Friday, February 29, 2008

This bears watching.

Turkey is revising the ahadith, or the sayings/deeds of Muhammad. The ahadith are, roughly speaking, the "Tradition" of Islam to the Koran's "Scripture." They clarify matters left unaddressed in Islam's holy book. For example, the Koran does not say how many times a day a Muslim should pray, nor precisely how it should be done. The ahadith fill the gap.

This is very significant for two reasons. First, as problematic as passages in the Quran are, the ahadith are worse. In the sayings of Muhammad, jihad (and not the inner kind) is elevated to a virtual sixth pillar of Islam, the second class status of women is enshrined and the execution of apostates is explicitly ordered. Yes, right jolly stuff. I have a collection of what are considered the most reliable of the sayings, by Sahih al-Bukhari. It is often grim going.

The good news is that something along the lines of what Turkey is doing is possible in Islam. The reason being that disputes about hadith have been a staple of Islam since the late 800s. The ahadith were only collected around this time, and by then it was clear even by orthodox Muslim standards that a lot of spurious stuff had worked its way in. Of course, from a more critical non-Islamic perspective, the authenticity of the overwhelming majority of the ahadith are open to question, given that they weren't compiled until 250 years after Muhammad died. Authenticity problems abound on that basis alone.

All told, this looks like a serious, critical revision and reinterpretation of the hadith tradition. Another positive factor is that the oft-Janus-faced AKP government has let this project continue without interference or complaint. In fact, there has been little criticism from even Islamist Turks. The remaining question is whether, and if so, to what extent, it will influence the greater Islamic world. If nothing else, an authoritative example may embolden other reformers.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

An overdue reply to Steve Skojec.

A couple of weeks back, Steve posted a reply to my endorsement of John McCain. It's a typically-thoughtful post, and merits a thoughtful response, which follows.

As an aside, this might be a world-record speed response to something of his, as he can readily testify. We might have been grown in the same lab (along with Dom, who is also goateed big guy with eerily similar interests), but he's a lot quicker in the correspondence department than I am.

Just a couple of framing points, to start. Though I'm using the Fisk 'Em! format, this is simply for clarity and to allow me to structure my thoughts.

More important is Steve's structuring it as an analysis of McCain not making sense for conservatives. Full disclosure--I'm not sure I can be fairly described as a political conservative, at least not in the typical American definition. Social conservative, fine. Though with smaller fangs and a better tolerance for sunlight than is portrayed in the MSM.

Economic conservative--not so much. I'm not big on either libertarianism or Eurosocialism, but I don't have a defined economic philosophy. A year at Hillsdale soured me on all-encompassing economic theories. Private property is a non-negotiable and taxes/regulations are something to be pruned like kudzu, but apart from that, I'm an impure pragmatist.

Likewise, on foreign policy, I wobble between two poles labelled "Isolationist" and "How Are You Finding The Daisycutters Today, Mr. Murderous Foreigner?" Albeit much more towards the latter over the past six-plus years.

So, to the extent that Steve is criticizing McCain from a conservative perspective, we may be talking at cross purposes.

1.) McCain is not adequately pro-life, and I’m not just talking about his position on embryonic stem cell research. I think the fact that McCain has a pro-life voting record and a 0% rating from NARAL does less to prove that he is actually “pro-life” and more to underscore the fact that we’ve had very little (if any) pro-life legislation of substance during his tenure. (It’s also worth noting that he only has a 75% rating by the National Right to Life Committee.)

The problem is that the Supreme Court has effectively made "pro-life legislation" an oxymoron. Given the sacrosanct position (with one shining recent exception) abortion has in the jurisprudence, sustainable pro-life legislation is limited to nibbling around the margins. In a typical flash of inspired irritation, Justice Scalia once noted that abortion has more protection under Supreme Court precedent than free speech rights.

Given what I've said earlier, I'm not going to deny that McCain has his problems on this. But I think Victor Morton's formulation is a good one. McCain is an 80 percenter on life issues--he's 90% right on 90% of the legislation. For whatever that legislation may be worth. More on my reasoning in the Supreme Court section.

When considering pulling the lever for McCain, it would be good to remember that we’ve had 26 years with Republican Presidents in office since Roe was decided in 1973. What has changed? We need a strong willingness from our nominee to work with Congress to get something done, not simply willing to sign whatever nominally pro-life legislation crosses his desk. Our nominee needs to make this a top priority. How is that going to happen with a man like McCain, who said as recently as 1999, “I’d love to see a point where Roe vs. Wade is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.”

