Friday, December 05, 2008

Guns for Everyone

St. Louis alderman Charles Quincy Troupe is on the right track here:

Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe's neighborhood has seen nine homicides in 10 months this year, more than all but one other section of the city.

With gunplay wreaking havoc on his ward, Troupe thinks he has found an answer: citizens arming themselves.

The alderman is pleading with constituents to get guns of their own — and learn how to use them. Troupe, who represents a swatch of north St. Louis, is encouraging residents to apply for concealed weapons permits so they can start carrying a firearm.
This idea has worked just about everywhere it has been tried. I am glad St. Louis Today is reporting on it.

On the whole, the article is fair to both sides but, not surprisingly, a whiff of bias creeps in toward the end:

Laws allowing residents to carry concealed weapons are the subject of passionate debate. Gun control advocates argue that they put communities at greater risk, while groups such as the National Rifle Association assert that "right to carry" laws have led to lower crime rates.

Last year, local law enforcement officials told the Post-Dispatch that Missouri's concealed weapons law had no apparent impact on crime.
I see. So the unnamed gun control advocates have arguments but the NRA only has assertions. Maybe. But what I see in this article is an assertion by law enforcement officials (again not named) that concealed carry laws had no apparent impact.

No quotation at all from the NRA is supplied so I did a little research on the NRA website. This article quotes statistics and has footnotes:

More RTC, less crime: Violent crime rates since 2003 have been lower than anytime since the mid-1970s.[1] Since 1991, 23 states have adopted RTC, the number of privately-owned guns has risen by nearly 70 million,[2] and violent crime is down 38%. In 2007, the most recent year for which complete data are available, RTC states had lower violent crime rates, on average, compared to the rest of the country (total violent crime by 24%; murder, 28%; robbery, 50%; and aggravated assault, 11%).[3]

1. BJS ( and FBI (

2. BATF, “Firearms Commerce in the United States 2001/2002” ( - Firearms).

3. Note 1, FBI.
Looks like an argument to me...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Public Press

Liberals argue that we need public schools because an educated electorate is necessary to democracy. My favorite argument is that democracy also requires an informed electorate, but we don’t let the governments run the newspapers. That always used to shut them up.

Guess I’ll have to find a new argument…

Seven legislators from the area served by The Bristol Press and The Herald in New Britain today wrote to the state Department of Economic and Community Development to ask for its help in preventing the closure of the newspapers.
This is a stirling example of why pointing out contradictions is a dangerous rhetorical device. He who lives by the reductio dies by the absurdam.

This is, of course, a small example an will probably turn out to be harmless. But this quote from the original letter is depressing:
Also, for much of the same reasons that we press for campaign finance reform and other important ethics legislation, having a locally-based newspaper is important for public accountability. As elected officials, ourselves, we want to public to have access to independent news about what is going on in government and our communities. We share the sentiments of our nation's leaders who wrote the Bill of Rights that a free press is an essential part of democracy.
This only avoids being orwellian by virtue of the fact that it is so shockingly obtuse. The idea that government subsidy provides independence doesn't pass the laugh test, though I suppose that is the point of the reference to campaign finance laws. Hmm, on second thought maybe it is orwellian after all.

(Food Chain: Hot Air, Michelle Malkin, Bristol Today)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Good News About Recycling

I have not blogged about the subject but I have made arguments in several places, including other blogs, that the cost of recycling is often more that the savings, both in financial and environmental terms. This article in Popular Mechanics suggests that that is no longer true, or at least the cost/benefit ratio is improving.

A study by Morris found that it takes 10.4 million Btu to manufacture products from a ton of recyclables, compared to 23.3 million Btu for virgin materials. In contrast, the total energy for collecting, hauling and processing a ton of recyclables adds up to just 0.9 million Btu. The bottom line: We don't need to worry that recycling trucks are doing more harm than good.
I stand corrected. Read the whole thing for other myth-busting goodness (on both sides of the issue).

(Via: Instapundit)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Obama

So. Obama did it. Both the popular vote (by a substantial margin) and the electoral vote (by what can only be called a landslide). Disappointing.

But not the end of the world, or even the end of this country, as we know it. I am on record as proclaiming that this country is greater than any man who leads it and we have elected a president, not annointed a king. The Democratic party did not achieve a filibuster-proof majority in either house. (Query to conservatives: now do you see how misguided your objection to filibustering court nominees was? I thought you would come around.) It is true that the presidency has had undue influence and power for the past few decades, and a Democratic majority in both houses can only increase that power, but it is still limited by the constitution and by the court of public opinion.

I haven't had a chance to fully listen to Obama's acceptance speech, but the excerpts I have read show the Obama that I first became impressed with: unifying, patriotic and mature. It is as foolish, of course, to judge a man's future presidcency based on his acceptance speech as it is to expect the Declaration of Independence to have controlling authority over the nation's laws. But it is reasonable to expect both men and nations to be inspired by the ideals that they proclaim. One of Obama's greatest liabilities, his perceived elitism, thus becomes our greatest strength. I am sure he will do much to preserve this theme of high-mindedness, and it will be the job of conservatives to hold him to it.

Now that we have been decisively defeated, conservatives need to take a moment to reflect on the fundamental principles of conservativism: the rule of law, limited government, planning for the future and civil discourse. Mr. Obama has been duly elected and has thus inherited all of the powers that that have been vested in the presidency over the years. If we now think those powers too great, it is because we did not, when we held them, take sufficient care to limit them for future generations. It is pointless, now, to complain that we have been used unfairly by the electorate, since we did little to defend conservative principles when we had the pulpit. In any case, we should avoid making fools of ourselves by threatening to disown the presidency. (Note: in all fairness, I cannot find an original source for that quotation. I am sure Althouse is quoting Limbaugh accurately, but she does not provide a link and I cannot tell if there is extenuating context.)

