Friday, October 13, 2006

Armey, Dobson and Major Barbara

Ryan Sager posts an important email from Dick Armey criticizing the religious right and the temptation of power. Read the whole thing but this paragraph stood out as emblematic:

Today, the national Christian Coalition has joined forces with in another government grab of private property dealing specifically with ownership of the Internet. They are wrong on the specifics of the issue, and they are wrong to associate with and comfort radical liberals who have demonstrated nothing but disdain for conservative values. Armey’s Axiom: Make a deal with the Devil, and you are the junior partner.
This brings into focus something that I have been concerned about from the very begining of this blog: during the Clinton years many Republicans were making a lot of good points about conservative principles but now that they have gained power, not so much. I was dismayed at Gary Bauer's meltdown during the 2000 primary but I chalked it up to his own inexperience with political thinking. But now I begin to wonder if the Christian right as a whole is unprepared for serious political discourse. I have to do a bit more thinking about this before I can make a coherent comment, but my initial reaction is that this goes a long way toward explaining something I have had a hard time putting my finger on.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Condi Talks Sense

Unfortunately it is in the context of responding to Clinton's criticism but this NY Post article has some worthwhile arguments. (The first half of the article is a waste of time, but read it if you think Clinton's opinion of the war on terror is worth noting or rebutting. It gets good after the bullet points.)

Asked about recently leaked internal U.S. intelligence estimates that claimed the Iraq war was fueling terrorist recruiting, Rice said: "Now that we're fighting back, of course they are fighting back, too."

"I find it just extraordinary that the argument is, all right, so they're using the fact they're being challenged in the Middle East and challenged in Iraq to recruit, therefore you've made the war on terrorism worse.

"It's as if we were in a good place on Sept. 11. Clearly, we weren't," she added.

"These are people who want to fight against us, and they're going to find a reason. And yes, they will recruit, but it doesn't mean you stop pursuing strategies that are ultimately going to stop them," Rice said.

She insisted U.S. forces must finish the job in Iraq and the wider Middle East to wipe out the "root cause" of violent extremism - not just the terror thugs who carry out the attacks.

"It's a longer-term strategy, and it may even have some short-term down side, but if you don't look at the longer term, you're just leaving the problem to somebody else," she said.

She also said Middle East countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have a "major educational reform" effort under way to root out propaganda literature and extremist brainwashing.

In Latin America, home to outrageous Venezuelan bomb thrower Hugo Chavez, Rice said the U.S. approach is to "spend as little time possible in talking about Chavez and more time talking about our positive agenda in Latin America," including several trade agreements.
My biggest beef with the Bush administration is not that they've mishandled the war on terror (everyone makes mistakes) but that they've consistently failed to argue the cause. Yes, there have been many talking points, but the times when we have been offered an actual argument like the one above have been few and usually, as in this case, in response to someone else's criticism. In fact that doesn't only apply to justifying the war. This administration has had many missed opportunities to make the conservative case for any of its positions.

This may seem like a minor peeve, but consider that the alternative to persuasion is force. In a democracy, the failure to make a persuasive case leads ultimately to tyranny or to civil war. We have a lot of intellectual capital to squander yet before either of those alternatives becomes immanent, but still we have squandered too much of it over the last few decades for my comfort.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Demolition Company Rebuts 9/11 Conspiracy Claims

I really don't want to get involved in the whole debate about the supposed "Controlled Demolition" of the twin towers, but a couple of recent friends have been talking about this lately and I am often willing to read things that otherwise don't interest me for friendship's sake. So, for those of you who want a concise and readable refutation of some of the claims of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists, go here.

(Via 9/11 Conspiracy Smasher)

(Note: The article linked by Smasher was evidently an earlier one that has since been updated and the name and link has been changed. The link I have provided is current as of 9/7/06 but may change due to future updates. Go to Protec's home page if that happens and search for the paper on the World Trade Center.)

Upgrading Vietnam

Evidently the US is on the verge of removing Vietnam from its list of violators of religious liberty. (I received this story via email from Voice of the Martyrs but it is also posted here.)

Following an August 15-18 visit to Vietnam by U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom John Hanford, indications are that Vietnam will be taken off the U.S. list of the world's worst religious liberty offenders. With the planned September 2nd release from prison of key Hmong Christian leader Ma Van Bay -- described as "propaganda exercises" by one human rights advocate -- various releases by the Vietnam News Agency signal that Vietnamese officials expected Ambassador Hanford to take good news of religious liberty progress back to Washington. Vietnam's presence on the list of "Countries of Particular Concern" has remained a barrier to its membership in the World Trade Organization. According to representatives of the majority of Protestants in Vietnam -- who remain unregistered and thus illegal -- while there have been some modest and spotty improvements, there is still no clear indication of a breakthrough or even that reform is uniform and systematic. They also note that not one of the many officials who have broken Vietnam's laws in mistreating Christians has yet been charged.
[Emphasis mine]

I am not sure how much of an incentive membership in the WTO is for Vietnam. Most likely the theory here is that we can use the carrot of membership to get them to clean up their act. The question is, once they are in, will there be any incentive to maintain even such limited human rights concessions? I think not and it will be difficult to get any other world leaders to make noise since they will all be too busy patting themselves on the back over this success.

But, in the short term, evangelists like Ma Van Bay will be free to do their work which, in turn, will have a much greater impact on the long-term than that of diplomats like Hanford. It is one evidence of God's grace that dictators nearly always underestimate the power of the Gospel. Communist regimes like Vietnam, being blind to all but material causes, can tell that Christianity is dangerous to their pathetic little tyrranies, but they have no idea how dangerous. They are selling their future for a mess of pottage like the WTO, and don't even know it.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Playing with Poverty

Mickey Kaus disects Eric Alterman's complaints about the newly released poverty numbers. (Go to Kaus' site for more links.):

Again, moreover, "although the numbers living below the poverty line held steady between 2004 and 2005, there has been a sharp increase in those living in extreme poverty."

That's funny, because if you look at the Census numbers, they show that the percent of people living in extreme poverty--defined as below 50 percent of the poverty line--was 5.4 percent in 2005, a jump of ... well, zero from 2004, when the rate was also 5.4 percent. I contend that "zero" is not a "sharp increase." ...
That sounds about right to me. But there's more:

So how did Alterman get his bogus spin? What he's quoting is NYT reporter Rick Lyman paraphrasing "advocates for the poor"--specifically Robert Greenstein, whose influential outfit (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) specializes in devising esoteric measurements to suggest that good poverty news is really bad poverty news. Lyman's next paragraph reported:

And 43 percent of the poor earned less than half of the poverty limit, Mr. Greenstein said, again the highest such percentage ever recorded.
Those may be the highest percentages of the poor ever recorded, but what does that mean if the absolute number of people in "deep poverty" didn't really increase? I think it means that there were fewer other kinds of poor people!
Read the whole thing for the details. What this essentially means is that the upper half of the poor population ceased being poor but the bottom half remained where they were. It is commonly accepted (although not publicly admitted by people in the poverty industry) that a certain percent of poor people can't be helped because they don't want to change the factors -- such as drug use or sexual promiscuity -- that are keeping them poor. If this percent "rises" with respect to the total number of poor, that essentially means that the system is helping everyone that can be helped.

By analogy, if you have three people in a boat adrift at sea and one dead body, the percentage of people that can't be saved is 25%. If someone rescues the other three, that percent "jumps" to 100%. Without seeing the raw numbers in Lyman's figures, I am inclined to believe something like this is happening with the poverty numbers.

Monday, July 31, 2006

IDF Hacks Hizbollah TV

Gotta love this:

After repeated Israeli efforts to destroy Hizbullah's al-Manar television station have failed, an IDF intelligence unit succeeded this week in hacking the station's live broadcasts, planting Israeli PR messages in the transmissions..

The al-Manar channel regularly airs juicy propaganda against Israel, including reports of "heroic" and "successful" operations by Hizbullah fighters against IDF special forces.

However, this weekend the IDF prepared a surprise for the Lebanese and Arab viewers of the channel: The broadcast was interrupted and caricatures of Nasrallah appeared on the screen, accompanied by captions reading: "Your days are numbered" and "Nasrallah, your time is up. Soon you won't be with us anymore."

Additionally, Hizbullah and al-Manar internet sites also received "special treatment" by Israeli technical specialists, and several were erased from the internet.

