Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Looking Forward to Tomorrow

The return of Chris Muir's Day By Day.

A Psalm 137 Kind of Day

... over at CUANAS.

By The Rivers Of Babylon

First, an excellent essay by Mark Steyn (aren't they all?) on the morality of the Iraq war. Pastorius Screaming Memes comments:

Why do we never hear apologies from all those who said going into Afghanistan and Iraq that the wars would not work, and that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, would be killed?

Answer: because people who say such things are being treated as if they are children, and therefore are not held to be accountable for their actions.

It is not healthy for our civilization to allow such people to continue on in their irresponsibility. They are sustained by our civilization, they need to start participating in it. They need to recognize that their freedom was established and preserved through war. It's ok to be a pacifist, or to be against the Iraq War while not being entirely a pacifist. However, it is not ok to lie and exaggerate to make one's case, and then not apologize even when that case is shown not only to be groundless, but, through hard evidence, to have been immoral as well.

For There Our Captors Asked Us For Songs

Next an odd story about Israeli soldiers forcing a violinist to play. I am not sure I understand this either but I think there is a strong aversion among civilized people to needless cruelty. There is a sense that violence is an unavoidable aspect of war, even when innocents are the victims, but somehow pointlessly tormenting someone then letting him go seems jarring. I'm not saying this is rational, but I think I can relate even if I don't agree.

On the other hand, there is the obvious explanation that the Guardian may have just wanted to show Israel in as bad a light as possible.

He Who Seizes Your Infants And Dashes Them Against The Rocks

And finally this horrifying story:
Four minutes later, Israeli troops opened fire on the girl with machine guns and rifles, the radio transmissions indicated. The captain walked to the spot where the girl "was lying down" and fired two bullets from his M-16 assault rifle into her head, according to an indictment against the officer. He started to walk away, but pivoted, set his rifle on automatic and emptied his magazine into the girl's prone body, the indictment alleged.
Pastorius Screaming Memes rightly comments that this behavior would not necessarily even be condemned, let alone prosecuted, if it were a Palestinian who had killed a little Jewish girl.
However, Shmuel Shenfeld and his client "Capt. R", are, apparently, both willing to be traitorous to that Israeli conscience. They are both willing to lie, and thus damage the entire citizenry of Israel in the eyes of the world, in order to get Capt. R's ass off the hook.

Unless it shown beyond a doubt that some extenuating circumstance prompted Capt. R to such horrific behavior, I hope he is convicted, and that he spends the rest of his life in jail. Oh, and if only attorneys like Shmuel Shenfeld could be held accountable for the damage they do to society with their disgusting lies.
I agree, of course. But still, what a horror.

Is Pat Sajak One of Us?

I think I have made it pretty clear that I do not follow television so it is no surprise that I know little or nothing about the various TV personalities and celebrities. But this article in Human Events by Pat Sajak (via Andrew Sullivan) got me wondering about Sajak's background:

Somewhere in the world, a filmmaker creates a short documentary that chronicles what he perceives as the excesses of anti-abortion activists. An anti-abortion zealot reacts to the film by killing the filmmaker in broad daylight and stabbing anti-abortion tracts onto his body. How does the Hollywood community react to this atrocity? Would there be angry protests? Candlelight vigils? Outraged letters and columns and articles? Awards named in honor of their fallen comrade? Demands for justice? Calls for protection of artistic freedom? It’s a pretty safe bet that there would be all of the above and much more. And all of the anger would be absolutely justified.

So I’m trying to understand the nearly universal lack of outrage coming from Hollywood over the brutal murder of Dutch director, Theo van Gogh, who was shot on the morning of November 2, while bicycling through the streets of Amsterdam. The killer then stabbed his chest with one knife and slit his throat with another.
Now there is nothing particularly earth-shaking about this analysis, but it is just not the sort of example the typical Entertainment Industry insider would use. When the left criticizes itself, it is usually in terms of having "our" hearts in the right place but not doing enough. You don't usually see this sort of Right or Wrong dichotomy and you certainly don't see even indirect criticism of pro-abortionists.

Then there is this:
Maybe they think it would be intolerant of them to criticize the murder, because it would put them on the side of someone who criticized a segment of the Arab world. And, after all, we are often reminded that we need to be more tolerant of others, especially if they’re not Christians or Jews.
OK, the cat is definitely out of the bag at this point. This is a thoroughly right-of-center sentiment. What is going on here? Have I been missing something all these years? The host of the number one syndicated television show is a conservative?

Checking the biography on Sajak's web site doesn't give many clues. No mention of church, Reagan or the NRA, just the typical rags to riches story that should but usually doesn't make famous people respect American freedom and opportunity. But wait! What is this? A whole slew of articles (including the current one) from a conservative point of view. And Wikipedia has the following interesting tidbit at the very end of its Sajak entry:
Sajak is an External Director of the right-wing publishing house, Regnery.
(Regnery, of course, is affiliated with Human Events.)

So, I guess I am the only clueless one around here. Not that this makes me any more inclined to watch more television. But I suppose I do find game shows to be among the its less offensive offerings, when circumstances force me to watch.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Targeting Procreation

In an attempt to "think outside the box" in combating Gay Marriage, Allan Carlson of the Family Research Council is proposing the possibility of restricting marriage benefits to couples who actually have children:

Are there other political acts that would reconnect procreation and marriage? Perhaps, if we are prepared to think "outside the box." For example, we could turn one of our opponents' key arguments back on them. Perhaps we should restrict some of the legal and welfare benefits of civil marriage solely to those married during their time of natural, procreative potential: for women, below the age of 45 or so (for men, in the Age of Viagra, the line would admittedly be harder to draw). The idea is not without recent political precedence. Back in 1969, Representative Wilbur Mills--the then-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee--wanted to respond to complaints by unmarried adults that existing tax law unfairly favored the married. It was true that the existing practice of "income splitting" by married couples on their joint tax returns, in the context of high marginal tax rates, did give a strong tax benefit to marriage. Importantly, though, Mills stated that he wanted to preserve this "marriage bonus" for the young and fertile, while still helping those whom he labeled (in now-archaic language) as "spinsters." Accordingly, he proposed maintaining the benefits of income splitting only for married persons under the age of 35. (This approach, I note in passing, went nowhere. The Nixon administration and Congress chose instead to reduce the benefits of income splitting for all married persons; and they so unwittingly created the "marriage penalty" with which we still grapple today.)