God always gives us the government we ask for, but it is our task to ask for the right things. St. Paul reminds us: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." (Rom 13:1-2) During the next four years Christians of the Anglican tradition will be praying for President Obama using the following words:

O LORD our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our LORD, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

UPDATE: Here are some similar thoughts from other bloggers

1. The incomparable Steven Den Beste makes many of the same points. A slightly more negative tone and without the religious ending, but well worth reading (as always).

2. Scott at Powerline describes ten lessons we can learn from the Obama presidency. Some of this is a bit too semiotic for my taste, but this struck a chord: "8. Despite his thoroughgoing liberalism, Obama did not run as a liberal."

3. Jeniffer Rubin at Pajamas Media notes 30 errors that McCain made. Some of the points are a bit redundant (the list could easily have been pared down to 20 with a little editing). Note especially the points that deal with failure to communicate a conservative message (eg 4, 6, 28, 30, etc.)

4. My favorite law blogger, Randy Barnett of the Volokh Conspiracy, points out 3 solid bits of good news. (For some reason I can't get that link to work correctly. You may have to scroll down a bit to find Barnett's comments.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Corporate Fois Gras

I probably should have posted something about the bailout ages ago, but more influential people than I have been saying pretty much everything I wanted to say... and the bailout still passed. Nevertheless, this has to piss off any principled, free-market conservative:

Community banking executives around the country responded with anger yesterday to the Bush administration's strategy of investing $250 billion in financial firms, saying they don't need the money, resent the intrusion and feel it's unfair to rescue companies from their own mistakes.

But regulators said some banks will be pressed to take the taxpayer dollars anyway. Others banks judged too sick to save will be allowed to fail.
It is bad enough that the government decided to create a bailout on this scale to begin with. But forcing banks that don't want the help to take it anyway in order to legitimize the program is positively Orwellian. Here is some detail from page two, just to show that I am not exaggerating:
Federal regulators said they did expect some banks to volunteer, though none stepped forward yesterday. But they added that they would not rely on volunteers. Treasury will set standards for deciding which banks can be helped, and the regulatory agencies will triage the banks they oversee: The institutions faring best and worst will not receive investments. The institutions in the middle, whose fortunes could be improved by putting a little more money in the bank, will be pushed to accept the money from the government.


Peter Fitzgerald, chairman of Chain Bridge Bank in McLean, said he was "much chagrined that we will be punished for behaving prudently by now having to face reckless competitors who all of a sudden are subsidized by the federal government."

At Evergreen Federal Bank in Grants Pass, Ore., chief executive Brady Adams said he has more than 2,000 loans outstanding and only three borrowers behind on payments. "We don't need a bailout, and if other banks had run their banks like we ran our bank, they wouldn't have needed a bailout, either," Adams said.
I realize that some sort of intervention was pretty much inevitable, given the leftward migration of the country in recent years and the abysmal ignorance of financial principles shown by even conservative politicians. But is it too much to ask that at least some of the lessons of history might be learned? Apparently so:
President Bush, in introducing the plan, described the interventions as "limited and temporary."

"These measures are not intended to take over the free market but to preserve it," Bush said.
Mr. Bush showed quite clearly that he did not understand judicial conservatism when he appointed Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. His comment here shows that he does not understand the words "free market" any better.

The initial bailout was justified on the grounds that we need to prevent a second Great Depression. As noted below, government intervention was one of the chief factors in exacerbating the problem in the '30s. Hoover, an ineffective, interventionist, Republican president was replaced by Roosevelt, an even more aggressive Democratic interventionist. If recent polls are correct, we may be following exactly the same pattern in replacing Bush with Obama.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Chinese Christians may outnumber Communists

According to The Economist:

The government says there are 21m (16m Protestants, 5m Catholics). Unofficial figures, such as one given by the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in Massachusetts, put the number at about 70m. But Mr Zhao is not alone in his reckoning. A study of China by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, an American think-tank, says indirect survey evidence suggests many unaffiliated Christians are not in the official figures. And according to China Aid Association (CAA), a Texas-based lobby group, the director of the government body which supervises all religions in China said privately that the figure was indeed as much as 130m in early 2008.

If so, it would mean China contains more Christians than Communists (party membership is 74m) and there may be more active Christians in China than in any other country. In 1949, when the Communists took power, less than 1% of the population had been baptised, most of them Catholics. Now the largest, fastest-growing number of Christians belong to Protestant “house churches”.

It is worth noting that even if the optimistic 130 million figure is true, that only represents about 10% of China's 1.3 billion population. Still this is much better than about 1% in 1949 or the current official count of 1.6%. Some further interesting points:
Private meetings in the houses of the faithful were features of the early Christian church, then seeking to escape Roman imperial persecution. Paradoxically, the need to keep congregations small helped spread the faith. That happens in China now. The party, worried about the spread of a rival ideology, faces a difficult choice: by keeping house churches small, it ensures that no one church is large enough to threaten the local party chief. But the price is that the number of churches is increasing.

Of course, doctrinal depth and regularity are hard to maintain in an illegal movement:
Abundant church-creation is a blessing and a curse for the house-church movement, too. The smiling Mr Zhao says finance is no problem. “We don’t have salaries to pay or churches to build.” But “management quality” is hard to maintain. Churches can get hold of Bibles or download hymn books from the internet. They cannot so easily find experienced pastors. “In China”, says one, “the two-year-old Christian teaches the one-year-old.”

Because most Protestant house churches are non-denominational (that is, not affiliated with Lutherans, Methodists and so on), they have no fixed liturgy or tradition. Their services are like Bible-study classes. This puts a heavy burden on the pastor. One of the Shanghai congregation who has visited a lot of house churches sighs with relief that "this pastor knows what he is talking about."

