Thursday, June 30, 2005

Our Objective News Media

I enjoyed this headline on today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel website:

"Gov. Bush's approval rating holds--despite meddling in Schiavo case"

Yup, it's a news story. No pejorative there.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Thou Shalt Not...Reason

After stumbling a bit in the medical marijuana case (where he went against his textualist interpretation of the Constitution to find a basis for overruling Oregon's medical marijuana laws in the interstate commerce clause), Justice Antonin Scalia seems to be back on track, issuing a wonderful dissent from today's inane McCreary County ruling.

The majority ruled to outlaw Ten Commandments displays in McCreary County, Kentucky courthouses on the reasoning that government is prohibited not only from establishing a religion, but from even preferring religion over non-religion. That, of course, is idiocy that Scalia dismantles with a flourish. He extensively catalogues the actions of the Founders in advocating religion, and then asks:
With all of this reality (and much more) staring it in the face, how can the Court possibly assert that " 'the First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between ... religion and nonreligion,' " and that "[m]anifesting a purpose to favor . . . adherence to religion generally," is unconstitutional? Who says so? Surely not the words of the Constitution. Surely not the history and traditions that reflect our society's constant understanding of those words. Surely not even the current sense of our society, recently reflected in an Act of Congress adopted unanimously by the Senate and with only 5 nays in the House of Representatives, criticizing a Court of Appeals opinion that had held "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. Nothing stands behind the Court's assertion that governmental affirmation of the society's belief in God is unconstitutional except the Court's own say-so, citing as support only the unsubstantiated say-so of earlier Courts going back no farther than the mid-20th century. [Gibberish legal abbreviations, citations, and footnotes deleted.]
As has been the case for years now, the Supreme Court demonstrates with nearly every opinion that it is merely exercising arbitrary authority, with no basis in the laws or the Constitution, and by principles which nobody can discern. (If anyone disputes this, I absolutely defy him to explain to me a scenario in which I could publicly display the Ten Commandments in a way that would be guaranteed to pass Supreme Court muster if the ACLU decided to challenge me on it, based on today's conflicting rulings.)

Scalia (who at one point says that this ruling "ratchet[s] up the Court's hostility to religion") decries this tendency, saying:
What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle. That is what prevents judges from ruling now this way, now that--thumbs up or thumbs down--as their personal preferences dictate. Today's opinion forthrightly (or actually, somewhat less than forthrightly) admits that it does not rest upon consistently applied principle. In a revealing footnote, the Court acknowledges that the "Establishment Clause doctrine" it purports to be applying "lacks the comfort of categorical absolutes." What the Court means by this lovely euphemism is that sometimes the Court chooses to decide cases on the principle that government cannot favor religion, and sometimes it does not. The footnote goes on to say that "[i]n special instances we have found good reason" to dispense with the principle, but "[n]o such reasons present themselves here." It does not identify all of those "special instances," much less identify the "good reason" for their existence. [Legal gibberish again removed]
This is an aggressively secular Court that continues to rule by mere fiat--the very essence of tyranny. Remember that when the big Supreme Court nomination battle comes up.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Cruising For A Bruising

Okay, I gave Tom Cruise a hard time the other day (I'm sure he's devastated), but fairness demands I have to give him credit where he's due.

He' right: psychiatry is a pseudoscience. Any intelligent person who does even a cursory study of the history and methodology of psychiatry will discover this very quickly, as Cruise encouraged the nitwitted Matt Lauer to do.

I think that Cruise's Scientolgy is the most silly, whacked-out religion on the face of the earth today. And I also happen to find almost everything about him extremely annoying. But even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut, and psychiatry is the nut Cruise has found. We now have a pill to "cure" every emotional state that's not blissfully happy, yet we've never been more of a mess as a people.

No doubt there are people who have probably felt better after receiving psychiatric treatment. Just as there are people who have felt better after a chiropractic treatment. It still doesn't make either less pseudoscientific.

(Why can I already tell in advance that I'll manage to offend almost everyone with this?)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Reflections On An Autopsy

It would be hard not to notice the deafening silence coming from evangelicals and pro-life activists in the wake of the release of Terri Schiavo's autopsy report last week. Even I myself have been silent (though I would plead my absence from the internet last week as an excuse). It's as if everyone suddenly shrugged, said "Oops, my bad," and hid in a corner hoping the whole thing would go a way.

Wesley J. Smith is great tonic for that sort of thinking. I interviewed him for radio a little earlier today, and for my money there's nobody better on these issues.

