It’s a lovely idea, but

There’s an NPR story here about music being used as a therapy to aid chronic pain sufferers or the dying.  Anecdotal reports are good, but there are no scientific, double-blind, replicable studies yet to back it up.  I have my own concern about the practice.  I like listening to music, but I hate opera and the operatic style of singing (meaning I writhe when I hear opera singers try to sing popular songs operatically).  I imagine that, if I were dying or in great distress, hearing that irritating voice would increase my sufferings.  Of course, if Ella Fitzgerald could be resurrected to come to my bedside, that would be another story.

Religion lite

I sort of just sat back and sniggered when the Presbyterian Church (USA), after first attacking Jews decided next to go after men. How else to explain the new doctrine the Church has put into effect:

The divine Trinity – “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” – could also be known as “Mother, Child and Womb” or “Rock, Redeemer, Friend” at some Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) services under an action Monday by the church’s national assembly.

Delegates to the meeting voted to “receive” a policy paper on gender-inclusive language for the Trinity, a step short of approving it. That means church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity, but congregations won’t be required to use them.

“This does not alter the church’s theological position, but provides an educational resource to enhance the spiritual life of our membership,” legislative committee chair Nancy Olthoff, an Iowa laywoman, said during Monday’s debate on the Trinity.

The assembly narrowly defeated a conservative bid to refer the paper back for further study.

A panel that worked on the issue since 2000 said the classical language for the Trinity should still be used, but added that Presbyterians also should seek “fresh ways to speak of the mystery of the triune God” to “expand the church’s vocabulary of praise and wonder.”

One reason is that language limited to the Father and Son “has been used to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women,” the panel said.

Apparently those of us be who believe that religion stands for eternal truths, not polling items, are just hopelessly naive.

Now, I’m all for a religious institution to have a certain flexibility. It’s that flexibility that means that we no longer have to live lives that reflect identically the lives of 6th Century B.C. Judeans.  It also means, thankfully, that Jews no longer have to fear the Christian Church. But those changes go to practices, not core doctrines.  That is, with the destruction of the temple, Jews abandoned the practice of animal sacrifice. We also no longer engage in the practice, from Leviticus that mandates that a man must marry his brother’s widow (a practical and humane idea in the days before women worked). Likewise, Christians recognize that, regardless of what happened 2,000 years ago, today’s Christians cannot and should not indulge in the practice of Jew hating and baiting.

Doctrine is different from practice. It goes to the core beliefs that animate a religion. You either believe that Jesus died for your sins, or you don’t. If you do, you are a Christian. If not, you’re not. (In this way, Jews for Jesus have always bewildered me. It seems to me that, once they accepted Christ as their saviour, they pretty much crossed that big, bright line distinguishing Christian from Jew.) Those who mouth platitudes about a nice teacher who got snatched by the Romans, was tortured to death, and had some good aphorisms that were collected and published later believe nothing at all.  And yet this religious nihilism is precisely what the Presbyterians are heading towards: to them, Christianity is no longer about eternal truths, it’s about nice people (excluding men and Jews), good feelings (except towards men and Jews), and political correctness. I’m sure that, in a few years, there’ll be rumblings that Christ was really a woman (he was so sensitive, after all), or possibly homosexual (he never did get married), and that the whole history of the Church reflects a homophobic, male-dominated Church heirarchy that wilfully disguised Christ’s true nature.
By the way, if you’d like to see where liberal Christianity could go, check out this website, for the HerChurch in San Francisco. There, the followers of Martin Luther get this:

We are a diverse community, standing firmly within the Christian tradition in order to re-image the divine by claiming her feminine persona in thealogy, liturgy, church structure, art, language, practices, leadership, and acts of justice. Challenging the church’s restricted language of the past, we pay special attention to images and metaphors that attempt to embrace divine fullness and that offer a witness of holy nurture and inclusive justice, both to the church and to the world.

By the way, I do believe that religions should celebrate and accommodate women.  Women are the home fires of religion, since they are the teachers of children.  In other words, religions cannot survive without women’s buy-in.  But religion is also the place of eternal truths and morality.  If these are adjusted to suit every prevailing politically correct wind, you don’t have religions anymore — you have social clubs.

There won’t always be an England

How did England so rapidly plummet from the world’s top dog to a nation that has no pride, no sense of its own history (except to be abjectly embarrassed by that history), and no sense of self-preservation. The latter appears in matters large, as in its inability to confront its increasingly visible Fifth Column, and small, as in the fact that the nation is drinking itself to death:

Drink-related hospital admissions in England have reached record levels, NHS statistics show.

Hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease more than doubled in a decade, reaching 35,400 in 2004/5. Alcoholic liver disease deaths increased by 37%.

Admissions for alcoholic poisoning increased to 21,700 from 13,600 over the same 10-year period.

The Information Centre report also highlights England’s binge and underage drinking problem.

Nearly one in four secondary school children aged 11-15 reported that they had drunk alcohol in the past week when surveyed in 2005.

The average amount of alcohol consumed by this age group doubled between 1990 and 2000 and currently remains at 10.4 units (or about 10 small glasses of wine or five pints of beer) per week.

Young adults are the most likely to binge drink – a third of men and a quarter of women aged 16-24 said they had drunk more than double the recommended number of units on one day of the previous week, typically Saturday, when surveyed in 2004.