I don't like the 1999 quote either. The most I can say is that that was the last time he said any such thing.

Also, see above re: the curtailed legislative options. When the courts have ruled that most legislation is out of bounds, your options are limited. Also, I think the problem you are outlining is more one of Congressional will, not that of the Executive. There's no working with Congress when they won't rouse themselves. That's a problem, but not one that can be solved by even inspired Presidential leadership. And there is a reason Congress has been inert--while the country is trending pro-life, it is still deeply conflicted about the issue. Which means the fight has to focus on where the President has the most impact--the judiciary. Speaking of which...

1a.) The question of Supreme Court justices seems impossible to discern. I don’t know what McCain has done (was he a member of the Gang of 14?) intends to do (allegedly saying he wouldn’t appoint justices like Alito) or will in fact do.

This requires some unpacking.

First, I have never understood why the Gang of 14 was any kind of problem. There was no negative impact.

I think it bears consideration that Roberts and Alito weren’t slam dunks. The New Oxford Review makes a strong case that neither Roberts nor Alito are prepared to overturn Roe:

Roberts said: “Roe vs. Wade is the settled law of the land…. There’s nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent….” Sen. Arlen Specter asked Roberts at the Judiciary Committee hearings for his appointment for Chief Justice (Sept. 13, 2005): “Do you mean settled for you, settled only for your capacity as a circuit judge, or settled beyond that?” Roberts answered: “Well, beyond that.” That means that Roe is settled law, not just for Roberts himself, not just for Roberts as a circuit judge, but is settled for him as a Supreme Court justice.

NOR's case is not that strong, and I'm sorry to say I'll have to go all lawyer on you. Roe is as "settled" as the principles of stare decisis require, and no more. Which is to say, not as set in concrete as people think, especially when they hear "settled." The fact is, Roe, as such, has not existed since 1992. The legal framework was considerably re-worked in the Casey decision. Not enough, but that's the problem.

Roberts then went on to affirm that he agreed with John F. Kennedy on the principle that he does not speak for the Church on public matters and the Church does not speak for him. Alito’s record is perhaps even more indicative of what to expect:

On the same day Alito was nominated (Oct. 31, 2005), he met with pro-abortion Sen. Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Alito told Specter of his respect for precedent (and Roe is precedent), adding, according to Specter, that “when a case has been reaffirmed many times [as Roe has been], it has extra weight” (USA Today, Nov. 1, 2005). Later, Alito met with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and Alito told him, according to Lieberman, that “Roe was precedent on which people, a lot of people relied, that it had been precedent for decades and therefore deserves great respect” (The New York Times, Nov. 9, 2005).

Alito has been a judge for 15 years on the Philadelphia-based Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He has heard six abortion cases, and in five of those cases he came down on the pro-abortion side.

And yet McCain allegedly won’t appoint justices like Alito because they wear their conservatism on their sleeve?

Note that neither Roberts nor Alito are quoted directly here. The "quotes" from Sens. Lieberman and Specter are purest hearsay, and are offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. While I'm not accusing or implying that either man is guilty of deceptive behavior, there is a human tendency toward selective hearing even at the best of times. In other words:



As to Alito's Circuit Court record, appellate judges are bound to follow controlling Supreme Court precedent. Overturning a higher court's decision is not an option for any judge lower on the ladder.

More importantly, there is an important bit of evidence that has come down in the interim.

Gonzalez v. Carhart, the first time an abortion procedure was held out of bounds. I know--a comparatively small victory. But not to be disregarded. It represents the first time pro-lifers have taken back territory. And it couldn't have been done without both appointees.

2.) I agree with Dale on the fact that McCain is anti-torture, and that this is a good thing.

Brothers in unity, nothing to add.

3.) Iraq was a bad idea, and I agree that we need to bear in mind our moral responsibility in leaving. There are further considerations, however, which seem to indicate that an as-soon-as-possible departure would be the best thing to do, not the worst.

Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy published a piece in TCRNews and the NOR that makes a strong (if not entirely convincing) argument from Moral theology that we must leave:

According to Catholic Just War norms, if there is not strict moral certitude that a war is just and is being conducted justly, then the war is unjust. In Catholic moral law, intentional unjust killing is always intrinsically and gravely evil — it is always murder. It is never morally permissible. A laxist interpretation of the standards of Catholic Just War doctrine employed in order to achieve a pseudo moral certainty that supports the unjust destruction of human life is itself a grave evil, which, if participated in at any stage with full knowledge and full consent, is mortal sin.

Fr. McCarthy also argues that Unjustified Killing Is Not Open to Ex Post Facto Justification:

Finally, let there be no belated, contorted, retroactive, duck-and-cover efforts at self-justification. It is morally unacceptable to maintain that, While we started the killing unjustly, we cannot now stop killing since we are there killing. We will only stop killing the other side when the other side, whom we have unjustly attacked, stops killing us. Unjustified killing does not become justified ex post facto. But the unjust, lethal aggressor responsible for initiating the carnage and chaos has no moral right to any longer be present in that society under the phony auspices of being a concerned and benign peacekeeper.

I believe that he fails to answer the question of what our moral responsibility is to secure the potential vacuum we leave behind when we leave, but the point is not lost. There has to be a real impetus on the Iraqi Army to step up to the plate here. It’s not as if we haven’t been in place and training them for years. John Mueller of The American Conservative explored in an article last year the question of what would happen if we left Iraq. He finds as many positives as negatives in such a move, and presents a question I think is too often ignored:

Those who favor continued U.S participation in Iraq’s civil war need to explain how the American presence there—irritating to most Iraqis, polls suggest—will significantly speed the reconciliation process. They also need to indicate how many American lives they are willing to sacrifice for this end, assuming that it is even possible.

I would love to be able to read Fr. McCarthy's entire analysis, which in the quoted sections looks sound. I remain of Sybilesque minds on the Iraq War, but am generally down to "we went to war with inexcusably bad information born of a culture of negligence and the war was prosecuted with an arrogant stupidity derived from the fact that Donald Rumsfeld thought he was a 21st Century Clausewitz." Assuming the war is unjust, the question facing us is "now what?"

Permit me to simply build on your acknowledgment that his analysis does not address the humanitarian issues surrounding a precipitate withdrawal. The notion of individual penance for sins sometimes involves restitution along with contrition and amendment. We owe the Iraqis something regardless of the justice of the war. What grates about the anti-war left (most definitely not you, Steve) is that there seems to be a narcissistic tinge to it, a need to be right about the wrongness of the war and the hygenic confirmation of that rightness which will come from a pell-mell retreat.

We saw this same story in Southeast Asia, post-1975. Since we decapitated the Hussein regime, our obligation is even stronger than it was in Vietnam, where we intervened in a long-term conflict.

Another factor to consider is the long-term impact on the US from a too-quick withdrawal, both on us directly and on those who put their trust in us. Our flight from Somalia (following, shades of Tet, a stunning tactical victory that was portrayed as a defeat) was a direct encouragement to 9/11. A more colossal defeat in Iraq doesn't bear thinking about.

As for the “War on Terror”, we need to stop with that nonsense term right now. You can’t have a war on “Terror” any more than you can have a war on “Enthusiasm”. Terror is an emotion that terrorists attempt to incite in others. Those terrorists need to be identified with specificity, along with their state sponsors. We do not have provisions within our legal framework to declare war on an esoteric class of loosely arranged guerilla fighters. If we can’t better define them, we need to treat this as more of a police action than a military operation.

It's the convenient shorthand. Despite the sludginess, it's not the worst descriptor in the world. I guarantee the options will come with their own baggage.

The “War on Terror” defined as it currently is will go on indefinitely, and will continue to be used as leverage for our government to usurp civil liberties and expand its own powers. It will also lead to increased and more flagrant violations of just war doctrine as pre-emptive strikes become more common.

This I agree with entirely. I'm no fan of the Patriot Act, which, in all likelihood, will be subjected to the same domestic repressive tactics we've seen with RICO.

I'm somewhat less worried about more pre-emptive wars, though. I think Iraq has soured the country on that for the foreseeable future.

Proxy conflicts, though, you can count on.

It would be better to adopt a more humble foreign policy that seeks to defend our homeland rather than chase “evildoers” throughout the sovereign nations of the world at the point of our guns. We need an enemy to fight, not a cause to rally behind and pour money into forever.

