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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Christian Carnival LXXVI

This week's Christian Carnival is up at ChristWeb. Haven't had time yet to peruse it at length (much pro writing (and blocking) going on...) and I don't have an entry (again), but it's always worth a look.


The always-excellent Viewpoint has a further fisking of Doug "Christer" Ireland, about whom I wrote in last week's Christian Carnival link-post. Impeccable logic and fine writing, as usual:

Doug Ireland, author of the frantic call to arms against the coming "Christers" which we commented upon last week, responds to his critics:

Just so there can be no confusion, I have never made any secret of the fact that I'm a life-long atheist, and proudly so....

I came up with the word "Christer" to distinguish those Protestant fundamentalists and ultramontane Catholics whose politicized version of Christianity impels them to seek to impose their views on others through public policy and the State -- as opposed to ordinary believers who believe their faith is a private and personal matter, not a fulcrum for censorship of those who think or act differently.

Why on earth does an atheist object to someone imposing his values on others?

First, it's difficult to name legislation which does not impose somebody's morality upon the rest of society. Everything from desegregation to affirmative action to welfare regulations to environmental regulations to laws prohibiting gambling, prostitution, public lewdness, drug use, capital punishment, bribery, and so on all presuppose moral values that might not be shared by many of those who are subject to the pertinent laws. Should these laws never have been enacted? Should they be rescinded?

If the atheist is correct in believing that we live in a world without God then a man has a "right" to try to do whatever he wishes to do. In a world without God, might makes right, so anything one is able to do, one has a "right" to do.

If the atheist objects to this, he might be asked what it is, exactly, upon which he bases his conviction that I have no right to impose my values. Is it the law? If I have the power to change or shape the law to conform to my desires then that objection fails. Is it that a right to impose one's will upon others robs the other of his worth and dignity as a human being? So what?

An outstanding point--one that I've made here before.

While you're at it, check out this Viewpoint post too:

Dennis Prager argues that Judeo-Christian religion is antithetical to nature worship but that secularism often leads to it.

When man ceases to believe in a transcendent God he doesn't believe in no god at all, as Chesterton reminds us, he embraces all manner of substitutes. Man's innate religiosity drives him to find something beyond himself toward which to direct his life. In the twentieth century the dominant substitutes were socialisms (communism and nazism), evolutionary science, consumerism, and humanism. By devoting one's life to one of these, or a combination thereof, some people were able to mask the meaninglessness of a life which inevitably ends in death. These ersatz religions were spiritual anodynes that deadened the pain of life's utter emptiness and pointlessness.

Since all these gods have ultimately failed to provide fulfillment to the average man the twenty first century might well see, as Prager's column suggests, a return to paganism and nature worship. If so, the history of western civilization will have come full circle.

Brilliant. Read the Prager column, too.


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Ward Churchill and the Limits of Free Speech

As I've said before, if Ward Churchill did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. He consistently stakes out the far left edge of the leftist barking moonbat crowd and can be used as a reliable gauge of where that crowd is shuffling off to next.

Well, he staked out some new ground in as-yet untrampled grass way out past third base this week:

Churchill: "For those of you who do, as a matter of principle, oppose war in any form, the idea of supporting a conscientious objector who's already been inducted in his combat service in Iraq might have a certain appeal. But let me ask you this: Would you render the same level of support to someone who hadn't conscientiously objected, but rather instead rolled a grenade under their line officer in order to neutralize the combat capacity of their unit?"

"...Conscientious objection removes a given piece of cannon fodder from the fray. Fragging an officer has a much more impactful effect."

The audio is here. (Bow to Trey Jackson.)

At what point will the University of Colorado, which employs Churchill as a "Professor of Ethnic Studies," do the decent thing and fire this guy? At some point their silence and lack of action on this matter will become (or at least be taken as) complicity. That is a matter for the university, however, not one that relates to public discourse in general.

In a larger sense, at what point does stuff like this become "hate speech?" I suspect that the threshold is much lower for the right than the left. Right-wingnuts like Fred Phelps have celebrated "God's killing of fags" and such, but has never openly advocated murdering them. I suspect that he would be behind bars already if he had--as he should be. I doubt, however, that Churchill will ever be called to account on that basis. "Hate speech" is a crime only a non-leftist can commit.

At what point do these statements constitute "fighting words?" An open threat of violence or advocacy of murder might be taken seriously by the intended victims. In this case, the intended victims are well armed and quite capable of harming "Professor" Churchill. Would his incitement constitute mitigating circumstances for the perpetrator, should something happen? Again, I suspect the answer would be "no," since Churchill is on the same side of the political fence as most of our judges.

At what point would such statements constitute conspiracy or complicity should someone on Churchill's side take action against military officers? It's not far-fetched at all. We expect fragging from muslims in uniform and have just sentenced one to die for doing it back in 2003. (The left loves this case, incidentally, since it helps "prove" that this war is "a quagmire" and "just like Vietnam.") Still, no tinfoil-hat-and-scrotal-inflation types have taken such action that I know of. But...if someone did...?

At what point does such speech become actionable treason? He's not just advocating something as prosaic and common as giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Heck, if that were a crime these days, we'd have to lock up just about every news reporter in the country. No…he's advocating murdering Americans in uniform. If Churchill had been a member of the Bund back in, say, 1943 and had advocated shooting Allied officers, what would have happened to him? Ah, but that kind of thing didn't happen back then. And ah, but back then, we also shot traitors. Not in today's One Nation Under Therapy. I'm not sure the concept treason even exists in the law any more.

Surely there must be some reasonable limits to "free speech"?

I know, I know….no there aren't and don't call me Shirley….


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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Apes, Men, and Moonbats

This little item from the NYT, extensively linked to throughout the blogosphere, is interesting:

Some Politics May Be Etched in the Genes

Political scientists have long held that people's upbringing and experience determine their political views. A child raised on peace protests and Bush-loathing generally tracks left as an adult, unless derailed by some powerful life experience. One reared on tax protests and a hatred of Kennedys usually lists to the right.

But on the basis of a new study, a team of political scientists is arguing that people's gut-level reaction to issues like the death penalty, taxes and abortion is strongly influenced by genetic inheritance. The new research builds on a series of studies that indicate that people's general approach to social issues - more conservative or more progressive - is influenced by genes.

The NYT concludes with this, which slightly understates the case the original authors make:

The researchers are not optimistic about the future of bipartisan cooperation or national unity. Because men and women tend to seek mates with a similar ideology, they say, the two gene pools are becoming, if anything, more concentrated, not less

I think it interesting, and perhaps revealing, that the NYT chose this article to glom on to. The American Political Science Review is a turgid snooze-fest that otherwise offers stuff like, "Civic Engagement and Mass-Elite Policy Agenda Agreement in American Communities: A Statistical Approach." Not likely fare for a big paper's pop-science page. Ahh, but this topic is interesting in so many ways to the NYT-minded.

First, the idea lends itself to easy oversimplification and misinterpretation. The NYT reporter took that bait right away: the researchers never said that politics are "etched in the genes" or that nature or nurture "determine" political opinions. The report actually just claims that there may be a significant inherited component in political orientation and uses a widely accepted empirical method to support its conclusion. In other words, the researchers are a bit more nuanced and sophisticated in their approach—but then, unlike a NYT reporter, they are actually held to rigorous intellectual standards.

Neuroconservative sums up this part of the issue admirably. This is not your granddad's behaviorism—not just more Skinner box-Pavlov's dog-man-is-a-rat-in-a-funny-hat stuff:

The authors of the APSR article are actually much more sophisticated in their approach than the NYT, especially in their introduction. They clearly point out how genes "provide instructions for the production of proteins," which then are expressed in the brain, leading to a cascade of biological events that may ultimately be manifest in behavior; thus, it is absurd to infer that genes would ever specifically encode for substantive policy beliefs. Moreover, they use examples from the most up-to-date psychiatric literature to emphasize the role of gene-gene and gene-environment interactions. For example, a particular variant in the serotonin transporter gene only results in increased risk for depression when the individual is exposed to highly stressful life events. Individuals with the risk variant who do not experience as much trauma do not manifest depression. (Another popular example, not cited in the article, is the role of genetics in smoking behavior. Several decades ago, when most men smoked and very few women were smokers, smoking behavior was less genetically determined than today, in which a very different social environment has made it more likely that predisposed-women will smoke, and non-predisposed men will not.)