I should say that this absolutely debauched British approach to alcohol really isn’t that new.  England was also awash in alcohol at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries.  When, in the early 19th Century, the British turned to the high morality with associate with the Victorian era and, in increasing numbers, to Evangelical Christianity, these trends were partyly a response to the damage wrought by the Brits’ uncontrolled alcoholic excesses.  (America’s prohibition experiment was also a response to out-of-control drinking.)  I suspect that on this go-round, waiting in the wings for those British who can no longer take the damage the alcohol wreaks on their society, will be Islam, complete with its long-standing prohibition against alcohol.

Government’s inability to police fraud

We just got yet another reminder (as if we need one), about Government ineptitude at managing its own programs:

Welfare recipients and their friends and relatives are defrauding taxpayers of $500 million a year through the county’s child care programs, a grand jury report concludes.

The report released Thursday found that nearly half the $1.1 billion CalWORKS child care program is lost to fraud because the Department of Public Social Services doesn’t verify that welfare-to-work recipients qualify for child care.

“Widespread abuse … has created a program culture that encourages fraud by parents, child care providers and agency employees,” the county grand jury report said.

You can read more about it here, but the rest is just as depressing as the beginning.

The problem, as I see it, is that Government employees are not given incentives to care enough to do the very best. No private business can afford to have this type of fraud practiced against it on a regular basis. In the private sector, therefore, the business would (a) have systems in place to prevent fraud; (b) reward those employees who aggressively and reliably use that system to protect the company; and (c) punish (that is, fire) those employees who just can be bothered.

In the Government sector, however, employees get to keep their jobs no matter what. Unsurprisingly, those who are not committed to their work or who aren’t blessed with their own high ethical standards, will do the bare minimum. Most people are rational creatures, and its irrational to go the extra mile if that will make no difference whatsoever.  It’s even more irrational to do so if you look around and see that those who can’t be bothered to even make the first mile are still receiving the same incentives that you receive.

One could pull back and ask a different question: Why doesn’t government put those incentives in place?  My guess is there are several reasons. First, it’s truly other people’s money. We taxpayers docilely pour our money into the pot and make no demands (indeed, how can we?) that it be spent wisely and efficiently. In the corporate world, the owners are all over you if you waste their money. While we “own” these government programs in terms of financing them, we have no voice.

Second, the unions that drive the Government engine make damn sure that the pesky taxpayers don’t get in the way of the myriad benefits the unions have drawn down from the public trough. I’ll say again, as I often do at this point, that I have no problem with collective bargaining for a living wage and decent working conditions. Outside of those parameters, though, I’m hostile to unions, which I think are hostile to capitalism — and I think capitalism is the engine that drives a free, prosperous nation.

Third, Government programs must comply with the Code of Federal Regulations, an absolutely vile user’s manual for all things Government. If you think the Tax Code is bad, multiple it by 2 million, and you’ll get a small inkling about the CFR. I suspect that, even if all Government employees were disciplined, ethical geniuses, who were given huge bonuses for doing the job well, it would still be impossible for them to get the job done — any job — if they stuck rigidly to the CFR.  The CFR and efficiency are mutually exclusive concepts. If you’d like a good insight into just how stifling government regulations are, you can read Philip K. Howards’ only slightly dated The Death of Common Sense : How Law is Suffocating America.

Don’t teach better; just teach less ethically.

In yet another reminder that it’s all about the bureaucracy and not about the child, it turns out that California joins the lists of states lying and cheating to get federal funds (and what a good lesson that is to teach our children):

California and some other states have inflated test outcomes by lowering the achievement standard students need to meet to be proficient in reading and math under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, university researchers say.

It amounts to a dumbing down of how the states calculate student progress, the researchers concluded.

Under No Child Left Behind, individual schools and school districts can be punished for repeatedly failing to meet the federal standards, including restructuring schools and possibly closing them in extreme cases.

Researchers with Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) studied 12 states and found nearly all reported results significantly higher than those gathered through the federal government’s own testing.

Their study confirms long-held suspicions that many states have set a low bar on what it means to be proficient, distorting the true extent to which kids are learning, said Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor of education and public policy and co-director of PACE.

In the process, he said, parents have no clear idea of how their children are progressing.

Regarding the last sentence, the one highlights parents’ ignorance about their children’s progress, I’ll just point to my earlier post on that subject.  It seems to me that parents willingly function in a universe that says, if ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.

I told you so….

Don’t you hate people who say “I told you so”? I do, unless I’m the one saying it. This time, I’m saying it regarding the Israeli troops massed on the Gaza border. But let me back up a bit….

Last night, Mr. Bookworm, who reads only the NY Times, asked me “What the heck are the Israelis doing?” He was not pleased. My response was that the kidnapping served only as an excuse to do what the Israelis intended to do ever since Sharon withdrew the settlers and gave the Palestinians a state: they’re attacking a sovereign state. The “I told you so” in all of this is that, last year, when Sharon began the disengagement, I said (and wrote) that disengagement was a good idea because it gave Israel a sovereign state against which to act. Before, Israel had been waging war on her own territories and the world had castigated her for attacking the victims of her own imperialism. By withdrawing, Israel created a nice, bright line. The Palestinians are now governing themselves and, like any government, must abide by the consequences of their actions.

That Israel was right in the withdrawal (and that she was correct in her assessment that it made military actions easier, not harder) is evidenced, I think, by the surprising fact that the NY Times has actually blamed the Palestinians, not the Israelis, for the looming military action:

The Palestinians who futilely threw up sand berms on Gaza’s main roads to deflect Israeli troop movements were building their defenses in the wrong direction. The responsibility for this latest escalation rests squarely with Hamas, whose military wing tunneled into Israel on Sunday, killed two Israeli soldiers and kidnapped another. This was a follow-up to a declaration earlier this month by Hamas’s political leadership that the group’s 16-month intermittent cease-fire would no longer be observed.  [Emphasis mine.]

