Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Big Religion: 1984 Religion Style

Greg Myers and her daughter apparently believe that the school should impose their moral values upon those who do not live in agreement by them if this slanted news release issued by the American Family Association is to be believed. Now what did Mr. Myers say?

"
This hasn't got anything to do with whether or not a young man can get a position on campus, whether or not he can hold a job, whether or not he can do business with the university," the concerned parent continues. "It doesn't have anything to do with that. It's simply a lifestyle decision that these people make, and it's obviously not the right one."

Oh. Okay. So obvious that one who disagrees must be really stupid to think differently. The vision they have concerning the state's power over religion is not that far off from view of the communists' power over the economy and the vision of the party of power in George Orwell's fictionalized portrayal of a dictatorship in 1984.

If you want to object to their simple "lifestyle," fine. That is your First Amendment constitutional right. We can ignore you, agree with you, or shout back at you but don't have the government impose those your "lifestyle" choices on the rest of us.







Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Conningham.

Buh-Bye. No tears need be shed for Representative Randy "'Duke" Cunningham as he moves from his McMansion to a jail cell. The "Duke" purchased his $2.55 million in Rancho Santa Fe after selling his Del Mar house for $1.675 million to a defense contractor at what was probably an overinflated price since that contractor sold the house for $700,000 less than that (and because the former Congressman sat on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee). May he rot for the next 10 years in prison Mitchell J. Wade, the defense contractor he sold the house too, in the same jail cell.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ruth Marcus' Truth Squad on Being Constitutionally Fair and Balanced

Ruth Marcus exposes the political hypocrasy and tyrannical impulses from those on both sides of the culture war in this article about the parental right to shield children from a sex questionnaire in Caliornia. What does Ruth say? Both sides use the law to suit their purpose. Rights are interpreted broadly when it suits them but narrowly when used to protect their political opponents.

Thank you Marcus.








Two With Ideas for the Republicans

"The proposals outlined above are hardly the only set of domestic policies that the Republican party could advance. But they are the kind of ideas that the GOP needs to explore as it moves into its second decade as America's majority party. They combine the traditional Republican faith in individual initiative and the genius of capitalism with a willingness to cultivate the habits and institutions that enable individualism and capitalism to thrive. They aim to fulfill the vision, expressed in Ronald Reagan's first Inaugural Address, of a government that would "stand by our side, not ride on our back . . . provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it." And they recognize what a group of forward-thinking British Tories have called the "And" theory of conservatism--that many of our political choices are really false choices, and that core conservative principles can go hand-in-hand with imaginative solutions to the nation's problems.

So today's Republican party should be in favor of helping recent immigrants get ahead and slowing the flow of illegal labor--in favor of providing a helping hand to the hard working poor and cutting subsidies to the idle and shiftless--in favor of a tax policy that favors the working class and the productive rich. Above all, it should be in favor of limited government, and in favor of using government's considerable power to shore up the institution that makes a limited government possible--the beleaguered but resilient American family.

Critics will carp that such a party would be trying to be too many things to too many people. But there's a term for a party that attempts this feat and succeeds: a majority party." - Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam in "The Weekly Standard"




The Holocaust Denying Historian not The Only One On Trial

"The denial of the Holocaust in a systematic public form is no 'opinion offense.' It is the attempt to dilute the essence of Nazi rule in front of a consenting or at least undecided audience and thus to turn National Socialism into something positive." - columnist Hans Raucher defending the prosecution of a holocaust denying British historian.

British historian David Irving was denied bail yesterday because he is a considered a major flight risk. Mr. Irving was arrested while speaking to a right-wing pro-Nazi student group on charges that he denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers during two speeches he made back in 1989. If convicted, he could spend the next 1 to 10 years in prison.

Mr. Irving is expected to plead guilty and express remorse, and suggest that he would admit to the gas chambers' existence and the slaughter of six million-plus Jews (he said most died of the diseases they obtained while imprisoned within the death camps).

He charged another, more reputable and less controversial historian, Deborah Lipstadt, for libel after she wrote a passage in her book calling Mr. Irving one of the most dangerous and cunning spokespersons for Holocaust denial but she was acquitted.

Austria is one of several European countries which bans people from denying the Holocaust. The fear is that, as mentioned above, such activities would portrayNational Socialism into "something positive."

But Mr. Irving, however disreputable he and his views may be, is still a historian. The state's decision to charge Mr. Irving, someone who purportedly researches, organizes and analyzes historical trends, is counterproductive and may help neo-Nazis turn him into a martyr. Holocaust-deniers will say that evidence which can strengthen their case or otherwise undermine the prevailing interpretation on the Holocaust is being suppressed at the cost of the truth.

The imprisoned historian at one time blamed Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, and not Adolf Hitler, for the slaughter of Europe's Jews. Mr. Irving was not charged for that claim because it reinforces the claim in the Holocausts' occurrence (as would the existence of such death camps, eyewitness accounts of what happened, gas chambers with nail carvings in the walls, and incincerators). I have not read any of his works but evidence he would have used to support that claim might have provided valuable insight into the inner workings of Germany's fascist party to any extent that he can provide reliable information and easily challenged when grossly inaccurate. The same could be said for those charges levied against him today.

Mr. Irving's evidence, even when not substantial enough to refute prevalent opinion, could provide valuable insight into the origins of anti-semitic opinion among soldiers at various concentration camps or into the complications which might have led otherwise hesitant Nazis to follw through on the "Final Solution."

Charging Mr. Irving is not only counterproductive; it is unseemly. Inaccurate or not, he is made a claim about what happened in the past. The authenticity of known evidence may be challenged, new documents discovered. Eyewitness testimony may be recanted and new people may step forward. Laws which pointedly single out for punishment those who challenge the prevailing knowledge undermine efforts to do just that.

Mr. Irving did nothing wrong. He did not kill any Jews, incite a riot, or rob a Jewish-owned bank. He expressed an opinion, one that is easily refutable but nevertheless only an opinion. He was arrested in Austria for violating their laws. Unless an American went over and did the same it would have no effect on us. We should be thankful and mindful that our tradition calls on us to respect the right dissent and the wisdom to know that it is through that dissent and competing theories that we arrive at the truth.











Link

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Gays and Advertising

A somewhat humorous cartoon on gays and advertising.

Dan Asmussen

China's human rights flu makes the fold in today's The Bad Reporter.


Friday, November 25, 2005

A Bishop O'Malley Split?

'There are many homosexuals out there who want to be faithful members of the church," O'Malley said. ''I don't want them to feel the church is bigoted or that we want to discriminate against anyone. . . . The stand on marriage is in defense of an institution we feel is crucial for children, family life, and society." - Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley

''Many homosexual persons in our church lead holy lives and make an outstanding contribution to the life of the church by their service, generosity and the sharing of their spiritual gifts. We must strive to eradicate prejudices against people with a homosexual orientation." - Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley - The Boston Archbishop is quoted in The Boston Globe.


I wonder if he has anything to say about the new document and its ban on celibate gays entering the priesthood. It appears as if there may be a split on whether gays who abide by the Church's moral position on homosexuality and abstain from sexual intercourse can be good Catholic priests.



Link

The Document and The Wrong Interpretation on Gay Priest Ban

I would like to thank the person who commented on the last post concerning gays in the priesthood. His site includes a link to another blogger who posted an unofficial English translation to the document. Ah, the wonder in blogging - information right at your fingertips.

The document is posted below. The writer at "Dreadnought," a self-identified gay conservative Catholic who tries to adhere to its moral principles on sexuality dismisses the anti-gay focus in the text by saying it merely rejects sex-obsessed homosexuals. This is what he says:
Time to set the lies straight:

"1 - this has nothing to do with already ordained priests;

2 - this has nothing to do with deeply pious young men who have occassionally experienced or sometimes experience same sex attraction, such men will still be ordained;

3 - this has nothing to do with defining 'homosexuality' as some third form of gender;

4 - this has something to do with avoiding this kind of evil;

5 - this has nothing to do with describing same sex attraction as a psychological disorder (the reference to disorder, possibly a shoddy translation) refers to paedophilia and other mental illnesses;

6 - this explicitly calls on seminarians to be honest, it cannot be said to encourage lying about one's sexual inclinations and thus promotes mature sexual discourse, not repression; and

7 - this is short document, given over to administrative issues, that adds nothing to the wider debate on same sex attraction and sexuality morality, rather bans:

a) sexually active men;

b) sex-obsessed men; and

c) sex-theory seduced homoactivists

from the Catholic priesthood. These same types of men, in a heterosexual context, are also banned."