Even more interesting:
All this amounts to something that Europeans, at least, may find surprising. In much of Christianity’s former heartland, religion is associated with tradition and ritual. In China, it is associated with modernity, business and science. “We are first-generation Christians and first-generation businessmen,” says one house-church pastor. In a widely debated article in 2006, Mr Zhao wrote that “the market economy discourages idleness. [But] it cannot discourage people from lying or causing harm. A strong faith discourages dishonesty and injury.” Christianity and the market economy, in his view, go hand in hand.

This doesn't surprise me a bit, nor would it surprise people such as Vishal Mangalwadi who has been pointing out for years that the superiority of the West is due largely to its Christian legacy.

Via: Christian Freedom International.

NOTE: When searching for the article (CFI did not provide a link) I found this article on the decline of capitalism in China. So the news is not all good. However, as Christianity continues to advance, expect to see both the doctrinal issues noted above and the residual economic and social issues become less severe.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


For years conservatives have been arguing that the Great Depression was extended not fixed by Roosevelt's policies. A study by two economists at UCLA finally demonstrates this numerically:

"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."

Using data collected in 1929 by the Conference Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cole and Ohanian were able to establish average wages and prices across a range of industries just prior to the Depression. By adjusting for annual increases in productivity, they were able to use the 1929 benchmark to figure out what prices and wages would have been during every year of the Depression had Roosevelt's policies not gone into effect. They then compared those figures with actual prices and wages as reflected in the Conference Board data.

In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt's policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.

Meanwhile, prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent above where they should have been, given the state of the economy. With goods and services that much harder for consumers to afford, demand stalled and the gross national product floundered at 27 percent below where it otherwise might have been.

"High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns," Ohanian said. "As we've seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market's self-correcting forces."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Biden's Bumbles

Many people were expecting Biden to win the Vice Presidential debates last night due to a few missteps on the part of Sarah Palin during recent interviews. That that expectation was misguided is amply proved by Palin's spectacular performance last night and by the relative silence on the subject by the mainstream media. As anyone who has done a little research would know, Palin is quite an effective debater and her blunders with the media have been largely in response to gotcha questions that were not relevant to her experience and were certainly not visited on any of the other candidates.

But Biden's performance is another matter entirely. He has been touted as the foreign policy expert of the Democratic team, and has been in the Senate longer than either of the other two candidates. (Actually, longer than McCain and Obama combined.) So you would think that he would be supremely prepared or at least be able to get the basic facts straight. On the contrary, many of his responses to Palin's jibes were obvious falsehoods or distortions which he seemed to make up on the spot.

Here are three gaffes that I noticed while watching the debate:

1. US & France kicked Hesballah out of Lebanon but failed to follow up with a NATO presence. It was Syria that was kicked out and it was Lebanon that did the kicking, albeit with US and French assistance. Hesballah is still there and no one ever suggested putting NATO troops in Lebanon to keep them out.

2. The commander in Afghanistan said that the surge would not work in Afghanistan (contrary to McCain's policy). What David McKiernan actually said was, "the word I don't use in Afghanistan is the word surge." This is a more subtle point, and I think, on the whole, I agree with Biden here.

3. VP has no authority in the Senate, excpet when there is a tie. What the article actually says is: "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided." So the VP is always President of the Senate, he just doesn't get to vote on Legislation most of the time. This would count as a mere misstatement if the question weren't specifically focused on Dick Cheney's interpretation of this clause and if Biden hadn't said that the role of the VP is clearly specified. The whole point of Cheney's argument is that the non-voting part of the VP role is not clear.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Noonan on Palin

Allah at Hot Air posted a link to Peggy Noonan's mostly positive analysis of Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign earlier this morning. Unfortunately, Noonan was caught later on an open MSNBC mike seemingly contradicting her confidence in the Palin pick. Check out the comments at that second link for lots of predictions of the end of Noonan's career as a right-wing pundit.

I don't really care if Peggy is on the team or not. I can read an intelligent critique of a candidate I support (or praise of a candidate I don't) without getting anxiety attacks. In the final analysis, I will make up my own mind. I just want to know what Noonan really thinks. Whether she was lying in the article she wrote for WSJ or is lying on the open mike to her liberal colleagues, either way it damages her credibility or at least her integrity. But ultimately the story is about Palin, not Noonan.

I happen to think she got the story right in the WSJ. If she doesn't actually believe it, more's the pity, but that doesn't prevent me from touting that way of looking at Palin's candidacy. And much of what she says about the MSM in that article is worth remembering, even if she doesn't actually believe Palin has a chance to win.

If she does think that McCain picked Palin for essentially cynical reasons, that is all the more reason to heed the advice in her final paragraph:

Palin's friends should be less immediately worried about what the Obama campaign will do to her than what the McCain campaign will do. [...] They won't have enough interest in protecting her, advancing her, helping her play to her strengths, helping her kick away from danger. [...] They'll run right over her, not because they're strong but because they're stupid. The McCain campaign better get straight on this. He should step in, knock heads, scare his own people and get Palin the help and high-level staff all but the most seasoned vice presidential candidates require.

This is actually what happened to Dan Quayle. Bush, Sr. was trying to maintain the image of being above partisan squabbling so he never defended Quayle from all the media's attacks. Palin looks like she can take care of herself, but remember: before 1992 Quayle never lost an election and he only lost that because of Bush's broken "no new taxes" promise. He goes into this in his book Standing Firm.

So, whatever we think of Noonan's duplicity, I think we can trust her advice if not her motives. And bear in mind, most of us were not all that thrilled with McCain himself a few weeks ago, so it isn't quite fair to criticize Noonan, a long-standing advocate of conservative thought, for suggesting that his pick might have been cynical. I think it might very well have been, but I'm willing to put up with it if it gets Sarah Palin a foot in the White House door.

UPDATE: I mistakenly identified the other two gentlemen as MSNBC people but reading the text at Politico, I see that one of them is a former McCain adviser. I don't know who Chuck Todd is. So they may not be "liberal colleagues" as I stated in above.

