Saturday, April 25, 2009
By MARK STEYN
The Orange County Register
Friday, April 24, 2009
According to an Earth Day survey, one-third of schoolchildren between the ages of 6 and 11 think the Earth will have been destroyed by the time they grow up. That's great news, isn't it? Not for the Earth, I mean, but for "environmental awareness." Congratulations to Al Gore, the Sierra Club and the eco-propagandists of the public education system in doing such a terrific job of traumatizing America's moppets. Traditionally, most of the folks you see wandering the streets proclaiming the end of the world is nigh tend to be getting up there in years. It's quite something to have persuaded millions of first-graders that their best days are behind them.
Call me crazy, but I'll bet that in 15-20 years the planet will still be here, along with most of the "environment" – your flora and fauna, your polar bears and three-toed tree sloths and whatnot. But geopolitically we're in for a hell of a ride, and the world we end up with is unlikely to be as congenial as most Americans have gotten used to.
For example, Hillary Clinton said the other day that Pakistan posed a "mortal threat" to … Afghanistan? India? No, to the entire world! To listen to her, you'd think Pakistan was as scary as l'il Jimmy in the second grade's mom's SUV. She has a point: Asif Ali Zardari, the guy who's nominally running the country, isn't running anything. He's ceding more and more turf to the local branch office of the Taliban. When the topic turns up in the news, we usually get vague references to the pro-Osama crowd controlling much of the "north-west," which makes it sound as if these guys are the wilds of rural Idaho to Zardari's Beltway. In fact, they're now within some 60 miles of the capital, Islamabad – or, in American terms, a couple of I-95 exits north of Baltimore: In other words, they're within striking distance of the administrative center of a nation of over 165 million people – and its nuclear weapons. That's the "mortal threat."
What's going to stop them? Well, not Zardari. Nor his "summit" in Washington with President Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. The creation of Pakistan was the worst mistake of postwar British imperial policy, and all that's happened in the six decades since is that its pathologies have burst free of its borders and gone regional, global and, soon, perhaps nuclear. Does the Obama administration have even a limited contingency plan for the nukes if – when – the Pakistani state collapses?
It would be reassuring to think so. But I wonder.
What's the greater likelihood? That in 10 years' time things in Pakistan will be better? Or much worse? That nuclearization by basket-case dictatorships from Pyongyang to Tehran will have advanced, or been contained? That the bleak demographic arithmetic at the heart of Europe and Japan's economic woes will have accelerated, or been reversed? That a resurgent Islam's assaults on free speech and other rights (symbolized by the recent U.N. support for a global Islamic blasphemy law) will have taken hold in the Western world, or been forced to retreat?
A betting man would check the "worse" box. Because resisting the present careless drift would require global leadership. And 100 days into a new presidency Barack Obama is giving strong signals to the world that we have entered what Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post calls "the post-American era." At the time of Gordon Brown's visit to Washington, London took umbrage at an Obama official's off-the-record sneer to a Fleet Street reporter that "there's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment." Andy McCarthy of National Review made the sharp observation that, never mind the British, this was how the administration felt about its own country, too: America is just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. In Europe, the president was asked if he believed in "American exceptionalism," and he replied: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
Gee, thanks. A simple "no" would have sufficed. The president of the United States is telling us that American exceptionalism is no more than national chauvinism, a bit of flag-waving, of no more import than the Slovenes supporting the Slovene soccer team and the Papuans the Papuan soccer team. This means something. The world has had two millennia to learn to live without "Greek exceptionalism." It's having to get used to post-exceptional America rather more hurriedly.
It makes sense from Obama's point of view: On the domestic scene, he's determined on a transformational presidency, one that will remake the American people's relationship to their national government ("federal" doesn't seem the quite the word anymore) in terms of health care, education, eco-totalitarianism, state control of the economy and much else. With a domestic agenda as bulked up as that, the rest of the world just gets in the way.
You'll recall that, in a gimmick entirely emblematic of post-exceptional America, Hillary Clinton gave the Russians a (mistranslated) "Reset" button. The button has certainly been "reset" – to Sept. 10, to a legalistic rear-view-mirror approach to the "war on terror," in which investigating Bush officials will consume far more time and effort than de-nuking Iran. The secretary of Homeland Security's ludicrous reclassification of terrorism as "man-caused disaster," and her boneheaded statement that the Sept. 11 bombers had entered America from Canada (which would presumably make 9/11 a "Canadian man-caused disaster") exemplifies the administration's cheery indifference to all that Bush-era downer stuff.
But it's not Sept. 10. In Pakistan, a great jewel is within the barbarians' reach, the first of many. At the United Nations, the Islamic bloc's proscriptions on free speech will make it harder even to talk about these issues. In much of the West, demographic decay means the good times are never coming back: recession is permanent.
Hey, what's the big deal? Britain and France have been on the geopolitical downward slope for most of the past century, and life still seems pretty agreeable. Well, yes. But that's in part because, when a fading Britannia handed the baton to the new U.S. superpower, it was one of the least disruptive transfers of global dominance in human history. In the "post-American era," to whom does the baton get passed now?
Since January, President Obama and his team have schmoozed, ineffectively, American enemies over allies in almost every corner of the globe. If you're, say, India, following Obama's apology tour even as you watch the Taliban advancing on those Pakistani nukes, would you want to bet the future on American resolve? In Delhi, in Tokyo, in Prague, in Tel Aviv, in Bogota, they've looked at these first 100 days and drawn their own conclusions.
Friday, April 24, 2009
By Mona Charen
April 24, 2009, 0:00 a.m.
Appearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was confronted in a way she probably wasn’t expecting. Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.) asked the secretary to account for her comments the previous month, when she accepted the Margaret Sanger Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “I admire Margaret Sanger enormously,” Secretary Clinton had said in March, “her courage, her tenacity, her vision . . . And when I think about what she did all those years ago in Brooklyn, taking on archetypes, taking on attitudes and accusations flowing from all directions, I am really in awe of her.”
Margaret Sanger/Hillary Clinton
I’m not sure what it means to “take on archetypes” (American Heritage Dictionary: “An original model or type after which other similar things are patterned; a prototype”). Perhaps she meant stereotypes. But it is worth pausing to consider, as Representative Smith did, that the Planned Parenthood organization (of which Sanger’s American Birth Control League was the predecessor) and the secretary of state continue to regard Margaret Sanger as an (if you will) archetypal modern feminist.
Mrs. Sanger was certainly a birth-control pioneer. But when you examine the totality of Mrs. Sanger’s views, you’d think modern feminists would blanch — at least a little. Margaret Sanger was a most thoroughgoing racist. “Eugenics,” she wrote, “is the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political, and social problems.” Here, from her book What Every Girl Should Know, is an example of her thoughts on human development:
In all fish and reptiles where there is no great brain development, there is also no conscious sexual control. The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.
In his book Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg quotes Sanger as describing her life’s work this way: “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief issue of birth control.”
Representative Smith asked Secretary Clinton to respond to Mrs. Sanger’s views about the “deterioration in the human stock” and “the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents, and dependents.” As Goldberg has observed, conservatives are always asked to “own” their intellectual forebears and to disavow that which requires disavowal. Yet liberals skate by without having to distance themselves from the dreadful opinions and writings of their heroes and heroines.
The secretary did not respond directly. She chose not to defend Margaret Sanger at all. Instead, she spoke of the suffering women that she had seen around the world. “I’ve been in hospitals in Brazil where half the women were enthusiastically and joyfully greeting new babies and the other half were fighting for their lives against botched abortions. I’ve been in African countries where 12- and 13-year-old girls are bearing children.” I’ve asked the State Department to identify the Brazilian hospital to which Mrs. Clinton was referring. They have yet to get back to me. As for children bearing children in Africa — obviously, birth control is necessary in poor countries, but is she really suggesting that cultures abusive enough to permit the marriage of very young girls would be open to providing them with birth control? It’s like suggesting that the solution to wife beating is to get men to wear boxing gloves.
Secretary Clinton then, in good Obamanista fashion, offered a gratuitous swipe at the Bush administration. “During my time as first lady I helped to create the Campaign Against Teenage Pregnancy . . . and . . . the rate of teen pregnancy went down. I’m sad to report that after an administration of eight years that undid so much of the good work, the rate of teenage pregnancy is going up.”
Politicians always simplify, but this is truly ludicrous. Teen pregnancy down under the Clintons but then up under Bush? Sorry, the statistics do not reflect that. According to the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood), teen pregnancy reached an all-time high in 1988 and 1989 and began trending down thereafter, reaching its lowest recent point in 2005 — past the midpoint of the Bush years. It has been going up since then.
