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, July 27, 2005

Defining the Struggle

There is news out today that the Bush Whitehouse has shifted from calling the world struggle now raging the "War Against Terrorism" to something more like the "Struggle Against Violent Extremism". Many times people underestimate the importance of words. How we define our struggle can change to a large degree in which way the debate moves. According to General Richard Meyers, the name change is designed to express the broadness of the struggle; so that the public does not forget that this is not simply a military struggle but rather a far reaching broad fight touching on every aspect of society. I agree whole heartedly with the need to remind both US citizens and all her allies that this is a struggle which will not stop with the end of armed conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead this is a multi generational conflict which requires the use of all America's assets.

Like the verbiage used to discuss past world conflicts "War Against Terror" had its strengths and weaknesses. It seems open-ended and in some ways this is good. It reminds us that this is no small challenge. Also by using the word "terror" it reminds us all of the event which has led the West to action (the largest act of terrorism to date-9/11). But its weakness is also that for the above reasons it may be interpreted both too narrowly and too broadly. For the US is not in a battle against the tactic of terrorism (though it is a tactic which we abhor), rather the US is specifically fighting Islamic extremism, a force whose preferred weapon (due in part to its own technological weakness) is terror. By using the word "terror" many may forget that the enemy is both particular and is capable of using multiple tactics. The connection which is undoubtedly made between the word "terror" and 9/11 is good for rallying the homefront but is a poor choice so far as it makes one think that the only enemy are those directly connected to the attacks on 9/11.

A quick look at past phrases used in the great world conflicts demonstrates that no definition of major struggles is perfect. World War I was defined as a "defense of democracy". This despite the fact that one of the main allies (Russia) was quite possibly the most autocratic regimes in the western world. Now granted this phrase was used mainly in Britain and America and Russia had dropped out prior to America's entry but undemocratic aspects of American society still makes one suspect of the definition of the war aims. Yet, despite this the world was "made safe for democracy" with the defeat of the autocratic German/Austro-Hungarian/Ottoman axis.

World War II was a fight against the fascists, and yet Franco was allowed to remain in Spain virtually unchallenged. Also the USSR and communism in general is not that much different from fascism. So one might argue the correct definition of the fight was one against fascists who attacked us. It is hardly doubted however that the destruction of the Axis put a death nail into the coffin of world fascism.

Finally, the Cold War was a fight against Communism. But with the use of Communist China to pressure the USSR, the retreat from facing down Communism's spread as had once been done in Korea and Vietnam, it is clear that our ultimate enemy was the one we most felt threatened by: the USSR. But then again with the fall of the Soviet Union, communism took such a hit that it is difficult to imagine a situation where it will fully recover. China is communist just in name (while still as authoritarian as any communist) and all the remaining true communists are small and relatively weak (Cuba, North Korea, etc...).

While the "War Against Terror" had serious flaws, if the west is to defeat Islamic fascism then terrorism as a tactic would probably experience a short term decline. But in this multi-faceted struggle every weapon must be used, including words. And so if by renaming this conflict a "struggle against violent extremism," the effort is helped, then it will have been a wise (though some might think meaningless) move.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Brady Responds

In response to my post of our conversation, Brady has sent me this response:


My main point with regard to the utilization of science to define human life is this: Independence does not now nor has it ever (within the scientific definition of life) been a necessary qualification for classifying something as a living organism. If it were, all parasites, including human children, teenagers, and many young adults would not be considered living organisms. (that is a joke by the way). To
summarize: Dependence does not negate life!
An interesting legal question to you though is this:
If there were a child, temporarily dependent on outside sources to breathe for him, to feed him etc... (in other words he is on life support). All doctors consulted agree that this state is only temporary and he will make a full recovery in only 7,8, or 9 months.
His mother however, being his legal guardian, insists that he be taken off of life support. Should the assessment of all of the doctors that this is only a temporary condition not constitute such an act as murder? Of course should and would are different questions in legal issues.
With regard to your thoughts on our differing approaches to our views on this issue, I agree that it probably is a function of two things on my part: 1) I am more scientifically oriented and consequently, the need for considering the implications of utilization of the Due Process Clause does not strike me as an issue of foremost concern.
Perhaps that is negligent on my part. 2) I believe in the truth of my stance on this issue so whole-heartedly that it is hard for me to even imagine the mindset of others who disagree with me.


In regards to his legal question above my response was:


Thanks for the response. As far as your question...it very much points to the distinction between a scientific assessment and application of that assessment to public policy. In the example you give, both science and morality seem to coincide. But again to some (I don't know who) it may seem wiser to allow the mother to make the final call...especially if there is any disagreement in the scientific assessments. Add a few more wrinkles, such as the child will not need life support for the remainder of his/her life but he/she is badly brain damaged and will need someone to feed him/her (not a feeding tube) and change his/her diapers. To anyone looking at this from an amoral viewpoint an argument could be made that the child should be "allowed to die" (an argument which would only grow stronger if a universal health care system were ever adopted...it may be seen as too inefficient to "waste" medical resources on this child when children capable of making a full recovery might better use those same resources). By insuring that the Due Process Clause is not used to force all states to follow federal opinion (read the opinion of the Supreme Court) on this matter, we ensure that at a minimum some states will retain a more moral view on these issues.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Che-Mart


Go and Visit...it's hilarious.