(Via LGF)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Persecution and Derrida's Cat

In response to my earlier post about persecution of Christians in Pakistan and Turkey, Rene of Life, the Universe and Everything feels that I am contributing to "the cause of much of the problems we have today, certainly not the solution". While I don't kid myself that everyone will agree with my opinions (and Rene and I have been debating politics, religion and philosophy for years) I am somewhat surprised that he picked this particular article for special refutation. I would have thought my piece defending the Israeli incursion into Lebanon would have been more to his point. Pointing out examples of persecution would seem pretty tame by comparison, but I'll take whatever response I can get.

First, let me answer a couple of his criticisms specifically, then I will add some further commentary at the end. I don't particularly like this format, since it makes further responses somewhat complicated, but I don't want to give the impression that I am ignoring any of his points..

First of all I think this type of post is completely single sided. Guilty, as charged. I make no attempt on this blog to pretend that I am completely objective and I generally do not trust people who claim to be.

Extreme intolerance or aggression is a serious problem in the world today. It exists and it should be countered and eradicated. But Here he is acknowledging that I have a point. He isn't, therefore in the category of knee-jerk leftists who disagree with any conservative just because he is a conservative. I note this only to point out that I do indeed appreciate the carefulness with which he argues, even though I ultimately disagree with his argument. Yet, note that "but". The real point follows:

the suggestion by examples like this that the problem is an exponent of a single cultural or religious group is absolutely ridiculous. I don't think I made that suggestion. Relating this to the previous sentence, he seems to think that I am blaming all of the intolerance in the world on Islam. My point was much humbler: to point out that some minorities are persecuted with impunity and don't get the attention that they deserve. Even among our "allies", Christianity is treated far worse than, on balance, Christians have treated others.

Too easily do we forget similar tendensies that exist in our own culture, or that of our other neighbours. Have we forgotten the crimes of Nazi and KKK sympathisers? Of extreme black power groups? of violence between Sikhs and Hindus or the aggression that is displayed by Zionist militants? Some people might forget this, but I certainly do not. But the Nazis and KKK have not been in power for a long time, and the other groups he mentions, though perfectly legitimate targets, are not my particular concern. This is the heart of our disagreement, but I will wait until the end to say more about it.

Furthermore, are we forgetting that even in the case of looking at Muslim fundamentalism, that there is no such thing as Islam versus Christianity? There are similar problems between Islam and Hindus, or even within Islam (Shia and Sunni for instance). This whole construct of "them versus us" with "them" as the evil aggressor just does not exist. This is patently false as my two examples prove. Muslim hostility to Christianity may not be the only problem in the world, but it is a problem and it is as worthy of discussion as any other. The fact that I am a Christian (and therefore part of the "us") does not exclude me from having a valid interest in pointing this out.

As to the suggestion that there are conflicts within Islam itself, I am well aware of the fact and my posts on the crisis in Darfur (here, here, here and here for instance) should absolve me of the charge that I have ignored this fact.

Even worse it is the exact same type of propaganda tat is used by extremists in the Islam camps or elsewhere to incite hatred to other groups. If you want an example of Christians abusing a Muslim, or any other combination of ethnic groups, you will have no problem in finding it. Well, I for one have not found too many examples recently. It is true that sectarian violence often involves bad behavior on both sides, but when the violence is one-sided as in the examples I cited, it is usually not the Christians who are the aggressors. If Rene thinks these examples are easy to find, perhaps he can furnish some.

And that is the second major problem. Incidents like this do not even have a proper reference or clear link to facts or truth. Did this happen? Was this the whole story? We don't know. I admit that I cannot verify the truth of the claims, nor even link to a post by Voice of the Martyrs. But these stories are first-hand accounts by people who were treated by VoM representatives. I get three or four such stories via email every week. Some of them may be inaccurate, but that is the nature of after-the-fact reporting.

Even if it happened exactly like this, then the question of how representative of a whole culture / religion or ethnic group this is still remains. Again, I said nothing about these stories being representative. But the fact that they occurred should color our evaluation of the societies in which they took place, even if total condemnation would be inappropriate. If Rene needs me to make a black vs white argument in order to make his point, he should know by now that I am not going to oblige. But neither should unpleasant data be dismissed just because it is not "representative".

In my opinion posting this post contributes to the same problem that it tries to identify and condemn: The aggression of one ethnic group to another. It puts the poster on a same level as the extremist imams that try to convince their followers that Christians are evil, or the Zionist calling for the eradication of Palestinians. As long as we keep hating people, and condemning their beliefs and values, we cannot expect anything else in return. Note in the first sentence that he is careful to say "contributes to" not "causes". This is an example of the carefulness I noted earlier. But in the second sentence he abandons this nuance by the sort of moral equivalence that is emblematic of liberalism. How, exactly, is pointing to specific acts of violence by a specific group of Muslims (in the Pakistan story) or pointing out that certain other Muslims are trying to get a particular church outlawed (in the Turkey story) the same as calling them "evil" or calling for their "eradication"? Is criticism always an act of violence? By that logic, Rene's post is essentially a death threat against me (since he calls my ideas "extremely dangerous") which no reasonable person would conclude. But if there is a hierarchy of disagreement, why is my pointing out specific cases of persecution out of bounds?

So what is my overall response? I happen to believe that Islam is a false religion and Christianity is a true one and that these facts have consequences in the real world. Therefore, I am more inclined to point out abuses of the one against the other. But I have never shied away from pointing out the failings of people I would like to support, as noted by my early comments on the Abu Ghraib scandal. But selecting what stories to talk about is not the same as denying that there are other stories. I pick stories that strike me as interesting and, when I can, that seem to be under-reported.

In The Gift of Death, Jacques Derrida famously discussed the problem of feeding your own cat while not feeding all of the other starving cats. According to Derrida, the act of doing good in one instance is inseparably connected to the guilt of not doing other possible goods. I think that is the fallacy that Rene is committing here. In pointing out these particular abuses, I am guilty of not discussing other, equally abusive situations. But my answer to both Derrida and Rene is that I will do what good I can and allow others the opportunity to fill in the gaps. This is sort of an extension of the principle of the free market to the realm of ethics.

Ultimately, of course, I believe that God will sort all of this out and dispense perfect justice, but until then we frail humans have the responsibility to point out injustice when we see it and fix it when we can.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

I saw this story yesterday in another paper, but didn't have time to post about it:

A knife-wielding grocery store employee attacked eight co-workers Friday, seriously injuring four before a witness pulled a gun and stopped him, police said.
I think it was in Washington Times, but I can't find the link. In any event, Clayton Cramer has noticed that the USA Today version is substantially different:
The suspect was tackled by a witness as he tried to run from the building and was held until officers arrived, Higgins said.
That has an original byline of 7/21 at 1:55 PM. Evidently enough people complained about the omission since the following morning 7/22 at 9:52 a follow-up story mentions the gun:
Two victims of a knife-wielding grocery store employee remained hospitalized Saturday after the man attacked eight co-workers and was finally stopped by a witness who pulled a gun, authorities said.
Note that this guy was stopped without the gun being fired. Remember that the next time someone says the only things handguns are good for is killing people.

With Friends Like These...

Two stories of persecution of Christians by our Muslim "allies" from Voice of the Martyrs (via email, sorry no link available).


On June 6, 2006, Nasir Ashraf, a Christian stone mason, was brutally attacked just outside Lahore. While working while working on the construction of a room at a school near Manga Mandi in Pakistan, Nasir became thirsty and took a break. He drew water and drank from a glass chained to a cemented public water tank next to a mosque which was reserved for "all" poor people. Returning to the construction site, a Muslim man asked him, "Why did you drink water from this glass since you are a Christian?" The man accused Nasir of polluting the glass. The Muslim man yanked the glass off the iron chain, broke it and threw it in a garbage can. The man summoned other militant Muslims to the scene, furiously saying, "This Christian polluted our glass." Hearing this, the incensed mob began beating Nasir, yelling that a Christian dog drank water from their glass. The militant Muslims encouraged bystanders to beat Nasir because it would be a "good" deed that would benefit them in heaven. The attackers pushed Nasir off a ledge onto the ground. The impact of the fall dislocated his shoulder and broke his collar bone in two places. Nasir was knocked unconscious and he did not regain his senses until he reached a clinic. A doctor told Nasir that some people had brought him there. The doctor advised Nasir to never make this kind of mistake again.
Note, for the record, that these were just average Muslim citizens, not necessarily terrorists.