Part of Mrs. Clinton’s solution is to promote abortion, which she calls “women’s reproductive health care.” Anyone for a small irony? Margaret Sanger hated abortion and called abortionists “blood sucking men with M.D. after their names.” Perhaps someone can ask Secretary Clinton about that at the next hearing.
— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Does terrorism work, meaning, does it achieve its perpetrators' objectives?
With terror attacks having become a routine and nearly daily occurrence, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the conventional wisdom holds that terrorism works very well. For example, the late Ehud Sprinzak of the Hebrew University ascribed the prevalence of suicide terrorism to its "gruesome effectiveness." Robert Pape of the University of Chicago argues that suicide terrorism is growing "because terrorists have learned that it pays." Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz titled one of his books Why Terrorism Works.
But Max Abrahms, a fellow at Stanford University, disputes this conclusion, noting that they focus narrowly on the well-known but rare terrorist victories – while ignoring the much broader, if more obscure, pattern of terrorism's failures. To remedy this deficiency, Abrahms took a close look at each of the 28 terrorist groups so designated by the U.S. Department of State since 2001 and tallied how many of them achieved its objectives.
His study, "Why Terrorism Does Not Work," finds that those 28 groups had 42 different political goals and that they achieved only 3 of those goals, for a measly 7 percent success rate. Those three victories would be: (1) Hezbollah's success at expelling the multinational peacekeepers from Lebanon in 1984, (2) Hezbollah's success at driving Israeli forces out of Lebanon in 1985 and 2000, and (3) the Tamil Tiger's partial success at winning control over areas of Sri Lanka after 1990.
That's it. The other 26 groups, from the Abu Nidal Organization and Al-Qaeda and Hamas to Aum Shinriko and Kach and the Shining Path, occasionally achieved limited success but mostly failed completely. Abrahms draws three policy implications from the data.
* Guerrilla groups that mainly attack military targets succeed more often than terrorist groups that mainly attack civilian targets. (Terrorists got lucky in the Madrid attack of 2004.)
* Terrorists find it "extremely difficult to transform or annihilate a country's political system"; those with limited objectives (such as acquiring territory) do better than those with maximalist objectives (such as seeking regime change).
* Not only is terrorism "an ineffective instrument of coercion, but … its poor success rate is inherent to the tactic of terrorism itself." This lack of success should "ultimately dissuade potential jihadists" from blowing up civilians.
This final implication, of frequent failure leading to demoralization, suggests an eventual reduction of terrorism in favor of less violent tactics. Indeed, signs of change are already apparent.
Sayyid Imam al-Sharif
At the elite level, for example the former jihad theorist, Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (a.k.a. Dr. Fadl), now denounces violence: "We are prohibited from committing aggression," he writes, "even if the enemies of Islam do that."
On the popular level, the Pew Research Center's 2005 Global Attitudes Project found that "support for suicide bombings and other terrorist acts has fallen in most Muslim-majority nations surveyed" and "so too has confidence in Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden." Likewise, a 2007 Program on International Policy Attitudes study found that "Large majorities in all countries oppose attacks against civilians for political purposes and see them as contrary to Islam. … Most respondents … believe that politically-motivated attacks on civilians, such as bombings or assassinations, cannot be justified."
On the practical level, terrorist groups are evolving. Several of them – specifically in Algeria, Egypt, and Syria – have dropped violence and now work within the political system. Others have taken on non-violent functions – Hezbollah delivers medical services and Hamas won an election. If Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden represent Islamism's first iteration, Hezbollah and Hamas represent a transitional stage, and Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arguably the world's most influential Islamist, shows the benefits of going legitimate.
But if going the political route works so well, why does Islamist violence continue and even expand? Because they are not always practical. Rita Katz of the SITE Intelligence Group explains: "Engaged in a divine struggle, jihadists measure success not by tangible victories in this life but by God's eternal benediction and by rewards received in the hereafter."
In the long term, however, Islamists will likely recognize the limits of violence and increasingly pursue their repugnant goals through legitimate ways. Radical Islam's best chance to defeat us lies not in bombings and beheadings but in classrooms, law courts, computer games, television studios, and electoral campaigns.
We are on notice.
Mr. Pipes (http://www.danielpipes.org/) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
By George Neumayr on 4.23.09 @ 6:07AM
The American Spectator
If achieving world peace required torturing a single baby, asks a character in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, would it be worth it?
"Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature -- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance -- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)
The liberalism that Barack Obama seeks to complete answers Dostoyevsky's question with an emphatic yes. What is Obama's abortion-on-demand-forever policy but the building of a modern American way of life upon the graves of tortured babies? And not just the unavenged tears of one baby but millions of them.
This week, however, Obama did avenge the tears of terrorists. World peace, he said, isn't worth theirs. He lectured the CIA that "What makes the United States special and what makes you special is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and ideals even when it's hard."
Obama's prim pontifications about America's "values and ideals" inspired Chris Matthews and Jack Cafferty, among other deep and careful thinkers, to mull over the question: If torturing terrorists works -- as the Obama administration had to admit grudgingly this week -- is it okay? No, of course not, the chattering class proudly concluded.
One wonders why. What do they care? Having already accepted abortion and euthanasia -- which are nothing more than the expedient killing of the unborn and the elderly -- why should the expedient torture of terrorists, a lesser evil, trouble them? Oh, that's right: the terrorists are guilty and the guilty under the ministrations of modern liberalism never suffer. Pain in modern life is for the innocent.
Terrorists, we're told by pro-abortion liberals, suffer excruciating pain while the ejected unborn and euthanized elderly feel nothing. And even if the latter do suffer pain, say these liberals, that pain is worth it. After all, abortion and euthanasia sustain a pleasant and peaceful lifestyle for the strong. Let the dead bury the dead. Or, as the Supreme Court has said, imagine the disruption to America's way of life if stare decisis in the case of Roe v. Wade disappeared and women couldn't plan their careers and futures without the expectation of legal abortion for years to come.
Obama's liberalism is not an opponent of human rights abuses but an embodiment of them. The CIA restricts itself to methods far less ruthless than those permitted by the platform of the Democratic Party. When will Obama bring his own platform into line with the Geneva Accords?
It is a little late in the day for Obama to worry about America's moral reputation. Resisting evil even "when it is hard" hasn't interested liberalism for at least four decades. It rests on an ideology of expedient evil and crass utilitarianism.
With St. Paul, Western civilization, before modern liberalism ransacked it, said: "One may not do evil so that good may result from it." But then modern liberalism came along and reversed the formulation and now insists in the case of everything from therapeutic cloning to killing unborn children to dehydrating the elderly that one should do evil so that good may come from it.
Obama only now rediscovers the Christian ethic for terrorists, even as he weaves the "fabric of human destiny" with the tissue of tortured children.
- George Neumayr is editor of Catholic World Report and press critic for California Political Review.
An Iranian newspaper has reported that four American banks have issued formal requests to the Central Bank of Iran to open branches in Iran. Citibank, Goldman Sachs and two others left unnamed plan, according to the report, to establish temporary branches in an Iranian free trade zone if their requests are approved. The newspaper Jaam-e-Jam quoted an unnamed source explaining: “If they can work according to Iran’s banking law, they will be allowed to open branches in Tehran and other cities.”
Is this where the bailout money is going?
It is curious that American banks -- which probably wouldn’t still be in business but for the taxpayers’ largess -- would want to do business in a country where the government holds military parades featuring banners proclaiming “Death to America” and whose President has declared: “I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible.”
It is just as ominous in the long term that the banks would apparently be willing to “work according to Iran’s banking law.” So in other words, Western banks operating in Islamic countries have to abide by Sharia Finance restrictions. And meanwhile, Western banks operating in Western countries likewise are increasingly accommodating Sharia Finance restrictions.
This is yet another manifestation of a stealth jihad phenomenon that is manifesting itself today in many areas besides finance: in Muslim countries, Muslims demand that Westerners conform to Islamic sensibilities, and likewise in Western countries, Muslims demand that Westerners conform to Islamic sensibilities. There is consistency, but no balance.
The most notorious example of accommodation to Islam is the increasing popularity of Sharia Finance, which Western banking institutions are rushing to offer to Muslims in the West even more quickly than they are rushing to open branches in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
There is, after all, so very much money to be made. Najib Fayyad of Unicorn Capital Turkey explains: “There are Islamic finance institutions operating in over 75 countries and with assets estimated at around US$700 billion, a figure which is growing at a rate of about 15% a year.” Some of the West’s leading financial institutions, including (besides Citibank and Goldman Sachs) Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Dow Jones, HSBC Bank, Lloyd’s, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and Standard & Poors, have created “Sharia Advisory Boards,” staffed with Islamic clerics and scholars, in order to help them bring their financial practices into line with Islamic norms.