Che consults with Calvin Klien and Oscar De la Renta in the late 1960s

Abortion Laws and Science

I sent this article on Supreme Court Justice To Be John Roberts' position on Roe v. Wade to my good friend Brady Couvillion. In detailing one of the three main constitutional understandings of the abortion issue, the article states in part that:

"A second position is that the Constitution prohibits, to one degree or another, laws that permit abortion. Under this "pro-life" position, unborn human beings would be recognized as "persons" for purposes of the Due Process Clause. The argument for this position would begin with the historical fact that, prior to Roe, the American tradition long provided broad legal protection for the lives of unborn human beings from the time that those lives were understood, in light of the biological knowledge of the age, to commence. It would build on the modern advances in embryology and genetics, which establish that the life of each individual member of the species Homo sapiens begins at conception. Consistent with the American tradition, this pro-life position might allow limited exceptions for abortion — for example, where continuation of the pregnancy threatened the life of the mother.

This argument is far more credible than the position taken by the Court in Roe and Casey. Indeed, advocates of the "living Constitution" ought to embrace it, as it combines respect for America's traditions with an updated scientific understanding. Nonetheless, I believe this position to be incompatible with a proper originalist understanding of the Due Process Clause.
"

Not long after having sent him the article Ireceivedd this reply from Brady via e-mail:

"two thoughts with regard to the article..Onee, my main concern is that he is not conservative enough and will not be pro-life enough. And secondly, I loved the part in the pro-life paragraph about science...cause isn't that at least where we should start our decision making process...base it on the best scientific evidence available...which clearly states that human life does begin at conception."

My response to Brady was the following:


"I don't necessarily agree that science should necessarily play a significant part in determining what a state's laws will be concerning abortion. The point of a republic is that laws are to be passed by those whom the people choose to be their representatives or in some states allow direct votes concerning such issues. It is up to the representatives and the people to determine what their position will be as to any law. What these people/representatives allow to influence their decision is a personal matter. By stating that science should decide/or be a major consideration is either to suggest that individuals who allow other considerations to decide or outweigh science are wrong (this would include those who listen to religious considerations). Or perhaps you meant you wish that the courts should look to science...but this misses the whole point of judicial restraint and means that the courts should make decisions that are properly left to the legislative branch. I have seen far too often examples of courts ignoring judicial restraint (Roe v. Wade for example) in order to force humanistic, liberal European views onto the American public to be able to condone the use by conservatives of such a process."

Brady's response to this comment was:

"You know what I mean...the extra-scientificestablishmentt of laws has already taken place. In other words, we have already decided through laws established by the people and/or their representatives that murder is not acceptable. That having already beenestablishedd (without scientific considerations), science can then be utilized to decide if abortion constitutes murder."

My final response to Brady was:


"Yes, murder as illegal has obviously already been established. But if you look at most modern criminal codes murder or homicide is defined as something like the following:

Homicide is the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable omission of another.

Most similar codes distinguish when persons become human beings for legal purposes (persons being human beings from the moment of fertilization and implantation). In the definition of "person" one is able to see the influence of scientific knowledge of human biology.
But where exactly science leaves off and equitable considerations come into play is a murky line of demarcation. For instance science says at two weeks after conception the fetus is able to function in manner x. Well does functioning in manner x = life? = human life? Deserve the same legal protections as a person who is unquestionably alive and viable? All of these questions are just as much philosophical and/or moral as they are scientific. When does one's soul come into creation?
Some people will answer this question from a moral standpoint others from a scientific standpoint. So my initial point about scientific understanding not being the only missing piece to the abortion as murder puzzle (or even being the most substantial missing piece) remains valid."


Now in complete honesty mine and Brady's conception of the immorality of abortion is the same. The differences arise in possibly two areas. First it appears to me that Brady is not troubled to the same extent as I about the legal impact the use of the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause to outlaw abortion nation wide might have. Secondly, what Brady sees as common sensical (prove the existence of human life in utero via science and ipso facto you have proven the immorality of--the need to outlaw--the abortion of that human life), I see as a point which has and will be argued on the basis of different moral and theoretical constructs by certain in the pro-choice crowd.

Also it must be kept in mind that since this conversationoccurredd rather rapidly via e-mail, many of our arguments were probably hinted at instead of greatly drawn out to their completeness and our choices in words were probably not the best. So to correct any misunderstandings which might remain concerning my view let me clearly state:

I understand Brady's point that science can play a valuable roll in determining how people should apply their moral beliefs to a real life scenario that is not expressly defined as murder by many traditional religious texts. I was a bit too dismissive of the importance science can and, I feel, should play in such determinations. This is primarily because I was worried about the idea of judges forcing states (their publics or legislators) to use science in determining their abortion laws.

I am equally concerned with how abortion is outlawed as I am with its actually being outlawed. The use of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to create rights worthy of federal protection has been too common and should be stopped and reversed. Most forms of discrimination which that amendment was designed to stop have been effectively fought by the Federal government and there is no need to use it as a panacea for all the situations to which any ideology's fervent desires might attach.

