Bayou Calvinist

A Somewhat Eclectic Discussion by a Law Student Concerning All of Today's Major Topics, as well as, a Few Not So Major Topics

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bush Spells it Out for the Hard of Learning

Bush said what needed to be said last night...Iraq is connected to September 11. As much as it pains those in the oposition to consider...Iraq is the central theater for the war on terror. If one believes that there should be a war on Islamo-fascism, then they must either find themselves thinking Iraq was a needed prerequisite to victory or a sad sideshow which has drawn away from the War on Terror. I think Bush stated his case very well last night. His oposition should either attempt to support their assertion that victory in Iraq is not necessary for victory against terror or they should be honest in admitting that either: they don't feel Islamo facism is a threat serious enough for the imposition of war or that they believe Bush is evil incarnate and Iraq was all for money, oil, revenge, etc... There can really be no other reason for disagreement (it's either based on strategic disagreement, disagreement on the objectives to be sought or pure unmitigated hatred of Bush). If Bush's speech wasn't up your alley which of these three reasons explains why?

For all right thnking people who wish a moments respite from today's insanity please re-read the President's speach: .

My point is perhaps better stated over at New Sisyphus. Here is an excerpt: thing one absolutely cannot do is deny the President the right to make his argument with reference to 9.11. Because it is in 9.11 that the President forged his central judgment: that a phenomenon previously thought to be a regrettable but constant in life—Islamic terrorism—has now shown itself ready, willing and able to represent an existential threat to the United States and that, therefore, it must be fought aggressively, while on the offensive, in a wide-ranging campaign to deny it sanctuary, succor and room for growth.Thus, for the NY Times and liberals at large to say that Iraq had “nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks,” is to miss the larger point the President is making, made last night and will continue to make for the rest of his term. Iraq is central to the President’s war aims in that he seeks to inject a radical new order in the heart of the Middle East, one that will present an alternative and democratic space that will deflate the appeal of the fascism that gave rise to 9.11 and similar attacks.For liberals to pretend not to understand all this—for them to lose their vaunted sense of nuance and understanding—reveals a profound and distasteful dishonesty on their part, as well as a whiff of desperation. Beyond indicting Bin Laden in District Court for the Southern District of New York, liberals have been without a strategic plan on how to win the War on Terror. In fact, they would deny such a war even exists.Such is their right. But their standard-bearer, Senator Kerry, took that argument to the American people a mere 7 months ago and they soundly rejected it in favor of the strategic vision advanced by President Bush and his team. Disagree with him, argue with him, advance a competing vision: that is the American way and we welcome it. But you cannot fence off 9.11 and declare it out-of-bounds in the President’s reasoning as to why we are in Iraq today.What is ironic in all this is that the President has been consistent on this point. Despite all the heavy-breathing, the liberal-left has been unable to come up with evidence to support its contention that the President has ever linked Iraq to the attacks on 9.11 in any way except in the sense we described above. Nor did he mention 9.11 a more than usual amount last night.Clearly, it’s Bush who has a problem with complex arguments and nuance and not, say, the editorial board of the New York Times.

Read the entire post here: .

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I left my heart in Ukraine...

For my friends who were in Kiev, you know what I mean.

Monday, June 27, 2005

What Keeps Me Up at Night.

Other than gas and the occassional concern over terrible pop music, the most common thing which makes me miss sleep due to worry is the growning threat of China. These two recent articles don't relieve me of my concerns.

Perhaps, it's finally time to change American strategy towards China. This would call for linkage of trade to human rights abuses within China and China's political climate, as well of course, with China's foreign policy (especially concerning Taiwan). In addition the U.S. needs to push hard for growing diplomatic ties with both allies in the region and latent enemies throughout the world. Specifically I would suggest that the U.S. focus on building close alliances with the following: Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, Russia, and Brazil (along with to a lesser extent the rest of South and Central America, whose ties to China have been growing rapidly in recent years).

Why do they Hate us? Is it Gitmo?

One of the commonly heard reasons for the existence of terrorists bent on our destruction is said to be American unilateralism and less than pristine treatment of prisoners at Gitmo and Abu Ghriab. Basically that our strength is our greatest weakness. Where does this notion come from? My personal opinion is that many feel that such actions would upset our own sensibilities and cause us to consider retaliation if our soldiers were found in similar prisons. Putting aside the fact that what is so far known to have occured in these prisons would be seen as a welcomed relief from my perspective (if U.S. POWs/hostages were in the place of these terrorist prisoners), all of this talk misses the true threat that such supposed abuses have on the war effort. It is widely assumed by many that such purported "abuses" will lead to a stronger enemy and thus make our chances of success in this war decrease. This is exactly backwards from what history suggests. If anything it has been the precieved weakness on the west's part by our present enemies which has led to this upsurge in violence. It was not western involvement in the middle east alone which has led to the great rise in militant Islam over the past several years. Rather, in most cases, it was what has been seen as weakness that has led these terrorists to even attempt taking on the west. The events which have continuosly preceded the greatest surges in terroristic violence have been: U.S. withdrawl from Beirut in 1982, Iraq in 1991/2, Somolia in 1993, Israeli withdrawl from Lebanon in 2000. Listen to any of the instructions to their supporters by the Arafats, bin Ladens and Husseins of the world and you will hear these events repeated over and over as reason for hope in reaching their goals by attacking the U.S. and Israel. The excesses and abuses of the west on the other hand have indeed had a terrible effect on chances for success in their war efforts. But the reason for the diminishing of these chances is that such abuses lead to a drop in the morale and support amongst westerners, themselves, who have traditionally been unwilling to support a cause they percieve as tainted or sullied. It seems that the key to winning the war in Iraq and in the broader middle east is for continuous support from the American public. And to ensure that such support is present for the duration, it is necessary that great efforts are made to ensure that abuses do not occur (which for the most part I feel have been done, to the greatest extent possible without giving up too much in the way of operational freedom); and to make certain that when questioning current events one is very careful to have their facts completely straight while not resorting to hyperbole and politically charged accusations.