Another, and perhaps more realistic way to rebind marriage and procreation would be, counter-intuitively, to take some of the benefits currently attached to marriage and reroute them instead through children. Allow me one practical example here. Whatever the future, it is likely that most households with two or more children will continue to be married-couple, natural-parent homes. These are still, and always will be, the places most open to what we once called "a full quiver." We could encourage them by tying retirement benefits to family size: that is, the more children that a couple brought into the world, the higher their later monthly Social Security benefit. Or, we could create a new tax credit against payroll taxes:rebating, say, 20 percent of the current 15.3 percent tax facing parents for each child born. Again, these ideas would indirectly favor child-rich homes; and most of these, in the American context, would predictably contain a married couple.
Andrew Sullivan, somewhat mystifyingly but perhaps ironically, applauds this as an honest admission that procreation and marriage have been inescapably severed:
Can we still defend the purpose of marriage as procreation? No, not in the current constitutional climate. It is now clear that the "right of privacy," conceived by the Supreme Court nearly four decades ago, is the enemy of both marriage and procreation separately, and is especially hostile when they are united. It is also clear that we lost the key battles in defense of this union decades ago, long before anyone even imagined same-sex marriage. And we lost these battles over questions that--to be honest--relatively few of us are really prepared to reopen. How many are ready to argue for the recriminalization of contraception? How many want to argue for a strict legal and cultural imposition of the word illegitimate on certain little children?

I acknowledge that this admission is somewhat more astute than I had expected of the FRC, but it seems to highlight exactly why conservatives ought to drop the whole issue. As I argued in July 2003 on the Ranter's Guild:
Having said all that, I think conservatives have already lost the argument over homosexual marriage. When we supported no-fault divorce in the 70s, we lost all credibility for political arguments based on protecting the sanctity of marriage. The only ground left would be to argue that the fortunes of a nation depend on obedience to God, which currently will not get a consensus even among religious conservatives.
Carlson's autocratic thinking outside the box has even less chance of actually occurring, but amply demonstrates the tortured lengths some will go to impose their vision on society. If there is to be any progress on this issue, it must come from within society, by means of changed hearts and minds, not be forced upon it in such heavy-handed proposals. Remember that, however we may seem to be in control at the moment, there may yet come a Pharaoh who knows not Joseph. And he who lives by the State can just as easily perish by it.

Virgin Grilled Cheese?

Slate reports that a grilled cheese sandwich with the image of the BVM has recently been auctioned on eBay for $28,000.

Looking at the sandwich, I had no idea the Virgin looked so much like Carole Lombard!
(Via the Volokh Conspiracy)

Recovered Treasures of Afghanistan

More than 22,000 treasures from the Kabul Museum in Afghanistan, long thought to have been lost in the war against the Soviet Union and the subsequent cultural purge by the Taliban, have been located in bank vaults and other safe places where they were hidden by museum officials.

The priceless Bactrian gold collection, precious ivories, bronze statues and other artifacts of 5,000 years of history on the Orient's Silk Road — virtually all of the museum's most precious items — were preserved despite the devastation engulfing the country, archaeologists said last week.

The discovery of the Bactrian gold was announced this summer, but a just-completed inventory revealed that virtually all of the museum's most precious items are intact, said Oxford University archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert.

In the midst of the resistance against the Soviets, a team of curators in the early 1980s boxed up the most valuable pieces in the museum's collection, stashing them in various vaults around Kabul, the Afghan capital. The curators — most of whose names are unknown — used small safes, tin boxes, steel containers and anything else they could find at hand.

They then went "dead quiet," said British archaeologist Carla Grissman, keeping their knowledge to themselves even as rumors floated widely about the destruction and looting of the museum's contents.

They kept their secrets for a quarter of a century.

"These are the real heroes of this story," said Hiebert, leader of the team that has been inventorying the newly rediscovered artifacts.
(Via WizBang)

Then We Were Like, Whoa!

Dan Rather is stepping down from CBS Evening News!

Dan Rather announced Tuesday that he will step down as anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News in March, 24 years after his first broadcast in that position.

Rather will continue to work full-time at CBS News as a correspondent for both editions of 60 Minutes, as well as on other assignments for the news division.

CBS made no mention of a potential successor.

Rather, 73, has come under fire for his 60 Minutes report on President Bush's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War. The report relied on documents that cast Mr. Bush's service in a negative light. Critics charged that the documents were forgeries, and CBS News was unable to vouch for their authenticity. An independent commission is now investigating the matter.
At this point, I don't really expect to see CBS or Rather admit the full extent of their culpability. And there were rumors that Rather was planning on stepping down even before Memogate. But the fact that these "criticisms" are cited, however circumspectly, in connection with Rather's retirement must be counted a small victory for the blogosphere.

One further note, in the context of this remark:
Rather's announcement comes eight days before his NBC rival, Tom Brokaw, steps down as Nightly News anchor and is replaced by Brian Williams.
Dare one hope that, with the departure of the old guard, a new generation of media personalities will see which way the wind is blowing and return to the roots of honest journalism?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Group-Think and Hayekian Criticism

Two cautions occur to me with regard to the post below:

First, the well-known phenomenon of group-think, or the tendency of decisions arising out of consensus to ignore crucial objections, often disastrously. The text book example of this is the Bay of Pigs invasion, in which Kennedy's advisors apparently lacked any dissenting voice that led to the needless slaughter of hundreds of Cuban expatriates. The loss of Colin Powell's alternative perspective is seen by many as a dangerous development in an administration which already has a reputation for disregarding dissent. Gregory Djerejian tends to this view (as well as preferring Powell to Rice on a more absolute level) but is willing to see possible silver linings in the switch:

But hey, she had to deal with Beltway behemoths Don "so-called Occupied Territories" Rumsfeld and Powell sparring endlessly! My point? Never an easy job; it was particularly hard this go around. Give her at least a little bit of a pass given the open trench warfare between State and Defense these past three and a half years--worse than any I've seen in recent memory.

On the positive side of the ledger? She shined against Clarke during her 9/11 Commission congressional testimony. She can be a strong advocate, she's intensely disciplined, she's pretty damn smart (though she's not a visionary foreign policy thinker--but name me a SecState since Kissinger who was...)

[...]

Condi is going to spearhead a major push on the Arab-Israeli peace process. She may, just perhaps, prove more effective in this than Powell as people will know she has Bush's ear and full confidence. The Israelis won't risk back-ending her by running to the Pentagon or NSC (like they reportedly often did with Powell).
Not, to be sure, a ringing endorsement, but significant praise from a semi-adversary. It remains to be seen whether these possible benefits will outweigh the tendency to group-think, but I am betting they will.

A related but more subtle objection is one that might be raised by followers of F. A. Hayek, to the effect that successful policies occur not as the result of all-explaining theories but through trial and error over time. This caution would propose that, since the Bush administration seems to be embarked upon a program of providing a unified front in the form a common theory of foreign policy, there is the danger that facts will be ignored or downplayed in order to fit the theory. This is a powerful objection, and one to which I am very sympathetic, but I would suggest that the Bush Doctrine may in fact be an expression of the very dynamic that Hayek promotes. That is, we have had decades of experience with a multiplicity of approaches to the problem of terrorism and observation teaches that negotiation does not work while forceful confrontation does. This is not a theoretical but a battle-tested principle and thus avoids the Hayekian anti-constructivist objection.

It remains to be seen how the nation building component of Bush's foreign policy (expressed in the sentiment that the best antidote to terrorism is freedom) will measure up to this test, but there is substantial evidence that democracies do, in fact, tend to limit the aggressiveness of states. Whether such states can be created out of the whole cloth of Middle-Eastern autocracies is the question of the hour, but, since it has never been tried, there can't by definition be an empirical answer to such a question.