Also, this looks like McCain, at least, is taking Noonan's final paragraph seriously:
"They’re not doing right by our vice president, they’re not doing right by the American people," McCain said

UPDATE: Noonan explains. Allah is not convinced but I think he may be defining "the Narrative" more broadly than Ms. Noonan. I don't think her earlier column was specifically praising the Palin narrative but pointing out the difficulty the Democrats will have in pigeon-holing her. A subtle distinction, perhaps, but I am willing to give Peggy Noonan a pass on this one. She is not always right, but she is generally worth listening to. Also, she doesn't seem to have thought about the Narrative issue until after she wrote that column and her comments on MSNBC were clearly off-the-cuff and more like thinking aloud. Money quote:
To the extent the McCain campaign was thinking in these terms, I don't like that either. I do like Mrs. Palin, because I like the things she espouses. And because, frankly, I met her once and liked her. I suspect, as I say further in here, that her candidacy will be either dramatically successful or a dramatically not; it won't be something in between.

UPDATE: McCain Campaign's response: "Who cares?" Nice.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Picks Palin!

He just cemented my vote. I haven't been too thrilled with McCain's candidacy, but I have to admit that since the primaries, he has been saying a lot of the right things. Now he has picked a strong pro-life, pro-gun, pro-business conservative to share his ticket.

One of the nice things about Palin is that she is on the cusp of being Generation X. (She only missed it by about 10 months, which is good enough for me.) She represents the new generation of young conservatives that rejects the baby boom generation's liberalism without appearing joyless, uncaring and unimaginative. We have been hearing about these young conservatives, but so far they have not entered the national spotlight. More please!

I also will be very pleased if the Republican party is the first to get a woman into the Oval Office. I know that is merely symbolic, but symbolism matters. And Sarah Palin has both symbolism and substance.

1. She took the governor's seat in Alaska on an anti-corruption platform and she has delivered on those promises. (Incidentally, that article also shows her as strong on women's issues. Read the whole thing and try not to be put off by the negative tone. If this is the worst the MSM can do to tarnish her reputation, it bodes well for her national candidacy.)

2. Even before her election, she has taken a strong stand on ethics. As Mayor of Wasilla she "followed through on her campaign promises to reduce her own salary, and to reduce property taxes by 60%" (Wikipedia). Later she headed the ethics committe of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, "when she tried to expose GOP officials with improper ties to the industry, and eventually resigned in 2004 after her complaints were ignored." (Time)

3. She is strongly pro-family and pro-life in both principle and practice.

4. She is a life member of the NRA and an out-spoken advocate of gun rights, hunting and fishing and conservation. (Sorry for the lack of linkage, here. The links I want are all on the Alaska Governor's website which is understandably flooded at the moment. If I think about it, I will update this post later. But if not, there are plenty of sources talking about this and you can look for the left to try to spin it as a negative before long.)

5. She majored in journalism but isn't an actual journalist. Think about it. What better resume could a vice president have? The job is mostly public relations. She knows how the system works and won't stumble into the dumb situations that Quayle allowed himself to fall into. But she had the good sense and ethics to avoid that profession. Win-win, baby!

6. Her lack of foreign-policy experience is a negative, but, unlike the Democrats, the Republicans have placed their least experienced partner at the bottom of the ticket not the top. This allows McCain to continue to attack Obama's inexperience and, if the Republicans win, will give plenty of time for Palin to come up to speed before she has to head the party in 2016. Also, I am not too impressed with the experience meme. Most of the politicians Americans hate the most are the ones with most experience.

A few more links: Here and here are the McCain press releases. I can't find the first one on the official site; it sounds like a fund-raising letter, but it is a better read. Here is her response.

Here is Larry Kudlow's interview with Palin on 8/1. My favorite quote:

But as for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does everyday? I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.
I love the fact that she has to be convinced that the VP is a productive position, worthy of her talents. A very Dagny Taggart-esque response, no? It also brings to mind Jathom's parable from Judges 9:
Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, 'Be our king.' "But the olive tree answered, 'Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and men are honored, to hold sway over the trees?' (Jdg 9:7-9)

Here is another interview, this one with Time magazine from a couple of weeks ago. A bit fluffier than the Kudlow piece, but lots of character background.

Also from time, this is an informative summary of her background. Note, again, that they are trying to adopt a negative tone, but she still comes out looking pretty good.

And while we're talking about looking good, lets not forget the babe factor. Rush Limbaugh, predictably, is all over this aspect. My take: Palin strikes me as the kind of woman that is comfortable with her looks but doesn't explicitly try to use them to make points. Her whole family is good looking but in a healthy, natural way, not the made-up look we get from so many in Hollywood. She obviously is not the kind of person to appear in Playboy. I get the feeling, though, that she would be mildly flattered by the offer and would refuse with grace and dignity, not the sense of outrage and victimization that we hear from so many feminists. I could be totally wrong about that, but she just doesn't come off as the outraged type.

UPDATE: There is a lot of talk about the vetting process and the media being blind-sided on the Palin pick. Nat Hentoff was talking about it as early as May. I read that article at the time and I think I might have heard her name as early as March or April, but I can no longer find the article amid all of the current chatter.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hitchens: On the Waterboard

In the August edition of Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens reports that has allowed himself to be waterboarded and concludes that the process constitutes torture:

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and—as you might expect—inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.


As if detecting my misery and shame, one of my interrogators comfortingly said, “Any time is a long time when you’re breathing water.” I could have hugged him for saying so, and just then I was hit with a ghastly sense of the sadomasochistic dimension that underlies the relationship between the torturer and the tortured. I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.

Hitchens does seem to back off a bit from the absolutism of this statement later in the article:
Maybe I am being premature in phrasing it thus. Among the veterans there are at least two views on all this, which means in practice that there are two opinions on whether or not “waterboarding” constitutes torture. I have had some extremely serious conversations on the topic, with two groups of highly decent and serious men, and I think that both cases have to be stated at their strongest.


