Friday, October 28, 2005

Port Authority at Found at Fault for 1993 WTC Bombing

Ah, the joys of civil litigation. This detail in a civil case arising from the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center is priceless:
In order to reach a verdict, at least five of the six jurors had to agree. The jury voted unanimously that the Port Authority was negligent. It found the authority 68 percent at fault for the bombing, while the terrorists who carried it out were 32 percent at fault.
In other news, a jury found Ford's Theatre to be 62 percent at fault for Lincoln's assassination, while John Wilkes Booth was 38 percent at fault.

Sweet smell of -- ?

Yummy diversion or sign of the apocalypse? You make the call.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Richard Clarke

Recently read Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies. The prose style is atrocious, even for a hastily written "instant bestseller." The badly-written "remembered" dialogue strains credulity. He recreates detail that makes him into an omniscient narrator. For example, he reads Condi Rice's mind and strongly implies she was utterly ignorant about Al Qaeda. That's more than a tiny bit presumptuous.

It also would help if just once, in his memoir, he didn't claim that he had made every call correctly. If it had been written in Lincoln's time, there would have been a passage where he writes, "I strongly opposed the choice of Ford's Theater, as the strong sentiment of the southern actors was well known. Unfortunately, my warning fell on deaf ears."

His treatment of Clinton's Mogadishu omits key facts that he must be aware of. It's utterly dishonest to say that Clinton is criticized for the deaths of 18 American soldiers. Rather, the criticism is that Clinton's response was to say, "Absolutely no more casualties. Let's formally recognized the man we were trying to arrest -- pick him up in a limousine instead of chains." Whether or not that criticism is fair, the reader deserves to hear it stated correctly before it can be rejected or accepted.

His treatment of the Millennium plot ignores the fact that NONE of his preparedness exercises were responsible for catching the LAX bomber -- it was a complete fluke, a customs official at the border deciding to pull a nervous guy out of the line, a man who then panicked and fled. Had he played it cool, LAX would have been bombed. Interestingly, Clarke's hero Sandy Berger was just convicted of illegal removing and destroying the after-action reports on the Millennium plot. A wild guess is that they painted Berger and Clarke's efforts as insufficient.

Clarke is never bothers to meet his opponents objections. He mischaracterizes arguments about the Iraq terrorism connection (arguments that he himself is on record making in the late 90's, when he claimed that the al-Shifa plant in the Sudan was making chem weapons with much help from the Iraqis). He gratuitously slanders Laurie Mylroie by totally misstating her theory about an Iraq connection to the first WTC bombing.

You'd have to go back to the Nixon Administration and its aftermath to find someone so intent on covering his ass and denying the obvious fact about his legacy.

Clarke depicts himself consistently as the smartest guy in the room in any situation. A small ego he does not have. No mean feat, considering he failed in his main responsibility for 9 years.

On the positive side, you do get an occasionally interesting behind-the-scenes look at U.S. counter-terrorism policy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Remember the Cole

Today is the 5th anniversary of Al Qaeda's bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. Seventeen sailors lost their lives in the terrorist attack.

Hat tip: Michelle Malkin.

Friday, September 30, 2005

James Earl Carter, voyeur?

In his 1976 Playboy interview, Jimmy Carter confessed to committing adultery in his heart. Times change. Nearly three decades later, he seems to have moved on to stronger stuff:
Carter recalled . . . a young Ethiopian girl’s eagerness to demonstrate that she, like her brother, could use the small latrine their father had made for them.

"She spread her skirt out very carefully and she squatted down to relieve herself." Carter said.

Carter added jokingly, "We took some pictures of it."
Hat Tip: Jim Taranto

Friday, September 16, 2005

Pervez Musharraf is in NYC today

Heavy security presence around his appearance at the Time-Life building (CNN interview today?).

Hurricane Katrina

Peggy Noonan has a good column on Katrina and its implications for Bush. As frequently happens, Ms. Noonan gives eloquent voice to things felt but difficult to phrase. The federal response to this natural disaster has been disastrous as well, and claims of local and state incompetence, however true, smack of an "everybody else is doing it" defense. The president has a lot of work to do to reassure the public that we are prepared for another disaster (or terrorist attack).

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Louisiana 1927

Randy Newman wrote a great song about the flood in Louisiana in the 20's. Aaron Neville did a beautiful cover. If you've got Rhapsody, you can listen to these songs here. Otherwise, it's worth getting from iTunes or on CD.

Hell is . . .

Excellent piece on Hunter S. Thompson at Godspy.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Let 'em eat sex

To a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. Planned Parenthood of Houston confronts the most terrifying problem faced by survivors of the disaster in New Orleans. Starvation? Nope. Disease and unsanitary conditions? Nah. Homelessness? Guess again:
Did you escape the hurricane without your birth control? As a courtesy to women fleeing Hurricane Katrina, we will offer one free cycle (one month) of birth control or one free Emergency Contraception kit to women presenting to a PPHSET clinic with a valid Louisiana or Mississippi driver's license. We also are offering one depo injection at a total fee of $41.00 (we are waiving the office visit charge, and offering the depo at a 50% discount). This offer is good until September 10th.


Hat tip: The Corner.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pray for the Big Easy

Still on hiatus. In the meantime, our heart goes out to the residents of New Orleans, as the disaster worsens. Two places where readers can make contributions: Catholic Charities USA and Stormaid.com.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

On Hiatus

Mrs. T. (Monster Mom) is a monster mom again. Happy birthday to Augustine James, born Aug. 22, 2005. He weighed in at 7 lbs., 8 oz. We're on hiatus from blogging until things quiet down -- we'll post photos soon.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pope Benedict, speaking in Cologne synagogue, warns of rising antisemitism

Story here: "Speaking before Germany's oldest Jewish community in Cologne, Benedict said that 'today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners.'"

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Saleh Mohammed al-Aoofi, Al Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia, killed

AP reports:
Al Qaeda's leader in Saudi Arabia was killed Thursday during clashes with police in the western city of Medina, the Interior Ministry said.

Saleh Mohammed al-Aoofi was among six al Qaeda militants reported killed Thursday during police raids on numerous locations in the holy city of Medina and the capital, Riyadh, security officials told The Associated Press.
Hat tip: In the Bullpen.

Osama heading for Iraq?

Indian press is reporting on intercepted Al Qaeda communications that indicate that Bin Laden is going to Iraq to direct the jihad. Can't find any confirmation of this story so far.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Woman with a knife kills leader of Taizé in front of worshippers

Sad story. R.I.P., Brother Roger.

Iranian prosecutor now threatening family of Ganji

The New York Sun reports:
WASHINGTON - The Iranian prosecutor responsible for jailing Akbar Ganji hinted that he would pursue prosecution of family members of the dissident journalist.
Ganji is in the 69th day of his hunger strike.

Are sacred texts "all-or-nothing" in public schools?

Mike G. Gaither at libertyWatch has been asking some questions regarding Odessa and church-state relations.

As a matter of law, public schools may constitutionally teach Bible courses, as this opinion demonstrates:
[I]t might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment. (Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)).
Note that the study of the Bible (either on its own or as part of a general discussion of religion) is specifically approved here. The Abington precedent has been cited as allowing the Bible to be studied for literary and historic qualities in later Supreme Court decisions (e.g., Epperson v. Arkansas, 1968 and Stone v. Graham, 1980). Mike asserts: "The Supreme Court (the folks we hire to interpret the Constitution) has ruled fairly consistently the government (i.e. public schools) cannot endorse one religion over another. A class teaching the Koran (Quoran) with no other classes teaching the texts of other religions available, would be just as biased and unlawful." There is much in the existing jurisprudence that is not based in the text, legislative history, or intent of the Constitution, but even the Court has ruled in these cases that mere teaching of the Bible as literature or history does not in and of itself constitute an establishment of religion. Is there a SCOTUS precedent that requires schools to teach the Koran as literature if the Bible is taught as literature? If so, is there a mandate to the Bhagavad Gita be taught as literature/history? What about L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics -- must that be taught as literature/history?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Iraqi Chemical Stash Uncovered

Iraqi Chemical Stash Uncovered:
U.S. troops raiding a warehouse in the northern city of Mosul uncovered a suspected chemical weapons factory containing 1,500 gallons of chemicals believed destined for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians, military officials said Saturday.

Monday's early morning raid found 11 precursor agents, "some of them quite dangerous by themselves," a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, said in Baghdad.