Second, the idea can easily be turned to feed the left's natural Samodavol'nost (obnoxiously smug self-satisfaction--why doesn't Howard Dean's native language have a single word for this?) Naturlich, it didn't take long for the NYT article to produce puerile smirking from lefties:

Okay. Now I get it. And because I do, I now have a better understanding for the likes of President Bush, Pat Robertson - even John Carlson.

They can't help themselves.

According to a new study published in the American Political Science Review, being politically conservative is, in part, a matter or genetics. It's merely a matter of having been dumped in the shallow end of the gene pool.

To me, that helps explain why PBS threatens their intellect, or why they are so at peace with going to war. It's not that conservatives mean to favor the rich over the poor and middle class. And it's not that they'd rather drill for oil than preserve the environment.

Because it's not really their fault.

They're just born that way.

Ha. Boy, didn't see that one coming! Of course, two can play the game:

The Gene Pool?

Ain't I witty? And know what, too? Bill Clinton's a rapist! But that's about something in his jeans, not his genes! HA! MAN that was good! Whew! Y'know...sometimes I just think funny things... Okay, argument's over! Liberals are proven to be idiots or evil or both through juvenile humor. "Everyone can go home now. Drive safe," as James Lileks would say.

Seriously, though…as a service to you, gentle readers (both of you), I have abused my access to the finest research library in the region and obtained the article in question. I even read the thing. I even understood a bit of it (but don't expect too much from a Chimp-loving intellectual Neanderthal like me…)

"The extent to which attitudes and behaviors have a genetic component" is approximated and analyzed in the study by comparing monozygotic (MZ; "identical") twins' subjective reactions to certain phrases with political overtones with those of dizygotic (DZ; fraternal) twins. The two groups have significant differences in genetic similarity (MZ, 100%; DZ, 50% on average), but are widely presumed to grow up in basically similar environments (and even when they don't, correlation between MZ twins may itself be revealing). So, logically, comparing the degree of correlation between MZ and DZ twins on political questions should yield information on how much political attitudes are inherited: equivalent correlations would support "nurture versus nature;" big differences in correlation between the two groups would support "nature versus nurture." The researchers determined that correlations did differ significantly and therefore concluded that there's a substantial genetic component to political belief. The differences were most pronounced "for the overall index of political conservatism," where "genetics accounts for approximately half the variance in ideology, while shared environment including parental influence accounts for only 11%." ("And therefore…?" "She's a witch! BURN HER!!")

Some of this makes sense. It seems reasonable to acknowledge a genetic component in many things, from golf swings to preference in kool-aid flavors. Of course, these things are correlated to physical characteristics, which are clearly heritable. Intuitively, the correlation to political opinions seems much more tenuous, since genetics only determines physical structures. "Behavioral geneticists," as the researchers call themselves, must then posit some connection to physical structures (as of the mind) that can be determined by genetic mechanisms. In this study, the researchers postulate two opposing "phenotypes" "for purposes of illustration" that are, presumably, hard-wired into us. Here is where their logic begins to break down.

First, there's reason to have some qualms about the researchers' methodology on scientific grounds. Neuroconservative admirably summarizes my own objections to the bases of the study:

So, the sticky wicket is the interpretation. The authors use a mathematical approach to defining heritability that has been widely-used in behavioral genetics (though never before in political science per se), but is very controversial philosophically and is prone to misinterpretation. In a nutshell, the mathematics superficially ascribe discrete packets of causality (percentages of variance explained) to genes, shared (familial) environment, and external events (unshared environment). Yet it is a fundamental philosophical error to reify these constructs, and a whopping scientific error to ignore the centrality of interaction effects. Any of these potential subtleties are, predictably, almost completely lost on the hapless NYT reporter.

Neuroconservative hits the central point toward the end there. Humans are complex adaptive systems, which means that even in relatively closed and controlled environments, interaction effects are
a) More important in determining macro-level system behavior than are the (essentially static) initial conditions (in this case, the basic genetic sequences) and
b) Non-linear in nature, which means that undetectably small changes in initial or interactive conditions can lead to very large, macro-level changes in system behaviors as the system progresses through time. It also means that system evolution cannot be modeled predictively. As NS says, this is "a whopping scientific error" that fundamentally flaws the validity of the original research (and, unsurprisingly, also catches NYT's reporter, who is clearly sympathetic to the study's conclusions).

Second, the empirical existence of the two "phenotypes" is questionable, as are the researchers' motives in delineating the groups' characteristics as they did. The first "phenotype"

Is characterized by a relatively strong suspicion of out-groups (e.g., immigrants), a yearning for in-group unity and strong leadership, especially if there is an out-group threat ("Do not question the President while we are at war with terrorists"), a desire for clear, unbending moral and behavior codes (strict constructionists), fondness for swift and severe punishment for violations of this code (the death penalty), a fondness for systematization (procedural due process), a willingness to tolerate inequality (opposition to redistributive policies), and an inherently pessimistic view of human nature (life is, "nasty, brutish, and short").

The second phenotype, on the other hand,

Is characterized by relatively tolerant attitudes toward out-groups, a desire to take a more context-dependent rather than rule-based approach to proper behavior (substantive due process), an inherently optimistic view of human nature (people should be given the benefit of the doubt), a distaste for preset punishments (mitigating circumstances), a preference for group togetherness but not necessarily unity ("We can all get along even though we are quite different"), suspicion of hierarchy, certainty, and strong leadership (flip-flopping is not a character flaw), an aversion to inequality (e.g., support for a graduated income tax), and greater general empathic tendencies (rehabilitate, don't punish).

Ah! NOW we see the violence inherent in the system! Needless to say, the first phenotype corresponds broadly to "political conservatism" and the second to "liberalism," although the researchers name them "absolutist" and "contextualist," respectively.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what's going on here. If the "absolutist" phenotypers sound like Nazis and the "contexualists" sound like light and sweet reason, it's not a coincidence. Look at the general sense of the words, the scare quotes, the buzz-phrases chosen: "absolutists"—full of "suspicion" (bad), "yearning" (pathetic schmucks!), "strong leadership" (like Hitler?), "'do not question…'" (…BushHitlerChimpy), "threat" (paranoid bastards!), "unbending…codes" (well, whaddya expect of a bunch of morons?), "swift and severe punishment for [code] violations" (like Torquemada? Gilles de Rais? (no wait—buggery's okay)), "systematization" (they make the trains run on time), "tolerate inequality" (tolerate it? Hell, they get off on it), "inherently (literally, I guess) pessimistic view" (unlike us people-loving liberals…), "nasty," "brutish"… (they forgot "solitary" and "poor").

And, you guessed it, (us) "contextualists" are "relatively" (good), "tolerant" (real good), "desire" (not a filthy "yeaning," by gum), "more context dependent" (we're so nuanced we make ourselves sick!), "substantive due process" (real good again), "inherently optimistic" (sunshine, light…), "mitigating circumstances" (unlike those fascists), "preference" (nothing dogmatic (bad) here), "togetherness" (Kum-Bi-Yah…), "all get along" (diversity = real real good), "suspicion of hierarchy, certainty, and strong leadership" (we're independent-thinking Americans, unlike those Boobois proles in the RedStates), "aversion to inequality" (WE get off on justice!), "support for a graduated income tax" (who but a complete rube would be against THAT?), "greater general empathic tendencies…"

The authors go on for a page and a half like this. Here's another sample:

Similarly, if a Republican president had committed adultery with a young intern or if a Democratic president had dramatically worsened the deficit…

You mean like Jimmy Carter? No?

…And taken the country to war in a far-off land on the basis of undeniably incorrect beliefs…

Like Lyndon Johnson? Oh….I get it.

