to take action on all fronts including Syria and any other source of weapons coming in, obviously Iran is the focus – but it shouldn't be the sole focus.

What member of the committee asked if the military had a plan for dealing with Syria and Iran?

Are you sitting down? No really, are you?

The answer is:

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).

No, really, that Carl Levin. Click here for context and video.

Now, Democrats were indeed talking the tough talk against Saddam Hussein as far back as the Clinton administration, who's official policy was for regime change in Iraq, and then later, when it looked like George W. Bush would actually do something about it, they backpedaled and accused Bush of misleading them. (They were misled by Bush as far back as the Clinton presidency? Amazing!) So this moment of acknowledging reasonable precaution and having a plan for dealing with Syria and Iraq may be short-lived. Nonetheless, it's good to hear some bit of sense from that side of the aisle regarding being prepared.

Just hope he increases his contingent of bodyguards. The anti-war Left ain't gonna like this.

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February 26, 2007

Religious Freedom Inconvenient for Public Schools

Would you believe that here in the United States, someone would suggest that religious freedom and parental right undermine the public school system? It's happened. A US District Judge has used that as part of his reasoning in a recent ruling.

A federal judge in Massachusetts has ordered the "gay" agenda taught to Christians who attend a public school in Massachusetts, finding that they need the teachings to be "engaged and productive citizens."

U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf yesterday dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought by David Parker, ordering that it is reasonable, indeed there is an obligation, for public schools to teach young children to accept and endorse homosexuality.

Wolf essentially adopted the reasoning in a brief submitted by a number of homosexual-advocacy groups, who said "the rights of religious freedom and parental control over the upbringing of children … would undermine teaching and learning…"


This started in 2005 when David Parker objected to the fact that he couldn't get his kindergarten child opted out of, or even notified of, same-sex household issues when they were brought up. The judge's ruling gives them three options; private school, home school, or vote in enough School Committee members to get things changed. Fair enough, but can you imagine a court telling a black man that if he doesn't like being forced into blacks-only restrooms and schools that these are his only choices? It would be unthinkable, but religious freedom, written quite plainly into the Constitution, is being afforded less protection than civil rights laws.

We are losing our constitutional rights at the hands of the judicial branch of government, and few notice, care, or even agree that it's being eroded. The folks with the latter view are the most blind.

Posted by Doug at 05:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

German Govt. Offers Homeschoolers a Deal

Give us the rest of your kids, and we'll call it even.

German authorities who sent 15 uniformed police officers to take custody of a 15-year-old girl who committed the crime of being homeschooled now have suggested a solution that, in their minds, would "resolve" the situation: the parents should give up custody of their other five children.

The situation involving Melissa Busekros has been in the headlines ever since the beginning of this month, when the officers arrived at her parents' home with a court order allowing them to take her into custody, "if necessary by force."
...
"Melissa’s father, Hubert Busekros, said he and his lawyer were offered a compromise this week that they could not accept," the [Homeschool Legal Defense Association] said. "The authorities wanted the Busekros's to give up custody of their other five children in order to resolve this situation. Hubert said the authorities are considering doing psychiatric exams on the other five children in order to implicate Hubert and his wife as unfit parents and thereby break up the family."

Such actions, the homeschool organization said, are "an outrage."

"There are approximately 40 other cases pending in Germany [against homeschoolers]," the HSLDA said. "Many homeschool families have fled to Austria or another nearby country where homeschooling is legal. The German government is persecuting these innocent families without mercy. The German Embassy has indicated they cannot allow 'parallel cultures.' Christian homeschooling is a 'parallel culture' that Germany does not want."


As always, some of the best updates can be found at the blog "Principled Discovery".

Posted by Doug at 02:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2007

The "Sunni or Shiite" Quiz

I'm proud to say that I got 8 out of 8 right in this ABC News quiz on whether particular persons, organizations and nations are Sunni or Shiite Muslims. I do have to give most of the credit to Mark Alexander's piece, previously highlighted here, that discussed them. (That and a little luck.)

Posted by Doug at 03:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 22, 2007

UN Gives Hizbollah & Hamas Time to Rearm

UN resolution 1701 called for, among other things, the disarming of Hizbollah. The UN is giving it's usual stellar performance. Via the Israel Project:

As Israel and the United States worked together this week to resume peace talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, growing signs indicate a concerted effort by the radical Islamic terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas to rearm themselves in preparation for further conflict.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based, Iranian-backed Shiite militant group that initated a war against Israel this past summer after their gunmen crossed the Lebanese-Israeli internationally recognized border, is now receiving weekly shipments of weapons from Iran and Syria. "We know that Syria is trying all the time to smuggle weapons over the Lebanese border to Hezbollah," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told members of the foreign press on Feb. 20.

In an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper on Feb. 3, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah openly declared that Iran is supplying his group with monetary aid and weapons.


(The text is from an e-mail that is not yet posted on their site.)

I said back in August, when this was all being worked out, that the cease-fire that was supposed to solve everything and keep Hizbollah from further aggression was simply going to buy time for them to rearm. Indeed, that's exactly what has happened. The toothless UN resolution is simply giving cover to those who who wanted to do something about it, regardless of how impotent. I'm sure they feel better about themselves for appearing, if not being, tough on terrorists. Unfortunately, the Israeli citizens on the Lebanon border and those within missile range of Gaza aren't any better off for it.

Posted by Doug at 03:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 20, 2007

Surge in Teacher Sex Abuse Against Students

New York State's Education Department has completed an internal study with results that should disturb parents of any state.

The study found the number of accusations against teachers [of sexual abuse to students] doubled in five years, to nearly one case for every day and a half of the school year. Almost three in four of the "moral conduct" cases involved sex between a teacher and student.

Taken together, the cases show a pattern of a small number of teachers preying on adolescents' need for attention, then exploiting their insecurities to keep the secret out of fear of ridicule or long-lasting damage.

The misconduct is part of a system in which other teachers can be reluctant to report colleagues, administrators are reluctant to act on claims that could result in bad press and lawsuits, and state hearing officers are not trained to spot and deal with sexual misconduct.

A state investigator called one case "almost like a type of mind control" often reinforced by e-mails and instant messages.


Of course, the study can't count or document those incidents that don't get reported, and if colleagues are reluctant to report on each other, there could indeed be a large number under the radar.

UPDATE: The original link is now broken. Click here for another copy of the story.

Posted by Doug at 01:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 19, 2007

German Homeschool Parents Get Visiting Rights

Dana at "Principled Discovery" is keeping close tabs on the Busekros family situation in Germany. She has found out that Melissa's parents have now been told where she is and can visit her. For further developments, keep an eye on Dana's page dedicated to news on this situation.

Posted by Doug at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Pro-Life Blog

Russ Neglia has created a new pro-life blog under the Townhall.com umbrella. He calls it "Pro-Life Pro-Logic", and it's aptly named. Each post is well thought out and logically and dispassionately presented. He doesn't post every day, but you'll understand why when you read his articles. These aren't quick hits on topic, they are essays that take a little time to read. He's covered topics such as embryonic stem cell research and did a two-parter on how the death penalty relates to abortion. Check it out.

Posted by Doug at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2007

On Sunnis and Shi'ites

I'll admit to not knowing my Islamic sects, but Mark Alexander at the Patriot Post distills it down to 1000 well-written words. Definitely worth a read.

And while you're there, read the rest of today's digest, which includes news about a push to do and end-run around the Electoral College, notice of a report from UNICEF that says the US and the UK are the two worst places to raise a child, and news of a settlement in a "wrongful birth" case. I suggest you subscribe to their e-mails.

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February 14, 2007

German Homeschool Student Hidden Away

According to CBN, Melissa Busekros, the German homeschool student taken to the nearby psych ward for alleged "school phobia", has been taken to an unknown location by the German government. The state is not telling the parents where she has been taken.

Posted by Doug at 02:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

That's Why It's Called a "Law"

Of supply and demand, that is. McQ at Q&O discovers that--surprise, surprise--the rise in the minimum wage is, in fact, putting people out of work.

The law which is supposed to help the "working poor" does precisely the opposite.

But it's the intentions that matter, don'tcha know?

Posted by Doug at 02:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2007

How I Learned to Love (the Iranian) Bomb

Are you comfortable with the idea of Iran with a nuclear bomb? Hope you're getting really comfy. All the stern UN resolutions and severely worded reports have done precisely nothing.

Iran will be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there is little that can be done to prevent it, an internal European Union document has concluded.

In an admission of the international community’s failure to hold back Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the document – compiled by the staff of Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief – says the atomic programme has been delayed only by technical limitations rather than diplomatic pressure. “Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have not so far succeeded,” it states.


Imagine that; trying to negotiate with radicals has failed. Who would've thought? The result has been that indeed Iran is going to have nuclear materials.
The downbeat conclusions of the “reflection paper” – seen by the Financial Times – are certain to be seized on by advocates of military action, who fear that Iran will be able to produce enough fissile material for a bomb over the next two to three years. Tehran insists its purposes are purely peaceful.

“At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme,” says the paper, dated February 7 and circulated to the EU’s 27 national governments ahead of a foreign ministers meeting yesterday.

“In practice...the Iranians have pursued their programme at their own pace, the limiting factor being technical difficulties rather than resolutions by the UN or the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“The problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone.”


If those sanctions had been in place earlier and would've been stronger, then maybe--maybe--they would have had more effect. But everyone's afraid of making the mullahs mad at us. "If we push too hard, it may increase tensions and drive them away from us." Well guess what; they're going their own way anyway, and all the UN resolutions you can muster won't change that.

Not to mention that it's hard to imagine sanctions working when our "allies" like France and Russia were enriching Saddam during the Oil-for-Food program. With friends like these....

The admission is a blow to hopes that a deal with Iran can be reached and comes at a sensitive time, when tensions between the US and Tehran are rising. Its implication that sanctions will prove ineffective will also be unwelcome to EU diplomats. Only yesterday the bloc agreed on how to apply United Nations sanctions on Tehran, overcoming a dispute between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar.

So the diplomatic elite will dither and produce more reports and redundant findings that confirm, once again, that you can't negotiate in good faith with radicals. In the meantime, some say that the military option should be completely off the table, which I'm sure Tehran is very comforted to hear.

What the solution is at this point, I have no idea. I do know, however, that the world, in recent decades, has looked down at the US for its solutions but always lays the world's problems at the feet of the US and scolds us for not doing more long after the world has failed to really do anything. What has Europe really done about the Iran problem? What has the UN done about the North Korean problem? Insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. When will the world wake up to the fact that negotiating with dictators and radicals is an insane proposition, for everyone?

Posted by Doug at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

German Homeschool Student Sent to Psych Ward

Since homeschooling is outlawed in Germany, if you do it you should expect the government to get perturbed. However, here's the story of a 7th grader sent to Child Psychiatry Unit of the local clinic and removed from her parents' custody over it. Seems quite an overreaction.

In summer 2004, Melissa was told that she would have to repeat the 7th grade at the Christian Ernst Gymnasium (a high school where one can obtain the Abitur, the highest German high school diploma) due to her bad grades in math and latin. The situation in the class played no small part in creating this state of affairs - the high noise levels and cancelled classes prevented her from receiving the educational assistance she needed during school hours. As Melissa had good grades in all the other subjects, repeating the whole year would be mostly a waste of her time, as well as the fact that she would now be in a class even more problematic than the previous year’s. Thus, it was decided by Melissa and her parents that she would be tutored individually at home to meet her specific needs. At her own wish, Melissa only took part in Music and sang in her school choir. The school and the local school authorities were not satisfied with this solution, and consequently expelled Melissa from the school, allocating her to the local Hauptschule (the lowest in the German three-tier high school system).

So the parents only took her out of public school due to her special needs, trying to avoid the wasted time of going through the one-size-fits-all repeating of an entire grade. The only homeschooled in response to an issue with their daughter. This is not a family that has completely avoided the public system; they have simply responded to the specific issues with their child. Shouldn't parents be allowed to do that. Not in Germany. The state stepped in, though I'd say "overstepped".
On Tuesday 30th January just after 7am, Mrs Busekros and her children – Mr Busekros had already left for work – were startled by the appearance of the judge of the Family Court,social workers and police officials who demanded that Melissa, now aged 15, be handed over to them immediately. They had as authorisation a decision by the Erlangen Court (case no. 006 F 01004/06) of the 29th of January. It stated “The relevant Youth Welfare Office is hereby instructed and authorised to bring the child, if necessary by force, to a hearing and may obtain police support for this purpose.”

Melissa was brought into the Child Psychiatry Unit of the Nuremberg clinic and was subjected to an interrogation in the presence of the specialist Dr. Schanda. After this interrogation, about three and a half hours after she was coerced into the clinic, Melissa was returned home. Her relieved parents and her five younger siblings, who didn’t know when they would ever see Melissa again, as well as Melissa herself didn’t know that the worst was still to come.Melissa (right, top) and her familiy [sic].

On the afternoon of the 1st of February, the judge of the Family Court, representatives of the Youth Welfare Office, along with fifteen police officers, marched up to the Busekros home, to haul Melissa off to the Child Psychiatry Unit of the Nuremberg clinic. The judicial decision authorising this also removed Melissa from her parents’ custody, according to her father, Hubert Busekros.This treatment was justified by the psychiatrist’s finding, two days previously, that she was supposedly developmentally delayed by one year and that she suffered from school phobia. The fact that the less than optimal testing environment and the unexpectedness of the tests could have impacted on Melissa’s performance were not taken into account in this decision. It is not known when Melissa’s parents and siblings will be able to see her again, as the official approach in cases of “school phobia” is to completely prevent the “patient” from having any contact with those closest to him or her, as such contact supposedly enables the phobia.


I guess the state's solution to "school phobia", assuming that's even a valid diagnosis, is to put her back in there. Never mind that, but for bad grades in two subjects, she had done just fine in school, despite this "phobia". No, the government--the Village, so to speak--knows better than the parents.

See also: CBN report and an interview with the father in German (click here for the Google-translation to English).

Posted by Doug at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 09, 2007

Same-Sex Marriage Proponents Throw a Tantrum

This would be funny if it weren't intended to be serious (and frankly, I'm not completely sure that's the intent). Same-sex proponents in Washington State, in an attempt to get social conservatives "dosed with their own medicine", have filed an initiative.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - An initiative filed by proponents of same-sex marriage would require heterosexual couples to have kids within three years or else have their marriage annulled.

Initiative 957 was filed by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance. That group was formed last summer after the state Supreme Court upheld Washington's ban on same-sex marriage.

Under the initiative, marriage would be limited to men and women who are able to have children. Couples would be required to prove they can have children in order to get a marriage license, and if they did not have children within three years, their marriage would be subject to annulment.

All other marriages would be defined as "unrecognized" and people in those marriages would be ineligible to receive any marriage benefits.


If they were a child under the care of Super Nanny, they'd be sent to the Naughty Corner. Instead, we have adults who didn't get their way and are pitching a fit and putting forth an obviously frivolous initiative. And the organizer of this lets us know precisely what his error is (see the bolded word below):
“For many years, social conservatives have claimed that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation ... The time has come for these conservatives to be dosed with their own medicine," said WA-DOMA organizer Gregory Gadow in a printed statement. “If same-sex couples should be barred from marriage because they can not have children together, it follows that all couples who cannot or will not have children together should equally be barred from marriage."

"For many years" this debate has been going on, and he still can't honestly represent his opposition. The faulty logic here is breathtaking, starting with the straw man constructed in the first sentence. When has any mainstream opponent of same-sex marriage ever used the word "solely" in regards to child-bearing in marriage? Even a quote that says it's "primarily" for children or that it is the "best" for children does not imply what this initiative would cast into law, that it must.

In an attempt to sort of sound reasonable, they say they just want a dialog.

Opponents say the measure is another attack on traditional marriage, but supporters say the move is needed to have a discussion on the high court ruling.

They can't talk about it until they get their whining done first. And frankly, the debate was pretty much over in Washington State when the same-sex marriage ban survived the path up to and including the state Supreme Court. This is just the rantings of children who didn't get their way. If you want to talk about it, then talk, and don't waste your neighbors' time and money with ballot initiatives guaranteed to fail.

Posted by Doug at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Wave of Hatred" at an All-Time High

People of middle-eastern descent are being increasingly targeted for hate crimes in Britian. After 9/11 here and the London bombings there, it would be understandable, although completely intolerable, that violence against Muslims might increase in reaction. Except that it's not Muslims that are the targets.

Attacks on Britain's Jews have risen to the highest level since records began.

A study published today shows the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents has almost tripled in 10 years, with more than half the attacks last year taking place in London.

The findings prompted the report's authors to warn of a "wave of hatred" against Jews.

The number of incidents increased to 594 last year, up by 31 per cent on the previous year.

Violent assaults soared to 112, up by more than a third on 2005.

Incidents ranged from the unprovoked stabbing of a Jewish man in north London to the sending of hate mail and the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues.


Hat tip to the Rev. Sensing, who notes that the numbers in the US, while down slightly in 2006, did hit a 10-year high in 2004. While the Anglosphere bends over backward to be sensitive to Muslims, very little anti-Semitism goes noticed.

Make no mistake, violence against either group on the basis of simply who they are is unacceptable, but one group has the West cowed into not showing cartoons and whose radical suicide bombers target civilians, while the other group can take criticism in a civilized manner and whose radical suicide bombers...well...don't exist. I'm not saying that we should accord special protection to Jews over Muslims, but we should give at least the same sensitivity to the Jews, dontcha' think?

Posted by Doug at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2007

Making Peace With Religion and Sexuality

A great article on a Christian dealing with homosexual tendencies at Blogger News Network by Warren Throckmorton, PhD, is a must-read. While I think homosexual activity is wrong, this approach to dealing with it in the Christian life makes sense. As I say in a comment to the article, hetero men have the same sexual temptations (aside from the gender), and have to deal with them spiritually and behaviorally. And just because God doesn't heal a particular physical problem--or take away homosexual tendencies--doesn't mean that He can't or that we're bad people.

Loving the sinner and hating the sin goes for sin in our own lives as well. A healthy love of self includes knowing what your weaknesses are. Just continue to seek out God and let Him work through you. Great article.

Posted by Doug at 02:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2007

Religious Freedom Diminished in the UK

Agencies run by churches in the UK can no longer practice what they preach.

Roman Catholic adoptions agencies yesterday lost their battle to opt out of new laws banning discrimination against homosexual couples when Tony Blair announced that there would be "no exemptions" for faith-based groups.

The Prime Minister said in a statement that the new rules would not come into force until the end of 2008. Until then there would be a "statutory duty" for religious agencies to refer gay couples to other agencies.


Why can't that "statutory duty" be good enough? Why is government coercion trumping religious freedom? Predictably, the results of an attempt at "fairness" will chase off the principled.
Last week the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, warned that the agencies would close rather than accept rules that required them to hand over babies to gay couples.

One wonders if, in some quarters, that's the whole objective. I mean, given a situation where there are choices, and there usually are, why would a gay couple seek out the Catholic Church for an adoption agency when there are others that have no qualms about it. It's kind of like the standard answer you hear when folks complain about the content of TV programming. "Just change the channel", the Left dismissively says. But when it comes to their preferences, they won't "change the channel" themselves--choose a different agency--and instead insist that government sanction their choices and force it upon everyone to accommodate it.

Posted by Doug at 01:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 29, 2007

A Tale of Two Protests

Take two protests, both in our nation's capitol, both heavily attended, both on current hot topics. Should the coverage of the two by the "balanced" media be comparable? You'd think so. You'd be wrong.

Within one week, the liberal bias of the Washington Post has been made perfectly obvious. On Monday, tens of thousands of protesters emerged on Washington for the March for Life, but the hometown paper put the story on the bottom of page A-10 Tuesday morning. On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters emerged on Washington for a rally against President Bush and the war in Iraq. The Post blasted that story across the front page on Sunday, complete with a large color picture taking a wide shot of hundreds of marchers and their signs and banners. Tuesday's story on abortion protests matched carried no wide shot of hundreds. It showed four pro-life marchers, and matched them with another picture of five feminists counter-protesting. There were no photos of conservative counter-protesters in the Sunday paper.

[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Sunday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The Post not only let the anti-Iraq rally dominate the front page, but devoted an entire page (A-8) to more photos and a story on student protesters. The front-page story carried over to most of page A-9. Jane Fonda's appearance at the march drew another story, placed on the front page of the Style section.


Newspaper coverage of events such as these pose a challenge for appearing fair, no doubt about it. A journalist writing a letter to the editor of his town's big paper, and an attendee of the March for Life, acknowledged this problem. However, he also believes that fear of appearing unbiased is keeping the coverage to a bare minimum.
What they [the local kids he travelled with] weren’t prepared for was calling home to find that their parents missed the minute-long coverage the event merited on the evening news. They weren’t prepared to arrive home on Tuesday afternoon and pick up the paper to find that there was no coverage whatsoever. It was almost as if the whole thing had been an illusion — that it hadn’t really been that big a deal.

As a member of the press, I have a respect for editors and the decisions they have to make about coverage. I know that the coverage of controversial issues and events presents special difficulty for editors, since a fair and unbiased newspaper covers multiple viewpoints. Most often, the press ends up being attacked by both sides for its attempt at what can only be described as a thankless task. The Tribune has covered local pro-life events and issues in the past.

But abortion in general and the March for Life in particular have always presented special difficulties for a newspaper that sets out to present unbiased coverage. How does one present unbiased coverage of an event like the march, which is overwhelmingly one-sided? The solution in past years has been a careful weaving together of this pro-life event and the various counter-protests that have surrounded it.

But recent marches have made this difficult, since the number of counter-protesters has dwindled over the years. It seems that the media has found it difficult to maintain unbiased coverage simply because there are no pro-choice protesters to be found. Following what seems to be a justified editorial philosophy, coverage of the March has likewise dwindled even as the annual event grows in size.

Thus it seems that pro-choice protesters have found their absence more valuable than their presence.


As applied to the Washington Post, however, the sentiment is likely misplaced. The Post didn't seem to have any problem ignoring dissenting opinions. When you show one picture for and one against, you leave the impression that the representations of the two points were similar. The did this with the March for Life, but definitely not for the anti-war protest.

For some newspapers, it may be a tough call. For the Washington Post, the bias has already made the decision.

Posted by Doug at 01:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 25, 2007

Scientific "Consensus"

Back in November, the National Registry of Environmental Professionals asked 793 of their members from 47 states some questions about global warming; its existence and causes, public policy response, and how it affects their jobs. Here's the existence and causes section.

The existence of global warming today
  • 82 percent of professionals report they think global warming is a real, measurable, climatic trend currently in effect.

  • 66 percent respond that the rate at which global warming may be occurring is a serious problem facing the planet.

  • 64 percent attribute certain phenomenon such as rising ocean levels, increased storm activity, severe drought, massive habitat loss, depletion of the Earth’s oxygen sinks, i.e. rain forests and ocean plankton, to the effects of global warming.

  • 68 percent agree that global warming is a trend that must be addressed as soon as possible.

The causes of global warming

  • 59 percent respond that current climactic activity exceeding norms calibrated by over 100 years of weather data collection can be, in large part, attributed to human activity.
  • 71 percent of environmental professionals, however, do consider the recent increase in hurricane activity in the Atlantic through 2005 and the Pacific through 2006, to be part of a larger natural cycle and not, for the most part, attributable to human activity.
82% is a pretty good number for considering the idea that global warming is happening. But beyond that, you can only get about two-thirds to agree on its affects and its urgency.

But it's the causes that really show how little consensus there is. Only 59% believe that the warming that exceeds 100-year norms is caused largely by humans. Put another way, 41% of environmental professionals either disagree or are not sure that humans are a significant contributor to warming. Thus, skepticism of it is hardly in the same league as Holocaust deniers.

The Weather Channel’s most prominent climatologist is advocating that broadcast meteorologists be stripped of their scientific certification if they express skepticism about predictions of manmade catastrophic global warming. This latest call to silence skeptics follows a year (2006) in which skeptics were compared to "Holocaust Deniers" and Nuremberg-style war crimes trials were advocated by several climate alarmists.

The Weather Channel’s (TWC) Heidi Cullen, who hosts the weekly global warming program "The Climate Code," is advocating that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) revoke their "Seal of Approval" for any television weatherman who expresses skepticism that human activity is creating a climate catastrophe.

Further, 71% think that the heavy 2005/2006 hurricane season was generally just part of the normal, natural cycle of weather. The NOAA said that and they got targeted by environmentalists. Now, all this does not mean that a former Vice President, in the movie poster for his Oscar-nominated film, can't try to draw a direct line between factories and hurricanes. It just means he's bucking the consensus. [Irony alert!]

So when somebody says to you that the debate about human-induced global warming is over, just have them ask the professionals, not the politicians.

Posted by Doug at 09:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2007

Good News from the Front

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have opened doors to the spread of the Gospel.

More Muslims converted to faith in Jesus Christ over the past decade than at any other time in human history. A spiritual revolution is under way throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia:

Iraq: More than 5,000 new Muslim converts to Christianity have been identified since the end of major combat operations. ... Also, more than 1 million Bibles [were] shipped into the country since 2003, and pastors report Iraqis are snatching them up so fast they constantly need more Bibles.

Afghanistan: only 17 Muslim converts to Christianity before 9/11/01, but now more than 10,000.


Other Muslim countries have also seen tremendous rates of conversion starting in the 80s and 90s. Read the whole article for the stunning numbers from Egypt, for example.

Posted by Doug at 02:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sexual Predators Get Free Reign in Public School

Another reason to homeschool.

An estimated 5 million students in United States schools have been assaulted sexually by teachers, according to a congressional report. But no one is calling for investigations or law enforcement crackdowns, there have been no campaigns to ban the offenders from schools, and in many states there aren't even any requirements such predator attacks be reported to education licensing agencies.

"We have approximately 5 million children suffering and no one is calling for an investigation, for any kind of data to be collected to find out why that many children are being hurt by teachers," said Terri Miller, who runs probably the only organization in the nation that focuses specifically on assaults by educators on students. "This is an epidemic."

In fact, in many cases, especially where the attacker is a woman and the student a male, such assaults are treated as a joke, with a hand-slap for the teacher, and some ribald locker room humor directed at the student.

WND has documented in recent months an alarming string of dozens of cases of female teacher-on-male student sexual assaults, but those are just part of the overall problem, Miller said.

Her volunteer group, called Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation, often feels overwhelmed by the dearth of information, injuries to students, and obstacles posed by opponents such as the National Education Association.


If the government's going to insist on pubic education, it must insist on safety in its facilities. But clearly that has not been a winning battle, neither regarding weapons & drugs nor sexually & psychologically speaking.

Posted by Doug at 02:20 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Scooter Making News, But Not Sandy

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has been pulling out the details from the Libby trial and the Plame kerfuffle for quite some time. As much as they have covered it, if you get your news from the TV or the paper, you may not have heard much about some of these nuggets. Example from yesterday

Ted Wells drops the news that David Gregory of NBC received a leak about Plame from Ari Fleischer on July 11:
Now shows Ari dislcoses [sic] to David Gregory on July 11 that Ambassador Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. Fleischer tells that before Libby was ever indicted. "I told David Gregory." Talks about time difference, says Ari leaked to Gregory first.

Now let's flash back to October 29, 2005, just after the Libby indictment. Russert has gathered the Washington Bureau to discuss the case on CNBC's "Tim Russert Show". At the time, I excerpted the transcript and suggested they were rehearsing their cover story. So let's cut to David Gregory:
GREGORY: And it is interesting--it's also interesting, I should just point out, that nobody called me at any point, which is unfortunately...
WILLIAMS: Apparently not.
GREGORY: ...not the point.
RUSSERT: Does anybody ever?
GREGORY: But I just wanted to note that.
RUSSERT: I've been meaning to talk to you about that.

Basically, given this and other discrepancies, it looks like the journalists haven't been completely upfront with what they knew and when they knew it. And Libby is the fall guy. Joe Wilson wanted to see Karl Rove frog-marched for what Joe thought was Karl's role in the leak (a leak that, still, no one has been indicted for), but perhaps we should be marching some reporters.

(Keep up with Just One Minute. Tons of good information on the Libby trial and the misinformation coming out of it.)

Meanwhile, there's been little to no coverage on the Sandy Berger story. If you have to ask, "Sandy who?", you're forgiven. Libby is being tried for an alleged lie to investigators in a case of the "leaking" of the name of a CIA employee who worked at CIA headquarters every day. Berger didn't do much, really, which explains the lack of interest by the media. All he really did is steal classified documents from the National Archives, hide them in his pants, destroy them, and keep potentially damaging information about President Clinton from reaching the 9/11 Commission. No big deal, right? Especially for those reporters for whom this really goes against the narrative.