I'm sympathetic to this and agree we need to get out of places where we're not needed and run the risk of conflict for no good national reason. But while we need to avoid perpetual conflict, the world has shrank to the point where perpetual vigilance is not optional. Vigilance can be maintained by persuasion and ju-jutsu as well as gunpoint, and in many situations more so. More prudent measures are becoming mandatory, it seems.

And McCain, by the admission of a number of his colleagues in the Senate, has a bad temper and an uncivil way about him. That may not make him as crazy as he often seems, but it does make him dangerous as Commander in Chief.

Meh. I can't muster more than a "so what?" here. Remember, these are complaints made by men and women who did not reach the pinnacle of American politics by imitating the Little Flower.

4.) John McCain will be a wreck on the economy. He has a mixed record on the Bush Tax cuts, opposing them before wanting to extend them. He opposed the repeal of the Death Tax in 2002. McCain-Lieberman would amount, according to some estimates, to TRILLIONS in de facto taxation with the intent of reducing global warming - without the science to back it up. He wants to be in Iraq for “100 years” if that’s what it takes, at an additional cost of TRILLIONS. This is money we don’t have.

Please remember I emphasized McCain's stance on spending, which has been unimpeachable. Reducing government spending will do more to stabilize the dollar, and by extension the economy, than anything else.

Also, remember why he opposed the tax cuts--because they weren't coupled with spending cuts. The spendaholic spree has let us to the brink of stagflation, which endorse McCain's position better than anything I can say.

McCain's 100 years quote has been misstated. He's talking about basing, not war. As in what we've been doing in Germany since 1945. That's not going to be the drag on the economy you are positing.

I'll be happy to review anything you have on McCain-Lieberman before I comment on that.

In an interview with Wall Street Journal economist Stephen Moore, McCain admitted, “I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues…I still need to be educated.”

Again, meh. I think it exalts the role of the executive too much to expect him to be some kind of all purpose wonk. The question is who are his economic advisors? Not a bad lot from what I've read and seen in person.

5.) I agree that energy independence is paramount. But what is McCain doing to that end? According to National Review contributing editor Deroy Murdock, McCain rejected drilling for oil in Anwar at least four times. Murdock also points to the problems with McCain Lieberman:

The McCain-Lieberman bill would combat alleged “global warming” by making power producers pay to exceed government-imposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions. The John Locke Foundation’s Roy Cordato cited a July 2007 Environmental Protection Agency letter to McCain measuring McCain-Lieberman’s de facto energy tax: “The present value of the cumulative reduction in real GDP for the 2012-2030 period ranges from $660 billion to $2.1 trillion,” EPA calculates. For 2012 to 2050, that figure is $1.6 trillion to $5.2 trillion.

Of course, the questions of whether Global Warming as a new rather than cyclical trend, how steeply it is increasing, and how much (if any) of its effects are caused by C02 or other man-made pollutants is entirely unknown. McCain supports mandatory solutions of unforseeable efficacy that will have crippling economic impacts to problems that have dubious causes.

As a commenter pointed out, energy independence is probably a pipe (line?) dream given our economy. Your points about the nature of global warming are well taken.

Again, I'll take what you have on Mc-Lieb. I'm a little unclear on the statistics, too. Was the present value of the GDP for those periods provided? Or was the EPA positing economic decline in real terms for those periods?

6.) McCain’s sole ability to work with the Democrats comes when he builds a consensus in their favor. Name me one time when McCain “reached across the aisle” to get Democrats to vote for a conservative cause.

The Gang of 14, which got several judicial nominees past a filibuster.

McCain can work with the Democrats because he is one in all but name.

This is a little too strong even for hyperbole. There's no Democratic Senator remotely as conservative.

7.) Whatever respect his military heroism earns him, as a politician, McCain doesn’t strike me as a man of character at all. He’s riddled with flip flops and manifestations of opportunistic reversals:

I was not impressed by the Real McCain video. The attempt to edit together an alleged contradiction on the war was especially disingenuous, inasmuch as McCain was talking about the actual invasion part. It was certainly no "home by Christmas" statement. The rest is about the same level.