…About the opponents'…weapons capabilities, the positions of most voters on the acceptability of these conditions would be completely reversed

Not a bad point—issue positions reflect divisions, they don't create them—but, again, couched in terms that leave little doubt as to the authors' own normative perspective. "Adultery with a young intern" (oh, those boys…ha ha….they will have their fun!); "dramatically worsened…deficit…took to war…undeniably incorrect beliefs…" (…the freakin' chimp did everything but rip up the Declaration and flush it down the bung hole…)

The article reinforces a point I've made before: The Uncertainty Principle applies everywhere, not just in subatomic physics. The normative assumptions and focus of the observer guide, suggest to, direct…taint… the act of observing. One can make an honest, conscious effort to remain "objective," but can never entirely succeed. The very framework that defines "objective" and "subjective" is viewer dependent to some extent (to us in the physical cosmos). What's more, as philosophical relativism undermines ideas like natural law or a fixed "human nature," people become more enamored with their own subjective perspectives, less willing to accept the idea of immutable ("absolute," "unbending") rules, and less able to distinguish between objective and subjective.

Unfortunately for these researchers (and for the left in general), there is a component of human nature that "yearns" for certainty—and tends to impose it if not found, even if that certainty is not strongly grounded in reality. This is true across the political spectrum, I'm afraid, and is not the unique province of one political orientation. Witness the fact that some of the most hard-nosed doctrinaires in American political life are among the most "liberal"—James Carville, Ward Churchill, Howard Dean, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ted Rall, Ted Kennedy, Margaret Cho, Dan Rather, Jane Smiley, Juan Cole, James Woolcott, Janeane Garofolo, Markos Zuniga, The Democratic Underground….need I go on? Yeah, there are righties who are as doctrinaire—Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, and Michael Savage come to mind—but that ain't the point. I had no trouble coming up with a dozen or more names of people on the left who are as lock-step as any apparatchik in the MiniTrue off the top of my head. I similarly have no trouble coming up with many who are considered "conservative," but whose views are nuanced and "contextualist" in the sense identified by the study's authors: Benedict XVI (contrary to the press' portrayal of him), John Paul II, Ronald Reagan (yes! Read the description again), Condi Rice, Bernard Lewis, Glenn Reynolds (even though he doesn’t call himself "conservative," the left certainly sees him as one), George F. Will, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas (also contrary to his press image)—again, just off the top of my head.

That's the irony here: It is quite possible to be a moral and philosophical relativist and yet be an "absolutist" in the way one lives life and approaches opposing people and ideas. (Now that I think of it, Lenin and Hitler come to mind as extreme cases, left and right respectively).

Ultimately, this study just boils down to a simplistic exercise in demonizing the political / cultural opposition using science to mask the attempt. The authors entered their "research" with their conclusions already formed, then sorted and assembled the data to support those conclusions. Of course, that's what many scientists do to some extent in testing hypotheses, but this deductive approach has inherent dangers, and descends to the level of Soviet- or Nazi-like propagandistic junk science when used to bolster or undermine political arguments. And this is ultimately dangerous. Don't think so?

A hundred years ago, I would have worried seriously about the reaction a popular interpretation of biological determinism evinced from the right: "See, I told you: those blacks are just monkeys / Jews are just rats, / Paddies are just rutting pigs / non-Nordics are just mongrels. Can't help it…it's just in their genes. 'Shallow end,' what what? Guess we'll just have to sterilize 'em all." Or even just 30 years ago: Those blacks and Mexicans don't do as well on intelligence tests because IQ is hereditary…and you know what that means…." And here's finally the point: This was all spurred on by the best "scientific" thinking available at the time.* Such thinking has been used as a justification for engineered breeding programs, forced sterilization, mass abortions, other forms of murder (like lynching), and even genocide.

Today, biological determinism's political polarity has switched, but that's somewhat understandable. A century of failed communist, socialist, and behaviorist experiments to remold mankind using nurture as the only variable have not shaken the "liberal" relativists' holiest of holy dogmas: human nature is malleable. (And the second is like unto it: "It is our holy duty to change that nature for the better." And the Third Dogma is: "we know what "better" means better than anyone else.") "Nurture's" failure to produce the Ubermensch has, however, discredited it as the prime mechanism for achieving the change. At the same time, advances in genetics have opened up the possibility of rebuilding human nature from its very foundations. Here's where new disciplines like genetic behavioralism become useful. The left has already used its arguments to good effect in trying to convince the public that sexual preference is genetically "determined." The notion of biological determinism is just as likely to be used as a weapon today—spurred on by today's best "science." Warning flags should go up anytime we hear of studies like this, or see them touted as cutting-edge "science" in the popular press.


* I know something about this subject, having a large collection of crackpot pseudo-scientific literature from bygone eras, spanning the entire political spectrum. I shared interest and amusement in fringe belief with a close friend—Fred, "The Brain," now sadly long-since passed—who had a knack for finding things like Madison Grant's Passing of the Great Race (which, amazingly, is still in print), Earnest Albert Hooton's hilarious Apes Men and Morons, Angela Davis' equally-funny If They Come in the Morning (the honkey pig-fuzz, that is), Reich's Greening of America, and anything by Erich Von Daniken. I inherited much of his collection. This didn't represent an unhealthy interest—Fred was African-American and very liberal—but he loved tearing the arguments apart logically. Great fun.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

How Kelo Can They Go?

(How's this pic for sensationalist fear-mongering?
I should work for Big Media...)

Okay...I lied. Again. I'm a liar. I lie.

I am blogging about Kelo, that stygian, squamous abomination handed down to us ab alto by our Star-Chamber masters on the Imperial Court. Kiss your property (including your own pretty arse) goodbye--the government now owns it. All of it. And everything else besides. "Justices" Stevens, Ginsburg, Caligula, Commodus, and Diocletian said so. (I may not have gotten all of their names right...)

And you thought the bank owned your home. Fool!

In fact, I'm still digesting the 58-page decision, which is here, so I'll let Prof. Glenn Reynolds (who reads a lot faster than I do) write for me:

OUR STATIST SUPREME COURT STRIKES AGAIN: They've had quite a run lately.

UPDATE: In my stack of reprints-by-mail at the office is one from Lino Graglia with this already-obsolete title: "Lawrence v. Texas: Our Philosopher-Kings Adopt Libertarianism as Our Official National Philosophy and Reject Traditional Morality as a Basis for Law."

Not so much. They may be rejecting traditional morality -- if "a man's home is his castle" counts as traditional morality -- but they certainly aren't close to adopting libertarianism as our "official national philosophy." Quite the contrary.

Professor Bainbridge: "So much for private property rights."

Blake Wylie is rounding up some other reactions.

David Bernstein:

[C]onsider the lineup in Raich and Kelo. Then consider the legal gymnastics it takes to consider local medical pot part of "interstate commerce," and to consider taking people's home and giving them to Pfizer a "public use" in the face of two hundred years of precedent that A to B transfers are illegitimate.

I'm unimpressed with this term of the Court.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's an even bigger roundup of reactions. Lots of people are unhappy.

And be sure to check his link-rich further update here to see reactions against this decision from the Left and the Right (and Ry Cooder (???)).

Now...I just know Chefjef is going to think I'm overreacting and that the decision is JUST FINE...greatest piece of jurisprudence EVER....Rigorous legal logic that would make the Vulcan Supreme Court sit up and take note...yada...

Well, professor, they won't likely be confiscating the homes of rich people in rich neighborhoods. Nor will they take Section 8 housing (since this is largely a liberal-backed initiative). Once again, lower-middle (that is, working) class folks will take it in their now rather frayed shorts. And they're traditionally Democratic voters...



Way to go!
Chefjef also strongly objects:

Aw, c'mon? How crazy could you think I am? The Court's decision was absolutely outageous. If private property may be condemned and given to another private organization for private profit, and if the determination of which properties are to be condemned may be delegated to a private group unaccountable to the electorate, then there are no limits on the exercise of government power. The transition from Locke to Hobbes is complete. To qoute Darth Vader, "Your death [Constitution] is inconsequential."

The Supreme's also produced another gem of a decision on the same day. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that (Thomas writing for the majority) the federal government retains its sovereign immunity and thus cannot be sued by farmers claiming that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reduced deliveries of water to a water supply district in order to protect endangered species of fish. (Orff v. U.S., 03-1566).

I dissent, I dissent, I disrespectfully and violently dissent.


What he said! The second ruling seems squamous (scaly) in more ways than one...

