More HPV Follies

The Cato Institute has a great story about the HPV vaccine that our political heroes are trying to make mandatory for all little girls. It is far from clear that the vaccine will have the beneficial impact that Merck claims, and it may even have the opposite result. The vaccine has had no long-term testing so we really have no idea what will happen a few years down the road.

Risk assessment is not easy, particularly when, as is the case with Gardasil, the long term effects of a vaccine are totally unknown. Women who participated in the drug trials were followed for an average of less than three years. Consider this totally hypothetical example: what if 90% of all school age girls are vaccinated within the next five years and then ten or twenty years from now it is discovered that the vaccine made them sterile or actually caused them to get a different type of cancer than what they were vaccinated against? Or worse yet, because of the difference in sample size, once millions of 9 and 10-year olds were vaccinated instead of just a couple of hundred, one percent of the girls had side effects severe enough to cause brain damage or death? MORE

Focus on What?

Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family needs to take a vacation and re-think some things. A few weeks ago he helped Newt Gingrich break the news of various sexual dalliances, probably in order to help Gingrich in his all-but-certain presidential run. Now Dobson is questioning the faith of former Senator Fred Thompson - who, not coincidentally, threatens to take the social conservative support Newt is banking on.

"Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for," Dobson said of Thompson. "[But] I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression," Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party's conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, took issue with Dobson's characterization of the former Tennessee senator. "Thompson is indeed a Christian," he said. "He was baptized into the Church of Christ."

In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson's claim. He said that, while Dobson didn't believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith.""We use that word—Christian—to refer to people who are evangelical Christians," Schneeberger added. "Dr. Dobson wasn't expressing a personal opinion about his reaction to a Thompson candidacy; he was trying to 'read the tea leaves' about such a possibility." MORE

I hope this wasn't an attempt by Dobson to help Gingrich by downplaying Thompson. Gingrich and Thompson both hold about the same positions on the issues Dobson considers important. Gingrich has a marital history that is sordid, to say the least. If your goal is to teach the world about "family values" you can probably find a better poster boy than Newt Gingrich.

As for saying that Thompson is not a "Christian," someone in Dobson's position should choose his words a little more carefully. However, the word has a different meaning in this context. From Dobson's perspective, a Christian isn't just someone with the same faith. It's a term used to describe people who are open about their faith and who believe in Biblical moral teachings. I think that is what Dobson was trying to say. I doubt he was making any kind of judgment about Thompson's beliefs or salvation.

Nonetheless, it was not a smart thing to say about someone who could be a serious candidate for the White House. It looks more and more like Dobson, along with Jerry Falwell, has decided to hitch his 2008 wagon to Newt Gingrich. Why? I can only speculate, but he probably sees the hoopla surrounding Rudy Giuliani and is scared.

A Giuliani nomination by the GOP would be disastrous for Dobson and the issues he promotes. He's trying to head that off and has chosen Gingrich as the best hope for doing so. What he would have against Fred Thompson, I don't know. From all appearances Thompson is at least as Christian as Ronald Reagan was.

Other reactions:
Professor Bainbridge

Applause from Hell

If you have just eaten or are otherwise squeamish, I highly suggest you skip this post and come back to it later. You are about to read something horrible.

The following is a recent column by Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. The original is here.

If we think of hell, we might imagine screams coming out of the flames, or the sinister laughter of the devil. But the sound I recently heard coming from there was that of applause.

What I heard was an audiotape of Dr. Martin Haskell giving a presentation at the 16th Annual Meeting of the National Abortion Federation Conference in 1992 in San Diego. It was a gathering of abortionists -- men and women who make their living by killing babies. Haskell was describing to his audience how to do a partial-birth abortion. Listen to his words about how this procedure takes place:

“The surgeon then introduces large grasping forceps … through the vaginal and cervical canal … He moves the tip of the instrument carefully towards the fetal lower extremities -- and pulls the extremity into the vagina …The surgeon then uses his fingers to deliver the opposite lower extremity, then the torso, the shoulders, and the upper extremities. The skull lodges in the internal os. The fetus is oriented … spine up … The surgeon then takes a pair of blunt curved Metzenbaum scissors in the right hand. … the surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull--spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening. The surgeon--surgeon then introduces a suction catheter into this hole and evacuates the skull contents.”

Haskell, having described these brutal details, shows his audience a video of himself doing one of these procedures. And at the end of the video, after the sound of the suction machine taking the brains out of the baby’s head, the audience applauds.

That, my friends, is applause from hell.

We often speak about “the fires of hell.” It is also true, however, to say that hell is very cold. It is the absence of all conscience, of all pity, of all love. That kind of hell is reflected on earth when a group of human beings can sit around a video machine, watch someone deliberately kill a baby, and then applaud. That’s the heart and soul of the abortion industry. That’s the heart and soul of “pro-choice.”

It’s the same chilling attitude of which Dr. Bernard Nathanson repented. He writes about how he felt after he killed his own child by abortion. “I swear to you that I had no feelings aside from the sense of accomplishment, the pride of expertise. On inspecting the contents of the bag I felt only the satisfaction of knowing that I had done a thorough job” (The Hand of God, p.60).

I am convinced that the first and overall most effective way to fight abortion is to expose it. People need to hear descriptions of the procedure, see what it looks like, and get a glimpse into the utter corruption of the abortion industry. Saint Paul tells the Ephesians, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11). Let’s put Paul’s words into practice and spread the information in this column!

[End quote]

This ghastly procedure is perfectly legal in the United States. It is never medically necessary. It causes the death of a child who is within seconds of complete birth. The baby's brains are sucked out so its skull can be crushed to a size that fit through the mother's undilated vagina.

I'm sorry if this shocks anyone. As Father Pavone says, if more people really understood what happens in these procedures they would demand an end to it.

Now you know. What are you going to do about it?

Welcome Home, Daddy

I dare you to watch this video without shedding at least one tear.

Hat tip: The Anchoress

Chocolate Profanity

Why do some artists feel compelled to insult people? An art gallery in New York has acquired a six-foot sculpture of Christ, made entirely of milk chocolate. It is called "My Sweet Lord." That sounds cute until you see He is nude and anatomically complete. By pure coincidence, they claim, the gallery intended to unveil this so-called "art" next week - Holy Week, the days leading up to Easter, the most important holiday for Christians. Faced with a public outcry, the exhibit has now been canceled.

Here is a picture of the sculpture. Personally, I think the idea of portraying Christ in chocolate is pretty strange but you could certainly do much worse. Showing the Lord as, ahem, fully male is historically and theologically accurate. I think we all know this and don't need to see it in 3-D, however.

David Kuo makes a good point. As outrageous as the statue is, it makes a point we often forget. Christ was Himself mocked, ridiculed, scorned, beaten and ultimately killed. Why? Because He loved us. He gave Himself up for us - all of us, including the one who made this statue. It's a thought worth reflecting on at this time of year.

Crunchy Con reminds us that we rarely see artists doing things to insult Mohamed. Why not? Because they know what would happen to them. They know that it's perfectly safe in our society to heap indignities on Christians. The artists who do so are, in a word, cowards. They only insult the people that they know will not strike back.

Just to be clear, I don't think artists who do these things should face any sort of legal restrictions. Everyone in America is free to express their ideas, however repulsive they may be. The rest of us of free to ignore those ideas and to avoid doing business with those who promote them. We can also create our own art and let the public decide what it likes. Somehow, I doubt the chocolate version will stand the test of time.