A benign exercise in multiculturalism? Not quite. Christopher Holton, Vice President of the Center for Security Policy, states that “America is losing the financial war on terror because Wall Street is embracing a subversive enemy ideology on one hand and providing corporate life support to state sponsors of terrorism on the other hand.”
He illustrates the absurdity of this with a trenchant analogy: “Imagine that it is 1943 and titans of Wall Street are promoting something called ‘Shinto Finance,’ based on the Japanese theopolitical doctrine, while at the same time, they invest American dollars in foreign companies with active business ties to Imperial Japan.”
What’s more, Sharia Finance is another tool of Islamic separatism: instead of assimilating into American society, Muslims are demanding, and receiving, parallel financial institutions that reinforce the idea that they are unique, not subject to the laws and norms to which the rest of us are subject -- a privileged class. At the same time, Sharia Finance initiatives are giving Islamic interests increasing control over Western economic life.
In April 2008, journalists Alyssa A. Lappen and Rachel Ehrenfeld warned that “the growing U.S. and European financial crisis gives Islamic banking and shari’a finance proponents increasing leverage over Western markets and economics. In reality, their acquisitions of ever-larger stakes in U.S. and Western strategic financial and other assets, amounts to economic warfare against the West.”
The multiculturalist anxiety to accommodate Muslim principles and practices only makes Westerners even more vulnerable. Yet instead of engaging in careful strategic planning of both domestic and international initiatives, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and two other American financial institutions are working on opening branches in a country that has considered itself at war with the United States for thirty years.
It is a test of Congressional resolve to regulate financial institutions. Will they allow the banks which American money has just saved to establish branches in a state sponsor of terrorism?
Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)", "The Truth About Muhammad," and "Stealth Jihad" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).
April 22, 2009
A lot of people claim to be my No. 1 fan -- God bless them -- but my true No. 1 fan left this world last week. My mother quietly stopped breathing last Tuesday, as she slept peacefully, holding my hand.
She was the biggest fan of all of us -- Father, me and my brothers John and Jim.
After reading the eulogy column I wrote for Father last year -- not to excess, probably only about 4,637 times -- Mother realized to her chagrin that she wouldn't be able to read the eulogy column I'd be writing for her, and started hinting that maybe I could rustle up a draft so she could take a peek.
But I couldn't do it, until I had to.
The only thing Mother wanted to be sure my brothers and I included in her remembrances were her contributions to the Republican Party, the New Canaan Republican Town Committee and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
She was a direct descendant of at least a dozen patriots who served the cause of the American Revolution and traced her lineage on both sides of her family to Puritan nonconformists who came to America in 1633 seeking religious freedom on a ship led by Pastor Thomas Hooker. Or, as Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano would call them, "A dangerous right-wing extremist hate group."
Even back in the Puritan days, Mother's female ancestors were brought up on charges for their heretical dressing styles (and then sassed the judge). During the Revolution, one female ancestor, Effie Ten Eyck Van Varick, contributed to the rebel cause by donating lead for bullets from the curtain weights in her home in what was, even then, traitorous, loyalist Manhattan.
Mother's deep-seated political activism saved me on more than one occasion.
At the 2004 Republican National Convention, I was taking my parents to a lot of the parties in New York and, at one of them, Herman Cain walked up to me and told me he was a big fan even though I probably didn't know who he was.
Cain was the former president and CEO of Godfather's Pizza who was then running for the U.S. Senate from Georgia. I had seen him on Fox News' "Cavuto" -- but I couldn't remember his name for the life of me.
Luckily for me, Mother was standing next to me and she piped in, "I know who you are -- I donated to your campaign." Thank you, Mommy!
Mother probably contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to various conservative outfits over the years -- all in her little $20 checks -- especially to any organization that claimed it was going to stop Hillary. In fact, if they mentioned Hillary in their letter, Mother sometimes made it $25.
My brothers and I always figured we'd have no inheritance, but there would be a lovely memorial to Oliver North somewhere.
Mother may have thought her most notable characteristic was her Republican activism, but, for the rest of us, it was her constant, unconditional love. She was a little love machine, spreading warmth and joy wherever she went.
Every time she'd see me, even after just a few days' absence, she'd hug me as if I had been lost in the Himalayan Mountains for the past 20 years.
On Mother's birthday last year, I had a dinner party for her with Rush Limbaugh, Conrad Black and my friends Peter and Angie.
Mother was always delighted to be with people talking about politics -- actually she told me that, lately, she was delighted to be around any conversations that didn't involve who had a doctor's appointment or who had died that day.
So I let her stay up until 3 a.m. that night, well past her bedtime. Mother was so happy that after I had her all tucked in and the lights out, I heard her singing herself to sleep.
Even on the rare occasions when I'd be cross with her, she'd completely forget about it, and within 10 seconds would be telling me what a wonderful, precious daughter I was. My brother Jimmy found out recently that she'd even forgotten that he had caused her to miss Reagan's first inauguration by getting in a car accident the night before we were leaving -- and she never should have forgotten that.
Everyone wanted my mother to be his mother. (The "his" in that sentence is grammatically correct and Mother would never let us forget it.) I'm sure everyone thinks he has the perfect mother, but we really did.
Since I was a little girl, friends, relatives and neighbors would bring their problems to Mother. She had a rare combination of being completely moral and completely nonjudgmental at the same time -- the exact opposite of liberals who have absolutely no morals and yet are ferociously judgmental.
You could tell Mother anything, get good counsel and not end up feeling worse about yourself.
Several of Mother's New Canaan friends sent us notes last week, calling her a "gentle lady" and remarking that she never had an unkind word for anyone.
As a family member, I can assure you that -- much to our annoyance -- she really did never have an unkind word for anyone. I mean, except Democrats, but not anyone she knew.
Whenever the rest of us would be making fun of someone -- trust me, always for good and sound reasons -- Mother would somehow manage to muster up a defense of the miscreant. Father would always smile and say, "Your mother defends everyone."
She was, in fact, such a "gentle lady" that I had to go to her doctors' appointments and hospital visits with her and be her Mother Lion. If officious hospital administrators had told Mother to get off a gurney, go outside in the pouring rain and stand on one foot for three hours before the doctor would see her, she'd thank them profusely and apologize for being such a bother.
She viewed her doctors' appointments as social visits, which is the other reason I'd have to go with her, to make sure we eventually got around to the business end of the appointment.
When she began her final decline last fall, she had to go to her Connecticut doctor without me to find out what was wrong. This was the first time she didn't seem to be getting better after a chemo treatment.
So I had been worrying about her appointment all day, but when I called her that night, she immediately turned the subject to me and asked me how my book was going.
I insisted on knowing if she had seen the doctor and she perked up and brightly told me that, oh yes, she had seen him, he had all my books in his office, he was worried about Obama, too, and he has such beautiful children!
Before she launched into a spirited discussion of his children's extracurricular activities and triumphs on the athletic field, I had to ask her, "Mommy, did the doctor happen to say anything about why you're feeling lousy?"
It turned out, of course, that it was the ovarian cancer -- as well as the massive amounts of poison she had been receiving to kill the cancer over the past five years. That was the beginning of the end.
Now I'll never be able to introduce my Mother to friends and surprise them with her charming Southern accent.
And I'll never see my mother's beautiful face again, at least not for the next several decades here on Earth. I've been looking at her across the room in doctors' offices over the past few years, thinking to myself: There will come a point when you won't see that face again.
Her angelic face always looked like home to me. My whole life, as soon as I'd see my mother's face I'd know I was safe, whether I was a little girl lost in a department store or a big girl with a problem, who needed her mother.
Thanks to the doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and mother's fighting Kentucky spirit, we got to see that face much longer than anyone ever expected.
So now she's with Daddy and Jesus. Every single day since Daddy died last year, Mother would say how much she missed him and gaze at his photo, telling us what an amazing man he was and repeating his little expressions and jokes. Even though I miss her, I'm glad they're together again.
I don't know about Jesus, but I think Daddy was getting impatient. But Mommy was always running a little bit late.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By Peter Leithart
April 22, 2009
Today’s militant atheists claim that religion, Christianity in particular, has corrupted “everything.” Believers don’t think Christianity is the source of the world’s evil, but we are haunted by the sense that Christianity hasn’t done all that much good either.