Friday, June 24, 2005

KELO on Crack in Zimbabwe

Many times after ranting about how bad things are here in America it is wise to step back and consider the plight of those not fortunate enough to live in a country with our tradition of respecting private property rights. Thus, I have been reminded by the following story:

"Public Use" = "Private Privlige"

As I'm sure all who actually care about such things are already well aware, the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in Kelo v. the City of New London, Connecticut yesterday and this has led to mostly uninterested responses by the majority of society. While in many ways the case only Constitutionalized what has already been occurring for some time now, it is still a horrendous step backwards for the natural right of private property. Essentially any municipality may now force private citizens to sell their property via eminent domain, so that their property may in turn be given over to new private owners whom the city feels will better benefit the community. Now if that is not scary enough, when looked at in actual practice the policy implications, I would argue, are even worse. What this new found power will be used for is not uncertain. It will undoubtedly be used by City Councils around America to make certain that a new Walmart or Bass Pro or [insert another finance producing corporate giant] will come to their town, now with the additional benefit of being able to choose their location with impunity. Also, this power will undoubtedly come down hardest on the weakest and poorest of a town's citizenry. Of course, I personally also see this as yet another sign of the slow roll towards socialism in America (not to mention the near completed journey of an unchecked judiciary). ---My feelings on socialism would probably be best portrayed by an as of yet unmade bumper sticker that goes a little something like this: Socialism-the philosophy that allows you to feel good about yourself while selling your progeny down the river.--- So, how does one blunt this new power? Well as the majority itself suggests, the best and possibly only way is for each state to pass it's own laws limiting such power. Considering most Louisiana politicians have the backbone of a just boiled softshell crawfish (for all non-biologists crawfish are invertebrates) when it comes to standing up to powerful interests, I don't hold much hope for my home state. Perhaps amongst other more sophisticated locales such laws will save the day. One idea that sorta just popped off the top of my head is some type of 14th Amendment due process claim on the inequality of this new confiscatory power's effect. Anyone who has a higher gpa than I (so basically anyone) feel free to drop some suggestions.

Anyone interested the case may find it in its entirety by copying and pasting the following:

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

That Can't be the Complete List!?! Can it?

AFI's List of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes, as found in the link below, left out a lot of great lines, of which I'm sure everyone has his or her favorite. A few I would like to have seen (thought would have been on there):

"They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom"-Braveheart

"The Horror...The Horror..."-Apocalypse Now

"Yes they deserve to die and I hope they burn in hell!"-Rules of Engagement

"Luke, I am your father"-The Empire Strikes Back

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Nature Must Not Be Worshipped

Nature must not be worshipped: Judeo-Christian values, Part XVI
by Dennis Prager
June 21, 2005

