Monday, March 26, 2007

Hoisted on our own petard

A fair amount of attention has been paid of late to efforts by Islamic groups to force Americans to bend over in the face of shariah law. The Wall Street Journal has a column detailing the situation in Minnesota, where not only do you have the "Flying Imams" suing airline and whistle-blowing passengers alike, but Muslim taxi drivers refusing to take passengers carrying alcohol, and even Muslim cashiers refusing to ring up pork products.

I've followed these developments--and especially the suggested solution that these Muslims should stop working as taxi drivers or cashiers--with a growing sense of unease. It's seemed all too familiar to me...and Brad at The Liberty Papers nails the reason: the argument against the Muslim cashiers and taxi drivers is pretty much identical to the argument against Christian pharmacists who don't want to dispense birth control.

Is there any way to justify a conscience clause for the pharmacists, but not for the cashiers and drivers?

I'm not sure there is.

And I'm worried that this is ultimately going to end up forcing the pharmacists to follow the lead of Catholic Charities of Boston, and abandon the field altogether.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

The fruits of leftist multi-culturalism

From the New York Times:

Germany Cites Koran in Rejecting Divorce

FRANKFURT, March 22 — A German judge has stirred a storm of protest here by citing the Koran in turning down a German Muslim woman’s request for a fast-track divorce on the ground that her husband beat her.

In a remarkable ruling that underlines the tension between Muslim customs and European laws, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, said that the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu, in which she said it was common for husbands to beat their wives. The Koran, she wrote, sanctions such physical abuse.

They say that Europe trends far ahead of us backward hicks in America.

As far as I'm concerned, they can stay there.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Was the Iraq war justified?--Take #59,329,065

It's kind of pathetic that four years after the invasion of Iraq, we're still arguing about whether the invasion was justified, but we still are. The American anti-war movement (having forfeited any public credibility in the run-up to the war by choosing, by and large, to express itself as an overtly political offshoot of an anti-Bush movement) has prefaced virtually every statement since with some form of assertion that the war was, at the very least, unjustified--and normally much worse--expressed in terms that clearly suggest that agreement with this assertion is to be taken for granted.

By sheer repetition, if not by strength of argument (and buttressed by incessant and overly negative news coverage of Iraq) those who have argued for the war have gradually been worn down, to the point where some now don't even try to defend the invasion anymore, arguing instead that whether the war was justified doesn't matter--only what to do now.

This is a grave tactical blunder. It unconditionally and unnecessarily surrenders the high ground of the debate to the anti-war movement, and dismisses out of hand many of the strongest pro-war arguments; more than that, it concedes the anti-war movement's single strongest argument for pulling out of Iraq: that we never should have been there in the first place.

Christopher Hitchens of Slate, at least, isn't ready to make that mistake just yet, as evidenced by his latest defense of the war. Particularly interesting are these two points:

Should it not have been known by Western intelligence that Iraq had no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction?

The entire record of UNSCOM until that date had shown a determination on the part of the Iraqi dictatorship to build dummy facilities to deceive inspectors, to refuse to allow scientists to be interviewed without coercion, to conceal chemical and biological deposits, and to search the black market for materiel that would breach the sanctions. The defection of Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law, the Kamel brothers, had shown that this policy was even more systematic than had even been suspected. Moreover, Iraq did not account for—has in fact never accounted for—a number of the items that it admitted under pressure to possessing after the Kamel defection. We still do not know what happened to this weaponry. This is partly why all Western intelligence agencies, including French and German ones quite uninfluenced by Ahmad Chalabi, believed that Iraq had actual or latent programs for the production of WMD. Would it have been preferable to accept Saddam Hussein's word for it and to allow him the chance to re-equip once more once the sanctions had further decayed?

Could Iraq have been believably "inspected" while the Baath Party remained in power?

No. The word inspector is misleading here. The small number of U.N. personnel were not supposed to comb the countryside. They were supposed to monitor the handover of the items on Iraq's list, to check them, and then to supervise their destruction. (If Iraq disposed of the items in any other way—by burying or destroying or neutralizing them, as now seems possible—that would have been an additional grave breach of the resolutions.) To call for serious and unimpeachable inspections was to call, in effect, for a change of regime in Iraq.

Unmentioned by Hitchens in his piece is what has always been the main reason I've supported the war: 9/11.

Not, mind you, in the moronically simplistic sense that Iraqi agents flew the planes, or some other such nonsense that some in the anti-war movement would set up as straw men, but in a more basic, strategic sense.

From the end of the Persian Gulf War until the beginning of the US invasion, we pursued a policy of containment and external pressure against Iraq. Two key components of this policy were the severe economic sanctions against the country and US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Both were explicitly cited in Osama bin Laden's fatwa against the United States. Both were used as tools to recruit and build up Al Qaeda and similar movements.

