December 15, 2001

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GOOD RIDDANCE: The NY Times' Anthony Lewis ends 32 years of drivel today. Lewis is best known for being a left-leaning statist who rarely had anything nice, or factual, to say about those with whom he disagrees politically. Just look at today's column (you have to register...just why does the Times require registration, when nearly every other major online publication doesn't?). Lewis has a problem with Fundamentalist Christians, who are the left's favorite punching bags (sometimes deservedly so), but goes on to deride them for "questioning Darwin" as well as the scientific method. Well, how can you accept Darwin fully and live up to the scientific method at the same time? Oh, I can hear the howls now. Let me explain. Darwin's theory of evolution is just that, a theory. It helps explain some things, but is by no means an all-emcompassing "theory of everything." If you accept it at face value, you're not living up to the scientific method, which requires constant and rigorous testing of theory until you either prove it or disprove it. Darwin himself laid out a set of tests for evolution, knowing that science would one day either vindicate or obliterate it. Scientists since his time have applied those tests as well as new ones based on more recent science. Do they find themselves in Lewis' crosshairs for questioning Darwin? Of course not, they're not part of a group that Lewis doesn't like. I'm not, by the way, taking a side for or against Darwin here. I work for NASA. I'm a Christian. The scientific method is useful in both spheres, but at the end of the day both Darwin and Christianity require some quantity of faith for acceptance. I'm merely saying that to mock the questioning of Darwin while upholding the scientific method is contradictory--many scientists, such as microbiologist Michael Behe, question Darwin based on systems that exist at the biomolecular level, a level of detail Darwin knew nothing about. Other scientists don't buy Behe's argument and counter it. Then Behe will respond to criticism, his critics will respond, etc (if you care to follow some of that debate, click here). That's how science works. Still others like Richard Goldschmidt examine the fossil record, find it wanting for the transitional species that Darwin predicted, and come up with theories like "hopeful moster" or punctuated equilibrium (for which he was labelled a heretic by many of his colleagues). And other scientists, seeing a world of genes Darwin never anticipated, modify his original theory to place genetics at the center as opposed to outward adaptation to environment. If science stops questioning Darwin, it stops following the scientific method. Fundamentalist Christians should hardly be faulted for that. They might be faulted for assuming that they know the answer before asking the question, but isn't Lewis doing the same thing, on Darwin, on missile defense, on gun control, etc? Additionally, Darwin belongs to a trio of 19th Century giants that has had hard times in recent decades. Darwin, Freud and Marx all wrote extensively on their respective theories of evolution, psychology and politics. Freud and Marx have since been slain in the gladatorial arena of ideas (except in Hillary Clinton's mind, where Marx seems to have found a home). It's only reasonable to take a second, more critical, look at Darwin as well. Darwin may emerge proven right, or he might be proven wrong. Lewis is engaging in demagoguery by taking on Fundamentalist Christians the way he does. But that's Anthony Lewis, demagogue to the end. Nothing personal, Mr. Lewis, but I'm glad to see you go. Take the Times'editorial board with you.

Note to evolutionists and creationists: don't try to pick a fight with me on Darwin. Most people belonging to both sides are too dogmatic to be reasoned with. Most belonging to both sides also don't accept evidence contradicting their point of view as valid, and treat their opposites as either dangerous morons or hopeless pagans. I'm neither. That doesn't mean I don't have an opinion, it just means that I don't want to use this space to wage that war. I may one day post my thoughts as a Christian working in the scientific arena, but not today. It's late, and that will be a long post.

ADDED LINKS: Note a couple of new entries to the links section. Damian Penny, I'll accept cash, check or PayPal.
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December 14, 2001

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WHILE THE REAL WAR BLAZES ON: Doesn't the Surgeon General of the United States have anything better to do with his time than declare war on fatties? Like, uh, surgery or something. How about coming up with a plan to respond to such far-fetched possibilities as, say, a bio attack in the US of A. Here's how he can win his "War on Obesity" faster than the NA overran the Taliban: make the big 'uns smoke cigs. They'd either get slim or get cancer. Either way they'd no longer be fat.

