28 July 2006

Reader "Jane Doe" writes:

Hello,…I have tried talking to other conservative bloggers, but all they do is try to make me look like an idiot and  refuse to answer my questions.

First off, I'm a teenage Christian and I have liberal views, unlike most Christians I guess. However, I am strongly against abortion and gay marriage, and I believe in a stricter justice system (but not capital punishment, because I think it’s still murder).  So I think of myself as being more center than you, who call yourself a right of center Christian democrat.

It seems to me that you're completely supportive of Bush, but also pro life like me. So, what’s the difference between killing a baby, and killing a whole generation of Iraqi people?

How can you possiblye see a difference?  Don’t you think that in God's eyes, murder is murder, and no matter who you kill it's still a sin. I just don't understand how you can claim to be close to God when you  support a war for profit, which is completely against God's Word.  Jesus was a pacifist, wasn’t he?  Why should Christians be exempt from the duty of pacifism? We won’t solve the problem of terrorism by having more wars and death and violence.

Secondly, Jesus taught us to help the poor and needy. Conservative values are all about helping themselves.  They don’t care about the poor.  They seem to be saying, “Who cares about the poor! They should get a job anyway!” Conservatives believe in lower taxes, which in turn lowers social programs that help people at the bottom rung of the ladder. How can you possibly say that it is moral to prevent children from going to school and getting the proper healthcare just because they can't pay for it?   You people tell a single mother of two to get a job, but who will take care of her kids? How can Christians be conservative and adopt the  selfish and greedy values of making more money, getting more power, helping only yourself when it's obvious that God wants everyone to have a chance at living a happy, healthy life.

The reason I'm strongly religious is because I believe in God. We were put on this Earth to do good. I can't say that I know the Bible by heart, nor can I quote many scriptures, but I know that we show our true love to God when we are good people and we help others, rather than one-up them either by bombing their countries or by keeping the necessities of life all to ourselves and not sharing it with the needy.  If that’s true, how can you be so conservative?  It doesn’t make sense.


Dear Jane,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to correct your understanding of conservatism, economics, theology, and Scripture—just to keep the list short.  I’ll just take each of your points, or questions, in turn.

I don’t think it very accurate to say that we are killing an entire generation of Iraqis.  Those who are being killed fall into two classes: combatants and non-combatants.  The combatants are being killed because they are combatants.  Babies, to my knowledge, are not combatants.  That’s the difference Jane, the difference between killing those who will kill you when they get the opportunity and not killing a baby.  And, since we probably won’t kill all of the combatants or all of the non-cambatants, I think it’s fair to say we’re not killing any entire generation of Iraqis.

Now, you’re correct when you say that in God’s eyes murder is murder.  But I think what you were trying to say is that in God’s eyes all killing is murder.  I can assure you that it isn’t.  How?  Because the same God who said “Thou shalt not murder” also commanded that murderers be put to death.  Murder just is not simply taking a life; it has to be taking a life outside of the bounds which God has provided for taking life.  Two of those bounds are murderers and combatants in war.  Sorry.  In this matter you were, as Jesus once told some Sadduccees, “mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures.”  Furthermore, any support I have for this war is predicated upon my belief that profit making, while it may happen, is not the purpose for the war, as you seem to believe.  (The fact that someone is making a profit off of something related to this war doesn’t prove that the war is all about profit.  That would be like saying that the purpose of eating is excrement, or that the purpose of the automobile is to produce carbon monoxide.)

I’m afraid that Jesus was not a pacifist.  As a Catholic, you no doubt believe in the Trinity, which means that you believe that Jesus is a member of the Godhead (i.e., the second Person of the Trinity).  As you read the Scriptures pay attention, in the Old Testament, to all the wars that the Godhead (which includes The Son) commanded.  (In the New Testament, in may interest you to know that the Revelation of John depicts Jesus as returning, dressed for battle, to do battle with his enemies.)  Now unless you are going to assert that The Son disagreed with the other members of the Trinity about all those wars, you’re just going to have discard the idea that Jesus was a pacificist.  (It may interest you to know that neither Jesus, nor any of the Apostles or early Church Fathers, made soldiers leave the military.  I mean Jesus healed a Roman centurion’s servant, of all things.)

Yes, Jesus taught us to help the poor and needy. But you are out of line to say that conservative values are “the selfish and greedy values of making more money” and that they don’t care about the poor.  As you grow up it will be well if you learn not to attribute evil motives to people who happen not to agree with you about how to solve problems.  It will also be helpful if you will learn to summarize positions, rather than caricature them.  For example, I could caricature your position by that liberals believe that our God-given duty to the poor is fulfilled simply by paying our taxes—like Ebenezer Scrooge.

The fact that conservatives do not believe that the State is an effective charitable instutition in no way supports your claim that they do not care about the poor.  Many, like myself, give to charities.  Jesus wants you and I to care for the poor.  The difference between you and I isn’t that you (a liberal) care for more about the poor than I (a conservative).  The real difference is that your care doesn’t cost you much of your own money, and my concern costs me twice: once when I pay my taxes and again when I give to the charities I support.  Looks like I care more than you do; all you have to do is pay taxes—if you even do that at this point in your life.  (After you have looked at the tax returns of all conservatives, then maybe you will be entitled to talk about how little they care for the poor.)

You have said that Jesus wants us to care for the poor.  Fine.  If you want to do charity, Jane, go and do charity.  But don’t use the State to take a man’s money to give it to another and call that your charity.  Jesus did not command that.  Your charity for the poor ought to cost you, not your neighbor.  Your neighbor, whether you think he pays too little in taxes or not, may be doing his own charitable acts.  But even if he isn’t, Jesus didn’t give you the authority to do your neighbor’s charity for him.

Now, about those taxes.  I don’t know who explained taxes to you, but he or she did a poor job.  Conservatives don’t believe in lower taxes.  We believe in lower tax rates.  Lowering tax rates doesn’t lower tax revenues.  This is because any tax is a tax on economic activity.  Because you will get less of what you tax the higher the rate of taxation, the lower the rate of economic  growth.  Lowering tax rates (i.e., the percentage of a person’s income which will be taken) increases economic activity, which increases income, which actually produces more tax revenues, even the percentage is lower.  Look at it this way:  10-percent is less than 20-percent, right?  But would you rather have 10-percent of  $10,000.00 or 20-percent of $500.00?  It isn’t enough to ask just by what percentage someones taxes were decreased.  You also have to look at by what percentage his income increased.  If his income increased, then, even if his tax rate goes from 20 to 10 percent the amount he actually pays in taxes may go up.  And this isn’t guessing, Jane, this is empirically verifiable.  I’m not talking about what we conservatives wish would happen to revenues; I’m talking about what really does happen.  More to the point, now that the numbers are in, I’m talking about what is presently happening to tax revenues. (Actually, nothing is empirically verifiable, but this would involve an explanation  of  the difference between verifiability and falsifiablilty.  Maybe you can ask your science teacher about that.)

Well, I think I have fairly answered your questions.  But I have a word of caution for you.  When you are confronting a view with which you disagree, you should seek to summarize the view, rather than caricature the view, as you have done in your email.
27 July 2006

Underperforming angels?

Former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm is in trouble for what State Representative Terrance Carroll calls  “demonizing” a group of people.  His “demonizing” consisted of referring to a group of people as “underperforming,” and then offering suggestions about how they might improve their status.

“Demonize” means to make a demon out of, right?  Now, as I understand it, a demon is an evil angel—one of those who rebelled with Lucifer.  So then a demon is really just an underperforming angel.  Gosh, that doesn’t sound so bad.

Why is God sending all those poor underperfoming angels to the pit?