Combined, the chemicals would yield an agent capable of "lingering hazards" for those exposed to it, Boylan said. The likely targets would have been "coalition and Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians," partly because the chemicals would be difficult to keep from spreading over a wide area, he said.

Boylan said the suspected lab was new, dating from some time after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. . . .

Too bad the murder weapon wasn't a "cyber-knife"

File under Modern Weird: Chinese online gamer gets life for murder - Games - MSNBC.com:
BEIJING - A Shanghai online game player who stabbed a competitor to death for selling his cyber-sword has been given a suspended death sentence, which in effect means life imprisonment, state media said on Wednesday.
The case had created a dilemma in China where no law exists for the ownership of virtual weapons.
Qiu Chengwei, 41, stabbed competitor Zhu Caoyuan in the chest after he was told Zhu had sold his "dragon sabre", used in the popular online game, "Legend of Mir 3," the China Daily said.

Able Danger -- overrated?

A lot of current news indicates that most of the "Able Danger" story was overstated and inaccurate. Will try to roundup info later.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Michael Ledeen on Able Danger

Channeling James Jesus Angleton again, he finds it par for the course.

More "Able Danger"

Turns out that the "Able Danger" team notified the 9/11 Commission that they had identified Atta as a terrorist more that a year before the attacks, but the Commission omitted it from their report. This story is getting interesting . . . .

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith

With his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger's views, style, and thought have taken on a new relevance. Pilgrim Fellowship Of Faith: The Church As Communion is as good a place as any to start to gain insight into the man. Read more . . .

A collection of speeches, papers, and letters collected by his students for his 75th birthday, it examines the relationship between theology, faith, ecclesiology, and sacrament. It reveals a man who strives to be ecumenical in the most serious way -- who seeks real dialogue, which requires all participants to be as honest and searching about their beliefs and to accord dignity and respect to other interlocutors. This collection includes gracious letter exchanges with Orthodox Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland and with Lutheran Provincial Bishop Johannes Hanselmann of Bavaria.

In the course of the works cited, Ratzinger deals in depth with these and other questions: What is theology, what is its relation to faith, and how can her methods lay claim to providing knowledge? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in ecclesiology, in our understanding of the Church? What is the relation between Communion as Eucharist and communion as Christian fellowship, and how does christology shape ecclesiology? What role to lay movements serve in the Church? How does the Church go about remembering and atoning for sins?

If there is a common theme, it is the primacy communion -- a vision of God as triune communion, a vision of the Universal Church with many local churches in communion, a vision of the ecumenical movement as a striving to realize Christian communion as a gift from God, a vision of sacraments as visible signs of communion. Also interesting is what he declares communion not to be. Specifically, it is not to be taken as a cover for blanket centralization of ecclesiastical authority in Rome.

It's a good read. A comparison with Wojtyla's style is perhaps inevitable. Ratzinger's writing is perhaps more pragmatic and concise, less grandiose. There's a quiet precision and grace here. Ratzinger seems like a quiet, patient teacher, a somewhat self-effacing man with a penetrating mind. It's an excellent way for Catholics to begin to learn their new pope's mind. It's a great book for other Christians who want an insight into how ecumenism fits into Pope Benedict's theological views. It's also a good book for non-Christians who wonder how the Church sees itself.

Even Chanceyer

Here's a review that Dr. Mark Chancey wrote for The Passion of the Christ. He was somewhat disappointed. Capsule review: "problematic."

The Odessa file

In a comment on an earlier post, someone wrote:
Please read the full report at www.tfn.org to learn why this particular curriculum is bad for our public schools.
People interested in this issue should indeed read the full report. To start with, though, let's keep in mind that this curriculum is not currently for "our public schools." The issue is at hand is for the people of Odessa, Texas. Educational decisions are made at the level of the local school board. Standards and requirements are mandated at the state level. It's not clear why people outside Odessa should make this decision. The Texas Freedom Network should direct their efforts to the people involved.

Dr. Mark A. Chancey, professor of biblical studies at Southern Methodist University, wrote the full report, commissioned by TFN. Upon reading his report several things become apparent:
  1. The curriculum does seem to have defects and biases. Anyone who is remotely familiar high school texts knows that this is not news. Finding a good curriculum in any subject is a challenge.
  2. Chancey is not above using ad hominem criticisms. At the outset we learn that the "Advisory Committee's more than 50 members include many well-known figures associated with the religious right and conservative organizations." This is irrelevant.
  3. Several times Chancey strays from his field (biblical studies) into Constitutional law. One of the endorsers that Chancey dismisses is Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. Rather than a simple endorsement, George has written a legal brief that finds that the curriculum passes constitutional muster. Interested parties are urged to read this as well.
  4. Chancey spends a lot of time criticizing works referred to, even though the curriculum explicitly disavows any claim of accuracy for these works. There's more than a smidgen of guilt by association in the report.
  5. The vast bulk of Chancey's report finds inaccuracies and limitations. Nowhere does he demonstrate religious indoctrination, and he is not an authority on matters of law.
Again, one cannot defend the curriculum without access to it. Professor Chancey, an expert in the field, finds many ways to improve it, and much of what he writes is very pursuasive. The obvious course of action would be to remedy the deficiencies, either by contacting the curriculum's publisher, or by seeking out a superior curriculum with better scholarship. For its part, the publisher, National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools, has published a response to TFN's claims. Why isn't TFN proposing alternative curricula? It seems to be an organization that seeks not to improve the quality of high school Bible studies, but to eradicate it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Protect us, but don't look at us

The New York Times reports that a military intelligence unit had identified four of the 9/11 attackers, including Mohammed Atta, as likely members of an Al Qaida cell, more that a year before the attacks:

Mr. Weldon has long been a champion of the kind of data-mining analysis that was the basis for the work of the Able Danger team.

The former intelligence official spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not want to jeopardize political support and the possible financing for future data-mining operations by speaking publicly. He said the team had been established by the Special Operations Command in 1999, under a classified directive issued by Gen. Hugh Shelton, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to assemble information about Al Qaeda networks around the world.

Mickey Kaus, in his Kausfiles blog on Slate, sees this as vindication for the utility of mining publicly available data in a search for terrorists. He cites Heather Mac Donald's excellent piece last year in City Journal:
It’s okay for Home Depot to buy my digitized credit-card receipts, says the privacy "community," to see whether I would be a soft touch for a riding mower. But if government agents want to see who has purchased explosive-level quantities of fertilizer, they should go store to store, checking credit-card receipts. Data-mining opponents would deny terror investigators a technology in common use in the commercial sector, simply because they think government should be kept inefficient to limit its power, a Luddite's approach to public policy. Remember: data mining would only speed government access to records to which it is already legally entitled. When a technology offers possibly huge public benefits, the rational answer to the fear of its abuse is to use technology to build in safeguards.
Kaus concludes:

It's been obvious for a while that we're going to match the terrorists in the cyberspace race we'll have to give up some of our privacy. Letting a government supercomputer scan my credit card receipts and Amazon searches seems a relatively inoffensive place to start.** It beats torturing people. ...

** Don't forget my library books! (Do you have an expectation of privacy when you check out a book from ... the government? I don't.)

It's nice to see Mickey Kaus continue to uphold the banner of common sense at Slate, undoubtedly a lonely and thankless task. Restrictions on manipulating publicly available data when pursuing terrorists is just plain barmy.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The George W. Bush Conspiracy Generator

The George W. Bush Conspiracy Generator

Random samples:

George W. Bush invaded Iraq so that Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Republicans could oppress Iraqis.

George W. Bush had Michael Jackson arrested so that SUV owners could oppress welfare recipients.

