Wednesday, November 30, 2005

O Holy Fight

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) suggested earlier this month (in what I guess passes for pointed language in Washington, D.C.) that the tree set to adorn the west face of the Capitol Dome have the appropriate name of "Christmas tree" restored in lieu of the politically correct moniker of "holiday tree" that it was given during the Clinton years. Hastert says the following in his letter to the Architect of the Capitol:
I fully understand your desire to make all holiday displays as inclusive as
possible. There are many ways to accomplish this, and the Supreme Court has
ruled that such displays in public buildings are fully permissible under the
Other groups -- perhaps on their own, perhaps drawing strength from Hastert's front-and-center request -- have apparently lined up pro bono attorneys to challenge any such politically correct renamings elsewhere.

And at least one arboreal dispute threatens to rend two cities, separated by an international border and previously bound by the good will and good cheer of the Christmas season, apart.

What we are witnessing now is a rebellion of sorts. After years of being browbeaten into submission by the P.C. crowd in the proverbial public square, it appears that some people have sacked up enough to defend Christianity generally and the holiday of Christmas (and all of its seasonal accoutrements) specifically. Each of the above stories demonstrates there is increasing frustration with the myth that the concepts of inclusiveness and tolerance require a society to treat the majority as some band of unequal outcasts.

Jeff Jacoby, columnist for the Boston Globe (and a self-described "practicing Jew"), puts it perfectly in his recent piece on the matter of tolerance run amok and the need to give Christmas its due:
I think, this attempt to fade Christmas into a nondenominational winter
holiday stems from a twisted notion of courtesy -- from the idea that tolerance
and respect for minorities require intolerance and disrespect for the majority.
Better to call the company shindig a ''holiday" party, this line of thinking
goes, than to risk offending the few non-Christian employees by calling it a
Christmas party. Better to ban all Christmas carols from the school concert than
to take the chance that a Jew or Muslim or Hindu might feel excluded. Better to
remove the Christmas trees from all the dormitory dining halls because a single
student complained -- as happened last year at the University of Illinois --
than to politely inform the student that the trees will be removed after the
Christmas season ends.

''We're trying to be inclusive," says the Boston parks commissioner,
explaining why the white spruce that was sent from Nova Scotia under a giant
banner reading ''Merry Christmas, Boston" became a ''holiday tree" on her
department's website. But suppressing the language, symbols, or customs of
Christians in a predominantly Christian society is not inclusive. It's

Amen, brother. Amen.

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FCC Lunacy

Calling the men in the white coats, we have a new patient; FCC Chairmen Kevin J. Martin has gone off the deep end and may need to be reigned in both by free speech advocates, and surprisingly for a Republican chairman, by free market advocates as well. According to the Washington Post, Martin at yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee Hearing suggested that not only should indecency standards be applied to cable television, but also that cable companies be required to offer “ala carte” programming options, despite numerous industry analyses and experts indicating that such a requirement would mean both higher costs for consumers and less programming. Here’s the money quote:

“For the last three years, I have . . . been urging the cable and satellite
industry to give parents more of the tools they need. Thus far, there has been
too little response. … If cable and satellite operators continue to refuse to
offer parents more tools such as family-friendly programming packages, basic
indecency and profanity restrictions may be a viable alternative that should
also be considered, ….”

Hopefully the numerous problems with these statements are so obvious that I don’t have to point them all out, so I’ll just harp on a few. First, I should say that I have no doubt that Martin and many others believe the television programming, especially cable programming is among other things, god-awful, indecent, lewd, lascivious, and generally bad for children. It, however, is also my understanding that every television set comes with a power button, which enables parents to turn it off to prevent children from watching what they aren’t supposed to. Moreover, oh yes, the wonderful capitalist, free market system that we work so hard to promote around the world also enables people to NOT BUY CABLE if they think the programming is so bad for children. Why are these simple concepts so difficult for some people to understand? In other words, parents don’t need either indecency laws for cable or ala carte programming options; they have all the “tools” they need to prevent children from seeing indecent programming. They have remote controls, parental blocks, on/off switches, supervision ability, punishments, and above all the option simply not to purchase the services.

I know I’ve written here before that if anything the entertainment market, whether it be movies, music, news, television, cable, or what have you, is perhaps the best example of the free markets in action. These markets are 100% dependent on the disposable incomes of their consumers. Media is not a necessity for life like say food, water, or heath services; therefore, it is perhaps the most respondent to market forces. Just look at Sony/BMG and the recent stories about the computer software problem they had with their CDs containing anti-piracy detectors. My point is a simple one, if people didn’t like what they saw on cable and stopped paying for its services, the response would be almost instantaneous. In other words, the cable companies would change their programming to meet the demands of the market. Similarly, if there was a market demand for ala carte programming, I am positive that cable providers would jump at the opportunity to offer such a service. They don’t and I’m sure the reason is not because they want to cram Lifetime, ESPN, or HBO down the consumer’s throat, but it is economics, pure and simple. More people apparently want the programming packages currently being offered or they wouldn’t pay for the services. In the end I find it a bit ironic that the proposed solution for supposedly conservative government officials is more government intervention into markets that are functioning exactly they way they are supposed to function, by meeting the demands of their consumers.

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Of Dionne, Sullivan, and hypocrisy, or, Why I am a Catholic

Am I evil?Yes I am.
Am I evil?I am man, yes I am.

E.J. Dionne – excuse me for a minute <hack, hack>, man I can’t seem to shake this cough.  Must be the cigars.  To start again, E. J. Dionne <hack, hack, hack>.  Damn, really got to stick with Monte Cristos. Anyway, Dionne is up to his usual tricks:
The contrast between these two accounts explains why economic conservatives currently hold the upper hand in America's political debate. The conservatives have a single, coherent story and stick to it: economic change is good for everyone, especially for consumers who get better stuff at lower prices. The fact that ``producer groups'' (such as those unions) are losing their ``monopolies'' and their capacity for ``rent seeking'' is cheered as progress. If you don't like creative destruction, they say, move to North Korea where there is plenty of destruction of the uncreative sort.

The left's narrative is less compelling not only because there is no single story, but also because few on the left attack the current system with the same gusto the right brings to defending it. Gone, for good reason, is the time when significant parts of the left called for ``government ownership of the means of production.'' Much of the left accepts a certain amount of creative destruction because, in Margaret Thatcher's famous phrase, there is no alternative.
Yes, I have heard this all before.  It’s not really about the issues, but instead it’s about the narratives.  Yadda yadda yadda.  If only the left can stick to a narrative they’d be able to convince the folks in the sticks to vote for them.  The left likes to engage in this fairy tale bit of analysis that they don’t really lose on the issues, but only that the co-opted the message and effectively spun the story to their favor.  It’s a favorite delusion of the Kossaks and many others within the blogosphere.  This usually falls in line with a bit of psycho-analysis that tries to argue that conservatives don’t really believe the things they say, but only say them to appease the masses.  

What never seems to dawn on these modern-day Freudians is the possibility that, after all, the public actually agrees with the principles involved, or that conservatives are earnest when they promote policy x.  It is inconceivable to them that they are pushing an agenda that the majority of people find repugnant, or is simply wrong.  No, they’d rather find some alternative “narrative” to explain their constant failures at the polls and in the realm of political discourse.

This completely disingenuous line of argumentation reached a fever pitch today over at Southern Appeal.  Feddie was all over excitable Andy’s objections to certain Church developments today.  In short, the Pope Benedict XVI has had the temerity to uphold 2,000 years of Church tradition, and dapper Andy (whose freak-out advisory seems stuck on “Filled with heart-ache at such Godsmacking vileness”) has lashed out at this affront to the catechism according to Sullivan.  While I can understand Andy’s lament that the Catholic Church has not bent its teachings to conform wholly to Andrew Sullivan’s personal beliefs, more than a few readers have suggested that there is an alternative for those Christians who dislike hierarchy.  Something tells me the Episcopalian Church would have no problem embracing Sully with open arms.