Now Sandy reached a plea deal that kept him out of prison, but there's still the matter of knowing what he took. Part of that plea deal included a lie detector test to find out what he took, as a number of those documents were originals that had no copies. The Justice Department is dragging its feet, but some Representatives are trying to get this moving again.

Eighteen House Republicans have urged the Justice Department to proceed with a polygraph test for Samuel R. Berger, the former national security adviser who agreed to take the test as part of a plea of guilty of stealing documents from the National Archives.

"This may be the only way for anyone to know whether Mr. Berger denied the 9/11 commission and the public the complete account of the Clinton administration's actions or inactions during the lead-up to the terrorist attacks on the United States," the congressmen said in their letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

The congressmen -- led by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia -- said a prompt lie-detector test is needed to determine the extent of Mr. Berger's thievery, especially because the former Clinton administration adviser reviewed original documents for which there were no copies or inventory.
...
Mr. Davis, former chairman and now ranking Republican on the House Government Reform Committee, released a report by his staff on Jan. 9, saying a Justice Department investigation of Mr. Berger's admitted document theft was "remarkably incurious."

The report said the theft compromised national security "much more than originally disclosed" and resulted in "incomplete and misleading" information to the September 11 commission. It said Mr. Berger was willing to go to "extraordinary lengths to compromise national security, apparently for his own convenience."

In October, Mr. Davis led an effort to hold hearings to determine whether any documents were "destroyed, removed or were missing" after visits by Mr. Berger to the Archives. He said the full extent of Mr. Berger's document removal "can never be known" and the Justice Department could not assure the September 11 commission that it received all the documents to which Mr. Berger had access.


In an attempt to get some more attention to the Berger situation, Bill Bennett asked listeners to his radio show, "Morning in America", to come up with songs about it. (You can hear some excerpts of the entries and the well-done winner here.) This just hasn't garnered a lot of press, but with all the talk about implementing all most of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, wouldn't everyone want to make sure that the commission had all the facts? And therefore wouldn't getting full disclosure be a top priority of those wanting to implement them? Then why is it that only Republicans are pushing to get the whole story?

And why isn't more being reported on this? (OK, that question's rhetorical.)

Posted by Doug at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2007

Punishing Big Oil

Rev. Sensing has a must-read post on how punishing oil companies winds up punishing those consumers of oil.

Which is basically all of us.

Posted by Doug at 03:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Romney Piicks Up Endorsements

We've knocked the idea around about having Mitt Romney, a Mormon, as a presidential candidate for a Republican party that has a majority of evangelical Christians in it. According to Powerline, there are a couple of signs that Romney's political appeal may take precedence over his choice of religion.

First, they are noting (according to the Politico blog) that Denny Hastert will be endorsing Romney sometime today (may have already happened). Powerline notes, "They don't come much more mainstream, middle-American conservative than Denny Hastert."

Second in the comments, it's mentioned that Romney will be the commencement speaker at Hillsdale College, a nondenominational Christian college founded by Free Will Baptists.

Posted by Doug at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2007

Hoping for Failure

The QandO blog has a post commenting on this Fox poll (PDF file). The results of one particular question are troubling.

Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush 
announced last week to succeed?

16-17 Jan 07
------------------Yes-No-(Don't know)
Average-----------63%-22--15
Democrats---------51%-34--15
Republicans-------79%-11--10
Independents------63%-19--17


This is shocking. On average, 1 in 5 Americans want the troop surge to fail. I can understand disagreements on policies and methods, but hoping for failure is simply beyond the pale.

One wonders where the 1 in 3 Democrats are coming from who hope for failure. Is Bush-hatred become so all-consuming for them that they're hoping our troops can't get the job done and the the Iraqis are unable to work up a stable democracy and the insurgency manages to destabilize the region? That's what a failure to curtail the current problems would mean. This is tantamount to wishing harm on their own soldiers (but please don't question their patriotism).

Posted by Doug at 01:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Emperor Chavez

I'm on a "Chavez kick", I know, but the man just begs for coverage. Hugo and his buddies have created a scene so similar to Star Wars that George Lucas may be able to sue for copyright infringement.

Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants "revolutionary laws" to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.

He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve.


Wonder who got to play the Jar-Jar Binks part of officially giving Chancellor Palpatine President Chavez these "temporary" powers?

After making another comparison of the Venezuelan Congress to "the German Reichstag in the 1930s in voting itself into irrelevancy", the Captain notes the grim future, first for outside investors, and ultimately for the Venezuelan people.

Western investors in Venezuela will suffer the same fate as those invested in Cuba before the fall of Batiste, or in Mexico during their occasional efforts to nationalize industries. They will be lucky if they can sell off their assets to Chavez for pennies on the dollar before he can seize them outright. The window for those transactions will close very shortly.

More importantly, Chavez has condemned the people of Venezuela to oppression and further misery. When outside investors stop underwriting projects in the country, their economy will head straight down. Chavez will use what remains -- the oil production -- to make splashy festivals for the poor and open a few schools and hospitals. The vast majority of what profit he can take will go right back into the pockets of Chavez and his cronies.


I'm going to have to bring up again that it's the Sheehans and Belefontes and Glovers of the political spectrum (i.e. the Left) that have embraced this man in a bear hug. I assume they have no problem with a socialist taking dictatorial powers over a country? I know they'd be up in arms if Chavez was Republican, but a socialist dictator (and now he is indeed technically a dictator) is okey dokey? This tells us what the grass-roots left-wingers really want for our country, because socialism has worked so well every other place it's been tried.

Or not.

Posted by Doug at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2007

FISA Agrees to Bush Admin Reforms

Yeah, you're probably hearing the FISA-terrorist-wiretapping story spun many other ways, most unfavorable to President Bush, but is that really news? In the meantime, here's the real deal:The FISA court agreed to reforms requested by the Bush administration so that this wiretapping program (which is completely inbounds, Constitutionally speaking, contrary to many of its detractors) can continue it's record of success.

Posted by Doug at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2007

Misrepresenting Climate Policy, the Associated Press Way

Yeah, this is a hat tip to a 2-day-old Instapundit post, which is eons in blog time, but I thought it worth highlighting. In this story about how the tiny country of the United Arab Emirates beats the United States per capita in putting "demand on the global ecosystem", this line is mentioned about the second place US.

The United States is no longer bound by Kyoto, which the Bush administration rejected after taking office in 2001.

But as Glenn notes, based on a passage from what he calls "the not especially Bush-friendly Wikipedia", that is simply not true. You can chalk it up to "mere" incompetence or "simple" laziness, but it seems that almost always when the mainstream media get incompetent or lazy, conservatives and/or Republicans suffer (and liberals and/or Democrats look better). Honestly, when's the last time any news source (or your friendly, neighborhood liberal buddy) correctly noted that Clinton never submitted it to the Senate for ratification? If your going to insist that Bush"rejected" it, you must say the same thing about Clinton & Gore (notwithstanding Gore's "symbolic" signing of it; liberal good intentions don't count if they don't produce results).

Somehow, the fact that 80-90% of journalists vote Democrat just doesn't seem to register with folks like Eric Alterman who insist that the media lean conservative. That Bush "rejected" Kyoto is such a Known Fact(tm) in those circles does make its way into reporting, and it ain't the only thing that does.

Posted by Doug at 10:01 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Regulate ‘Em, Part Deux

A good ending to this episode.

A campaign of telephone calls and e-mails from American homeschoolers is being credited with convincing legislators in France to withdraw a plan that would have made such home instruction efforts there illegal, according to the Home School Legal Defense Fund.

"Thank you so much for your calls and e-mails to the French Embassy," an alert from the organization said. "In an incredible turnaround of events, the sponsor of the restrictive amendments which would have outlawed homeschooling has withdrawn his amendments."

An earlier alert had gone out just a few days ago, noting that a "draconian" plan had been proposed in the French parliament that would shut down homeschooling across the nation.

(Story continues below)

The specifics would be that "no parent would be allowed to homeschool unless they showed that the health or handicap of their child makes it necessary for him or her to be taught at home."

Even if a family qualified under such restrictions, the HSLDA said the proposal would have required the family to submit to a home visit by a government official each year, and their curriculum would have to come from the "National Center of Correspondent Teaching" or from an approved source.


Once again, the failing wished to regulate the successful
French education officials earlier told lawmakers that 80,000 children start secondary school without really knowing how to read, write or count, and that is one of the main reasons for "parents who decide to homeschool their children."

And, of course, the catch phrase for this almost-loss of freedom was one you've heard before and will hear again. It's the same in any language. (Emphasis mine.)
"The French Minister of the Family, Philippe Bas, vocally opposed several articles of this huge bill entitled 'Protection de L'Enfance,' which means for "Protection of the Children,'" [Senior Counsel Christopher] Klicka wrote. "He specifically opposed the sections regulating and essentially prohibiting homeschooling, saying in the French parliament: 'As they are, I am not favorable to these amendments [numbers 127 and 128], I find them too restrictive…'"

"We want to force you to use an inferior system for the children." Once again, good intentions from the Left trump actual results or actions.

In Germany, where homeschooling is illegal, one homeschool advocacy group got quite the threatening letter from their government.

That threat from a state education official was reported in an English translation at the Homeschoolblogger.com website.

"The Minister of Education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling…," said a government letter in response to a request for consideration for a family whose children were taken to school by police.

"You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers on the basis of paragraph 86 of the education law as a measure of the execution of authority. It is known to the ministry of education that primary school students can be particularly burdened by the related contradiction between the norms of the parent-house and that of the public school through such forced escorts."


Want a real chill up your spine? Listen to the government's proposed solution to the problem.
In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.

(Emphasis mine.) Besides the veiled threat, the blogger notes the irony.
It is interesting that in a state whose constitution is dominated by religious language and quotes the necessity of building Christian character, as well as guaranteeing the natural right of parents to have a say in the education of their children AND religious freedom, that the state would specifically mention that they are working to "bring the religious convictions of the family in line" with the goals of the state.

But as we know here, religious influence and language in a founding document is easily ignored and cheerfully misinterpreted when it interferes with greater governmental power.

Posted by Doug at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 15, 2007

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Regulate 'Em

PBS did a story about homeschooling last Wednesday. My favorite quote from the transcript is this, in response to a professor suggesting that homeschooling get "good regulations" applied to it:

Mr. [Bruce] SHORTT [author of "The Harsh Truth About Public Schools"]: I think it's ironic that someone with an obviously authoritarian agenda is attempting to lecture others, and unfortunately education seems to be one of those areas in which the failures astonishingly insist upon trying to regulate the successful.

An interesting statistic that they mention is that the number of homeschoolers in the country is growing at a rate 10 times that of the general school-age population. People are fleeing the government-run schools in droves, and it's the government that thinks it should regulate those alternatives.

Instead of figuring out what's wrong, they seek to regulate what's working. And they'd never let you keep your own money--directly or in the form of vouchers--to help you out. That's government at work.

Posted by Doug at 02:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2007

Chavez v the Church

No contest in that match, according to Hugo.

In addition, you tell me if there is an unstated threat when, after 'scolding' the Church "for criticizing his decision not to renew the license of an opposition-aligned television station," Chavez said:
the state respects the church. The church should respect the state. I wouldn't like to return to the times of confrontation with Venezuelan bishops, but it's not up to me. It's up to the Venezuelan bishops.

Translation: If there is a conflict between me and the Church, the Church must be wrong. If Chavez was the first to spew the sort of nonsense he does so often, he might be cutely incorrigible.

But this isn't the first time faith has heard in the distance the report of socialist war drums. What then?


Hat tip to Acton Institute's PowerBlog, a general must read.

Posted by Doug at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Christians and Government Schools

From LaShawn Barber:

I feel for Christians who can't afford private schools and for whatever reason aren't equipped to homeschool. I don't believe in fighting the government for piecemeal concessions like "prayer in schools." Children don't need permission to pray. It is a private matter that can be done without formalities and protests, which in my view cheapen and obscure the whole purpose of prayer.

At the same time, I do believe taxpaying parents have a right to complain and seek change in government schools. I just don't think it's worth the effort for Christians to get themselves worked up over problems in a corrupted, Democratic party-controlled (teachers unions), monopolized, government propaganda machine like the public school system.


She also poses 3 questions for readers to answer.

Posted by Doug at 01:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2007

Chavez Continues Power Grab

Hugo Chavez, with the backing of his guys in the Venezuelan Congress, continues to consolidate his power.

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was sworn in on Wednesday for a new six-year term that he vowed to use to press a radical socialist revolution including nationalizations that have roiled financial markets.

Emboldened by his landslide re-election win, the typically combative anti-U.S. leader has gone on the attack, deciding to strip a private opposition TV channel of its license and take over some major companies owned by foreign investors.

"Fatherland, socialism or death -- I take the oath," Chavez said.

The man who calls Cuban President Fidel Castro his mentor changed tradition by draping the presidential sash from his left shoulder instead of his right in what he says is a symbol of his socialist credentials.

Legislators at the ceremony in Congress chanted "Long live socialism."

Investors took fright this week at the leftist drive that further consolidates power in the hands of a former coup leader who already controls Congress, the courts and says he has total support in the army and the giant state oil company.

As the United States criticized Chavez's moves against private property, the stock market lost almost a fifth of its value on Tuesday, debt prices tumbled to a six-week low and the currency changed hands at nearly twice the official rate


But he's not worried.
Still, buoyed by strong oil revenues and high popularity, Chavez is expected to ride out any economic and political storm.

Something tells me that there's a high correlation between "strong oil revenues" and "high popularity". If he's buying the latter with the former, like he's doing in Harlem, it's no wonder he keeps getting re-elected.

In the meantime, he's planning on holding on to this power for as long as he can make it last, never mind term limits.

A leading anti-U.S. voice in the world and in the vanguard of a shift to the left in Latin America, Chavez now wants to scrap presidential term limits and lead the OPEC nation for decades.

Chavez, who rode to Congress for the swearing-in ceremony in an open-top car waving at crowds of supporters, has said his new term's plans include stripping the central bank of its autonomy and taking on special legislative powers.

...

Chavez's nationalization plans remain hazy and the utilities and foreign investors want to know whether he plans to take a 51-percent governing stake or seize all of their enterprises.

Chavez has already confiscated large cattle ranches. But his decision to nationalize the country's biggest telecommunications company CANTV and power firms represents a bold new policy.


Calling him a dictator may not be technically correct, but in word and deed he is most certainly consolidating his hold over the country and ensuring it continues, stealing entire business sectors if need be.

Next time you see a Sheehan or a Belafonte plant a big wet one on him, just remember who supports him and who his useful idiots are.

Posted by Doug at 11:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 09, 2007

Depends on Your Definition of "Village"

Canadian kids can legally have 3 parents.

(Toronto, Ontario) An Ontario boy can legally have two mothers and a father, the province's highest court ruled Tuesday.

The same-sex partner of the child's biological mother went to court seeking to also be declared a mother of the boy.

After hearing arguments in 2003, Superior Court Justice David Aston dismissed the application saying he didn't have the jurisdiction to rule in the case.

Court was told the child has three parents: his biological father and mother (identified in court documents as B.B. and C.C., respectively) and C.C.'s partner, the appellant A.A.


Once this is a legal precedent after the fact--after the child-bearing arrangement--it's a very small slip to allow this at the beginning--marrying 3 people at a time. Talk about taking a village to raise a child!

Those of you who thought that allowing same-sex marriage wouldn't open up any uinintended doors, is the slippery slope coming into focus just a little bit more?

(Hat tip to Stop the ACLU.)

Posted by Doug at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2007

God Is In Control (or "Why I Virtually Stopped Blogging and Why I'm Back")

Regular readers will have noticed that my contributions to this blog have been slight in the past few months, though they are on the rise. The reason for this is that a disease I hadn't thought much about in the past 10 years decided to make another appearance and made typing a chore. My Multiple Sclerosis was back. But while there is bad news involved, there is certainly a lot of good news and praise to God involved

Just before Halloween, a portion of the back of my head went numb (officially making me a numbskull). By the time I got to my neurologist, other portions of my body had gone numb, mostly on my right side. Included in this was my right hand, and, being right-handed, this presented me with some issues. The first time I had MS this bad was actually the first time I got it 20 years ago, and it numbed the whole left side of my body from shoulder to foot. However, I could still write and do most of what I did during the day with just my right hand. Other small relapses during that first 10 years were mostly inconveniences. This time, it was quite different.

Fortunately, my livelihood doesn't rest on my ability to write, but rather to type; I'm a software guy. Still, typing got to be a bit of work. I normally touch type, but now my right had was limited to using my first two fingers to get the keys on the right side of the keyboard and I had to give my left hand more to do. (Touch typists will understand when I say that all uses of the Shift key, spacebar and some letters in the middle were done on the left for a couple months.) I downloaded a free demo of voice recognition software and used that for my program specs and documentation, for e-mails, and for a little blogging. (I'm impressed with the state of the art in this area, especially with no voice training required. I'm unimpressed with how much of this capability is natively in Windows.) For computer programming, however, the keyboard is still the only real option. (Yes, I checked out some voice software for programming, but they were all computer-language-specific, and there weren't any for the language and the environment I was working in.) By the time I got done with the day's typing, I was in no mood to do more on the blog, hence my scarcity.

That's the lion's share of the bad news, but in all this there's quite a bit of good news, and God's getting praise and credit for it.

First of all, the treatment has been working very well. Instead of the handful of prednisone pills I'd take daily for months in 1986, now they give you even more prednisone but via IV and only for 3 days. (This is to reduce the swelling of the nerves.) The numbness has receded almost completely, and at this point, while my writing is still worse than my 6-year-olds, I'm up to using the correct fingers for the right-side keyboard keys (though I'm not touch typing just yet, as the fine sensation of my fingers on the keys isn't really back; my error rate is still not back down to normal). When my doctor got the MRIs back, which would show how widespread the MS "plaques" were, he expected to see between 15 and 20 dots on the film showing the locations. Instead he found 5, with a possible faint 6th dot. He also expected to see residual "holes" or scars from previous relapses, but found none.

And the good news actually started last summer. Prior to my first MS episode in '86, my wife and I had very little life insurance. Once this hit, insurance companies wanted to charge a much higher premium on me, so after it appeared I went ahead and took what I could afford to get adequate coverage. Well, a lot has changed in my family in 20 years (notably the births of our four choldren), so this summer I started looking again, since I hadn't been medicated for it in the previous 10 years. Sure enough, there was an insurance company (AIG, if you're interested) that wouldn't consider the MS since it had been that long. I got something like 6 times my previous coverage for a little over half the premium. So in my estimation, God held off on further episodes until I was able to get properly covered.

Some might say that what God should do is get rid of it completely, if He's the kind, loving God I believe Him to be. What I'll say to that is that in a number of ways, one of which I would term miraculous, He's let me know that He's in control and that He's allowing this for whatever purpose. He has let me know in no uncertain terms that while He can cure it, He just isn't, at least right now. Knowing that, I've been able to accept this and not be bitter about it.

So that's why I've been rather quiet of late, but now that I'm working on getting my typing faculties back, I consider blogging physical therapy. :)

Posted by Doug at 02:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stem Cells with "Less Baggage"

One more reason that the ethical issues with embryonic stem cells don't have to ignored to advance science.

New research released Sunday strongly suggests the success of a third category of stem cells that carry with them less political baggage. The two previously best-known sources for stem cells have been fetuses and adult tissues. The newly discovered stem cells are amniotic-fluid stem cells that reside in the placenta and the liquid around human fetuses in the mother’s womb.

The new cells are nearly as adaptable to multiply and change into many different cell types as the other strains. The potential is huge, using this technology body tissue can be renewed, or used to treat a range of diseases. They may also allow physicians and technicians to grow new organs in a laboratory for later transplantation.


All these sources of stem cells do not require an advancement of the culture of death. This is the path we should be taking, in a big way. Destroying embryos doesn't even have to be on the table.

Posted by Doug at 01:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Faith of our Founders

Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost takes an honest look at the religious faith of America's Founding Fathers. His first conclusion is:

With the exception of the handful of orthodox Christians, the majority of the founding fathers subscribed to a religious view that we would nowadays classify as Unitarianism. A rejection of Trinitarianism clearly puts one outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity. We should not, therefore, claim that a historical figure is a “Christian” when we would consider someone who held those beliefs today to be a heretic. The leaders during the revolutionary era may have subscribed to a Judeo-Christian view of morality, but few of them were orthodox believers.

However, his second conclusion is:
While we Christians can claim few founding fathers as fellow believers, the atheistic secularist can claim none. Not one of the significant leaders was an atheist, much less subscribed to the modern idea of secularism.

Essentially, Carter says that the whole modern idea of government working from a purely secular/atheist point of view is not something the Founders would have generally recognized as their idea. An "established religion" meant something specific to them, and it wasn''t that government should be devoid of religious influence at all. (Military chaplains were set up by these same fellas, as an example.) The Michael Newdows of the country should take note.

Posted by Doug at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The DNC, Taxes and Chapped Lips

Thus is the title of Danny Carlton's description of how dealing with a little discomfort in the short term leads to a better outcome in the long term, if you have the maturity to both stop licking your lips and stop raising taxes. Democrats have made it easier for Congress to raise taxes (surprise, surprise) enabling what he calls Chapped Lips Syndrome as applied to society.

Attacking the wealthy feels good in a myopic, class-envy, immature way, but makes the economy suffer. If the economy suffers, those with less will inevitably suffer more. A mature, intelligent society will encourage business (within reasonable restrictions) and solve the problem. The immature society will continue to attack the rich and make the economy continue to slide downhill.

Posted by Doug at 09:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2007

Patterico Skewers L.A. Times

Patterico is out with his annual round-up of liberal bias, general incompetence, and some bright spots from his favorite target; the L. A. Times. It's amazing to me (OK, not really) that when the media make huge mistakes in coverage of big news items, it's virtually always in a way that tilts left. And all this while some think the media has a conservative bias.

Posted by Doug at 02:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

"The God Delusion"

John Bambenek, writing at Blogger News Network, has a devastating review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. What some are hailing as a defense of reason, Bambenek shows to be what he calls, "a rehash of pop philosophy and loosely strung together anecdotes, half-truths, and outright falsehoods". Well worth reading.

Posted by Doug at 09:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 30, 2006

Smashing the Charity Stereotypes

The New York Times asked, "Are we cheap?" Liberals give their opinions on that.

"Yes," they say. Former President Carter recently said the rich states "don't give a damn" about people in poor countries. And when it comes to helping the needy in poor countries, U2 singer Bono says, "It's the crumbs off our tables that we offer these countries."

Crumbs because many other countries, such as Norway, Portugal and Japan, give a larger share of their wealth to needy countries.

The United States gave out $20 billion in foreign aid last year, but as a percentage of our wealth, we rank 21st out of the 22 major donor countries.

Actress Angelina Jolie is horrified by it.

"It's disgusting. It really is disgusting," she said. "I think most American people, you know, really do think we give more. And I know that they would if they could understand how little they give and how much more we can afford to give, absolutely, without even noticing it."


But what these folks are ignoring is that America is one of the most generous countries in the world when you look at how we take personal responsibility for our charity. As much as the general consensus has inched more and more towards the idea that it's the government's job, a very large segment of our population understands that "rugged individualism" not only means being personally independent but also means taking personal responsibility for the needy, and not shoving it off onto some other group or institution. Predictably however, those who do gauge things by institutional or governmental charity are blind to the reality of the generous America.

Carol Adelman at the Hudson Institute has studied how much Americans give privately in foreign aid. She says it's a myth that Americans are stingy.

"We're one of the most generous people in the world, and that's because of our private philanthropy," she said.

Adelman published her findings in the institute's "Index of Global Philanthropy," which found that while the U.S. government gave about $20 billion in foreign aid in 2004, privately, Americans gave $24.2 billion.

On top of that, immigrants in America send about $47 billion abroad to family members and home towns. That's anything but stingy.
...
After the tsunami two years ago, the U.S. government pledged approximately $900 million to relief efforts, but American individuals gave $2 billion in food, clothing and cash.


So America's individuals send out more than three times cash that the government does, and continue to give when tragedy strikes. This is not a portrait of a stingy country; that is, if you see the whole picture. And of course, there's more to charity than just cash.
The fact that most of America's charitable gifts come from volunteers, not government, demonstrates that Americans are different from people in every other country.

"No other country comes close," said Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. Brooks studies charitable giving and has a new book, "Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide."

"The fact is that Americans give more than the citizens of any other country. … They also volunteer more," Brooks said. "Americans per capita individually give about three and a half times more money per year, than the French per capita. … Seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians."

"Now, you might notice that these other countries have different average incomes or different tax systems," he said. "But even when you take that into account, Americans give 10 times more than the Italians. The fact is, that Americans give on a different scale than anybody else in the world."


The problem with America's reputation comes from its a self-appointed "ambassadors", like Carter, Bono and Jolie, who complain that we don't funnel enough money through a government that siphons off 75 cents off of each "charitable" tax dollar. In the meantime, while Hollywood and the Left trash them, the average American continues to give to charities with a much better value for dollar given. But this generosity isn't even on the radar for those whom the government is the answer to every problem, and who disdained private solutions while supporting public waste.

And who's doing this giving? The aforementioned book by Brooks shatters all the stereotypes and puts those charity ambassadors in a different light. According to Brooks,

  • 24 of the top 25 states where people give an above average percent of their income were red states in the previous presidential election.
  • Conservatives give about 30 percent more than liberals, even though on average conservative-headed families make slightly less money.
  • People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.
  • People at the lower end of the income scale give almost 30 percent more of their income than do those who make $1 million or more.
  • Religion is the single biggest predictor as to whether someone will be charitable. Religious people give to four times as much to charity, and not just to their own church but also to outside organizations and even explicitly non-religious charities.

Seems like it's not so far off the mark that the more you expect government to do the job of charity, the less likely you are to get involved in local need issues. It looks like what is needed is for these charity "ambassadors" to get more in touch with their ideological brethren. In the meantime, they could stop bad-mouthing the American people, including the allegedly "greedy" right-wing Republican churchgoers. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

Posted by Doug at 03:48 PM | Comments (2)

November 16, 2006

Diebold Implicated! (Well, Almost.)

From James Taranto comes word that indeed we may have a Diebold lawsuit after all. One guess which side wants to sue.

One advantage of Democrats winning last week's elections is that we've been spared all the complaints about "stolen" elections. Well, almost all of them. In Florida's 13th District, vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris for her ill-starred Senate run, Republican Vern Buchanan eked out a victory by about 400 votes. Angry Left teen idol Markos "Kos" Moulitsas is crying foul:
Down in Florida, an epic battle is brewing over the electronic Diebold voting machines that ate 18,000 votes for Democrat Christine Jennings in FL-13 and cost her the election.

Not only is an expensive recount in the cards, but campaign and DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] lawyers are flocking down, demanding the state freeze the machines for inspection.

These are the opening salvos in what will be the battle to end Diebold.

But only 36 people have given via our Blue Majority Act Blue page for the legal battles ahead.

To put it bluntly, to anyone who has ever complained about Diebold, this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. No more talk needed. No more advocacy needed. This is a real-world, legal frontal assault on those electronic voting machines.

If we win this battle, you'll be able to kiss Diebold goodbye.


A little later in the day, Kos had an update:
Update II: Machines in FL-13 were made by ES&S. Same difference.

Taranto notes that ES&S, Electric Systems and Software, Inc, is a Diebold competitor. Again, it's the Left putting up a heads-I-win-tails-you-cheated scenario, even if the "evil" Diebold isn't involved. How unserious and knee-jerk can you get?

Posted by Doug at 02:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 14, 2006

Moses and The Ten ... Amendments?

Pastor Todd DuBord got a bit of a shock when he did the DC tour recently. When they got to the Supreme Court building, revisionism was readily apparent.

He was most disturbed by what appears to be revisionism in the presentations given to visitors at the Supreme Court. There, he said, his tour guide was describing the marble frieze directly above the justices' bench.

"Between the images of the people depicting the Majesty of the Law and Power of Government, there is a tablet with ten Roman numerals, the first five down the left side and the last five down the right. This tablet represents the first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights," she said.

The ten what? was DuBord's thought.


Indeed, Pastor DuBord has done his research (click here for the PDF of his letter, containing all his information about this and other places history is being erased). The thing is, it's not just a matter of ignoring Christian figures and influences, it's being actively denied,
He then asked, "If there are no other depictions of Moses or the Ten Commandments on the building except on the South Wall Frieze in the U.S. Supreme Court, then what about on the east side of the building where Moses is the central figure among others, holding both tablets of the Ten Commandments, one in each arm?"