The Cristo della Minerva, also known as Christ the Redeemer (1521), by Michelangelo. Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome
Paul taught Christians to expect a lot from the gospel, politically as well as personally. He taught that the crucifixion of Jesus had a direct impact on the powers-that-be. He told the Colossians that Jesus went to the cross as the firstborn—the only-begotten of the Father, the new Israel, the heir, the Passover sacrifice—to pacify the powers. The same Son who created the powers (Col. 1:16) has “made peace through the blood of His cross” by reconciling powers in heaven and earth to Himself (Col. 1:20).
Paul borrows from the propaganda of the Roman Empire to make his point. According to Roman imperial ideology, the emperor was a cosmic “peace-maker,” bringing to earth an image of heavenly peace. The apostle says, on the contrary, that God has his own peace-maker, another Lord who reconciles all things. As Paul says later in Colossians, Jesus renovates all things and unites Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, slave and free (Col. 3:10-11), extending his empire even to “barbarians” (Col. 3:10-11).
Scholars have debated inconclusively about whether the powers are angels or demons or social “forces” or human authorities, but in the end it doesn’t matter for Paul. If there are visible powers and authorities, the Son who made them subdues them (Col. 1:16). If there are invisible angelic or demonic powers, or more abstract forces in the human world, their fate is the same. The key thing for Paul is not to identify the powers, but to say that they have all been created and they have all been conquered. It’s a universal truth: Whatever rules over humanity has been tamed by the cross of Jesus.
Paul reiterates the same point in more extreme terms in the following chapter. Jesus, he claims, has “stripped” the rulers and authorities and made a public display of them (Col. 2:15). Paul is making an ironic reference to the actual event of Jesus’ crucifixion. If CNN had captured the crucifixion, the film clip would have shown Jesus Himself stripped, crucified naked and exposed. According to Paul, what actually happening was the opposite: Jesus stripped the powers. Paul again borrows from Roman imperial custom in saying that Jesus makes a “public display” of the powers, having triumphed over him in the cross.” By his death, Jesus leads the powers in a triumphal procession, displaying them as the trophies of his conquest, the plunder of Egypt.
For many believers, however, Christianity hasn’t lived up to the hype. British sociologist David Martin—a believer—has suggested that Christianity’s effect has been more modest. It is a Trojan Horse, sneaking incognito into the world and throwing “possibilities of a different order onto the screen.” Yet, Martin says, “what slips out of the Trojan Horse does not overturn the city and the powers-that-be.” It can disorient and disrupt by spreading “unsettling rumors,” but for Martin “there is no way it can abolish the ‘powers.’”
Skeptics seem to have all the facts on their side. Though the powers became Christian, Christian powers too frequently competed with their pagan predecessors in cruelty. The last century’s brutality was sufficient to force even jaded secularists to ponder the reality of the “demonic,” if not of demons. It won’t do for Christians to retreat into hazy spiritualizations; Paul said that Jesus came to pacify powers on earth as well as in heaven. From all the empirical data, it seems that he has failed rather miserably. Powers march on pretty much as they always have. Paul seems to have oversold the gospel’s efficacy.
I’d like to think that Paul knew what he was about, and that the cross did just what Paul said it did. But we need to try to penetrate Paul’s political theology of the cross in more detail to see how.
Let’s start with Paul’s notion that the cross “stripped” the powers. How did Jesus do that? Since Virgil celebrated the Augustan age, Rome proudly portrayed itself an instrument of universal peace. It stood for law and for justice. The trial and death of Jesus, however, placed a huge and permanent question mark over Roman justice. Three times in John’s account of Jesus’ trial, the Roman governor Pilate declared Jesus innocent. Pressured by Jews clamoring for Jesus’ blood, fearing that he would offend Caesar if he refused to punish a Jew who called himself a king, weary of trying to control the chaos of Judea, Pilate sent Jesus to death. When push came to shove, Roman justice was just another form of antique scapegoating, willing to condemn the innocent to restore or keep order. Centuries later, Augustine recognized that the cross had exposed the secret instinct behind the Roman empire, Roman law, Roman justice—the libido dominandi, the lust for domination.
In stripping the powers of their rhetorical camouflage, the cross also exposes the powers to be, as Paul describes them elsewhere, “not-gods” (Gal. 4:8). For us moderns, power has been so thoroughly de-mystified that we barely see the point. Ancient peoples, including the citizens of first-century Rome, would have recognized the radical character of Paul’s assertion. Rulers had claimed divine status from the beginning of time. Pharaohs were the incarnation of Horus, kings of tiny city-states claimed divine descent, the Roman emperors justified their tyranny by portraying themselves as sons of Jove. According to Paul, Jesus’ cross shows that these claims are without foundation. Thinking themselves gods, they could not tolerate a Jesus who himself claimed to be God. Once he said “I am,” he became a rival, and one man had to die for the people. When the true “firstborn” appeared on the scene, he punctured the pretense of the not-gods.
Drawing on the exodus narrative, Paul claims that through the death and resurrection of the Son, God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Jesus is himself the dying Passover lamb, the true Israel that crosses through death to life, and, as the head of his body, he leads the Church through the sea into a new land. In other words, Jesus not only exposes the powers, but forms a community liberated from the powers. Not only the cross, but the sheer fact of the Church, Paul thinks, is evidence that the powers have been dethroned.
This means, at least, that the Church is free of the delusions of political messianism. If everyone knows that Joe Biden is joking when he says that Obama thinks Easter “is about him,” it’s because we live on the far side of the cross. Paul also means that through the cross the Church is delivered from everything else that dominates and distorts human life. The true man Jesus redeems slaves to tradition, slaves to blood and nation, slaves to fashion, slaves to public opinion, and forms a community of free citizens, of truly human humans. If the Church has often bowed to the idols of nationalism, traditionalism, or trendiness, it is because we have too often forgotten our exodus and returned to Egypt.
Powers don’t enjoy being exposed as frauds, and so the Church, like Jesus, has often provoked vicious opposition. But the effort of the powers to shore up their position is hopeless. The worse they can do is kill Christians, but that just means the cross gets repeated over and over, repeatedly revealing the iron fist beneath the velvet glove. Against a cruciform Church, the powers are helpless as babes.
Theologians like John Howard Yoder and Walter Wink who highlight Paul’s teaching on the powers often see Paul’s teaching as almost exclusively a matter of critique and unmasking. The powers are demonic, and the Church’s job is to keep subverting the powers, whatever form those powers take. Paul comes off as the apostle of continuous revolution.
As G. B. Caird pointed out in his little book on the powers, however, it’s important to see that Paul not only talks here about defeated powers, but also talks about “reconciled” and “pacified” powers (Col. 1:20). Through the cross, what rules the world is not only exposed as not-god; and also, through the blood of the same cross, powers begin to be reconciled to Jesus. Convinced though he was of human sin, Paul was not a pessimistic. He believed that powers can be turned to become instruments of the reign of Jesus. Through the cross, we know that nations are not divine, but through the cross nations can (and have) become Christian. Traditions can be tyrannical, and we need the cross to liberate us from traditions that claim divine authority; but traditions can too be reconciled to God. Popular opinion can enslave us, but popular opinion can be pacified by the cross. Doubters should spend some time with David Bentley Hart’s recent Atheist Delusions, recently reviewed on this site. Hart is no Pollyanna, but he shows in erudite detail how Christianity injected “an entirely new universe of human possibilities, moral, social, intellectual, cultural religious” into the world.
Caird captures the apostolic optimism when he says that Paul expected, “by the continued influence of Christ, working through his loyal followers in the Church, the state itself may be brought progressively more and more within the Christian dispensation, and the affairs of state directed not merely by the ethics of law but by the ethics of the Gospel.” For Paul, the Trojan Horse of the Church does more than spread subversive rumors. It conceals an Odysseus, a man of twists and turns, a suffering hero armed only with a cross, engaged in the long, often imperceptible work of taking the human city.
Peter J. Leithart is Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, and pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow.
April 22, 2009
As Earth Day again brings forth disciples of the religion of inanimate matter, we would do well to examine just how little we know about our world. Doubtless a prominent theme in this Earth Day will be the great peril of global warming. Our planet is growing warmer because of sinful man, and if government does not take drastic steps to curb our activities, then our wicked ways will bring rising oceans, drowning cities, and countless other plagues upon us.
Is the Earth warming? Any professor who wants tenure will say, "Yes!" now. Any bureaucrat who values his job will genuflect to this tenuous theory. But we do not know if the planet is gradually warming or, if it is warming, why it is warming. More fundamentally, we do not know the direction of any climate change: is our planet growing warmer or growing cooler?
Thirty years ago, Leftists were writing books like, The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age, which made the case that the CIA was deliberately concealing scientific evidence that the world was about to enter a dangerous cooling period. The book demands fuel economy, recycling, better insulated homes or we were all doomed (does this sound familiar?)