That may sound mean, but let's face it: most obese people know they're obese and are fine with it. Those who aren't fine with it try to do something about it. Obesity isn't a moral condition, and it isn't something the government should even think about declaring war on. We've declared war on so many things that, when we finally have an actual enemy on our hands, we don't even bother to declare war. Maybe the Surgeon Gen actually wants more obese people. After all, LBJ declared war on poverty and got, surprise, more poor people. Bush 41 declared war on drugs, and the drug problem got worse. Clinton declared war on terrorism in 1998, and lo and behold we got the USS Cole and Sept 11. Since the Democrats are so intent on re-taking the House next year, maybe they should declare war on themselves.

ROLL TAPE: I, like most folks, watched UBL's video yesterday. Interesting spectacle, and as a television professional (well, I do make a living at it after all), anyone who thinks the thing is a phony is seriously deluded. That video, my friends, has the ring of truth about it. Some points for consideration: UBL isn't the center of focus. The cameraman was clearly intent on documenting the unidentified sheik's visit with UBL, but not so interested in giving us a good shot of the reptile himself. Hence, UBL is in profile while the sheik gets the quality face-time. It looks as though the sheik was the director, and was making the tape as a souvenir of his visit. A faker would give us a cleaner view, a little better lit and with UBL as the center of attention. The crappy audio and digital artifacting throughout. If you're a government lacky in charge of producing the "smoking gun" as a fake, you'd get cleaner audio. UBL is inaudible at precisely the wrong times. You almost always get to hear the sheik, since he's squared off with the camera's mic a little better, but because UBL is looking off-cam his voice isn't distinct. The digital artifacting, while not really covering up anything important, lends credence to its amateurish look but is also distracting. A faker would tend to add glitches at the head and tail of the piece, but leave the crucial parts clean. Also, faking those digital artifacts isn't something most people would think to do. Tape rolls, color shifts and other analog recording glitches are more likely to be faked. Analog glitches are also easier to fake. The helicopter interlude. The only words that came to my mind when the video cut away from UBL's house party to the outdoor scenes of the US helo wreckage were "What the ?" The people in that video look almost like animals as they pick over the ruined chopper, a depiction our good ol' politically correct government simply wouldn't create on purpose. Can you say racist? But look at that segment and tell me those people don't look like the apes at the beginning of 2001. And finally, UBL never utters the magic words "I did it." The sheik and the other guests assume that UBL was behind the deed, and they never bother to ask for confirmation. He never volunteers it, just describes in detail how the planning went, who knew what when, etc. The government, if it were to produce a fake, would surely include somewhere a passage of conversation allowing UBL to work in a more definitive confession. My fellow Americans, that video is real, and UBL did it. Most of us already know that, but if you happen upon some poor anti-war sap who thinks the whole thing is a set-up, maybe you have a little more fodder for the futile argument.
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December 12, 2001

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UTTER GARBAGE: Jonathan Steele's editorial in The Guardianlacks common sense and rationality. Note to Jacob Weisberg: if you're still looking for that phantom anti-war left, just click on the link and you'll see it.