As Clarice Feldman, writing at the American Thinker, says, “Maybe Pinch and Keller are both on vacation.”

A harbinger of what will happen if the Dems take the White House again

I know that many of you are like me in that you’re disgusted with the Republican’s profligacy, as well as with other careless, pandering form’s of government in which Republicans engage. Be assured, though, that “punishing” them at election time, both in 2006 and 2008, will be worse. Why? Because the Dems will control the Supreme Court again. And when they control the Supreme Court, you end up with rulings such as this one authored by Stevens (of Kelo fame), that open the door to giving foreign combatants the right to expensive civil trials, complete with all the Constitutional rights guaranteed to Americans:

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The ruling, a strong rebuke to the administration and its aggressive anti-terror policies, was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who said the proposed trials were illegal under U.S. law and international Geneva conventions.

The case focused on Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who worked as a bodyguard and driver for Osama bin Laden. Hamdan, 36, has spent four years in the U.S. prison in Cuba. He faces a single count of conspiring against U.S. citizens from 1996 to November 2001.

The ruling raises major questions about the legal status of about 450 men still being held at Guantanamo and exactly how, when and where the administration might pursue the charges against them.

It also seems likely to further fuel international criticism of the administration, including by many U.S. allies, for its handling of the terror war detainees at Guantanamo in Cuba, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and elsewhere.

Two years ago, the court rejected Bush’s claim that he had authority to seize and detain terrorism suspects and indefinitely deny them access to courts or lawyers. In this follow-up case, the justices focused solely on the issue of trials for some of the men.

The vote was split 5-3, with moderate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court’s liberal members in most of the ruling against the Bush administration. Chief Justice John Roberts, named to the lead the court last September by Bush, was sidelined in the case because as an appeals court judge he had backed the government over Hamdan.

Thursday’s ruling overturned that decision.

***

“Trial by military commission raises separation-of-powers concerns of the highest order,” Kennedy wrote in his separate opinion. “Concentration of power (in the executive branch) puts personal liberty in peril of arbitrary action by officials, an incursion the Constitution’s three-part system is designed to avoid.”

***

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a strongly worded dissent and took the unusual step of reading part of it from the bench _ something he had never done before in his 15 years. He said the court’s decision would “sorely hamper the president’s ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy.”

The court’s willingness, Thomas wrote in the dissent, “to second-guess the determination of the political branches that these conspirators must be brought to justice is both unprecedented and dangerous.”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito also filed dissents.  [Emphasis mine.]

Just how good are they, really?

I spend a lot of time talking to people whose children attend public schools in my fairly affluent area.  What always surprises me is the disconnect between the facts they recite and their ultimate conclusion about our school district.  Their ultimate conclusion is that the school district is just wonderful.  As for their facts?  Well….

One Mom told me how wonderful her daughter’s second grade teacher was.  The example she gave centered on the day her daughter came home with an F on a math exam.  The mother, who was very concerned about this, instantly approached the teacher.  The teacher beneficently promised the Mom that the grade wouldn’t be held against the child because, in fact, all of the children failed the math exam.  The mother was grateful for the teacher’s generosity.  I was shocked.  Shouldn’t the teacher apologize for her abysmal job teaching those students?

Another Mom told me that something great had happened at her school.  The psychotic fourth grade teacher — the one who regularly broke down and cried in the class, and who often hurled insults at the students — was not teaching any longer.  “Oh,” I said.  “Did they fire her?”  Nope.  She was now the PE teacher, where the students would only be exposed to her a couple of times a week.  Tenure kept her firmly tied to the school despite her manifest incompetence.

Yet another Mom told me that, at her son’s school, the school collected all of the text books ten days before final exams.  ‘Nuff said about that one.

Most of the Moms boast about the hours they spend in the classroom assisting their “wonderful” teachers.  Apparently, despite a low student-teacher ratio (about 20-1, plus a part time assistant), these teachers simply can’t get around to spelling basics for all the children.  The mothers always seem taken aback when I suggest that teachers who earn almost $50,000 a year for 8 months of work should be expected to teach the basics without needing the mothers to assist them.

I’ll admit I’m being somewhat nasty here.  Ours is one of the State’s better school districts.  The schools are beautiful; the teachers are, for the most part, kind, committed and normal; the children are nice and test well; and the parents are obviously happy.  I just find bewildering the chasm that sometimes opens up between their experiences and the conclusions they draw.

I’m in trouble

Okay, this is the kind of story that puts me in a panic:

Senior moments, such as forgetting a recent conversation, may be a sign of the process that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, research suggests.

US scientists examined the brains of 134 older people who had appeared mentally sharp, apart from some subtle forgetfulness.

They found more than a third were riddled with the protein clumps associated with Alzheimer’s.

The study is published in the journal Neurology.

Scientists are trying to identify the earliest point in the process that leads to Alzheimer’s, as it is thought that treatment is most likely to be effective if it is given at the earliest possible stage.

Most people had assumed that minor episodes of forgetfulness are nothing to worry about.

The researchers found the brains of people in the study showed levels of deterioration similar to those found in patients with severe Alzheimer’s.

I’m not yet a senior, but I definitely have my moments.  It’s just that, sitting here right now, I can’t quite remember how many moments I have, or when my last one took place.  I’d check my calendar for that info, if I could remember where I put it.

What does it take for a killer to become a cause celebre?