Do we see a trend here? The Darth Vader comparison is apt for a number of reasons. So's this line from Hunt for Red October: "This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and [the Constitution] will be lucky to live through it." "Liberal" or "conservative," the majority of the SCOTUS has taken an activist role that was never envisioned by the framers and that--by virtue of its structure--is immune to correction and unaccountable to the rest of the government and the electorate. Any source of unchecked power is a potential threat to the rule of law. We must find a way to end this abuse of power.


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"Dense Holy Smoke Compacted to Deal Vengeance..."

Lileks on cell phone courtesy. Classic!

Café, afternoon. Waiting for Gnat’s class to finish, working on a column. I have my headphones on; all hail iTunes radio, because the lady at the adjacent table is yelling into her cell phone. She does not realize that she is compensating for the lack of auditory feedback you get with normal phones. It’s why I make a point of talking softly on a cellphone in public, just to balance it out. And no one ever says excuse me. There’s also a guy pacing the aisle of the café, talking on a cell phone. He’s very important. I wouldn’t have known that if he hadn’t stood and started talking. I’m glad he told us. I feel better just knowing that meeting is going ahead as scheduled. The entire café feels better. The entire café would also feel better if the skies parted, an angel descended, and smote him with a terrible flaming sword. Of course, one of us would have to pick up the phone and say “better reschedule. Bob has been cleaved in twain by heavenly justice made flesh. Uh – hold on.” Mr. Angel, are you flesh, or some sort of divine phlogeiton arrayed in mortal form?

"Pretty much the latter."

Okay thanks. “Not really flesh, but, uh, more like dense holy smoke compacted to deal vengeance. I'd snap a picture on Bob's phone but small insect-like demons are already disassembling it and jamming the pieces in one another's orifices, laughing and screeching. It's creepy. Anyway, I gotta go. Bye.”

By now the woman at the next table would have wet herself, wondering if she was next. The angel would probably wag a finger and head back up. And she’d never make a cell phone call again. In one year she’d be arrested at the mall for knocking people’s phones out of their hands and stepping on them. Two years later she’d bomb a Verizon store.

Ahhh....if only it could be so....

And no...I'm not going to blog about the Supreme Court decision that allows government to take your house so that Democrat-supported corporations can build on your land... No, I'm not. Not yet. I'm just too depressed.

I'll leave it at this: Rhodes Tavern. 1984. Oliver T. Carr. That's all I have to say on the subject for now.


Chefjef responds:

Democrat-supported corporations? No wonder your a're not familar with their work. You crack me up!



Yeah--a bit of hyperbole, I concede. Rich developers and their local pocketborough governments--whether Democrat or Republican--will be the big winners. But yes, Viriginia, there are Democratic pocketboroughs: In my own hometown, lucre-encrusted developer Oliver T. Carr, a huge donater to Democrats and their causes, has the DC and and Alexandria city governments in his (left) pocket. These governments are as BlueState as they come--Alex even advertises itself as a "haven" for people of "alternative lifestyles." Carr is also the SOB that tore down Rhodes Tavern--DC's last downtown 18th century building, a national historic landmark, and a great blues-and-rock club--to build an office / hotel block back in 1984. Whether Carr believes in the causes and candidates he contributes to or not I don't know--kickbacks are just a part of doing business and the area's politicians are "liberal." I'm sure if he worked in Dallas, he'd be giving "conservative" kickbacks. All politics are local....and corrupt. (Apologies to "The Chairman." I suspect he agrees with me about Carr, though.)


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Thursday, June 23, 2005

What You Need To Know About Gitmo and Apologies

I know...I know! I said I wouldn't write any more 'bout Gitmo and Turban Durbin...
Well, I lied. So sue me.

Besides what, this is really great stuff. First, Lileks nails the leftist coffin* shut on the Gitmo affair:

Gitmo is the gulag equivalent of a Ben Affleck movie: no one's seen it, but everyone has an opinion about it. Given all the rhetoric that's been spilled about this sorta-kinda-not-really Death Camp, it's time we re-examine the facts, and remind ourselves what's really at stake. Herewith a summation.

Q: What is Gitmo?

A: Contrary to what some suggest, it does not stand for "Git mo' Peking chicken for Muhammad, he wants a second portion." It stands for "Guantanamo," a facility the United States built to see if the left would ever care about human rights abuses in Cuba. The experiment has apparently been successful.

Q: C'mon. Why do they hate us?

A: Because our women wear thongs, our media are naughty, our homosexuals walk around unstoned, and we refuse to let them finish Hitler's plans for the Jews. Because we are the infidel sons of monkeys and pigs who do not believe that most holy of books, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Also because we had something to do with Afghanistan.

Q: Afghana-what?

A: Afghanistan is a large, mountainous country that suffered an unimaginable geographical calamity a few years ago, when the entire nation slid off the front pages of the newspapers. Poor country: not a single runaway Caucasian bride to interest the media.

The whole thing is adroit and hilarious--go read it yo'own sef.

And then there's this from Instapundit:

DURBIN UPDATE: A Salon article on apologies says:

"I'm sorry I was rude" is good.

"I'm sorry if I was rude" is not. It weasels. It implies that maybe you weren't rude. It implies that the person being apologized to has a twisted little worldview if they think "Oh, shut up, frog-lips" is rude.

An apology should give the sense that you actually feel some form of regret. "Sorry if" is a conditional apology. Conditional apologies make things worse, not better.

Words to the wise, but usually unheeded. Compare to Durbin's apology:

"I'm sorry if anything that I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time," he said, adding, "I'm also sorry if anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military."

Kind of iffy, I'd say. . . .


*You know--the one they carry in Berkeley & DC protest marches; the one that the Nuclear Death's Head comes out of to throw blood on the police.

Update: The publisher of the tiny Carolina Journal put his finger on it:

No major television network news show reported his initial remarks. No national newspaper saw them as newsworthy. So, where did this outrage come from, given that the media ignored his remarks? How did millions of Americans come to know Durbin as “Turban Durbin” if the mainstream media looked the other way? You’re looking at it right now: the Internet. [Read: blogosphere]

Durbin was quaking and begging in the Senate Tuesday because of the tsunami of outrage from everyday people. Many of those, presumably, were his constituents. No senator does what he did yesterday without great pressure. He must have seen his political career teetering on the abyss. He was in danger of being remembered as the Democrat who thought American servicemen and women were monsters equal to Hitler’s SS or Stalin’s NKVD. He may still be so remembered, for even with the tears and the choking sobs he never actually took back what he said.

The Durbin affair is yet another example of how the times they are a-changin’ for the mainstream media. Dan Rather and the Swift Vets are others that come to mind. The MSM are no longer gatekeepers or agenda setters. Their attempts to blackout a story that doesn’t fit their template or rise to their level of interest no longer work. Increasingly, the American public is learning that it can go around the ossified hulk of the MSM to get to lively, often better informed, news and commentary.

What he said. (Bow to LaShawn Barber)


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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Christian Carnival LXXV

This week's Christian Carnival is up at Dee Kreidel's place, In the Spirit of Grace.

No Vita ab Alto post this week, but there's still plenty of good stuff.

F'rinstance, here's a good run-down on the Doug Ireland's hysterical screed at Viewpoint. I read Ireland's "The New Blacklist" ealier this week in LA Weekly. Apparently, LA is a sufficiently post-Christian, post-American dwelling place that religious equivalents of the "n-word" can be used freely in the press:

Spurred on by a biblical injunction evangelicals call “The Great Commission,” and emboldened by George W. Bush’s re-election, which is perceived as a “mandate from God,” the Christian right has launched a series of boycotts and pressure campaigns aimed at corporate America — and at its sponsorship of entertainment, programs and activities the Christers don’t like.

The key to those doctrines is what fundamentalist religious primitives call the Great Commission, which is basically an injunction to convert everyone to Christianity. In the Bible (Matthew 28:19-20), it says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you . . .” The fundamentalist interpretations of these and other texts can be found on evangelical Web sites like, and They have incredible motivating power for the religious right, and help explain the vehemence of the Christers’ intolerance of the freedom of others to think or act differently.


Let's turn this on its ear, shall we? "...they have incredible motivating power for the unreligious left, and help explain the vehemence of the Jewboy faggots' intolerance of the freedom of others to think or act differently..." Can you imagine the media Sturm und Drang that would arise if someone--particularly a "Christer" at a big-city newsweekly were to publish such a thing?