Hat Tip: The Corner

Peter Jennings, R.I.P.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Textual Defense Initiative (TDI) Threefer

Eric Scheske at the Daily Eudemon has tagged us with a meme challenge. We don't usually do memes, but Eric is a swell so we're game. Here are his rules:
  1. Name your three biggest non-reference books (excluding the Bible and text books).
  2. Name your three biggest reference books.
  3. Tag three others.
By "biggest," we're not looking for number of words. We're looking for weight. Heft. Something you'd drop on invaders while defending a castle.
In our bookcases, these are the largest non-reference books:
  1. William Shakespeare: The Complete Works (The Oxford Shakespeare) (Hardcover)
    by William Shakespeare, Stanley Wells (Editor), Gary Taylor (Editor), John Jowet (Editor), William Montgomery (Editor)
  2. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II
    by Fernand Braudel, single volume abridgement. (Mrs. Thumos's Ph.D. thesis ties for third, as does Mortimer Adler's Great Ideas).
Note that Lord of the Rings is the heaviest if you include the cardboard slipcase. Our Big References:
  1. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
  2. History of Italian Renaissance Art
    by Frederick Hartt, et al.
  3. Collegeville Bible Commentary, Hardcover
We tag:
  1. Paul Boutin
  2. Matthew Lickona at Godsbody, and
  3. okliberal at The Independent Liberal
Doing this exercise has convinced us that, despite all of our security concerns in the last four years, we are woefully unprepared to defend ourselves by massive tomes. The heaviest of our texts, the CRC Handbook, is just under 6.5 pounds. Even dropped from a second story window, that would do little more than slow down a would-be assailant. And most of the weighty books we have only come to us serendipitously, as gifts. We're taking this opportunity to urge that others join us in TDI, the Textual Defense Initiative. Think of it: Coffee table books in every home, constructed not only out of mere paper, board, and leather, but from slate, marble, titanium, with precision internal guidance systems -- the possibilities are endless . . . . thanks Eric.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The theologian of chick-lit

Donna Freitas says that for hip spirituality, ascetism is out, chocolates and "inner poise" are in. In an interview on Beliefnet, she attempts to craft the Christian tao of Bridget Jones. Clearly, this is a sophisticated spirituality that can't be confined by abstinence or celibacy.

Freitas writes:
Often the spiritual figures who are held up are very extreme--for example, Mother Teresa. People can admire her, but it’s very difficult to be her. So I think people are searching for models who are closer to who they are, are searching for people like Bridget who is clearly in love with the world in every which way.
You can't see or hear us now, but we're tittering. It gets better:
Q: Speaking of vices, why is sex spiritual?

Because we make it that way. Bridget and her friends, and everyone on Sex and the City, and all these other women characters in chick lit novels are all having sex outside marriage. So one of the things I was looking to do was to figure out, How do we incorporate this experience into our spiritual lives? Because people tend to divorce their sex life and their spiritual life, since religion teaches that marriage is the only legitimate place for sex.
So, let's make sure that we understand this. Christian practice should legitimize our activities and gratifications. We need a Christ and a Cross that fit comfortably into our fornication. Just wanted to be clear on that.

Later, Freitas gushes over Elaine Pagels (of course):
I admire Elaine Pagels’ understanding of authority and the fact that we need to remember that we’re the authors of our own authority. There’s a self that’s implied there. You can give yourself authority. You have the authority to believe in someone. Can we stand with our own sense of authority and affirm sexuality as a spiritual thing? There is tons of literature within religious traditions that affirms sexuality. There’s erotic poetry, there’s all kinds of wonderful things about sexuality and marriage. One of the things I think we need to do is take that poetry, take that work done on marriage about the importance of sexuality and open that up beyond marriage to apply to our sex lives outside of marriages.
Oh, thank goodness Dr. Freitas is looking out for us. Somehow, we're not truly affirming the goodness of sexuality unless we're affirming the goodness of adultery. For Freitas, the traditions of Christian spirituality (she cites Augustine, Hildegaard, Julian of Norwich, and Mother Teresa) were fine in their time, but we need something hipper and sexier. Maybe anonymous sex at a health spa. She tries so hard to be hip, but she's so square (baby I don't care).

As you can probably guess, Freitas is a professor of spirituality and religion somewhere.

Odessa steps to biblical literacy

The New York Times is worried. So is the Washington Post. Why? Because the town of Odessa, Texas, through their school board, has opted to introduce an elective course on the Bible as literature. A group called the Texas Freedom Network, based in Austin is protesting. This appearance on Chris Matthews's Hardball shows that TFN is a little vague on why they're protesting. Is it because the curriculum is actually religious indoctrination and they are stepping in to protect non-believers rights? Or is it because it uses shoddy scholarship? In her interview, she was unpersuasive about the first point. The creators of the curriculum stand by their claim that it is a guide to history and culture of the Bible. The course outline seems to support this. Regarding the second point, one has to ask why this particular curriculum is singled out for intellectual weakness, when lousy textbooks are sadly familiar to students and teachers alike. It would certainly help if the quotes from the actual curriculum were available, instead of hearsay accounts of what it contains from unnamed experts. Why isn't this a question for the people of Odessa to figure out, instead of know-it-alls in Washington and New York?

Hat tip: libertyWatch

Thursday, August 04, 2005

L.A. Times: Roberts worked on winning side in Romer

John Roberts did pro bono work for gay activist groups in the Romer v. Evans case. In Romer (text of the opinions here), these groups successfully challenged a Colorado initiative which prohibited special legal protection for homosexuality.

A couple of things are clear -- even though Roberts participation as an advocate indicates nothing about his beliefs, this will undercut claims that he is an ideologue who cannot see beyond his preferences and beliefs. It also may make conservatives uneasy (Scalia wrote a scathing dissent in Romer). Certainly a lawyer should advocate for his client. But Ramesh Ponnuru and Mark Levin are right: the Senate confirmation hearings should feature more questions about legal philosophy and ideas, not less. Perhaps not, "how would you decide Roe today?" But something a little stronger than "would you faithfully interpret the text of the Constitution or would you make it say what you want it to say?"

Monday, August 01, 2005

King Fahd Dies; Abdullah Now King of Saudi Arabia

From the New York Times: "King Fahd, the absolutist monarch of Saudi Arabia who guided his desert kingdom through swerves in the oil market, regional wars and the incessant, high-stakes scrimmage between Islamic tradition and breakneck modernization, died today, the Saudi royal court in Riyadh said. He was 82, according to his official Website.. . . His brother, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, ultimately assumed many executive responsibilities, and was today appointed the country's new monarch."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Blair faces down clueless weasel reporters

Prime Minister Blair rocks. The Baltimore Sun describes his July 26 press conference:
Prime Minister Tony Blair dismissed as "nonsense" yesterday the notion that his Iraq policy prompted London's terror bombings, as police confirmed the latest two suspects named in the attacks are legal East African immigrants, one of them a naturalized citizen.

In an often testy news conference, Blair said he wouldn't "give one inch" on Britain's deployment of troops in Iraq, despite a new poll in The Times of London finding nearly two-thirds of Britons believe that policy puts them at greater risk of attacks.
The reporters were, of course, being idiots, as this transcript shows:
Question: The problem with that answer is you do appear to be insulting the intelligence of the British people. I mean people can accept everything that you have said, and at the same time they can feel, as indeed 64% did in a Times poll today, that your involvement with George Bush in Iraq - Britain's involvement - has increased the risk of terrorist attacks like the ones which took place in London. And that is the problem. It seems to me that when you talk about this honesty of wanting to open up this argument, by setting Iraq to one side by not dealing with ...
Hmm, that's a question? That's funny, it's sounds to me like a monday morning quarterbacking by some wanker who hasn't a clue about how to fight Islamist terror but lives in a self-reinforcing BBC media bubble. Note how he cites some Times poll as proof positive that Blair is really to blame. Idiot. Blair handled it magnificently, of course. Read the whole thing.

ABC News: Sources: July 7 London Bomb Plot May Have Been Much Larger

A cautionary note: the Islamist threat in London and elsewhere is real and persistent. A new report from ABC News indicates that the original plans for the July 7 bombings may have been more comprehensive than the attacks which actually took place:
The plot for the July 7 transit bombings in London, which killed 56 people, may have been much larger than previously known, ABC News has learned.

Sources familiar with the investigation tell ABC News an additional 12 bombs and four improvised detonators were found in the trunk of a car believed to be rented by suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer. Police believe the bombers drove the car to Luton, where they boarded trains to London.

"I believe that the explosives left in that car were left there for a second strike," said Bob Ayers, a London-based terrorism consultant with expertise in demolition. "But the metropolitan police responded so quickly, they were able to get to the car and take control of the car before the second team could get the explosives and leave."

Ethicist slams decision to kill terminal patient

Ethicist slams decision to kill terminal patient: "Catholic ethicist Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini has condemned a decision to withdraw the feeding tube of Melbourne comatose patient Maria Korp.

Ms Korp - a Catholic - will have just days to live after her life support is withdrawn today. Public Advocate Julian Gardner, her legal guardian, has decided the tube should be withdrawn immediately.

