Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More recognition...

...of Mike Huckabee as Bush 3.0--this time from National Review's Jonah Goldberg (who doesn't regard this as a good thing).

--Shack

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A primary debate ideal

Don Surber, disgusted with the final Iowa debates--and especially with the final Iowa debates' moderator--lays out the kind of primary debate he'd like to see:

Give them one question and 5 minutes to answer. Have each answer it. Allow a 2-minute rebuttal. For 8 candidates, that would take an hour. Then allow re-rebuttals, ad infinitum. Cable TV news is not so inflexible that it cannot give these guys 2 hours, 3 hours, till the cows come home hours.

Give them the question in advance so they can answer precisely how they feel.

Let them take potshots at one another.

Let them say whatever they want.

Then, when they are finished, politely thank them for their time.

Quit having the tail try to wag the damned dog.



Seconded.

--Shack

Reiteration: Cheating? In BASEBALL?

I originally posted this back in May; my thoughts haven't changed since then, so with the fallout from the Mitchell report in full swing, this seems like a good time for a repost:

Now, there are plenty of excellent reasons to denounce steroid use in baseball: it's bad for the players' health, it's a terrible example for youth, etc.

What I've heard more than enough of, though, is that steroids in baseball are bad because it's "cheating," and that impugns the "integrity of the game" and its hallowed statistics.

With any other sport, people might have a point.

But this is baseball.

This is the sport of sign-stealing, spitballs, corked bats, doctored balls, planted balls, midget batters, beanballs, fast/slow home fields, mind games, and every other dirty trick you could possibly think of and/or get away with.

When it comes to baseball, the rule is that if you can get away with it, more power to you. Cheaters aren't denounced because they cheated; they're denounced because they got caught.

What's the problem people have with steroids in baseball? If you ask me, it's because it's too easy to do. It doesn't take skill to use steroids--and that sets steroids apart from pretty much every other dirty trick in the history of the sport.

If sportswriters want to denounce steroid users for grabbing an easy/cheap advantage over the opposition, more power to them. But they shouldn't pretend that they're upholding the integrity of a game that has thrived for more than a century on finding ways to break the rules.

And those are my first and last words on the subject.

They remain my first and last words on the subject.

--Shack

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bush 3.0 = "Easy kill"

A couple of months ago, when Mike Huckabee was just beginning to emerge as a serious contender for the GOP nomination, I took a look at him and came to the conclusion that he was, in essence, candidate George W. Bush, circa 2000--just with updated labels. At the time, I dubbed Huckabee "Bush 3.0" and, on that basis, concluded that he would be slaughtered if he managed to make it to the general election.

It looks like the Democratic National Committee agrees with me.

Drudge reports:

Democrat party officials are avoiding any and all criticism of Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee, insiders reveal.

The Democratic National Committee has told staffers to hold all fire, until he secures the party's nomination.

The directive has come down from the highest levels within the party, according to a top source.

Within the DNC, Huckabee is known as the "glass jaw -- and they're just waiting to break it."

In the last three weeks since Huckabee's surge kicked in, the DNC hasn't released a single press release criticizing his rising candidacy.

The last DNC press release critical of Huckabee appeared back on March 2nd.

[DNC Press Release Attack Summary:

Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) – 37% (99 press releases)
Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) – 28% (74)
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) – 24% (64)
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) – 8% (20)
Governor Mike Huckabee – 2% (4)]

In fact, as the story broke over the weekend that Huckabee said he wanted to isolate AIDS patients back in 1992, the DNC ignored the opportunity to slam the candidate from the left.

"He'll easily be their McGovern, an easy kill," mocked one senior Democrat operative Tuesday morning from Washington.

"His letting out murderers because they shout 'Jesus', his wanting to put 300,000 AIDS patients and Magic Johnson into isolation, ain't even scratching the surface of what we've got on him."

Regardless of how well he does in Iowa, I don't think there's much of a chance of Huckabee winning the nomination. However, he's someone that a Rudy Giuliani, for example, might seriously consider as a running mate, because of his regional and issue appeal.

In which case the appropriate label might not be "Bush 3.0," but "Quayle version 2."

--Shack

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rudy's priest problem

No, not the one about how they should be denying him Communion--I mean the one about how he has a priest who happens to be an alleged sexual abuser for an adviser.

InsideCatholic.com columnist Deal Hudson assesses the potential scandal of Giuliani's association with Monsignor Alan Placa:

Although the relationship between Placa and Giuliani has been widely reported, it has yet to become an issue in Giuliani's presidential run. Could it be that Giuliani's capacity for loyalty to an old friend is more important to voters, particularly Catholic voters, than anything else?

The suspension of Placa's priestly duties has now reached the five-year point, far beyond the norm in such cases. Will Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre remove Placa's priestly faculties during the presidential campaign? That would be both an embarrassment for Giuliani and an implicit admission by the diocese that the case against the monsignor was serious. Of course, given Giuliani's legendary influence in the New York metropolitan area, Placa's faculties are not likely to be removed before the election.

If Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee, his pro-abortion view is not likely to be the only issue troubling to Catholic voters. Catholics in the United States have just passed through the most tumultuous period in their history since the public school riots of the mid-19th century. Catholics want to put the sex abuse crisis behind them -- and a Giuliani nomination will keep the name of Msgr. Alan J. Placa in the headlines. It will become widely known that Placa stands accused of abuse, but perhaps more importantly, he stands accused of preventing and delaying "the discovery of criminal abuse by priests."

This hardly comports with Giuliani's law-and-order image, and it will not help him to convince Catholics to trust his judgment as the future leader of our nation.


If it's not an issue now, you can be darned well sure that, should Giuliani somehow win the nomination, Hillary Clinton will make it an issue.

And that makes it one more big hole in Giuliani's case for the GOP to abandon its principles simply because he's "electable."

--Shack

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Taking Blackmun at his word

WorldNetDaily reports that Colorado is moving forward with a voter initiative to declare that the unborn are persons from fertilization onward. (H/T Dad29)

This takes advantage of Justice Harry Blackmun's observation in Roe v. Wade that, if the unborn is found to be a person, he or she would then have a right to life specifically guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. (Blackmun then used an argument from silence to conclude that the Fourteenth Amendment didn't cover the unborn.)

It must be said that it's about time. The pro-life movement has been on its heels on the core of the issue for far too long.

It must also be said, though, that there is no chance whatsoever of this passing. South Dakota, a far more conservative state than Colorado, couldn't get a less comprehensive abortion ban through its voters.

And note the reason that I call South Dakota's ban less comprehensive: by guaranteeing personhood at fertilization, the Colorado initiative bans not only abortion, but all embryonic stem cell research--public and private--as well. In the present political and cultural climate, once that fact is pointed out--and it will be--the measure is doomed.

It must further be said that I am acting much like Democrats were in the impeachment fiasco last week--I'd be far less supportive of this if I thought it actually had a chance of passing.

Why? Because it's too soon. If this did pass, it would be challenged in court. It would go to the US Supreme Court. And barring the 2008 election of a Republican president, a Republican Senate, and a quick retirement of one of the Court's liberal justices, what you would almost certainly see is the Court, by a 5-4 vote, offering a Dred Scott for abortion--closing Blackmun's Roe loophole, and definitively declaring that the unborn are not and cannot be persons.

That would effectively close off the courts. The Human Life Amendment would be the only arrow left in the pro-life movement's quiver--and that has no chance of passing while this generation is ascendant.

We're only going to get one shot at this. If we blow it, it'll be decades before we get this close again.

--Shack

Thank you, Ma'am. May we have another?

The New Republic examines Hillary Clinton's love-hate relationship with the media. To put it briefly, the media does the loving, and Hillary does the hating:

Reporters who have covered the hyper-vigilant campaign say that no detail or editorial spin is too minor to draw a rebuke. Even seasoned political journalists describe reporting on Hillary as a torturous experience. Though few dare offer specifics for the record--"They're too smart," one furtively confides. "They'll figure out who I am"--privately, they recount excruciating battles to secure basic facts. Innocent queries are met with deep suspicion. Only surgically precise questioning yields relevant answers. Hillary's aides don't hesitate to use access as a blunt instrument, as when they killed off a negative GQ story on the campaign by threatening to stop cooperating with a separate Bill Clinton story the magazine had in the works. Reporters' jabs and errors are long remembered, and no hour is too odd for an angry phone call. Clinton aides are especially swift to bypass reporters and complain to top editors. "They're frightening!" says one reporter who has covered Clinton. "They don't see [reporting] as a healthy part of the process. They view this as a ruthless kill-or-be-killed game."