More than likely, Carroll was trying to sound profound when he damned Lamm by giving faint praise to demons.  It doesn’t really matter.  What he said moved the discussion nowhere—not even backwards.  Whatever word you want to use to describe where blacks and hispanics are when compared to other minority groups the questions still remain:  What is the best course of action to take in correcting the problem? and Who is directly responsible for taking that course of action?  While he was busy uplifting demons (beings, by the way, who intend humans more harm than terrorists intend Westerners), Carroll managed, apparently, to offer no answers to the questions.  Unlike Lamm, who probably cares as little about demons as I do.

That's some puppet!


I've spent most of the last couple of days listening to Democrats--and a few Republicans--criticizing Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki for not condemning Hezbullah. To a normal person, this would mean that Democrats have been wrong about Maliki's being our puppet over there. But I suspect it won't be long before we'll hear the likes of Chris Matthews asserting that this failure of the Bush Administration to control its Iraqi Puppet Government is just further testimony to its incompetence.

Incidentally, Hezbullah means "Party of God." How long will it be before it becomes daily fare for Dems to refer to Republicans as something like American's Hezbullah?
26 July 2006

Bye, bye, Blogger. The countdown begins...

maybe. Not today. But soon. Maybe.

Still thinking about joining the Great Migration to Townhall. I get tired of Blogger's garbage. Just need to check out Townhall some more. If their bugs are worse... . Maybe figure out a way to move my archives over there also. Perhaps I should ask Josue about that. I also need to determine whether I really need to continue to blog pseudonymously anymore. There was a time when it was necessary; and it may have passed. (Not to mention the fact that I like my real name.) But since it has more to do with others’ safety, privacy, etc., and not mine, I’m not sure. On the other hand if I start blogging elsewhere non-pseudonymously then how will anyone know it’s me? Hmmmmm. I could call myself The Blogger Formerly Known As Philologous.
25 July 2006

Philologous...Sermonator?

As I mentioned in a previous post, which I inadvertantly deleted later, blogging was a little lighter than usual last week due to preparation for a sermon I was asked to deliver.  Before that post and it’s attendant comments were  deleted, several people expressed an interest in it.  It’s posted here.

CAVEAT:  I am not a pastor.  In fact, many people have difficulty “placing” me.  Let me help you:  Some years ago I was talking to an acquaintance about my research interests and some other matters.  After a few minutes he said, “So, if all you Christians were like an army, you work in the intelligence branch.”  I don’t know about all that, but I can’t come up with a better word-picture.  Although…I was thinking more like strategic studies than military  intelligence: I’m more egg-head than spook.  The Oracle could judge how apt these word pictures are.
21 July 2006

When someone throws a war...

…you might as well show up for it, because the other guys will.

Once again I find my attention drawn to my Christian brothers on the left end of the spectrum.  So, to take my mind off my empty stomach:

The new war in the Middle East
by Jim Rice

What is the proper, appropriate response of a nation to violent attacks by terrorists or other radical extremists? We have seen one model illustrated in the response of the British government to last year's attacks on London's public transportation system, in which 52 people were killed and 700 injured. The British rightly understood the attacks as terrorist acts, but responded in a measured manner, dealing both with the investigation of the terrible crime and the need for enhanced security in its wake. Pointedly, the British did not opt for a military response to these acts of terror.

We have also, of course, seen an altogether different model of response, perhaps most clearly exemplified by the U.S. invasion of two countries - one of which was an actual source of the terror - following the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001.

Unfortunately, it seems to be in the latter spirit that Israel responded to terror attacks in the past fortnight. Provoked by the Hamas kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, Israel not only invaded the northern Gaza Strip but also destroyed a significant portion of Gaza's infrastructure, including airstrikes against Gaza's power grid.

Likewise, days later, when the Syrian-backed terror group Hezbollah seized the opportunity to raid northern Israel and capture two Israeli soldiers, Israel responded with a massive attack on Lebanon's civilian structures, from the Beirut airport to a dairy factory, civilian buses, bridges, power stations, and medical facilities, according to reports. Hezbollah responded by firing hundreds of rockets a day - more-modern, longer-range rockets than in the past - aimed intentionally at neighborhoods in Haifa and other Israeli cities. The result, not surprisingly, has been the death of many civilians on all sides.

The situation is clearly complicated by the role of Hezbollah as a part of the coalition government of Lebanon, which seems unable or unwilling (probably both) to disarm Hezbollah, which effectively controls the southern part of the country. The new warfare in the Middle East is also made worse by the sinister political manipulations of both Syria and Iran, who seek to increase their own power in the region no matter the human cost.

As soon as you called this warfare, Jim, you undid just about everything you were trying to do in the preceding paragraphs.  And you are correct: this is the “new warfare.”

But Israel's use of military attacks in response to acts of terror raises many questions. The most important, perhaps, revolves around the issue of legitimate self defense vs. collective punishment. Israel is indeed surrounded by sworn enemies, including many who are demonstrably willing to violently destroy Israel. But does the real need for security justify the massively disproportionate response to an act of terror? Is the collective punishment of an entire population ever morally and ethically justified? As Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, put it in statement July 14, "The Holy See condemns both the terrorist attacks on the one side and the military reprisals on the other," stating that Israel's right to self-defense "does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian populations." The statement said further, "In particular, the Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign nation."

The collective punishment of an entire population?  It doesn’t help anything if you’re going to exaggerate like that.  If Israel is attacking the entire population, then why are Lebanonese fleeing from south to north?  Hmmm.  Must be peaceful in the north.  I’m just guessing, of course.  (Actually, no I’m not.)

I know it writes well to ask about “the massively disproportionate response,” but, even if I wanted to credit your assertion that Hizbollah’s act was properly a terrorist one and not an act of open war, this talk of proportionality just won’t do.  This isn’t a game of quid pro quo.  This is war.  In war you don’t simply give back no more than the  aggressor sends.  Once war is given, war is what you’re fighting; and you fight war by doing more damage to the enemy than he does to you.  You have to—you HAVE to—kill more of him than he does of you.  You have to destroy more of his than he does of you.  You have to destroy his morale.  More, Jim.  You win wars by doing more, not proportional.  You’re so full of your non-biblical defintion of peace that you cannot, I suppose, be prevailed upon actually to know anything about how a war is fought.  And that’s interesting when one considers just how much your God knows about how to fight a war.

Oh, yeah:  The Holy See can deplore whatever it wants.  But this is not an attack on a free and sovereign nation.  It’s a counter-attack against an paramilitary organization which happens to have outposts in South Lebanon.  And international law is a pipe dream, the product of treaties.  Treaties are entered into either by coercion, or if by free choice, because they are deemed to be in the best interest of the signatories.  Treaties are not eternal covenants.  Besides, I know of no treaty which Israel has with Hizbollah.  I do know that the UN have yet to enforce Res. 1559, which is, let’s face it, pretty typical.  If the UN will not enforce its resolutions then it falls to the nations who should be protected by those resolutions to enforce those resolutions themselves.  Personally, I hope Israel disarms Hizbollah themselves!  THAT will do a whole heck of a lot more than the UN can even talk about doing.

Even apart from the ethical questions raised by Israel's massive retaliation, there are significant issues of efficacy: Does it work? Is Israel made more secure by a militarized approach? Israel has destroyed 42 bridges in Lebanon this week, along with 38 roads, communications equipment, factories, runways and fuel depots at the Beirut airport, and the main ports of Beirut and Tripoli. And along with the material devastation, the attacks constitute a terrible, possibly even fatal, threat to Lebanon's fragile and fledgling democracy.

Well, this just shows how much you don’t know, but think you do.  This move isn’t design to make Israel more secure.  You’re not paying attention.  This move is design to get back two soldiers and to retaliate against a first strike.  And it is Hisbollah that constitutes the “terrible, possibly even fatal, threat to Lebanon’s fragile and fledgling democracy.”