(I had hoped someone at Taking Hayek Seriously would have touched on this point, but alas I was disappointed. Well, not disappointed exactly, since I always enjoy browsing around the place, but I couldn't find anything relevant to this post.)

Condi! Condi Condi!

I heard the speeches this morning, but of course everyone has been talking about this for a couple of days. Now that it is official, the first point I want to make is that this will be a test of the Bush (i.e. hawkish, unilateralist and pro-western) Doctrine as a viable subset of conservative foreign policy . In moving Dr. Rice to State, while leaving Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in charge of Defense, Mr. Bush has consolidated America's official interface with the rest of the world into a single worldview. There is now no one to blame if that worldview fails to achieve the success it predicts for itself.

I happen to be glad of the challenge. I have argued with several of my conservative friends, who periodically threaten to leave the Republican party on the grounds that it is barely distinguishable from liberalism, that we have never really had a full test of conservative ideals. During the Reagan and Bush (41) administrations, we did not have control of Congress and when, in 1995, we gained control of Congress it was only after having lost the Presidency. Both branches were united under Republican leadership in 2000, but Bush had run on an essentially moderate post-Cold War platform and had not been perceived to have a mandate due to the closeness of the race against Gore. He accordingly set-up his domestic and foreign policies with an eye toward balance and conciliation that is appropriate to a peacetime presidency. That expectation was exploded on 9/11/01, but it arguably would not have been prudent to undertake any major reshuffling during the begining of the War on Terror. (I say "arbuably" because I am not fully convinced of the wisdom of this decision, but am willing to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt.)

One of the unfortunate results of this prudential decision to stick with the pre-9/11 cabinet was a divided mind on the the most controvesial of the three elements of the Bush Doctrine: unilateralism. My tentative thesis (which Wretchard of Belmont Club argues more forcefully) is that this division of purpose allowed the enemy a crucial window of opportunity to prepare for the "insurgency" we are now seein in Iraq.

All of this is speculative, of course. But with the removal of the last of these hindrances, it is not deniable that now there is no such further cover. We will see if America's conservative thinkers are willing to back their theories with assertive action, or are only capable of providing dissent to the liberal hegemony. Thatcher was up to the challenge, and I suspect Reagan was as well. Will President Bush be able to meet it?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Whom To Believe

Roger L Simon wants to know:

The Syrian Defense Minister called Arafat "the son of sixty thousand whores," but Jimmy Carter called him "a powerful human symbol and forceful advocate" for a Palestinian homeland.
Isn't it obvious that Carter is one of the sixty thousand?

Hobbits and Dinosaurs

James Kuchiner of Touchstone links to this article that notes the anthropologically interesting discovery of a race of small humans in Indonesia:

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a village of warrior hobbits. No more than three feet tall or so, they dwelled in caves and hunted down dragons and pygmy elephants with stone weaponry.

I was forced to rub my eyes, shake my head, and check once again that I was reading the Associated Press, and not a supermarket tabloid. But there it was, originally announced in Nature magazine and soon likewise plastered across the pages of newspapers and magazines around the world.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of these little people on the Indonesian island of Flores. They named them Homo floresiensis, but they were quickly nicknamed “Hobbits.” Scientists found remains of Komodo dragons and large rodents that had been cooked in cave fires. Scientists assure us that these little “hominids” died out about 13,000 years ago, and that they were descendents of Homo erectus, the alleged evolutionary ancestor of modern humans.

The author goes on to note that this discovery is more embarrassing to advocates of evolution than it is to defenders of the biblical account of human origins.

Kuchiner further comments:
This reminds of the NOVA program aired on PBS this week that reported the DNA evidence that the Objiway Indians of the Great Lakes region (sometimes called Chippewa) have genetic markers from European, in addition to Asian, populations. The European DNA is not from French trappers. Based on the rate that DNA/genetic markers develop, the European DNA came to North America about 15,000 years ago. That should set some anthropologists redrawing their maps and rewriting chapters in textbooks.


I object to the label of "Hobbits" because I do not like to mix fantasy with science, but I must admit that I am glad to find that folklore is once again vindicated against unwarranted skepticism. It is easy to dismiss stories of fairies and whatnot as ignorant wives tales. But sometimes those wives have a point.
(Note: Evidently the Mere Comments permalinks are still broken. Scroll down to the post titled TOLKIEN'S NON(SCIENCE)FICTION? on 11/12/04 at 1:27 PM)

A survey of Internet Use for Political Information

By professors at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville:

The purpose of this survey is to examine the Internet's influence on the U.S. political process. Although we recognize that the Internet is a global medium, we asked that only those individuals who are eligible to vote in the U.S. participate in this survey.

Sanity about the FMA

John Tabin writes in the American Standard:

Federalism lights the way out of this conundrum. The recognition of gay unions should be entirely a matter for the states, and state parties should be free to differ as to the proper political approach; if a constitutional amendment is necessary, it is to restrain the courts rather than to define marriage for the nation. (Senator Orrin Hatch was toying earlier this year with introducing an amendment that would be ideal.) Likewise, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade ought to be the end-point of the pro-life movement on the federal level; abortion after Roe should become -- as it was before Roe -- a state matter.

I'd better admit that I'll be on the opposite side of many conservatives in these state-level battles: I favor gay marriage, and though I'd love to see a judiciary that would overturn Roe, a proxy for so much judicial mischief, I'd prefer to see early-term abortion stay legal. But we'll remain bound on foreign policy and economic issues in a strong Republican coalition despite our differences. And that's the point, isn't it?
(Emphasis mine)

Even if you think that abortion should be illegal at the Federal level (as I rather do) making it a state issue seems like a good first step. But my real point in citing this passage is that this is one of the few times I have heard a proposal in support of a constitutional ammendment to restrain the judiciary. To be sure, it is in the subjunctive mood and I suspect that Tabin might not agree that it is necessary. But at least the notion is on the table, hmm?
(Via Randy Barnett at the Conspiracy.)

Also note this interesting study on why the FMA has not produced the groundswell of support that some religious conservative leaders have predicted:
The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press completed a poll of 1,703 American adults concerning the FMA and other topics. Margin of error is about 2.4%.

In question 37, they found that:

32% favored allowing same-sex couples to marry
59% opposed allowing SSM
9% had no opinion or refused to answer.

They then asked only the 59% who opposed same-sex marriage for their opinion on the FMA:

36% favor the FMA to ban SSM
21% oppose the FMA
2% had no opinion or refused to answer.
So, over a third of people who oppose same-sex marriage also oppose the FMA. I would like to see that number climb, of course, to the point where we can safely ignore the matter and focus on conservative approaches to establishing a just society. Time will tell.

Cosby Still Gets It

Bill Cosby has been a role-model of mine for as long as I can remember. His courage in speaking the unpleasant truth about black social problems continues to inspire me:

Bill Cosby says the opinions he's expressed in his controversial prodding of fellow blacks are consistent with what he's done as an entertainer for more than 40 years.