Bill Gertz has an interesting piece about the testimony of Johnny bin Walker now that he's in US hands. The gist of the story is that the WTC/Pentagon attacks were phase one of a three phase plan to destroy the United States. Phase two supposedly begins at the end of Bombadan, which is Sunday, and will be a biological attack. If true, the anthrax mailings do look more and more like a test run for a bigger deal. A few interesting possibilities arise from all this. Walker was supposedly just a foot soldier for the Taliban, not an Al Qaeda elite. How would a common grunt for the Taliban know of such a plan? Possibility #1: he's been a CIA guy all along, and he ferreted out the plan while working undercover as a foot soldier. That's unlikely, because he really did seem to go on his spiritual quest at around age 16 or so, too young and clueless for CIA recruitment. He could've become a CIA shill later on, but that doesn't square well with his calls from Yemen justifying the attack on the Cole or his request for mom and dad to wire over some dough. The CIA hopefully takes better care of its field agents than that. Possibility #2: he's making it up to curry favor with his captors and the country. It's hard to see how this tactic will help him, and it may in fact lead many to believe he's even more treasonous than they already suspect, but it remains a possibility. Possibility #3: it's a real plan, he somehow stumbled onto it and is now hoping to warn the nation. Unlikely, because he doesn't seem repentent and seems like a Taliban "true believer," so why would he want to warn us of impending attacks? Also, it's unlikely that a common grunt could accidentally find out the darkest plans of bin Laden without bin Laden knowing. The offshoot of this might be that bin Laden let the American talib in on the plan hoping for his eventual capture, knowing Walker would squeal and set the world off on a new round of alerts. That seems like a pretty complicated scenario, but bin Laden is a devious character so it remains a possibility. And then there's Possibility #4: the three-phase war is a bravado plan floated around Taliban soldiers by Al Qaeda as a way of making their war against the US and our allies seem less futile. It would be a great motivator, especially as your own forces dwindle, to be able to look to some distant date as the day when revenge will surely come. It might work to keep the fighting spirits up in the face of what most could surely tell was an imminent and inevitable defeat. I lean toward #4, but I guess we'll have to wait until Sunday to find out.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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IT DIDN'T TAKE 'EM LONG: Some blowhard on Andrew Sullivan's site has turned Johnny bin Walker into an American right-winger, just because the boy got religion. That's so stupid it's beyond argument, but I'll try. Right and left as we Americans tend to think of them don't really apply very well beyond Western culture. Religions are very subjective, and the resulting politics from one religion can vary widely depending on who's interpreting its teachings. Hence, some scholars see elements of Communism in the Old Testament while sane scholars see no such thing. The Taliban is its own thing, a tiny splinter of militant Islam, and as such doesn't really fall into the American version of right or left. It's just too simplistic, and arrogant, to categorize them that way. Johnny bin Walker, from the reports I've read, essentially went on a spiritual quest that took him down a dark road. His non-judgmental parents weren't there to provide any guidance at all, so long as he still let them call him "John." It's sad that such an obviously confused kid had juveniles for parents, but he did and the consequences are likely to be harsh. But to suggest that he's somehow a card-carrying Republican because he hooked up with a religious group is childish in its simplicity. Does having a religion automatically make one a right-winger? Tell that to the average American Jew, or African-American or Hispanic, all of whom have a religion but who are more likely to vote Democratic. Does a lack of religion automatically make one a left-winger? Tell that to the average Fortune 500 manager, who claims no particular religion but votes Republican for purely fiscal reasons.

This does point to something that has disturbed me since the 9-11 attacks. Many left-leaners and centrists have been pretty trigger-happy with the "right-wing" and "fundamentalist" pejorative labels in the wake of those attacks when discussing anyone, especially Christian, who takes their faith seriously. Catholics have been largely exempt from this, since many prominent bloggers and reporters are nominally papists, but Protestants are taking a bum rap. It bears stating that no Christian was involved in any of the terrorist attacks, and nearly all Christians were sickened, saddened and angered by them. Further, most Christians (myself included) were outraged at the comments of Falwell et al regarding the cause of the attacks. Those remarks reflected a knee-jerk stupidity. I think that quite a few bloggers and reporters harbor a deep suspicion of devout Protestants and have been a little too willing to give voice to those feelings of late. The next time you read something on the web or in your local paper about "Baptists" or "Christian fundamentalists" or the like, mentally substitute "Jews" or "African-Americans." I think you'd be surprised how harsh and even bigoted it will suddenly sound.
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December 11, 2001

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When he's on, he's on. Andrew Sullivan takes down pretty much the entire left today, from the Slate crowd to the San Franciso Chronicle. As someone who was horrified at Tim McVeigh's actions, and is always horrified when pro-lifers do dumb things like bomb clinics, it's been a teensy bit satisfying to see a treasonous reptile like Johnny bin Walker show up as the embodiment of lefty silliness. Never mind that McVeigh had quite a lot in common with the Unabomber, who is no Reaganite Republican. Never mind that 99.9% of pro-lifers detest the clinic bombers, the press tars all right-of-center types with the same spew whenever someone claiming to act in our name acts up. In John Walker we have the first bona fide wartime traitor in a long while, and he's unquestionably a product of his value-free upbringing. Heck, Glenn Sacks of the San Francisco Chronicle even brags about it. Let's see the hard left spin its way out of this one. Better yet, let's see them pin this one on conservatives.