"Her response shocked me as much as the guide inside the Court chamber. 'There is no depiction of Moses and the Ten Commandments like that on the U.S. Supreme Court,'" DuBord said he was told.

He asked if there were any pictures of the representation, and she pulled one out.

"Her eyes widened in surprise. There was Moses in photo and description as the central figure, holding the Ten Commandments (tablets), one in each hand," DuBord wrote.

Although there are six depictions of Moses and-or the Ten Commandments at the Supreme Court, the tour guides had been trained to admit to only the one on Moses, he said.


DuBord has traced at least one of the reasons this change has been taking place. Read the whole article or his message to the Court to learn about the letter from the sculptor saying it was the 10 Amendments, but also why this letter's authenticity is dubious (and also about the other letters this same sculptor wrote about similar depictions of his specifically about the 10 Commandments around DC).

One has to wonder why our country's Christian heritage and influence has to be "sanitized", and who's responsible for it.

Posted by Doug at 02:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Diebold Cleared of All Charges

OK, they weren't actually brought up on any for the performance of their voting machines. But that's the point. Democrats were all prepared with their lawyers should they not win where they thought they should. But they won, so there were suddenly no voting irregularities. An extended family member of mine sent this along. He's not all that into politics by his own admission, but this really made an impression on him. This is a short letter to the editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

With the recent incredibly close and important election results in the senatorial races, I have not heard the tremendous whining and wild claims of fraud, voter intimidation, voting machine failures, etc.

Does that mean that America has solved all of its vast voting issues, or that the Democrats won this time?


I'd add, does that mean that we won't hear of any problems even when Republicans win in the future?

My sister pointed out that George Allen proved what a good sport he is by not calling for a recount in his razor-thin loss to Jim Webb. Would that more politicians (and party machinery) were like that.

Posted by Doug at 10:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 13, 2006

Abortion After the Fact

In Britian, they want to open up the discussion on whether abortion can happen sometime after the baby has already been born.

Doctors involved in childbirth are calling for an open discussion about the ethics of euthanasia for the sickest of newborn babies. The option to end the suffering of a severely damaged newborn baby - who might have been aborted if the parents had known earlier the extent of its disabilities and potential suffering - should be discussed, says the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in its evidence to an inquiry by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which examines ethical issues raised by new developments.

The college says the Nuffield's working group should "think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best-interests test and active euthanasia as they are means of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns".

The inquiry is looking into "the ethics of prolonging life in foetuses and the newborn". Euthanasia was not originally on the agenda, because of its illegality. But the RCOG submission has persuaded the inquiry to broaden its investigation, although any recommendation favouring euthanasia for newborns is highly unlikely before a change in the law.


Once one envelope has been successfully pushed aside, the next lies not that far away. The question of extraordinary lifesaving steps is one thing, but "active euthanasia" brings the matter into a whole new light. One has to wonder where the ethics and morality of those wanting such discussions to take place have gone.

And here's an interesting attempt at selling the idea.

The college ethics committee tells the inquiry it feels euthanasia "has to be covered and debated for completion and consistency's sake ... if life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome." It points out that a pregnant woman who discovers at 28 weeks that her baby has a serious abnormality can have an abortion. Parents of a baby born at 24 weeks with the same abnormality have no such option.

"See, if this were an option, then we'd have more babies carried to term. Isn't that wonderful? Only then would be bother with the eugenics. And really now, isn't killing an already-born preemie just the same as a late-term abortion anyway?"

Abortion, being commonplace in our society, is now the foundation on which we start removing the infirm and the helpless. A comment on the Redstate post that gets the hat tip notes this:

I remember fairly recently they just uncovered a mass grave filled with Hitler's first victims. They weren't Jews, Gays, Gypsies or any other people group. They were the disabled and infirm. Now the reason they were killed was for the perfection of the race, but I also don't swallow the "it is for their own good" argument-especially when those who are being put out of the misery may not have a voice or a choice.

Unfettered abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and eugenics are all faces of the same thing; a lack of respect for life.

Posted by Doug at 01:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Great Misreading

And so it begins.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 — Democratic leaders in the Senate vowed on Sunday to use their new Congressional majority to press for troop reductions in Iraq within a matter of months, stepping up pressure on the administration just as President Bush is to be interviewed by a bipartisan panel examining future strategy for the war.

The Democrats — the incoming majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada; the incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan; and the incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware — said a phased redeployment of troops would be their top priority when the new Congress convenes in January, even before an investigation of the conduct of the war.

“We need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months,” Mr. Levin said in an appearance on the ABC News program “This Week.” In a telephone interview later, Mr. Levin added, “The point of this is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they are going to have to solve their own problems.”


This is a clear violation of truth in labelling. Remember, one year ago, the Democrats voted overwhelmingly against this very maneuver. Their main voice in this, John Murtha, called for it and wrote his own resolution on the matter. The Republicans didn't bring Murtha's up for a vote, but did bring up a virtually identical one that the Dems were completely against. See here for a comparison. They wouldn't put their votes where their mouths were, and apparently didn't want to be considered the Cut and Run Party. But now that they have control of the legislature, and think they have a mandate for their position, they're going full steam ahead.

This is most likely a huge misreading of the recent election results. The NY Times wrote an article on one of their polls, which, unsurprisingly, tilts left (e.g. they ask which party is more likely to bring the troops home, but doesn't ask which party is more likely to achieve victory). What isn't covered but requires you to click on a sidebar link is one of the questions about strategy. Only 27% want to remove all troops from Iraq. Those who want to continue the current strategy (8%) plus those who want a change in strategy (61%) compromise a vast majority (69%) that want, not this retreat the Democrats will propose, but a course that will lead to something that the poll respondents consider victory.

Yes, everyone's got their own idea of what this should be (mine is an Iraqi democracy that can defend itself, thought you really can't call the removal of Hussein's regime and the killing and capturing of many top al Qaeda honchos a complete "defeat"). But the point is that the Democrats are looking at a general dissatisfaction with the prosecution of the war and mistaking it for dissatisfaction with simply being in the war.

This is the Vietnam blunder; bailing out of an unpopular war before the job's done, and allowing the region to descend into chaos for a generation. Until Iraq is ready to stand on its own, someone else will have to hold them up. Either it'll be us, or it'll be one of the many other factions eager to toast the fledgling democracy. The Democrats are either refusing to remember history, or are playing politics with the lives of the Iraqis, whom they claim concern over when they hear civilian casualty figures. And yet they wish to set us on a course that will condemn far more to death in a struggle for power and, based on the winner, that struggle's aftermath.

Posted by Doug at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 08, 2006

Election Roundup

As of now, Democrats have been given control of the House of Representatives, and there are two outstanding races in the Senate that will determine who controls that chamber. This is definitely going to make it harder for Republicans to get their initiatives through, to be sure, but let's look a little closer.

As Michelle Malkin notes, Republicans may have lost but conservatism did not. She lists a number of indicators.

Property rights initiatives limiting eminent domain won big. MCRI, the anti-racial preference measure, passed resoundingly. Congressman Tom Tancredo, the GOP's leading warrior against illegal immigration--opposed by both the open-borders Left and the open-borders White House--won a fifth term handily. Gay marriage bans won approval in 3 states. And as of this writing, the oil tax initiative, Prop. 87--backed by deep-pocketed Hollywood libs, is trailing badly in California.

While an AP article headlines 3 items that could be considered conservative setbacks--rejection of SD abortion ban and AZ gay marriage ban, and approval of stem cell research in Missouri--it lists later on in the article all the items that could be considered conservative wins, and on balance conservatism did very well. Written after Malkin's post, it notes 8 states that banned gay marriage, as well as the aforementioned sunsetting of affirmative action in Michigan, and a number of anti-illegal-immigration initiatives in Arizona. (And the Missouri stem cell amendment, as I noted previously, was passed with a margin that could suggest that if it had been worded honestly, it may not have passed at all.)

Also, as ScrappleFace notes, the win for Lieberman and the loss for Lincoln Chafee could be considered a gain of 2 seats for Republicans. >grin<

So unlike Democrats after previous elections, you won't find Republicans hiding under the covers for days, packing for their move to Canada, or suing Diebold. (Gee, where did all those Democrats go that insisted that Diebold machines were "fixed"? Is it OK when they're "fixed" for Democrats? Love the choice; either Democrats win, or someone cheated.) The victory for Democrats was more a typical 6-year-itch midterm result mixed with some "throw the bums out" mentality with some hope by Republican voters that this may wake up the Republican lawmakers, as I noted in this thread. I think that there was plenty of deserved anger with Republican lawmakers, but this, in my opinion, wasn't the way to express it.

And don't forget all the moderate to conservative Democrats that were elected, including many former Republicans like Webb in Virginia (though the "elected" part has yet to be determined there).

What will they do with that platform?

Will they try, for instance, to impeach the president? Or will they stick to Ms Pelosi's stated goal of leadership?

Probably the latter. Many of the new intake are moderate Democrats, conservatives even, who are not looking for an ideological fight.


Could they have won without pro-Iraq-war, anti-abortion Democrats? Given some of the margins of victory, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if they'd all looked more like Ned Lamont.

So Republicans should not, and most likely won't, go sulking around your office. Yeah we're disappointed, and we deserved much of what we got. On the other hand, apart from party label, this election shows that the American public in general still leans conservative.

Posted by Doug at 01:43 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 06, 2006

The Only Issue

Orson Scott Card, Mormon and well-known science fiction writer and (former) Democrat voter, has a (rather lengthy) column as to why he'll be voting Republican tomorrow. He calls it "The Only Issue This Election Day".

There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.

And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.

If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.

Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case -- if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.

But at least there will be a chance.

I say this as a Democrat, for whom the Republican domination of government threatens many values that I hold to be important to America's role as a light among nations.

But there are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it -- and in the most damaging possible way -- I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.

To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- the party I joined back in the 1970s -- is dead. Of suicide.


Personally, I have a number of other issues that I agree with the Republicans on, and hence my predilections to vote for them anyway. But this is worth noting, coming from someone of the religious Left (and while I and others may have some doctrinal and theological differences, we're not going to debate the LDS religion in the comment thread; violations will be cheerfully deleted).

Card hits many topics--nation building, the hope of democracy, the Sunni/Shi'ite dynamic, historical blunders that Democrats are willing to repeat, the anti-American media, the questions of Iran and North Korea, Bush's conduct of the War on Terror--to make the point that Bush is indeed playing his cards quite right in the Middle East and the world, and that, in spite of obvious problems in the short term, the long term strategy should continue, and America shouldn't bail out on people whom we've helped liberate until they are ready to pick up the mantle themselves.

Card knows who he's going to vote for, and he makes quite the case for his decision. This is one article really worth reading before you step into the voting booth.

Posted by Doug at 01:17 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 03, 2006

Democrats Pick Up Major Endorsement

There's certainly no ambiguity as to who these guys wants to win.

Everybody has an opinion about next Tuesday's midterm congressional election in the U.S. - including senior terrorist leaders interviewed by WND who say they hope Americans sweep the Democrats into power because of the party's position on withdrawing from Iraq, a move, as they see it, that ensures victory for the worldwide Islamic resistance.

The terrorists told WorldNetDaily an electoral win for the Democrats would prove to them Americans are "tired."

They rejected statements from some prominent Democrats in the U.S. that a withdrawal from Iraq would end the insurgency, explaining an evacuation would prove resistance works and would compel jihadists to continue fighting until America is destroyed.

They said a withdrawal would also embolden their own terror groups to enhance "resistance" against Israel.

"Of course Americans should vote Democrat," Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group and the infamous leader of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, told WND.


And there's more.
Muhammad Saadi, a senior leader of Islamic Jihad in the northern West Bank town of Jenin, said the Democrats' talk of withdrawal from Iraq makes him feel "proud."

"As Arabs and Muslims we feel proud of this talk," he told WND. "Very proud from the great successes of the Iraqi resistance. This success that brought the big superpower of the world to discuss a possible withdrawal."

Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas' military wing in the Gaza Strip, said the policy of withdrawal "proves the strategy of the resistance is the right strategy against the occupation."

As they request Americans to vote Democrat, they buttress the position Republicans have taken; leaving Iraq before it's ready is to hand a huge victory to terrorism, which will tend to increase it. Responding to Nancy Pelosi's suggestion that our leaving Iraq will mean the jihadists leave, they laughed.

Islamic Jihad's Saadi, laughing, stated, "There is no chance that the resistance will stop."

He said an American withdrawal from Iraq would "prove the resistance is the most important tool and that this tool works. The victory of the Iraqi revolution will mark an important step in the history of the region and in the attitude regarding the United States."

Jihad Jaara said an American withdrawal would "mark the beginning of the collapse of this tyrant empire (America)."

"Therefore, a victory in Iraq would be a greater defeat for America than in Vietnam."

Jaara said vacating Iraq would also "reinforce Palestinian resistance organizations, especially from the moral point of view. But we also learn from these (insurgency) movements militarily. We look and learn from them."

Hamas' Abu Abdullah argued a withdrawal from Iraq would "convince those among the Palestinians who still have doubts in the efficiency of the resistance."

"The victory of the resistance in Iraq would prove once more that when the will and the faith are applied victory is not only a slogan. We saw that in Lebanon (during Israel's confrontation against Hezbollah there in July and August); we saw it in Gaza (after Israel withdrew from the territory last summer) and we will see it everywhere there is occupation," Abdullah said.


They're not all absolutely confident that Democrats will pull us out of Iraq, but they'd rather cast their lot with them given the choice. Remember, you have a choice to make, too.

Posted by Doug at 01:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pres. of Natl. Assoc. of Evangelicals Steps Aside

Rev. Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, has left his post while allegations of homosexual sex and meth use are being investigated.

The Rev. Ted Haggard resigned as president of the 30 million-member association Thursday after being accused of paying the man for monthly trysts over the past three years.

Haggard, a married father of five, denied the allegations, but also stepped aside as head of his 14,000-member New Life Church pending an investigation.

"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity," he said in a statement. "I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."

Carolyn Haggard, spokeswoman for the New Life Church and the pastor's niece, said a four-member church panel will investigate the allegations. The board has the authority to discipline Haggard, including removing him from ministry work.

The acting senior pastor at New Life, Ross Parsley, told KKTV-TV of Colorado Springs that Haggard admitted that some of the accusations were true.

"I just know that there has been some admission of indiscretion, not admission to all of the material that has been discussed but there is an admission of some guilt," Parsley told the station.


If true, this is another case of a fallible human being getting caught in sin. The question will be how this is dealt with; how the church and Rev. Haggard deal with the situation. Charges of hypocrisy may be reasonably levelled, but at the same time, all of us, at one time or another, do things we ourselves think to be wrong, whatever our code of ethics. One classic quote from C. S. Lewis in his book "The Problem of Pain" deals with this.
"The moralities (codes of right and wrong) among men may differ - though not, at bottom, so widely as is often claimed - but they all agree in prescribing a behaviour which their adherents fail to practice. All men alike stand condemned, not by alien codes of ethics, but by their own, and all men therefore are conscious of guilt."

We've all failed our own consciences. So levelling a charge of hypocrisy may be correct, but it's just as true of the accuser as of the accused. If the underlying charges are true, then Rev. Haggard should step down from his position of authority, at the very least for the time being and deal with this sin.

What this is not a case of is whether what he preached is the truth or not. It is also not a matter of politics. However, the accuser is trying to cover both those bases.

The accusations were made by Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, who said he decided to go public because of the political fight over the amendments.

"I just want people to step back and take a look and say, 'Look, we're all sinners, we all have faults, but if two people want to get married, just let them, and let them have a happy life,'" said Jones, who added that he isn't working for any political group.

Jones, who said he is gay, said he was also upset when he discovered Haggard and the New Life Church had publicly opposed same-sex marriage.

"It made me angry that here's someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex," he said.


So these are politically motivated and timed charges, and are an attempt to discredit the truth of the matter based on a high-profile bad example. He acknowledges that "we're all sinners", but wants to help make folks comfortable in their sin rather than help them out of it. I'm not saying he shouldn't have brought this to light, but like the Mark Foley scandal, human faults are being used as political tools. Given this, I have some doubt as to the full veracity of the claims.

Additionally, I have to wonder if bringing this to light will really change the position of anyone who was going to vote to ban gay marriage. Maybe a couple fence-sitters, but most folks have a pretty strong opinion one way or the other, and with amendments in other states passing with wide margins, I think this political calculation has some errors.

Posted by Doug at 12:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 26, 2006

New Jersey Grants Naming Rights to Public (and a justice to be named later)

During the debate over the proposed (now enacted) Georgia constitutional amendment stating that marriage was the union of a man and a woman, critics of the proposal said that it was not necessary, since there was already a law on the books banning same-sex marriage. The New Jersey Supreme Court today put the lie to that line of reasoning. To some judges, it doesn't matter what laws are already in effect; they want to set the legislative calendar.

Saying times have changed, New Jersey's highest court on Wednesday guaranteed gay couples the same rights as married heterosexuals but left it to state lawmakers to decide if such unions can be called marriage.

"Times and attitudes have changed," the New Jersey Supreme Court said in a nuance 90-page ruling that was neither a clear victory nor a defeat for gay marriage, which is currently legal in the United States only in Massachusetts.

"Despite the rich diversity of this state, the tolerance and goodness of its people, and the many recent advances made by gays and lesbians toward achieving social acceptance and equality under the law, the court cannot find that the right to same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under our constitution," the ruling said.

Stating that gay couples must have the same rights as other couples, the court said gay advocates must now "appeal to their fellow citizens whose voices are heard through their popularly elected representatives."

With that in mind, the court gave the legislature six months to either amend the state's marriage statutes to include gay people, or write a new law in which same-sex couples "would enjoy the rights of civil marriage."

New Jersey's marriage statutes define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The ruling leaves state lawmakers with two options -- allow gays to marry in the same way as others, or develop a parallel system of unions for same-sex couples. That second option would leave New Jersey with civil unions akin to those in Vermont.


While it sounds magnanimous for the court to leave it to the legislature, they still set a requirement for what the legislature must do. While they say that the appeal must be made to "their fellow citizens whose voices are heard through their popularly elected representatives", they then go on to direct the legislature what to do, which is not at all a case of popular representation. All the people are left with are naming rights, as Hugh Hewitt notes. What a case of double-speak!

I say again, the Left has raised the bar, changed the playing field, made new rules, whatever cliche you want to use. Constitutional amendments are the only tool left to wield for those who oppose this, so it should come as no surprise when it is wielded. And no complaints, either. Either use the legislature and the courts as they were intended, or get ready to be met on the field of your choosing.

Posted by Doug at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

German Homeschoolers Update

In the case of homeschoolers in Germany, previously covered here and here, the kids are now being forcibly carted off to public school.

A Nazi-era law requiring all children to attend public school, to avoid "the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions" that could be taught by parents at home, apparently is triggering a Nazi-like response from police.

The word comes from Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit, or Network for Freedom in Education, which confirmed that children in a family in Bissingen, in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, have been forcibly hauled to a public school.

"On Friday 20 October 2006 at around 7:30 a.m. the children of a home educating family ... were brought under duress to school by police," the organization, which describes itself as politically and religiously neutral, confirmed.

A separate weblog in the United States noted the same tragedy.

Homeschoolblogger.com noted that the "three children were picked up by the police and escorted to school in Baden-Wurttemberg, with the 'promise' that it would happen again this week."

The Network for Freedom in Education, through spokesman Joerg Grosseluemern, said the Remeike family has been "home educating their children since the start of the school year, something which is legal in practically the whole of the (European Union)."

Posted by Doug at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 25, 2006

The View From a Sergeant

James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" today has an e-mail from a soldier in Iraq. With his experience with what's going on with the Army, the culture and the changing circumstances, his suggestion is that the correct policy needs to be something between "stay the course" and "cut and run". It seems to me to be a very insightful look at reality there. Some of his suggestions are, I'll admit, tough to swallow if indeed they'd be necessary. Definitely worth the read (and as always, getting the daily e-mail of this column is recommended). He concludes:

James, there's a lot more to this than I've written here. The short of it is, the situation is salvageable, but not with "stay the course" and certainly not with cut and run. However, the commitment required to save it is something I doubt the American public is willing to swallow. I just don't see the current administration with the political capital remaining in order to properly motivate and convince the American public (or the West in general) of the necessity of these actions.

At the same time, failure in Iraq would be worse than a dozen Somalias, and would render us as impotent and emasculated as we were in the days after Vietnam. There is a global cultural-ideological struggle being waged, and abdication from Iraq is tantamount to concession.


Later, Taranto quotes Nancy Pelosi, who'd most likely be Speaker of the House after a majority Democrat win.
"But you don't think that the terrorists have moved into Iraq now?" Stahl continues.

"They have," Pelosi agrees. "The jihadists in Iraq. But that doesn't mean we stay there. They'll stay there as long as we're there."


She seems to think (or is trying to sell us on the idea) that the moment we leave, all will be well with the world and the jihadists will become model citizens or at least stop attacking American interests. As the sergeant tells us (gotta read the whole thing), there's more going on than just terrorism, and it's not easily dealt with, and especially not dealt with by running away.

Posted by Doug at 01:54 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Scott Adams, a Cartoonist and a Speech Therapist

Eighteen months ago, Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, lost his voice to what he describes as an "exotic" disease; Spasmodic Dysphonia. Here's how he describes it:

Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down in some people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout with allergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. It happens to people in my age bracket.

I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero.


Scott decided that he wasn't going to take this lying down and started working on figuring out a way to cure himself, or at least make himself better as much as possible. His post, entitled "Good News Day", of how he did this and how successful he has been is really an amazing read. Imagine figuring out how to reprogram your brain.

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October 24, 2006

Missouri's Cloning Amendment

Via Redstate.com comes exposure of the tactics of those who want to move forward with human cloning and embryonic stem cell research with taxpayer money. They can't get the citizenry to accept it at face value, so they're engaging in classic Orwellian misdirection.

The proposed Missouri constitutional amendment 2 says, for example, that it will prevent human cloning. However, as Missourians Against Human Cloning notes in their explanation of the language of the amendment, what it says on the ballot is quite different from what the amendment actually says. In fact, the amendment allows for “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer", which is the textbook definition of human cloning. The "human cloning" that is banned, as per the amendment, is just the implantation of the results of that transfer into a human womb. If it stays outside, it ain't a clone, so they say. But the ballot language doesn't define its terms, so they hope to pull one over on Missourians by saying the right words, but not meaning what most folks think they mean.

This is just bullet point 1 in a list that also includes a blank check to the biotech industry. The Redstate post has links to lots of good information about this situation. It doesn't say much for their cause at all that they have to resort this these sorts of underhanded tactics to get their way.

Why do I care about what happens in Missouri, if I'm in Georgia? Because if this deception works there, it will be exported, make no mistake.

UPDATE: Scott Ott at ScrappleFace hits the nail on the head, with his own video production of "Michael J. Embryo", and some biting wit that drives the point home.

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October 23, 2006

Bullet-proof Books

Now here's an idea for all those previous-edition schoolbooks.

With school shootings a growing concern across the country, a candidate for state superintendent of schools in Oklahoma is running on a platform of defense.

His idea? Storing old textbooks beneath the desks of all public school children for use as shields from gunfire.

In a videotaped experiment, Bill Crozier even went so far as to test various books and various firearms.

Crozier, a Union City Republican challenging incumbent Democrat Sandy Garrett, said he would put thick used textbooks under every desk for students to use in self-defense.

Crozier's experiment began with shots fired at a calculus textbook from an AK-47 Russian-style assault rifle. The shot penetrated two textbooks at once. Shots from handguns were generally stopped by thick books.


And people suggest that kids who get homeschooled aren't getting socialized. Well, they're wrong, but even if they were right, they're also not getting shot at.

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October 20, 2006

Abdul Rahman Still a Marked Man

Abdul Rahman is a convert to Christianity from Islam, and escaped the death penalty in Afghanistan (in what was mostly a face-saving maneuver by the courts there). See previous SCO coverage of this here and here. Having moved to Italy, he's gone, but not forgotten.

The kidnappers of an Italian journalist in Afghanistan have offered to free him in exchange for a Christian convert who fled the country, an aid agency says.

Photojournalist Gabriele Torsello was seized last week while travelling on a bus in southern Afghanistan.

The kidnappers will free Mr Torsello, a Muslim convert, if Abdul Rahman returns from Italy where he was granted asylum earlier this year, the aid agency says.

Mr Rahman had escaped a possible death sentence for becoming a Christian.

He had been charged with rejecting Islam and released this March after being deemed mentally unfit to stand trial on a charge of apostasy.


(Hat tip: Michelle Malkin)

Rahman still needs our support and our prayers.

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NBC Responds to Madonna Crucifix Display

Looks like NBC is responding to pressure not to show the singer Madonna up on a mirrored cross during the upcoming televising of her concert.

After weeks of controversy, NBC has decided not to show pop star Madonna suspended from a giant cross and wearing a crown of thorns when the network airs a special of her "Confessions" tour, a source close to the organization of the event said on Thursday.

The source spoke after NBC announced it had revised the two-hour concert special, which airs November 22, but did not elaborate on what changes would be made.

The source said the portion of the "Live to Tell" song in which Madonna sings suspended from a giant cross and wearing a crown of thorns will not be shown in the broadcast. Instead, cameras will cut to other shots or images while Madonna is on the cross. She steps away from the cross to finish the song.


Whether this means that NBC is developing something of a spine, or if this is purely a financial decision (some affiliates "expressed uneasiness" about carrying the special) is yet to be seen. However, couple this with the addition of a religiously toned-down version of the Christian-values "Veggie Tales" for Saturday mornings by NBC, and the network seems to be moving back somewhat from the general media position that it's OK to offend Christians. Baby steps, but in the right direction.

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October 18, 2006

Only 68 Days Until Christmas!

I was in J C Penny this evening, and while browsing around I noticed that the background music sounded familiar. For a minute I thought that it was some song that had a melodic phrase similar to a very popular piece of music; just an interesting coincidence. But as I listened to see if the melody changed, I realized that what I was listening to was the more popular tune.

"Angels We Have Heard On High".

I said to the guy at the register, "Christmas music? Already?" He gave a light-hearted roll of the eyes and said, "Tell me about it." I love Christmas music, don't get me wrong (my father is a non-repentant Christmas-aholic), but this does seem a little early.

So you know what that means, right? When you start hearing Christmas carols played in the stores, it's almost...

Right. Halloween.

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October 13, 2006

GOP Will Expel, Not Censure, Bob Ney

From the AP regarding the Abramoff scandal:

House Republican leaders vowed Friday to expel convicted Rep. Bob Ney "as our first order of business" after the elections unless he resigns.

Not censure, not wrist slap, not bloviate; expel. Again, as with Foley, this is the right thing to do even if it mean losing control of the House of Representatives.

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October 12, 2006

Codependency on the World Stage

Chuck Asay gives us "A Brief History of North Korea's Weapons of Mass Destruction Program".

Giving foreign aid to countries because we're afraid of what they'll do with a nuke doesn't curtail proliferation, it promotes it. Rogue states get what they need to prop up the dictator, and thus the lives of its citizens are made to be anything from miserable to fatal for the coming years. In the meantime, said rogue state still continues to work on obtaining nukes. There's never any penalty to be paid, other than a nasty-gram from the UN, so there's no real reason to live up to the agreement.

This is textbook codependency. We're enabling the very actions we're hoping to prevent. And when we try to cut off the free ride, others accuse us of being cold-hearted. The world is acting like the wife of an alcoholic man. And neither situation is healthy for the parties involved.

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October 11, 2006

The Source of the Next Jihad

Look to the prisons to find out where our next terror cell may be created.

The spread of an especially virulent form of Islam within American prisons is obvious to those of us who have spent time in these prisons. It’s the rest of American society that is in denial. Now, thanks to a new study, ignorance is no longer an option.

The study, titled “Out of the Shadows,” concluded that “the U.S. . . . is at risk of facing the sort of homegrown terrorism currently plaguing other countries.” The source of that risk, according to researchers from George Washington University and the University of Virginia, is “[America’s] large prison population.”

“Radicalized prisoners” within this population “are a potential pool of recruits by terrorist groups,” the study says. The sources of radicalization are incarcerated Islamic extremists and outside organizations that support them. The report notes that the absence of “monitoring by authoritative Islamic chaplains” permits “materials that advocate violence [to infiltrate] the prison system undetected.”

Some of this material is provided by known al-Qaeda affiliates. It “[urges Muslim prisoners] to wage war against non-Muslims who have not submitted to Islamic rule.” As a former employee of a radical Islamist group who is now a Christian told a Senate committee, “I know of only a few instances in which prisons rejected the literature we attempted to distribute—and it was never because of the literature’s radicalism.”


