Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Billy Jack, What Has Become Of You?

This is pretty strange. You might have to be a particular age to know who Billy Jack was. I mean is!

Liberals: Put Up Or Shut Up

John Hawkins issues a challenge to liberal bloggers. Name the nine pieces of legislation you want to see passed. In the interest of fairness, he provides his own list. He explains why he is issuing the challenge:
Now you'd think that liberals, after writing something like that in these columns, would think: "Ok, conservatives have their "coherent, easy-to-summarize ideology," let's sum ours up for the people and show them why it's better" -- but no, that never happens because liberals understand that their beliefs are too unpopular to ever sell to the American people. So instead we get process, process, process in these pieces. How do we raise more money? Where are the think tanks? How do we build up liberal radio? How do we phrase what we're saying to appeal to the American people?

Certainly, there's nothing wrong with considering those things, but in most ways the liberal political "machine" is far superior to the one conservatives have. The average person in America, gets up, reads a liberal newspaper, sends his kid to a school run by liberals, comes home from work and watches news on the big 3 networks -- which all are liberal and have bigger audiences than Fox, and then settles in to watch TV, where a bunch of liberals entertain him all night.

In the 2004 elections, liberals raised more money than conservatives, dominated the mainstream media where most Americans got their information from, and even managed to produce best selling books and movies that blasted Bush. Sure conservatives have talk radio, Fox, the Washington Times, but the truth is that we were outgunned.

Well, how is that Republicans control all the levers of government then? Well, our ideas just work better than liberal ideas and furthermore, we're not afraid to pitch them to the American people.

Liberals can criticize what conservatives believe all day long, but when you ask them what they believe in, they suddenly get foggy and evasive because they know that many of the things that they want to do are unpopular and viewed as failed concepts.

So, in an effort to show how bipartisan and helpful that I am, I'm going to invite all the liberal blogs out there to participate in a little exercise that will do more for you than all the mamby-pamby, "we need to do things differently somehow or another" columns ever written.

Is It A Certain Truth That Doubt Must Trump Certainty? I Doubt It. I Most Certainly Do.

Excellent piece by Charles Krauthammer (H/T Right Wing News).

The Op-Ed pages are filled with jeremiads about believers--principally evangelical Christians and traditional Catholics--bent on turning the U.S. into a theocracy. Now I am not much of a believer, but there is something deeply wrong--indeed, deeply un-American--about fearing people simply because they believe. It seems perfectly O.K. for secularists to impose their secular views on America, such as, say, legalized abortion or gay marriage. But when someone takes the contrary view, all of a sudden he is trying to impose his view on you. And if that contrary view happens to be rooted in Scripture or some kind of religious belief system, the very public advocacy of that view becomes a violation of the U.S. constitutional order.

What nonsense. The campaign against certainty is merely the philosophical veneer for an attempt to politically marginalize and intellectually disenfranchise believers. Instead of arguing the merits of any issue, secularists are trying to win the argument by default on the grounds that the other side displays unhealthy certainty or, even worse, unseemly religiosity.


You want certainty? You want religiosity? How about a people who overthrow the political order of the ages, go to war and occasion thousands of deaths in the name of self-evident truths and unalienable rights endowed by the Creator? That was 1776. The universality, the sacredness and the divine origin of freedom are enshrined in our founding document. The Founders, believers all, signed it. Thomas Jefferson wrote it. And not even Jefferson, the most skeptical of the lot, had the slightest doubt about it.

Update: A commenter at Right Wing News had this quip:

Believers? Puh! What kind of person hangs his entire world view upon the unscientific teachings of a crazy, deluded, bearded man from hundreds of years ago? Certainly not Marxists.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

An Amazing Tour de Force

Just got around to reading Bill Whittle's latest essay, released a week ago. Phenomenal. Stunning. Insanely great.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Embrace Futility And Love It. Otherwise You Are A Fascist Theocrat.

The post title was inspired by this article, which, along with a recent phone conversation with a biologist friend who has to put up with all kind of anti-Christian career hurdles, also had me thinking about this Chesterton quote:
The man who says, "My critically discerning intellect can no longer credit the doctrine of the Trinity" typically means "I'm sleeping with my neighbor's wife."
Here is a teaser for the article:

If the real controversy over intelligent design is not about science but competing worldviews then it will only be resolved in the populace. But the adoption or subscription to a worldview depends on how compelling it is in its many facets. Question is, will it sell? Obviously there are different markets for a worldview. Academia is one, the scientific community is another, and then there is the general public. While most people probably already have a firmly held worldview, there are also those willing to change if presented with a compelling enough case. But what about in Peoria. Peoria has often been thrown up as mainstream America. If you can’t sell something in Peoria, you’re basically out of luck in America. Now from many surveys it is clear that mainstream America already holds a teleological worldview. Since most Americans either participate in a religious tradition or are “spiritual but not religious” that more than likely entails a teleological view. The real question in the debate is whether the ateleologists, the Darwinians, can sell their worldview to mainstream America.

So what ideas are they trying to sell? Here are some representative quotes:

[Interesting quotes follow]

Will this sell in Peoria. Not! Question is why would anyone want to subscribe to such a miserable worldview? I can see how a truth seeker might if there were no rational, defensible alternatives, but there are. ID and modern religious frameworks offer logical and scientific support for teleological worldviews.

Friday, May 27, 2005

American Spectator Has Good ID Intro

As quoted in its entirety in this William Dembski post. It looks like it was maybe scanned in from the paper magazine, because there are many typos. Still, it is an excellent read. I especially liked the way this was expressed:
First, building on recent discoveries in cell biology, molecular genetics, and other disciplines, they contend that life, and the complex processes by which cells do their work, cannot have been produced by that combination of chance and necessity known as Darwinian evolution. Second, using the analytical techniques of information theory, they contend that the kind of information embodied in things that are designed can only be produced by an intelligent agent, not by undirected material causes. Design, they say, is empirically detectable, and it is detectable, in fact, in living things.


Of course, if the hypothesis that the universe and life are designed is true, the ready inference is that this designer has to be an incomprehensibly potent and awesome Intelligent Agent. A lot of influential people in science, the media, the schools, and other institutions don’t much like the notion of the Big Intelligent Agent. Hence the controversy over ID, and the slanted treatment of it that is often seen.

Among certain sectors of the media, for example, itis an article of faith that those who believe in God, or advocate principles supporting that belief, are just a mob of Bible-thumping, knuckle-dragging, Scripture-spouting, hellfire and brimstone-preaching, rightwing, gun-toting, bigoted, homophobic, moralistic, paternalistic, polyester-wearing, mascara-smeared, false-eyelashed, SUV-driving, Wal-Mart shopping, big hair, big gut, fat butt, holy-rolling, snake-handling, Limbaugh-listening, Bambi-shooting, trailer-park-dwelling, uneducated, ignorant, backwater, hayseed, hick, inbred, pinhead rubes, mostly from the South, or places no better than the South, who voted for Bush.

So, many of the news stories refer to intelligent design theory as creationism and ignore the science behind it. They imply that ID is just religion in disguise: Creationism in a cheap tuxedo, as one headline put it. Let’s look at the science, then, because the truth about the intelligent design school could not be more different from those stereotypes. The proponents of ID base their arguments on biological and physical data generally accepted in science. They use the same kinds of analytical methods and mathematical tools as other scientists. The ID theorists do not reason from religious premises. Neither do they attempt to prove the truth of Scripture, or of any particular religious views. As a rule, they do not contest that life on Earth is billions of years old, or that evolution has occurred in the sense of ichange over timei in biological forms.

What they do contest is that undirected material causes alone can explain life is origin and development.

The Episcopal Church Makes It Official

Gene Robinson was just a warmup. They are now literally a joke. This is like something out of A Clockwork Orange.

The Prophet Mohammed Was A Karl Rove Setup

I've just seen Revenge Of The Sith. Visually stunning, emotionally powerful, and the worst moments were not too bad. Engaging throughout, and well worth seeing. After I saw it, I started reading reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It's amazing how many of these ignoramus, knee-jerk, left-wing know-nothing reviewers have to find a parallel with George Bush and the Iraq war. Oh yes, it's parallel all right. You see, Bush has a master plan. He used the force to create the Muslim religion fourteen centuries ago. That whole knocking down the WTC on 9/11 was just a feint. And when I went into the voting booth last November, a voice in my head said "John Kerry is not the candidate you're looking for." I felt a strange compulsion to pull the lever for Darth Dubya. Yes. The parallels are eerie.


Here's one example:
But there's more to "Revenge of the Sith" than just the carefully crafted surface: fairy tales have morals, and myths carry practical meaning. The original trilogy led up to a happy ending complete with fireworks and dancing bears. The prequels tell a similar hero's journey, but instead of an affirming story about believing in oneself, it is a dire warning about the dangers of arrogance and greed. In a country more and more divided by talk about "moral values," "Star Wars" isn't subtle about the values it considers important; again and again, we are reminded that fear, hatred, greed, pride and "a failure to listen" lead to the Dark Side. Compassion, love, and non-violence are the real way to peace and justice. In this final chapter, George Lucas does not hesitate to make the connections explicit.