You all recall the almighty hooha when Stanley “Tookie” Williams, an Original Gang member for the Cribs, and a convicted killer of four, was put to death last year. You’d have thought the State of California was executing Mother Theresa. Today, with almost no fanfare, the State of Texas put Maturino Resendiz to death. He was convicted of being the infamous railroad killer. He was convicted for one brutal rape and murder, and connected with 15 others. His trail of death is no more nor less bloody than Tookie’s.

And when he died, no one among the glitterati seemed to care. Is it because he was in faraway, not Texas, and not lovely Marin County? Is it because he’s Hispanic and not black? Is it because he didn’t have someone write a children’s book in his name and mount a campaign to rehabilitate his image in the eyes of the loony Left? Your opinions on this are welcome here.

The Koran, a book of peace — not

I found something that amused me at the Arab News, which calls itself “The Middle East’s Leading English Language Daily.” It was a religious advice column, with someone writing in with this question:

Nowadays Islam is under so much assault with some non-Muslim saying that it is not a peaceful religion. Could you quote some verses in the Qur’an that would convince others of how baseless this whole smear campaign against Islam is?

Now that’s a good question, considering that almost all the concerted violence around the world (as opposed to random, personal crimes) and all the threats of violence, consistently emanate from those purporting to speak for Islam. What’s interesting is the answer from the columnist, Adil Salahi, because it’s a non-answer. He starts by praising the question (always a good tactic to deflect attention for your inability to answer — it’s law school 101):

Thank you for your message that shows that you are a person who does not accept what is said without questioning its truth. This is the mark of an intelligent person.

Then Salahi gets to the meat of his answer:

What you have been told about Islam and the Qur’an is certainly untrue. It is the word of someone who either does not know what he is talking about, or someone whose grudge against Islam blinds him to the truth. It is as the saying goes: The proof of the pudding is in the eating. You only need to open the Qur’an and read to realize that what it calls for is peace, not war.

At this point, I expect the column to dive into a detailed exegesis that highlights every verse in the Koran that calls for peace, and that explains why the Koran’s warlike language is meant symbolically, and not as an incitement to violence. That never happens. Instead, we get the interesting statement that the Koran comes from God, not Muhammed. The only thing I could understand from this was the Salahi, unable to turn away from Mohammed’s warlike acts and pronouncements, is trying to downplay his importance — which strikes me as something close to heresy within the confines of Islam. Thus:

The Prophet has always maintained that he did not write or compose the Qur’an, which is universally agreed to be a book of surpassing literary excellence. Yet Muhammad’s own statements, which we know to be his, are also superb. So, how can anyone attribute the Qur’an to Muhammad when he has repeatedly disclaimed any part in its authorship? Besides, the Qur’an provides numerous proofs that its only author is God Almighty. These begin with its style, which is unlike any human writing, and include its subject matter and different statements.

After we’re assured that it’s God’s book, not Mohammed’s, I’m still expecting those Koranic quotations that will assure me that the violent practitioners around the world are subverting and perverting God’s call for peace and harmony. That never happens. Instead, the author tells us that the Koran is about war and jihad, and certainly authorizes those acts:

The Qur’an certainly speaks about war and jihad. But when we take all statements in the Qur’an about war, and also take into consideration the circumstances prevailing at the time of the revelation of each, and relate this to the final statements, we are bound to have a firm conviction that war in Islam is a defensive one. But we have to add here that its being defensive does not mean that Muslims must wait until they are attacked before taking to arms. It means that they may take measures to remove the threat of aggression.

The article wraps with an attack on the Bible, the US and the UK, all of which prove the point that nations sometimes attack without justification.

If this is a sampling of astute Islamic advocacy and rhetoric, it leaves me cold and unconvinced. After stating an impossible premise — Islam is all about peace — the author first uses sleight of hand to deflect the reader’s attention (let’s talk about the Koran’s authorship), and then reluctantly concedes precisely the opposite point the article is meant to convey. For an example of good analytical writing, which does show that the Koran is obsessed with warfare, try this site.

[The picture is a Janissary, one of the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.]

UPDATE:  Andrew Bostom takes on the “religion of peace” mantra here — and destroys it.

Shilling for Al again

I periodically check out Yahoo’s Most popular news stories site, which only seems to carry articles from the Left side (and Ann Coulter, although I never know how she creeps in there). When I checked just now, the most emailed story was an AP story entitled “Scientists okay Gore’s movie for accuracy.” The article’s summary, meant to entice readers to click to the article itself, said

The nation’s top climate scientists are giving “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy.

Truth be told, I didn’t bother to read the story, assuming that these were “top” scientists as defined by AP — that is, scientists who wholeheartedly concur with Gore’s global warming position. (Just a little bootstrapping there.) They may be right, they may be wrong, but they’re singing the the Gore/AP song. What did pique my interest, though, was a journey to the Drudge Report, which had this headline and link: SENATE COMMITTEE: AP INCORRECTLY CLAIMS SCIENTISTS PRAISE GORE’S MOVIE….

Hmm, I thought, and clicked on the link to check it out. What I found was a press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.  And here’s what the press release has to say (and I’m quoting it in its entirety, since it’s meant for broad dissemination):

The June 27, 2006 Associated Press (AP) article titled “Scientists OK Gore’s Movie for Accuracy” by Seth Borenstein raises some serious questions about AP’s bias and methodology.