Rather than accept the fact that our beef with excitable Andy is his defiance of clear Church doctrine, Publius has read into our objections a more subtle and malicious motivation.  He offers his helpful psychoanalysis here:
put another way, I think we should stop pretending this is about "sin." It's about other things (both political and psychological). Birth control is apparently a "sin" and no one cares.

And here.
Of course, Publius also relies on the old liberal standby: the red herring.  Not content to argue about point a, he must bring up point z.  Though point a and point z have nothing to do with each other, somewhere in the fevered pitch of the leftist imagination it points up some perceived hypocrisy where none exist.  But hey, what’s the fun of arguing the point directly when doing so might lead one to argue an indefensible position.  

Nowhere in these comments is consideration given to the fact that those making arguments on behalf of the Church might – GASP – be actually making an argument that has to do with religion.  Oh no, it’s all about some subliminal urge to keep the gay man down.  

I’ll put it this way.  When a large group of men advocating a position that contravenes the Church’s position on birth control attempt to join the seminary, I’ll wager that the Vatican will become motivated to throw a penalty flag.  Similarly, the Church does not look too kindly on prospective priests who work for Planned Parenthood, or who regularly pay visits to prostitutes.  

It may pain certain individuals that the Church holds these positions – but guess what: you don’t have to be a Catholic.  The Inquisition is over, thus you are free to join any Church you want.  But somehow some individuals have gotten it into their heads that the Catholic Church must bend over backwards to placate their beliefs.  Sorry amigo, it doesn’t work like that.

None of this is to say that I am somehow holier or more devout than anyone else.  Believe me, I stand in awe of our own Unconfirmable and his bedrock faith and devotion.  I am a sinner, just like every other mortal man.  But I do not expect the Church to change its doctrine just in order to relieve my guilt.  

The beautiful thing about the Church, and the reason I remain a Catholic, is its tradition.  I also stand in awe of people like Jimmy Akin, Mark Shea, Steven Dillard (a.k.a. Feddie).  They are all converts, and it always seems that converts are the most devout members of any religion.  But I was born a Catholic, have remained a Catholic, and have never really wavered.  So what keeps me going to Church on Sunday?

A couple of years ago I attended my first Latin Mass.  It was Novus Ordo, but most of it was in Latin.  I’ve recited the Creed a million times, give or take, but as soon as the choir started “Credo in unum Deum,” I melted.  It was as though I were transported back through time.

And then I went to my first Tridentine Mass.  Again, it was as though I was there at the Passion.  I truly felt the presence of God.  And even though I feel the Novus Ordo fails to convey that same spiritual oneness, the Church in general makes me feel a connectedness that no other denomination can make me feel.  And the reason for that is that the Church has maintained so much of what it was at the time of Peter.  This is not a blind acceptance of all things old, but merely an awareness that there is an eternal presence that the Church conveys and upholds.  It has changed when the Holy Spirit has so moved it, but that sense of connectedness remains.

It is not a plebiscitary democracy.  It doesn’t change because a majority of its adherents think its dogma too burdensome.  I applaud that and cherish it.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The world's smallest fiddle

The Telegraph writes of an impending milestone: the one thousandth execution since the death penalty was re-instated.
Barring a miraculous last minute pardon, Robin Lovitt, 41, will be executed tomorrow for the crime of fatally stabbing a man with scissors in a Virginia pool hall robbery in 1998.

Sad. Of course, between the posting of this blog and the beginning of my lunch break, that many pre-born chuldren will be executed "choiced" in this country alone.

And none of them fatally stabbed a man with scissors.

Update: Well, this post is now moot as Governor Warner granted clemency.

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On Flying

While this question may seem to be asked in jest, I seriously want to know; when exactly did flying on airplanes start to suck? I mean I remember as a child that air travel was among the most exciting things that we could do. Going to the airport and staring out those huge windows at the terminal just marveling at all of the huge airplanes was something that I used to thoroughly enjoy. Now, I can’t even seem to muster the excitement necessary to get to the airport any sooner than is absolutely necessary to get on my flight, then once aboard the plane, I can’t wait to get off and get out of the airport.

Why is this? What happened? True, we all get older and the mysticism associated with flying as a child was quickly debunked by the simple science of flight. Fine, so I now sort of understand how a several ton aircraft carrying 200+ people and more cargo than all the people in Africa combined possess can get off the ground and travel from point A to point B, but that really has little to do with my complaints. So here we go, these are the things that I saw and experienced yesterday traveling from Los Angeles to Baltimore.

  • Lines, everywhere you looked there were lines. 6am there were lines outside at the drop-off point. The line to get into the terminal at Southwest was all the way down the street about 500 people deep. Thank god I wasn’t flying on their airline. But the lines didn’t stop there, oh no, there were lines at the ticket counters, lines at security, lines at the Starbucks, lines at the gate. Hurry up and wait, I arrived 97 minutes before my flight was scheduled to depart and I barely made it to the gate in time.

  • Other passengers. As I’m sure you all know, they don’t make flying any easier. Here is a short snippet of what I saw other passengers trying to do.

  • Use the line clearly marked “electronic tickets only,” while visibly holding paper tickets in their hands;

  • Boot up their laptop computer in order to argue with the person at the electronic ticket counter about their flight information;

  • Attempt to check 8 bags for a single person domestic flight;

  • Numerous people trying to cut into the security line because their flight was boarding in 30 minutes;

  • Not removing laptop computers from their bags after 6 signs and 2 verbal warnings;

  • Trying to go through the metal detectors with both keys and pocket change (which are made of metal, mind you)

  • Attempting to board the airplane out of order. (I don’t understand what about the procedure of loading from the rear of the plane people just do not understand.)

You get my point. Now I readily admit to being an arrogant elitist snob, but come on now, the least that we can try to do is follow simple instructions. Nevertheless, time and again it seems that there is something about airline travel that throws people for a loop and they loose their ability to read and comprehend simple instructions. Maybe it’s the recycled oxygen in the cabins, or maybe its too much turkey and stuffing, I don’t know, but it has to stop and quick. Here’s something else that has to go, the rolling suitcase. Convenient, yes I understand, but we need to exercise some self control people. If you can’t lift your rolling suitcase off the ground, you have packed too much stuff and must either check the bag, or go home and rethink which of your worldly possessions you can do without for a few days. It has gotten to the point where there are 4 bags for every person. People are now carrying with them as they sprint across the terminal, 1 suitcase, 1 briefcase, 1 laptop bag, and one all purpose rolling suitcase with everything that didn’t fit into the first 3 bags. I asked one poor woman with 4 bags how long she was traveling for, her response; 3 days. I’m not kidding; even I couldn’t make the stuff up.

Mind you all of these things happened before I even got on my plane. Once there and safely ensconced in my seat things did not improve. Since when did airlines stop feeding passengers? Even more shocking; when did they starting charging you for bad airplane food? Seriously, it was $3 for dried meat, cheese, cookies, and chips and another $2 if you wanted headphones to watch the in-flight TV; you’ve got to be kidding me? I suppose there is a sucker born every minute, but come on now this is simply taking advantage of people. I paid almost $400 for my ticket (and that was after a 15% discount), the least they can do is provide me with some stinking microwaveable food.

I could ramble on forever, let’s just say that flying is not enjoyable anymore, and it seems to be getting worse not better. It’s no wonder airlines are going into bankruptcy protection faster than TSA can perform strip searches. Sure fuel costs and pension prices are part of the reason, but their lousy service has got to be factor in their losing money. Trust me if it didn’t take 3 days to drive across country I would gladly do that rather than fly. What’s sad is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Flying could easily be enjoyable if everyone just put a little bit of thought, effort, and patience into it. A little effort could go a long way, but then again effort equals cost, and cost cuts into profits, so who am I kidding.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Continuing The Assault; or, How my favorite novel sticks it to the lefty emotivist do-gooders

Continuing the idiosyncratic assault I levied against the NYTimes a few weeks ago, I am continuing my attacks on MSM. My next target? NPR. (I like to think I'm the only one taking this tangent on MSM; I trust that soon enough Fox News or National Review will piss me off, and then they can make strange bedfellows with my prior targets.)