The broader story of the prequels is based on Roman history and the rise of the Third Reich—the story of a democracy that slips into dictatorship. It was easy to overlook the political plot during episodes I and II, when it consisted mainly of confusing talk of trade federation taxation of outlying trade routes, separatists, and the squabbling space aliens who filled the floating pods of the Galactic Senate. But now, it becomes obvious that the strange dealings all amounted to a concerted power grab by Palpatine to become Chancellor, secure emergency powers for himself, and build an army of clones. Using a fabricated threat, he launched a fraudulent war to extend his grip on power. Sound like anyone you know?

With familiar rhetoric, Palpatine declares the end of the Republic: in the name of peace, freedom, democracy, and security, he must accept the burden of power. Devastated, Padme remarks: "So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause." It is a shockingly serious moment, bitter and real. But the film's bluntest political statement comes when Anakin, lightsaber in hand, paraphrases George W. Bush's first State of the Union Address: "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy!" Obi-Wan, representing the forces of good, doesn't flip-flop. His damning answer? "Only a Sith deals in absolutes!" Mark my words: somebody is going to put that on a bumper sticker.
Deep. Pass the bong.

Hollywood's Crusade

Nice "Kingdom Of Heaven" article by a scholar of medieval history.

Rather than catalogue all of the historical inaccuracies in this movie (and they are legion) I will confine myself to two general threads of anachronism that are woven throughout. First, the Kingdom of Jerusalem is frequently referred to in this film as a “new world.” It was nothing of the sort. Indeed, it was the oldest of the Old World. To watch this movie one would think that the Holy Land was a recently-discovered virgin wilderness just waiting for colonization by strapping young blacksmiths. Balian even sets up his own plantation, thus introducing irrigation to the Fertile Crescent. The Holy Land that Scott and Monahan describe clearly owes much more to post-medieval British history, where overseas lands of opportunity like North America, Australia, and India offered a fresh start for those seeking a new life.

The second major anachronism is the movie’s approach to religion. Most people know that the Crusades were wars of faith. Crusaders underwent extreme hardship, risking their lives and expending enormous amounts of money because of their devotion to Christ, his Church, and his people. Crusader piety also manifested itself in extraordinary devotion to the Virgin Mary and the saints, particularly those saints who had lived in the Holy Land. The Kingdom of Heaven, however, performs the delicate operation of stripping religious piety completely out of the Crusades. Balian and his father appear to be agnostics. Other Crusaders, like the Hospitaller, are openly critical of religion. Indeed, all of the good guys in this movie seem to have no devotion to God at all, only a devotion to tolerance. The bad guys, on the other hand, are all religiously devout, which causes them to be either evil (like Guy and Reynald) or mad (like the glassy-eyed preacher who chants, “To kill a Muslim is not murder, it is the path to heaven”). In other words, the medieval world is portrayed in much the same way that Hollywood views America: Smart people either have no religion or do not take it very seriously. The rest are right-wing Christian fanatics.

There are no churches in this movie, not even in the holiest of cities. There are no monks, no nuns, and very few pilgrims, all of whom would have filled the streets of medieval Jerusalem. Only two priests appear in the film, one a twisted corpse mutilator and the other a villain whose strategy for defending Jerusalem is to convert to Islam and leave the people to die. Scott scatters a few crosses here and there, but there are no crucifixes, which were much more common in the Middle Ages. Beautiful set decoration of Crusader palaces includes no icons of Mary or the saints, indeed no religious art of any kind. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all live in harmony in this cinematic Jerusalem. Yet, in truth non-Christians were forbidden to live in the Holy City during the reign of Baldwin IV. But it is not just Christianity that Scott sterilizes. Muslims are shown praying a few times in the film, yet the only devout Muslim is a black-robed cleric demanding that Saladin attack the Christians and capture Jerusalem. The message here is clear: Religion leads to fanaticism, and fanaticism leads to war.

As a matter of plot logic, one might reasonably wonder why all of these Crusaders wearing crosses on their breasts and marching off to hopeless battles care so little for Christianity? When preparing for the defense of Jerusalem, Balian proclaims that it is not the stones that matter, but the people living in the city. In order to save the people’s lives he threatens to destroy all of the Christian and Muslim holy sites, “everything,” he says, “that drives men mad.” Yet if he is only concerned with defending people, why has Balian come all the way to Jerusalem to do it? Aren’t there plenty of people in France who need defending? The truth is that Scott’s Balian has it exactly wrong. It is the stones, the buildings, the city that mattered above all else. Medieval Christians saw Jerusalem as a precious relic sanctified by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The people were there to glorify God and defend His Holy City. The real Balian, faced with the inevitable conquest of Jerusalem, threatened to destroy the Dome of the Rock if Saladin did not abandon his plan to massacre the Christian inhabitants. That plan is airbrushed out of the movie. Indeed, the good and noble Saladin of this movie lets all of the citizens depart with a hearty, good-natured smile on his face. The real Saladin required them to pay a ransom. Those that could not — and there were thousands — were sold into slavery.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Giant Con Job?

The "deal" that is. Could well be. This intriguing post spells it out. It refers to the "compromise" as a negotiated surrender on the part of the Democrats. We do have a piece of data to support this: the sudden "no problemo" confirmation of Priscilla Owen. After being held up for four long years as an "over my dead body" extremist. Another piece of data: everyone feels like they lost. How mad can the Dem's lunatic base get about any of this if the Republicans are all crying? Masterfully done. Unlike Tojo, the Dems have surrendered without the nuke being dropped. And, come on, Bill Frist must know full well that he could never have a successful presidential run, so why not be the decoy fall guy? There is an ethos that says "you can get anything done, as long as you don't take credit". Dubya has been mighty silent through all this. He's a subtle guy, that Dubya.

Bork us once, shame on you. Bork us twice, shame on us.

Peeve Farm On Intelligent Design

Good post by Brian Tiemann. He takes to task a condescending Reason article highlighted (approvingly?) by Instapundit. Brian even coins a couple of cool terms: Buddhasota and Jedifornia.

He also doesn't seem too concerned with explaining how it's hypocritical or indicative of imminent theocratic takeover for someone to say in public that intelligent-design theory is totally agnostic as to the specific nature of said design, but to admit in private that "ID has theological implications. ID is not strictly Christian, but it is theistic". WooOOOoo. Spooky. At least for Reason readers it is, apparently. This guy seems a bit too pleased with himself for discovering that intelligent-design advocates in America tend to be Christians. Shocka! Gee, I thought they were all pure-hearted solipsistic atheists who wanted kids to start from I think therefore I am and deduce the existence of rice pudding and income tax by twelfth-grade graduation.

What he's so horrified by is simple acceptance of reality. When you've got someone fighting for the right to teach that science by its very nature cannot disprove that which it cannot observe, and therefore science cannot disprove the existence of supernatural elements in the Universe, the fact of the matter is that in Kansas, the way that will manifest is with "theistic" vocabulary—even, horror of horrors, Christian vocabulary. If it were in a different state, such as Buddhasota or Jedifornia, perhaps that would be different.

Federalists ought to enjoy seeing this happening, it seems to me. But however each state handles it, its upshot would be that kids wouldn't have to go to school and be told by their teachers that their parents are fools, and then go home and be told by their parents that their teachers are lying to them. And that seems like a rather positive thing for the minds of kids looking for trustable authority figures—more so that ensuring that any hair-splitting whisper of the "theistic" is blockaded from a reluctantly adopted acknowledgement of the place an intelligent-design hypothesis might play in an understanding of how the Universe works.

Who knows? Kids might even learn the proper scientific definition of the word "theory", and be properly equipped to identify one when they see it later in life—instead of the current popular definition, which is "Scripture that you learn in school instead of church".

BTW, there is a nice round-up of recent ID blog posts here.

Also check out this excellent rebuttal to a Tech Central Station column I referenced here.

Cynical Quote

80-year-old quote, so no one in particular is being bashed here, but I think it applies in spades to politics in general (especially when I look at the fiscally impossible situation the government is now in, by popular demand. A situation that simply will not be fixed until after the trainwreck):

"As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
--H.L. Mencken


That's the word that pops into my mind after reading these two Anchoress posts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Taranto's Take

I've read a lot of analysis on the "deal" just made in the Senate. I'm still leaning to the view that the deal is a capitulation and "slinking away with honor" on the part of the Democrats. James Taranto has some interesting analysis along these lines at the top of these two posts. Let's try to remember that on the Republican side, some annoying moderates broke with the Party to do the deal, meaning some too-liberal types mucked up the works. However, on the Democratic side the moderates are comparitively too conservative compared to the rest of their party. Several of the rank-breakers over there are red staters and are stating an unwillingness to go along with obstructionism. That, I think is a more significant crack.

Excerpt from the second column:
True, seven Republicans broke from their party in agreeing to abjure the "nuclear option," but seven Democrats also broke from theirs to allow votes on at least three nominees whom fellow Dems had spent years smearing as "extremist" and "out of the mainstream." And since the Senate has fewer Democrats than Republicans, the Democrats are actually the more divided party: 15.6% of Dems joined the compromise, vs. just 12.7% of Republicans.