Dr Tonti-Filippini told the Herald-Sun that medical evidence, from both Australia and Britain, showed that a decision to stop feeding people in Mrs Korp's condition should not be made within 12 months.

'It is far too early, on the basis of medical evidence, to have a definite prognosis,' he said. 'There is no evidence that feeding (Maria Korp) is causing any problems so the only reason for withdrawing feeding is to kill her.'

Ms Korp, 50, has been on life support in a vegetative state in the Alfred hospital since she was found in the boot of her car in February. Mr Korp will face court today in a bid to make a final visit to the wife he is accused of trying to kill.

Dr Tonti-Filippini said he fears Mr Gardner's decision might start a 'worrying trend' in treatment of people in a vegetative state.

'It is extraordinary that the official responsible for looking after disabled people is now responsible for the death of a disabled person by withdrawing ordinary and reasonable care,' he said."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The state attempts to kill another woman with kindness

I've missed this story, just catching up now: Maria Korp lies in a hospital, dying. She survived her husband's attempt on her life, but now the authorities in Australia are saying that her quality of life does not meet their high standards for continuation: Read more . . .
Joe Korp has arrived at Melbourne's The Alfred hospital to visit his dying wife, the woman he allegedly tried to kill. Korp arrived at the hospital about 1.50pm (AEST). He made his way into the hospital through a side entrance with a security guard between him and the media pack. Korp said nothing as he made his way to his wife, Maria Korp, 50, whom the state's Public Advocate has ordered not be given any food or hydration from today. Mrs Korp has been unconscious and in a vegetative state since she was found in the boot of her car in February.

Joe Korp, 48, faces a committal hearing on Monday on charges of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder and intentionally causing serious injury. His former lover, Tania Herman, 38, was sentenced to a minimum nine years' jail last month after pleading guilty to attempted murder Mrs Korp's life support has been stopped, says a spokesman for Victoria's Public Advocate.

Artificial nutrition and hydration have been stopped and palliative care has begun. The spokesman said the support tube would not be removed, to avoid further distress to her body. Public Advocate Julian Gardner has defended the decision to allow Mrs Korp to die, saying her physical state had deteriorated significantly. Mr Gardner, who holds the task of representing the critically injured woman's best interests, said artificial feeding was not sustaining her body, and it was naturally shutting down.
These questions are not going away.

Durbin blabbed about "private" conversation

More on the Roberts-Durbin story:
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin acknowledged yesterday that he was the source for a newspaper column that reported earlier this week that Judge John G. Roberts Jr. said he could not rule in a Supreme Court case where U.S. law might conflict with Catholic teaching.

But the Illinois Democrat maintains that the column by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley incorrectly captured the private conversation that the senator had with Judge Roberts in his Capitol office Friday.

When the column appeared Monday, Mr. Durbin's office clarified that "Judge Roberts said repeatedly that he would follow the rule of law."

The faith of John Roberts

Law professor Jonathan Turley relates an encounter between Judge Roberts and Senator Durbin:
Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion. (Pope Benedict XVI is often cited as holding this strict view of the merging of a person's faith and public duties).

Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.
Turley disapproves of Roberts's response. Turley says that Roberts should either accept his oath to uphold the law or resign. I agree, and as Turley points out, Scalia has said similar things. However, it should be pointed out that Roberts was speaking informally and off the record. Also, the terms of the hypothetical are somewhat extreme -- nothing in the text of the Constitution or subsequent amendments are contrary to Catholic doctrine. A Catholic jurist is bound to truthfully read the civil law as a matter of upholding a sacred oath. I'm somewhat disappointed that Roberts wasn't a little quicker on his feet here.

Livin' la vida hasbeen

Ricky Martin Seeks End to Arab Stereotypes:
On his first visit to the Middle East, Ricky Martin declared he will try to change negative perceptions of Arab youth in the West.

"I promise I will become a spokesperson, if you allow me to, a spokesperson on your behalf. I will defend you and try to get rid of any stereotypes," the 33-year-old singer told youngsters from 16 mainly Arab countries at a youth conference on Monday.
You have just heard the collective sigh of relief from Arab teens all over the world, who know that the auteur behind "Livin' La Vida Loca" will defend their reputations. No word on whether he has a plan for Arab youth who are coerced into suicide bombing. Perhaps he can explain that he never intended "She Bangs" to be taken literally.

Hillary kabuki

Here's the lead paragraph for a Washington Post article on how Clinton is supposedly alienating the Left:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's call for an ideological cease-fire in the Democratic Party drew an angry reaction yesterday from liberal bloggers and others on the left, who accused her of siding with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in a long-running dispute over the future of the party.
Read more . . .The cost of admission to the political center has apparently dropped in recent years. Governor Clinton had to publicly repudiate hate-mongering rapper Sister Souljah. This was after years of working with the DLC. Now, apparently all you have to do is think fond thoughts of the DLC, and the Left will call you a party traitor.

Of course, all this is mere theater. Associating with the DLC will not prevent Senator Clinton from getting the Democratic nomination in 2008. And if she gets it, there's no way in hell that the Left will abandon her. Kos and MoveOn.org know this. They are, with a wink and a nod, engaging in a kabuki dance with Clinton to give her some plausibility when she runs in '08. If she's the nominee, they'll say, "Look at these Republicans! Still calling Hillary a liberal, even though we're holding our noses while we vote for her."

Hat Tip: Is It Just Me?

No waxing enthusiastic for minors in Missouri

The Missouri Senate has passed a bill that requires parental consent for minors to get . . . . certain body waxes. Specifically, for hair removal near their private parts:
"The written informed consent of a minor's parent or legal guardian... must be obtained prior to providing body waxing on or near the genitalia."

If Blunt signs the bill -- which he's fully expected to do -- budding bikini-wearers interested in ripping the pubic hair from their nether-regions will have to convince Mom or Dad to sign off.

"That's so a child under the age of eighteen can't go in and do a complete Brazilian wax without parental consent," explains Darla Fox, executive director of the Missouri State Board of Cosmetology, which proposed the law.
Oh, that those geniuses on the Senate judiciary committee who find the abortion license to be the hallmark of civilization (Schumer, Kennedy, Specter) would explain to the American people why, in their reading, the Constitution mandates that state governments cannot keep 14 year-olds from killing unborn children over the objections of their parents, but those same governments are empowered to use their legislative powers to fight the scourge of under-age Brazilian waxes. Yet another visible example of the manifest idiocy of Roe jurisprudence.

Can I get a penumbra, sumbuddy!? Thank yuh!

Hat tip: El Borak's Myopia

Rendell aide whining over base closures

PennLive.com: NewsFlash - AP Interview: Rendell aide says Air Force 'misused' base closures: "The Air Force 'misused' this year's round of base closures by attempting to disband or move National Guard units without state input, drawing sustained criticism and two lawsuits, a senior adviser to Gov. Ed Rendell said Tuesday."

Again, recall that this same Rendell also said, "It's not the business of state government to support the war." This is a man who very much wants to have his cake and eat it, too.

The Pope's spokesman in his own words

Treefrog sends us this lovely interview with Joaquin Navarro-Walls, the Vatican spokesman. Here's a snippet:
Q: Doctor Navarro, even though you look very good for your age, you are 69 years old. Do you feel the sadness of declining?

A: "My reaction to growing old is rather one of surprise. Good grief, I say, I'm no longer capable of the great mastery in tennis that once was laughably easy. Am I perhaps out of training? No, I’m just getting old."

Q: And this doesn't make you afraid?

A: "Not at all. I look at the limitations of our culture, which experiences old age as an insult. Once the child making his first communion was dressed as an adult. Now the adults dress like children, and they are ridiculous. But the wonderful way in which the pope grew old may have been a corrective. He taught that life leads to death, but that this is not the final end of life."
It's an excellent interview, with his experiences with both popes, and many personal reminiscences. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

ABC News: Authorities Arrest Men With NYC Maps, Video

ABC News: Authorities Arrest Men With NYC Maps, Video: "Five Egyptian men with maps of the New York City subway system and video of New York landmarks have been arrested by the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark, N.J., ABC News has learned."