Their Mommas Must Be Proud

Two 10-year-olds in Daytona Beach, Fla., are accused of attacking a homeless man who was hospitalized after a piece of concrete was smashed into his face, according to police. MORE

If you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members, we're not doing so well in this country. These three stories and the one above are remarkable in how little outrage they seem to have provoked among otherwise decent people.

Of course we do not know exactly what happened in Daytona Beach. The two 10-year-olds were apparently in the company of an older teenager who may have led them into the incident. Yet it is hard to avoid the conclusion that something must be terribly wrong in the homes of children who would do such a thing. Even at ten, a normal person knows not to smash other people in the head with concrete blocks.

Maybe it was violent video games. Maybe it was fighting between parents. Maybe it was too much MTV. I don't know. What I do know is that this sort of thing will happen more and more in a society that has convinced itself some lives aren't worth living. Eventually it will touch us all. Your turn is coming soon.

The Lion's Den

Back in the days when black people were being lynched in the South, a teacher found himself with a noose around his neck. Told to say a few last words, he spoke to his captors at length. When he finished talking, they let him go. Why? Read the story.

(Hat Tip: Crunchy Con)

Hypocrisy Rules

Aside from, hopefully, ridding us of Alberto Gonzales, the current controversy about his firing of U.S. Attorneys serves an additional purpose: exposing hypocrisy on all sides.

Defenders of the Bush Administration are working overtime to remind everyone that the incoming Clinton Administration fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in 1993. This proves, they say, that other presidents have exercised their right to fire U.S. Attorneys for any reason they wish. In other words, “It’s okay for us to do it because Clinton did it too.”

Wait just a minute here. I distinctly remember the mass firing of USAs in 1993, and I can assure you that Republicans at the time did not like it one bit. There was a great deal of speculation that Clinton did it to head off investigations of the scandals that were already enveloping his presidency even in its opening days.

The dishonesty on all sides is amazing. The same Republicans who screamed about “rule of law” when Clinton was president now claim “pleasure of the president” when their own guy does the same thing. Likewise, Democrats who had no problem with Clinton firing USAs are up in arms about Bush doing it.

The same thing goes for the forthcoming battle over executive privilege. Democrats were outraged when the GOP forced Clinton aides to testify before Congress in public and under oath. Now they want nothing less from Bush staffers. Republicans who demanded “accountability” from the Clinton Administration think the Bush Administration should be left alone to do whatever it wants.

Bottom line: it’s all about power – getting it and keeping it. When truth and consistency get in the way of power, these principles will be ignored by both parties. That is the one thing they all agree on.


The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English."

In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

WFB on the USAs

Via PoliBlog comes this very interesting column by the godfather of American conservatism, William F. Buckley.

It is obvious that there are Democrats in Congress who want an opportunity to forage for crimes in the matter of the discharged U.S. attorneys. Nobody has come up with a description of exactly what crime might have been committed and should be investigated. What is being conjectured is that an industrious investigating committee armed with subpoena powers could come up with malfeasance of some kind.

On the other hand, the investigative function of the legislative branch is of plenary importance, and should not be aborted by hypothetical immunities of the chief executive. Woodrow Wilson wrote in his classic book "Congressional Government" that Congress' investigative power was more important, even, than its legislative power...

Of one thing Mr. Bush is manifestly guilty. It is the criminal (in the metaphorical sense) mismanagement of the whole business of the U.S. attorneys. The fault is not personal; it was probably the attorney general and other advisers of the president who took so many clumsy steps. But Mr. Bush's stress on his rights invites a coordinate stress on his responsibilities. "These attorneys," he said, "serve at my pleasure." Right. But presidential pleasures have to rest on defensible grounds.

Mr. Buckley chooses his words with great caution and is well aware of how much weight they carry. The President and his staff would be well advised to read carefully. The message is this: Slow down, Mr. President, or you're on your own. Don't expect the Right to rally around you like the Left did for your predecessor.

Meanwhile here is another warning from someone who has been around a long time. Both offer good advice. Will Bush take it? I'm not holding my breath.

Heaven and Hell

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like."

The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. The Lord said, "You have seen Hell". They went to the next room and opened the door.

It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's v mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The holy man said, "I don't understand." " It is simple," said the Lord, "it requires but one skill. You see, they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves."

When Jesus died on the cross he was thinking of you.

(from Orthometer)

Cherokee Wisdom

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.

"One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

(Found at J-Walking)

News from Middle Earth

Good news for Tolkien fans...

An unfinished book by "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien, which was completed by his son, will go on sale on next month, a newspaper said.

"The Children of Hurin", which Tolkien began in 1918, will be in bookshops on April 17, the Independent on Sunday added. The author's son, Christopher, spent 30 years completing the story from the many drafts produced by his father.

Publisher HarperCollins is keeping exact details of the story under close wraps but its description as "an epic story of adventure, tragedy, fellowship and heroism" will be familiar to the legions of Tolkien fans.

Artist Alan Lee has provided 25 pencil sketches and eight paintings for the book.

Lee won an Oscar for art direction on Peter Jackson's "The Return of the King", the third blockbuster film based on the "Lord of Rings" trilogy that brought the stories to a worldwide audience.

"The Children of Hurin" is the first "new" Tolkien book since a collection of his works -- "The Silmarillion" -- was published posthumously in 1977, four years after the writer's death. It was also edited by Christopher Tolkien. MORE

The Useful Dead V

Another creative use for the remains of your dearly departed: donate them to Body Worlds so they can be plasticized and then posed for public viewing in a variety of imaginative positions. What better way to teach the kids about anatomy?

What remains unclear is where these bodies came from. One report says that many of the bodies at the Body Worlds exhibition in Chicago appear to have bullet holes at the base of the skull. This makes me suspect they are probably Chinese prisoners who were executed. Criminal though they may have been, somehow I doubt these people volunteered to have their remains paraded in front of the world in this way. Nor did they want their organs sold for profit.

I haven't been to this exhibit. Maybe it is tastefully done, though it's hard to imagine how. In any case, it's more evidence that we live in a ghastly reincarnation of the Roman Empire. What will be next?

Birth Control Shocker

This shocking news hit the wires yesterday:

Millions of college students are suddenly facing sharply higher prices for birth control, prompting concerns among health officials that some will shift to less preferred contraceptives or stop using them altogether.

Prices for oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, are doubling and tripling at student health centers, the result of a complex change in the Medicaid rebate law that essentially ends an incentive for drug companies to provide deep discounts to colleges.

"It's a tremendous problem for our students because not every student has a platinum card," said Hugh Jessop, executive director of the health center at Indiana University.

There, he said, women are paying about $22 per month for prescriptions that cost $10 a few months ago. "Some of our students have two jobs, have children," Jessop said. "To increase this by 100 percent or more overnight, which is what happened, is a huge shock to them and to their system." MORE

Oh, boo hoo hoo. The poor sorority girls need another $12 a month so they can continue having sex without consequences. The horror! The injustice! How can this happen in America? We have rights!

Here's an idea, girls. Just avoid sex until you are prepared to have children. This is what women did for most of human history. It is 100% effective and costs nothing.

