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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
August 09, 2007
A Tale of Two Texts
Glenn McCoy says it all with one picture from August 2nd.
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.
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"?
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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.)
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.
June 21, 2007
Meet the New Boss, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda
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.
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.
June 13, 2007
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.)
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.
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.
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.
June 01, 2007
Serve Me, Or Else!
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.
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.
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.
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.
May 09, 2007
Pope Warns Catholic Politicians Who Back Abortion
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."
"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.
May 08, 2007
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.
May 07, 2007
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.
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?
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.)
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.
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.
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)
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.
April 13, 2007
Apologies for "Gay Marriage"
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
February 19, 2007
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.
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.
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.
"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?
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.
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.
January 24, 2007
Sexual Predators Get Free Reign in Public School
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.
January 22, 2007
Hoping for Failure
Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush
announced last week to succeed?
16-17 Jan 07
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).
January 12, 2007
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.
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.)
January 08, 2007
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.
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!
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.
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.
November 08, 2006
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.
November 03, 2006
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.
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.
October 23, 2006
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.
October 20, 2006
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.
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.
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.
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.
September 29, 2006
Tough Times for Truth
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.
September 21, 2006
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."
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.
September 11, 2006
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.
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.
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.
August 29, 2006
Sam's Club has brought back "Christmas".
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.
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.
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.)
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:
- 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.
- 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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
July 06, 2006
Georgia Same-Sex Marriage Amendment Upheld
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.
June 30, 2006
Would You Bet Your Life on a 30% Failure?
If your birth control pill only worked 70% of the time, would you consider that successful? Apparently, some folks would.
A new study on condom effectiveness in protecting against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus has shown a discrediting 30% failure rate. The report, however, is being praised as a breakthrough for its claim that condom use offers “significant” protection against the virus.
The study relied on the journals of 82 female university students who kept daily records of their sexual behaviour, and found that 70% of the women, who reported 100% consistent condom use, were virus-free at the end of three years.
The Illinois Family Institute criticized news reports of the study as misleading and inaccurate, saying the 30 per cent failure rate was far more important information than the limited success of the study.
“In fact, the study reports that 12 out of 42 women whose partners always used condoms did get HPV. Thus, 28.5% of the women got HPV even with 100% condom use,” said William Beckman, executive director of Illinois Right to Life Committee.
“Why isn’t the fact that condoms, even under ideal usage conditions, failed 28.5% of the time the real story here? Who would consider this an acceptable failure rate when dealing with a cancer-causing virus?”
Well yeah, 70% is significant, but which is better; being sexually active and having a 30% chance of killing yourself with an STD, or being abstinent with a 0% chance? The folks trumpeting this study are, of course, highlighting the fact that condom's are better than nothing. But even considering just that comparison, is 30% worth your life? If not, then this is not a "success"; it's a dismal failure.
Maybe with a better sampling, the results might be different.
Furthermore, Beckman points out, the study itself is inconclusive since it relies on the self-reporting of just 82 university-aged women.
“For those who are still impressed by the “70% less” infection rate, remember that with only 82 women, the sample size is so small that the results have very little statistical significance.”
So what we have is a fatally flawed study, praised by people who consider it's 30% failure rate a success. Here's an example.
Among those applauding the report was Markus Steiner of Family Health International in Research Triangle Park, NC, who co-wrote an accompanying commentary. He told the New Scientist that the research should put an end to calls for FDA warnings against condom failures in protecting against HPV, by groups advocating abstinence.
“We’re hoping the findings of the paper will dissipate this pressure,” he said.
I doubt Mr. Steiner would accept a 30% failure rate in many other, non-life-threatening parts of his life, but he's more than willing to do what he can to give others a false sense of security. Is this what his company considers family health?
June 22, 2006
Forgiveness Lifts the Chains
A wonderful story of healing and forgiveness.
Sir John Hawkins was a buccaneering Elizabethan seaman and adventurer, who helped his cousin Sir Francis Drake beat the Spanish Armada. And he was also one of the pioneers of the slave trade, becoming the first person to buy slaves in west Africa and sell them to Spanish landowners in the Caribbean.
Now his descendent, Andrew Hawkins, a youth worker from Cornwall, has delivered an extraordinary personal but public apology for his ancestors' involvement in the trade, kneeling in chains in front of 25,000 Africans in a stadium in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia.
Mr Hawkins, 37, from Liskeard, said yesterday: "I apologised on behalf of my family. I apologised for the adults and children taken. I recognise that it's a small, simple act to say sorry - but it was a handful of people who started the slave trade and the ripples of their actions caused evil throughout the continent of Africa.
After he had spoken, the Vice-President of Gambia, Isatou Njie Saidy, came forward to accept the apology and symbolically remove the chains.
What a powerful image that would have been to witness.
For whites who's ancestors did not own slaves or came here after slavery was abolished, an apology can still be meaningful. When our church was partnering with a nearby black church for a number of events, one of the things we did was have a meeting on reconciliation. Asking forgiveness for those who came before us, chronologically if sometimes not genealogically, and giving that forgiveness by those who, in most cases, do come from bloodlines that include slaves, was a powerful time. It wasn't just a matter of getting a good feeling from doing the "right thing". More importantly it helped both sides to lay aside any buried resentment for the other, any hints of racism that we may not have known of or acknowledged. Again, many of the whites did not have slave-owners in their pasts--me included--but it was a time to acknowledge the hurt cause by, and express sorrow and regret for, the sins of our race. Some of the black participants acknowledged resentment they had had towards whites in the past, asked for forgiveness, and received it. The walls were crumbling.
How much more powerful to hear the confession and the request for forgiveness of a man who's ancestors began the African slave trade to the Europeans. And the symbolism of the Vice President of Gambia removing his chains; chains not just symbolic of the slaves' chains, but of the chains that bind us when we hold grudges and don't offer forgiveness, even when unasked for.
Some are asking that money be given to those here who are descendants of slaves as reparations for what was done to their ancestors. Well, that may help things temporarily, but money never really solves the long-term problem. Nothing will repair what ails our country or our wold more than a changing of the hearts.
June 21, 2006
Christian Film PG Rating Update
An update to the story about the movie given a PG rating due to religious elements.
In the last week alone, the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which oversees the rating board, has been swamped with more than 15,000 e-mails arguing that "Facing the Giants" deserves a more family-friendly G rating. The complaints — the number of which may be 10 times the previous record for reaction to a ratings decision — say the movie is being unfairly targeted for its religious themes.
The filmmakers say they were told that those themes had prompted the PG rating. MPAA officials deny that was the reason.
Across the Internet and on talk radio, religious groups and conservative commentators have seized on the rating flap as evidence that Hollywood is anti-Christian. And the third-ranking House Republican has written to MPAA Chief Executive Dan Glickman demanding answers.
"This incident raises the disquieting possibility that MPAA considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and mindless violence," said Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
The MPAA is denying they based the rating on the religious content.
Joan Graves, chairwoman of the MPAA's rating board, said Tuesday that the decision had nothing to do with Christianity but was based on football violence as well as the inclusion of mature topics such as depression and infertility.
In a rare interview granted in an attempt to defuse what she calls a controversy born of miscommunication, Graves said that although infertility and depression are involved in the coach's "crisis of faith," the religious story line itself did not raise a red flag.
"If we see somebody on the screen practicing their faith and indicating they have a faith, that's not something we PG," Graves said, adding that the board's goal is simply to alert parents to content in movies that they should research.
But the filmmakers stand by their original story.
A spokeswoman for the filmmakers, however, said they had expected a PG rating because of the infertility subject matter, but that's not the reason they were given.
"When we asked what the reason for the PG was, we were told it was the religious content," said Julie Fairchild, the spokeswoman. She added that the rating board representatives they spoke with "didn't even mention the infertility."
On the upside, some think the rating will be a draw for some demographics.
Ironically, some Christian groups believe the PG rating — not to mention the publicity — will attract more teenagers, who typically shun G-rated films.
"I think that a G for a lot of teenagers is the kiss of death," said Bob Waliszewski, a media specialist with Focus on the Family, a Christian group.
Waliszewski screened "Facing the Giants" and contends the PG rating isn't warranted. But, he said, "it's a case where unfairness will probably be a blessing in disguise."
June 19, 2006
PCUSA Identity Crisis
The Presbyterian Church USA is having an identity crisis on multiple fronts. First there's the question of homosexual clergy.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), severely split over homosexuality, would maintain its ban on gay clergy but allow some leeway in enforcing it under a proposal headed to a national assembly vote on Tuesday.
A key committee, which divided 30-28, proposed keeping on the books a church law mandating that lay officeholders as well as all clergy restrict sexual activity to heterosexual marriage.
But another bill would give local congregations and regional "presbyteries" leeway on whether to require that rule in all cases.
A committee minority plans to propose an alternate to that proposal. Ten conservative Presbyterian groups have warned jointly that approval of what they call "local option" would "promote schism by permitting the disregard of clear standards of Scripture."
Facing seemingly endless acrimony on gays and other issues, a special task force spent four years pondering how the denomination could remain united. Its report to this assembly included the compromise plan to keep the sexual law intact but allow local flexibility in applying it.
Liberal caucuses protest that this will leave injustice in place. Conservatives call it an illicit means for the national assembly to rewrite church law.
Second, there's the issue of male vs neutral wording.
Another bill that could prompt intense debate would encourage gender- neutral worship language for the divine Trinity _ for instance "Mother, Child and Womb" _ alongside the traditional "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
(I guess here, the identity crisis is a question of God's identity. How would the Spirit be a "Womb", exactly?)
Third is the issue of financially supporting Israel.
The delegates also will consider a proposal to soften the 2004 assembly's decision to selectively pull Presbyterian investments from corporations involved with Israel.
I don't think that we as Christians are required to support every single action taken by the political rulers of Israel. Heck, I don't think Jews should. But divesting money from Israeli companies or companies that do business there seems rather counter- or non-productive, regarding either how the government acts or regarding the special place Israel holds in the Christian faith.
The thought is that the PCUSA may split over these issues.
UPDATE: Solomonia has more information on the divestment policy, including accounts of the recent discussions.
June 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?
June 06, 2006
"Why I Published the Muhammad Cartoons"
The culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that originally published the particular group of Mohammed cartoons, says that European political correctness is to blame for the riots, not his newspaper. It's a question that was on a lot of peoples' minds and he answers "Why I Published the Muhammad Cartoons". Flemming Rose lays it on the line for Europe.