The Democrats didn't begin using the filibuster right away when President Bush took office; they didn't need to. In 2001-02, after Jim Jeffords switched parties, the Democrats held a majority and were able to stop judges via party-line vote in the Judiciary Committee. The Republicans' two-seat net gain in the 2002 election gave the GOP the majority, whereupon the Democrats began employing the filibuster in 2003-04. In doing so, they showed an impressive unity. For once they actually seemed like an organized political party.

But the filibuster strategy was based on political assumptions that turned out to be faulty. In 2003-04, Senate Democrats thought they were running out the clock on a one-term president. Their plan for the 109th Congress was for Majority Leader Tom Daschle to shepherd through President Kerry's judicial nominees.

Instead, President Bush won re-election, and the Republicans won eight of nine contested Senate races. John Kerry* is still a senator, and Tom Daschle isn't. And the only Democrat to win a close Senate race, Ken Salazar of Colorado, said during his campaign that he opposed the judicial filibuster. Not surprisingly, Salazar was one of the seven compromising Democrats.

Did the Democrats really want to go through all this again? Well, some no doubt did. Hate is more important than success to the likes of Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy, and in any case senators from liberal states are unlikely to pay a price for obstructionism. But the filibuster strategy runs counter to the inclinations and political interests of a substantial minority of Democrats, including, as we noted yesterday, at least five of the seven compromisers.

From where we sit, then, the actions of the Republican compromisers look like not a capitulation but a way of letting Democrats back down from a losing position without being humiliated.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

James Lileks has another Diner MP3 file up. As usual, quite amusing with some over-the-top hilarity, this time with a tie-in to a famous tv episode.

Rewrite The 14th Amendment

Lino Graglia in Opinion Journal:
The essential irrelevance of the Constitution to contemporary constitutional law should be clear enough from the fact that the great majority of Supreme Court rulings of unconstitutionality involve state, not federal, law; and nearly all of them purport to be based on a single constitutional provision, the 14th Amendment--in fact, on only four words in one sentence of the Amendment, "due process" and "equal protection." The 14th Amendment has to a large extent become a second constitution, replacing the original.

It does not require jurisprudential sophistication to realize that the justices do not decide controversial issues of social policy by studying those four words. No question of interpretation is involved in any of the court's controversial constitutional rulings, because there is nothing to interpret. The states did not lose the power to regulate abortion in 1973 in Roe v. Wade because Justice Harry Blackmun discovered in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, the purported basis of the decision, something no one noticed before. The problem is that the Supreme Court justices have made the due process and equal protection clauses empty vessels into which they can pour any meaning. This converts the clauses into simple transferences of policy-making power from elected legislators to the justices, authorizing a court majority to remove any policy issue from the ordinary political process and assign it to themselves for decision. This fundamentally changes the system of government created by the Constitution

The basic principles of the Constitution are representative democracy, federalism and the separation of powers, which places all lawmaking power in an elected legislature with the judiciary merely applying the law to individual cases. Undemocratic and centralized lawmaking by the judiciary is the antithesis of the constitutional system.

The only justification for permitting judges to invalidate a policy choice made in the ordinary political process is that the choice is clearly prohibited by the Constitution--"clearly," because in a democracy the judgment of elected legislators should prevail in cases of doubt. Judicially enforced constitutionalism raises the issue, as Jefferson also pointed out, of rule of the living by the dead. But our problem is not constitutionalism but judicial activism--the invalidation by judges of policy choices not clearly (and rarely even arguably) prohibited by the Constitution. We are being ruled not by the dead but by judges all too much alive.

Because most of the Supreme Court's activist rulings of unconstitutionality purport to be based on a 14th Amendment that it has deprived of specific meaning, the problem can be very largely solved by simply restoring the 14th Amendment to its original meaning, or by giving it any specific meaning. The 14th Amendment was written after the Civil War to provide a national guarantee of basic civil rights to blacks. If a constitutional amendment could be adopted reconfining the 14th Amendment to that purpose or, better still, expanding it to a general prohibition of all official racial discrimination, the Court's free-hand remaking of domestic social policy for the nation would largely come to an end. If the justices lost the ability to invalidate state law on the basis of their political preferences, their ability and willingness to invalidate federal law on this basis would likely also diminish.

Liberals Go On Record: The Judiciary Has Legislative Power

A couple of items illustrate this. David Limbaugh explains in his column, and also James Taranto had this:

Shut Up, She Explained

The woman who gave us same-sex marriage shows what she thinks of free speech, reports the Boston Globe:

The chief justice of the state Supreme Judicial Court said yesterday that rhetoric about judges destroying the country and the suggestion that court decisions should conform to public opinion are threatening public trust in the judicial system, a cornerstone of democracy.

Justice Margaret H. Marshall, who has been widely criticized as a judicial activist since writing the court's 2003 decision allowing same-sex marriage, spoke before a crowd of 7,000 at Brandeis University's 54th commencement. . . .

"I worry when people of influence use vague, loaded terms like 'judicial activism' to skew public debate or to intimidate judges," Marshall said. "I worry when judicial independence is seen as a problem to be solved and not a value to be cherished."

Gee, what about vague terms like "extremist" or "out of the mainstream"? Has Marshall forgotten the vituperative attack liberals waged on Judge Robert Bork 18 years ago--an attack in which her husband, Anthony Lewis, played a prominent role as a New York Times columnist? Is she unaware that Senate Democrats are similarly attacking a raft of Bush judicial appointees?

Perhaps this stab at humor casts some light on the questions:

Marshall began with a joke about the blue and white balloons suspended from the Gosman Sports Center ceiling. She said she liked the colors, which included "no red states"--winning a big laugh.

So if you don't like liberal activist court rulings, you should just shut up about it, but Marshall lacks even the self-restraint to refrain from partisan japery in public. Our respect for the judiciary is diminished somewhat after reading about Marshall's performance. Isn't yours?

The Meaning Of Life

Excellent philosophizing by Dennis Prager.

As I have noted on occasion, there are three values systems competing for world dominance: Islam, European style secularism/socialism and Judeo-Christian values. As the competition in America is between the second two (in Europe, Judeo-Christian values are dying while Islam is increasing its influence), my columns on Judeo-Christian values have concentrated on differences between Judeo-Christian and secular values.

Perhaps the most significant difference between them, though one rarely acknowledged by secularists, is the presence or absence of ultimate meaning in life. Most irreligious individuals, quite understandably, do not like to acknowledge the inevitable and logical consequence of their irreligiosity -- that life is ultimately purposeless.

Secular and irreligious individuals raise two immediate objections...

A Loose Cannon

I found this column by Rich Lowry to be a nice summation of the incohernet berzerkness that is Howard Dean. The guy is all over the map with non-sequitors and non-sensical political positions. More power to him!

“I don’t think I’m prejudging him,” Dean told Russert, then in the same breath: “I think there’s a reasonable chance that this may end up in jail.” He defended the DNC having a mug shot of DeLay on its website, then in the same breath: “We’re not going to stoop to the kind of divisiveness [of] the Republicans.” Later on the program he intoned, hilariously, “We ought not to lecture each other about our ethical shortcomings.”

On Iraq, Dean dug deeper. He criticized President Bush for his dishonesty in saying that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Reminded by Russert that he had said the same thing, Dean allowed, “I thought there probably were.” Russert pointed out that Democrats like John Kerry also warned of Iraq’s WMDs. “Because they were told that by the president,” Dean insisted. But Kerry and others were warning about Saddam’s weapons well before Bush took office. Does Dean not know these things, or is he just dishonest?

He occasionally has the right, if futile, idea. Dean said Democrats must not be portrayed as the pro-abortion party: “I don’t know anybody who thinks abortion is a good thing.” He apparently hasn’t talked to many NARAL activists lately. Dean floated the idea that state medical boards should set guidelines for abortion, apparently not realizing that that would likely require overturning Roe v. Wade and make him an “extremist” fit to be filibustered were he nominated to the federal bench.

Monday, May 23, 2005

I Could Be Wrong

But it seems to me that the Dems have just suffered a big defeat in the judicial confirmation battle. A lot of right wing bloggers are wailing and lamenting that the "nuclear option" wasn't used. The Anchoress has a good round-up. Now it seems to me that folks might be confusing means and ends here. Is the end breaking the fillibuster logjam or is it to see the Dems humiliated and begging for mercy? I seem to recall that after World War One, the end became to see Germany utterly humiliated via the Treaty of Versailles. Well, that didn't end up doing much to promote peace in the long run, now, did it? To me it looks like the Democrats caved. If they could've beat the nuclear option they would have. Instead, they slink away with a face-saving "agreement". I think right now I agree with this take over at Polipundit. Also, I left this comment in the thread over at The Anchoress:
Well, I don’t know, it’s unclear to me who has really backed down here. Suddenly a bunch of moderates are saying that the “terrible three” are not radical extremists. That ain’t nothing, and it seems like a very major backdown on the part of the Dems. If they could’ve blocked those three, they would’ve. They couldn’t so they won’t. Is it possible some folks are more interested in an immediate scorched earth humiliation of the enemy than an actual important victory that still leaves open the door for torching these Dem punks if they try to pull something? How do we know that this isn’t just the Dem’s way of slinking away mortally wounded? Do we also have to do a victory dance and put their heads on pikes along the city walls? I’m not saying I know any of this to be the case, but I’m just askin’.