As they have just tried to demonstrate to me, a man who has been waterboarded may well emerge from the experience a bit shaky, but he is in a mood to surrender the relevant information and is unmarked and undamaged and indeed ready for another bout in quite a short time. When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.

But he goes on to note that waterboarding "is a deliberate torture technique and has been prosecuted as such by our judicial arm when perpetrated by others." That is a point worth considering, though not itself dispositive.

The remainder of the article shifts from moral to policy analysis. The crux of his point is that "if we allow it and justify it, we cannot complain if it is employed in the future by other regimes on captive U.S. citizens. It is a method of putting American prisoners in harm’s way." I acknowledge this point, but I feel that this is a matter best left to the discretion of the military, who will bear the brunt of the risk.

I was actually impressed that he lasted as long as he did. I have tremendous respect for Hitchens’ integrity and courage in putting his pro-interrogation views to the test. Also, I appreciate the distinction he is trying to make between this sort of “torture” and the sort used by the enemies of civilization.

However, there is a kind of moral equivalence implied by use of the same word to describe both actions. I take it that Hitchens would say something like “waterboarding is unacceptably bad, but not as bad as other practices” which would save him from inconsistency but defeats the purpose by subjectivizing the definition of torture.

Given that the whole purpose of the procedure is to disorient the subject, his subjective judgment that it is torture remains unconvincing. Especially in light of the fact that he voluntarily underwent the procedure — twice! — it is hard to conclude that it should be categorically prohibited. In fact, having seen the video, I am slightly more inclined to approve of the procedure than I was before, provided that there are sufficient controls in place to avoid abuse.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Early Fallout from Heller

The Supreme Court decided last week in D.C. v. Heller that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own firearms. That decision is already being cited in lower court cases:

General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon said Friday that crime in Chattanooga "has become so rampant that it is no longer possible for the police department to protect our citizens."

He told a woman who had been pulled from her car and beaten in the head that she or her mother needed to "purchase a weapon, obtain a gun permit and learn to protect yourself." The woman moved back in with her mother after the May 4 incident on E. 17th Street.

Judge Moon said, "The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that all citizens have a right to purchase a weapon to defend themselves, their families and their homes - unless there is some disqualification that prevents them from owning a weapon."

Of course, it was never possible for the police to fully protect citizens, an argument that we have been making for years. It's always great to hear a representative of the government advise citizens to arm themselves; that is the hallmark of a free country.

Further fallout has descended on the suburbs of Chicago (which has one of the most restrictive handgun policies in the nation):
The First Dominos Fall: Morton Grove and Wilmette Handgun Bans After the D.C. city council banned handguns in 1976, and the voters of Massachusetts overwhelmingly rejected a handgun ban initiative that same year, the next U.S. jurisdiction to enact a handgun ban was the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove, in 1981. Chicago did the same in 1982, and four other Chicago suburbs, including Wilmette, later followed suit.

The Mayor of Morton Grove has announced that he will propose repeal of the handgun ban. [...] Wilmette, meanwhile, has suspended enforcement of its handgun ban.

(Via: Instapundit. More on on DC v. Heller, here.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Possible School Choice Progress in CA

From Edspresso comes this partly encouraging report:


Currently, low-income Hispanic students in Florida outperform average California students on the 4th grade NAEP reading assessment, conducted in English. This in spite of the fact that California per-pupil funding is $2,300 more than Florida's, and California median household income is nearly $12,000 higher.

Such comparisons make it difficult to defend California's public schooling monopoly-especially since not one doomsday scenario predicted by status-quo apologists has ever materialized in any state with parental choice programs. Education monopolists are still repeating their tired myths, but fewer California lawmakers are buying them.

Thanks to a handful of State Assembly members, a record-setting five parental choice bills are being introduced this legislative session. This is the first time in five years that any such legislation has been introduced in the Golden State, and California leads the nation with five parental choice bills introduced this year, only recently joined by Virginia.

The proposed measures would free California children from unsafe schools (Assembly Bill 2361, authored by Rick Keene, R-Chico) and failing schools (AB2739, Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi, and AB2561, Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks). Other proposed laws would also provide parents of private school students with tax credits (AB2605, Nakanishi), and allow parents of special-needs children to choose another school (AB2290, John J. Benoit, R-Riverside) without having to hire an attorney or jump through protracted bureaucratic hoops.


I say partly encouraging because none of the proposals involves vouchers for lower-income families. Two of the bills involve tax-credits (AB2561 and AB2605) which are a step in the right direction but only really benefit people who make enough income to pay substantial taxes. The other three bills make it easier to choose another school but do not provide funding. In the short term these sorts of bills will probably not do much to help the students most in need and that fact will be used by opponents to block further attampts at school choice, as they have done in the past with other similar proposals.

Still, it has been many years since this topic has been a live issue in California politics and if the authors are correct that this represents a trend, I am all for it.

Read the whole article to find some encouraging comments about successful programs elsewhere, especially in Georgia.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jolie on Iraq

I have endured a fair amount of good natured ridicule for my assertion that Angelina Jolie has a good head on her shoulders. I acknowledge that her other body parts are generally more remarkable, but I have always been impressed that she stands apart from the typical Hollywood liberal. For one thing she does her homework and appeals to common sense and intelligence, even when an emotional appeoal would seem perfectly natural. For another, she takes her various charitable and humanitarian efforts seriously and actually works to find solutions rather than wave her hands at the problems and stand by to accept the accolades.

Case in point: this rather old article in the Washington Post:

The request is familiar to American ears: "Bring them home."

But in Iraq, where I've just met with American and Iraqi leaders, the phrase carries a different meaning. It does not refer to the departure of U.S. troops, but to the return of the millions of innocent Iraqis who have been driven out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country.