And yet the unbalanced reactions to the not-so-provocative caricatures -- loud denunciations and even death threats toward us, but very little outrage toward the people who attacked two Danish Embassies -- unmasked unpleasant realities about Europe's failed experiment with multiculturalism. It's time for the Old Continent to face facts and make some profound changes in its outlook on immigration, integration and the coming Muslim demographic surge. After decades of appeasement and political correctness, combined with growing fear of a radical minority prepared to commit serious violence, Europe's moment of truth is here.
Rose goes on to explain his hippie creds, and his eventual awakening to the lie of a leftist, utopian bliss. That relates to Europe's current problem, as exposed in the riots, because he shows how out of that mindset came incorrect views on the integration of immigrants.
This kind of thinking gave birth to a distorted approach to immigration in countries like Denmark. Left-wing commentators decided that Denmark was both racist and Islamophobic. Therefore, the chief obstacle to integration was not the immigrants' unwillingness to adapt culturally to their adopted country (there are 200,000 Danish Muslims now); it was the country's inherent racism and anti-Muslim bias.
Sound familiar? Sounds like the "why do they hate us" blame-America-first mentality we hear from the Left in this country. There's nothing wrong with legal immigration, but integration with the culture of the new host country, including accepting a shared morality and value system, is critical. Instead, Europe became a continent of self-loathing, and there are many in America who think we should take that route as well.
A cult of victimology arose and was happily exploited by clever radicals among Europe's Muslims, especially certain religious leaders like Imam Ahmad Abu Laban in Denmark and Mullah Krekar in Norway.
"A cult of victimology". Sounds so familiar.
The role of victim is very convenient because it frees the self-declared victim from any responsibility, while providing a posture of moral superiority.
And again, such familiarity. It's as though Rose is reading from the playbook of our very own American Left. Never mind self-determination; there's got to be someone to sue or blame or stick it to. Let someone else pay for it or provide it or do it instead. This kind of thinking, Rose contends, led to the sort of riots and killing and mayhem over cartoons. They didn't happen here, and America is clearly to the right, politically speaking, of most of Europe. Those two facts are not coincidence.
So what's the answer? Rose answers this first by noting what the problems are.
I am a Dane because I look European, speak Danish, descend from centuries of other Scandinavians. But what about the dark, bearded new Danes who speak Arabic at home and poor Danish in the streets? We Europeans must make a profound cultural adjustment to understand that they, too, can be Danes.
Our melting pot in America has aided us in this. We didn't have as much of that to overcome, though it certainly did exist and still does, but to a lesser extent.
Another great impediment to integration is the European welfare state. Because Europe's highly developed, but increasingly unaffordable, safety nets provide such strong unemployment insurance and not enough incentive to work, many new immigrants go straight onto the dole.
Professing to be caring, they instead discourage self-reliance and encourage slothfulness. We, too, have this problem. Should society care for its needy? Absolutely, but not on a way that bankrupts society both financially and morally. As Rose notes, however, we are still ahead of Europe in this respect.
While it can be argued that the fast-growing community of about 20 million Muslim immigrants in Europe is the equivalent of America's new Hispanic immigrants, the difference in their productivity and prosperity is staggering. An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study in 1999 showed that while immigrants in the United States are almost equal to native-born workers as taxpayers and contributors to American prosperity, in Denmark there is a glaring gap of 41 percent between the contributions of the native-born and of the immigrants. In the United States, a laid-off worker gets an average of 32 percent compensation for his former wages in welfare services; in Denmark the figure is 81 percent. A culture of welfare dependency is rife among immigrants, and it is taken for granted.
In America, for those who can work, there is a big incentive to work. In Europe, there is a disincentive. Again, I don't think these two statistics are a coincidence. They go together.
Rose has other points to make as he discusses how Europe must go forward. But why did he publish the cartoons? His answer is one, interestingly, of inclusion.
Equal treatment is the democratic way to overcome traditional barriers of blood and soil for newcomers. To me, that means treating immigrants just as I would any other Danes. And that's what I felt I was doing in publishing the 12 cartoons of Muhammad last year. Those images in no way exceeded the bounds of taste, satire and humor to which I would subject any other Dane, whether the queen, the head of the church or the prime minister. By treating a Muslim figure the same way I would a Christian or Jewish icon, I was sending an important message: You are not strangers, you are here to stay, and we accept you as an integrated part of our life. And we will satirize you, too. It was an act of inclusion, not exclusion; an act of respect and recognition.
An act of inclusion. Some may find that ironic, and I confess that wasn't the first thing that popped into my head. But it makes sense. If you want equality, you must take the bad with the good, the satire with the atta-boys. If you won't, you don't really want the equality. This doesn't mean you can't protest over the satire, of course. It just means that you must still act within the law if you want the law on your side.
A very interesting piece, and there's quite a bit more to it. Worth the read.
June 05, 2006
Why They Really Hate Us
An editorial in the NY Sun puts the lie to the idea that if we'd just play nice with terrorists, they'd leave us alone.
The arrest of 17 residents of Canada with three tons of ammonium nitrate in a plot to attack targets in Ontario is a reminder of the nature of the enemy that America faces in the war on Islamic terrorists. Contrary to the beliefs of some on the American extreme left and extreme right, the terrorists aren’t simply reacting against the American-led war in Iraq or against America’s support for Israel.
Canada sent no troops to liberate Iraq. Our neighbor to the North so opposed the Iraq War that at least one American deserter fled there for safe harbor, as draftdodgers did during the Vietnam War.And while Canada is mildly pro-Israel, and more so under its new conservative government, its arms sales to the Jewish state are peanuts compared to America’s, and at the United Nations on key votes it’s likely to abstain rather than join the America, Micronesia, and Palau in voting with Israel.
This is in reference to the arrest of 17 Canadian residents "mainly of South Asian descent", a number of whom go the same mosque. According to police, they had a list of targets. "At the news conference, officials emphasized that the targets were all in Canada." Thus these were terrorists who were there, not to use Canada as easy entrance to the US, but to attack Canada itself.
The idea that our Mideast policies or support for Israel were some sort of understandable reason that we "asked for it" on 9/11 are completely, and have always been, wrong. The editorial brings the point home.
What the Islamic extremists oppose in Canada is neither its support for Israel nor its behavior in Iraq but the mere fact that it is not a country governed by Islamic law. An Associated Press dispatch on the bomb plot noted that Canada, with the America, Britain, Spain, and Australia, was listed by Osama Bin Laden as a “Christian” nation that should be a target for terrorism. Nothing short of dropping Christianity and converting to Islam will satisfy the Islamist terrorists.
"Living While Christian" is the charge by the Islamic terrorists, for which their punishment is death. Reasonable debate can be had about choices made in our public policy, and hindsight can be employed ad infinitum, but the reason we were attacked in New York, or on the USS Cole, or even in Beirut, and the reason even Canada is a target, is not because of a policy debate. It's because simply we are who we are, and because we stand for freedom (take a look at these pictures, especially the 4th one down). Certainly that is no legitimate reason for the war that has been waged against us.
June 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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 other ways. In this case, the employers don't hire as freely. The result is high unemployment. And when employers can't fire people, and thus there is one less big incentive to work hard, you get a stagnant economy.
This isn't a surprise to conservatives, nor apparently to liberals who've watched their finely tuned theories fall apart before them. But it's a lesson lost to those who've grown up in the liberal French mindset.
March 24, 2006
Adult Stem Cells Further Prove Their Worth
Those wacky adult stem cells. Every time you turn around, they keep showing that they have a lot more potential that you thought with none of the downsides of embryonic stem cells.
German scientists said on Friday they had isolated sperm-producing stem cells that have similar properties to embryonic stem cells from adult mice.
If the same type of cells in humans show similar qualities the researchers from the Georg-August-University of Goettingen believe they could be used in stem cell research which would remove the ethical dilemma associated with stem cells derived from human embryos.
"These isolated spermatogonial stem cells respond to culture conditions and acquire embryonic stem cell properties," Gerd Hasenfuss and his colleagues said in report published online by the journal Nature.
Stem cells are master cells that have the potential to develop into any cell type in the body. Scientists believe they could act as a type of repair system to provide new therapies for illnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson's.
But their use is controversial because the most promising stem cells for treating human disease are derived from very early human embryos left over from fertility treatments.
If the same can be done with human cells, then the folks pushing hard for embryonic stem cell research will have the final plank knocked out from under them. The only folks left standing will be those for whom "ethics" is a quaint anachronism, and who care more about research money for corporations doing ESS work. Here's hoping that further research reveals that this source of stem cells is available to us.
March 23, 2006
The Abdul Rahman Case - Is Democracy Dead in Afghanistan?
The Abdul Rahman case in Afghanistan has captured the attention of the media and the blogosphere, not to mention the White House. Obviously, we at SCO hope that this convert to Christianity is treated with respect and an open mind by the new government there. So far, the messages are mixed, with the option now on the table to declare Rahman mentally incompetent to stand trial so that the world spotlight on this case of religious freedom dims.
There are those on the Left that suggest that this proves the Afghan Experiment has failed. However, I'd say that this only proves that the budding democracy there is, in fact, budding. No big surprise there. I wonder how long they would have given the 13 colonies before declaring our Constitution a miserable failure. You could still own slaves a generation after the thing was signed, for goodness sake. Entire families of Africans had their lives destroyed under a Constitution that said that all men were created equal. Should they have given up on the whole federal government thing and gone back to being under the thumb of King George?
"georgia10", the author of the linked post at the Daily Kos, has this to say:
Declaring this Christian crazy to spare judicial execution does not solve the deeper problem that such undemocratic and immoral action is enshrined in the text of the Afghanistan Constitution, that same Constitution Bush praised as a hallmark of democracy. Is this democracy? Or is this the type of case that reminds us that freedom is not on the march in Afghanistan, no matter how many purple fingers are waived in the air?
It sounds like "georgia10" has given up and sees no possibility of any kind of future for Afghanistan. Might as well have give it back to the Taliban, eh? Does the Left really have that little faith in the democratic process, of working through your own salvation? There's lots of finger wagging in that post, but it's very short on specific (or even general) alternatives. The move from a theocracy to a democracy is not noted in any way as progress. How sad and pessimistic do you have to be to declare failure at every single setback?
So what do we do? I think it's time to handle Afghanistan the way we handle any other democratic country; apply diplomatic pressure. I think the words coming from the Bush administration are what we should be doing, and perhaps negotiating with the Afghan government to try to resolve this in such a way that hopefully it will enlighten some folks there. What would be really great would be for American Muslims to raise their voices against this situation, and note how well they are treated here and how well freedom of religion works when it's properly done.
Self-government is a learned behavior. You don't learn it by voting in a few elections. However (and to "georgia10's" surprise, perhaps), you'll never get there without a bunch of purple fingers first.