Would it surprise you to know that a program that's been successful in curbing this radical form of religious zealotry is under attack? The Left in this country just can't abide success when Christianity's involved. And Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship is feeling the heat, although it may be the rest of us feeling it if they are shut out from the countries prisons.
The study recommends the creation of a federal commission to “investigate this issue in depth.” It says that an “objective risk assessment” is “urgently needed” so that “officials [can] address this issue now, rather than [managing] a crisis later.”

I agree wholeheartedly, but let’s get on with this. We already know what the study has concluded. I’ve been telling “BreakPoint” listeners and readers and Prison Fellowship supporters about this for years. Now we have more than anecdotal evidence. We have a study from two prestigious universities on our side.

Still, I can’t help but note an irony here: The largely unimpeded spread of radical Islam through our prisons coincides with increased opposition to the one really successful antidote—that is, the presence of Christianity.


Americans United for Separation of Church and State are so concerned about the spread of Christianity, and apparently not so concerned about the breeding of new terrorists, that they're suing Prison Fellowship in Iowa. They're trying to remove a successful program that is 60% funded by private money. Fortunately, PF has a number of folks in its corner, including the Attorneys General from 9 other states who are more concerned with our safety than they are with a misreading of the First Amendment (essentially the elevation of a phrase in a private letter to that of constitutional law).

Here's to PF's success. It may well be a matter of national security.

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October 09, 2006

Tom Lehrer and Political Satire

As part of a chemistry "assignment", one of the teachers for our homeschooling "co-op" gave her kids the URL to an old Tom Lehrer song where he sings many of the elements to the tune of "Modern Major General". In doing that, we looked up some information on Lehrer, who's songs I'd heard here and there as a kid. Funny stuff.

Lehrer was quite the Harvard liberal. On Wikipedia, it says he quipped that political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. I just wonder if good ol' Tom had anything to say when Yassar Arafat won it. Just wondering.

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October 04, 2006

A Pox on Both Their Houses, Yes, But Look Closer, Too

So says Benjamin Shapiro.

On what moral basis do Democrats condemn Foley? They have no basis for moral outrage, since they have championed the destruction of traditional morality for decades. Instead, they condemn Foley and the Republicans for hypocrisy. Foley, when he wasn't spending his time chasing teenage boys, pushed for legislation to crack down on child pornography. House Republicans, when they weren't busy ignoring Foley's scummy behavior, pushed for legislation to uphold traditional values. The big sin here, according to the social left, is that Foley and the Republicans tried to bolster antiquated sexual mores while simultaneously bucking them in personal life. Were Mark Foley a liberal Democrat from San Francisco, liberals would be hard-pressed to spot a problem with his behavior.

But Republicans should not have been. The Republican Party is the party supposedly dedicated to those antiquated value systems that made this country great. It should not have been difficult for Republicans to identify the problems with Foley's behavior: pedophilia, exploitation, and yes, homosexuality. And yet, because the Republican Party has become infected with either the unchecked will to wield power or the milquetoast tolerance of the social left, House Republicans did nothing. Shame on them.


Shapiro goes down the list of Democrats that the Left either made excuses for or simply slapped on the wrist--Studds, Clinton--and also adds Pelosi, who opposes parental consent laws regarding underage abortions. While moral outrage is well-placed on Foley's head, I find Shapiro's contention that Democrats are not taking that tack, rather using the "hypocrite" bludgeon.

News flash: Human beings are flawed and hypocritical. Politicians, with all the power and money flowing around them, will be put in more situations than the average person that will tempt them to abandon their principals. This is not news.

What is, or should be, news is how each political party deals with its problems. Regardless of possible hushing in the past, Foley did the right thing once the truth came out. One wishes that this would have been caught and dealt with earlier, but Foley is gone. Not censured, not reprimanded; gone.

Here's another example: Want to know why you've never heard of "Speaker of the House Bob Livingston"? Because he did the right thing.

In a speech on the House floor during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, he first called on Clinton to resign.

But to the president, I would say, sir you have done great damage to this nation over this past year and while your defenders are contending that further impeachment proceedings would only protract and exacerbate the damage to this country, I say that you have the power to terminate that damage and heal the wounds that you have created.

You sir, may resign your post.


I listened to this speech live on the radio. During this portion of the speech, Democrats could be heard yelling out, "You resign!". The clamor got louder and louder, and peaked while Livingston spoke that last line. But then, from his already-prepared speech, he continued speaking and set the example.
I can only challenge you in such fashion that I am willing to heed my own words. To my colleagues, my friends and most especially my wife and family, I have hurt you all deeply and I beg your forgiveness.

I was prepared to lead our narrow majority as speaker, and I believe I had it in me to do a fine job. But I cannot do that job or be the kind of leader that I would like to be under current circumstances.

So I must set the example that I hope President Clinton will follow. I will not stand for speaker of the House on January 6th, but rather I shall remain as a backbencher in this Congress that I so dearly love for approximately six months into the 106th Congress, whereupon I shall vacate my seat and ask my governor to call a special election to take my place.


All of a sudden, the Democrats realized they'd been put to shame by a man willing to lead by actions, not just words. Now, a cry of "No, no!" went up from the House. But whether this was Republicans, shamed Democrats, or both, Livingston's mind had already been made up. This Republican led by example, ending his own political career on the cusp of being chosen for one of the highest posts in the land. He wasn't censured, he was gone.

Yes there's hypocrisy, on both sides. Yes there are cover-ups, on both sides. Yes, there are actions to be condemned, on both sides. But overall, I believe Republicans have done the right thing more often and at higher costs. And as Shapiro notes, in the Republican party, even the hypocrites can be found to be pushing traditional values, while many true-blue Democrats are trying to make it easier for sexual predators to cover up their statutory rape of 14-year-olds.

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Limbo Cancelled

No, not the dance, the place. (Apologies to Catholic readers, but I just couldn't pass up that headline for a little chuckle.)

Of course, the issue of the eternal destination of children who are unbaptized or who are younger than some age of consent has always been a thorny theological issue in the Christian church in general. While the article's headline suggests that the Pope may be making this ruling based on making outreach in Muslim countries easier, it also notes that he's not ever been convinced of its existence. So I really don't think this is a marketing ploy.

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Affecting the Culture

What would your church do to make an impact on our culture, if it had $100,000 at its disposal? One Baptist church decided to make a movie; a high-quality movie with a good message that is competing favorably against Hollywood's offerings.

It was made by a church on a donated budget of $100,000 with volunteer actors, but instead of a low-budget castoff, "Facing the Giants" held its own against Hollywood's big boys in its opening weekend, grossing $1.4 million on only 441 screens.

Officials say the production, by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., was released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and ranked No. 12 for all films over its first weekend, even though other films had up to eight times as many screens. Its per-screen average of $3,149 was fourth among the top 10 grossing weekend films.

"I think this sends a clear message to Hollywood that there is an audience who does want to see a positive, uplifting film that promotes faith and family values," said Michael Catt, the senior pastor at Sherwood Baptist and executive producer for the project.

"Hopefully, this will open the door for more organizations to bring other quality-content projects to the big screen," he said.


With the lower cost of entry now that movie production has gone digital, this sort of project is now possible.

I can imagine that some might say that this was money that could have been better spent on other projects. But I'd say that a lot of those projects are being done by other churches. I'm happy to see that, just as with individuals, different church bodies have different gifts, and they should be free to use them as God directs (no pun intended).

Besides, based on the box office receipts, this movie could not only encourage Christians and bring the good news to non-Christians, it will likely bring in more money to be used on more conventional projects.

Proceeds are to be used for a 40-acre youth recreational park planned by Sherwood Baptist in Albany, officials said.

Let's celebrate the unconventional, and ask God for more of it.

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October 02, 2006

For the Record

Regardless of allegations that the timing is suspect, and even if others have gotten away with worse in the past, the ejection of Foley by Republicans is the right thing to do. Now. Even if it means losing the House of Representatives.

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September 29, 2006

Tough Times for Truth

Regis Nicoll, writing for the new Prison Fellowship blog "The Point", notes that the concept of truth is falling on hard times.

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September 28, 2006

The Calm Before the (Next) Storm

Ah, the wonders of a UN resolution. The peacekeeping troops are there, and they're doing...what, exactly?

One month after a United Nations Security Council resolution ended a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, members of the international force sent to help keep the peace say their mission is defined more by what they cannot do than by what they can.

They say they cannot set up checkpoints, search cars, homes or businesses or detain suspects. If they see a truck transporting missiles, for example, they say they can not stop it. They cannot do any of this, they say, because under their interpretation of the Security Council resolution that deployed them, they must first be authorized to take such action by the Lebanese Army.

The job of the United Nations force, and commanders in the field repeat this like a mantra, is to respect Lebanese sovereignty by supporting the Lebanese Army. They will only do what the Lebanese authorities ask.


And many in the Lebanese Army support the aims of Hezbollah, so you're not going to see much on that front.
The Security Council resolution, known as 1701, was seen at the time as the best way to halt the war, partly by giving Israel assurances that Lebanon’s southern border would be policed by a robust international force to prevent Hezbollah militants from attacking. When the resolution was approved, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of its principal architects, said the force’s deployment would help “protect the Lebanese people and prevent armed groups such as Hezbollah from destabilizing the area.”

But the resolution’s diplomatic language skirted a fundamental question: what kind of policing power would be given to the international force? The resolution leaves open the possibility that the Lebanese Army would grant such policing power, but the force’s commanders say that so far, at least, that has not happened.


The UN backs up its toothless resolutions with toothless "peacekeepers" that let Hezbollah rearm in broad daylight. Is this what they meant in the resolution by "disarming" them? They've kicked the problem down the road and pretend they've solved it.

In the meantime, it appears that the world body's outrage is all spent, or at least it's selective. When Israel fought back, the UN acted (well, for loose interpretations of the word "act"). When Palestinians lob rockets into Israel, the UN yawns.

Three Kassam rockets fired on Israel Monday morning damaged vehicles and hit an empty classroom at the Sh'ar HaNegev College in the northwestern Negev.

Arab terrorists in Gaza have stepped up rocket attacks against Israel the past two weeks despite IDF operations. However, there has been no political condemnation of the terrorist attacks.


Rockets? What rockets?
Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets from the northern Gaza Strip on Monday morning. One of the rockets landed near Kibbutz Mefalsim, causing damage to two cars.

A Magen David Adom crew dispatched to the area evacuated a woman who suffered from shock to the Barzilai Medical Center in Asheklon.

The other rocket landed near the southern town of Sderot and did not cause injuries or damage.


(Hat tip to Meryl Yourish.)

The UN did not bring peace. What it brought was a calm before the next storm, a storm that is organizing right under its nose.

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September 27, 2006

There's Negative, and Then There's Negative

The negative campaign season is upon us. Republicans and Democrats are geared up and ready to takes shots at each other. I've never really had a problem with negative campaigning in principle. I think it's perfectly relevant to have one candidate point out where the other's actions have gone against his past or present promises and stated positions. There's a fine line when you get into the personal lives, but if a candidate says one thing and acts quite differently, it could be fair game.

Having said that, I'm uncomfortable with some of the new negative ads that Republicans are putting out. While both sides are going negative (again, not necessarily a bad thing in my book), according to the NY Times it looks like the Republicans are going negative on mostly personal issues while the Democrats are going negative on political issues. And given the examples cited, the Republicans are disappointing me.

For Republicans, it was the leading edge of a wave of negative advertisements against Democratic candidates, the product of more than a year of research into the personal and professional backgrounds of Democratic challengers.

“What do we really know about Angie Paccione?” an announcer asks about a Democratic challenger in Colorado. “Angie Paccione had 10 legal claims against her for bad debts and campaign violations. A court even ordered her wages garnished.”

For Democrats, it was part of a barrage intended to tie Republican incumbents to an unpopular Congress, criticize their voting records, portray them as captives to special interests and highlight embarrassing moments from their business histories.

In Tennessee, Democrats attacked Bob Corker, a Republican candidate for Senate, saying his construction company had hired illegal immigrants “while he looked the other way.”


Both types of negative ads, personal and political, can result in cheap shots and innuendo that make them wrong. "He voted against X!", when it was just a rider on a larger, bad bill. "She looked the other way!", when it may have been someone hiding things from the candidate. While there's a line that can be crossed in both cases, that line is much easier to cross when the ads get personal. Looking at some of the examples, Republicans are crossing my line.
John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat who is running for a House seat, has spent much of the past few days trying to explain editorials unearthed by Republican researchers and spotlighted in new advertisements. Mr. Yarmuth wrote the editorials for his student newspapers, and in them he advocated the legalization of marijuana, among other things.

Across the airwaves, Democratic challengers are being attacked for having defaulted on student loans, declaring bankruptcy, skipping out on tax bills, and being a lobbyist, a trial lawyer or, even worse, a liberal.

Steve Kagan, a doctor and Democrat running for Congress in Wisconsin, is being attacked for having sued patients who did not pay their bills. “Why not just tell the truth, Dr. Millionaire?” said an advertisement shown Tuesday.


Democrats are hammering away as well, but not as personally.
Democrats are equally aggressive in their advertisements, going after Republicans on votes, ties to campaign contributors and, in the case of challengers, their own personal foibles. In one Democratic advertisement, the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff is shown in shadows wearing a hat as an announcer notes that he made contributions to Representative J. D. Hayworth, Republican of Arizona.

Democrats are even attacking Republicans on what should be their signature issue, taxes, most recently in an upstate New York race between State Senator Raymond A. Meier, a Republican, and Michael A. Arcuri, a Democrat, to fill an open Republican seat. “Raymond Meier raised taxes in Oneida County,” the announcer says. “Meier raised taxes in Albany. What do you think he’ll do” in Washington?


Abramoff and taxes are all fair game. Even Social Security--a example later in the article--is fair game, even if I disagree with the Democratic candidate's position.

With so many issues that Republicans could tweak Democrats on, why do you need this? That this has been done by Democrats in the past is no excuse. Part of the problem is the ceding of the high ground that Republicans have done regarding issues like spending, smaller government, and illegal immigration. Part of it was getting heady with power and allowing Jack Abramoff to start plying them with money.

Additionally, part of it is because we are moved by negative ads, even the personal attacks. It's a sad truth of politics, but we get the ads we deserve because we respond to them. Too many folks are disengaged from the political process, so they tune out positive campaign ads when they hear or see them. But get their outrage up, and they'll listen. If you're going to vote, you've got to get your head in the game sooner than when McCain-Feingold kicks in.

Now this is the NY Times, we're talking about, and it's possible they're not showing examples of personal attacks from Democrats or issue ads from Republicans. Regardless, I expect more from the party I identify with, and it looks like I'm not getting it.

Posted by Doug at 01:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 25, 2006

Sanitizing the Veggies

It might be OK to show Madonna hanging on a mirrored cross, but don't dare let Bob and Larry tell kids that God loves them.

The wildly popular VeggieTales kids videos about vegetables who talk and sing and act out Bible stories are being edited for their run on NBC's Saturday morning educational program time, and the network says it's because of time limits.

But the creator says that's not exactly the case, and viewers will have to decide for themselves whether the result is good or bad.

...

"VeggieTales was originally created for home video and, in most cases, each episode is over 30 minutes long. As it appears …. VeggieTales has been edited down for broadcast without losing any of its core messages about positive values," the network said.

Phil Vischer, the co-creator of the characters, said that comment was "interesting."

"As a guy deeply involved with the project, I know that statement is false," Vischer wrote on his own weblog. "We sent them our first episode for TV, which was already edited to EXACTLY the right length, and they rejected it because, at the end, Bob the Tomato said, 'Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much.' They demanded we remove that line. The show wasn't too long, it was too religious."

He said the second also was sent edited for perfect timing. The response from NBC was an e-mail with a list of lines that needed to be removed, "each of them containing either the word 'God' or 'Bible,'" Vischer wrote.


My first reaction was to wonder why NBC felt it needed to lie to the public about what it was doing. Vischer himself had no problem with meeting the standards, as long as NBC was being honest about it. Apparently, now they are. Vischer wrote:
So they're being clear now, which is good. Whether or not you agree with their standards or the other shows they air is really a separate issue. They obviously have the right to set their own standards and apply them however they choose. I just wanted to make sure everyone was being upfront about the situation, because, well, I like it when we're all being upfront.

The company's right to set their own standards isn't really an issue. What is the issue, for me, is the fear of offending non-Christians--or at least the fear of turning them off--while at the same time having no issues with offending Christians in prime time. Brent Bozell says it best.

"This is one of those moments where you understand networks like NBC are only talking an empty talk and walking an empty walk when it comes to the First Amendment, and 'creative integrity,' and so on," Bozell wrote. "They have told parents concerned about their smutty programs like 'Will and Grace' that if they're offended, they have a remote control as an option.

"But when it comes to religious programming – that doesn't even mention Jesus Christ – just watch the hypocrisy. Instead of telling viewers to just change the channel if they don't like it, or put in a V-chip for Bible verses, they demand to producers that all that outdated old-time religion be shredded before broadcast," he said.

"It's truly sad this anti-religious hypocrisy would emerge. Today, no one in network TV fears what the children are watching – unless it makes them think about God."


Vischer is thinking that exposure the the "sanitized" Veggie Tales will get kids interested in the DVDs which aren't edited, and so this was a bit of a compromise. In another blog post on this subject, he tackles the issue of "compromise".
Did I compromise my beliefs to edit the shows? Well, there's 'compromise' in the sense of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refusing to bow down, and then there's 'compromise' in the sense of Paul saying he will be "all things to all people." Paul was willing to compromise his cultural values to build relationships with Greeks, Romans, slaves, and anyone else he met along his travels. If they ate meat, he'd eat meat. If they didn't, he wouldn't. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to compromise their beliefs about God. God said "bow to no other god but me" and they intended to follow that directive, no matter the personal cost. So was taking "God made you special and he loves you very much" off the end of these new shows more like Paul's situation? Or Shadrach's? Do the edited shows say anything that I believe is untrue? No. They do, however, stop short of saying things I wanted to say that are very true. Do they go against God's commands? Or do they just respect the boundaries of a foreign culture?

Vischer says it's up to the viewer to decide. Personally, I'm glad to see Bob and Larry getting more exposure, and I think this can ultimately help spread the news. What I'm disappointed, but not surprised, by are the Hollywood standards in place that are just so upside-down. But as Vischer says,
Let us Christians never forget that we are strangers here. We don't fit in.

And that's okay.

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September 21, 2006

The "Theocracy" Myth

Joe Carter, in a recycled post at the the Evangelical Outpost which is just as relevant now as when he first posted it, deconstructs the idea that Christians somehow want to establish a theocracy in the United States.

When those of us on the “religious right” hear such paranoid ranting it naturally elicits a chuckle. After all, more than half of American evangelicals are either Baptists or non-denominational. We don’t even want a centralized church government much less a central government controlled by the church.

But since, as Joe notes, "even the most pernicious lie...contains some grain of truth", he looks into the history of the idea and what folks typically mean by it today.

Posted by Doug at 05:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Darling of the Left Makes Them Proud

Hugo Chavez, a man embraced by Cindy Sheehan and Harry Belafonte, and who gives free PR to Noam Chomsky, spoke before the United Nations yesterday. His words, both then and later, ought to give pause to those who make common cause with him. They also ought to give pause to those who vote for people who have made common cause with Chavez.

"The devil came here yesterday," Chavez said, gesturing to where Bush had stood during his speech on Tuesday. "He came here talking as if he were the owner of the world." He later said he was referring to President Bush when he spoke of the devil.

Chavez said it still smelled like sulfur. Well, as James Taranto notes, he who smelt it....

Chavez then made the sign of the cross and appeared to pray for a moment. Where is the American Left on this? If Bush had some something like this, even in jest, they would be outraged over it. Either they would decry his outward religiosity, or complain that he was using it to make a joke. As far as I know, though, this little demonstration has passed without serious comment by Chavez supporters here.

Rep. Charlie Rangel did come out against Chavez's remarks in general when he said,

You don't come into my country, you don't come into my congressional district, and you don't condemn my president. If there's any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans - whether we voted for him or not.

That was great of him to say, and I'm glad to hear this come from across the aisle. I don't think Rangel would have said he was a "supporter" of Chavez before this.

It is interesting to note, though, that, before this statement, Rangel thanked him for the low-cost heating oil program that Chavez was running. Given Chavez's motives for doing this, it's basically saying, "Thanks for the bribes, and keep 'em coming." See, Chavez is looking for a shot at a rotating seat on the security council, and has been lobbying hard for it.

In the past few months, Chavez has crisscrossed the globe collecting promises of support, visiting about a dozen countries including Russia, Belarus, Iran, Vietnam, Qatar, Mali, Benin, China, Malaysia and Syria. His diplomats also have been busy, while top Guatemalan officials and U.S. diplomats also have been doing their own lobbying.

Chavez said he has the solid backing of the Caribbean Community, the Arab League, Russia, China and much of Africa, in addition to his allies across South America.


And it really is a bribe. While speaking last May about expanding the program to Europe, Chavez tipped his hand.
Flanked by Bolivian President Evo Morales, Chavez heaped insults on the government of President George W. Bush, saying Americans were living under a dictatorship and that U.S. foreign policy could lead to another world war.

``We have to confront the empire and denounce it,'' he said. ``The U.S. empire is coming to an end.''

He renewed pledges to use cash reserves bolstered by high oil prices to help support other Latin American countries, including Bolivia, through cheap financing rather than investing it in U.S. or European banks.


This dictator is buying diplomacy, and as nice as low-cost heating oil is to the poor, their representatives ought to know better than encourage this type of tainted money.

Getting back to the UN, however, Chavez's words there were more than just jest. They showed just what it is that is wrong with the United Nations as it currently stands. Dictators like him get equal footing to spew their falsehoods and attempt to sway opinion, in order to simply consolidate their power. Mimicing Bush's form--directly speaking to the people of Iran and Syria--Chavez spoke to the American people.

"I'm not an enemy of the United States. I'm a friend of the United States ... the people of the United States," Chavez said during his speech to an audience including union organizers and professors. "They're two very different things — you the people of the United States, and the government that's installed there."

In this, he tries to conflate his dictatorial regime that he basically "installed" with a democratically elected government that does, indeed, represent its people. I'll note that I'd believe this even if a Democrat were in the White House. Any leader of the United States is far, far more representative of the people of the United States than Chavez is of the Venezuelan people.
He drew a standing ovation when he said Bush committed genocide during the war in Iraq.

"The president of the United States should go before an international tribunal," Chavez said as applause filled the hall at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. He compared the Bush administration's actions to those of the Nazis.


Where was the standing "O" when Bush told the UN back in June of 2005 that they needed to do something about the actual genocide going on in Darfur? They hadn't even used the "G" word at the UN up until that point for the Darfur situation. Yet some dictator walks in and accuses the US of ostensibly targeting civilians on a massive scale, and the place erupts in applause! Where in the name of Diplomacy has the sense of these people gone? The United Nations is broken. It is not in need of fixing, it is in need of replacing.

And while his calls for changes there sounded vaguely conservative...

The Venezuelan leader, a close friend and admirer of Cuba's communist leader Fidel Castro, has sought to be a voice for poor countries and has warned that if the U.S. tries to block U.N. reform, Venezuela and others may eventually create a separate "United Nations of the south" to rival a body they no longer find democratic.

Chavez also said it might eventually be necessary to move the U.N. headquarters out of the United States.


...the changes that conservatives would like to make would probably not line up with his ideas. (Emphasis mine, to note the incredible irony.) A world body composed of the true republics of the world would exclude dictators like Chavez and would be more representative of the people of the world than socialist/communist/whatever-ist dictators that seek to buy their way into world politics.

Hugo Chavez has joined a long line of dictators that have predicted the end of the United States as we know it. The power-hungry of the world have to make the US a target as a matter of course. But they keep being shown wrong as both the shared morality of our country combined with a people- rather than state-run economy (for the most part) keep chugging along and leading the world. Complain all you want about the many ills the US has--and there are indeed many--the people of the world continue to flock here.

And yet those on the left continue to laud this dictator. Nancy Pelosi may call him a "thug" (again, good to hear from that side of the aisle), but the grassroots Left just love him.

Singer and activist Harry Belafonte introduced Chavez at the event, while former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark also attended, among supporters who waved Venezuelan flags and chanted Chavez's name. The Venezuelan leader signed autographs as a crowd rushed to him after the speech.

"We love ya', Huey! Just don't, y'know, make us look bad. Foreign leaders making inappropriate Devil and Nazi references don't play well in flyover country. Leave the inappropriate references to us."

Posted by Doug at 02:34 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 15, 2006

Chaplain Convicted of ... Acting Like a Chaplain

When a Christian prays "in Jesus name", he's just practicing his faith. When an Army Chaplain does it, at what he considers a religious event, he gets fined.

A jury of U.S. Naval officers has recommended a reprimand and a $250 fine per month for a year for a Christian chaplain who was convicted of disobeying an order not to wear his military uniform for media appearances.

Fortunately, this may not be enforced.
However, the jury also recommended the fine be suspended.

But apparently the jury wanted to send a chilling message about religious speech in the military. Is this a shot across the bow?

UPDATE: In the comment section, you'll find a lot more information about this, including from someone who says they're close to the case. This case may not be as much a freedom of religion question as it has been painted by some (including me).

The details of the case give one pause as to why there was a guilty verdict in the first place.

Chaplain Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt was convicted of the count, even though he charged that the White House appearance at which he prayed "in Jesus' name" was a bona fide religious event and he had written permission from his commander to wear his uniform at such events.

It could have been much worse.
Klingenschmitt had faced a maximum punishment of a reprimand, restriction to base for two months and fines or forfeiture of pay of nearly $42,000 – two-thirds of his annual salary, officials said.

Klingenschmitt's military lawyer, Lt. Tiffany Hansen, had told the jury that a conviction was enough.

"There was no financial gain as a result of him doing what he did," she said.

"Doing what he did," was to appear at a news conference at the White House with former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a WND columnist, to protest a new Naval directive that called for all prayers to be "nonsectarian."

Klingenschmitt told WND that he had been given written permission to wear his uniform at bona fide religious events, and that's what he considered the March 30 appearance. He said he took off his uniform before answering media questions that day.


According to the Navy, you can express your religion freely, for restrictive definitions of the word "freely".
The judge, refusing Klingenschmitt's motion earlier this month to drop the case, concluded chaplains are protected only inside the chapel on Sunday morning. If ordered not to worship in public, and they disobey, chaplains can be punished at a criminal court martial.

"There is no more fundamental right than the inalienable right to worship our creator, and I pray in Jesus name," Klingenschmitt said. "For any government official to require non-sectarian prayers is for him to enforce his government religion upon me, to censor, exclude and punish me for my participation"

Several dozen other chaplains also have joined in a civilian lawsuit that alleges the Navy hierarchy allows only those Christian ministers who advocate only non-sectarian blandishments to be promoted. Those with evangelical beliefs, they say, are routinely drummed from the Navy.


And Klingenschmitt, even though he may get a suspended sentence, could still face repercussions.
"That letter of reprimand will be used in two or three months at an administrative separation board to kick me out of the Navy," Klingenschmitt said Thursday. He estimated he would lose $1.8 million in pension and retirement benefits if he's dismissed.

The military does have to have wide latitude when it comes constitutional rights and privileges, I understand that. But restricting religious speech doesn't appear to me to make much sense. If a Navy officer in uniform were to appear, for instance, at a protest rally, that could be construed as some sort of official position being taken by the military. But when a chaplain gets all religious at a religious event, well, that's what chaplains do. And not all religious events take place inside a church (much to the consternation of church-state extremists). He was asked to pray because he's a chaplain, and a Navy chaplain specifically. And I find it entirely appropriate that he took off his uniform before taking questions that were most likely not going to be religious in nature. He was not necessarily representing his profession at that point.

The fear of religion in this land is certainly not something the guys who wrote the First Amendment would recognize.

Posted by Doug at 02:48 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 14, 2006

Why I (Still) Hate Polls

Polls drive me nuts. A measure of emotion is trumpeted as hard news and the media suggest that such numbers should drive public policy. One poll says that over a third of American's think 9/11 was an inside job. But this is as much a measure of emotion as it is consideration of the (well-debunked) theories. In another poll, it says that 54% of people are angrier than they used to be. And Bush's poll numbers have really tanked.

But what does this mean, really?

With a hat tip to Ian Murray at The Corner, and speaking of "tanking", check out this graph that charts the President's poll numbers against the price of gas. It's incredible how closely the ups and downs of both track. As gas prices go up (on the graph, a higher prices is shown as a lower point), Bush's numbers go down. You can almost predict one from knowing the other.