Nationalists in Turkey's Northern city of Samsun have stepped up a two-year campaign against a Protestant church, denouncing in the media the legally registered congregation's right to exist. Izzet Altunbas, chairman of the Samsun Association of Balkan Turks, and a prominent member of the local Nationalist Movement Party, publicly attacked the Agape Protestant Church in vicious terms in mid-June. In speeches broadcast over three local TV channels on June 16th, Altunbas declared that establishment of the church, officially registered as the Agape Church Association, revealed "extensive damage" to the nation in that it reflected Turkey's compliance with European Union legal norms strengthening a dangerous "assimilation" drive against both Turkish ethnicity and Islam. "I find this association and its secret activities a huge danger for Samsun and for Islam," Altunbas said. "This is treason against our Muslim and Turkish identity."
I agree with the nationalists on one point: as long as this kind of crap continues, Turkey does not belong in the EU. (And, as a side note, they need to get out of Cyprus before they are allowed into Europe.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Misreading Buchanan

Pat Buchanan has made a career of sticking his foot in his mouth that has been only slightly less successful than his other careers of misinterpreting politics and impersonating a conservative. The astute reader will discern that I have no particular love for the man. But I have to disagree with the folks who are calling him anti-Semitic for allegedly claiming that Israel is "un-American and un-Christian".

I first saw this charge at Sonia's blog where she awarded Buchanan the coveted "Assclown Award". He certainly deserves the award for the mangled analysis he provides of the conflict in Lebanon, and the odor of anti-semitism is not new to Buchanan's rhetoric, but I don't think his quote is quite so obviously bone-headed as it appears.

The article in question (on the marginally reliable World Net Daily) begins with the sentence: "When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unleashed his navy and air force on Lebanon, accusing that tiny nation of an "act of war," the last pillar of Bush's Middle East policy collapsed." The first point to note here is that Buchanan's target is not Israel but, as usual, President Bush (whom Buchanan tends unadvisedly to equate with Neo-conservatism in general). His concluding paragraphs further emphasize this attack on Bush:

Who is whispering in his ear? The same people who told him Iraq was maybe months away from an atom bomb, that an invasion would be a "cakewalk," that he would be Churchill, that U.S. troops would be greeted with candy and flowers, that democracy would break out across the region, that Palestinians and Israelis would then sit down and make peace?

How much must America pay for the education of this man?
Now, you might suggest that, in Buchanan's mind, those whisperings would obviously be the dreaded "worldwide Jewish conspiracy" otherwise known as the "Israel Lobby" or more recently simply "Neo-cons". That may well be true, but it seems pretty obvious from the context that he is referring to the intelligence community and we don't need to go much further to understand the context of this article. Buchanan is simply playing his standard game of moral outrage against America couched in conservative language and it doesn't really matter why. The entire article, though it talks a lot about the actions of Israel, is meant to be a condemnation of US foreign policy in the Mid-East.

With this context in mind, lets look at the quote in question:
"But what Israel is doing is imposing deliberate suffering on civilians, collective punishment on innocent people, to force them to do something they are powerless to do: disarm the gunmen among them. Such a policy violates international law and comports neither with our values nor our interests. It is un-American and un-Christian."
As I noted in the post below, I think Israel is handling the situation pretty well and the charge that they are specifically targeting civilians is both disingenuous and factually misleading. Now, I agree that his syntax may be a bit confusing, but he clearly makes two complaints in the previous sentence: Israel's actions are in conflict with international law (a dubious claim, but we won't go there) and that they are in conflict with "our values [and] interests". But it seems pretty obvious that, given Buchanan's paradigm, what he is saying in the last sentence is simply that we should not support Israel because to do so would be "un-American and un-Christian". I don't agree, but then I don't agree with much that Buchanan says.

More recently John Podhoretz at the Corner has picked up on this theme claiming (without either quoting or linking to the original article, mind you):
When Pat Buchanan calls Israel's military action "un-Christian," that's anti-Semitism.
Now Instapundit has picked up the meme (linking to JPod's article but, again, not the original) and commenting "WELL, DUH: Pat Buchanan calls Israel "un-Christian." Never mind what I'd call Pat Buchanan..."

All very clever, but perhaps a bit light on the facts, hmm?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel's Cease-fire Demands

Via the Washington Times:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spelled out Israel's terms for ending its six-day siege of Lebanon yesterday, demanding the return of two kidnapped soldiers, an end to rocket attacks on Israel and the deployment of the Lebanese army to keep Hezbollah away from the common border.
Let's look at those one at a time, shall we?

1. Return of Soldiers: This is the obvious demand since it is the reason for Israel's attack. They can't very well not make this one. Israel has negotiated for the release of hostages taken by Hezbollah before, usually at an unfavorable exchange rate. But this time Israel is negotiating from a position of strength and the only offer they are making is to stop shooting. A much better form of negotiation, though one Hezbollah is not likely to accept. The only thing Hezbollah has in the way of assets (apart from their stockpile of missiles) is their appearance of strength and they cannot afford to appear to surrender to Israel, so this demand is not likely to be met.

2. End to Rocket Attacks: Again, fairly obvious and they can't really ask for anything less and still maintain a an image of success. An end to violence has been a demand of Israel all along, and it was only during Ehud Barak's disastrous policy of unilateral concessions that anything less was deemed acceptable. It is salutary that they seem to be returning to the only sensible policy. But, like the demand for the return of the hostages, this is not likely to be met and for the same reasons.

3. Lebanese Army to Police the Border: This is perfectly reasonable, of course, except that everyone knows that Lebanon does not have the capacity to defeat Hezbollah. They are simply outgunned. But this is interesting as a starting point for a possible cooperation between Israel and Lebanon (with possible US or NATO involvement). I don't know if such a thing is politically possible, but it has a lot more chance of actually succeeding than Kofi Annan's proposed International Force:
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan pressed the five permanent UN Security Council members to contribute to a force that would quell the escalation of violence in the Middle East. [...] The move puts pressure on the U.S., France, China and Russia to contribute to a force that would curtail clashes that started six days ago when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack.

I like the fact that Olmert is talking tough:
"There are moments in the life of any nation where it stares reality in the face and says 'enough,' " said Mr. Olmert in his first address to parliament since the fighting began. "So I say to everyone: 'Enough.' Israel will not be held hostage to a terrorist gang, nor a terrorist authority."
It's about damned time.

Friday, July 07, 2006

England and St. George

It is easy to be amused by this:

[...] the Church of England is considering rejecting England's patron saint St George on the grounds that his image is too warlike and may offend Muslims.

Clergy have started a campaign to replace George with St Alban, a Christian martyr in Roman Britain.


Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams indicated support for an upgrade for Alban, although he is said to be cautious about relegation for George.

He told the Sunday Times: 'I think St Alban is irreplaceable in the history of English Christianity. Perhaps we ought to raise his profile because it's the beginning of the church in this country with martyrdom, wisdom and courage.'


The saint became an English hero during the crusades against the Muslim armies that captured Jerusalem in the 11th century.

An apparition of George is said to have appeared to the crusader army at the Battle of Antioch in 1098.

His dragon-slaying legend is thought to have begun as an allegory of Diocletian's persecution of Christians.

Alban was martyred in 304 AD on the site of St Alban's abbey in the Hertfordshire city that now bears his name.

A Roman army officer, he was said to have converted after sheltering a Christian.
I am not sure to what degree St. Alban needs his profile raised, as he is easily as recognizable in the Anglican community as St. George. Not that I have anything against St. Alban, but I think this is yet another example of the Archbishop trying to strike a diplomatic note and missing the point completely.

There is a Byzantine icon of St. George (sans dragon) on my cubicle wall as I write this. On the back is a brief bio of the saint:
St. George was born of Christian parents (275 AD). During his childhood, his father died as a martyr. He grew up in Lydda of Palestine, the native town of his mother.

At the age of 18, he was recruited into the Roman army. Handsome, with an athletic and gentle appearance, clever and educated, courageous and brave, he was promoted to the highest military ranks in a short time.

Now Diocletian, the Roman Emperor, declared a severe persecution against the Christians and demanded that all his soldiers and officers offer pagan sacrifices as proof of their loyalty.

St. George was the first to refuse. He gave up his military commission, confessed his faith openly, and made himself available to the persecutors, obviously with the purpose of inspiring courage among the Christians.

Diocletian, unsuccessful in his efforts to change St. George's mind, ordered to put him under the cruelest tortures. He endured his martyrdom with great courage which caused the conversion of many officers and soldiers, and encouraged the Christians to stand firm in their faith. Finally, he was beheaded at Nicomedia on April 23 in the year 303 AD.
What exactly is "warlike" about this image? There are several striking similarities between this story and the one about St. Alban. As to the suggestion that St. George may not be an actual historical person, what of it? I happen to believe that he was, but the point of the story is to demonstrate an ideal of courage under duress and standing up for convictions. That is surely an ideal that we need to recover now more than ever. I would understand if the nation of England were to become so secularized that it decided to abandon its Christian heritage. But there is no excuse of the Church of England to be aiding such a movement.