Despite all the grumbling, however, the press has showered Hillary with strikingly positive coverage. "It's one of the few times I've seen journalists respect someone for beating the hell out of them," says a veteran Democratic media operative. The media has paved a smooth road for signature campaign moments like Hillary's campaign launch and her health care plan rollout and has dutifully advanced campaign-promoted themes like Hillary's "experience" and expertise in military affairs.

Charlie Sykes suggests, somewhat facetiously, that this is an example of Stockholm Syndrome. Looking deeper, though, Michael Crowley raises an excellent point a little later in the article:

It's enough to make you suspect that breeding fear and paranoia within the press corps is itself part of the Clinton campaign's strategy. And, if that sounds familiar, it may be because the Clinton machine, say reporters and pro-Hillary Democrats, is emulating nothing less than the model of the Bush White House, which has treated the press with thinly veiled contempt and minimal cooperation. "The Bush administration changed the rules," as one scribe puts it--and the Clintonites like the way they look.

To say that the media has not rewarded the Bush administration's treatment of reporters with favorable coverage would have to merit one consideration for understatement of the year, if not decade. So this naturally raises the question: Why is the media bending over for Hillary?

TNR being TNR, the article doesn't even bother to try to answer the question (though given TNR's readership, Crowley may have assumed the answer to be a given).

For the rest of us, it should give some inkling of just how badly the mainstream media wants a Democrat in the White House--with Hillary the Inevitable (TM) being their first choice.

--Shack

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dismantling a "religious" dismissal

On Sunday, the LA Times published a column by Garry Wills titled, "Abortion isn't a religious issue." The statement made by the title is true.

It is also just about the last true thing in the column, which was almost a laundry list of some of the pro-choice movement's most popular, most deceptive, and most deeply flawed arguments.

What makes opposition to abortion the issue it is for each of the GOP presidential candidates is the fact that it is the ultimate "wedge issue" -- it is nonnegotiable. The right-to-life people hold that it is as strong a point of religion as any can be. It is religious because the Sixth Commandment (or the Fifth by Catholic count) says, "Thou shalt not kill." For evangelical Christians, in general, abortion is murder. That is why what others think, what polls say, what looks practical does not matter for them. One must oppose murder, however much rancor or controversy may ensue.

I always get a good chuckle whenever I hear someone claim that opposition to abortion is and must be religious in nature. The most vehement pro-lifer I've ever encountered was an outspoken atheist--a transvestite, no less--whose vicious verbal assaults upon those who were pro-choice were matched only by his attacks against religion. (Now that I think on it, the split contempt reminds me a great deal of Christopher Hitchens, though with regards to Iraq rather than abortion.)

Of course, anecdotal evidence like this and a quarter won't even get me a phone call, if there are any phone booths left. So, for the moment, let's just point out that Wills is conflating the contention that abortion is murder with the religiously-fueled obligation to oppose that murder--the latter is the genuine article, and its role is virtually identical to that of religious involvement/leadership in the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s.

But is abortion murder? Most people think not. Evangelicals may argue that most people in Germany thought it was all right to kill Jews. But the parallel is not valid. Killing Jews was killing persons. It is not demonstrable that killing fetuses is killing persons. Not even evangelicals act as if it were. If so, a woman seeking an abortion would be the most culpable person. She is killing her own child. But the evangelical community does not call for her execution.

Actually, the parallel is not only valid, it's precise. People in Germany thought it was all right to kill a Jew because, in their opinion, they weren't killing a person--they were killing something less than a person, something inferior.

Note also the sly implication that the "evangelical community" would call for the mother's stoning execution. Leaving aside the heated controversy over capital punishment, where Wills mistakenly believes there to be monolithic consensus--it's widely recognized by the pro-life movement, religious and irreligious alike, that in an abortion, the mother is at least as much a victim as she is a perpetrator.

The central criminal in an abortion is the abortionist. There lies the brunt of the responsibility.

About 10% of evangelicals, according to polls, allow for abortion in the case of rape or incest. But the circumstances of conception should not change the nature of the thing conceived. If it is a human person, killing it is punishing it for something it had nothing to do with. We do not kill people because they had a criminal parent.

Wills is exactly right about the hard answer: there are no legitimate exceptions for rape or incest (one of the few things he's right about). But I have to say--only 10%? A higher percentage of evangelicals voted for John Kerry in 2004!

Nor did the Catholic Church treat abortion as murder in the past. If it had, late-term abortions and miscarriages would have called for treatment of the well-formed fetus as a person, which would require baptism and a Christian burial. That was never the practice. And no wonder.

This is ridiculous. Wills would seriously have you believe that the Catholic Church baptizes corpses?! What in the world does he think baptism is for?

The subject of abortion is not scriptural. For those who make it so central to religion, this seems an odd omission. Abortion is not treated in the Ten Commandments -- or anywhere in Jewish Scripture. It is not treated in the Sermon on the Mount -- or anywhere in the New Testament. It is not treated in the early creeds. It is not treated in the early ecumenical councils.

(emphasis mine) Chapter 2 of the Didache (circa AD 100) says "Hi."

Lacking scriptural guidance, St. Thomas Aquinas worked from Aristotle's view of the different kinds of animation -- the nutritive (vegetable) soul, the sensing (animal) soul and the intellectual soul. Some people used Aristotle to say that humans therefore have three souls. Others said that the intellectual soul is created by human semen.

Aquinas denied both positions. He said that a material cause (semen) cannot cause a spiritual product. The intellectual soul (personhood) is directly created by God "at the end of human generation." This intellectual soul supplants what had preceded it (nutritive and sensory animation). So Aquinas denied that personhood arose at fertilization by the semen. God directly infuses the soul at the completion of human formation.

Wills devotes considerable attention to Aquinas' musings--musings based on Aristotle, the best source Aquinas had to work with, but a source which has been almost completely replaced in the present--with the apparent sneering implication that this is the basis for pro-life opposition to abortion today.

Much of the debate over abortion is based on a misconception -- that it is a religious issue, that the pro-life advocates are acting out of religious conviction. It is not a theological matter at all. There is no theological basis for defending or condemning abortion.

A rehashing of Wills' false conflation of the two aspects of the pro-life case from the start of the column.

Even popes have said that the question of abortion is a matter of natural law, to be decided by natural reason. Well, the pope is not the arbiter of natural law. Natural reason is.

John Henry Newman, a 19th century Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism, once wrote that "the pope, who comes of revelation, has no jurisdiction over nature." The matter must be decided by individual conscience, not by religious fiat. As Newman said: "I shall drink to the pope, if you please -- still, to conscience first, and to the pope afterward."

If we are to decide the matter of abortion by natural law, that means we must turn to reason and science, the realm of Enlightened religion. But that is just what evangelicals want to avoid. Who are the relevant experts here? They are philosophers, neurobiologists, embryologists. Evangelicals want to exclude them because most give answers they do not want to hear. The experts have only secular expertise, not religious conviction. They, admittedly, do not give one answer -- they differ among themselves, they are tentative, they qualify. They do not have the certitude that the religious right accepts as the sign of truth.

Wills only wishes that the pro-life movement wants to avoid reason and science. By any objective, quantifiable, testable measurement, there is no difference between a human being before or after birth, save age and appearance.

It's only when you introduce subjective, unreliable, unverifiable, qualitative standards that you can find differences of opinion, that you can find any uncertainty on the question at all. And into whose province do these decidedly "non-Enlightened" prejudices fall?

Philosophers--whom Wills proclaims to be "relevant experts," alongside neurobiologists and embryologists.

"One of these things is not like the other...one of these things just doesn't belong..."

So evangelicals take shortcuts. They pin everything on being pro-life. But one cannot be indiscriminately pro-life.

If one claimed, in the manner of Albert Schweitzer, that all life deserved moral respect, then plants have rights, and it might turn out that we would have little if anything to eat. And if one were consistently pro-life, one would have to show moral respect for paramecia, insects, tissue excised during a medical operation, cancer cells, asparagus and so on. Harvesting carrots, on a consistent pro-life hypothesis, would constitute something of a massacre.