Right now, the Polipundit link isn't working, so I reproduce the post here:

My Take on the Deal

Now that an agreement has apparently been reached, it’s now time to look at the ramfications of the settlement.

Unfortunately, some of my conservative brethren are screaming that Republicans caved in, that it is time to stay home on election day, or perhaps join a new party.

If these Republicans would look at settlement rationally, they would recognize that it is a complete victory.

First, Democrats are forced to let three of the President’s nominees come up for a vote. We will now see these filibustered nominees win confirmation with 55-59 votes. So much for the Democratic argument that filibustered nominees are extremists.

Second, the President did not have to drop, as earlier proposed settlements said, two of his nominees. There is no decision on either nominee, and I expect Frist will call for a vote on their nominations shortly.

Third, the decision is an admission of failure by the Democratic leadership. If he were confident that it had the votes to overcome the constitutional option, Reid would have nixed any negotiations. Instead, he has to let three of the President’s “extremist” nominees win confirmation without any nominee being voted down.

Fourth, we can expect a Supreme Court vacancy this summer. With the eyes of the nation upon them, with their claim that Bush’s nominees are extremists in logical shreds, Democrats will have to either commit political suicide by filibustering or let the SCOTUS nominee go through the Senate.

Fifth, if Democrats continue to filibuster judicial nominees, it gives Republicans a potent issue to portray Democratic Senators in Red States as obstructionists.

In short, this is the submission of the minority to the will of the majority. Democrats and wobbly Republicans can spin it as they will, but you, my readers, will I hope see otherwise.

-- Alexander K. McClure

This Should Generate Some Interesting Letters To The Editor

A fairly unprecedented column for the SF Chronicle: a liberal tells why he's kissing the left goodbye. The column is titled "Leaving the left -- I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity."

Nightfall, Jan. 30. Eight-million Iraqi voters have finished risking their lives to endorse freedom and defy fascism. Three things happen in rapid succession. The right cheers. The left demurs. I walk away from a long-term intimate relationship. I'm separating not from a person but a cause: the political philosophy that for more than three decades has shaped my character and consciousness, my sense of self and community, even my sense of cosmos.

I'm leaving the left -- more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.

I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode.

My estrangement hasn't happened overnight. Out of the corner of my eye I watched what was coming for more than three decades, yet refused to truly see. Now it's all too obvious. Leading voices in America's "peace" movement are actually cheering against self-determination for a long-suffering Third World country because they hate George W. Bush more than they love freedom.

Like many others who came of age politically in the 1960s, I became adept at not taking the measure of the left's mounting incoherence. To face it directly posed the danger that I would have to describe it accurately, first to myself and then to others. That could only give aid and comfort to Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and all the other Usual Suspects the left so regularly employs to keep from seeing its own reflection in the mirror.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Ace Trashes Star Wars

He says it sucks, and tells why. This reviewer also thought it failed to refrain from sucking. His review endeth:
The magic died a long time ago, see, and Episode III is just the death twitch.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Tieing It All Together

Found this amusing comment at a site which is tracking the Real Estate bubble. Apparently the current Playmate of the Month has decided to ditch modeling and go into real estate.

Here now the comment:
At 2:27 PM, Alvin the Apocalyptic Ant said...

("In the magazine's May issue, Westenhiser poses, leaning on a computer desk next to a stack of books with titles including 'All About Escrow' and 'Real Estate Principles.')

Is there anything hotter than a Playboy Playmate who understands the intricacies of the escrow process? I need a cold shower!

Now they're not just ringing a bell, they're sounding off sirens!

Who's left to join this ship of fools? Is the Pope gonna quit and become a mortgage broker? Is Terry Schiavo gonna rise from the dead and announce that she is planning to do some condo conversions in Boca?

I used to study semiotics---the examination of signs and symbols and how they can be used to signify larger meaning within systems and cultures. So I get kind of worked up when I see stories like this.

If this ain't a sign, I don't know what is.

It's like driving down a deserted highway and seeing a sign that says "Dead End". But you proceed. Then a few more signs crop up, "Road Ending", "Danger", "Cliff Ahead". But you proceed. Then an entire forest of signs, "Stop Now!", "You'll Be Sorry", "The End is Near". There are car parts and body parts strewn across the highway. There are vultures circling above. Black smoke rises in the distance. But you proceed.

And you go off the cliff...

As you plummet, you notice something very strange. There are no more signs.

Tears Rolling Down Your Cheeks Funny

I was prompted by Ace Of Spades to rewatch the video of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog interacting with the geek-crowd awaiting the opening of Attack Of The Clones. A little bit crude, but absolutely hilarious.

Darth W. Vader

Good satire.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush is hopeful the recent Darth Vader comparisons he's experienced during the past month will soon overtake previous comparisons to Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and other ruthless dictators known for murder, genocide, torture and oppression.

"The President is hopeful that his image will continue to soften during and after the premiere of the final Star Wars movie," White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said at a press conference Tuesday. "President Bush is well aware that Darth Vader is considered a villain in most parts of the world, but deep inside the robotic exterior of the sadistic leader of the Dark Side, lurks a man who was not only a Jedi warrior but also the object of Natalie Portman's affection. The President can live with that."

It Is Time For Some Straight Talk

Thomas Friedman of the NYT nails it:
Instead of sending Mr. McClellan out to flog Newsweek, President Bush should have said: "Let me say first to all Muslims that desecrating anyone's holy book is utterly wrong. These allegations will be investigated, and any such behavior will be punished. That is how we Americans intend to look in the mirror. But we think the Arab-Muslim world must also look in the mirror when it comes to how it has been behaving toward an even worse crime than the desecration of God's words, and that is the desecration of God's creations. In reaction to an unsubstantiated Newsweek story, Muslims killed 16 other Muslims in Afghanistan in rioting, and no one has raised a peep - as if it were a totally logical reaction. That is wrong.

"In Iraq, where Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni Muslims are struggling to build a pluralistic new order, other Muslims, claiming to act in the name of Allah, are indiscriminately butchering people, without a word of condemnation coming from Muslim spiritual or political leaders. I don't understand a concept of the sacred that says a book is more sacred than a human life. A holy book, whether the Bible or the Koran, is only holy to the extent that it shapes human life and behavior.

"Look, Newsweek may have violated journalistic rules, but what jihadist terrorists are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan - blowing up innocent Muslims struggling to build an alternative society to dictatorship - surely destroys the Koran. They are the real enemies of Islam because they are depriving Muslims of a better future. From what I know of Islam, it teaches that you show reverence to God by showing reverence for his creations, not just his words. Why don't your spiritual leaders say that? I am asking, because I want to know."
It is time for the Muslim world to be asked point blank: Do the violent lunatics represent the real truth of your religion or don't they? My own suspicion is that they do, and that's why the question is neither asked nor answered.

Anti-Religious Bigotry Will Not Be Tolerated

Except for the obvious exception. Brent Bozell details a long history of contempt.

Sheer Leftist Awfulness

This post is just about all the proof that is needed that only one side really has any kind of litmus test in our judicial wars.

Imagine, if you will, that a Democrat President nominated a judge whose constitutional and policy views were, by any measure, on the extreme left fringes of American society.

Let’s assume, for example, that this nominee had expressed strong sympathy for the position that there is a constitutional right to prostitution as well as a constitutional right to polygamy.

Let’s say, further, that he had attacked the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts as organizations that perpetuate stereotyped sex roles and that he had proposed abolishing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and replacing them with a single androgynous Parent’s Day.

And, to get really absurd, let’s add that he had called for an end to single-sex prisons on the theory that if male prisoners are going to return to a community in which men and women function as equal partners, prison is just the place for them to get prepared to deal with women.

Let’s further posit that this nominee had opined that a manifest imbalance in the racial composition of an employer’s work force justified court-ordered quotas even in the absence of any intentional discrimination on the part of the employer. But then, lo and behold, to make this nominee even more of a parody of an out-of-touch leftist, let’s say it was discovered that while operating his own office for over a decade in a city that was majority-black, this nominee had never had a single black person among his more than 50 hires.

Imagine, in sum, a nominee whose record is indisputably extreme and who could be expected to use his judicial role to impose those views on mainstream America. Surely such a person would never be nominated to an appellate court. Surely no Senate Democrat would support someone with such extreme views. And surely Senate Republicans, rather than deferring to the nominating power of the Democrat President, would pull out all stops—filibuster and everything—to stop such a nominee.
Click through to the post and see that there is nothing whatsoever hypothetical about this. The lunatic described here is sitting on the current Supreme Court.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I'm Thinking There Really Must Be Something To It

Yes, another Intelligent Design post. See this, and this, and also read the Tech Central Station column they reference. As I've said before, I've read just about all of the key Intelligent Design books. Not only do they make sense to me, but the sorts of "refutations" that are being trotted out are just plain pathetic and widely miss the mark. The Tech Central Station column shows zero familiarity with the meaning of "Irreducible Complexity" as defined at length in "Darwin's Black Box", and, in addition, the author of the column uses the old fallback: making a theological argument to support his scientific viewpoint. If the science of Darwinism is so darned good, why is he talking theology?