But it was not just Leftist conspiracy theorists who a few short were years ago accusing the government of lying to us about global cooling. Even books for schoolchildren like The New Ice Age by Henry Gilford, cautioned thirty years ago that the temperature of the earth had been steadily cooling and that a new ice age was certain. What investigative reporters and schoolbook publishers were insisting during the Carter and Reagan presidencies was being endorsed by some great scientists as well.
Sir Fred Hoyle is one of the leading cosmologists in human history. No scientist today can claim greater intellectual stature than Hoyle, particularly about our planet in the universe. In 1981, Hoyle published a book, Ice: How the New Ice Age will Come and How We Can Prevent It, in which this brilliant giant of natural sciences warned of the next ice age. The consequences, Hoyle warned, would be disastrous. It would:
"...hopelessly compromise the future...This is why our modern generation must take action to avoid catastrophe, an ultimate catastrophe besides which the problems that concern people, media, and government from day to day are quite trivial."
Hoyle, writing only a decade before the whole global warming jihad became chic science, had studied the climatic trends, the astronomical effects, the impact of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere -- everything, really, that the druids of global warming cite today -- and he had come to exactly the opposite conclusion as today's politically correct science of official global warming.
Hoyle concluded, "There is no chance of avoiding another ice age, unless we take deliberate action to prevent it." He accepted the tenuous premise that human technology could actually change the course of climatic change, and he insisted that, unless government acted, another ice age would produce horrific effects upon the human race. (By almost any standard, another ice age would cause more death and suffering than another warming period. Warming brings relative comfort, not harm.)
Fred Hoyle had a definite plan for how to keep the planet from disastrously cooling. Cold water from the floor of the ocean must be pumped to the surface of the sea, which would increase the heat stored in the ocean. This could not be done too quickly, he cautioned, because that would risk the surface of the ocean becoming cool too. The process must be carefully managed by collective human effort, and if this was done, mankind might be spared the horrors of an almost certain new ice age.
A world class scientist who only a couple of decades ago had thoroughly studied the issue, concluded that the planet was cooling dangerously and not warming, and proposed a radical government program to address the crisis. How long did Hoyle believe that it would take to sufficiently warm the planet to prevent the next ice age? About two thousand years. Is Hoyle right? Is he wrong? No one really knows today.
Our planetary climate is changing. No scientists doubt that. But what is happening in climatic change is unclear. The same scientists who cannot predict the weather in Iowa this June confidently tell us that they know just what will happen on Earth in fifty years. No one can even predict that next year a meteor will not hit our planet and destroy much of human civilization. No one could predict the tsunami that killed millions a few years ago. But the direction of planetary climatic change is supposed to be easy stuff.
The only issue of course is power. If we are entering a new ice age, what should government do? It should encourage private initiative and stockpiling, gradual relocation of people away from the poles and toward the Equator, and maybe the creation of new ways of keeping generating heat. What if Hoyle was wrong and we are entering a period of global warming?
What should government do? The same fundamental thing: rely on personal initiative, private enterprise, trial and error over time at that most effective level of the marketplace. These, not massive government control, are the answer to man's well-being and survival.
We live in a world that is constantly changing in a million different ways. We may enter an ice age or a warming period. We may dodge asteroids and we may avoid the collapse of the West Coast into the Pacific. Whatever our unpredictable future, only one thing is sure: man, the adaptable and rugged animal, guided by his own initiative and enterprise is the answer.
Politically correct science and earth-worshipping priests are not.
- Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
By Jonah Goldberg
April 22, 2009, 0:00 a.m.
One of the most important events of our lifetimes may have just transpired. A federal agency has decided that it has the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe.
Nominally, the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement last Friday only applies to new-car emissions. But pretty much everyone agrees that the ruling opens the door to regulating, well, everything.
According to the EPA, greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide — the gas you exhale — as well as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. It is literally impossible to imagine a significant economic or human activity that does not involve the production of one of these gases. Don’t think just of the gas and electricity bills. Cow flatulence is a serious concern of the EPA’s already. What next? Perhaps an EPA mandarin will pick up a copy of “The Greenpeace Guide to Environmentally Friendly Sex” and go after the root causes of global warming.
Whether or not global warming is a crisis that warrants immediate, drastic action (I don’t think it does), and whether or not such wholesale measures would be an economic calamity (they would be), the EPA’s decision should be disturbing to people who believe in democratic, constitutional government.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court — the least democratic branch of our formal government — decided in Massachusetts v. EPA that the agency could regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. With this judicial green-light, the EPA has launched its power grab over all that burns, breathes, burps, flies, drives, and passes gas.
Yes, the head of the EPA reports to the president, which gives some patina of democratic accountability. Except the EPA is supposed to be politically autonomous, doing what it thinks best according to what President Obama calls “sound science.” So the government bureaucracy is on its way to strong-arming the economy in ways Congress never imagined when it passed the Clean Air Act in 1970. Or the president has suddenly gained sweeping new powers over American life, in ways never imagined by Congress or the founders, and despite the fact that these new powers were never put before the voters.
This is not a sudden development. Vast swaths of the state have been on autopilot for years, effectively immune to democratic influence. The Federal Reserve, particularly of late, has been acting like the fourth branch of government. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, without congressional, presidential, or court approval, has been committing trillions of dollars to fix the financial crisis. That may be warranted; only time will tell. But there’s still something troubling about an institution so immune to democratic control.
In 2002, Congress created the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. It covers its expenses by taxing all publicly traded corporations. It alone determines the amount to tax, without approval of the White House or, more important, Congress, which, according to the Constitution, has the sole authority to levy taxes: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives” (Article 1, Section 7). In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission raised the so-called Gore tax on long-distance phone calls by 73 percent without seeking congressional approval. Lord knows what the EPA could collect by extorting “climate criminals.”
In fairness, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats reportedly don’t want to cede authority to the EPA. Rather, they want to use the threat of an EPA takeover — and its presumably draconian impositions on business — to force reluctant moderate Democratic and Republican members of Congress to sign on to the president’s cap-and-trade scheme (itself an enormous energy tax).
California’s Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has said as much: “EPA, through its scientists, has given us a warning that global warming pollution is a clear, present, and future danger to America’s families. If Congress does not act to pass legislation, then I will call on the EPA to take all steps authorized by law to protect our families.”
Translation: Either you vote our way or we’ll render voting meaningless.
Other Democrats are delighted by the EPA decision because it allows them to have their preferred policy — carbon regulation — without actually having to vote for it.
Either way, it doesn’t sound like these folks take their oaths of office very seriously.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. © 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Anti-humanism comes to Hollywood.
By Wesley J. Smith
April 22, 2009
When Aldous Huxley wrote his prophetic 1932 novel, Brave New World, he envisioned a dystopian future in which mankind would become, in the words of bioethicist Leon Kass, “so dehumanized that he doesn’t even realize what has been lost.”
Huxley believed we would evolve into a society steeped in radical hedonism — where drugs would be used to erase every negative emotion and promiscuity would be not just common but the norm. He also saw us as becoming profoundly utilitarian and eugenic, depicted in his novel by genetically engineered babies being decanted through a cloning-type process rather than being born, and then propagandized rather than educated, so as never to question the existing order. Huxley’s Brave New World is a society without families, without the old and sick — who are done away with rather than cared for — and without real purpose other than experiencing transitory pleasure.
Looking around, can we have any doubt of Huxley’s prescience? But as acute as his prophetic faculties were, he did miss one crucial feature of the coup de culture against which he warned: The minions of Brave New World believed in nothing. However, as an intrinsically moral species, we may be congenitally incapable of literal agnosticism: We will always believe in something — and that “something” increasingly looks like a radical earth religion that views human beings as the enemies of the planet.
Over the last few hundred years in the West, the moral foundations of society were profoundly pro-human. Judeo-Christian moral philosophy and secular humanism both promoted human flourishing and the protection of individual rights as primary purposes of society. But in recent years we have witnessed a rebellion against “human exceptionalism” — the view that ultimate moral value comes with being a member of the human species. Spain, for example, has passed the Great Ape Project into law, declaring that chimpanzees and gorillas are part of the “community of equals” with people. Switzerland has declared that individual plants have “intrinsic dignity” and that “decapitating” wildflowers is a great moral wrong. Ecuador’s new constitution provides for “rights of nature” that are equal to those of Homo sapiens. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a website called “Planet Slayer” aimed at children. It features “Dr. Schpinkee’s Greenhouse Calculator,” which helps kids add up their carbon score, a game that ends with a “carbon hog” bloodily exploding. Above its remains a legend appears, telling the respondent how much longer he can live before he will have used up his “share of the planet.”