The Iraqi families I've met on my trips to the region are proud and resilient. They don't want anything from us other than the chance to return to their homes -- or, where those homes have been bombed to the ground or occupied by squatters, to build new ones and get back to their lives. One thing is certain: It will be quite a while before Iraq is ready to absorb more than 4 million refugees and displaced people. But it is not too early to start working on solutions. And last week, there were signs of progress.

In Baghdad, I spoke with Army Gen. David Petraeus about UNHCR's need for security information and protection for its staff as they re-enter Iraq, and I am pleased that he has offered that support. General Petraeus also told me he would support new efforts to address the humanitarian crisis "to the maximum extent possible" -- which leaves me hopeful that more progress can be made.

UNHCR is certainly committed to that. Last week while in Iraq, High Commissioner Antonio Guterres pledged to increase UNHCR's presence there and to work closely with the Iraqi government, both in assessing the conditions required for return and in providing humanitarian relief.

During my trip I also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has announced the creation of a new committee to oversee issues related to internally displaced people, and a pledge of $40 million to support the effort.


As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do.

I think she is a little naive in the assumption that signs of UN involvement are necessarily signs of progress. The UN is frequently part of the problem in any international crisis and has more than once managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But Jolie's general point is solid: if humanitarian organizations are now begining to show interest in returning to Iraq, that is testament to the growing stability and order which is the first prerequisite of a return to civilization. I also like the fact that she acknowledges the sincerity of the early hawkish arguments that deposing Saddam and his jihadist allies would be a long-term gain for the Iraqis themselves and is holding us accountable to follow through on those promises.

I still don't think she is the right physical type to play Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged, but I continue to be impressed with her intellectual seriousness.

(Via Instapundit)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Gov. Lamm and American Suicide

I got this via email:

We know Dick Lamm as the former Governor of Colorado. In that context his thoughts are particularly poignant. Last week there was an immigration overpopulation conference in Washington , DC , filled to capacity by many of America's finest minds and leaders.

'If you believe that America is too smug, too self-satisfied, too rich, then let's destroy America . It is not that hard to do. No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that
all great civilizations rise and fall and that 'An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.''

Here is how they do it,' Lamm said:
First, to destroy America , turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bicultural country.
Second, to destroy America, invent 'multiculturalism' and encourage immigrants to maintain their culture.
Third, we could make the United States an 'Hispanic Quebec' without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity.
Fourth, I would make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated. I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population.
My fifth point for destroying America would be to get big foundations and business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of 'Victimology.' I would get all minorities to think that their lack of success was the fault of the majority.
My sixth plan for America's downfall would include dual citizenship, and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity.

Yada, yada, yada. There is lots more, but you get the drift. Evidently, this email has been drifting around the internet for a couple of years, but the event it describes is real and the speech fairly accurate, according to Snopes. I have elided a great part, but you can read the rest there, if you are interested. Here is my response to the emailer, which I reproduce here in the hope that others may benefit.

Dick Lamm certainly knows a lot about suicide -- both the cultural and physician assisted varieties. Here are a few methods of destroying America that he seems, unfathomably, to have left out:

1. Promote abortion and population control:

In 1964-5, as a state legislator in Colorado, Lamm drafted one of the first laws in the country to legalize abortion nearly a decade before Roe v. Wade. Abortion as such can be argued to have a disastrous effect on the morals, psychological health and even economic prosperity (inasmuch as you are killing off potentially productive citizens) of a culture. But the reasons behind Lamm's support are particularly chilling. In the acknowledgments of his 1985 book, Megatraumas, he indicates that he has been influenced by Garrett Hardin who has written that "Only by making parenthood a privilege, to be enjoyed under specified conditions and to a specified extent, can society achieve population control." Abortion always has the effect of breaking the most fundamental human bond, between mother and child, but this philosophy views the bond itself as anathema, or at least expendable. Significantly, Blackmun's opinion in Roe v. Wade acknowledged "the influences of recent attitudinal change, of advancing medical knowledge and techniques, and of new thinking about an old issue" and the complicating factors of "population growth, pollution, poverty, and racial overtones" which is a very apt description of Lamm's own views.

2. Support euthanasia, assisted suicide and the "duty to die":

Lamm has not limited his anti-life policies to the unborn. In 1984, having left the legislator to become governor of Colorado, he sparked controversy by claiming that the elderly and anyone who has life artificially extended has "a duty to die and get out of the way with all of our machines and artificial hearts and everything else like that and let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life." All stable societies are held together by passing the accumulated wisdom from one generation to the next and the reverence for the elderly comes directly after honoring God in the Ten Commandments. "Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land the Lord thy God giveth thee," was not a command merely given to children but to the adult leaders of Israel that stood before Mount Sinai. Further, care for "widows, orphans and strangers" is exhorted throughout Scripture and is one of the chief charges that the prophets bring against Israel and Judah, just before the destruction of their own society.

3. Ignore history, promote illiteracy and misquote your betters:

I have a certain amount of respect for Victor Davis Hanson and, though I disagree with him on some points, I think he has a good head on his shoulders. I have not read Mexifornia, but I have read many of his articles in The Economist, National Review and The Wall Street Journal. I didn't hear the speech referenced in the article below, but I am pretty sure it is a mischaracterization of his views. Hanson rightly diagnoses the problem as not merely one of immigration but of failure of immigrants to assimilate. He argues that America has essentially 4 options with regard to the immigration/assimilation dynamic:

"First we could 'continue de facto open-borders' but insist upon assimilation. Second we could vastly reduce immigration and assume that assimilation will take care of itself. Third -- Hanson’s choice -- we could combine greatly reduced immigration (both legal and illegal) with vigorous patriotic assimilation. The fourth path -- our present policy -- would lead to "a true Mexifornia," an "apartheid state" that "even the universal solvent of popular culture could not unite." (John Fonte, Huson Institute)

I actually prefer option 1 (the classic conservative position) to 3 (the post-9/11 conservative position) but it is clear that Hanson, though alarmist, is substantially more balanced than Gov. Lamm. Further, Hanson has been a long-time advocate of classical Western (ie Greco-Roman) values, which is the second best source of culture on the planet and a sharp contrast to Lamm's post-Enlightenment behaviorist/eugenicist approach.