In several forums this year, the 67-year-old Cosby has criticized some black children for not knowing how to read or write, said some had squandered opportunities the civil rights movement gave them and unfairly blame whites for problems such as teen pregnancy and high dropout rates.

[...]

In the 1980s, "The Cosby Show" came out of seeing so many sitcoms with children smarter than their parents. It seemed many comedy writers had bad relationships with their parents and were trying to retaliate, he said. He wanted to depict parents as strong role models.

Even the cartoon characters in "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" were designed as misfits who made something of themselves, he said.

Cosby said the poet Maya Angelou told him, "You know, Bill, you're a very nice man, but you have a big mouth." He said he doesn't mind that role as long as he makes people think.

And of his critics, Cosby said: "Let them stay mad."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Sullivan Finally Gets It

In a post early Wednesday morning, Andrew Sullivan had this to say about the relation between judicial activism and gay marriage:

I don't believe that we should give up or change the fight for marriage equality. But I do think it behooves people like me to listen to what the other side is saying. I'm struck by how many of you have told me that your real objection is not with the issue of marriage equality itself, but by the means of achieving it. Court-imposed mandates rub people the wrong way, even those who support including gay couples within the family structure. Extra-legal tactics like Gavin Newsom's particularly rankle. I wasn't sanguine about this at the time but minimized it because I was so swept up in the emotion of seeing gay couples finally getting the respect they deserve. I should have been stricter in opposing Newsom's grandstanding. I'll have more to say in a forthcoming TNR piece. But it's important to hear what others who disagree with me are saying. I'm trying harder.
Exactly. The rule of law should not be abrogated no matter how worthy the cause. Some of us tried to explain this to Sullivan at the time, but he brushed it aside. I am glad to see that he now admits the error. Time will tell if he sticks with this committment, but we all get overcome by our passions from time to time, so I am willing to cut him a little slack.

Of course, there are some people who do not think that judicial activism is the main problem here and would be perfectly willing to use it to further their conservative agenda if they could get away with it. But I don't consider such people to be truly conservative, just radical in a different direction.

And finally, the question of whether public acknowledgment of homosexuality is actually good for society (or for homosexuals themselves) is completely different. Sullivan's position is based on the assumption that homosexuals are in some sense born that way, so his comparison to black civil rights movements follows naturally. However, if you reject that premise (as I do) then the notion that gay marriage is a civil right collapses. But I think that is a case that should be made by persuasion, not force.

Pastorius Featured on Medienkritik

My friend Pastorius of Christians United Against the New Anti-Semitism has had his comment featured on Medienkritik's "Why I Voted for Bush" post:

Pastorius writes:

I am a lifelong Democrat who never voted for a Republican in my life, until 2004, when I voted for George Bush.

Like many of the readers here, I was prompted to rethink my position by European hatred of George Bush. I have family in Europe. On 9/11 they made it a point to call me and inform me of why America deserved what it had gotten.

For the first time in my life I realized that, what I thought of as the "casual anti-Americanism" of the Left, was actually entrenched and visceral hatred of the United States and it's core values.

Having thought about this for over three years now, I believe that the Left is rotten to it's core and does not truly believe in it's own professed values.

For instance, I have watched in abject despair, as people whom I once respected have done everything but celebrate the new Democratic government of Afghanistan. I have listened, as members of the Left explain to us that it isn't true that all people would want Liberty and Democracy. I see that the anti-War Left will will march in the streets alongside Islamofascists who stand against Feminism, Homosexuals, and Freedom of Speech/Religion.

I am horrified by the irrationality and fear of these empty Leftists. I fear what it bodes for our world.

The Left seems willing to lie down, in a Pacifist pose, as all their professed values are taken away from them.

I am not willing to go along with them.

I pray that George Bush will be able lead us through this confrontation with the Islamofascists, who I believe are a force of terrible evil.
Congratulations!

Think Tink

I was in on the Disney boycott long before the Evangelicals took it over. Disney's overly cute, bowdlerizing and dumbing-down of children's literature has had a disastrous effect on such classics as Winnie the Pooh, Bambi and Peter Pan. I stand with C.S. Lewis and Tolkein in deploring this insult to a perfectly valid literary genre.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney is now looking to expand its franchise on Tinkerbell and fairies in general:

She's spunky, sassy and dishes out attitude. But can Tinker Bell and her fairy dust captivate girls the same way Walt Disney Co.'s princesses do?

Disney repackaged Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle and the Little Mermaid into a multibillion-dollar brand called "Disney Princess" in just three years. Now it's trying to repeat that success with a new franchise starring Peter Pan's mischievous sidekick and a new gang of fairy pals.

Disney says its research shows that Tinker Bell has remained a popular character, despite little exposure in recent years. Last year's live-action movie version of "Peter Pan," which wasn't produced by Disney, did little to promote the waif. But Disney says girls and young women still warm to her "sassy" attitude, style and looks.
Look, I don't want to be guilty of snobbery here. I recognize that many people look at Disney as a truly American success story and at least part of that success is due to its unpretentious appeal to middle class tastes. I am not necessarily saying that those tastes are inherently vulgar -- often a good comic book is far more satisfying than an overly sophisticated novel. But I do believe there is the possibility in literature (or the other arts, of course) to go beyond merely satisfying an apetite to actually elevating the soul. We are simultaneously a nation of kings and a nation of grocers. My only concern is that, in promoting the latter truth, we do not completely forget the former.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Evidently the SEC has decided not to press the issue of possible insider trading in the Senate:

...[T]he authors of the study conclude that these results "suggest that senators are trading stock based on information that is unavailable to the public, thereby using their unique position to increase their personal wealth...." The study adds that it is as if "senators knew appropriate times to both buy and sell their common stock." The article quotes Ziobrowski as stating in a recent interview that "there is cheating going on, at a 99 percent level of confidence."

[...]

The article also points out that "the SEC may have little incentive to tangle with the Senate, given their relationship. Senators approve members of the SEC's governing body, as well as the agency's budget."

Food Chain: Instapundit -> Prof Bainbridge -> Securities Litigation Watch -> Philadelphia Inquirer (Subscription Required)

Just When You Thought TV Couldn't Get Worse

As many of you may know, I haven't watched TV regularly in more than 12 years. I sometimes catch a few minutes of a game or some sit-com when visiting someone else's house or as many as a few hours when visiting family (usually on holidays). Every time I tune in, I am appalled to discover that the standards which I previously thought were rock bottom have actually degraded in the intervening months.