AP chose to ignore the scores of scientists who have harshly criticized the science presented in former Vice President Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”

In the interest of full disclosure, the AP should release the names of the “more than 100 top climate researchers” they attempted to contact to review “An Inconvenient Truth.” AP should also name all 19 scientists who gave Gore “five stars for accuracy.” AP claims 19 scientists viewed Gore’s movie, but it only quotes five of them in its article. AP should also release the names of the so-called scientific “skeptics” they claim to have contacted.

The AP article quotes Robert Correll, the chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment group. It appears from the article that Correll has a personal relationship with Gore, having viewed the film at a private screening at the invitation of the former Vice President. In addition, Correll’s reported links as an “affiliate” of a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that provides “expert testimony” in trials and his reported sponsorship by the left-leaning Packard Foundation, were not disclosed by AP. See http://www.junkscience.com/feb06.htm

The AP also chose to ignore Gore’s reliance on the now-discredited “hockey stick” by Dr. Michael Mann, which claims that temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere remained relatively stable over 900 years, then spiked upward in the 20th century, and that the 1990’s were the warmest decade in at least 1000 years. Last week’s National Academy of Sciences report dispelled Mann’s often cited claims by reaffirming the existence of both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. See Senator Inhofe’s statement on the broken “Hockey Stick.”

Gore’s claim that global warming is causing the snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro to disappear has also been debunked by scientific reports. For example, a 2004 study in the journal Nature makes clear that Kilimanjaro is experiencing less snowfall because there’s less moisture in the air due to deforestation around Kilimanjaro.

Here is a sampling of the views of some of the scientific critics of Gore:

Professor Bob Carter, of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University in Australia, on Gore’s film:

“Gore’s circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention.”

“The man is an embarrassment to US science and its many fine practitioners, a lot of whom know (but feel unable to state publicly) that his propaganda crusade is mostly based on junk science.” – Bob Carter as quoted in the Canadian Free Press, June 12, 2006

Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, wrote:

“A general characteristic of Mr. Gore’s approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse.” – Lindzen wrote in an op-ed in the June 26, 2006 Wall Street Journal

Gore’s film also cites a review of scientific literature by the journal Science which claimed 100% consensus on global warming, but Lindzen pointed out the study was flat out incorrect.

“…A study in the journal Science by the social scientist Nancy Oreskes claimed that a search of the ISI Web of Knowledge Database for the years 1993 to 2003 under the key words “global climate change” produced 928 articles, all of whose abstracts supported what she referred to as the consensus view. A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it.”- Lindzen wrote in an op-ed in the June 26, 2006 Wall Street Journal.

Roy Spencer, principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville, wrote an open letter to Gore criticizing his presentation of climate science in the film:

“…Temperature measurements in the arctic suggest that it was just as warm there in the 1930′s…before most greenhouse gas emissions. Don’t you ever wonder whether sea ice concentrations back then were low, too?”- Roy Spencer wrote in a May 25, 2006 column.

Former University of Winnipeg climatology professor Dr. Tim Ball reacted to Gore’s claim that there has been a sharp drop-off in the thickness of the Arctic ice cap since 1970.

“The survey that Gore cites was a single transect across one part of the Arctic basin in the month of October during the 1960s when we were in the middle of the cooling period. The 1990 runs were done in the warmer month of September, using a wholly different technology,” –Tim Ball said, according to the Canadian Free Press.

Could it be that our government is starting to hold the Press to standards that the Press trumpets loudly (honesty and objectivity), but that it always observes more in the breach than in practice?

Today’s journalistic standards yesterday

If we were to repeat the past, I bet you’d find this story in the New York Times, circa July 1944

A secret code breaking group that both Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt authorized has broken a German code and has been using that information to gather intelligence about planned German military assaults, the Times learned from government and military sources. These same sources have revealed that, despite having had access to the Code for more than two years, the British and American forces have not acted to block Nazi military initiatives, thereby resulting in the loss of thousands of American and British military personnel….

I am, of course, talking about the Enigma project at Bletchley Park. You’ve heard about it: Enigma was an early computer that was used to create codes. In theory, the only way to read a letter coded by the Enigma machine was to have another enigma machine and the specific code that would enable you to calibrate the receiving machine the same way as the sending machine. Through a series of planned and accidental events, the British ended up with a German Enigma machine (which had been modified) and a code book. Brilliant scientists and logicians then worked to break the code.

What happened next was . . . very little. The British and Americans suddenly had the ability to decode myriad German communications, including battle and attack plans. The allies could have instantly intercepted even the smallest of these planned attacks, but chose not to — even at the cost of allied soldiers killed in battle. What they realized is that this information would enable the allies to position themselves to win ultimate victories against the Nazis, not just scattered battles. However, if they went after the scattered battles, the Nazis would quickly realize their Code was compromised, and change the code. This, of course, would leave the allies with nothing at all.

So, the allied command structure made the difficult decision to turn a blind eye to useful short term information so as to obtain a maximum long term benefit. Would you have made the same decision? I’d like to think I would. I also know that, if the New York Times in those days was as hostile to the Roosevelt administration as it is now to the Bush administration, the Times would have outed this information at the earliest possible opportunity, and would have done so in a way most likely to injure the administration — war effort be damned.

Why the ACLU’s principles are right, even if its practices are wrong

I don’t like the ACLU. I think it’s an agenda drive organization, in thrall to Bush Derangement Syndrome. This means it takes its theoretical focus — the preservation of individual rights against the state — and simply attempts, time and time again, to subvert that goal to striking out at the Bush administration, specifically, and at conservatives generally. The thing, though, is that its core idea — the preservation of individual rightse against the state — is right on the money. I’ll tell you why.