It is almost impossible to overstate how radically different Old Testament thought was from the thought of the rest of its contemporary world. And it continues to be, given how few societies affirm Judeo-Christian values and how much opposition to them exists in American society, the society that has most incorporated these values. Among the most radical of these differences was the incredible declaration that God is outside of nature and is its creator.
In every society on earth, people venerated nature and worshipped nature gods. There were gods of thunder and gods of rain. Mountains were worshipped, as were rivers, animals and every natural force known to man. In ancient Egypt, for example, gods included the Nile River, the frog, sun, wind, gazelle, bull, cow, serpent, moon and crocodile.
Then came Genesis, which announced that a supernatural God, i.e., a god who existed outside of nature, created nature. Nothing about nature was divine.
Professor Nahum Sarna, the author of what I consider one of the two most important commentaries on Genesis and Exodus, puts it this way: "The revolutionary Israelite concept of God entails His being wholly separate from the world of His creation and wholly other than what the human mind can conceive or the human imagination depict."
The other magisterial commentary on Genesis was written by the late Italian Jewish scholar Umberto Cassuto, professor of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: "Relative to the ideas prevailing among the peoples of the ancient East, we are confronted here with a basically new conception and a spiritual revolution . . . The basically new conception consists in the completely transcendental view of the Godhead . . . the God of Israel is outside and above nature, and the whole of nature, the sun, and the moon, and all the hosts of heaven, and the earth beneath, and the sea that is under the earth, and all that is in them -- they are all His creatures which He created according to His will."
This was extremely difficult for men to assimilate then. And as society drifts from Judeo-Christian values, it is becoming difficult to assimilate again today. Major elements in secular Western society are returning to a form of nature worship. Animals are elevated to equality with people, and the natural environment is increasingly regarded as sacred. The most extreme expressions of nature worship actually view human beings as essentially blights on nature.
Even among some who consider themselves religious, and especially among those who consider themselves "spiritual" rather than religious, nature is regarded as divine, and God is deemed as dwelling within it.
It is quite understandable that people who rely on feelings more than reason to form their spiritual beliefs would deify nature. It is easier -- indeed more natural -- to worship natural beauty than an invisible and morally demanding God.
What is puzzling is that many people who claim to rely more on reason would do so. Nature is unworthy of worship. Nature, after all, is always amoral and usually cruel. Nature has no moral laws, only the amoral law of survival of the fittest.
Why would people who value compassion, kindness or justice venerate nature? The notions of justice and caring for the weak are unique to humanity. In the rest of nature, the weak are to be killed. The individual means nothing in nature; the individual is everything to humans. A hospital, for example, is a profoundly unnatural, indeed antinatural, creation; to expend precious resources on keeping the most frail alive is simply against nature.
The romanticizing of nature, let alone the ascribing of divinity to it, involves ignoring what really happens in nature. I doubt that those American schoolchildren who conducted a campaign on behalf of freeing a killer whale (the whale in the film "Free Willy") ever saw films of actual killer whale behavior. There are National Geographic videos that show, among other things, killer whales tossing a terrified baby seal back and forth before finally killing it. Perhaps American schoolchildren should see those films and then petition killer whales not to treat baby seals sadistically.
If you care about good and evil, you cannot worship nature. And since that is what God most cares about, nature worship is antithetical to Judeo-Christian values.
Nature surely reflects the divine. It is in no way divine. Only nature's Creator is.
©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

This Article was the sixteenth part in a series on Judeo-Christian values. The previous fifteen are found below (from most recent to oldest):

Maybe that's why.

I was always told that upbringing had a large influence in what one's political beliefs and also that people are very likely to identify themselves with the same party as their parents. This always troubled me for two reasons: nearly all my friends and most of my influences in political thinking tended to be realists, whereas I have always demonstrated a more idealistic bent; and while my father voted predominantly Republican (at least in later life) and my mom primarily Democrat (throughout), I have been strongly Republican for as long as I could vote. Since I was closer to my mom growing up, one would assume the opposite in party identification when it came to me. Now a scientific study claims to show that genetics have a large impact on one's political beliefs. Find it by cutting and pasting the following:


This seems to make some sense in my case. My father is certainly an idealist in many regards, as is my mother to a lesser extent (explaining my political outlook). Add to this the influence of growing up with primarily Republican friends, as well as, initially rooting for Republican candidates in an almost sports fan type manner. In addition I would take note that the Democratic Party of my parent's day (read J.F.K.) is not at all the same as the modern one (read Durbin, E. Kennedy, and Dean). Likewise the Republican Party has changed a great deal from the past (read Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford) to it's present (read Reagan and W). In both I would argue you see a shift in which the Republican national party has the more progressive, idealistic and liberal (define all these words in the classical manner) platform and candidates.

Friday, June 17, 2005

When Will We Learn?

I don't Think I could've said it better myself.
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How Many Times Must Communist/Socialist Policies Fail Before Some People Learn; Perhaps Nicaraguan's Have Learned?

It always pains me to see the impoverished of the world go to central planning, socialist economic schemes in search of relief from their daily battle with poverty. The ability of demagogues to get so many people to believe in a system whose history is nothing but failure simply amazes me. I don't so much blame the average person who doesn't know anything which he or she isn't told. I place all the responsibility on the shoulders of those "educated" elite who are too attached to their love affair with Marxism, Post-modernism, Socialism, Anti-Americanism, Anti-Semitism, or whatever -ism to realise that their's is an ideology whose time has gone and refuse to find a new way forward. In equal amounts I blame those power hungry despots who either trick themselves into believing that they are helping the poor or are too stupid to see what a monster they've truly become. For without these people, the common man would have continued along the sometimes dangerous and not always easy path that ends in overall economic sufficiency. Instead many places today are far worse off than they would be minus the socialistic influences of their past. One such place is Nicaragua. For this reason I was sad to hear of the return to prominence of Ortega and his Sandinistic minions in the past year or so. Apparently a vocal and moderately sized resistence has grown up around the current President in opposition to Ortega. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Is John Bolton UNqualified?

Bolton is certainly a controversial figure today. Of course the true controversy, the true reason for opposition to his nomination, is not that which is stated by most Democrats and Voinovich. Like most things it is an ideological difference between the two primary camps in U.S. politics: namely Bush and Congressional Democrats. Each view the UN differently. And leaving aside for the moment any constitutional arguments concerning exactly what "advise and consent" mean when it comes to affirming presidential nominees, there is evidence (I would argue convincing evidence) to suggest that the two sides in this battle are not equal. Simply stated Bush's view is correct. The UN is not living up to its obligations. Not in actions, results, nor sometimes even in words. If the UN is to ever hold any power to change the world for the better, it must be reformed. Reform is not something which is always easy or pretty. In fact true reform almost never is. For this exact reason, all who hope for an international order that promotes freedom, democracy, economic improvement and a decrease in the need for military confrontation, should support John Bolton's nomination. As stated by Ion Mihai Pacepa in a recent National Review Online Article:

Bolton has said that, if the glass zoo on the East River that quarters the United Nations “lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” Some argue that this remark makes him unfit to be ambassador at the U.N. I strongly disagree. He gets it, and the U.N. will be all the better with an Ambassador Bolton there.