But this is the first time I have cause to complain for what TV is not showing. Whiskey at Captain's Quarters points out that several ABC affiliates have decided not to air Saving Private Ryan due to trumped up fears of FCC Sanctions:

Many ABC affiliates around the country have announced that they won't take part in the network's Veterans Day airing of Saving Private Ryan, saying the acclaimed film's violence and language could draw sanctions from the Federal Communications Commission.
[...]
"We're just coming off an election where moral issues were cited as a reason by people voting one way or another and, in my opinion, the commissioners are fearful of the new Congress," Cole [president of an ABC affiliate] said.
I am actually having a hard time deciding what offends me more: the disingenuousness of the explanation which is similar in nature to but far greater in magnitude than the usual tripe you hear from media spokespeople; the insanity of suggesting that red-state Americans would be offended by a film honoring war heroes (I mean real war heroes that didn't throw their medals over the wall); the gall of pulling this stunt on Veterans Day of all times; the insult to our intelligence to think we would fall for this kind of crap.

After I got over my initial reaction of incredulous anger, I am left with nothing but a sickening sense of pity for these pathetic bozos that live in such a hateful, ugly, little world. If you haven't yet decided to turn off the tube for good, here's hoping this story will push you over the edge.
(The original story is from USA Today.)

US Plane Downed by Jihadists

Sort of...

(OK, I realize that the humor here is that the "plane" they downed looks like something your kid brother put together in Junior High School. But I can't help but wish these things came with some sort of self-destruct feature.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Halo2: Non-Partisan Blood Bath After All

It looks like the issue that James Lileks raised regarding the political implications of Halo2 have been cleared up:

Clearly, there are political and religious dimensions to Halo 2 that were absent from the first game. ''You could look at [the story] as a damning condemnation of the Bush administration's adventure in the Middle East,'' admits Staten.

And with that statement, all desire I had to play the game – which, believe me, was substantial – just drained away. So the Covenant is the US Military, then?
I don't really know what he is talking about here (being a Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights fan, I never got into Halo) but it does sound rather depressing for a video game to get all PC (as it were).

However, it looks like the true culprit here is (surprise!) biased reporting. Michelle Malkin has the scoop:
Staten cleared things up by posting a note on Free Republic. An excerpt:

Let me be really clear about this: there is no intentional political message in Halo2, anti-Bush or otherwise.
While I tried to be mindful of folks' sensitivities as I wrote its story, I knew that the game was going to scrutinized by a large, diverse audience, and would, therefore, be interpreted (or mis-interpreted, as the case may be) any number of different ways.

The EW journalist chose to include one of my examples of possible misinterpretation in the article, but not all of them. Most importantly, the journalist left out my closing statement: "Look, you can read anything into the story that you like - call a damning condemnation of the Bush Admnistration's adventure in the Middle-East, for example. But you'd be wrong."

In retrospect, It would have been best to give no example at all, but hindsight is 20-20...

Halo2's story is non-partisan. Any meaning you ascribe to it is yours alone.

And remember, at the end of the day, whatever some journalist says I said really doesn't matter. The proof is in the pudding. Play the game, and I think you'll see it's just that: a fun game with a good story.


Crafty bit of biased media editing of Staten's remarks, don't you think? At any rate, his response was very cool. Unfortunately, I probably won't get to play Halo2, or any other video game, until sometime after both kids have graduated from high school. Sigh. Can't wait for 2022!
I'm still not sure if I'm interested in the game, but this is surprisingly comforting.

Calvinism at the Las Vegas Airport

Yes, the title of the book is taken from the memorable seen in Hardcore where George C. Scott tries to explain TULIP to the prostitute that is helping him find his daughter.

A friendly, conversational look at what Calvinism has to say to the 21st century world, this book clears up some misconceptions about Calvinism and shows Calvinists how to live gently and respectfully with Christians who disagree as well as with non-Christians who have no clue what TULIP means.

I thought that's what I was doing...
(Via Relapsed Catholic)

Dirt Doesn't Vote: Lava Lamp Edition

Eugene Volokh points out some even cooler versions of the electoral map. These are cartograms which means that they represent population density by area deformation rather than vertical extrusion. Makes the map look kind of funky, (sort of like a badly beaten Jabberwock), but again emphasizes the point that the geographical dispersion of the red voters is not what won the election.

Repeat after me, "286:252".

The Anti-Gay Vote?

There has been a fair amount of buzz to the effect that Bush won because he (or his evil mastermind/architect Karl Rove) managed to get several state constitutional initiative baning gay marriage on the ballot. The theory seems to be that Republicans would have stayed home if not for the fact that they were up in arms over this issue. Case in point this talking point from Josh Marshall:

As many other have already noted, Rove and Co. cleverly managed to get anti-gay marriage initiatives and referenda on the ballot in a number of key swing states. And that seems to have played an key role in mobilizing 'peripheral' evangelical and culturally conservative voters.
In the article that Marshall links to the exit-poll survey number 22 crops up -- as in "22 percent of voters named "moral values" as the most important issue to them", a clear indicator to many people that gay bashing was the number one reason that Bush won.

OK, forget for a moment that these are exit polls and that they predicted a win for Kerry that was wildly off the mark. Forget also the obvious fact that in addition to sexual behavior, "moral values" include such matters as integrity and trustworthiness which have been key distinctives in the campaign against Kerry. Is it possible that these ballot initiatives really did push Bush over the top?

Early on, Andrew Sullivan seemed to think so, and has been struggling with the issue ever since. But a recent article in Slate seems to definitively debunk the notion that the Gay Marriage issue helped Bush at all. As with most statistical arguments, the reasoning may be a little hard to follow, but here is the crucial text:
The evidence that having a gay-marriage ban on the ballot increased voter turnout is spotty. Marriage-ban states did see higher turnout than states without such measures. They also saw higher increases in turnout compared with four years ago. But these differences are relatively small. Based on preliminary turnout estimates, 59.5 percent of the eligible voting population turned out in marriage-ban states, whereas 59.1 percent turned out elsewhere. This is a microscopic gap when compared to other factors. For example, turnout in battleground states was more than 7.5 points higher than it was in less-competitive states, and it increased much more over 2000 as well.

It's true that states with bans on the ballot voted for Bush at higher rates than other states. His vote share averaged 7 points higher in gay-marriage-banning states than in other states (57.9 vs. 50.9). But four years ago, when same-sex marriage was but a twinkle in the eye of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Bush's vote share was 7.3 points higher in these same states than in other states. In other words, by a statistically insignificant margin, putting gay marriage on the ballot actually reduced the degree to which Bush's vote share in the affected states exceeded his vote share elsewhere.

[...]

Much has been made of the fact that "moral values" topped the list of voters' concerns, mentioned by more than a fifth (22 percent) of all exit-poll respondents as the "most important issue" of the election. It's true that by four percentage points, people in states where gay marriage was on the ballot were more likely than people elsewhere to mention moral issues as a top priority (25.0 vs. 20.9 percent). But again, the causality is unclear. Did people in these states mention moral issues because gay marriage was on the ballot? Or was it on the ballot in places where people were already more likely to be concerned about morality?
The article goes on to point out that a far bigger reason for the Bush victory was his trustworthiness regarding the war on terror. So, once again, the evil Republican jihad seems to be a conjuration of fevered left-wing paranoia. What a relief.

Ouch

Andrew Matthews out-snarks Maureen Dowd:

In order for your concepts to have any meaning, you must assume the reality of good and evil. And these, my dear, are spiritual realities. Your pseudo-values are parasitic on the good, depending for their being on Good itself.