Alternately, if you just can't live without sex, you could ask for donations from your male partners to help defray the cost of birth control. $22 a month should be no problem. Simply ask each frat boy to insert a $5 bill into your pocket before he unzips your pants, and your birth control budget will be covered in no time. You may even turn a profit.

Given how many people in this country need expensive drugs just to survive, I'm not too surprised the government is placing a lower priority on college birth control. Why were they subsidizing it in the first place? What, it's in the Constitution, you say? "The right of the people to hook up with anyone, anytime, anyplace, shall not be infringed." I guess I missed that part. Sorry.

Bush Goes To War

No, not that Bush. News emerged this week that George P. Bush, son of Jeb and the president's nephew, is joining the U.S. Navy Reserve. As far as I know, he is the first member of that family to enter the service since the current conflict began.

My first reaction to this news (Hat tip: Ron Dreher) was very cynical. It looks like resume-building by someone who is well aware he needs to get his ticket punched in order to have political viability in the future. When 9/11 happened GPB was 25, single, and a college graduate - perfect officer material - but he didn't rush to the recruiting office like some people.

It's also curious he chose to join the Navy. In this war the greatest need for talented people to volunteer is in the ground forces. So someone who genuinely "wants to help" wherever he can best do so would probably go there first. Conversely, if you want to wear a uniform without getting shot at, your best bet is to join the Air Force or Navy. These services do important work that can be dangerous, but the statistical fact (at least for now) is that they are safer places to serve than the Army or Marines.

Since GPB had his choice of services to join, and had to know that it would become public knowledge and his motives would be questioned, he would have been wise to volunteer for a branch that is perceived as more rigorous and sacrificial. He did not. I would be a lot more impressed if he had followed the example of this young man, who could have taken the easy path in life but did not.

Nevertheless, George P. Bush is at least doing something to serve. That is more than you can say for most of his generation (along with most of his relatives) and he deserves credit for it. I wish we weren't in this war and no one had to make the kind of sacrifice that military service requires. As long as we are, however, the burden should be shared.

Off With My Head

Those old enough to remember the 1970s may recall a rock musician named Ted Nugent. Mr. Nugent is still around and now lives in Crawford, Texas, near President Bush's ranch. He has become something of a right-wing hero and is heavily involved with the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun and pro-hunting groups.

Mr. Nugent also writes a column that appears in the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper. His topic last weekend was a demand for the execution of all convicted child molesters. Whatever you may think of that idea, it is probably not an argument Mr. Nugent should be making, given allegations like these:

When Nugent turned 30, in 1978, he began a relationship with a 17-year old Hawaiian girl, Pele Massa, and became her legal guardian to comply with laws pertaining to relationships with minors.[5] This was covered in VH1's 1998 Behind the Music featuring Nugent, and included an interview with Massa. SOURCE

I searched around the web and found several other mentions of this story, along with a couple of others. I could not find any record of Mr. Nugent denying the allegations. If he does in fact deny them, I will be glad to publish a correction.

It is of course true that consorting with a 17-year-old girl is not the same as molesting a young child. In many places 17 is above the age of consent and such relationships are not illegal. It sounds like it was illegal in Hawaii at that time, since he went through legal maneuvers to avoid prosecution.

And that is the point. If, as Mr. Nugent says in his column, all "child molesters" should face mandatory execution, exactly how will we define the crime? What if, say, an 18-year-old-boy has consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl? He is an adult, legally speaking. She is not. She will literally hold his life in her hands. One call to the police and before you know it he's on death row. Is that what we want? We could discuss hundreds more such scenarios. Mr. Nugent himself could have been caught in the net.

The reason the law allows broad penalty ranges is so that judges and juries can consider each case on its own merits and take all the relevant factors into account when they issue a sentence. Mandatory sentencing laws are emotionally satisfying, but in fact they make it impossible to deliver anything resembling "justice" to the accused and the victims.

Incidentally, if the Waco Tribune-Herald was a real newspaper that paid attention to little things like journalistic standards, they would have disclosed these allegations about Mr. Nugent when they printed his column. They did not, though several people posted comments after the article pointing it out. I wrote a letter to the editor, which they have not published as of today.

War of the Worlds

Last weekend I read what may be the most thought-provoking blog post of the year, which came from The Catholic Knight. Here's how it starts.

Let's suppose you're God. Now let's suppose you (as God) are trying to deal with the present world. There are two undeniable and unchangeable characteristics about your personality. On the one side, you're all holy and you exercise absolute justice. On the other side, you are all love and you exercise total mercy. You, being the God of nature, have decreed homosexuality to be an abomination because it completely thwarts the procreative processes you designed. You, being the God of life, have decreed abortion an absolute crime against humanity, because once again it thwarts procreation, but worse it does it through murder.

Now, after considering all of this, I have just one question for you. What do you (as God) do with Western civilization?

For two-thousand years, the gospel of your Son (Jesus Christ) has echoed through Europe. For over five-hundred years, the same Gospel has spread throughout the Americas and into the South Pacific. Yet it would appear that the governments of nearly all these regions are enacting policies that fund abortion and encourage homosexuality, even punishing those who object to them.

Now consider this. On the other side of the world, you have a large group of people (about a billion of them) who essentially reject the Gospel of your Son (Jesus Christ) but at least acknowledge his existence as a holy prophet. I'm talking about Muslims. They abhor abortion, homosexuality, and all the other immoralities the Western world currently promotes.

So I ask you again. If you are the all holy, and all merciful God; What do you do?


He concludes that Islam may be to Christianity what the Philistines were to ancient Israel. The comparison is apt. The entire Old Testament can be summarized like this: 1) God gives Israel, His people, great gifts; 2) The people are initially grateful; 3) They become jaded and apathetic; 4) Prophets call Israel to repentance; 5) The prophets are ignored; 6) God uses pagans to punish Israel until it repents; 7) Go to step 1 and repeat.

The implication of this is that, contrary to what we in the West like to think, God is not on our side against Islam. He is using Islam to get our attention. Until we get the message, we will continue to be challenged and attacked. We will not win the Global War On Terror with military force. We will not win until we change our culture. How?

Individual Christians can help by simply obeying the precepts of the Christian religion -- one of which is to "be fruitful and multiply." Such obedience flies in the face of modern Secularism and Western sensibilities. Christians face an uphill battle, with Islam nipping at their heels all the way.
To defy Secular Western culture is to obey God and thus save the very culture we defy. To surrender to the status quo is to eventually submit to Islam. It may not happen tomorrow, but it will happen someday, and when it does, we'll only have ourselves to blame. It's an interesting time we find ourselves in.

Read the whole post. It's worth your time.

Dubai Bound

The giant Halliburton company made the surprising announcement last week that it is moving its corporate headquarters from Houston to Dubai. The idea is to be closer to key customers and operations, most of which are in the Middle East.

Halliburton, you may recall, was headed by Dick Cheney before he got a more interesting job a few years ago. The company is heavily involved in providing logistical support for U.S. military forces in the Middle East, and some of its government contracts have been on very favorable terms.

Dubai is a city-state, part of the United Arab Emirates, which became well known in the U.S. last year when a company called Dubai Ports World sought to buy control of some U.S. port facilities. The plan was abandoned after a huge political controversy erupted.