Here and abroad, environmentalism itself seems to be evolving from a movement dedicated to conserving resources, preserving pristine areas, and protecting endangered species into an anti-humanistic ideology that increasingly disdains humankind as a scourge that literally threatens the existence of “the planet.” This subversion of environmentalism was conceived and gestated in the Deep Ecology movement, inspired by Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss in the 1970s. Næss promoted an “environmental egalitarianism” based on the belief that nature and its constituent parts should be given equal consideration with human beings.
Once flora and fauna were elevated to the level of human importance, it didn’t take long to brand human exceptionalism as arrogant and harmful to nature. Identifying ourselves as the villains, in turn, opened the door to a demoralizing nihilism that likens humanity to a vermin infestation or a viral infection afflicting the planet. Thus, Paul Watson, the fanatical head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society:
The planet’s ecosystem is a collective living organism and operates very much like the human body. . . . Humans are presently acting upon this body in the same manner as an invasive virus with the result that we are eroding the ecological immune system. A virus kills its host and that is exactly what we are doing with our planet’s support system. . . . Curing a body of cancer requires radical and invasive therapy, and therefore, curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach.
Deep Ecologists push radical depopulation, perhaps to as few as 500 million people worldwide, as the best medicine to cure the human infection and again permit nature — as opposed to us — to flourish. The implications of pursuing such a radical depopulation are obviously genocidal, although Deep Ecologists surreally suggest that voluntary birth control could do the trick. Some yearn for a catastrophic pandemic to thin our ranks so we won’t have to do the dirty work ourselves.
It is tempting to roll one’s eyes and dismiss Deep Ecology’s anti-humanism as merely the kook fringe being the kook fringe. Alas, as in a Michael Crichton novel, the values of Deep Ecology have escaped the hothouse where they were expected to remain confined and invaded the popular culture, to the point where Hollywood has promoted the movement’s anti-human beliefs in major motion pictures.
The 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still is a vivid case in point. In the 1951 version, “Klaatu,” a space alien played by a mild Michael Denny, lands in a flying saucer in President’s Park in Washington, D.C., on a goodwill mission to save humanity from itself. What a difference a few decades make. In the new version, Klaatu has morphed from a benign presence into a dark and brooding enemy of all humans played by mega-star Keanu Reeves. Rather than coming to save us, Klaatu has brought a killer robot named “Gort” to slaughter us all, every man, woman, and child.
In the original, Klaatu was sent here by an intergalactic civilization worried that humans posed a potential threat to its peaceable ways. In the remake, humans are to be obliterated, not because we pose a threat to extraterrestrials, but rather — and this is literally stated — because we are killing the Earth. Indeed, the film strongly hints that Earth is a living entity — the Gaia theory embraced by some Deep Ecologists. For instance, instead of a flying saucer, Klaatu arrives in a sphere that looks like a blue planet complete with clouds. Other Earth-looking spheres soon arrive, and it quickly becomes clear that they are extraterrestrial arks removing species from Earth to be returned to thrive unmolested after the great obliteration.
As in the original, Klaatu is shot, escapes, and is befriended by a boy and his mother, who are unaware (at first) that he is the space alien. They and a scientist who won a Nobel Prize for “biological altruism” — played straight-faced by Monty Python’s John Cleese — manage to convince Klaatu that humanity is worth preserving. After all, we have classical music! But before he can call off the genocide, Gort transforms itself into a huge nano-swarm and begins the great kill-off by pulverizing all in its path.
At the last possible moment, Klaatu prevents the holocaust, but as he departs for home, his space sphere emits a pulse causing all machinery and electricity on earth to cease functioning — the clear implication being that in order to co-exist peacefully with the planet, humans must become utterly non-technological. Unmentioned in this happy ending is that such a sudden collapse in technology would result in billions of human deaths from starvation and disease.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is not the only recent A-list Hollywood movie that preaches the toxic idea that humans deserve to be wiped out for the supposedly unconscionable harm we are doing to the biosphere. In The Happening, starring Mark Wahlberg, filmmaker and writer M. Night Shyamalan, best known for the supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense, offers an apocalyptic tale of a rebellion against the oppressive human hegemony — by plants.
In the Flora Rebellion, plants release “pheromones” that cause human beings to commit mass suicide. Shyamalan depicts this catastrophe as it unfolds through the eyes of Wahlberg’s character, his wife, and the small daughter of a friend — protagonists who get steadily pushed into ever tighter corners as the mass-suicide epidemic spreads through the Northeast. At one point, they take refuge in a model home in a new housing development. Realizing that the pheromones are released when a critical mass of human beings is present, they flee as a larger group of refugees approach. As the members of the larger group begin to kill themselves en masse, Wahlberg’s nuclear family runs past a huge advertising sign for the housing development that carries the unsubtle message of the film, “Because you deserve it.”
The attacks finally end. But lest anyone think it was a fluke, an ecological expert advises on television that the plants have sent us a warning to change our ways — or else.
It is some comfort that neither of these misanthropic films did well at the box office. However, the fact remains that hundreds of millions of dollars were poured by some of our most creative talents into the production and publicity of films that used the unparalleled influence of popular entertainment to preach the darkest dogmas of deep ecology to tens of millions of viewers. Indeed, the real warning we should take from these message films is that the darkness of deep ecology has moved beyond the fringe and has begun — like the pheromones in The Happening — to infect the cultural mainstream.
— Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow in human rights and bioethics for the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His next book, to be released in the fall, will be an exposé of the animal-rights movement.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
By Andrew C. McCarthy
April 21, 2009
‘Does it shock the conscience?” Chris Wallace, the Fox News Sunday anchor, pressed former CIA director Michael Hayden about waterboarding. General Hayden gave the only responsible answer that honesty would allow: “It depends on the circumstances.”
Wallace’s question came after the Obama administration’s shockingly irresponsible decision to release government memoranda that spell out, in exquisite detail, the enhanced interrogation methods that were approved for top-tier al-Qaeda detainees in 2002–2003. Certainly President Obama is entitled to his rose-tinted opinion that more is to be gained by shelving the tactics than by further exploiting them. As chief executive, moreover, it is his prerogative to supplant a policy of proven effectiveness with one based on vague, counter-historical hopes of depressing terrorist recruitment. He could easily have altered the policy course, however, without giving a tactics seminar to our enemies.
The revelations will make al-Qaeda a more efficient killing machine: better able to resist our efforts to thwart its attacks. Worse, they will paralyze our intelligence community, which now knows that even a presidential assurance complemented by Justice Department guidance and congressional encouragement will not protect agents from second-guessing and possible legal jeopardy a few months or years from now, when vigilance is no longer in fashion and political power has changed hands. To complete the triple play, the disclosures demonstrate to intelligence agents that the commander-in-chief is not to be trusted: He claimed that coercive interrogation tactics beyond the anodyne Army Field Manual measures were being studied to determine whether their authorization might be appropriate; but the revelations make the “study” a hollow gesture — there is nothing to be gained from authorizing tactics the enemy has already been armed against.
All this folly finds its way back to that simple question: “Does [insert interrogation tactic of choice] shock the conscience?” As Wallace put it to Hayden, and as Obama frames it in policy debates, the question is utterly devoid of context. The “shock the conscience” standard is derived from a 1952 Supreme Court case, Rochin v. California. That, evidently, is enough to qualify it as the high-minded yardstick of permissible government behavior — no need to get into icky complications like circumstances or (dare I say) obligations.
We have “waterboarding,” or simulated drowning. Grisly stuff. Tough guys wrestle the subject onto a slab. Another tough guy does the dirty work, rendering the subject unable to breath, creating the fear of imminent death. How could that not be shocking to even a jaded conscience? Next case.
Except what if the next case involves coercing a subject onto a slab for the purpose of administering injections that will kill him? Or what if we shoot a hellfire missile at a house where a subject is meeting with three other subjects and their guests? Or what if we drop a bomb on a densely populated area, knowing full well that many subjects will be killed and others permanently maimed? Doesn’t all that shock the conscience too? Does it not matter that the subject is a convicted rapist-murderer? The emir of a terrorist organization plotting mass murder? A member of an organization with which we are at war?