Ingratitude Isn't a Christian Value
It's fantastic to hear that the US & UK military was able to rescue the remaining Christian Peacemaker Team hostages. Now, you'd think these folks would be grateful to their rescuers, but it's hard to tell by their statement. The families are certainly to have their loved ones back, and the hostages are certainly glad to have their freedom back. They thank the people who prayed for them. They thank God for sustaining their friends' courage while they were captive. But you'd be hard-pressed to hear any note of thanks to the military folks who got them out. As James Taranto notes, it seems that the people they consider most their enemies are the countries of their benefactors.
It's not clear whom the CPT statement means by "our enemies." But the only enemy they seem to recognize is the U.S. and its allies, whose "occupation" of Iraq is the "root cause" of the ex-hostages' captivity, and whose detention of "thousands of Iraqis" they liken to their own kidnapping and (in one case) murder by terrorists.
But if the CPT is going to "love our enemies," the least it could do is thank them. The statement does not acknowledge that the hostages were rescued by U.S. and British servicemen, or indeed that they were rescued at all; it refers mysteriously to their having been "released," as if the kidnappers themselves had decided to let them go.
This seems to run deeper than a case of simple ingratitude. There is a whole strange worldview at work here--a theology, if you will. We don't claim to understand it fully, but it seems to equate America as the root of all evil and America's adversaries as Edenic creatures--innocents who know not good or evil and thus bear no culpability for their bad actions.
If we have this right, it follows that the CPT Christians see themselves, by virtue of their faith, as being forgiven for being American, or for being from another nation that America has corrupted. This is why they cannot be grateful to, or forgiving of, America: For them that would amount to thanking or forgiving sin itself.
Their kidnappers may have done what they did because of the presence of coalition troops, but without the troops, there would be still be violence done to people in Iraq. It would be state-sponsored, however, which apparently the CPT folks would prefer to violence that results in the ability of the people to determine the course of their own country.
By the way, on my lunch break I heard Limbaugh say that if these people hated violence so much, they shouldn't have accepted the military help that was given to them. A principle's a principle, eh?
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt notes a Bible passage that the CPT folks should get familiar with.
March 22, 2006
The Message from the Media
Just in case it wasn't obvious that thought precedes action...
Children exposed to sex in TV programmes, films, magazines and music are more likely to engage in sexual activity than those who are not, according to research out today.
There is a direct relationship between the amount of sexual content a child sees and their level of sexual activity or their intentions to have sex in the future, the study found.
Such media also has at least an equal influence on sexual behaviour as religion or a child's relationship with their parents and peers, the study said.
It concluded that the media is an "important source" of information about sex for teenagers who might not get advice elsewhere.
To some, this may be shocking. It shouldn't be.
March 17, 2006
The Politics of Psychology
I've been listening to a lot of podcasts in the past months. Some are political, some are computer related (geeky stuff; that's my biz), some are finance related, and some are just fun. The commute to and from work (when I do actually go in to the office) is when I typically listen to them.
On the way home today, I was listening to Glenn and Helen Reynolds' podcast (he, of course, of Instapundit fame, and she of Dr. Helen fame). Their latest entry is on the politicization of Psychology. Here's Glenn's summary of the show.
Is psychology over-politicized? We interview Dr. Nicholas Cummings, a past President of the American Psychological Association, and coauthor of Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm, about the injection of politics into mental health in general, and the American Psychological Association in particular. Plus, why men are disappearing from the psychological profession.
This is an amazing interview from a guy on the inside. Well, he was on the inside until this liberal activist got labelled a right-wing wacko for daring to suggest the politics was becoming too strong an element of APA rulings and studies.
Here's a guy who's for same-sex marriage, but who was ostracized because of his suggestion that studies and data should inform APA ethical standards in that area rather than political posturing. The APA came within 2 votes of saying that "Reparitive Therapy" for homosexuals should be on its list of ethical violations. The studies are inconclusive on this matter, but it was politics that almost made mentioning these programs to a patient a license-yanking offense.
And speaking of studies, you'll take studies done by or cited by the APA with a
grain pillar of salt after listening to Dr. Cummings describe how information that didn't fit the political correctness standard was unreported, ignored or misrepresented. This I find incredibly interesting especially in regard to studies on same-sex marriage. I was quoted studies by the APA and other groups when I mentioned the news about how families continue to break down in today's more and more liberal climate. But given the incredible bias you'll hear about, anything coming from the big psychological groups is extremely suspect. If you put your faith in those groups, prepare to have your foundation shaken.
Unless you think that liberal politics should be the basis of sound psychological reasoning. Then you'll be just fine.
This is 25 minutes well spent. Have a listen.
March 16, 2006
"Out of Ur" is a blog put out by the folks at Leadership Journal, a publication of Christianity Today. A post of theirs from March 14th was an interesting look at the Christian perspective on the education of our children. Given the various choices--public, private, homeschool--how do you decide? A pastor wrote in with his thoughts and he looks to an unlikely source for guidance; the culture of 1st century Judaism. No pat answers, but some pretty interesting observations.
I’m not sure our school choices today are all that different than the religious options of 1st century Jews. I’d like to draw some parallels. There were four major sects in 1st century Judaism: the Essenes, the Sadducees, the Zealots, and the Pharisees. Each of these sects interacted with the Roman culture differently. I see a similar pattern in how families interact with the educational options of metropolitan America.
He touches on how each of these group interacted (or not) with the culture, and how (or whether) they tried to change the culture. Being a homeschooler (actually, we are or have been all 3 types of schoolers mentioned, but have leaned towards homeschooling), I'd like to comment on his homeschooling parallel.
The Essenes lived in communes away from the influence of the Roman occupiers. Their philosophy of cultural interaction was to stay as far away from the surrounding culture as they could. They simply didn’t like what they saw. The parallel I see is with parents who choose to homeschool their children. They have looked at the options, and they have chosen to exclude their families from that aspect of cultural interaction.If you think that homeschooling means you have no or little connection with the surrounding culture, you don't know homeschooling. Homeschoolers often participate in many extracurricular activities, where they come in contact with the culture and socialize with their peers. They still get educated (with higher scores than the average student), but they aren't exposed to all the excessive peer pressure and negative influences we're reading and hearing about more and more in the public school system. Now, if removing or reducing those influences while providing a superior education make homeschoolers "Essenes", that's not a bug, that's a feature (as we say in the computer field). But it's not nearly the cloister this article suggests that it may be.
March 10, 2006
Are Democrats Losing the Black Vote?
Deroy Murdock notes the good things that have been happening in the black economic community under the Bush administration. His sub-heading is, "Will the Dems lose a reliable constituency this year?" My answer to that is "No", if you mean that in 2006 (and even 2008) the percentage split of black voters between Republican and Democrat will mirror the nation's at large. However, I have a feeling it'll continue the trend toward Republicans in both years. When you consider how most blacks voted against the same-sex marriage issue, in addition to Murdock's economic numbers, I think the wake-up call has been heard.
February 28, 2006
Tolerance and Multiculturalism Meet Reality
The "Cartoon Jihad" has given Europe a chance to reevaluate its values. To what degree should immigrants be assimilated? Newsweek has an article on this topic, but it has an odd title, "The End of Tolerance". The subheading goes further: "Farewell, multiculturalism. A cartoon backlash is pushing Europe to insist upon its values." Is this what "tolerance" and "multiculturalism" means, that countries should allow the killings and burnings to continue? Does "tolerance" mean that no set of values is better than another, or that a country can't insist that people follow its values as expressed in its laws?
It's this mindset that has turned schools into values-free war zones. The Dutch have seen what kind of war zones have been imported, and how it has been exported to the world. But Newsweek doesn't want anyone to make value judgements. Instead we get writing like this:
What's going on here? Weren't the Dutch supposed to be the nicest people on earth, the most tolerant nation in Europe, a melting pot for minorities and immigrants since the Renaissance? No longer, and in this the Dutch are once again at the forefront of changes in Europe. This time, the Dutch model for Europe is one of multiculturalism besieged, if not plain defunct.
"Be nice and let 'em in, but be tolerant and don't judge them when they burn down your towns and kill you over cartoons." Remember that America was, and still is, a melting pot, and we still generally ask that immigrants accept our shared values, including freedom of the press and religious freedom.
Multiculturalism isn't being besieged so much as it's coming in contact with reality. As the saying goes, a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged.
February 22, 2006
Matt Barber Postscript
Back in June, I talked about J. Matt Barber who got fired from Allstate Insurance for writing an article, on his own time, critical of homosexuality and same-sex marriage from a Christian perspective. Today comes word that there has been a sealed, out-of-court settlement.
February 21, 2006
The Breakdown of the Nuclear Family
In 6 years, if all trends continue, half the babies born in the UK will be to unmarried mothers. As "progressive" as the UK has been at, among other things, de-emphasizing religious and moral values, this may be a shock, but it's no surprise.
The number of births outside wedlock exceeds 50 per cent in some parts, including Wales. In the North East, it was 54.1 per cent last year.
In London, where a higher proportion of young mothers are Muslims who adhere to more conservative family values, a third of children were born outside marriage.
Now comes the common sense, but is anyone listening?
The figures have alarmed family campaigners, who say the collapse of marriage could have a serious impact on social structures.
They say that most of the statistical evidence suggests that children brought up by married parents do better than those raised by cohabiting couples or lone parents.
This, of course, will be used by "progressives" to further the idea that same-sex marriage is the answer to this dilemma, but this arrangement is little better than a single parent family, as well-rounded children need both a male and female influence. (Here's the report on one study, but there are many more.) The commitment in a "same-sex marriage" is better than none, of course, but as the report notes, there is far more that children need than that.
What we have is a slippery slope. While each person or group moving us down may not be working in concert with anyone else farther up the slope, the effect in any case is to have an incremental push over the course of a couple generations to the liberal side of the spectrum. In order to really make "same-sex marriage" palpable to a majority of people, you have to find a reason for redefining a term that has endured for millennia. Out-of-wedlock births fits that bill, but in order to do that, you have to break down the traditional taboos and mainstream extramarital sexual activity. In order to do that, you have to erode the religious traditions of the country (and sometimes you get the churches to help in that regard, unfortunately).
What it amounts to is the classic entrepreneurial action of creating a need and then filling it. Unfortunately, as people have continued to accept more and more liberal values during this process, countless lives have been destroyed. But with each slip, the proposed "solution" was always sold as being better than what came before. Instead, more and more lives are ruined. I predict that the next "solution" will bring about even worse results.
Campaigners and Church leaders have accused politicians of marginalizing marriage by undermining its legal and financial privileges and shying away from promoting it above other types of family.
Labour abolished the last tax break for married couples, the Married Couples' Allowance, while its tax credit system is said to favour single-parent families.