He positions himself as a man intent on defending this country but has a very weak platform on immigration. In addition, he appointed as his national director of Hispanic outreach a man by the name of Juan Hernandez, a former member of Vincente Fox’s cabinet and a known open borders/American union advocate. In an interview with Glenn Beck (before Beck banned him from the show) Hernandez said:

I don’t think that we need to build walls to control immigration. We are the 21st century now and we’re a country that has always broken down walls. Once again with regard to securing the borders, we need to work with Mexico. We’re never going to have a secure border. We’re not going to put a wall up for these hundreds and hundreds thousands of miles. We have to work with our neighbors. We need to think now for the future. Canada, the United States and Mexico as a block.

McCain has also been investigated for accepting money from George Soros. He’s the GOP candidate endorsed by The New York Times. He is not a conservative role model.

I'm not fond of McCain's immigration policy, but I don't know what the solution is. The border fence is going to be built. McCain is on record as saying that this has to happen first. It had better.

But I suggest that the biggest enemy to immigration reform isn't Juan Hernandez or George Soros--it's the American business community, which has become addicted to cheap labor.

8.) Because he’s not quite as bad (and let’s face it, the difference is small) as the Democrats is not a reason to vote for him. It’s a reason to not for for them. I’m not buying the idea anymore that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

If we don’t start making conscience votes, our choices are going to keep getting worse and worse, as they have for twenty years.

As stated above, I don't think the difference is that small. There is a gulf between Barack Obama and John McCain, and I think that is going to become more obvious as the campaign season wears on.

I respect conscience votes. Actually, every vote involving a significant office should be a conscience vote. I believe I'm making one, and not simply engaging in pragmatic calculation. Part of that examination of conscience means considering (and being prepared to live with) the consequences of at least four years if the "more anathema" side wins.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Photograph of Anne Frank's "one true love" found.

A picture of Peter Schiff has been discovered.

She writes in her diary: "I forgot that I haven't yet told you the story of my one true love."

"Peter was the ideal boy: tall, slim and good-looking, with a serious, quiet and intelligent face," Anne wrote of the 13-year-old she had fallen for in 1940 when she was just 11.

They would collect each other from school and walk hand in hand through their local neighborhood.

"He had dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, ruddy cheeks and a nicely pointed nose. I was crazy about his smile, which made him look so boyish and mischievous."

Peter later died in Auschwitz, while Anne died in Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

Photo credit.

I've been to her house in Amsterdam. If you are ever there, go.

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Larry King-Style Column.

Drama, the human struggle, the performances--when is Ninja Warrior going to get an Emmy nod?

You damn kids get off my lawn!

Oh, I'm in my office. Never mind.

Harvey Fierstein as Wolverine--think about it.

Manga novels? Holy crap, son--might as well tattoo "Girls Have Cooties" on your forehead.

Harry Harrison hasn't written anything worthwhile since The Stainless Steel Rat.

Austrians: Yea or Nay?

I think we should just use the diapers to wipe up spills. Extra absorbent, people.

When is Michael Wincott finally going to get a romantic lead role?

Mmmm, Funions.

For historical accuracy, you just can't beat Mel Gibson's British-themed films.

I just don't get Eskimo cuisine.

Want a more polite internet? Bring back dueling!

Oscars, no. Oscar Meyer, yes!

Sexiest Head of State? Queen Beatrix, hands down. Rowr!

What have they been putting into Schlitz Bull Ice lately? Nobody needs to pee that much.

Vienna Fingers and microwaved peanut butter--a little bit of heaven.

This Brock O'Bama guy sounds really interesting. He'll probably drink a lot of green beer on St. Pat's.

Speaking of the Irish--what's up with the potatoes?

Time for more Theraflu? OK.

If you close your eyes, hold your nose

and have a lobotomy, Theraflu tastes just like gin and tonic.

I'm beginning to think my lungs and sinuses are doors to another dimension.

Unfortunately, they all open to MucusWorld.

One way.

On the bright side, I think all the zombies in World War Z would leave me alone.

Professional courtesy, and all that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sick as the proverbial mutts.

That would be Louis and me. He's suffering from RSV and the pediatrician has put him on a breathing treatment. The good news is that he's still eating, but the bad news is he sounds miserable.

Me, I'm gobbling Sudafeds like they were Tictacs.

My God, it's full of stars...

For the love of Barbara Allen...

I mean, say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, but at least it's an ethos.

Hey there, Mr. Policeman--you look bored and I sure am...

I am your man, and you are my woman, and let's go to that place of splendor in the grass, right here, right now...