Read the entire article by going to the NRO link at left.

Freedom oFROM Religion

It is an oft made point that in the attempt to make a pluralist society or a "free and open" society, many support policies which in actual effect if not intention lead to an amoral society (literally a society without religion/morality). If the day ever comes that the growing view, which holds all public displays of religious views as somehow fundamentalist or dangerous, is dominant in America, then that is the day on which liberty is truly dead. How can a country claim to allow for freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom when it's populace creates a de facto right to "freedom from religion." Once these views become dominant then the democratic institutions which now ensure freedom may become the same which imprisons it. If this ever comes to pass then it will be clear that the supporters of the "pluralist society" were no different from the actual theocrats which they for so long railed against. For who is to decide that only secularist, humanist, or "scientific" views deserve to be publicly proclaimed. The notion that religion is necesarilly offensive to those who do not hold its beliefs does not change the fact that those religious points of view deserve an equal opportunity to be heard. For this notion can easily be reversed to state: humanism, secluraism, or "science" is necesarilly offensive to those who do not feel that they hold the true answers (or all teh answers) to society's needs. In a good piece in The Weekly Standard online today, Hugh Hewitt quotes Denver's Archbishop Charles Chaput making essentialy the same argument; only in a more perfect manner. The Archbishop stated:
"where public expressions of religious faith often seem to be ridiculed as fundamentalism. In the name of respecting all religions, a new form of secular intolerance is sometimes imposed. Out of fear of religious fundamentalism, a new
kind of secular fundamentalism may be coerced on public institutions and political discourse."

The entire article can be found at The Weekly Standard link to the right.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Gitmo by Any Other Name is Just as Necessary

A great article by Jonah Golberg over at National Review Online makes some great points. Here is an extended excerpt:

Of course, we could close Guantanamo, but if you actually support the war on terror you must recognize that we would still need someplace like it. A rose by any other name and all that. We can’t summarily execute every al Qaeda member we capture. Not just because that would raise legitimate moral and legal problems, but because we can’t win unless we interrogate these guys.
Senator Joe Biden said that while we should close Gitmo and release the occupants, we should also “keep those we have reason to keep.” Huh? This is the logical equivalent of Solomon saying, “Hey, let’s cut the baby in half after all.” Imagine if, instead of Gitmo, the issue was the death penalty. “The death penalty should be abolished, but let’s execute the folks there’s a reason to execute.”
If we kept the ones “we have reason to keep” — which would probably mean all 500 or so current detainees — but closed Gitmo, we could bring them to the United States. But this would be a legal quagmire, as it isn’t clear what their rights would be on U.S. soil. And it would be a disaster to treat them like common criminals with all of the usual constitutional rights. Nobody read these murderers their rights when they were seized in Afghanistan, and it’s not like the cast of “CSI: Kabul” or “Kandahar PD Blue” collected all the necessary forensic evidence to build a case against them. Does that mean we should just let them go? We certainly can’t set them free on American soil. And if we send them back to Afghanistan or Pakistan, it would be like giving them a do-over.
Any new Gitmo would quickly gain the same reputation as the old one because a) al-Qaida is under strict orders to allege all manner of abuses for propaganda purposes, especially now that such tactics have proved so useful, and b) because the “international community” and other lovers of runny cheese desperately want such allegations to be true, regardless of the evidence. That the head of Amnesty International could call Gitmo, where we spend more money on the care and feeding of detainees than we do on our own troops, the “Gulag of our time” is all the evidence we need for that. Caving into such bullying would send the unmistakable message that American can be rolled.
Now, none of this is to say that the U.S. military should have carte blanche to torture or harass detainees. There must be rules, and it is perfectly fair to debate what those rules should be. But unlike the lawless calamity of Abu Ghraib, the evidence is sparse that Guantanamo is anything like the house of horrors depicted by its detractors. In other words, if there are abuses, remedy them. If allegations are propagandistic lies, rebut them as best you can.
But caving into a defamation campaign in order to please those who cannot be pleased and aiding those who must not be aided is no way to support the war on terror

The whole article may be found at

Clear and Right or Idealistic and Dangerous

There is an ongoing debate (or more acurately a battle royale) amongst those interested in foreign policy, which is as old as foreign policy itself; whether it is better to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of how it affects your own situation, or rather it is better to always act in a manner that leads to your benefit, regardless of principle. While, these are of course the extremes of both the idealistic and realistic positions and nearly all countries practice something in between, there is still a great divergence in belief concerning how far to move in one direction or the other on this ideological spectrum. President Vaclav Havel is at the forefront of the more idealistic wing. Those of you who know me, will not be surprised to discover that on most things I'm in agreement with his perspective. What I think is sometimes overlooked and never believed by the dye in the wool realist is that by being an idealist (at least to a greater extent than being a realist) one is also a other words the way to better the position of your country in the long term is to stand up for democratic ideals at every turn (though small exceptions might be permitted). The following is a speech given by Havel recently, which makes the point well:

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A Rose for the 'Unfree'
By Vaclav Havel
Wednesday, June 15, 2005; Page A25
On Sunday Aung San Suu Kyi will celebrate her 60th birthday, which in a Buddhist culture marks an important milestone in one's life. I would like to meet her and give her a rose like the one she is seen holding in a photograph in my study. Such an ordinary wish, however, in the case of such an extraordinary woman as Aung San Suu Kyi may seem a silly idea. The last time I wrote about her in The Post [op-ed, Oct. 12, 2003] was shortly after "unknown" assassins tried to deprive her of her life and Burmese generals put her under house arrest for the third time since 1989. Since then, except for the occasional purge of senior generals, an ever-increasing population of political prisoners and multiplying human rights abuses, nothing in Burma seems to have changed.
Aung San Suu Kyi is still kept under strict house arrest, and the Burmese generals have fortified themselves even more against any attempts at a dialogue. A dialogue? To conduct a dialogue with a regime that consistently disdains basic human rights and freedoms -- that uses arms instead of words and harassment and violence instead of discussion -- probably does not make any sense.
Supporters of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi demonstrate outside the embassy of Myanmar in Bangkok on June 4, 2003. Nearly thirty demonstrators gathered outside the embassy to protest the detainment of Suu Kyi by the government of Myanmar on May 30 after a clash between Suu Kyi's supporters and opponents in northern Myanmar left several dead and dozens injured.
This is something that the European Union recently learned the hard way when it thought -- partly out of naivete, partly out of expediency -- that a more forthcoming attitude toward Fidel Castro's regime would lead to a more forthcoming attitude on the part of Castro toward his political prisoners and dissent in general. But Castro made a fool of the E.U. He released a few critically ill prisoners, secretly jailed some others and did not let some European parliamentarians into the country. Those parliamentarians who somehow managed to slip in were unceremoniously expelled.
I hope that the European Union will draw a lesson from this experience -- for example, when it again negotiates lifting the arms embargo on China. It makes sense to keep up the pressure on the military junta in Burma, which considers all the justifiable calls to free Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, as well as calls to begin democratic reforms, to be unjustifiable interference in the country's internal affairs.
Even a decade and a half after the fall of communism there, the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe still vividly remember that their communist rulers made the same arguments. Abuses of human rights and freedoms have never been and will never be solely internal affairs of any country. As someone who years ago experienced firsthand the arbitrary rule of a dictatorial regime but then lived to see better times -- to a large extent because of the international solidarity extended to us -- I appeal to all those who have the opportunity to act against such arbitrary acts to express their solidarity with people who to this day live in a state of "unfreedom."
This is also why -- together with my friends His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, former presidents Richard von Weizsaecker of Germany and Frederik W. de Klerk of South Africa, and others -- I founded the Shared Concern Initiative. The first public manifestation of this initiative was an open letter in support of Aung San Suu Kyi. This is why I welcomed it when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations moved beyond its "non-interference" policy and began publicly debating whether Burma should assume the chairmanship of that organization. This is why I support U.S. sanctions against the Burmese regime and why I find it easy to identify with resolutions by U.S. legislators. This is also why I appeal to the European Union to learn from its Cuban fiasco and step up the pressure on the Burmese regime both within the framework of the United Nations and in other international forums -- and to do it in clear and comprehensible terms.
The current situation in Burma is bad. Since 1990 the ruling State Council for Peace and Development has repeatedly promised that it would take steps leading to gradual democratization of the regime. Not a single one of these promises has been even partially fulfilled.
But I am still an optimist. After all, I come from a country where, as late as mid-1989, while all around us totalitarian icebergs were cracking and thawing, the stupid, repressive regime remained strong. I, together with other people of a similar mind-set, was in prison. Yet, by the end of that same year I was elected the president of a free Czechoslovakia.
Seemingly unshakable totalitarian monoliths are in fact sometimes as cohesive as proverbial houses of cards, and fall just as quickly. Continuing democratization of the whole region, together with growing dissent inside the country, must eventually have a positive effect. As Aung San Suu Kyi celebrates her 60th birthday, I wish for her that those changes will happen as soon as possible, and that my silly idea -- to hand her a rose -- becomes a simple and easy thing to do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Always, Only in the Worst Light...

Coming from a protestant background I often worry that my judgments on certain Roman Catholic doctrines are a bit too harsh and perhaps unfair. One such doctrine has especially tweeked my interest, as of late. The act of praying to/through the saints. As it is explained to me (please correct me if I err) the basic concept is that just as we living ask others to pray on our behalf, so, the Roman Catholic's (probably also many other denominations as well) ask the saint to pray on their behalf. When it is put that way it is more difficult to find fault with the practice.

A few points, though.