Law provides guidance for the human condition in all its endless variety. As such, it always accounts for context. It is a favorite talking point of leftists and libertarian extremists that heightened security measures “suspend” the Constitution even though a crisis is when the Constitution is most needed. Never has anything so vapid been repeated with such indignation. The Constitution is never suspended. It anticipates war and peace, insurrection and domestic tranquility, and prescribes adjustments for different conditions. Free speech is guaranteed but treason is proscribed. Privacy is guaranteed but searches are authorized. Liberty is guaranteed but imprisonment is permitted. Life is guaranteed but the death penalty is permitted.“
The great ordinances of the Constitution,” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. instructed, “do not establish and divide fields of black and white.” Everything is contingent. In peacetime, the rule of law is what the statutes prescribe and the courts ensure. But the Framers also knew it would not always be peacetime. That is why, Holmes elsewhere wrote, “when it comes to a decision by the head of the State upon a matter involving its life, the ordinary rights of individuals must yield to what he deems the necessities of the moment. Public danger warrants the substitution of executive process for judicial process.” Executive process doesn’t suspend the Constitution any more than Congress would be suspending the Constitution if it suspended habeas corpus. Rather, executive, legislative, and judicial processes are all parts of the Constitution, their roles waxing and waning based on “the necessities of the moment.”
Rochin itself is testament to the seemingly rudimentary but often ignored fact that circumstances matter. The police behavior in that case — breaking into a home without a warrant, forcing a man to have his stomach pumped to coerce evidence in a run-of-the-mill drug case — did “shock the conscience.” But it might not in other contexts. Here is Justice Felix Frankfurter, explaining the test that he and his fellow justices were inventing: “Hypothetical situations can be conjured up, shading imperceptibly from the circumstances of this case and by gradations producing practical differences despite seemingly logical extensions.” What shocks the conscience in some situations may be less, even far less, than what duty demands in others.
Which brings us to two final points that are especially crucial in wartime (and it is worth remembering that enhanced interrogation techniques were adopted after an unprecedented domestic attack, during a defensive war authorized by Congress). First, war is just, and proportional, only because of evils so pronounced that they have triggered the legal and moral obligation of government officials to use the powers necessary to quell the evil — to protect the lives those officials are sworn to defend. That obligation is no less solemn than any obligation not to “shock the conscience.” Indeed, no faithful “shock the conscience” test can fail to account for it.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are within their right to claim, however implausibly, that their national-security obligations can be satisfied without resorting to enhanced interrogation tactics. But they should forthrightly admit, then, that they are willing to lose the thousands of lives their policy decision may cost. They shouldn’t get to continue spouting the nonsense that tradeoffs between our security and “our values” present “a false choice.” In fact, it’s the choice we’ve trusted them to make, for better or worse.
Second, in fighting a just war, proportionality is dictated by the circumstances in which actions are taken, not the (reputedly) calmer times in which they are judged. A civilized society won’t condemn conduct ex post facto; there is no guilt absent notice of the wrong. There is no guilt if, in its context, the behavior was officially encouraged.
In 2002, the only thing our lawmakers wanted to know was whether we were being tough enough on high-value detainees. In 2002, Barack Obama and Eric Holder wouldn’t have dared take a courageous stand against enhanced interrogation tactics for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In fact, back then, when it was expedient to be tough on terror, Holder was telling anyone who would listen that these al-Qaeda savages who murdered Americans absolutely did not deserve Geneva Convention protections.
To carp now about the rule of law is shameful. The rule of law hasn’t changed. But they have.
— National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books, 2008).
April 21, 2009
For 50 minutes, Obama sat mute, as a Marxist thug from Nicaragua delivered his diatribe, charging America with a century of terrorist aggression in Central America.
After Daniel Ortega finished spitting in our face, accusing us of inhumanity toward Fidel Castro's Cuba, Obama was asked his thoughts.
"I thought it was 50 minutes long. That's what I thought."
Hillary Clinton was asked to comment: "I thought the cultural performance was fascinating," she cooed.
Pressed again on Ortega's vitriol, Hillary replied: "To have those first-class Caribbean entertainers all on one stage and to see how much was done in such a small amount of space. I was overwhelmed."
Thus the nation that won the Cold War, contained the cancer of Castroism in Cuba, liberated Grenada, blocked communist takeovers of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, and poured scores of billions in aid into this region was left undefended by its own leaders at the Summit of the Americas.
Nor was this the only unanswered insult. Hugo Chavez, who has called Obama an "ignoramus" and Bush "El Diablo," walked over to a seated U.S. president and handed him the anti-American tract "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent."
The book blames Latin America's failures on white Europeans.
It opens, "Renaissance Europeans ventured across the oceans and buried their teeth in the throats of the Indian civilizations."
Civilizations? Before Pizarro and Cortez, the Inca and Aztec empires these conquistadors overthrew were into human sacrifice.
Evo Morales, the Aymaran president of Bolivia, who is using the race card against Bolivians of European descent, implied a U.S. role in an assassination plot against him.
Argentina's Cristina Kirchner, who allegedly received black-bag money from Chavez, ripped into America for its role in the 1980s. Under Reagan, America aided Britain in the Falklands War, after the Argentine junta invaded the islands, and assisted the Contras in their war of national liberation to oust Ortega's Sandinistas.
Again, Obama offered no defense of his country.
President Lula da Silva of Brazil, who blames the world financial crisis on "white, blue-eyed bankers," told Obama that any future Summit of the Americas without the Castro brothers was unacceptable.
Perhaps Obama believes in turn-the-other-cheek diplomacy, though it is hard to find much success in history for such a policy. Perhaps pacifism is in his DNA. Perhaps he shares the indictment of America that is part of the repertoire of every Latin demagogue.
Whatever his motive, in Trinidad, there were not two sides to the story. There were the trashers of America on the Latino left and a U.S. president who wailed plaintively, "I'm thankful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was 3 months old."
But, the Bay of Pigs, had it succeeded, would have given Cubans 50 years of freedom instead of the brutal dictatorship they have had to endure. And it took place four months before Barack was born.
Obama's silence -- signifying, as it does, assent -- in the face of attacks on his country is of a piece with the "contrition tour" of his secretary of state.
"Clinton Scores Points by Admitting Past U.S. Errors," was the headline over Saturday's New York Times story by Mark Landler:
"It has become a recurring theme of Hillary Rodham Clinton's early travels as the chief diplomat of the United States: She says that American policy on a given issue has failed, and her foreign listeners fall all over themselves in gratitude.
"On Friday, Mrs. Clinton said ... that the uncompromising policy of the Bush administration toward Cuba had not worked. ...
"The contrition tour goes beyond Latin America. In China, Mrs. Clinton told audiences that the United States must accept its responsibility as a leading emitter of greenhouse gases. In Indonesia, she said the American-backed policy of sanctions against Myanmar had not been effective. And in the Middle East, she pointed out that ostracizing the Iranian government had not persuaded it to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions."
Sandler wrote that Hillary brought to mind Bill Clinton:
"On a single trip to Africa in 1998 ... Bill Clinton apologized for American participation in slavery; American support of brutal African dictators; American 'neglect and ignorance' of Africa; American failure to intervene sooner in the Rwandan genocide of 1994; American 'complicity' in apartheid ... ."
Yet, as C.S. Lewis reminds us in "God in the Dock," "The first and fatal charm of national repentance is ... the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing -- but, first, of denouncing -- the conduct of others."
Bewailing the policies of Bush as failures and standing mute in the face of attacks on his country and predecessors may come back to bite Obama.
For when Jimmy Carter assumed a posture of moral superiority over LBJ and Richard Nixon, by declaring, "We have gotten over our inordinate fear of communism," it came back to bite him, good and hard.
- Pat Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, and the author of many books including State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America .
April 20, 2009
Anyone who regularly tunes into http://wattsupwiththat.com/, the popular climate-science blog operated by Anthony Watts, will never make fun of TV weathermen again. Watts - who was a TV meteorologist for 25 years - provides a steady diet of smart, always interesting and sometimes deeply complex scientific information and opinion about global climate change. Watts is also the founder of surfacestations.org, a project that for nearly two years has been quality-checking each of the 1,200-plus weather stations of the U. S. Historical Climate Network (USHCN) to see if they are set up and maintained properly. So far, Watts and his volunteers have checked about 820 of the weather stations, which have been in place for about 100 years and are the source for the country's official average annual temperature. Watts has found that temperature data from nearly 70 percent of the stations is of questionable accuracy because the stations do not adhere to the USHCN's own quality-control guidelines. I talked to Watts April 16 by phone from his office in Chico, Calif.
Q: Why do you do your blog WattsUpWithThat?
A: Well, it's just an extension of what my life has been up until the last few years. I was a broadcaster on television - a meteorologist - for 25 years. I look at the blog as really no different. I did a daily broadcast each day in television. A blog is really just a daily broadcast in a different form.
Q: Who is your target audience?
A: I never really thought about a target audience. I took the same philosophy from broadcasting. I made it to reach as broad an audience as possible and the demographics that I get from it tell me I am doing that job successfully. I've got everything from people with high school educations to people that are Ph.Ds who are reading and commentating and sometimes even submitting articles.