Yet pundits and journalists say that Bush should change his policies because of poll numbers. Tell ya' what; can he get a mandate for allowing the NSA wiretaps if he repeals the federal gas tax? I mean, if polls should really matter that much, it follows, right?

One more reason why we don't have a direct democracy. Thank you, Founding Fathers.

Posted by Doug at 02:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 13, 2006

Bring In the Backup

The President of the United States couldn't get the UN to recognize the problem in Darfur, or do anything about it. Perhaps an actor can.

It's been said that Hollywood's hottest marriage is the one between actors and Africa. That'll be true Thursday when Oscar winner George Clooney is scheduled to address the United Nations Security Council on the crisis in Darfur. That's right, not some small media conference, but the actual Security Council. Hosted by John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the briefing is organized by The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity (EWF), which recently established a Darfur Commission of Nobel Laureates. Clooney visited Darfuri refugees last April to use his celebrity clout to raise awareness of the plight of refugees in the war-torn region, considered the 3rd biggest humanitarian crisis in the history of the UN. According to the Oscar-winning actor, the US, the UN and the world's policies on Sudan is failing. "If we turn our heads and look away and hope that it will disappear then they will-all of them, an entire generation of people. And we will only have history left to judge us," Clooney has said about the tragedy.

Hey, don't blame the US, George. We've been trying to get the UN to recognize genocide when it sees it. And you wouldn't want us doing anything unilaterally, would you? That is "why they hate us", isn't it?

All kidding aside, it's good to see Clooney working with John Bolton and trying to get the UN--paragon of virtue that it is--to wake up and smell the Kofi coffee. It's sad that it has to come to this (and sadder yet if this is the main reason things start happening), but it's better than nothing.

Posted by Doug at 12:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 12, 2006

Let the Political Paranoia Resume

Drudge's big headline this afternoon is that gas is down to $2.05/gallon in Iowa. Did I not catch the news story proclaiming that the federal government had moved in and enforced price controls?

No, I (and you) missed nothing of the sort. Instead, as the Captain notes, market forces (remember those things?) are at work.

A number of factors play into this drop in price. First, as the article notes, the summer driving season has passed. Gas prices normally drop after Labor Day as children go back to school and family vacations make their way to the scrapbook. Also, this season has seen much lower levels of violent weather, and while we're not out of hurricane season yet, the chances of a really damaging storm in the Gulf of Mexico gets less likely with each passing day. Traders buy oil on futures, which means their speculation now extends past the hurricane window -- and since they had built bad weather into previous pricing, it makes sense that we would see a sharp drop now.

It seems that, just as Al-Qaeda has, the market, the weather, and American families have conspired to give the Democrats one less campaign issue. In the same way as leftist paranoids looked with suspicion on the release of terrorist videos, prepare for more hand-wringing over the "curious timing" of this news.

Yes, the market has been allowed to work and prices are now coming down. Understand, however, that I loved high gas prices. My wallet didn't all that much, but I can telecommute 3 or 4 days a week, so it didn't complain too loudly. But there were so many upsides to high prices, most of which liberals purport to love. There was the encouragement to conserve or telecommute or car pool. The higher prices increased the demand and the funding for research into alternative energy sources. They helped pay for college tuition (people in the middle class work for oil companies, too, y'know). There was so much good that came from them, yet liberals wailed and whined about it. Truth is, they'd rather the prices go up due to a tax increase so the government gets the money rather than R&D departments of the evil "Big Oil". Then they could siphon it off, pad their wallets, and be magnanimous with the scraps as grants to R&D departments of the evil "Big Oil".

By the way, will all the Democrats who wanted to blame Bush for the high gas prices now turn around and credit him for lowering them? Hold not thy breath.

Posted by Doug at 01:47 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 11, 2006

Remember

This is a repost of an entry I wrote on my personal blog in September of 2004, before I was with SCO. It's been updated for dates, but the posts remains virtually the same. The memories are, of course, just as relevant, but the admonition to remember, and the concern that too many are not, is also applicable to today. My current 9/11 post continues the theme this year (and it has a nice Michael W. Smith video-track to go with it, "There She Stands").



9/11, 5 years on:


I remember the first words I heard telling me that something unusual had just happened. I remember the voice mail I got at the office from my wife telling me to listen to the news. I remember hearing people relay news reported to them from spouses or friends over the phone (some of which turned out to be wrong). I remember thinking that when the towers came down the death toll could reach into 5 figures. (I remember being so grateful later on that it wasn't.) I remember my boss telling everyone to go home. I remember watching TV pretty much the rest of the day. I remember when my kids got home from school and we talked about what had happened.


My kids took it well. They asked questions, and I answered them the best that I could. I've always tried to instill a sense of history in them when interesting things happened (we talked a lot about the 2000 election debacle), but in this case there was history mixed with a sadness, even a reverence, for those who just went to work that day and never came home.


One of my daughters was studying the state of New York in school and had recently decided to do a diorama of New York City. When it came time to do the buildings, I was going to print out a picture of the skyline, which we'd cut up and give a 3-D look to. When we asked her whether she wanted the Twin Towers there or not, she thought for a second and decided that she wanted them to be in there. She and her sister had visited the Twin Towers a couple years earlier with their aunt from Queens, and they remember looking out from the top.


Some time after the clean-up at Ground Zero was finished, I took my 3 oldest kids there. I have some pictures of them there, as well as the perfectly-proportioned cross made of steel beams that was found in the wreckage, standing tall in the midst of what should have been two tall towers and thousands of people. My picture of the cross is part of my computer wallpaper rotation, to remember that day.

I have a lot of memories from 9/11, but not nearly as many as others. One of my brothers-in-law was stuck in downtown Manhatten for 3 straight days. He did maintenance work at a hospital, and for him to leave would have meant putting patients in peril, so he stayed. When he did come home, he ate, slept, and went right back. You want memories? He's got 'em, and they're far more emotional than mine. My wife read Lisa Beamer's book "Let's Roll". Lisa's husband, as you probably know, was one of those that is likely responsible for downing a plane in Pennsylvania instead of the Capitol or some other target that the terrorists had planned on. You want memories? Few of ours hold a candle to hers.

So 5 years on, we're remembering the day, each in our own way, based on our own memories. But we, as a nation, have a corporate memory as well; the sum total of all of our thoughts and experiences. This national memory sometimes fades, in and out, especially as the time passes. We were so patriotic in the days after 9/11, but where has that gone now? Some of us still are. My vehicles still have the decorations I bought for them soon after the attacks. But flag decals don't make you patriotic. I think standing up for your country when you believe your country is right is nothing to be ashamed of. I also think criticizing your country, in a honest manner, when you believe your country is wrong is nothing to be ashamed of, either.

So I believe that criticizing a war you think is wrong is patriotic, but I don't think that marching in the street complaining of a tyrannical government that is worse than al Qaeda is, because it's not honest. If they were tyrannical, if they were stifling dissent, you couldn't be marching in the street against them.

In one episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space 9", Captain Sisko noted the problem between how Earth was handling a situation and how he thought it should be handled. His complaint was that Earth itself was the problem. They had such a utopian society there--no hunger, no disease, full employment, no poor--that they couldn't understand the situation outside. In a similar fashion, I think we in the U.S. don't really understand how good we've got it. We've forgotten, as a nation, what it felt like that fall morning when 3,000 died and our notion of impenetrability was shattered.

When half the populace agrees with a guy who wanted to make terrorism a "law enforcement" issue, being reactive instead of proactive, you know we're losing our national memory. When people consider the man going after terrorists to be the "real" terrorist, amnesia has set in.

Hopefully, today will remind some folks about what is really going on in the world. Seeing people who have more of an emotional attachment to their 9/11 memories might awaken in others the real reason we can't wait for the rest of the world to agree that our country needs defending. Today is not just an occasion to light some candles. It's not just for comforting those who've lost loved ones. It is all those things, but it is also one thing above all.

This is a day to remember.

Remember.

Posted by Doug at 08:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2006

The Last Cancer Treatment You'll Ever Need

Or ever have.

Biologists have uncovered a deep link between lifespan and cancer in the form of a gene that switches off stem cells as a person ages.

The critical gene, already well known for its role in suppressing tumors, seems to mediate a profound balance between life and death. It weighs the generation of new replacement cells, required for continued life, against the risk of death from cancer, which is the inevitable outcome of letting cells divide. To offset the increasing risk of cancer as a person ages, the gene gradually reduces the ability of stem cells to proliferate.

The new finding, reported by three groups of researchers online Wednesday in Nature, was made in a special breed of mice that lack the pivotal gene, but is thought likely to apply to people as well.

The finding indicates that many of the degenerative diseases of aging are caused by an active shutting down of the stem cells that renew the body’s various tissues, and are not just a passive disintegration of tissues under life’s daily wear and tear, as is often assumed.

“I don’t think aging is a random process – it’s a program, an anti-cancer program,” said Dr. Norman E. Sharpless of the University of North Carolina, senior author of one of the three reports.


I find this article interesting on a number of levels. Let's start with the idea that this scientist says that aging is not a "random process", rather that it is "an anti-cancer program". This, to me, really stretches the credulity with which one must view evolution. Somehow, over the years of random changes, a program emerged through natural selection. But since the vast majority of mutations result in a degradation of the organism, the odds of such a program being written are astronomical, on top of all the other odds-beating events like the formation of life itself. (Talk about having faith in your religion.)

Another interesting thing is that the Bible talks about people in the book of Genesis who lived hundreds of years. This discovery could point out one of the scientific reasons this occurred. Further, it points to an idea opposite that of evolution; instead of the program being randomly formed until it was better and better, this program was written by a Programmer and sin has degraded this program, as the law of entropy would suggest is more likely.

The finding’s implications for cell therapy based on using a patient’s own adult stem cells are not yet clear, but news that the cells get switched off with age does not seem particularly encouraging. The result may undercut opponents of research with human embryonic stem cells who argue that adult stem cells are sufficient for cell therapy. Dr. Sharpless said his finding emphasized the need to pursue both types of research.

No, not necessarily. The stem cells of an 80-year-old patient may not be useful for regeneration of his own organs, but why does this automatically mean that you have to go after embryos and pull in all the ethical issue that entails? How about the stem cells of a 30- or 20-year old? This question is not answered or even asked in the article.
The researchers assume, but have not yet proved, that the increasing amounts of Ink-4 made as a person ages will thrust the stem cells into senescence, meaning they can never divide again. The evolutionary purpose is evidently to avert the risk that a damaged stem cell might evade controls and proliferate into a tumor.

There's that classic anthropomorphism of the evolutionary process again. Evolution could not have a purpose. A creator could.

A fascinating finding, with potentially fascinating developments.

Posted by Doug at 12:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 05, 2006

A Forced "Conversion"

With the return of Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig, there was a tale of a forced "conversion" to Islam. There are those, as the Captain notes, who condemn these men for doing so. I agree with Captain Ed, that we're really in no position to pass judgement on them. Never mind that we don't know what, if any, religion they do adhere to, I have to ask myself how I would react in the same situation. I would sincerely hope that I would have the guts and the faith to refuse, knowing that perhaps it may lead to a rather gruesome and painful death. Would my faith be enough to overcome the very present fear? I hope it would. I hope, but I don't know. I've never been in a situation remotely similar to the one those two men were in. I can say what a Christian should do, but I won't speak ill of someone who has the same human frailties and weaknesses I do.

As an aside, Rev. Sensing notes these confessions, as foreign as this idea may be to Christians, are completely valid to Muslims.

But, let us remember that the basis of Islam, indeed the very meaning of the word, is “submission,” not faith. There is no concept of original sin in Islam as there is in Christianity; indeed, while original sin is the conceptual glue that holds Christian doctrine together, it is entirely rejected in Islam. Christianity teaches that original sin cannot be remitted by any human works, only by the works of God, namely, Christ dying and resurrected. Hence, no deeds human beings can do can bring them to salvation. Thus, wrote St. Paul, “If you believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.” Note the order: confession follows a change of heart, an affirmation of belief. Without the change of heart the confession’s utterance is of no value.

But in Islam, the confession’s utterance is unconnected to a change of heart. In fact, a change of heart is wholly irrelevant. The confession stands alone and its only point is that it is done, not that it is believed. The entire edifice of salvation theory in Islam is built on one thing alone: human submission to perform deeds ordered by Allah. Islam does not teach that Allah desires human beings to love him; they are commanded to obey.


Christians are to obey God as well, but out of love. It should come as a response to the relationship.

Posted by Doug at 11:46 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 01, 2006

The ACLU vs. America

Wow. I knew that the ACLU promoted many positions that most Americans don't, but "Stop the ACLU" has a long list, fully documented, of comparisons between the ACLU's position and polls and statistics on Americans' views. It's truly amazing that our tax dollars help fund an organization so far to the left out of the mainstream of America.

But, you may say, sometimes what's legal isn't always popular. They cover that angle.

The reaction from ACLU-types will predictably be something like: “What is right and Constitutional is not always popular.” Easy answer: What the ACLU does is invent rights and distort the Constitution, which is why the ACLU is so UNpopular. The ACLU has used dubious interpretations of law NEVER imagined by our Founders with compliance from radical judges to push an agenda abhorrent to most Americans and indeed to the intent of the Constitution. Look no further than the ACLU’s pro bono defense of a website that advocates pedophilia and instructs its visitors in how to rape children and evade prosecution. So…the ACLU considers encouraging instruction on how to commit and get away with child rape a First Amendment right…does anyone believe that the Founders would agree? Therefore, can’t we conclude that if the ACLU is so wrong on this, that it may be wrong on many other things? Judge the evidence for yourself.

Being wrong once doesn't mean you're wrong all the time, but the example gives you an idea of what sorts of things the ACLU thinks are protected by the Constitution, and it speaks to how awful their interpretation can be.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Doug at 01:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2006

Plamegate Denouement

Attention, Mr. & Mrs. Wilson. Your 15 minutes are up.

Update: The Washington Post has a short article marking the end of this kerfuffle. Their concluding paragraph nails it.

Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.

Posted by Doug at 05:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Changes in China?

More religious openness in China? Could be happening.

A Christian author has been permitted to sign his books at a press conference at the Beijing International Book Fair, a first, according to Chinese officials.

"This is the first time in the history of China that an international religious leader has been permitted to sign copies of his book in a large public secular venue," said Shen Weiping of the China Association for International Friendly Contact.

The signing was by evangelist Luis Palau, whose book, "Riverside Talks: A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian," was released Wednesday at a Beijing news conference cut short when the crowd of journalists, photographers and television crews rushed the stage to get autographed copies and interview the authors.

It's the first time such a book has been issued in China, according to Craig Chastain of the Luis Palau Association, because it has a clear statement of the beliefs of Christianity and a description of how to become a Christian.

There were 500 copies of the book prepared for the book fair, but they were snatched up immediately.

I suppose this could be considered propaganda, but considering the description of the book, I kinda doubt it.

Palau wrote the book with Zhao Qizheng, the vice chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and former minister of information for the People's Republic of China.

As he used the book, Palau also used the press attention to explain what is meant when Christians say they follow Jesus or have peace with God.

"I believe with my whole heart that God loves China. I believe He has a special message for China and wants nothing more than to share His love with the entire nation," Palau said.

Zhao told reporters that the book – as well as his friendship with Palau – models how two people with different ideologies and backgrounds can have a dialogue and be friends.

The book was started several years ago when Zhao suggested a project to build bridges and mutual understanding, and the two held a series of face-to-face conversations.

Tapes of those meetings were turned into book form.

The project, the authors said, is a dialogue, not a debate between opposing perspectives – an atheist and a theist, a scientist and a Christian evangelist, a Marxist scholar and a religious scholar, a leader from the East and a leader from the West.

They exchanged ideas and beliefs on ethics, politics, atheism, Confucianism, Chinese and Western cultures, the Bible, religion, history, creation, philosophy and the relevance of Jesus Christ to society.


A book that describes a discussion of the Christian faith with a member of the Chinese government is certainly a big step forward. Yes, they apparently cover a wide range of topics, and perhaps the Christian message of saving from sin is spread thin among all the other information. However, it sounds like it presents the Christian perspective on a number of other relevant topics, something that many Chinese may not otherwise get exposed to. It could break down the disinformation they may have heard. This is certainly a good first step.

Hopefully also, a good first step toward the end of the persecution of Christian in that country.

Posted by Doug at 03:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 30, 2006

The Future of Dissent

Joseph Farah, on why the recent ruling requiring the condoning of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality in California institutions that get government money is a big deal.

I don't want to overstate this, but this is the end of religious freedom in the biggest state in the union.

The only alternative left for Christians and Jews and people of other faiths in California is quite literally to drop out. That means homeschooling. It means creating new institutions that won't touch any public funding – even when it is as tenuous as one student accepting a state grant. When you submit yourself or your institution to government regulation in California now, you tacitly accept the official state religion of paganism.

And don't think it will end here. It never does.

When more people choose to drop out, as they inevitably will, the coercive state will find new creative ways to come after them as well.


Just ask German homeschoolers. Yes, Farah's editorials are generally overheated, but this time I think he's really on to something. How far of a stretch is it, really, to imagine a law that makes this sort of coercion required for any business or institution simply operating in California, regardless of whether it gets state money? Not that much, in my mind.

Posted by Doug at 04:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 29, 2006

Rediscovering Christmas

Sam's Club has brought back "Christmas".

Posted by Doug at 04:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dissent is Futile, You Will Be Assimilated

It's now illegal in California schools to criticize homosexuality.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has tossed out all sexual moral conduct codes at colleges, private and Christian schools, daycare centers and other facilities throughout his state, if the institutions have any students who get state assistance.

The governor yesterday signed a bill that would require all businesses and groups receiving state funding -- even if it's a state grant for a student -- to condone homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.


Note the phrase I bolded. Not only does this affect state-run schools, but it affects any private institution that has students who get state education grant money.
There is no exception for faith-based organizations or business owners with sincerely held religious convictions, critics note.

Gov. Arnold has essentially forced private institutions to either teach what they don't believe, or refuse students who get money from the state and who may not be able to otherwise afford those institutions (and possibly cause those institutions to scale back or go out of business). The state is now forcing a particular social curriculum, to the financial detriment of those who disagree with the state's position.

If this is what a "moderate" Republican looks like, I'll stick with those further to the right, thankyouverymuch. I applauded Schwarzenegger for actually stepping up to the plate and doing something about what he believed--running for office--when other Hollywood types just had photo ops for causes. I still think he's head and shoulders above the rest, but I think he's way out of the mainstream from the public. This is simply a bad law.

If you wonder why more and more folks choose to homeschool, there's you're answer. You're not forced to immerse your kids in an institution that is diametrically opposed to what you believe.

(See also Outlawing Disagreement Regarding Homosexuality.)

Posted by Doug at 01:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Future Imperfect

This sounds like the title of a bad sci-fi flick, and the following sounds like an overused plot--on the run from government compulsion--but it's happening today in Germany. They don't trust their citizens to do what's best for their childrens' education, even the highly qualified ones.

Hamburg- A German couple who are determined to educate their six children entirely at home have fled the city of Hamburg after the father, Andre R, 44, was jailed for a week for refusing to enrol his offspring in a public school. The R family are evangelical Christians who believe that public schools are a bad moral influence on children. Father R has a university degree in teaching, so he thought he could teach his five daughters and one son their reading, writing and arithmetic at home.

But the couple have hit a brick wall with German school authorities, who say they will apply the full power of the state until the R family yields to compulsory-education laws.

In February, Andre R and wife Frauke, 39, were hauled into court and fined 840 euros (1,090 dollars) for defying education laws. This month, five police showed up at the family's rented, suburban row- house and hauled Andre R off to the Hamburg city prison.

Andre R refused to give in, so after a week among murderers and drug dealers, he was released and the authorities tried a new tack.

Officials last week began fetching the children each morning from the R home and taking them to school. Custody of the children is to taken away from the parents and the children will become wards of the state.

On Monday, no one answered when officials came knocking at the door of the R home.

Armin Eckermann, president of the German Home-Schooling Association, who is advising the family, said, "They have left Hamburg." He declined further details.

I fully understand a government that insists that children be educated, but this is over the top. In Germany, there is only one way this will be done and that is by the state. There is no place for the parent in the equation. Where does this governmental attitude come from? Hint: Not from smaller-government, more-personal-freedom conservatives. More and more central control of things like education leads to this sort of incredible action on the part of a government that insists it knows better. It's the nanny-state taken to its logical result.

I was asked in a previous post on the subject, by a German citizen, what these parents have to fear from a government education. The thing is, the people aren't trying to stop the government from doing something, it's the government trying to enforce these onerous rules, so the question should instead be put to it. Or perhaps more accurately, it should be put to the citizens who have voted for the politicians that implemented these laws. What do they have to fear? It was also pointed out to me that there were Christian schools ("overlooked by the state", according to the writer). All well and good, but not all can afford that. But that begs the question; does the state really not trust its own citizens enough to allow even a university-trained teacher to teach his own children?

Posted by Doug at 10:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 25, 2006

Outlawing Disagreement Regarding Homosexuality

The stifling of dissent, Democrat-style.

...[T]his week in one of the boldest moves yet by a sitting liberal, Democrat California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez proclaimed, "The real purpose of SB 1437 is to outlaw traditional perspectives on marriage and family in the state school system."

He continued, "The way you correct a wrong (perspective) is by outlawing. 'Cause if you don't outlaw it, then people's biases tend to take over and dominate the perspective and the point of view."

Nunez's solution to the people he disagrees with is to outlaw their ability to disagree with him.

And Nunez's viewpoint is one that pervades liberals in his party and in the nation. That is why Nunez and his fellow Democrats in the California State Assembly voted in unison to pass four bills that are all designed to punish people who disagree with them. To incarcerate someone for daring to criticize a different point of view – over a purely behavioral issue.

The bills in question have passed both houses and await Gov. Schwarzenegger's signature or veto. The bills were unanimously embraced by the Democrats and universally denounced by the Republicans.


Read the whole thing for the details on those four bills. In summary, they are designed to promote homosexuality as a lifestyle in the schools (in rather graphic detail), and to punish anyone who dares speak against it.

Some have said that it's just a matter of time before the public accepts homosexual marriage. Perhaps not. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before it's fully forced on the public, and the public loses its will to fight.

Posted by Doug at 02:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2006

The Lost Planet

While you slept last night, the solar system lost a planet.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is - and isn't - a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.


Will Mickey Mouse's dog have to be renamed "Neptune"?

Posted by Doug at 01:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 22, 2006

Wiretap Ruling Panned by Both Sides

Now that legal experts have been able to go over the recent ruling on the constitutionality of the NSA wiretaps, they're not impressed, even the ones that don't like the wiretaps.

Even legal experts who agreed with a federal judge's conclusion on Thursday that a National Security Agency surveillance program is unlawful were distancing themselves from the decision's reasoning and rhetoric yesterday.

They said the opinion overlooked important precedents, failed to engage the government's major arguments, used circular reasoning, substituted passion for analysis and did not even offer the best reasons for its own conclusions.


This from a Carter appointee. The results of a single presidential election can have ramifications long after he leaves office.
Discomfort with the quality of the decision is almost universal, said Howard J. Bashman, a Pennsylvania lawyer whose Web log provides comprehensive and nonpartisan reports on legal developments.

"It does appear," Mr. Bashman said, "that folks on all sides of the spectrum, both those who support it and those who oppose it, say the decision is not strongly grounded in legal authority."

The main problems, scholars sympathetic to the decision's bottom line said, is that the judge, Anna Diggs Taylor, relied on novel and questionable constitutional arguments when more straightforward statutory ones were available.


Much like other liberal judges who rule based on, say, emanations and penumbras, rather than the text. The "living document" way of looking at law and the Constitution has brought us decisions that legal experts from both sides of the aisle can't defend.

And if I may toot my own horn for just a bit, this point...

She ruled, for instance, that the program, which eavesdrops without court permission on international communications of people in the United States, violated the First Amendment because it might have chilled the speech of people who feared they might have been monitored.

That ruling is “rather innovative” and “not a particularly good argument,” Jack Balkin, a law professor at Yale who believes the program is illegal, wrote on his Web log.


...sounds very much like my initial critique that her explanation made wearing a wire to a mob meeting unconstitutional. I am not a lawyer and still I managed to pick this up. This says nothing about my legal knowledge, frankly, but speaks volumes against this poor ruling.

Critics of the wiretapping also don't understand why Judge Taylor's ruling didn't take into account some of the more obvious legal issues, like the FISA court law. Even supporters of the program could tick off lists of precedents that could have been used.

Supporters of the program, disclosed by The New York Times in December, suggested that Judge Taylor’s opinion was as good a way to lose as any.

“It’s hard to exaggerate how bad it is,” said John R. Schmidt, a Justice Department official in the Clinton administration who says the program is legal. He pointed to Judge Taylor’s failure to cite what he called several pertinent decisions, including one from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review in 2002 that said it took for granted that Congress “could not encroach on the president’s constitutional power” to conduct warrantless surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence.


Predictably, the ACLU will take the worst ruling and frame it as wisdom from Solomon.
Anthony Romero, the executive director of the A.C.L.U., said Judge Taylor’s decision represented vindication of established limits on the scope of executive authority.

“Ultimately,” Mr. Romero said, “any doubts about the decision will be taken up on appeal by sitting federal judges rather than pundits or commentators.”


No, the doubts will most likely stick around. According to Prof. Cass Sunstein, a rather liberal law professor at the University of Chicago, the case, while he thinks it will ultimately be won by the plaintiffs, won't be won because of anything Judge Taylor said.
“The chances that the Bush program will be upheld are not none, but slim,” Professor Sunstein said. “The chances that this judge’s analysis will be adopted are also slim.”

Posted by Doug at 11:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 21, 2006

When "Cease-Fire" is Spelled "R-E-A-R-M"

Well, that didn't take long.

JERUSALEM – Hezbollah has returned to many of its strongholds in south Lebanon and is capable of launching another round of attacks against the Jewish state, Israeli and Lebanese officials tell WorldNetDaily.

The statements follow scores of reports Iran and Syria are attempting to rearm Hezbollah one week after a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon went into effect following 34 days of confrontations that began when Lebanese militia ambushed an Israeli patrol unit, kidnapping two soldiers and killing eight others.

"Hezbollah has undoubtedly returned to their positions," Walid Jumblatt, Lebanon's Druze leader and head of the country's Progressive Socialist Party, told WND. "They were victorious against Israel and now they are regrouping for another round, which is inevitable."


Looks like Thomas Sowell will be shown to be right, as calling for a cease-fire is doing nothing but giving Hizbollah time to rearm for the next strike.

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How Green is Your Church?

Dr. Roy Spencer at TCS Daily asks "How Green is Your Church?" and hits points about global warming and the different way that Christians can react to it that we've covered here before. But I wanted to highlight his concluding paragraphs.

Bjorn Lomborg, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, assembled a panel of experts in economics who were charged with determining -- given a fixed amount of money to be dedicated to improving the human conditions -- what actions give the biggest returns for the least money. The result was the "Copenhagen Consensus", with over a dozen policy approaches prioritized in terms of bang-for-the-buck. Fighting climate change was at the bottom of the list. Fighting malaria, AIDS, provision of clean water and other sanitation measures were a few that were at or near the top of the list.

As has often been the case where economics and policy intersect, good intentions are not enough. The lesson for the church is, while it is one thing to agree to "help the world's poor", it is another thing entirely to determine how to best spend limited financial resources. Unless we examine the consequences of our charitable efforts, it is entirely possible to inadvertently make matters worse, rather than better.

Posted by Doug at 09:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

Unconstitutional by Association

A recent court ruling claims that, while a religious display might not be unconstitutional in and of itself, if too many religious people get near it, it becomes unconstitutional.

The ruling from the Fifth Court of Appeals said the display of a Bible on public ground in Houston to honor the founder of a mission has to go, not because it was unconstitutional itself, but because it became unconstitutional when a Christian group rallied around it.

The pastor's group said that means any monument, building, or even feature of nature is an illegal "establishment of religion" if a church ceremony is held there.

"Connecting the dots between the eminent domain case, which says all of your churches are up for grabs if a town wants a mall, secondly you now have been told you do not have constitutional rights in the public square," Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors Conference, told WorldNetDaily.

"Any kind of an event is okay, as long as you didn't express any religious faith. What is that telling you?

...

Welch told WND that the court's conclusion was "ludicrous" and if followed logically, could mean that a religious rally at any public building would therefore make the building unconstitutional so it would have to be removed.

The Bible was installed on county property about five decades ago in honor of William Mosher, the founder of Star of Hope Mission, and was replaced in 1996 with donated funds. However, an atheist challenged the monument, and on an appeal from the District Court decision that the Bible was unconstitutional, the appeals court carried the argument further.

