Thursday, December 08, 2005

Blood and Ballots

More evidence that the Arab world doesn't quite get the whole democracy/rule-of-law thing:

ZAGAZIG, Egypt -- Police barricaded polling stations and fired tear gas and rubber bullets yesterday to keep supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood from voting in the final day of parliamentary elections. At least eight persons were killed, including a 14-year-old boy.

Supporters of the banned Brotherhood fought back, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails and cornering security forces in some towns.

Hundreds have been wounded and more than 1,000 arrested, mainly supporters of the fundamentalist Brotherhood, which -- while banned -- has fielded candidates as independents.


Government supporters armed with machetes emerged from a police armored car in this Nile Delta city and attacked supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the government's main rival in the voting.


Independent monitors and human rights groups have reported numerous irregularities, including busing of state employees to polling stations, tampering with ballot boxes and blockading of polling stations.
I'm no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood, but it's hard to find any good guys to root for here. One rule of thumb: "machetes" and "voting" just don't belong in the same sentence.

UPDATE: Michael J. Totten visits Big Pharaoh in Egypt and provides some sobering thoughts along the same lines. There plenty to read but here are my two favorite points:
"You’re not worried about the secret police?"
"Not any more," he said. "It is a real change from last year. Last year there was no way. But it’s better now, more open. Do you know why?"
"No," I said. "Tell me."
"Because of pressure from George W. Bush."
That is the only piece of good news I have to report from Egypt.
And, furhter down:
"At some point," I said, "if you want to live in a democracy you’re going to have to accept the fact that conservative religious political parties exist. You may never like them, but they won’t always be a terrorist threat. Democracy has mellowed out the Islamists in Turkey, for example."
"Yes," he said. "But Turkey has a secular constitution. They want to enter the EU, so the Islamists are forced to play by the rules of the game. They cannot step on the freedoms that the Turkish people take for granted. The Egyptian people, though, since the time of the Pharaohs, have been a flock. They follow the shepherd."
"My biggest fear," he continued, "is that if the Muslim Brotherhood rules Egypt we will get Islamism-lite, that they won’t be quite bad enough that people will revolt against them. Take bars, for example. Most Egyptians don’t drink, so they won’t mind if alcohol is illegal. The same goes for banning books. Most Egyptians don’t read. So why should they care if books are banned? Most women wear a veil or a headscarf already, so if it becomes the law hardly anyone will resist."

Red Diamonds and Yellow Stars

I mentioned here and here the insanity about trying to remove the Red Cross symbol from aid packages in Muslim countries due to the danger of anti-Christian terrorist attacks. Now we have an anti-Semitic angle from the Geneva Convention:

A diamond-shaped red crystal on a white background is to join the Red Cross and the Red Crescent as an emblem for ambulances and relief workers.
Geneva Convention member states voted by a two-thirds majority for the symbol, ending a decades-old row and opens the way for Israel to join.

Israel had been denied entry because its Red Shield was not approved.
There is more background here. Frankly I don't see any valid reason for the use of the Red Crescent, since the original symbol of the cross comes from the Swiss flag, not the religious symbol. But even acknowledging that the organization was deeply influenced by its founders religious faith, there is no reason to exclude the Star of David, if the Crescent is to be included. And the idea that the new symbol "is regarded as being free from religious, national or cultural connotations" is incoherent when you consider the national and religious significance of the other two symbols.

I suppose from a practical perspective the inclusion of Israel is a step in the right direction, even under such odious terms. But I can't help thinking that when the Nazis wanted to degrade the Jews, they made them wear little yellow stars. Ironically, that would have offended modern-day anti-Semites, but for all the wrong reasons.

(Via Tammy Bruce and CUANAS)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Church Beats State in Hurricane Relief

My instinct in this post that the proper source of aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina was the church not the government was evidently correct:

Louisiana residents gave churches higher marks than government agencies in responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and most prefer that the federal government control rebuilding funds rather than local officials, according to a Louisiana State University study.

On a scale of one (not effective) to 10 (very effective), residents gave churches the highest mark of 8.1, and New Orleans city agencies and state agencies received the lowest rating of 4.6.
Sadly, the same residents also draw the wrong lesson about federalism:
The majority of Louisianans, 54 percent, said the federal government should pick up the tab for rebuilding, and a 40 percent plurality said they trusted the federal government to have primary control over how funds are spent.

Only 23 percent said local governments should control the purse strings, and 27 percent favored the state as the watchdog.
This probably reflects the legendary corruption of Louisiana politicians and is probably an accurate reflection of the situation there. But it is unfortunate that people seem incapable of seeing the desirability of smaller government, even in the same breath that they recognize that government does not handle social and charitable issues well.

I have said this before, of course, but it bears repeating: if people paid less money in taxes, there would be more available for charitable giving. Many argue that disaster relief requires the efficiency of centralized planning, but this experience with Katrina should prove the flaw in that argument. Should, but probably won't, alas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Keep Up Pressure on Sudan

iAbolish reports that the Bush administration has upgraded Sudan's status to Tier II on the Trafficking in Persons report:

In a recent decision, President Bush and the State Department elevated Sudan’s status on the Trafficking in Persons Report from Tier III (the lowest possible ranking), to Tier II. Despite continued government support and orchestration of slave raids, Sudan now shares the ranking with countries such as Switzerland, Chile, Hungary, and Greece.

Although the State Department justifies this decision by citing “significant efforts” on the part of the Sudanese government to comply with United States anti-trafficking legislation, human rights activists challenge this determination, claiming that the meager proof offered by the State Department does not amount to “significant efforts.”
They have an on-line petition here where interested parties can sign the following letter to Secretary Rice:
Dear Madam Secretary,

I write regarding Presidential Determination, No. 2005-37, dated September 21, 2005, to elevate Sudan's slavery status from Tier III to Tier II of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

Although I greatly appreciate the personal attention you devote to ending the genocide in Sudan and admire the courage you demonstrated while visiting dangerous camps in Darfur, I am very concerned about the recent decision to elevate Sudan's status to Tier II of the TIP Report, the same level as Switzerland, Finland, Israel, Greece, Hungary and Chile.

The Memorandum of Justification accompanying the Presidential Determination states:

"The Government of Sudan does not yet fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance. This is the standard for placement in Tier II of the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report. The Secretary of State has placed Sudan on the Special Watch List because the determination that the Government of Sudan is making significant efforts is based on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year."

This decision is fundamentally flawed. The available evidence from the UN points to the Government of Sudan's continuing involvement in crimes against humanity, including "abductions and sexual slavery." In conclusion, I recommend the immediate reversal of the flawed decision.

The establishment of a new coalition government in Khartoum presents fresh opportunities for the eradication of slavery. We therefore urge you to liase with Sudan's new First Vice-President and regional President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir - whose own relatives and community number among the victims of slavery - to find a credible approach to terminating, for all time, the horrors of state-sponsored slavery in Sudan.

I stand behind you, Madam Secretary, as you work to bring peace to Sudan. But I feel obliged to remind you that lasting peace can only be based on truth and justice. Peace in Sudan will never be secure as long as the interests of the slaves and other victims of terror are sacrificed for certain foreign policy objectives, such as preserving the unity of the Islamist-dominated Sudanese state and gaining the cooperation of that officially designated "terrorist" state as a partner in counter-terrorism.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Nigeria! Nigeria! Nigeria!

This is so cool:

In an historic moment, as part of the realignment of global Anglicanism, on November 12, 2005 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Rev. Leonard W. Riches, Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and the Most Rev. Walter H. Grundorf, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of America, entered on behalf of their three Churches a Covenant Union of Anglican Churches in Concordat.
OK, that probably doesn't sound so impressive to those of you who haven't been following the shake-up in the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA). What it means, in simple terms, is that the biggest communion of Anglicans on the planet (Nigeria), with the most kick-ass Archbishop (Peter Akinola), has formally recognized my denomination (REC) and seriously dissed ECUSA. The REC has long been considered a sort of poor step-sister to ECUSA because we are smaller and evangelical, whereas they are big and apostate. This is equivalent to Isaac choosing Jacob over Esau, or Israel choosing Ephraim over Manasseh. It is like the English ousting James II and restoring the protestants William and Mary.

It is especially a kick in the pants for ECUSA since their former poster-boy, John Shelby Spong, once famously dismissed the African bishops as having "moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity." Well, now those same bishops are joining with the REC to evangelize the apostate West: "The three Churches have united specifically for joint mission in North America."