The crux of the issue, of course, is not the secularization of the country but the appeasement of Muslims. The association of St. George's cross with the crusades is undeniable. But one ought to remember that the crusades were not an act of aggression by Europeans against Arab lands, but a defense of land they already owned against the invader. There are many reasons the crusades were not ultimately successful, but chief among them must be the lack of unity and conviction within the Christian camp. St. George went to his death, if the legend is to be believed, rather than bow to public pressure or pagan religion. If the Church of England is to continue its Christian witness, it will have to take note of his example and refuse to bow to either of the false gods of secularism or Islam.

(Via Mere Comments)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Copy Cat Killing

Oh sure, just because we dropped a bomb on our current nemesis, you guys have to go and do it too?

An Israel Air Force strike in Gaza City last night killed Jamal Abu Samhadana, head of the Popular Resistance Committees. At least three other PRC operatives were also killed.

Abu Samhadana was a key player in rocket attacks on Israel and a suspect in the fatal 2003 bombing of a U.S. convoy in the Gaza Strip. In April, he was appointed head of the new Interior Minister security force in Gaza.
Well, fine. And, er, nice shooting guys.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


I've been trying to post this all morning but blogger has been down (undoubtedly as a side-effect of everyone trying to comment on this good news). Here's the story from Reuters:

U.S. warplanes killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader in Iraq blamed for bombings, beheadings and assassinations, in a strike which President George W. Bush said on Thursday had delivered justice.

In one of the most significant developments in Iraq since the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Jordanian-born Zarqawi was killed on Wednesday in a joint U-S.-Iraqi operation helped by tip-offs from Iraqis and Jordanian intelligence.
Here is the video of the bombing (not terribly interesting, IMHO).

Of course, the caveats have already begun:
Zarqawi leaves gap but insurgency will outlive him
Zarqawi's death a relief, but not cure, for Bush

Fine. Look, no one expects this to end the insurgency over night. But, to those who are already trying to minimize the effect of this victory I have only one thing to say: you took a shower this morning, knowing full well that more dirt would accumulate in the coming day. Killing Zarqawi is like taking a long, hot shower after a several days of heavy work. We have more work to do, but for the moment lets enjoy the smell of the soap and the feeling of being temporarily clean.

NOTE: Vinnie at the Jawa Report links to this CNN story, noting that Zarqawi was betrayed by members of his own al Qaeda group. Encouraging.

UPDATE: I guess Blogger went down for unrelated reasons. (Via: Althouse)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What Do I Really Think About Immigration?

Dustin asks this question in the comments to the post below. The answer is a bit longer than will fit in the comments section, so I created a separate post.

1. Immigration is economically good for the country, other things being equal. The problems with immigration (and all increases in population) are generally related to defects in law enforcement or attempts at socialism. Both of these are made worse by a failing moral order. People that are basically law-abiding and productive are of mutual benefit to each other.

2. I also think that the spiritual value of immigration is often underestimated. We are a country that has historically loved liberty tempered by religious restraint. Inviting people into the country from places that don't have those values is good for them (of course) but also good practice for us. The Old Testament is full of exhortations to treat the foreigner as an equal, provided he will obey the law and serve the Lord. But, as with the economic factors mentioned above, this requires that we actually teach these values, both to the immigrants and to our native citizens. But this of course is the job of the church (or religious organizations if you don't think, as I do, that this should be a Christian country.) As with the economic situation above, this is not being done and that causes problems. But in this case, the government is doing too much (i.e. trying to run the school system) rather than too little.

These two factors are inter-related. I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state, but we currently have the situation where the state is trying to take on both roles and the church is making itself irrelevant. But it is only in a society that has a properly functioning civil law and moral precepts that man is not a curse to man. The extent to which we are losing that proper functioning is the extent to which things like immigration and over-crowding will become problems. But a good government focuses on the causes rather than the symptoms, which is why I don't buy the current Republican policy line on immigration.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bush on Imigration

Everyone but me has been talking about Bush's speech on Monday. I am not too interested in the topic, but a couple of comments relate to things that I care deeply about.

First, to set the stage, I hold the view that the strength of America lies primarily in the ideas around which her culture is based, not the geographical advantages or the ethnic identity of her people. So the issue of illegal immigration is interesting primarily as a casebook of reconciling biblical principles of charity toward strangers with (equally biblical) ideals of the rule of law. The laws must be obeyed, but if the offend against charity they may be changed in an orderly way. This seems pretty obvious and non-controversial, but I am amazed how often people argue either (from the Left) that the laws are unjust so they should be ignored or (from the Right) the laws are the laws so they should never be changed. They don't put it quite like that, of course, but that is what it often amounts to.

OK, that's the background. I was interested to read, in the Corner (here, here and here), that President Bush may very well be operating from similar Christian convictions:

[...]I get asked this question all the time and the conclusion I've come to is this: The president is morally and emotionally opposed to immigration enforcement, especially on the Mexican border. He sees it as uncompassionate and un-Christian, at best a necessary evil that must be entered into with the greatest reluctance and abandoned as soon as is practical.

Of course, this doesn't in itself prevent Bush's policy from being muddled. The rule of law is still important and the law cannot do its job if the expectations are constantly being changed based on expediency. That brings me to the following off-hand remark in Mickey Kaus' critique of the president's immigration policy:
I agree that this is the deal that can be cut--in part because there seems to be nothing all that terrible about a legal guest worker program, as long as it draws its workers from those waiting in line outside the country (and not those who've jumped the queue and already snuck in). Guest workers aren't illegal immigrants, after all--and one way to discourage illegals is to give opportunities to legals.
This has always seemed to make the most sense: make legal citizenship as easy as possible so that the incentive to cross illegally is reduced, then come down hard on anyone who still tries to cross illegally. In this scenario, you can be pretty draconian in enforcing the border, since it is reasonably certain that anyone who can't get in legally has malicious intent.

UPDATE: Err, sorry. The link to Kaus' article doesn't go directly to the post I wanted. (I thought he was getting better about that.) The quote is from the 05/17 post at 12:42 AM.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

World Press Freedom Day

I have been ignoring Jane at Armies of Liberation for far too long. Check out her current post on World Press Freedom Day:

As the United States celebrates World Press Freedom Day, we hail the courageous sacrifices made by journalists around the world to report the facts, even at the cost of their lives and their freedom. Every day brave men and women risk harassment, beatings, detention, imprisonment and even death simply for seeking to share the truth with others around the world.
Read it all.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

St. Luke's of the Mountains

My wife and I spent a lovely morning at a meeting with fellow Anglicans concerned about the state and direction of the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) here. In February of 2006, St. Luke's left the diocese of Los Angelese and aligned itself under the episcopal oversight of the Anglican Province of Uganda. As many Anglicans are considering the same move, or more likely do not have any clue as to how to respond to the growing apostasy within ECUSA, some lay memebers are seeking ways to reach out to like-minded, biblically orthodox Anglicans.

The chuch grounds are lovely, as you can see, but what is really exciting is the prospect of actually making progress in the renewal of the Episcopal witness in the United States. I have been wanting something like this to happen for decades, but, as an outsider, have been limited in how much I could do. The issue isn't really about homosexuality but about the authority of scripture and our need for grace and repentance. I will post more on the subject as I learn more.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Buy a Gun Day

NOTE: This post was actually created on 4/19 but I am backdating it to comply with the official date. I did mean to post earlier, but, being the day before Easter, there were quite a few higher priorities. I really bought the gun two weeks ago but, due to California's regressive 10-day waiting period (which should have gone away in '98 when the NICS replaced the Brady Act), I actually picked it up on the proper day.

I did buy a gun this year: a Springfield Armory XD Subcompact in .40 S&W. Nice little gun, but it took me awhile to get used to the boxey look of the front end. What finally persuaded me to prefer this one over the Glock 27 was that it is slightly heavier which is a plus when shooting a powerful cartridge from such a small gun. Also, it is slightly (0.03 inches) shorter, which makes it easier to conceal. Probably won't make that much difference in the long run, of course.

I was actually in the market for a Glock 33, having a long time infatuation with the 357Sig cartridge, but no one seems to be selling it. Not surprising, really, as the caliber never caught on.