I agree with him on points 1, 2, 4 and perhaps in theory point 6 (though I believe it will have the opposite effect). But my statement stands. The Church is banning people who are gay from the priesthood, not just those who are "sex-obsessed." There is no way of ducking around that. Language referring to a ban onon those who are "actively homosexual" would have sufficed if the authors had no intention on barring the ordination of celibate gay priests. But they didn't. They included within that statement a ban on those who "support the so-called gay culture" and those who have "deep-seated homosexual tendencies."

It's that simple. Gay priests (and laymen) could do no right, even if they live in conformance with Catholic teachings and their steadfast loyalty to the Church which looks with paterinalistic pity on sexual nature goes unappreciated.

And here is the document:

CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION


INSTRUCTION

CONCERNING THE CRITERIA OF VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT REGARDING PERSONS WITH HOMOSEXUAL TENDENCIES IN VIEW OF THEIR ADMISSION TO SEMINARIES AND HOLY ORDERS


INTRODUCTION


In continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and, in particular, with the decree Optatam totius on priestly formation, the Congregation for Catholic Education has published various documents to promote an adequate integral formation of future priests, offering guidelines and precise norms concerning its different aspects. The Synod of Bishops in 1990 also reflected on priestly formation in the current circumstances, with the intention of complementing the conciliar teaching on this issue and make it more explicit and incisive in the contemporary world. Following this Synod, Pope John Paul II published the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis.

In light of this rich teaching, the present Instruction does not intend to dwell on all the issues in the affective or sexual realm that require attentive discernment throughout the entire period of formation. It contains norms regarding a particular issue, made more urgent by the current situation, and that is the admission or not to Seminaries and Holy Orders of candidates that have deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

1. Affective maturity and spiritual fatherhood (paternity)

According to the constant Tradition of the Church, only baptised males validly receive sacred Ordination. Through the sacrament of Orders the Holy Spirit configures the candidate, with a new and specific designation, to Jesus Christ: the priest, in fact, sacramentally represents Christ, Head, Shepherd, and Spouse of the Church. Because of this configuration to Christ, the entire life of the sacred minister must be animated by the gift of his entire person to the Church and by authentic pastoral charity.

The candidate for ordained ministry, therefore, must attain affective maturity. Such maturity will allow him to relate properly with men and women, developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood for the ecclesial community that will be entrusted to him.

2. Homosexuality and Ordained Ministry

Since the Second Vatican Council up until today, various documents from the Magisterium – especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church – have confirmed the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies.

Regarding acts, it teaches that, in Sacred Scripture, these are presented grave sins. Tradition has always considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. As a consequence, they can never be approved under any circumstance.

As regards to deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are present in a certain number of men and women, these also are objectively disordered and are often a trial for such people. They must be accepted with respect and sensitivity; every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter.

In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, together with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, deems it necessary to clearly affirm that the Church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.

Such people, in fact, find themselves in a situation that seriously obstructs them from properly relating to men and women. The negative consequences that can result from the Ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be obscured.

When dealing, instead, with homosexual tendencies that might only be a manifestation of a transitory problem, as, for example, delayed adolescence, these must be clearly overcome at least three years before diaconal Ordination.

3. The Church’s discernment of the suitability of candidates

There are two inseparable aspects of every vocation: the free gift of God and the responsible freedom of man. The vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church, and for service of the Church. By responding to the call of God, man offers himself freely to Him in love. The mere desire to become a priest is not sufficient and there is no right to receive sacred Ordination. It rests with the Church – in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for reception of the Sacraments instituted by Christ – to discern the suitability of the one who wishes to enter the Seminary, to accompany him during the years of formation, and to call him to Holy Orders, if he is judged to possess the required qualities.

The formation of the future priest must articulate, in an essential complementarity, the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. In this context, it is important to recall the particular importance of human formation as the necessary foundation of all formation. To admit a candidate to diaconal Ordination, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate for priesthood has attained affective maturity.

The call to Orders is the personal responsibility of the Bishop or the General Superior. Keeping in mind the view of those to whom they entrusted the responsibility of formation, the Bishop or General Superior, before admitting the candidate to Ordination, must arrive at a morally certain judgment regarding his qualities. In the case of a serious doubt, he must not admit him to Ordination.

The discernment of the vocation and the maturity of the candidate is also the grave duty of the rector and other formators in the Seminary. Before every Ordination, the rector must give his judgment on the qualities of the candidate required by the Church.

In discernment of the suitability for Ordination, the spiritual director has an important task. Even though he his bound by secrecy, he represents the Church in the internal forum. In meetings with the candidate, the spiritual director must clearly recall the Church’s demands regarding priestly chastity and the specific affective maturity of the priest, as well as help him discern if he has the necessary qualities. He has the obligation to evaluate all the qualities of the personality and assure that the candidate does not have sexual disorders that are incompatible with priesthood. If a candidate is actively homosexual or shows deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director, as well as his confessor, has the duty to dissuade him, in conscience, from proceeding towards Ordination.

It remains understood that the candidate himself is primarily responsible for his own formation. He must offer himself in trust to the discernment of the Church, of the Bishop that calls him to Orders, of the rector of the Seminary, of the spiritual director, and of any other educator in the Seminary to which the Bishop or General Superior has given the task of forming future priests. It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality, regardless of everything, to arrive at ordination. Such an inauthentic attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty, and availability that must characterise the personality of one who considers himself called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministerial priesthood.


CONCLUSION

This Congregation reaffirms the necessity that Bishops, Superior Generals, and all those responsible carry out an attentive discernment regarding the suitability of candidates to Holy Orders, from the admission to Seminary to Ordination. This discernment must be done in light of a concept of ministerial priesthood that is in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Bishops, Episcopal Conferences, and Superior Generals should assure that the norms of this instruction are faithfully observed for the good of the candidates themselves and to always assure for the Church suitable priests, true shepherds according to the heart of Christ.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, on 31 August 2005, approved this Instruction and ordered its publication.

Rome, 4 November 2005, Memorial of St Charles Borromeo, Patron of Seminaries.

Zenon Card. Grocholewski
Prefect

+ J. Michael Miller, C.S.B.
Titular Arch. of Vertara
Secretary
Link

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Gays in The Catholic Church

As widely anticipated, the Vatican released a document explictly barring future candidates who are gay from the priesthood even if they promised to remain celibate. Candidates who have experienced "transient homosexual tendencies" will be allowed into the priesthood if they are "clearly overcome" three years before ordination as a deacon.

The document was released on an Italian Catholic site. It says, in part, that:

"The church cannot admit into the priesthood those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies, or who support the so-called 'gay culture.'" Gay persons, it goes on to say are situated in such a way as to "represent an obstacle to the correct relationship between men and women."

Roman Catholic doctrine holds that one can be a homosexual and a Catholic so long as that person refrains from homosexual conduct. The orientation has no bearing on a person's moral conduct but it is considered an "intrinsically disordered" condition because it leads one to sin against God and nature as they define it.

The Roman Catholic Church's reaffirmation of its ban on non-celibate homosexual priests was not surprising. Priests who engage in intimate conduct with people of the same or other sex defy Catholic rules which require Catholics who otherwise were not married when they joined the priesthood to remain celibate and single. Pope Benedict (formerly Cardinal Ratzinger) is a member of the orthodox wing of the Roman Catholic Church who was appointed to "defend the faith" by his predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II. He used one of his speeches during one of the funeral masses to reaffirm his commitment to conservative Catholic doctrine.

But its decision to bar celibate gays from the priesthood is mindboggling. A priest's sexual attraction is irrelevant if he or she is bound to honor a vow of celibacy. The homosexual who engages in intimate relations with another person obviously defies Catholic doctrine by engaging in what it considers to be sinful conduct but gay Catholics who chooses to remain celibate are still living in accordance with Catholic Church's basic "values."

The documents' authors say homosexuality represents "an obstacle to the correct relationship between men and women." I don't know what to make of this argument. They could only represent "an obstacle to the correct relationship" if they commit a sin that defies that "correct relationshp between men and women." I guess one poses such an obstacle if he or she chooses to enter into a sexual relationship that is not exclusively confined within the heterosexual marital relationship. Homosexual intimacy would defy that "correct" heterosexual relationship.