Brady has promised to respond and so as soon as he does, I'll post his take.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

My disappearing Home...


As anyone from south Louisiana can tell you the amount of coastal erosion which the state has experienced is astounding. Even within my relatively short memory there have been many islands, beaches and marsh banks which have disappeared into the murky Gulf waters. There has been a great legislative effort afoot in the past few years to receive federal funds for implementation of coastal conservation plans. The exact cause of the land loss is still debated. Some experts believe the problem can be almost solely blamed on the many canals that crisscross south Louisiana's marshes, which were built to provide access and transportation routes for the state's oil and gas deposits...but which the experts argue have allowed too much saltwater to invade far in-land, killing off the aquatic plants which act as a spiderweb to hold the land together. Other experts cite the roll of the Mississippi River Levees which have acted to redirect the silt laden waters away from South Louisiana and instead dump tons of possible new land off the continental shelf ofs the northern Gulf of Mexico. Still other experts see the land loss as a natural inevitability that is pointless in fighting (in other words all attempts to save the coast are just big wastes of time and money). Louisiana politicians, as would be expected, have pegged their bets on one of the first two causes and now propose fresh water diversion prjects that they expect to add tons of silt to the deteriorating coast while also reinvigorating the vegetation that was once prevalent in Louisiana's marshes. My personal guess is that the cause of this land loss is a combination of all theories (in what %'s I haven't a clue). Much credit for the current restoration/conservation plans should go to all of Louisiana's national legislators, but specifically former Senator Breaux, current Senator Landrieu and since his recent election Senator Vitter. Seeing as how I am a big time supporter of Bobby Jindal, representative from Louisiana's 1st district, I like to mention his recent lobbying on behalf of a House bill to allow Louisiana to share in the oil and gas royalties from wells off of Louisiana's coast which as of now goes to the Federal government. By making a connection between oil revenues and the continued existence of Louisiana's coast, this bill effectively demonstrates the immense value of Louisiana's coast to the state and nation while also high-lighting one of the erosion's possible causes--oil well development (canals dredged to reach oil and gas wells). Initially under tremendous pressure and today with greater cooperation the oil companies have changed their practices and no longer create such canals.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My point exactly...

Here's a great article from National Review Online presented in its entirety below:

Enter “Neutrality”From accommodating separationism to Everson.
by Rick Santorum

There is another string of cases that brought forth a second pernicious Court doctrine that has transformed America’s moral ecosystem. These cases concern religion in the public square. The “first freedom” of the First Amendment concerns religious liberty: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .” The first thing to notice is that the phrase “wall of separation,” cited so frequently as an almost sacred text in most of these Supreme Court decisions, is not a phrase used in the U.S. Constitution. It was lifted from a passage in a letter from President Jefferson to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, more than a decade after the First Amendment was added to the Constitution.
The rather odd wording of the First Amendment also is worth noticing: “. . . respecting an establishment of religion. . . .” Here, “respecting” is a preposition that means “regarding” or “about.” Congress shall make no law about the establishment of religion. We now know that this curious phrasing was a revision of the draft text of the amendment. An earlier draft said only that Congress could not establish a religion: But at that time, there were established churches in several of the states, notably in Massachusetts. Delegates from these states worried that simply preventing Congress from establishing a religion would not rule out the federal government disestablishing the state churches. The language of the First Amendment, therefore, is the way it is in no small part to protect the established churches of states. The Massachusetts Puritan church remained established in that state until 1833.
Of course, that does not mean we should today get into the business of establishing state churches: For one thing, the withering of faith in Europe in the presence of church establishments demonstrates that establishments have negative consequences — for religion. But a correct historical understanding of the First Amendment does show how far the Court has strayed from our constitutional tradition.
Throughout our history up until the middle years of the twentieth century, the “American way” on church-state questions is best described as an accommodating separationism. Earlier I quoted the Northwest Ordinance, with its positive legislation regarding religion and morality. James Wilson, one of only six founders to have signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, pronounced in his law lectures at the University of Pennsylvania that “Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants.” Unsurprisingly, for most of American history, government has looked positively on both religion and morality. Various states worked out particular arrangements reflecting their particular circumstances, but in each case, religious freedom was respected while religion was looked upon as part of the common good, a “seedbed of virtue” contributing to American society.
Things changed with the decision in Everson v. Board in 1947. While upholding the constitutionality of a New Jersey law that publicly funded transportation to and from school for both public and parochial students, the Court’s majority declared that the First Amendment mandated that neither federal nor state governments could “pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.” “No tax in any amount, large or small,” the decision continued, “can be levied to support any religious activities. . . .” The “wall between Church and State . . . must be kept high and impregnable.” All this, because in the Court’s eyes, the Constitution’s position on religion is one of “a strict and lofty neutrality.”
Never before had our country been “neutral” on religion: Now, this newly discovered constitutional principle spread everywhere. Abington v. Schempp (1963) held that “in the relationship between man and religion, the State is firmly committed to a position of neutrality.” In Epperson v. Arkansas (1968), the Court held that “Government in our democracy, state and nation, must be neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine, and practice. . . . The First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and no religion.”
In most of these cases, the question before the Court concerned either prayer in public schools on the one hand, or public assistance for sectarian (usually Catholic) schools on the other. More recently, the Court has extended itself even to rendering unconstitutional such settled and popular American practices as prayer at public high school graduations or at public high school football games. Just last year, the Supreme Court dodged on a technicality a case that would have removed “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance: Ruling “under God” unconstitutional would have been deeply unpopular, but by the Court’s own logic, there is no way to escape the conclusion that it must go. The overarching impulse of the Court’s position has been to drive religion from the public square, to secularize our society from the roots up, all in the name of the constitutional principle of “neutrality” — both among religions and between religion and irreligion.
Of course, the term “neutrality” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. This doctrine is a pure invention of the Court. In her 1985 dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree, for example, Justice O’Connor pointed out that the free exercise clause itself sometimes mandates exemptions for religious observers from otherwise generally applicable legal obligations. She concluded that “a government that confers a benefit on an explicitly religious basis is not neutral toward religion,” nor was it ever intended to be. While neutrality between religion and irreligion may be required by liberal political theory, something very different is required by the text of the U.S. Constitution.
And what is more, I believe a convincing argument may be made that “liberal neutrality” is never really neutral. The practical effects of such a rule always have a disparate impact. We can see this in the Court’s school prayer decisions. The Court’s majority rulings have delved into the psychological effects of public prayer in schools for those youngsters who are not themselves religious: Would they not be subject to a kind of peer pressure that would violate their conscience? But the Court does not examine the flip side of their psychological investigation: What about religious youngsters who find themselves in a public school hermetically sealed off from all religious influences? Would not the school, and therefore the government, tacitly be communicating to religious youngsters that prayer, religion, and faith are not really welcome in America’s public square? That is where we have ended up: Court-sanctioned hostility to religious influence in American society, all in the name of neutrality.