NPR is reviving a long-dead radio program entitled This I Believe (article on the previous incarnation here; the current incarnation's homepage may be found here). This caused a bit of an uproar last week over at The Corner. Apparently Jonah Goldberg didn't like Penn Jillette's snub of people with religious beliefs.

In any event, the show's premise is to get Americans of all stripes to compose 500 words on "the core beliefs that guide [their] daily life." The goal? "[A] picture of the American spirit in all its rich complexity." One could quibble with some of the guidelines -- they are not looking for people to say what their parents taught them to believe, or what their religion teaches them to believe, or what they think they should believe. As if what one's parents teach you are not supposed to be the core beliefs that guide daily life.

But my attack is more blunt: How stupid are these lefty do-gooders? I delight in the return of This I Believe precisely because it permits me to mock them, thoroughly, with the help of My Favorite Novel, The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy. (The novel was published in 1961, so they had fair warning.) The true sign of education-induced stupidity is when the lefties can't tell they're being mocked. Here you go:

...Being a creature of habit, as regular as a monk, and taking pleasure in the homeliest repetitions, I listen every night at ten to a program called This I
Believe. Monks have their compline, I have This I Believe. On the program
hundreds of the highest-minded people in our country, thoughtful and intelligent
people, people with mature inquiring minds, state their personal credos. The two
or three hundred I have heard so far were without exception admirable people. I
doubt if any other country or any other time in history has produced such thoughtful and high-minded people, especially the women. And especially the South. I do believe the South has produced more high-minded women, women of universal sentiments, than any other section of the country except possibly New England in the last century. Of my six living aunts, five are women of the loftiest theosophical panBrahman sentiments. The sixth is still a Presbyterian.

If I had to name a single trait that all these people shared, it is their
niceness. Their lives are triumphs of niceness. They like everyone with the
warmest and most generous feelings. And as for themselves: it would be
impossible for even a dour person not to like them.


I did not always enjoy This I Believe. While I was living at my aunt's house,
I was overtaken by a fit of perversity. But instead of writing a letter to an
editor, as was my custom, I recorded a tape which I sumbitted to Mr. Edward R.
Murrow. "Here are the beliefs of John Bickerson Bolling, a moviegoer living in
New Orleans," it began, and ended, "I believe in a good kick in the ass. This --
I believe." I soon regretted it, however, as what my grandfather would have
called "a smart-alecky stunt" and I was relieved when the tape was returned. I
have listened faithfully to This I Believe ever since.

[UPDATE: The new program is funded by The Righteous Persons Foundation, run by Steven Spielberg. See here. What? Lefty Hollywood involved in ridiculous pandering? Never.]

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Target: Iraqi Scientists

On the eve of war in March 2003, there was almost no one in the credible, civilized world that did not think that Saddam Hussein's Iraq possessed biological, chemical, and possibly even nuclear weapons. Democrats as well as Republicans at home were convinced of the seriousness of the threat, while foreign intelligence agencies and governments questioned only the extent of Saddam's weaponry and their destructive potential. In the more than two years since the invasion, many have tried to explain how very little of Saddam's anticipated WMD stockpiles was ever located. Democrats have, as a party, chosen the disingenuous route of claiming that they were misled into war, even though they had access to the same exact information as the current administration, and held the same exact views even before President George W. Bush entered office.

The absence of a clear answer as to what happened to all of those anticipated weapons does not mean that there are not at least some clues that they did in fact exist. One such clue is the following disturbing trend: hundreds of Iraqi scientists who had know-how of and access to Saddam's weapons programs, ranging from university professors to nuclear technicians, are believed to have either been abducted or murdered.

In a recent interview with, former military intelligence officer and United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspector Bill Tierney provided substantial insight into the flawed weapons inspections that were conducted under the auspices of United Nations authority, During his interview, Tierney also made the following ominous comment with respect to Iraqi scientists:
During my eight months of counterinfiltration duty [in Iraq], we had 50 local Iraqis working on our post who were murdered for collaborating. Of the more than 150 local employees our team identified as security threats, the most sophisticated infiltrators came from the Baath Party. This was just one post, yet the [Defense Intelligence Agency] believes no one was afraid to talk, even though scientists who were cooperating with [the Iraqi Survey Group] were murdered.

Tierney's comments find support in other publications that can hardly be dubbed war-friendly. A November 11, 2005, periodical report from the Monitoring Network for Human Rights (MHRI), a coalition of roughly 20 Iraqi human rights organizations, chronicled the troubling trend of assassinations generally in Iraq, but found the volume of scientists murdered to be particularly unsettling. Here is a key excerpt from that report:
Iraqi police sources revealed that [up until] the end of March 2004[,] more than 1000 Iraqi scientists were shot. A report, which was previously published by the U.S. State Department, confirmed the killing of 350 scientists specialized in nuclear sciences, and 200 professors. The Network for Human Rights and Democracy in Iraq, had previously accused the Israeli Secret Services of the assassination of tens of Iraqi Scientists. [Emphasis added.]

At least one other publication, discussing the seemingly innocent topic of developing a virtual science library for the new Iraqi nation, implies that the project is having difficulty getting of the ground in part because of the fear over the unexplained murders of Iraqi scientists:
Many Iraqi academics, including most scientists, are worried about security and kidnapping, a State Department official said, and a recent report in Science magazine quoted an Iraqi engineering professor as saying at least 58 professors, 150 medical doctors, and dozens of scientists have been murdered since the war officially ended in April 2003. A State Department official indicated he had no reason to doubt those numbers. [Emphasis added.]

The numbers of alleged murdered scientists vary widely, but that is not unexpected under the circumstances. What should give pause to hawks and doves alike is the fact that there is reason to believe that there is a concerted effort to eliminate Iraqi scientists that had knowledge of what Saddam had accomplished prior to being toppled from power.

This begs the question: Who is killing these scientists?

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More Immigration Nonsense

Here's the link.,2933,17664,00.html

So... we should corrupt the principle of Jus Soli because it encourages people to come to the US to have "anchor babies" but push through a "guest worker program." Never mind that "Guest Worker Program" is merely a euphamism for "Legalization." Never mind that the last 3 legalization/amnesty programs created a huge backlog of immigration cases and encouraged millions to come to the US illegally. Which fricken planet does Congress live on?

Immigration has managed a Special Agricultural Worker Program, a Section 245A Legalization Program, and LIFE Act Legalization in order to "bring illegal immigrant communities out of the shadows." All 3 created a special privacy right for applicants that effectively barred enforcement while encouraging massive fraud.

Immigrant advocacy groups then sued INS for "front desking" them; that is, telling them that they didn't meet prima facie eligibility criteria. All 3 suits are now collapsed into "Newman v. USCIS." In the settlement, we are required to accept legalization applications from anyone who tried to file back in the 1980s. However this population of legalization cases is no better than the others. There are few approvable cases and a huge number patently fraud applications. Again, Immigration can't do a damn thing to them b/c Congress gave them a privacy right that trumps enforcement.

My point to this tirade is that Jus Soli is one of the pillars of citizenship law. It comes from the earliest attempts to define citizenship for the fledgeling nation and seems to cause negligible ill-effects. Legalization/amnesty is the bastard heir of immigrant pandering.

As for the "anchor baby" syndrome... whose damn fault is that? I've admitted alien women at the Port of Entry who were so close to having their baby that we thought we should call emergency services on the spot. However, since State issued them a visa and their story checked out, we had little cause to turn them around. Furthermore, Congress harasses us regularly for failing to admit aliens or failing to give them immigrant benefits.

Hey... Congress... Make up your damn minds!! Don't encourage millions of people to obtain visas through fraud and then mess with settled areas of law like Jus Soli as a public relations stunt.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005


One thing I am thankful for this Thanksgiving day is the birth of William F. Buckley. George Will is too, and he penned an excellent column today commemorating the man who changed this country. He concludes it:
Buckley, so young at 80, was severely precocious at 7 when he wrote a starchy letter to the king of England demanding payment of Britain's war debts. Seventy-three years on, Buckley's country is significantly different, and better, because of him. Of how many journalists, ever, can that be said? One.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy it, and be thankful to God for all of our blessings.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Oh to be a rocket-scientist...