I apologize for the unwonted exuberance of this post, but I have been praying for this for a very long time.

(Note: I don't mean to leave the Anglican Province in America out of the mix. The REC and the APA are in full communion. We are on the road to an actual merger but there are some minor issues, such as Mariology, that are acting as speed-bumps. Nothing serious, but worth taking time over. So, when I say "my denomination", I assume that will eventually include the APA, as well.)

Update: The link to the quoted article above goes to the REC main web site. There evidently isn't a way to link to the article itself, so it may eventually become outdated.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Comments Enabled

Against my better judgment, I have finally decided to break down and enable comments on this blog. My original objections were that comments take away from the focus of a blog and that the top bloggers (such as Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit and the Volokh Conspiracy) did not have comments. But I have found that recently, I spend more time commenting on other blogs than blogging here, so my first argument falls somewhat flat. And I have pretty much stopped reading Sullivan, and Volokh has been enabling comments for some time now, so the second argument is much shakier than it used to be. So starting now, I will be enabling comments until further notice.

I will update this post with my comment/email policy as soon as I have time to think about it some more. But let me say, by way of guidelines, that I want thoughtful comments along the lines of those at Althouse or the Volokh Conspiracy. I don't want the sort on Little Green Footballs. If you can't tell the difference, you probably shouldn't be commenting.

Pastorius on ID

My friend Pastorius cites this story about the Vatican denying that ID is science. I would have thought that the whole Galileo episode would have taught the Vatican to stay out of questions of what is and isn't science, but apparently they feel the need to make up for the former error by falling off the other side of the horse.

Regardless, Pastorius comments:

In science, it doesn't much matter if God created the universe or not. Scientists still have to use the scientific method to figure out how things work. If, instead, a scientist looks at an organic process, and simply says, "It works that way, because God created it," then that's the end of science.
My responses are on his comments section, but I thought I should post the latter one here as well, since he is asking for sources showing that ID really does science:
Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box and the various books by William Dembski (especially The Design Revolution) are good places to start. These are popular description of ID, though, so they qualify more as meta-science rather than actual science (in the same way that Origin of the Species or The Blind Watchmaker are not science but meta-science.)

For articles, I would recommend this analysis of The Scientific Status of Intelligent Design. It is rather long and some of the points are more philosophical than scientific, but the gist is that ID and Darwinism use essentially the same methodology. I am comfortable with the charge that this doesn't prove that ID is scientific, (they might both be unscientific), but at least it is relevant to the question of whether ID should be taught in schools.

Here is a list of peer-reviewed scientific articles on the subject of ID. Note that not all of the articles mentioned are by members of the ID movement. Unfortunately, the actual articles are not linked to, just the summaries, but you can see by the description that they are the standard sort of thing you find in scientific analysis.

This sort of begs the question at hand since it basically answers the question, "What is science?" by stating, "Science is the stuff that scientists do." This has a disturbingly circular ring to it as well as invoking the spectre of an appeal to authority that Galileo would no doubt find humorous. Nevertheless this does seem to be only definitive way to answer the question. Any attempt to define science rigorously will run into the problem of who is doing the defining, which is pretty much at the center of the ID debate.

Shi'ite Torture Cell in Baghdad

This is disturbing:

U.S. and Iraqi forces raided a secret Iraqi detention bunker run by the Ministry of Interior in central Baghdad and freed 173 Sunni prisoners who had been tortured with electric shocks and drills, Iraqi and U.S. officials said yesterday.

The Ministry of Interior in the Shi'ite-led government has been repeatedly accused of allowing extrajudicial detentions and abuses, including operation of anti-Sunni hit squads.

A Baghdad police official said officers from the Shi'ite-led Badr Brigade, which answers to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) political party, were manning the bunker when the U.S. and Iraqi forces arrived.


In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli called for those responsible to be held accountable.

"We don't practice torture, and we don't believe that others should practice torture," he said. "So when there are cases of people being accused of torture, we take that seriously."


The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice, together with the U.S. Embassy and multinational forces in Iraq, have offered to assist in the investigation.
The main reason I think the war in Iraq was just -- the deposition of Hussein and his torture state -- is going to fall apart if the Shi'ites we put in power start behaving in the same despicable manner. I am glad to see that the State Department is denouncing this in no uncertain terms and that the FBI an JD are on the case. But the important thing will be how this plays in Iraq and whether or not there is sufficient follow-through. If this isn't stopped immediately, we lose.

UPDATE: Disturbingly, this news is two days old and I don't see much buzz about this. Several MSM sources (including Drudge) have carried the story but not with any great prominence and none of the major blogs have so much as mentioned it. IraqTheModel is the only one I can find who has anything to say about this. Even Belgravia Dispatch and Andrew Sullivan, who are quick to point out the questionable activities of the CIA have not mentioned this as far as I can tell.
Here is the Washington Times noting the pushback from the Iraqi Interior Minister. Also, note the possible Iran connection.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Anchoress Spanks Republican Leaders

In a post titled Attention GOP Leadership the Anchoress makes some points that I have been stewing about for weeks:

The world is tilting, and you useless, ineffectual, dithering moneysuckers seem increasingly to be empty suits, given shape and movement not by ideas and a willingness to serve the electorate, but by wispy tufts of ambitious smoke. You seem directed toward nothing more than keeping your almighty Senate or House seat in your name. You give away your power, you give away your advantages in committee, you leave in place utterly feckless people like Arlen Specter and then, when you finally seem like you are on the cusp of doing something productive and right, like investigating the CIA or okaying drilling in a bare, muddly, uninhabitable tundra, you fall into a faint and go slinking back to your states and districts to gladhand and pump for money and then gladhand some more.
This is harsh rhetoric, but it perfectly captures the frustration that many principled conservatives feel with our unprincipled representatives. More, their lack of principle is reflecting badly on us -- unfairly, since politicians are rarely as interested in principle as their intellectual defenders, but inevitably.

In an update, the Anchoress claims that this disaffection from the GOP is different from criticisms of the Harriet Miers nomination. But I think she was wrong to object to the treatment of Miers, "due to her not being permitted her hearing". Miers and Bush were not owed any such hearing. People voicing their opiinion is precisely the data that Senators should have taken into account in making their decision whether or not to confirm, and the fact that the opinions expressed caused Bush to withdraw the nomination is a perfectly acceptable outcome.

Robertson on Intelligent Design

Tammy Bruce rightly excoriates this bit of idiocy from Pat Robertson:

Conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them on Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.
One of the irritating things about this is that, by associating Intelligent Design with Christianity (if that is what you call the worldly and mendacious religion that he practices), Robertson is actually feeding the very slander that critics of ID have so successfully achieved. Michael Behe and William Dembski have gone to great lengths to demonstrate that what they do is legitimate science and has no basis in any religion, Christian or otherwise. Then along comes Robertson and pisses it all away by calling down the wrath of God.

He is even wrong from a theological point of view. Here is his actual quote:
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.
Even assuming that Robertson had the authority to speak on God's behalf (which I categorically deny), this is just not a biblical view of God's judgment. Telling people not to turn to God has no precedent in even the harshest prophets of the Old Testament.

It is true that God will sometimes respond to extreme unfaithfulness with and implacable justice which he declares in advance will not be remitted. I am currently teaching a study on the book of the prophet Hosea who had the thankless task of telling the Northern kingdom of Israel that their doom was fixed. Chapter 1 contains one of the two or three scariest passages in the entire bible: "Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away." [Hos 1:6] Yet, in several times throughout the book, Hosea is careful to say that, after the judgment has occurred and the people are repentant "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him." [Hos 14:4] (If you want a more complete discussion of this book, you will have to show up at St. Luke's. :)

Tammy comments:
Just as we demand that "modern" Muslims condemn the extremists in their midst, good Christians really ought to send Robertson packing. This is just ridiculous and should embarrass every decent person of faith out there. Absolutely outrageous.
I agree. One minor quibble with Tammy's post, however. Many conservative Christians do deplore Robertson and Falwell and do so as publicly as we are able. However, our objections do not make the front pages -- much less the careful, thoughtful and constructive contributions we make in our churches and daily lives. I am not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but I have become convinced that Robertson and his ilk are useful to the MSM precisely because they show Christianity in a bad light. Sending him packing would be a dream come true for many of us, but is not a very realistic option in the current environment.

Update: Incidentally, here is what Michael Behe has to say about the court case (mentioned in the article):
As far as the "ordeal" goes, despite what the LA Times article makes it seem, it was actually all rather exhilirating. I rather enjoyed myself on the witness stand, because I got to explain in very great detail the argument for intelligent design, and the other side had to sit there and listen.

The cross examination was fun too, and showed that the other side really does have only rhetoric and bluster. At one point the lawyer for the other side who was cross examining me ostentatiously piled a bunch of papers on the witness stand that putatively had to do with the evolution of the immune system. But it was obvious from a cursory examination that they were more examples of hand waving speculations, which I had earlier discussed in my direct testimony. So I was able to smile and say that they had nothing more to say than the other papers. I then thought to myself, that here the NCSE, ACLU, and everyone in the world who is against ID had their shot to show where we were wrong, and just trotted out more speculation. It actually made me feel real good about things.

From what I read from Casey's blog about Scott Minnich's testimony, he seemed to have the same experience. I haven't the foggiest idea how the Judge will rule, but I think we got to show a lot of people that ID is a very serious idea.

Support Free Speech: Kill HR 4194

RedState and DailyKos have co-authored a letter to congress urging the defeat of HR 4194 which has been offered as an alternative to the Online Freedom of Speech Act (H.R. 1606):

As bloggers from the right and left, we don't often agree on much. But when it comes to free speech online, we couldn't agree more.


For those members committed to extending the BCRA rules and regulations to the Internet, it would be preferable to pass no bill at all rather than H.R. 4194, which would only chill free speech and technological growth, and instead wait for the Federal Election Commission to complete its current rulemaking process.

Better still would be to pass H.R. 1606, the Online Freedom of Speech Act. H.R. 1606 would preserve the status quo which governed the 2004 election cycle, during which none of the fears now trumpeted by H.R. 4194's supporters came to pass.


In sum, the Internet now fulfills through technology what the rest of campaign finance reform attempts via law - and this occurred under the legal regime which H.R. 1606 seeks to codify. We urge you to proceed cautiously, and steer clear of additional restrictions like H.R. 4194 until real corruption becomes evident.
Personally, I would rather repeal the entire McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance law and (all similar laws) and simply let people decide for themselves what to think. I don't believe money really has such an impact on elections, even in traditional media, as we are generally led to believe.

But since such a repeal is probably not politically possible in the near future, at least we should prevent Congress from extending the restrictions on free speech to the one internet.

(Cross posted on Love America First)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Alito on Casey

Most commentators have rightly recognized that the battle for the confirmation of Samuel Alito will center on his dissent in Planned Parenthood v Casey. Tammy Bruce, who is mildly supportive of the nomination with some reservations, has this to say:

Let me say immediately I was disappointed he did not pick a woman. I realize many of you think it makes no difference, but I beg to differ. All people in important positions also serve as role models. If the president were to have picked a woman, a conservative woman of course, it would have sent an additional message that women can think in a variety of different ways. That is one reason why the Dems become especially apoplectic when it comes to women who dare to be different. It is the reason why Barbara Boxer treated Secretary Rice so badly during her confirmation hearing. They can not stand women who challenge the Left's status quo, who dare to leave their plantation.


And when it comes to being conservative, there is nothing conservative about ruling in a manner that says government has a right to control communications between spouses. I think all of you would certainly agree with that. And yet consider this when it came to his dissent in Planned Parenthood Vs. Casey:

In the early 1990s, Alito was the lone dissenter in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case in which the 3rd Circuit struck down a Pennsylvania law that included a provision requiring women seeking abortions to notify their spouses.

While many of you probably would, of course, personally prefer that a woman tell her husband what she's doing, especially if she's getting an abortion, legislating what a wife or husband should tell each other is the opposite of a conservative view of government. Obviously, he's pro-life, and that's fine. But that's a religious position, not an authentically conservative 'political' position. The two are very different.

At any rate, the president is in for a fight, and Alito is a smart man and a good jurist in general. His action in Casey indicates that he thinks government has a right to reach into our lives. That is troubling when it comes to a decision like Kelo and our private property rights.

Harry Reid isn't happy, so that's one excellent sign that Alito is overall a good choice. We shall see.
Here is my response, which I also posted as a comment on Tammy's blog:
I am also mildly disappointed that a conservative woman was not nominated, not for affirmative action-type reasons but for the simple political calculation that it would improve the image of the Republican Party among those who care about such things. Also it would be a huge thumb in the eye of the opposition.

But I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Alito's role in PP v Casey. His dissent was perfectly justifiable on conservative principles, in both a substantive and legal sense.

Substantively, it has always been the case that government has some role in defining the behavior of married couples. Consider the case of jointly buying a house. I could not legally sell my house without my wife's consent. There are probably other restrictions as well that I am not aware of. Note, incidentally, that this is quite apart from any moral or religious considerations. Marriage is, among other things, a public and legal relationship, which the government has an interest in regulating. While you rightly suggest that governmental interference should be minimal -- and we can agree to disagree on what the limits of that interference should be -- it is by no means contrary to conservative principle that there might be some.

Unfortunately, I am not able to find the original 3rd Circuit decision with Alito's dissent, but he is quoted in the SCOTUS case as saying "[t]he Pennsylvania legislature could have rationally believed that some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems - such as economic constraints, future plans, or the husbands' previously expressed opposition - that may be obviated by discussion prior to the abortion." This suggests that he was using a "rational basis" test for the constitutionality of the legislation. What this means is that the court defers to the legislature if it can find any legitimate end that the law could be pursuing, as opposed to strict scrutiny which puts more burden of proof on the government in cases where an enumerated constitutional right is at issue. As Rehnquist points out in his dissent (footnote 2), the law made several exceptions to the notification requirement, thus avoiding the imposition of an "undue burden" on the woman, thus avoiding the need for strict scrutiny. I happen to disagree with this taxonomy of scrutiny, but it is established doctrine handed down from prior Supreme Court decisions, so using it qualifies as "conservative" in the judicial sense.
I neglected to mention it above, but for the sake of clarity let me explain the reference to affirmative action. I think that the first issue that should be considered is always merit. But, once you have a pool of equally qualified people, it is perfectly legitimate to promote on the basis of such things as race or sex, especially when you are trying to maintain a certain public image. This isn't mandatory, of course, but it makes sense from a political perspective.

UPDATE: Commenter Joe at has posted the text of Judge Alito's dissent in PP v Casey. It pretty much confirms my guesses above, viz. that his dissent was based on a "rational basis" test and that no "undue burden" was established (which would have required a higher standard of scrutiny). Fascinatingly, he bases his dissent on prior opinions of ... Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he is slated to replace.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Iraqi Women Take Up Arms

From the Washington Times:

While most Iraqi women live in fear of terrorists and criminals, one small band of women has taken up arms and is prepared to fight back.

Employed by a private security company, the women ride in the front passenger seat posing as ordinary housewives when the company's drivers transport customers around the city in nondescript vehicles.

But their firearms are always close at hand, and they are trained to respond with force if they come under attack.


"Before I got into this, I was like a normal female; when I heard bullets, I would hide," said Muna, a stocky young woman in a black T-shirt and black pants.

"Now, I feel like a man. When I hear a bullet, I want to know where it came from," she said, sitting comfortably with an AK-47 assault rifle across her legs, red toenails poking out from a pair of stacked sandals. "Now I feel equal to my husband."

If the work provides personal fulfillment for Muna, her colleague Assal -- a divorced mother -- sees it as a cause.

"I have seen a lot of innocent people die," she said, staring out with intense black eyes. "We are trying to defend ourselves and defend each other. I am doing this for my country."
I'm not too thrilled with the "now I feel like a man" line, but in context I think we know what she means. One of the primary guarantees of liberty is the right to defend oneself. I am glad to see that at least some Iraqi women are refusing to be victims.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Elitism and Sexism

David Frum of NRO notes the following irony in an email he received from the National Senate Republican Committee:

Defenders of the Miers nomination often suggest that it is "elitist" to demand qualifications for the Supreme Court. It turns out, though, that these same folks think it perfectly OK to demand qualifications to sign an open letter about the Supreme Court.


"The Republican National Committee is asking our help with placing op ed letters in various papers throughout the country to show support of the nomination of Harriett Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. The op ed letter can be signed by one or many women. We are looking for prominent community leaders and especially those in top legal positions to help us with this effort. I’m happy to help and [NAME REMOVED] at the RNC (women’s outreach director) is ready to help you place the ad."

Attached to the email is a draft of the suggested letter. The last line reads as follows:
"(the strongest bunch of female legal scholars, law school deans, bar association chairs, and elected officials you can tap—I’d be glad to assist)."

I guess sometimes excellence does matter.
Frum also has a petition requesting the withdrawal of Miers' nomination. I am number 5999 on the list. I was originally ambivalent about signing, since the Congressional hearings might still provide some hope that Miers isn't a completely worthless candidate, but recent reading has convinced me that the there is no such hope. This has gone past the point of potentially damaging and has become downright embarassing. I feel bad for Ms. Miers, who is daily proving that she is out of her league. I don't know if she put herself forward or if it was Bush's idea (I suspect the latter) but she certainly should have realized that this was a bad move and respectfully declined the nomination.

Miers on Proportional Representation

Several bloggers have noted this WaPo story about Senator's reactions to Harriet Miers' questionaire responses. Particularly troubling are these two paragraphs:

Meanwhile, several constitutional law scholars said they were surprised and puzzled by Miers's response to the committee's request for information on cases she has handled dealing with constitutional issues. In describing one matter on the Dallas City Council, Miers referred to "the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection Clause" as it relates to the Voting Rights Act.

"There is no proportional representation requirement in the Equal Protection Clause," said Cass R. Sunstein, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. He and several other scholars said it appeared that Miers was confusing proportional representation -- which typically deals with ethnic groups having members on elected bodies -- with the one-man, one-vote Supreme Court ruling that requires, for example, legislative districts to have equal populations.
I wonder if she was perhaps thinking of the 14th Amendment as a whole, which refers to both Equal Protection (in section 1) and proportional representation (section 2). Her comment is still somewhat incoherent, since these provisions are not in the same "clause", but the error becomes somewhat less egregious. Someone with better access to legal research than I have can probably discover whether the case in question would have anything to do with this provision of the 14th Amendment.
(Via Oxblog, Michelle Malkin, Carol Platt Liebau and others)

Update: Other responses to the Miers questionaire include this from James Taranto at Opinion Journal:
The Miers debacle is beginning to remind us of New Coke--a product introduced in an effort to expand market share, which instead infuriated loyal customers. If Bush wants to "save his presidency," the way to do so is clear: withdraw the Miers nomination and reintroduce Court Classic.
This has been the methaphor I have been searching for this past week. Brilliant! Also, I'm thinking the Bush administration will not be too pleased having his name associated with Coke...
(Via Instapundit)

Red Crescent Dhimmitude

I have commented on this story from the Washington Post at Love America First.

The president of the Iraqi Red Crescent has urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to stop sending aid marked with red crosses after the internationally protected symbol almost cost four staffers their lives.

Two truck drivers and two volunteers were delivering water and medicine to the city of Haditha four weeks ago when they were captured by insurgents, said Said Hakki, a neurology professor who returned from Florida last year to take charge of Iraqi relief operations.

"They were seized by a terrorist group who threatened to behead them because they thought the crosses on the water and food containers meant the men were Christian missionaries," said Mr. Hakki, who made his plea during a visit last week to ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

He said the terrorists seemed unmoved by the fact that the two trucks themselves were marked with the red crescent symbol typically used in Muslim countries.


In Geneva, an ICRC spokeswoman said the red cross and red crescent are not religious symbols and that international treaties require that both must be respected everywhere.

[...] the kidnappers had bound and blindfolded the four men and told them to say their final prayers before the aid workers convinced their captors that they were Sunni Muslims from Fallujah and that their supervisor was a Sunni with strong tribal connections in the area.
In addition to the comments I made there, I wanted to note a bit more about the background of Jean Henri Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross (from Wikipedia):
Dunant was born in Geneva as the first son of businessman Jean-Jacques Dunant and his wife Antoinette Dunant-Colladon. His family was very devoutly Calvinist and had significant influence in Geneva society. His parents strongly stressed the value of social work, and his father was active helping orphans and parolees, while his mother worked with the sick and poor. Particularly influential for young Dunant was a visit to Toulon where he saw the suffering of prison inmates.

Dunant grew up during the period of religious awakening known as the Réveil, and at age eighteen he joined the Geneva Society for Alms giving. In the following year, together with friends, he founded the so-called "Thursday Association", a loose band of young men that met to study the Bible and help the poor, and he spent much of his free time engaged in prison visits and social work. On November 30, 1852, he founded the Geneva chapter of the YMCA and three years later he took part in the Paris meeting devoted to the founding of its international organization.
I post this here rather than on LAF because that site is more specifically political and this isn't really relevant to the point I am making. I just found the subject interesting.

Update: The complete text of Dunant's "A Memory of Solferino" can be found here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Losing the Reagan Legacy

Randy Barnett, at the Volokh Conspiracy, links to this article by Dennis Coyle on Harriet Miers. The conclusion is rather sobering:

The nomination of Harriet Miers is another chapter in the lost promise of the Reagan revolution. From the heady days of the 1980s, there have been so many missteps, perhaps including the selection of the current president's father as the custodian of the Reagan revolution. The judicial legacy of the Bushes has been raised hopes and dashed expectations: The father left us Thomas, but also Souter; the son brings Roberts, but now Miers. This may be Bush's last opportunity to make an imprint on the Supreme Court, unless health forces Justice Stevens off the bench. The next resignation may well be that of Justice Scalia, fleeing in frustration.

The Republican hold on the presidency is razor thin, control of the Senate uncertain. There could well come a day, possibly sooner rather than later, when a Democratic president places a nominee before a Democratic Senate, and there will be little talk of keeping a balance on the Court. The Court will resume its leftward march, occasionally staggering back to the right. Conservatives slowed, but did not reverse, this trend.

The moment has passed; unless this nomination is derailed by the oddest of bedfellows, it would seem that this is, as Jim Morrison intoned, the end.
I hope he is wrong, but I fear he may be right.

Tammy Talks Intelligent Design

I am pretty sure Tammy Bruce is agnostic or atheist, but she is often one of the most articulate defenders of the intellectual integrity and legitimacy of Christians and the Judeo-Christian paradigm. Here is a brief post she makes regarding the teaching of intelligent design:

To suggest that we ignore or ban the teaching of Intelligent Design alongside evolution is the equivalent of Stalin having the people he executed literally erased from pictures so as to deny they ever existed. If you're having trouble determining if something is right or wrong, ask yourself what Stalin would prefer, and there you have determined the 'wrong' part of the equation.

In this instance, I think it's safe to say Stalin would be rooting for the ACLU.
That, of course, is the root of the matter: whether or not you agree with it, free inquiry demands that people be given the opportunity to investigate for themselves. As noted elsewhere, I have problems with the idea of public schools for precisely the reason that it tends to dangerously intermingle the government's legitimate monopoly on force with the spirit of investigation and dissent necessary for a true liberal education. But, if we must have public education, the smelly little orthodoxies exemplified by the Darwinian establishment should be opposed at all costs.

Update: The comment I left on her post is now available. It addresses the issue of whether or not ID is science or religion, which is off-topic from Tammy's original post, but seems to be the only thing people want to discuss:
With all due respect to the posters above, there seems to be little evidence that they have ever actually read any primary source material on Intelligent Design. Which is remarkable, since the scientific approach they are advocating specifies that we don't take conventional wisdom for granted but investigate directly. If Galileo had followed their method, we would still accept the proposition that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones, since that was the prevailing "scientific" theory of gravity in his era.

The central question of ID is not "who created the world?" but "can we discern evidence of design in physical structures?" This question is to be answered by the commonly accepted investigative tools that other scientific disciplines use. Those who object that "design" is too amorphous a category to be properly scientific should consider the disciplines of archaeology and psychology.

Archaeologists regularly sift through dirt and other random debris in search of artifacts from prior cultures. But if "design" is not a recognizable property, there is really no way to tell if the piece of clay you are looking at is the product of human intelligence or just some random feature of the environment.

Similarly, psychologists attempt to investigate human behavior in search of intentions and motivations. But these are just synonyms for design, which makes the discipline pointless if design is not a valid object of scientific investigation.

During the 19th century, the Vienna school (which later morphed into Logical Positivism) debated whether it was appropriate to include such disciplines as archaeology and geology in the category of science, since they did not deal with subjects that were amenable to repeatable experiments. Similarly, B. F. Skinner formed the school of Behaviorism, because he did not accept the notion of the independent soul ("psyche") and wanted to deal only with empirically observable facts. These arguments are interesting philosophically, but most people now accept these disciplines as fully scientific, even though they deal with subject matter that has an element of the non-physical.