Q: Sometimes it gets pretty deep - lots of scientific charts and data.
A: It does. But that is to be expected because of the broad audience we have. My job is to try to make everything understandable, even for people who are not in tune with some of the more technical details of climate.
Q: Have you become more politicized since you began blogging? Or are you primarily still a man of science?
A: Well, my main interest always has been the science. I am still of the belief that you should let the data tell you what the real story is. As far as the blog goes, the only thing I can say that I've become a little more critical of in terms of politics is that we have some people now who should be sticking to science, such as Jim Hansen (head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, going out and advocating things such as civil disobedience (at coal-fired power plants). That concerns me.
Q: What is your basic position on the question of global warming? Are you a believer? A skeptic? Somewhere in between?
A: I would call myself what some people describe as a "lukewarmer" in that the CO2 effect that people have done thousands of studies on is in fact real. However, it is not a crisis. The reason it is not a crisis is because most people do not understand the logarithmic nature of the CO2 response in our atmosphere.
Q: And that means?
A: It's like salting soup. If you have a bowl of soup in front of you and you put a little salt in it to salt it to taste, you say, "Well, maybe it needs just a tad more." So you add some more salt and you think, "Maybe not quite enough." Then you add some more, and all the sudden it's too salty. Now if you were to add additional salt to the soup, you could not determine that it was any more salty than it already was. And if you continue to add salt, you can't tell the difference.
CO2 is much like that in the way that our atmosphere responds to long-wave outgoing radiation, or trapping of heat. At some point when you get to a certain level, like a doubling of CO2, and then you add a second doubling of CO2, the response halves. It's logarithmic. Then it halves again and then halves again after that. So much of the effect that we would expect to see from CO2 -- because of this logarithmic response -- has already happened. In essence, our soup is already fairly well salted and additional salting is not to make a whole lot of difference.
Q: What is the most harmful "fact" - quote unquote - about global warming that everyone believes but which is probably not true or at least uncertain?
A: There is a belief out there that we will get into a runaway condition where at some point a tipping point would occur and that at that point there is no turning back and then the world would destroy itself. That is being pushed in the media a lot and it is flat wrong.
As we go back into history, into past millennia, we can see that our atmosphere has in fact had much more CO2 - up to 6,000 parts per million, compared to the 380 parts per million that we have now - and it has responded and it has settled. Earth didn't destroy itself. It didn't burn up and boil off the oceans. So the comparison that we see with runaway global warming and the turning of Earth into Venus, things of that nature, are probably the most dangerous and wrong ideas that are being pushed.
Q: Are your troubled or annoyed by the way global warming is being discussed or covered by the mainstream media?
A: I am. And mainly because it's getting a free pass for almost every problem that's brought up. There's a Web site in the UK called Number Watch (http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/) that maintains a list of literally thousands of things in the media that are blamed on global warming. It's almost like "The Devil made me do it." The idea here is that, yeah, we have an issue and the issue is that there is some warming of the atmosphere.. That warming however is not catastrophic. It has occurred in the past and the Earth has survived. So the blaming of global warming as a catchall for every problem that we see in our environment is a disservice to science and to the people.
Q: My grandchildren ask me if the polar ice in the Northern Hemisphere is going to disappear?
A: I would say that the polar ice has disappeared in the past. Certainly there seems to be evidence of past climate situations where we may have had virtually no or none during the summertime. In the immediate future, however, I don't think we are going to see that. In fact, we're going through a rebound right now. If you look at the current Arctic ice extent from the Japanese agency which tracks the Arctic ice, you'll find that it is very near normal at this point and it is rebounding well from the last couple years. Antarctic ice is above normal. And the global total amount of sea ice is above normal. So it's not disappearing any time soon.
Q: What's the story with the Sun? It's been described as being asleep or in a state of "slumber" because it has had virtually no sun spots for a long time. What's going on?
A: Well, the Sun is driven by dynamic magnetic cycles. There are 11-year and 22-year cycles that have been identified and there are longer cycles that have been theorized. In every kind of a cycling endeavor there are always lulls and there are giant peaks. We've seen both in the past. We've seen lulls in the Maunder Minimum (1645 to 1715) and the Dalton Minimum (1790 to 1830), when virtually no sun spots appeared. Coincidentally, during those periods the weather and climate on Earth got colder.
The period that we are currently in now is what appears to be the beginning of an extended solar cycle that may now be as long as 12 1/2 years, compared to the normal 11. The current state of the Sun appears to be a similar kind of situation being set up to what it was right before the Dalton Minimum. So the possibility exists that we may find ourselves in a period of cooler weather in the next 20 to 30 years.
The missing link, however, between solar activity and Earth's climate is "What is the amplification factor?" The total solar irradiance, or TSI, has shown to be very small and when you look at the amount of watts per meter that is delivered to the Earth's surface, the amount of change in total solar irradiance doesn't appear to be enough to cause such differences in the climate of the Earth.
However, what people are looking for now is an amplification factor - sort of a climatic transistor, if you will. A transistor takes very small signals and amplifies them so they are audible - which is why radios work. The theory has been bandied about that the same kind of process occurs in Earth's climate. A very small change in signal related to solar activity - and we don't know which signal yet; it could be total solar irradiance, it could be ultraviolent; it could be magnetic; it could be cosmic rays; there are number of things that are being looked at -- gets amplified in Earth's natural processes and changes. That's what needs to be identified before a complete causal relationship is established between changes on the Sun's solar cycle and changes in Earth's climate.
Q: When we know the immense size of the Sun and power of the Sun and relative tininess of Earth, doesn't the Sun just scream out as being the chief culprit of climate change on Earth?
A: On the surface -- on a simple analysis -- one would think that. But again, the missing link is, what is the true causal relationship between changes in the Sun's solar cycle and Earth climate. Where's the amplification factor? Because just the change in the amount of sunlight that occurs doesn't appear to be enough to account for the observed changes in the past. So we are looking for that link.
However, I would say that the Sun really is the Big Kahuna of all the climate on earth. We would not have any climate. We would not have any weather. We would not have any ocean currents. We would not have life. We would have nothing if it were not for the Sun. So the Sun is this central point from which everything on Earth springs. We should not ignore that fact.
Q: Is a period of global cooling coming? And if so, what would you point to as evidence of that?
A: Well, there is a post on my blog today (April 16) about the computer models (of future global average temperatures) starting to diverge from the climate reality. This is something that is really kind of unexpected. The models continue to go up in (global temperature) but the climate reality and the current (global temperature) measurement starts to go down. They are diverging and have been diverging since 2006. There are a number of things that have aligned that make me think that perhaps we are in for a cooling period. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation, for example, has shifted from its warm regime to its cold regime last year. NASA JPL certified this. The last time it switched -- in 1978 -- it switched from a cool regime to a warm regime. We've been riding that warm period all the way since then.
Q: Is there a quick way to explain what the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is?
A: It has a larger influence that either El Nina or El Nino. It is a broad swath of water that extends from the Equator up into Alaska that changes the character of the surface temperatures of the Pacific over that broad swath of water. It was discovered by looking into changes in fishery stock by the University of Washington. The fishing stocks were changing and they had no explanation for it. They starting looking for it and they discovered it was linked to the food supply. And the food supply - krill and phytoplankton and all that sort of stuff - was linked to the changes in the temperature of the water. So they discovered this pattern. So it's a broad, wholesale change in the structure of the surface temperature of the Pacific.
Q: That has obvious influences over the whole climate for years afterwards.
A: Particularly the United States, because the weather flows from west to east. And particularly California. California had a fairly cool climate prior to 1978. And during the warmer period from 1978 to last year, agriculture boomed in California. Grapes began to be grown in places they haven't been grown before. The wine industry expanded. Agricultural expanded. And it expanded under a warmer climatic regime. Now that warmer climatic regime is in danger of shrinking again. So we may find growing seasons and growing places reduced back to areas that they were historically at in 1978.
Q: What is the most important, irrefutable truth about the climate of Earth that you wish every schoolchild and every elected official in Washington understood?
A: That the climate has always changed. It has never been static. In the past it has seen extremes hotter and colder than what we experience today. So change is normal.
Q: Since you are a meteorologist, I'll put you on the spot. Ten years from now what will we be talking about, global warming or global cooling?
A: I believe it will be global cooling, based on the fact that there are several things aligning - like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the solar patterns and so forth -- to make it appear that we might be in for a period of global cooling. However, I am also prepared to say that I may be completely wrong.
- Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He recently retired from daily newspaper journalism.