But what of the gay who remains celibate? A celibate priest cannot pose an "obstacle" to this correct relationship and in theory, a gay priest canreaffirm Catholic doctrine by speaking out against homosexual conduct and reaffirming his vow of celibacy. I guess the conservatives would say that homosexuality's known existence, alone, poses an "obstacle to the correct rleationship between men and women."

Let me for the moment, say this is true for argument's sake (this blogger rejects their premise). The homosexual "affliction" cannot by itself pose an "obstacle" any more than one's tendency, orientation, or "temptation" to "sin. Jesus puportedly was tempted to sin three times before Satan left him alone. The out gay priests' decision to remain celibate affirms Catholic dogma on man's sinful nature and his ability to nevertheless reject it. He "bears witness" (I am using quotes around all of these loaded phrases in part because they are loaded and second because I don't subscribe to Catholic moral teachings at all) to the awesom and frightening power of sin and our awesome responsbility to avoid it.

It is suggested that priest "alllicted" with "transient homosexual tendencies" that were "clearly overcome" within a period of no less than three years before his ordination as a deacon could enter the priesthood. This blogger cannot forsee any means to reach this kind of a conclusion about one's sexual personality without testing it in a sexual way. Would the "afflicted" person be given homosexual porn to demonstrate to the world his his sexual non-responsiveness to those of the same sex and given heterosexual porn to prove that he is no longer an "obstacle to the correct relationship between men and women before he is invited to make the ultimate sacrifice and enter into an institution that renders the nature of their sexual attractions moot? Wow.

If anything, this announcement reaffirms in my mind the fact that gays could do no right in the Catholic Church. Whether they dissent or loyally serve it as the gay "Uncle Toms" people of that sexual nature are not appreciated. A former Philadelphian Catholic Bishop largely dismissed the ultimate sacrifice made by gays who refrain from intimate conduct. They, he said, merely avoid sin where as heterosexuals who deny themselves marriage and companionship avoid a good. The entire community gets branded as predators and blamed for the grievous harm some of their number afflicted upon unsuspecting children and teenagers in their care. And now they are told that God could never call them to "bear witness" for the Church they are a part of.

One has to wonder how much it would take for the gays still associated with the Roman Catholic Church to leave. We don't belong there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

No Withdrawal Should Take Place

The Pentagon's decision to remove up to 3 brigades from Iraq early next year could not have come at an more inopportune moment. A sharply divided senate voted down a resolution calling for a timetable for a troop withdrawal but overwhelmingly passed another one ordering President George W. Bush to give it 90-day progress reports. One-time war advocate Representative John Murtha has called for troop withdrawal last Wednesday.

Iraqis will be voting for the National Assembly next month and principal factions battling over Iraq are nowhere near reaching an agreement on Iraq's poltiical future. Mixed neighborhoods are being replaced by those that are either predominantly Sunni or predominantly Shi'ite-populated. Rival militias have infiltrated Iraq's police forces. The Iraqis have voted for a constituiton that in effect carves it up into at minimum two autonomous mini-states.

Should the United States withdraw its troops now, Iraq will collapse. Civil rife would be inevitable as Kurdish, Shi'ite and Sunni factions battle over Iraq's future. Iranians will move in to "protect" the Shi'ite fundamentalists in southern Iraq. Turkish, Iranian and Syrian troops will move into northern Iraq to find Kuridish rebels that receive the Kurdish-dominated north's protection. The Sunnis will seek to regain the authority they lost after we removed Saddam Hussein from power.

The plans call for a modest 3-brigade withdrawal and no decision will be made before the December 15 national elections in Iraq. Our troops nevertheless have not suppressed the Sunni and Shi'ite fundamentalist insurrectionists now wrecking havoc in Iraq and a troop withdrawal will only make it harder. We need more, not less troops, deployed in Iraq.

Sunni and Shi'ite terrorists will have a lot to celebrate and will note the timing. The Department's plan was released at a time when the American people are beginning to lose faith in their president and the war in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should reverse course immediately.



"Musical Courtrooms" and War Detention

"... a remarkable game of musical courtrooms." That's how Eugene Fidell, the president of the National Institute for Military Justice describes the White House's shifting legal strategy with respect to Jose Padilla and other American citizens who may be classified as "war combatants" in the future.

Mr. Padilla was apprehended by American officials at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on the day he returned from Pakistan - May 8, 2002. Federal officials believed he was planning to detonate a radioactive device (specifically a "dirty bomb"). Mr. Padilla was transported to New York after he was apprehended. His lawyers challenged and requested that the material witness warrant that authorized his detention be vacated. However, in June the president signed an order transferring him to the Department of Defense as an "enemy combatant."

But today the administration's legal team has reversed course and filed criminal charges against Mr. Padilla in federal court. The Justice Department, mind you, has not as of yet charged Mr. Padilla for the alleged plan to detonate a radioactive device - the very accusation that led to his arrest in the first place. The Department is charing Mr. Padilla for his alleged involvement in the recruitment for and funding of terrorism abroad. The president has reserved the right to detain indefinitely as "enemy combatants" American citizens in this and future cases.

This shift in legal tactics shouldn't be too surprising for many legal analysts. Mr. Bush and his administration have won the authority to detain Mr. Padilla indefinitely as an "enemy war combatant" in the conservative Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals but it apparently was not prepared to risk defeat in the Supreme Court.

In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld the Supreme Court rejected the administration's contention that it could detain as "enemy combatants" American citizens for an indefinite period without providing them with the means to challenge that status in the courts. In that case, two justices (Antonin Scalia and John Paul Stevens) said the government had to either try Mr. Hamdi for crimes committed against the United States or release him and four justices (Sandra Day O'Connor, Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, and William Rehnquist) said the government merely had to provide him with a legal process and team needed to challenge his status an an enemy combatant.

In one respect, Mr. Padilla's case for release is stronger than the one afforded to Mr. Hamdi. Mr. Padilla was, unlike Hamdi, arrested at an airport on American soil and not on the battlefield. Federal agents at first sought to try him in a court of law.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter ducked the substantive constitutional question and relied upon the wording within the Congressional statute to reject the administration's contention that it was given the authority to detain Amerians as "enemy combantants) while Justice Clarence Thomas alone voted for the government.

Mr. Padilla was told he will have his day to court- 3 1/2 years too late. If the administration had strong and credible information that he participated in Al Qaeda's effort to kill or otherwise maim American citizens living abroad, it should have notified Mr. Padilla of its intention to try him for his crimes offer him the right to challenge that evidence and their accusations in a court of law before a jury of his peers much sooner.








Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ten Years Too Late

Texas killed the wrong persn - a person the cops loved to hate because he was a suspected trouble maker - but his co-defendant and the eyewitness remained silent and let him die.




Blurring Genetic Distinctions: Perfection and The Quality of Life

Last week I commented on how the latest advancements in genetic testing may affect the abortion debate. Below are are some excerpts from Sunday's The New York Times article on genetic engineering.

Quotes


"We're trying to make a place for ourselves in society at a time when science is trying to remove at least some of us,"
- Andrew Imparato of the American Association of People With Disabilities.

"If you can terminate pregnancies with a condition, who is going to put research dollars into it?" - Nancy Press of Oregon Health and Science University.

Excerpt from News Story

"Supporters of abortion are especially wary of wading into a discussion over the ethics of prenatal testing, lest they be seen as playing into the opposing side in the fraught national debate over abortion rights. But advocates for people with disabilities are troubled by how much faster the science of prenatal testing is advancing than the public discussion of how it ought to be used.

If no child is ever born again with the fatal childhood disease Tay-Sachs, many might see that as a medical triumph. But what about other conditions, including deafness, which some do not consider to be a disability, and Huntington's Disease, an adult-onset neurological disorder?"

More Quotes

"On the one hand we have to view this as a positive in terms of preventing disability and illness. But at what point are we engaging in eugenics and not accepting the normal diversity within a population?"
- Mark A. Rothstein

"Would I choose to have my child have a disability? Oh my goodness, no. It's difficult for her. It's difficult for everyone. But difference is what makes the world go round." - Lisa Hedley of Children of Difference Foundation

Tough choices await us.

"The debate will be intense and the distinctions between those diseases which are bearable and which ones are not may be too fine or blurry to say beyond a doubt. But that is to be expected. A teacher of mine once said that the world is gray, not black and white. I agree, but it is gray because it is hard to decide where it is black and white."