First: Some Catholics have told to me in private conversation something to the effect---"of course God would listen more to a saint than a mere sinner such as myself." When it comes to this aspect, at least, I whole-heartedly disagree. I do not know whether this is a view held by the Roman Church but I hope not. It is common-sensicle, at least to me that all saints are merely human and as such are just as sinful in their nature as any others. To suppose that somehow God would distinguish between two faithful sinners and prefer one to another seems suggest he has any greater love for the one than the other also is hard for me to believe. For if certain humans are believed to be less sinful, more loved, or somehow closer to God, does that not deminish their need for salvation to the same degree? I can see one finding difference between non-believers and believers, perhaps, but other than that I have a hard time going any further.

Second: I do not recall any example set out in the Bible of praying (or asking to pray) to dead prophets in the Bible. Please if there is such an example let me know. In this request I am in earnest.

Third: Assuming that the second point is true, where does such a practice come from? It is reminiscent of both ancestor worship and polytheism to the outsider looking in. Granted neither of these facts change the validity of the position, but they do set out my concerns in accepting such a practice.

Fourth: Perhaps one could make an argument about praying to Mary or Elisha due to the fact that they bodily arose into heaven. Maybe this connection makes them more like Jesus than everyday humans. Note: as far as Mary I do not at all believe in the assumption, but for sake of making a consistent argument from which a believing Roman Catholic could draw logical argument, I fealt it necessary to propose it.

Lastly: If you are Roman Catholic, know that I believe that our shared beliefs far outweigh those on which we disagree. I am glad to include a few devout (or at least as devout as I in my faith) Roman Catholics amongst my truest friends---I mean come on...I live in Louisiana (south of I-10).

Bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S

When I am in school, I often find myself waking up at some early hour (between 2-4 am) with great dread over some legal issue which I hopefully reassure myself will not be on the final. Now that I am out of school for the summer, I tend to sleep like a log. Last night, however, I found myself awake at 3:30 am and unable to get back to sleep. What, you may ask, was the legal worry which awoke me from my slumber? The answer, unfortunately for me, was none.

Instead I stayed awake for the better part of an hour trying to think of one song I disliked as much as Gwen Stafani's Holaback Girl.

Any ideas of a song which trumps this one for its horrendousness?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Are "Fire and Brimstone" Sermons Antithetical to Gaining Converts?

I have long been of the opinion that by focusing on sin and human depravity in a way that is seen as condemnatory, many of today's preachers are hurting the cause...namely the conversion of as many people to the Truth as possible. Then the question arose is there any reason to support such statements in furtherance of this cause? Interested in finding any redeeming qualities in such sermons, or perhaps more interested in proving that such sermons have no place in the modern church, I re-read what is quite possibly the most famous "fire and brimstone" sermon of all time...Sinners in the Hands of an Angry GOD. see
This sermon was written and delivered by the puritanical preacher Jonathen Edwards in Enfield, Connecticut in 1741 and was the first and most enduring expression of the uncompromising Calvinist theology of the Great Awakening.

When this sermon is quoted, most modern critics point to phrases such as the following:

"They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" Luke xiii. 7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, . . ."

"They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John iii. 18. "He that believeth not is condemned already." So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John viii. 23. "Ye are from beneath." And thither be is bound; it is the place that justice, and God's word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him."

"The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them."

These phrases and statements seem to badly comport with our modern sensibilities and turn most of us away as if it were the worst in vitriolic and holier-than-thou speach. How could such statements be of any use in converting humanity in the modern world?

The answer to this question, I think, is found in the same sermon. It is found in those parts most commonly not quoted. Portions of the text such as the following:

"There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God." By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment."

"And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God."

"Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy."

I think the overwhelming juxtaposition of what mankind deserves with what some men are given through the grace of GOD alone, is a strong message. How great must God's love be to save one so deserving from his just punishment? By playing up the great depravity in mankind and the subsequent punishment we deserve, a tactful preacher is able to show how much greater is God's love for those he has chosen.

I still feel that Edward's language is certainly over the top for today's climate, but I no longer am of the opinion that "fire and brimstone" has no place in the conversion of others. As long as any condemnatory language is not directed against any individuals personally and as long as the overarching love of God is stated as counterbalance, I can see how such sermons fit a useful purpose.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A Case for Reparations for Slavery?

Eugene Volokh has posted over at Volokh Conspiracy [link on left] an interesting article by Jeff Jacoby concerning reparations for slavery and a critique of Jacoby's argument by Eric Muller.

A common argument against such reparations is that nobody responsible for slavery is still alive; and no one who suffered under slavery is either.

Chad Bryan in his article entitled Precedent for Reparations in a 2003 issue of the Alabama Law Review (see: 54 Ala.L.Rev. 599), refutes this argument as follows:

"[It] is entirely accurate [to] claim that "only a tiny minority of Americans ever owned slaves" and also in that "the two great waves of American immigration occurred after 1880 and then after 1960." It is perfectly understandable that his underlying question would follow: "Why should their descendants [those who did not own slaves] owe a debt?" What is not so understandable is how [one] fails to see the answer.On the surface, every American taxpayer should be aware that much (or at least some) of his tax money goes to fund programs that will never benefit him individually. Yet those taxes are paid from understanding of a concept of "public good." This concept alone should be enough to refute those who share [the above] position."