Its ruling said that the monument became an unconstitutional "establishment" after a 2003 rally was held by Christians to defend the display. That rally involved prayers and clergy, the court noted.

"The ramifications of this tortured decision are breath-taking and without any historic or legitimate Constitutional rationale," said the pastors' organization. "For the court to state that if a private citizen exercises his or her First Amendment rights of religious expression and assembly on public property, that any monument, building or fixed item of any kind that contains religious references becomes 'establishment of religion' is simply irrational."


Even if you don't think that such predicted persecution "followed logically" from such a ruling, the ruling itself is awful. It's certainly one that, if it stays in force on appeal, makes the constitutionality of any sort of religious display, even in a religious context, subject to the whims of judges. Is that what the First Amendment means by "free exercise" of religion?

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August 17, 2006

A Civil Society Approach to Welfare

I'm a little behind in my podcast listening since having gone on vacation, but I listened to one this evening from the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Father Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, gave a 40 minute talk on "A Civil Society Approach to Welfare" (link is to the mp3 file). It's an absolute must-listen for a Christian considering caring for the poor, the morality of the welfare state, the waste of the federal "solution" to this, and the unintended consequences.

One of the very many good points that Sirico makes is that governmental social services, by their nature, cannot minister to the whole person. The spiritual side is ignored, and in many cases (Sirico suggests that it may be in the majority of cases) there is a deeper moral issue that has caused the poverty. (Most of our own problems, indeed, reflect a personal issue with sin.) The church is the best party to deal with this, but when the government steps in, it siphons off funds that would go to faith-based organizations, and turns many of those organizations into lobbying groups for more welfare instead of groups that actually do anything. Social services that ignore the spiritual nature of man in essence treat him as cattle. When the cows are cold, we put them in the barn. If they're thirsty, we give them something to drink. Nothing wrong with doing that for people, but people aren't cattle. There's a dimension that is ignored by government a thousand miles away (or even government down the street).

This talk is absolutely chock full of great points. I wish there was a transcript that I could post excerpts from, so you'll just have to listen to it. Really. And if you have a podcatcher, pick up their feed.

Posted by Doug at 09:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NSA Wiretaps Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that the Bush administration's NSA warrantless wiretaps of international calls are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

A few things in this paragraph bug me. First, when one says she "became the first", the AP implies "of others", because you don't typically refer to the first of something when there is only one of them, or unless you're anticipating more (or trying to give the impression that there will be more). Their bias is showing, and their intent to manipulate public opinion has begun.

Secondly, listening to speech in no way restricts it. It's like saying when a stoolie wears a wire it stifles the free speech of the mob.

Thirdly, there's that elusive general constitutional right to privacy that no one can ever put their finger on. There are some specific privacy rights, but none so general as would prevent people from listening in on conversations or allow the general right of getting an abortion.

Now granted, this is a very preliminary report of the ruling, which just hit the wires. There's certainly more to come, and the description of the ruling at this point may be overgeneralized. In fact, there's no mention in the article about the warrant or FISA issues. And frankly, as I said when this thing first came out, I'm always a bit wary of expanding government power (though when it's a constitutionally-mandated power, I'm less concerned). But if this turns out to be true--that this flimsy ground is what the ruling is built upon--it's worth of appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the U.S. and people in other countries.

Yup, let's make it easier for journalists to do their job, while making it harder for the intelligence agencies to do their's. Now that's prioritization.

Certainly this will be a hot topic in the days to come.

Posted by Doug at 01:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 16, 2006

Winners and Losers in the Latest Mideast Conflict

Doing some more catch-up today. This time, the recently "cease-fired" battle in southern Lebanon between Israel and Hizbollah

This particular battle had quite a lot of popular support, from both the Right and the Left, in Israel. Israel's peace movement was essentially silenced as either they didn't speak up and/or they agreed with the premise. This was also noted on the Radio Open Source program of 7/31, in a show highlighting Israeli reactions. How the battle was prosecuted certainly has its critics, but hardly anyone disagreed with the justness of it.

And who can we at least partially thank for the necessity of it? Why the UN, of course. While their "peacekeeper" were flying their flag along with Hizbollah's, Iran and Syria were rearming these terrorists (Hizbollah, not the UN). Israel tried to make this a quick and effective battle by sending in special forces to take out enemy positions early, but what they ran into were more and better bunkers than they'd known about. Hizbollah was showering Israel with far more rockets than they were thought to have. Much of this digging in and rearming occurred during the 2 years that UN 1559, the resolution saying that Hizbollah must be disarmed, was in force. Guess this august body was quite sure of what needed to be done, but no one was willing to do it. (Until Israel started the job. Then, of course, the UN balked.)

I wonder if Israel will now have 2 years to abide by the UN resolution calling for a cease-fire. No, in fact Kofi Annan wanted the fighting to stop before the appointed hour in the resolution.

As I noted earlier, Thomas Sowell said that there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else, and that doesn't seem to have solved the Arab-Israeli issue. I don't think this one will either. Here are some of the pros and cons of this:

Pros:

  • Civilian deaths will stop: Well, Lebanese civilian deaths will stop, which is a good thing in and of itself. I really don't think that this cease-fire will stop Israeli civilian deaths, especially since it was Hizbollah that started the shooting. Letting them continue on to fight another day just delays when that begins again.
  • Israel forced the UN to actually do something about UN 1559: The United Nations sat on its collective hands for 2 years, allowing and hardly discussing the violating of an international border by Hizbollah. Is this the way to prevent war, by allowing one side to attack and kidnap? Is this they way to achieve fairness, by only passing resolutions when the other side defends itself? But in any event, the cease-fire will allow forces to come in and hopefully start the job of enforcement that should have been started 24 months ago.

Cons:
  • Hizbollah lives to fight another day: We are going to see further Israeli casualties in the future. It's simply a matter of when. This new resolution, 1701 (not a Star Trek reference, for those that may get it), also calls for the disarming of Hizbollah. Think it'll happen? I'm not talking about whether Hizbollah gives up some of it's rockets, I'm talking about disarming. No, I don't think will. Instead, they'll give up their older tech in likely anticipation of getting longer-range missiles from Syria and Iran, while the UN "peacekeepers" mill about.
  • Hizbollah is legitimized: The UN is treating like a country. According to Andy McCarthy at National Review, the resolution...
    doesn't purport to direct any UN member nation to make Hezbollah cease firing — least of all Lebanon, the purported sovereign of this territory. Instead, it appeals to Hezbollah directly — in the same paragraph in which it addresses Israel, as if there were no difference in status between the two — and "calls on" it to stand down.

  • The resolution has no teeth: It was not passed with what's known as Chapter 7 provisions, so the international force can't actually do anything if Hizbollah starts shooting at Israel again. As Michael Rubin puts it (also on National Review), the force thus becomes so much "decoration". Hizbollah doesn't even have to return the kidnapped soldiers, the flashpoint of this battle.
  • Instability in Israel: If just one more rocket is launched from southern Lebanon or one more attack made, the Olmert administration is done for. While the cease-fire is ostensibly insured by the UN, it'll be Olmert that pays the price if it fails.
  • Israel is essentially punished for properly leaving Lebanon: As they say, no good deed goes unpunished, at least in the Middle East. Click here for a list of the sacrifices made and costs incurred by Israel in the one year since moving out of Gaza and portions of the West Bank. Note also the thanks they got in return from the Palestinians.

And, as ScrappleFace notes, if cease-fires work so well, how about we call a cease-fire in the war on terror, eh? Think Osama will abide by it?

(Other notable reactions to the cease-fire are at Captain's Quarters and Power Line.)

Overall, I think Israel got a raw deal. They may have made some gains against Hizbollah, but not enough to ensure their security. Thank you, United Nations.

The media have been an interesting part of this conflict. They come out with a number of black eyes, especially regarding photography (or as Glenn Reynolds has referred to it as, "fauxtography"). As noted by Jim, and heavily documented at "EU Referendum", the video and photos coming in from the front have been manipulated, either intentionally or not. The fact that this happened, as far as I know, exclusively on the Hizbollah/Lebanese side of the equation make the press look like patsies, full of bias, or both. (It doesn't say much for the Arabs, either, when you'd be hard-pressed to find nearly the same attempts at manipulation by civilians on the Israeli side.)

This hasn't been solely a pictorial issue. CNN International coverage of the conflict was highlighted by a report that minimized Israeli deaths while reporting heavily on Lebanese ones, and inferring that Israelis would intentionally target civilians, among other things. The foreign media in general covered Beirut extensively, but virtually ignored Haifa. They've called Israeli leaflets asking civilians to leave a soon-to-be-attacked area "propaganda", ignored bad news for Hizbollah, reported their own opinion in news, and ignored dissention against Hizbollah in Lebanon.

As I've noted before, typically, your political persuasion can generally predict who you side with in Arab-Israeli conflicts. It shouldn't be that way, given a clear reading of history, but it generally does. Conservatives tend to side with Israel, liberals with the Arabs. Now, given the leanings of the press in the coverage, it further adds credibility to the charge that they have a liberal bias. Just another of a long line of such lists of evidence.

To be honest, I've found myself on CNN as often as FoxNews in the recent weeks, mostly because I wanted current news rather than analysis or opinion, and Anderson Cooper was doing more of that than Bill O'Reilly or Greta van Susteren. While you can point to some reports and programs that were balanced, when you look at those that could be considered biased for one side of the other, and when you see which side that bias almost always falls, the press, once again, falls into the camp that conservatives have always said it would.

But those that deny such a bias will also hand-wave away such evidence as well. That I expect, but find increasingly amazing.

So in summary:

  • Israel: Short term win, medium term up in the air (thank you, UN), long term loss.
  • Hizbollah: Short term loss, medium term win.
  • United Nations: All term loss (toothless, cowardly; needs to visit the Wizard of Oz).
  • The Media: Loss. Again. Not really news, so to speak.

Posted by Doug at 03:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2006

Playing Politics with People's Lives

Playing a little catch-up after 2 weeks in the Great Smoky Mountains. (Loved it; camped out and went whitewater rafting, among other things, with the family.)

The terrorist airline bombing plot that was foiled last week is a testament to the Bush administration's approach to the problem vs. Kerry's proposed "law enforcement" approach. Law enforcement relies on the penalty for breaking the law being a deterrent. It doesn't handle suicidal maniacs very well.

The Wall St. Journal put it this way:

Let's emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.

Some have shot back (see the comments to this post from World Magazine's blog) that the issue is legality, making it sound like they'd have no issue whatsoever if the NSA wiretapping and the SWIFT program, both of which the NY Times exposed, would be hunky-dory with them if only they were legal. Problem is, the NSA program hasn't been shown to be illegal and the SWIFT program was patently legal (even the Times admitted that). And it is possible that some of the intercepts were international calls to the US (ABC News' "The Blotter" blog notes that the FBI is following up on domestic leads). I don't buy this appeal to legality since all is assumed to be wrong if done by a Republican.

And I'm pretty confident in that generalization, as reported by PoliPundit.

"Regardless of how you voted in the presidential election, would you say you want President Bush to succeed or not?"
Democrats: No, 51%

And with this success in the war on terror, you'd think this would be good news, but, again, not for Democrats. (The WSJ again...)

And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success. Harry Reid, who's bidding to run the Senate as Majority Leader, saw it as one more opportunity to insist that "the Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists."

If the terror plot had been successful, you no doubt could've hear the exact same rhetoric coming from Reid. It's nothing but a talking point to try and make political hay out of a success viewed as a failure. (Is this what Democrats mean by "reframing" the debate?)
Ted Kennedy chimed in that "it is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win." Mr. Kennedy somehow overlooked that the foiled plan was nearly identical to the "Bojinka" plot led by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995. Did the Clinton Administration's "misguided policies" invite that plot?

And I would add; what is it we need to do to make ourselves more liked by Islamic fascists, and do we really even want to consider it? We are not hated primarily because of policy or politics; we're hated because we're not Muslims. France has bent over backwards to avoid offending Muslims, and they got riots anyway. Indonesia's huge Muslim population and Muslim preference didn't stop the Bali bombings. And the 9/11 attacks had most of their planning period spent under the Clinton administration. They didn't start hating us and planning our demise once Dubya sat down in the Oval Office.

This is a textbook case of playing politics with people's lives. It's time for Democrats to take a deep breath and determine what's best for the country instead of just their own political careers. It's time for the man on the street to see this rhetoric for what it is. And it's time for the far left to take a reality check, step back from the Bush Derangement Syndrome they're suffering from, and take an honest look at the world. If not--if the Democrats continue to be pulled to the left by vitriol and dishonesty--I don't see how they expect this to win them more votes in November.

Posted by Doug at 01:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 28, 2006

The Mounting Human Cost of a Single Abortion

The ills that abortion is known to cause, outside of the obvious death of a child, continues to either mount or be reinforced.

A new report from a committee of the National Academies of Science finds that a first-trimester abortion, the most common abortion procedure, is linked to an increasing risk of premature birth. The report comes from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a NAS organization.

The IOM published a report this month titled "Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention."

In the report is a list of "immutable medical risk factors associated with preterm birth" and "prior first-trimester abortion" is listed third among other risk factors that increase the risk of having a subsequent premature birth.

The report has huge consequences for abortion because premature birth can lead to a host problems, including cerebral palsy for the child and breast cancer for the mother.


Teenagers are at higher risk due to higher risk of infection and an immature cervix.

This also bolsters the abortion-cancer link.

The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, a group that monitors the link between abortion and breast cancer for women, says the "IOM's findings provide further support for an abortion-breast cancer link."

"If, after having had an abortion, a childless woman is unable to carry subsequent pregnancies, then she could remain childless for the remainder of her life. Cancer organizations say childlessness (nulliparity) is a risk factor for breast cancer," the group said in a statement provided to LifeNews.com.

Other research shows that a premature birth before 32 weeks gestation increases the mother's breast cancer risk, including articles in the British Journal of Cancer and Lancet, both in 1999.


Even though the pro-abortion forces continue to deny that there is any link between the two, the evidence continues to come in. The reason is simple biology.
The biological reasons for this are the same as for the abortion-cancer link, the Coalition explained.

"Breast tissue is only matured from cancer-susceptible tissue into cancer resistant tissue during the last eight weeks of a full-term pregnancy. During this time, women receive protection from estrogen overexposure experienced during the first two trimesters of pregnancy," the group said.


So not only does an abortion kill a child, it can permanently harm the mother, and hurt or kill subsequent children. If someone really is concerned for women, they ought to be concerned for them more than just for the here and now; more than the time it takes for the check to clear.

Posted by Doug at 01:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Thomas Sowell on Cease-Fires

Here's an interesting thought from Thomas Sowell.

People are calling for a cease-fire in the interests of peace. But there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else. If cease-fires actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be the most peaceful region on the face of the earth instead of the most violent.

This is not to say that cease-fires are useless. But it depends on the parties involved. Henry Kissinger was on Fox & Friends this morning, and he mentioned that in his day, he didn't have to deal with these types of groups; he just dealt with countries that had land and people they were responsible for. Hezbollah's just a group all willing to die for their cause, and in today's climate they know how to play the game.

There was a time when it would have been suicidal to threaten, much less attack, a nation with much stronger military power because one of the dangers to the attacker would be the prospect of being annihilated.

"World opinion," the U.N. and "peace movements" have eliminated that deterrent. An aggressor today knows that if his aggression fails, he will still be protected from the full retaliatory power and fury of those he attacked because there will be hand-wringers demanding a cease fire, negotiations and concessions.

That has been a formula for never-ending attacks on Israel in the Middle East. The disastrous track record of that approach extends to other times and places -- but who looks at track records?


It's that history repeating itself thing the people ignore at their peril, or the peril of others. Actually, that's why I think that most of the rest of the world is telling Israel to stand down while the US isn't. It's because they don't remember relatively recent history. Don't forget that most of the world was unwilling to confront Hitler head on ("Peace in our time", anyone?), or afraid to appear strong and resolute against the Communist threat. Both those enemies took full advantage of that timidity. For Hitler, it took America to come in and defeat him, not ask for a cease-fire. For Communism, it took so many proxy wars, but the political climate kept us from defeating it, and people in Korea and Vietnam and Cambodia and many other places paid, and are still paying, the price for it.

If the world considers Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations, then leaving them alone when they kill Israelis is not an option. Well, it shouldn't be. As it is, Hezbollah can launch hundreds of rockets without much of a peep at all from the international community, but Israel is considered too aggressive when it tries to stop those shooting the rockets. Make no mistake; Hezbollah's charter does not allow it to negotiate a permanent peace until either Israel is gone, or they are gone. Which would you rather have win?

Posted by Doug at 02:35 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

July 25, 2006

Codes Within Codes

Codes within the code of life - "Researchers believe they have found a second code in DNA in addition to the genetic code."

The genetic code specifies all the proteins that a cell makes. The second code, superimposed on the first, sets the placement of the nucleosomes, miniature protein spools around which the DNA is looped. The spools both protect and control access to the DNA itself.

The discovery, if confirmed, could open new insights into the higher order control of the genes, like the critical but still mysterious process by which each type of human cell is allowed to activate the genes it needs but cannot access the genes used by other types of cell.


Here's a very interesting paragraph at the end (emphasis mine).
In the genetic code, sets of three DNA units specify various kinds of amino acid, the units of proteins. A curious feature of the code is that it is redundant, meaning that a given amino acid can be defined by any of several different triplets. Biologists have long speculated that the redundancy may have been designed so as to coexist with some other kind of code, and this, Dr. Segal said, could be the nucleosome code.

Yes, I'm sure that they're intending to refer to blind chance over millennia being some sort of designer. But the more they find codes within codes, one wonders how long they'll stretch believability in that regard.

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July 24, 2006

Da Vinci Part Deux

"The Da Vinci Code" was just fiction, right? No harm done. No one would actually act on it, right?

A California woman publishing a novel similar to "The Da Vinci Code" claims she is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Kathleen McGowan of Los Angeles is making the statement as her work, "The Expected One," becomes available this summer.

"I don't want people to think I'm claiming to be some elitist figure in the [Jesus] bloodline," McGowan told the Sunday Times of London. "But what I'm saying is that Mary and Jesus had children and after 2,000 years of procreation there are probably millions of descendants around the world. I believe I'm one."


This would never have been published if not for Dan Brown's success.

McGowan submitted her proposal to publishers in 1997, and says, "I was laughed out of New York City. ... I was told nobody would ever publish a book claiming Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene."

Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" asserted that after the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus' child, moved to France with the help of Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus' uncle. She purportedly lived among local Jews and gave birth to a daughter named Sarah.

A former editor for the Irish News in Belfast, McGowan originally published her version herself last year after selling shoes on eBay to pay for research. Though it sold only 2,500 copies, the rights were snagged by Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

The publishing house has already spent seven figures acquiring the rights to the story, and will spend another $275,000 on marketing.


The book is based on a prophesy that Ms. McGowan considers true, and in a Rev. Moon-like move, sets up the prophesy in such a way that she possibly is one to fulfill it.
She says the book's title refers to an ancient prophecy about a woman chosen by divine providence to bring the real story of Mary Magdalene's life to the world. But she won't say whether or not she considers herself "The Expected One."

"I'm not grandiose about this, and it concerns me a lot that I could be portrayed that way," she told USA Today. "I don't want it to appear that I'm standing up and saying I'm the expected one. That's a dangerous, ego-driven kind of thing."


(As I understand it, Rev. Moon prophesied about a coming prophet of God that was rather specific, and that he himself fulfilled.)

So now, in addition to the many fooled by Mr. Brown's book (a book that, while fiction, he claimed was mostly the truth), we have another book and possible movie that may bring in more, and confirm the "faith" of those already in that camp. The church needs to speak with a louder voice on this, lest we give up the saving of the gullible and the ignorant. I understand the reluctance of some churches to deal with transitory pop culture fads and deal more with the eternal. I hear the best way to learn to spot counterfeit money is to educate yourself primarily on what a good bill looks like, but this phoniness is being passed around at an alarming rate.

Posted by Doug at 02:33 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

Heat Wave in England

England in a heat wave! Record 92 degree temperatures. Wildfires springing up spontaneously. Deaths from the heat. Weeks without rain. Farmers having to harvest their crops at the earliest time in 46 years. News reports describe a paucity of songbirds; quiet in the countryside.

Click here to read how bad things were in England...in 1911! Indeed, the record temps have been broken this week, but if today's records are due to man-made reasons, how to explain records from 100 years ago? If you can explain those records, could not those explanations apply to today as well? If you can't explain those records, can you really explain today's?

And the globe has indeed been hotter. Wheat farming in Greenland, anyone?

Posted by Doug at 11:39 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

Why Did God Create Oil?

Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty brings together the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a disconnect in environmentalism's disdain of nuclear energy, his answer to "Why did God create oil", and Mr. Fusion. If we want cleaner sources of energy, we need to be willing to accept them. It's not enough to be against a particular means of energy; you need to be for something to replace it.

Posted by Doug at 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2006

It's About Time, Mr. President, but Good Call

Veto Pen: found.

Embryonic stem cell bill: vetoed.

Lives to be saved: priceless.

It's sad that it took Bush this long to veto anything, but it's a fine one to start on. Morally and financially, this was the right call.

(More at Redstate.)

(And thanks for stopping by Townhall blog readers. Thanks for the mention, Mary.)

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How to Liberate Lebanon and Help Secure Israel

Charles Krauthammer once again nails it. The Lebanese, regardless of religion, don't want Hezbollah to continue to own south Lebanon. But Lebanon itself is too weak to evict them.

The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.

It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran's choosing.


And a cease-fire at this point in time may embolden Hezbollah in the same way that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon did. Land for peace simply does not work with these guys. It never has.

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Cat, Meet Dog. Dog, This is Cat.

Brent Bozell, President of the conservative Media Research Center, is calling Oliver Stone's World Trade Center move "a masterpiece".

Posted by Doug at 12:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

McKinney Faces Runoff

After thinking she could coast to a win in the primaries, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) instead faces a runoff.

Incumbent Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was forced into a three-week runoff campaign after drawing less than 50 percent of the vote in her first re-election bid since her scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer.

McKinney only edged former two-term DeKalb County commissioner Hank Johnson by fewer than 1,500 votes -- 28,507 to 27,049. The two will pair off again in an Aug. 8 runoff for the Congressional 4th District.


In Georgia, if you don't win your primary with >50% of the vote, there's a runoff between the top 2 contenders. Given McKinney's antics in and out of Washington, I'm dismayed that so many in her district still support her. There was the whacking of a Capitol Hill police officer back in March, of course, but she even failed to show up, with no advance notice, for 2 scheduled televised debates for this election. And even with all that she still picked up 47% of the vote.

Talk about taking your constituents for granted. (And talk about constituents who don't really care about the issues.) Hopefully, the supporters of John Coyne, the 3rd place finisher, can rally with Johnson supporters and rid Georgia of this embarrassment.

Posted by Doug at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2006

With an Eye to History - The Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Israeli-Palestinian situation is not--or I guess I should say "should not"--be a matter of left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, Muslim/Judeo-Christian or whatever divide you want to put forth. It's a matter of history, and sadly the reaction to it does seem to generally break into all of those two camps. Typically it's that the former generally leaning towards the Palestinians (with some added generalities about stopping "all" violence, though they find their voice more often against Israel) and the latter leaning towards the Israelis. But if you look at history, it really shouldn't be an ideological issue.

Charles Krauthammer has an article today that seeks to answer the question "Who is at fault?" Some folks think that trying to assign blame and figure out who started it is an exercise in futility. Often that's true. However, there is a generation of history to look back on and see that the causes of this conflict can far more often be laid at the feet of those who break their promises, target indiscriminately, and twist history to try to gain an advantage.

Next June will mark the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. For four decades we have been told that the cause of the anger, violence and terror against Israel is its occupation of the territories seized in that war. End the occupation and the ``cycle of violence'' ceases.

The problem with this claim was that before Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six Day War, every Arab state had rejected Israel's right to exist and declared Israel's pre-1967 borders -- now deemed sacred -- to be nothing more than the armistice lines suspending, and not ending, the 1948-49 war to exterminate Israel.


That's just for starters. From day 1, Arabs have been the ones who did not want to live in peace. Israel has been in a defensive war since its birth. Any ground taken was to create a buffer zone between its enemies and the thin sliver of land they were given. If you attack from point A, don't complain when you're pushed back to point B by the nation you attacked. This isn't a liberal/conservative issue; it's a matter of history.
But you don't have to be a historian to understand the intention of Israel's enemies. You only have to read today's newspapers.

Exhibit A: Gaza. Just last September, Israel evacuated Gaza completely. It declared the border between Israel and Gaza an international frontier, renouncing any claim to the territory. Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory in history. Yet the Gazans continued the war. They turned Gaza into a base for launching rocket attacks against Israel and for digging tunnels under the border to conduct attacks like the one that killed two Israeli soldiers on June 25 and yielded a wounded hostage brought back to Gaza. Israeli tanks have now had to return to Gaza to try to rescue the hostage and suppress the rocket fire.


The Palestinians vowed land for peace. Israel exited Gaza completely. And what has Gaza turned into? A new and closer launching pad for rockets and new and closer bases from which guerillas can operate. This is a matter of history, not ideology. The "cycle of violence" is heavily weighted on one side. Yes, sometimes Israel responds with force, but many, many times it gives land-for-peace a chance. It allows its adversaries the opportunity to do the right thing. It is always disappointed.
Exhibit B: South Lebanon. Two weeks later, on July 12, the Lebanese terror organization, Hezbollah, which has representation in the Lebanese parliament and in the Cabinet, launched an attack into Israel that killed eight soldiers and wounded two, who were brought back to Lebanon as hostages.

What's the grievance here? Israel withdrew from Lebanon completely in 2000. It was so scrupulous in making sure that not one square inch of Lebanon was left inadvertently occupied that it asked the U.N. to verify the exact frontier defining Lebanon's southern border and retreated behind it. This ``blue line'' was approved by the Security Council, which declared that Israel had fully complied with resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Lebanon.

Grievance satisfied. Yet what happens? Hezbollah has done to South Lebanon exactly what Hamas has done to Gaza: turn it into a military base and terrorist operations center from which to continue the war against Israel. South Lebanon bristles with Hezbollah's ten-thousand Katyusha rockets that put northern Israel under the gun. Fired in the first hours of fighting, just 85 of these killed two Israelis and wounded over 100 in Israel's northern towns.


Instead of land-for-peace, Arabs occupy the land and do not change the game plan. Each step closer to Israel is one step further in their mortars and rockets can penetrate. And when they attack, they target civilians. These are terrorists. This is a matter of history, of fact. This is still not, or should not be, an ideological debate.

The issue has never been occupation, all their talk to the contrary. If it was, the Gaza that had been asked for would be a place where Palestini

Posted by Doug at 09:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Diplomacy and Christianity in North Korea

Rick Warren has accepted an invitation from North Korea to speak there. According to writer Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, in an interview printed yesterday in Christianity Today, this is most likely just a propaganda play and a possible diplomatic connection. He'll preach to a pretend church to help the North Koreans "prove" they have religious freedom. But supposedly this is one of the only real channels the North Koreans use with the West. Boyd-MacMillan says that Billy Graham did this for years, so let's hope this is some way to ratchet down the tensions.

Boyd-MacMillan talks mostly about what it's like for Christians in North Korea in this interview and some of the challenges in doing evangelism there. Very informative

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July 10, 2006

Fast-Forward Considered Harmful; Hollywood Stifles Viewer Choice

You are not allowed to choose what you will and won't watch in a movie. So says Hollywood and the courts.

A federal judge in Colorado has handed the entertainment industry a big win in its protracted legal battle against a handful of small companies that offer sanitized versions of theatrical releases on DVD.

The case encompasses two of Hollywood's biggest headaches these days: the culture wars and the disruptive influence of digital technologies.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch came down squarely on the side of the Directors Guild of America and the major studios in his ruling that the companies must immediately cease all production, sale and rentals of edited videos. The summary judgment issued Thursday requires the companies -- Utah-based CleanFlicks, CleanFilms and Play It Clean Video, Arizona-based Family Flix USA and the separate entity CleanFlicks of Colorado -- to turn over all existing copies of their edited movies to lawyers for the studios for destruction within five days of the ruling.

Utah's CleanFlicks, which describes itself as the largest distributor of edited movies, through online sales and rentals and sales to video stores in Utah, Arizona and other states in the region, said it would continue its fight against the guild and the studios. CleanFlicks and the others make copies of official DVD releases and then edit them for sex, nudity, violence and profanity.