— Senator Rick Santorum is the junior United States senator from Pennsylvania. Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, he is the third-highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate.

What to do with the Red Dragon?

The Pentagon's annual report has listed China's growing military capabilities as a gathering regional threat. Articles on the issue can be found here, here, here, here, and here. The Pentagon feels that China is at a crossroads. She does not yet have the capability to effectively attack Taiwan and impose her political will in the manner she desires, but that moment is rapidly approaching. China may still be content to grow in economic and political influence and maintain a military sufficient for her defensive needs. The rapid recent growth in China's military perhaps suggests otherwise. She faces no real threat from any nation and seemingly no real reason for her growing military power. Despite constant bluster that Taiwan is part of China and threats of invasion, many analysts think China would be unwilling to invade at the present due to Taiwan's huge economic impact on China. This, I would imagine, is true. But what of the future? What course of action should the US and her allies take in deterring China from taking a more militaristic path?

Many in the international community have long suggested that the best way to temper Chinese aggression is by building ever closer economic ties with her and do everything possible to avoid ruffling her feathers. France and other EU members are debating whether or not to lift an arms embargo that has been over China since the brutal government crackdown of the Tienamen Square dissidents. This entire line of thinking is based on the assumption that if China does not feel threatened, she will have no desire to invade Taiwan or challenge for military supremacy in her region. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Chinese foreign policy is realistic in nature (realist is an understatement). She seems no more to care about promoting ideals or respecting any international standards than does a true atheist care for internecine religious disputes. China will act in whatever manner she feels most beneficial to her national interests. For this reason it is of the greatest importance that whatever lines the US does not want China to cross are guarded by threats sufficient to dissuade her from crossing them. If China finds a weak international community in which there appears little or no possibility of a military response to an invasion of Taiwan and if China has been successful in diversifying her economic dependence away from Taiwan, then there is little perceivable obstacle to such an invasion.

I will wisely leave the determination of exactly what strategy should be taken in order to make certain that China's cost benefit analysis ends with a negative gain to the experts in the National Security field. I would specifically argue that one tactic which must be kept in place is a total arms embargo against China. Like most countries with a commanding heights economic philosophy, China's military technology is nearly all borrowed and/or stolen from the outside. Considering that other than Russia (whose military technology is slowly becoming more and more outdated) no nation with an advanced military trades technology with the Peoples Republic the way to maintain our technological superiority in weapons is via the arms embargo.

Another important thing to maintain is the public support for containment of China's military throughout all the controversial moves which will undoubtedly be made. Among these would likely be: a substantial increase in the size of America's military (in this case primarily conventional), military aid to the Taiwanese government, a reintroducing of Japanese military, a continued presence in large numbers of American troops in places like Japan and South Korea, possible introduction of forces in northern Australia and if it gets that far possible redeployment of American nuclear weapons. While all of this is going on the US will be burdened by the task of maintaining its war against terrorism and making certain that the raised tensions between us and China do not allow some one like North Korea the notion that our fear of confrontation with China assures it free reign in attempting to act on their own military pipe dreams. Hopefully if faced with the overwhelming feeling of military hopelessness China will march down the economic/political path to increased power and leave the military path to the vines and cobwebs it deserves.x

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

R. I. P.

1914 - 2005

A fair piece on this controversial man from the Times Picayune.

Supreme Court Justice "Joy" Clement?