Opponents of abortion will say that they are defending only human life. It is certainly true that the fetus is human life. But so is the semen before it fertilizes; so is the ovum before it is fertilized. They are both human products, and both are living things. But not even evangelicals say that the destruction of one or the other would be murder.

There are only two charitable interpretations of the above, an appallingly common pro-choice argument: Either Wills has forgotten everything he learned in Biology 101, or he flunked that class.

The semen and the ovum are haploid sex cells. They are recognizably part of their source organisms. They are incapable of growth or metabolism or adaptation. They have a single, specific function--to merge with their gender counterparts. If that function is not met within a very short timeframe, then the cells will die.

The newly fertilized human being, by contrast, is a diploid cell. He/she (and yes, he/she already has a gender at this point) possesses a unique genetic code, recognizably distinct from both father and mother, and a distinct genetic blueprint. He/she is capable of metabolism and growth--has in fact already begun to grow--and barring outside interference, will continue to grow and develop along the lines of that blueprint.

Equating these, as Wills and far too many pro-choicers do, is an exercise in pure ignorance. The only question is whether that ignorance is deliberate.

Defenders of the fetus say that life begins only after the semen fertilizes the egg, producing an embryo. But, in fact, two-thirds of the embryos produced this way fail to live on because they do not embed in the womb wall. Nature is like fertilization clinics -- it produces more embryos than are actually used. Are all the millions of embryos that fail to be embedded human persons?

Time for another hard answer: YES. They die in mass numbers, without anyone even knowing they were there--but in every quantifiable way, they differ from us only in age and appearance.

The universal mandate to preserve "human life" makes no sense. My hair is human life -- it is not canine hair, and it is living. It grows. When it grows too long, I have it cut. Is that aborting human life? The same with my growing human fingernails. An evangelical might respond that my hair does not have the potential to become a person. True. But semen has the potential to become a person, and we do not preserve every bit of semen that is ejaculated but never fertilizes an egg.

A rehashing of the idiotic "every sperm is a person" argument from above, with a little wrinkle added in: the "potential person," the all-purpose pro-choice fallback. Can't answer a pro-life argument? No worries. "It's only a potential person. Why? Because I said so!"

And even more insultingly, he puts "potential person" in the mouth of the pro-lifer!

The question is not whether the fetus is human life but whether it is a human person, and when it becomes one. Is it when it is capable of thought, of speech, of recognizing itself as a person, or of assuming the responsibilities of a person? Is it when it has a functioning brain? Aquinas said that the fetus did not become a person until God infused the intellectual soul.

Back to the philosophers, and their subjective standards--which, we are to understand, work for them, and so cannot be challenged in any way. Wills sneakily lumps Aquinas in with these, thus trying to imply that pro-lifers' standards are based on these same, "works-for-them" standards.

Note the line of thought here. Wills isn't looking for the beginning of personhood, with the idea that it's to be protected and cherished from there on out. He's looking for a beginning of personhood so that any human beings before that stage can be relegated to subhuman status, and killed freely.

A functioning brain is not present in the fetus until the end of the sixth month at the earliest.

Not surprisingly, that is the earliest point of viability, the time when a fetus can successfully survive outside the womb.

The fact that six months is currently the earliest point of viability has less to do with the development of the brain and more to do with current medical technology. As the science advances, that viability point is going to keep being pushed further and further back--and, conversely, in places where that medical technology is not available, the point of viability is much later than six months.

Whether through serendipity or through some sort of causal connection, it now seems that the onset of a functioning central nervous system with a functioning cerebral cortex and the onset of viability occur around the same time -- the end of the second trimester, a time by which 99% of all abortions have already occurred.

Opponents of abortion like to show sonograms of the fetus reacting to stimuli. But all living cells have electric and automatic reactions. These are like the reactions of Terri Schiavo when she was in a permanent vegetative state. Aquinas, following Aristotle, called the early stage of fetal development vegetative life. The fetus has a face long before it has a brain. It has animation before it has a command center to be aware of its movements or to experience any reaction as pain.

Wills invoking Schiavo is instructive, because it follows logically--if these things that the philosophers decide constitute personhood emerge at some point, then they also deteriorate at some point--and at that point, even if you're still alive, you're not a person anymore.

These are difficult matters, on which qualified people differ. It is not enough to say that whatever the woman wants should go. She has a responsibility to consider whether and when she may have a child inside her, not just a fetus. Certainly by the late stages of her pregnancy, a child is ready to respond with miraculous celerity to all the personal interchanges with the mother that show a brain in great working order.

Given these uncertainties, who is to make the individual decision to have an abortion? Religious leaders? They have no special authority in the matter, which is not subject to theological norms or guidance. The state? Its authority is given by the people it represents, and the people are divided on this. Doctors? They too differ. The woman is the one closest to the decision. Under Roe vs. Wade, no woman is forced to have an abortion. But those who have decided to have one are able to.

(emphasis mine) This is the pro-choice case in a nutshell: ABSOLUTE POWER.

The power for a person to bestow personhood upon another living human being--or to deny personhood to another living human being--and to act accordingly.


It's hardly surprising that "qualified people" differ over this; the last time the United States struggled with a question of absolute power, so many "qualified people" differed that it took a Civil War to finally settle the matter.

The answer we came to in 1865 was a resounding "NO." No one has absolute power over another human being.

NO ONE.

That wasn't a religious issue, either.

--Shack

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fear of Giuliani

One of the dominant storylines of the GOP presidential campaign thus far has been the standoff between social conservatives and front-runner Rudy Giuliani. Every motive/explanation under the sun has been ascribed to the hostility of James Dobson et al to Giuliani--immaturity, selfishness, short-sightedness...rarely examined has been the Politico's latest stab at an answer: Fear.

Fear, the Politico suggests, that a pro-choice nomination will permanently cripple the power that social conservatives have in the party in the future.

It gets close...but still not close enough. Fear, yes--but a far more fundamental fear.

The Republican Party is pro-life for one reason, and one reason only: because the Democratic Party is pro-choice. Opposing the donkey is the only virtue the GOP sees in it; it is a position party "moderates" can and do discard at the drop of a hat.

If party leadership believed they could gain more votes by adopting a pro-choice stance than they would lose by jettisoning their pro-life stance, they would do so in a heartbeat--and the pro-choice wing of the party has been urging Republicans to jettison away from almost the second the GOP adopted a pro-life platform.

A Giuliani nomination/presidency will very likely trigger just that.

That is the nightmare scenario that is prompting social conservatives to threaten to pre-emptively shatter the Republican coalition: a two-party system with two pro-choice parties.

--Shack

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Realism"

Victor David Hanson once again makes a point that, particularly in this political environment reflexively opposed to all things Bush, can't be made often enough:

Neoconservatism is slandered as messianic and dangerous in its advocacy of democratic reform. Are we then to revert to amoral realism that tolerated Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, or winked as the House of Saud funded madrassas that empowered global jihad? Or should we treat terrorism as a “criminal justice” matter? We did that serially in the 1990s, from the first World Trade Center bombing to the attack on the USS Cole — and earned 9/11 as the logical outcome of such appeasement.

This isn't just slamming the foreign policy of the Clinton administration. It's also slamming the foreign policy of the first Bush administration, and of the sainted Reagan administration before it--and rightly so in all cases, because they are in large part responsible for what confronts us in the Middle East today.

We created this mess. We created it long before W-The-Antichrist (TM) came into office. We have a responsibility to fix it--a responsibility not only to the security of our own country, but to the people of that region.

And a laissez-faire foreign policy--or a laissez-UN foreign policy, for that matter--is not going to get the job done.

--Shack

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Abortion ruminations

Charles Moore has a thought-provoking column in the Telegraph on how abortion is viewed and defended in this age, which he compares to slavery 200 years ago. He makes some fascinating points, but I am not as sure about the inevitability of abortion being rejected in the future as Moore is.

This is largely because he compares it to what he sees as the inevitability of slavery being rejected. What I think Moore fails to see is how radical the movement to end slavery really was, and how unprecedented its success. Slavery was about as close to a universal institution as you could get--present virtually everywhere, in virtually every time, since the dawn of recorded history.