Have I lost you, Ms. Dowd? Neglected your St. Augustine, have you? Maybe you should read Plato on the death of Socrates before you move on to heavier things like Trinitarian monotheism. Apparently, sensitivity and familiarity with the Christian foundations of civilization are not required for Op-Ed journalism at the Times.

(Unfortunately, I can't link to the actual post, but scroll down to 11/06 and you can't miss it.)

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Black Vote

I guess I should have posted something about this closer to the election but there were other issues that I thought were more important. But it is a constant frustration to me that the Republican party does not seem to be able to make any headway among black voters. During the 2000 campaign the pundits were predicting that Bush would do well among blacks and hispanics and that proved to be woefully over-optimistic. This year, the same predictions surfaced and I took them with a grain of heard-that-before-not-holding-my-breath salt. And it looks like I was right. About 10% each time.

La Shawn Barber is also frustrated and claims that she just doesn't care any more:

So President Bush managed to garner 11 percent of the "black vote", up from 8 percent from four years ago. My opinion? I think it's a good sign. While Bush didn't need black voters to win this election, I'm sure he appreciates it nonetheless.

I'm not really excited about it or interested in trying to convince blacks to vote for Republicans. I wrote on the blog a few months ago that doing so just doesn't appeal to me anymore. Perhaps running this blog and dealing with irate black liberals has jaded me on the process. All that nonsensical tripe about voter disenfranchisement! Downright embarrassing.

[...]

Why won't they vote for the politician advocating self-improvement? Look, don't ask me. I don't know and at this point, I almost don't care.

I will do my part on this blog and through other writing to articulate why conservative policies are better for America, but at this point I'm more focused on people's spiritual condition.
I am not sure if I believe her. Her attitude is correct, of course. The spiritual dimension matters far more than the political one. And I know all about burn-out. But politics is inevitably an expression of spiritual matters and eventually something happens in the political world that makes you want to scream and you find that you really did care all along. It just comes with the territory. Salt and light and all that stuff about being sent as sheep among wolves.

Selective Memory

See if you can identify the source of this passage:

The Races of Man. — At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; The American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.
Ku Klux Klan recruitment brochure? Hitler Youth propaganda?

Nope. George Hunter's Civic Biology which was at the heart of the Scopes Monkey Trial. This is the book that the Fundamentalists didn't want taught in public schools and the Liberals did. Makes you think doesn't it?

Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy comments:
For me, this irony cuts many different ways. The ACLU and Darrow were right in principle that the legislature shouldn't be determining what is or is not good science, but the version of evolution (white genetic superiority) that was being taught in Scopes would be viewed as very bad science today. This also illustrates that the spirit of free inquiry works, not because it is always right, but because people are free to put ideas out and have them refined and corrected. [UPDATE: Here 1920s science was right about the basics of evolution, but was wrong about social Darwinism and white genetic supremacy and was immoral to advocate eugenics.] It also reminds us that eugenics was a "progressive" idea in the 1920s. Last, of course, it suggests that the enlightened are often much less enlightened than they think they are. Sometimes neither the enlightened nor the supposed unenlightened are right.
I happen to think he is wrong about the scientific worth of the evolutionary hypothesis, but his point about enlightenment is well worth noting.

Dirt Doesn't Vote: Part II

Here is a cool graphic that illustrates the vote in terms of percentages by county. Note that some "red" counties have a lot of blue in them and vice versa. Here is the same map with a vertical dimesion for population density. And here is a state-level version (without the vertical dimension).

This is a fascinating picture of the country but, as I said in my previous post, the only numbers that matter are the electoral votes. And we won those.

Update: Thanks to Daimien for the link to the state-level map and to the commentors on Michael Totten's page for the county-level ones.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Suppose Van Gogh had had a gun...

...I'm not saying. I'm just saying.

Van Gogh, 47, a great grandnephew of the painter Vincent van Gogh, had received death threats after his recent film sharply criticized how women are treated under Islam. He was repeatedly shot and stabbed. "Don't do it. Don't do it. Have mercy. Have mercy!" the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper quoted Van Gogh as begging his killer.

(Or suppose the witnesses, who are reporting his last words, had been armed and ready to defend him...)

UPDATE: Just noticed this bit from further down in the article:
Van Gogh, an award-winning filmmaker, television producer and newspaper columnist, once mocked a prominent Dutch Jew, referred to Jesus as "the rotten fish" of Nazareth and called a radical Muslim politician "Allah's pimp."
So he insults Jews, Christians and Muslims. Pretend you don't already know the answer and ask yourself: which group would you bet would be the first to try to off him?

Uh huh. Thought so. So much for moral equivalence.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Dirt Doesn't Vote (And Other Startling Facts)

Something that has bugged me since the 2000 election is the popularity of the County by County election map. Now we have a new one for 2004. Yes, I know it is a striking image but what does it mean? That Bush won all but a few little blue specks?

Look, those blue specks, though they are small in geographic area, still represent about half of the vote. All of those red counties had Kerry supporters in them. And the whole thing includes about 45% of the population that couldn't be bothered or was ineligible to vote. I voted for Bush. I'm glad he won. I think he needs to take that victory and use it to advance the conservative cause. But lets not get drunk on self-congratulation.

A similar meme that people who ought to know better are touting is the fact that Bush received more popular votes than any president in history. Yeah? And Kerry got more votes this year than Bush got in 2000. And Jimmy Carter got more votes in 1980 than George Washington got in both 1789 and 1792.

The only numbers that matter are 286 and 252.

I Noticed This Too...

..the fact that, on election night, the networks were not calling states for Bush when other states had been called with similar margins and less %precincts reporting. But I am glad to have confirmation from someone like Joe Trippi:

Throughout the day yesterday, Joe Trippi--no Republican--repeatedly expressed puzzlement at the networks' failure to call President Bush as the winner of various states. He would point out that Bush was farther ahead in some states, with more of the vote in and with the trend running toward the President, than other states that had already been called for Kerry.
Actually, even states that had few electoral votes were being called for Bush before other states that had more. My theory is that the networks were trying to keep the drama going so that people would continue to watch their coverage rather than go to bed. But I suspect that would not have been a factor if there had been a clear win for Kerry.

One particularly egregious example was that New Mexico was not called for Bush around 1:00 AM PST even when 103% of the precincts were in. Obviously there was some screw-up with the absentee precincts (this happens frequently) but it is hard to see how such a race could still be in doubt.

The Spectre of Republican Obstructionism

Having defeated Senate minority leader and "Obstructionist in Chief" Tom Daschle the Republican majority in the Senate seems determined to squander any advantage such a victory might entail. Bork-basher and "moderate" Republican Senator Arlen Specter is being considered for head of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

The Republican expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee next year bluntly warned newly re-elected President Bush today against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation.

[...]

While Specter is a loyal Republican -- Bush endorsed him in a tight Pennsylvania GOP primary -- he routinely crosses party lines to pass legislation and counts a Democrat, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, as one of his closest friends.