I can see that, from a business point of view, the move to Dubai by Halliburton makes sense. Politically it doesn't look good at all, though. The result was opinion pieces like this one:

So I say if Halliburton chooses to go, it should go away with good riddance. But at the same time, its government contracts should be reallocated to other companies and it should be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. After all, Halliburton says it wants to list on a foreign exchange anyway, likely in the Middle East. The company clearly is looking to give up its American citizenship. It should then have to suffer the consequences of that decision too. MORE

In a globalized economy the concept of businesses having any one nationality is a little hard to pin down. Energy companies are the best example because the large ones operate in numerous countries. We are so used to this that we forget we are buying gas from Royal Dutch Shell and that BP stands for British Petroleum.

In any case, the tiny city-state of Dubai clearly has its sites on becoming a global financial center, much like Hong Kong or Singapore. Most of the 1.2 million residents are foreigners, making the city a multicultural melting pot. A massive construction boom is turning it into a gleaming city comparable to the best Europe or North America have to offer. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting perspective on the Halliburton move and Dubai:

But what makes this place more than a just a curious shopping haven is the fact that it provides an alternate model to the current ethnic and religious strife rending the region a few hundred miles to its north. In Dubai, no one cares what you believe or to which God you pray. The only criterion for success and social acceptance is the almighty dollar. It is hyper-capitalism both in attitude and practice, complete with banking laws so noninvasive that they make Switzerland look unattractive.

Christian-Palestinian businessmen do deals with Indian Muslims, who team up to build condos that are then sold to Malaysian millionaires or Kuwaiti sheikhs. Global investment banks facilitate contracts between the royal Maktoum family and the very American Boston Properties (led by Mortimer Zuckerman) to buy and sell prime real estate in Manhattan. And not only does Donald Trump get his name into the action, but the government of Dubai is also a major holder of Kerzner International, one of the world's premier gambling and resort companies that happens to be majority-controlled by a South African Jewish family.

That said, however, Dubai is very much an Arab city-state. It prides itself on becoming -- along with neighboring Abu Dhabi -- a Muslim model for tolerance, affluence and global success. That it manages to do so should belie prejudices in the West that the Arab world is incapable of participating in the global system until it unburdens itself of the doctrinal rigidity of some forms of Islam. MORE (subscription required)

One of the benefits of capitalism is that the pursuit of profits can help people overlook their other differences and learn to work together. The relationship between the West and the Muslim world could use a little more such cooperation. I doubt Halliburton has such altruistic motives in moving to Dubai, but on balance it is a positive thing.

In a related story, Texas A&M and some other colleges are opening a branch campus in Qatar, another tiny state in the Persian Gulf. As with Halliburton, this seems a little odd at first but is probably a good move for everyone.

An Agonizing Choice II

This story that I mentioned recently is still unfinished. Emilio remains alive and, with the help of various pro-life and disabled rights groups, has won a reprieve from having his life support turned off.

Upon further thought, this Texas law that allows hospitals to terminate life support whether the patient's family likes it or not probably should be reconsidered. What I haven't seen in the media reports is any indication that the baby has any chance of recovery. It sounds like even the mother accepts this - she simply wants him to continue receiving treatment until he dies. She believes he is aware and fighting for life, while physicians say he is comatose.

I don't have an answer to this dilemma, which is obviously very hard for everyone involved. What we can know is that God gave life to this child, and will take this life back when He is ready. Nothing any human can do will change that fact.

AttorneyGate Heating Up

Last week I said Al Gonzales needs to resign as attorney general, and nothing I've seen since then changes my mind. I don't think it is going to end that easily, though. If anything, both sides are digging in and the story is getting big enough to earn the ultimate scandal award: the "-gate" suffix.

The sad part is there are plenty of bigger reasons, based on actual policy decisions and actions, that Gonzales and other people in the Bush Administration should resign. They haven't because they have no appreciation for little things like "separation of powers" and "checks and balances." I've wanted for a long time to put Gonzales under oath and ask him one simple question:

Mr. Attorney General: please give me an example, just one, of something you think the President does not have the legal authority to do? If the president wanted to go beyond the powers the Constitution gives him, how could he do it?

After everything Gonzales has said and done, he would have no answer to this question. In his view, the president is an absolute dictator who simply cannot be questioned by Congress or courts. He doesn't say it quite so boldly, of course, but that is the logical conclusion of his arguments. This whole U.S. Attorney thing is a minor sideshow. But that's often how it goes in Washington - it's not the scandal that gets you, it's the cover-up.

Today the president expressed support for Gonzales. This could be the kiss of death but I suspect he really means it. Bush is intensely loyal to his friends and few are closer than Gonzales. The honorable thing would be for Gonzales to resign and spare Bush the agony of firing him, but I don't think he has that kind of honor.

Politically, keeping Gonzales around is the worst case for Bush. The Democrats smell blood in the water and they aren't going to give up. The administration seems to be digging in by refusing to let Karl Rove and Harriett Miers testify to Congress while under oath. This will lead to a constitutional showdown that will drag on for months.

The last thing Bush should do right now is pick a fight with Congress. He needs to get this whole issue off the table. That is unlikely to happen unless he sacrifices Gonzales and Rove. I doubt Bush will do it, so it's anyone's guess where this will end up. The e-mails released so far paint an unflattering picture of both DOJ and the White House staff. More heads are going to roll. The only question is whose they will be, and how long the agony will last.

Steven Taylor at Poliblog is keeping a close eye on this story. Follow the link for more info.

Amazing Grace

I have not yet seen the Amazing Grace movie but it sounds great. It is about William Wilberforce and the other English Christians who fought for years to have the slave trade outlawed. In so doing, they changed the world without firing a shot. We can learn from this example.

Mark Shea had an interesting reaction:

One of the weird paradoxes of history is that Christianity has proven to be the only tradition capable of destroying slavery (and it took all of its power to do it). For most of human history, slavery has been taken to be the normal and natural thing, so rooted in antiquity, so bound up in the social, economic and political order that the idea of getting rid of it was simply inconceivable even to highly educated and civilized people. Once Christianity is successfully repressed, I think slavery will return almost immediately, because the whole notion of equality is a purely mystical one deriving from the Christian tradition. Get rid of that tradition and you return to a sort of rude pagan empiricism that says, "Why should I think my inferior is my equal? And if I can force him to work for me, why should I pay him?"

Sad to say, this attitude is still with us today. Every time we redefine "person" into something of lesser value, we take a step down that road. We see it in the business owners right here in the U.S. who hire illegal aliens at below-market wages simply because they can. We see it when the lives of disabled people don't have enough "quality" to justify continuation. We see it when abortion is used as back-up birth control. We saw it our own Constitution, which as originally written considered slaves to be only 60% human.

Mark is right - if Christianity lets down our guard, slavery will return. We may call it something else, and it may look different in the details. It will be slavery nonetheless.

Enough Wild Oats

A new study reveals alarming levels of binge drinking, drug abuse, and assorted other risky behaviors among American college students.

• The proportion of students who drink (about 68 percent) and binge drink (40 percent) has changed little since 1993. But there have been substantial increases in the number of students who binge drink frequently (take five drinks at a time, three or more times in two weeks), who drink 10 or more times a month, and who get drunk three or more times in a month.