4. Don't evangelize:

This is actually the best way to destroy America and it is particularly significant that neither Lamm, in his Screwtapian, nor Hanson in his more straightforward and scholarly writings manages to mention this factor. When Lamm left the Democratic party in the mid-90s he did not join the Republicans but made a bid for presidential candidate in the Reform Party. When asked why, he explained that the Republican party was dominated by the Christian Coalition. (If only!) Similarly Hanson describes the "only tool we possess to prevent racial separation and ethnic tribalism" as, not a common Christian faith but:

"the 'wholly amoral power of a new popular and global culture' offers a countervailing force to their consciously anti-assimilation actions, in a chapter that has caused some consternation among conservatives. Global popular culture—the new music, fast food, videos, MTV, boorish entertainment, crass magazines, slang speech, unisex clothes, defiant youth attitudes—is a revolutionary egalitarian development smashing old hierarchies, authorities, and standards—trumping family, ethnicity, race, gender, class, religion, and government. It indiscriminately levels both outmoded snobbery and good taste. It undermines the multicultural race agitator as well as the earnest teacher." (John Fonte, Huson Institute)

To be fair, Hanson does acknowledge that this pop culture is "perhaps deleterious to the long-term moral health of the United States".

But the Christian church has, from its earliest days, existed as a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic culture. Admittedly, it is not a nation in the sense we are talking about here, but, being patterned after heaven, it is the model for all earthly nations: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:9) "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (Rev 5:9-10)

Underlying all of Lamm's alarmism is an inherent hatred of humanity which views people (rather than sin) as the problem until they prove themselves otherwise. It would be hard to imagine a worldview more antithetical to Christianity. While the immigration problem is a thorny one, and he does make some valid points about assimilation vs. multi-culturalism, we need to be careful who we consider our friends.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When is a Lesbian not a lesbian?

When she's from the Greek island, of course:

A Greek court has been asked to draw the line between the natives of the Aegean Sea island of Lesbos and the world's gay women.

Three islanders from Lesbos — home of the ancient poet Sappho, who praised love between women — have taken a gay rights group to court for using the word lesbian in its name.

One of the plaintiffs said Wednesday that the name of the association, Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, "insults the identity" of the people of Lesbos, who are also known as Lesbians.

"My sister can't say she is a Lesbian," said Dimitris Lambrou. "Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos," he said.

They later try to claim that this isn't disparaging to gay women, but that is hard to reconcile with the notion that non-lesbian Lesbians are "insulted", isn't it? More interesting to me, is this throw-away line describing one of the plaintiffs:
Lambrou said the word lesbian has only been linked with gay women in the past few decades. "But we have been Lesbians for thousands of years," said Lambrou, who publishes a small magazine on ancient Greek religion and technology that frequently criticizes the Christian Church.

Actually, the term "lesbian" dates back at least 200 years, but that isn't what interests me. Note that last little blurb about Lambrou's magazine? This attack isn't coming from a fundamentalist-type, but from a full-fledged multi-culturalist. But the funny thing is that much of the support for gay rights comes from a rejection of the Judeo-Christian worldview. She who lives by the pagan revival, dies by the pagan revival.

Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. Dt 28:64

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Credit Where It's Due

Evidently Zawahri is getting irritated that the Jews are getting all the credit for Al Qaeda's hard work:

One of the questioners asked about the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Al-Zawahri accused Hezbollah's Al-Manar television of starting the rumor.

"The purpose of this lie is clear—(to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.
Of course, he doesn't mention the competing theory that Bush was behind the attack, but he pretty much nails that coffin lid, too.

(Via: Tammy Bruce)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

I don't really follow sports, but I think I can recognize good cheerleading when I see it. It is a cheerleader's job to generate enthusiasm and to look gorgeous; Ben Stein's movie, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed", is definitely good cheerleading -- on both counts.

I went into the theater with the notion that the film would be a religious-right clone of a Michael Moore movie -- a sort of Genesis 911, if you will. This was partly due to the buzz I had picked up (without really paying much attention), and it is certainly true that the film is marketed as a Mondo film. But I was favorably impressed with how well Stein avoided the more glaring excesses inherent in the genre. Despite a few missteps (of which I will speak more in a moment) the tone never becomes shrill or sensationalistic and the intellectual content was high and generally high-minded. The humor, of course, was derisive but not really mean-spirited.

In addition, the production quality was impressive in its own right. Even non-controversial documentaries vary in quality but most of those with a Message tend to fall on the cheesy-but-accurate end of the spectrum; we are expected to overlook the flaws for the greater good of supporting the Cause. "Expelled" isn't like that. This isn't a Ken Burns piece, but it is visually appealing from start to finish. The lighting during the interviews is often dramatic and conveys a sense of the dignity and richness of the scientific ideas being discussed. The score is also appropriate and often haunting. Particularly memorable is one scene near the end where Stein is walking alone through the Smithsonian Institute's dinosaur and cave man exhibits. The combination of lighting, pacing and music combine to aptly illustrate what Thomas Harris, in Silence of the Lambs calls "the cosmic hangover that the Smithsonian leaves."

I'm fairly well versed on the scientific criticisms of Darwinism, and I hang around with people that are usually up for a discussion of the subject, but I am not usually sanguine on the prospect of getting the general public excited about it. And yet, at the end of the show on opening night, the theater I was in burst into applause that can only be described as thunderous. Even more significant, perhaps, were the grunts of recognition I heard throughout the film. These were the kinds of sounds people make when someone has made an unexpectedly good point. Obviously, a large part of the target audience is people who are already engaged with the subject, so some of this enthusiasm was probably not generated so much as awakened by the film. But I would be willing to bet that a significant number of watchers went away with the desire to look further into the subject, which is really the most that you can expect of a theatrical release.