Smith's answer to handwringing "were we wrong?" pro-life activists is: suck it up, get some backbone, quit simpering, and continue the pro-life fight.

"I didn't learn anything I didn't already know from the autopsy report," Smith said. "What did we learn? That this was a woman who was profoundly disabled. We didn't expect that she was going to get out of her bed and join the cheerleading squad." He asked: why would any pro-lifer suddenly doubt his own position because of the autopsy?"

The bottom line, said Smith, is this: either human life is inherently valuable, or it isn't. The so-called "bioethics" establishment has determined that there is such a thing as unworthy human life. Their judgement is a philosophical one, but they couch it in scientific and medical verbiage in an attempt to wall it off from you and me, as if only specialists are equipped to make judgements on the matter. But there is no scientific test for value.

Ethics cannot be measured in a test tube. Ethics are not--indeed must not be--the exclusive province of scientists. Regardless of Terri's cognitive skills, either she was an intrinsically valuable human life or she wasn't. All attempts to define humanity in terms of cognition ultimately lead to Nazi-esque (yes, I said "Nazi"--and it's appropriate here) atrocities. The "bioethicist" can call that overstated; what he cannot do is articulate a coherent principle that allows people like Terri to be killed while protecting six-month old babies or Alzheimer's patients or anyone deemed undesirable by powerful people.

Smith said that the pro-life movement should be proud of it's involvement in the Terri case, not ashamed. In a world where even conscious people can have food and water withheld, the voice of pro-life activists brought this case to the notice of even the President of the United States, and it resulted in a bipartisan (remember that when Democrats try to use it as a campaign issue) congressional effort to save her.

Defending Terri was the right thing to do. It was right then, and it's right now. She was a human being with intrinsic value, and she died just as you or I would die if food and water were withheld from us. It was never more than an assertion from an extremely dubious source that Terri "wanted to die." If our value as humans is based on our cognitive abilities, then we are not inherently valuable. And if we are inherently valuable, our value is not based on our cognitive abilities. There's no via media.

Pro-lifers need to take their tails out from between their legs, understand what they're fighting for, and get back in the battle again.

It's Better To Burn Out...

Today Pyromaniac, which I recently called one of the most satisfying stops on my blogroll, becomes even more satisfying as Phil Johnson finally notices me noticing him. Or something like that.

Blogspotting around the web (which James White says Phil has made a national pastime) for other people who've linked to me this week, I find:

...Nope, it's pretty much just Phil.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Around The Horn

  • The Therapist has the rundown on Katie Couric's interview with runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks:
    One insider also noted that the televised interview would show a side previously unseen by the public: the fact that Wilbanks indeed has eyelids.

    “It’s our job to get these things out,” he said. ‘And nobody can elicit a bilateral display of eyelids better than Katie Couric.”
  • The American Film Institute has released it's list of the top 100 movie quotes of all time. "Caddyshack" slid into number 92 with Carl Spackler's imaginary, flower-chopping, Masters "Cinderella story" valedictory. So he's got that going for him, which is nice. However, "Fletch" makes zero appearances, rendering the entire list a sham. Perhaps the voters were just trying to get a bird's-eye view.
  • My 12-year-old son's baseball team won their league championship recently, cruising to a 15-1 season record. You can read all about it (including my son's single in the title game) at the Miami Herald (free registration required). Mom and Dad bought five of the hard copies.
  • I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy who wrote that new Hillary book. Everybody seems to hate it, conservatives and liberals alike. All sides are fleeing from it like kids at birthday party Michael Jackson just walked into.

    Now even the photographer who took the highly publicized photo of Clinton apparently mouth-kissing a supporter is taking umbrage. Photos taken by that same guy at the same time seem to show that the kiss was not a mouth-kiss and clearly taken out of context by the book's author. I don't know what everyone's getting so huffy about, though. I mean, in light of the liberal defense of the "60 Minutes" National Guard memos, can't we just say that the Clinton-kiss photo, while not technically accurate, points to a "deeper truth"?
And that's how we play "Around the Horn." Thank you, and drive safely.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"Cinderella Man"

During the vacation, I caught the new Ron Howard/Russell Crowe film "Cinderella Man." It was, a little to my surprise, the best film I've seen in 2005.

Going in, I figured "Well, it's a boxing picture," though I hoped with Ron Howard involved there would prove to be more to it than that. My faith was well-founded.

The riches-to-rags-to-riches story of Depression-era fighter James J. Braddock is an incredible one, and "Cinderella Man" makes one wonder what took Hollywood so long to grab onto it. The first third of the film drags a little, but the story is so compelling that it picks up steam quickly. No doubt dramatic liberties have been taken with the story (and heavyweight champ Max Baer is portrayed as such a cad that you wonder if his son Jethro is going to sue everyone involved), but it's been a long time since such an inspirational, unabashedly optimistic movie came down the pike.

Crowe once again proves himself (concierge-battering aside) to be perhaps his generation's finest actor, fully inhabiting the role of the quietly iron-willed Braddock. There hasn't been an actor more capable of losing his star identity inside a character since De Niro in his late 70-'s early 80's heyday.

Of course, there's a lot of boxing violence in the film, but don't let that scare you away if that's not your thing; my wife gets queasy over any movie violence, and yet she went nuts for this flick. We'd even go back and take our kids to it were it not for its profusion of flagrant violations of the Third Commandment (mostly via Paul Giamatti, who plays Braddock's manager). Hopefully they'll go back in and clean it up for a broadcast version someday.

The film's underlying message, and it's portrayal of Braddock's faithfulness to his family and integrity, is almost counter-cultural in this day and age. With the caveats about violence and profanity noted, I highly recommend "Cinderella Man."

An Open Letter To Tom Cruise

Dear Tom,

Stop it, already. Please. Seriously.

John Rabe

Monday, June 20, 2005

That's A Winner

I was in St. Louis for my sister's wedding last week, and as you can tell things were busy enough that I never once encountered the Internet. I'll be traveling to Tanzania, Africa on July 2nd for two weeks, so I suppose last week will be good practice for nothing but dead silence here, since I don't expect to encounter lots of internet connections where I'll be.

One of the highlights of the week in St. Louis was watching the Cardinals' come-from-behind victory over the hated New York Yankees, spurred by a pinch-hit home run from unknown former Yankees farm hand Scott Seabol. He knocked it out literally seconds after I turned to my son and said, "Never heard of 'im." We were fortunate enough to have seats close enough where Alex Rodriguez could actually hear me calling him a loser as he returned to the dugout after striking out. Good times.

For the uninitiated, it's hard to describe how integral the Cardinals are to St. Louis, and how one hasn't really officially visited the town without attending a baseball game there.

While in town (since in St. Louis one's mind turns to baseball), I had the time to read the new book Three Nights in August, by Buzz Bissinger. Bissinger, a Pulitzer prize winner and author of the heralded Texas high school football odyssey Friday Night Lights, has written a delightful, must-read tome for any baseball fan. Though it focuses on a crucial series between the Cardinals and the Cubs during the 2003 season, the book is really timeless, dealing with strategy, triumph, and tragedy through the eyes of Tony La Russa, one of the game's most successful and enigmatic managers. The chapter on the strategy of the bean ball is alone worth the price of the book.

And of course there were Belly Bombers. Lots of Belly Bombers.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Smells Like....Something

Lost in the media coverage of Russell Crowe's appearance Wednesday night's "Late Show with David Letterman" (in the wake of his arrest for attacking a hotel worker with a phone) was the most disturbing celebrity incident in recent years:

Paul Anka crooned Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with a big band ensemble.

The words to describe how creepy it was elude me. See and hear for yourself, if you dare.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


  • Our long national nightmare is over again, hopefully for good. Discoshaman is back in the saddle.
  • As you know, I enjoy putting together lists of people I can't believe are still alive. The other day, I realized Art Linkletter is still alive. This whole category should be named for him. He came and spoke at my high school in 1987, and he seemed like he was about 85 then.
  • I'll be seeing what will probably be my last game at St. Louis's Busch Stadium this Sunday (unless I get another unexpected trip to the World Series this year...), as they take on the hated New York Yankees.

    There are a lot of memories in that place. I watched everyone from Bob Gibson to Matt Morris pitch there. I heard the place rumble with "Looooooou" when Hall of Famer Lou Brock would come to the plate. I saw Ozzie Smith own the 90 feet between second and third base for 15 seasons (and watched him hit the shocking game-winning homer off Tom Niedenfuer in game five of the '85 NLCS). I saw the Cardinals win the 1982 World Series there, and my son and I watched the Boston Red Sox win their first Series in 86 years there. I first stepped into a Major League clubhouse and dugout there.

    The stadium, with its 96 distinctive arches at the top, will be demolished at the end of the season to make way for the Cardinals' new ballpark, which is set to debut on Opening Day 2006. I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss that place.
  • That reminds me: There's never been a better defensive shortstop than Ozzie Smith. Ever. All you "but what about Cal Ripken?" people can forget it. Cal was terrific, but the likes of Ozzie have never been seen in Major League Baseball. Ever.
  • Justin Taylor of Desiring God Ministries (the ministry of one of my heroes, John Piper), has launched one of the most consistently informative and interesting Christian blogs on the 'Net. Well worth bookmarking.
  • Same goes for Phil Johnson (except the part about working for John Piper--Phil works with John MacArthur). His new blog, Pyromaniac, launched only a week or two ago, has become one of the most satisfying stops on my daily blogroll.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Not Much For Fancy Book-Learnin'

This story about John Kerry's Yale grades is almost too easy, but liberals have been so insufferable about this stuff throughout the first Bush term that I just can't resist.

The headlines are interesting. "Kerry, Bush had similar grades," says CNN. "Kerry's Yale grades similar to Bush's," announces Yahoo.

Of course, the part they leave out of the headline is "...similar, though Bush's were better."

Neither was much of a scholar, but evidently "frat-boy" Bush got one D grade at Yale, while "genius" Kerry hauled in four of them. Kerry's cumulative average for his Yale career was also one point short of Bush's. I suppose it's all evidence of that great Kerry "intellectual curiosity" we heard so much about.

Remember those rumor emails Democrats used to send around claiming that Bush had one of the lowest IQ's in the history of the presidency? One wonders where such a scale would place Kerry, who earned D's in history and political science. (But hey, what does a president need to know about history and political science?)

As most have known all along, the difference between Kerry and Bush isn't that Kerry is much smarter than Bush (since by objective standards he's actually dumber); it's that he's much more a snob than Bush. Kerry is the very embodiment of the pseudo-intellectual.

I'm just glad this story didn't come out during a Kerry presidency, embarassing us before the U.N. and our betters in the world community. It would be horrible to have our European allies laughing at us knowing we had an idiot for a leader.

Memo To Traffic Reporters

Automobile accidents are inanimate objects. They do not have personality nor force of will.

This would seem rather obvious, but I feel the need to mention it since more and more traffic reporters I hear on the radio are adopting the odd tendency to personify car accidents.

Not a radio traffic report goes by anymore where I don't hear the guy say "There's an accident trying to clear on the ramp to I-95..." or "there's an accident working at the intersection of Commercial...."

Accidents don't clear, and they don't work. They don't do anything. Sure, perhaps one could say an accident is "causing a delay" or "tying things up." But an accident can't "clear" anything, and it certainly can't "work" anything.

Cops "clear" and "work" accidents. To put it in NRA language, cars don't clear accidents; people clear accidents. The accidents themselves would just sit there forever if left on their own.

Let's straighten this out, folks. Thank you for your prompt attention.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Buchanan Goes Apes*** on Mark Felt

Pat Buchanan lets the invective fly against Mark Felt in his syndicated column today, sneering:
And so the great mystery, "Who was Deep Throat?" reaches its anticlimax. He turns out to be a toady who oversaw black bag jobs for J. Edgar, violated his oath and, out of malice and spite, leaked the fruits of an honest FBI investigation to the nest of Nixon-haters over on 15th Street, then lied about it for 30 years.
As if Buchanan would have been happier had it been Al Haig or Len Garment.

The Nixon loyalists have hated "Deep Throat" for 30-plus years, mainly because they're justifiably angry at how Nixon's presidency ended and see Woodward's source as being partially responsible for it. But until now they lacked a flesh and blood person toward whom to direct the animosity. One gets the sense they would have grabbed a rock to hurl at whomever it turned out to be, even if it was Bob Haldeman himself.

Buchanan's evidently been nursing a long, long grudge, and takes the opportunity to air it out:
...[B]y [Nixon's] failure to act decisively and ruthlessly to clean his campaign and White House of loyalists who had blundered and, yes, committed crimes, he became ensnared in a cover-up that would destroy his presidency. He gave them a sword, and they ran it right through him. And when he went down, Southeast Asia and everything 58,000 Americans had bled and died for went down with him.

And that is upon the conscience of us all.
No, Pat, it's on the conscience of all of you in the administration who actively covered up crimes.

Felt is no hero. But this is over the top. The mythology of Nixon-as-aggrieved-good-guy simply won't cut it--we've all heard the tapes. We know who he was. This was not a good man.