My next gun will probably be a full-sized .45 of some sort. I wanted one this time around, but I needed something concealable and was tired of carrying around my old Jennings .22 (and frankly a little embarrassed). One of these would be nice, but only in my dreams.

Update: Cowboy Blob has a roundup of what other folks bought. (Via: Alphecca)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Daytime TV Bad for Your Brain?

Well, duh. But now there may be scientific evidence:

Could Oprah and General Hospital be bad for your brain?

New research suggests that elderly women who watch daytime soap operas and talk shows are more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment than women who abstain from such fare.
I love the next line:
Researchers stress that it's not clear if watching these TV shows leads to weaker brainpower, or vice-versa. And they say it's possible that another explanation might be at work.
So, we don't really know if watching TV makes you stupid, or being stupid makes you watch TV. Heh.

I'm still waiting for the study on prime time programming and network news.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bloggers Invited to Translate Saddam Documents

Roger L Simon has the story:

Back in mid-February Pajamas Media went to Washington to cover the Intelligence Summit and did video interviews with Congressman Hoekstra (chair of the House Intell Committee), former DCI Woolsey and Richard Perle, among others. In all those interviews we discussed our idea - new to all of them - that the myriad untranslated Saddam tapes and documents be released to the blogosphere for translation. The three men all, to one degree or another, liked the idea, although they were surprised by it. Today, it was announced that at the instigation of Hoekstra these documents have been released by the Pentagon for ... and this is how it was worded on the Brit Hume Show on Fox News ... for translation by the blogosphere.
Whoa! This may well be the biggest story of the year.

Simon is collecting translations here: iraq dash-sign translations at-sign pajamas media dot-character com

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Coming Collapse of China

Front Page interviews Gordon Chang author of The Coming Collapse of China:

As China gets more prosperous, it is becoming less stable. Senior Beijing officials now face the dilemma of all reforming authoritarians: economic success endangers their continued control. As Harvard's Samuel Huntington has noted, sustained modernization is the enemy of one-party systems. Revolutions occur under many conditions, but especially when political institutions do not keep up with the social forces unleashed by economic change. And as history shows us, nothing irritates a rising social class like inflexible political institutions. The most interesting trend about protests in recent years is not that they are becoming more frequent, getting much larger, or growing more violent. The most interesting trend is that we are now seeing middle-class Chinese, the beneficiaries of the last quarter century of progress, taking to the streets.


Unfortunately, positive change will not come as fast as it should, in part because we have created a set of perverse incentives. The Chinese engage in bad behavior. We reward them. So they continue their irresponsible conduct. We reward them still more. In these circumstances, why would they ever change?

So is our policy toward China succeeding? Not yet. Will it succeed? Yes, in the long term. But there may be no long term.
Lots more at the link. I think Chang may be a bit optimistic in predicting the collapse of Chinese Communism by the end of the decade, but his analysis seems fairly level-headed.

Defining Persecution

I received the following email from Vision America:

In less than 3 weeks (on March 27-28) Vision America's The War On Christians Conference will convene at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C.


Let me tell you about just one of our panels - Christian Persecution: Reports From The Front Lines.
This is a topic that is usually near to my heart, but continuing on, I found what they were really talking about:
The panelists all have experienced anti-Christian discrimination firsthand. They are:

Lloyd Marcus, an African-American artist, who initially had his paintings censored from a public showing for Black History Month, because they contained church scenes.

Pastor Tom Crouse, from Massachusetts, who was charged over $6,200 for police protection for a public meeting on coming out of the homosexual lifestyle, in an attempt to stifle his First Amendment rights.

Michael Marcavage was one of the Philadelphia Four - Christian activists who were arrested and prosecuted for quietly witnessing at a gay festival. If convicted, each could have been sentenced to up to 47 years in prison.

Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt is a Navy Chaplain who was almost discharged from the service for publicly praying in Jesus name.
OK, I don't deny that these are important issues, and the folks involved are right to make the issue public. But is this persecution? Compare these problems with the sort of thing going on in other parts of the world.

After preaching God’s Word at a New Years service at Beradakia Church in his native town of Baliguda, Kandhamala district in India, 35-year-old Pastor Jimendra Nayak (Mantu) never made it home to the village of Barakhema. At 8:00 p.m. on January 1, 2006, Nayak took an auto rickshaw after service to return to his home in Puri district, where he has lived for two years and served as pastor of Indian Church Assembly. He didn’t leave the vehicle alive.


It is reported that when Nayak’s widow, Sashrekh Pradhan, and relatives initially attempted to file a complaint looking into the suspected murder, but the police officer to which it was submitted rejected it. The person assisting the widow as she prepared a petition for an investigation into the death of her husband was harshly rebuked by the presiding officer. No inquiry about the cause of Nayak’s death was made before the complaint, and no action was taken once it was filed. For six weeks following the pastor’s death, relatives have unsuccessfully tried numerous times to attain a postmortem report.


Furthermore, Pastor Nayak’s widow and relatives divulged that radical Hindus targeted him for some time, approaching him on numerous occasions because of his witness to Hindus. He was threatened and restrained from carrying out his missionary work in the community.

North Korea:
It is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps where they face cruel abuses, according to the 2006 World Watch List report. Some think the hermit regime has detained more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world. On occasion, North Koreans become Christians after crossing the border with China and entering into contact with local Christians. But many are exposed as believers when they return to North Korea and are targeted to be caught. Many face torture and death. Though no exact figures can be given, Open Doors’ staff estimates that hundreds of Christians were killed by the regime in 2005.

This is not to mention Saudi Arabia (number 2 on the above mentioned World Watch List), Yemen, Indonesia, Burma and many other countries where there are actual death penalties for converting to Christianity.

Dubai to Divest?

Rossputin notes:

CNBC is reporting that Dubai Ports World will transfer the ports that they would have run as part of their takeover of P&O to a US Entity.

Senator John Warner was on the floor of the Senate announcing the transfer of the US ports to a US investor. I think they gave him the news because he has been one of the few voices of reason in the Senate on the issue.
There is no link in the above blog, but here is the story from the Washington Post:
The United Arab Emirates company that was attempting to take over management operations at six U.S. ports announced today that it will divest itself of all American interests.

The announcement appears to head off a major confrontation that was brewing between Congress and the Bush administration over the controversial deal.


It was not immediately clear how the divesture would be handled or what U.S. company would take over the operation.

Warner's announcement came just hours after Republican leaders from the House and Senate met with President Bush to tell him Congress appeared ready to block the deal.
This has always struck me as a tempest in a teapot, but it illustrates how difficult this administration seems to find comminicating its ideas. I suspect that Bush, who ran as a "compassionate conservative" in 2000, has never really understood the philosophical underpinings of conservatism. This was abundantly clear as he fumbled with the definition of "judicial activism" in his explanation of the Harriet Miers nomination, and his earlier inability to persuasively argue his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. (Hint: They were both bad ideas to start with.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

SD Governor Signs Abortion Ban

Governor Rounds has signed the bill:

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed a bill Monday that bans nearly all abortions in the state, legislation in direct conflict with the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973.


"The reversal of a Supreme Court opinion is possible," Rounds said, pointing to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that reversed the 1896 ruling that states could segregate public facilities by race if equal facilities were offered.

The bill "will give the United States Supreme Court a similar opportunity to reconsider an earlier opinion."
It is tactically smart to associate the Roe v Wade case in the public mind with that other egregious example of bad jursiprudence Plessy v Ferguson although I think it would have been better to mention it by name rather than the cryptic "1896 ruling". (Perhaps that was the work of the editor at CNN?)

Nevertheless, I have to stand by my previous prediction that this gambit will fail at the Supreme Court level. We can only count on at most 4 votes (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito) and the latter two have not yet established that they are as sympathetic to pro-live arguments as many are assuming. If people are counting on Kennedy to go with the as-yet-not-proven pro-life faction they are forgetting his history.
As lawyers and court watchers have long suspected, the Supreme Court was ready to effectively overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in 1992, but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy got cold feet, and the vote went the other way.
If they are banking on the "strong possibility" of Justice Stevens retiring (as this NYT piece obliquely suggests) I think they are living in a dream world. But even if that should come to pass, as I mentioned previously, passing this law would make it much less likely that a pro-life justice will survive the confirmation hearings. Even the National Right to Life Committee seems to think this is a bad idea:
Cristina Minniti, a spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee, said no one from her organization was available to be interviewed on the South Dakota law. Instead, she issued a one paragraph statement which stated, in part: "Currently there are at least five votes, a majority, on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade."
The NRLC website does not even mention this as of 8:30 PST.