• Though still used by far fewer students than alcohol, hundreds of thousands more students are abusing prescription drugs including Ritalin, Adderall and OxyContin than during the early 1990s. The proportion of students using marijuana daily has more than doubled to about 4 percent. Though still used by far fewer students than alcohol, hundreds of thousands more students are abusing prescription drugs including Ritalin, Adderall and OxyContin than during the early 1990s. The proportion of students using marijuana daily has more than doubled to about 4 percent." type="hidden">

• Analyzing outside survey data, the Center calculated 23 percent of college students meet the medical criteria for substance abuse or dependence. That's about triple the proportion in the general population. MORE

It seems obvious that a legal drinking age of 21 does almost nothing to keep younger people from getting their hands on copious amounts of alcohol. The 23% substance abuse figure surprises me. College students have always sowed their wild oats, which is fine, but that's a far different thing from becoming addicted to alcohol or other substances. The study also found that college students drink more than their high school peers who did not go to college.

What does this tell us? Binge drinking is the first step down a long staircase. Today's college campuses are an anything-goes subculture. Take whatever substances you like into your body, in whatever quantities you like. Make your private parts public during Spring Break and Mardi Gras. Rut like animals with anonymous persons of any gender/species, secure in the knowledge that everyone around you will say nothing more than "whatever, dude." If your pelvic adventures result in something inconvenient, like the conception of a child, just kill it.

That is college life today, and not just from the student point of view. These attitudes also prevail among faculty, and indeed are official policy most places.

I am not a bit surprised that 18-21 year old kids, left on their own, will explore the outer limits of human depravity. What does surprise me are the parents who finance this sordid stage of life. You think your little darling studies all night long? Please. I don't care who much of a bookworm the kid may be. Faced with the kind of temptations that surround most campuses, and without anyone nearby for support, he or she will be transformed into a party animal faster than you can say "bottoms up."

Such is the state of affairs at all state universities and most of the formerly-religious ones as well. There remain a few small liberal-arts colleges that provide some semblance of adult supervision as well as academic rigor. Your kids can get in trouble at these places, too, but at least they won't be left alone to pursue whatever feels good.

The more basic question is why should we send 18-year-old kids to college in the first place? What does it accomplish? Is it worth the enormous amounts of money parents spend on elite universities? I think not. Many students would be much better off staying at home for another couple of years after high school while attending a community college or trade school.

Another alternative is to delay college and grow up for awhile by enlisting in the military. That is also an environment full of temptations and risks, but at least there are sergeants to serve as substitute parents. This option also allows the young person to earn benefits that pay their own way through college. In so doing, they are more likely to treat their educational experience seriously rather than as a long vacation paid for by mom and dad.

The sad fact is that college is vastly over-rated in this country. You can do just fine in life without a sheepskin on the wall. Plumbers make far more money than most college graduates. You can still party, if you are so inclined, but you won't have to listen to politically correct claptrap from overpaid professors who were unable to find jobs in the real world.

Try this sometime: ask people you know what their college major was, and how it relates to their current occupation. Most of the time the answer will be "not at all." The main exceptions will be in technical and scientific fields, most of which require specialized graduate training after college. A kid who has particular aptitude in science or math probably should go to college - preferably one close to home so parents can enforce reasonable limits on the party life.

Conversely, a degree in sociology, history or the like does practically nothing to get you a better career. The main thing you accomplish by getting such a degree is to rob yourself of 4-5 years of earnings from a job that will probably pay just as much as the one you get after college.

It would make a great bumper sticker, wouldn't it? College: Just Say No. If only people would believe it.

Terror in Irack

Click here if you can't see the video above.
Found at Poliblog.

Attack of the Gay Borg

On Star Trek: The Next Generation, our heroes were challenged by a robotic horde which would "assimilate" all the humans it captured into cyborg creatures. A similar effort is underway by homosexual groups right now.

Imagine this: your 14-year-old child, whom you have unwittingly sent to a public school, is forced to attend a gay indoctrination seminar where he is educated in homosexual behavior. Furthermore, your child is ordered to sign a confidentiality pledge promising not to tell you, his parents, about the experience. Sound crazy? It really happened in Deerfield, Illinois recently.

Meanwhile across the pond, the UK is beginning to educate children as young as 4 about homosexuality with fairy tales featuring, among other things, gay princes who fall in love with each other. A new law will make such brainwashing mandatory even in private, religious schools.

Adults aren't immune to this campaign, either. The two leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination fell all over each other this week trying to be first to say there is nothing immoral about homosexuality. Don't fool yourself - kids notice these things.

Clearly a concerted effort is underway not only to convince people that homosexuality is normal and okay, but to recruit new people into the gay lifestyle. It actually makes sense in a sort of Darwinian way. The urge to reproduce is hard-wired into humans. Gay people can't do it in the natural way, so if they want their subculture to survive they have to find converts. They are simply becoming more open about it now.

[Note: Homosexual people deserve the respect and rights due to any human. I understand that they may be born with this inclination. We are all born with evil tendencies of various kinds. The correct response is to resist them - not normalize them. And we should certainly not entice others to follow us in our immoral pursuits.]

If your goal is to recruit young people, schools are the natural place to start. I have thought for a long time that all the battles about prayer in school, evolution, posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms and the like are really a sideshow. Some conservatives ask questions like "what would George Washington say about this?" as if he would be on their side were he around today.

Actually, I think Washington's first question would be "why are you letting the government run your schools?" He didn't go to a public school. Nor did any of our other Founding Fathers because there were no public schools back then. Taxpayer-funded universal education came along later. You can thank guys like Horace Mann for the idea of public schools without any religious influence.

My point is this: if you choose to send your children into the arms of the State for their education, don't be surprised if they are taught some things you don't like, such as how to enjoy gay sex. You've signed away your right to influence their curriculum in exchange for free tuition. This is why liberals fight so hard against proposals for school choice or tax vouchers.

In Germany, parents who want to homeschool their children are losing their kids. There are those in the U.S. who would like to do the same thing. Don't expect them to stop trying. They know that the next generation is nothing less than a battleground in the culture war. So far, it is a war we are losing.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick being the patron saint of the blog, and your editor being of Irish descent, we mark his day with a special celebration - music! Here is something fun from Ceili Rain:

For another good one click here.

Dressed For Success

A tax court case in New York is revealing about the vanity of our culture. The young lady in question spent $63,169 on designer clothes and shoes in the year 2002. She then donated these clothes to charity and took a tax deduction for the value of the clothes. No dice, said the tax court.

Is it really possible to spend that kind of money on a year's worth of clothes? No problem at all, actually, as Bloomberg News found out when they went shopping with an expert. While "looking for value" at Bergdorf's they blew through $63,148 in less than three hours. As is often the case (or so I'm told), the men's shopping expedition ended much faster: $63,170 in just one hour.

Of course, this did take place in New York, land of the Thousand Dollar Pizza. But it's still a lot of money to spend on clothes. I am trying hard to imagine a scenario where it is really necessary to spend that kind of money on a wardrobe and I can't think of one. Apparently some people do, though.

If you have that kind of spare change and want to spend it on clothes, be my guest. I would suggest, however, that there are better things you could do with your money. Maybe, since we're talking about New York, you could help these guys find better living arrangements. Just a thought.

Some people will reply that buying expensive clothes actually benefits the poor by providing jobs and stimulating the economy. This is true but I don't think it lets us off the hook. Generosity requires sacrifice. We have to give up something we would otherwise like to keep for ourselves.