Ann Widdecombe, a former Tory Home Office minister, said: "After the death of the extended family, we are now seeing the death of the nuclear family.
"The long-term consequences are bad for everyone. A well-ordered society is based on the bedrock of marriage, otherwise we will have increasing social disruption."
The real solution is to go back to what worked, and worked well. Unfortunately, this may take further generations. In the meantime, the slippery slope is further littered with the lives of those who believed in the new "solutions".
February 16, 2006
The Boy Scouts are a Religion?
Do you consider the Boy Scouts a religion? A judge in San Diego said it was, and now the 9th Circuit (oh joy) gets a shot at it.
Arguments in a major Boy Scouts case unfolding in Pasadena, Calif., before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – a case that is certain to be headed for the Supreme Court -- centered on the contention that the revered organization is actually a religion and should therefore not be given a lease of public land.
The case was brought by self-declared agnostics Lori and Lynn Barnes-Wallace and Michael and Valerie Breen, along with a son of each, in protest of a lease of parkland in Balboa Park and Fiesta Island by the city of San Diego to the Boy Scouts of America.
The agnostics sued the city on a claim that the lease to the Boy Scouts – out of more than 100 leases, including to the YMCA, a number of Jewish groups, one of which conducts Sabbath services on parkland, and the Girl Scouts – violates the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment, and that they are suffering "inferior usage" thereby because they don't want to have to apply for permits, or pay usage fees, to the BSA. The case is Barnes-Wallace, et al. v. Boy Scouts of America, Nos. 04-55732, 04-56167.
A federal judge in San Diego granted the summary judgment to the agnostics, finding that the Boy Scouts are a "religion" because of the Boy Scout Oath, which includes doing one's duty to "God and my country," and the Boy Scout Law, which includes "reverence" as one of 12 precepts. Also, the Scouts require a belief in God as a condition of membership.
The city itself is not part of the appeal. It settled with the American Civil Liberties Union to avoid further expense, agreeing to terminate the lease and to give the ACLU $940,000 in attorney fees. The appeal continues since the Boy Scouts, if they prevail, want to be able to contract for a lease with the city again.
The case has drawn national attention because the federal judge's finding that the BSA is "a religion" imperils the future work of not only the Boy Scouts, but all organizations that recognize a transcendent higher authority, including community service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, Alcoholics Anonymous, which works directly with the courts and government, and veterans organizations like the American Legion, whose constitutional preamble begins "For God and Country," almost identical to the Boy Scouts Oath.
That any federal judge considered the BSA a religion is truly unbelievable. But the idea that using the "G" word in a sentence prevents you from consideration at all by any level of government is even more preposterous. When you see how much religion the Founding Fathers allowed for in government by their actions, this can't possibly be a First Amendment issue. At least not the First Amendment the way they intended it to be. But to the "living document" judges, the Constitution means whatever they want it to mean. Today. Until they change their minds. Again.
So much for the Constitution be a foundation.
February 10, 2006
"Cartoon Intifadah" Not Backed Up by Islam's History
Does the Quran prohibit creating any image of the prophet Muhammad? According to Amir Taheri, writing in the Wall St. Journal, no.
There is no Quranic injunction against images, whether of Muhammad or anyone else. When it spread into the Levant, Islam came into contact with a version of Christianity that was militantly iconoclastic. As a result some Muslim theologians, at a time when Islam still had an organic theology, issued "fatwas" against any depiction of the Godhead. That position was further buttressed by the fact that Islam acknowledges the Jewish Ten Commandments--which include a ban on depicting God--as part of its heritage. The issue has never been decided one way or another, and the claim that a ban on images is "an absolute principle of Islam" is purely political. Islam has only one absolute principle: the Oneness of God. Trying to invent other absolutes is, from the point of view of Islamic theology, nothing but sherk, i.e., the bestowal on the Many of the attributes of the One.
The claim that the ban on depicting Muhammad and other prophets is an absolute principle of Islam is also refuted by history. Many portraits of Muhammad have been drawn by Muslim artists, often commissioned by Muslim rulers.
He goes on to list a few of the many famous depictions.
Well then, does this have more to do with a deep Muslim resistance to having their religion made fun of? Again, no.
Now to the second claim, that the Muslim world is not used to laughing at religion. That is true if we restrict the Muslim world to the Brotherhood and its siblings in the Salafist movement, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda. But these are all political organizations masquerading as religious ones. They are not the sole representatives of Islam, just as the Nazi Party was not the sole representative of German culture. Their attempt at portraying Islam as a sullen culture that lacks a sense of humor is part of the same discourse that claims "suicide martyrdom" as the highest goal for all true believers.
The truth is that Islam has always had a sense of humor and has never called for chopping heads as the answer to satirists. Muhammad himself pardoned a famous Meccan poet who had lampooned him for more than a decade. Both Arabic and Persian literature, the two great literatures of Islam, are full of examples of "laughing at religion," at times to the point of irreverence.
Again, he offers further historical examples.
So if what some are calling the "Cartoon Intifadah" is not religious in its origin, what is it? Mr. Taheri, explains.
The "rage machine" was set in motion when the Muslim Brotherhood--a political, not a religious, organization--called on sympathizers in the Middle East and Europe to take the field. A fatwa was issued by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Brotherhood sheikh with his own program on al-Jazeera. Not to be left behind, the Brotherhood's rivals, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Movement of the Exiles (Ghuraba), joined the fray. Believing that there might be something in it for themselves, the Syrian Baathist leaders abandoned their party's 60-year-old secular pretensions and organized attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and Beirut.It's political. Much of the defense of Muslims has tried to come at this from one or the other of these perspectives. The fact is that nothing happened for months after the cartoons were first published, and only after a political body called for a response that 10 people (so far) were killed and buildings burned over them. This is a calculated political response, even if it may have gone farther than the Muslim Brotherhood intended.
I'm not thrilled when religion is lampooned, but I understand that not everyone shares the same opinion. One's religion is as personal as one's political opinion and so both are subject to it. Hence, I understand that it's generally all fair game, including my own Christianity. And on the other side, when someone's offended, it is their right to speak out against what they believe to be wrong, whether in fact, or whether it be one opinion vs. another. But this furor is unjustified on many counts. It's has a political origin in spite of claims to the contrary. It doesn't follow Islam's own history. And it has become outrageous in its excess and cruelty.
This may be the oft-cited "less than 1% of Muslims" who are doing all the damage. I can buy that. But how soon will it be before we see this kind of action from the other 99%, rather than just press releases? There has been some, but it's been lost in the din raging over some cartoons.
February 07, 2006
Julian Bond Mixes His Inflammatory Metaphors
Finally, Fayetteville State University has released audio of what Julian Bond said in his speech. Turns out that not only does Bond use inflammatory speech, he mixes his inflammatory metaphors.
Hours after his speech, the Web site for World Net Daily published an article in which it quoted Bond as saying, “The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side.” The comment quickly spread on the Internet and prompted sharp criticism from conservatives including Rush Limbaugh, who mentioned the report on his radio show Friday.
According to a recording of Bond’s 45-minute speech reviewed by The Fayetteville Observer, he referred to the Confederate flag as a swastika.
“Their (Republicans) idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side-by-side,” Bond said in a series of jabs against conservatives, getting applause from the audience of about 900 people.
The comments as reported by World Net Daily and other online forums had circulated so widely that, by Friday, Fayetteville State University issued a news release including a statement from Bond.
“I didn’t say these things I’m alleged to have said,” FSU quoted Bond as saying. “There is no one in the audience who can say I said them.”
WND had to get its information from people who attended the speech and probably weren't taking notes. Turns out, they gave Bond more credit than he deserved. Bond's denial was categorical, but in fact he did use the swastika imagery. Now that we have the words themselves, it appears he bumbled in his attempt.
But people are still trying to cover for him.
The criticism has been equally harsh against newspapers and television networks, with conservative organizations and Internet bloggers accusing the media of ignoring offensive remarks. On Monday, World Net Daily posted another article citing FSU’s news release. The site says it verified Bond’s comments as originally reported by talking with people who said they attended the speech.
[Carol] Wood, of the University of Virginia, said three people contacted administrators after hearing about Nazi comments. The university has been in contact with FSU and called the misquotes “outrageous.”
“We had no doubts that this was wrong from the beginning,” Wood said. “How quickly somebody can put a fabrication up and have people believe it — it’s just the way the world is now.”
Yeah, it's truly "outrageous" that when people heard the word "swastika" they immediately thought of Nazis. Please. This wasn't a fabrication by listeners. If anything, it was a gracious mis-hearing of otherwise poorly worded hate speech.
A (43 megabyte) MP3 recording of the speech can be found here.
February 06, 2006
"Cutting Edge" Medicine
This is simply beyond the pale. Feel the need to self-abuse? Some in the medical profession want to give you clean blades. And I'm not talking about shaving.
A professional nurses group is proposing that "self-harming" patients who are intent on mutilating themselves be given clean blades, bandages and "how-to" advice so they can cut themselves more safely.
The proposal for "safe" self-harm will be debated in April at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress and is expected to prove controversial.
"Safe self-harm"? Cutting yourself more safely? Is this what the medical community has come to?
Current practice mirrors what most people expect of the medical profession - stopping anyone from harming himself and removing any sharp objects that could be used to cut the skin.Not to mention, quite possibly, psychological help and counselling. The new proposal is basically throwing in the towel.
According to the National Mental Health Association, self-harm - also termed self-mutilation, self-injury or self-abuse - is defined as the "deliberate, repetitive, impulsive, non-lethal harming of one's self. It includes: 1) cutting, 2) scratching, 3) picking scabs or interfering with wound healing, 4) burning, 5) punching self or objects, 6) infecting oneself, 7) inserting objects in body openings, 8) bruising or breaking bones, 9) some forms of hair-pulling, as well as other various forms of bodily harm. These behaviors, which pose serious risks, may by symptoms of a mental health problem that can be treated."But if they won't get help, these nurses would like you to be comfortable in your mental illness. They're even likely willing to take other peoples' money to pay for it.
RCN's Jeremy Bore supports the proposal. "We should give patients clean blades and a clean environment to self-harm and then access to good-quality dressings," he said
"My instinct is that it is better to sit with the patient and talk to them while they are self-harming."
Well, of course. That would make sense. Except Mr. Bore isn't interested in talking them out of it.
"We should definitely give advice on safer parts of the body to cut. It could get to the stage where we could have a discussion with the patient about how deep the cuts were going to be and how many."
One would hope it would get to the stage of telling them where to go for help. He doesn't mention that.
And the RCN maps out quite nicely the slippery slope we're currently on.