Personally, I see Israel’s military action as “planning ahead.”  Unlike you, Jim, they seem to be taking very seriously the role of all this Twelfth  Imam business.  You are not paying attention.

Does the destruction of much of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure, so painstakingly rebuilt after years of civil war and occupation by both Israeli and Syrian forces, bode well for future peace between the neighboring states? In sum, will the Israeli attacks bring long-term security for Israel, or will they further ensure that the next generation of Lebanese and Palestinians - across the theological and political spectrum - grow up with an undying hatred in their hearts?

Well golly gee, Jim.  Let’s see.  Do the recent actions by Hamas and Hizbollah bode well for future peace between the neighboring states?  I am not aware that those neighboring states have given up their oft-professed goal of sweeping the state of Israel in to the sea.  It would great fun to hear you explain how all of the responsibility for peace in the area falls upon Israel.

The violence of Hezbollah and Hamas should be unequivocally condemned and opposed. It cannot be ignored or underestimated that the two terrorist organizations have as their goal the eradication of Israel. However, much U.S. media coverage of this new Middle East war paints a misleading picture of a tit-for-tat equivalency between the two sides: Hezbollah explodes a bomb in Israel, Israel responds in kind. While their intentions are indeed malevolent, the two terrorist groups have nowhere near the military capability of Israel, which wields one of the most powerful military forces in the world (with the aid, of course, of more than $3 billion per year from the United States). The death toll in Lebanon in the first six days of the war has been tenfold that in Israel - according to The New York Times, 310 people, most of them civilians, have died in Lebanon while Israel has suffered 27 casualties, 15 of them civilians, since Israel began its attacks. (Similarly, 4,064 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis have been killed since Sept. 29, 2000, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the Israel Defense Forces, respectively.)

Your talk of “opposing” the violence of Hizbollah and Hamas is meaningless since you seem to believe that opposing that violence with force of arms is inappropriate.  And as for the fact that neither Hamas nor Hizbollah has the military capability that Israel does, well that’s just too bad.  Didn’t your Lord say to count the cost?  If Hizbollah and Hamas have bitten off more than they can chew and swallow, let them see to it.  They gave war; and war is what Isreal is now fighting.  To say that “The death toll in Lebanon in the first six days of the war has been tenfold that in Israel” means, since this is war, that so far Israel is winning.  Again: you can only win a war by doing more harm to the enemy than he does to you.

One of the most difficult aspects of trying to be a peacemaker in the Middle East context is the "separation wall" of understanding between the two peoples. The very definition of what is happening is understood in vastly different ways by the two sides. Supporters of Israel see the country attacked by its sworn enemies, and see in its response a necessary and justified act of national self-defense. Others see the region's most powerful military force (supported by the world's most powerful military force) illegally occupying Palestinian land and engaging in massive, disproportionate attacks on innocent civilians.

Actually, the real problem with your trying to be a peace-keeper, is the unbiblically narrow definition of peace that you’re working with.  You seem to be of the opinion that Scripture defines peace as the absence of war, or hostility.  You’re wrong—to put it bluntly.  You need to do a word-study of shalom.  Then perhaps you’ll understand why some of us believe that sometimes the way to peace is through war.  Some people, Jim, just have to be beat down:  the Cathaginians; the Muslims (Battle of Tours); the British;  the French, during the Napoleonic Wars; the Germans, the Japanes, the Italians.

As Christians committed to the cause of peace, our role is not to "take sides" in the struggle, in the traditional sense, but rather to constantly stand for the "side" of a just and secure peace. We can ignore neither the horror of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians (including direct attacks on school children) nor the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories (with all its "collateral damage" to Palestinian children). We must have the vision and courage to stand against the acts of violence by terrorist organizations, as well as the massive state violence by the region's military superpower, while avoiding the trap of positing a false "equivalency" between actions that are not equal.

Massive state violence?  You haven’t seen any massive state violence on Israel’s part, Jim.  Not even.  Right now, Israel is delivering a thump on the head.  Hold onto your lug nuts, brother.

We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the political, strategic, and moral complexity of the situation to stand back and do nothing. A first step toward a more comprehensive resolution is an immediate operational cease-fire. But that must be followed by a new way of thinking because, as a U.N. official put it yesterday, "The Middle East is littered with the results of people believing there are military solutions to political problems in the region."

It’s all very well and good for you to assert that we can “stand back and do nothing.”  But in order for us to do something Christians (which, I assume, is the antecedent to the pronoun we) must have standing to act.  We do not.

One has to wonder just how well you have really thought this through, as opposed to merely emoting, which is what it looks like you have done.  You call for an operational cease-fire.  One of the questions for which we still await an answer from Israel’s critics is:  How do you have a cease-fire with TERRORISTS???

You also call for a new way of thinking because, as you imply, we cannot have “military solutions” to “political problems.”  First, your authority for the claim is a “U. N. official.”  Are you kidding, Jim?  As long as we’re talking about solutions, do we really want to look to the U. N. as a body of experts on political problem solving?  Uh, I don’t think so.  Second, all sorts of political problems have had military solutions.  The (legal) causes of the American Revolution were political problems.  Military solution?  I’d call that a big “Yes.”  The causes of the Texas Revolution were political problems.  Military solution?  I’m thinking pretty much “Yes.”  The two Great Teutonic Migrations of the first half of the twentieth century were political problems.  Military solution?  Affirmative.

It is interesting to see the phrase, political problem.  In what way is this a political problem?  A political problem just must be a problem within a political system, involving the issue how a problem is to be resolved within a group.  The Israelis and Hizbollah are not members of a political system.  Hisbollah is a political party in Lebanon, a political party with—get this!—a military wing, like the Nazi Party had.  (Can you say, “SS”?)  What if one of  our (i.e., American) reform parties had its own well-financed and well-armed (probably by Halliburton) militia and started shelling the Mexican state of Sonora from Arizona, and that (playing make-believe here) neither the government of Arizona nor the U.S. federal government could do a thing about it?  What should Mexico do?  Call Interpol?  This is not a political problem, Jim.  It’s a military problem.  Just so you know for future reference:  When people start firing deadly weapons on you, you have a military problem.  Besides, (as Clausewitz said, and as everyone who has studied the profession of arms quotes), “War is but the extension of policy by other means.”  You may dream that those means aren’t truly necessary, but that doesn’t make it so.

Jim Rice is editor of Sojourners magazine.

A few things that can be done:

Be consistent in denouncing the violence of both sides - especially when it is deliberately aimed at civilians (or targets where great civilian "collateral damage" will be the result).

Well, insisting that there be not even “collateral damage” will, in this day and age, pretty much do away with “total war,” but only on the part of everyone but groups like Hamas and Hizbollah.

Pray for the emergence of new political leadership on both sides - both of which seem bereft of creative, courageous, moral, or even pragmatic leadership.

Only because you have defined your terms such that war is prima facie evidence of a lack of creative, courageous, moral or even pragmatic leadership.  And, uh, given that your God Himself commanded war, up to and including “civilian” targets, what does that say about Him?

Challenge any religious voices that seem utterly one-sided, completely neglecting the suffering and legitimate grievances of both sides.

Accepting reality, unlike you, doesn’t mean that we neglect any suffering or grievances.  That being said, however, while I will stipulate to Hizbollah’s suffering, I reject the legitimacy of their so-called grievances.

Pray for new ways for Christians and our churches to join our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters in finding real and practical solutions for a just peace in the Middle East where two states can live with security and democracy.

Given war’s success in bringing about peace in the past it is probably a more real and practical solution than your “Can’t we all just get along?” approach.  Many Muslims do not want peace; they want to rid the world, or at least the Middle East, of Israel.  Are you saying that you are willing to go that far, if that is what it takes?