Saturday, November 19, 2005

Dan Asmussen

Well if Scooter Libby and Karl Rove are not Bob Woodward's sources for the CIA Plame leak, why not Jeff Gannon?And did San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome know of conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly's insults back in 2004?



Arrest a Terrorist Suspect; Get a Relative into a US College

I don't know why this amuses me since patronage has always been one way of rewarding those that help you but seeing how this applies to the war on terror well got to me. Well, if that's what it takes to win the war I guess it is okay but still.

"Countering terrorism has overshadowed just about all other foreign policy concerns, including "making friends with the sorts of characters you would not have been in the same room with before," one former foreign intelligence official said.

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country and the center of gravity for an al Qaeda affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah, that meant befriending Lt. Gen. Abdullah Hendropriyono, then head of the intelligence service.

Sporting black hair lacquered with hairspray and colorful jackets with matching ties and socks, Hendropriyono was more flamboyant than most chiefs. A former Indonesian special forces commander trained at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Hendropriyono was accused by human rights activists of ordering attacks that killed more than 100 unarmed villagers in 1989, according to Associated Press and other published reports. In 2004, he threatened action against foreign humanitarian groups monitoring human rights issues, published reports said.

Hendropriyono replaced an intelligence chief who had conducted surveillance against U.S. and Australian officials, according to U.S. and Australian sources. Al Qaeda leader Omar Farouq had the U.S. Embassy under surveillance and U.S. Ambassador Robert S. Gelbard believed that the Indonesians had purposely blown an operation meant to capture a bombing team targeting the U.S. compound in Jakarta.

In August 2001, Hendropriyono was "a breath of fresh air," said one CIA officer who worked with him. "He was focused, very controversial, but very dynamic." Unlike his predecessor, he was willing to work with the Americans, at a price.

Besides phone calls and office visits, Tenet worked hard on Hendropriyono's requests for goods and services. "These guys had 1970s technology," the CIA officer said. "They were dying for equipment, surveillance, wiretaps."

Tenet came through on two of Hendropriyono's personal requests as well: to provide seed money for a regional intelligence school, the International Institute of Intelligence on Batam Island, and to get a relative of Hendropriyono's into a top-rated American university. When his grades proved an obstacle, the CIA director arranged for him to attend the National War College at Fort McNair, four sources said.

Hendropriyono proved his willingness to cooperate by arresting Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, a Egyptian who the CIA believed was linked to British failed shoe bomber Richard C. Reid. He also agreed to allow the CIA to take Madni to Egypt for interrogation under a process known as "rendition."

Hendropriyono agreed to expand the cooperation, and officers arrested a few dozen Indonesians suspected of links to terrorism. He began efforts to close down terrorist financing.

Then he secured the approval of his political leadership to apprehend Farouq, believed to be a top al Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia. "He forced [the Indonesian security services ] to work with us and we started picking up the bigger fish," Gelbard said. Attempts to reach Hendropriyono were unsuccessful." from this Washington Post story

Murtha and the Republicans

Representative John Murtha (P-Pennsylvania) voted for House Speaker Dennis Hastert's 2001 resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to use military force against Iraq but two days ago he stunned reporters in Washington and called for our troops' withdrawal from Iraq.

Within hours, the man who commanded respect from both sides of the political aisle for his bipartisan approach on national security issues was derided by Republicans and turned into a pariah. Mr. Hastert said Murtha was acting as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's political stooge in this press release, which reads in part:

"It is clear that as Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenant on armed services, Rep. Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans. To add insult to injury this is done while the president is on foreign soil."

The White House linked Murtha's new position to that of the notorious Hollywood screen writer Michael Moore in this short press release that has been cited in yesterday's news articles. It reads as follows:

"Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party. The eve of a historic democratic election is not the time to surrender to terrorists. After seeing his statement, we remain baffled -- nowhere does he explain how retreating from Iraq makes America safer."

And before she voted against a Republican-drafted resolution calling for a withdrawal (a resolution designed to fail but put the Democrats on record as either supporting Murtha and his "defeatist" stance or on record distancing from him and consequently supporting the president), Representative Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) said she received a call from a marine who said marines, unlike "cowards" do not "cut and run." The resolution failed as expected by a 403-3 vote (with even Murtha voting against it). She later denied any intent to insult Mr. Murtha.

Partisan bickering and name-calling will not hurt someone like Murtha who has seen his day on the battlefield. If anything, the Republican name-calling and the showboating performed by representatives on both sides of the political aisle made them and the institution of which they are a part of look foolish and it did nothing to address Murtha's arguments point by point.

Republicans say Democrats have decided to "cut and run." This loaded term is supposed to conjure up images of white flags and raised hands but generals and their advisors make strategic withdrawals when they believe they cannot hold a position or believe they are better positioned to ward off enemy attacks elsewhere. Murtha says we cannot win the war on the ground militarily and that our troops have become the "catalyst for violence." He says we will be more effective in winning the peace and getting the Sunnis on board if we leave. The Democratic representative from Pennsylvania clearly is not calling for a surrender. He is asking us to make a strategic withdrawal that will "incentivize the Iraqis" into a political solution we find acceptable. Like the general who urges a strategic withdrawal, Murphy is picking his battles.

Is he pushing for a retreat? Of course, but the question is not whether he is calling for a retreat but whether it is the right or a necessary one. We lost Vietnam but in hindsight but the Iron Curtain, not us, fell. We may withdraw from Iraq and suffer no consequences worse than those inflicted upon us when we lost Vietnam. Or we may withdraw from Iraq and have to contend with a new terrorist-sponsoring state that destabilizes the region. Or we may watch Iraq implode into several mini-states.

I believe we should stay because Iraq probably will implode from within if we leave today and I believe we must tighten up the borders between Syria and Iraq and Iran and Iraq. But the Republicans are not making that case and their cheap personal attacks do nothing to further the cause in Iraq.







Friday, November 18, 2005

"What Abortion Debate?"

"Yet there is no abortion debate. Or at least the debate is unconnected to the reasons people on both sides feel so strongly about it. What passes for an abortion debate is a jewel of the political hack's art: a big issue that is exploited without being discussed. In the Virginia governor's race this year, both candidates said they were morally opposed to abortion, and both accused the other of falsely accusing him of intending to act on this moral belief, which both of them denied. And both of them, in this last particular, were probably telling the truth." - Michael Kinsley

I second his call for a debate on abortion and find little to disagree with his analysis on how the two sides in the Alito nomination are waging this battle for the heart and soul of the Supreme Court on the abortion issue.



Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Two Bridges Spending Compromise Not Good Enough


Yesterday House and Senate appropriation committee negotiators agreed to axe a mandate that $442 million in Alaska transportation be spent on two bridges servicing sparsely populated areas in Alaska. The notorious Gravina Project includes a 200-foot high mile-long bridge connecting Ketchikan(a town of 8,000) with Gravina Island (an island of 50 and one airport). Ferries provide for the 7-minute commute between Gravina and Ketchikan. A second two-mile bridge is proposed to connect the City of Anchorage to a port.

Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona said Congress could not justify the spending devoted to these two projects. Senator Ted Stevens said he was disappointed but could do no better given the circumstances. Republicans could not justify further spending cuts in education and safety net programs like Medicare if they funded these projects.

The remarks made by Jill Lancelot, the president of Taxpayers for Commonsense, were positive as quoted in The New York Times. In her view, Alaskans were given a chance to devote federal taxpayer money which would have been squandered to more important projects.

And indeed they will have that chance, but she is giving the Senate and House appropriators too much credit. Alaska will not lose any of its transportation funding, and there is no guarantee that the money allocated for the state's transportation improvements will be spent better. Bridge proponents will be required to compete with those who believe the money should be spent on other projects but they will still have the chance to win their state's approval to use the federal funds for their project. Money squandered on other pork barrell projects in other states will remain untouched.

In one important respect, the House and Senate negotiators have made the bill worse. The negotiators in effect have given Alaskans a blank check which they could use on any transportation project deemed necessary. They may spend it on the two bridge projects, one of the bridge projects and a few projects of lesser monetary value, or forgo all funding for the bridges and spend it all on projects their towns whether they needed it or not (a town might win road pavement funding even though it could have raised the revenue or a significant part of it needed on its own).

Transportation money that Alaskans don't need could have been used to offset costs associated with our rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, Lousiana and the surrounding areas ravaged by Hurricane katrina. But Senator Tom Coburn's effort to push for the re-distribution of federal money went down in defeat in September.