Living in a fisheye lens stuck in the camera eye

I must not lose my temper. Temper-temper-temper is the bum-killer.

Because every time you socialists see something big, you want to nationalize it.

Japanese Sage Derby...Venezuelan Beaver Cheese...

What could possibly go wrong?

Translation: Which means those of you awaiting book reviews and responses requiring coherent thought are going to have to wait a wee bit longer.

See you on the dark side of the moon.

Details on tonight's lunar eclipse, visible throughout the Eastern 2/3 of North America and in Western Europe to just shy of the Oder River (look it up).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I have no title for this story.

Except maybe Apocalypse of St. John 22:20.

CourageMan reports on the Brave New World's latest innovation, an 8 (that's "eight." "as in just 8". The period stops here) year old boy claiming "transgendered" status.

I got nothin'.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I...doubt this.

[Icon credit.]

You’re St. Justin Martyr!

You have a positive and hopeful attitude toward the world. You think that nature, history, and even the pagan philosophers were often guided by God in preparation for the Advent of the Christ. You find “seeds of the Word” in unexpected places. You’re patient and willing to explain the faith to unbelievers.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Take the Quiz here. [Thanks, CM!]

I must be in some kind of rut of reasonableness.

Then again, my birthday falls on St. Justin's feast day, so it's not entirely out of whack.

She likes me! She really likes me!

My beloved indulged me with the following items:

Your jealousy is palpable. Don't you wish your nearest and dearest would get you two massive and authoritative tomes about Byzantium just in time for Valentine's Day? To ask the question is to answer it.

I'm serious about the "massive" aspect: the first volume is over 1100 pages.

Thank you, sweetheart...

Fun with the time machine!

On a lark, I decided to take the temporal Camaro to the near future, specifically the next Lambeth Conference being held by the Anglicans.

I snapped a couple of shots of Archbishop Williams while I was there. He was really upbeat and positive, reminding the attendees to "Remain calm" and that "All is well!"

So, brothers and sisters of the Anglican world, you've got that going for you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

McCain for President.

I've been strongly leaning this way for some time, but I've finally come to certainty on it.


1. Life issues. Yes, ESCR is still a huge problem, but he is opposed to cloning and there's a "yet" in his statements on the issue which means he's not dogmatic in his support and can be moved to change. Couple that with his lifelong anti-abortion voting record and support of the cloning ban, and his position is far from radioactive to pro-lifers.

1a. Judges. I know the Alito story, but if that's the sum total of the qualms about it, then I think we're in pretty good hands. Especially with Ted Olson on board.

2. Torture. Despite some strenuous recent claims, he's resolutely anti-torture. Only an idiot would say that torture won't occur in the future, but that's a damn sight from arguments in favor of making it official policy. McCain won't.

3. Foreign Policy/Terror War. I have to agree--I want our nation's foes to blink and worry more when they make their calculations. McCain will do that.

And as to the mad bomber/crazy John stuff floating around--what kind of 'psycho' wants to ban torture and close prison camps? Doesn't exactly fit the "unstable"/"kill 'em all" template.

3a. Iraq. The man put his neck on the line in favor of a surge strategy long before it was implemented. You can make superb arguments criticizing going to war in the first place--I'll gladly acknowledge them. But a precipitate withdrawal would lead to a horrific humanitarian disaster, would demoralize those foolish enough to have bet on America in the first place and would paint a bullseye on the nation's back.

4. Spending. The national debt is what is weighing down the economy. Whatever else has been hurled at the man, "spendthrift" is not among those epithets. He's a spending hawk, and harpooning the spending monster will do more for the economy than anything else, in the long term.

5. Global Warming. I don't care where you are on this issue--we have to do more to lessen our dependency on petroleum. McCain recognizes that, regardless of what you think of his reasoning behind it. And the risk of man-made climate change is not something I can shrug off easily, even if I agree with concerns about tyrannical "solutions."

6. Ability to work with Democrats. Given that the blue party will control Congress for the foreseeable future, that's a decided positive.

7. Character. I like the man. He spent years in a Communist prison hellhole when he didn't have to. Courage and a willingness to stand for principle are in vanishingly short supply these days. Being able to point out those virtues to my children is a bonus.

8. The Democratic alternative. Despite some virtues in both the remaining Democratic frontrunners, they are both worse in every category above (substitute "Republicans" in number 6).

For what little it's worth, there you go.