Ian Hulatt, mental health adviser for the RCN, sees a parallel to the similar proposal to give hypodermic needles to drug users to prevent the spread of AIDS through shared needles.
Not that far from free needles to allow you to slowly kill yourself to free blades to allow your mental condition to progress (but comfortably).
According to one unnamed source, some nurses already do what is being proposed. "We may not like someone self-harming, but they are going to do it whether we like it or not and we will need to deal with the problems afterwards."
You know what I never hear suggested? "Kids are going to smoke anyway; let's give them safe cigarettes." Unless you think smoking is a sign of mental disease, does it really make sense to ban a legal action while supporting the habits of junkies and cutters? I've never really bought into the argument that since someone is going to do something anyway, that we should make them comfortable in their destruction and provide them the tools to feed their habit. The medical profession pledges to do no harm, not less harm.
Fortunately, there are those speaking out against this.
The UK's Patient Association has come out against the proposal. "Supplying individuals who self-harm with blades cannot be good for them," said the group's director of communications. "Nurses should not be supporting patients to self-harm. By giving self-harmers the tools they need, the nurses could be seen as encouraging individuals to harm themselves. We should be doing something to discourage this behavior."
And that logic follows for all the other giveaways; needles, condoms, whatever. We encourage those things we enable. This is an issue of co-dependence, not compassion.
Julian Bond Issues Denial...Sort of
Julian Bond is now trying to deny that he made Yet Another Inappropriate Nazi Reference (tm).
Stung by national criticism of a speech in which he reportedly equated the Republican Party and Nazis, Julian Bond, the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, denies the comments attributed to him by members of the audience and has lashed out at WND as a "right-wing blog."
Fayetteville State University in North Carolina has issued a careful statement on the speech by Bond and issued a press release including the NAACP leader's denial of the remarks.
"I didn't say these things I'm alleged to have said," the university quotes Bond as saying. "There is no one in the audience who can say I said them. The reporter from the Fayetteville newspaper did not report I said them. I have denied I said them and refuse to engage in a back and forth about what I did say. This is an irresponsible attack by a right-wing blog – a partisan blog – and these kinds of attacks should be expected and dismissed for what they are."
(By "right-wing blog" he means WorldNetDaily, an actual news organization.) The university is standing by him...sort of.
University officials say they reviewed a tape of Bond's speech. But an official statement issued by Jeffrey Womble, director of public relations for the university, was carefully worded to avoid addressing whether Bond actually uttered the words attributed to him in the WND story.
"We received numerous calls and emails from concerned individuals about Mr. Bond's presentation, so we felt compelled to review the tape in an effort to address their concerns," said Womble. "After a close review, we have concluded that the comments attributed to Mr. Bond about the Republican Party, Dr. Rice, and Mr. Colin Powell were not made."
Specifically, he said, nowhere during Bond's speech was reference made to the Nazi Party.
However, the key quotes reported by WND never mentioned the Nazi Party. Instead, Bond was quoted as saying: "The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side."
Technically, no, Mr. Bond didn't use the "N" word in a sentence. But I highly doubt that he was trying to associate Republicans with "a symbol of good luck and auspiciousness".
However, there were actually people listening to what he said. They disagree with Julian's account.
That quote and other comments reportedly made by Bond at the speech were relayed by members of the audience who were appalled at the specific charges as well as the overall divisive tone of the address.
Leon Delaine, who describes himself as "African-American," is one of those audience members who contacted WND. He said he and his family walked out on the Bond speech because of the offensive comments.
So it sounds like Mr. Bond has been caught and is trying to weasel his way out. Today, if you search for "'julian bond' swastika", unlike the paltry coverage yesterday, you get a bit more; 24 hits. Of course, WND still owns the story, and all the commentary you find is from the right. The Left still considers the devaluation of crimes against humanity no big deal if it's one of their guys doing it. And apparently they're also not willing to look into the disconnect in his denials of it.
UPDATE: James Taranto has more details on the denial (he called the university to get the specifics what and wasn't said--doesn't sound good for Julian). He notes:
n any case, all of this reinforces the point we made on Friday, which is that the so-called mainstream media were at best negligent in their coverage of the speech. Bond said quite a few partisan and inflammatory things that no one disputes, yet the local media characterized him as having a "positive attitude" and being engaged in a "fight for equal rights." Were it not for WND, we would not know that Bond had anything harsher to say than, "We have a president who talks like a populist and governs for the privileged."
Most telling of all, Bond is expressly citing the local media's silence as if it were exculpatory. In fact, it is incriminating--not of Bond, but of those journalists who respond to his divisive rhetoric with an indulgent wink. If the press won't report what a prominent and respected black leader says to a mostly black audience, how can the public develop informed views on issues of race?
February 03, 2006
If He Were A Republican...
Civil rights activist and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond delivered a blistering partisan speech at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina last night, equating the Republican Party with the Nazi Party and characterizing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, as "tokens."
"The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side," he charged.
But since he's a Democrat, nothing will happen, and mostly because the MSM won't notice. A search of "'julian bond' swastika" in Google News (at this moment) showed only WorldNetDaily covering this. A blog and a college newspaper were the only other mentions of it. Just a collective yawn from the Left.
UPDATE: James Taranto has more.
January 24, 2006
Google Capitulates to China
The motto of the Google folks is "Don't be evil", and they certainly set a high bar in their Code of Conduct. But does capitulating to a communist government that doesn't want inconvenient facts to be known by its citizens fit in that code?
Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing market.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company planned to roll out a new version of its search engine bearing China's Web suffix ".cn," on Wednesday. A Chinese-language version of Google's search engine has previously been available through the company's dot-com address in the United States.
By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world's most populous country.
Because of government barriers set up to suppress information, Google's China users previously have been blocked from using the search engine or encountered lengthy delays in response time.
The service troubles have frustrated many Chinese users, hobbling Google's efforts to expand its market share in a country that expected to emerge as an Internet gold mine over the next decade.
Now, this isn't a First Amendment issue (which only applies to the US federal government) and Google is free to conduct its business any way it sees fit. I have no issue with that. I'm just noticing the apparent disconnect between its motto and its actions.
Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted "don't be evil" as a motto. But management believes it's a worthwhile sacrifice.
"We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel.
Google's decision rankled Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog group that has sharply criticized Internet companies including Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN.com for submitting to China's censorship regime.
"This is a real shame," said Julien Pain, head of Reporters Without Borders' Internet desk. "When a search engine collaborates with the government like this, it makes it much easier for the Chinese government to control what is being said on the Internet."
Does filtering search results rise to the level of being truly "evil". No, not really. But it does make it complicit in doing a disservice to Chinese users who want to learn about what freedom really means. It may not be "evil", but I don't know how "good" it is. Google does filter things in other countries, like some Nazi references in Germany and France, but I think this is a bit different.
Punishment vs. Rehabilitation
Consider the following sentences:
- 5 years probation for pleading guilty to homosexual rape of a 15-year-old.
- 3 years probation for pleading no contest (but admitting to) homosexual rape of a 16-year-old.
- 60 days in jail for repeatedly raping a girl during the 4 years she was age 7-10.
All these sentences were handed down in a 2-week period, January 6-19, in Massachusetts and Vermont.
In the debate on punishment vs. rehabilitation, certainly there should be some combination of the two. And at least have the former if the latter is deemed unlikely (think repeat offenders, as in the second and third examples above) if for no other reason that societal self-defense. These are children we're talking about, after all.
UPDATE: The 60-day sentence has been extended to 3-10 years. The judge's statement:
"The court agrees a punitive response - punishment - is a valuable and necessary component of society's response to criminal conduct," he said. "It is a tool that the court has routinely used for the past 24 years on the trial bench. As stated during the sentencing hearing, however, punishment is not enough of a response in some cases.
"This is one of those cases," he said.
But to me, the original sentence didn't have much of any punitive response. Nonetheless, I'm glad this was done.
January 19, 2006
Reform Packages Aren't Enough
Republicans and Democrats have each presented their own government reform packages, but according to a watchdog group, neither is good enough.
Democrats on Wednesday declared an end to the "Republican culture of corruption," announcing their own "real reform" plan one day after Republicans announced theirs.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said the Democrat plan is about "real change and has real teeth." It's called the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.
Democrat leaders said their "aggressive reform package" would "reverse Republican excesses and restore the public trust."
But according to a taxpayer watchdog group, both parties have legitimate criticism to lob against each other's reform proposals.
"The Republicans are right in saying that both parties have complicity in the current ethical mess, where campaign contributions and other gifts are given to Members of Congress in exchange for their support for government largesse for the contributors," said John Berthoud, president of the National Taxpayers Union.
On the other hand, "The Democrats are right that the Republicans' package doesn't go nearly far enough," Berthoud said.
"But the Democrats' package is little better," Berthoud said. "Their lackluster reform package gives lie to their claim that they are not part of the Washington problem."
The problem is that both sides break the law, not that there aren't enough laws. The reason they break the law is because there's so much money floating around Washington because government is just way too big. Fortunately, there are those who are putting forth a real step in dealing with this root cause.
Lobbying reform alone is not enough, said the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), which has urged Congress to fix the "mangled and secretive budget process."
Tom Schatz, CCAGW president, said, "Bipartisan abuse of the budget process has led to record spending on pork barrel projects and handouts to special interests."
According to CCAGW, total federal spending has swelled 67 percent, from $1.5 trillion in fiscal 1995 to almost $2.5 trillion in fiscal 2005. The number of pork-barrel projects in the federal budget during that same period of time has skyrocketed from 1,349 to 13,997, an increase of 938 percent.
CCAGW supports a bill introduced by Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans. The bill, the Obligation of Funds Transparency Act (S. 1495 and H.R. 1642, respectively), would make earmarks more visible and amendable before legislation is passed.
Transparency with regard to the slinging around of pork is a good first step, and it's just a first step. The more power and money we give to Washington, the more this kind of thing will happen, regardless of the number of "reforms" passed. Lobbying isn't a crime and taking contributions from lobbyists isn't a crime. However, the reason both of these legal actions can be abused is because in a government as large, complex and awash in money and power as ours, humanity's weakness kicks in. Giving Washington more and more to do, especially those things that aren't even constitutionally mandated, is simply an invitation for more abuse, and anyone who advocates for the former while ranting against the latter is ignorant at best and disingenuous at worst.
January 17, 2006
Reading God's Mind. Again.
Pat Robertson's at it again. "God is mad at America," in part because he does not approve "of us being in Iraq under false pretenses." Further, "he is sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it is destroying and putting stress on this country." Robertson also said that God was mad at black America for not taking care of themselves, their women and their children. He noted that 70 percent of black children are born to one parent.