I would suggest that ID is a discipline in its infancy, and that the question of whether it is properly science is an appropriate one. But that question cannot be answered by misstating its premises, or by refusing to evaluate its conclusions on their own merits.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Mr. Rogers on Syria

Tammy Bruce makes an excellent point regarding Bush's rhetoric concerning Syria and it support of terrorists sneaking into Iraq. First the quote from Bush:

On Wednesday, President Bush called on Syria to be a "good neighbor" in the Middle East, warning Damascus against interfering in Lebanon and allowing insurgents to cross into Iraq.

"We're making good progress toward peace in the Holy Land, but one of the areas of concern is that foreign countries such as Syria might try to disrupt the peace process by encouraging terrorist activities," Bush said.

"We expect Syria to do everything in her power to shut down the transshipment of suiciders and killers into Iraq."

Al-Assad said that the United States cannot control its border with Mexico so Syria cannot be expected to keep people from sneaking into Iraq.
Now Tammy's comments:
Our troops are still fighting uniformed Syrian army troops at the border of Syria and Iraq.
But another kicker for me is the nature of the president's rhetoric lately. Right after September 11, it was "you're either with us or with the terrorists." Well, we know Syria is with the terrorists, but not only does that not matter, President Bush has managed to morph from Jimmy Carter, to Sally Field and now he seems to be channeling Mr. Rogers. He asks Syria, one of the most oppressive and murderous regimes on Earth, to "be a good neighbor"!!!

From wanting terrorists "dead or alive" to asking them to be "good neighbors," is a striking shift in attitude. I don't know if we're seeing the real GWB or if he has been in DC long enough where he has slumped into being a typical politician.

I'm afraid either way, if our new national security policy in dealing with terrorist nations is to ask them nicely to be good neighbors, we're in a lot of trouble.

Where, oh where, has my Cowboy gone?
I snipped a portion of her remarks that focus on the US border with Mexico, which doesn't particularly concern me. But I have also noticed lately that Bush's rhetoric has gone somewhat -- how shall I say it? -- international in tone. If Ms. Bruce is correct that we are fighting uniformed Syrian soldiers (and I have no cause to doubt her, I just haven't heard that before) then isn't this pretty clearly a cassus belli? At least this should fall into the category of Not-With-Us-Therefore-Against-Us.

Arguably, we are currently hesitating to take a hard line with Syria because we want to remain focused on Iraq. But if Syrian involvement is part of the reason for the continued instability of Iraq, doesn't this become a vicious cycle? Back when the Lebanese were celebrating the withrdrawal of Syrian troops, I was ready to cheer President Bush as at least partly responsible, and I still think that is true. But if we don't follow up with more than empty UN-style complaints, we will find the opportunity has been squandered.

In recent discussion with my fellow conservatives who are also disappointed with the Miers nomination, we keep coming back to the point that, regardless of his lack of a conservative domestic policy, Bush still needs our support because of the War on Terror. I hate to think that that might not be as true as it once was.

On a side note: I am not sure if this is important but it has been a long time since I have heard anyone call this region "The Holy Land" in an official statement. Is this an attempt to manipulate the evangelical base? It strikes an odd note, somehow.

Art Against Slavery eBay Autction

The American Anti-Slavery Group is organizing an art auction on eBay. Proceeds will be used to help fight slavery world-wide.

Good vs Evil

This site is certified 65% GOOD by the GematriculatorThis site is certified 35% EVIL by the Gematriculator

What's even more funny is the way they calculate these figures:

Basically, Gematria is searching for different patterns through the text, such as the amount of words beginning with a vowel. If the amount of these matches is divisible by a certain number, such as 7 (which is said to be God's number), there is an incontestable argument that the Spirit of God is ever present in the text. Another important aspect in gematria are the numerical values of letters: A=1, B=2 ... I=9, J=10, K=20 and so on. The Gematriculator uses Finnish alphabet, in which Y is a vowel.
Of course they would use the Finnish alphabet. Doesn't everyone?

Note: Harriet Miers turns up in the word list thus:
harriet 7 7 7=7
miers 14 14=7x2
So I'm thinking that should please these folks.

(Via Sandi at Vista)

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Everyone knows by now that many prominent conservatives (variously called "movement conservatives", "hard-core conservatives" or "sanctimonious conservative purists") are at best disappointed and in many cases outraged by Bush's nomination of White House counsel, Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. There are also many equally prominent conservatives that are leaping to defend Bush and his nominee (I can't quite tell how the numbers work here, but my sense is that the angry faction is larger.) As is becoming depressingly usual with conservatives, however, neither the objections nor the defenses seem terribly principled. Here are some comments that I think miss the mark:

Negative comments first:

Michelle Malkin:

What Julie Myers is to the Department of Homeland Security, Harriet Miers is to the Supreme Court. [...] It's not just that Miers has zero judicial experience. It's that she's so transparently a crony/"diversity" pick while so many other vastly more qualified and impressive candidates went to waste.
The aspersions cast on her qualifications seem more like the words of a Democrat. We would do well to remember that Clarence Thomas was also accused of lacking experience. The cronyism business is irrelevant. If we knew that she was a good candidate, we wouldn't care that she was close to Bush. In any event, neither of these criticisms has anything to do with Constitutional concerns.

  1. She's 60. There were lots of highly qualified younger candidates out there who would have sat on the court for decades.
  2. She has no judicial experience.
  3. She has no public track record of proven conservative judicial values (what happened to Bush's 2000 promise to appoint people in the old of Scalia and Thomas?). How do we know she won't be another Souter? or Kennedy?
  4. She's a Bush crony, which is an unfortunate choice for an administration that has been fairly charged with excessive cronyism (anybody remember ex-FEMA head Mike Brown?).
  5. Her resume pales in comparison to those of some of the other leading candidates.
  6. Why is the leader of a party that is supposedly against affirmative action making an appointment that can only be explained as an affirmative action choice?
  7. And if Bush was bound and determined to make an affirmative action choice, why not go with a more experienced and qualified woman like Edith Jones or minority like Emilio Garza?

Here we see the charges of inexperience and cronyism again, with quite a few more added. He has a good point about the lack of paper trail, about which I will have more to say later, but what are we to make of the first charge? The suggestion that her age disqualifies her because we need someone whose influence will extend "for decades" is a blatant power grab. And how does this mesh with the call for someone more experienced? Add that to the embarrassing and unwarranted suggestion of affirmative action, and this is easily the most disappointing criticism I have read. I am usually in agreement with Bainbridge, so I expected better.

This is actually a complicated post by both John Hinderaker and Paul Mirengoff and since it is mixed negative and positive, I am not sure which category to put it in. But several of the above points are reiterated, including the issues of age, gender and lack of qualifications. But the chief point seems to be that she wasn't some other conservative judge, which isn't very substantive:
But the bottom line is that he had a number of great candidates to choose from, and instead of picking one of them--Luttig, McConnell, Brown, or a number of others--he nominated someone whose only obvious qualification is her relationship with him.
Since the PowerLine post combines the typical criticisms with the typical defenses, I will use that as a segue into the positive comments, mostly by Hugh Hewitt and his disciples.

Hugh Hewitt:
He seems to have a single point, which he expresses in a number of different forms: we ought to trust the president. First he quotes approvingly this passage from Douglas Kmiec's Washington Post article:
But, it is claimed, she is so unlike John Roberts. In fact, though, Miers is exactly like Roberts in one crucial aspect: They are both steadfast adherents to a judicial ethic of no personally imposed points of view. The cognoscenti snicker when the president reaffirms his criterion of judges who will shun legislating from the bench, since to legal realists, it is inconceivable and to political ideologues it is a missed opportunity. They all do, they all will, goes the refrain. To which Roberts repeatedly answered: No, not this umpire. The same answer can be expected from Miers as she makes her bid to join the officiating crew.
He then criticizes Ramesh Ponnuru for not addressing this central argument in his (admittedly snarky and irrelevant) response. But there is no central argument here, only an assertion that Miers is a strict constructionist. While that may be true, no facts are offered in support of it, merely speculation. (Hewitt, in an update, says this is not an "assertion" but it is a "fair assumption". The distinction is lost on me.)

Hewitt more recently posted an excerpt from an interview with "Noel Francisco, Scalia clerk, Luttig clerk, former Associate White House Counsel, Federalist Society member" in which the latter asserted:
I think the world of Harriet Miers. I think that Harriet is the fulfillment of the president's promise, yet again, to put forward individuals who are going to strictly apply the laws, and not make it up as they go along.
Fine, but once again, this is not evidence merely an appeal to authority.