Read the rest. Hat tip: In The Bullpen

Funeral crashers

Apparently Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll showed up at a Marine funeral in Indiana, PA, handed out her business cards, and informed a relative of the fallen marine that the 'gummint' (presumably the state government that she and Governor Rendell head up) was "against the war." She also conducted interviews with the press. She did not meet with the marine's wife or parents, so her claim of offering condolences to the family rings hollow. Governor Rendell went into damage control mode but only succeeded in adding insult to injury:
But even though Mr. Rendell said "our state supports the men and women who are fighting this war," he echoed Knoll's ghastly war remark: "It's not the business of state government to support the war."
This is coming from a man who sought to eliminate ballots received late (not filled out late) from service men and women fighting in Iraq. He's also fighting to keep military bases open in his state.

And he's up for re-election in 2006. 'Nuff said.

Hat tip: Moonbattery

Pope refuses to mouth idiotic platitude about Islam

WorldNetDaily: Pope won't call Islam religion of peace:
Asked by reporters whether Islam could be considered a religion of peace shortly before entering a meeting with priests and deacons of Valle d'Aosta in northwest Italy where he is spending a brief holiday, the pontiff refused to reply positively.
"I would not like to use big words to apply generic labels," he replied. "It certainly contains elements that can favor peace, it also has other elements: We must always seek the best elements."
I like this pope. There was no insult to Muslims, but no papering over the reality of Islam in the world today, either. Pope Benedict went on to urge Muslims to renounce violence, spare civilian populations, and embrace peace. How many imams have done the same?

Hat tip: Undiscovered Country

Reuters can't figure out who to root for (or against)

Top News | Reuters.co.ca:
Addressing Italian faithful on Sunday, Benedict deplored the "death, destruction and suffering in countries including Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Britain," and asked God to "stay the hands of assassins ... driven on by fanaticism and hate." Israel's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the Vatican ambassador to ask why the sermon had not mentioned a July 12 suicide bombing by the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad that killed five Israelis.
"The Pope's omission of this incident cries out to the heavens," the ministry said in a statement.
"Aside from the moral stain implied therein, this cannot but be interpreted as a granting of legitimacy to the carrying out terrorist attacks against Jews," it said.
The Vatican issued a statement that said: "The Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) has already responded to the Israeli authorities." It gave no details of what was said.
According to the International Herald Tribune, the pope's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, issued a terse defense noting that Benedict had referred in his sermon to attacks in "recent days."

"It's surprising that one would have wanted to take the opportunity to distort the intentions of the Holy Father," he said. "Obviously, the other week's grave attack in Netanya referred to by Israel falls under the general and unreserved condemnation of terrorism."

I'm sorry to see Israel and the Vatican in a disagreemen. But it's funny to see that the mainstream press merely plays up the conflict (which appears minor) but can't settle on an angle, a villain, probably because it despises both Israel and the Vatican so vehemently.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Update on Akbar Ganji from the New York Sun

Havel adds his voice: "A new letter from Iranian dissident journalist Akbar Ganji, authenticated yesterday by his wife, predicts that if he dies, his death will 'water the harvest of freedom.'

Also, a former Czech president, Vaclav Havel, has joined President Bush; a former Soviet dissident, Natan Sharansky, and European Union leaders in calling for Mr. Ganji's unconditional release from prison by the Islamic Republic. This newspaper has called Mr. Ganji, who has become a symbol of the democratic opposition in his country, the Iranian Havel. He has been on a hunger strike since June 11 in protest of his detention for urging a boycott of last month's presidential election in Iran."

The Violent Bear It Away

It's official: I'm on something of a Flannery O'Connor kick. The Violent Bear It Away was her second and last novel. Gripping and sickening, it tells the story of a strong-willed, self-declared prophet in a Georgia backwater, his rationalist nephew struggling to free himself from the influence of his uncle's misguided zeal, and his reluctant successor grandnephew, all of them working out their destiny frenetically and enthusiastically, with terrifying consequences. Read more . . . .

The world of this novel is a place where familial relations exist, but appear as if in funhouse mirror images. The odd circumstance is that apparently almost everyone is someone's uncle. Prophet Mason Tarwater is schoolteacher Rayber's uncle. Rayber is, in turn the uncle of prophet-in-training Francis Tarwater, who has lived all his life with his great uncle Mason. These avuncular relationships approximate and seem to replace the paternal ones, but inadequately. And mothers qua mothers are absent entirely: women are only referred to in conversation, never seen in the actual novel, and the characters can only see the women who are mothers as whores or as confused women on a voyage of self-discovery. "Mother" is not in our characters' lexicon.

Reflecting this, the actions of the Tarwaters reveal a distorted and truncated trinitarianism, in which Father and Son are subsumed into the Spirit and vanish, leaving blind enthusiasm outside of relationship and fellow feeling. Similarly, Rayber is possessed of an impersonal drive to rational goodness, to the betterment of his fellow man. His uncle rejects him because he insists on holding all things and persons in the world in abstract judgment within his mind; both elder and younger Tarwaters refuse to let Rayber place them "inside his head," to reduce them from acting subjects to intellectual objects. Rayber paradoxically struggles to deny his natural affections for his retarded son Bishop. He seems capable of loving only in the abstract, indeed, to be following some rationalist maxim to stamp out the irrational wellsprings of love for his insufficiently gifted son.

It's powerful work. The first two parts in particular are tight and arresting leading to a tragic climax. The third part is somewhat cryptic. I have no idea how O'Connor intends us to take Francis Tarwater's resolution at the end of the novel, but that's a strength. This is a novel to be read again and again.

John Huston created a movie adaptation of O'Connor's first novel, Wise Blood, which I saw many years ago. Of directors working today, someone like Robert Duvall seems well-suited temperamentally and artistically for realizing O'Connor's terrifying and befuddling visions. However it happens, Flannery O'Connor's work deserves to be brought to life for another generation of viewers and readers.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Congress to add 2 months to Daylight Savings Time

Congress to add 2 months to Daylight Savings Time

Why? Was it broken? I vividly remember DST being maintained into the winter during the 1970's oil shortages. It was thought that money would be saved on office lighting. Of course, children who would have walked to school in the morning were now being driven because the sun had not yet risen. "Idiots!"

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More terrorist attacks in London

The butchers strike again:
Four "explosions or attempts at explosions" have hit three London Underground stations and a bus two weeks after the July 7 terror attacks, the city's police chief has said.

Thursday's small blasts came two weeks to the day after bombs on three Tube trains and a bus killed 52 people and the four bombers.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said the situation was "absolutely under control." He told reporters there had been "one confirmed casualty and that is not a fatality."
Here's hoping Tony Blair keeps his famous resolve. And here's hoping that Ken Livingstone begins to see the idiocy of statements like this.

Feminists for Life

Much has been made of Judge Roberts's wife and her work for Feminists for Life:
While Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s views on abortion triggered intense debate on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, there is no mistaking where his wife stands: Jane Sullivan Roberts, a lawyer, is ardently against abortion.

A Roman Catholic like her husband, Jane Roberts has been deeply involved in the antiabortion movement. She provides her name, money and professional advice to a small Washington organization — Feminists for Life of America — that offers counseling and educational programs. The group has filed legal briefs before the high court challenging the constitutionality of abortion.
It will be interesting to see if and how pro-Roe Senators inject that fact into the ensuing debate. At the fundraising level, it is certain to be an issue -- it will galvanize NARAL and others into vehemently opposing Roberts.

Feminists for Life is an excellent organization. They bring a sense of history and a holistic point of view to the women's movement for equality. They also have a college outreach program that supports young women who are pro-life in there struggles against educational bureaucracies that actively proselytize for abortion and seek to enforce ideological conformity on the issue. They are worth checking out.

Rashomon inflation

For years, nearly all objective measures have shown inflation in the U.S. to be minimal. Despite this, a persistent chorus of economists have fretted about its supposedly imminent return. Writing in Slate, Daniel Gross suggests:
Economists are supposed to be rational creatures, coolly examining numbers. Intuitively, they know that anecdotal evidence is just that. But Goldman Sachs economist Avinash Kaza suggests economists are being influenced on where they stand on inflation by where they sit - geographically, professionally, and on the income ladder. It's a variant of what Spy magazine once dubbed "personal-injury journalism," the process by which stories that directly affect editors become trend stories. Call it personal-injury economics.
Kaza set out his theory in a June 2 market comment that Barron's mentioned last weekend. The document isn't accessible to non-Goldman clients, although Kaza was kind enough to share it with Slate. In it, Kaza attributes the perception that inflation is being undermeasured to groupthink. The economists who make forecasts on inflation tend to be concentrated in and around New York; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Los Angeles; and San Francisco. They tend to be well-off and associate and work with other well-off people.
In summary, rich, urban people are seeing more inflation that others. There's something to this - I've seen a similar dynamic at work with people I know. New Yorkers and Long Islanders swear the official inflation numbers underestimate reality; others seem to agree with the prognosis.