As for Slate, they've been a disappointment (to parrot Tom Daschle) to me during the war. Robert Wright, as I've written before, sees every last thing the Bush administration does as an aid to the terrorists. Mickey Kaus, whose writing I enjoy, cynically argues that prolonging the war helps Bush. And his assumption, once you examine it, doesn't hold up. He assumes that Bush blunts a threatened run by John McCain as long as the war is on, regardless of how it's going. That's absurd, otherwise President Lincoln need never have feared a challenge from McClellan (Lincoln needed big wins in the run-up to the election of 1864, and got them in the Atlanta campaign), and LBJ would've won in 1968 (we all know what happened there). And Slate has taken the lead in trying to re-write the press consortium's findings that Bush won Florida, and thereby the election, under most counting scenarios. Slate can't even publish a Lord of the Rings take without digging in on the administration. It's really a shame, because as an ezine it consistently hits a level of quality, quantity and diversity of subject that most can't aspire to. It has the funniest, wittiest take on football anywhere, even if it does make fun of the Cowboys. But Slate seems to be reading from the DNC's playbook, and that's a pity.

By contrast, look at is counterpart on the right, National Review Online. If the President, or the Congressional Republicans, or the GOP does something silly, stupid or wrong, NRO calls them out on it. Yes, they've been heavily pro-war, but so have 90% of the country. And NRO takes the long view with Victor Davis Hanson, whose weaving of the historical into current events is occasionally mind-blowing. Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru and the rest are stellar without being sycophants to any party. Now, if they'd just start running a football column.
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December 10, 2001

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WAR ON ASHCROFT: Since I usually excoriate reporters for being dunderheads, ignoramuses or prisoners of their leftist ideology, it's only fair that I say a few kind words about a reporter who gets it right. That reporter is Robert Bartley of the Wall Street Journal (go figure). Here's why he gets a gold star for the day. He lays out facts, provides context, and builds his case from there. Reporting based on reality, in other words.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 09, 2001

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I've changed my motto to something a little more feisty. If you haven't heard it, it's a quote from Neil Young's song about the heroes of Flight 93, "Let's Roll." This war, like all wars, needed a fight song, and I think the Buffalo Springfield alum has supplied it. It isn't exactly "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but it honors the dead and galvanizes the living, and that's what you want in a war anthem.

And speaking of the war, there's been quite a bit of action today. Mullah Omar is apparently among the wounded in a recent gun battle (good). Bin Laden is apparently personally leading about 1,000 of his vermin in a last-stand battle up in the Afghan mountains (good, if he's really there maybe we can drop a daisy cutter on him). And Hamas has once again shown their savagery, in another suicide bombing (bad). It looks from where I sit like the Palestinians are headed for civil war, and Arafat is becoming increasingly delusional. How else explain why he'll say in one interview "My God, who cares about the Americans?" while in another he sports an American flag and the Virgin Mary on his lapel while he insists that he knows how to stop the terrorism in Israel. Does he? Either he does but doesn't want to, or he doesn't but wants us to think he does. Either way, he's looking less relevant by the hour. There's been significant noise, mostly from Shimon Peres, that offing Arafat would be a disaster for Israel, since they'd be faced with a whole bunch of hostile factions instead of only one. I think Peres is just blowing smoke as usual. Removing Arafat might just bring a little more honesty back to the situation. Arafat, as anyone who's been paying attention knows, says nice things in English for our consumption while saying really nasty things in Arabic for the home crowd. He still wants to wipe out Israel, but has snowed enough people in the West (not the least of whom occupied the White House until last January) that he's been able to re-cast himself as a peacemaker. If he and the PLO are gone, Israel is left to deal with Hamas and other similar groups. Where Arafat could fool people into thinking he had good intentions, Hamas has no such luxury. They're bloodthirsty killers (or "freedom fighters" if you're writing for Reuters) and everyone knows it. Israel would probably have a freer hand to deal with them than they've had since the legitimization of the PLO in 1993. Yes, it would all mean more bloodshed, but frankly there don't seem to be too many alternatives to that. More bloodshed now might mean less later, if Israel can finally break the radicals' will to fight, or if the radicals finally exhaust their supply of suicide bombers.