For example, if instead of buying that $3,290 Giorgio Armani pantsuit you really really want, you gave the same amount of money to the Salvation Army, you would be doing something generous. Simply buying the pantsuit and then feeling pleased that some third-world worker got a few extra pennies is not generosity. It's rationalization.

Here's a handy rule of thumb: if your annual wardrobe budget is greater than your annual gifts to charity, you are probably overdressed. Tax time is coming soon, so add up the numbers and see where you stand.

The Useful Not-Dead

At least the Chinese have the courtesy not to extract organs from prisoners until after they are dead. South Carolina doesn't want to wait that long. A proposal there would allow prisoners to reduce their sentences in exchange for donating body parts.

There is a definite need for more donor organs - many people die while waiting for a suitable transplant specimen to become available. Assuming the prisoners are fully informed of the risks to their own health and are mentally capable of making a free decision, there may not be anything wrong with it.

On the other hand, I have a hard time reconciling this idea with the proper ends of justice, i.e. punishing and hopefully rehabilitating criminals. Reducing a sentence in exchange for a literal pound of flesh doesn't seem quite right. It also doesn't seem fair to those prisoners whose organs are not desirable, possibly through no fault of their own.

There are other ways to increase the supply of organs. How about we give them a try before we start harvesting prisoner bodies?

Gonzales Has To Go

In regard to the now-infamous firing of several U.S. Attorneys, last week I said: Maybe it is a big deal over nothing. On the other hand, maybe it is the tip of the iceberg. The latter now appears to be closer to the truth.

Al Gonzales needs to resign as attorney general because he is a liar. You don't have to understand all the details of this incident to see why. Just consider two of his public statements about the firings.

Last week in USA Today: "While I am grateful for the public service of these seven U.S. attorneys, they simply lost my confidence."

Yesterday at a press conference: "I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on ... That's basically what I knew as attorney general."

Which is it, Mr. Attorney General? Were you involved in the decision or not? Both statements can't be true.

An aide named Kyle Sampson has been sacrificed as a scapegoat for allegedly not keeping Gonzales informed. If that's the case, then the situation is even worse than we thought. Exactly who is running the Justice Department?

Obviously the AG can't be involved in every personnel decision. But U.S. Attorneys are not minor officials. This was a big deal - which is why there was a blizzard of e-mail between Sampson and top staff at the White House discussing exactly who would be fired and how it would be done.

If Gonzales was involved in the firings, he is lying about it and letting other people take the blame. If he wasn't involved, he is a dangerously incompetent administrator in a critical position during a time of war. Either way, he needs to go. The nation is better off if he leaves sooner rather than later.

Mandatory Safe Sex III

Today our political supermen here in Texas, namely the House of Representatives, voted to prevent Governor Rick Perry from enacting his order for mandatory vaccination of 6th grade girls for the sexually transmitted HPV virus. See previous post.

This proposal goes nowhere unless the Senate concurs, which they may not, but in either case it doesn't matter. All Perry has to do is veto the bill and the legislature will be powerless to stop him. Theoretically they can overrule his veto, but unless the Senate moves quickly (good luck on that!) the session will expire and the legislature won't be back to consider an override for another two years. (We have a rather strange system here in Texas. Getting the legislature out of town as fast as possible usually serves us well, but it may backfire this time.)

Meanwhile, Merck's lobbying effort is bearing fruit in New Mexico and Virginia, which are close to passing similar requirements to inject all young girls with $400 doses of Gardisil.

In an earlier post I pointed out that unlike chicken pox and other such childhood diseases, there is zero risk of HPV being spread in the classroom unless the students are having sex there. I wonder if these kids were vaccinated?

Don't Ask, Do Tell

Marine General Peter Pace is in hot water for saying in a press interview this week that he believes homosexual acts are immoral. Predictably, the left-wing blogosphere and mainstream media went into convulsions of rage.

I guess General Pace missed that part of the Constitution. Here's the rule: everyone has an absolute right to insert their private parts into whatever place they can find, as long as the owner of that place consents. To dare question the wisdom - much less the morality - of any such acts is high treason and anyone who does so must be immediately destroyed.

What people are missing is that the general's statement came in the context of supporting the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that was declared by President Clinton in 1993. It was what he said next that got him in trouble:

"I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe that the armed forces of the United States are well served by saying through our policies that it's OK to be immoral in any way."

Note that General Pace did not say homosexual people are immoral or in any way undesirable. No, he focused on the acts they may commit. There is no allegation that he has in any way done anything improper to gay people. All he has done is enforce the policy that a Democratic president ordered. This is what generals are supposed to do: execute the orders of the president. Their own opinions may differ.

Nevertheless, even some so-called conservatives are outraged that a Marine would have such an opinion:

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., one of Congress' most respected authorities on military matters and a former Navy secretary, said, "I respectfully but strongly disagree with the chairman's view that homosexuality is immoral."

Let's consider this statement. First of all, the Senator is misstating what the General said. As noted above, his comment was directed at homosexual acts, not the condition of homosexuality. Second, what is the Senator's basis for his belief? The view that homosexual acts are immoral comes from thousands of years of natural law and the scriptures of all major religions. It is shared by a large part of our society. If the Senator wishes to disagree, surely he has some reasoning more than his own personal opinion. Do we really want a society where all morality is in the mind of the beholder?

For example, in the same interview the general said adultery is also immoral. Does Senator Warner think adultery is immoral? If so, how can he consistently say that adultery is wrong by homosex isn't?

Do we see adulterers rising up to complain that they are being discriminated against? Do they have their own lobbying groups? No. Why not? Because most people who commit adultery still have, deep down, some sense of shame. They know their behavior is immoral.

General Pace has now "clarified" his statement. He did not apologize; he simply said he was wrong to state his personal opinion while performing official business. We'll see if this is enough to calm the furor. I'm guessing it will not. The gay lobby will not rest until it has his head on a platter, and with so many other problems I won't be surprised if the Bush Administration throws him to the wolves.

An Agonizing Choice

Here is a very distressing story from close to home. A 16-month-old baby at Children's Hospital in Austin is suffering from a rare conditions that doctors say is hopeless. He is currently kept alive only by a respirator. The mother wants treatment to continue. The hospital intends to turn off the respirator if no other hospital can be found to take the child.

This is a very difficult situation. The salient question is whether there is any hope of recovery. I've never heard of this particular disease, but it sounds like the physicians all agree it will be fatal eventually. Unlike this case, they have been able to examine the child extensively before reaching conclusions.

On the other hand, life itself is a fatal disease. We are all born with a death sentence hanging over our heads - a sentence that will be executed at a time and in a manner of God's choice, not our own. This is why when we have to choose, our default answer should always be in favor of life.

Yet when prolonged life involves intense pain and suffering, the continued use of extraordinary means like respirators at some point becomes worse than the alternative. I'm speculating here, but it sounds like the mother in this case is having difficulty accepting that there is no hope for her baby. The article says she is single so she may not have much family support.

A couple of other factors are also interesting. First, it appears that no other hospitals are willing to accept the child. I would think, even if the mother is destitute and on welfare, that if there were any signs of a possible recovery that some hospital, somewhere, would agree to help. The fact that this isn't happening suggests the doctors are correct.