Hat tip: Paul Boutin

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Keep abortion safe, legal, and rare -- ok, just safe and legal -- ok, just legal

2 More Women Die After Abortion Pills:
Two more California women have died after taking abortion pills, and federal drug regulators say they suspect bacterial infections as the cause. As a result, the drug's label will be changed to warn women and doctors to watch out for signs of an unusual infection that is not always accompanied by fever, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.
Five women in the United States have now died after taking abortion pills; four of them most likely suffered lethal bacterial infections, said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the agency's center for drugs.

Is war just a metaphor?

Senator Charles Schumer is ready to go to war. Is he tired of Islamofascists killing innocent men, women, and children in London, Madrid, New York, and elsewhere? Maybe, but for now, Chucky Cheese has more important things on his mind -- abortion-on-demand. Drudge reports:
Senate Judiciary Committee member Chuck Schumer got busy plotting away on the cellphone aboard a Washington, DC-New York Amtrak -- plotting Democrat strategy for the upcoming Supreme Court battle.

Schumer promised a fight over whoever the President�s nominee was: "It's not about an individual judge� It's about how it affects the overall makeup of the court."

The chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was overheard on a long cellphone conversation with an unknown political ally, and the DRUDGE REPORT was there!

Schumer proudly declared: "We are contemplating how we are going to go to war over this."
We see Senator Schumer's priorities. Would that he were as vigilant about the real war as he is about the phony one (or about posing for publicity photos at airport security, reading from his version of "If I Ran the Homeland Security Zoo").

John Roberts for Justice

So we can look forward to the usual idiocy that accompanies nominations by Republican presidents: either Roberts will be an "extremist" because he has dared at some point to voice the obvious, that Roe v. Wade's Constitutional underpinnings are virtually nonexistent, or he will be derided for not being "forthcoming," for "stonewalling." Men like Senator Kennedy view judicial confirmation proceedings as the proper place to administer a de facto oath of allegiance to abortion on demand.

Ah, well, it couldn't happen to a nicer man. Stuart Buck relates Justice Scalia's comments on Roberts's temperament as a litigator:
For what it's worth: A few years ago, Justice Scalia said to a friend of mine that he and other Justices thought of John Roberts as far and away the best Supreme Court litigator in the country. I asked the friend why Justice Scalia said that, and (paraphrasing from my memory) the answer was something like this: "No matter how intense the questioning, Roberts is never flustered, and is always able to calmly answer any question whatsoever, while skillfully weaving in the substantive points that he wanted to make in the first place."
This is going to be good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

CNN.com - Bush to announce court choice - Jul 19, 2005

Bush to announce court choice: "President Bush will announce his pick to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court at 9 p.m. Tuesday, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan."

Akbar Ganji has been rushed to a hospital

Brave Iranian dissident dying:
With his health failing and his family barred from visiting him, officials at Iran's Evin prison sent political prisoner Akbar Ganji to Tehran's Milad hospital, a decision seen by his supporters yesterday as a last-ditch effort to save the dissident journalist's life. Mr. Ganji has ingested only sugar cubes and water as part of a hunger strike begun when he was rearrested on June 11 for urging a boycott of last month's presidential elections.

Groovy Tuesday

Rumors are flying that today is the day that President Bush will announce his nominee for Supreme Court Justice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Keeping eyes peeled . . . .

Monday, July 18, 2005

Get Karl Rove

The New York Times runs with this headline: Reporter Says He First Learned of C.I.A. Operative From Rove:
Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine, said the White House senior adviser Karl Rove was the first person to tell him that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was a C.I.A. officer, according to a first-person account in this week's issue of the magazine.
The lead paragraph gives lefties their red meat: Rove outed a C.I.A. covert agent. Reading down four paragraphs, however, gives us:
Mr. Cooper said in his article that Mr. Rove did not mention the name of Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, or say that she was a covert officer. But, he wrote: "Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A. and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the 'agency' on 'W.M.D.'? Yes.
Here are some facts we never get in the article:This isn't semantic quibbling. The law was very specifically drafted to protect undercover agents from being targeted for killing by having their cover blown without restricting important freedoms of speech and the press. It's possible that Plame was a covert agent as defined by the relevant laws; however, that is far from apparent, and if it's far from apparent to us at this late date, it was likely not apparent to Rove, who didn't even know Plame's name.

But lefties who never had any use for the CIA during the Cold War, who routinely claim that the CIA a force of evil around the world, now have the cojones call Rove "treasonous" for possibly, inadvertantly doing what they have applauded when performed by men like Phil Agee intentionally.

Ganji lies unconscious, reportedly near death

The New York Sun reports that Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji is near death in his hunger strike:
In a telephone interview from Tehran, a former political prisoner who was released temporarily from Evin prison at the end of June, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, told The New York Sun that Mr. Ganji's kidneys had failed and that he was seen yesterday by two fellow inmates in Evin's hospital wing laying unconscious on a floor as two guards tried to prop him up.

"I received word this afternoon from two inmates who saw Akbar Ganji in the prison hospital and was not moving at all. Two guards were trying to get him to walk, but he was unconscious, lying on the ground and not able to walk," Mr. Fakhravar said. "He is on the verge of dying."
Would it be too much to ask other major newspapers to cover this story? This might be melodramatic to say, but true nonetheless: a front page story in the New York Times or Washington Post could save this man's life and advance the cause of freedom in the Middle East a tiny but discernable bit.

Ah, but there are bigger fish to fry (see post later today).

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Statement on a Call for the Unconditional Releases of Akbar Ganji in Iran

The White House has issues this Statement on a Call for the Unconditional Releases of Akbar Ganji in Iran:
Akbar Ganji, an Iranian journalist who since 1999 has been routinely sentenced to prison by the Iranian government for advocating free speech, is again in jail because of his political views. Through his now month-long hunger strike, Mr. Ganji is demonstrating that he is willing to die for his right to express his opinion. President Bush is saddened by recent reports that Mr. Ganji's health has been failing and deeply concerned that the Iranian government has denied him access to his family, medical treatment, and legal representation. Mr. Ganji is sadly only one victim of a wave of repression and human rights violations engaged in by the Iranian regime. His calls for freedom deserve to be heard. His valiant efforts should not go in vain. The President calls on all supporters of human rights and freedom, and the United Nations, to take up Ganji's case and the overall human rights situation in Iran. The President also calls on the Government of Iran to release Mr. Ganji immediately and unconditionally and to allow him access to medical assistance. Mr. Ganji, please know that as you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Umm, Senators Reid and Specter -- how about somebody SMART?

The ever-reasonable David Brooks writes the common sense maxim for choosing a Supreme Court Justice: the person should be an intelligent jurist. An aside of his caught my eye:
If you can find a philosophical powerhouse who is also a member of a minority or a woman (like, say, Mary Ann Glendon), so much the better, but picking a powerhouse matters most.
This is the first time I've seen Glendon's name mentioned, but it makes me very happy to see it. She is extremely intelligent, has a reputation for courtesy and commonsense (a left-leaning acquaintence of mine worked years ago in the Harvard Law School offices and commented often on Glendon's kindness and intelligence). She would make an excellent Justice. My only regret is that she wasn't nominated 12 years ago.

Brooks goes on to extol the virtues of McConnell (who I think would make an excellent Chief Justice -- maybe Bush should wait?)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hubris in Illinois

Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich Chicago ordered state health officials to spend $10 million to stem-cell research on Tuesday, an appropriation that has been repeatedly voted down by the Illinois legislature.

"'While we are forced to live in a democracy with several branches of government, sometimes in a democracy the process is frustratingly slow,' Blagojevich said."

Yes, King Rod, thank you for allowing your subjects the illusion of government by consent. But as a point of information, you are not "forced to live in a democracy." We are blessed to live in a country with an extremely liberal emmigration policy. Feel free to check into it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Mark Levin's Men in Black

Read Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America today. Again, as with most polemical books, it's best to read it quickly. Unlike many of these instant bestsellers, Men in Black is informed by a passion for historical detail and context. While to some extent it's a laundry list of grievances for strict constructionist critics of the court (grievances I generally share), what leavens the reading and makes it enjoyable are thumbnail bios of select Justices through history and the historical incidents that shaped the court, such as FDR's controversial attempt to pack the court in the 30's, and the impeachment of Justice Samuel Chase in 1804.

