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.