Furthermore, Children's Hospital is part of the Seton Healthcare Network, a Catholic charity. Not all Catholic groups are consistently pro-life but in the past Seton has held firm with church teaching about life issues, even at enormous financial cost. I suspect they are trying to do so in this case as well.

So it sounds like this baby will die, and sadly that is probably the best thing. He will then be delivered from his pain in a way human medicine cannot achieve. The mother will grieve as Mary did at the foot of the Cross.

Yet Mary saw her Son alive again. So too will this mother see little Emilio again, freed from the machines and cords that bind him to this life. May God grant her peace until then.

UPDATE: Emilio gets a reprieve.

The Doctor Said "Oops"

Here is the situation. A woman becomes pregnant. Ultrasound scans revealed that the baby had a malformed esophagus, a very difficult abnormality but one that can sometimes be repaired after birth. The woman decided to have an abortion at 22 weeks.

The aborted baby's heart was still beating when it came out. In a remarkable turnaround, the physician instantly changed roles from executioner to healer and began trying to save the baby's life. Sadly, a brain hemorrhage caused by the aborted abortion makes this child's survival very unlikely.

Even more sadly, the now-delivered baby was found not to have the defect that led the mother to have an abortion in the first place. The ultrasound reading was interpreted incorrectly.

All this really happened in Florence, Italy last month. Let us pray the Lord takes this child into His arms, and that the mother somehow finds peace.

Ultrasound is a wonderful technology but far from foolproof. You know how it goes: you get the little picture of a bunch of blobs, and the doctor points to some dots and says "those are fingers." Because it is a doctor saying this, we believe it. That belief cost this child his life.

Prenatal testing is now being used eugenically to create "designer" babies of the desired gender and health condition. Those babies who are deemed less than desirable are simply destroyed. This is alarmingly common in the United States when amniocentesis indicates Down's Syndrome in the child.

Raising a child with a disability is a huge sacrifice. Yet many parents gladly do so, and there are even lists of people who are willing to adopt such children. There is no need to destroy them. They should be honored.

Even more disturbing: where does this logic end? If it makes sense to kill people with defects before they are born, why not do it after they are born? We could save all kinds of time and money for society by just rounding up all the people with Down's Syndrome and euthanizing them. Why don't we?

Someday, this will happen.
Here in America, it will happen, and instead of being horrified we will accept it. Even now we are being slowly prepared with new definitions of "life." Guess what: eventually, the new definition will hit close to home. By then it will be too late.

Does this thought horrify you? Good. Start doing something about it.

Sisterly Love Saga

Last month I discussed the strange events in the Delta Zeta sorority at DePauw University. The mood there appears not to have improved.

The national office of Delta Zeta continues to deny any intent to purge its DePauw chapter of unattractive females, but they are having a hard time getting anyone to believe them. On March 1st they decided to decline further media contacts, perhaps because every story that appeared was negative.

Meanwhile the DePauw administration is fighting back against the DZ actions. Read about it here.

This whole fight is minor in comparison to the larger challenges we face, but I think it's interesting and amusing. It also reveals a few things about the political environment on college campuses, which is important because that is where the attitudes of young people are formed.

Ann Coulter Too Far?

By now you have probably heard about Ann Coulter's use of the word "faggot" in connection with Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. Anyone who watches cable news is accustomed to her political bomb-throwing. It is how she makes her living.

It hurts me to say this because I usually find Ms. Coulter very entertaining, but I think she went too far this time. It is quite possible to present the truth forcefully, and humorously, without using language that hurts people. Ann herself does it all the time. Why she chose to cross the line this time is a mystery.

The real question is whether statements like this help or hurt the cause of truth? While it is safe to assume that the audience at CPAC did not include very many Edwards supporters, the media was abundantly present and all the speakers knew their words would be national news. Now, did Ann Coulter's speech convince any Edwards supporters to reconsider? Did any young liberals say "you know, maybe she's right, this guy is kind of swishy. Let's take a look at Mitt Romney?" I don't think so.

Conversely, were any conservatives on the fence about whether they liked Edwards? Was it really necessary to convince the CPAC audience not to support him? No, not at all. Now there might have been value in exposing the vacuity of Edwards policy positions. That would have been better than the personal attack. But it's not what Ms. Coulter did.

So what do statements like this really accomplish? They serve mainly as entertainment. Ann Coulter gets paid well to make speeches like this, just as actors and athletes make big bucks with their own skills. That's fine for Ms. Coulter's bank account, but let's not kid ourselves about it being helpful to the cause. It's not.

The controversy also served to give Edwards a new fund-raising pitch. Whatever motivational value there may have been for conservatives in this will be offset by equal motivation on the other side. We all got a good laugh out of it. Otherwise, it's a wash.

Ms. Coulter drops bombs like this periodically and after some initial controversy always comes back as strong as ever. She will probably do so again this time. Someday she will go too far and not be able to recover. It may already be starting. That will be a shame because she can be a powerful, effective voice for conservative causes. I hope she will reconsider and return to the amusing and incisive style that originally brought her to fame.

Wisdom of the Saints XI

But you, O Lord, are ever living and in you nothing dies, for you exist before the dawn of the ages, before anything that can be called "before"; you are God and Lord of everything that you have created.

St. Augustine of Hippo

found at J-Walking

Eyes For Newt

I have to admit a certain fondness for Newt Gingrich. No one is better at expounding conservative ideas and their historical background in ways that the average person can understand. I like watching him on talk shows.

On the other hand, Newt's personal life is far from consistent with the ideals he expresses so eloquently. Here is a nice summary from Wikipedia.

In 1962, Gingrich married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old; she was seven years his senior at 26 years old.[4] They had two daughters together.

Anne Manning - who was also married - had an affair with Gingrich in 1977. Manning stated in a 1995 Vanity Fair article: "We had oral sex. He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say: 'I never slept with her.'"[5]

Gingrich divorced Jackie Battley in 1980. Battley has charged that Gingrich discussed the terms of their divorce settlement while she was in the hospital after cancer surgery.[6] He refused to pay alimony or child support.[7]

Gingrich married Marianne Ginther in late 1981.[8] Marianne was quoted in a 1995 article in Vanity Fair as saying: "I don't want him to be president and I don't think he should be."[9] They divorced in 1999, the same year Gingrich had another extramarital affair with a then 33-year old member of his Congressional staff, Callista Bisek. He refused to discuss the affair until he admitted it in March, 2007.[10]

In August 2000, Gingrich married Bisek. Gingrich resides in Virginia with Bisek, who appears with him on the back cover of his book "Winning the Future".[11]

It is interesting that Newt was apparently using the oral-sex-isn't-really-sex argument long before Clinton in trouble for the same thing. So however correct he may be about many things, Newt isn't someone I would trust with a lot of power. Men who can't even keep wedding vows often find it easy to break promises to those who elect them.

This being the case, I was distressed today to hear that Gingrich admitted his infidelity in an interview with Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family. This comes coincidentally (or not) with an invitation from Jerry Falwell for Gingrich to deliver a commencement address at Liberty University.

It looks to me like something is going on behind the scenes. It's no secret that the religious right doesn't yet have a good candidate for the 2008 presidential election. It is also no secret that Gingrich would like to be president. Most political pundits think he fully intends to run but is waiting until later this year to formally enter the race.

Was the Dobson interview and Falwell invitation a coordinated attempt to anoint Newt Gingrich as "their" guy in 2008? It sure looks that way. Knowing that the affair would come out eventually, Gingrich wanted to admit it now, on his own terms. Dobson provided the forum for him to do it.