Expect liberals to get outraged over this in even larger proportion to their reaction to some of his previous pronouncements that weren't as racially charged. This could get ugly.
'Cept it won't.
That's because, in reality, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin said it. It's OK for him to say this because he's black and because he's a Democrat. If he'd been white or Republican and talked about God being upset with blacks, it would have been considered hate speech. And of course, when people invoke God in the name of liberal ideas, in this case on the war in Iraq, you'll hear hardly a peep. The NY Times covered it only to the point of reprinting the AP wire copy, but that's it. In fact, I heard on the radio this morning (from the generally conservative host, not the news folks) that there had been some concern by a black city official about Nagin's "chocolate city" imagery. He wasn't upset at Nagin (he is black and Democrat, after all), but was concerned that such imagery would be taken in the wrong way. Even that little bit of worry wasn't mention by the AP nor the Times. Calling blacks the dark chocolate of the world and whites the white milk raiseth not an eyebrow.
Nope, this is no big deal to <redundancy> the Left and the Media </redundancy>. At least this time it isn't. Frankly, I don't think it's a big deal either. Call me a Lactose-American; whatever. I don't object to colorful language regarding my race. And if Nagin thinks God had a hand in this, that's his opinion and he's welcome to it. But if Newt Gingrich or Bill Bennett or, indeed, Pat Robertson himself had said this, we'd be treated to news articles galore on reaction from the Left, and op-eds expressing outrage. Instead, a little wire copy is dutifully pushed and the case is essentially closed.
Nagin's trying to read God's mind just as much as Pat was, but little will be said about it, other that mostly right-wing bloggers noting the hypocrisy by <redundancy> the Left and the Media </redundancy>. If only they could move on (.org) as easily all the time.
December 20, 2005
Incestuous Pedophilia; The Musical
Incestuous pedophilia, the musical.
Around the holidays, the biggest challenge for many theater companies is convincing audiences to care about yet another staging of "A Christmas Carol." This season in Atlanta, however, Actor's Express wants to stir up buzz about a less familiar property -- namely, a pedophile musical.
The Express has already started pushing "Love Jerry," a new tuner written and composed by Megan Gogerty that follows the tortured story of Jerry, who develops a sexual relationship with his nephew while trying to stay friends with the boy's father.
I'm not sure how someone can see this and not realize the cultural pit we're slipping down into.
This is the start of the normalization of pedophilia (and incest; a two-fer). Doesn't matter that it's "delicate" and "heart-wrenching"; the point is that the behavior isn't condemned.
In "Love Jerry," there's no question what's going on, yet Gogerty refrains from demonizing the title character. She focuses instead on the entire family's attempt to comprehend what's happened.
This moral grayness makes the play even trickier to market, yet it's also what convinced Express artistic director Jasson Minadakis to produce it. He says he "absolutely believes" in the show and is continually "shocked by how powerfully it expresses itself."
Apparently, the theater-going audience that Gogerty is trying to reach is no longer shocked by the act itself, so Minadakis is left with trying to shock people with "moral grayness". They're trying to move these things from the "wrong" category to the "gray" area. That's shocking. It's not surprising, but it is shocking.
To some, however, this may indeed be surprising. Slate's Dahlia Lithwik, from last year:
The problem with the slippery slope argument is that it depends on inexact, and sometimes hysterical, comparisons. Most of us can agree, for instance, that all the shriekings about gay marriage opening the door to incest with children and pedophilia are inapposite.
An appeal to only the legal angle begs the question. Normalizing this will ultimately mean more of it, especially the way "privacy of my own bedroom" is used by those trying to normalize homosexual marriage.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Diane Glass, also from 2004, approached this from the same angle:
Which brings us to the inevitable "what about the children" argument. What's stopping us from going down the slippery slope toward pedophilia? Well, the fact that only adults can marry. Problem solved.
For some, that's simply a discriminatory statute just waiting to be "reformed".
Kevin Drum, from 2 years ago, railing on Rick Santorum:
Santorum's main beef relied on a "slippery slope" argument: if the government can't ban gay sex, then it also can't ban incest, bigamy, or adultery. This reminds me of why I dislike slippery slope arguments so much: they rely on the unspoken assumptions that (a) all arguments will eventually be followed to their most extreme conclusion, and (b) there are people whose ultimate goal is to gain acceptance of those extreme positions.
And yet here we stand, with an arts crowd looking to give a boost to some of the very things that Drum didn't think was anywhere down the slope at all.
The surprise for these and others appears to be that a different set of people may, in fact, be responsible for pushing pedophilia and incest into the mainstream of society than were responsible for giving homosexual marriage a kick-start. It doesn't really matter that some same-sex marriage advocates didn't want to see incest normalized, frankly. The main argument against same-sex marriage was "where does it end?" When the line is pushed to a new distance, it's now much shorter distance to other targets, and the folks waiting at those other targets are very happy you helped them out. Your protestations against their targets mean nothing to them, while they use your same arguments to work for what they want. You've done most of their work for them, and now all they have to do is nudge things a little more with a play here and a book there and an outed celebrity to sign autographs.
December 06, 2005
In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Nelson defends The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe against attacks by award-winning writer and atheist Philip Pullman. Pullman pulls no punches in his disdain and revulsion of the story and its themes. Nelson, however, point by point, shows that these attacks are without merit in the areas of sexism, racism, violence, death and love. In more than one case, Nelson notes that the very thing that Pullman professes to dislike about Narnia is also featured in Pullman's own children's literature.
The most ironic portion:
One of the books in Pullman's His Dark Materials series won the 2001 Whitbread Award both for best children's book and for best book of any kind published in England the previous year — the only time the main prize has ever been awarded to a work for children. Pullman wrote the series, he says, because "I really wanted to do ... Paradise Lost in 1,200 pages. ... It's the story of the Fall which is the story of how what some would call sin, but I would call consciousness, comes to us." Over the course of three volumes, Pullman wanted to celebrate, as he thinks John Milton does, our first ancestors' decision to rebel against God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge.
In Pullman's mind, rebellion from a loving God is better than (or at least a better story than) redemption and acceptance of the gift of eternal life from that same loving God. Read the whole review for some more good irony and a good defense of Lewis' story.
November 29, 2005
Christmas Holiday Season
One day after a WorldNetDaily story brought national exposure, the home-improvement retailer Lowe's dropped references to "Holiday Trees" in favor of "Christmas Trees" only.
As WND reported, a Lowe's store in Austin, Texas, featured a banner that referred in English to "Holiday Trees" but in Spanish said "Christmas Trees."
The American Family Association says its supporters contacted Lowe's to express their displeasure.
The company responded in a statement: "To ensure consistency of our message and to avoid confusion among our customers, we are now referring to the trees only as 'Christmas Trees.' We have also removed a banner that read 'Holiday Trees' from the front of our stores."
This was a follow-up to a (rather humorous) report that had the picture of the Lowe's banner that, in English, advertised "Holiday Trees" but in the Spanish translation below referred to "Aborles de Navidad"; "Christmas trees".
There's no need to fear religion in the marketplace. If you're offended by displays of an even slight religious nature (i.e. calling Christmas trees what they are), you're in the wrong country ("free expression" and all that, even by company presidents).
November 17, 2005
African-Americans and the GOP; Changes Coming?
We may have a sign that the tide of African-American voting patterns may indeed be changing. But first, a look at where we are now.
Bush's poll numbers among blacks have plummeted. Dan Froomkin noted in October:
In what may turn out to be one of the biggest free-falls in the history of presidential polling, President Bush's job-approval rating among African Americans has dropped to 2 percent, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
However, Froomkin himself, likely unwittingly, demonstrates why I think very little of polls. Too many of them are simply a measure of emotion, not philosophy or policy.
A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found Bush's approval rating among blacks at 51 percent. As recently as six months ago, it was at 19 percent.
But Bush's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina -- seen by many blacks as evidence that he didn't care about them (see my September 13 column ) -- may have brought support for the president in the African American community down to nearly negligible levels.
Polls after 9/11 were as much or more a measure of personal patriotism than support for the President's policies. Similarly, polls after Katrina reflect emotion and horrible circumstances. A big reason many blacks saw the Katrina response as "evidence" was because that's how the media portrayed it. When all local and state officials (primarily Democrat) focused on Washington, the media followed along. Froomkin himself is still apparently considering Bush the prime bungler, and thus perpetuating the meme that FEMA is somehow a first-responder. So again, the polls are measuring feeling and emotion (often related to how news stories are couched) more so than philosophy or policy
Which brings us to today's Orlando Sentinel. Scott Maxwell's column has this startling revelation.
For decades, Republicans have struggled to reach out to black Americans. But now in Orange County, the GOP has to reach no further than the NAACP.
As of this week, Derrick Wallace, head of Orange County's NAACP, has switched parties -- to become a Republican.
"I've thought about this for two years," Wallace said Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours after returning from the elections office. "This is not a decision I made yesterday."
It is, however, a decision that rang out like a shot among political circles.
This is not a measure of emotion, this is a carefully considered switch made over the course of two years. In those 2 years we've had the Iraq war issues, the "BUSH LIED" meme, and Katrina, and still this leader of the African-American community in Orange County has decided to cast his lot with the Republicans. According to the article, this change is partially business-related and partially image-related. But part of it is policy related. Wallace has supported Republicans for Mayor of Orlando the last two times.
Is this a sign of a turnaround, or a just a historic one-off? Hard to say. But just a word of advice to Mr. Wallace; according to some, you're now a fair target of racist remarks. Hang in there.
October 25, 2005
Rosa Parks, 1913-2005
In 1955, Rosa Parks decided that she preferred to sit right where she was sitting. That one simple act became the spark that exposed the shame that was personal and institutional racism in our country, and started us on the path to setting that straight.
Rosa Parks died last night at the age of 92. Her contribution to the American conscience should not be forgotten. She was rewarded by being able to see the results of the stand she took by sitting.
We have come a very long way since that day in 1955. Racism is not dead, to be sure, but it has become marginalized. We will never be completely free of hate or fear, and as such we will never be completely free of racism; it's part of the sinful nature of mankind. Only God can remove that from individuals. What helps, though, is being able to call it what it is when it rears its head.
What doesn't help is when the term "racism" is used to label things that have nothing to do with it. This cheapens the term and removes from it any relevant meaning and force. It also reverses the proper marginalization of those who are true racists. "If they call that 'racist', then what I think isn't all that bad."
We can honor Rosa Parks by combating and marginalizing true racism. She took a stand, and so can we.
October 03, 2005
What factor in teenage life multplies the suicide rate by a little under 3 times for girls and by around 6 times for boys?