In much happier news, the Cowboys beat the Giants today. At 4-8, the only role left for the 'Boys is that of the spoiler, and they're playing it well in beating Washington and New York consecutively. I wish I could've seen the game, but the geniuses at Fox decided to put up figure skating opposite CBS' coverage of the Philly-San Diego game. That game bore some relevance to the Baltimore-DC area, but so did the Dallas-NY game. I guess I could get NFL Sunday Ticket and bypass such stupidity, but I'd have to axe half of my trees to get a decent signal. I like football, but not that much.
Posted by B. Preston at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Andrew Sullivan, if you're still looking for someone to commit political suicide, look here. It's an editorial in The New Republic by Peter Beinhart. Peter's a liberal, admits he loathes libertarianism, but on the whole he's been dead-on since the start of the war. But his latest editorial marks a return to his roots--demagoguery, personal attacks, the works. He calls President Bush "ignorant." George W. Bush is the same guy who beat Ann Richards when she was at the height of her popularity as governor of Texas, then became the first anything re-elected to consecutive terms in that post since Reconstruction, then beat Little Lord Fauntleroy to become Prez. And just for fun, he managed to convert the Texas Rangers from a perennial loser into a (brief) division dominator. Aren't you folks on the left tired of trying to convince the rest of us that W. is dumb? Give it up--it ain't gonna work. You just look like whiny brats. But back to Beinhart's piece, he talks about conservative angst over a plan floated by ex-VP Gore to target airline ticket purchases as a way to go after "suspicious" individuals who bought them, and then says conservatives should voice equal irritation over the detention of the hundreds of illegals, witnesses and others since the Sept 11 attacks. Remember, Gore was part of an administration that had the chance--twice--to arrest bin Laden and turned it down, yet Gore was willing to electronically snoop on the entire country, citizens and non-citizens alike, and that was before the attacks on our soil killed about 4,000 of us. The Bush administration, by contrast, has detained people who are either here illegally or who are material witnesses, and that's it. They're not proposing to spy on the rest of us, though the Democrats seem to want him to snoop on gun owners. Beinhart also denounces the Bush administration because the detainees fit a profile of ethnicity, age, gender, etc. EARTH TO PETER BEINHART--ALL OF THE TERRORISTS ARE ARAB, UNDER 40, AND MALE. You're an IDIOT if you DON'T look for people that fit that profile. And if the administration let even one of the detainees go, and that person went on to commit a terrorist act, Beinhart would be among the first to denounce the administration for its sloppiness. As for the calls to publish their names, what if the administration did that very thing? What might happen to someone on that list once they're released from jail? If you want to see pogroms, publish the names. If you want to see anti-Arab trouble, publish the names. If you don't want to see those things, keep the names secret, process their crimes if there are any (which can take years in our screwed up legal system), deport the ones who shouldn't be here, and twist the screws to the silent material witnesses.

Beinhart also digs at the administration on the tribunal issue. Would he have done the same to FDR, who used them to try Nazi spies? Unlikely, but suppose he might have. How about the intern camps FDR happily polulated with Japanese-Americans while stealing their land? Again, unlikely. He'd probably have been too busy trying to save Roosevelt's scheme to pack the Supreme Court. Sorry for the cheap shot, but I'm ticked. Give it a rest, lefties. You're right to question government actions (that's what libertarianism is all about, by the way, so take your temporary seat on the right side of the aisle and pipe down), but Bush is limiting the tribunals to terror suspects who are not citizens of the US, and no one else. If that changes, I and most other Americans will join your howls of protest. Until then, let the man do his work. You know, it's libs like Peter Beinhart who have undermined confidence in our judicial system in the first place. The tribunals might not even be an issue if the left hadn't been hacking away at the effectiveness of law enforcement for several decades now. This is where all your focus on the rights of criminals over victims has led us.

The suicidal part of all this is that the American people aren't worried too much about the detainees, and are savvy enough to know that the government is going to have to look for the right type of person if it wants to catch terrorists. Of course, if the terrorists are clever they'll hurry out and get sex changes, bleach their hair gray and start wearing gowns. Until they do that, we'd better focus on Arab men from Egypt and Saudi Arabia between the ages of 20 and 40. Call it racial profiling if you want. Most people just call it common sense. The left, once loyal, is turning on the President and is desparate for some way to gain traction. They're going to self-destruct if they keep it up.
Posted by B. Preston at 01:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack