Tuesday, September 12, 2006

September 11th and the Spirit of Iwo Jima

Five years ago, we remembered American heroism in a photograph that paid tribute to the soldiers of World War II.

At Iwo Jima, we lost over 6,000 men in a mere six weeks, fighting for a piece of rock that was necessary to victory.

Today we fighting terrorism in a theater that has cost over 2500 American lives.

The spirit of victory is the spirit of Iwo Jima.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ann Coulter: out of line

It's sad and embarrassing. And no conservative should even think about defending her. Kudos to Captain's Quarters for plain-spoken words. And to Hugh Hewitt for his integrity.

Zarqawi is dead!

Zarqawi is dead. A major victory for the US effort in the war on terrorism and a major step forward in Iraq: Iraqi democracy is alive and Zarqawi is dead.

The official release from US Centcom runs:

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Multi-National Force-Iraq Commanding General, announced the death of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi in the following statement during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad June 8:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Coalition Forces killed al-Qaida terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and one of his key lieutenants, spiritual advisor Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, yesterday, June 7, at 6:15 p.m. in an air strike against an identified, isolated safe house.

“Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates who were conducting a meeting approximately eight kilometers north of Baqubah when the air strike was launched.

“Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike, and elements of Multi-National Division North, arrived shortly thereafter. Coalition Forces were able to identify al-Zarqawi by fingerprint verification, facial recognition and known scars.

Al-Zarqawi and al-Qaida in Iraq have conducted terrorist activities against the Iraqi people for years in attempts to undermine the Iraqi national government and Coalition efforts to rebuild and stabilize Iraq. He is known to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis. Al-Zarqawi’s death is a significant blow to al-Qaida and another step toward defeating terrorism in Iraq.

“Although the designated leader of al-Qaida in Iraq is now dead, the terrorist organization still poses a threat as its members will continue to try to terrorize the Iraqi people and destabilize their government as it moves toward stability and prosperity. Iraqi forces, supported by the Coalition, will continue to hunt terrorists that threaten the Iraqi people until terrorism is eradicated in Iraq.”

Zarqawi was near the center of the Iraq/Al Qaeda connection that led to the American decision to liberate Iraq.

Since 2000, Saddam Hussein had been subsidizing Zarqawi's Al Qaeda group as part of his war against the Kurds. And in October of 2002, Zarqawi had extended his reach by assassinating US Ambassador to Jordan Lawrence Foley.

With the collapse of his patron Saddam Hussein in April of 2003, Zarqawi was central to the Al Qaeda effort to expel the Americans from Iraq.


He was right: Three elections later, Iraqi democracy is alive and Zarqawi is dead.


Links: The coverage over at the Counterterrorism Blog is more in-depth than all the world's mainline sources put together: see in particular Bill Roggio on the work of Major Task Force 145. Walid Phares looks at Arab reaction. And Andrew Cochran has an excellent round-up.

The Washington Post reduces Al Qaeda to an "insurgent" group, and notes that Iraqi reporters applauded his death. The Post does not mention if American reporters joined in the applause.

ABC News reports on the death of the "insurgency" leader, adding the suggestive detail that: "Zarqawi did not die right away, ABC News has learned. He was badly injured when he was recovered by U.S. troops. He then died from his injuries and was handed over to Iraqi officials."

CBS News, clearly worried by yet another victory in the war on terror, writes: "CBS News correspondent Susan Roberts reports that while there is no question that Zarqawi's death is a major victory for U.S. and Iraqi forces, it may have little impact on the sectarian violence now plaguing the country."

MSNBC carries the AP report of the demise of Iraq's "most wanted militant", conceding in the very first paragraph: "It was a major victory in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the broader war on terror."

CNN has a solid report on the death of the terrorist. CNN readers show their seriousness in the war on terror, ranking the video clips of the death of Zarqawi as #3 behind the clips of Paul McCartney's wife (#1) and Hadith (#2) as the most watched on-line newsclips (as of 5.30am Eastern time).

Professional is Britain's The Guardian. And Britain's Daily Telegraph. The BBC with characteristic cowardice reports the demise of a "militant" but not a "terrorist". By contrast the Times of London hails the death of the "terror leader", and connects the story to national concerns, noting that he was believed to have personally beheaded Ken Bigley of Liverpool, UK.

In France Le Monde notes the death of "le terroriste". Le Figaro also notes the death of "le terroriste", adding that he was responsible for a campaign of "bloody murders".

