Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The spectacular flop that will be "the liberal talk network" (known officially as Air America Radio) launched moments ago, in case you hadn't heard. And you probably hadn't heard, because this network has been breathlessly anticipated by the media--and exactly nobody else.

Tellingly, while Rush Limbaugh is carried on 600 stations nationwide, the new liberal network is currently on five radio stations--and it had to buy the airtime on them first. According to the a story in today's New York Times (registration required), the network's plan is to buy all the airtime on numerous other stations this year as well. You know you have a great product when you have to pay people to use it. This sort of desperation almost makes me feel sorry for them. Almost.

The Times' article describes a rehearsal show last week which featured "progressive" co-hosts Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder interviewing a dominatrix. Garofalo then stepped away from the whips and chains to answer a few questions for an interviewer:
"It's not like we're here to say we're going to be as nasty as right-wingers," Ms. Garofalo said in an interview. "On the left, traditionally, you've got a nicer type of person. You've got a person who is more willing to engage in conversations that have context and nuance, who tend to have more educable minds."
The article gives us a little taste of that context and nuance we could look forward to from Professor Garofalo and her co-host Sam Seder if we were actually listening:
Among others, Ms. Garofalo and Mr. Seder poked fun at Mr. Bush's former spokesman Ari Fleischer ("Is he not shoveling coal in hell now?" Mr. Seder asked); Karl Rove, the president's senior adviser and political strategist (said by Ms. Garofalo to be pursuing "the elusive 18-25 Klan demo"); and Vice President Dick Cheney. (Mr. Seder said he felt sure that he could see Mr. Cheney's hand moving Mr. Bush's mouth on "Meet the Press" earlier this year.)
As Johnny Carson used to say, that is funny, funny shtuff. Bush being controlled by Cheney--that's cutting edge satire! Or at least it was in early 2000 or so....

Who knows? Maybe there will be some avant garde material about Gerald Ford's clumsiness. Maybe a couple of lacerating verbal barbs about Checkers the dog!

It your appetite has been whetted (as mine has), you'll want to tune in quickly (if, that is, you happen to live near one of the five enlightened radio stations carrying this insightful commentary). Something tells me it might not be around for long.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Okay, time for a little grammar gripe. Some tend to be more persnickety than I about this sort of thing (not mentioning any names, of course), and I don't usually correct people when they say "newk-yoo-ler" or "re-noom-er-ay-shun" (it's actually "re-moon-er-ay-shun"), for instance.

But I've heard enough of this one lately (including from people who ought to know better) that I just have to say something: there is no such thing as a "mute point." Or if there is, it has nothing to do with what you mean when you say it.

What you mean to say is "moot point." Rhymes with "boot." It means "deprived of practical significance; made abstract or purely academic."

This is what one of our culture's great poets means when he says that he wants to tell his best friend Jesse's girl that he loves her "but the point is prob'ly moot." He doesn't mean it's silent; he means that, considering her evidently thriving romantic relationship with the aforementioned Jesse, his declaration of love for her would be deprived of practical significance and made purely academic--she's already previously engaged.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I'm now going in to organize my sock drawer by color and ankle length.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Mike Wallace did a story on Bush appeals court nominee Charles Pickering on "60 Minutes" last night that left me stunned and speechless. The reason? It was the strongest defense of Pickering's record on race ever aired in the mainstream media.

Pickering, who was nominated by President Bush for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and defeated by Senate liberals, has been portrayed for nearly three years by the Democratic Party (and its media shills) as a sheet-wearing, Old South racist. But Wallace lined up one African-American leader after another who had actually dealt with Pickering in Mississippi, and each one spoke in only glowing terms about Pickering's meticulous fairness and his equal application of the law.

Even the former leader of Mississippi's NAACP was a strong supporter of Pickering's. The current one, Clarence McGee, has opted to toe the standard "Pickering is a racist" line. One riveting moment in the program featured Charles Evers (the brother of the slain civil rights leader Medger Evers) confronting McGee on camera and exposing his absolute lack of knowledge about Pickering. From the CBS transcript:
Charles Evers: You know, maybe you don't know, you know that Charles Pickering is a man helped us to break the Ku Klux Klan. Did you know that?

Clarence McGee: I heard that statement made.

Charles Evers: I mean, I know that. Do you know that?

Clarence McGee: I don't know that.

Charles Evers: I know that. Do you know about the young black man that was accused of robbing the young white woman. You know about that?

Clarence McGee: Nope.

Charles Evers: So Charles Pickering took the case. Came to trial and won the case and the young man became free.

Clarence McGee: I don't know about that.

Charles Evers: But did you also know that Charles Pickering is the man who helped integrate his churches. You know about that?

Clarence McGee: No.

Charles Evers: Well, you don't know a thing about Charles Pickering.
Defending Pickering may just be countercultural enough that it appealed to the iconoclasts at "60 Minutes." Nobody else in the mainstream media has had the courage to portray Pickering's record as it actually is, instead opting to filter it through the distorted lenses of buffoons like Chuck Shumer. The story will likely get lost in the wake of Condoleeza Rice's interview in the same program, but it was an impressive bit of fairness from CBS News, for which they deserve a great deal of credit.
Whoopie! Duke made the Final Four. That oughta shake things up for a change....

Friday, March 26, 2004

Got a chance to talk with U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige today at a luncheon in South Florida. As a conservative, I certainly would support doing away with the Department of Education altogether, but as long as it must exist, I'm glad that someone like Paige is running it.

I told him that as long as issues of right and wrong and good and bad (i.e. morality) are considered "religion" and relegated to some dusty corner outside the schools, there will never be any substantial improvement. He agreed and said something I was pleasantly suprised to hear from a cabinet member: people can and should work to influence their local governments to change the situation. It's not really a federal issue, it's a local issue. The federal government really shouldn't have that much say in it one way or the other.

In all honesty, I tend to believe our public schools are a lost cause at this point. They are forced to preach the religion of secularism to the children in their care. All schools teach a morality; the only question is which one will be taught--and the one being taught is profoundly relativistic. We've all seen the results.