"So in real life you are drinking somebody else's urine instead of your own," she said. "So I'm not sure psychologically which is worse. I think I'd rather drink my own."

Michele Perchonok, a food technologist at NASA's Johnson Space Center, which is working on a project to send humans back to the moon, and from there to Mars--specifically on the issue of how to recycle just about everything to avoid creating waste and thus adding extra weight.

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Murtha's Mideast Missteps

Recent days have seen praised heaped upon Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) for being the first prominent member of the United States Congress to call upon the administration to set an immediate plan to withdraw all American soldiers from Iraq. Much has been made (here and elsewhere) of Murtha's perceived credibility, which is, in turn, based in no small part of Murtha's prior, extensive, and undeniably commendable military service. Opponents of the war have glommed on to Murtha and begun to portray him as a modern-day Senator Fulbright, in the hopes that he will be the catalyst that broadens the base of anti-war sentiment in much the same way the former senator broadened the anti-war base against the Vietnam War in the late 1960s.

Put aside opinion and conjecture for a moment, and consider the following facts.

- In September 1993, approximately two weeks before American soldiers were massacred at Mogadishu, Somalia, Murtha appeared on NBC's Today Show. Murtha claimed that the "welcome" of United States Armed Forces personnel had been "worn out," and that he anticipated troops would be moved out of the region "very quickly."

- After 18 (undermanned and underequipped) U.S. Rangers were slaughtered at the hands of Mohamed Farrah Aidid's supporters within Mogadishu city limits, Murtha visited the troops in Somalia. Shortly thereafter, Murtha commented to an unspecified news outlet that there was "no military solution" to the Somalia problem, going on to note that "[s]ome of [the Rangers] will tell you [that] to get [warlord Mohamed Farrah] Aidid is the solution. I don't agree with that."

- Then-President Bill Clinton ultimately initiated the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia.

- Osama bin Laden, in a 1998 interview with ABC News, made the following statement:
Our people realize[d] more than before that the American soldier is a paper
tiger that run[s] in defeat after a few blows. . . . America forgot all about
the hoopla and media propaganda and left dragging their corpses and their
shameful defeat.

The above are facts. Now here's the opinion:

Based on his Somalia precedent, Murtha has a lousy track record when it comes to predicting when it is best for U.S. troops to withdraw from a conflict. Whether or not he knows it (or whether or not he is willing to admit it), Murtha and those who share his (dare I even say it) cut-and-run approach to military engagements wind up doing significant damage to America's interests around the globe. I might even go so far as to say that Murtha shares some of the burden for the rise of Osama bin Laden and the deaths of 3,000 Americans on 9/11, because it was his "get down or crawl, you might get hurt" military "strategy" that (in bin Laden's own words) helped enable Al Qaeda to become the worldwide terror threat it is today.

A good man? Definitely. A veteran with a distinguished record? Certainly. A noble public servant? Probably. But a brilliant military tactician? Hardly. If his track record is any indication, one can only hope that the administration does exactly the opposite of what Murtha recommends, for the sake of us all.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Time to be grateful that Murtha is not in charge.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Would She Have Been Promoted For Having An Abortion?

In the words of Michelle McCusker, the 26-year-old preschool teacher who was fired last month from St. Rose of Lima in Queens for being unmarried and pregnant,

"I don't understand how a religion that prides itself on forgiving and on valuing life could terminate me because I'm pregnant and choosing to have this baby."

So, what was she fired for exactly? a) Having "unlucky" premarital sex; b) Having premarital sex, period; c) Not having the baby aborted; d) Not just pretending and wearing a wedding ring to work; or e) Not anticipating this absurdity?

Of course, those bra-burning anarchists at the ACLU having taken issue with so-called religous organizations attempt to preclude themselves from anti-discrimination laws that provide for basic (oh and I don't know, moral and humane) treatment, have taken up Ms. McCusker's cause, so we shall see.

So much for celebrating life.

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Modern Day Propoganda

Allowing for some obvious bias on behalf of the author (which, I personally think the article would be better without) , this article from Rolling Stone is fascinating and contains enough facts and interviewee quotes to have just about anyone fall prey to Orwellian paranoia. Worth a read, for sure. Interested on TPS' reactions to the concept itself.

UPDATE: Here is the response letter issued by the Rendon Group, whose principal was the subject of the interview on which the article is based.

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Bringing Democracy to Congress

Dionne's column in today's WP is worth a read.

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This is the sort of post they designed the read more tag for.  Jay Nordlinger would be proud.

-Ted Stevens recently threatened to quit the Senate – which he has been a member of for 37 years – if the funding to the bridge to nowhere were stripped away.  Well, technically said funding has been done away with, but has been replaced by a generic bloc grant to the state of Alaska.  Hmm, wonder where that money will end up?  

His principal opponent was Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, a citizen legislator in every sense of the word.  He self term-limited himself to three terms in the House, and went back to private practice.  He returned to Congress as a Senator, and has promised to run for re-election but once.  Meanwhile, he has maintained his medical practice, but the Senate’s arcane rules prohibit him from running the business – while at the same time Senators Boxer and Mikulski are permitted to “write” “novels” and garner the royalties.  Coburn, of course, had the temerity to suggest that in the wake of Hurricane Katrina it was unwise to waste taxpayer monies on silly pork projects, and for his foray in political courage he has been rewarded with the scorn of worthless politicians like Stevens.

The dichotomy between Stevens and Coburn could not be graver.  The former is a power-hungry miser who has grown fat from too many comfy years in the Senate.  Coburn, meanwhile, lives up to the Founders’ ideal of citizen legislators who would rather be defeated in election than betray his principles.  

I am not quite sure what Senators like Stevens are so afraid of.  Would he really have been thrown out of office had he failed to win millions of dollars for a project that would have benefited fewer people than you see on your average Subway car during rush hour?  And even if he had, so what?  You run for election, and you lose, and then . . .?  What?  Banishment?  No, a lucrative million dollar paying job lobbying on K Street.  What exactly drives these mongrels who have betrayed all sense of common decency to repeatedly sit for re-election as though being a member of Congress was the only worthwhile endeavor in all of mankind?  

Stevens, Kennedy, Byrd and others of their ilk contribute nothing to society, but their smug refusal to let go of power are felt every time we receive a paycheck.  See that chunk of salary forfeited to the government?  Yeah, blame those fat worthless fucks.  Meanwhile true citizens like Coburn are deprived of continuing a practice which actually benefits humanity.  

Your Senate in action, folks.

-  Speaking of the Senate, the dolts at the NRSC must be wondering why they are falling behind the DSCC in fundraising.  Could it be their mind-numbing decision to back RINO Lincoln Chaffee over his conservative challenger?  Why on Earth would any Conservative of good conscience contribute to this sack of shite’s re-election campaign?  We are told repeatedly by Republican kool-aid drinkers that we have back these sorry Senators because otherwise – GASP – the Democrats might win back control of Congress.  For one, such a sentiment indicates a complete lack of confidence in the ability of conservatives to win general elections – as though Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich never happened.  More importantly, why exactly are we supposed to keep putting our blind trust in a party that has shown no ability to curb its gluttonous appetite for spending, advocate a sensible energy policy that would ignore the blind ignorance of the environmentalist lobby, and stand up to the losers who would have us run tail in Iraq?  When exactly are we supposed to reap the rewards of “compromise” on issues like education policy, prescription drugs, and McCain-Feingold?  Pray tell when do we actually get to elect real conservatives to the Senate rather than appease the gods of moderation?

- Oh yeah, there is that whole matter of winding up with a Democratic Party majority.  It says an awful lot that the pathetic Republican Party is the better of the two alternatives.  You know, I have maintained an affinity for the two-party system, but nothing has shaken my faith in the system like watching these clowns in action.  For as completely awful as the GOP has been, nothing compared to the intellectual vacuousness of the Democratic Party.  

It seems that rather than offer up any meaningful program of substantive policy reform, the denizens of the left are stuck in some silly tar-pit whereby they can chirp about nothing other than the supposed hypocrisy of conservatives.  As you all know by now, we’re all just a bunch of chickenhawks who are utterly depraved for criticizing war heroes like Kerry and Murtha.  As mouldfan’s wonderfully recent cherry-picked listing shows, it is the Democratic Party that has supplied all the wonderful patriots, while the GOP are just a bunch of yell-bellied cowards.  Never mind the fact that nearly three-quarters of the men and women actually currently serving in our armed forces back the Iraq War, we must instead listen to the ravings of men stuck in the jungles of Vietnam.  

What’s amazing is that the left continues to throw these golden idols at us as though we should stop everything and bow down at their supposed moral superiority.  First it was Mother Sheehan and her “absolute moral authority.”  Of course the left ignored her more whacky notions, such as her virulent anti-Israel comments, and her utter objection to even the Afghan campaign.  

And now the next candidate for canonization is Congressman Murtha, a man so brave that he voted against the very policy he advocated just the day before.  

And of course there was John Kerry, who reported for duty only a few decades after accusing his fellow soldiers of war crimes and completely lying about his war record.

But no, it is conservatives who are malicious liars sent by the Lucifer himself.  We’re not really originalists seeking a non-partial interpretation of the Constitution; rather we’re ideologues who want to use the Constitution to advance our own ends.  And even though we advocate true color-blindness, really we’re just a bunch of hicks bent on subordinating all non-whites.  Never mind the fact that the Democrats are the only ones who have an ex-Klansman in their midst, and who feel no shame about throwing Oreo cookies at black Republicans.  None of that matters, for it is the Democratic Party that truly cares about “African-Americans,” even if that concern manifests itself only once every two years in early November.

- Finally, I just wanted to touch upon Uncomfirmable’s post on Tookie Williams.  As an opponent of the death penalty, this should be an easy case.  Williams “reformed” himself in prison and went on to regret his slayings.  Well, you know what?  That and a couple of bucks will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.  The man deprived – without any due process that I am aware of – the life and most certainly the liberty of several of his human beings, and the gang he created repeated this action thousands of times.  He could spend the rest of his life knitting pretty Christmas sweaters for all I care, and that would not change the fact that he is a lout who deserves worse than whatever earthly fate will befall him.  Chalk this up to simple human bloodlust – and it may be – but Tookie Williams murdered his fellow man, and he did so maliciously and with no remorse at the time.  Animals do not kill so callously.  

I repented of my pro-death penalty stance shortly after college, but it is not an easy position to maintain.  Seeing the brain-dead, bleeding heart reaction to Tookie’s so-called reformation actually pushes me closer to the position I once held.  I cannot believe that so-called intelligent human beings can be so easily duped by his late transformation.  It is a change of heart that the folks at the gates will more aptly be able to judge, but those of us in this moral coil are relegated to judging actions in the here and now.  And while we can hope for the sake of his soul that he repented of his actions, it will never bring back the lives of those he slew.  Of course, neither will execution, and there’s the rub.  

It is an insult to the memory of those he killed, and to the thousands his followers killed, to celebrate overmuch Tookie Williams’ late reformation.  Good for him.  But may he never see the open air again.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Lest the chorus go unopposed

Lest the chorus of voices calling for clemency for Tookie Williams go unopposed, permit this little post to state in no uncertain terms: FRY TOOKIE WILLIAMS.

I don't care how reformed he is. He's a murderer, and his followers have murdered thousands more.

The only bad thing about electrocution is that it might not hurt enough. While it might be better if he were hanged or beheaded in public, I will settle for the swift and sure death by electrocution.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Illegals to Vote?

Last week, the New York City Council, in an unprecedented act of anti-sovereign shortsightedness, heard testimony on a proposed bill that would allow most or all of New York City's immigrant population to vote in municipal elections. The bill was short on detail, of course, and did not differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants. And it had vocal endorsements from the following intellectual powerhouses:
Among those testifying in support of the bill was Bryan Pu-Folkes,
executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment.

"In New York City, 20% of New Yorkers, or one of every five adults, are
disenfranchised because of their citizenship status," he argued.

Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) voiced strong support for the bill,
contending that resistance to allowing noncitizens to vote is motivated by a
reluctance of whites to give up power.

White men just have too much power," he commented. "They just don't want to
give up on power."

Fortunately, people who actually know the law and Constitution of New York State (I mean, you can't actually expect members of the City Council to know their state's laws or Constitution, can you?) immediately went on record to point out that it was both likely unconstitutional and certainly illegal, and was bad policy to boot.

This situation, while fleeting (and likely to go nowhere, for the time being), reveals the horrid downside to this nation's complete inaction on the question of illegal immigration for the last quarter of a century. Republicans and Democrats alike have ignored the question for the sake of political expediency, and in the hopes that the problem would go away on its own. Well, it hasn't, and it won't. And the drawback to doing nothing is that you wind up having to deal with city councils across the fruited plain that think it is completely normal and acceptable to grant the franchise to non-citizens, the vast majority of whom have broken the law by the very act of entering our country without permission.

The illegal immigration problem is bigger than the scope of this post, but I would note with the slightest bit of optimism that this issue is becoming increasingly important to American citizens, and politicians of all stripes will have to come to grips with the fact that the issue upon which they have abdicated for so long must be dealt with, and soon.

In sum: We need a fence.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Military Service of Significant Persons (for what it's worth)

This list of significant political people’s military service was sent to me unsolicited. I’m not sure that it says anything significant about the state of creditably out there with respect to the either the war and/or general military issues. In my opinion, you don’t have to have served in the military to be knowledgeable about it as a subject; though it does help, it is by no means determinative. I simply thought it was an interesting list, I don’t think it is by any means comprehensive as I am certain there are many, many Republicans who have served who are not on this list, (Bob Dole comes to mind), but again I didn’t create the list, I’m just the messenger. I should note that in its original form the list contained some commentary mostly negative towards Republicans, which I have deleted, because I felt it detracted from the overall message that was trying to be conveyed, and also because I didn’t feel as though some of it was relevant or accurate.

Click below to see the list:


* Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
* David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
* Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
* Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.
* Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
* Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
* John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V,Purple Hearts.
* Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
* Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam. Paraplegic from war injuries.
* Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.
* Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
* Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
* Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
* Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier's
* Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star, and Legion of Merit.
* Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
* Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
* Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
* Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
* Chuck Robb: Vietnam
* Howell Heflin: Silver Star
* George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
* Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments; entered draft, but received #311.
* Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
* Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
* John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.
* Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.


* Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
* Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
* Tom Delay: did not serve.
* Roy Blunt: did not serve.
* Bill Frist: did not serve.
* Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
* Rick Santorum: did not serve.
* Trent Lott: did not serve.
* John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
* Jeb Bush: did not serve.
* Karl Rove: did not serve. (Bush's Machiavelli)
* Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee."
* Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
* Vin Weber: did not serve.
* Richard Perle: did not serve.
* Douglas Feith: did not serve.
* Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
* Richard Shelby: did not serve.
* Jon Kyl: did not serve.
* Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
* Christopher Cox: did not serve.
* Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
* Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
* George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty. (this is of course controversial and I make no claims to believe this version of events, again I’m just the messenger)
* Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non- combat role making movies.
* B-1 Bob Dornan: Consciously enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.
* Phil Gramm: did not serve.
* John McCain: Vietnam POW, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart. and
Distinguished Flying Cross.
* Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
* John M. McHugh: did not serve.
* JC Watts: did not serve.
* Jack Kemp: did not serve. "Knee problem," although continued in NFL for 8 years as a
* Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
* Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
* George Pataki: did not serve.
* Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
* John Engler: did not serve.
* Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.

Pundits & Preachers

* Sean Hannity: did not serve.

* Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.')

* Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.

* Michael Savage: did not serve.

* George Will: did not serve.

* Chris Matthews: did not serve.

* Paul Gigot: did not serve.

* Bill Bennett: did not serve.

* Pat Buchanan: did not serve.

* John Wayne: did not serve.

* Bill Kristol: did not serve.

* Kenneth Starr: did not serve.

* Antonin Scalia: did not serve.

* Clarence Thomas: did not serve.

* Ralph Reed: did not serve.

* Michael Medved: did not serve.

* Charlie Daniels: did not serve.

* Ted Nugent: did not serve.

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Homeland Security

Here's to an armed citizenry.

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Is Anyone Credible Anymore?

While there are several of good, interesting columns in the paper this morning (see both Charles Krauthammer on intelligent design, and Michael Kinsley on abortion and the Supreme Court), the story I want to talk about is John Murtha’s (D-Pa) speech on the House floor on Iraq and the responses to it by people who disagree.

The title of my post should give a clue as to where I’m going to go with this, but to get there I have to first lay out the respective positions that people took. Starting with Murtha, who I don’t think anyone could label a “bleeding heart liberal.” Here is a large excerpt from Murtha’s speech yesterday on the House floor:

Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are
united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence.
U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign
jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraqi security
forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently
conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of
coalition troops, and about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against
American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the
I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid
December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice
that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know
that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe
this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good
of a “free” Iraq.

My plan calls:
To immediately redeploy
U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces. To create a quick
reaction force in the region.To create an over- the- horizon presence of
Marines. To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq
This war needs to be personalized. As I said before I have visited
with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.
Because we
in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is
our responsibility, our OBLIGATION to speak out for them. That’s why I am
speaking out.

Our military has done everything that has been asked
of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily.

Click below to continue ... And here is a bit about Murtha’s personal history:

Simply put the guy is over 70 years old, has no aspirations for higher political office, no axe to grind, a safe congressional district with no real opposition for reelection, known universally as a “pro-military democrat” who has strongly supported this war, and its expenses. In other words, what possible motivation other than sincere belief in what he is saying could reasonably be assigned to this man? If there is anyone credible to speak out against the U.S.’s policy here I would think almost anyone would agree that Murtha is qualified. But wait, here are the counters from those on the other side:

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) declared: "Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans. To add insult to injury, this is done while the president is on foreign soil." Moreover, the White House issued a statement from South Korea saying Mr. Murtha "has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of [filmmaker] Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party. The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists."

It’s almost as if there is a pre-programmed formulaic approach to attacking people who speak out against the war itself, its execution, or anything that might be construed as anti-America. Note that none of the responses actually offer any reasons why Murtha is wrong, or any thoughtful positions on why he’s not accurate in his allegations. No, they simply characterize what he says as another extreme “liberal” advocating a “cut and run” policy in Iraq. I’m sorry, but I think there was a bit more substance to Murtha’s statement and I have a hard time characterizing it as “cut and run.” He calls for a quick strike force in the region, a redeployment “consistent with the safety of the troops” which I take to mean a slow safe withdrawal commensurate with the need to protect the safety and security of the remaining troops in the region. In other words, I don’t see this as a cut and run, immediate pull out suggestion.

Murtha hasn’t been the only victim of the anti-credibility wars recently. One could also cite John McCain (R-Az) and his anti-torture language as another example of someone eminently qualified to have an opinion on a subject being raked over the coals for their honest beliefs. Look, don’t misunderstand my point; one doesn’t have to agree with Murtha or McCain to find them creditable. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, Democrats are no better on this issue; we blindly attack creditable Republicans all the time on issues like the Courts and Economics. I think this is part of the problem with American politics right now. Too much, far too much emphasis is placed on the R or the D that follows a politician’s name. There is too much opposition research; a person who donated to one party can’t be trusted by the other, ever, regardless of the issue. Public servants who have dedicated their lives to noble tasks like prosecuting criminals are skewered by the opposition for being tied to the opposition party. Simply put, there are a lot of creditable Republicans out there that I happen to strongly disagree with, but I won’t simply dismiss their statements as party rhetoric out of hand. For me personally, both George Will and Charles Krauthammer fall into this category, as does John McCain on certain issues. There are others, many others in many different fields. I think that many of my fellow conservative TPS members can do the same with persons in the opposition party that they find credible and therefore worthy of respect and argumentation.

Too often, however, the slash and burn formula gets imposed on the national level and it bleeds into the discussion far too easily. I can’t recall how many people on the call in radio shows I listen too, both last night and this morning, simply dismissed Murtha’s comments for no other reason than he was a member of the Democratic Party. This is sad and it needs to stop. We don’t have to always agree, but we can surely admit when someone is doing something for reasons that are not political or not to get their mug on TV. Sure there are those that say things simply for the political points (Chuck Schumer more often than not, and Tom DeLay on the other side), but there are just as many who speak from their convictions and based on their experiences. The sooner we’re able to tell the difference, the better our discussions, debates, and ultimately our policies will become.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Mass: Spirituality, not Entertainment

By way of Southern Appeal I found this very encouraging article that takes a look at Cardinal Arinze's assessment of the recent synod.
The Mass is a moment of reflection and encounter with God, rather than a form of entertainment, says Cardinal Francis Arinze.

In an interview with Inside the Vatican magazine, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments made a comprehensive assessment of the recent Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist and of developments in liturgical practice 40 years after the Second Vatican Council.

Regarding "music in the liturgy, we should start by saying that Gregorian music is the Church's precious heritage," he said. "It should stay. It should not be banished. If therefore in a particular diocese or country, no one hears Gregorian music anymore, then somebody has made a mistake somewhere."

However, "the Church is not saying that everything should be Gregorian music," the cardinal clarified. "There is room for music which respects that language, that culture, that people. There is room for that too, and the present books say that is a matter for the bishops' conference, because it generally goes beyond the boundaries of one diocese.
I repeat the key phrase above:The Mass is a moment of reflection and encounter with God, rather than a form of entertainment. It is heartening to hear the Cardinal say that, and it is something worth remembering.

On the Gregorian Chant, I have been going to Latin Mass - both Tridentine and Novus Ordo - for a couple of years now. There is no comparison between the chant and most contemporary Church music. It's not that all of the modern stuff is bad, it's just that the Gregorian music is much more spiritual. And ultimately, the most important aspect of Mass is to achieve a greater communion with God, and anything that helps achieve that is worthy of praise. When I hear the Chant I almost feel trasnported back to a different age, and in doing so I feel that much closer to God. Well, that's me anyway.

I love this:

"I will not now pronounce and say never guitar; that would be rather severe," Cardinal Arinze added. "But much of guitar music may not be suitable at all for the Mass. Yet, it is possible to think of some guitar music that would be suitable, not as the ordinary one we get every time, [but with] the visit of a special group, etc."
This is wrong I know, but whenever I see a guitar at Mass I suddenly have a Bluto moment where I just want to go to the front of the Church and rip the guitar out of the person's hands, and . . .. well, you know. Of course nothing will ever surpass the time I went to a Lutheran Service and a full band - led by the Priest - played the Beatles' "Let It Be." Eh, it's their religion, let them do what they want. But not a good choice for liturgical music, if you ask me.

Unfortunately, the following is also very true:
Vatican II brought many good things but everything has not been positive, and the synod recognized that there have been shadows," Cardinal Arinze acknowledged.

"There has been a bit of neglect of the holy Eucharist outside Mass," he said. "A lot of ignorance. A lot of temptations to showmanship for the priest who celebrates facing the people.

"If he is not very disciplined he will soon become a performer. He may not realize it, but he will be projecting himself rather than projecting Christ. Indeed it is very demanding, the altar facing the people. Then even those who read the First and Second Reading can engage in little tactics that make them draw attention to themselves and distract the people.

"So there are problems. However, some of the problems were not caused by Vatican II, but they were caused by children of the Church after Vatican II. Some of them talking of Vatican II push their own agenda. We have to watch that. People pushing their own agenda, justifying it as the 'spirit of Vatican II.'"
I do sometimes get the impression that some Priests think they're part of a nightclub act. As one commenter at Mark Shea's site once said, a part of me wants to hold up a card that says "DO the parts in red, SPEAK the parts in black." (Or maybe it's the other way around).

And finally, here is something so profoundly true, and yet so simply stated:
Cardinal Arinze concluded that the liturgy "is not the property of one individual, therefore an individual does not tinker with it, but makes the effort to celebrate it as Holy Mother Church wants. When that happens, the people are happy, they feel nourished. Their faith grows, their faith is strengthened. They go home happy and willing to come back next Sunday."
And that's exactly how I feel after most Masses that I have attended. A properly done Mass is so spiritually fulfilling, and yet too many parishes have tried desperately hard to tinker with what has wroked for 2,000 years. I don't want awful bands screaching some bland tune, while the Priest goes up and rambles about the Washington Redskins. It's heartening to see that Cardinal Arinze understands this, and even more encouraging that Pope Benedict and the rest of the hierarchy grasps this essential point as well. God bless them, and thank God for granting us these men.

Of course, if these reforms are implemented, it might mean less "On Eagle's Wings." As much as I will so desperately miss hearing it, I will try to bare it if I can.

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Will's column

Check out Will's rather prescient column in today's Post. Interested to gauge the TPS reaction to his sentiments....

ps. thx paul

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Good to see that idiocy still reigns

A sense of the House resolution encourages the 9th Circuit to rehear the sex survey case en banc.

Query: What is the most lame-brained aspect of this?

The merits? While I am a big fan of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, let's not do anything to endanger or extend that case.

The lack of standing?

The disregard for court procedure? This is better than what Sensenbrenner did in that sentencing case -- there is no punishment too severe for that -- but this smacks of disdain for procedure. And since all law is procedure (something I read on the first day of civ pro but did not appreciate until clerking), this smacks of disdain for law. [UPDATE: In case the reference to Sensenbrenner was obscure, read more here.]

The showboating?

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American Conservatism today, being the seventh part of American Conservatism

Part one.  Part two.  Part three.  Part four.  Part five.  Part six.

Keith Burgess-Jackson singles out this Norman Podhoretz essay on neoconservatism, and he quips, “Note that, according to Kristol, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is one of neoconservatism's "heroes." That alone takes me out of the neoconservative camp, for Roosevelt was a constitutional disaster. Catharine MacKinnon calls her version of feminism "feminism unmodified," as opposed to, say, radical feminism. I call my version of conservatism "conservatism unmodified."

I believe that’s as good a starting point as any to begin this final installment of the American Conservatism series.

We’ve traced the disparate elements that have formed the American conservative movement.  In truth, we’ve barely scratched the surface.  But I think by now you have a good idea of the core ideas that have shaped American conservatism.  How this mish-mosh of ideas plays out in the modern world is the subject of this essay.

To me, the essential backbone of conservatism is its reluctance to embrace both sweeping reforms and sweeping theories.  Conservatism is rooted in caution.  In fact, I would go so far as to say the fundamental principle that motivated the Founding Fathers was fear.  They feared the masses, and they feared the government.  And to say that this fear is the underlying motivation for the Framers is the same as to say that is the prime motivating force for American conservatism, for our Framers were the first American conservatives.
If nothing else is fixed into you minds through these short essays, you must understand that American conservatism is a unique brand of conservatism.  It is pure folly to try to understand American conservatism through the prism of European tory conservatism.  And I use the term tory because Whig conservatism is relevant as far as America is concerned.  Whig conservatism is the conservatism of Burke and, I would suggest, Hayek.  It is a liberal conservatism rooted in appreciation for freedom, but freedom tempered by the realities of the world in which we live.

Our Framers were children of the Enlightenment, but of the Scottish and British Enlightenment and thus, unlike their French counterparts, were more suspicious of the human will.  They trusted men, but almost at an arm’s reach.  Men are decent people, but the human appetite is such that it would be unwise to suspect that individuals would always think rationally or properly.  Therefore they established a government that granted as much individual freedom as was possible, but one that also curbed the majoritarian impulse.

Flash forward and the center of the conservative debate remains a debate about human nature.  Underlying all our beliefs is our expectations of humanity.  Conservatives remain skeptical, but neither too pessimistic nor optimistic.  But other variants of conservatism diverge to one extreme or another.  But, perversely, the policies that outflow from their perspectives run counter to their thoughts on human natures.

Neoconservatives are deeply pessimistic, and yet they advance an ideology that is far more sweeping in its hopes for the future of mankind.  While traditional conservatism has always emphasized the limits of this mortal realm, with a concurrent belief that government should be limited in its outreach, the neocons are much more comfortable using the government to advance far-reaching ends.  Though at times my Professor Claes Ryn’s thesis is overstated, the core of his book, America the Virtuous, has much merit.  The neocons, or neo-Jacobins, seem swept away with a notion that they can radically reshape the human spirit and achieve the long-sought harmony we’ve been seeking since the inception of humanity.  It is though they believe they can reach into the human soul and reshape it into a design it was not meant for.  Only tinker enough and we can achieve the appropriate ends.

On the other end of the spectrum, the paleo-conservatives and crankycons seem to hate everything.  And yet they are most comfortable with populist schemes that betray the Framers’ original plans.  Their anti-elitism runs so deep that they would bequeath to the masses enormous power.  Their enemies are the ghouls in the academies with their fancy ideas.  But while they would have you believe that they are the true inheritors of the conservative mantle, their philosophy is a deep betrayal of the republican tradition.  Their ultimate designs are no less radical than the hated neocons they so regularly disparage.

But even these easy categories fail to capture the enormous diversity of American conservatism.  But the fact that they can be categorized reveals a marked departure from the ideal of a philosophic conservatism that is less an ideology than a general principal about life.  

Traditional conservatism is generally less concerned about the temporal world.  This strain of conservatism dates to Augustine, who saw utopian schemes for the foolishness that they were.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that the intellectual impetus behind this brand usually comes from the Roman Catholic Church, or its near neighbors in the Episcopalian version.  Buckley, Kirk, Ponnuru, Reagan: all thinkers who are Catholic or whose religion was close to that of Roman Catholicism.  This is no mere coincidence.  

We here a lot about religion and the conservative movement, and indeed religion has played a crucial role in all conservative parties throughout the world.  But what many fail to understand, principally because they fail to understand Christianity is that there are crucial differences in the religious outlook of Evangelicals and Catholics, and these differences play out in the political world.  The steadfast pessimism of the Catholic faith is mirrored in the political outlook of most conservative Catholics.  They see this as a fallen world.  And while we should strive to make this world as good as we can, our expectations for the temporal world should not be so high.  Consequently, we should not put much stock in government and its ability to change the world.

I am not as well-versed in Evangelical religion to speak authoritatively, but it seems to me that the Evangelicals are much more optimistic about reshaping this earthly realm.  Their fervor for conversion seeps into their political consciousness, thus they have grander visions for reform than does the Catholic conservative.  

It would be easy to simply paint as the essential demarcation in conservative thought as the interplay between Catholic and Evangelical theology.  It would be easy because it is essentially correct.  We share many of the same values, but at some point there is a rift in our fundamental vision of the government because there is a fundamental rift in our theological outlook.  That is not to say that all Catholics are all of a particular political stripe, and all Evangelicals of another.  But if one wants to understand the divergence in American conservative thought, there would be worse starting points than this examination of the difference between Catholicism and Evangelical religion.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

This one's for mouldfan

Looks like John Rawls runs into some trouble in the afterlife.

Hat tip: QD at Southern Appeal.

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Burke and stare decisis

Okay, I can finally get to that Publius post that mouldfan discussed in this post below. Click for the full monty. Right off the bat, I will express my full approval of this statement:
For instance, as I’ve argued before, the neocons are the intellectual heirs not of Edmund Burke, but of the French radicals whose abstract visions Burke so passionately opposed.
Indeed. I've alluded to this in the second part of my American conservatism series, but there is a class of conservatives that fall outside of the Burkean camp, and the neocons are them. My only qualification is that this term has been overused, but that will be the topic of a future post (perhaps tonight).