Mrs. Lancelot is satisfied because taxpayer money may be spent elsewhere. This blogger is not. Hardworking Americans deserve to see their money put to good use. Federal money should not be distributed until they know where it will be spent. The Alaskans either need the $442 million or they do not and their request for how it would be spent is either acceptable to the powers-that-be on the Appropiations Committees in Congress or it is not. Their representatives should not be rewarded because they submitted and agreed to a compromise which allows for its use on other projects within their state.






Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Look to Hagel

Republicans whose confidence in our president's inept foreign policy could look to Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska should his more popular and charismatic colleague to the south, John McCain, decline to run for the presidency. While the more charismatic McCain makes a name for himself with the anti-torture bill, the more plain-spoken and dry Midwestern Senator Hagel will make the case for a humbler, and less interventionist global strategy.

Will the Republicans vote for the conventional safe candidate like they did in 2000 with Mr. Bush or will they pick someone with more gravitas like Hagel and McCain. In time we'll know.



A Vot e of Declining Confidence

President George W. Bush tried to put a good spin on the senate's overwhelming endorsement of a resolution that calls into question his method for winning the peace in Iraq. The senate voted 79-19 for a resolution requiring 90-day progress reports on the war in Iraq. An earlier resolution which called for a White House-proposed timetable for American troop withdrawal went down to defeat by a 58 to 40 vote.

The White House avoided a humiliating defeat when the earlier resolution which was sponsored by Democrats was rejected but it has nothing to gloat over. The fifty-eight senators who voted against the Democratic resolution may find our inability to restore order and unify Iraq troubling but find the rejected remedy even worse.

Republicans are beginning to distance themselves from Mr. Bush. The Vice President's Chief of Staff was indicted for perjury related to the leak of a CIA official who happened to be the wife of a former ambassador who did not support the White House's contention that Iraq was acquiring or attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Chief White House political strategist Karl Rove is still under investigation and has not been cleared yet of any wrongdoing. Congress is up for re-election next year, and Democrats maintained their hold on the governor's mansion in Virginia, a Republican leaning state.

Demands for a White House proposal for troop withdrawal must be resisted. The president's inability to win the peace in Iraq no doubt tempts those of us who see no end to this conflict to question whether we should cut our losses and bring the troops home before the casualties mount any further but our interest in regional stability is undermined by Iraqi disunity and the competing militias trying to run it.

Mr. Bush has failed us. He led us into an unneeded war against a regional tyrant who did not possess the chemical and biological weapons Al Qaeda terrorists would crave. Mr. Hussein was brutal and mentally unstable nuisance but a useful onel. He had his armed forces fire on military aircraft patrolling the "no fly zone" but none were shot down. Mr. Hussein kept the Iraqi state united and provided us with vital buffer that limited Iranian influence on the western side of the Arabian peninsula. Al Qaeda lost its stranglehold and base of operations after we invaded Afghanistan and toppled its fundamentalist government but its supporters were provided with a new opportunity to gain one in Iraq.

Whether he misled us or he himself was misled by errant intelligence data is of no consequence. Our credibility is undermined and Al Qaeda may gain a new foothold closer to our oil supplies the Palestinian territories, and Israel. President Bush's time in the White House will come to an end in the definite future but the trouble he caused will be given to his successor.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

The KKK in Massachussetts?

No, no, no. Not the Ku Klux Klan. It's the Kennedy-Kerry Klan. You got the idea right?
I don't particularly care for the two Massachussetts senators but the KKK joke seems way over the top and tasteless.
Link

Down Syndrome Pre-Screening Test and Abortion Implications

from The Washington Post.

Scientists apparently have found a way to identify human fetuses who will likely be born with Down Syndrome, a disease in which one has three (and not the expected 2) copies of the 21st chromosone. Fergal D. Malone's comments were particularly interesting for discoveries like this may unexpectedly shift the abortion debate in a direction that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" activists are ill-prepared to handle.

Today any discussion on abortion rights forces is centered on whether the state or the pregnant woman has the authority to do what she (or in the state's case, it) wants to the fetus residing within the mother's womb. Those who say women have a right to abort their human fetuses say they are and are called "pro-choice." (a euphemism) Those who say that states should have the right to discourage or even bar women from aborting their fetuses if it chooses to do so say they are and are called "pro-life" (a loaded and not quite accurate term just short of a euphemism given the support for a state decision affirming or denying abortion rights).

The Dilemma for The "Pro Choice" Crowd

"Pro-choice" advocates make what is essentially a liberal or libertarian political argument - that whatever one thinks of the pregant woman who opt to "terminate her pregnancy" (another loaded euphemism), her right to personal autonomy, bodily integrity and religious convictions cannot be trumped by a church's, state's or the people's moral judgment as to the worth of that fetus residing within her.

In their laudable effort to protect woman's rights, bodily integrity and personal autonomy, abortion rights activists have shortchanged the fetus' purported rights in the process. It is a childless-centric approach which fails to address in any meaningful way the moral worth of the fetal being residing within the pregnant mother. And because of that, "pro-choice" advocates will be ill-prepared when they participate in the future debates concerning genetic testing and genetic engineering.

Nowhere is this indifference more obvious then when we are dealing with the hypothetical case of the crack-addicted pregnant mother. The outrage that any "pro-choice" person would feel if a pregnant woman gave birth to a crack-addicted baby boy (or girl) or declined to have an abortion would be understandable if he or she believed that her obligation to the child outweighed her right "to choose." If they were really "pro-choice" abortion rights activists would have to side with the pregnant woman no matter what. If the mother wanted to have an abortion they would protect her right to do so. If she wanted to keep the child they would have to support that as well, even if the child was born drug addicted, physically deformed, or mentally retarded as a result of her drug addiction.

If however, the abortion rights activist says the fetus is being wronged and entitled to some justice or protective intervention from the state, his or her case for "choice" is undermined. The pregnant woman who has a right to kill her fetus because she has the "right to choose" can certainly opt for the alternative course and bring the child to term even if it is expected that she will give birth to a crack-addicted, physically-defective and/or mentally retarded one as a result of her actions.

Now it may be suggested, I guess, that the woman's obligation to the fetus increases as time goes on and the baby grows. Her obligation to the three-month old fetus is minimal but it grows exponentially as it develops into a viable human infant. Consequently, when she or the society in general is expressing concern for what drugs she takes while pregnant we are thinking of the moral status of the child it may develop into if carried to term and not the moral status of the fetus itself. Perhaps but that still does not solve their dilemma. At one point or another, her crack snorting, cigarette-smoking, or binge drinking will have a negative effect on the fetus which will carry over when it becomes an infant if she chose to carry it to term. Her "right to choose" would burden not only the "potential life" (if it is not in fact deemed worthy of moral consideration) but also life (if the baby is born).

The abortion rights activists however, have not been confronted with this moral dilemma, in part because most drug use is illegal. The state's authority to bar drug use is generally recognized and approved by the public at large. Ban drugs and the pregnant woman and society in general are never (at least officially and publicly) confronted with this moral dilemma. Force a woman to at minimum postpone her drug use until she delivers and the dilemma is solved.

But that does not apply to gene testing and genetic re-engineering. Gentic recombination is part scientific and part luck. The pregnant mother has less control over what her child will inherit than the pregant mother who need only refrain from drug use. You cannot fault the pregnant mother and her signficant other for giving the fetus Tay Sachs or Down Syndrome. She didn't choose to give that gene to the child anymore than she chose to give him or her the gene or genes that gives the "future" boy or girl blue eyes, blond hair, and a tall and skinny build. At least for now.

Genetic testing is already being done and as this linked article suggests, advances have been made with respect to the screening for those likely to get Down Syndrome. Genes which contribute to eye color, athletic ability, or even sexual orientation may be discovered. I don't recall how many years ago but The Washington Post reported on one couples' attempt to alter a child's genetic make up so their child was as blind as its parents. Go figure.

If, as the abortion rights activists claim, a pregnant woman's right "to choose" and end the life of the fetus trumps the right of that fetus to live, she must have a right to genetically examine and re-engineer it as well.The right to life is fundamental since the very denial of it makes any other claimed right ineffective. A state can threaten you into silence if it said you would die for criticizing those leading it.

If these latest advances continue and doctors find new ways to screen for other, potentially more unbearable diseases continue, the societal focus may once again shift to the obligations we may have towards fetal beings. While drug use by pregnant women is universally condemned because it undeniably and irreparably harms both, the mother and the fetus residing within her, genetic testing and, down the line, re-engineering may be viewed differently.