There's something undeniably naive about believing, in the face of all the history behind it, that civilization's rejection of slavery was inevitable in any sense of the word.

Likewise with abortion. The technology necessary for surgical abortions was not developed until the late 18th century; however, chemical abortions and infanticide by exposure have both been a constant presence since before the time of Christ.

And unlike slavery, where its ban was preceded by restrictions, in the case of abortion the trend has been in the exact opposite direction--the practice has been granted, in increasing measure, the sanction and blessing of governments throughout the world.

Can it be done? Yes, I think it can. Moore has it right in that the pro-life movement's most powerful allies (outside of God, for the religiously inclined) are science and technology, which are not only making it possible for the unborn to survive outside of the womb at an ever earlier age but are also making it ever clearer just how human those "blobs of tissue" really are. These allies will grow still stronger in the future.

But it serves no one to make light of just how massive a challenge this really is. As was the case with slavery, the pro-life movement is squaring off against history itself, seeking a break with the past every bit as radical and unprecedented as abolition was.

The pro-life movement may well succeed, but that success is far from inevitable--and only a fool would wager on a timeframe.

--Shack

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reductio ad Ahmadinejad

Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria makes an excellent point, then immediately forgets he ever made it:

When the relatively moderate Mohammed Khatami was elected president in Iran, American conservatives pointed out that he was just a figurehead. Real power, they said (correctly), especially control of the military and police, was wielded by the unelected "Supreme Leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Now that Ahmadinejad is president, they claim his finger is on the button. (Oh wait, Iran doesn't have a nuclear button yet and won't for at least three to eight years, according to the CIA, by which point Ahmadinejad may not be president anymore. But these are just facts.)

Leaving aside quibbles about the reliability of the CIA's intelligence, the logical conclusion to draw from all this would be that the person you really need to worry about with regard to Iran is Khamenei, not Ahmadinejad.

Instead, though, Zakaria spends his column expounding on why Ahmadinejad is really not so bad, how Iran hasn't invaded anyone for over 200 years--which is SUCH a comfort when the actions we're worried about Iran taking don't involve invasion at all--and so forth.

I do agree that there's a tendency on the part of many to overemphasize the importance of Ahmadinejad in the overall picture.

Unfortunately, Zakaria took that valuable insight and ran with it...straight off a cliff.

--Shack

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Let's play "Count the Parallels"

David Brooks had a column in the New York Times yesterday touting Mike Huckabee as a potential Republican nominee.

The thing is--take away the names and the slightly different labels, and for much of the column, it sounds like Brooks is talking about George W. Bush, circa 2000.

"He talks about issues in a down-to-earth way ... a collaborative conservative ..." And so forth. I counted no fewer than six different Huckabee-Bush parallels, and I'm sure I missed a few.

The GOP nominating Bush 3.0 would, it seems to me, be the surest way to ensure that the next White House occupant is addressed "Madame President." Qualified or not, deserving or not, the similarities would guarantee Huckabee's obliteration in the general election.

--Shack

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Keeping your environmental issues straight?

Kind of a head-scratching passage in the Chicago Sun-Times' contribution to the endless parade of editorials serenading Nobel Environmentalism Peace Prize winner Al Gore:

Global warming is a problem that needs solving.

Carbon dioxide emissions are boring a hole in the Earth's atmosphere and are predicted to cause more extreme weather, harm crops, kill off animal species, invite disease and ignite wars.


Now, I know no one's really talked about it for a while, but this sounds more like a description of depletion of the ozone layer than it does of global warming--and I don't recall carbon dioxide emissions having anything to do with the ozone layer.

Of course, I could be wrong. After all, who am I to quarrel with an editorial board?

--Shack

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

WHO's electable?

Maggie Gallagher takes aim at the idea that Rudy Giuliani can beat Hillary Clinton--or any other Democratic candidate, for that matter--in the general election:

The once-powerful Reagan coalition had three legs -- strong on defense, less government and social conservatism. But the war in Iraq is not the same as the war on communism. It's very unpopular, and Rudy has become as identified with this unpopular war as John McCain. Meanwhile, he has abandoned social conservatism. What's left of the Reagan coalition for Rudy to run on? Naked fiscal conservatism? Conservatives are deluding themselves if they think fiscal conservatism by itself is a winning political coalition. Do they not remember the party of Gerald Ford? It was very fiscally conservative, socially moderate, and a permanent minority party.

The halo of "America's Mayor" is already slipping. For months, polls showed Rudy Giuliani leading Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head matchup, but by June of this year that lead had begun to evaporate. The latest poll, conducted in late September by ABC News and The Washington Post, shows Hillary Clinton beating Rudy Giuliani by eight points. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney trails Clinton in a head-to-head matchup in the latest Rasmussen poll by only nine points. One point better than Romney does not a convincing argument make for abandoning all principles.


To put it mildly.

--Shack

GOP debate thoughts

Once again forgot to tape the debate (I work second shift, and couldn't watch it live) but managed to find it online. Not a whole lot to say, just a few things that jumped out at me:

-Chris Matthews did a decent job as a moderator, overall...but his asking the candidates whether they'd support the Republican nominee was idiotic, and I'd like to know how much Ron Paul paid him for all those softball questions (pun intended).

-Mitt Romney's showing signs of contracting FrontRunnerItis from Rudy Giuliani, going after Hillary Clinton on a number of occasions. I think that in Romney's case, there's a certain degree of desperation to it--he's trailing badly nationwide, and I believe his support in the early states is slipping, as well. It looks to me like he's trying to make people believe that he's a frontrunner without looking at whether he actually is, in hopes that his poll numbers will then follow suit.

-Not one candidate besides Paul gave a straight answer on whether the President needs Congressional approval for a military strike--read, Congressional refusal = no military action--which makes sense, since the right answer ("ABSOLUTELY NOT!") is political suicide, especially in the general election.

-Romney's rambling suggestion about consulting his attorneys might have been almost as bad, though.

-Scripted or not, Romney's "Law and Order" crack was the line of the debate.

-Fred Thompson did very well, I thought. He had good control of the material, and didn't seem out of his element. (He wasn't even tripped up by the cheap-shot pop quiz on Canada's prime minster.) Still too early to say whether he'll manage to overtake Giuliani, but this was an important milestone. He looked like he belonged up there, and there was some doubt about that.

-This debate was mostly about economics, and I can now safely say that I would feel comfortable entrusting this country's economy to any of the GOP frontrunners...which is more than I could have said for Romney or Giuliani before the debate.

--Shack

Saturday, September 29, 2007

It depends on what you mean by "normal"

A pretty telling opening to a column by Froma Harrop:

One of Newt Gingrich's favorite verbal firebombs was calling Democrats "the enemies of normal Americans." We will ignore the nasty code contained in the former GOP House speaker's remark. But suffice it to say, Democrats used to spend much time catering to narrow interest groups at the expense of the middle-class masses.

That was then, and then is clearly not now.

Democrats have emerged as champions of horse sense and competent governance. And they're on the offensive, accusing Republicans of downright weirdness in their fiscal recklessness and seeming obsession with the interests of the richest few.


Classism. Pure, unmitigated classism.

At its core, the Democratic Party believes that people define themselves primarily by their income and relative economic status--and in opposition to those of differing status.

As opposed to, say, profession, religious beliefs, stances on issues, etc. etc. etc. You know--the things that people actually base their votes on.

Much as I despise Bill Clinton, he proved to be the rare exception to the rule: For Democrats to win, Republicans have to first lose. (And even that exception is questionable, as Ross Perot's candidacy threw the entire 1992 election into chaos--and Clinton didn't get anywhere close to a majority vote.) The party has put itself in a position where it doesn't work the other way around.

(Now that I think about it, that goes a long way towards explaining the longstanding preoccupation with slamming Republicans at the slightest provocation--real, imagined, or manufactured.)

Virtually the only time the donkey is ascendant is when the elephant is first in freefall, as was the case last year--and, sadly, as looks to be the case in 2008.

--Shack

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

40 Days for Life

40 Days for Life--a 40-day pro-life campaign consisting of prayer, fasting, and peaceful prayer vigils around abortion clinics 24/7--kicks off tonight.