Yes, I know you could spend the time yourself recording the DVD to video tape and try to hit pause/play at just the right times (though the point was not to have to view the objectionable material, even once). Yes, I know you could possibly load up the movie on your computer and, with some expensive DVD editing software cuts out all the parts you want, down to the words. Yes, I know you could spend all that time and/or money doing that yourself.

Or you could pay someone else to. Well, not according to the courts. No, all the gratuitous sex and violence is, not just artistically, but legally required for the story to be told. And no, the studios don't lose a single penny, and yes you can view the original if you really want to.

The mainstreaming of sophisticated digital editing technologies has fueled the cottage industry of movie sanitizers. CleanFlicks and others purchase an official DVD copy of a film on DVD for each edited version of the title they produce through the use of editing systems and software. The official release disc is included alongside the edited copy in every sale or rental transaction conducted. As such, the companies argued that they had the right on First Amendment and fair use grounds to offer consumers the alternative of an edited version for private viewing, so long as they maintained that "one-to-one" ratio to ensure that copyright holders got their due from the transactions. Matsch disagreed.

"Their business is illegitimate," the judge wrote in his 16-page ruling. "The right to control the content of the copyrighted work ... is the essence of the law of copyright."


Careful now, because this statement makes it sound like I can't make my own, edited copy of a movie that I legitimately purchased. If I can't have someone else do it for me, can I legally do it myself? Even if, in both the court case any my hypothetical, an original copy of the movie was legally purchased and is available with the edited version? Don't I have a choice what part of a purchased movie I choose to see? This ruling teeters on the edge of making me a law-breaker for essentially hitting the Fast Forward button on my remote.

This sort of mentality almost occurred with DVD hardware, in the ClearPlay situation. This is a device that allows you to play your DVD and it takes care of filtering it as you watch the movie. What parts to skip are download to the player, and you just hit play.

Early on, the legal sparring involved Salt Lake City-based ClearPlay, which offers video filtering software that allows for home viewing of cleaned-up versions of Hollywood titles.

ClearPlay offers software programs developed for specific titles that users can run on their computer or ClearPlay's proprietary DVD player along with an official copy of the DVD. With this technology, a nude shot of an actor can be altered to show a silhouette, or profanity can be bleeped out. Because ClearPlay's technology does not involve making an altered DVD copy, it has been shielded from the copyright infringement claims. The debate over movie content filtering activities made its way into Congress, which passed the 2005 Family Movie Act that protects ClearPlay and other software-based filtering companies. Matsch noted that Congress at that time had the opportunity to also carve out legal protections for CleanFlicks and its ilk, but chose not to.


The result is exactly the same as watching a pre-edited movie; you own the original, and you watch what you want to. It took an act of Congress to protect your right to skip parts of a movie via a hardware device. It looks like it'll take another one to protect your right to allow a 3rd party to edit it for you (or possibly to protect you from doing it yourself), even though the results of the two technologies result in exactly the same output. The fact that you can obtain a permanent copy of that output shouldn't matter and is a transparent fig leaf to hide behind.

Posted by Doug at 01:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 06, 2006

Georgia Same-Sex Marriage Amendment Upheld

The constitutional amendment stands.

The Georgia Supreme Court's decision Thursday upholding a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage capped a two-year battle that mobilized the gay community, brought conservative voters to the polls in 2004 and threatened to become a politically charged issue in this year's election.

The state's highest court unanimously affirmed the constitutional amendment - approved by 76 percent of voters in 2004 - that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.


The amendment was appealed on the grounds that it violated Georgia's rule that constitutional amendments must deal with one topic only; the "single subject rule". Opponents said it dealt with both marriage and civil unions, thus more than one subject. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled, rightly in my opinion, that there truly was one subject.
But Justice Robert Benham, who was appointed to the court in 1989 by then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris and wrote the short, six-page opinion, refuted that claim. He wrote that the objective of the amendment is "reserving marriage and its attendant benefits to unions of man and woman."

He went on to say that the prohibition against civil unions was not "dissimilar and discordant" with that objective.

The decision ends the opponents' appeal process on the "single-subject rule" issue.


The single subject rule was to keep unrelated items from appearing in the same amendment, but this was a single subject--marriage--dealt with on two fronts, not two subjects.

As has been the case all over the country, same-sex couples have been using the courts to get their way rather than using the legislative process. (See here for another example of some courts rightly pushing this to the legislature, and Democrats reliably upset that their hopes of ruling by judicial fiat have been dashed. Legislation has become the fall-back position rather than the front line.) This is why an amendment was necessary; to meet them on the playing field of their own choosing.

Both gay marriage and civil unions were already illegal in Georgia. Supporters of the amendment said that defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the state Constitution would make it harder for judges to overturn the law.
Not impossible, for a judge enamoured with the whole "it's a living document which means what I want it to mean...today" mentality, but certainly harder. Opponents of the amendment have no one to blame for requiring this step but themselves. Some people, however, either still don't get it, or are playing things up for their own base.
Chuck Bowen, executive director of Georgia Equality, a political advocacy group dedicated to gay rights, said while he is disappointed with the decision, he is pleased that gay marriage most likely will not be a big election issue this year.

"Our families and our lives should never be used to pander for votes," Bowen said.


This had absolutely nothing to do with pandering. Sure, it revved up the conservative base, but again that was a response to legal moves being made by same-sex marriage proponents. They forced the issue, not conservatives or Republicans or the Religious Right.

Here's an interesting line in the story:

The constitutional amendment banning gay marriage first came before the General Assembly in 2004 and immediately became the most controversial and emotional issue debated by lawmakers that year.

"Controversial" only in the sense that it brought rather loud opponents out of the woodwork. Those were the folks stirring controversy. Something that passes with 76% of the vote is hardly controversial.

This sums it up well:

"Today's decision by the Supreme Court was the correct one," state Attorney General Thurbert Baker said in a statement. "The people of Georgia overwhelmingly ratified the constitutional amendment stating that marriage should be reserved for a union between a man and a woman. I am pleased with the court's ruling respecting the voters' choice."

That difficult fact is why same-sex marriage proponents have decided to do an end-run around the people's representatives and shop for a small group of favorable judges. And that is why this amendment became necessary. Alleged "pandering" had nothing to do with it. If you want to debate in the legislature, that's where the debate will take place. If you try to sneak it in via some sympathetic judges, don't be surprised or upset in the slightest when you're met on that field as well. That is where the Left is taking the cultural and social issues, and that's where we have to deal with them, even if, as I believe, this isn't the place for them. They chose this venue, so they better learn to live with the outcome.

Posted by Doug at 09:34 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 05, 2006

North Korea's Fireworks

North Korea has indeed launched, not 1, but 7 or more missile tests into the Sea of Japan. According to the news article, more could be on the way. Fortunately, the longest-range one, the Taepodong-2, failed shortly after take-off, which is no doubt a setback for their missile program. It happened quite a bit later than previously thought, but it did happen.

Some folks thought we were being played for fools. Truth is, we were played almost 30 years ago when Jimmy Carter trusted a tyrant to keep his word. Some folks think that if we just speak more nicely to them, they'd calm down (see the comments to a cross-post of that same SCO post at Blogger News Network). Carter, too, put the lie to that by being non-confrontational to a sworn enemy (or, as Jim put it below, we were nice to them and met their needs) and allowing missile tech development to continue unabated.

North Korea has come (further) out of the closet, so to speak. Since they have to go back to drawing board on the long-range missile, we do have more time to deal with this, though it's only because we got lucky. Do we need direct talks with North Korea? Possibly, but only if there's some sense that it could be constructive and that it wasn't just a delaying tactic on their part. Carter-esque appeasement, with non-verified agreements on their side, have obviously not worked. If we aren't allowed to verify compliance, there really is no point in talking; we know what the result will be.

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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?

Posted by Doug at 01:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by Doug at 01:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by Doug at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Doug at 01:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Doug at 02:27 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

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."

Posted by Doug at 07:32 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Doug at 01:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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.

UPDATE: Further information can be found at the Truth In Love network blog, including a post on details of the Trinity name issue.

Posted by Doug at 12:45 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

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).

Posted by Doug at 02:23 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Doug at 01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Doug at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2006

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?

Posted by Doug at 01:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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!

Right?


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.

Atrios is "pleased".

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.

Posted by Doug at 12:48 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Doug at 01:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Doug at 04:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Doug at 05:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Doug at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 31, 2006

Imperfection Will Not Be Tolerated

First the background:

Club foot is one of the most common birth defects in Britain. About one in 1,000 babies is affected, meaning that 600 to 700 infants are born with the condition every year. It results in the feet pointing downwards and inwards, and in severe cases can cause foot deformity and a limp.

However, it is relatively easy to correct and in recent years techniques of splints, plaster casts and boots to set the foot into the correct position have replaced the need for surgery.Club foot is occasionally connected with serious but rare chromosomal defects, although specialists point out that these can also be screened out before birth with additional tests.


Relatively common, but easily correctable. The article that this comes from notes a couple of families where the child has recovered well enough to, in one case, play football. It mentions celebrities like Dudley Moore and Kristi Yamaguchi.

So do you think that should an ultrasound detect this condition in a fetus that a normally illegal 3rd trimester abortion should be allowed? In England, where they are illegal except for cases where the child would have a "serious handicap", the goal posts keep being pushed, and they've arrived at a new low on the slippery slope.

MORE than 20 babies have been aborted in advanced pregnancy because scans showed that they had club feet, a deformity readily corrected by surgery or physiotherapy.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics covering the years from 1996 to 2004, a further four babies were aborted because they had webbed fingers or extra digits, which are also corrected by simple surgery. All the terminations took place late in pregnancy, after 20 weeks.

Last year, according to campaigners, a healthy baby was aborted in the sixth month at a hospital in southeast England after ultrasound images indicated part of its foot was missing.

News of the terminations has reignited the debate over how scanning and gene technology may enable the creation of "designer babies". In 2002 it emerged that a baby had been aborted late - at 28 weeks - after scans found that it had a cleft palate, another readily corrected condition.


Safe, legal, and increasingly common, abortions are now the way we tolerate imperfection; we don't. It used to be that abortions were a last resort in serious cases. Today, they happen over minor imperfections. Tomorrow, a government-run medical system may be deciding who stays and who goes.
Some parents, doctors and charities are increasingly worried by what they see as a tendency to widen the definition of “serious handicap”. The handicap provision, which does not exist in most other countries, permits abortions to be carried out until birth. It was intended to save women from the trauma of giving birth to babies likely to die in infancy.

And the law of unintended consequences, aided by those who see abortion as somehow "freeing" and by those who have a buck to make on it, has taken that foot in the door and opened it wide, allowing all manner of simple contraception to be passed off as "serious handicap". Compromise when a life is on the line is a death sentence in the abortion debate. This is not a matter of prediction, or personal or political opinion; it's our planet's history. This was no doubt a compromise "for the children", but it's clearly been turned into one against them.

By the way, not all doctors are "increasingly worried".

“It was strongly suggested that we consider abortion after they found our baby had a club foot,” said David Wildgrove, 41, a computer programmer from Sheffield, whose son Alexander was born in 1996. “I was appalled. We resisted, the problem was treated and he now runs around and plays football with everyone else.”

Pippa Spriggs from Cambridge, whose son Isaac will celebrate his second birthday in July, was also dismayed when a scan halfway through the pregnancy revealed that her baby had the defect.

“Abortion certainly was not openly advised, but it was made clear to me it was available,” she said. “In fact he has been treated and the condition has not slowed him down at all.”


There are still enough for whom the phrase in their oath "do no harm" is given wide latitude.

But our convenience society and the push by the Left to let people feel better about aborting their babies has caused some to turn a deaf ear to their own children.

Others take a different view and decide not to accept the risk of an imperfect baby. Sue Banton, who founded the group Steps for parents of children with foot disorders, was troubled that a home counties couple last year decided to terminate their baby, despite counselling to reassure them it would have a worthwhile life even with a section of foot missing.

“We gave them other families to talk to, but they just didn’t want to know. The baby was aborted just before the 25th week,” she said.

“It is terrible. I know lots of perfectly nice people with this condition, and you just can’t imagine them not being here.”


Let me say that I am not advocating the total criminalization of abortion. I still believe there are some situations, but very few, where I think abortions are acceptable, most notably for the life of the mother. And I am under no illusion that making the choice to abort is often a difficult one. Further, I never had to deal with this question of a handicapped child; all four of mine were and are fine and healthy.

At the same time, I think that giving parents the choice of killing their slightly handicapped child isn't in anyone's best interest. I think that allowing abortion to become the contraceptive of last resort is morally wrong, not only for the loss of life of the child, but also for the behavior that it becomes an enabler for. (Essentially, those performing abortion as contraception become codependents for the parents who made poor choices, especially unmarried ones.)

But what's at issue at this point is not the line where a zygote becomes a life, but when a life becomes worth living, and who gets to decide. Is it really the parents' right to kill their otherwise healthy child? If so, the next stop on that slippery slope will be blurring or completely removing that artificial line between inside and outside the womb. Think that's not going to happen?

A GOVERNMENT adviser on genetics has sparked fury by suggesting it might be acceptable to destroy children with ‘defects’ soon after they are born.

John Harris, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, told a meeting at Westminster he did not see any distinction between aborting a fully grown unborn baby at 40 weeks and killing a child after it had been born.

Harris, who is a professor of bioethics at Manchester University, would not be drawn on which defects or problems might be used as grounds for ending a baby’s life, or how old a child might be while it could still be destroyed.

Harris was reported to have said that he did not believe that killing a child was always inexcusable.

In addition, it was claimed that he did not believe that there was any ‘moral change’ that occurred between when the baby was in the womb and when it had been brought into the world.

Harris, who also gives advice to doctors as a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), is understood to have argued that there was no moral distinction between aborting a foetus found by tests to have defects and disposing of a child where the parents discovered the problems at birth.


That's from 2004, also from Great Britian, and that's certainly not the first time such ideas have been proposed. And this time by a "professor of bioethics", no less. No, if the status quo remains, it won't be the status quo for long.

Again, this is not an issue of personal opinion. There's a plain history to chart of the pushing of the envelope, and plenty of folks in high places ready to continue the push to make abortion safe, legal, and oh-so-convenient for our 21st century lifestyle. This must stop.

Posted by Doug at 02:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

International Law Hits Home

International law--law not passed or ratified by any United States governmental body--is sometimes being used to decide cases in the United States. Generally conservative justices are against that and moderate to liberal ones are for it. Regardless of the outcome of cases where international law was taken into consideration, Justice Scalia's observation that such cherry-picking of what laws to consider is so open to manipulation is advice well given, and hopefully well taken.

However, if you think that such decisions will generally be made on strictly the larger constitutional issues, you'd be wrong. Increasingly, the weight of international law is being felt right in the home.

A home schooling association is warning that the U.S., and even more so other countries, faces the threat that home schooling may be deemed illegal due to international law.

The Home School Legal Defense Association's (HSLDA) Chairman and General Counsel, Michael Farris, warns that even though the U.S. has never ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the convention may still be binding on citizens because of activist judges.

According to a new "interpretation" of what is known as "customary international law," some U.S. judges have ruled that, even though the U.S. Senate and President have never ratified the Convention, it is still binding on American parents. "In the 2002 case of Beharry v. Reno, one federal court said that even though the Convention was never ratified, it still has an 'impact on American law'," Farris explained. "The fact that virtually every other nation in the world has adopted it has made it part of customary international law, and it means that it should be considered part of American jurisprudence."

Under the Convention, severe limitations are placed on a parent's right to direct and train their children. As explained in a 1993 Home School Court Report by the HSLDA, under Article 13, parents could be subject to prosecution for any attempt to prevent their children from interacting with material they deemed unacceptable. Under Article 14, children are guaranteed "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" - in other words, children have a legal right to object to all religious training. And under Article 15, the child has a right to "freedom of association." "If this measure were to be taken seriously, parents could be prevented from forbidding their child to associate with people deemed to be objectionable companions," the HSLDA report explained.


Judges, it seems, are now the arbiters of what should and shouldn't be law. But a judge that makes a ruling in a case based on law that the citizens' representatives have rejected does so without giving the citizens any possible recourse. We can then be judged based on rules we have not the slightest influence in creating. How in the world is that government of the people and by the people? It is a further step away from our representative republic and towards a judicial tyranny; whoever controls the judges makes the rules.

And what sort of things can come from the innocuous-sounding "United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child"?

Farris explains that, in 1995, "the United Kingdom was deemed out of compliance" with the Convention "because it allowed parents to remove their children from public school sex-education classes without consulting the child". Farris argues that, "by the same reasoning, parents would be denied the ability to homeschool their children unless the government first talked with their children and the government decided what was best. This committee would even have the right to determine what religious teaching, if any, served the child's best interest."

I'm quite glad that Sandra Day O'Connor is no longer a part of the Supreme Court.
"I suspect," O'Connor said, according to the Atlanta daily, "that over time we will rely increasingly, or take notice at least increasingly, on international and foreign courts in examining domestic issues."

Doing so, she added, "may not only enrich our own country's decisions, I think it may create that all important good impression."


Because, as Bush's critics keep insisting, it's more important to have the rest of the world love us. Justice for Americans, and for the new republic of Iran, takes a back seat. Way back.

Posted by Doug at 02:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 24, 2006

"The Trashing of the Christ"

How did the media treat an historically accurate portrayal of Christianity vs. a movie that accuses Christianity of being false? The Media Research Center runs the numbers (either in short summary form or the full report with charts and details).

Posted by Doug at 03:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 22, 2006

The Myth of Aid

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty has their own PowerBlog worth keeping track of (and a semi-occasional podcast). I missed this last week (my blog reading got way behind), but it's a good one; the Myth of Aid.

Why do we continually think that throwing money at a problem solves it? Acton highlights their efforts to bust the myth as well as ABC's John Stossel. Often the money simply buttresses corrupt governments and reinforces the bad policies they inflict on their people. We should be more concerned with bringing capitalism to these countries rather than encouraging graft (think "Oil-for-Food").

Posted by Doug at 11:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 19, 2006

History Repeats Itself

Comparisons of the Iranian regime to Nazi Germany just got more legitimacy.

Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

UPDATE: Looks like the story wasn't true after all. Hot Air has the details, step by step as the truth came out. My commentary on why we need to take real action against Iran, however, still stands, regardless of whether or not people are being tagged.

"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."


And guess who's been a big sponsor of this?
The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And the official line is "no comment".
A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa refused to comment on the measures. "This is nothing to do with anything here," said a press secretary who identified himself as Mr. Gharmani.

"We are not here to answer such questions."


The question before the world now is whether history will repeat itself. Is there a diplomatic solution to this? Consider how often Ahmadinejad has been slamming those doors and upping the ante, both in rhetoric and now in legislation.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has written to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, protesting the Iranian law and calling on the international community to bring pressure on Iran to drop the measure.

"The world should not ignore this," said Rabbi Hier. "The world ignored Hitler for many years -- he was dismissed as a demagogue, they said he'd never come to power -- and we were all wrong."

Mr. Farber said Canada and other nations should take action to isolate Mr. Ahmadinejad in light of the new law, which he called "chilling," and his previous string of anti-Semitic statements.

"There are some very frightening parallels here," he said. "It's time to start considering how we're going to deal with this person."

Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a myth and earlier this year announced Iran would host a conference to re-examine the history of the Nazis' "Final Solution."

He has caused international outrage by publicly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."


Outrage, yes, but has that done anything constructive? There are still steps we can take short of war to try to force the issue, but no one has the guts to take them yet. Just issue another report and have another vote and go home thinking you've done something. It's time for action on Iran. The longer we wait, the more strenuous the action must be to make a difference.

But remember that the Left in this country was outraged just over sanctions. Ahmadinejad may be counting on such allies to keep the wolves at bay until he has a nuclear club to threaten them with. And if America doesn't put its weight behind such sanctions, they're highly unlikely to work.

It may be time to choose your weapon. Continuing to watch 1940s Germany replay right before our eyes shouldn't be an option.

Posted by Doug at 12:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 18, 2006

What's Da Big Deal About Da Vinci?

"The Da Vinci Code" is a work of fiction, right? Right, but it's based on a series of "facts", many of which have been debunked. Thus it winds up leaving to the reader where to draw the line as to where fact stops and the fiction begins, even when dealing with Brown's "facts".

The results, then, are not surprising.

Reuters:

"The Da Vinci Code" has undermined faith in the Roman Catholic Church and badly damaged its credibility, a survey of British readers of Dan Brown's bestseller showed on Tuesday.

People are now twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children after reading the Dan Brown blockbuster and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect.

"An alarming number of people take its spurious claims very seriously indeed," said Austin Ivereigh, press secretary to Britain's top Catholic prelate Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

"Our poll shows that for many, many people the Da Vinci Code is not just entertainment," Ivereigh added.


The Edmonton Journal:
Almost one in five Canadians believe that Jesus Christ's death on the cross was faked and that he married and had a family, according to a new poll that challenges the cornerstone Christian belief in the resurrection.

Albertans were most likely to accept The Da Vinci Code's premise, with 22 per cent reporting they believe in a hoax.

See extended entry for an update.

It is true that this book and movie will also cause people to look more closely at the Bible to find the truth, but I believe it will mostly be those who would already be skeptical of Brown's book. But the price at which this is bought--the further distancing from the truth those who haven't made up their mind--seems too high for a Christian to stomach. Saying "it's just fiction" doesn't answer the problem. Saying "I wasn't fooled" ignores the problem. Saying "only the foolish will be fooled" condemns the uneducated and ignorant (something Jesus wouldn't do).

The reason Christians need to make a noise about this is because the truth is being muddled to the point that people are being led away from the truth under the guise of a work that, while covered by the fig leaf of the label "historical fiction", blurs the line between "historical" and "fiction" so profoundly that a significant number of people can't tell the difference.

If someone wrote a "historical fiction" novel about the the battle of Gettysburg with as many problems with the facts as "The Da Vinci Code" has, it would be rightly panned by Civil War historians. It wouldn't change their minds as to the truth of what happened during that battle, but they would be properly concerned that the general public, who didn't have the same information they do nor necessarily the inclination to research it, would tend to believe it. They would try to convince people to stay away from such a movie. No one would blame them. It should be the same for the response you're hearing from many churches (sans any calls for banning books or movies).

And with "The Da Vinci Code", there's far more at stake than simple historical accuracy. There's eternity to consider.

UPDATE: In case you still think that Dan Brown's motive is purely entertainment, consider this quote from an interview on CNN (emphasis mine):

SAVIDGE: Obviously, you were just looking at the Last Supper there. When we talk about da Vinci and your book, how much is true and how much is fabricated in your storyline?

BROWN: 99 percent of it is true. All of the architecture, the art, the secret rituals, the history, all of that is true, the Gnostic gospels. All of that is -- all that is fiction, of course, is that there's a Harvard symbologist named Robert Langdon, and all of his action is fictionalized. But the background is all true.


This is a book meant to persuade under the guise of entertainment.

Posted by Doug at 01:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Online Integrity

Josh Trevino's "basic plea for basic decency" on the web is called Online Integrity. The main points of the effort are:

  • Private persons are entitled to respect for their privacy regardless of their activities online. This includes respect for the non-public nature of their personal contact information, the inviolability of their homes, and the safety of their families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted. The separateness of private persons’ professional lives should also be respected as much as is reasonable.
  • Public figures are entitled to respect for the non-public nature of their personal, non-professional contact information, and their privacy with regard to their homes and families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted.
  • Persons seeking anonymity or pseudonymity online should have their wishes in this regard respected as much as is reasonable. Exceptions include cases of criminal, misleading, or intentionally disruptive behavior.
  • Violations of these principles should be met with a lack of positive publicity and traffic.

A worthy, bipartisan effort to help clear the air and keep the conversation civil.

Posted by Doug at 06:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2006

Name That Spin

Yesterday's "Best of the Web Today" column by James Taranto (a daily must-read) has a rather long section (scroll down to "High Bias") on how the news organizations keep spinning the news, including:

  • A New York Time headline that says precisely the opposite of what the story says.
  • An AP headline that sounds more ominous than it really is.
  • Speculation and editorializing in an AP news report.
  • Headlining poll results with selectively aggregated information.
  • Poorly worded poll questions.

And guess which way--pro- or anti-Bush--all these stories are slanted? (Do I really have to ask?)

Posted by Doug at 01:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 12, 2006

Criminalizing Dot Collecting

The revelation yesterday that the NSA has the same phone records that they pull weekly on "Law & Order" has Washington in a tizzy. However, it's not causing much concern outside of there.

A majority of Americans initially support a controversial National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The new survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it.

A slightly larger majority--66 percent--said they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made, the poll found.


I'm not a big fan of polls in general, especially when they ask Americans about information outside their expertise. (Would a poll on how far away people think the moon is really mean anything? Should it affect policy on anything? The Patriot Post has a great article today on what it calls "Pollaganda" that's well worth reading.) But what this poll does show is that what some folks are calling "controversial" is only a controversy in their own mind. Is it illegal? Is it good or bad policy? This poll answers none of this, and as such doesn't really give us much information. What it does do is expose the bias of anyone suggesting that this program is currently controversial, unless their bar of controversy is somewhere north of 3/4ths agreement, which is rather silly and self-serving.

As to those who have an extremely low secrecy threshold, Scott Ott nails it.

Concerned that the National Security Agency (NSA) may have violated the civil liberties of Americans by analyzing records of millions of phone calls to detect patterns that might indicate terrorist activity, a bipartisan coalition in Congress today will unveil legislation to scrap the NSA and replace it with a more 'transparent' spy agency.

According to language in the measure, the new intelligence unit, dubbed Open-Source Intelligence (OSI), will "harness the power of the internet to protect the right of the American people to know how their spy dollar is spent."

"There's nothing like sunshine to ensure accountability," said an unnamed Congressional aide who spoke in exchange for a lobster dinner, a fine chianti and a $12 Macanudo cigar. "Just because the enemy is among us, using our telecommunications infrastructure to plot the next major attack, doesn't mean the government can sneak around doing secret stuff simply to save a few thousand, or million, lives. We have rights."


Many of the same people who blamed Bush for not "connecting the dots" prior to 9/11 are probably in that 35 percent that now want to make collecting those dots illegal.

Posted by Doug at 01:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 11, 2006

We Have the Technology, But...

Where is the outcry among activists about the fact that over 2 billion of the world’s citizens do not have electricity, or that over 2.5 billion do not have access to basic sanitation? Where is the outrage that over 4 million preventable deaths occur each year due to tuberculosis and other lung infections stemming from indoor pollution caused by using dung as fuel for fires? What about the 6 million people who die from unsafe water or spoiled food?

These are not hypothetical future deaths; these are real deaths that are occurring right under our noses, which could be easily thwarted if the proper technology were applied to certain poor regions of the world.


Read this article by Daniel Son for the reason these conditions haven't improved when indeed they can.

Posted by Doug at 07:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 08, 2006

"Day of Truth" vs Journalists and Educators

Religion in schools will not be tolerated. Anti-religious views are just fine.

The Sampson County school system stands behind a decision to suspend a student for passing out Christian leaflets at Midway High School, Superintendent Stewart Hobbs said Friday.

Hobbs said the student was given in-school suspension for insubordination after disobeying the principal about distributing the fliers.

The handouts, which presented a Christian viewpoint on homosexuality, caused a disturbance in the school and prompted some students, teachers and a parent to complain, Hobbs said.


Bias and nonsense, both in the same line of news.

First of all, handouts themselves can't cause disturbances. They are, in fact, simply pieces of paper, incapable of independent action. Yes, I know that all sounds rather silly to have to explain, but the journalist who presumably studied Language Arts got this wrong, and I just wanted to set the record straight if others had the same misconception.

Second, if handing out fliers is "disturbing", then the very same handing out of fliers by students on the previous day's Day of Silence should not have been allowed either. I doubt that's the "disturbance" being referred to, however. Instead, I would bet that there were students who got upset at the contents of these fliers and likely they caused this disturbance. Unfortunately, this journalist did not answer all the proper questions a news article should, and we're left with the impression that the student handing out the fliers was the responsible party. There's your bias; not reporting the whole story and thus implicitly placing the responsibility for the disturbance on the guy voicing non-PC viewpoints.

But the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, said the student, Benjamin Arthurs, was wrongfully punished for expressing his religious beliefs. The group has filed a federal lawsuit against the school system, saying it violated Arthurs' freedom of speech by not allowing him to wear a Day of Truth shirt and to pass out the leaflets during noninstructional time.

"That, in our opinion, is unconstitutional," said David Cortman, a lawyer with the alliance.

Hobbs said the student was allowed to wear the shirt but told not to hand out the fliers. "The only thing the T-shirt said was, 'Day of Truth,' and we felt that was not forcing his religion on others," Hobbs said. The handouts, however, did present religious views, he said.