Carol Platt Liebau: Here was an early post that irritated me:
Biblical fundamentalism is, in a sense, analogous to strict construction, insofar as the idea is that the words of a given text say what they mean, and mean what they say. Almost literally.

If Ms. Miers' approach to jurisprudence is similar to her approach to religion, conservatives may be in fine shape, indeed.
This is really just more speculation, and in fact misguided, since many fundamentalists are only selectively literalist. They routinely ignore much of the Old Testament, for instance and tend to interpret the New in light of certain eschatological assumptions.

Liebau also makes the argument that we need to choose who to trust:
And if that's the case, then it's just a matter of conservatives deciding whom (President Bush or the conservatives opposed to his choice) they will trust on this nomination. On the one hand, President Bush (and VP Cheney) are assuring people that her judicial philosophy is consistent with theirs. On the other are a lot of disappointed people saying, "But how do we know that?" and pointing to statements or writings from candidates they would have preferred more.

Well, we don't know. And it's unsettling, to be sure. But it's worth remembering that no one -- no one -- can predict with absolute certainty how any nominee will vote once he/she is on the bench. While his/her existing body of work provides hints and clues, nothing says that the views can't or won't change. And other than that, all we have are the assurances of well-placed conservative opinion leaders who "know" the potential nominees, just as President Bush and VP Cheney say they "know" Harriet Miers.
It is true that past performance doesn't necessarily guarantee future performance. But we need some data on which to base a judgment and past opinions are at least an indication of what type of thinking the individual is inclined to pursue.

But, Ms. Liebau has more recently come to her senses and is saying precisely this:Here for instance, but especially here:
It's time for the Bush Administration to start giving conservatives some more information about Harriet Miers. Of course, one political calculus would be that anything making the Miers nomination more palatable to conservatives would "upset" the liberals.

Well, so be it. At this point, the President has bigger problems with his base than he does with the Democrats. Chances are that even if a fair amount of very favorable information (from a conservative perspective) comes out, the Dems aren't going to complain about it -- because they aren't going to want to gamble that the President would choose another nominee more to their liking. And in the meantime, there would be more criteria for assessing the quality of the nomination.
The power of the Supreme Court is such that giving the President the benefit of the doubt is not the most rational course. We need to be assured that this will not prove to be a long-term mistake, and the only time for that assurance is now -- before the appointment becomes irreversible.

Update: Bainbridge makes that same point I do in regard to Hewitt's take on the Ponnuru/Kmiec debate:
Wrong, wrong, wrong. The problem is that people like Hewitt and Kmiec want us to take on faith the proposition that Harriet Miers will "shun legislating from the bench." Yet, neither Hugh nor Kmiec marshall any evidence from Miers' record to support that proposition. Hugh's repeated card - and its the only one he has to play, in my view - is to ask us to trust Bush.
He then goes on to list several reasons he opposes Mier's nomination. Some of them are good points and worth reading, but he does reiterate some of the same lame arguments I mention above. But at least his argument seems to be coming into focus.

Update: Whoops! It looks like my line "there is no central argument here, only an assertion" has already been said. Ponnuru made it here, in response to Hewitt's criticism. This is probably what prompted Hewitt's update. I evidently missed a page in this hymnal.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Rape in the Name of Allah?

WorldNetDaily relays the following story which, if true, is quite horrifying:

A 12-year-old Christian girl was reportedly abducted and gang raped by 16 Muslim men in Pakistan.


According to a news release from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), Sara Tabasum escaped two weeks later while she was being transported to a new location.


On Sept. 5, APMA stated, Tabasum went out late one night to buy some loaves of bread. She was reportedly abducted by her former neighbors and two other men. According to APMA, "They put a piece of cloth soaked in some intoxicant on her mouth, after which she fainted."

When Tabasum regained consciousness she found herself in Bibis house, where three men reportedly including Babar Bibi, raped her.

Tabasum was reportedly told that by Perveen Bibi that she could be "saved" if she embraced Islam and married one of Perveens Muslim brothers.
It must be noted that WorldNetDaily is often not the most credible source and there is much about this story that sounds suspiciously sensationalistic. Also, there doesn't seem to be much fact-checking going on here, and several details are missing. (Why, for instance, does the article repeatedly refer to Tabasums [sic] mother without identifying her? It surely can't be to protect her identity since the girl herself is named.)

Nevertheless, the APMA has a track record of reporting religious persecution in Pakistan, and I haven't found anyone disproving their credibility.

Update: Here is another story about the same incident, in even less fluent English.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Collective IQ of the Blogosphere Just Went Up

Tammy Bruce joins the revolution. It was just a matter of time until Tammy joined the blogosphere. She has a voice made for blogging: individualistic, smart and passionate. Here is an excerpt of her bio on Talk Radio Network:

Tammy Bruce is an openly gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, voted-for-President Reagan progressive feminist. Ms. Bruce eviscerates the Feminist Elite's hatred of men, marriage and motherhood, the Black Elite's championing of violent rap, the Gay Elite's "grab for children" by insinuating let-it-all-hang-out Sex-Ed programs into schools, the Academic Elite's nihilism and anti-Americanism, and the Entertainment Elite's "moral depravity beyond measure."
If there were more Democrats like Tammy I might not have left the party.

Update: Oops, fogot to mention the most important fact: I found out about her new blog through Pajamas Media, where she is on the editorial board.
(Via Instapundit)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Root Causes of Terror in Bangladesh

Red Mist has the following insight:

"More than 100 small bombs have exploded almost simultaneously in towns and cities across Bangladesh, police said, including 15 in the capital Dhaka and 20 in the south-eastern port of Chittagong. Police in some affected cities said leaflets - apparently from a recently banned Islamic extremist group calling for the implementation of Islamic law - were found near the scene of the blasts. Mazeedul Haq, Chittagong's police Commissioner, said the leaflets bore the name of the banned Jamayetul Mujahideen and read: "It is time to implement Islamic law in Bangladesh. There is no future with man-made law."

Well we need to remember there is a reason these terrorists inflicted this on the state of Bangladesh. Instead of describing these acts simplistically as "evil", we need to understand the 'root cause' of this anger, to account for the hatred people around the world feel for Bangladesh. Bangladesh needs to revise all the policies which have resulted in the legitimate grievances of these terrorists, including Bangladesh's occupation of Iraq, its massive military and financial support for the apartheid state of Israel, its refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty and its imperialist arrogance on the world stage. Only once Bangladesh stops trying to project global power and agrees to enter dialogue with the understandably inflamed opinion of jihadists will this cycle of violence abate. After all, if someone hates you in a murderous way, you must have done something to deserve it.
(Via Oxblog)

UPATE: Just to be clear, the first section is Red Mist quoting from the article and the second is him commenting on it. I double-indented the article quote, but that makes it look like the remaining text is mine. It isn't.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ginsberg: Wrong on All Counts

Several people have linked to this article in which Ruth Bader Ginsberg offers advice to President Bush on his nomination for O'Connor's replacement.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg told an audience Wednesday that she doesn't like the idea of being the only female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

I don't much like the idea of her being on the court myself, but I was always too polite to say so.

But in choosing to fill one of the two open positions on the court, "any woman will not do," she said.

There are "some women who might be appointed who would not advance human rights or women's rights," Ginsburg told those gathered at the New York City Bar Association.

Doesn't she realize that advancing causes is not the role of any judge, regardless of gender? The role of a judge is to interpret the law and guard the constitutional protection of existing rights. This single sentence encapsulates the whole problem with liberal judicial theory.


Ginsburg stressed that the president should appoint a "fine jurist," adding that there are many women who fit that mold.

"I have a list of highly qualified women, but the president has not consulted me," Ginsburg said during a brief interview Wednesday night.

No, Madame Justice, I don't suppose he has. It is the role of the Senate to provide "advice and consent" on Presidential appointments. You might have heard of this little thing called the Constitution? Check out Article II, Section 2. Just a thought.

[...]Ginsburg defended some of the justices' references to laws in other countries when making decisions, a practice strongly opposed by some U.S. legislators. The justice said using foreign sources does not mean giving them superior status in deciding cases.

"I will take enlightenment wherever I can get it," she said. "I don't want to stop at a national boundary."