Word on the street is that Bush will announce his nomination to the SCOTUS either today or tomorrow and that the nomination is one Edith Brown Clement, currently a judge on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Considering how frequently wrong these rumors have been in the past few weeks, I am a bit skeptical. But if she's the one, many seem to think she is a reliable conservative and "strict constructionist," although many others worry her record is a little too thin to be sure.

One good sign from my perspective is that the People for the "un"American Way seem to really hate her.

I suggest visiting Bench Memos to stay up to date on all SCOTUS nomination rumors.

***UPDATE*** of course we all now know that word on the street was indeed wrong...Judge Roberts is the nominee.

Friday, July 15, 2005

MAD All over Again


Chinese General apparently prepared to use Nukes on US over Taiwan.

Scary stuff, especially considering it was stated publicly. Obviously the general's intent is to dissuade the US from protecting Taiwan from a Chinese invasion, but it's frightening that China is willing to risk a nuclear apocalypse over a tiny island with few natural resources or strategic importance.

The Biggest Scandal Since that time I Lied About How I was Doing Today

Since all of Washington and the countless political hacks on the net have commented and because I am tired and uncreative let me state that as far as the Wilson/Plame/Rove affair is concerned I agree with John Podhoretz when he says:


"I HEARD THAT TOO" [John Podhoretz]So we learn, at last, from the New York Times, that Robert Novak called Karl Rove and said he heard Joseph Wilson's wife, who was NOT a clandestine agent at the time, worked for the CIA. To which Rove replied -- of the women who was NOT a clandestine agent at the time and who he almost surely had no reason to know had at some point in the previous years BEEN a clandestine agent -- "I heard that too."This surely qualifies as one of the "hey, big whoop" stories of all time. And I am not saying this because I am some partisan gunslinger. Simple fairness says that an official called by a journalist who volunteers a piece of gossip and then responds, "I heard that too," is not retailing a piece of incendiary information intended to destroy lives and place CIA assets in harm's way.And I'm going to be blunt here. Anybody who says different has an agenda that has nothing whatever to do with Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, or much of anything else besides doing damage to the Bush administration and character-assassinating Karl Rove.

Other intreresting takes from over at National Review online see here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I Have a Dream....



Apparently I'm not the only one who has the same dream. Check here , here , here , here , here , here , here , here , here and here

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It is Great to be an Orioles' Fan


Considering I have had little to cheer about in the professional baseball world from 1996 to the present season, I shouldn't fail to mention that my boy Tejada won MVP honors last night in the MLB Allstar Game. And of course the AL won again (their 9th in a row). Hopefully the O's will be able to take full advantage of the homefield advantage created for World Series play by last night's AL victory.

Almost as Fast as She is Beautiful. Or is it the other way around?

Since there is an article today over at NRO about her and since I'll use any reason to mention her, is there any doubt that Danica Patrick is the next...., well I don't think there has ever been anyone quite like her. She is as beautiful as Anna Kournikova and as talented as Tony Stewart. With her apparent skill and work ethic, she seems unstoppable.

Send in the Moderate Muslims

If only there were more Alykhan Vileshi's in the world. Today over at National Review online he represents a much needed thought:

The war on terror is not simply against terror-sponsoring states, but against the institutions of civil society that give terrorists quiet support, that inflame local Muslim populations, and that prevent the emergence of a moderate, peaceful form of Islam. The war on terror can never be won unless Muslims who have the privilege of living in the West stand up for civilization against the forces of barbarism and nihilism. I wish I could say otherwise, but I won’t be holding my breath.

As if there is need for more evidence of the enemy's barbarism...


Here is the horrible story.

May God forgive the perpetrators, for I know I won't.

Please keep the families of the victims in your prayers.

Science vs Religion

There is a great piece written by Isaac Constantine today over at The Weekly Standard about the ongoing debate concerning the inclusion of an intelligent design curriculum into biology classes teaching the theory of evolution. An issue that is raised thru this discussion is the overall compatability between science and religion. I personally feel that any supposed contradiction between the two is caused by the over-reaching on the part of both scientists and theologians into realms in which neither are competent. To suggest that science can somehow answer the great theological questions (Is there a God? Why are we here?) is preposterous, if for no other reason than it is impossible to prove a negative. Likewise to suggest that the Truth somehow disallows scientific truth is also ridiculous, if for no other reason than science (for the most part) is internally consistent. In both cases the two sides overestimate their own abilities in understanding the complexity of creation. Why couldn't there both be a God and evolution? Some seem to think that to admit the validity of evolution's scientific truthfulness is to deny the existence of an active God, who constantly intervenes on the behalf of his creations. God could at one and the same time set up a system whereby without his constant influence organisms would evolve in a more or less calculable way and also guide this evolution with constant intervention. It is well undertood that there are multiple paths evolution may push an organism pursuant to its environmental enfluence. Perhaps God picks the exact path. The smallest of divergence at a particular point in time can have an enormous impact on how things will turn out. Likewise God might speed up and slow down said process to fit creation to his plan. And last, but not least, it could be argued that God has created organisms in a manner so as to bait humanity into overestimating its own understanding. Of course there are thousands upon thousands of ways in which one may logically comprehend for evolution and theistic truth to coexist (I merely listed the few that immediately came to mind). In some respects I don't see this debate as much different than suggesting that God and gravity cannot coexist. One might just as easily say, since gravity acts without the constant intervention of God it thus proves God does not exist. Of course the fact that as humans we are able to percieve a phenomenon that we may calculate does not necessarilly mean that God is not directly involved. Perhaps God is always intimately involved, only in a very consistent manner. Both extremes in the evolutionary debate rely on faith. Either faith that there is a God and all that occurs is according to his design or faith in the notion that human scientific understanding is the highest truth and to look outside our own understanding based upon our own methods of observation is useless. If only both sides were honest enough to admit the same. Of course that would require admission that they do not hold all the answers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

But I Thought Bush was Bad for the Economy?