If this is what is happening, I'm very disappointed in Dobson and Falwell. They should know better. In 1998 we were told, in regard to Clinton, that "character counts" and he should be removed from office. I agreed then and still do. But if character is so important, we can't excuse it when "our" guy is the one with skeletons in the closet.

Political Justice

We in America like to think that our government is above the petty bribery and corruption that is common in the Third World. In fact, our politicians are as self-serving as any others. It is the checks and balances built into our system that hold the graft down to a minimum. When these safeguards fail - or are ignored - the trouble begins. Neither party is above it.

Last December the Bush Administration fired 8 U.S. Attorneys from various parts of the country. Each U.S. Attorney - there are 93 of them - is the top federal prosecutor in his area. This is a very powerful position because the U.S. Attorney decides what types of criminal activity will be pursued and prosecuted. They are appointed by the president and can be fired by him any time. No one disputes this.

That having been said, a mass change like this is unusual. It becomes even more unusual when we realize that these 8 prosecutors had a couple of things in common. They were either 1) pursuing corruption cases against Republican politicians, and/or 2) not pursuing corruption cases against Democratic politicians.

The (Republican) White House contends that the prosecutors were fired for "performance-related" reasons. Yet most of them had received exemplary evaluations. It is also strangely coincidental that one of them was to be replaced by a close associate of Presidential guru Karl Rove.

Congress is now on the case and the Democrats will no doubt be quick to publicize any more damaging information that turns up. Maybe it is a big deal over nothing. On the other hand, maybe it is the tip of the iceberg.

We have an administration that spent the last six years with minimal oversight because its own party controlled Congress. The checks and balances that the Framers gave us haven't been exercised much lately. I won't be too surprised if we learn that more elements of the Bush Administration gave into temptation, thinking they would never be caught.

Read more here.

Lottery of Death

I am sorry to report that I am not the winner of last night's $370 million "Mega Millions" jackpot. I'm not a regular player. However my boss, who is a very kind and generous man, occasionally buys tickets for everyone in our office and says we will split the money if somebody wins. I got a ticket that way and still came up empty-handed.

The odds of hitting the jackpot were, according to this story, 1 in 176,000,000. Tell this to a lottery fan and the reply usually is "Yes, but somebody will win it." True enough, but look at it another way: your chance of winning the jackpot is quite a bit less than the chance you will be hit by a truck and killed on the way to the convenience store and back home.

In fact, we can say with statistical near-certainty that several people in the U.S. did die that way yesterday. Playing the lottery cost them their lives and they still didn't win. No one thinks about this, of course, because the media focus on the winners.

The lottery is a bad idea for other reasons, too. Generally speaking, I oppose anything that provides the government with additional revenue because they will simply use it to oppress people in new and more creative ways. The lottery is just another kind of tax. You may say it is voluntary, but it's really not. Let's call it what it is: a tax on people who lack basic reading and math skills. Stand in line at the Quickie Mart on Jackpot Day and you will see what I mean.

Now why do these people lack basic reading and math skills? Because they are the product of public schools! See how it all works together? First make sure the public is dumb, then steal from them. This strategy takes time but after a couple of generations it works really well.

Even if you do want to raise money for your state, the lottery is not a very efficient way to do it. Only about 35% of the proceeds go to the government. The rest goes to the winners, the retailers who sell tickets, and the promotional budget.

If 90% of this 35% is wasted on pointless and counterproductive government programs, then only 3.5% of the lottery sales actually go toward doing anything useful for society. We would be better off just leaving our spare change in little buckets for the state to collect.

Gambling is fine for people who understand what they are doing and can afford to lose the money. For them, it is just another form of entertainment. Government lotteries are intrinsically evil, in my opinion, because they are specifically designed to take money away from people who usually don't understand what they are doing and can't afford to lose the money.

See the difference? So next time the jackpot hits nine figures, just stay home. You'll be safer and much better off.

Wife-Beating 101

We Americans may joke about what goes on in trailer parks, but for the most part we have a deep belief that men don't hit women. Period, end of story. We forget that not every culture feels this way. Below are two videos of imams explaining to Muslim men how to properly discipline their wives. It's remarkable how calmly they talk about a practice we Americans find abhorrent.

How widespread is wife-beating among Muslims? I can't find any hard statistics. Anecdotal evidence suggests it is common in certain places, rare in others. A Google search revealed several articles that deny the Koran orders or allows men to abuse their wives. This says otherwise. I don't know enough to say who is correct.

We should note that every religion has its fanatical wings - even Christianity. So it isn't surprising if there are some Muslims who are convinced Allah wants them to beat their wives, and others who are equally certain they should not. Islam doesn't have anything equivalent to a Pope who gives authoritative answers on such things.

Hat tip: StrategyPage via Voice in the Wilderness

So Much For The Troops

Since my original story about the repulsive conditions wounded troops are living in at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, all heck has broken loose in Washington. The president vowed to fix the problems and made it the subject of his weekly radio address. Congress is holding hearings. A two-star general has been relieved and the Secretary of the Army resigned under pressure. Reports are emerging of similar problems at other installations. It's not just Walter Reed.

With all this noise I think it is safe to say the wounded soldiers will soon be living in much better conditions. I am glad the administration is taking action. I am not yet ready to forgive and forget, however. Either the White House and the Pentagon knew about this neglect - in which case they are evil beyond description - or they didn't know about it, in which case they are alarmingly incompetent.

I would like to think the latter possibility is the answer. Yet I'm afraid the top brass had to know this was going on. To understand why, you have to understand how the military works.

American soldiers are not mindless robots. They love to complain and they have plenty of ways to do it. Commanders are required to have an "open-door" policy to listen to any problems their troops have. Every major command has an Inspector General whose job is to investigate complaints and bring the justifiable ones to the commanding general for action. There are equal-opportunity people who look into any allegations of racism and sexism. Every soldier has a statutory right to complain to his Congressperson if none of the internal mechanisms are helping. I've seen congressional complaints come down the chain and believe me, they get action.

So, if the various problems as described in the media are remotely accurate, I think it is a safe conclusion that at least some of the wounded soldiers and/or their families tried to bring it to the attention of those in charge. What did it accomplish? Nothing, apparently. In desperation someone started talking to the press and then the Administration finally woke up.

If the Secretary of Defense and the White House didn't know about the conditions in their own hospitals, it is their own fault. They are obviously not demanding the kind of reporting and accountability from their subordinates that they should. I suspect we will see reports emerge in the next few weeks that top officials did know what was going on and did nothing about it. More heads will roll - but not those that really should.

There's a deeper explanation, too. As is now painfully clear, the Bush Administration launched itself into Iraq with little thought about what would happen afterward. They were genuinely surprised when they found themselves fighting a counterinsurgency battle. Large numbers of wounded soldiers, who would need extensive care, were a perfectly foreseeable consequence of this conflict. Yet the Pentagon and the VA appear to have put little effort into preparing for this inevitable result.

That's the real problem. We have an administration that acts without thinking about all the consequences. Then when the consequences pop up, they ignore them for as long as they can get away with it. It makes me wonder what else is going on that we don't know about yet.

UPDATE: I don't often agree with Arianna Huffington but this column makes some excellent points. Check it out.