And pray for better solutions than endless war to solve the real threats of terrorism in our world, because if we fail, all of our children will be at risk.

So far, no war in human history has been endless.  As a Christian, you should know what kind of world you live in.  As such, you really shouldn’t be surprised by war; you should really be surprised by peace when it breaks out anywhere.

American Whine Tasting

You’ve got to listen to this.  American whiner-brat.  It would be fun to respond to this silly girl myself, but Laura Ingraham does it better anyway.
20 July 2006

No, I did not fail to repair!

It is 06:23 GMT, 21 July 2006. Finally able to get a connection. It is a dark and stormy night here in the desert, thanks to global warming, no doubt. From the darkness of my LP/OP I can hear the scurrying of the beetles and it makes me wonder if yet another rabbit has fallen into one of the window wells. I think, for just a moment, that I might get up and go down into the bunker and look, but I’ve been fasting for a whole twenty-three minutes now and I fear using too much energy unecessarily. Besides, in an emergency, that rabbit could be used as an alternative food source. Hmmmm. So can the beetles, for that matter. Rabbits probably taste better.

UPDATE: I doubt very much that beetles taste like chicken.

UPDATE: What about centipedes? I’ve seen two or three in the last couple of days.

UPDATE: What if we could build tanks that moved around like centipedes? They’re so cool. So are tanks. I wonder: If I’m ever in that area, would the Master Gunner fix it so I could drive a tank again for awhile? That would be so cool.

UPDATE: So would Tank Gunnery.

UPDATE: I was going to go Infantry. Then the recruiter showed me that demo tape of the M1. That recruiter was okay, I guess. For an MP. No offence MP’s. (Okay, but really, nobody likes you. Don’t blame me. I’m just the messenger.)

UPDATE: Of course, my feelings for terrorists make my feelings for MPs look like puppy love.

UPDATE: Should my mirror have a sign above it that says, "Warning: Persons in the mirror are uglier than they appear"?

UPDATE: No. My wife might think it was referring to her.

UPDATE: I’ll think I’ll watch an episode of Deep Space Nine.

UPDATE “Looking for par Mach in all the wrong places.”

UPDATE: Parachutes are cool, too. I wish I could go to Jump School again. That was a blast. I wish I could have learned HALO too. That looks awesome.

UPDATE: I still think I could have made it through the Q Course. Damned frostbitten hands!

UPDATE: Damned knee!

UPDATE: Damned ankle!

UPDATE: I’m glad my stomach doesn’t rest in my lap when I sit down. Where does your lap go when you stand up?

UPDATE: P. S. Although I am entered this period of fasting of my own free will, and fully knowledgeable of the risks involved in going 24 hours without eating I wish to declare my intention, should anything go wrong, to blame President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and SECDEF Rumsfeld. After all, this is their fault; they got us into this illegal war for oil in the first place. Had they not done so, Cindy Sheehan would still be a nobody; and this fast wouldn’t be necessary. (Besides, blaming the President has gotten to be such a fad that I can no longer bear to be left out.)

UPDATE: I’m still pissed off about Somalia.

UPDATE: P. P. S. Sweetie, should anything happen to me I just want to make sure that you are the one who ends up with my collection of Robert Ludlum novels.

UPDATE: “Sweetie” is what I call my daughter, not my wife. What I call my wife is classified.

UPDATE: Those beetles are making me hungry.

UPDATE: When I started up Deep Space Nine, I caught some coverage of some place in Israel which must have been bombed recently. Was that a cow carcass there in the background? Mmmmm. Barbecue.

UPDATE: I better go check on that rabbit. (It’s the humane thing to do.)

UPDATE: But first, the Tobermory!

UPDATE: Whew! Those steps may as well have been Mt. Everest! (I’ve never realized how dark it is down there, even with the lights on.) Those weren’t beetles. The wind from the storm is making the concertina wire rub against the building.

UPDATE: No rabbits either.

UPDATE: I find myself prepared seriously to consider the proposition that MREs really are an alternative source of food.

UPDATE: Ugh! It’s amazing what a picture of Cindy Sheehan will do to a man’s appetite. Why do I do such things to myself? At least she was dressed!

UPDATE: Was that woman ever attractive? She reminds me (with all due respect to her son [MHRIP] of my sixth grade homeroom teacher, Ms. Glore. We called her Mistress Galore. (Get it?) She made my skin crawl. Right now I’d like to give her a big, fat, wet kiss. (That would probably make her lifetime! And my wife jealous! Better not.)

UPDATE: Ms. Glore, that is. Not Cindy Sheehan!

UPDATE: Must have more Tobermory. I wonder what Mr. Sheehan drinks. Whatever it is, I should send him a case.

UPDATE: Klingon chicks are sooooooooooooooo glorious.

UPDATE: I’m glad my wife doesn’t read this blog.

UPDATE: Is it a bad thing that my wife doesn’t read my blog?

UPDATE: I really like the fact that my shoulder-girdle area is 15 inches larger than my waste. Does that make me vain?

UPDATE: Twenty-three hours to go.

UPDATE: Oops! As it turns out, my wife does read this blog. Gotta go!

UPDATE: Suddenly I can't stop thinking about huevos rancheros!

UPDATE: Wow! Flash flood warning out here in the desert! (I need to go down into the bunker and check on the, uh, beetles and rabbits.)

UPDATE: I forgot: beetles float!

UPDATE: Don't they?

UPDATE: Join my band of manly men, and you too shall have a manly laugh like this: Ha! Ha-ha-ha-ha! Ha-haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!

UPDATE: Nothing personal ladies. I like my ladies womanly, not manly, with womanly laughs, or giggles. Or whatever.

UPDATE: Unless they are like Klingon women. Ka' plah!!!

UPDATE: Well that was a knock-about of pure fun. Now it's time for that cornish hen. And the blood wine!

Fall in for the Victory Fast





In just a few short hours (06:00 GMT) I begin my participation in the Tanker Brothers’ Rolling Victory Fast. To celebrate the event (and not merely my participation in it) I have composed a theme song. Well, not exactly, but it works for me.

The Great Rolling Victory Fast

(sing to the tune of “The Magical Mystery Tour” by The Beatles)

(Fall in,
Fall in for the Victory Fast,
step right this way),

Fall in,
Fall in for the Victory Fast,
Fall in,
Fall in for the Victory Fast,

Fall in,
(and that's an invitation),
Fall in for the Victory Fast,
Fall in,
(to make a reservation),
Fall in,
for the Victory Fast

The great Rolling Victory Fast
is waiting to make Cindy pay,
waiting to make Cindy pay

Fall in,
Fall in for the Victory Fast,
Fall in,
Fall in for the Victory Fast

Fall in,
(we've got everything you need),
Fall in for the Victory Fast,
Fall in,
(satisfaction guaranteed),
Fall in for the Victory Fast

The great Rolling Victory Fast
is hoping to make Cindy pay,
hoping to make Cindy pay,
the great rolling trip

Ah, the great Rolling Victory Fast,
Fall in,
Fall in,
for the Victory Fast

Fall in,
(and that's an invitation)
Fall in for the Victory Fast ,
Fall in,
(to make a reservation)
Fall in for the Victory Fast,

The great Rolling Victory Fast
is going to make Cindy pay,
going to make Cindy pay.

The great Rolling Victory Fast
is starving to make Cindy pay,
starving to make Cindy pay,
make her today.