But there was another statistic that should have gotten parents' attention but which was similarly ignored, namely, that there seems to be a direct link between teen sexuality and teen depression. A study by the Heritage Foundation, in-turn based on the government-funded National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, found that about 25 percent of sexually active girls say they are depressed all, most or a lot of the time, while only 8 percent of girls who are not sexually active feel the same.
While 14 percent of girls who have had intercourse have attempted suicide, only 5 percent of sexually inactive girls have. And whereas 6 percent of sexually active boys have tried suicide, less than 1 percent of sexually inactive boys have. The report challenges the previously held notion that teens become sexually active in order to self-medicate their own depression.
And lest you think it's possible that the sexual activity was the result of the depression...
"Findings from the study show depression came after substance and sexual activity, not the other way around," says researcher Denise Dion Hallfors of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed data from a national survey of more than 13,000 teenagers in grades seven to 11.
(Emphasis in original.)
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who comments on this study in the linked article, believes that the first priority of parents--even before food and clothing and even love--is to protect their children. As he notes, all the watering and nurturing in the world won't revive a dead plant ripped up from its roots.
September 30, 2005
Normalized Polygamy in the Netherlands
Behold, the slippery slope in action. (Hat tip to The Brussels Journal.)
The Netherlands and Belgium were the first countries to give full marriage rights to homosexuals. In the United States some politicians propose “civil unions” that give homosexual couples the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage. These civil unions differ from marriage only in name.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands polygamy has been legalised in all but name. Last Friday the first civil union of three partners was registered. Victor de Bruijn (46) from Roosendaal “married” both Bianca (31) and Mirjam (35) in a ceremony before a notary who duly registered their civil union.
Yes, I understand that "slippery slope" arguments can be ... slippery. It's easy to make them, but harder to prove that they're happening. Well, this story is that proof. First same-sex marriage, then civil unions, and from civil unions you can go literally anywhere. Quoth the groom:
Victor: “A marriage between three persons is not possible in the Netherlands, but a civil union is. We went to the notary in our marriage costume and exchanged rings. We consider this to be just an ordinary marriage.”
Next stop, normalized polygamy. That's not some dire prediction. That's what is happening and will happen if we don't hold the line somewhere. I've heard those who suggest that they're for same-sex marriage but not anything further. But this story proves that, having opened the door a crack to let in just one person, a whole multitude stands ready to take advantage of the breach. You can call those who wanted the door to stay closed all sorts of names--prudish, intolerant, homophobic, narrow-minded--but regardless of how accurate or inaccurate those names are, when it comes down to what was predicted would happen, you can also call them "correct".
Will that change the minds of those pushing for civil unions here? For most, I have my doubts, although I have no doubt that they'll be shocked--SHOCKED--when the first trio get married here. "I had no idea" will be no excuse.
September 23, 2005
The New New Deal
Conservative, small-government types are getting run over by the latest spending spree by the Republican-controlled Congress. This Cox & Forkum cartoon on the subject points to this OpinionJournal article by Stephen Moore called "The GOP's New New Deal". He opines:
Conspicuously missing from the post-Katrina spending debate is a question for some brave soul in Congress to ask, What is the appropriate and constitutional role here for the federal government? Before the New Deal taught us that the federal government is the solution to every malady, most congresses and presidents would have concluded that the federal government's role was minimal. One of our greatest presidents, Democrat Grover Cleveland, vetoed an appropriation for drought victims because there was no constitutional authority to spend for such purposes. Today he would be ridiculed by Ted Kennedy as "incompassionate."
We all want to see New Orleans rebuilt, but it does not follow that this requires more than $100 billion in federal aid. Chicago was burned to the ground in 1871; San Francisco was leveled by an earthquake in 1906; and in 1900 Galveston, Texas, was razed by a hurricane even more ferocious than Katrina. In each instance, these proud cities were rebuilt rapidly and to even greater glory--with hardly any federal money.
That's so hard to do in today's world because, as Moore points out, the culture has already been conditioned, by the New Deal and its reinforcements since then, to expect this from the federal government. Here's a paragraph from Grover Cleveland's biography at whitehouse.gov:
Cleveland vigorously pursued a policy barring special favors to any economic group. Vetoing a bill to appropriate $10,000 to distribute seed grain among drought-stricken farmers in Texas, he wrote: "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character. . . . "
Indeed, President Cleveland was right; we now live in the age of that expectation. And the sturdiness of character that rebuilt 3 cities on its own within 35 years seems to have been dealt a serious, self-inflicted blow, first by Cleveland's own Democratic party, but now we see that too many Republicans have had a hand in it. Much of this can be laid at the feet of those who think that the Constitution is a thing of rubber to be twisted into whatever shape is desired at the moment rather than a firm foundation. As government has seeped out of the bounds created for it, and voters have elected more and more people willing to encourage such seepage, the money taken in increased, and with the money came power, and with that power came arrogance. And the descent along this slippery slope continues because each time we slid farther, "it seemed like a good/compassionate idea at the time".
Now it's city mayors and state governors looking first to Washington to bail them out of a crisis, rather than teaming up with local businesses and charities. We are a much, much wealthier nation than we were in 1871, but in the current culture, self-sufficiency and community effort seem to be things of the past.
Yet almost as soon as the embers had cooled, Chicago business leaders deployed to New York to persuade investors that this was the time to put more of their money into Chicago, not less. Peter Alter, curator of the Chicago Historical Society, recounts the story of William D. Kerfoot, a real-estate speculator whose offices had burned. The day after the fire was extinguished, Mr. Kerfoot erected a crudely made painted sign: "All Gone But Wife, Children and Energy."
That article goes on to describe the response to three other cities that fell to disaster, and shows, in spite of some cases of man's tendency to take advantage of a situation, people and organizations did have the energy to deal with the situation, rather than immediately look to Washington, DC. Do we still have that personal energy, or are we content to not even try? Private individuals, private charities and private organizations were able to rebuild in times past; why do we automatically think that could never happen now?
Well, not all of us think that.
September 20, 2005
Pope Speaks Out on Homosexual Priests
When I first started blogging, the topic I posted mostly on was the Catholic church's pedophile priest problem, and how the media completely ignored the fact that >90% of the instances were between priests and boys, thus making this as much a homosexual priest problem. Well, today the Pope has reaffirmed the church's stance on the issue.
Pope Benedict XVI has given his approval to a new Vatican policy document that bans men with homosexual tendencies from being ordained as priests, reports Catholic World News.
The policy statement is a direct result of the pope's concern about the pedophilia scandal in the church – especially in the U.S.
The new document, prepared by the Congregation for Catholic Education in response to a request made by the late Pope John Paul II in 1994, will be published soon. It will take the form of an "Instruction," signed by the prefect and secretary of the congregation: Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Archbishop Michael Miller, according to the report.
This is not a change in policy. It's meant most likely for the North American churches that have been ignoring it.
The "Instruction" does not represent a change in church teaching or policy, according to the Vatican.
Catholic leaders have consistently taught that homosexual men should not be ordained to the priesthood. Pope John XXIII approved a formal policy to that effect, which still remains in effect. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, that policy was widely ignored, particularly in North America.
September 14, 2005
Federal Judge Rules Pledge Unconstitutional
The Pledge of Allegiance was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge today.
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was ruled unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal judge who granted legal standing to two families represented by an atheist who lost his previous battle before the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."
I'm wondering what federal law enumerates that particular right. Google can't seem to find anything. I'm not saying unequivocally that children ought to be required to do that. I just would like to know the law this judge is citing.
Hold not thy breath.
Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.
You mean the most overturned court in the country has suddenly become unassailable? Here's what one web page notes:
It is often called "the most overturned appeals court in the United States", but the court has a higher caseload than most other circuit courts. From 1992 to 2003, the lowest percentage of overturned appeals by the ninth circuit was 68 percent. The highest was 95 percent. The average percentage of Ninth Circuit Court decisions overturned by the Supreme Court during this time was 73.5 percent as compared to an average of 61 percent by the all the other circuit courts of appeal combined.
(By the way, a higher caseload, with a larger number of decisions, should tend to lower this percentage. The more samples, the more those samples tend to congregate around the average. Thus the higher percentage speaks more to their out-of-mainstream judicial views rather than to their workload. I'm no stats expert (Rick?), but I'm pretty sure I'm right.)
This is a judicial cop-out. "Golly gee, I can't overturn anything by the 9th Circuit!" Hogwash. Overturning the 9th Circuit has become the rule rather than the exception. And if he simply can never break their precedent, Judge Karlton needs to be removed. He's just a walking, talking rubber stamp.
I've talked about the "under God" thing on my personal blog here, and the Supreme Court's view on it here, and I don't think this is going to get ultimately set in stone. For now, this is a case of a judge unwilling to take on a hot-button topic, and instead saying (doing my best Flip Wilson impersonation), "The 9th Circuit made me do it!"
UPDATE: My bad, and I apologize. Judge Karlton is not above the 9th Circuit in the appeals process; he's below it, and thus needs to abide by the precedent set by the 9th Circuit until such time as it's overruled by the Supreme Court. According to this updated news item, the 9th Circuit Court is the next stop for this case:
The Becket Fund, a religious rights group that is a party to the case, said it would immediately appeal the case to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the court does not change its precedent, the group would go to the Supreme Court.
I do believe, however, that the 9th Circuit will continue it's stellar performance of being overturned on appeal in this decision as well. Again, my apologies to the readers and to Judge Karlton.
UPDATE PART DEUX: Rick noted (see the comments) that, according to "The Smart Guys" (a couple of regular lawyer guests to the Hugh Hewitt show, Judge Karlton wasn't bound by the 9th Circuit's precedent because the Supreme Court annulled it (they ruled that Newdow had no standing in the case). Thus the precedent cited by Karlton, legally, doesn't exist. Well, now I'm inclined to take back my apology, but I won't. Obviously, my own knowledge of the situation isn't good enough to pass an informed judgement on it. The "Smart Guys", however, are another story.
September 08, 2005
Planned Parenthood Exploits Katrina
Oh, now this is rich. Planned Parenthood, after offering to give Katrina victims free "morning after" pills, is now using the disaster to raise money...for itself.
Pro-life advocates say Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion business, continues to exploit victims of Hurricane Katrina. The organization previously said it would provide morning after pills to victims, instead of food or shelter, and is now raising money off of the hurricane for its local abortion centers.
On its national web site, Planned Parenthood solicits funds for Hurricane Katrina support efforts. In fine print, the abortion advocacy group explains that all of the money raised will be used to support its local abortion businesses.
Under a headline "Help Those Affected by the Hurricane," Planned Parenthood admits that "100% of your tax-deductible contribution will go directly to helping Planned Parenthood affiliates."