Why, some would rightly argue, should we force a child predisposed to blindness live that way when we can alter its gentic makeup so that when it grows into a full human being (and this is of course assuming that it is not human before childbirth for the sake of the argument).it could live a normal life? And why, afterall, should we force a child who is predisposed to be gay to live in a world that would not understand him or her when we can alter the genetic makeup in such a way so that he or she would be predisposed to fall in love with a member of the opposite sex? Or a person with Down Syndrome. If we could somehow make it harder for the 21st chromosone from being duplicated one too many times why not take the chance and search for it? The traits involved may not be equally bad or good. (I for one do not view the gay characteristic to be particularly defective or needed of correction but down syndrome would be one genetic defect worthy of correction). The risks involved in genetic engineering may be outweigh the purported defect. It depends upon the nature of the undesireable trait and what an error would do to the one undergoing treatment.

The abortion choice advocates have no answer to that question because they could not answer it. Their moral indifference towards the fetus' rights box them in the same corner when the debate over genetic re-engineering and testing are brought up. And when they do try to answer on the fetus' behalf the antiabortion activist will ask how a person who believes a woman may callously throw away her fetus' life can object when that same woman chooses to test for disfavored genetic dispositions and diseases.

How could, afterall, the abortion rights activist object when a mother decides to abort a fetus that is predisposed to become a gay being if he or she cannot object to her right to abort it in the first place?

Why have the concern for a life that is not there? Why get upset with Mr. Bennett when he says aborting black fetuses might lead to less crime? Okay, I guess the objection lies more with his unfairly inaccurate link between race and crime and less on his abortion comments itself but say, for a moment, someone who is pro-choice says he has no problem aborting black or gay dispositioned fetuses? Why would the fetus' race or future sexual proclivity be signficant when its opportunity for growth is not?

The Dilemma for the "Pro-Life" Crowd

Scientific advances may help shift the public toward a more child-centric social policy and away from the morally bankrupt position now adopted by today's abortion rights activists but the effect it will have in moving the public towards the abolitionist position favored by the "pro-life" activists is open for debate.

Once the fetus' right to moral status is conceded, the focus will shift to the pregnant woman's obligations towards it. Antiabortion activists will say that the state should force the woman off the drug and carry the baby to term. Problem solved. The fetus is owed the right to life and nothing but the woman's own life can justify the termination of its own.

That is one argument but it is not the only one that can be made. We have medication for every problem we can think of. If a child gets a headache we can go to the store and buy him or her Tyleno, Aspirin,l or Advil. Ear drops are given for mild ear infections and anti-fungal spray is sold to cure athlete's foot and jock itch. Pain medication is given to alleviate suffering in any number of areas. Living wills are crafted so that we can decide for ourselves what those who love us should do to us when we lose the capacity to act for ourselves.

Patrick Henry once said "give me liberty or give me death." The oppressed in any number of countries have over the centuries taken their own lives into their hands and revolted against the regimes that denied them basic health care, jobs, and political freedom. Their willingness to stand up for a principle greater than themselves or to improve upon their living conditions is generally lauded. We revere our Founding Fathers.

We are obviously consider the quality of our lives to be as if not more important than the need to stay alive. Some burdens are surmountable and add meaning to our lives if we confront and defeat the challenges. Others are tolerable and ignored. But some are intolerable and cause us to seek relief in some fashion, be it a revolution, a new love interest, or a pill of Tylenol.

As Ann Quindlen noted during the Terri Schiavo debate:

"Their is no culture of life. Their is the culture of your life, and their is the culture of mine. There is what each of us considers bearable and, what we will not bear. "

In most cases we have a choice. We decide whether to end our lives or not, or whether our loved ones would keep us on the feeding tube or not. We decide whether we will seek a new love interest or spend the rest of our lives single. We decide whether we will quit smoking or not. In cases, however, we need someone else to act on our own behalf.

A fetus has no conception of what it means to choose nor does it have the forsight to know what would be in its own interest until iit grows into a fully-developed human being. A custodian must act on its behalf. The fetus has a nortichord so it might feel pain and since it, unlike a blastula, may have sentient qualities. the custodian probably owes it freedom from pain. That doesn't necessarily give it a right to life. The fetus doesn't per se have an interest in staying alive but since the typical infant doesn't either so we probably should err on the side of life whenever possible.

That doesn't absolve the custodian, in this case, the pregnant woman and state from their obligation to provide it with a quality life. Lifestyle habits may negatively impact a fetus' development into a normal human being. The fetus may have no conception of what a woman snorting crack does to it but eventually that fetus will grow into a baby and then, maybe a teenager and pay for the poor decisions made by the pregnant woman.

Crack-addicted babies may go through withdrawal but they may in the end overcome their affliction and most hardships endured by those society deems social undesireables can overcome challenges imposed upon them.

But some problems cannot be fixed - at least yet- and the focus on genetic testing, genetic engineering, and life-sustaining equipment will shift the debate away from the abstract right to life to the quality of the life purportedly defended. The fetus afflicted with Tay Sachs is no more fortunate then the one trapped in a drug addicts body, but the fetus with Tay Sachs disease cannot overcome his or her disease. Fatty substances will accumulate within the brain and nerve cells. The baby will stop crawling and reaching out. It will go blind, become paralyzed, and eventually die. Some may live until they are 5 years old - others, depending upon the nature of the disease, may not be fortunate (or maybe unfortunate) enough and live into their teens. They may develop muscle cramps, tremors, muscle weakness, slurred speech and mental illness. Other diseases like sickle cell may lead to serious health complications but they are treatable. And still others, while not treatable, may not deter someone from enjoying life.

Fetuses cannot act on their behalf and pregnant women cannot be trusted to make it for them so the state must at some point intervene. If given the chance, and by necessity, the obligation to do so (as I believe it must) the state could set up a tier system which weighs the interest of a fetus to life to its potential interest as a fully grown human with a minimum quality of life. The pending debate over genetic testing and re-engineering might force the public to exercise discretion and balance the sometimes competing interests between a life and a quality of life (or in the alternative, the avoidance of an unbearable life).

The public might decide that a pregnant woman may be forced to carry her fetus to term if her own life is not threatened and the quality of the fetus' life is predictably bearable but forced to abort the fetus if it has a disease that would cause it unnecessary suffering, and give her the option of choosing what to do if here life is threatened or the nature of the disease's threat to the unborn's quality of life is in doubt. It may decide to give the pregnant woman the right to regulated "choice" up to the point of sentience and prohibition with exceptions thereafter. Or it may adopt what is essentially an absolutist position favored by one of the two opposing camps.

The debate will be intense and the distinctions between those diseases which are bearable and which ones are not may be too fine or blurry to say beyond a doubt. But that is to be expected. A teacher of mine once said that the world is gray, not black and white. I agree, but it is gray because it is hard to decide where it is black and white.






Dan Asmussen

Kansas' revises its lyrics to its song "Dust In The Wind" to reflect a "more balanced view" toward intelligent design and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli comments make it in this week's "Bad Reporter."
Link

Friday, November 11, 2005

Evolution and Dover

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God; you just rejected him from your city." - Pat Robertson as quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Pat Robertson purportedly made these remarks on his show "The 700 Club."

So what did the "good citizens of Dover" do to reject God? They voted to replace 8 members of their Board of Education who voted to introduce "Intelligent Design," a theory that nature is too complicated to have been created by anything else but a supreme being, into the science (as opposed to a philosophy or comparative religion) classroom. The new board members ran on a pro-evolution slate.

Mr. Robertson has every right to say what he wants and in fact, someone of my perspective would probably want to see him further marginalize himself and others with his particularly theocratic viewpoints. He has Witold Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union took Mr. Robertson's gift for what it was to discredit the intelligent design movement in general as noted in this excerpt from The Philadelphia Inquirer story linked to above:

The two civil liberties groups representing the plaintiffs in the trial - which have been the focus of Robertson's verbal attacks before - relished the opportunity to return the volley.

"It shows he's evolving into a crankier fringe character than we expected," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "God has better things to do than worry about the outcome of a school board election."

A lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union said Robertson's remarks bolster the plaintiffs' case that intelligent design - which holds that the universe is so complex there must have been an intelligent agent behind it - is the same as Bible-based creationism.

"What better evidence do we need that intelligent design is religion?" asked Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

A lawyer with the Christian legal center defending the Dover school board said Robertson's statements reflected the opinion of a religious leader.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he equated intelligent design to religion," said Robert Muise, of the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan. "He's a religious leader who makes statements in a religious context."

Muise said neither Robertson nor any other religious leaders were called by the defense to testify because the case is about science.

"Last time I checked, Pat Robertson didn't have a Ph.D. in science," Muise said. "He didn't testify for us because intelligent design is based on science."

Robert Muise's comments did not help the intelligent design cause either. If anything his comments pitting science against God only increased the suspicions that some of us who are more critical towards evolutionary theory have in the proposed alternative. When a theory is developed to reinforce the sincerely held religious beliefs and undermine those that seemingly conflict with them, scientific discovery is thwarted.

In all fairness, the intelligent design advocates do not deserve to be marginalized. Many who support it do not believe it should be taught in the public schools yet. The theory, some argue, needs to be tweaked and tested to whatever extent it is possible. And indeed they do need to improve upon their theory.

Evolution may have some gaps which need explanation but it is a theory which can be tested and refined. Intelligent design is at best, a hypothesis (an intelligent guess) which is used to explain those gaps in evolution. It has not been tested. Alternative theories (like a clash between two or three "supreme" beings or perpetual existence) have not been ruled out. Most would for now be fine if the schools which teach evolution as the main scientific theory (and most public schools do) would include evidence which undermines or casts some doubt on it (say, some gaps in evidence). These hypotheses can be presented as just that in scientific classes - guesses which do not have enough evidence to elevate it to theory status. They can be explained further in philosophy, comparative religion, and social studies classes without undermining the quest for scientific discovery.

Unless you are a die-hard evolutionist believer this appears to be the reasonable course of action. We have learned a lot about the earth through scientific discoveries. Today we can analyze and predict weather patterns, cure diseases once thought incurable, and "map" human genes. The Einsteins, Edisons, Galileo's Copernicus' and Darwins of the world did not us to where we are today challenged those who held to the conventional wisdom about what we can and cannot do.

Church-state separatists' own dogmatic reliance upon evolution itself undermines the quest for scientific knowledge for that very reason. Theories survive if they are repeatedly challenged, tested, and refined, and a curriculum that does not reveal any gaps in theories discourages a search for truth.

The PoliticalHeretic does not ask the secularists, scientists, or people in general to find religion or more accurately, Robertson's religion. Mr. Robertson asks us to subvert our search for the truth to act humbly for his god. In his view, the truth is already known and we need only follow it

I don't know about that. Nor does this political blogger want to pretend, as Mr. Robertson does, that he is high and mighty enough to know all there is to know about this world and life in general. There are too many unanswered questions which may but may not be beyond his and our capacity to answer whether we try through science, philosophy or religion but I do believe we should try using all the means possible. The search through scientific discover can be just as humbling and that is what I do ask of everybody. Keep an open mind, let the scientists explore alternative theories, and even when you draw your own conclusions, know that there may be more evidence out there that might require you to change your mind.








Thursday, November 10, 2005

FallOut from Gun Ban - Lawsuit

The National Rifle Association and a group of pro-gun rights organizations will sue to have the San Francisco handgun ban that was just recently passed at the ballot box this Tuesday overturned. This may seem ironic but the National Rifle Association will claim in its brief that such regulations like this are reserved for the state and not for the local authorities.

To win in the courts they may need to make that argument but that hardly seems like a satisfying argument for those of us associated with the NRA, like-minded organizations their viewpoints with respect to gun rights. Freedom requires the right to self-defense. Self-defense from the crimnal who might enter our homes and self-defense from an overreaching state.



Election Results

For New Jersey:

Here are the unofficial election results for the gubernatorial race between Governor-elect Jon Corzine, the senator from New Jersey, and businessman Douglas Forrester. For comparison I offer the state's 2004 presidential election results here and the last gubernatorial election between former Governor James McGreevey and former Jersey City Mayor Brett Schundler.

For Virginia:

These are the unofficial election results for the 2005 guberatorial race in Virginia. They are presented by electoral district here and county here. The county results are also separated by precinct if you follow the blue links and the district results by county. The 2004 race for the White House and the last gubernatorial election results are provided for comparison.


I have compiled a more readable excel spreadsheet version which I hope to put up on this web site and hope to figure out how to do so within a reasonable amount of time. Former Governor James McGreevey (D) got more votes than Jon Corzine and Douglas Forrester (R) got more votes than Brett Schundler. Forrester outdid the Republicans' former gubernatorial candidate by far in the Republican leaning Monmouth, Hunterdon, Somerset, and Ocean counties and Democratic leaning Middlesex and Mercer counties. He also edged the former Mayor in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Sussex, and Warren. Schundler polled better by far in Bergen County and his home - Hudson County - but was far outvoted by his Democratic opponent, former Governor James McGreevey in both.

New Jersey Voter Margins By County

There were no surprises in New Jersey. Corzine won the same counties McGreevey won. Forrester picked up two counties that lean Republican but gave McGreevey marginal leads.

For now I will provide you with a comparison between the Democratic and Republican voting margins in the McGreevey-Schundler race of 2001 and the Corzine-Forrester race of 2005.

1.Atlantic County - (Democratic) McGreevey beat Schundler by a 10,000 vote margin. Corzine beat Forrester by a 5,000 vote margin. Voter turnout was lower for both parties' nominees this time round. .
2. Bergen County - (Democratic) McGreevey beat Schundler by a 29,000 vote margin. Corzine did slightly better with a 32,000 vote lead. The Democratic and Republican nominees gained fewer votes this time than last time. Forrester lost 6,694 votes that went to Schundler in 2001. Corzine failed to capture 3,600 votes that McGreevey won.
3. Burlington County - (Democratic) McGreevey had a 14,000 vote lead over his rival. Corzine's was 5,000.
4. Camden County - (Democratic) McGreevey had a 38,000 vote lead. Corzine had a 30,000 vote lead. The Democratic nominee won fewer in voter turnout. in Tuesday's election. The Republican nominee won more support but nowhere near what was needed to win in this county.
5. Cape May County - (Republican) Schundler bested McGreevey by 300 votes. Forrester beat Corzine by 1,800. Bush won. The Democratic and Republican nominees gained fewer votes this time than last time. Democratic nominee Corzine lost more support.
6. Cumberland County - (Democratic) 5,900 vote lead for McGreevey. 6,000 for Corzine. Both candidates lost some votes but not by much.
7. Essex County - (Democratic) McGreevey beat Schundler by 81,000 votes. Corzine beat Forrester by a nearly identical margin. (The dead still turned out to vote). The candidates lost approximately 4,000 votes in turnout each.
8. Gloucester County - (Democratic) McGreevey beat out Schundler by 13,000 votes. Corzine beat out Forrester by only 8,000.
9. Hudson County - (Democratic) McGreevey over Schundler by 47,600 votes. Corzine's led by 42,700.
10. Mercer County - (Democratic) McGreevey bested Schundler by 25,800 votes. Corzine beat Forrester by 17,557 votes. The Democratic voter decreased slightly but held for the most part steady. The Republican candidate made gains in this county.
11. Middlesex County - (Democratic) McGreevey beat Schundler by 50,00 votes. Corzine won by 29,200 votes. Corzine lost 16,000 Democratic votes that went to McGreevey last time. Forrester gained approx. 6,000 votes.
12. Monmouth County (Republican) McGreevey pulled an upset, beating Schundler by a mere 1800 votes (approximately of course). Forrester beat Corzine by 26,200 votes. Corzine lost 17,000 votes picked up by McGreevey while Forrester gained 11,000 that did not go to Schundler.
13. Morris County - (Republican) No significant changes to report.
14. Ocean County - (Republican) Schundler lost to McGreevey by 6,800 votes. Forrester beat out Corzine by 21,330 votes. Democrats lost 13,000 votes. Republicans gained 15,000 votes.
15. Passaic County - (Democratic) James McGreevey beat Schundler by 18,584 votes. Corzine beat Forrester by 19, 876 votes. Both nominees lost a few votes their predecessors won. Schundler won 3,482 votes more than Forrester.
16. Salem County - (swing county) No significant changes. Forrester did marginally better than Schundler. The Democratic support for their nominee was solid. No real change in either direction.
17. Somerset County - (Republican) Schundler beat McGreevey by 5700 votes. Forrester did slightly better - winning 8,900 votes more than his opponent Corzine. Forrester's vote gain over his predecessor was much higher than Corzine's over McGreevey.
18. Sussex County - (Republican) Schundler over McGreevey by 8,800 votes. Forrester beat Corzine by 10,385. Democratic support was solid but Republicans just have an advantage in this county. Forrester gained 2,000 votes his Republican predecessor did not win.
19. Union County - (Democratic) James McGreevey beat Schundler by 28,900 votes. Forrester lost by 26,500 votes. Forrester lost 2,000 votes Schundler won in 2001. Corzine lost 5,000 votes that went to McGreevey. Voters turning out decreased for both candidates. Corzine suffered more but he was able to afford it as we saw this Tuesday.
20. Warren County - (Republican) Schundler beat McGreevey by 3,100 votes. Forrester beat Corzine by 6200. Corzine lost a few votes but Forrester gained 2000 that did not go for Schundler.
21. Hunterdon County - (Republican) Schundler beat mcGreevey by 9,148 votes. Forrester beat Corzine by 12,490 votes. Corzine marginally improved his voter tally (1,000) over McGreevey. Forrester brought in 4,000 more Republican votes.