A couple of nits: Levin dedicates a chapter to Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that established the principle of judicial review early in the history of our country. This leaves the reader wondering whether Marbury itself is an example of judicial overreach -- a finding that Levin implies but doesn't state. While the idea that judicial activism became something that was destined to grow after Marbury has much to commend it, Levin should have pointed out that for a long time after Marbury, judicial review was quite limited. As Professor Robert Lowry Clinton has pointed out in First Things:

A limited form of judicial review was already established by 1800, but only for relatively "clear cases." Marbury did not alter this, but rather established a clear precedent for the Court’s power to disregard congressional laws in cases "of a judiciary nature"—cases in which judicial functions were threatened by application of a questionable statutory provision. Marbury established only that the judiciary would play an important role in constitutional interpretation, not that it would play the ultimate role.

This is vital for fully understanding Levin's criticism of President George W. Bush's failure to veto the McCain-Feingold law, a law which the President claimed was unconstitutional at least in part, but about which he decided to defer to the Supreme Court. Levin and Professor Clinton both see this as a dereliction of duty, brought on by a pattern of acquiescence to judicial usurpation by both the legislative and executive branches of government.

It's also not clear that Plessy v. Ferguson's infamous holding supporting "separate but equal" accommodations for whites and blacks result from judicial activism. It's an intriguing idea, but Levin doesn't really flesh out his argument. We really need to read the Fourteenth Amendment more closely and examine the arguments (revisiting Justice Harlan's dissent would also help).

Maybe I'm expecting too much from Levin here -- for a general audience, it may not be appropriate to get bogged down in hermeneutics. But even in the best of worlds, the Supreme Court does need to do hermeneutics, even if it does it well, that is, strictly and faithfully.

All that said, there is a lot to be learned from this, and I'm thankful to Levin for having written it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Blame-America Times

Abjuring easy answers, the Times offers . . . easy (politicized) answers: London Under Attack - New York Times:
That fear has already led to questions about why the British security agencies did not anticipate the attacks, why the wealthy nations have not done enough about the root causes of terrorism and why Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden continue to function after almost four years of the so-called war on terrorism. Many will wonder why the United States is mired in Iraq while Al Qaeda's leader still roams free.

There are no easy answers to these questions, just as there is no easy defense against acts of terrorism.


The implication that terrorism would go away if the U.S. just gave away more money is outrageous and offensive. The root cause of Islamic terrorism? Islamofascism, a totalitarian ideology that sees the West as weak, corrupt, and decadent, and seeks to impose Sharia upon the entire world. This is apparent to leftist writers such as Paul Berman. Why can't the Times see it? Of course, the Times uses weasel words and phrases: "Many" doubt the U.S.'s role in Iraq, they write. Why not come out and take responsibility for a position you're clearly espousing, weasels?

Times, on petard hoist

The New York Times cries big crocodile tears for Judith Miller, who went to jail to protect a source in the Valerie Plame kerfuffle. Of course, the Times was one of the noisiest voice calling for the prosecutor who has served Miller a subpoena, so perhaps it is poetic justice. The Times's lame defense boils down to a special pleading: we wanted a witch-hunt, but only if it didn't affect any of our people. They indicate that they'd happily subject Bob Novak to the same fate. Bob Novak's only punishable crime seems to be that he has the temerity to disagree with the Times's editorial board. (Since the grand jury testimony is sealed, it is impossible to know what the prosecutor demanded of Novak and what, if anything, he revealed.)

It is truly sad to see Judith Miller, a respected journalist, suffer because of the lunacy and inconsistency of her employer. Maybe she should consider changing employers.

Flannery O'Connor

Do yourself a favor, treat yourself. If you've never read The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor, read it now. If you have, read it again this summer. Read more . . . Winner of the 1971 National Book Award, these are mighty strange stories of broken people in a fallen world: hermaphrodites who proclaim themselves visible, inscrutable sign of God; physically maimed men and women, tormented by spirits and passions they can't fathom; landowners, poor whites and blacks colluding in nameless, unspeakable guilt.

O'Connor's work, at its best, made manifest and palpable abstractions such as sin and redemption. Her work shouts of a world of spirit that is larger than all our categories and schema, encountered in experience but never contained or mastered. Only through difficult and painful revelation can the Kingdom be realized. Writing about the South in the middle of the twentieth century, her work is suffused with the divisions and nuances of race and class. She was a master of the short story form, as well. You get the solid setup, the telling character detail, the punch at the end of the story. Especially good are "Parker's Back," "The Displaced Person," "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," "A Temple of the Holy Ghost," "Good Country People," "The Comforts of Home," "The Lame Shall Enter First," and the classic "A Good Man is Hard to Find." This is a wonderful anthology of work from a powerful writer. Again, do yourself a favor and read this.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Saturday, June 25, 2005

There be dragons

Liesl Schillinger has a rather slight review of Brian Anderson's South Park Conservatives. She's disdainful, and after confusing undisputed Republican dominance at the polls with Anderson's allegation of leftist hegemony in media and publishing, she notes that the book isn't for our kind of readers, dear. (I'd love a Bombay Sapphire martini, thank you! Are you summering in East Hampton again this year?)

Treefrog writes in an email: "I love this paragraph, and the priceless, parochial view of the universe it implies. Beyond the Hudson there be dragons."
Anderson quotes an interview that Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media critic, conducted with Lawrence O'Donnell, a political analyst and screenwriter for ''The West Wing,'' in which O'Donnell said, ''You'll never, ever get the Republican TV show.'' Anderson and O'Donnell imply that this has something to do with politics, but isn't it more likely a question of ratings? Would anybody, even a conservative fan of ''South Park'' -- especially a conservative fan of ''South Park'' -- want to watch a sitcom about churchgoing parents with two children who lead an uneventful life and make regular donations to the Fraternal Order of Police?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Chancellor Cruise

is really Darth Tommius! We suspected this all along about Tom Cruise. And yet, the Force is strong with the young Padawan, Katie Holmes. Difficult to see, the future for them is.

UPDATE: new improved video link to Sith Tom.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

City of God

Recently read St. Augustine's City of God. It's a pretty good workout; my impression is that I've only sampled something, without having enough time to properly consider his wide-ranging discussion. Augustine's takes on human nature, the meaning of eternal life and eternal punishment, within an explication of the "meaning" of history. He writes of all human history as a single narrative. It's also a work of Biblical exegesis, as Augustine treats Scripture as a historical document. For Augustine, creation is good, creation exists in time and has a history. Indeed, since God enters into history to show man His love, history itself is sanctified, through the City of God.

The book contains the parallel histories of what Augustine terms the City of God and the City of Man, both descended from Adam. The City of Man is founded on murder (specifically fratricide, the murder of a brother, viz. Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus). The City of Man has been deceived and debased, fallen under the sway of pagan gods, which appear to be either demons or, at best indifferent or benign spirits that are mistakenly worshipped.

Augustine wants to explain the ways of God to man, but he does this from some humility, expressing his speculation in doubt. City of God also shows Augustine to be interested in the goods of Greek and Roman philosophy and rhetoric and in purging the negative elements of these while and Christian revelation. He's always intent on removing the possibility of gnostic/Manichaean distortions of Christian texts, such as St. Paul's admonitions not to "live according to the flesh" but rather "according to the spirit." Augustine is clear that this does not mean disdain for the body, but that one should refuse to live according to human ways, and consent to live by God's will.

Again, there's no way to give an adequate summary of a book like this, but it is surprising readable (if voluminous). I'm sorry I waited as long as I did to read it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Schiavo autopsy press release from Not Dead Yet

Not Dead Yet has an excellent press release in reaction to the Schiavo autopsy report last week:
Today's release of findings in the autopsy of Terri Schiavo leave the central issues in her life and death unanswered, says a national disability rights group.

For example, contrary to articles stating the autopsy report 'supported' the diagnosis of 'persistent vegetative state (PVS),' a neuropathology expert today was careful to say that PVS is a clinical diagnosis rather than a pathological one. He added that nothing in the autopsy was 'inconsistent' with a PVS diagnosis.

The real elephant in the living room, of course, is whether or not we can really know how conscious anyone labeled 'PVS' really is. Several studies have revealed high misdiagnosis rates, with conscious people being mistakenly regarded as totally and irrevocably unaware.