In Germany, Der Spiegel goes where the BBC won't: "The most-wanted terrorist in Iraq is dead". Der Spiegel even goes on to note that Zarqawi's goal was to re-establish the Caliphate in Iraq. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in its coverage highlights Tony Blair's declaration that this is a defeat for Al Qaeda worldwide. Munich's Suddeutsche Zeitung minces no words in describing the demise of one of the world's "most-wanted terrorists", and his responsibility for some of the "bloodiest attacks" of the last few years.

Iraqi blogger Iraq the Model offers congratulations for a major victory against terrorism. Al Jazeera reports the death of Zarqawi, while refraining with American journalism from calling Zarqawi a terrorist.

Atlas Shrugs has smiles. The Mudville Gazette is on top of things.

Michelle Malkin, as ever, is amazing. And Glenn Reynolds with impeccable timing was writing just yesterday on Zarqawi's troubles.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

An unqualified nominee? We report, you decide

The NYTimes has recently blasted Brett Kavanaugh as an unqualified nominee

An Unqualified Judicial Nominee

Published: May 3, 2006
Senate Republicans have announced plans to push for a quick vote on Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination for a powerful appeals court judgeship has languished since 2003. There are good reasons the nomination has been kept on hold. Mr. Kavanaugh was unqualified then, and he is unqualified now. Moreover, since his Senate hearing in 2004, new issues have been raised that he should be questioned about, including what role, if any, he played in Bush administration policies like the National Security Agency's domestic spying program.

Mr. Kavanaugh has been nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often called the nation's second most important court. A young lawyer with paltry courtroom experience, Mr. Kavanaugh does not have the legal background appropriate for such a lofty appointment. What he does have is a résumé that screams political partisanship.

He worked for Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor, and helped draft possible grounds of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. He became a partisan in the impeachment battles that followed, co-writing an op-ed article in 1999 that presented Mr. Starr as an "American hero," while railing against a "presidentially approved smear campaign against him." Mr. Kavanaugh has spent much of his legal career since then in the Bush White House, where he helped select many of the administration's far-right judicial nominees.

Since Mr. Kavanaugh's nomination was first considered, information has come to light about a number of troubling policies that he could have had a hand in, including domestic spying, torture and rendition of detainees to other countries. Senate Democrats would like to question Mr. Kavanaugh about these programs, and about what connection he had, if any, to the Jack Abramoff scandal.

It is not clear, however, that they will get the chance. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has so far resisted calls for another hearing before Mr. Kavanaugh's nomination is brought to a vote. The Republicans have long used judicial nominations as a way of placating the far right of their party, and it appears that with President Bush sinking in the polls, they now want to offer up some new appeals court judges to their conservative base. But a lifetime appointment to the D.C. Circuit is too important to be treated as a political reward.

Absent from all this is any discussion of Mr Kavanaugh's actual accomplishments. Here's his resume:

Brett M. Kavanaugh Resumé
Birth: February 12, 1965; Washington, D.C.

Legal Residence: Washington, DC

Education:1983 - 1987, Yale College; B.A. degree, cum laude. 1987 - 1990, Yale Law School, J.D; Notes editor of the law review.

Bar Admittance:1990, Maryland; 1992, District of Columbia.

Experience:1990 - 1991, Law Clerk to the Honorable Walter K. Stapleton, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 1991 - 1992, Law Clerk to the Honorable Alex Kozinski, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 1992 - 1993, United States Department of Justice, Office of the Solicitor General. 1993 - 1994, Law Clerk to the Honorable Anthony M. Kennedy, Supreme Court of the United States. 1994 - 1997, Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr. 1998, Associate Counsel. 1997 - 1998, Kirkland & Ellis. 1999 - 2001, Partner. 2001 - present, President George W. Bush: Associate Counsel to the President, 2001 -2003. Senior Associate Counsel to the President, 2003. Staff Secretary, 2003-present.

You will notice that the NYTimes stayed carefully silent about this "unqualified" nominee's two degrees from Yale, his position on the law review, or his clerkship for the Supreme Court. Of all this "news that's fit to print", the Times couldn't spare a word. He worked for Ken Starr and the President, so that was enough to dismiss him as a political hack.

Of course, the problem isn't that Kavanaugh isn't qualifed. It's that he's well-qualified and conservative--but the Times can't be upfront about the real issue here.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Star Is Born...

As readers here know, I am a big fan of the Dawn Patrol's Dawn Eden.

Latest news is the release of the cover of her forthcoming book on chastity and sexuality, The Thrill of the Chaste.