And I haven’t even started drinking yet.
18 July 2006

The first rule of diplomacy...and defense policy

One of the things I like about Israel’s present course of action is that I like to see nations apply my first rule of diplomacy and defense policy: “Diplomacy ends when your opponent strikes. After that, the best course is to assume that your opponent intends to do to you the greatest harm possible and then beat him to it. This requires nothing more than beating him down and persisting in beating until he cannot or will not get back up. It also requires both the tools and the talent to give that beating.” –from Philologous Lector, “On Defense Policy”

Well, it beats the lefts rule of diplomacy and defense policy: “Whatever wars are breaking out in the world are the fault of President Bush—somehow.” Anonymous, “The Left-Liberal Political Playbook”
17 July 2006

A gentle pat on the shoulder?

This insight into the fight that Hizbullah has picked with Israel is worth having.  I love the Israelis.  In my mispent youth I toyed with the idea of emigrating to Israel and joining the IDF.  Something about a people surrounded by enemies and still able to survive just appealed to my bellicose innards.
14 July 2006

Who is Angela Merkel?

As is well known, the President has been in Germany visiting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.  As a politically minded Christian, I find her and her party very interesting.

Merkel grew up in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany), the daughter of a Protestant (and Socialist) minister.  (Interesting fact: When she came of age in communist East Germany, she did not go through the secular, state ceremony; she elected to be confirmed in her faith instead.)  A physicist by education she is the first woman to lead the modern German nation-state since its inception in 1871, and the youngest Chancellor since World War II.  Next year she will be the first woman to chair the G8.

Her party, the Christian Democratic Union (party principles here), part of the international Christian Democracy movement.  (Incidentally, Mexico’s National Action Party—the party of President Vicente Fox and President-elect Felipe Calderon—is also part of the movement.)  The worldwide CD movement generally is characterized as being socially conservative and in favor of free markets with a government-enforced social conscience.

Merkel has been in favor of reforming Germany's economic and social system and has been thought to be more pro-free market and pro-deregulation than her party is.  She has advocated changes in German labor law, such as  removing barriers to firing employees and increasing the number of work hours in a week on the grounds that current law makes the country less competitive because companies can’t control labor costs when business is slow.  (I happen to know from personal experience that this is true.)

Merkel has also been an advocate for German-American friendship. In the spring of 2003, she went contrary to  strong public opinion and came out in favor of our invasion of Iraq.  The invasion was, according to her,  “unavoidable.”  She also went to far as to accuse Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of anti-Americanism. Some of her  critics have called her an American lackey for that position.  Merkel has criticized the government's support for Turkish membership in the European Union, arguing instead for a “privileged partnership.”  Now, on that matter, she was in unison with an overwhelming majority of Germans, who rejected Turkey’s membership in the European Union because of fears that large waves of immigration would impose a heavy burden on Germany and that there would be too much Islamist influence within the EU.

In many ways, Christian Democracy and the President’s “compassionate” conservatism share some important similarities.  (It should be noted, however, that Christian Democracy in Europe tends to be a bit right of center, while it is a bit left of center in Latin America.)  So there’s a reason why the President and the German Chancellor look so friendly in all the photos.
12 July 2006

My daddy was in a war and thinks the war in Iraq is wrong

Therefore the war in Iraq is wrong.

Jim Wallis, editor in chief of Sojourners must think that such an argument is unassailable.

In what purports at first to be a touching tribute to his father, Wallis writes, concerning his father’s view of Hiroshima after the Bomb:

He admitted that he had not been sympathetic to the Japanese after they had attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and especially after they and their German allies had killed so many of his friends. Along with many of his fellow soldiers, he felt they deserved the atomic bomb—though at the time, he said, few of them fully understood what it was.

But then he saw Hiroshima. As the two young Americans walked through the flattened rubble, they passed by a small pile of bricks that had been fashioned into a makeshift shelter. Suddenly, a little girl appeared from behind a wall. My father remembered her as about 5 years old, with dirty tattered clothes falling off her body. As far as they could tell, she was all alone with no one to take care of her.

As he talked about the child, he seemed to remember her vividly, as if it were yesterday. And he recalled the feelings that welled up inside him: She was just a little child, none of this was her fault, and she had nothing to do with it. They knew she would die soon, if only from the exposure to all that radiation. My dad, an 82-year-old war veteran, began to cry as he remembered a day more than 60 years ago.

“That’s war,” he said, “and that’s why I hate it.” He still believes that we had to defend ourselves from a direct attack in World War II. But why did they drop that bomb on civilian targets, he asked, cities with no military significance? They could have dropped them on a deserted island to make the point.


As you might guess, since I’ve decided to “pick” on him today, Wallis is going somewhere with this.  It isn’t a tribute to his dad, really.  But let’s pause to note just a couple of things.  First, Who in his right mind loves war?  (If you’re thinking Patton, please reconsider.  As much a fan of him as I am, I remain uncertain that he was in his right mind.)  No one loves war.  I bring this up because when Wallis’s father says, “That’s war, and that’s why I hate it” one can get the impression that there are those who love war and, therefore, engage in war.  Second, it seems that Wallis’s father was not very well informed as to either the military significance of Hiroshima or the nature of the war he was fighting.  Going in reverse order, WWII was a “total war”, whether we like it or not, whether the elder Wallis knew it or not—or even believed it or not.  It was total war.  And the definition of a target with military significance is difficult in total war.  And as for Hiroshima’s military significance, it has to be of some military significance that Hiroshima was the headquarters of Field Marshal Shunroku Hata's 2nd General Army Headquarters  (which was responsible for the defense of southern Japan), a logistics center for the Japanese military, as well as a communications center, and assembly area for troops.  No military significance?  One has to wonder if, say, Colorado Springs or San Antonio would, in the era of total war, be cities of any military significance in the view of the elder Wallis.

According to the elder Wallis, as arm-chair military strategist, we could have dropped the bombs on a deserted island in order to make our point.  It might be true that we’d have made our point, but only if the Japanese could be certain that if we failed to impress them with a bomb over a deserted island then we really would bomb a more significant target.  Does the elder Wallis have any evidence that, in fact, the Japanese would have believed that the next bomb would explode over such a target?  I’d like to see it.  I’d also like to see any evidence he has regarding our intelligence assessment of any nuclear capability possessed by the Japanese at the time.  In order for the elder Wallis’ strategy to work, we’d have needed to be awfully certain that the Japanese could not respond with their own bomb.  In the end, wasting ammo—even nuclear ammo—in a war makes no sense militarily.  Think of it: in any war we can always try firing our weapons over the enemy’s head to try to make our point.  Failing that, I suppose, it will then be okay if we shoot to kill.  Of course, the enemy will have been shooting to kill the entire time.

And if we had dropped a bomb over a deserted island and failed by so doing to impress the Japanese, what then?  I suppose that the elder Wallis would then approve our dropping the bomb over Hiroshima.  But then he would still have been confronted, all other things being equal, with that five year old girl.  Would he have been okay with that because, after all, we tried a deserted island first and it didn’t work?  Would he then acknowledge that dropping the bomb over Hiroshima was the right thing to do, in the circumstances?  I doubt it.

Wallis continues:

My dad has opposed every war since then and is especially upset about the war in Iraq. They just lie about it, and it was totally unnecessary, he said, as his tears turned to anger.
My dad is part of what former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw named the “greatest generation” ….
But my dad doesn’t like the direction his country has gone since his generation has retired. Now he often shakes his head while he watches CNN. “How do they get away with it?” he asks me on the phone.
Sitting with him at the memorial, it was moving to see how this war veteran has so turned against war and still feels the emotions that senseless suffering brings. Most of those who run our wars now are not veterans of any war and have little to say about the deaths that occur every day.
I wonder what would happen to them if a 5-year-old girl came out from behind the rubble of war to stop them in their tracks. But most of them never get close enough to the rubble to see her.