Viewpoint tackles Ireland admirably:

Ireland quotes Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the Annenberg School of Communication at USC, who calls the new "Christer" offensive a drive toward "theocratic oligopoly. The drumbeat of religious fascism has never been as troubling as it is now in this country."

Ireland and Kaplan fear that our government agencies are actually responsive to the people's wishes. This ugly recrudescence of dreaded democracy can only lead to trouble. Once the government starts listening to its citizens where does it stop? Auschwitz?

[E]vangelicals feel they have permission to push their way into public and cultural policy in every walk and expression of life.

Imagine the chutzpah of these "Christers" who think they have the same rights as every other American citizen. Where do they get such an impertinent idea? Haven't they learned that religious people, unless they're liberals, are supposed to keep their opinions to themselves, and let the Left alone to run things and impose its values on the rest of the country?

PS: Here's the bio from Ireland's blog (if there were any lingering doubts about where he was coming from
An Unapologetic Christer

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Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 4

Members of the Council of the European Union react to news of the 1 June Dutch referendum

Mark Steyn is in fine form concerning what the failure of the European Union's constitution means:

My favourite headline last week was in the International Herald Tribune: "EU leaders and voters see paths diverge." Traditionally in free societies, when the paths of the leaders and the voters "diverge", it's the leaders who depart the scene. But apparently in the EU this is too vulgar and "Anglo-Saxon", and so the great permanent Eurocracy decided instead to offer up Euro-variations on Bertolt Brecht's jest about the need to elect a new people. Whatever the rejection of the European constitution means, it certainly doesn't mean the rejection of the European constitution.

"I really believe the French and Dutch did not vote no to the constitutional treaty," insisted Jean-Claude Juncker, the "President" of "Europe", continuing to celebrate his stunning victory in the referendum. Even if the French and Dutch had been boorish enough to want to vote no to the constitution, they would have been incapable of so doing, as the whole thing was designed to be way above their pretty little heads.

I love this next line...worthy of Lileks:

"It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text," declared Valery Giscard d'Estaing. "Europe's Jefferson" has apparently become Europe's Jefferson Airplane, boasting about the impenetrability of his hallucinogenic lyrics. The point is the French and Dutch shouldn't have read beyond the opening sentence: "We the people agree to leave it to you the people who know better than the people."

And then there's this:

All European anti-Americanism does is redefine defects as virtues.

Hence, the Guardian's attack on the Prime Minister for demanding reform of the [Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)]: "It is unreasonable of Mr Blair to repeatedly flourish as if self-evidently outrageous the simple arithmetic of 40 per cent of spending on four per cent of the European workforce, when rural life is of such social, psychological and aesthetic importance to a vastly larger proportion of the continent's population."

I think "aesthetic importance" means "we have to drive past a lot of French farms to get to our holiday homes". Rural life was central to France's sense of itself. But so was the Catholic Church, and it's empty now. And so were Catholic-size families, and they're down to one designer kid in his late 30s. So the character of those quaint villages is utterly changed. Why should the British taxpayer subsidise an ersatz French heritage park about as authentic as Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame? If Pierre's given up the church and the family, what's the big deal about giving up the farm?

Yup. Read the whole thing. Yet another of many reasons to be cheerful.


Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 5:
The remarkable Paul Johnson has an article up at the WSJ Opinion Journal about the same subject:

That Europe as an entity is sick and the European Union as an institution is in disorder cannot be denied. But no remedies currently being discussed can possibly remedy matters. What ought to depress partisans of European unity in the aftermath of the rejection of its proposed constitution by France and the Netherlands is not so much the foundering of this ridiculous document as the response of the leadership to the crisis, especially in France and Germany.

for an entire generation, the EU has gone in the opposite direction and created a totalitarian monster of its own, spewing out regulations literally by the million and invading every corner of economic and social life. The results have been dire: An immense bureaucracy in Brussels, each department of which is cloned in all the member capitals. A huge budget, masking unprecedented corruption, so that it has never yet been passed by auditors, and which is now a source of venom among taxpayers from the countries which pay more than they receive. Above all, règlementation of national economies on a totalitarian scale.

In accordance with Council of the European Union's Executive Committee on Social and Cultural Affairs, Needlessly Meddlesome Rulemaking Division (English Department), Directive No. 05-120987453219/Z, Subparagraph 1342567(i), Section (189), [to be found on page 6,574,329 of the European Union's Draft Constitution], I hereby direct and require you to read the whole thing.

Prostetnic Eugon Monk

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

How Vital Is Karl Barth to YOU?

Another clever item stolen from Nolan Dynamite. This time, it's a quiz to determine where you stand theologically:

Here's my profile:

You scored as Neo orthodox. You are neo-orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God's most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.

Neo orthodox


Reformed Evangelical


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan






Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic




Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Gee...I'm "Neoorthodox / Reformed." I'm not quote sure how to take this. Does this mean I'm a pretty conventional mainline Protestant, or that I should start looking for tall, funny hats and praying in Serbo-Croatian? I'm almost as much Wesleyan, but I guess the Arminians haven't completely gotten me yet--there's still more than a touch of Calvinism left. I like Karl Barth just fine, but who the heck is P.T. Forsyth? Barnum before he joined the circus? I guess it just means I'm confused... One thing is clear, however: if you're a modern Liberal Catholic Holy Roller, steer clear of me!

Nolan--big surprise--was 89% Evangelical Holiness / Weslyan. I guess that's a good thing in a Methodist minister. Where do you stand?

Chefjef--I challenge you! Take the quiz.

PS: Bishop Spong is kinda like Liberation Theology Lite meets Queer Eye. I had to look him up, too.


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I Owe Him A Delicious Bass!

I understand he's pretty good with a bow-staff, too. Sweet!

I owe a couple of hat-tips to Rev. Nolan of Responsive Obedience. I am blatantly stealing his material for this post and the next. I don't feel too guilty stealing from him, since he is an Official Friend of Vita ab Alto. Besides, it's excellent stuff. Don't be a FREAKIN' IDIOT -- read it now! GOSH!

Found the following on a random blog out there. Check it out:

I've always liked Idaho and now I like it even more. The 58th Idaho Legislature House of Representatives and the Senate recently passed House Concurrent Resolution 29 that includes clauses such as the following:

WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote "Nay" on this concurrent resolution are "FREAKIN' IDIOTS!" and run the risk of having the "Worst Day of Their Lives!"

The suits in Boise — for you American school children that's state capital of Idaho — took the time to commend Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston for their movie Napoleon Dynamite. I dare say you will have a hard time finding another resolution anywhere that includes words like "chickens with talons", "Tina the Llama", and "Kip's relationship with LaFawnduh."

I'm slightly disappointed they left out any mention of "secret ninja moves from the government", but maybe that's because it's classified information.



Be It Resolved by the Legislature of the State of Idaho:

WHEREAS, the State of Idaho recognizes the vision, talent and creativity of Jared and Jerusha Hess in the writing and production of "Napoleon Dynamite";

WHEREAS, the scenic and beautiful City of Preston, County of Franklin and the State of Idaho are experiencing increased tourism and economic growth; and

WHEREAS, filmmaker Jared Hess is a native Idahoan who was educated in the Idaho public school system; and

WHEREAS, the Preston High School administration and staff, particularly the cafeteria staff, have enjoyed notoriety and worldwide attention; and

WHEREAS, tater tots figure prominently in this film thus promoting Idaho's most famous export; and

WHEREAS, the friendship between Napoleon and Pedro has furthered multiethnic relationships; and

WHEREAS, Uncle Rico's football skills are a testament to Idaho athletics; and

WHEREAS, Napoleon's bicycle and Kip's skateboard promote better air quality and carpooling as alternatives to fuel-dependent methods of transportation; and

WHEREAS, Grandma's trip to the St. Anthony Sand Dunes highlights a longhonored Idaho vacation destination; and

WHEREAS, Rico and Kip's Tupperware sales and Deb's keychains and glamour 26 shots promote entrepreneurism and self-sufficiency in Idaho's small towns; and

WHEREAS, Napoleon's artistic rendition of Trisha is an example of the importance of the visual arts in K-12 education; and

WHEREAS, the schoolwide Preston High School student body elections foster an awareness in Idaho's youth of public service and civic duty; and

WHEREAS, the "Happy Hands" club and the requirement that candidates for school president present a skit is an example of the importance of theater arts in K-12 education; and

WHEREAS, Pedro's efforts to bake a cake for Summer illustrate the positive connection between culinary skills to lifelong relationships; and

WHEREAS, Kip's relationship with LaFawnduh is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho's technology-driven industry; and

WHEREAS, Kip and LaFawnduh's wedding shows Idaho's commitment to healthy marriages; and

WHEREAS, the prevalence of cooked steak as a primary food group pays tribute to Idaho's beef industry; and

WHEREAS, Napoleon's tether-ball dexterity emphasizes the importance of physical education in Idaho public schools; and

WHEREAS, Tina the llama, the chickens with large talons, the 4-H milk cows, and the Honeymoon Stallion showcase Idaho's animal husbandry; and

WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote "Nay" on this concurrent resolution are "FREAKIN' IDIOTS!" and run the risk of having the "Worst Day of Their Lives!"