If you have to voluntarily accept a flier, how is that "forcing" anything? No one is compelled to take the flier. The problem for the school is that religion, to them, has no place in the public square, even during noninstructional time.
Arthurs, a ninth-grader, handed out the fliers following the April 26 Day of Silence, an event promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network. He asked Canady if he could wear the shirt and hand out Day of Truth cards, the lawsuit said. He was told he could not wear a religious T-shirt or distribute religious literature because that would be “pushing his religion on others,” the lawsuit said, and “religion is not allowed in school.”

"Religion is not allowed in school"? Banned? You're not allowed to speak about it? I mean, if you can't hand out printed material to those who volunteer to take it, what about actually talking about it? Those who think the First Amendment is doing just fine in America need to know what educators think about it.

Students don't lose their constitutional rights in school, but there are valid restrictions on them while in public school. In fact, I would agree that Arthurs should have been punished for disobeying the administration. If you don't have some semblance of order in school, you soon have little else. So even though I think the rules are being misapplied and use a double-standard, I agree with the suspension. I also, however, agree that the decision and the rules that led up to it need to be dealt with, and if that requires the courts to (hopefully) clarify the Constitution and possibly reverse the punishment, so be it.

Cortman said it is unfair that the school system allowed students to participate in the Day of Silence but did not let Arthurs express his Christian views. Day of Silence is a nationwide movement that allows students to protest anti-homosexual bullying and discrimination. Students hand out fliers and remain silent throughout the day.

So it's not the handing out of fliers that is the issue, and again this points out the misinformation given in the first paragraph of this story. If handing out fliers was a "disturbance", it should have been so on the Day of Silence as well. Thus, the disturbance was most likely caused by other students reacting to these fliers, not the student handing them out (nor the allegedly self-aware fliers themselves). No mention is made of these students or (possibly) teachers that really caused the disturbance. Whether this is due to journalistic incompetence or bias is not known, but it doesn't speak well of the writer.
The Day of Truth, which is held after the Day of Silence, was established by the Alliance Defense Fund to express the Christian perspective on homosexuality.

“School officials shouldn’t be treating religious students any differently than they treat other students,” Cortman said, “and that’s exactly what is happening here.”

According to the lawsuit, Arthurs belongs to the Bible Club, the National Honor Society and Who’s Who of American High School students. The lawsuit says his religious beliefs “compel him to share his faith and to address relevant subjects from a Biblical point of view with other students.”

In the lawsuit, the alliance is asking that Arthurs’ in-school suspension be removed from his record and that the school system write a policy giving students the right to free speech including religious speech.


I remember a video I saw of students praying around a school flagpole before school started in one of the early "See You at the Pole" events. School had not yet started for the day, and the event took place outside, so no disruption of learning occurred and no religion was "forced" on anyone. And yet, students were arrested because educators didn't understand the whole "free exercise of religion" concept. It's been 15 years since "See You at the Pole" got started, and yet the ignorance and double-standards continue (and this ignorance dates back long before that). And still educators keep needing further education on this topic.

This is a sad commentary on the public school system, and further exposure of the double-standard applied to Christians, both in actions taken against them and in the reporting of those actions.

Posted by Doug at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 02, 2006

Israel by the Numbers

Tomorrow is Independence Day in Israel, celebrating their 58th year. In honor of this, The Israel Project has put together some numbers about Israel and its history. Very enlightening.

Posted by Doug at 10:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 27, 2006

The Day of Truth

Today is the "Day of Truth".

Christian students at more than 700 high schools across the nation will join today in an event to counter homosexual activism.

The number of participants in the "Day of Truth" has doubled over last year, according to the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which is sponsoring the event.

ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears sees the "Day of Truth" as an opportunity to express a different perspective than the "Day of Silence," promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educational Network\.


Participating students wear T-shirts and hand out cards with the following text:
I am speaking the Truth to break the silence. Silence isn't freedom. It's a constraint. Truth tolerates open discussion, because the Truth emerges when healthy discourse is allowed. By proclaiming the Truth in love, hurts will be halted, hearts will be healed, and lives will be saved.

And that is what we need, regardless of the issue; the Truth.

Posted by Doug at 02:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The "Tolerance" of Public Schools

Doesn't this school system have anything better to do with its time and money?

After seven years, a court case involving a kindergartner's drawing of Jesus for a class assignment in the Baldwinsville school district will go to trial in federal court in Syracuse.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear the Baldwinsville school district's request to have the case thrown out.

Now a federal judge in Syracuse will have to decide whether the district censored a Christian perspective, said Mathew Staver, attorney for the now sixth-grader Antonio Peck and his mother, JoAnne. He called it good news for Peck and other children in the nation.

"It's huge because if (the decision) had gone the other way it would allow teachers and school officials to treat religious perspectives like they're unwelcome," Staver said.

The details of the "offense" are an example of political correctness and sensitivity training run amok.

In June 1999, Antonio Peck was told to create a poster about the environment. Peck drew a picture depicting Jesus praying and two children kneeling before a rock with the word "savior" on it. The words "The only way to save our world" were across the top, according to earlier reports. Peck was told by his kindergarten teacher Susan Weichert to redo the assignment.

He did.

The new drawing had people recycling and throwing away trash, as well as a robed man kneeling with his hands outstretched toward the sky.

The district displayed it along with 80 others in McNamara Elementary School's cafeteria, Staver said. But the picture was folded, hiding the robed man, presumed to be Jesus.

"It makes someone like Antonio feel like he's unwelcome, like his faith is wrong," Staver said.


This was a kindergartner's picture, for goodness sake. The supposed "tolerance" of other views in the school system has reached a new low, and keeps digging with each passing appeal. The school system will simply not allow religion to be tolerated.
Staver said the family ultimately wants the school district to adopt a policy that states "whenever students respond to class assignments they should be able to present religious perspectives," Staver said.

"They have refused to do so," he said.


Is it any wonder so many religious families opt to homeschool?

Posted by Doug at 12:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 26, 2006

Highlights from the SCO Blogroll

  • From Virginia Postrel, a short history lesson on what is and isn't a "crisis" with regards to gas prices. Doug Williams at Bogus Gold also explains the economics of oil prices for those that think the government must do something.
  • The Mystery Pollster uncovers bias in a Zogby poll about online gambling, with regards to both the questions and the method used to gather the answers.
  • The Evangelical Outpost comes out with Yak Shaving Razor #50, a collection of tips and tricks and bits of information culled from all over the net. Very interesting, entertaining and useful. (No, I'm not going to explain the title; click the link to find out.)
  • Captain Ed notes that Hamas is finding it harder to live without Western cash than it thought.
  • Mark D. Roberts asks "Whither the Renaissance Man?" (This is part 3 of his travelogue "When in Virginia...".)
  • Jeremy at Parableman warns about confusing motivation with theory in the Intelligent Design debate. "In defense of the charge that ID is religious creationism, many opponents of ID point out that most people who support ID believe in a creator God for religious reasons. This happens to be true. Actually, they usually say that all who support ID believe in a creator God for religious reasons, and that's false." He explains the error, describes why it's wrong, gives examples, and notes a number of folks using this fallacy.
  • Anthony Esolen at Mere Comments talks about the wonders of the ordinary.

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April 25, 2006

ACLU Loses a Ten Commandments Ruling

The ACLU has lost another Ten Commandments display ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union suffered another defeat in its quest to bar the Ten Commandments from the public square today as the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a display of the Decalogue in Kentucky is constitutional.

In the case ACLU of Kentucky v. Mercer County, Kentucky, the court voted 9-5 to uphold the Foundations of American Law and Government display at the county courthouse.

The display includes the Ten Commandments, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Charta, the Star-Spangled Banner, the National Motto, the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, and a picture of Lady Justice.


These kinds of lawsuits should be considered frivolous at this point. The Supreme Court was pretty clear that the Ten Commandments, as part of an overall historical display, isn't a problem. The only reason the ACLU could possibly be continuing this sort of harassment is to drain defendants' money, and hope that such a drain will cause others to cave who would otherwise prevail in court. It's not about (and I don't think it was ever about) what's constitutional and what isn't. It's been about who the ACLU can scare into compliance.

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How Far Do You Trust Them?

Are you OK with Iran having nuclear technology? Do you believe that they'll act responsibly with it?

If so, does this modify your attitude?

The remarks on sharing nuclear technology by Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came as he met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

"Iran's nuclear capability is one example of various scientific capabilities in the country. ... The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists," Khamenei told al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir said last month that his impoverished, wartorn country was considering trying to create a nuclear program to generate electrical power.

Such a transfer of technology would be legal as long as it is between signatory-states to the nonproliferation treaty, and as long as the IAEA was informed.


But do you think that Iran, on an IAEA-dissing binge lately, breaking their current treaties, and considering leaving the Nonproliferation Treaty, will care whether or not such a transfer would be legal? All of a sudden, trusting Iran means trusting by extension anyone they might deem worthy of nukes.

Posted by Doug at 01:15 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Reducing Emissions Without Signing Treaties

If it was proposed that the United States reduce the following pollutants (based on 1970 levels)...

  • Carbon monoxide by half
  • Particulate emissions by 80%
  • Sulfur dioxide emissions by half
  • and virtually eliminate lead emissions

...would you consider that a reasonable proposal and ask the government to sign it? If we didn't sign it, would you consider it proof that we don't care about the environment? Do you believe that the free market or our own legislation couldn't possibly do this without an international treaty?

You'd be surprised. That's exactly what we have done, all without the Kyoto Protocol. The Wall St. Journal covered
the "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators", which is published annually around Earth Day and it has its own web site as well.

The WSJ reminds us that the dire predictions of today are coming from the same people and groups that have a poor track record.

This year, for example, Vanity Fair has inaugurated an "Earth Issue," comprising 246 glossy, non-recycled pages of fashion ads, celebrity worship and environmental apocalypse. Highlights include computer-generated images of New York City underwater and the Washington mall as one big reflecting pool. The magazine also includes a breathless essay by U.S. environmental conscience-in-chief Al Gore. The message is that we are headed for an environmental catastrophe of the first order, and only drastic changes to the way we live can possibly prevent it.

If arguments were won through the use of italics, Mr. Gore would prevail in a knockout. But as Mr. Hayward notes in his "Index," the environmental movement as a whole has developed a credibility problem since the first Earth Day 36 years ago. In the 1970s, prominent greens were issuing dire predictions about mass starvation, overpopulation and--of all things--global cooling. Since then, population-growth estimates have come way down, biotechnology advances have found ways to feed more people than the doomsayers believed possible, and the global-cooling crisis has become the global-warming crisis without missing a beat.


The democratic process, the free market and scientific advancement really don't get enough credit in all of this. Treaties from on high that try to micromanage the process are a type of environmental socialism that has been shown not to work so many times in other ares of human behavior.

Posted by Doug at 12:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2006

"The Da Vinci Delusion"

At about the same time that the movie "The Da Vinci Code" comes out, Dr. James Kennedy's TV special called "The Da Vinci Delusion" will hit local television. Check out the site to find out where and when it will be broadcast in your area.

I heard about this from the April 20th podcast of Active Christian Media, hosted by Stacy L. Harp. It's truly amazing the fully-discredited lies that this book, and thus this movie, will present as "fact". Listen to the podcast for some of the more blatant examples. If you don't want to deal with all the podcast logistics, you can just click on the link that plays the show by itself. However, if you do have "podcatcher" software (lots of free ones out there, not just iTunes), I recommend subscribing to this show.

UPDATE: Stacy has more details in her latest post on Blogger New Network.

Posted by Doug at 03:47 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 20, 2006

Prediction: Wrong

I was wrong. Let's make sure we state that first.

Almost 2 years ago, I went on the record in predicting that Al Franken's show on Air America wouldn't last 2 years. Well, it's still around. The network has managed to weather poor ratings, financial troubles, and a full-blown financial scandal. It's had some help from big money backers (instead of listeners), an HBO special for some nice PR, and a media that has trumpeted its successes and muted its problems. Air American and Al Franken got by with a little (or a lotta) help from their friends.

I tried to find a recent comparison of Air America and the Salem Radio Network. SRN has a couple of slates of hosts; one for specifically Christian stations, and one for the general market with right-of-center hosts. The latest information I could find was from, of all places, Mother Jones magazine from last December.

Today Salem is the second-fastest-growing radio chain in the nation. The left—which for years dismissed evangelical activists as out-of-touch zealots—has nothing on the radio dial even close to Salem’s reach and influence. Air America is broadcast on 70 stations and owns none. Salem owns 103 stations in the nation’s largest markets and broadcasts to more than 1,900 affiliates. It owns radio stations in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta. In fact, it doesn’t own just one station in those markets. It owns two—sometimes more. In Los Angeles it owns four. In Honolulu it owns seven. It also owns 62 websites and a magazine publishing division.

Now, SRN's been around a pretty long time, but they only recently had a full day's worth of talk radio programming. Bill Bennett's show, for example, started around the same time as Al Franken's. And yet a year ago, Bennett was the 25th biggest talk show in the country, and none of the Air America hosts beat him. I've heard anecdotal evidence that the trend has continued, but can't find stats online at the moment. (Perhaps when the official 2 year anniversary of AAR arrives on May 1.)

In any event, while I was wrong with my prediction, I'm crying all the way to the radio. Them I'm smiling.

Posted by Doug at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship

A briefing was held recently dealing with the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. This is a short declaration on the matter of caring for the environment in light of the love of God and the liberty He gives us, while considering sound science, sound economics and the needs of the poor. From Amy Ridenour's National Center blog:

Before a packed audience today on Capitol Hill, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA), along with the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and the Institute on Religion and Democracy held a lunch briefing at which top theologians and policy experts articulated a vision of Biblical stewardship based upon the Cornwall Declaration.

The title of the briefing was: "Pulpits, Pews and Environmental Policy: How the Cornwall Declaration is helping define the mandate of Biblical stewardship."

If this sounds like an ECI redux, there are some differences.

Speaking about the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), a statement signed by some members of the evangelical community that promotes the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming, Beisner said "[We] disagree with their assessment of the scientific evidence of the extent of human contribution to global warming, their prediction of the impact of climate change on human communities and the rest of the ecosystem, and their prescription of major reduction of carbon dioxide emissions as a solution to the alleged problem. The ECI does not specify how much emission reduction is needed to achieve its goals [to counteract global warming]. [This is] to ignore one of the most important aspects of the climatology debate: How much benefit would be gained at what cost to the global economy. And the global economy is not just an economist abstraction. It is real people who depend on that economy for jobs, income and the food, clothing, shelter, transportation and all other goods that they need."

Sometimes, considering cold economic facts is just as much good stewardship as reducing car emissions or turning off the lights.

I will say this in criticism of the briefing. They're a bit too critical of the ECI.

Paul Driessen, senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality, admonished celebrities, media and wayward religious leaders who are "twisting common definitions of ethics, morality, social responsibility and compassion for the poor to justify global warming agendas."

I respect, and in some cases know, some of the signers of the ECI, and I really don't think they're deliberately trying to twist words or have some overarching global warming agenda. Some may, but those I know don't, best I can tell. Now, I think the ECI may play into the hands of those with such an agenda, giving them a supposed common cause with evangelicals, but I don't think that was the intent.

While that part was a little much, Driessen goes on to give some criticism I tend to agree with.

Driessen also noted, "It is often the very policies they promote that actually represent the greatest threats to the world's poor. Over two billion of the world's people still do not have electricity for lights and refrigeration in their homes, for hospitals and clinics, for schools, shops, offices and factories, for wastewater treatment and other modern technologies that we often take for granted," he said. "And yet these poor countries are told they mustn't build coal or gas-fired electrical power plants, because First World countries are concerned about global warming."

Sometimes, turning on the lights is just as much good stewardship as reducing car emissions.

The over 1000 signers of this declaration include a number of people I respect, just as I respect a number of ECI signers. The Cornwall Declaration, however, includes more than just evangelicals. There are Jewish and Catholic as well as Protestant signers. Sometimes, gathering a group like this together leads to a least-common-denominator, watered down mission, but so far it doesn't appear that way.

This Cornwall Declaration is definitely worth a look.

See also: Cybercast News Service report.

UPDATE: Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute has an excellect comparison of the two tacts taken by the ECI and the Cornwall Declaration. His article is "Preserved Garden or Productive City? Two Competing Views of Stewardship".

Posted by Doug at 01:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2006

Facing Down Iran

Mark Steyn's latest is a must-read. It's about how Iran got where it is today and what it may mean if it does go nuclear. It's rather long but full of historical lessons on what worked, and what didn't (most notably appeasement), in the past and how to apply it to the present situation. He notes, as I have in comments here, that dealing with Islamists is quite different from Communists, as the latter didn't want to die, and was thus less likely to start a nuclear war, but the former may not care, not even Iranian "moderates". If Western powers are kowtowed when Muslim extremists burn buildings, imagine how timid they'll be when those folks have a nuke available to them (marked "from Iran with love"). And, as his history lessons show, this antagonism on the part of Iran didn't suddenly begin when Bush sat down in the Oval Office; they've got a long tradition of it. Steyn is under no delusion that dealing with Iran now will be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but dealing with it later will be nigh well impossible.

This short take doesn't do it the least bit of justice, so I recommend sitting back and taking in the whole thing.

Posted by Doug at 12:20 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

The Emperor's New Wardrobe Malfunction

In its never-ending quest to become the supreme oxymoron, the United Nations has in the past had its Human Rights Commission chaired by the countries with the worst violations of human rights. The next step in that quest is this.

Under threat of United Nations Security Council sanctions for its own nuclear program, Iran has been elected to a vice-chair position on the U.N. Disarmament Commission, whose mission includes preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The commission's deliberations began last Monday and are scheduled to continue until April 28. On the first day of the commission meeting, Iran along with Uruguay and Chile was elected as one of three vice-chairs.

It happened on the same day that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised his people "good news" about the country's nuclear program.

The following day, Iran announced that it had managed to enrich uranium, a key ingredient in the production of a nuclear bomb.


So Iran gets to help make the rules regarding nuclear arms. Amazingly, Iran was voted into this position, unlike the HRC where countries take turns being the head honcho round-robin style. At least the UN had a little fig leaf to work with there, but this time the emperor really is naked.

Some people think we just need to clothe the emperor properly, i.e. fix the problems with the UN. The real problem, however, is the emperor himself who continues to defend his wardrobe malfunctions. It's time to start over.

Posted by Doug at 02:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Elegant and Meaningful

My sister and her husband Jim (one of our SCO contributors) hosted a Seder Supper last Thursday. I've attended a number of these in the past. It is amazing how so many of the portions of the Seder point to Jesus. But there was a little preliminary item that a friend of theirs presented before the Seder that I want to write about this time. This friend gave us his "Reader's Digest" version of how he came up with the date of the Last Supper, Jesus' last Seder, which was interesting, but more interesting to me was the information that was presented as an aside on the way to his finding.

In the book of Matthew we find a lineage of Jesus, going back through his father Joseph. In verse 6 we see that Joseph was a descendant of King David (and hence his requirement to go to Bethlehem during the census called when Mary was pregnant with Jesus). Through this we see that Jesus was indeed heir to the throne of David, one of the requirements of the Messiah. However, there a hitch in this lineage. In verse 11 we find that the lineage goes through Jeconiah aka Jehoiachin, and therein lies a problem.

Back in the book of Jeremiah (chapter 22, verse 24-40) God passes judgement on Jehoiachin, prompting an exile to Babylon. But that's not all. In verse 30, God specifically tells Jehoiachin that his lineage on the throne is done.

This is what the LORD says:
"Record this man as if childless,
a man who will not prosper in his lifetime,
for none of his offspring will prosper,
none will sit on the throne of David
or rule anymore in Judah."

Thus none of his descendants will take that throne anymore, as though he were childless. But if Jesus is his descendant, doesn't that therefore void His claim to that throne.

Normally, yes. However, God's amazing plan for Jesus gave Him that right anyway. In the book of Luke, we find Jesus' lineage through Mary.

[Quick aside: Each of the 4 Gospel writers emphasized a different aspect of Jesus. In Matthew, He is King. In Mark, He is Servant. In Luke, He is Man. In John, He is God. A King and a Man have official lineages, but a servant nor God do not. Interesting. Additionally, the lineages, as we'll see in a bit, fit with the portrayal of Jesus in those books.]

This lineage also passes through King David (verse 31), but through a different son. In Matthew, it goes through David's son Solomon, who was David's actual successor to the throne, though it was not a legal succession. Since Solomon's mother was Bathsheba (I Chronicles 3:5), she convinced David to name Solomon as the heir instead of the legal heir, the older son Nathan. And who do we find in Jesus' lineage on Mary's side? Nathan.

Thus, Jesus has both the royal and legal right to claim the throne of David, and also breaking the curse on the royal line since He can claim legal right. It's just one more of those amazing "coincidences" that God works out to show those who are watching that He's in control. Prophesy is fulfilled, not just in and of itself, but in a way that that is both elegant and meaningful. I'm sure some readers have heard this before, but it was new to me (or perhaps I just remembered it this time--the handout helped) and I wanted to pass it along.

Happy belated Easter.

Posted by Doug at 12:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2006

More Details on the Niger Yellowcake / Saddam Connection

Further details about Saddam's quest for nukes comes from Christopher Hitchens. It's been widely known (and dismissed out of hand by Democrats) that Iraq approached Niger about...something. Joe Wilson insists it wasn't about enriched uranium. But as Mr. Hitchens points out, when you send your top IAEA rep to talk to Niger, it's extremely unlikely he's talking about banana exports.

In February 1999, Zahawie [the aforementioned IAEA rep] left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report. In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious. Italian intelligence (which first noticed the Zahawie trip from Rome) found it difficult to take this view and alerted French intelligence (which has better contacts in West Africa and a stronger interest in nuclear questions). In due time, the French tipped off the British, who in their cousinly way conveyed the suggestive information to Washington. As everyone now knows, the disclosure appeared in watered-down and secondhand form in the president's State of the Union address in January 2003.

The appearance of forged papers in connection to this has cause the aforementioned dismissals by Democrats. Hitchens does not deny the existence of the forgery, although he points out how pitiful the forgery was; easily discovered under slight scrutiny.

But this doesn't alter the plain set of established facts in my first three paragraphs above. The European intelligence services, and the Bush administration, only ever asserted that the Iraqi regime had apparently tried to open (or rather, reopen) a yellowcake trade "in Africa." It has never been claimed that an agreement was actually reached.

And that's precisely what Bush said in those 16 words in the State of the Union address. Hitchens goes on to examine what motive(s) there might be to produce such a crude forgery, but I want to hit on another point regarding it.
A NATO investigation has identified two named employees of the Niger Embassy in Rome who, having sold a genuine document about Zahawie to Italian and French intelligence agents, then added a forged paper in the hope of turning a further profit. The real stuff went by one route to Washington, and the fakery, via an Italian journalist and the U.S. Embassy in Rome, by another. The upshot was—follow me closely here—that a phony paper alleging a deal was used to shoot down a genuine document suggesting a connection.

Someone tried to overplay their hand, but that doesn't mean that the meeting didn't happen, and in fact there is still good intelligence, and paperwork backing it up, saying that it did.

Still, the Left will continue allege that the case for war was built in a bunch of lies and ignore evidence to the contrary (evidence that has been around for at least 3 years). Read, as Hitchens says a few times, the first 3 paragraphs of his article over and I hope you'll wonder, given the evidence, why you ever believe Joseph Wilson (if you ever did, that is).

Hat Tip: Mark Kilmer at Redstate.

Posted by Doug at 12:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006

Spammer with a Sense of Humor

We've done a bit of work with keeping the comment and trackback spam off SCO. There's always some that still gets through, but it's two orders of magnitude less that it used to be before we instituted countermeasures.

Lately, comment spam has been trickling in from what appears to be the same person/bot. It's usually a content-free comment but has a URL associated with it that it hopes is noted by search engines. Most are nailed, but again some get through. This person/bot hit another post this afternoon that got automatically zapped, but I got an e-mail showing what the comment was. I got a good chuckle.

Greeting!
Hello! This is a nice site! but alot of Spam...

Good Luck!


To the Pit of Spam it goes, but it was good for a smile.

Posted by Doug at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2006

The War on Easter

Some folks thought that the "War on Christmas" was mostly a self-fulfilling prophesy by the Christian Right. Think again. At least with Easter, the war's been formally declared.

A media company that produced a best-selling documentary asserting that Jesus Christ never existed today launches its "War on Easter," encouraging volunteer atheists to plant copies of the film "The God Who Wasn't There" in churches across the United States.

Dubbing the effort "Operation Easter Sanity," Brian Flemming, a self-described "former Christian fundamentalist" and president of Beyond Belief Media, hopes to covertly place 666 copies of the documentary in churches by Easter Sunday, April 16. The number 666 is the biblical mark of "The Beast," which also is the name of another film by Flemming set for a 06-06-06 release.

"People go to churches to hide from the truth," Flemming said in a statement. "At no time is this more apparent than Easter, when Christians get together to convince each other that a man died, stayed dead three days, rose from the dead and then flew into the air above the clouds.

"Our nonviolent campaign sends the message that nowhere in the country is safe from the truth. Wherever Christian leaders are indoctrinating children with 2,000-year-old fairy tales, the truth may just find its way there."

Continued the former Christian: "Our 'War on Easter' is of course completely without violence of any kind. Christians believe that beating a man to a pulp and nailing him to a cross somehow solves all the world's problems. Beyond Belief Media does not."

Posted by Doug at 04:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nukes in Iran Closer Than They Appear

Iran is a bit closer to nuclear technology than previously thought.

Iran has successfully enriched uranium for the first time, a major development in its quest to develop nuclear fuel, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said Tuesday.

Current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added that the country "will soon join the club of countries with nuclear technology."

...

Iran's nuclear chief, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said Iran has produced 110 tons of uranium gas, the feedstock for enrichment. The amount is nearly twice the 60 tons of uranium hexaflouride, or UF-6, gas that Iran said last year that it had produced.


Yup, what we need now is an even more strongly worded UN report. Or how about promises of US aid if they stop pursuing this? Never mind that it'll encourage other countries to try to go nuclear so they can get a shot at some cash. (Oh, and if you think Ahmadinejad would take the money and be nice, you're only half right.)

And while all these oh-so-stern looks continue, a country who's leader said he wants to wipe Israel off the map continues merrily on its way to be able to do just that. If we wind up making military strikes against Iran to prevent these madmen from getting the bomb, there's no doubt in my mind that the anti-war crowd will say we should have let the negotiations "work". Well, for future reference, this isn't working, and if we wait until after they have the bomb, negotiations won't be possible. I certainly hope Iran can be persuaded, but based on everything up to now, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

Speaking to a crowd in northeastern Iran, Ahmadinejad was quoted by state television as saying, "Enemies can't dissuade the Iranian nation from the path of progress that it has chosen."

Progress indeed.

Posted by Doug at 01:36 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

April 10, 2006

The Entitlement Mindset

The French government throws in the towel.

French President Jacques Chirac has announced that the new youth employment law that sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests will be scrapped.

He said it would be replaced by other measures to tackle youth unemployment.


This is what comes of the entitlement mindset. Some folks get some benefit from the government and soon they believe it is, not simply a benefit, but a right that they are entitled to. Liberal politicians here should take note. (Actually, conservatives should, too.)

What really makes this sad is that in this case, as I've mentioned before, the people are asking to return to a situation that actually works against them in the guise of a worker benefit. As with most liberal ideas (sounds good in theory, fails miserably in practice), it took the French government longer to figure this out that one would have hoped, so now when they try to correct the problem, the rioters think they're losing something. ("It must be bad if my union leader says it is.") The liberal entitlement nanny-government mentality is so ingrained that the Kool-Aid drinkers only see things through the us-vs-them, rich-vs-poor, worker-vs-corporation lenses. Sounds like American liberal class warfare politics, which it is.

UPDATE: An article on Slate notes other bloggers with similar thoughts. (And thanks for the link, Darren!)

And, as I said before, such economic policies have produced a stagnant French economy and rampant unemployment. But now, the rioters have made their point; we want to protect our jobs by continuing policies that cause unemployment. That may sound crazy, but no more crazy than the economic platform of our very own American Democrats.

What will the repealed law be replace by? Free market reforms? Nah, too conservative.

The new package of measures includes offering state support for employers hiring young people who face the most difficulties in gaining access to the labour market.

They're going to pay employers to hire those whom they can no longer fire. That might help a little, if at all, but it's not the root cause of the problem. The problem is the idea that companies shouldn't be allowed to fire workers. The worker/employer relationship is a give and take one, but when you give all the rights in that relationship to the worker, naturally the employer will have to protect himself in ot