The autopsy also documented significant brain atrophy, and the medical panel called the damage 'irreversible.'

This is not the same as saying she had no cognitive ability.

'It's always seemed to us that PVS isn't really a diagnosis; it's a value judgment masquerading as a diagnosis,' said Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group that filed three amicus briefs in the case. 'When it comes to the hard science, no qualified pathologist went on the record saying she couldn't think or couldn't experience her own death through dehydration.'

"PVS isn't really a diagnosis; it's a value judgment masquerading as a diagnosis." That's the money quote. That the judicial system was making life-and-death decisions for a woman based upon a diagnosis as fungible as PVS went largely unremarked. The fact that our deaths may be decreed because a more powerful clique of doctors and lawyers have looked into our face and decreed that, like reading images in clouds, they have determined that we are no longer "there," this should scare us.

Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Off to hell, a Manichee?

Caryn James writes about quasi-spiritual concerns in the current crop of fantasy films, such as Batman Begins and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. She repeatedly refers to them as "Manichaean." . . .

She writes:
And as crowd-pleasing movies so often do, they reflect what's in the air, a climate in which the president speaks in terms of good and evil, and religion is increasingly part of the country's social and political conversation.
. . .When Night Watch was released in Russia last year, it quickly became the highest-grossing film in that country's history. It's hard to predict how an action-fantasy with subtitles will do here, but its eternal battle between good and evil is simple to translate, and its language is familiar from statements like this: "We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name." Those words weren't spoken on the planet Tatooine, but by President Bush at West Point in 2002 (considering the lag time of movies, practically yesterday). By now, whether the real-life rhetoric of good and evil reminds us of the movies, or the other way around, is probably impossible to guess.
Ms. James is dutifully doing Frank Rich's work of making political commentary under the guise of an Arts review. Unfortunately, when discussing Manichaeism, she's out of her depth. . . . Read more . . . She apparently believes that any reference to clearly delineated good and evil is "Manichaean." She would do well to acquaint herself with the actual doctrines of Manichaeism, namely, that good and evil were effectively equal but opposing principles, and that the physicality per se is morally debased. Mere depictions of great good and great evil in the world are not Manichaean (or at least not uniquely Manichaean -- they are also Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Confucian, etc.)

Ms. James, despite her misunderstanding, is essentially correct about the entire Star Wars series having Manichaean (and gnostic elements). These include a belief in a special elite knowledge and training given to Jedi that allow them special spiritual and material benefits, a general equivalence between the Good Jedi and the Evil Sith, a disdain for corporeal existence and a lack of physicality presented as an evidence of sanctity (the absence of blood in these movies, Obi-Wan and Yoda's bodies vanishing at the point of death, etc.). These elements are in the very first Star Wars installment, which predates the current administation by about twenty-five years.

Bush, on the other hand, clearly does not believe that evil is as strong as good generally. Such a belief would contradict both his stated Christian beliefs and his approach to evil in the world. Indeed, the prevalent criticism of Bush at the Times is that he is overly sanguine about the likelihood of success for his military ventures. A Manichaean would view the evil opposition as being as strong as the good protagonists.

If Ms. James is looking for a modern Manichee, maybe a better example would be George Felos. She could start with a review of his book Litigation as Spiritual Practice, in which describes joyously freeing a woman of her pesky body. Presumably she is one with the Force now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Amnesty in Iraq?

This story is getting a lot of play today: reports of a possible amnesty program for insurgents in Iraq. In most reports that have come my way, it seems to play as a desperate move that will involve open negotiation with terrorists. This report strikes me as a bit more balanced and credible: the reported plan is an attempt to divide the terrorists, aimed at getting Sunni sympathizers to switch loyalties, and negotiation with terrorists is being ruled out.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The perfect crime

Here, apparently, is how you do it:

  1. Decapitate one person, repeatedly stab another
  2. Approach the American border
  3. Give up your bloodied chainsaw, homemade sword, and brass knuckles
  4. Be released


Well, it wasn't a perfect crime. Some smart detective put 2 and 2 together when corpses were found in the home of the man in question. The murderer is now in custody.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Pope Benedict on gay marriage

Benedict reiterates opposition to gay civil marriages.

New Jersey primary is today

Wasn't Corzine something you put on a cut when you were a kid?

Oldest joke thrown out of court

"Chicken Cleared of Crossing Road Charge" -- Associated Press, May 31

Monday, June 06, 2005

Another Iceberg story

Reuters, the London Times, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle -- all of these have been running front-page stories with headlines that indicate that a Pentagon investigation has concluded that the U.S. is, indeed, guilty of "Koran abuse" (shudder!).

The submerged parts of this iceberg story include these details:
  1. There were no incidents of guards flushing the Koran.
  2. All of those who disrespected the Koran were immediately disciplined.
  3. The report finds that 4 out of 5 of the incidents occurred before strict guidelines for handling the Koran were sent to guards in January 2003.
  4. Some incidents were accidental.
  5. The report summary states that "the Southern Command policy of Koran handling is serious, respectful and appropriate."
  6. There were 15 incidents of prisoners desecrating the Koran, including ripping out pages and (drum-roll, please). . . shoving the pages into the toilet.
Can we put this in perspective? The U.S. is distributing these copies of the Koran to prisoners in the first place! I wonder if any of the beheaded kidnapped victims were allowed a final Eucharist, or were entitled to an evangelical prayer gathering before they were dispatched on videotape . . . .

Friday, June 03, 2005

Futile care for the English Patient

Wesley J. Smith weighs in on the Leslie Burke case, which I blogged earlier. Smith writes at the end about "futile care," a bioethical theory and associated protocols that leave doctors with greater authority to determine when continued care is no longer in a patient's best interest.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

It's about forgiveness, part II

Christoph Arnold has written a great deal about acts of forgiveness. This page in particular includes links to his writings, including many anecdotes and stories about the role that forgiveness has played in many peoples lives. The first link, "Long Row to Hoe," includes many riveting stories about transcendent forgiveness that saves both forgiven and forgiver.

Hat Tip: treefrog.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The heart of the matter (It's about forgiveness)

A friend who is spiritually searching recently asked me about Christian perspectives on forgiveness, about how our participation in forgiveness, our willingness to love and truly forgive, is necessary for us to fully realize the good of our natures. A cradle Catholic but for many years wandering a great deal, he saw Christian belief as entailing a kind of quid pro quo in forgiveness (God forgives us, but only if we forgive others). I can see where this comes from, but since I don't hear the Faith that way, I thought I'd flesh out a different way of thinking about it. Read more . . .

Although he specifically asked for books, none came to mind immediately. Rather, Scripture suggested itself. Two passages stuck in my head when considering forgiveness. The first was from Matthew 18:

Peter approaching asked [Jesus], "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?"

Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.' Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.

When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.

His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?' Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."

I thought about what my friend had said he felt, that in a Christian view, we are punished unless we forgive. So it seems God threatens us to get good behavior. It's possible to read this passage to confirm that, but I don't think that's quite right. One reason comes from Luke 11:

He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."

And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,' and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence."

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?"
Christians connect our forgiveness of others to God's forgiveness of us. That connection is not simply "if we don't forgive others, God will turn up his nose at forgiving us." If that were true, we couldn't make sense of the unconditional guarantee of love and forgiveness that Luke talks about ("everyone who asks, receives"). Rather, as Christian readers, we're asked to read the two passages together. Then we begin to see that forgiveness is truly supernatural, even when we are the ones doing the forgiving. True forgiveness is like a miracle. True forgiveness (as opposed to a sham forgiveness that forever throws the supposed "forgiveness" in the face of the "forgiven" in acts of perpetual humiliation) may strike us as unnatural or impossible. God is not simply the One who requires forgiveness -- he is the One who makes forgiveness possible, he is Forgiveness and Love itself.

So how do we read the passage in Matthew in light of this? To the extent that we are unable to forgive and love, we have not truly accepted God's love -- we have not surrendered our will to His. In the language of Luke, we have withdrawn before knocking, before asking. And that withdrawl of our will from God's keeps us from His Forgiveness, and keeps us from forgiving others.

One of the great Eastern church fathers, St. John Chysostom, delivered an Easter Sermon that contained this passage: "Let no one lament persistent failings, for Forgiveness has risen from the grave." Chysostom identifies Christ as not just forgiving, but as being Forgiveness itself.

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