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the members of the First Regular Session of the Fifty-eighth Idaho Legislature, the House of Representatives and the Senate concurring therein, that we commend Jared and Jerusha Hess and the City of Preston for showcasing the positive aspects of Idaho's youth, rural culture, education system, athletics, economic prosperity and diversity.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we, the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the State of Idaho, advocate always following your heart, and thus we eagerly await the next cinematic undertaking of Idaho's Hess family.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives be, and she is hereby authorized and directed to forward a copy of this resolution to Jared and Jerusha Hess, the Mayor of the City of Preston and the Principal of Preston High School.

It took me like three hours to get that second imbedded quote right. It's probably the best post I've ever done...


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Thank God, Part III!

Chefjef responds to this post from the other day:

I agree wholeheartedly with paragraph two. Rather than a generic ideology, though, I meant more of a partisan political ideology. To use your example, what if Prof. Hawking HAD told his wife he did not want technological assistance and to "unplug" him? Would she be immediately hanged? No. There, of course, would be an inquiry. And, even if, instead of a civil inquiry, she went straight to a criminal trial, she would still have the opportunity to attempt to prove the Professor's intentions.

Lastly, you stated that you may countenance such actions where clear intent is established. Apparently, in this case, that intent was established. My point about ideology was that there seems to be a group of people who are incapable of recognizing that because of their particular ideology.

BTW, a feeding tube is considered technology by the law. Thus, every individual -- and in their stead a spouse -- has the right to refuse feeding tubes and to expire. Further, the law in this area evolved from what were, essentially, religious rights cases. The first types of plaintiffs in cases arguing the right to refuse various types of medical treatment were people of faith, and the constitutional rights protecting the "right of refusal" were, initially, based, on freedom of religion. But, of course, the bases of these rights has expanded considerably (which is a concern of mine -- and, perhaps, as a pseudo-libertarian, a concern of Monk's -- in that both conservative and liberal federal judges, alike, have expanded the pantheon of "rights," "restrictions," and "privileges" of the Constitution far beyond not only what the Founders intended and what is in the plain text, but well beyond what is necessary for the document to remain, proportionally, adaptable to present day social, legal and technical evolution. But that's another issue.)

At any rate, I fully admit that Monk's ideological position regarding the Schiavo circumstance is both reasonable, moral and defensible. The problem I have is the loose manner in which "facts" have been presented by certain folks.

I can't argue with you, Chefjef--you make reasonable arguments on all counts and I certainly share your concern about the ever-expanding emanations of the spirit of the penumbra of "rights," Constitutional or otherwise--these most often become a mandate for meddlesome government action, but do play well to the "masses" (and thus, to quote the ever-eloquent, ever-profound, ever-well-acted Senator Amedala, "that's how democracy dies--to the sound of thunderous applause"). This is at the core of my concern that cases like Schiavo's--even though the law seemed well-served in this particular case--that they not evolve into a "mandate" for court-sanctioned murder of inconvenient or disliked minorities (as they have in Western Europe).
-- Monk

I read an article today which sums up my position. I must admit, though, that I don't care for, nor do I often agree with, the author (E.J. Dionne, Wash. post), but this is the second time I've come across an article of his that contained a grain of insight. Here it is:

"We are entitled to our moral, ethical and philosophical commitments. We are not entitled to our own facts. So why is this basic rule of argument often ignored by politicians whose certainty about their righteousness persuades them that they can say absolutely anything to further their causes?

The autopsy in the Terri Schiavo case provides a rare moment of political accountability. We should not "move on," as Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist suggested we should. No, we cannot move on until those politicians who felt entitled to make up facts and toss around unwarranted conclusions about Schiavo's condition take responsibility for what they said -- and apologize.

Nothing in the autopsy report prevents those who opposed removing Schiavo's feeding tube from continuing to insist they were right. It's legitimate and honorable to argue on philosophical grounds that every medical decision in a tragic circumstance such as Schiavo's should be made on the side of keeping the sick person alive.

But those who supported an extraordinary use of federal power to force their own conclusion against the judgment of state courts knew that philosophical arguments would not be enough. Most Americans were uneasy about compelling Schiavo's husband Michael to keep his wife alive if -- as the state courts had concluded and as the autopsy confirmed on Wednesday -- she had suffered irreversible brain damage and was incapable of recovering.

So the big government conservatives had to invent a story. They had to insist that they knew, just knew, more about Terri Schiavo's condition than the doctors on the scene. They had to question Michael Schiavo's motives and imply that he wanted to, well, get rid of her.

'As I understand it,' Frist said on the Senate floor, "Terri's husband will not divorce Terri and will not allow her parents to take care of her. Terri's husband, who I have not met, does have a girlfriend he lives with and they have children of their own." No accusation here, just a brisk walk through innuendo city.

Dr. Frist, as he likes to be known, didn't just make his case as a pro-lifer. He invoked his expertise as a member of the medical profession. 'I close this evening speaking more as a physician than as a U.S. senator,' Frist said during the March 17 debate on the bill forcing a federal review of the case.

"Proffering references to medical textbooks and journals, Frist led his colleagues through to his conclusion. He argued that "a decision had been made to starve to death a woman based on a clinical exam that took place over a very short period of time by a neurologist who was called in to make the diagnosis rather than over a longer period of time." Dr. Frist, in other words, was offering a second opinion.

In a Thursday appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America," Frist insisted: "I raised the question, 'Is she in a persistent vegetative state or not?' I never made the diagnosis, never said that she was not."

Well, that depends on the meaning of "diagnosis." In the midst of his impressively detailed medical review, Frist declared flatly: "Terri's brother told me Terri laughs, smiles and tries to speak. That doesn't sound like a woman in a persistent vegetative state."

So Frist wanted to be seen as having the medical expertise to support his conclusion when doing so was convenient -- and now wants us to think he did nothing of the sort.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay didn't pretend to be a doctor, just expert enough to know what was wrong with the news reports.

"Mrs. Schiavo's condition, I believe, has been at times misrepresented by the media," DeLay said on March 20. "Terri Schiavo is not brain dead; she talks and she laughs, and she expresses happiness and discomfort. Terri Schiavo is not on life support."

You wonder: Will DeLay now say he's sorry to the media? Will he acknowledge that in the Schiavo case, he honestly didn't know what he was talking about?

Right-to-life politicians have done terrible damage to what is a serious cause. They claimed to know what they did not, and could not, know. They were willing to imply, without proof, terrible things about a husband who was getting in their way. Instead of making the hard and morally challenging case for keeping Terri Schiavo on life support, they spun an emotional narrative that they thought would play well on cable TV and talk radio.

No, we should not move on. We should remember that some politicians will say whatever is necessary to advance their immediate purposes. Apologies, anyone?"


I agree with you--I do not much care for Dionne myself. He represents the interests of stodgy, well-heeled Big Media Establishment as well as any Kommissar ever shilled for the Central Committee. He's a paid, pampered mouthpiece. That he seems to be what passes for a "moderate" among "liberals" in an era when the DNC Chairman is jumping up and down, red-faced, roaring for ChimpHitler's head on a pike is a testimony to how immoderate our times are. Yeah, I'll grant your "grain of insight"--even Das Kapital and Mein Kampf contain grains--they're just lost on very sandy beaches. Dionne's not quite that gritty, but there's enough non-insightful beach in his soft-core-socialist Establishment Bush-hatred to get in your bathing suit.