Do you remember all the doomsday predictions concerning the nation's economy made by those on the left which they said were bound to occur unless Bush were voted out of office. It never fails to amaze me how continuously wrong they can be...especially when it comes to all thinks economic. How wrong were they? Let us count the ways:

-The housing market bubble never burst and instead remains strong.
-The dollar has risen, rather than decline (as we were warned was sure to happen).
-Inflation has remained tame.
-The much debated budget deficit has begun to decline more quickly even than Bush had predicted.
-Long term interest rates remain low.
-The service sector continues to grow at unprecedented rates.
-There has been an addition of some 150,000 jobs in June of this year.
-The rise of total real (adjusted for inflation) after tax income was at a rate of 3.5%.
-Consumer confidence remains high and is rising.
-Unemployment dropped to 5 % (and workers unemployed for more than 6 months dropped to 2.3%).

At present, the biggest problem for the economy is the high price of oil. But even this has not had much of an immediate impact. As is seen by the growth in automotive industry sales, as well as, in the sales of large retailers such as Walmart. And then, there is this rosy prediction on future oil prices made by the Cambridge Energy Research Association (CERA).

Or if you'd rather, here is a quick synopsis of all the above.

Iraq-al-Qaeda Link

Today at The Weekly Standard's online site is a well reasoned and written article by Stephen F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn concerning the connections between Iraq and al Qaeda. I highly recommend reading it.

The article may be found here.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Keeping Vigilant

There is little doubt that the once dominant political philosophy of America, liberalism, is a shell of its former self. Liberalism as a serious intellectual base for a grander political platform has largely been destroyed by the fall of communism, the seeming success of the Reagan Revolution and the movement by many liberal political leaders away from American military robustness during the same time that America is under direct attack from abroad. This collapse is most notable in the fact that there remains no American thinker of the left on par with the conservatives William F. Buckley, Irving Kristol, and Victor Davis Hanson which can both be taken seriously and is known to even a plurality of his/her likeminded compatriots. So, Conservative philosophy (as that term is understood in American politics) is at a height which it hasn’t seen in nearly a century. But one must remember that just 25 years ago, liberalism was in the same place. Everything looked on the up and up and Conservatism seemed destined to continue along its path towards complete irrelevancy. For this very reason, it is important that those who hold Conservative beliefs not become lazy in their success, confidant that liberalism is down for the count. Conservatives need to remain true to their ideas and not become weighed down by the excesses which always seem in a hurry to overwhelm those in power. Contemplating such dangers, I thought it would be interesting to post over several days those Conservative ideals which I feel are in the greatest danger of being diluted or even cast off unnecessarily in the near future if vigilance disappears.

Moral Foundation of Government: In today’s society many people look upon any politician with great suspicion if they purport to base any aspect of civil law and governance on the Divine Creator. Such politicians are called theocrats or puritanical. Liberals and very many Conservatives claim that such a politician is dangerous and hopes to force religious belief and/or worship down the throats of the un-consenting masses. The fact that all these people view a moral base for society as a danger is dangerous in itself. Conservatives must be willing to rebuild the confidence in the idea of a moral foundation for Government that once existed. At one point in time to proclaim that all rights and liberties come from God was to state the obvious. But when, as today, a President makes the observation that “freedom is not America’s gift to the world but rather the Almighty’s gift to all mankind” many rise up in opposition.
As Conservatives, we must attempt to conserve the understanding held at the founding of our place (of government’s place) in creation. The recognition that God (as found in the Declaration of Independence, official government proclamations, public prayers and the personal writings of the founders) is the basis of all things is not intended to be a club with which to beat unwilling citizens into submission. Instead, such a recognition is intended as a limit on the government’s subjugation of the individual. A limit to keep the government from overreaching in its exercise of its demigod-like status here on earth. In today’s mostly secular society any attempt at moving even back to this basic understanding will be fought at every level. For this reason it is important that conservatives clearly delineate between the correct understanding of Natural Law and the incorrect theocratic understanding. For if the later understanding is taken up as a Conservative value, then both it along with the much needed former understanding will be defeated.
The best way to make such a distinction is to look at the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (specifically the Establishment Clause), which reads in part:

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

When correctly understood, this simple sentence will fulfill both Conservative understandings of the relation between the Creator and governance, without subjecting the opposition to the more theocratic practices which they rightly condemn. A recognition of a higher meaning than humanist notions of right and wrong is what America has always been about (“All people are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”). By fighting for such an understanding of God’s place in society, conservatives may ensure that the government never reaches a point where it can justify based simply on a cost-benefit analysis the killing of certain of its citizens for the betterment of the remainder. By fighting for such an understanding, Conservatives may ensure that devout people of all faiths never (as did the Christians under Roman Rule prior to Constantine and later Protestant’s under Catholic dominion) have to choose between obeying civil law and obeying their conscience and their God. Government recognition of religion’s special place in society would also mean that no legislator would ever again be forced to fear that his/her legislation would be deemed unconstitutional based solely on the fact that one of their many considerations motivating the laws passage was religious in character.
Just as Conservatives must be certain to avoid falling into the atheistic trap of humanism which has ensnared so many, thus far, they must also avoid being tempted to follow the other extreme. One certain denomination or religion should not be supported over the others. Nor should an establishment of state practices peculiar to one religion be created through legislation or government coercion. While I understand that legal arguments, which have both rightly and wrongly interpreted the meaning of the Establishment clause, have been snagged by the question: exactly when does the promotion of religion in general become too specific? I would merely state that at the very least government should not be afraid to promote the practice of looking to the divine for guidance over unbelief. Where I think greater difficulty arises is whether the government should be allowed to promote monotheistic belief above say the polytheism of Hinduism. While I don’t believe the Establishment Clause would prohibit the government from specifically supporting monotheism, I would argue that such a promotion might not be necessary. The overall point is, that as Conservatives, the promotion of a moral basis for governance should be maintained and perhaps strengthened.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

We Are All Brits Today



GOD be with all of London and Great Britain, especially those people who have been injured and those who have lost loved ones. I sincerely hope that we can all come together during this time of horror.

Of course, rarely is there a time or event to which a quotation of Winston Churchill is not in order. Today I am reminded of four:

Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School

The British nation is unique in this respect. They are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.
Sir Winston Churchill, Hansard, June 10, 1941

One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half.
Sir Winston Churchill

As Great Britain has stood with us in good times and bad, let her know that the U.S. will stand with her now. Most of all let it be said of our two countries that we stood for what was right even when it meant facing the danger in a world so quick to take the path of least resistence.

It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required.
Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the Antithesis of Democratic Leadership

I ran across this great post by Kirk Sowell on his blog Window on the Arab World (http://www.arabworldanalysis.com/blog/). Not that the election fairly indicates the majority of Iranian opinion, but Iran's recent "election" is a bad sign, especially when nukes are thrown into the mix. Observe:

Assessing Iran's New President
Last week's Iranian presidential election has been widely heralded in the West and elsewhere as a turn for a more dangerous Iran. The president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has variously been accused of being both a supporter of terrorist organizations and a perpetrator of terrorist acts himself, a clear indicator of Iran's intent to develop nuclear weapons and an end to European efforts at negotiating a solution to the nuclear crisis, a nightmare for Iranian business, a supporter of repressive tactics against democracy reformers, and a student leader who was personally involved in the 444-day hostage taking at the U.S. embassy in 1979. The weight of evidence seems to indicate that all of these accusations are true, except probably the last one (I'm no expert on this, but those who are seem to have concluded that Ahmadinejad is not the guy in the embassy photos, although the non-technical opinion of some hostages goes the other way).
First, let's look at terrorism. Ahmadinejad is open in his support for certain terrorist organizations - Hizbullah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas - but Khatami and Rafsanjani were as well. What sets Ahmadinejad apart is that he is apparently a leader of Qods Force (Jerusalem Force), a military wing of the Iranian revolutionary guard which maintains Iran's links to terror groups, including al-Qaeda. (See this post from Winds of Change for more on this, hat tip to Regime Change Iran.)
The relationship between Iran and al-Qaeda is a much debated one, but two things are clear:(1) Iran provided passive support for the 9/11 attacks by allowing some of the operatives involved to pass through its territory in order to cover their trail, and;(2) Iran is current providing refuge to a good number of al-Qaeda members, including much of the senior leadership which has not yet been killed or captured. Iran claims that these individuals are being held in custody, although they provide no reason for us to believe this, so it is clear that the are there.In addition, I have also read that Iran was operationally involved in some of al-Qaeda's attacks in Saudi Arabia in 2003-2004, and that Osama bin Laden himself is in Iran. But I have read informed sources which suggest otherwise. So I'll leave that debate for another day.
Through his role in Qods Force, Ahmadinejad is also accused of operational involvement in several attacks in Europe. For details, see the first four paragraphs of this Times of London article. See also this relevant post from Regime Change Iran.
For a look at the economic implications of Ahmadinejad's victory, check out this post from Regime Change Iran: Election Aftershock in Corporate Iran
The Jerusalem Post suggest that, with Europe grappling to deal with internal crises and remain relevant on the global stage at the same time, it would be a good idea to start with Hizbullah. It is not encouraging to read, however, that Austrian business leaders are pressuring their government not to probe Ahmadinejad's links to terrorism in their own country because it might imperil their contracts (see Iran Focus, Austrian Firms Against Government Probe into Iran President's Role in Killings.)
So who is Ahmadinejad? This is the best summary of his life that I have seen, from the same Times of London article linked above ("US agents probe past of Iran's leader"):
...Amid the political frenzy, it was not easy last week to separate fact from fantasy. Yet from details provided by US regional specialists, official Iranian websites and previously reliable opposition sources, it proved possible to piece together a sobering account of the new president’s ties to ultraconservative anti-western factions. These include a unit long suspected by US intelligence agencies of directing state-sponsored terrorist activities abroad.
Born in the desert town of Garmsar, east of Tehran, in 1956, Ahmadinejad was the son of a blacksmith. He attended Tehran’s Elm-o Sanaat University in the last years of the Shah’s rule and was swept up in the wave of resentment that spawned the 1979 revolution.
With the return to Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolution’s spiritual leader, Ahmadinejad became his university’s representative in the student Office for Strengthening Unity, which would play a central role in seizure of the US embassy.
Several former embassy hostages claimed last week Ahmadinejad was among the students who held them captive for 444 days. But experts using advanced facial recognition technology have established that he is not the man identified on a widely distributed photograph of hostages and captors.
As Islamic rule intensified in the early 1980s with purges of moderate students, Ahmadinejad joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an ultra-conservative group fiercely loyal to the ayatollahs.
A senior officer in the IRGC’s special “internal security” brigade, Ahmadinejad’s duties included the suppression of dissident activity, which, according to his rivals, involved the interrogation, torture and execution of political prisoners.
US intelligence sources and Iranian opposition figures believe he became a key figure in the formation of the IRGC’s Qods Force, which has been linked to assassinations in the Middle East and Europe, including the murder of Qassemlou.
White House officials last week demanded that Tehran respond to questions about Ahmadinejad’s past. “The Iranian government . . . has an obligation to speak concerning these questions,” said Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman...