Fair enough: enlightenment is a wonderful thing. Just don't try to make foreign laws binding on American citizens.
I don't usually go in for fisking of this sort, but there were too many points in this short article which just screamed for commentary. We now return to our normal long-winded pontificating mode.

Democrats are pro-Union...

... but are Unions pro-Democrat? Mickey Kaus discusses the question in response to Criticism from Yglesias. Here are a few of Kaus' better points:

[...]It's no accident that unions have shrunk. The clumsy, legalistic mechanism of the Wagner Act--where seniority rules and firing incompetents requires elaborate negotiation--turns out to be a good way to fail to keep up in modern, technology-driven capitalism.

[...]they make the private sector more efficient than government at virtually anything both of them do. The result is a pervasive public cynicism about government efficacy that has done more to undermine the case for government action than union lobbying can ever do to support it.


"Historically," as Yglesias notes, unions have selflessly helped Democrats solve a number of national problems (Social Security, medical care for the elderly, civil rights, worker safety, unemployment insurance). Unfortunately, what's left are the national problems where this New Deal pairing didn't work because unions actively stand in the way of solutions. Two of these problems, in particular, are among our biggest: a) Unionized teachers stand in the way of the educational changes that might ameliorate our twin education crises (inner city disaster and suburban mediocrity). And b) unions stand in the way of the best solution to the welfare problem (and hence the NewOrleans-style underclass problem, and hence the persistent-poverty problem), namely public jobs programs. Unions have always disliked public jobs programs because public jobs workers threaten to perform work that municipal unions and construction unions now perform for far more money (thanks, in part, to the Davis-Bacon Act). In my ideal of liberal activism, we make sure everyone who wants a job has a job. Then we worry about making those jobs pay $40 an hour rather than $8 an hour.
Kaus' suggestions are geared toward strenghtening the Democratic party, which I am not particularly interested in doing. However, depriving the Unions of their political influence would seem to be a good thing for the country in general.

I would particularly like to see the teachers' unions disabled. Kaus does not suggest this, but I have argued before that it would make sense to outlaw all government unions. This would be fair since, unlike private sector employment where regulation actually interferes with commerce and the right to private ownership, government employees work at the behest of the public and the public should be able to control their compensation. No one, in other words, has a right to a job at taxpayer expense. And if it is ruled unconstitutional, why not push for an ammendment? Doesn't reducing the influence of liberalism in public schools make more sense for a social conservative than pushing for a ban on gay marriage? Wouldn't the improved efficiency be more appealing to a fiscal conservative?

This strategy is far too bold for the current Republican leadership, who seem determined to squander their control of two branches of government, but I keep mentioning it in the hope that the proposal will be picked up by someone with the vision to see its advantages.

(Cross-posted at Love America First)

UPDATE: I just noticed Rosemary's post from Tuesday about California Propostion 75 and the CTA's diverting of funds to advertise against it. The measure seeks to give union members the opportunity to keep their dues from being used in political campaigns they don't approve of. This is a much less visionary proposition than mine, but it seems like a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Replacing Kofi

Roger L. Simon is taking a poll of possbile replacements for Kofi Annan when the Oil-for-Food scandal finally brings him down. I am not holding my breath on that one, but I did want to get a vote in for Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the former Iraqi Information Minister. Yulia Tymoshenko was also suggested, being out of work and all.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Helping Huricane Victims in Houston

This email was forwarded to me by my pastor. I don't know Dr. Crenshaw personally, but his reputation in our little denomination is very high:

Dear Folks,
This is an email broadcast to my friends and relatives help the flood victims. You may already be doing something, and that is great, but if not here is an opportunity.

As you may know, we in Houston are receiving large numbers of flood victims. This is an opportunity for the Church to rise to the occasion to help. Our particular church, St Francis REC, is getting involved. I've talked to the Salvation Army here, and they are doing what they can. But they need a huge number of supplies and will continue to have a need for some time. If you would like to help us "on the front lines," as it were, send a tax deductible contradiction to my church, St Francis REC, 18018 Deep Brook, Spring, TX 77379. We are purchasing materials from Walmart and the dollar stores, and I'm personally taking these to them. 100% of what you give will go to them. My time is voluntary. We are also getting Bibles, New Testaments, etc, any good Christian literature, to take also. This is a great opportunity to meet people's need in the name of Christ. Besides, Matt 25:40ff gives us great motivation to do so!

We would like for people to consider this not a one time donation but an ongoing thing for several months. We'll let you know when the needs are met.

In His grace,
Curtis Crenshaw
For good measure, here is the email from my pastor:
Dear Friend,

I'm forwarding you this appeal from Dr. Curtis Crenshaw. Many have felt the need to give financial help to alleviate the huge suffering brought about by the hurricane but weren't sure which agency to fund. There are many worthy groups. This one is as good as they get. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw is the pastor of a parish outside of Houston. He is totally reliable and can be trusted. The money you send to St. Francis R.E.C. in Spring, Texas will be used wisely and holistically towards the needs of the flood victims. Please help.

In Christ,
Fr. Paul
There are also two REC churches in the Baton Rouge area, but I haven't been able to contact them (phone lines are still down). These two parishes are likely to be in critical need of support, so I will try to find info and update it here.

Update: Actually that was quicker than expected. Here is some info on the various gulf-coast parishes in the REC from our denomination's website:
Many of our parishes have desired to show forth the love of Christ by supporting the Katrina relief effort. If you feel so led to donate to this cause, you can send funds to your Diocesan Headquarters and they will make the appropriate disbursements. You may also donate online through the following sites:

The American Anglican Council website.

The American Red Cross website.

OUR GULF COAST PARISHES - Our Houston Headquarters has received many emails and phone calls asking about the status of our parishes along the Gulf Coast. It has been difficult for us to contact some of our priests/parishes since the phone lines are still inoperable. We do know that everyone in St. Paul's (Baton Rouge, LA) and St. Alban's (Ethel, LA) are fine. At last update, their only problem was a prolonged power outage. Some Parishioners of St. Simon's (Fairhope, AL) and St. Stephen's (Flowood, MS) and St. John's (Mt.Laurel, AL) experienced minor damage. The greater Mobile(AL) area is experiencing a severe gasoline shortage.
The links go to sites accepting online dontations. I don't know how those donations are handled, but I personally would be inclined to go with senind a check, since most online credit card processing skims a bit off the top to pay the credit card companies. There may be exceptions in this sort of case, but check it out before you donate. (If such things matter to you. I don't mean to discourage anyone from giving, just trying to make the gifts as efficient as possible.)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Letter to Cindy Sheehan

I generally love scrappleface for the humor, but this isn't particularly funny. Still a good read, though:

The running story on the news networks should be the valiant efforts of our troops -- the merchants of mercy who export freedom and import honor. They trade their own lives for the sake of others.

As a result, we live in a nation where a woman can camp outside of the president's house and verbally attack the president for weeks on end without fear of prison, torture or death. And the number of nations where such protest is possible has multiplied thanks to the work of our military.

(Via Instapundit)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Opposite of Chivalry

Pastorius sends this via email:

Reports abound that pop super diva Mariah Carey is furious with Eminem for playing intimate phone messages she left him to massive audiences during his Anger Management tour.

Carey left the messages for the rapper during his work on her 2001 album Charmbracelet. reports the messages featured Carey begging, "I heard you're getting back with your ex-wife. Why don't you see me? You're not calling me."

As the tape plays, Eminem pretends to throw up into a prop toilet on stage, after which he segues into his track "Puke," which features the line, "you make me sick."
One is tempted to be somewhat unsympathetic to anyone who would call Eminem in the first place, but this does strike me as a new low, even for him.

Incidentally, Pastorius has an even more extreme example of the opposite of chivalry here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Paving Mecca

Kathy Shaidle comments that we may not have to nuke Muslim holy sites after all:

Historic Mecca, the cradle of Islam, is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots.

Almost all of the rich and multi-layered history of the holy city is gone. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.


The driving force behind the demolition campaign that has transformed these cities is Wahhabism. This, the austere state faith of Saudi Arabia, was imported by the al-Saud tribal chieftains when they conquered the region in the 1920s.

The motive behind the destruction is the Wahhabists' fanatical fear that places of historical and religious interest could give rise to idolatry or polytheism, the worship of multiple and potentially equal gods.
I had actually been wondering recently if these fanatics wouldn't eventually turn on their own holy sites, since they don't seem to have much compunction about blowing up their own people if the latter are judged to be impure. This pretty much answers the question.