In this column, he impugns the motives of the opposition--all Frist and Co. wanted was to play for ratings with the bubbas in Birmingham. I disagree. Even if Frist was misguided, I think his motives were at least partially honest and that he shares some of the same concerns I have. Perhaps Frist believes, in the words of one of my favorite radicals, that "moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." Or perhaps E.J. was just mirror-imaging.

Apologize? Bill Frist should apologize just as soon as Big Media apologizes for the Koran-flushing story, for Rathergate, for Bush's Guard record story, for Kerry's magic hat, for the host of Pulitzers given to outright liars, for making political hay out of the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, for staunchly supporting Soviet communism and disarmament as Ronald Reagan was trying to build us up and tear down the Wall, for supporting Jimmah Cawtuh's war on sound money, for playing the biggest part in losing the Vietnam War...shall I go on?

Sheyeah...apologize to this, E.J...


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Monday, June 20, 2005

The Last Words on Durbin

I've now watched the growing blogstorm for a week or so, listened to the Sunday-morning talking head shows, heard a small horde of Republicans and Fox News types call for censure--all over Sen. Dick "The Turban" Durbin's remarks last Tuesday comparing US treatment of Gitmo detainees with Nazi, Soviet, and Khmer Rouge atrocities:

If I read this to you, and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings.

Republicans are pulling their hair out and rending their clothes over this and I can't for a moment understand why.* Republicans should wind up Dick Durbin--along with his close friends Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Robert Byrd, Patrick Leahy, John Conyers, and Charles Rangel--and let them run off at the mouth from now until late November 2008. These clowns are the best thing to happen to the Republican Party in a generation.

As you might expect, Lileks and Iowahawk have the best--and funniest--takes on the affair. Lileks:

It shouldn’t surprise, really. To some on the hard left, the American soldier comes in two flavors: Grandpa, who died so France could someday take the month of August off to hit the beach, and the Lt. Calley variety who lights a thatch roof with his Zippo, lights his Marlboro with the same, and shoots the fleeing villagers with his Napalm Super Soaker. Those who do not fit the latter model are poor people who joined the military because they had no other options, and are thus to be pitied – unless they do something wrong, in which case economic and ethnic identities are forgotten, and their identity as a military operative trumps all. Vietnam is the template, as ever. Gitmo is a slo-mo My Lai.

And Iowahawk (read the whole thing):

Customer Relations Department
United Airlines
Elk Grove Village, IL

Dear Sir or Madam:

In the dark annals of human evil, history has recorded the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocides, and Stalin's mass starvation program. And now, United Airlines flight 671 from Reagan International to Chicago O'Hare on June 3rd, 2005. I know, because I am a survivor of that dark exemplar of man's cruelty to man.

Perhaps I should have known what I was in for when your brusque gate agent refused to issue an upgrade to me for the flight (despite being a Premier/1K member for over 10 years), or when your flight crew Gestapo confiscated my carry on Roll Tote (even though I had nearly fit it into the overhead bin). But the true measure of the horror did not dawn on me until me and my fellow passengers were left taxiing on the O'Hare tarmack for over twenty minutes in the Auschwitzian Airbus A320 cattlecar, in temperatures approaching 85 degrees, not knowing our fates or whether we would make it to our fundraising dinners.

Santayana once said, "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." And I say to you and your fellow United criminals: "never again," unless you credit my account at least 2 flight segments for this travesty.


Senator Richard J. Durbin
Washington, DC

cc: Human Rights Watch
cc: Amnesty International


* Okay, I can understand it: he slimed every member of the US armed forces, past and present, and defamed his entire country, giving aid and comfort to its enemies...but isn't that just what Democrats do? Members of the military should have thicker skins, and realize that we still have all the guns...

Update:Mark Steyn has some further opinions on the music used to "torture" Gitmo "detainees:"

Been following the latest horrifying stories from what Amnesty International calls the “gulag of our time”? John Kass of The Chicago Tribune was outraged by the news that records by Christina Aguilera had been played at Guantanamo at full volume in order to soften up detainees. He thought they should have used “Dance, Ballerina, Dance” by Vaughn Monroe, over and over and over.

Well, readers had plenty of suggestions of their own, and so the Tribune’s website put together a list of “Interro-Tunes” — the most effective songs for aural intimidation, mood music for jolting your jihadi. A lot were the usual suspects - like the Captain and Tennille’s blamelessly goofy “Muskrat Love”, which, as I recall, put the Queen to sleep at a White House gala, though the Duke of Edinburgh sat agog all the way to the end. Someone suggested Bob Dylan’s “Everybody Must Get Stoned”, which even on a single hearing sounds like it’s being played over and over. I don’t know what Mr Kass has against “Ballerina”, which is very pleasant in the Nat “King” Cole version. But he seems to think one burst of “Dance, ballerina, dance/And do your pirouette in rhythm with your aching heart” will have the Islamists howling for the off-switch and singing like canaries to the Feds. Who knows? I sang “Ballerina” myself once on the radio long ago, and, if it will discombobulate the inmates, I’m willing to dust off my arrangement and fly down to Guantanamo, if necessary dressed liked Christina Aguilera. If they want an encore, I’ll do my special culturally sensitive version of that Stevie Wonder classic, “My Sharia Amour”.

And I wish this story from Scrappleface was true:

Rumsfeld Promises Durbin Better Treatment at Gitmo
by Scott Ott

(2006-06-16) -- Just a day after Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin compared U.S. personnel at the military detention facility at Guantanamo to those who worked in Nazi concentration camps, Soviet gulags and in Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld promised the Illinois Senator that he would receive better treatment during his own Gitmo captivity.

"The unspeakable cruelties that Sen. Durbin decried on the Senate floor must stop before his own detention on treason charges," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "After all, Dick Durbin is an American citizen, not an ordinary enemy combatant bent on destroying this nation and increasing the danger to our troops by inflaming the passions of the Muslim world."

A spokesman said Sen. Durbin is still a free man and a patriot, and he has drafted legislation renaming a favorite Gitmo menu item to reflect his solidarity with the oppressed Muslim inmates.

Under the measure, the dish made of ground, spiced and fried chick peas would be called: "Freedom Falafel."


Last Last Word on Durbin
: Chefjef writes:

What Durbin said was stupid and insulting. He should be officially censured by the Senate. He should also apologize to the public and to the military.


Real Last Last Word on Durbin: Done!

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Thank God, Part II!

Chefjef replies to this post from yesterday:

An interesting response. It is articulate and heartfelt, as well as (obviously) sincere, but demonstrates the problem with ideology.

Some of the points I made, in earlier posts, about this case were that that was no real "doubt." The trial court went through a long and extensive process of hearing expert witnesses, familial and associative witnesses and legal arguments from both sides. Then in appeals through every level of state and federal courts, judges of all political backgrounds (even though not holding a de novo review) read the entire evidentiary record, read the briefs (which are hundreds of pages) of attorney's arguments, and yet found no "doubt," no "circumstantial evidence" that would call into question anything that would dictate a de novo review or a vacate and remand order (essentially an order to the trial court to "do it over" with instructions on what was done wrong and how it should be done right.)

So, when you say "circumstantial reasons," where do they come from? While no one can be certain, prior to the autopsy it seemed to me more likely than not that the so-called "circumstantial evidence' was really hopeful assertions promulgated by certain well-meaning loved ones of Ms. Schiavo, which were seized upon by partisan folks and exploited for political purposes. Post-autopsy, while I do not pretend to be 100% certain of that, I believe it even more strongly.

In fact, I think you forgot to mention that Ms. Schiavo was to have been blind, which of course means that the assertions that she was responding to visual stimuli were nonsense.

Does this mean it was wrong for her "parents [to want] to care for her in her existing state"? Of course not. In fact, if more parents were as caring and involved as Ms. Schiavo's, I wouldn't have the job security that I have. The problem is, it wasn't their decision to make, and the so-called "circumstantial evidence' presented by certain folks on the Right that would have allowed the law to make it her parents' decision, seem to just not be true. Which is why I say ideology is part of the problem: unless you read the entire evidentiary record, how on earth do you know there was ACTUAL "circumstantial evidence" that was ignored, or not given due regard, by the legal system. The answer is you can't. It seems to me you can only BELIEVE the "evidence" may be there if you are ideologically predisposed to the legal result.