I'm not naive; a government school is a government school, and will always be an inferior option because of it. But if you put a decent local government in place, that doesn't always have to be the worst possible thing.

I particularly liked one observation Paige made in his speech: "Name for me one enterprise outside of education where imposing standards would be considered an innovation."

Oh yeah, he also called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization" last month, so you've gotta kind of admire that. With those kinds of statements, the Left might finally let the Department of Education just disappear after all.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Occasionally, I like to cite an item from the news and then add a jest or two. But some things simply stand alone.

Yesterday, Richard Simmons was charged with misdemeaner assault in Phoenix:
A fellow passenger recognized Simmons on Wednesday night at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport as he was waiting for a flight to Los Angeles, police said.

The man "made the off-hand comment, 'Hey, everybody. It's Richard Simmons. Let's drop our bags and rock to the '50s,"' said Phoenix police Sgt. Tom Osborne. "Mr. Simmons took exception to it and walked over to the other passenger and apparently slapped him in the face."

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Why I'm Glad for High Gasoline Prices

I've heard a lot of frustration lately about the skyrocketing cost of gasoline. Of course, nobody likes paying more for something today than they did yesterday. That goes without saying.

Yet I still am glad for the high gasoline prices. Why? Because on my way home from work yesterday, I was actually able to get gas. Filled my whole tank, as a matter of fact. If, as many have called for, some sort of government price ceiling had been placed on it, I would not have been able to do so.

Prices are a way of equalizing supply and demand. When the demand exceeds the supply by too much, prices must rise, or people will begin to hoard the artificially cheap commodity and it will be no longer available. Remember the gas lines in the '70's? They occured after our friend--the Federal Government--decided to step in and control the price of gas. The result was cheaper gas--that nobody could get.

Higher prices cause people to make difficult choices: do I want to spend this hard-earned extra money on gasoline, or do I want to spend it on something else and figure out a different way to get to work? When the price is kept artificially lower than the demand, nobody has to make that choice, and the result is not enough gas to go around.

I didn't have to wait in line for my gas last night, for which I was grateful. I pulled right up to the pump and filled 'er up. Yes, it cost a little more than it did last week or last month, but to me it is still worth it.

Evidently it's still worth it to everyone else, too, since I haven't noticed any dropoff in traffic during my daily commute. Just about everyone has apparently decided that they'd rather spend the extra $4 to $5 extra per tank for the convenience of driving their own car to work rather than spending that money on something else, just as I did. I'm pleased that I still have that option--which I would not have if the price were kept artificially low.

People frequently complain that something is "too expensive." Well, "too expensive" is a relative term. "Too expensive" compared to what? Sure it would be nice if the price that pops into our heads were the actual price of a good or service, most of us realize upon reflection that it doesn't--that it can't--work this way.

The function of prices is not to individually please us. The function of a price is to determine the value a society places on a commodity relative to other commodities. Something is only "too expensive" if it makes you personally decide to spend your money on something else instead.

If gas were truly "too expensive," nobody would be buying it. Since everyone still is buying it, I have to assume that "too expensive" means "doesn't match the fantasy price in my head." Well, lots of things don't. But I'm still glad that I can get real gas with real money in my real pocket to drive my real car to my real job--all because of the current high price of gas.
One of the reasons we homeschool our kids is because we believe in the importance of worldview. Everyone has a worldview (whether he realizes it or not), and everything "out there" is coming from and promoting a particular worldview. It's unavoidable. There is a certain amount of philosophy underlying everything a child is taught, and that philosophy exists a priori; in other words, it is not determined by what one sees, but rather determines how one sees things.

Western society has been trained to see a dichotomy between science and religion because, as the argument goes, science only deals with "facts," while religion deals with metaphysics and philosophy.

Yesterday, my wife took our kids to a museum nearby that had, among other things, a display of live shrimp that live in a tiny, enclosed container. According to the display, the shrimp can live this way for years. Why? Because "there aren't too many of them and they do not pollute their environment." Just science, huh?

Aside from the clunky political statement being made here (about human pollution and supposed overpopulation), to attempt to draw an analogy between the lifestyle of shrimp and that of humans (which is clearly what is intended here) is asinine. First, it commits a basic logical fallacy (the post hoc fallacy, which argues "The day after I stopped huffing paint thinner, I had a heart attack; therefore, huffing paint thinner prevents heart attacks.") Secondly, the analogy reflects a specific, Malthusian, leftist philosophical worldview that directs the way this sort of "science" is done rather than results from it.

If we're going to parallel the survival of shrimp with that of humans, why don't we look at some other factors as well? For instance, in addition to limiting our population and our pollution, shouldn't we also all live underwater? I mean, hey, it's working for the shrimp, right? And shrimp also have protective shells--so we should mandate full body armor for humans, right?

To presume that what works for shrimp longevity also will work for human longevity is not only doctrinaire, it's also unscientific. If a "good environment" is one that leads to survival (as the display implied), then any scientist worth his salt ought to take account of the fact that the average lifespan has more than doubled worldwide over the past 100 or so "overpopulated," increasingly industrial years.

"But we have pollution!" Yes, and thank heavens. As Cal Beisner points out:
Pollution is a by-product of production. For example, air pollution is a by-product of energy production. Energy production enables people to produce more food, machines, clothing, information, medicine, and other good things that contribute positively to people's health and life.
In other words, who knows how long the shrimp would live if there were more of them and they were capable of devising industry? And, of course, there are the paradigm-shattering studies done by the late Julian Simon at the University of Maryland, who while attempting to find evidence in favor of population control actually discovered that dense population tends to result in a stronger economy and a cleaner environment than less populated, less developed nations.

All in all, that's a lot of bad science and philosophy packed into a little display on shrimp. Imagine how much gets packed into teaching on human behavior.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Pardon me, but this is retarded. Dead terrorists are always and everywhere a good thing, and the Bush Administration ought to shut its collective pie hole.

"Deeply troubled." Give me a break. The only thing I'm deeply troubled about is that the guy lived this long.
There are lots of little steps along the way to feeling old.

As a sports fan, some of those realizations began to come when the college basketball and football players who had always seemed so old to me were suddenly younger than I was. Then they started having birthdays in years I remembered.

The next step was when many pro athletes were suddenly younger than me. I remember once having the realization that I had surpassed the age by which Jim Brown had completed his entire Hall of Fame pro football career. Cal Ripken (who always seemed really old to me, probably because of that gray, thinning hair) had already broken Lou Gehrig's iron-man consecutive games streak by the time he was my age.

The step beyond that occurred yesterday when a kid who was in music class with me at Butler University in the '80's coached his basketball team (Xavier) to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament.

I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that: A). I'm glad for him, and B). he's at least considered by the media to be a relatively young coach.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

"The Passion of the Christ" continues to bring people together. According to an AP report:
STATESBORO, Ga. -- A couple who got into a dispute over a theological point after watching "The Passion of the Christ" were arrested after the argument turned violent.

The two left the movie theater debating whether God the Father in the Holy Trinity was human or symbolic, and the argument heated up when they got home, Melissa Davidson said.
They evidently got pretty fired up about it. If you can't assault someone over the Trinity, what can you assault them over? I have to admit, I would've liked to have watched this discussion on "Cops."
According to a police report, Melissa Davidson suffered injuries on her arm and face, while her husband had a scissors stab wound on his hand and his shirt was ripped off. He also allegedly punched a hole in a wall.

"Really, it was kind of a pitiful thing, to go to a movie like that and fight about it. I think they missed the point," said Gene McDaniel, chief sheriff's deputy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Ann Coulter hits another one out of the park today in her inimitable sledgehammer style. She's reacting to William Safire of the New York Times jumping on the bandwagon saying "The Passion" is anti-Semitic:
With all the subtlety of a Mack truck, Safire called Gibson's movie a version of "the medieval 'passion play,' preserved in pre-Hitler Germany at Oberammergau, a source of the hatred of all Jews as 'Christ killers.'" (Certainly every Aryan Nation skinhead murderer I've ever met was also a devoted theater buff and "passion play" aficionado.)
As Coulter points out, blaming Christians or Christianity for Hitler is nothing more than oft-repeated nonsense.
Despite repeated suggestions from liberals -- including the in-house "conservative" and Clinton-supporter at the Times -- Hitler is not what happens when you gin up Christians. Like Timothy McVeigh, the Columbine killers and the editorial board of The New York Times, Hitler detested Christians.

Indeed, Hitler denounced Christianity as an "invention of the Jew" and vowed that the "organized lie (of Christianity) must be smashed" so that the state would "remain the absolute master." Interestingly, this was the approach of all the great mass murderers of the last century -- all of whom were atheists: Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

In the United States, more than 30 million babies have been killed by abortion since Roe v. Wade, vs. seven abortion providers killed. Yeah -- keep your eye on those Christians!
It would be nice if liberals could muster a little fear for the one religion that is actually killing scores of people in the world today, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
I've come up with a slogan for the Kerry campaign, and I hope they'll credit me when they use it:

John Kerry: The Choice of Foreign Governments Everywhere!
Howard Dean, who left the presidential race when he proved to be even too crazy for the radical wing of the Democratic Party, says that George W. Bush is to blame for the bombings in Spain:
The president was the one who dragged our troops to Iraq, which apparently has been a factor in the death of 200 Spaniards over the weekend.
Of course, this is right in step with Dean's (and his party's) blame-America-first strategy. How about the bloodthirsty terrorists? Is it possible that maybe they were to blame for the bombs they planted in civilian passenger trains? No, certainly not. They are merely compelled by forces beyond their control. In keeping with leftist, Democrat ideology, nobody is ever responsible for what they do wrong--except for Republicans, of course. They're responsible for what they do wrong and what everyone else does wrong.

Another question I'd like to ask the delusional, deservedly-obscure-again Dr. Dean: How can George W. Bush be blamed for the bombing in Spain when the United States has supposedly been acting unilaterally in Iraq? What would Spain even have to do with it? And as long as we're blaming Americans, why not blame Bill Clinton, since Al Qaida has taken responsibility for the attack, and evidence is again showing that Clinton passed up the opportunity to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden?

This is what you'll get when you pull the donkey lever in November: lots of inaction, self-loathing, and finger-pointing, while we become the world's Carteresque punching bag again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

"The Passion of the Christ" is now pushing the $300 million mark, and I'm still waiting for the anti-Semitic violence and mayhem that we were assured would break out.

An associate of mine recently pointed out the notable lack of incidents to one of the fear-mongers. The fear-monger's response was something like "Well, of course it's not going to be anything blatant like that. The harmful effects of this film are much more subtle and insidious." In other words: "I do not now, nor will I ever have, a shred of proof that this film is harmful. Instead I will offer an unfalsifiable claim, that no amount of peace and good relations will be able to disprove."

And yet, to their horror, it is being disproved. Check out this story:
A new poll suggests fears that "The Passion of the Christ" would trigger anti-Semitism were unwarranted.

A nationwide survey conducted for the Institute for Jewish and Community Research finds that 83 percent of Americans familiar with the film say it's made them neither more nor less likely to blame today's Jews for Jesus' crucifixion. Nine percent said Mel Gibson's film actually has made them less likely to blame today's Jews, while less than 2 percent said they're more likely to fault modern Jews or Jewish institutions.

The Institute's president, Gary Tobin, added that discussion of the issue has probably been good for Christian-Jewish relations.
So what do you think the chances are that Abraham Foxman, Shmuley Boteach, Charles Krauthammer, and the rest of the alarmists will admit they cried 'wolf'?
A Public Apology:

This kind of thing is (unfortunately) unusual for me, but some things need to be dealt with publicly. So....

In my zeal to oppose a theology that I think is incorrect and dangerous, I have said some mean and unkind things to Barb, who, while I disagree with her strongly on this issue, is someone who I've always liked. The other day, I saw an article she had linked to on her blog, and I left a comment there disagreeing with the author's premise. I think that she took this as an attack on her, and rather than dropping it (or explaining myself) when she objected, I instead escalated the conflict to the next level.

In the past, I have hurt her feelings on several occasions with too-strong language, and my behavior over the past few days opened up those old wounds I'd previously inflicted. While my initial motive has always been to attempt to steer her (and others) from what I believe is a grievously dangerous error, I know that my method of doing so has only caused damage.

So I'd like to publicly apologize to Barb for my unkind words, and for allowing myself to be directed by anger and frustration rather than love, and for my unchristian behavior. Barb, I don't expect you to like me or agree with me, but I do hope you'll be able to forgive me. I blew it, and I'm sorry about it. I promise I will not take this issue up with you again.
I just finished reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code last night. I didn't want to read it, but I've had so many people ask me questions about it that I thought I needed to.

A couple of quick thoughts. First of all, I was suprised by how clumsy it was. I expected to find a book that was theologically abhorrent but a great read. What I found was a book that was theologically abhorrent and a mediocre read. The first half of the book is pretty entertaining, with lots of twists, suprises, and suspense. The second half of the book is all thumbs. It's didactic, lazy in its exposition (how about showing us something in the narrative rather than just having a character explain it all?), and pointed toward a denouement that makes hash of most of the first half of the book.

Secondly, The Da Vinci Code is as historically uninformed as can be imagined. This is no small point since millions of people are reading this book and saying "Hey, what about this? Is this true?" Brown presents the murder-mystery part of the story line as fiction, but claims that it is ensconsed in a shell of historical truth. In fact, Brown's history is as fictional as his murder mystery. He makes claims that no serious historian--religious or secular--would affirm. For instance, Brown claims that until the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., nobody believed in a divine Christ--that this was a new invention imposed on the world by the Emperor Constantine, and that "by a relatively close vote."

In fact, whether one personally believes in the divinity of Christ, there can be no serious historical dispute that His followers did not believe in and celebrate His divinity. The New Testament documents (which are more well-attested than any other ancient documents, and certainly more well-attested than anything Brown cites) make clear that Christ's disciples believed He was divine, and that Christ taught that He was divine. And other extra-biblical evidence from the earliest days of the Church indicate that Christians worshipped Christ as God, including a surviving letter from Pliny the Younger in only 112 A.D. Furthermore, the "close vote" in the Council of Nicea was actually nearly unanimous in upholding what was by then the core teaching of the Church: the divinity of Jesus Christ.

For his main contention--that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdelene and that they had a child together, and that Christ's bloodline thus continued through the centuries--Brown doesn't even attempt to offer anything approaching evidence. There's a good reason for this: none exists. Even the Gnostic "gospels" which Brown relies upon heavily (and which were written much later than the four gospels of the Bible) do not make this claim. Even the ultra-liberal Jesus Seminar, which believes that Christ's body was taken off the cross, thrown in a shallow grave, and eaten by dogs, doesn't make this claim. Brown's main "proof" for the claim seems to be that Leonardo Da Vinci, who lived about 1500 years after Christ, believed it was true. And even that is a dubious assertion, based on such concrete foundations as Brown's interpretation of the smile on the Mona Lisa.

Having now read the book, I have to admit it is a mystery--a mystery how over four million people could flock to buy this book. It would be an unremarkable piece of pulp fiction were it not for the outrageous false claims it makes about the history of Christianity. And ultimately, that's what this book is about. It's not meant to simply be a harmless mystery. It's intent is to redefine and overthrow the faith once for all entrusted to the saints.

Monday, March 15, 2004

I zipped up to R.C. Sproul's national conference in Orlando over the weekend and had an outstanding time. I even got to bump into blogging friends Anne and Valerie!

This is now two weekends away with my wife out of the past three. I'm scoring some bigtime points!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Considering that they call Muzak "elevator music," it's odd that most elevators you ride on are suspiciously silent. Why don't they call it "supermarket music" instead?
Bernie Goldberg, the author of Bias and Arrogance, which exposed liberal media bias from an insider's perspective, is coming up from Miami today to do an interview. I'm looking forward to meeting him.

In my opinion, his books have done more to further the cause of fairness in media than anything I know of in the last 20 years.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

More on "insider trading":

"I don't think the [Enron and Global Crossing] scandals would ever have erupted if we had allowed insider trading . . . because there would be plenty of people in those companies who would know exactly what was going on, and who couldn't resist the temptation to get rich by trading on the information, and the stock market would have reflected those problems months and months earlier than they did under this cockamamie regulatory system we have." -- Dean emeritus Henry Manne of the George Mason University School of Law

"Whether it's fair or not, it's the nature of markets that people benefit from specialized knowledge. I might know that there's oil on your land and you don't, and I buy it from you for a pittance and earn millions. Is that fair?

"Take the Enron and WorldCom cases. Long before their collapse, there were insiders who knew about the accounting fraud and other management sharp practices that inflated the worth of the companies. Had just a few of Enron's and WorldCom's many insiders, who knew of these practices, sold their shares or gave out well-placed tips, shareholders would have learned much earlier about the true value of the companies and might have been better able to protect themselves." -- Walter E. Williams

"What if the information was come by accidentally? I overhear some people talking in the lavatory or at a bar after they’ve had too much to drink and have loose tongues. Am I wrong to make use of it?

"Here again the issue is just what I owe others. Do I have a natural obligation to share my good fortune with other people? In emergency situations, when others are in dire need or have met with some natural disaster, virtues such as generosity and charity are usually binding on those who are able to assist. Yet these are not obligations in the sense of something the law must enforce. Indeed, enforcing generosity or charity is impossible--the moral significance of a virtue is destroyed if it is practiced at the point of a gun!" -- Tibor R. Machan

As I said before, insider trading laws are nothing more than misguided egalitarianism. They're based on a utopian notion that somehow everyone in every business transaction ought to have the same knowledge as everyone else. This assertion rests on dubious moral grounds, and is a practical impossibility. But such things never stop the utopians from trying...

Incidentally, it is instructive to note that in this "slam-dunk" insider trading case, the SEC had to drop that particular charge against Martha Stewart.
Martha Stewart has never struck me as a particularly likeable person, but I've been uncomfortable with the feeding frenzy surrounding her for two reasons.

1). It has the stench of class warfare about it. Much of what I hear on the talk shows calling for her head is coming from people who simply want to see a rich person get prison-raped. If it were Bill Gates or Donald Trump on trial, they'd be saying exactly the same things. America loves to see someone become rich. And a couple of days later, America loves to see that person torn to shreds.

2). I don't think "insider trading" ought to be illegal in the first place. The fact is, stock trading is nothing other than people trying to gain an edge over one another through better information and predictive abilities. "Insider trading" laws have always struck me as anti-conservative. They're a misbegotten, egalitarian attempt to artificially level the playing field by making sure that nobody could possibly have an inherent advantage over anyone else.

This, of course, is simply stupid. The person who knows more than me about medical products is not penalized for buying stock in better medical companies than I do. Why should he be penalized for knowing something about what that company is actually going to do? "Insider trading" laws are nothing more than an attempt to handicap people down to the lowest common denominator. It's like putting cement blocks on Carl Lewis's feet so he won't have an "unfair advantage" in a footrace against me.

Stephen Moore in National Review Online has a terrific piece in which he gives voice to exactly the reservations I have about jumping on the Lynch Martha bandwagon. Says Moore:
...[E]veryone who makes money in the financial markets is engaging in some degree of insider trading -- some just have better information than others. Being a good stock picker involves having more information, and knowing how to get it, faster than other traders. What is the difference, really, between a hot stock tip, and insider trading? The line is so murky that it makes the enforcement of insider-trading laws inconsistent and capricious.

...The source of my uneasiness is that many in our society applaud her downfall precisely because of her enormous success. But success is a virtue in America, and when we start treating it as vice, we denigrate our capitalistic system. And then we have a much bigger problem in our society than whether people are trading on hot stock tips in the middle of the night.
It reminds me of the factory workers who are always complaining in the media (along with Ralph Nader) about how we're being "sold out by corporations." They never seem to be able to understand the simple fact that their "evil coroporation" is the reason they have jobs. If they were successful in banishing all the successful people and corporations, where exactly do they plan to work?

(Incidentally, I know that Stewart was actually convicted of lying to investigators, and I have no sympathy for her in that. Still, there'd have been no investigation were it not for these stupid laws to begin with.)
This is one of the things that makes Florida slightly different from some of the other states. A school bus in Lacoochee, Florida was taking some kids home from school last Thursday when a four-foot alligator crossed the road in front of them:
"Can we catch it? Can we catch it?" asked some of the 11 kids on board, according to Jimmie Scroggins, father of two riders.

[The bus driver] first said no, then changed her mind and pulled over.

Four boys ran off the bus, hopped a fence, chased the alligator into a mud hole, got it to clamp its teeth around a stick and wrapped its head with their shirts. A fifth boy happened to have a roll of electrical tape handy, which took care of keeping the reptile's jaws shut.

"It was the first thing that came into my head," said 14-year-old Jacob Scroggins when asked why he wanted to catch the gator.

After a 15-minute struggle, the boys triumphantly got back on the bus with their squirming, angry prize.
The bus driver has been suspended for letting the boys do it, and I guess I can't argue with that. But it's still kind of cool.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

So I see that the title of disgraced former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair's new book is Burning Down My Master's House.

What a jackass.

As if he were some sort of indentured slave who cried "enough!" and heroically exacted revenge upon an evil opressor, rather than a lazy half-wit who was prematurely elevated without qualifications to a post far beyond his abilities exclusively because of his race and stupidly whizzed it all away.
On my way into work this morning, I noticed that a sign outside one of our Broward County elementary schools had marked March 17 as "Green day."

Assuming this elementary school is not hosting rock concerts, do you think they merely did this to save letters on their billboard? Or is it possible that even "St. Patrick's Day" is now considered too religious/ethnic/partisan to be mentioned in a public school?

Monday, March 08, 2004

John Kerry will be a formidable candidate this year because he has one Clintonian quality that the media salivates over: a paralyzing, handwringing indecision on almost every important issue.

The media sees this quality as reflecting great depth. It was one of the keys of Clinton's "genius." Because Clinton had no worldview or actual principles, each issue that came up had to be weighed anew. Each issue had to be laboriously parsed, analyzed, and dissected because he had no overarching principles which helped him define them and no intellectual structure by which he could frame them.

If possible, Kerry exhibits this complete worldview vacuum to a greater degree than even Clinton. Presumably, this will cause him to be seen by the media as even more "brilliant." Kerry displays some of this brilliance in an interview in this week's TIME Magazine:
TIME: What would you have done about Iraq had you been the President?
KERRY: If I had been the President, I might have gone to war but not the way the President did. It might have been only because we had exhausted the remedies of inspections, only because we had to?because it was the only way to enforce the disarmament....

...TIME: Obviously it's good that Saddam is out of power. Was bringing him down worth the cost?
KERRY: If there are no weapons of mass destruction? and we may yet find some?then this is a war that was fought on false pretenses, because that was the justification to the American people, to the Congress, to the world, and that was clearly the frame of my vote of consent. I said it as clearly as you can in my speech. I suggested that all the evils of Saddam Hussein alone were not a cause to go to war.

TIME: So, if we don't find WMD, the war wasn't worth the costs? That's a yes?
KERRY: No, I think you can still?wait, no. You can't?that's not a fair question, and I'll tell you why. You can wind up successful in transforming Iraq and changing the dynamics, and that may make it worth it, but that doesn't mean [transforming Iraq] was the cause [that provided the] legitimacy to go. You have to have that distinction.

As a Washington Post article points out (dug up by Taranto), this kind of thing is seen by his supporters (and the media will be among them, soon enough) as Solomonic wisdom:
"George Bush is, 'I know what's right, and I know what's wrong,' regardless of the nature of reality," said Jonathan Winer, Kerry's counsel from 1983 to 1994. "John takes the opposite approach: 'Don't assume you know where I am. Don't assume I know what I think. We'll talk it through.' It's a deliberate suspension."

Kerry is a man who studies the menu at restaurants, even when he knows what he's going to order. Entering a room, he pauses and looks around, as if to weigh his options. He is so fond of the phrase "tough choices" that Senate staffers routinely inserted it in his speeches because they knew he would say it anyway.
As Mel Gibson's "The Passion" crossed the $200 million box office mark this weekend, the savage violence continued unabated. As predicted by the intelligentsia, synagogues were burned and looted, and Jews were dragged out of their cars and beaten by frenzied moviegoers as they pillaged the countryside looking for someone--anyone--to seek revenge on for the death of Christ.

We can only hope that the film fades away soon, and the inevitable onslaught of violence and carnage it has brought with it. Soon, we will begin the hard work of rebuilding our shattered society, a society in which no person of any ethnic group will ever be forced to suffer the way they have the past ten days in this darkest period of our nation's history.
As regular readers know, I spend my time in many high-minded pursuits. That's why I was pleased to pick up another prize in this week's "Late Show Top 10 Contest."

The topic was "Top 10 Suprises in 'The Passion of the Christ.'" My entry? "The Kenny Loggins theme song."

It's good to know that I'm not wasting my life on useless, trivial minutia. After all, I won a Dave Letterman mouse pad in the deal.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Believe it or not, my one-year blogoversary is tommorrow. At this time last year, many thought that I simply wasn't creative enough to produce enough material to keep an interesting, informative, and entertaining blog up and running for a year.

Unfortunately, of course, those people were proved correct about three days into it, but we've slogged through nonetheless. Here's to another year of gleeful misanthropy!
In case you've missed it, my recent post on alleged anti-Semitism in "The Passion," which featured a demand that those who were whipping people into a frenzy over the supposed danger now show us evidence that they were right, has led to where all such discussions must ultimately lead: jokes and puns about "Gilligan's Island."

Feel free to skipper on over there and join in.
In St. Louis, a Boeing engineer is working to have the theory of Intelligent Design taught to students alongside Darwinian evolution in public school science classes.

This article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch is perhaps the most well-informed, well-balanced article on this subject that I've ever seen in the mainstream media. The guy who wrote it ought to win an award just for fairness, which is usually hard to come by when the media treats "religious" issues.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Occasionally, I get some flashes of insight into what enrages my paleoconservative friends about inauthentic conservatism.

Such is the case recently in a discussion I've been having over at PunditFilter (a site I really like, by the way) with some folks about the Locke v. Davey case.

One of the correspondents there was decrying the decision against Davey as a travesty of religious freedom. I disagreed, pointing out that the duly-enacted Washington state constitution specifically disallows taxpayer money to fund religious study, and that there is no constitutional right to scholarship money, and that the Supreme Court's ordering the funding of these scholarships would be the height of the judicial activism that all conservatives ought to oppose.

To my chagrin, I've found that some self-styled conservatives really have no interest in reasoning through this; they know the end they desired, and like the Left, would see it imposed by any means neccessary--including judicial fiat.

One correspondent said:
I don't think anyone would have seen a different Court ruling in favor of the scholarship as "rewriting the democratically-enacted constitution of the state." Instead it would have been upholding those freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. It wouldn't have overruled the people, it would have protected their rights, as it should. Instead, with its decision, the Supreme Court is re-writing law in this case, ignoring the US constitution in favor of a misinterpretation of a state constitution.
First of all, however it may be "seen" is irrelavant to me, and irrelevant to the case.

But beyond that, this seems like Orwellian double-speak to me. The claim here is that a ruling in favor of Davey would have protected the rights of Washingtonians by denying them the provisions of the state constitution they enacted. In other words, it would have protected them from themselves, a concept with which the Left regularly rules.

Furthermore, no actual provision of the U.S. Constitution is cited in support of the "freedom" of tax-funded religious education it allegedly guarantees.

And to top it off, it is alleged that the U.S. Supreme Court is "re-writing law in this case," despite the fact that there is no right to scholarships in the U.S. Constitution that I can find (though you'll probably begin to hear it in lots of John Kerry stump speeches), and that the constitution of the state of Washington bans such funding.

I pointed out that we conservatives ought to be consistent. Conservatism means something. It is against over-centralization. It is for local government. We supported Roy Moore in his battle against the federal court. Do we want constitutional change by judicial fiat or don't we?

Another correspondent said that I ought not to "[lump] conservatives into the same basket":
Not all of us supported Moore and his thumbing his nose at the federal court.

Personally, I don't think this is a state's matter because it cuts to the core of religious freedom. When that's curtailed, it transcends states rights and becomes a federal issue, period.
This person claims the label of conservative, but whatever philosophy this is, it isn't conservatism.

Roy Moore is said to have "thumbed his nose" at a federal court because he believed they had no right, citing no law whatsoever, to order him to not acknowledge God. Yet self-styled "conservatives" evidently believe that we are not a nation of laws, but rather a nation of men who tell us what the law is.

Of course, these lofty-sounding (though radically unconstitutional) notions of "greater freedom" and "transcendance" are precisely the same reason we've now had Roe v. Wade for the last 30 years. The reasoning is exactly the same as that on the Left--that some issues are just to big to let the unwashed masses decide.

Such "conservatives" have allowed the Left to formulate the mechanism for social engineering, and they only want to take their own turn at the wheel every now and again. They've allowed the Left to choose the city, stadium, and boundaries of the field that the game will be played on, and then label temselves "conservative" because they think they've chosen the correct color uniform.

So, to my paleoconservative friends, let me say: I think I understand now what you feel when you think you see Statism disguised as conservatism.
Whatever your opinion about George W. Bush, the so-called "furor" over his campaign ad (which briefly alludes to 9-11) is nonsense.

If the commercial were blatantly fear-mongering or sensationalizing 9-11, the detractors might have a point. But to claim that the President ought not to reference it at all during the campaign is ridiculous. Did FDR never mention World War II in a campaign?

The fact is, 9-11 happened during George W. Bush's presidency. The fact is, it changed this country. And the fact is, it has a great deal to do with the future of the country. To say that the Bush campaign cannot legitimately raise the issue as a defnining moment in the Bush presidency, or can't ask who we would want to be president in a 9-11 situation, is absurd.

The "furor" only confirms what had been murmered all along: Democrats see Bush as being one lucky fella for getting to be president when 9-11 happened. Many of them were openly lamenting that Bill Clinton never had an "opportunity" for a moment like that. They'd love for terrorism to be ruled out as an issue in the campaign because its an issue they get killed on. They dread the thought of anyone asking of their candidate, "Would you want this man to be president if a 9-11-type attack occurred again?"

They know that even they wouldn't have wanted Al Gore to be president on September 11, 2001. Thus, they need to have the issue declared out of bounds in order to get their next guy elected.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The Gibson movie has now been viewed by millions of Americans. Yet last night on cable, I still saw the usual suspects (Shmuley Boteach, etc.) claiming that the film is dangerous.

It seems to me that those who have been crying "wolf" on anti-Semitism had now better put up or shut up. At this point, any claim that "The Passion" is "dangerous" or "anti-Semitic" or could lead to "unintended consequences" should be met with a demand for proof.

Where are the acts of violence? Where are the mobs of people looking to spill Jewish (or any other) blood? Is it time yet to admit you were simply wrong? If not now, when?
Our long national nightmare has ended: Discoshaman has returned to blogging!

Monday, March 01, 2004

David Frum posted a column over at National Review Online yesterday that infuriated me. Like so many others, he accused Mel Gibson of anti-Semitism while at the same time denying that he's doing it.

His particular beef is with how Gibson answered a question put to him by Diane Sawyer regarding his views on the Holocaust. He says he has friends with numbers tatooed on their arms, and says that there were atrocities committed, and that Jews were among the tens of millions of people who were killed during World War II.

Frum's problem was with what Gibson did not say:
Note that Gibson did not say, "Don't be absurd, Peggy. Obviously it is a matter of historical record that Adolph Hitler and the Nazis deliberately murdered millions of Jews." Note that Gibson did not cite the universally accepted casualty count of between 5 and 6 million Jewish fatalities. Nor did he acknowledge that Jews were special targets of Hitler's hatred or that anti-Semitism occupied a central place in Hitler's ideology.

Note next that Gibson did not use the word "murder." Instead, he used the generic term "atrocities," which could cover anything from mass murder to assault and arson. And whatever was the point of that strange formulation, "Some of them were Jews..."?
I'm not a "letters to the editor" kind of guy (believe it or not), but I couldn't hold back. I sent the following email to Frum:
Dear Mr. Frum,

I appreciate your work a great deal, but I must say that your National Review Online diary of February 29th ("Passionata") was full of the kind of political correctness run amok that NRO usually (rightly) stands against.

Instead of taking someone's words at face value, we must now try to psychoanalyze him through his phraseology; His plain statements are reinterpreted in light of his ambiguous statements, rather than vice versa. If he does not formulate his thoughts using precisely the accepted and approved verbiage (even if he states the same thought in essence), he is anathema.

First let me say (because in this ridiculous climate, we evidently have to say it specifically, or we are immediately tagged as unorthodox) that I believe that the Nazis murdered between 5 and 6 million Jews in concentration camps in World War II, that it was an act of incomprehensible evil, and that it was carried out intentionally by Hitler and his minions as a result of Hitler's racist philosophy. I renounce it, I hate it, and I think every last one of them should be (or should have been) prosecuted to the nth degree.

I truly believe that, but I resent that I am also required to say it in exactly those words in order to conform and avoid the charge of anti-Semitism. Why? Because merely by questioning the treatment Gibson has received, I open myself to the charge, and evidently only the approved language will vindicate me. Heaven help me if I express the same thought in different words. Nothing else will then matter.

So. Mel Gibson does not use those words. He refers to the Holocaust instead as an "atrocity." The word comes from "atrocious," which, according to my dictionary means, "extremely wicked, brutal, or cruel." Do you really mean to imply that Gibson believes the acts of the Nazis against Jews were "extremely wicked, brutal, and cruel," but that they were not murder? Is it not possible that Gibson actually means exactly what he said--that the acts of the Nazis against Jews were wicked, brutal, and cruel? Is to affirm this to be a "Holocaust denier"? Has Gibson ever done anything to forfeit the simple benefit of the doubt? Must he (and everyone else) spend their lives proving a negative--that they do not harbor feelings of anti-Semitism?

You essentially accuse Gibson of playing the same game that the Holocaust deniers do by using carefully chosen language to obscure his true belief while seeming to tentatively affirm the opposite. And yet that's precisely what you do with Gibson! You spend much of the column comparing him with Holocaust deniers, and then you disingenuously say that you are not accusing him of being a Holocaust denier. You claim that you are not lumping him in with that group, and then imply (using an argument from silence) that he must be.

In your column, you actually run through a specific litany that Gibson (or presumably anyone else) will have to cite in order to pass muster with you and be pronounced free of anti-Semitism. You even go so far as to delineate specific wording that he must abide by. It is not enough for him to say that the Holocaust was an abomination. If he fails to cite specific numbers, motives, and tenets of the philosophy of Adolph Hitler, he is an anti-Semite, case closed. He is pilloried for what he (supposedly) fails to say, and what he does say is viewed with unmerited suspicion. You are searching for "code words" with the tenacity of a Jesse Jackson or a Noam Chomsky.

If this is not a play straight out of the Political Correctness Handbook, I don't know what is. The totalitarian enforcers of Political Correctness say, "Express the same thoughts that we do, exactly the same way that we do, with no deviation. If you fail to do this, you will be labeled as evil. Period." And that is exactly what you (and others) have done with Gibson. The difference is: I would have expected it from the others, but not from you.

This is a game for Leftists; any conservative who plays it should be ashamed of himself.

I respect you, but I am very disappointed.

John Rabe
Taranto gives me a shout-out (along with dozens of others) in the credits section of Friday's "Best of the Web Today" column. I had sent him a quote from Maureen Dowd's recent travesty of a column.

If I hadn't previously been irredeemably tainted in the eyes of the paleocons, that ought to do it....
We arrived back from New York late last night after an incredible weekend. It's amazing both how much you can pack into 48 hours, and how much is still left undone after that time. I couldn't live in Manhattan, but what a great place to visit.

On Sunday morning, we attended Redeemer Presbyterian Church (thanks for the heads-up, Jane D.) which meets at several different points in Manhattan (since they aspire to have very local congregations, rather than one megachurch). The service we attended was at the Hunter College Auditorium on the Upper East Side about two blocks from Central Park. Much to my suprise, there were probably 1500 people there.

It was an incredible encouragement to see a thriving, growing, Bible-believing congregation in the heart of New York City. After a few days of walking around, you can start to get the feeling that you're the only one. Tim Keller and the foks there are being used in a tremendous work.
Mel Gibson's movie has divided people many different ways. Some have accused the film of anti-Semitism; this has provoked a firestorm of reaction from those who are tired of such specious charges.

Some Christians are treating the film as if it were a sacrament; other Christians scolds are using it as yet another opportunity to look down their noses at the unwashed masses of their fellow Christians who are interested in seeing the film. (Ironically, these are many of the same ultra-Christians who are always carping about the modern lack of Christian art.) Most of this particular group would be shouting about the film from the rooftops if they could only be assured that nobody else would actually see it; their defining belief is that "popular" always and neccessarily equals "bad."

Some Protestants oppose it because it's too Catholic. Some Catholics oppose it because it's too Protestant.

Still others seem to oppose it simply because "it focuses on the last hours of Christ, rather than on his teachings." These are the folks who see Christ's crucifiction along the lines of the Kennedy or King assasinations--the unfortunate and marring end to what might have been a good life and philosophy until that point. These are the ones who fail to understand Christ's self-stated mission for coming into the world--not to teach a philosophy, but to give his life as a ransom.

Yet with all of those divisions, the film made something like $117 million this weekend. Controversy alone won't do that; Scorcese's "Last Temptation of Christ" was highly controversial, and didn't even break double-digits. Someone is evidently going to see it. For better or for worse, Mel Gibson's film is a cultural event.

Because of that, I saw "The Passion of the Christ" on Friday.

I found it to be a very good film. Not without flaws, not a transforming religious experience (which would be a bad thing for a movie to be anyway), but a very good film.

First, to address the two issues that everyone is curious about:

1). The anti-Semitism charge as laughable. If anything, the film ought to be protested by the Italian Anti-Defamation League. Throughout the film, it is the Romans who come off as the bloodthirsty, sadistic, hardened malefactors. One could hardly help but notice that the cast credits at the end of this supposedly "anti-Semitic" movie were made up almost entirely of Italian names. Gibson's picture simply addresses the undeniable historical fact that Christ was crucified by Jews and Romans (the people who were there) 2000 years ago.

2). Yes, the violence is disturbing and graphic. But none of it was gratuitous (in my opinion), and the notion expressed by Roger Ebert (in a highly positive review) that this is the "most violent film ever" is simply nonsense. "Saving Private Ryan" was more violent, as was every Tarantino film. DePalma's "Scarface" (made about 20 years ago) is much more gratuitously violent, as was Oliver Stone's "Platoon" and "Natural Born Killers." After the breathless reports from the critics about the violence of "The Passion," I had steeled myself for something like "Pulp Fiction." It just isn't like that.

As for the movie itself, the longer I've had to think about it since I watched it, the more it impresses me. It is a brutal depiction of a brutal event. But Gibson has the guts to put them into context (notwithstanding the clueless objections of some critics), and he makes clear all the way through that this is happening for a purpose.

The charge that Gibson ignores the life of Christ is misguided; all of Christ's major teachings are represented in wonderful flashbacks, which are both some of the best moments in the film and needed respite for the audience from the brutality that is being inflicted. But the movie makes no apologies for focusing on Christ's Passion, which was His mission on Earth. Gibson presents these facts as one who has a personal stake in them, rather than as dispassionate (no pun intended) biography. In this day and age, that takes a lot of courage and boldness. The film takes more interest in the relationship between the intense suffering of Christ and horrific nature our sin than any other movie I've ever seen.

I'm told that Gibson put some "Catholic" things in the film, but as a Reformed Protestant I found little to object to from that standpoint. The character of Mary, the mother of Christ, is handled wonderfully, and Gibson resists the urge to run off on a superstitious tangent with her.

There were some things I thought didn't work. The confrontation between the Roman soldiers and the disciples in the garden of Gesthemene plays out like a scene in an action film--Romans punching disciples and disciples punching Romans with traditional movie-fight sound effects. I also thought some of the devices used to portray the presence of Satan and his demons tended toward the cheesy (though in a relativistic culture, I commend Gibson for having the courage to portray evil as real and personal).

But this film has an aftertaste, and it makes it better upon reflection. Much is made of the harrowing violence of the film, but it's often overlooked (even by Christian critics) that it has a happy ending. Some have dismissed Gibson's depiction of the resurrection as "merely 30 seconds at the end of two hours of savagery." I found it to be just right. After two hours of the most merciless, horrific, orgiastic infliction of punishment and death on Christ, it is all wiped away in a moment; all the frenzied beatings and calculated tortures have come to naught as Christ simply rises and walks out of His grave.

If you are concerned that a graphic portrayal of the passion of Christ might violate the Second Commandment, or you are concerned about the violence, obey your conscience and do not see it. Films ought not to be "religious experiences" per se. This movie should not be considered some sort of means to a spiritual result. That's what your church, your pastor, and your Bible are about. But if you lament the 21st century's dearth of authentic Christian art, you should consider seeing it. It could go a long way towards dispelling that poverty.