(New York Times link via Althouse)

UPDATE: Here is the text of the law.

Friday, March 03, 2006

St. Paris?

I don't really care who wins the Oscars tonight and I certainly don't have any predictions. But this story caught my attention:

Paris Hilton is thrilled to be playing Mother Teresa in an upcoming biopic.


"The preliminary script has been readied. And the proceeds of the film would go to the Missionaries of Charity. By June this year, the groundwork for the film would be complete and I propose to begin shooting in West Bengal and several foreign countries in early 2007."

Hilton explained, "It's such an honour. I'm so excited. I really want to learn more about this amazing woman, so that's what I'm doing in a few months."

In preparation for the role, Paris is apparently joining the Order of Mother Teresa missionaries, and will travel around Bangalore and Calcutta to care for the sick.
No doubt there is some attempt at shock value going on here, but I think it may be worthy of respect. If people are drawn to a film about Mother Theresa for the mere spectacle of seeing how her polar opposite handles the role, they will still be watching a film about Mother Theresa. And playing the role of a saint (or even a candidate for beatification) may well have a salutary effect on Ms. Hilton's character. It could hardly do much harm, could it?

Of course, all of this assumes that the film will be well-written and respectful and that Paris Hilton can actually act. I have no idea whether any of these things will turn out to be true. But to those of my faith who are already getting set to be outraged, consider: if sluts such as you and I can act the role of the Bride of Christ, why should Ms. Hilton not be given a shot at an admittedly lesser role?

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Sonia tagged me. I am supposed to tag 4 other bloggers, but I promised I wouldn't do this after the Book Meme:

1: Black and White or Color; how do you prefer your movies?
Color. Some movies belong in black & white such as "The Wind", "M", or even "Shadows and Fog". But some old movies are in black & white just because the director didn't have a choice.

2: What is the one single subject that bores you to near-death?
I am not easily bored, but there is still more than one. "Other People's Sex Life" springs to mind.

3: MP3s, CDs, Tapes or Records: what is your favorite medium for prerecorded music?
Probably CDs. I haven't really gotten into MP3s, and I don't quite trust the medium for long-term storage. I mostly listen to tapes in the car, but that is just because I am too lazy to install a CD player. You can probably tell that music isn't a big part of my life, huh?

4: You are handed one first class trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world and ten million dollars cash. All of this is yours provided that you leave and not tell anyone where you are going … Ever. This includes family, friends, everyone. Would you take the money and ticket and run?
Socrates refused to leave Athens when his life was at stake. I would be embarrassed to betray family, friends, and church for a mere $10 million.

5: Seriously, what do you consider the world’s most pressing issue now?
The most pressing issue has always been our long war against God. The most obvious manifestation of that war seems to be the spread of Islam. Go ahead and tell me in the comments how stupid I am for not acknowledging that Islam is a valid approach to God...

6: How would you rectify the world’s most pressing issue?
Pray. Evangelize. Try to set a good example. (Oh, wait, that's redundant.)

7: You are given the chance to go back and change one thing in your life; what would that be?
I never look back and I don't really subscribe to the Donny Darko school of Calvinism, so this question is kind of meaningless to me. There are plenty of things that I have done that a better person wouldn't have. But I suspect that changing those things would make me a different person, and I can't consciously will my own destruction.

To put this a little less abstractly, in High School I used to fight with my girlfriend constantly. While I shouldn't have done that, the knowledge of my failure to live up to even my own low standards eventually led me to Christ. And if I had stayed with her, I never would have met my wife and she might not have returned to the faith without my encouragement. So who would have been better off?

8: You are given the chance to go back and change one event in world history, what would that be?
This is just the Donny Darko question with a bigger bunny suit. The same principle applies.

That said, I do wish the crusaders had not sacked Constantinople in 1204. But that event came at the nadir of a whole series of disasters and villainy so I have a hard time singling it out for correction.

9: A night at the opera, or a night at the Grand Ole’ Opry –Which do you choose?
Uggh. Can't I just give them both my ticket and $10 million and make them go away? Unless you count Gilbert and Sullivan as opera which I adore.

10: What is the one great unsolved crime of all time you’d like to solve?
Jack the Ripper, if only because he is a discredit to the name.

11: One famous author can come to dinner with you. Who would that be, and what would you serve for the meal?
Ayn Rand and C. S. Lewis, together. I'm not sure what I'd serve. Probably pizza.

12: You discover that John Lennon was right, that there is no hell below us, and above us there is only sky — what’s the first immoral thing you might do to celebrate this fact?
Piss on John Lennon's grave? Seriously, this is the wrong question on so many levels I hardly know where to begin.

First, the assumption that Christians are motivated by threat of hell or bribery of heaven is inaccurate (though perhaps understandable). These are often motivations to convert (since the natural man is primarily motivated by self-interest) but after conversion one comes to love truth, goodness and beauty for their own sake (or for God's sake which ammounts to much the same thing).

Second, assuming there is no transcendant standard, it makes no sense to talk about committing "immorality". One never acts immorally from one's own conscious perspective, actions can only be judged immoral from an external standard (ie God's, Society's or Freud's inernalized Superego, which is distinct from the conscious Ego).

Third, it makes little sense to talk about committing immoral acts "in celebration". Immorality is only fun if it is contrast to a standard that is perceived as tyrannical or unreasonable. If there were really no such standard, immorality would be seen for what it is -- self-destructive and harmful to others. This is assuming you can get over the contradiction mentioned in point 2.

Finally, on a more personal note, I reject the entire premise of the question. When I was an atheist, I felt that the only intellectually honest response to a godless universe was a desire to destroy all false promises of happiness. That initially meant religion and social mores, of course, but I eventually came to see that it pretty much included all personal illusions such as emotion, pleasure and damn near everything else. Pain and pleasure are only truly appreciated in memory -- the actual experience is gone by the time you can identify it. But who will remember those subjective experiences five minutes after I am dead? The thing that kept me from being a full-blown anarchist/nihilist was that I could never answer an even more important question: who will experience my intellectual honesty five minutes after I am dead?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hope for the Muslim World

Pastorius links to an interesting article in the New York Sun. The following excerpt caught my eye as it illustrates a point we both have been making in several different ways:

Ms. Darwish, 57, said she had not met a Jew until she moved to America at age 30. As a child, she was taught, "Don't take candy from any stranger, it could be a Jew trying to poison you."

Then, ten years ago, her brother in Gaza had a stroke. A panic ensued over whether to send him to Cairo Hospital in Egypt or Hadassah Medical Center in Israel. The matter was settled by an Egyptian diplomat in Gaza: "If you want him to live, you send him right now to Hadassah." And so his life was saved.

Ms. Darwish said that while her mother was in Jerusalem taking care of her brother, she noticed that Jews who had been kicked out of Egypt by Nasser, who had confiscated their property, had rebuilt their lives in Israel. "They are not left in refugee camps like we did to the Palestinians," Ms. Darwish said.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

South Dakota House Bans Abortion

The bill has not been passed by the State Senate yet:

Lawmakers in South Dakota overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday that would prohibit almost all abortions in the state. House Bill 1215 passed 47-22, after representatives voted against inserting amendments that would exempt women impregnated as the result of rape or incest. The bill, which now goes to the state Senate, makes an exception if the women’s life is in danger.


Representative Roger Hunt (R-Brandon), the chief sponsor of the South Dakota bill, said the timing is right for the "Women's Health and Human Life Protection Act," in the wake of the new Supreme Court appointments: conservatives John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
I can't see how they arrived at that conclusion. Even assuming Roberts and Alito both uphold this law, that only gives 4 pro votes (counting Scalia and Thomas). But where is the 5th vote going to come from? The argument that technological advances change the nature of the debate is a good point, but I can't see any of the remaining judges reversing precedent on that basis alone.

And I don't think it is wise to count on either Roberts or Alito to vote to overturn Roe v Wade. They are beyond political consequences, but they will still want to establish their credibility on the issue of non-ideological jurisprudence which they both empasized strongly at their confirmation hearings. Both new justices must know that voting the party line so early in the game could very well scuttle any future judge's ability to use that argument. Which would in turn mean we will never get that 5th vote.

Army Chaplain Silenced

From the Washington Times:

An evangelical chaplain serving in Iraq has been forbidden to preach at chapel services after his comments about military intolerance toward certain Christian expressions got him into hot water with the Army.