We knew the anti-War-in-Iraq business was coming, didn’t we?  It’s almost Sheehanesque.  But instead of claiming moral authority by hiding behind a deceased war-veteran son, Wallis makes his claim by hiding behind a living war-veteran father.  It may seem out of line for me to assert that of Wallis; after all he’s just reporting his father’s reaction.  But don’t let a certain subtle shift escape your notice.  In the fourth paragraph quoted above, Wallis stops reporting his father’s feelings and starts giving us his own:  “Most of those who run our wars now are not veterans of any war and have little to say about the deaths that occur every day.”

Laying this aside, let’s give Wallis’ point its due.  And that point is, as I take it, is that things would be different if it were the case that most of those who run our wars now were veterans of war.  Presumably they would then, like his father, have much to say about the deaths that occur every day; and they would do so with the moral authority possessed by his father, no doubt.  (And this assumes that these veterans of wars have not, like the elder Wallis, turned against all war, still feeling “the emotions that senseless suffering brings.”)  More likely, as his point seems to be, we’d never have gotten into this war in Iraq in the first place.  Surely that is the implicit assertion in this indirect question:  “I wonder what would happen to them if a 5-year-old girl came out from behind the rubble of war to stop them in their tracks.”  We know the answer:  If they are at all as reasonable—and as ill-informed—as his father was and remains, then we wouldn’t be in Iraq.  Those chair-polishing armchair warriors who’ve never heard a shot fired in anger would call the war off immediately.  Right?  I mean, who really wants to see a 5 year old girl die?

Of course, if that’s our plumb line, then would we ever have fought any war?  Would the rebels have called a halt to the Revolutionary War upon seeing the lifeless corpse of a five year old?  Should they have done?  What about the Civil War?  Should the slaves not have been freed because the war to free them might have resulted in the death of a five year old?

Rhetorical questions, of course.  And I suppose that Wallis might stipulate that at least one significant difference is this: that most of those who ran the Revolutionary and Civil wars were veterans of wars.  But would that really suffice?  Think about what he would be saying:  The death of a five year old is acceptable if most of those running the war are themselves veterans of a war.  I doubt Wallis wants to say that.  When he decided to hide behind his war veteran father, he probably hadn’t thought of that.

To this point, I’ve been crediting his claim that most of those running this war are not veterans of war themselves.  Is this true?  Part of the answer will depend on how he classifies someone as running the war, and indeed just what he means by the phrase “running the war.”

We could start with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  General Pace (USMC) is a war veteran.  General Shoomaker (USA!!!) is also.  Moving down the ladder in a way (i.e., not operationally), the element having direct oversight of Iraq is the U. S. Central Command.  CENTCOM is under the command of General John Abizaid (USA!!!), who is a war veteran.

I suspect that when he talks of those who are running the war, Wallis means the civilian element running the war.   Rather than dispute the assertion, let’s stipulate to it and see what happens.  The question before us remains:  Is the war in Iraq justified, even if it results in the death of a five year old?  It is a reasonable question; it is also a close-ended question.  The answer will be yes, or no.  And regardless the answer (and regardless how that answer is justified), it must be a rational answer, arrived at by the application of the rules of logical argumentation.  And that means the combat service of those who run the war, or the lack thereof, is—get ready Wallis—irrelevant.  That’s right.  It is, even if true, ir-freakin’-relevant that those who are running the war are not veterans of war, or that they will never be “close enough to the rubble.”  (Something else I don’t think Wallis took into account when he decided to hide behind his father’s war service.)

In addition to arguing an irrelevancy, Wallis also makes another logical error.  He says, again, “Most of those who run our wars now are not veterans of any war….”  It is difficult to know what to make of the claim.  The “most” of what number?  I don’t really know the number of people Wallis thinks are running the war.  How many are there?  Fifty?  One hundred?  Three?  Let’s say that the number is fifty.  When he says that “most” of them are not war veterans, does he mean that twenty-six out of that fifty?  Let’s say that out of the fifty, thirty are not veterans of war.  That leaves twenty that are.  Given their experience, shouldn’t they be given greater weight?  What might they say to Wallis?  What if they told Wallis that, with all due respect, they disagreed with his father?  I doubt it would matter.  He probably wants to ignore them, focusing only on those who haven’t.  Actual war veterans might not help his case, to the extent that he makes a case.
10 July 2006

I can't hear what you say...

because what you do is so much louder.

Okay.  We know that the Leftist loser in Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in true leftist fashion, is challenging the results of democracy.  Henry Ortuno, conservative and hispanic—like us—has this reaction.  I share his sentiments in part, but I think there is more to it than lust for power.

The Left have always struck me as being so convinced of the superiority of their positions as to be blind to the fact that intelligent, well-informed, free, and even poor people would not elect them to office.  When they lose, this hubris, limits the possibilities to about two: either (1) their opponents cheated or (2) the electorate are too ignorant, ill-informed, unintelligent or somehow prevented from voting properly.  The possibility that voters who are intelligent, well-informed, and free would still not vote for them is unthinkable.  After all, why would you not vote for someone who was promising to  take from the “exploiters” and give to you, the “victims”?  Why, of course, you wouldn’t vote for such people if you did not know or understand what was being offered, or the opponent frightened you away from the polls.  If those possibilities are ruled out, then the only remaining possibility is that the opponent stole the election.  Somehow.  It’s just a matter of figuring out how the election was stolen.

Don’t get me wrong: Ortuno is correct; it is a lust for power.  But the Left hates democracy.  And don’t let them tell you differently.  Like Ortuno I speak from experience as a former Lefty.

Treasury Secretary calls out al-Nuyoriqi

With denials of harm still coming out of the Times al-Nuyoriqi it may be helpful to read a letter written to Managing Editor Bill Keller by Treasury Secretary Snow.  I reproduce it here for your convenience.

June 26, 20064339
Letter to the Editors of The New York Times by Treasury Secretary Snow
Mr. Bill Keller, Managing EditorThe New York Times229 West 43rd StreetNew York, NY 10036Dear Mr. Keller:
The New York Times' decision to disclose the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, a robust and classified effort to map terrorist networks through the use of financial data, was irresponsible and harmful to the security of Americans and freedom-loving people worldwide. In choosing to expose this program, despite repeated pleas from high-level officials on both sides of the aisle, including myself, the Times undermined a highly successful counter-terrorism program and alerted terrorists to the methods and sources used to track their money trails.
Your charge that our efforts to convince The New York Times not to publish were "half-hearted" is incorrect and offensive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Over the past two months, Treasury has engaged in a vigorous dialogue with the Times - from the reporters writing the story to the D.C. Bureau Chief and all the way up to you. It should also be noted that the co-chairmen of the bipartisan 9-11 Commission, Governor Tom Kean and Congressman Lee Hamilton, met in person or placed calls to the very highest levels of the Times urging the paper not to publish the story. Members of Congress, senior U.S. Government officials and well-respected legal authorities from both sides of the aisle also asked the paper not to publish or supported the legality and validity of the program.
Indeed, I invited you to my office for the explicit purpose of talking you out of publishing this story. And there was nothing "half-hearted" about that effort. I told you about the true value of the program in defeating terrorism and sought to impress upon you the harm that would occur from its disclosure. I stressed that the program is grounded on solid legal footing, had many built-in safeguards, and has been extremely valuable in the war against terror. Additionally, Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey met with the reporters and your senior editors to answer countless questions, laying out the legal framework and diligently outlining the multiple safeguards and protections that are in place.
You have defended your decision to compromise this program by asserting that "terror financiers know" our methods for tracking their funds and have already moved to other methods to send money. The fact that your editors believe themselves to be qualified to assess how terrorists are moving money betrays a breathtaking arrogance and a deep misunderstanding of this program and how it works. While terrorists are relying more heavily than before on cumbersome methods to move money, such as cash couriers, we have continued to see them using the formal financial system, which has made this particular program incredibly valuable.
Lastly, justifying this disclosure by citing the "public interest" in knowing information about this program means the paper has given itself free license to expose any covert activity that it happens to learn of - even those that are legally grounded, responsibly administered, independently overseen, and highly effective. Indeed, you have done so here.
What you've seemed to overlook is that it is also a matter of public interest that we use all means available - lawfully and responsibly - to help protect the American people from the deadly threats of terrorists. I am deeply disappointed in the New York Times.
Sincerely,
[signed]
John W. Snow, SecretaryU.S. Department of the Treasury


On the same topic, this bit of satire at the Power Line blog is just priceless!!!
07 July 2006

Now, when and how do ideas become "outdated"?