From the first piece linked above:
A curious feature of most of the recent media coverage and commentary on intelligent design, is how insubstantial it is. Rarely do critics feel the need even to give an accurate definition of ID, let alone provide evidence that they've ever read anything written by an ID theorist. In fact, they seem unaware that they're substituting venom, ad hominems, and bigotry for actual argument.

Robert McHenry's therapeutic rant at Tech Central Station is a nice example. Presumably he feels better for having written it. He's the Former Editor in Chief of the Encyclopædia Britannica, and author of a book called How to Know. So presumably the guy is smart. And yet he seems to know nothing about ID except the prejudices he started with.

Anyone with superficial exposure to the ID literature, whether an ID sympathizer or critic, can evaluate McHenry's critique without help from me. Responses like his suggest that we're onto something. When critics have real arguments, they use them. When they don't, they sneer.


TenNapel On Star Wars

Doug TenNapel, interesting as always, gives his take. He also notes that Jesus must be a Sith, according to Lucas.

Uhh, Guys, Palpatine Is A Democrat

I was just reading this review, which more or less pans the Star Wars movie. It contains this little bit:
Having used the rubric of emergency to seize unprecedented command of the galactic senate, Palpatine/Sidious engages in subterfuge and manipulation to expand his control across the stars and keep the noble Jedi security force two steps behind. The crown jewel in his plan is the corruption and conscription of Anakin's almost unimaginable power, which will render the Sith lord's authority absolute. Tom DeLay couldn't have envisaged better.
Now, who in their right minds who has been following politics for the last 6 years could think that Palpatine is a Republican? If anyone has been trying to pull a massive power-grabbing slick and oily scam, selling the country out to its enemies, while embracing the Dark Side, it's Democrats. Duh. I mean the guy even looks just like Joe Lieberman, for cryin' out loud.

What More Need Be Said?

About the party of hate and treason? This sums it up quite well:
Howard Dean in 2004, on Osama bin Laden:

I’ve resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found. I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials.

Howard Dean in 2005, on Tom DeLay:

I think he’s guilty . . . of taking trips paid for by lobbyists, and of campaign-finance violations during his manipulation of the Texas election process..

He couldn’t say Osama was guilty before a trial — but he can say a powerful Republican is.

That’s the guy whom Democrats have chosen to be the face of their party, folks. And a finer representative you won’t find.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Nicely Done!

There seems to be a spreading meme that the next Star Wars movie sticks it to George W. Bush. Asinine, if true. And someone has done the appropriate photoshop job (and is also starting a contest) in response. Read and see. Also check out the WaPo article linked in the piece. Apparently Lucas thinks his film is anti-Bush, and so do the adoring French. What a bunch of maroons. (H/T Ace Of Spades).

Here's the Vader-as-stand-in-for-Dubya image highlighted in the piece:

Jumping The Shark

A good synonym for the phrase "Jumping The Shark" might be "Going Sullivan". John Hawkins looks at Sullivan's continued harping on Abu-Ghraib of all things. Be sure to read the Instapundit link in Hawkins' post. Here we find Glenn saying, "But, I confess, I find the question of what Andrew thinks less pressing than I used to." Ouch.

I'll let one of Hawkins' commenters provide a teaser:
Sullivan long ago gave in to his personal need for gay validation via gay marriage; it has warped everything he has written for the last year. When he first began writing about gay marriage it was clear that it would only be a matter of time before he came out for Kerry. Abu Graib is a way for him to rationalize his opposition to Bush. He can tell himself he didn't abandon Bush over gay marriage, but that the entire administration and our war effort are immoral and unjust and point to Abu Graib for his "proof"; then his abandonment of his previous positions could be seen by him as being based on "deeper principles" rather than an opportunistic surrender to his personal desire. It was sad watching someone give up his principles because they clashed with his desires, but that is a danger all of us must be aware of; Sullivan has been very instructive.

So, If The Newsweek Story Had Been True, This Would Be Excusable?

Another excellent column on the story du jour.

That's right. The reason for the carnage is said — again and again, by media critics and government officials — to be a false report of Koran desecration. The prime culprit here is irresponsible journalism.

Is that what we really think?

Here's an actual newsflash — and one, yet again, that should be news to no one: The reason for the carnage here was, and is, militant Islam. Nothing more.

Newsweek merely gave the crazies their excuse du jour. But they didn't need a report of Koran desecration to fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers, to blow up embassies, or to behead hostages taken for the great sin of being Americans or Jews. They didn't need a report of Koran desecration to take to the streets and blame the United States while enthusiastically taking innocent lives. This is what they do.


What are we saying here? That the problem lies in the falsity of Newsweek's reporting? What if the report had been true? And, if you're being honest with yourself, you cannot say — based on common sense and even ignoring what we know happened at Abu Ghraib — that you didn't think it was conceivably possible the report could have been true. Flushing the Koran down a toilet (assuming for argument's sake that our environmentally correct, 3.6-liters-per-flush toilets are capable of such a feat) is a bad thing. But rioting? Seventeen people killed? That's a rational response?

Sorry, but I couldn't care less about Newsweek. I'm more worried about the response and our willful avoidance of its examination. Afghanistan has been an American reconstruction project for nearly four years. Pakistan has been a close American "war on terror" ally for just as long. This is what we're getting from the billions spent, the lives lost, and the grand project of exporting nonjudgmental, sharia-friendly democracy? A killing spree? Over this?


Someone alleges a Koran flushing and what do we do? We expect, accept, and silently tolerate militant Muslim savagery — lots of it. We become the hangin' judge for the imbeciles whose negligence "triggered" the violence, but offer no judgment about the societal dysfunction that allows this grade of offense to trigger so cataclysmic a reaction. We hop on our high horses having culled from the Left's playbook the most politically correct palaver about the inviolable sanctity of Holy Islamic scripture (and never you mind those verses about annihilating the infidels — the ones being chanted by the killers). And we suspend disbelief, insisting that things would be just fine in a place like Gaza if we could only set up a democracy — a development which, there, appears poised to empower Hamas, terrorists of the same ilk as those in Afghanistan and Pakistan who see comparatively minor indignities as license to commit murder.

"Minor indignities? How can you say something so callous about a desecration of the Holy Koran?" I say it as a member of the real world, not the world of prissy affectation. I don't know about you, but I inhabit a place where crucifixes immersed in urine and Madonna replicas composed of feces are occasions for government funding, not murderous uprisings. If someone was moved to kill on their account, we'd be targeting the killer, not the exhibiting museum, not the "artists," and surely not Newsweek.

You'll want to read the whole thing. And Goldberg says, "Whatever Andy McCarthy's drinking, pour me a double."

Precious Bodily Fluids

An amusing yet serious look at the placebo that is bottled water. Remember what "Evian" is spelled backwards, people!

Dogs don't know it's not bacon, and restaurant patrons don't know it's from a garden hose...

European Body Snatchers

Colorful analogy by Jonah.

I remember being horrified by when I first saw the remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." In the final scene, one of the last remaining normal humans in the city runs up to Donald Sutherland, thinking he's completely normal, too. When she gets close, Sutherland slowly raises his finger to point at her, and begins his alien shriek, sounding like someone had dropped a hungry piranha down the front of his wide-wale corduroys.

Well, if you look very closely and study body language and speech, you may just discover that the liberals screeching at conservatives aren't in fact Americans at all. They are Europeans taking on the form of Americans.

According to the Pew Center, the less you like to fly the American flag, the more likely it is you are Democrat. The more you think hard work and personal initiative aren't the ticket to the good life, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. The more you believe the United Nations is a better steward of international relations, while America is a negative actor on the world stage, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. The more you believe that the government is there to help, the more likely it is you are Democrat. The less seriously you take religion, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. Flip all of these values around and the more likely it is you are a Republican - or that you vote that way.


So what does all of this have to do with body-snatching Europhiles? Well, basically, everything. The ideas, assumptions and prejudices held by the statistically typical Democratic voter, according to the Pew study, are quite simply, European. Europeans believe in a strong social welfare state, for rich and poor alike. Europeans are cynical. They look askance - these days - on patriotic sentiment (hence the rush to form a new European nation). The church pews of Europe would make a great hideout for bank robbers since they're always empty. The United Nations is, in the typical European's worldview, the last best hope for mankind. From the death penalty to gay marriage, the more similar you are to a typical European in your political and social outlook, the more likely you are to be a Democrat.

We've seen this before. At the time of our nation's founding, there were a bunch of Americans who clung to European values. Today we call their descendants "Canadians."


For many generations after the American Revolution, the idea of emulating European politics was nigh upon heresy...George Kennan's childhood reminiscence illustrates the typical American frame of mind prior to the New Deal. When "times were hard," he wrote, "as they often were, groans and lamentations went up to God, but never to Washington."