While I agree with Bryan's general point, I feel that this does not answer the problem as a whole. While certain taxes go to pay for projects or causes that not all taxpayers agree to, a reparations regime is based on past guilt. It just seems to me that the guilt (which is surely great in this case) is perhaps too far attenuated in time and the individuals asked to bare the punishment. It is certainly a topic open to theoretical disagreement but I also imagine that when the question is put in a template of practicality, the amount of disagreement will also shrink.

Check Out Bradymerica

My good friend Brady Couvillion has just started his own blog, Bradymerica. Please support it and have fun. While Brady can be serious it seems his new blog will be on the lighter side.

Check it out yourself:

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Is Environmentalism Necessarilly Liberal/Progressive?

An interesting topic. Obviously love for the environment is not only to be found on the left side of the political spectrum; but has environmentalism as a movement become so liberal that it can't help but turn away principally conservative persons?

Check out this article on the subject:

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Discussion of Calvinist Doctrine

While I generally consider myself to be a Calvinist when it comes to theology, I would not say that I agree whole-heartedly with all its views. But to further our understanding I'd love to hear several arguments for/against these basic tenants:

Summaries of Calvinist theology

The five solas
The five solas are a summary of Calvinism, indeed of the Reformation, in the sense that they delineate the difference between the evangelical doctrine of salvation from the Roman Catholic doctrine. The substance of Calvinism with respect to the solas is total dependence on God, who is sovereign and created and sustains the universe. Every good thing, according to Calvinism, is there because of God's unmerited grace, and salvation especially is entirely dependent on grace. Calvinism has been called "worm theology" because it insists that all credit for everything must go directly to God and that humans are but miserable sinners (or "worms"). By contrast, in Catholic theology, man plays a significant role in his own salvation (and that of others) by acting appropriately (cooperating) in response to God's grace.

Life is religion
The theological system and practical theories of church, family, and political life, all ambiguously called "Calvinism", are the outgrowth of a fundamental religious consciousness centered upon "the sovereignty of God". The doctrine of God is, in principle, given a pre-eminent place in every category of theology, including the Calvinist understanding of how a person ought to live. Calvinism presupposes that the goodness and power of God have a free, unlimited range of activity, and it works out as a conviction that God is at work in all realms of existence, including the spiritual, physical, intellectual realms, whether secular or sacred, public or private, on earth or in heaven.
According to this viewpoint, the entire course of events is the outworking of the plan of God, who is the creator, preserver, and governor of all things. This attitude of absolute dependence on God is not identified with temporary acts of piety (for example, prayer); rather, it is a sustained and all-encompassing pattern of life that, in principle, applies to digging ditches as well as taking communion. For the Calvinist Christian, all of life is the Christian religion.

The five points
Calvinist theology is often identified in the popular mind as the so-called "five points of Calvinism," which are a summation of the judgments (or canons) rendered by the Synod of Dort and which were published in the "quinquarticular controversy" as a point-by-point response to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance. They therefore function only as a summary of the diffences between Calvinism and Arminianism and do not serve as a complete summation of Calvin's writings or of the theology of the Reformed churches in general. The central assertion of these canons is that God is able to save every person upon whom he has mercy and that his efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or the inability of men.
The five points of Calvinism, which can be remembered by the English acronym TULIP, with supporting passages from the Bible, are:

Total Depravity
People in their natural, unregenerate state do not have the ability to turn to God. Rather it is the grace and will of God through the Holy Spirit that causes men who are dead in sin to be reborn through the Word. This concept is summarized by the aphorism "Regeneration precedes faith," since in the Calvinist view, apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit for the individual, there would never be any faith.
Romans 3:10-11 "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God."
John 6:44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."
1 Corinthians 2:14 "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them."

Unconditional Election
Election means "choice". God's choice from eternity, of whom He will bring to Himself, is not based on foreseen virtue, merit or faith in the persons He chooses but rather, is unconditionally grounded in His own mercy.
Romans 9:16 "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."
Ephesians 1:4 "Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."
John 1:13 "born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
Exodus 33:19 "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."

Limited Atonement
Also called "particular redemption" or "definite atonement," meaning that Christ's death actually takes away the penalty of sins committed by those upon whom God has chosen to have mercy (as opposed to Christ's death making redemption merely a possibility that we can perform). It is "limited" then, to taking away the sins of the elect, not of humanity.
John 10:14-15 "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."
John 10:27-28 "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
Acts 20:28 "shepherd the church of God that He obtained with the blood of His own Son."
Ephesians 5:25 "love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."

Irresistible grace
The saving grace of God is not resistible. Those who obtain salvation do so because of the relentlessness of God's mercy. Men yield to grace, not finally because God found their consciences more tender or their faith more tenacious than other men. Rather, willingness and ability to do God's will are evidence of God's faithfulness to save men from the power and the penalty of sin.
John 15:16 "You did not choose me, but I chose you."
Ephesians 1:11 "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will."
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit."
Romans 9:11 "though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad- in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call."
Colossians 2:13 "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him."