I was reading a book about Soviet Russia and, as always, was stunned by the cruelty that individuals in the USSR directed against their fellow countrymen.  I was watching a movie about WWII Japan and was stunned by the movie’s depiction of the callous disregard Japanese exhibited to those Japanese who weren’t “with the program. “  I was watching a movie about the savagery the Nazis inflicted on priests during WWII, which was a good reminder of the Nazis’ subhuman behavior with regard to all whom they wished to destroy. And every day I’ve been reading the news about the atrocities that Islamofascists commit against everyone who doesn’t conform precisely to any particular sword-wielder’s vision of Islam.

In each case, I ask myself how can societies produce individuals who will turn on their own in this way?  And, the mirror question, why has our country, for the most part, avoided this type of conduct?  In each case, my answer was that the societies I’ve described value the state (or the state religion) above the individual.  In this way, these societies are markedly distinguishable from the Western tradition, which reached its apex in the American Bill of Rights, which values the individual above the state.

States have no conscience.  When the state becomes the paramount virtue in a community, the state’s goals trump individual needs and the state, acting through individuals in thrall to that state, will do anything — no matter about cruel and debased — to ensure the primacy of those goals.

Keep this point in mind when you contemplate the end of Europe — and it is ending.  Much is made of the fact that it’s ending through multiculturalism, declining childbirth rates amongst Europeans, and increased fertility and aggression amongst immigrant Muslims.  None of this could have happened though, if socialism hadn’t instructed the Europeans to place themselves in the government’s hands.  Cradle to grave care, with its focus on the state, and its concurrent subordination of individual needs and desires, is rushing Europe along the same path Germany trod in the 1930s and Russia in the wake of the Communist Revolution.  In this way, the ground is being prepared for an Islamic takeover.  Europeans have already been trained that the state’s dictates matter above all else.  As Islam emerges triumphant, Europeans will just attach themselves to a different, although less generous and more brutal, government teat.

You should also keep this in mind when you contemplate the Democrats’/Liberals’ desire to turn over more and more to the Government.  They want the government to run our businesses, control the lives of our poor, dictate our scientific research, take our money, determine our health care, decide how we protect ourselves, teach our children correct government think, etc.  In other words, they want to remove the individual from the equation and to place the government as the central focus of every America’s day-to-day existence.  That’s why the ACLU, although its practices are so one-sided as to be perverted, has the right idea — the less the government controls, the better.

By the way, I’m not advocating removing the government from all spheres of life.  There are certain roles the government needs to fulfill — most notably security at home and abroad.  And this security is going to bring with it inevitable tensions between the state’s goals and the individual’s needs and freedoms.  That’s why the Founders, in their wisdom, created a system of checks and balances.  Recognizing that individuals, who should be paramount, can also turn into uncontrolled mobs, they created a representative democracy.  It is the responsibility of these representatives, who should be zealously guarding their ability to stand up to the executive branch, to make sure that individual rights are being protected.

No system is perfect, and ours is going to be subject to the failures of individuals and the ebbs and flows of world events, but it’s still the best system going.  And its virtues arise from the fact that, in America, the state exists to help the individual, not control him.

[By the way, I chose the picture of God and Adam to illustrate this post because I think it perfectly exemplifies how important the individual is in classic Western culture.  He's not being controlled by God, he's being touched by God.]

Representative government

Better thinkers and writers than I have tackled Bill Keller’s letter to the public justifying his blithe release of security secrets. One thing he wrote, though, stuck in my mind, and I haven’t read anyone yet who has commented on this point:

It’s not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don’t know about it. [Emphasis mine.]

Is it possible that Bill Keller is unaware that we’re a representative Democracy, not a direct Democracy? That is, under our system of government as envisioned by the Founders, we do not function as a Townhall where every single one of us gets to weigh in on each government initiative. The fact that our representatives — Congress — got to hear about and pass on this program is sufficient. There is no reason to tell us about a top secret, legal, program to “follow the money” and, given the security concerns, every reason not to tell us about it.

On the Times’ overreaching

I think Heather MacDonald has an excellent summary of the fundamental errors lying behind the NY Times’ hubristic thinking that it is the appropriate gatekeeper of this nation’s security secrets:

The bottom line is this: No classified secret necessary to fight terrorism is safe once the Times hears of it, at least as long as the Bush administration is in power. The Times justifies its national security breaches by the mere hypothetical possibility of abuse–without providing any evidence that this financial tracking program, or any other classified antiterror initiative that it has revealed, actually has been abused. To the contrary, the paper reports that one employee was taken off the Swift program for conducting a search that did not obviously fall within the guidelines.

The truth the Times evades is that while every power, public or private, can be misused, the mere possibility of abuse does not mean that a necessary power should be discarded. Instead, the rational response is to create checks that minimize the risk of abuse. Under the Times‘s otherworldly logic, the United States might be better off with no government at all, because governmental power can be abused. It should not have newspapers, because the power of the press can be abused to harm the national interest (as the Times so amply demonstrates). Police forces should be disbanded, because police officers can overstep their authority. National security wiretaps? Heavens! Expose all of them.

The Times implies a second reason it ignored the government’s fervent requests to protect the program’s secrecy: Large databases were involved. The Times has an attack of the vapors whenever evidence of terrorist planning is found in databases, reasoning that any program to harvest that evidence is a privacy threat and should be exposed. Such logic, if taken seriously, would mean an end to all computerized investigations and would create an impregnable shield to terrorist activity in cyberspace. Anything a terrorist does that is recorded by computers will by its very nature be interspersed among records of millions if not billions or trillions of innocent transactions by unrelated parties. That fact alone should not disable the government from seeking the evidence; it merely means that the government should follow existing procedures governing the collection of evidence–as, in the case of the Swift program, it has.