A Litany Of Anti-Military Bias

Michelle Malkin gathers it all together here.

The Scimitar-Wielding Elephant In The Living Room

This article really hits it.

When in April EBay offered a consecrated host for sale, imagine if Catholics had rioted and seventeen people were killed.

The media would have been full of stories about the dark side of the “Christian Right.”

Imagine if, when Muslims desecrated the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus in 2000, destroying it with hammers, rampaging Jewish mobs had killed dozens of Palestinians.

The establishment media response would again have inundated us with stories about the heroic Palestinians and their Israeli oppressors.

Neither of those things really happened. But seventeen people have been killed and hundreds wounded in riots by Muslims since Newsweek published its story about an American interrogator flushing a Qur’an down the toilet at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

And yet the media establishment seems preoccupied only with the fact that Newsweek, in publishing a false story that it has since retracted, has done a very bad thing. And that the Bush Administration must do something to calm tempers and soothe feelings in the Islamic world.

There is no excusing Newsweek’s irresponsibility in this. But this is not really a story about media bias or carelessness at all. There is a much larger story that is getting hardly any attention at all. The gorilla in the living room that no one wants to notice, is that flushing a Qur’an down the toilet should not be grounds to commit murder.


The question here is one of proportionate response. If a Qur’an had indeed been flushed, Muslims would have justifiably been offended. They may justifiably have considered the perpetrators boors, or barbarians, or hell-bound unbelievers. They may justifiably have issued denunciations accordingly. But that is all. To kill people thousands of miles away who had nothing to do with the act, and to fulminate with threats and murder against the entire Western world, all because of this alleged act, is not just disproportionate. It is not just excessive. It is mad. And every decent person in the world ought to have the courage to stand up and say that it is mad.

I suspect that even Juan Cole and Paul Marshall, somewhere in the back of their minds, know that it is mad too. But why don’t they say so? Because Rule #1 in the establishment (Left and Right) view of this present conflict is that it has nothing to do with Islam. To bring a moral judgment to bear upon Muslim people, or to explore the ways in which Islam fuels the conflict, is therefore absolutely forbidden.

Of course, a huge part of the reason is that no one who calls Islam on its real nature wants to be killed by a bunch of thugs. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Good Omnibus Post

Ace has a nice post full of tidbits, including a giving of what-for to Andrew Sullivan, as well as surprising poll responses of other Europeans about the French.

See also this excellent rumination on the Star Wars franchise by Brian Tiemann.

I don't expect it to even try to address the gaping plot holes, like C-3PO not remembering he was built by Darth Vader or used to work at Owen's hole in the ground, or R2-D2 getting his rocket-packs removed in a thirty-year downgrade of technology—simply because the textural disagreements with the original movies are vaster still. Remember how in the "first" three movies, the Empire was just the Empire—it was just "there"? There wasn't any politics involved. When I first saw the movies when I was a kid, I got the impression (somehow) that when they talked about the Old Republic being "swept away" and the ancient Jedi Order vanishing and the Clone Wars, they were talking about something that had happened hundreds of years ago, and Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi and such characters had far longer lifespans than normal humans—the events they were talking about just seemed far too distant to have occurred within living memory, because there was no indication that anybody cared. It seemed like the Empire was a fact of life that everyone had just accepted generations ago, and when they spliced in those scenes at the end of the re-released Return of the Jedi with citizens on planets all over the galaxy thronging in the streets and cheering, I was like, the hell? Since when did the people of Coruscant hate Darth Vader or the Emperor? We'd certainly seen no indication that anybody but the Rebels or the occasional incompetent admiral had reason to hate or fear Vader's trachea-crushing grip.
Yup. Lucas took an awful lot of evocative and mysterious stuff and just flattened it out. When I was 12 in 1977, Star Wars was it for me. But now the whole thing is just a joke. And I can't just forget about the rest and watch the original as it was in 1977 because Lucas has hatcheted that up, too.

Through The Looking Glass

Good satire here.

Decorah, IA - The debris-strewn streets of this remote Midwestern hamlet remain under a tense 24-hour curfew tonight, following weekend demonstrations by rock- and figurine-throwing Lutheran farm wives that left over 200 people injured and leveled the Whippy Dip dairy freeze. The rioting appeared to be prompted, in part, by a report in Newsweek magazine claiming military guards at Spirit Lake’s notorious Okoboji internment center had flushed lutefisk down prison toilets.


In the wake of the incident, American military spokespeople have taken pains to defend handling of prisoners at Okoboji. A series of new guidelines instruct guards to “respect the rituals and traditions of our valued Lutheran prison guests,” including “dietary needs, Wednesday Nite Bingo, and twice daily viewing of Wheel of Fortune.”

“It is important that we remember that Lutheranism is a religion of peace,” said Army spokesman Maj. Richard Lehrman. “And we need to remember to avoid insensitive behavior and remarks that will cause these peaceful Lutherans to go on another bloody killing rampage.”

Despite officials’ claims of intensified sensitivity, rumors have persisted of continued prisoner abuse at Okoboji, including lutefisk desecration – an especially heinous crime under Lutheran doctrine. Some analysts have viewed the rumors skeptically, pointing to the Uff Da insurgent training manual “How To Lie About Lutefisk Desecration By Infidels.” Still, dozens of news organizations continue to investigate the charges.

In its May 6 “Midwest Quagmire Wire” section, Newsweek appeared to have confirmed the lutefisk rumors. Bylined by Senior Correspondent Michael Isikoff, the magazine cited an unidentified source claiming that Okoboji guards had deliberately flushed an entire batch of the pungent cod-and-lye concoction that prisoners had been aging in a specially prepared commode. “The guard smelled it and thought it was prison burrito night,” the source was quoted as saying.

News of the desecration spread quickly from Iowa to the Dakotas to Minnesota and Wisconsin, fanned by radio soybean reports and Lutheran clerics in fiery pancake breakfast sermons. Soon, enraged farm wives, clad in their traditional sweater vests and Disney jackets, had taken to the streets and begun a wild spree of destruction, overturning hundreds of rusty Blazers and Pontiac Grand Ams and hurling flaming Lladro porcelain figurines. Decorah was particularly hard-hit, as a frenzied throng of ululating Iowa women were seen looting needlepoint geese and rabbit tchotchkes from a Victorian craft shop. In a chilling moment caught on Army night vision cameras, their plus-size leader urges the mob to attack the near-by Pamida.

“Ya, you betcha!” came the chant of her enraged coreligionist.

After battling back the women with volleys of teargas and Land’s End catalogs, a detachment of California reservists finally quelled the riot early Sunday morning, and attended to the injured.

A Daft Business Decision

It appears the NYT is preparing to charge itself into irrelevance.


The below excerpt is not the main thrust of the article, but, hey:
The spark was lit not by Imram Khan but by Newsweek itself on May 9 when apparently none of its reporters or editors was aware of the effect such a story would have. There seems to have been nobody there that knew that death is the penalty for desecrating a Koran in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Egypt is milder, there one would be sentenced to several years in prison under Article 161 of the penal code for “publicly insulting Islam,” or perhaps Article 98, “inciting sectarian strife”; similar patterns are followed in more moderate Muslim countries.

In Pakistan, Article 295-B of the penal code calls for life imprisonment for desecrating the Koran or any extract from it. Last September, mentally handicapped Shahbaz Masih was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, convicted of tearing up some leaflets that contained verses from the Koran. In 2003, the same judge sentenced Ranjha Masih (no relation) to life in prison for allegedly throwing a stone at a Muslim signboard with a Koranic verse on it during a bishop's funeral procession. Dozens of other Pakistanis have met similar fates.

In all of these countries, the greatest danger is not from the courts, but from vigilantes and mobs. In Pakistan in 1997, Shantinagar, a Christian town of some 10,000 people, was burned to the ground after a man there was accused of tearing pages from a Koran. In the Netherlands last fall, the documentary producer Theo Van Gogh was butchered after he produced a documentary Submission featuring Koranic verses on women’s bodies.
If what should by all rights have been regarded as an all-too-typical mere faux-pas in Newsweek (and I'm not trying to defend Newsweek here), is enough to set back U.S.-Islamic relations for a decade or more, then the only rational response to these psycopaths, it seems to me, is "screw 'em!". As it stands, these folks are really more in the order of drama queens with a body count, so I don't actually anticipate much lasting damage.

Update: This post takes the words right out of my mouth:

"Muslims from Jalalabad to Indonesia are agitated because of a rumor the Qu’ran landed in a toilet. Fair enough. But the real problem is that the collective reaction of the West has been to prostrate ourselves apologizing for something that, even if true, did not result in anything worse than clogged plumbing.

Has our perspective become so skewed that when we see people clearly deranged as a result of their religious beliefs go on a murderous rampage we’re solicitous of their hurt feelings? If you think about it, we are being remarkably patronizing. What we should say is "Yes, this is an unfortunate incident. But have you godly types considered that perhaps killing people over a wet book is something of an overreaction? Just asking.”

Of course, this suggests the possibility of rational exchange when any “dialogue” between the Islamists and the West is entirely spurious. We would like them to accept a pluralistic world. They want to live in the eighth century only with cell phones."