And after 9/11, it was abundantly clear that both were a sword we could no longer leave in bin Laden's hands. The status quo could no longer be maintained; one way or another, the Iraq situation had to be resolved.

Either we could walk away and let Saddam run amok, or we could remove Saddam.

We chose the latter.

It was the right choice then, and nothing that has happened in the last four years makes it any less the right choice now.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Polls and perception

Patrick McIlheran offers an analysis of some dueling polls about Iraq that just came out, while Dr. Sanity has some fun with a new anthem for the left:


It's fun to get mad at the Prez
And trash everything that he says
He's holding us down, making us frown
We'd rather love Hugo Chavez!

We'll never admit it's getting better
Here at home or in Iraq
We'll never admit it's getting better
'Til we get the White House back.

We used to be happy, you see
But now we're the knights who say NIE
Iraq got to vote
But we really hope
That no one pretends they are free.

We'll never admit it's getting better
We stand for nothing and have no plan
We simply hate to admit it's getting better
And we hate that we lost and that now he's the boss
And we'll thwart him as much as we can.

We'll never admit it's getting better
Here at home or in Iraq
We'll never admit it's getting better
'Til we get the White House back.
...well, it would be fun if it didn't look like they're actually going to get away with it.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Carbon credits: bad theology, bad policy

Of all the recent trends/fads in environmentalism, carbon credits are by far the most suspect. The idea that you can offset your "carbon footprint" by buying enough credits has been scornfully compared to the so-called Catholic practice of selling indulgences.

This is both annoyingly inaccurate and surprisingly insightful. The inaccuracy comes in the historical part--what opponents of Catholicism call "buying" indulgences were really indulgences granted for almsgiving, for a variety of purposes (including, but not limited to, building new churches--a practice that gave rise to abuses, which played a part in triggering the Reformation; thus, indulgences are no longer granted for almsgiving of any kind).

The insightful part comes in what's different between the two.

The idea behind indulgences is that Christ, in His life and death, amassed a superabundance of merit--and this merit (along with that of the saints, though next to Christ's, it's insignificant) can then be applied by the Church for the partial or complete remission of temporal punishment for a person's sins (though only after repentance--an indulgence is most emphatically NOT a get-out-of-Hell-free card).

What's different from this about carbon credits (other than not needing to repent first--for that matter, environmentalists can continue to sin as long as they keep buying credits) is that, while the environmentalists have brokers to take the role of the Church in the above equation, they DON'T have any equivalent for Christ, Whose superabundance of merit is the whole reason indulgences could exist in the first place. So if there's no enviro-Christ to dole out remission of environmental emissions, then where are the offsetting environmental benefits coming from?

Charles Krauthammer has the answer:

[I]t is a way for the rich to export the real costs and sacrifices of pollution control to the poorer segments of humanity in the Third World. (Apparently, Hollywood's plan is to make up for that by adopting every last one of their children.) For example, GreenSeat, a Dutch carbon-trading outfit, buys offsets from a foundation that plants trees in Uganda's Mount Elgon National Park to soak up the carbon emissions of its rich Western patrons. Small problem: expanding the park encroaches on land traditionally used by local farmers. As a result, reports the New York Times, "villagers living along the boundary of the park have been beaten and shot at, and their livestock has been confiscated by armed park rangers." All this so that swimming pools can be heated and Maseratis driven with a clear conscience in the fattest parts of the world.

It's a hideous parody of the original--where Catholics rely on the free gift of their Lord to save them, carbon credit consumers forcibly shunt the costs of their sins onto the poorest of their brethren.

And it's a pretty good example of everything that's wrong with environmentalism.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

On "conservative enough" and fool's gold standards

George Will, chiding those dissatisfied with the three front-runners for the Republican nomination, posits the following:

Suppose someone seeking the presidential nomination had, as a governor, signed the largest tax increase in his state's history and the nation's most permissive abortion law. And by signing a law institutionalizing no-fault divorce, he had unwittingly but substantially advanced an idea central to the campaign for same-sex marriages -- the minimalist understanding of marriage as merely a contract between consenting adults to be entered into or dissolved as it suits their happiness.

Question: Is it not likely that such a presidential aspirant would be derided by some of today's fastidious conservatives? A sobering thought, that, because the attributes just described were those of Ronald Reagan.

Ah yes, Ronald Reagan--the Paragon of All That is Good and Right in Conservatism, With Which No One May Disagree (TM).

Mr. Will, I have two words for you: Anthony Kennedy.

Here are three more: Sandra Day O'Connor.

Reagan may be lauded for his part in bringing the Soviet Union to his knees, but he was a friend to the pro-life movement in name only, if even that--and it's his judicial appointments that are in large part responsible for the deep skepticism with which conservatives are viewing Romney, McCain, and Giuliani today.