Essentially, the Times is saying that Americans should trust its little self-selected coterie of Manhattan journalists over the elected officials of the United States.  And anyone who thinks that way has already gone a long way towards a scary megalomania that needs to be controlled.

Evangelical Christianity without the Christian part

NPR loves to interview RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) or CHRINOs (Christians in Name Only) to make the point that the currently self-identified Republicans or Christians are imposters who have wandered into the wilderness, abandoning true Republicanism or true Christianity. These interviewees may, of course, be correct, and those who consider themselves true, modern Republicans or Christians may be on the wrong side of history. Nevertheless, it’s always rather striking what unconvincing arguments the interviewees make. The latest example is NPR’s interview with Randall Balmer, a Columbia professor who has written a book — Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament — stating the modern conservative Evangelicals are, essentially, fakes.

Let me say immediately that I haven’t read Balmer’s book; I’ve only heard the NPR interview. This means that I’m basing all my conclusions on a four minute interview and not on the more substantive arguments (I assume they exist) that Balmer makes in his book.

Balmer’s first point is that, in the 19th Century, Evangelicals were cutting edge people, pushing for, in his words, “progressive” issues, such as abolition and women’s education. From this, he appears to argue that modern Evangelicals are failing by not being progressives. This is a peculiar argument. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that 19th Century Evangelical movements were grounded in the Bible and that 21st Century Evangelical movements are also grounded in the Bible. That is, just as Evangelicals believed that the Bible militated against slavery, so too do they believe the Bible militates against abortion — the death of children in utero.*

Indeed, Balmer makes no mention of religion at all. Instead, Balmer seems to believe that, because Evangelicals protested at the cutting edge 150 years before, they should automatically do so now. In this way, his argument is remarkably similar to that used by the current anti-War movement: It was right thirty years ago to be on the barricades protesting the Vietnam war so now, thirty years on, under entirely different circumstances, with an entirely different enemy, it’s again right that, unthinkingly, Evangelicals should once more mount those barricades. So too, Balmer seems to say, with Evangelical Christians, if it was right to think progressively about ending slavery in 1856, so too is it right in 2006 for Christians to harmonize their religious beliefs with whatever cause is currently considered progressive.

Balmer is also very disturbed about the fact that he can’t get pro-Life Evangelicals to get equally excited about the death penalty or about using torture to elicit information from prisoners. Again, because religion doesn’t actually factor into his analysis, he doesn’t seem to recognize, or be ready to address, the Evangelical argument that the fetus is an innocent, while the prisoner on death row (assuming a rightful conviction) is a cognizant actor who made his own fate. The same holds true for torture of prisoners (and I use the term torture advisedly, because I’m not ready to call fake menstrual blood or undies on the head torture). Those men who are at the receiving end of such treatment are combatants, who willingly threw themselves into the maelstrom of war.

In any event, I found Balmer’s four minutes of air time remarkably unconvincing and strangely lacking in any religious context. In this regard, it reminded me strongly of an interview I heard a year or so ago (also on NPR) with that gay Episcopalian Bishop elected back East. He didn’t make any effort to provide a doctrinal basis for embracing homosexuality within the new church. Instead, this man of the cloth, presumably well-versed in Church doctrine, fell back on New Age talk about God is Love, sex is love, love is love, he’s in love, blah, blah, blah. Ultimately, while the Bishop’s viewpoint may be the correct one, as embraced by future generations, it fell short as convincing argument.

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* I’ll say, at this point, as I always do, that I’m a formerly die-hard pro-Choice person and that I have not migrated wholehearted to a pro-Life position. Unlike Balmer, though, I’m able to recognize the consistent religious basis for the pro-Life movement, and to recognize the inherent inconsistencies in my own position.

Fighting war to win

My father, who knew what he was talking about, always said, "You fight a war to win."  I don't remember him having a pro or con view regarding Vietnam.  I do remember that he was disgusted by the fact that the biggest military superpower in the world couldn't just go in, win, and get out again. 

The same is true of our tactics in Iraq.  If we truly wanted to win this war, we could do so, and do so quickly.  We're afraid, however, of our own strength, and too many of us doubt the righteousness of our cause — and that's Diana West's point in this truly excellent column.  I urge you to read the whole thing, but I'll share this quotation with you as an incentive:

In the 21st century, however, there is something that our society values more than our own lives — and more than the survival of civilization itself. That something may be described as the kind of moral superiority that comes from a good wallow in Abu Ghraib, Haditha, CIA interrogations or Guantanamo Bay. Morally superior people — Western elites — never "humiliate" prisoners, never kill civilians, never torture or incarcerate jihadis. Indeed, they would like to kill, I mean, prosecute, or at least tie the hands of anyone who does.

This, of course, only enhances their own moral superiority. But it doesn't win wars. And it won't save civilization.

Why not? Because such smugness masks a massive moral paralysis.

I need to have someone explain an article to me

The article, at the New York Times, is called "Another Kennedy Living Dangerously."  The little promo for it at the NY Times website — the one that's supposed to have you clicking over to read the full article, says "The environmentalist turns crusader and goes out on a political limb. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. takes on a cause that Democrats shy away from and Republicans scorn as a conspiracy theory." 