A self-proclaimed moderate, he helped kill President Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court and of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. Specter called both nominees too extreme on civil rights issues. Sessions later became a Republican senator from Alabama and now sits on the Judiciary Committee with Specter.

OK, I'm all for separation of powers and I don't want the Congress to be a rubber stamp for the White House. Also, I don't think that overturning Roe should be a primary purpose for nominating strict constructionists. (It will, of course be the result!) But anyone familiar with the Bork nomination knows that when people say they want to protect Roe v Wade, they really mean that no judge who adheres to a strict constructionist interpretation will be considered.

Yesterday I said that we would see in the coming months whether the Republican party really believes that conservative principles are beneficial to the country. It looks like I was being generous. Maybe we should just start holding our breaths now?

Via Todd Zywicki at the Conspiracy, who comments:
With Justice Rehnquist ailing, it is always fun to think of ways that Republicans can mess up their current situation, especially on judicial nominations. Let's see, the White House, 55(!) Senators--seems almost impossible to mess up. Now I have to admit that putting Trent Lott in charge a few years back was a pretty inspired move to make sure that Republicans could scuttle their own success, but can they repeat that bold stroke again? Wait, I have an idea--how about making Arlen Specter Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee! First, the President could campaign for him to make sure that he wins his primary against his conservative challenger, then when he gets reelected, the first he could do is to tell the President not to nominate conservative judges. Making Specter Chair of the Judiciary Committee seems like a boneheaded move that only the Republicans could think up in terms of how to blow the benefit of their majority.

Last time I checked, the President still had the power of judicial nominations and the Senate at least vaguely resembled a democracy. It would be ironic if South Dakota tossed Tom Daschle at least in part on his obstructionism on judicial nominations, only to find Arlen Specter serving as the Democrats bag man in the Senate.


UPDATE: Hmm. Specter denies making the comments:
"Contrary to press accounts, I did not warn the President about anything and was very respectful of his Constitutional authority on the appointment of federal judges.

"As the record shows, I have supported every one of President Bush’s nominees in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue and, as the record shows, I have voted to confirm Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice O’Connor, and Justice Kennedy and led the fight to confirm Justice Thomas.

"I have already sponsored a protocol calling for a Judiciary Committee hearing within thirty days of a nomination, a vote out of Committee thirty days later, and floor action thirty days after that. I am committed to such prompt action by the Committee on all of President Bush’s nominees.

"In light of the repeated filibusters by the Democrats in the last Senate session, I am concerned about a potential repetition of such filibusters. I expect to work well with President Bush in the judicial confirmation process in the years ahead."
Via McGhee at blogoSFERICS

Arafat: Pining for the Fjords?

What is it about dictators that no one can tell when they are dead? Remember all the Soviet presidents that dropped out of the public eye with "head colds"? Now Arafat is in a French hospital and no one can seem to confirm his status. According to Reuters and the Guardian, Israeli news is claiming he is clinically dead but the Palestinians deny it:

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was determined to be clinically dead on Thursday in a French hospital, Israel's Channel Two television said citing French sources.
But Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie denied the report, saying: "I have just spoken to the officials in Paris and they say the situation is still as it was. He is still in the intensive care unit." [Reuters]

President Bush says "God bless his soul". I say, what took so long? And when is Castro's turn coming?


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Balance of Power

Well, the Republican party has held on to the executive branch and has increased its hold on the legislative. According to CNN, Republicans gained at least 2 (and possibly 4) seats in the Senate, bringing the total to 53 to 44 with 2 undecided. They have gained 4 seats in the house (231 to 200 with 1 independent and 3 undecided) and had no net gains or losses to the control over state governorships (28 to 21, 1 undecided). And, of course, Bush defeated Kerry with 286 electoral votes and 51% of the popular vote. So it would appear that conservatives now have the capacity to undo a great deal of the damage that the left has caused to this country and no excuses for failing to make the attempt.

Of course, this was largely true four years ago as well. I don't want to dampen the justifiable enthusiasm that Republicans are feeling at the moment, but when the euphoria wears off in a week or two, we will still have a country to run.

I trust President Bush to prosecute the War on Terror and to keep taxes low. But we also need to cut domestic spending and do something to restrain the judiciary (the one branch of government where conservatives are not obviously in control). Now that reelection is not an issue for Bush, he needs to challenge Congress to approve (or at least bring to a vote) his judicial nominees and he needs to lead his majority to return to a policy of fiscal responsibility.

If conservatives really believe that small government is good for the the country, they will see that these moves will ensure a strong prospect for continued political dominance. The actions of the Republicans in the next few months will be the test of whether they actually do believe that.

UPDATE: Eh. While I was writing that, the two undecided Senate seats have come in for the Republicans. The score is now 55-44 with one independent.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Third Party Strategy

I have been registered to vote as American Independent Party (a basically theonomic party which also goes by the name of Constitution or Taxpayers party in other states) for at least 10 years. I don't have much hope that they will win and I usually vote Republican unless the candidate is so bad I can't in good conscience support him/her. But I have always argued that the better strategy would be not to run a presidential candidate but to try to get our people elected to state and US Congressional offices. This would give us some leverage in national elections, especially when it was a close race, and we could use that leverage if not to win the presidency, at least to influence White House policy. An emailer to Ramesh Ponnuru makes a similar point at The Corner:

"Ramesh makes a good point (in his noon post) concerning 3d parties. But, the one thing I don't hear anyone address is why all these 3d parties run for President, but don't (normally, except for California) run for Congress or the Senate. It would seem that a 3d party with a serious long-range view, would concentrate national resources on winning a couple of Congressional seats a year. Then (after 10 or so wins) they would try to get a few senators elected. Think of the power 5 Senators would have if they were conservative (actually, the power would be the same no matter their leanings, I would just like it more if they were conservative), and the Senate was nominally split down the middle. Now, they could run a presidential campaign, and use their electoral votes to influence things."

NOTE: In the interest of precision, I want to point out that I don't agree with all of the positions of the AIP. I think the anti-immigration plank of their (our?) platform is unbiblical as well as imprudent. But I like the idea of Christians forming independent coalitions with the governing party, rather than giving blank-check endorsement by joining its ranks. And I think the above-mentioned strategy makes more sense than continually spending money and effort trying to win a presidential race that everyone knows is currently impossible.

Conservative Ghost Stories?

This post should have been made on Halloween, but I didn't read John Miller's article in time. But since it deals with Russell Kirk, perhaps it will fit with All Saint's day instead:

As one of the great conservative minds of the 20th century, Kirk is best known as a founding intellectual of a modern political movement. When he wasn't writing books about Edmund Burke or columns for National Review, however, he was scribbling away for publications such as Fantasy and Science Fiction, London Mystery Magazine, and New Terrors. In 1958, T. S. Eliot wrote to him: "How amazingly versatile and prolific you are! Now you have written what I should have least expected of you — ghost stories!"

[...]