"Your support is particularly important right now because Planned Parenthood is facing a truly tremendous number of challenges in the courtrooms, in Washington, D.C., and in our clinics," the abortion business says on the hurricane donation page.
I guess PP considers itself "affected by the hurricane". Some folks may chuckle (or get outraged) over handing out Bibles to victims, but I think it's far better than offering to kill your unborn baby for free. And whatever money isn't spent on Katrina victims will just go into the PP general coffers. How considerate of them.
UPDATE: The page in question is here. As one comment to this post notes, the section about "courtroom" donations, while on the same page as the Katrina request, is separated from it by a line that, hopefully, would visually indicate that the information below it does not relate to the Katrina donations.
August 11, 2005
Questioning Francis Schaeffer and Co.
Here's an interesting post at the BHT from Annie Crawford. This is the interesting quote, wherein referring to a Christian text on dinosaurs she writes:
"Wondering if I am again unknowingly duped by something widely known as foolish."
I wonder about that all the time when I read apologists and Christian thinkers. I wonder if Francis Schaeffer and Ravi Zacharias and Nancy Pearcey are really all they're cracked up to be. I think Ravi is ok most days, but as for the other two, sometimes I don't know. I read Pearcey's comments on popular culture and I'm often left with a big "so what?" Isn't Pink Floyd and Igmar Bergman's existentialism a symptom and not a cause?
Am I wrong? I'm not sure. Probably. I usually am wrong about this sort of thing, but I wonder why the writings of folks like these have recieved such little attention outside the evengelical world. Surely it can't all be chalked up to anti-evangelical bias. I'm not sure who I would regard as a good cultural critic in the Catholic world, because it seems like the best culture critics are always classical music and opera nerds. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But why is it that Protestants have such hangups with rock and roll and movies?
August 09, 2005
A Superhero for Our Times
A superhero out there to protect the right to kill your baby?
An online animated video sponsored by Planned Parenthood's San Francisco-area branch features a superhero character drowning an abstinence promoter in a trash can and blasting into oblivion several pro-life picketers protesting in front of one of the organization's facilities.
The eight-minute "A Superhero for Choice," posted on the Planned Parenthood Golden Gate website, has a bespectacled black woman in San Francisco morphing into a red-suited flying enforcer, bent on making the world safe for the organization's values.
The heroine also puts a giant condom on the Washington Monument, confronts a senator who has "misinformed conservatism", and flys off for an appointment with "Jerry Falwell - that schmuck".
So much for a reasoned discourse. This is pure propaganda. Interestingly, while there is a mention of this video on their website ("Meet PPGG's Superhero for CHOICE"), it doesn't actually have a link, while all other items in the same column have one. I wonder if they've realized (or been made to realize) that this is way beyond the pale.
And they say conservatives hold the monopoly on mean-spiritedness.
August 01, 2005
Embryonic Stem Cell Research: A Done Deal?
Thomas over at Redstate.org has a very impassioned post about why embryonic stem cell research is wrong. He's equally certain that we're going to lose this issue, at least in the short term. An excerpt:
Our Priesthood has declared that embryonic stem cell research is vital. When The Scientific Community tells us that we need something to put off death, we embrace it wholeheartedly. Scientists are no different from other human beings: They want to do Big Things, they want their work to Make a Difference, and they are, as are we all, selfish, flawed creatures. I'm not quite sure when or why we decided to elevate them to the level of a secular priesthood, but we did so, and they are now solemnly assuring us that they need to be able to take people apart for spare parts. Like a good group of Faithful, we will bow to our betters and give them what they demand, for they will reward us with the divine gift of an extra month in the actuarial tables for our fidelity and obedience.
It is precisely that simple. The folks to whom we've delegated far too much of our moral decision-making -- and thank God we held those reins fifty years ago -- are telling us that what the conscience should know is depraved is licit, and more than that, is necessary. They want to play with their toys without moral supervision. They're offering us one heck of a potential payoff. You'd better believe we're going to snap it up.
Read the whole thing. He's not suggesting giving up, but he's letting folks know how he sees the debate going.
July 05, 2005
Those "Stingy" Americans
After the December tsunami, Jan Egeland, the UN's head of humanitarian relief, called Western nations "stingy" when it came to providing relief funds. (His suggestion? The classic "raise taxes" answer.) The ~$850 million from the US government and ~$1.5 billion from private donors in the 6 months following the disaster put the lie to that.
Now comes the "Live 8" concert to raise money for poor countries. We still get ripped by the fund-raisers, but we continue to give generously anyway.
PRIVATE American citizens donated almost 15 times more to the developing world than their European counterparts, research reveals this weekend ahead of the G8 summit. Private US donors also handed over far more aid than the federal government in Washington, revealing that America is much more generous to Africa and poor countries than is claimed by the Make Poverty History and Live 8 campaigns.
And what are some of the secrets to this generosity? Let's just say that Egeland would be surprised.
[Carole] Adelman [author of the Hudson Institute report] said this transforms the picture on aid to the developing world, showing how America's stronger economic growth and lower taxation is giving indirect aid to the Third World which dwarfs the government's donations.
(Emphasis mine.) Much more money goes to developing countries from private individuals and corporations than from the government because we have more money in our pocket and can afford to give voluntarily rather than by being "charitable at the point of a gun" (i.e. you're thrown in jail if you don't pay your taxes).
And the side issue is this: America and Americans never get the credit we deserve for being giving people. But y'know, we just keep giving and giving anyway. Instead of whining, more countries ought to be emulating this.
June 30, 2005
Sex Sells ... Or Not
Looks like sex didn't sell as well as they thought it would.
The hot controversy over Paris Hilton's sexy burger ads for Carl's Jr. and Hardee's has not translated into a surge of sales at the fast-food outlets.
CKE Restaurants, parent company of both chains, says Carl's Jr. posted a 1.7 percent rise in same-store sales for the four weeks ending June 20, while Hardee's notched an increase of 0.7 percent.
Yes, Andrew Puzder (president & CEO of CKE) is putting a positive spin on it, suggesting that people who came in asking for "the Paris Hilton burger" would not have otherwise purchased anything at all. That's a bit of a stretch. Looks like, at most, this may have increased the demand for Paris Hilton video on the 'net, but it did virtually nothing for sales.
Meanwhile, Boddie-Noel Enterprises, which owns around 330 Hardee's franchises, says they're not going to run the ad in their area (four southeastern states). This is the first time they've done that, and it may not be the last.
The conventional wisdom is that all publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name right. It's possible that it's time to unlearn that.
June 29, 2005
Religion, minus the "G" word
You can write about religion, but don't dare mention..well, you know, the "G" word.
For using the "G" word 41 times in a term paper, Bethany Hauf was given an "F" by her Victor Valley Community College instructor.
Hauf's teacher approved her term paper topic - Religion and its Place within the Government - on one condition: Don't use the word God. Instead of complying with VVCC adjunct instructor Michael Shefchik's condition Hauf wrote a 10-page report for her English 101 class entitled "In God We Trust."
"He said it would offend others in class," Hauf, a 34-year-old mother of four, said. "I didn't realize God was taboo."
Hope the potential offendees never look too close at the money in their wallets. The idea that a report on religion should avoid the word God is akin to writing about the role of government in general without using the words "law" and "order".
I suppose that the teacher can place whatever restrictions he wanted to on classroom assignments. Still, this particular restriction seems one that was designed to ensure failure or at least discourage the topic. The American Center for Law and Justice is representing Hauf, asking for an apology and a re-grading of the paper. Oh, and one other nice bit of irony.
In addition to an apology and a re-grading of Hauf's paper, the ACLJ demands Shefchik "receive some kind of training to sensitize him to the constitutional dimensions of his employment in a public educational institution, including his duty to respect constitutional freedoms of expression."
Sensitivity ought to work both ways.
June 27, 2005
UK bank bans Christian group
On Friday I noted a news report about a guy who was fired from Allstate for personal views he held. Today comes word that a religious group is no longer welcome at a bank in the UK for their views.
The Co-operative Bank has asked an evangelical Christian group to close its account because of its anti-homosexual views.
The bank said the opinions of Christian Voice were incompatible with its support for diversity.
Christian Voice said the bank, based in Manchester, was discriminating against it on religious grounds.
It is now waiting for other religious groups with similar opinions to be asked to close accounts, it added.
Christian Voice has held an account with the Co-operative Bank for about three years.
But now the bank has decided the group's stance on homosexuality is so extreme, it has asked members to look for a new bank.
"It has come to the bank's attention that Christian Voice is engaged in discriminatory pronouncements based on the grounds of sexual orientation," a spokesman for the bank said.
"This public stance is incompatible with the position of the Co-operative Bank, which publicly supports diversity and dignity in all its forms for our staff, customers and other stakeholders."
Isn't the removal of someone because they don't think the way you do the exact opposite of "diversity"?
June 24, 2005
Corporate values vs your values
If you write an essay on your own time with your own equipment and of your own thoughts, should your company be allowed to fire you if the essays conflicts with the company's values, even if you don't specify your connection to your company? The Allstate insurance company thinks so. J. Matt Barber, a former manager for Allstate, is suing the company after they fired him for writing an article against homosexuality from his Christian viewpoint that was posted on several websites. A month after it was posted, he was suspended with pay and escorted off the premises because, as the Human Resources assistant VP told him, the column didn't reflect Allstate's views. Three days later, he was phoned to tell him he was fired "for writing the article". Allstate even lobbied to keep him from getting unemployment benefits, but after bringing his case to the Illinois' Dept. of Employment Security, the agency sided with Barber and said he was entitled to the money. In their report, the agency said Barber's action was not misconduct, which is deliberate and willful, and his actions were neither.
The firing by Allstate was not specifically due to the Christian viewpoint, but the anti-homosexual ones that came from it. This is the latest symptom of a society that is becoming so "tolerant" of homosexuality that you don't deserve a job if you disagree. Back in October, 2004, the Royal Bank of Canada started handing out special "Safe Space" stickers that workers could place in their cubicles to show they wouldn't tolerate "homophobia". If you didn't agree with the company's position on homosexuality, you weren't "safe"; you were "homophobic". We've now moved to the point that Christians now may have to fear for their jobs if they speak out on their own time. "Sure, we're tolerant of your views, as long as you don't express them" is the motto of this new "tolerance".
Some who agree with Allstate's position on homosexuality may also agree that they shouldn't have fired Mr. Barber. That's all well and good, but it should be clear that we crossed a line quite some time ago where this sort of reaction is not just possible but actually occurring. Unless we reign in this sort of behavior, and I don't see the willingness to do that from "tolerance" advocates, it'll be a brand of intolerance that we'll be seeing more of.