He wasn't taken down by "Deep Throat," the Washington Post, or anyone else. Nixon is responsible for whatever happened in Vietnam after he peed his administration away. He was taken down by his own inherent smallness. He was a tortured man obsessed with his perceived enemies, and no detail was too small in the effort to destroy them. That's the unmistakable picture painted even by Nixon's friends.

It's unquestionable that the media is disgustingly basking in its own perceived past glory. And Felt is, at best, basically weasely. But to place every negative consequence that occured as a result of Nixon's resignation at the feet of Mark Felt is simply ridiculous. Nixon could have held his presidency at almost any point along the way by simply coming clean--something he was pathologically, constitutionally unable to do.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Design In The Details

Today's Washington Post has the piece that's been 33 years in the making: "How Mark Felt Became 'Deep Throat'" by Bob Woodward.

It's an utterly fascinating account that shows how even the big things are made up only of lots of small things. Woodward met Mark Felt by chance while on an errand (as a Navy aide to Adm. Thomas Moorer) delivering a package to the White House:
Felt and I were like two passengers sitting next to each other on a long airline flight with nowhere to go and nothing really to do but resign ourselves to the dead time. He showed no interest in striking up a long conversation, but I was intent on it. I finally extracted from him the information that he was an assistant director of the FBI in charge of the inspection division, an important post under Director J. Edgar Hoover. That meant he led teams of agents who went around to FBI field offices to make sure they were adhering to procedures and carrying out Hoover's orders. I later learned that this was called the "goon squad."

Here was someone at the center of the secret world I was only glimpsing in my Navy assignment, so I peppered him with questions about his job and his world. As I think back on this accidental but crucial encounter -- one of the most important in my life -- I see that my patter probably verged on the adolescent. Since he wasn't saying much about himself, I turned it into a career-counseling session.

I was deferential, but I must have seemed very needy. He was friendly, and his interest in me seemed somehow paternal. Still the most vivid impression I have is that of his distant but formal manner, in most ways a product of Hoover's FBI. I asked Felt for his phone number, and he gave me the direct line to his office.
I suppose I've bought into the mythology that's developed over the last 30-plus years even more than I thought, since the entire time I was reading the article I kept thinking "I can't believe I'm actually reading a piece by Bob Woodward thoroughly detailing his relationship with 'Deep Throat.'"

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

And Bigfoot's Just A Guy In A Monkey Suit

As a geeky Watergate buff, I was fascinated by all the coverage last night on the news networks regarding the "Deep Throat" story. I was also disappointed that I hardly knew anything about Mark Felt, let alone suspected him.

Though Felt was obviously in a position to know a lot of details, I had always assumed the informant was someone inside the White House--a notion I think Woodward did much to encourage. It's a bit anticlimactic to find out that it had been a relatively minor character in the whole affair.

Just for fun, I grabbed some of my Watergate books off the shelf last night to see what they'd have to say about Felt. Here's what I found:
  • Abuse of Power by Stanley Cutler: This book is mainly transcripts of Nixon's infamous recorded conversations. Felt's name briefly comes up four or five times, and he is specifically suspected by Nixon, Haldeman, et. al. of leaking information to the press. This is the most significant mention I found.
  • The Wars of Watergate by Stanley Cutler: Felt is not mentioned.
  • Watergate by Fred Emery: A couple of brief, inconsequential mentions. Noted mainly for his desire to succeed J. Edgar Hoover.
  • The Haldeman Diaries by H.R. Haldeman: Felt is not mentioned, at least in the abridged, print version.
  • RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon by Richard Nixon: Felt is not mentioned.
  • The Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers: Felt receives one brief mention.
All in all a minor character. An observer. Certainly not a "player" in any sense, at least with regard to the White House. How disappointing.

It would be hard to see Felt as some sort of American hero. After all, even he seems to realize there was some shame in his leaking to the press. For over 30 years he's insisted that it wasn't him, even adding that what "Deep Throat" did wasn't all that honorable.

On the other hand, I'm a little suprised at the vigor with which he's been attacked over the last 24 hours by Nixon loyalists (many of whom I like a great deal, like Pat Buchanan and Gordon Liddy). The Nixon Administration was one of the most corrupt in history, and they deserved everything they got. If anyone saw that kind of wrongdoing going on, he ought to have spoken up, though perhaps not immediately to the media.

In the end, "Deep Throat" turned out to be neither some embroiled crusader for justice nor some high-level Machiavelian misanthrope. Instead he was just a worker bee, miffed that he didn't get a promotion. And perhaps that's why the mystery was so much more fun than the solution.