Looks like a knockout.

Dawn is a fascinating woman and a wonderful writer: from a Jewish family, she is a walking encyclopedia of the history of rock'n'roll, and a recent convert to the Catholic Church.

Her blog regularly covers issues of contemporary sexuality, and her insight and raw emotional honesty make her irreplaceable. Please set aside your volumes by Freud, Foucault, and Camille Paglia; and make some room for Miss Eden.

I include here a snippet from her blog of last year that for me was particularly memorable...

A single bases her actions on how they will or won't affect her single, lacking state. She goes to parties based on whether or not there will be new men to meet. She chooses friends who are also single and lacking—again, think Carrie's gang in "Sex and the City"—who will reinforce her own cynicism.

A singular bases her actions on how they will enable her to be the person whom she believes God wants her to be. She trusts that God has a plan for her and that—assuming she longs to be married—a husband is only part of that plan. Moreover, she trusts that God will provide a husband for her if she follows His will for her life, making the best use of the gifts that He has given her.

I spent many years of my life being single. I have nothing to show for it except the ability to toss my hair fetchingly, and a mental catalog of a thousand banal things to say to fill the awkward and unbearably lonely moments between having sex and putting my clothes back on. Those are moments they never showed on "Sex and the City," because they strike to the heart of the black hole that casual sex, even—no, especially—when done in the hope of marriage, can never fill.I may spend many more years being singular. But not a single day of them will be wasted. And that, of course, will be a singular achievement. [boldfaced added].

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

If you didn't get in to Harvard...

So you didn't get admitted to Harvard. Or that other high-prestige college that you set your heart on.

Here's some sound advice for what to do next.

1. Do remember that some of the most prestigious schools in the US are awful places to get an undergraduate education. Harvard's doctoral programs mostly deserve their reputation. Their undergraduate programs are something else again. As an academic, if my kid wanted to go to Harvard, they'd need a VERY good reason. In most cases, my kid would find it easier to convince Harvard to accept them than to convince me to help pay for four years of over-rated ivy. Since Harvard's admission rate is historically about 10%, well, you get the picture.

2. If your heart is really set on that school that turned you down, then don't take no for answer. Take your next best school, work hard as a freshman, and look to transfer in later as a sophomore. You are not sentenced to spend the next four years of your life at a school that you really don't like.

3. Do realize that graduate schools are not impressed by the US News rankings. Your ability to go to a top-class graduate school depends on your GREs, your GPA, and a number of other things. There are numerous excellent colleges that will not be found in the first couple lines of the US News rankings.

4. This is nicely summed up by Gregg Easterbrook:
"The elites still lead in producing undergraduates who go on for doctorates (Caltech had the highest percentage during the 1990s), but Earlham, Grinnell, Kalamazoo, Kenyon, Knox, Lawrence, Macalester, Oberlin, and Wooster do better on this scale than many higher-status schools. In the 1990s little Earlham, with just 1,200 students, produced a higher percentage of graduates who have since received doctorates than did Brown, Dartmouth, Duke, Northwestern, Penn, or Vassar."

5. So here's a short list of great liberal colleges that I hope my kid will look at seriously:

St John's College: the classic great books program and probably the best liberal arts college in the country.
Thomas Aquinas College: similar to St John's, but with a strong Catholic slant.
University of Chicago: Indiana Jones's school is vastly underrated by high school students, but not by grad school admissions offices.
Wheaton College: "In a survey of baccalaureate origins of doctorate
recipients, Wheaton ranked 11th in the nation in the total number of graduates (all fields) who went on to earn doctorates."
Hillsdale College: first-rate liberal arts program with a strong emphasis on values and culture.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Rush as the clown prince of conservativism

Sometimes conservatives are so easy to caricature...Rush Limbaugh cites a great article from the Asia Times by Spengler, the nom de plume of one of their columnists. At the end of the article, Rush remarks:

Now, this is Asia Times Online. The date of this story is April 11, 2006, and the author is simply named "Spengler." I don't know first names. It's all I know.

Rush, buddy, the name is taken from Oswald Spengler, a German intellectual 1880-1936, best known for his study, The Decline of the West.

Of course, this still makes Rush better educated than Howard Dean, who once claimed that the Book of Job was his favourite book in the New Testament.

The Gospel of Judas: skepticism strikes out

I just finished watching National Geographic's two-hour special on the Gospel of Judas. At one point I told some friends who were watching it with me: they've got two hours and some of the world's greatest biblical scholars, and I bet at the end they can't find a single one who thinks there's any historical credibility to the Gospel of Judas.