The nationwide campaign includes five locations in Wisconsin, with two in Milwaukee--Affiliated Medical Services on Farwell Ave., and Planned Parenthood on Jackson St.

For more information, see the homepages of the national campaign and its Wisconsin branch.

--Shack

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Doing something for the sake of doing something

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is jumping on the global warming bandwagon, with a round table and accompanying editorial in this Sunday's edition.

The title of the editorial is "A threat so severe that waiting is not an option." Based off the round table, it proposed a variety of changes, including energy efficiency, conservation, and new technology, to reach, as one round table participant said, "a return to 1990 emission standards by 2020. That will require a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. That's of the order of what is needed."

Only problem is, it won't work. The changes suggested won't get there. It isn't even close--and that's been known worldwide for over a year. As Robert Samuelson noted last July:

From 2003 to 2050, world population is projected to grow from 6.4 billion people to 9.1 billion, a 42 percent increase. If energy use per person and technology remain the same, total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (mainly, carbon dioxide) will be 42 percent higher in 2050. But that's too low, because societies that grow richer use more energy. Unless we condemn the world's poor to their present poverty -- and freeze everyone else's living standards -- we need economic growth. With modest growth, energy use and greenhouse emissions more than double by 2050.

Just keeping annual greenhouse gas emissions constant means that the world must somehow offset these huge increases. There are two ways: improve energy efficiency; or shift to energy sources with lower (or no) greenhouse emissions. Intuitively, you sense this is tough. China, for example, builds about one coal-fired power plant a week. Now, a new report from the International Energy Agency in Paris shows all the difficulties (the population, economic growth and energy projections cited above come from the report).

The IEA report assumes that existing technologies are rapidly improved and deployed. Vehicle fuel efficiency increases by 40 percent. In electricity generation, the share for coal (the fuel with the most greenhouse gases) shrinks from about 40 percent to about 25 percent -- and much carbon dioxide is captured before going into the atmosphere. Little is captured today. Nuclear energy increases. So do "renewables'' (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal); their share of global electricity output rises from 2 percent now to about 15 percent.

Some of these changes seem heroic. They would require tough government regulation, continued technological gains and public acceptance of higher fuel prices. Never mind. Having postulated a crash energy diet, the IEA simulates five scenarios with differing rates of technological change. In each, greenhouse emissions in 2050 are higher than today. The increases vary from 6 percent to 27 percent.


25% reduction. Riiiiiiight.

Improved efficiency and reduced energy usage, on their own merits, are unquestionably good ideas--but don't imagine that they will do much, if anything, to reduce the threat or impact of global warming, if it is as bad as Al Gore et al claim.

If global warming is truly such a great threat, then there are only two ways to seriously combat it: radically new technology or the abrupt, total, and permanent immolation of the global economy.

Even then, neither of those is a sure thing. New technology is a crapshoot--there's no guarantee that it will emerge in time (or at all, for that matter)--and the global economy may have already done too much damage to the planet for its removal to make a difference now.

But if you're taking global warming seriously, then it isn't something you can nickel-and-dime to death. The point where those kinds of changes might have made a difference was a decade or two ago--just a few years after we emerged from the last global cooling scare.

"Waiting is not an option"? Perhaps. But if waiting isn't an option, then neither is doing something merely for the sake of doing something.

--Shack

Monday, September 17, 2007

Making an effort to do better

It's somewhat ironic, when you think of all the heat Ron Paul has taken from Iraq war supporters for his claim that US actions abroad led to 9/11, that President Bush's actions throughout the War on Terror are very similar in direction, though not in degree.

Bush certainly does not believe we brought that day on ourselves, as Paul does; but he clearly does believe that America's actions abroad had played a large part in creating the environment that gave birth to Al Qaeda and similar entities.

His actions speak eloquently in this regard. For example:

  • he held the country harboring Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, responsible for those attacks, and retaliated accordingly;
  • he broke the stalemate in Iraq that spawned two of Osama bin Laden's three professed excuses for attacking America (Iraq sanctions and US troops in Saudi Arabia);
  • further--the point of this post--he afterwards broke with a longstanding US trend of ruling via military proxy, by disbanding the Iraq army.

Christopher Hitchens, as useless as the man may be when the subject is religion, is once again spot-on in discussing Iraq:

If there was one thing about U.S. foreign policy that used to make one shudder, it was the habit of ruling by proxy through military regimes. Especially beloved by the CIA, this practice befouled us in Chile, Greece, Indonesia, and numerous other cases where we made ourselves complicit in the policies of a local uniformed elite. The case of Iraq, where the armed forces routinely acted as a phalanx of naked aggression against neighboring countries and as a spectacularly cruel internal police force, as well as a parasitic consumer of the national income, was the instance above all where it was right to break with this abysmal tradition.

The Iraqi army was also the replication of sectarianism within the state, consisting of a Sunni oligarchy using conscripts from other communities to enforce its will and eating up the common national treasury to conceal unemployment and inefficiency while subjecting young people to involuntary servitude. Yet almost every liberal in America—as you can see most recently by watching the tendentious documentary No End in Sight—appears to be committed to a nostalgia for Saddam Hussein's draft.

Take a moment to imagine what would have been written in the liberal press had the old military class been preserved and utilized to "stabilize" Iraq. I can write the headlines for you: "Baathist War Criminal Gets Second Career as American Employee"; "Once-Wanted Man, Brigadier Kamal Now Shares Jokes With 82nd Airborne"; "Kurds and Shiites Say: What Regime Change?"; "From Basra to Kirkuk, America Brings Saddamism Without Saddam." And, if you like, I can add the names of the reporters who would have written the stories.


Clumsy as he's been in doing so, George W. Bush has been going out of his way to do things differently from how the US did things in the past (which, I think, explains to a considerable degree the visceral hostility with which the Iraq Study Group report was greeted--it was seen as a call for America to go back to the "old way" of doing things).

He's not going to get any credit for it from either side, but he IS trying--which is more than I can say for a certain asinine political party.

--Shack

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Taking a despicable idea and MovingOn with it

Via Hot Air: MoveOn didn't come up with "General Betray Us" on its own. No, that "honor" goes to a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) who was last seen in this household doing a dead-boring comedy routine in lieu of recapping football games (which is what he was supposed to be doing at the time) on NBC's Football Night in America.

A pox on the whole lot of them. Don Surber has quote and video of Senator Orrin Hatch blasting MoveOn on the Senate floor, and pretty much everything the senator said about the group can and should also be applied to the blowhard.

--Shack

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Signs of the apocalypse

Plagues and disasters...

...the dead rising from their graves...

...me agreeing with the New York Times on anything:

The presidential primary system is broken. For years, the nominating process has unfolded in an orderly, if essentially unfair, way. The schedule has worked very nicely for early-voting states, which have had a steady stream of would-be presidents knocking on their doors, making commitments on issues like the Iowa full-employment program, also known as the ethanol subsidy. The losers have been states like New York and California, which have often gotten to vote only when the contests were all but decided. Issues that matter to them, like mass transportation, have suffered.

...

The states bucking the system are right about a larger point: the nominating process must be changed. An ideal system would start slowly enough that candidates who are not well-known or well-financed can score some early victories or at least show well. At the same time, it would allow larger states to participate early enough in the process that their voters could play a significant role in choosing the nominees. It would spread out primary days over a long enough time that a true campaign could emerge, rather than the near-national primary that is likely to occur next Feb. 5.

Many worthy reform proposals are circulating. One calls for dividing the nation into four regions and having them vote in sequence: one in March, another in April, and the last two in May and June. In future elections, the regions would vote in a different order. Unfortunately, a leading version of this plan calls for Iowa and New Hampshire to keep voting first. Another appealing idea, the “American Plan,” starts with small states and moves onto larger ones, so long-shot candidates can build momentum, but it does an especially good job of ensuring that voters from all states have a reasonable chance of voting early in the primary season.

The two parties should begin a discussion of the best reform proposals now, and plan on having a new system in place for 2012. The presidential nominating process is too important to American democracy to be allowed to descend into gamesmanship and chaos.


I, for one, like the "American Plan." It would let small states matter by virtue of their early, high-profile primaries, while also letting the largest states matter by making it very hard for candidates to accumulate enough delegates to sew up the nominations before the later primaries.