And the good news is that Ben Stein seems to have realized this and tailored his message to that end. On such a large topic, there are many paths he might have pursued, but he focused on discussing the issue of academic free inquiry. That shows both tactical restraint and intellectual honesty. No one is going to believe that a presidential speech-writer and comedian knows more about science than Richard Dawkins, so he doesn't do more than introduce the key points of the counter-Darwinian argument.

In order to really defend the science behind the Intelligent Design movement, one has to dig fairly deeply into some very technical discussion. It is unreasonable to expect that the average movie-goer, fresh to the subject, will come away with any great enthusiasm, to say nothing of understanding, of such a heavy subject after only an hour and a half. But anyone can understand that people ought to be given a fair hearing and that their ideas should be allowed to stand or fall on their own merits. David Horowitz, in The Art of Political War notes that Americans love the notion of fair play and the best way to capture their hearts is to demonstrate that you are the underdog. I have some problems with this methodology when it leads to a cult of victimhood, but there is no denying that it is very effective rhetorically.

Moore Moments
I didn't have many criticisms of the film, but I think it only fair to point out a few places where Stein left himself vulnerable:

1. The opening scene is a 1940s newsreel of the building of the Berlin Wall. This visual metaphor, along with other old footage of early 20th century collectivism and conformity, recurs throughout the film. While it is intended (and largely succeeds) as humor, the comparison is really not that apt. There is a definite injustice and cognitive dissonance when scientists and journalists lose their jobs for defending or, even mentioning, critiques of Darwinism, but it is nowhere near the suffering of those behind the Iron Curtain or under the Nazis.

2. The first 20 minutes or so are filled with interviews of people who claimed to have been dismissed for bucking the system without any direct rebuttal from the administration. This isn't exactly dishonest, but I had the definite sense that I wasn't getting the whole story. The administration officials were given their say later in the film -- and generally did a poor job of defending their actions -- but I would have liked to see more interplay up front between the opposing viewpoints.

3. Near the end, Stein in an interview with Richard Dawkins which can only be characterized as badgering. Both men keep their cool and the conversation is cordial, but Stein repeatedly asks questions that Dawkins has already answered or has already admitted that he doesn't have a good answer for. Stein gives a plausible pretext for his line of questioning, but the general flavor is the sort of gotcha journalism that we on the right have deplored when it is used against us. If this piece is primarily about fairness, it weakens rather than strengthens the argument to resort to such tactics.

Despite these flaws, I came away with a very positive impression of the film as a whole. I am tempted to watch it again, this time taking notes, so that I can get a more detailed understanding of how Stein presented his argument. And really, that says it all: with today's movie prices, how often does that temptation occur?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Egyptian Court Recognizes Converts to Christianity

From Voice of the Martyrs (via email):

Praise God! An Egyptian court has recognized the faith of 12 converts to Christianity. The decision overturns a lower court ruling which said the state need not recognize conversions from Islam because it constituted "apostasy," an act often treated as a capital crime in the Muslim world. A lawyer for the 12 Coptic Christians described the case as a victory for human rights and freedom of religion that will open the door for hundreds of other Copts who want to return to their original faith from Islam. There is concern, however, over the ruling's mandate that the converts' former religion must be noted in their official documents, as this could leave them vulnerable to discrimination. Thank the Lord for this victory. Pray that these individuals will not be subject to further discrimination. Pray that those who were born into Muslim families and convert to Christianity will also have their conversions recognized by the Egyptian government.

Friday, February 01, 2008

West Virginia to Mandate Gun Safety Class?

Not perfect but a good start. West Virginia is considering legislation that would provide 8th-10th graders with basic training in gun safety. This is the same basic age group that used to get behind-the-wheel driver's education -- a much more likely cause of death and injury, by the way -- back in the day when such things were affordable. As I've noted before, this is a much more rational approach than the typical "abstinence only" approach touted by the gun control folks.

West Virginia's approach has one problem though:

They will learn gun safety, the proper use of fire arms. All the weapons will be disabled so there is no chance of discharging.
I'm sorry, but the "proper use of firearms" involves shooting them. Trying to teach gun safety with a gun that is inert is like trying to teach music by the "think method". I can understand the need for caution, especially when dealing with the newly pubescent, but such concerns are routinely met in cases of sports and, as I already mentioned, driver ed. Proceed with caution and maintain rigorous discipline in the class room, and kids will surprise you every time.

Nevertheless, I think WV is on the right track, here. We need to see more movement in this direction.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Citi and First Data Refuse Gun Transactions

This is disturbing:

Citi Merchant Services and First Data Corp. are refusing to process any credit card transactions between federally licensed firearms retailers, distributors and manufacturers -- a move which will severely limit available inventory of firearms and ammunition to military, law enforcement and law-abiding Americans.

The first company to be affected by this decision appears to be firearms distributor CDNN Sports Inc.

"We were contacted recently by First Data/Citi Merchant Services by a June Rivera-Mantilla stating that we were terminated and funds were being seized for selling firearms in a non-face-to-face transaction," said Charlie Crawford, president of CDNN Sports Inc. "Although perfectly legal, we were also informed that no transactions would be processed in the future, even for non-firearms. I find this very frightening."

To voice your concern to Citi Merchant Services and First Data Corp., please contact June Rivera-Mantilla at 631-683-7734 or her supervisor Robert Tenenbaum at 631-683-6570.

My prediction is that it won't be long before the outrage over this causes Citi to see the light, but the quicker this gets nipped in the bud, the better. Of course, I acknowledge that private companies are free to refuse any customers as they see fit: it's their business, after all. But then so am I free to refuse to do business with them.

My main credit card is from Citi, if this policy isn't reversed soon, I will definitely be looking for another one. I hope this can be handled quickly by the market before the government gets involved. That would not help anyone and could get very ugly.

(Via: Hot Air)