The chaplain criticized one of his supervisors, Lt. Col. Phillip Wright of Fort Drum in New York, by name and gave details about how chaplains of all faiths were being pressured to offer up only nonsectarian prayers.
People should not over-react to this news, but I think it highlights a basic problem with a society committed to pluralism. On the one hand, we don't want the First Ammendment rights of our soldiers suspended (and the ability to pray in the name of Jesus is reputedly pretty important to Christians :). On the other hand, joining the Army does involve a certain obligation to follow orders and not criticize the leadership. And yet, how could Mr. Stertzbach have called attention to this matter without at least potentially running afoul of his superiors.

It is a difficult question and I confess to not knowing the proper balance. I tend to sympathize with religious freedom end of the spectrum, but I do realize that the Army can't function in war-time insubordination.

Of course, this problem would go away if we just instituted Sharia...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney Shoots, Scores...

...own goal.

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday.

Harry Whittington, 78, was "alert and doing fine" after Cheney sprayed Whittington with shotgun pellets on Saturday at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.
Note the photo attached to the story which includes a completely gratuitous reference to the NRA. Maybe if Cheney had spent more time studying the Gun Safety Rules published by the oldest firearms educational organization in the country, this might have been avoided.
(Via: Althouse)

UPDATE: Sonia has a hilarious take on the story:
Instead of invading a country to remove its crazed dictator from power, maybe Dick Cheney should just invite its leader to go hunting with him ?

But which one ?

Happy Birthday

Carol Platt Liebau

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Meanwhile, Back In Iraq...

...Sistani emerges as a voice of calm and common sense:

Iraq's top Shiite cleric also weighed in on the controversy, condemning the publication of the cartoons, but suggesting Muslims were partly to blame for distorting the image of Islam.

"We strongly denounce and condemn this horrific action," Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said.

Mr. al-Sistani's remarks, posted on his website and dated Jan. 31, refrained from any calls for protests against the cartoons. Mr. al-Sistani referred to "misguided and oppressive" segments of the Muslim community and said their actions "projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood."
Sonia remarks, "It's quite ironic that the only Muslim country where there are no widespread anti-cartoon riots is... Iraq."

Ironic, perhaps, but hardly surprising. Given the increasing evidence that this entire "protest" was a ruse to distract Muslims from the failure of their tyrannical rulers, it makes perfect sense that the voice of reason should come from the epicenter of the liberation. Alternatively, you could explain this as a result of the Coalition military presence. Those most likely to protest would be the "insurgents" and they are too busy trying to stay out of American gun-sights to afford a public protest. In either case, I am happier about the war effort than I have been in months. Congratulations Mr. Sistani. You are a credit to your country!

UPDATE: But the French still don't get it! Note the paragraphs after the one cited above:
France's Foreign Minister said Friday he was shocked that Islamic hardliners have burned flags to protest caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed printed in European newspapers.


However, the minister told LCI television: "I'm shocked and I find it unacceptable that, because there were caricatures in the West, extremists can burn flags or adopt fundamentalist or extremist positions that would suggest the caricaturists were right."
Look, monsieur, the problem isn't the flag burning or the positions that they are adopting that is the problem. Those are perfectly legitimate (if somewhat misguided) expressions of free-speech. The problem is with the arson, death threats and other acts of violence.

That Infamous German Sense of Humor

Just when you thought it was safe to start praising Europeans vis a vis freedom of speech:

GERMAN cops will use sweeping powers to collar England fans doing Basil Fawlty-style Hitler impressions at the World Cup.
Yobs will be instantly banged up for TWO WEEKS if they goose-step like John Cleese in his most famous Fawlty Towers scene.

And hard core louts who give Nazi salutes — like the one jokingly made by Michael Barrymore in Celebrity Big Brother — could be hauled before a judge within 24 hours.

If convicted of inciting hatred they will face jail terms of up to THREE YEARS.

Wearing joke German helmets or any offensive insignia will also result in a stretch behind bars.

Reagan Economist Slams Bush

This book makes some points that we principled conservatives have been making all along:

The title is stunning: “Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.” The author is Bruce Bartlett, an economist who worked in the Reagan administration. The publisher is Doubleday, not some highly suspect publishing company with a political axe to grind.


It is no secret that many conservatives who consider themselves true Reaganites are disdainful of Bush, but Bartlett doesn’t pull any punches in his indictment of a man who, in his opinion, has betrayed many of Reagan’s principles.

While the White House portrays Bush as a conservative president with a conservative agenda, he writes that conservatives know better.

“He is simply a partisan Republican, anxious to improve the fortunes of his party, to be sure. But he is perfectly willing to jettison conservative principles at a moment’s notice to achieve that goal,” Bartlett writes.

[Bartlett] faults Bush’s tax cuts, calling them ill-designed. He finds his trade policy too dotted with protectionist moves, adding that he has the worst policy on free trade since Herbert Hoover. The Medicare prescription drug bill is “the worst legislation in history” because of his massive future costs, he says, and he has not vetoed a single bill as he increased the size of government. Two of the unkindest cuts in the book: Bill Clinton had a better record on controlling the deficit, he says, and Bush has the many of the same kinds of policies as Richard Nixon.
I think it is unlikely that the Bush administration will take this criticism to heart at this late date. Hopefully, the contenders for the Republican ticket in '08 will do so.

UPDATE: From the same Chicago Tribune site, could this be a related story?
Claude A. Allen, the president’s domestic policy adviser, turned in his letter of resignation today at the White House, the Bush administration acknowledged tonight.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Safe Self-Harm

No kidding -- Safe Self-Harm:

NURSES want patients who are intent on harming themselves to be provided with clean blades so that they can cut themselves more safely.
They say people determined to harm themselves should be helped to minimise the risk of infection from dirty blades, in the same way as drug addicts are issued with clean needles.

This could include giving the “self-harm” patients sterile blades and clean packets of bandages or ensuring that they keep their own blades clean. Nurses would also give patients advice about which parts of the body it is safer to cut.

The proposal for “safe” self-harm — which is to be debated at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress in April — is likely to provoke controversy.

At present nurses are expected to stop anyone doing physical harm to themselves and to confiscate any sharp objects ranging from razor blades to broken glass and tin cans.
The mind boggles. Back in the '80s, when we were debating the slippery slope of needle-exchange programs, I can confidently state that no one, No One! ever suggested this as a possible outcome. If ScrappleFace had published this as a satire, it would have seemed too surreal to be funny. Reading this article, I flashed on Alice Cooper's line "You'd even force-feed a diabetic a candy cane". And the one after that as well of course.

(Via Tammy)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sauce for the Goose

Iran retaliates against the Mohammad-as-terrorist cartoons with cartoons mocking the holocaust:

IRAN'S largest selling newspaper announced today it was holding a contest on cartoons of the Holocaust in response to the publishing in European papers of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

"It will be an international cartoon contest about the Holocaust," said Farid Mortazavi, the graphics editor for Hamshahri newspaper - which is published by Teheran's conservative municipality.
He said the plan was to turn the tables on the assertion that newspapers can print offensive material in the name of freedom of expression.

"The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let's see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons," he said.
Stupid as it may seem, this is actually a step up for the Islamists. Turning the tables on Western ridicule is a much healthier response than the typical fire-bombing-rioting-beheading schtick.

Still, one might find fault with the choice of subject matter. If it had been an Israeli newspaper publishing the original cartoons, mocking the holocaust might have made a certain amount of sense -- but Denmark? I am not aware that Denmark, or Europe in general for that matter, is particularly sensitive about aspersions being cast on the Jews. In fact, Europe has its share of holocaust-deniers and anti-semites, so the parallel to mocking Mohammad is pretty obviously off-target.

Or is the subtext another lame Jews-secretly-control-the-world conspiracy theory? Gotta get over that, Farid. Besides the fact that we've all heard it before, you have to ask yourself what difference it will make. Where is the retaliation if when we (speaking broadly on behalf of Western Civilization) mock your prophet, you ... do pretty much what you've been doing all along?

Still, nice try. If you manage to avoid getting yourselves nuked in the next few years, maybe this will mark the beginning of your return to civilization.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Is TV Teaching Criminals New Tricks?

This is something I've always wondered about:

When Tammy Klein began investigating crime scenes eight years ago, it was virtually unheard of for a killer to use bleach to clean up a bloody mess.

Today, the use of bleach, which destroys DNA, is not unusual in a planned homicide, said the senior criminalist from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Klein and other experts attribute such sophistication to television crime dramas like "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," which give criminals helpful tips on how to cover up evidence.
As noted in my tag-line, I'm not a fan of TV in any form. The one exception I would generally make are the informative shows such as (non-evolutionary) science shows and some of the real-crime stories found on CourtTV. The article mentions CSI, which is fictional, but the same principle applies to the real-life forensic shows. Food for thought...