One way or another, we can't have the presidential campaign starting within months of the midterm elections like we did this time. With so much time to campaign and build up before the primaries, this election smacks of trench warfare at its very worst--long, drawn-out, brutal struggles to gain perhaps a foot or two of ground at a time, at astronomically high costs.

Doing it that way once has already been more than enough.

--Shack

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A 2-step exercise in argument-evidence

Step 1: Read Michael Gerson's Washington Post column today on how, according to the Democratic Party of Louisiana (not to mention the Democratic Party in general) holding strong religious beliefs--and consciously accepting the logical consequences of those beliefs--is an unforgivable sin.

Step 2: Click on "View all comments" at the bottom of the column, and read page after page of liberal readers proving his point for him.

--Shack

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales Gone

The attorney general is history.

What happens next is anyone's guess, but given that Bush is going to have to negotiate with Democrats over confirming the next AG...

--Shack

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reduce Global Warming: Don't Exercise.

I wish I were making this up.

From Times Online, via Constitutionally Right:

Walking does more than driving to cause global warming, a leading environmentalist has calculated.

Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

The sums were done by Chris Goodall, campaigning author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, based on the greenhouse gases created by intensive beef production. “Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles [4.8km] adds about 0.9 kg [2lb] of CO2 to the atmosphere,” he said, a calculation based on the Government’s official fuel emission figures. “If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You’d need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving.

“The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better.”


Better for the human body? Probably not.

But then, it's been a long, long time since the well-being of the humans living on this planet was a priority for environmentalists.

--Shack

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Turning point or point of no return?

Something very odd happened earlier this week. The New York Times--the same paper that just recently handed down its Definitive And Infallible Judgment (TM) that the war in Iraq is lost, over, doomed, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera--published an op-ed claiming that this is far from the case.

The pollyannas over at NRO promptly convoked a symposium to discuss what this might mean--and as the title "Turning Point?" suggests, most took a rather optimistic view of the situation.

Color me a pessimist. I do not think it is a coincidence that the Times ran an op-ed like this, nor do I think it is a good sign.

The editorial board of the New York Times has, almost from Day 1 of the invasion, had one goal and one goal only with regards to Iraq: to get the US to pull out. Its editorials and columns have been working to undermine the American position there--by undermining the pro-war position here--with a single-minded tone and fervor that has been more than a little frightening to watch.

Even the token opposition columns/articles that normally bolster the paper's credibility by providing it with some pretense of balance have been, by and large, conspicuously absent...until now, that is.

I find that enormously significant.

It isn't that the Times' editors have been forced to provide an opposing viewpoint. It's that they believe they can afford to.

Even more than its "all is lost" editorial a little under a month ago, this is, I think, a declaration of victory (or, more accurately, defeat). The Times evidently believes that public sentiments have reached, not a turning point, but a point of no return--and that those sentiments are decidedly opposed to the Iraq war.

They believe they have finally succeeded in sabotaging this country's last and best chance to undercut Islamofascism in the Middle East.

All things considered, I'm hard-put to disagree with them.

--Shack

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Democrats: The Party of the Flying Imams

The John Doe Amendment, which would have shielded citizens reporting suspicious behavior from retaliatory lawsuits, is dead.

Charlie Sykes has the pertinent details--including contact information for Sens. Kohl and Feingold, who joined 36 of their Democratic brethren (plus 1 indedpendent) in voting to kill the shield.

This is an absolute travesty, and I only hope voters remember it when these people come up for re-election.

--Shack

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Final words on the Thompson "scandal"

The New York Times has the records and the details. Fred Thompson, in 1991 and 1992, spent a whopping 20 hours working for a pro-abortion client his firm had taken on.

IMAO sums up this tempest in a teapot quite nicely:

Shocker: Fred Thompson Only 99.925% Pro-Life Before His Senate Career

Conservative will have to ask themselves whether they can vote for someone like Fred Thompson who, while 100% pro-life since at least 1994, was only 99.925% pro-life fifteen years ago? How will he compare to our other choices such as Rudy Giuliani (used to be 3% pro-life, now 5% pro-life), Mitt Romney (averages about 63% pro-life over his political career), and John McCain (pro-life percentage N/A due to death of campaign)?

Couldn't have put it better myself--but since past Thompson clients, real or alleged, will almost certainly pop up again at some point, let's end this post by quoting the end to the NY Times story:

In a column published on the conservative blog Powerline, Mr. Thompson wrote that in light of lawyer-client confidentiality, it would not be appropriate for him to respond to those who are “dredging up clients — or another lawyer’s clients — that I may have represented or consulted with” 15 or 20 years ago.

If “a client has a legal and ethical right to take a position, then you may appropriately represent him as long as he does not lie or otherwise conduct himself improperly while you are representing him,” he wrote.

He continued, “In almost 30 years of practicing law I must have had hundreds of clients and thousands of conversations about legal matters. Like any good lawyer, I would always try to give my best, objective, and professional opinion on any legal question presented to me.”


--Shack

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Words to ponder

From Dennis Prager:

Just about every generation has some horrific evil that it must fight. For the Democratic Party today that evil is carbon dioxide emissions. For the rest of us, it is an ideology that teaches that its deity is sanctified by the blood of innocents, just as the Aztec deities were.

History will see that clearly. And judge accordingly.

Just how clearly remains to be seen, considering that the greatest evil of the last generation (communism) is for the most part depicted by historians (read: academics [read: far left]) as having been either a) an overblown threat or b) not that bad, really.

Of course, at this rate, we won't be the ones writing the history of this generation.

That is, after all, a privilege reserved for the victors.

--Shack

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ironic.

John McCain very publicly and very deliberately risked his presidential campaign with his support of an unpopular war.

It's looking more and more like his campaign has been blindsided and all but killed by his support of an unpopular immigration bill.

Just saying.

--Shack

Global Warming: Rutherford-Appleton vs. Duke

The BBC reports a new study disputing any link between the sun and modern climate change. The organization interviewed one of the researchers, Mike Lockwood of the UK's Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory, who uttered the dangerous words: "This should settle the debate."

Calling anything about this debate settled (beyond the plain facts that the earth is warming and that human activity has played a part in it to some degree) is just asking for trouble. And in looking at the early commentary on the story, I found, via Smoke If You Got 'Em, some 2005 research from Duke University that would seem to poke some holes in the study as described in the BBC story.

The major underpinning of the new study is that the sun's output has decreased over the past twenty years--since about 1985--and thus doesn't mesh with rising temperatures. However, in examining the report on the Duke study, we find some problems with that assumption:

According to Scafetta, records of sunspot activity suggest that solar output has been rising slightly for about 100 years. However, only measurements of what is known as total solar irradiance gathered by satellites orbiting since 1978 are considered scientifically reliable, he said.

But observations over those years were flawed by the space shuttle Challenger disaster, which prevented the launching of a new solar output detecting satellite called ACRIM 2 to replace a previous one called ACRIM 1.

That resulted in a two-year data gap that scientists had to rely on other satellites to try to bridge. "But those data were not as precise as those from ACRIM 1 and ACRIM 2,” Scafetta said in an interview.

Nevertheless, several research groups used the combined satellite data to conclude that that there was no increased heating from the Sun to contribute to the global surface warming observed between 1980 and 2002, the authors wrote in their paper.

Lacking a standardized, uninterrupted data stream measuring any rising solar influence, those groups thus surmised that all global temperature increases measured during those years had to be caused by solar heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases such as carbon dioxide, introduced into Earth's atmosphere by human activities, their paper added.

But a 2003 study by a group headed by Columbia's Richard Willson, principal investigator of the ACRIM experiments, challenged the previous satellite interpretations of solar output. Willson and his colleagues concluded, rather that their analysis revealed a significant upward trend in average solar luminosity during the period.


If the new study is wrong about what the sun's been doing, then it's little more than a waste of paper, since its methodology is a direct comparison of solar output and cosmic ray intensity to the average global surface temperature. (It's probably also worth noting that if the researchers are working with measurements of solar output from the last 40 years, as the BBC story claims, then a little over a quarter of their data came from before 1978. Go back and reread the first paragraph of the above quote to see the significance of that.)

The Duke researchers, using the Columbia group's estimates of solar output as the base for their calculations, concluded that the sun was responsible for a minimum of 10-30% of the increase in the planet's surface temperature between 1980 and 2002.