As is by now well known, the New York Court of Appeals has ruled that the state’s constitution does not guarantee the right to marriage for same-sex couples.  Howard Dean has criticized the decision as relying on “outdated and bigoted notions about families.”

I find it interesting to note that Dean does not fault the Court of Appeals for failing to follow the law of all things!  He does not say that the decision is not based on the state’s constitution.  I wonder: Does he have any idea what an appellate court is supposed to do?

It is also interesting to note that Dean responds in a typical leftist fashion.  Rather than demonstrate the falsity of the proposition, the left—as I have pointed out time out of mind—prefer to make statements about either the propositions or the people who assert them.  Here, Dean characterizes the decision—a set of propositions—as being based on “outdated and bigoted notions about families.”

I frequently asserted that leftists are Marxist.  Dean’s criticism is an example of why I do so.  Ask yourself just how an idea, or notion, can become “outdated”.  Now, in logic it is customary when referring to concepts, ideas, or notions as being either applicable or inapplicable.  With respect to concepts, the terms applicable or inapplicable are used in much the same way as truth and falsity are with respect to propositions.  A notion can only be applicable or inapplicable.  Only on a Marxist (technically, a Hegelian) worldview could a once-applicable notion possibly become (note the verb) inapplicable.

But even assuming a concept can make the move from being applicable to inapplicable, I am hard pressed to how a concept undergoes this transformation. It would be great to hear the good doctor offer an explanation of just how the passage of time affects the applicability of a concept or notion.  He needn’t bother.  Let’s suppose that the concept of family refers to a group of people who are related to each other by birth, marriage or adoption.  Let’s say further that the concept of marriage refers to the union of a male and a female.  I am willing to bet that if we asked him, Dean would tell us that he rejects utterly that particular notion of marriage.  This notion is not “outdated’; it never, in his mind, made the move from applicable to inapplicable.  As far as he’s concerned that notion has never been  applicable.  In the end all he has said is that the decision relies on “notions about families” that he just happens to disagree with.

Dean’s criticism is also interesting in view of the fact that while the Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s constitution does not guarantee the right to marriage for same-sex couples it also declared that  the state legislature could provide for same-sex marriage.  Of course that’s the problem.  When it comes to policies they don’t like, the left prefer to use the courts, not the democratic process.

Now here is someone who understands the economics of jury redistribution

This, if the allegations are true, is the story of a man who, tragically for his children, understands how some people go about getting rich: by suing corporations.  Juries have been encouraged to “send a message”.  The sad thing about a message (are you paying attention Times al-Nuyoriqi?) is that the message is not received only by the people for whom it is intended.  Corporations have received the message: there is some type of warning on virtually every product sold in the US.  Unfortunately, unethical non-corporate entities have also received the message: stupid people, sitting on juries, will give someone’s money away in order to “send a message”.

Some might say that this is further evidence of the need for tort reform.  But if we analyze this the way that the left analyze gun issues, we would have to say that it’s evidence of the need for doing away with jury trials.

Imagine there were no countries...

it’s easy if you try.

(H/T:  Jeffery Tucker.)
06 July 2006

Is Christianity actually pro-individual-liberty?

Stephen Cox thinks it is.  (So do I, for whatever it’s worth, especially the Calvinist strand.)  Cox’s article, “The Individualist Code,” is posted at the Ludwig von Mises site, and begins thusly:

What accounts for the popularity of "The Da Vinci Code" and other crackpot exposés of Christian history?
Part of it is the novelty factor: many people know so little about the history of any religion that even the oddest and dumbest falsehoods seem fresh and provocative to them. But there's another explanation too: People have an instinct for liberty, an instinct that urges them to rebel against institutions they regard as authoritarian and anti-individualistic. Rightly or wrongly, many people see Christianity in this way.
Read the rest.  It’s worth it.

Time to emigrate?


I’m thinking of joining the ‘great migration,’ or at least cross-posting until the bugs are worked out.

So much for "settled" law

I didn’t finish as much reading of the Hamdan opinion as I had hoped to have done over the long weekend, what with concurrent reading of the cited statutory provisions (i.e., the DTA, the UCMJ, and the AUMF) and my celebration of the purpose for taking the long weekend in the first place—that is, the 4th of July.  

I discovered over the weekend that one’s ability to read law is somewhat impaired by the consumption of alcohol.  (Kind of makes me wonder about certain Supreme Court justices!)

One of the issues in the Hamdan case was the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, especially on the question of whether the Court had jurisdiction even to hear the case.  The relevant provisions of that statute (i.e., with respect to the question of the Court’s jurisdiction) are from DTA Section 1005 (bold emphasis added by me):

(e) Judicial Review of Detention of Enemy Combatants-
(1) IN GENERAL- Section 2241 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
'(e) Except as provided in section 1005 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider--
             '(1) an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; or
'(2) any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention by the Department of Defense of an alien at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba....
(2) REVIEW OF DECISIONS OF COMBATANT STATUS REVIEW TRIBUNALS OF PROPRIETY OF DETENTION-
(A) IN GENERAL- Subject to subparagraphs (B), (C), and (D), the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of any final decision of a Combatant Status Review Tribunal that an alien is properly detained as an enemy combatant.
(B) LIMITATION ON CLAIMS- The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit under this paragraph shall be limited to claims brought by or on behalf of an alien--
(i) who is, at the time a request for review by such court is filed, detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and
(ii) for whom a Combatant Status Review Tribunal has been conducted, pursuant to applicable procedures specified by the Secretary of Defense.
(C) SCOPE OF REVIEW- The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on any claims with respect to an alien under this paragraph shall be limited to the consideration of--
(i) whether the status determination of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal with regard to such alien was consistent with the standards and procedures specified by the Secretary of Defense for Combatant Status Review Tribunals (including the requirement that the conclusion of the Tribunal be supported by a preponderance of the evidence and allowing a rebuttable presumption in favor of the Government's evidence); and
(ii) to the extent the Constitution and laws of the United States are applicable, whether the use of such standards and procedures to make the determination is consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.
(D) TERMINATION ON RELEASE FROM CUSTODY- The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit with respect to the claims of an alien under this paragraph shall cease upon the release of such alien from the custody of the Department of Defense.
(3) REVIEW OF FINAL DECISIONS OF MILITARY COMMISSIONS-
(A) IN GENERAL- Subject to subparagraphs (B), (C), and (D), the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of any final decision rendered pursuant to Military Commission Order No. 1, dated August 31, 2005 (or any successor military order).
(B) GRANT OF REVIEW- Review under this paragraph--
(i) with respect to a capital case or a case in which the alien was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 10 years or more, shall be as of right; or
(ii) with respect to any other case, shall be at the discretion of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
(C) LIMITATION ON APPEALS- The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit under this paragraph shall be limited to an appeal brought by or on behalf of an alien--
(i) who was, at the time of the proceedings pursuant to the military order referred to in subparagraph (A), detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and
(ii) for whom a final decision has been rendered pursuant to such military order.
(D) SCOPE OF REVIEW- The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on an appeal of a final decision with respect to an alien under this paragraph shall be limited to the consideration of--
(i) whether the final decision was consistent with the standards and procedures specified in the military order referred to in subparagraph (A); and
(ii) to the extent the Constitution and laws of the United States are applicable, whether the use of such standards and procedures to reach the final decision is consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States….
and

(h) Effective Date-
(1) IN GENERAL- This section shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act.
(2) REVIEW OF COMBATANT STATUS TRIBUNAL AND MILITARY COMMISSION DECISIONS- Paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection (e) shall apply with respect to any claim whose review is governed by one of such paragraphs and that is pending on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.