Kirk deserves a place alongside the classic authors of supernatural fiction, such as Algernon Blackwood, H. P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Edgar Allen Poe. The books of these writers are still in print, and are usually found on the "horror" shelves at mainstream bookstores.

What sets Kirk apart from most genre writers, however, is a sharp moral imagination. "The better uncanny stories are underlain by a healthy concept of the character of evil," he wrote in a short essay that is included in Off the Sand Road. "Defying nature, the necromancer conjures up what ought not to rise again this side of Judgment Day. But those dark powers do not rule the universe: by bell, book, and candle, symbolically at least, we can push them down under."
Every time I turn around, I find more reasons to like this guy. I have read Roots of American Order and found it to be a book I would like to have written myself. Now, I find that Kirk also shared my other passion for the Horror/Fantasy genre. My favorite quote is the following:
Kirk seemed to think that conservatives especially would appreciate ghostly fiction, given its requirement that readers acknowledge their inability to know all things — a foundational principle of modern conservatism. "Mine was not an enlightened mind," Kirk once wrote, "it was a Gothic mind, medieval in it temper and structure. I did not love cold harmony and perfect regularity of organization; what I sought was variety, mystery, tradition, the venerable, the awful. I despised sophisters and calculators; I was groping for faith, honor, and prescriptive loyalties. I would have given any number of neo-classical pediments for one poor battered gargoyle."
That, in a nutshell, is exactly what this blog is all about.

Post Tenebras Lux

The first Carnival of the Reformation is up at Jollyblogger. Not only has David Wayne done a monumental lot of work in organizing and collating this event, but he has actually found time to comment on each of the entries! Here is what he has to say about my humble entry:

There's a new R. C. in town, in fact, his initials are R. C. S. But this is R. C. Smith, not R. C. Sproul. He has the Jack of Clubs blog and enters this carnival with his post titled Sola Scriptura and Theonomy. He has some affinities with the other R. C.'s in that he speaks his mind plainly and he argues his case very biblically, confessionally and logically. In this post, he is attempting to apply the principle of Sola Scriptura to political theory, and he is applying through the grid of theonomy. If you are not familiar with the term "theonomy" it is a compound of the Greek words for "God" and "Law," and, as a movement has been chiefly concerned with the application of the Old Testament law to modern civil government. Theonomy has suffered at the hands of its advocates and critics. Some of it's advocates have been extremists who are, frankly, rather scary. On the other hand, many of its critics have failed to read the better theonomists and have criticized a caricature of the movement. This is why it is a good idea to read Jack of Clubs. He is a thoughtful theonomist who argues his case very well. In this carnival entry, he offers some good insights into the theonomic movement itself (insights which the critics need to read) and some worthy applications of the doctrine of sola scriptura to politics.
Such high praise (especially from someone who claims not to be particularly enamoured of my point of view) is rather intoxicating. Everyone involved owes David a huge amount of thanks for all his work.

The next Carnival will be on 12/20/04 and, appropriate to the Christmas season, will be on the theme of Solus Christus. Entries are due 12/16 at 6:00 PM EST.

UPDATE: For those curious about the title of the carnival, it is latin for "After darkness, light." It is the caption on the Wall of the Reformers in Geneva.

Counting on Stupidity

A couple of weeks ago, I received an emal pointing to this site asking (ostensibly) for the help of all conservative bloggers in debunking some anti-bush documents:

You exposed RatherGate by proving the CBS documents were fake -- nice work! But now the liberals have found a bunch more documents so our work is not done. Let's get to work proving that these are fake, too!

[...]

Are there any other fake documents we are missing? Please send them to us so we can post them on this site for conservative bloggers to debunk.

Don't lose faith! Some conservatives don't think it is possible to debunk these documents. But real Bush supporters know that anything is possible with a president as great as ours.
I didn't think much about this, but it sounded a bit suspicious. But, mainly because I am usually more critical of the inappropriate tactics of my own side, my first reaction was irritation at my fellow conservatives. It only vaguely occured to me that this might be a ploy by the left to discredit both Bush and the blogosphere in general. Maybe I should turn in my pajamas for not following up on the matter as BlogCritics evidently did.

But now these operatives have gone one step further by sending out the following email, less than a week before the election (my email was dated Thursday, 10/28):
A week ago, we sent you an email asking for help debunking anti-Bush documents. After receiving hundreds of responses, it become clear that all the documents were actually real: the Bush/Cheney DUIs, the Ken Lay letters, and even the bin Laden memo.

[...]

We also received hundreds of emails from concerned bloggers that
eloquently expressed the problems with the Bush administration. And as we traveled across America campaigning for Bush, we learned more than we wanted to know about Bush's policies. We came to see that this administration is a catastrophe for most people.

As a result, we are abandoning our support of Bush and officially
endorsing John Kerry for President.

[...]

We deeply regret our misguided support and apologize for our previous email. This will be the last email we will send directly to bloggers.
Now, I have nothing against satire, but this seems to pretty clearly cross the line into outright lying. I have plenty of faith that most of my fellow conservatives will not be taken in by this tactic, but it strikes me that the left probably does think we are stupid enough to fall for it. And the blandishments in the first email, praising the blogosphere for exposing the Rathergate memos, is even more insulting.

Democracy can only work if the people have a general sense of confidence that the system works. It doesn't seem to have occured to these people that, if their tactics had worked, they would essentially be destroying the only point in winning the election: the improvement of our government and the betterment of our country.

This whole thing leaves a rather sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. If this is really what we have come to, the God help us. But I'm not quite ready to entertain such a low opinion of my fellow Americans.

NOTE: A commentor at BlogCritics points out that the Republicans are equally guilty of this sort of thing at Communists For Kerry, which was aparently taken seriously by Fox News. I don't think this is quite the same, since the satire is much more obvious and I haven't heard of any similar deceptive email campaigns. But then, I wouldn't have gotten those emails anyway, so you be the judge.

New Blog Alert

My friend Andrew Matthews has joined the blogosphere at Unpopular Opinions. As a fellow Calvinist, Theonomist and Reformed Episcopalian, his blog is almost guaranteed to live up to its name. (That will all have to change, of course, when we take over the world. Bwahaha. But for the forseeable future, I think he's pretty safe.)

Andy has come out swinging with the following list of assertions:

1. Divine government is monarchical.

2. Human authority is derived from and patterned after the divine monarchy.

3. Jesus Christ is now both de jure and de facto King of kings.

4. The New Covenant is a universal administration of God's kingdom that encompasses all human societies, including the nations.

5. Enlightenment revolutionism (whether American, French, or Bolshevik) is the political expression of anti-Christ.

6. Religious sectarianism is the ecclesiastical counterpart to political revolutionism and is the religious expression of anti-Christ.

7. Christendom is roughly equivalent to the visible kingdom of Christ.

8. The Church's task is to disciple all nations in the obedience of Christ. This is an essential aspect of catholic Christianity.
I have already hinted at my response to this view at the end of my Sola Scriptura post in the Liberty sub-section. But I have no doubt that this will be an ongoing debate, to which I certainly look forward.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Andy!