Who's right? I'm hardly in a position to say one way or the other. I am, however, in a position to say that the debate is far from settled.

--Shack

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Update on LA Times Thompson story

The LA Times website now includes the following insert near the top of its Fred Thompson attack:

An earlier version of this article included a passage in which Judith DeSarno said Fred Thompson reenacted a cowboy death scene from one of his movies. The version of the article that was printed in Saturday's newspaper replaced the earlier, online version. That newer version omitted the reference, because confirmation of the name of the movie could not be made before the story got reprinted. Based on DeSarno's account, the scene that she said Thompson reenacted appears to be from "Keep the Change," a TNT television western that would have been in production around the time of the lunch and dinner that she described.

So, ultimately, no alterations were made to the version of the story that appeared in the print edition. That is very good to see.

"Keep the Change" was officially released in 1992, so it appears when I was checking Thompson's filmography, I stopped a year too soon.

According to the IMDb, in "Keep the Change," Thompson played a character called Otis. So now, if someone can confirm that 1)Otis was a cowboy and 2)Otis died in the film (bonus points if it was a death scene Thompson could have reenacted at a lunch or dinner without causing a scene) the Times looks to be safe...on that front, anyway.

That doesn't excuse its ignoring the Clinton connections, the lack of records, or the overall irrelevance of alleged pro-choice Thompson activity from 1991 (that is to say, before an alleged 1994 pro-choice survey stance--all parties agree that if he was at that point pro-choice, he has long since made a complete and firm conversion to a pro-life position).

--Shack

LA Times Retconning?

Okay, time to unleash my inner geek.

A "retcon"--short for retroactive continuity--is a storytelling technique often seen in serial fiction (TV shows, comic books, professional wrestling, movie series, video games, etc.). Basically, when some new story element contradicts something previously established in the series, the historical background of the series is altered--either to reconcile the two conflicting elements, or to eliminate one (normally the older one) in favor of the other.

The all-knowing, all-perfect authors/producers/editors are, of course, not usually eager to trumpet these maneuvers, because each is an implicit admission that they screwed up; fans, for their part, will often wryly note them, for the same reason.

But that's fiction for you--nothing's real; it's all part of the game.

It's a bit different when it apparently happens with a newspaper. NewsBusters notes that, without notice or explanation, the LA Times has altered a highly problematic paragraph from its story a few days ago about Fred Thompson's alleged pro-abortion lobbying:

In the July 7th version of the story Judith DeSarno, the woman making the accusation that Thompson worked for her pro-abortion organization in '91, mentioned that she had talked with the Senator about his "cowboy death scene" in a movie he was in. She claimed she talked to him about this scene during one of the diners she claimed to have had with him where they discussed his lobbying efforts.

The problem with DeSarno's original claim is, Thompson was never in any westerns in the 1990s. In fact, he appeared in a western only recently with the HBO movie "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee", which was released this year -- and in that he played president Ulysses S. Grant.

So, in an apparent attempt to make DeSarno's claims of a 1991 meeting seem more truthful, the "cowboy" section was removed from the story.

The old paragraph read:

At one of the meals, she recalled, Thompson re-enacted a cowboy death scene from one of his movies. She also remembered him telling her that Sununu had just given him tickets for a VIP tour of the White House for one of Thompson’s sons and his wife.

The new paragraph reads:

Thompson kept her updated on his progress in telephone conversations and over meals at Washington restaurants, including dinner at Galileo and lunch at the Monocle, she said. At one of the meals, she recalled, Thompson told her that Sununu had just given him tickets for a VIP tour of the White House for a Thompson son and his wife.

There you go, all nice and cleaned up so that the dissembling is removed and NOW it looks more truthful... again!


Now, it's possible that the DeSarno inconsistency could be explained by the film in question not being recent (when the year is 1991, the '90s don't cover much ground). It wouldn't explain the paragraph being altered, but it would make it look less sinister.

So, let's double-check. Here, from his IMDb profile, is Thompson's complete movie filmography, up to and including the year in question (1991):

  • 1985: Marie (historical drama; played himself)
  • 1987: No Way Out (government thriller)
  • 1988: Feds (comedy)
  • 1989: Fat Man and Little Boy (historical drama)
  • 1990: The Hunt for Red October (thriller)
  • 1990: Days of Thunder (racing drama)
  • 1990: Die Hard 2 (action)
  • 1991: Flight of the Intruder (military drama)
  • 1991: Class Action (law drama)
  • 1991: Necessary Roughness (comedy)
  • 1991: Curly Sue (comedy)
  • 1991: Cape Fear (thriller)
I don't see any cowboys. Do you?

--Shack

New Thompson promo

Blogs for Fred Thompson notes a clever new video promo for the soon-to-be candidate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFD23fAEpis

I'm still not quite sold on Thompson, but--at least as far as the GOP primary goes--his people certainly know where his strengths are. (Of course, I despise both the movie Titanic and that !#$%#$&$@^ song, so I might be just a little biased with regards to this particular promo.)

With McCain apparently on the verge of imploding, the better Thompson looks, the better I'll feel.

--Shack

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sheehan vs. Pelosi

Now this is rich.

Sheehan Considers Challenge to Pelosi

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) - Six weeks after announcing her departure from the peace movement, Cindy Sheehan said Sunday that she plans to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unless she introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks.

Sheehan said she will run against the San Francisco Democrat in 2008 as an independent if Pelosi does not seek by July 23 to impeach Bush. That's when Sheehan and her supporters are to arrive in Washington, D.C., after a 13-day caravan and walking tour starting next week from the group's war protest site near Bush's Crawford ranch.

"Democrats and Americans feel betrayed by the Democratic leadership," Sheehan told The Associated Press. "We hired them to bring an end to the war. I'm not too far from San Francisco, so it wouldn't be too big of a move for me. I would give her a run for her money."

(H/T Don Surber)

So, which is Sheehan? Voice of the Democratic base, or useful idiot? (For the Democrats, I mean--we already know she's a useful idiot for Al Qaeda et al.)

This is a win-win situation for the GOP. Pelosi--a voice of the Democratic Party--will have to twist herself in knots trying to defend herself without admitting that Sheehan and her cohorts are in fact the latter. If Pelosi manages to do it, she'll have given Republicans a treasure trove of soundbites for 2008.

And if she can't pull it off, the Democratic base shatters.

--Shack

This should scare people.

At Forbes.com, John Mauldin notes a very ominous sign for Iran's future: Net oil exports in that country are projected to drop down to zero by around 2014, largely because of problems inherent in the government that the mullahs have set up. Economically, the country is set to self-destruct.

Mauldin seems to believe that this is all to the good--that, as he puts it, "I expect Iran to be the new friend of the U.S. sometime next decade." To which, I can only pose two questions:

  1. What are you smoking?
  2. Can I have some?

What's likely to emerge from the ruins of the Iranian theocracy isn't a US-friendly country. What's likely to emerge from the ruins of the Iranian theocracy is a failed state--something along the lines of what happened to Russia in the 1990s (and what the left wing in this country is pushing to have happen to Iraq) magnified.

Here's the real scary part: By 2014, Iran is virtually guaranteed to have gone nuclear.

We're still worrying and fretting about the nukes that scattered every which way when the USSR went under, some of which might have or may eventually fall into the hands of terrorists.

How much easier--and how much more likely--would it be for the likes of Hezbollah to pluck nuclear weapons out of the wreckage of a country that, more than any other in the world, has made its name as a state sponsor of terrorism?

--Shack

NYT makes it official

It was just a matter of time. The New York Times has been doing everything it could to undercut the War in Iraq (as well as the War on Terror in general) for a very, very long time. Last November, for the first time in its history, the paper endorsed a straight Democratic party ticket--largely because American troops were still in Iraq.

And today, the paper's editors finally came out and said publicly what pretty much anyone capable of adding 1+1 and getting 2 has known for years: They want the US to pull out.

The paper claims, in essence, to be reading the writing on the wall. What they neglect to mention is that much of that writing is graffiti--and that they and their allies are the ones who spray-painted it there.

Don Surber says pretty much everything I could hope to way about the Times' shameful performance today. Particularly memorable was this passage from the Times editorial:

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

...and Surber's blistering response:

By “could” the Times means “will.”