-- Seth Greenland

Hoist By Their Own Petard

Pro-lifers are often beaten up with the "yeah, but you're pro Iraq-war, pro-death penalty, and pro-gun, so you're just a hypocrite" argument, which if you think about it just a little, completely backfires. This article does a nice job explaining why.

[I]f you argue that being opposed to abortion obligates one to also oppose the death penalty and the war in Iraq, you’re appealing (whether sincerely or cynically) to what you’ve just implicitly acknowledged is the abortion opponent’s greater respect for human life. Ergo, pro-choicers who make this argument thus admit that they have less respect for human life than pro-lifers. Which means that in order to remain logically consistent (hang on, we’re almost there!), the pro-choice are morally bound to also support the death penalty, wars of liberation in Iraq and elsewhere, and my right to blast armed intruders into Kingdom Come, among other pro-choice, anti-life positions.

I take it, then, that all you NARAL folks out there are also big supporters of the death penalty and the war in Iraq, right? Hey, what’s with all the "crickets chirping" sound effects all of a sudden? Is it my imagination, or is your argument washing away faster than the words of Ilsa’s letter to Rick during the first airport scene in Casablanca?

I mean, whenever I hear the argument being used, my response is, "Oh, so why are YOU opposed to war and the death penalty, but so in favor of killing babies? You've just asked me a question that makes killing babies sound like a bad thing, and that all these issues should line up. Are you saying that if I suddenly became antiwar, antigun, and anti-death penalty, that you'd be anti-abortion? If not, then YOU'RE the hypocrite. And also, a MANIPULATIVE hypocrite."

Isn't to say, "You're against killing babies so you should be anti-this, that, and the other thing", the same as saying, "I am pro killing babies, so I should be pro-this, that, and the other thing?" or the same as saying "Because I am anti-this, that, and the other thing, I ought to be anti-killing babies?" Come on, lefties, if your charge carries any weight with you, then either come out in favor of war, guns, and the death penalty, or against abortion. One or the other. Or, alternatively, shut up. At least when it comes to that particular argument.

The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations

Dennis Prager sums it up well:
And now a word about the rioters. They have desecrated their religion and their holy text far more than the alleged flushers of Koranic pages.

Did any Buddhists riot and murder when the Taliban Muslims blew up the irreplaceable giant Buddhist statues in Afghanistan?

Did any Christians riot and murder when an "artist" produced "Piss Christ" -- a crucifix immersed in a jar of the "artist's" urine? When all Christian services and even the wearing of a cross were banned in Saudi Arabia? When Christians are murdered while at prayer in churches by Muslims in Pakistan?

Have any Jews rioted in all the years since it was revealed that Jordanian Muslims used Jewish tombstones in Old Jerusalem as latrines? Or after Palestinians destroyed Joseph's Tomb in 2000 and set fire to the rebuilt tomb in 2003?

It is quite remarkable that many Muslims believe that an American interrogator flushing pages of the Koran is worthy of rioting, but all the torture, slaughter, terror and mass murder done by Muslims in the name of the Koran are unworthy of even a peaceful protest.

Nevertheless, one will have to search extensively for any editorials condemning these primitives in the Western press, let alone in the Muslim press. This is because moral expectations of Muslims are lower than those of other religious groups. Behavior that would be held in contempt if engaged in by Christians or Jews is not only not condemned, it is frequently "understood" when done by Muslims.

That, not phony reports about an American desecrating Koranic pages, should really upset Muslims. It won't. Just as the CBS and Newsweek debacles won't upset the American news media.

The lowest of the Muslim world and the elite of the Western world: Anti-Americanism makes strange bedfellows.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Good Analogy

Nice Intelligent Design article here.

What does irreducible complexity have to do with Darwinian evolution? Evolution by mutation and natural selection must proceed by one slight, functional improvement at a time. So how can it build an irreducibly complex propeller motor one step at a time if the motor can't propel at all until all of its parts are in place? It can't. Something else built it.

Behe's argument doesn't assume that none of the other parts could ever be used for anything else. The spring on a mousetrap could be taken and used in some other device. The base with cheese on it could feed a mouse. Several but not all of the parts of a bacterial flagellum--while completely useless as a rotary propulsion machine--are enough for a machine that transports proteins across a membrane. Does this island of functionality provides a credible Darwinian pathway?

Imagine if I told you I could climb to Mars because there exists a natural ladder stretching from here to the red planet. You're naturally skeptical, noting that nobody has ever discovered such a ladder. I then scream, "That's an argument from ignorance! Scientists are finding all sorts of new things all the time! Look! The moon! It's one step along the way! See, everything's falling into place!" The Darwinists' efforts to deny the significance of the bacterial flagellum is strangely akin to this sort of reasoning.

Geek Surprise

Click this. Via Lileks.

Plus Ca Change, Plus C'est La Meme Chose

A blast from the past. A column about liberal fundamentalism, intolerance and hatred of Christians from 21 years ago.

Not surprisingly, this evangelical liberalism produced a response. Conservative groups--both secular and religious--were created, and they quite obviously make the political success of their adversaries more difficult. Liberals don't like that. So now, suddenly, we find all these politicians and columnists who are afraid someone might want to impose a particular point of view on them. "There is a long and unhappy history of intolerance which still flourishes at the extremist fringe of American politics," says Ted Kennedy, a fundamentalist liberal preacher from eastern Massachusetts. Indeed there is. It greeted U.S. soldiers returning to California from Vietnam with spit. It has characterized people who work in the auto, drug and nuclear-power businesses as criminally amoral. It turned the investigations of Anne Gorsuch, Les Lenkowsky and Ed Meese into inquisitions.

If some liberals are now afraid that certain Christian fundamentalists will reintroduce new forms of intolerance and excessive religious zeal into American political life, perhaps we should concede the possibility that they know what they're talking about. But they might also meditate on the current election and why there has been an apparent rightward shift in political sentiment in the U.S. It could be that a great many voters have taken a good look at the fundamentalists on the religious right and the fundamentalists on the political left and made up their own minds about which pose the greater threat to their own private and public values.

More Statistical Idiocy, Courtesy Of The MSM

Good item from James Taranto:
A Stat for Four Eyes

"One out of every five eyeglass-related injuries occurs in children aged 2 to 17 years, according to a new analysis of the more than 26,000 such injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2002 and 2003," reports the Associated Press.

This is one of those statistics that sound alarming but actually aren't. As of the 2000 census, 74.3% of Americans were 18 or older, which means 25.7% were 17 or younger--a considerably higher percentage than the 20% or so of eyeglass-injury victims in that age range.

"These findings are important because by first understanding the mechanism of injury likely to affect children, we can begin to look at safety measures to prevent the injuries, such as safer eyeglasses designs and use of safety goggles during sports," the AP quotes researcher Sara Sinclair as saying. But shouldn't we be more worried about the disproportionately high number of adults who hurt themselves with their spectacles?

Well, Yeah, Newsweek Was Wrong

But that doesn't mean the Islamic rioters aren't a bunch of psychos who need to grow up, calm down, and chill the hell out.

Friday, May 13, 2005

On A Slow News Day, The Anchoress Comes Through

Deathly dull out there today, except on my favorite site! I don't know how she does it. Good essay here, good "fed up Democrat" anecdote here.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Well, Well, Well

A member of the National Academy of Sciences has just chimed in to the Darwinism vs Intelligent Design debate, via an open letter. And in a surprising way.

I have been following the controversy over the adoption of new science standards in your state with interest. I am writing—as a member of the National Academy of Sciences—to voice my strong support for the idea that students should be able to study scientific criticisms of the evidence for modern evolutionary theory along with the evidence favoring the theory.

All too often, the issue of how to teach evolutionary theory has been dominated by voices at the extremes. On one extreme, many religious activists have advocated for Bible-based ideas about creation to be taught and for evolution to be eliminated from the science curriculum entirely. On the other hand, many committed Darwinian biologists present students with an idealized version of the theory that glosses over real problems and prevents students from learning about genuine scientific criticisms of it.

Both these extremes are mistaken. Evolution is an important theory and students need to know about it. But scientific journals now document many scientific problems and criticisms of evolutionary theory and students need to know about these as well.

Many of the scientific criticisms of which I speak are well known by scientists in various disciplines, including the disciplines of chemistry and biochemistry, in which I have done my work. I have found that some of my scientific colleagues are very reluctant to acknowledge the existence of problems with evolutionary theory to the general public. They display an almost religious zeal for a strictly Darwinian view of biological origins.

Darwinian evolution is an interesting theory about the remote history of life. Nonetheless, it has little practical impact on those branches of science that do not address questions of biological history (largely based on stones, the fossil evidence). Modern biology is engaged in the examination of tissues from living organisms with new methods and instruments. None of the great discoveries in biology and medicine over the past century depended on guidance from Darwinian evolution---it provided no support.