Thus, in this case, the legal system did what it was supposed to do: it cut through emotion and ideology, got to the truth (to the extent mere mortals can) and made it stand. it did not sentence Ms. Schiao to die. All individuals, and their spouses in their place, have the absolute legal right to make the decision to remove ventilators and feeding tubes. Having already dealt with issue of the so-called questionability of her husband's motives, it is clear she was not sentenced to die, she was allowed to exercise her centuries standing constitutional right to be allowed to refuse technological assistance to live.


I agree that the law seemed to work as advertised in this case, which is encouraging. Saying this, however, does not dismiss all issues in this affair, as I said yesterday.

1. No circumstantial evidence against Michael Schiavo? Perhaps not in legal terms, but certainly common sense might incline one to doubt the motives and veracity of an individual who apparently waited almost an hour to call 911 after Terri hasd her heart attack, had already drained Terri's insurance-money well dry, had started a family with another woman (possibly first seeing her before Terri's heart attack), had--on admittedly very tenuous legal grounds--been accused by caregivers of trying to kill her in the past, and had ample other reasons to want Terri out of the way. I will grant that the judges had access to info that the public did not--I hope these mitigated the doubts I just expressed in their minds and gave them reasonable justification to believe Michael Schiavo. No one was seeking to prosecute the husband even if it was found that he tried to kill her--we must presume his innocence in any case--but folks were just trying to prevent the wife from being actively put to death--and for good ideological reasons, at least from my viewpoint.

2. All humans view things "through a glass darkly." That is, everyone views events through some sort of normative lens and filters the information they perceive through stored patterns and assumptions. If these patterns and assumptions are systematized, even implicitly, they form an "ideology." Hence, almost everyone views things through an "ideological" filter, even if they aren't consciously aware that they have one or that they do so. In the case of most people, this ideology is given to them--by their parents, schools, colleges, the media, whatever--and involves little personal reflection. Regardless, it still forms a normative lens through which they view events. So, in a sense, all views are at least somewhat ideological. I agree that the law attempts to create standards of evidence and examination that permit some objectivity, but they still can't be entirely free of ideological bias. My point here is that you can't discount ideology entirely and that it works both ways. When people say they want to "dispense with ideology" they usually mean, "dispense with ideology that doesn't agree with my normative viewpoint." Many of those who wanted Schiavo dead did so for ideological reasons, just as many who wanted her life preserved did. Besides, even if the law did seem to work objectively with respect to the evidence in this case, that is not the whole story...

3. As I said yesterday, in one major sense the law did not work--and did sentence Schiavo to die. In the Quinlan case, as you may recall, the family petitioned to have her removed from artificial life support--a respirator without which, it was believed, she could not breath. When the courts ordered Quinlan taken off the respirator, she continued to breath on her own for ten years. In that ten years, she was never denied food and water, even though this entailed feeding her through a tube. In the Schiavo case, she was deliberately denied food and water. This was not a case of "letting nature take its course," it was an exercise in active euthanasia in a case where the victim's clear intent was not established.*
This represents a huge qualitative and moral difference--a change in the purpose and intent of the law.

I'll put an extreme case to you: (facts:) the great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is a) married, and b) almost entirely helpless and uncommunicative without the aid of other people and his computer (and deteriorates further every day). What if his wife were to remove his access to the computer through which he communicates, prevent access to him, refuse to feed him (which he cannot do himself), and say, "Stephen told me he wanted to die?" What would you say? You would say (I hope) that this was BS--feed the man! Are food and water, even if delivered through an internal tube, really "artificial life support," or are they just part of normal life, however delivered? Further, if you base a decision in these two cases upon relative intellectual capacity of the two individuals involved, then you are making a qualitative judgment about quality of life that is founded, at least in part, in ideology.

Once we've passed a point where we can legally and actively take steps to end lives that we find inconvenient or lacking in certain qualities that we (ideologically) value, then we set off down a very dangerous road. Travel down that road has already led to widespread court- and physician-ordered euthanasia in Western Europe. Further travel can lead to things like eugenics and worse. Travel down a similar road did lead to eugenics in the early 20th century and tens of thousands were sterilized or (in places like Nazi Germany) killed outright, based on standards that were called "objective" and "scientific" at the time, but which we now know were the worst sorts of tendentious ideologically-motivated pseudo-science. Nonetheless, this is a road that many on the left ardently wish to travel, based on their latest notions of what is "objective," "scientific," and "right" in an ideological sense--a religious sense, really. God enjoins that we need to be more careful--all human effort is error to some degree; if we must err, let's err on the side of life.


* Mind, I have no moral objection in cases where clear intent is established--as a pseudo-libertarian, I might even compass deliberate suicide from an ethical standpoint and let the individuals in question deal with the moral consequences of their action themselves. BUT...this requires a clear act and statement of uncoerced will.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Thank God!

Here is Terri Schiavo's autopsy report. It leaves no room for doubt: she was persistently vegetative.

The decedent's brain was grossly abnormal and weighed only 615 grams (1.35 lbs). That weight is less than half of the expected tabular weight for a decedent of her adult age... By way of comparison, the brain of Karen Ann Quinlan weighed 835 grams at the time of her death, after 10 years in a similar persistent vegetative state.

(The neuropathologist goes on to point out that PVS is a clinical diagnosis and cannot be determined by anatomical examination, but that's about as conclusive as the data can get.)

This does not alter several key facts in the case, however:

- The autopsy proved that autonomic functions could continue essentially indefinitely. Unlike Karen Quinlan, Schiavo was not on a respirator. All Quinlan's family sought was removal of artificial life support. Quinlan continued to live for ten years after her respirator was removed, but she was never starved or dehydrated.

- Even if they were deluded concerning potential for improvement, all Schiavo's parents wanted was to care for her in her existing state. Cast what aspersions you will upon their desire to keep their daughter around as a vegetable, wanting her dead entailed a judgment that death was warranted based on "quality of life" considerations. Schiavo was not being kept alive artificially, unless food, water, and oxygen are "artificial," in which case we're all on life support.

- The act of killing Schiavo was just that--a killing. Care givers took proactive measures to kill her by physically removing sustenance. This is qualitatively--and morally--different than removing Karen Quinlan's life support. Again, the latter lived ten years in a PVS, with no proactive efforts taken to kill her.

- There were still ample circumstantial reasons for doubting Michael Schiavo's motives at the time, even if those doubts proved (at least partially) unjustified. Given that, the law should have presumed Terri's innocence and hence not imposed a de facto death sentence on her.

- Actively killing the helpless based on subjective quality of life criteria in the absence of clear directives from the person in question is still morally wrong and ethically dangerous and always will be, regardless of circumstances.

It is a road the left in this country wishes to drive us down, however, because it feeds the left's religious concept of man: only the individual's ego is sacred and inviolate (hence the "right to choose" to kill an emerging human life without a developed ego); that ego has no existence outside the physical body (there is no "soul"); absent the ability to consciously lobby for its rights, a human's worth is no different or better than that of a plant, insect, or lower animal (cf PETA on "lobster liberation") and that worth is largely determined by group membership status anyway (bourgeois, Jew, WASP = "bad;" proletarian, palestinian, Amerind = "good;" etc)

The fact that such killing is now common is Europe is an argument against allowing the left to continue down this path, regardless of what Justice Ginsberg may think about that. The fact that many western EU nations have decided on this path is testimony to their moral decadence. The continent that gave the world naziism, Soviet communism, existentialism, Darwinian nationalism, and so on, has no right to lecture the US on any moral matter. If us cowboys ain't had time to examine a complex moral issue, chances are the Europinkies have (with their 25-hour work weeks) and a handy rule of thumb should be: 'are they fer it? Then I'm agin' it. Are they agin' it? Then I'm fer it!'

My bottom line: I'm thankful to God that she was in a PVS. The mind that might have perceived the pain and the cruelty of what was being done to her was long gone, and that should be a relief to all who supported Terri Schiavo's cause.


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