One thing is clear here: if the U.S. government is genuinely spending time right now looking into Ahmadinejad's past, this is another intelligence failure, and not a minor one. It is not like this guy came out of nowhere - he was mayor of Tehran, the country's capital and most important city. This would be like as if Rudy Giuliani were elected President of the United States, and the Chinese government were somehow dumbstruck as to who this guy was. Maybe these questions are just a means of posturing, like we really know the answers but are just asking the questions for diplomatic effect. Yet it did seem to take days for the government to conclude that he wasn't a hostage taker. I don't find this terribly encouraging, on many fronts.

Al Jazeera Not Welcomed

A great quote by Iraq's Prime Minister concerning Al Jazeera. Do the link:
http://www.terrorismunveiled.com/athena/2005/06/jaafari_speaks_.html.

A More "Realist"ic Environmentalism?


A few weeks ago I posed the question whether it is possible to be both a conservative (a.k.a. favoring less government intervention) and an environmentalist. My main conclusion was that most environmental groups think the answer to pollution and the destruction of both wildlife and their habitats lay with the government imposing ever greater restrictions on human activity from on high. This type of thinking is found in environmental legislation and international treaties such as Kyoto. Being a person who loves nature as much as the next guy and realizes the grave importance of its conservation for humanity, but who at the same time is wary of overburdensome governmental authority in peoples everyday activities, I questioned whether perhaps I would have to give up one of these beliefs so as to maintain the other. Essentially I wondered, how could I be a "conservative conservationist?" Should I follow the model of groups such as Republicans for Environmental Protection, which (as far as I'm able to tell) essentially adopts watered down versions of the views held by the Sierra Club or the Green Party? Or should I turn into the hapless and I would argue unfair caricature of the big business Republican defending every "selfish" individual desire, just so long as Washington remained hands off? The answer to my conundrum was to be found, quite by accident when I came across another blog devoted almost totally to a new way of thinking about environmental problems known as the commonsblog.org. The commons argued that the only way to effectively conserve the environment was to find a way in which free market theories could be used for environmental conservation. This would, they argued, work with human nature and not seek to return man to a romanticized view of pre-industrial society (which by the way was never as in sinc with the surrounding environment as some would have you beleive) forcing all of humanity to make large individual sacrifices for what would be percieved by them as negligible personal benefit; And all out of a sense of some unkown, altruistic, humanist faith.
Of course being neither an expert in environmental science nor in human behavior, I do not pretend to know the exact method of structuring environmental conservation regulations in order to harness the power of individual desires. Nor do I completely right off the need for direct governmental intervention in certain areas of the conservation fight. I, instead, believe that by looking at environmentalism in this new light ("new" is subjective of course, and such thoughts have been around quite some time now) both the environment and conservative thought may benefit.

An article which better states my point of view, though perhaps more ambiguously (certainly more in debth), can be found at the following site:
http://www.chem.brown.edu/chem12/readings/atlantic/china/selfish.htm.

Friday, July 01, 2005

GOD Bless this Honorable Court...



With the announcement, today, by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor that she will retire immediately upon the selection of her replacement, GOD's blessings are needed more than ever. In a court which has in the recent past, damaged the very foundation of this nation and its institutions, the need for change has rarely been greater. I only hope that the next justice will be more in the vein of Scalia or Thomas than O'Connor. But in the violent political climate we now find ourselves, anyone to the right of Souter will be difficult to confirm (minus getting rid of the judicial filibuster which would undoubtedly follow).

For a great discussion on the upcoming political battle visit Bench Memos:

http://bench.nationalreview.com/ .