Perseverance of the saints
Also called the "Preservation of the Saints". Those whom God has called into communion with Himself through Christ, will continue in faith and will increase in faith and other gifts, until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with, or else will return. Thus Calvinists subscribe to the "once saved, always saved" concept popular among many Christian denominations.
John 10:27-28 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish."
1 John 2:19 "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."
Philippians 1:6 "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
Calvinism is often further reduced in the popular mind to one or another of the five points of TULIP. The doctrine of unconditional election is sometimes made to stand for all Reformed doctrine, sometimes even by its adherents, as the chief article of Reformed Christianity. However, according to the doctrinal statements of these churches, it is not a balanced view to single out this doctrine to stand on its own as representative of all that is taught. The doctrine of unconditional election, and its corollary in the doctrine of predestination are never properly taught, according to Calvinists, except as an assurance to those who seek forgiveness and salvation through Christ, that their faith is not in vain, because God is able to bring to completion all whom He intends to save. Nevertheless, non-Calvinists object that these doctrines discourage the world from seeking salvation.
An additional point of disagreement with Arminianism implicit in the five points is the doctrine of Jesus' substitutionary atonement as a punishment for the sins of the elect, which was developed by St. Augustine and especially St. Anselm. Calvinists argue that if Christ takes the punishment in the place of a particular sinner, that person must be saved since it would be unjust for him then to be condemned for the same sins. The definitive and binding nature of this "satisfaction model" has led Arminians to subscribe instead to the governmental theory of the atonement in which no particular sins or sinners are in view.

Who does the US ambassador to the UN work For

In the ongoing argument over the confirmation of John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN, I have often questioned the arguments of his opponents. Who is he suppose to work for? What's wrong with the Ambassador of the U.S. being a representative of the foreign policy of the executive branch? Isn't that what an ambassador is for?

check out this article on another U.S. Ambassador to the UN, who's much like Bolton and yet recieved unanimous confirmation

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Argument for a Traditional Presbyterian Church (USA)

I have long felt that many of the "progressive" views supported by Presbyterian (USA) were inconsistent with the Christian faith (especially those which question whether Jesus' resurection was bodily and those which allow that other faiths may be just as True...or rather that there is no one truth). Now comes statistical support for the notion that "progressive" viewpoints are detrimental to the denomination. A survey of American Christian denominations finds that:

Presbyterian Church U.S.A. had a recent decline in membership over a ten year period of 11.6% (the greatest amongst all denominations)

The more conservative Presbyterian Church in America, on the other hand, had an increase of 42.4% over same time period.

As I have always believed (at least since I considered such things), if someone wants a watered down Christianity to make them feel good about themselves and others, then they are not likely to have a need or great desire to belong to a church.

The survey can be found at

America Has No "Truer Friend"

Upon reading Michael Rubin's article on National Review Online arguing that, despite recent statements to the contrary, Australia is America's closest allie; I was reminded of a little known fact I read several years back.

Can you guess which is the only country to contribute troops in every major military action taken up by the United States in the 20th Century?

Answer: Australia. Yes, even in Vietnam (don't believe me check it out for yourself

Granted Australia wasn't completely sovereign at the time of its involvement in both World Wars, but Australian troops fought bravely in both, nonetheless.

For an interesting take on why Australia is currently America's greatest allie read Rubin's column .

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Need to Differentiate on Human Rights

As is a common refrain on most posts elsewher in the blogosphere, I agree that Amnesty International was way off base with its comparison of the treatment that terrorist suspects captured in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan recieve the same or even comparable treatment as did the political dissidents by both the Soviet Union and the dictators of Latin America. For anyone with a shred of reasonableness the fallacies in such a comparison are obvious. The point I would raise is how AI's stated purpose of not differentiating between governments with vastly differing political systems, leads it to such absurd propositions. Ignoring the difference in scale and facts (concerning the comparison), which seems to be what AI did in drawing these analogies, a problem still exists when any human rights' group fails to take into account the huge differences to be found between an open democratic society (such as the U.S.) and the many despotic regimes found throughout the world. This is the same point made throughout Natan Sharansky's book In Defense of Democracy. As Mr. Sharansky states, the inherent differences between "free" and "fear" societies mean that they should never be treated equally on human rights issues. For, as is evident in all the reported cases of abuse in Abu Ghrab and Guantonamo, the U.S. military and government had already begun investigations and have since filed criminal charges following the discovery of such abuses (in many cases prior to anyone in the public being aware such abuses had occurred). "Fear" societies on the other hand, not only fail to correct the problems before they come to light they in many cases continue with their illegal activities even after their abuses are discovered (not to mention that in many cases such acts were part of their political strategies). While all abuses should be condemned and changes made to ensure that they will not be repeated, the very systems a government is under will determine the likelihood that justice and fairness will eventually win out. For this reason alone U.S. detention facilities should not be compared to the Soviet Gulag, nor should the taking of combatants on the battlefied be compared to the "disappearings" of Latin America. The very fact that an organisation such as Amnesty Internationl is allowed to have a headquarters in the U.S., to demean the U.S. without reprisal speaks volumes about the inherent differences between the U.S. and countries like: Iran, Syria, North Korea, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Cuba.