Talkin' Trash

Looks like keeping things out of landfills is not as big a crisis as previously predicted:

Workers at a landfill in Orange County, Calif. - as if tamping down the contents of a wastebasket - regularly pile one million cubic yards of dirt atop a football field-size section of the giant dump. Six months later, the workers scrape the dirt aside and the dump's surface has fallen 30 to 40 feet, making space for yet more trash.


Simply put, operators of garbage dumps are stuffing more waste than anyone expected into the giant plastic-lined holes, keeping disposal prices down and making the construction of new landfills largely unnecessary.

(Via: Instapundit)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Roberts and the Right

I haven't had much to say about the Roberts confirmation process for two reasons: 1) I don't think past performance in lower courts is an accurate predictor of what a justice will do when he/she gets onto the Supreme Court; 2) Even if we manage to get a conservative on the bench, or even a bench-full of conservatives, many of the decisions that we want overturned will not be, precisely because the court is conservative (and therefore will respect precedent and exercise restraint -- see this exellent post by Todd Zywicki for a discussion of this factor). In short, I look at aiming for a conservative SCOTUS as a delaying action at best, counter productive at worst, and in either case a crap-shoot.

But this article in the Washington Times is intriguing:

As special assistant to the attorney general in the Reagan administration, John G. Roberts Jr. urged the Justice Department to keep its distance from an eager and demanding "new right," even characterizing one of the giants of the conservative movement as "no friend of ours."

Judge Roberts, then a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith, wrote several memos in 1981 and 1982 giving advice to his boss on handling pressure from conservative groups elated by ideological soul mate Ronald Reagan's winning the White House.
If they are not careful, some conservatives may take this as a signal that Roberts is on the other side. But this is not necessarily the case. Note the following comments:
Judge Roberts suggested that the department "keep as low a profile as possible" concerning a book titled "A Blueprint for Judicial Reform" put out by the conservative Free Congress Foundation, an organization founded in 1974 by Paul Weyrich, who remains one of the leading conservative intellectuals.

The liberal-leaning American Bar Association (ABA) had inquired about Mr. Smith's opinions on some of the ideas in Mr. Weyrich's book.

Judge Roberts did not paint a flattering portrait of Mr. Weyrich or his ideas, even misspelling the man's name.

"I suggest we keep as low a profile on this as possible," Judge Roberts wrote. "Weyerich is of course no friend of ours, but it won't help to stir up the influential contributors to his volume, and any comment by the AG will simply highlight the fact that we have yet to take a position" on some hot-button issues.
This sounds to me like typical political bunker-building and is nothing to worry about, execept in the general sense that it is always something to worry about. All politicians are conservative in the sense that their primary aim is to conserve their own hold on power. We shouldn't be surprised that such considerations were present during the administration of Ronald Reagan, whom many see as an idealistic conservative, any more than we would be if they surfaced during the administration of his more realpolitik successor. And it is undoubtedly a consideration in the current administration, as well. People who love freedom (meaning "conservatives" in the more popular sense) ought not to forget this.

That said, I do think Roberts shows a fair amount of adherence to the principle of judicial restraint, which is really the best we can hope for. His final comments in the post linked above are worth noting:
The "new right" was attacking Justice on personnel matters, with Human Events sharply criticizing "Carter holdovers [that] are thwarting implementation of conservative policy by presenting only established liberal legal dogma to their superiors, who are ill-equipped to refute the analyses presented to them," he wrote.

Judge Roberts wrote that some of the attacks were "completely unfounded," and advised Mr. Smith to aggressively rebut the criticism.

"Invariably when the new right disagrees with Department policy, the attack is quickly converted into an ad hominem assault on the ideological credentials of the responsible appointee," Judge Roberts wrote. "Since this is the central critique of the management of the Department, it merits a substantial and considered refutation."
I don't know if his claim that the attacks were completely unfounded is accurate, but I think we are all too familiar with the kind of ad hominem attacks he is talking about. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: we shouldn't need to resort to personal attacks on liberals since their ideas are so easy to refute on the merits. Resorting to such tactics weakens our case, it doesn't help it.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sexualizing Chivalry

This is the kind of thing that bugs me. CNN Money starts off with a reasonable sounding question: "Does it Pay to Flirt at Work"

Women who cross their legs provocatively, wear short skirts or massage a man's shoulders at work get fewer pay raises and promotions, according to Friday's USA Today.

The newspaper, citing a Tulane University study, said 49 percent of MBA graduates polled admitted that they have tried to advance in their careers by sometimes engaging in certain sexual behaviors, including sending flirty e-mails and wearing revealing clothing.

The respondents who said they never engaged in such activity earned an average of three promotions, versus two for the group that had employed sexuality. Those who said they never used sexuality were, on average, in the $75,000-$100,000 income range; the other group fell, on average, into the next range, $50,000 to $75,000.
Fine. This is a perfectly legitimate concern and even shows signs of validating the conservative position that women don't have to lower their moral standards to succeed in the world of business. But then comes the twist:
Tulane professor Arthur Brief said the study suggests that women should be careful about letting men open doors or lift boxes that aren't particularly heavy, because chivalry is "benevolent sexism."

"We argue that there are negative consequences for women who use sexuality in the workplace," Brief told the newspaper.
This is a complete non-sequitur. Did the study include such behavior as allowing men to open doors? It isn't in the original list. Only someone who starts witht the premise that treating women with respect is necessarily motivated by sexual attraction could jump from flirting to chivalry in this way.

What is worse, such a reductionistic, which can conceive of only base motives, view tends to make women suspicious of the kindness of men. Is it any wonder that the prevalence of such views tends to produce a coarsening of culture?

This kind of tripe was popular in the 70s. Really, I had thought we were getting beyond all of this, but evidently it still pervades academia. You've come a long way, baby.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

China Conversion?

According to the Washington Times, millions of Chinese are converting to Christianity:

Chinese are embracing Christianity in a social revolution that is spreading through town and countryside to the point where Christians already may outnumber members of the Communist Party of China.

Visits to villages in backward rural provinces or to urban churches in Beijing, where even on weekdays the young and middle-aged gather to proclaim their faith, confirm the ease with which conversions can be won.
No doubt the Zionists are behind this, too.

The Complexity of the Mauritanian Coup

We were thrilled at the democratic revolutions in Lebanon and the Ukraine. We look upon the civil unrest in Iran with hope for regime change. But what to make of the coup in Mauritania?

Mauritania's armed forces have set up a military council to rule the country and put an end to the "totalitarian regime" of President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, a statement on the state news agency said on Wednesday.

The statement, signed by a so-called Military Council for Justice and Democracy, said the council would rule the Islamic republic for two years:
"The armed forces and security forces have unanimously decided to put a definitive end to the totalitarian activities of the defunct regime under which our people have suffered so much over recent years," the statement said.

"This council pledges before the Mauritanian people to create favorable conditions for an open and transparent democracy" it said.
On the one hand, Taya's administration was an "ally" of the US in the War on Terror.

More here.

Snuppy Love

Woo Suk Hwang of Seoul National University (SNU) has succeeded in cloning a dog:

In the new study, a team led by Woo Suk Hwang of Seoul National University fused cells from an adult hound's ear to eggs obtained from fertile female dogs. Within hours after a blood test confirmed that ripe eggs had been released from a dog's ovaries, Korean veterinarians anesthetized the dog, surgically exposed her reproductive tract, and flushed the barely visible eggs into laboratory dishes.

Of about 1,400 embryos created by fusing those eggs to skin cells with an electrical shock, 1,095 were deemed healthy enough to be transferred to the reproductive tracts of surrogate mother dogs -- each of which also had to be in heat, to support the growth of those embryos into fetuses. That required more surgeries, with five to 12 embryos transferred to each of 123 surrogates.

Follow-up sonograms indicated that three of the 123 surrogate mothers were pregnant. One miscarried, and the other two gave birth. One newborn died from pneumonia after 22 days. The survivor is Snuppy, for ''Seoul National University puppy."

Sunday, July 17, 2005


A great group if you like Celtic music. (Actually, if you don't like Celtic music that's basically your problem; they're still a great group.) Just heard them play at the Diedrich's coffee house in Orange, where they have a gig every 3rd Saturday. This is the third or fourth time we've heard them play there, and we're getting to know the ladies in the band. Really nice people, not to mention beautiful and talented.

Here is their web site, which has sample MP3s from their albums.

(I assume the name Tintangel is from the castle in Cornwall where King Arthur was born, although I have usually seen it spelled Tintagel.)