I don't know what we can make of these results. New Jersey strongly leans Democratic. Moderate Republicans can win. Former Governors Tom Kean and Christie Whitman did it twice. And Whitman in fact, also lost a narrow but very competitive senate election against a popular well-known Democratic incumbent.

The statistics lend credence to the conventional wisdom - namely - that Republicans have a better shot at winning a state-wide race if they choose a moderate who will not take money out of the public schools, ban abortion, or weaken environmental regulations, or push religion down the people's throats. Property taxes are high so the Republicans' tax cutting message generally helps and does not hinder them.

But I don't know. New Jersey voters put up with another nasty race where personal attacks overshadowed any debate on the issues and Corzine inherited and in some respects contributed to the Democratic Party's tarnished image in the state. Mr. Forrester may have won votes that would otherwise have been turned off by Schundler's conservative vision but he might have profitted from his opponents ethical woes and those voters' disgust with high property taxes, wsateful government spending, and Corzine's $400,000 loan to a former mistress and union leader.

Republicans tend to do better in the rural but sparsely populated northwest (Warren, Sussex and Hunterdon Counties), the Jersey Shore suburbs (Monmouth County, Ocean County), Morris County, Cape May, and Somerset County. Democrats do better in the industrialized blue collar inner suburbs just outside of Philadelphia (Mercer, Burlington, Gloucester, Camden) and New York City (Union, Essex, Hudson, Bergen).

Whether they pick a moderate or conservative, however, Republicans face an uphill battle. Forrester picked up 28,621 votes over Schundler while Corzine lost 106,166 votes that went to McGreevey. Corzine still won. Had Forrester preserved the gains he won in most Republican leaning states and picked up the 40,973 votes he lost in Atlantic. Bergen, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Passaic, and Union), he still would have lost by 152,919 votes. And I am assuming that such a coalition was possible. Schundler's urban swing vote came in part because he supported school vouchers, which gave many trapped in urban areas the hope for a means to send their children to better schools. Republican suburban voters in Hunterdon, Somerset, and Monmouth pretty good schools so they wouldn't be pleased if any state aid that goes to them now has to be cut off to make up for that lost in school vouchers.

Corzine's numbers. A moderate domestic agenda just won't cut it. And this is against a candidate who came into this election with high negativity ratings.

I'm not going to do the math for the Virginia race. Once I have the spreadsheet up (whenever that is) I'll let everyone who wants to do their own analysis.














Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Gay Ballot Questions in Texas and Maine

Yesterday Texas residents voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriages and civil unions and prohibit similar recognition from local government entities within Texas as well.

Texas didn't need to pass this amendment barring legal recognition and accommodations to gay couples since it didn't recognize gay marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. The state's judges are elected by the people so any desire to extend marital or any other legal rights to gay couples would be kept in check by the fear of losing his or her re-election. A federal court judge, it might be argued, rule for gay couples' rights but the effort to ward off this challenge is premature (since it has not been argued as such yet or appealed) and it would be ineffective anyway since, as we saw in Romer v. Evans amendments to state constitutions cannot be used to relieve them from their obligations to the U.S. Constitution.

Gay Texans and gay Americans in general will understandably view their straight colleagues' vote as another slap in the face. Texas is a very conservative state and its leaders had no problem giving unmarried straight couples the right to engage in "sodomy" while denying gay couples that same right. Relief from that injustice came from the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas.

They must nevertheless resist the temptation to call straight Texans "bigots." Bigotry may have contributed in part to the anti-gay marriage amendment vote and a significant minority (if not a majority) saw a "yes" vote as a way to vote against homosexuality in general. But people may vote against gay marriage for any number of reasons which have little if anything to do with their religious beliefs or their spite towards gays.

An "if you're not with us, you're against us" approach fails to capture the particularly nuanced positions offered by those who are called to vote on these matters. Some distinguish between private and public discrimination. Some may oppose anti-gay employment discrimination or harrassment in the schools but draw the line at legal recognition. Some would support gay-straight alliances but require that all assemblies and programs they conduct take place after school or on the weekends. And still other anti-gay marriage proponents may nevertheless find it within themselves to offer gays legal recognition short of it - civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Eleven states, passed similarly-worded constitutional amendments in 2004 and it is conceivable that a fair-minded voting public like those in Maine would reject gay marriages and civil unions as well.

Speaking of which,

Voters in Maine narrowly voted against an amendment that would have overturned a statute which protected its residents from anti-gay-based employment and housing discrimination. The legislature passed a statute protecting them but religious conservatives hoped Maine's residents would vote to repeal it like they did in 1998 and 2000. They did not so their state will now join the other New England states in providing gay Americans legal protection from unwarranted discrimination. Welcome to the 21st century Maine. It was about time.






San Francisco Says "No" To Handgun Posession Rights

I've already spoken about this illiberal ballot measure., which, as predicted here, would pass comfortably. San Francisco is quite liberal and, as noted in my prior comments on this subject, it was bound to pass. American citizens can never be truly free when the governments can deprive them of the very limited means they have to protect that freedom. If private businessnessmen and San Francisco residents were concerned about gun-related crimes in the streets, they could have passed a far more limiting ban on public gun possession or a ban on concealed weapons. I wish the National Rifle Association, Pink Pistols, and other gun rights activists better luck in the courts.




Tennessee's Victims Were "Fine Christians"



Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Day

Today Americans go out to the polls to vote for their favored (or least disfavored) candidates for political office. Voters in New Jersey and Virginia vote are voting for their governors. In New Jersey, Republican challenger Doug Forrester is running against the favored U.S. Senator Jon Corzine for the governor's office. Acting Governor (and Senate President) Richard Codey once considered a run himself but decided against a run against the multi-millionnaire. New Jersey leans towards Democrats but Doug Forrester hopes to capitalize on Corzine's ethical woes (which includes a $450,000 loan forgiveness to a union boss and former mistress) and the Democratic Party's failure to enact ethics reform and lower property taxes in spite of their hold of both legislative houses and the governor's mansion. Moderate Republicans have won state-wide elections. Former Governor Christie Todd Whitman (a Freeholder at the time)nearly unseated then-Senator Bill Bradley and won two gubernatorial elections. Moderate Republicans can pull an upset when the voters are angy at wasteful spending and high taxes.

Republican Jerry W. Kilgore and Democrat Timothy M. Kaine are locked in a close race for the governor's seat being vacated by Democrat Mark R. Warner. Governors cannot run for re-election in Virginia. The state leans Republican but the right moderate Democrats can win.

Maine's residents will vote on an initiative which would repeal a law banning anti-gay based discrimination in housing and employment. Maine's voters have repealed similar anti-discrimination measures before. Religoius conservatives are counting on a similar vote today but gay Americans hope Maine's residents are more tolerant today.

California's residents will be voting on several ballot measures - two concerning political reform (one giving the governor more power to cut spending proposals approved by the state's two legislative houses and one that takes election redistricting away from the legislature and puts it in the hands of an independent commission), one that increases the probationary period of teachers before they win tenure, a measure requiring abortion doctors to nofity parents or guardians 48 hours before unmarried minors have an abortion, and two rival measures which would provide the underinsured drug discounts. San Francisco residents will vote on a measure banning handgun possession.

Whatever your views, the Political Heretic urges you to vote. This right is taken for granted in this country but as we should all have learned from the Florida recount debacle in 2000, all votes count. If you don't vote, you have no right to complain when the politicians do something that you don't like. Many would and in fact, do sacrifice their lives for this right.