Sure enough, not a single one of their international panel of scholars was willing to endorse the historicity of the Gospel of Judas.

1. This is a great manuscript find--but so far it tells us absolutely nothing about the true history of Jesus. Few of the scholars on the program would be identified with any traditional form of Christianity. But none was willing to claim the Gospel of Judas as evidence that would undermine the traditional Gospels. There are good reasons why even skeptics won't endorse the Gospel of Judas. In part, any gospel written in the second century is going to be a dubious source of truth about Jesus. But mostly, there's no serious evidence that the Gospel of Judas has any contact with any credible historical tradition.

2. The discussion of the carbon-14 dating in the television special renews my skepticism about the accuracy of the carbon-14 date. The carbon-14 team thinks the manuscript dates from AD 220-340. But they never calibrated their carbon-14 readings against papyri from this period with known dates. Which means their estimate of AD 220-340 is much less credible estimate than they may realize. The handwriting of the papyrus looks about a century later than that given by the carbon-14 team. I would like to believe that the carbon-14 estimate is right: it would mean that a substantial batch of late Roman manuscripts are about a century older than scholars have so far estimated. But it is more likely that carbon-14 date is wrong.

3. Bart Ehrman repeats in the special the standard claim of many biblical scholars that the gospel were originally anonymous. Lots of biblical scholars agree with that, but the Gospel of Judas itself suggests that this is wrong. The camera focusses on the title at the end of the gospel, which reads Gospel of Judas in letters so clear many non-scholars could probably read it. The new manuscript is yet another piece of evidence that it was very rare to see gospels without titles. There is little reason to believe that the gospels now in the New Testament ever circulated without titles. So as I pointed out on Friday, the Gospel of Judas actually lends some support to the traditional view of the gospels.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Do you believe in magic?

Dawn Eden links to an amazing post over the The Raving Atheist. Classic quotation:

Magical thinking occurs when one asserts that the human status of the fetus is mind-dependent, varying from woman to woman, dependent on the notion of "wantedness." That's the thinking prevalent in the pro-choice movement today. "Nobody can say when life begins," the argument goes, "so it's whatever anybody says it is." Or "between a woman and her god," even if that god throws infants into volcanos. Planned Parenthood and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice have hired clergy to promote precisely that sort of view.

The Power of Prayer

Scrappleface hits this one out of the park.

Prayer Study: Humans Fail to Manipulate God
by Scott Ott

(2006-03-31) — A team of scientists today ended a 10-year study on the so-called “power of prayer” by concluding that God cannot be manipulated by humans, not even by scientists with a $2.4 million research grant.

The scientists also noted that their work was “sabotaged by religious zealots” secretly praying for study subjects who were supposed to receive no prayer.

“As it turns out, God was not impressed by our academic credentials, our substantial funding base, and our rigorous study protocols,” said lead researcher Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston. “I get the feeling we just spent 10 years looking through the wrong end of the telescope.”

While patients who knew they were the targets of the study’s intercessory prayer team actually had more post-operative complications, Dr. Benson admitted he failed to prevent friends and relatives from praying for the “no prayer” control group.

“It really burns me up that we worked so hard, only to be undermined by an anonymous army of intellectual weaklings on their knees,” he said.

Dr. Benson said he would now seek $10 million in grants to explore whether fire can be called down from heaven to kindle a pile of wood. The control group’s wood will be drenched in water to prevent combustion.

Dutch seek to punish educated moms

The article is as awful as you'd fear:

Sharon Dijksma, a leading parliamentarian of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) wants to penalise educated stay-at-home women. “A highly-educated woman who chooses to stay at home and not to work – that is destruction of capital,” she said in an interview last week. “If you receive the benefit of an expensive education at society’s expense, you should not be allowed to throw away that knowledge unpunished.”

Hence her proposal to recover part of the cost of their education from highly-educated women who decide not to seek paid work. Between 2001 and 2005 the number of Dutch women aged between 15 and 65 who were out on the labour market rose from 55.9 to 58.7 per cent. Dijksma says she wants to stimulate more women to join the work force. In the municipal elections earlier this month the PvdA became the biggest party in the Netherlands thanks to the Muslim vote. The PvdA is generally expected to win the general elections next year, when the 35 year old Dijksma, who has been an MP since she was 23 and is a leading figure in the party, might become a government minister.