This is madness. It is lunacy to suggest that UN peacekeepers drawn randomly from other countries and thrown into the maelstrom with no leadership skills or experience will do a better job than 150,000 professional soldiers with 4 years experience in Iraq.

Africa burns while UN blue helmets look askance and indulge themselves in child porn and petty theft. That is the Times prescription for Iraq.

The chaos would result in zero civil liberties for 25 million Iraqis. The Times clamored for extraconstitutional rights for 500 or so jihadists at Gitmo — men captured on the battlefield. Now the Times is willing to forfeit any civil justice system at all in Iraq.

What the Times proposes may be over-the-top, but it should be remembered for the Times has abandoned its principles.

Its next call to spend more money on the environment will be framed with the reminder of how large a carbon footprint the Al-Qaida Car Bombing Brigade will leave in Iraq if we surrender immediately.

Its next call for equal pay for women will be framed with a reminder that the Times is willing to allow in Iraq for the stoning of raped women as punishment for “adultery.”

Its next call for more spending on education will be framed with the reminder that the Times is willing to allow students in Iraq to be blown up in their schools and to be forced to attend jihadist schools.

Its next call for “affordable housing” will be framed with the reminder that the Times is willing to allow for millions more to become refugees in Iraq as they flee the violence that will engulf that nation in the wake of a withdrawal of the U.S. troops.

Its next call for revamping Homeland Security will be framed with the reminder that the Times is willing to allow Iraq to resume its role as the chief exporter of terrorism to Israel.


Along those same lines, Jules Crittenden offers an analysis of the editorial that pretty accurately sums up the Times' priorities: Genocide Preferred.

Pathetic. Despicable. Predictable.

Ladies and gentlemen: The New York Times.

--Shack

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Thompson under fire

It now appears that the strongest lines of attack against Fred Thompson will focus on his work as a lobbyist--and, in particular, some of the clients he may or may not have represented.

Witness an LA Times story (later picked up by the AP) claiming Thompson did lobbying work for a pro-abortion organization in 1991.

Now, leave aside the fact that this was in 1991--back before a 1994 survey where he allegedly took a pro-choice stance, which isn't that big a deal (all sides are in agreement that he has long since taken a strong and consistent pro-life position). Nonetheless, NewsBusters tears the story to shreds.

(They also note that the people making these claims about Thompson have ties to the campaign of a certain other presidential candidate. Three guesses who that candidate is, and the first two don't count.)

--Shack

Friday, July 06, 2007

Those crazy, crazy presidents

President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence, which he claimed to be excessive, was unquestionably a clumsy political move. But a travesty? Impeachable? As far as presidential mercy goes (along with its attendant explanations) Bush's exercise of it was better than a few P.S. Ruckman Jr. at National Review could name:

The government section of the public library must be a spooky place for those who find Bush’s explanation of the lowest-grade quality. In the Annual Report of the attorney general, one can see pardons have been granted because criminals were “reformed,” promised to reform, or because their release might cause others to reform. Pardons have been given to those who were insane, went insane in prison, and those who might have gone insane if put into prison. Pardons have also been granted so criminals could take care of someone else who went insane, was going insane or did not want to go insane. Benjamin Ogle (convicted of manslaughter) was pardoned by Abraham Lincoln, in part, because Ogle was “rather remarkable for his good-humored disposition.” Now, imagine if Bush had written that! Lincoln was also moved by John Lawson’s “reputation for honesty.” Lawson (alias John Lassano) had been convicted for passing counterfeit money. If you think Bush’s explanation was among the very poorest, you just don’t have a library card.

Reductio ad Lincolnium doesn't do it for you? Then here are a few more presidential examples:

As long as presidents swear to uphold the law and pardon those who have violated it, we can complain about inconsistency and hypocrisy. George Washington argued ignorance of the law was a “frivolous” plea, but justified his first pardon on the ground that the recipient had not “informed himself” of the law. Vice President John Adams was angry that Washington pardoned the Whiskey Rebels. But, as president, Adams pardoned participants in Fries’s Rebellion. William H. Taft argued it was “necessary” for rich criminals to serve out their sentences, but pardoned some of the wealthiest people ever convicted. Rutherford B. Hayes pardoned Ezra Heywood because he thought Heywood had been wrongly convicted for “obscenity.” After Hayes got a good chewing-out from his wife, he refused to “nullify” the law or “intrude” when persons were convicted for similar behavior. Grover Cleveland had pardons for vote fraud committed in favor of his own party. Otherwise, it was a “barefaced and wicked” offense. Dwight Eisenhower took Harry Truman to task for last-minute pardons, then followed suit.

Might I also suggest that if Bush were issuing a pardon or clemency for the crime of leaking Valerie Plame's identity--rather than for apparently inconsistent testimony from a politically-charged fishing expedition--those complaining might have a bit more of a leg to stand on.

But it would be silly of me to think that liberals believe that's what Libby was convicted of, wouldn't it? It would be like liberals thinking that people like me believe 9/11 was orchestrated by Saddam Hus...

Wait a sec.

--Shack

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The klutz in the White House

A deft political operator, our president is not. This should come as no surprise to anyone by now, on either side of the aisle--President Bush will be remembered as much for his tone-deaf political pratfalls (see Michael Brown, Harriet Miers, Donald Rumsfeld, Dubai Ports, immigration, etc.) as for his verbal ones.

His decision to commute Scooter Libby's prison sentence falls squarely into this pattern.

Let's get this out of the way straight off: It should also be clear to all involved that Libby was not the fish Democrats were looking to fry. The situation is, in many ways, similar to the Georgia Thompson scenario here in Wisconsin; just as the Thompson trial was seen as an indictment of the Doyle administration, so Libby's was seen as the Bush administration on trial.

Let's also get this out of the way: Libby was convicted of perjury by a jury of his peers (albeit with substantial problems--more than sufficient grounds for appeal, and I do think that Libby's conviction will eventually be overturned, as Thompson's was). His punishment, while far closer to the maximum allowable than the minimum (and twice as harsh as the prosecution wanted--though even what the prosecution wanted would have put him in prison for well over a year) was within prescribed sentencing guidelines. The sentencing judge was acting well within the letter of the law once Libby had been convicted.

If there was a justification for Bush to get involved here, it would be that the case should never have gone to trial in the first place--that the special prosecutor, having discovered early on the source of the leak which prompted his appointment in the first place (and having determined that the leaker had not committed a crime in doing so) proceeded to go on a fishing expedition--a witch hunt, in essence--looking for someone--anyone--to haul before a jury.

The thing is, those aren't grounds for commuting Libby's sentence. Those are grounds for a full pardon.

By doing anything in this case, Bush draws the wrath of the Democrats and their media allies. But by allowing the conviction to stand, Bush implicitly concedes that Libby should have been prosecuted--and that the administration, by proxy, is guilty of whatever nefarious schemings Joseph and Valerie Wilson are claiming this week.

In typical ham-fisted fashion, Bush has garnered the worst of both worlds--for himself, for his administration, and for his party.

--Shack

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Godwin's Law and the Journal Sentinel

Today's Crossroads section includes a column by Nancy Bauer-King. The column--largely about how the columnist's husband pitched a fit when, in buying a new car, he was required by the Patriot Act to provide his Social Security number--included this gratuitous little paragraph near the end:

In a magazine article titled "Fascism Anyone?" (Free Inquiry, Vol. 23, No. 2), Laurence Britt, who studied fascist regimes, lists 14 common threads. Here are a few: powerful and continuing nationalism; disdain for human rights; identification of enemies as unifying cause; obsession with national security; rampant cronyism and corruption in positions of power; and religion and government intertwined.

Three points to be made here:

  • While it's not an online discussion, the corollary of Godwin's Law--which holds that whoever brings up the Nazis (or, in this case, their more generic fascist equivalents) has lost the argument--should probably apply here.
  • With the exception of the last two points--one of which applies just as well to Democrats as to Republicans, and the other of which is used/abused by the columnist to confuse religious activism with a state-sponsored church--these "common threads" are largely exaggerations of traits that are essential for a nation's survival and prosperity.

Suffice it to say that Bauer-King and I have very different opinions on that last question.

--Shack