Read the article and you get a reminder that Kennedy wrote yet one more "coming from the Left" article about how the Republicans stole the 2004 election.  Because of his Kennedy cachet, he got the Rolling Stones as the venue for his conspiracy theory.  He also got to tout it a lot at Air America.  The article also says he, in concert with Al Gore and Laurie David, is an "environmental crusader."  

The article implies that Kennedy is living on some sort of political cliff, with one foot over the edge.  Considering that he's espousing causes near and dear to the liberal heart, and that he's in synch with everything the NY Times believes, where's the danger?  Is it that he likes slightly risky sports?  Is the NY Times actually implying that, if you have a political agenda contrary to the Republicans, your life is at risk?

Can anyone explain this to me? 

Timely tough talk

Israel has never negotiated for hostages.  Israeli operatives have always known that, if they fall into Arab hands, they're on their own.  But apparently the atrocities visited on Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca decided the Israelis that this type of stuff is not going to happen on their watch.  How else to explain this type of talk:

Israel will work to ensure the Hamas-led government falls if a soldier kidnapped by Palestinian militants is not released alive, a high-ranking security official said.

"We will make sure that the Hamas government ceases to operate if the kidnapped soldier is not returned to us alive," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

As every parent knows, never make a threat you don't intend to act upon.  I hope Israel means what it says. 

A sad end to a questionable career

Some time ago, I blogged about the UC Santa Cruz chancellor, Denice Denton, who was profiled in the SF Chron because of her very questionable expenditures — including getting a cush, pricey job for her lover.  It turns out that she wasn't only someone who used power unethically, she was also a very depressed person — a depression that eventually culminated in her taking her life by diving off the top of the luxury apartment building in which her lover lived:

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton, apparently despondent over work and personal issues, died Saturday after she jumped from the roof of a 42-story San Francisco apartment building, police said. Denton's partner, Gretchen Kalonji, has an apartment in the building, property records show.

Denton, a well-regarded engineer, had been named this spring in a series of articles examining UC management compensation. She had been criticized for an expensive university-funded renovation on her campus home, and for obtaining a UC administrative job for Kalonji.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if, right now, there are some very guilty people at the Chronicle (editors and writers), all feeling that they drove this poor woman to her death.  If they do feel this way, I think I'd have to counsel them against taking on this moral responsibility.  There is no question but that Denton did the acts alleged:  that is, it's unquestioned that she used public funds for her own, and her lover's benefit.  That was Denton's choice, and with that choice went the possiblity that she'd be exposed.  That she couldn't handle this exposure — or that she had depressive and suicidal tendencies built into her genetic hard drive — is not the media's fault.

It's a little strange, isn't it, to hear me defend the media?  The thing is that, in this case, I think the media did what the media was supposed to do.  Rather than being driven by a political meme or agenda, it engaged in a perfect example of true investigative reporting by following the money, and then telling the story.  It didn't reveal state secrets, it didn't harass her because of political ideology, it didn't stifle other information in the proces — it simply exposed wrongdoing by someone with access to the public till.

It's ultimately a personal tragedy, and I hope that this troubled woman finds some peace in the afterlife — a peace that apparently eluded her when she set off on a convoluted and self-serving path several years ago.

Time is on my side

It's no secret that large chunks of the Western world are in demographic decline. Mark Steyn has focused on the fact relentlessly in a series of articles (with the most recent being an article, first published in the New Criterion and then republished in the WSJ). The most recent article I read on the subject is Eric Cohn's "Why Have Children," in Commentary. The numbers Cohn cites are familiar and striking:

Since the 1950’s, the total fertility rate (TFR) in Europe has fallen from 2.7 to 1.38—an astounding 34 percent below the replacement rate of 2.1, which is the average number of children per couple needed for a society to sustain itself. Japan’s fertility rate is 1.32, and its average age is already forty-two years and climbing. (The world average, by comparison, is in the mid-twenties.) A large number of nations, including Russia, Spain, Italy, South Korea, and the Czech Republic, have TFR’s between 1.0 and 1.3; some of these nations (most notably Russia) are already experiencing rapid population decline. Generations of children are growing up without brothers or sisters, and a sizable percentage of men and women in the most advanced nations will never have any children at all.

Two conspicuous exceptions are America, which is holding its own, but only slightly, and third world and Middle Eastern countries — especially Muslim countries.  Muslims are also doing their bit within Europe, where their birth rate is three times higher than the average European birth rate. 

What all this means for the spread of Islam is that patient Islamists can say, as the Stones used to say, "Time is on my side."  If they just wait around another 40 or so years, the world will be theirs demographically.  That being the case, I'm wondering why the sudden rush to Islamicization now? 

Events such as 9/11, or the London subway/bus bombings, or the Spanish train bombing, or the Theo Van Gogh slaughter are ever so slowly making the world aware of the threat.  Indeed, there's even a possibility that, with this awareness, the Western world still has the ability to stop the threat.  If recent headlines coming out of Europe are true, the Europeans, while still mouthing multicultural platitudes, are beginning to react.  France, for example, has toughened its immigration lawsCanada and England are beginning to be aware of, and to crack down on, terrorists in their midst.  America, of course, is at full scale war with two countries housing these extreme practitioners of the "Religion of Peace."

Two answers occur to me when I think about the Islamic rush to war.  First, they think the numbers are already sufficiently on their side to make waiting necessary.  If they're right, that's a really scary thought; if they're wrong, we benefit from their miscalculation.  The second is that, because radical Islamists are fundamentalists, and don't function in a world of rational thinking, they couldn't care less about demographics.  Their pot has boiled, and they're ready to explode, regardless of the strategic benefits of time.