Scenes from the Religion of Whimsy.

1. Saudis prepare to execute woman for witchcraft. Crime? Allegedly rendering a Saudi male unable to brandish the ol' scimitar, if you catch my drift.

The verdict is read at the Saudi witch trial.

2. Protests by Muslim Pakistanis about Valentine's Day. Fire has a prominent role.

Yes, I know: the Crusades and Cordoba. Got it.

[Update: Sanity found in--of all places--Gaza.]

Happy Valentine's Day!

Especially to my beloved wife, Heather.

I didn't even know I was looking for you, but I am so happy I found you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

From the Books! File

I have been reliably informed that I just received S.M. Stirling's short story collection, Ice, Iron and Gold from Amazon today.

Review to follow by the end of the weekend. I demolish anthologies pretty quickly.

And here's one to make you shudder--Caliphate, forthcoming from Baen Books. Synopsis: Mark Steyn's demographic nightmare comes true and Europe becomes majority Muslim. Three American cities get nuked in terror strikes, and the end result is an Islamic Caliphate squaring off against a rather unpleasant and vengeance-minded American Imperium (!) at the beginning of the 22nd Century. To quote someone who frequents these comboxes, "It's a dystopia, you twit."

As has been pointed out below...

...The Pope Test would pretty well write Chesterton out of Catholicism.

As I said, it was a hypothesis. Now discredited.

I guess I can rant in relative safety.

A word to all the Obama fans in the audience.

Fellow citizens, pull up a chair.

Make yourself comfortable, my Yankee siblings.

Smoke if you got 'em, American brethren and sistren.

You're voting for Obama--the man of the hour.

Oh, that's fine--a free country, one man one vote and all that.

All I ask is that you do it for the same time-honored reasons you'd vote for any other presidential candidate, e.g., he's the best man for the job or the thought of the other guy/gal getting the job makes you physically, emotionally or morally ill.

Do not--notnotnotnotnotnotnotnot--vote for Senator Obama because you think he's going to miraculously heal the nation's ills, specifically racism.

He can't.

Yes, the election to the highest office in the land of a man who would have been forced by Jim Crow to sit in the back of a bus less than fifty years ago would be a stunning, and in a very concrete way, welcome development, unparalleled in modern history.

But if that should happen, the dawn of January 20, 2009 won't see the end of racism in America. Nor will it scribe "Paid In Full" on the debt owed to the victims of racism. It's an election, not an absolution. Another one will happen in 2012. And another one in 2016. Unless that Mayan calendar thing is right, that is.

Vote for the man because of who he is, and what he stands for--or against.
Investing a candidate with transcendent expectations is a sure way to make things worse, not better.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Political quick-hitter.

Mitt Romney's problem is not that he's a Latter Day Saint.

Mitt Romney's problem is that he's Mitt Romney.

The big issue I have with the sometimes-vitriolic critiques of John McCain is that the alternative being pushed by the conservative establishment is

Mitt Romney.

"McCain's record on life issues is tepid!" And the alternative is...

Mitt Romney?

"McCain cooperates too much with the Dems!" And the alternative is...

Mitt Romney?

"McCain's squishy on economic issues!" And the alternative is...

Mitt Romney?

If this is your slogan: Mitt Romney: He's not John McCain--that's fine. Just don't be surprised that people haven't rallied to your banner in droves. Anti-candidacies have both a limited appeal and a limited shelf life.

Proffered for your edification.

How "Catholic" is a Catholic's statement on any particular issue?

I've been noodling a method for evaluating the Catholic-ness of assertions made by Catholics, and I call it The Pope Test:

Take the quote and try to imagine Pope Benedict XVI saying it at the Wednesday General Audience.

If you can't imagine him saying it, it's probably not Catholic. Not necessarily anti-Catholic, mind you--it's either just not consonant with Catholic doctrine or it's not otherwise associated with a feature of the faith.

Feel free to test my hypothesis and discuss.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Still alive, still scarce.

Life is full of fascinating non-blog responsibilities and diversions.

Take the Giants and the points: the Pats have never blown out anyone in the Super Bowl.

And this is a keeper, courtesy of the demure Kathy, as always, busy with her quilting and canning:

See you on the flip side.

The GOP Garbage Squad.

Nine awful human beings whose views are unworthy of the slightest respect. Especially after caterwauling about spending money on Ukraine, no...