As was reported last week, despite the apparently clear denial of jurisdiction, the Court found that in fact it did have jurisdiction.  How?  Follow closely now.  Note that 1005(h)(2) says that 1005(e)(2)and 1005(e)(3) apply to any case pending on or after the date of enactment of the DTA.  Now note that 1005(h)(2) does not make mention of 1005(e)(1), which is the passage which would deny to the Court jurisdiction.

According to Justice Stevens, “A negative inference may be drawn from Congress' failure to include §1005(e)(1) within the scope of §1005(h)(2).”  Rephrasing a bit from Lindh v. Murphy (521 U. S. 320), he goes on to say that, ”If ... Congress was reasonably concerned to ensure that [§§1005(e)(2) and (3)] be applied to pending cases, it should have been just as concerned about [§1005(e)(1)], unless it had the different intent that the latter [section] not be applied to the general run of pending cases.”  (Lindh was a 1996 case in which the issue was whether the new section of a statute dealing with petitions for habeas corpus governed applications in cases that were already pending when the Act was passed. The Court held that it did not.  However, it is important also to note that Chief Justice Rehnquist, joined by Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas, wrote a dissent arguing among other things that the Lindh decision disregarded all of the Court’s prior retroactivity case law.)

A negative inference?  Who is he trying to kid?  Doesn’t he know how difficult it is to prove or even probabilify a negative?  What we have here is an argument from silence.  The statute in question doesn’t specifically state that this is applicable; therefore it isn’t.  Now, to be fair, Stevens isn’t necessarily wrong.  But he isn’t necessarily correct, either.  The interpretation of silence is a tricky thing, and in the end it must be a bit arbitrary, which makes some of these comments all the more interesting.

In other words, Congress should have specifically stated that the denial of jurisdiction was applicable to cases pending on or after the date of the DTA’s enactment.  But since 1005(h)(2) made specific mention of the review of decisions by tribunals and commisions (i.e., 1005(e)(2) and (3)) but not the denial of jurisdiction (i.e., 1005(e)(1)), the inclusion of pending cases extends to the former, but not the latter.  So I guess everything would have been just fine if 1005(h)(2) had read something like, “Paragraphs (1), (2) and (3) of subsection (e) shall apply with respect to any claim whose review is governed by one of such paragraphs and that is pending on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.”

On the subject of retroactivity case law, Scalia in his dissent wrote (bold emphasis mine):  

An ancient and unbroken line of authority attests that statutes ousting jurisdiction unambiguously apply to cases pending at their effective date. For example, in Bruner v. United States, 343 U. S. 112 (1952), we granted certiorari to consider whether the Tucker Act's provision denying district court jurisdiction over suits by "officers" of the United States barred a suit by an employee of the United States. After we granted certiorari, Congress amended the Tucker Act by adding suits by " 'employees' " to the provision barring jurisdiction over suits by officers. Id., at 114. This statute narrowing the jurisdiction of the district courts "became effective" while the case was pending before us, ibid., and made no explicit reference to pending cases. Because the statute "did not reserve jurisdiction over pending cases," id., at 115, we held that it clearly ousted jurisdiction over them. Summarizing centuries of practice, we said: "This rule--that, when a law conferring jurisdiction is repealed without any reservation as to pending cases, all cases fall with the law--has been adhered to consistently by this Court." Id., at 116-117. See also Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U. S. 244, 274 (1994) (opinion for the Court by Stevens, J.) ("We have regularly applied intervening statutes conferring or ousting jurisdiction, whether or not jurisdiction lay when the underlying conduct occurred or when the suit was filed").

Reread that last, parenthetical sentence and note the author of it: The same “Stevens, J” who writes the Hamdan decision.  What is interesting about the discussion of the case law here is how much was made, by Democrat members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, of the issue of precedent and whether certain nominees (Roberts and Alito among them) would adhere to precedent, or “settled” legal principle.  Here we have a case where the Court departs from precedent and Democrats are strangely silent by way of praising the Hamdan decision.  Apparently, it is the left wing of the Court which will decided which legal principles are to be classified as “settled.”

Continuing on the subject of prior case law, Scalia also wrote:

[T]he Court…cannot cite a single case in the history of Anglo-American law (before today) in which a jurisdiction-stripping provision was denied immediate effect in pending cases, absent an explicit statutory reservation. By contrast, the cases granting such immediate effect are legion, and they repeatedly rely on the plain language of the jurisdictional repeal as an "inflexible trump," ante, at 19, by requiring an express reservation to save pending cases. See, e.g., Bruner, supra, at 115; Kline v. Burke Constr. Co., 260 U. S. 226, 234 (1922); Hallowell, 239 U. S., at 508; Gwin v. United States, 184 U. S. 669, 675 (1902); Gurnee v. Patrick County, 137 U. S. 141, 144 (1890); Sherman v. Grinnell, 123 U. S. 679, 680 (1887); Railroad Co. v. Grant, supra, at 403, Assessors v. Osbornes, 9 Wall. 567, 575 (1870); Ex parte McCardle, 7 Wall., at 514; Ritchie, supra, at 544; Norris v. Crocker, 13 How. 429, 440 (1852); Yeaton v. United States, 5 Cranch 281 (1809) (Marshall, C. J.), discussed in Gwin, supra, at 675; King v. Justices of the Peace of London, 3 Burr. 1456, 1457, 97 Eng. Rep. 924, 925 (K. B. 1764). Cf. National Exchange Bank of Baltimore v. Peters, 144 U. S. 570, 572 (1892).

What about the aforementioned Lindh case?  I don’t know that it would do any good to recap Justice Scalia’s discussion of the question.  So let me just say that Scalia argues that the cases are not relevantly and sufficiently similar enough for the reasoning in Lindh to be applied to Hamdan.  While it is true that Lindh did involve among other things a problem of pending cases in the face of new legislation, it did not involve, as Hamdan does, a repeal of jurisdiction.  And when it comes to repeal of jurisdiction, that repeal, absent specific language to the contrary, has included cases pending before the court at the time of the enactment of the statute repealing the jurisdiction.  Stevens’ error is that he fails to treat the DTA as including a repeal of jurisdiction, treating it instead like a statute with conflicting provisions which present a problem involving pending cases.  I’m sure it was just an honest mistake in logic.  Happens all the time.

Yeah.  Right.

At any rate, now that Justice Stevens has demonstrated that the Court can depart from settled precedent perhaps now Democrats in the Senate will stop insisting that nominees must affirm the settled law in cases like Roe v. Wade.  No, I won’t be holding my breath, but a man can dream.

I’ll keep reading the opinion.  I’m sure it just gets better and better with each paragraph.

NOTE 1:  I have included legal citations not to be pedantic, but in order to show the Court’s work, as it were.

NOTE 2: Nothing here should be construed as offering any type of legal advice or professional legal opinion whatsoever.  Any opinions about the law or the Constitution which I hold and make public are opinions which I hold and make public as a free-thinking, First-Amendment-honoring citizen of the USA.  That being said, however, my opinions on the law, though not binding, ought at least to be considered instructive (h/t: Justice Breyer!).

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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