On to the meat of Publius's post. To be blunt, there is not much to argue with. First, to better understand where Publius is coming from, you should be made familiar with Southern Appeal's Steve Dillard. Steve, like Justice Clarence Thomas, does not have much respect for the concept of stare decisis. In fact, he is famous for the quip "stare decisis is fo' suckas." Well, Publius is struck by the un-Burkean sentiment contained in this idea. His understanding of Burke is pretty accurate (also see the first part of the American Conservativism series here). Let me quote Publius more extensively:
For instance, one reason I feel more secure in “knowing” that Shakespeare was objectively good is that so many subsequent generations (in many different contexts) have embraced and celebrated his plays. Literature grad students can whine about the contingency of the Western canon, but they also have to reckon with the fact that it’s lasted many centuries. Continuing appeal through time is the test for greatness – that is, whether the work continues to resonate beyond the period of its creation. For example, I think the Beatles will pass this test and will eventually take their place beside Beethoven – whereas Britney Spears will probably be unknown in a 100 years.

Ok, I got sidetracked a bit. But you can see where I’m going with this. Stare decisis is very similar to Burke’s collective wisdom of the generations. If a precedent has been reaffirmed over many decades, that means that successive generations have found value in it. And the fact that successive generations have found value in it makes it more likely that there is value in it – even if the value can’t necessarily be articulated.

Again, it’s like Shakespeare. I can’t articulate why exactly four generations of humans have performed Hamlet. But the fact that they have is a good “signal” that there is some “there” there. The play has some inherent value – otherwise it wouldn’t resonate with generation after generation. And that’s Burke’s point exactly. If past generations have embraced a given practice, you should not overturn it lightly given the limits of your reason. Just as conducting many laboratory experiments is more reliable than conducting one, so too are the opinions of past generations more reliable than the visions of the lone revolutionary.
I think this is a good explanation of Burke's point of view. And here is where he thinks the stare decisis is fo' suckas camp goes off the Burkean track:
And that brings us back to the “fo’ suckas” camp. Whatever else it is, that view is not a conservative one. It’s a radical one. And it’s radical because it tosses out the collective wisdom of the past for the abstract visions of the present. In a word, it’s “un-humble.” And in this sense, it’s very similar to the “un-humble” neocon foreign policy. Past practices are to be tossed out for the new visions. Damn the torpedoes
Now here is where I think Publius overstates his case just a bit. Now, even as he concedes, Burke's respect for tradition is not an absolute one. I'll quote myself quoting Burke:
Again, Burke was no mere reactionary. He celebrated change, for a “state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. Without such means it might even risk the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve.” (19) But while change is inevitable, change for the sake of change, and change without respect for tradition is folly. A respect for the accumulated wisdom of the ages is a necessary ingredient for the state. For “by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve we are never wholly new; in what we retain we are never wholly obsolete.” (30)
Burke acknowledges the need for change. What he dislikes, and what any true conservative certainly disdains, is radical change for the sake of change that disregards the accumulated wisdom of the ages. But does stare decisis belong in the category of accumulated wisdom? I think mouldfan actually hit upon a very good point in his post:
What I want to address is the conflation of the two concepts. In my opinion, stare decisis is neither conservative nor liberal/progressive, but rather is inherently valuable to the law in and of itself. Phrased another way, it doesn’t much matter what “theory of interpretation” one adopts because stare decisis is a separate and distinct concept deserving of its own discussion of its own merits independent of interpretive theory. Thus, so-called “originalists” ought to adhere to stare decisis and so-called “living constitutionalists” ought to as well, not because stare decisis is always beneficial or always produces the result consistent with the interpretive theory, but because of stare decisis’s inherent value.
I ultimately disagree with his value of stare decisis, but I think he is right - though for perhaps a different reason than he might think. Stare decisis is simply a legal concept. In and of itself it holds little informative value. Thus I am not sure that, from a Burkean perspective, it carries much value.

Here's the ultimate issue at hand. Stare decisis can be itself an agent of change. For example, if we concede that a decision was wrongly decided, but should be upheld because of stare decisis, then we have implicitly amended the Constitution. Roe v. Wade is everbody's favorite example of "judicial legislation," so I'll be like everyone else and use it as an example. Almost all originalists believe that Roe has no constitutional mandate whatsoever, and more than a few liberals also would concede that it was wrongly decided. But if we refuse to overturn this decision not because we believe it to be good constitutional law, but because what's done is done, then we have essentially amended the Constitution so that now there is a fundamental right to an abortion. This is in and itself a radical change.

So, if we decide to disregard stare decisis, we are engaging in change. But if we don't, we're also engaging in something of a radical change. What we've done is crafted a new method of constitutional amendment-making.

Now, I'm with mouldfan on something else. As he is uncertain of where the limits of stare decisis lie, I am uncertain as to how far back into the past we can go to change SCOTUS decisions. In the comments section of this post I mentioned that I believed that the incorporation doctrine (the SCOTUS doctrine that states that the 14th amendment means that the bill of rights apply to the states) was bunk, but it may be too far entrenched to change things. But, such thinking seems to imply that there is some sort of statute of limits, and any decision over x years of age should stand merely because of its age.

Feddie argues that when it's a close call, then we should adhere to precedent. This seems like a logical conclusion. Maybe that's the best answer.

While we're discussing Burke and stare decisis, perhaps the most pertinent Burkean doctrine to fall back on is prudence. As in almost all matters, the most important quality is caution. We should use caution when adjudicating, and we should be cautious - or prudent - when deciding when to overturn precedent. Let previous opinions be a guide when deciding constitutional cases, and consider the logic of prior generations of justices. But when it comes to deciding constitutional law, there is only one thing that matters - the document itself. And any act "repugant to the Constitution," as Marshall says, "is void."

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Big Bird to Join Heritage Foundation

From a new report issued by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Inspector General's Office:

"We found evidence that the From the a recent report issued by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CBP) former Chairman violated statutory provisions and the Director's Code of Ethics by dealing directly with one of the creators of new public affairs program during negotiations with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the CPB over creating the show. Our review also found evidence that suggests "political tests" were major criteria used by the former Chairman in recruiting a President/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for CBP, which violated statutory provisions against such practices."

Maybe the Dem's aren't any better...maybe, but between paying commentators to push the administration's dubious education policy, factoring out science as the lead criteria in FDA policy decisions and having CIA agents (whose intelligence, save for their then "slam-dunking" fearless leader, doesn't seem to have been that faulty afterall) resign like flies, the overt and, well frankly, illegal attempts to exert control over government agencies sounds a bit more Russian or Chinese than American.

Full Text of IG's report:

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"Divine" intervention?

See the highlights of a new GAO report:, and accompanying story (see below) making it abundantly clear that the administration clearly overstepped its bounds to trump science with ideology for its own political purposes, or that of its base, I suppose, in the FDA's "decision" to withhold approval of over the counter sales of Plan B (a/k/a the "morning after pill"). For those who take the absolutist pro-life stance and relativize Plan B to an actual abortion procedure, that is their fight and I respect their position. However, their is neither public support nor mandate for the rest of this country to similarly cut of its nose to spite it's face, "In December 2003, FDA's scientific advisers overwhelmingly backed over-the-counter sales for all ages, citing assessments that easier access could halve the nation's 3 million annual unintended pregnancies." In other words, this is a drug that can all but eliminate the need for abortion procedures if used properly and with proper information--a proposition that undoubtedly would garner an overwhelming majority of support from Dems and Reps alike; the problem is that the woman not being able to get a prescription in time makes it all but useless--a fact not overlooked by those who orchestrated FDA's inaction. This is not a decision about whether "life" is a 72-hour old embryo or 4-month old fetus, whereas the FDA was neither asked nor is it authorized to make that judgement, but rather an instance, as is made clear by the GAO report of the administration abusing its power (at one point carefully referred to as "the [u]nusual involvement from high-ranking agency officials") by force-feeding the ideology of its base to the public at large. It's one thing for a "conservative" administration to use wholly legal means of seeking to regulate the personal lives of Americans to conform with it's chosen values, but this is something entirely different. Then again, it would be unpatriotic for to question their integrity...

See also:

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