As an aside, one might ask what Darwin would have written today if he was aware of the present state of knowledge of cell biology, rather than that of the mid 19th century when it was generally believed the cell was an enclosed blob of gelatin? As an exemplar, I draw your attention to what Prof. James A. Shapiro, bacteriologist, U. of Chicago, wrote (http://www.bostonreview.net/br22.1/shapiro.html).

For those scientists who take it seriously, Darwinian evolution has functioned more as a philosophical belief system than as a testable scientific hypothesis. This quasi-religious function of the theory is, I think, what lies behind many of the extreme statements that you have doubtless encountered from some scientists opposing any criticism of neo-Darwinism in the classroom. It is also why many scientists make public statements about the theory that they would not defend privately to other scientists like me.

In my judgment, this state of affairs has persisted mainly because too many scientists were afraid to challenge what had become a philosophical orthodoxy among their colleagues. Fortunately, that is changing as many scientists are now beginning to examine the evidence for neo-Darwinism more openly and critically in scientific journals.
Further reflections here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sowell's On A Roll

The man's on fire! Great article yesterday, great article today! (H/T Right Wing News).

Let Us Hope This Is True

Interesting Tony Blankly column today. Contains lots of colorful metaphors:
For about three weeks, the House Republicans, leaderless, wandered around bumping into each other and thinking about throwing Old Tom overboard.

At the same time the Senate Republicans, without the benefit of any White House planning or leadership, were letting the Democrats use President Bush's nominee to the UN, John Bolton, as a human pinata (except that in this game, the pinata was blindfolded and the Democratic children with sticks had their eyes wide open).

Further enervating Republican elan was Senate Majority Leader Frist's tedious, slow-motion, half threat of ending judicial filibusters.

It was a sorry picture indeed: A city full of large, ivory tusked, bull battle elephants driven to fear, distraction and goring each other by the braying of a pack of mangy jack asses.

But the Democrats appear to have overplayed their hand. The tactic of "boo" must be used sparingly, preferably when it is dark and preferably directed at unsuspecting targets. After the donkeys with alligator masks on have jumped out from behind the Capitol columns three or four times in succession in broad daylight shouting "boo," the Republican elephants have begun to realize that the only danger to them is if they stumble down the steps in response to the "boo."

The Democrats are powerless to do much of anything in national politics of a functional nature. All they can do is malfunction and hope to induce the Republicans to join them in their malfunctioning. By using angled light, the Democrats have been able to spend the winter and spring casting a larger shadow than their actual stature would justify.

Slowly, the Republicans have come to notice that the only thing they have to fear is fear itself. As FDR explained: "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Finally, the advance has begun.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Beautiful, Superb Article

Quite an excellent new Intelligent Design article. It is very often the case that militant Darwinists start talking theology (and, implicitly, aesthetics) when they are pressing their case. Kind of an odd thing to do when arguing for a scientific theory, eh? This splendid article calls them on it.

Excerpting it doesn't do it any justice, but here's a teaser:
Certainly, we could try to discuss the matter without considering the designer’s attitude toward his creation (that is, whether he is a watchmaker or a bridegroom or father). But the evolutionists have already smuggled this issue into the debate by assuming that, if there were a designer, he would be some sort of disinterested and hyper-tidy watchmaker. Having smuggled in this highly questionable point, they then regard as beneath consideration any idea of a designer who (as they put it) “meddles in his creation.”

Or they dismiss the notion that an omnipotent and omniscient designer might fashion a creature short of an optimal design. Here they not only make a theological claim but ignore a key question at once practical and aesthetic: How do concerns about ecological balance impinge upon a critique of animal structures?

Must the cosmic designer’s primary concern for pandas be that they are the most dexterous bears divinely imaginable? From a purely practical standpoint, might opposable-thumbed über-pandas wreak havoc on their ecosystem? From a purely aesthetic standpoint, might not those charming pandas up in their bamboo trees with their unopposing but quite workable thumbs be just the sort of humorous supporting character this great cosmic drama needs to lighten things up a bit? If Shakespeare could do it in his tragedies, why not God?

Pandas as comic relief? To spurn the notion as if it were patently ridiculous and beneath consideration is merely to expose one’s utilitarian presuppositions. Why, after all, should the designer’s world read like a dreary high-school science textbook, its style humorless, homogenous, and suffocating under the dead weight of a supposedly detached passive voice? Why should not the designer’s world entertain, amuse, and fascinate, as well as “work”?

In summary, virtually the entire bad-design versus good-design discussion is framed by an engineer’s perspective, not an artist’s or mystic’s. When I mentioned this to the philosopher Jay W. Richards a few years ago, he responded in a letter: “After all, why do we assume that God created the universe to be a watch, in which a self-winding mechanism makes it ‘better’? Maybe the universe is like a piano, or a novel with the author as a character, or a garden for other beings with whom God wants to interact. It’s amazing how a simple image can highjack a discussion for a century and a half.”

What is worse, Darwinists like Gould and Dawkins commit the error called atomism: the idea that, in Gould’s own words, “wholes should be understood by decomposition into ‘basic’ units.” In other words, they assume not only that nature is a kind of watch but that each individual design is its own watch—its own machine—meant to be judged in relative isolation. They evaluate the panda’s thumb by how well it works as a thumb, not by how well it fits into the whole life of the panda, including its place in its own environment.

This is, at the most practical level, to misunderstand pandas. At the aesthetic level, it is to declare that an artist who might have created pandas could not have been thinking (as artists do) of the whole work.

Also check out this Evangelical Outpost piece on the ID topic.

Case In Point: Why Intelligent Design Is A Growing Movement

The ID vs Darwinism debate continues to grow. To really understand it, it's important to read the key books themselves, and not just rely on internet hearsay. Key titles on the ID side include "The Design Revolution", "Darwin's Black Box", "Darwinism, A Theory In Crisis", "Darwin On Trial", and "Icons Of Evolution". On the Darwinist side we have "The Origin Of Species", "The Blind Watchmaker", "The Selfish Gene", "Darwins's Dangerous Idea", etc.

Now the ID books are making arguments based on the scientific evidence, the rules of inference, whether Darwinist extrapolations from the evidence are warranted, the role of metaphysical assumptions, etc. They are not talking about, or from, the Bible (BTW, many good ID papers are online here).

The arguments seem sound to me, and I haven't seen them refuted. However, I have seen them talked around, I have seen them misrepresented, I have seen papers that purport to demolish an ID argument doing no such thing, I have seen repeated insistence that there's always some other paper published somewhere that knocks the arguments down (but I never seem to see the paper itself; every good scientist just seems to know that other scientists somewhere else have proven Darwinism beyond all possible doubt), and most of all, I have seen ruthless ad hominem attacks.

Last night on Nightline, Bill Dembski appeared with Michael Ruse. It wasn't nearly as good a format to get any info across as the C-Span thing I linked to yesterday, but here was the gist: Michael Ruse's primary argument against the truth of ID is that if it's given any kind of hearing, then the theocrats will put everyone into reeducation camps.

To which I can only say, "That's it? That's all you've got? Maybe there really is something wrong with the whole Darwinist materialist philosophy!"

It is very hard for me to see how someone who puts out an argument like this is not making the (barely) implicit assertion that there is no god, and that science proves it. What do the implications of a scientific finding have to do with whether or not the finding itself is true? Nothing whatsoever. By not addressing the scientific arguments, Ruse is basically saying, "If there is a god, we don't want to know about it! I don't care what you have to say scientifically, having a god would just plain suck! So it's not true!" Come on, it can't really be the case that if God did create the world, and made it clear that he did so (Romans Chapter 1, people!), that science will still be defined so that it must make the assertion that God didn't do it (after all, to make a scientific argument that there is evidence that he did leads right to the camps)!

With bigoted, weak-assed arguments like this against it, it is no wonder that ID is a growing movement.

You can see the Nightline segment (complete with commercials) here.

Also, Paul Nelson points out an interesting property of logic here. Personally I wouldn't have used his particular examples, but the point stands. It can't be the case that factual evidence in favor of blind evolution is "scientific", but factual evidence against is "religious", can it?

Odds And Ends

Good aphorism:
"The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as his audience, so they believe they are as clever as he."
--Karl Kraus

A quick blast of Lileks:

I ended the day with bad TV myself – “Ocean’s Eleven” was on. The original, which isn’t very good but has its moments of historical interest. (Sinatra first appears wearing a fuzzy orange sweater, which he pulls off; he could pull anything off, but mostly because you don’t even think about thinking that he looks stupid in that. You might be right. So what? Would it be worth it? You don’t even have the guts to point out how silly the sweater looks, do you. Of course not. Okay, blow.) I’d never seen the opening credits, which were a typical Saul Bass animation. Marquee lights count from one to 11, and every other number we get the name of a star. The band plays Nelson Riddle’s Ocean’s 11 leitmotif, but in a different style for each actor. It’s swingin’ for Frank. For Dino it’s mandolins, because he’s, you know, a guinea. Jeez. For Sammy Davis Jr., it’s as soulful as a Harlem summer night! For Peter Lawford, sturdy British brass. If there had been an Asian character, no doubt he’d get rinkytinky rickshaw me-so-solly instrumentation.

I don’t remember what Joey Bishop’s version sounded like – probably played entirely by second violins.