To be fair, the information provided is available in any number of sources, so one technically can't blame TV for spilling the beans. But, as mentioned elsewhere in the article, criminals are usually quite dumb and wouldn't normally be expected to research their crimes at the local library or on the internet. But TV, which rewards passivity, can broadcast ideas that the average criminal would normally be too lazy or too ignorant to obtain on his own.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bethlehem Under Hamas

Speaking of paying the Jizya, this story is disturbing on many levels:

While Israelis struggle to come to terms with the election of Hamas in Palestinian elections last week, another group also is worried by the rise of the avowedly Islamist organization -- the Christian Arab minority centered here in Jesus' birthplace.

The Palestinian draft constitution of 2003 establishes Islam as the official religion while noting that Christianity will be "equally revered." It also names Islamic Sharia law as "a major source for legislation."


"I know they are not Taliban," said one Bethlehem mother of two, who did not want her name used. "But I wonder what they mean by 'Islamic.' We are Christian, we don't want trouble."


"There are groups putting rumors into the minds of Christians, that there will be registrations," for example, said the mayor. "I say, 'Don't worry. Hamas has promised not to.' "

But there are those articles in the Palestinian constitution. And there is persistent talk about a tax, or "jeziya" that could leveled on second-class, or non-Muslim, citizens.

A Hamas member of the Bethlehem City Council, Hassan El-Masalmeh, told the Wall Street Journal in late December: "We in Hamas plan to implement this tax someday. We say it openly, everyone is welcome to Palestine but only if they agree to live under our rules."
I don't want to sound unsympathetic to the suffering of my fellow Christians, but my initial reaction is "what did you expect?" Palestinian Christians have been siding with the terrorists against Israel for decades. Now that they have come to power (although in the form of Hamas rather than the PLO) it is a bit late to wonder if the bonds of "race" are going to prove stronger than differences of religion. Especially when one of the religions is Islam...

Nevertheless, the Christians have a hope that the Israelis do not. I am reminded of the letter to the church at Pergamum in Rev 2:12-17. The Palestinian Christians have been tempted by bonds of the flesh, but Christ will not forget those who dwell in the Devil's country, yet remain faithful to the death. Martyrdom may be all that they can hope for in the near future, but it is still a better fate than apostasy.

US State Department Pays the Jizya

The US State Department has never been particularly clueful when commenting on issues of freedom. Many suspect that diplomats in general prefer to deal with dictatorships rather than deal with all of the mess and uncertainty inherent in democracies. In that light, the following widely-reported remarks should come as no surprise:

These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims. We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable. We call for tolerance and respect for all communities for their religious beliefs and practices.
(For those who haven't been following the story, the cartoons in question were first published in a Danish newspaper and depicted Mohammad as a terrorist. This has sparked massive riots throughout the Muslim world which in turn prompted many European newspapers to reprint the images.)

On the face of it, there is nothing particularly wrong with the State Department's comments. I would agree that newspapers are often guilty of anti-religious bias and with the power of the press should come responsibility. But the trouble is what is not said. Nowhere does the State Department condemn the over-reaction of Muslims or the threats of violence which resulted.

As we have noted before, the Muslim faith is built on a vision of conquest and there is no room for the secular ideals of tolerance and fair-play which the State Department is promoting. This sort of appeasement is morally wrong and it won't even work.

(Via the lovely but not remotely safe-for-work Sonia-Belle.)

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has more, as does InstaPundit. Hmm. I notice that the AFP attributes these remarks to Justin Higgins while the Reuters story credited Kurtis Cooper. And CNN quotes Janelle Hironimus. But THEY ARE ALL SAYING THE SAME THING. Is this a coordinated media blitz?

UPDATE: Contrast the Muslim reaction with that of Americans to the portrayal of Osama Bin Laden as Christ:
The art show's producer Josh Wainwright, insisted he hadn't even made the Bin Laden connection. "Knowing what you know now would you have barred the painting from being part of your show?" I asked. "Absolutely not," he replied. Wainwright says he's a military veteran and despises Bin Laden, but he added, "I don't think it's anyone's job or vocation to limit the expression of artists."

UPDATE: One last thing. Here is the definition of Jizya, for those of you who were wondering.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh found a more detailed statement from Sean McCormack that stresses the free-speech issue. Still no condemnation of Muslim violence and a suggestion that "in some cases, we condemn the views that are aired in public that are published in media organizations around the world". Not much improvement, in my opinion, over the abbreviated statements quoted in other sources.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Uniqueness of Christianity

NOTE: I am post-dating this so that it remains at the top of the screen. Please scroll down for newer posts. --Jack 01/20/06

A Conference sponsored by St. Luke’s Reformed Episcopal Church:

The Uniqueness of Christianity: What the Christian Faith Has Given to the World that no Other Religion Has or Can

Saturday, January 28, 2006 9:30 am – 2:00 pm

1702 Fairhaven Avenue, Santa Ana, CA

(714) 992-2835

With the cry "Jesus Christ conquer!" the early Church shook the ancient world to its very foundations as no other religion could. The spread of its unique doctrines and sacramental life meant liberation from idolatry and the transformation of a world marked by dehumanization and violence into a civilization modeled upon the self-giving love of Christ.

We invite you to join us as we rediscover the uniqueness of Christianity with our esteemed guest speaker, The Rt. Rev. Ray Sutton, PhD.

Admission is free. Seating is limited. Please let us know if you are planning to join us by calling (714) 992-2835.

UPDATE: I would like to point out that both Pastorius and Jollyblogger (neither of whose blogging shoes I am worthy to unlatch) have posts that are very germane to this topic.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Better an Honest Enemy...

...Than a False Friend.

There has been much commentary regarding the Hamas victory in the Palestinian election. While I do not in any way rejoice at the ascendency of such a vicious regime, I am a bit surprised by all the, er, surprise. Much of the tragedy of the Middle-East has resulted from the West's refusal to take the Palestinians seriously when they said they longed for the destruction of Israel. Much of this refusal stems from a (perhaps laudable) inability to think so ill of an entire people. And also from a (less laudable) instinct to take the part of the underdog, without inquiring as to why the dog in question has come to such a low estate.

Countless excuses have been made for the Palestinians continued use of terror, but now they have run out of excuses. With the full support of the international community, and in free and open elections they have declared that they really are defined by a hatred of Jews that overrides all other concerns, even those of self-interest.

In the near term, the most obvious result of this political analog to suicide bombing will be the withdrawal of international support and funding which the Palestinians have long depended on but rarely acknowledged. The long-term prospect is not so predictable, but much turns on whether, as a people, the Palestinians are capable of coming to their senses before they are obliterated in a futile war with the West.

UPDATE: Sorry, I stupidly saved this as a draft! Here is a development which might show that the Palestinians are indeed coming to their senses. Considering the source is Al-Jazeera, I am taking this with a grain of salt. But maybe, just maybe, this is a good sign. (Via Pastorius, who is even less optimistic.)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Christopher Lee Praises Johnny Depp

In an otherwise forgettable Showbiz! article detailing some of Christopher Lee's recent work and public appearances, the formidable actor is quoted making some remarkable comments:

The only young actor Lee did find praise for was Johnny Depp.

The pair have co-starred together in three films, most recently Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Lee said: "The number one actor in the world as far as I'm concerned is Johnny Depp. He's not afraid of a challenge, he's not afraid of anything."
Now, Christopher Lee has been in the businesses of both acting and scaring people for quite a long time, so it is not a small thing for him to praise another actor's talent and courage.

(On a side note, Lee impressed me a great deal in his remarks on playing the role of Saruman in the Lord of the Rings movies. Evidently he is a long-time fan of Tolkien and considered it an honor to take the part -- a marked contrast to the attitude most big-name actors exhibit.)

I happen to agree that Mr. Depp is probably the best actor of his generation. I can't remember seeing him in a role I didn't like. And, though I suspect I would disagree with his politics, he seems to have had the sense to avoid the usual Hollywood grandstanding.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Are Rainforests Poisoning the Atmoshphere?

Greenhouse gas methane produced by living plants:

German scientists have discovered a new source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide in its impact on climate change. The culprits are plants. They produce about 10 to 30 percent of the annual methane found in the atmosphere, according to researchers at the Max-Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany.
Yet another reason not to sign the Kyoto protocol without much more scientific study.
(Via: Tammy Bruce)