Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Courage in a Congressman?

In October of 2002, Pat Buchanan wrote a column titled The Abdication of Congress. Therein Mr. Buchanan explained:

When Congress voted to grant President Bush the power to launch a pre-emptive(sic) war, at a time of his own choosing, on a nation that has not attacked the United States, it reached its nadir. The abdication, the capitulation, the surrender was absolute.... We have crossed the line between republic and empire.

Later he writes:

Nothing has happened in a decade to lead us to conclude Iraq is about to attack the United States. All the evidence points the other way. Saddam sleeps in a different bed each night. Plastic surgery has created three or four "doubles," or Xerox copies, of Saddam, to take an assassin's bullet for him. His secretive regime is opening up its weapons sites to U.N. inspectors. His military is in defensive mode.

Long hated by the left, Buchanan became, in many conservative circles, persona non grata for daring to oppose George W. Bush's War on Iraq. Yet it is now all but certain that Buchanan was right. Attacking Saddam was idiotic and immoral. A question thus readily comes to mind: if a writer from Virginia, albeit a very insightful and knowledgeable one, can discover the fallacious nature of the evidence which led Congress to abdicate to Bush in favor of war with Iraq, why couldn't Congress have done the same? Granted that Buchanan is more intelligent, and certainly more honest than the average Congressperson, why couldn't some of them have come to the same conclusion that he did?

The question has two possible answers, both disconcerting. First possibility: the honorable members of Congress aren't fit for the task for which they have been chosen. Congress couldn't figure out that the evidence was shaky because, like Bush, they lack sufficient powers of reasoning necessary for so intricate a deduction. I do not think this true, though given the stupidity of the average American voter, it is not beyond the pale that they would elect as tremendous a buffoon as themselves. For Bush too was elected by the esteemed patrons of the democratic process.

Second possibility: Congress wishes to eat their cake and have it too. They are not, all of them, magnificent mooncalves. They know full well that the Americans who elected them can be duped with comparative ease; thus they can pin the war on Bush without drawing criticism for avoiding their Constitutional duty to declare war. They can pretend, and be believed, that they can and could do nothing to stop the war. But only for a time. The docility of the American people is not entirely boundless. In time, they may take the time to read the U.S. Constitution and realize that the legislative branch, like the President, has blood on its hands.

For Congress has, as yet, the “power of the purse”. In order to end the tragic, foolish war, Congress should simply stop funding it. Bush and his dwindling band of followers would complain, but he would ultimately be powerless to stop such a move. And since the Democrats now control the House as well as the Senate, it shouldn't be terribly difficult to shut down the war.

There is a problem, of course, for Congress is drastically short on courage. The same cowardice that caused the abdication of Congress will, in all probability, prevent that glorious assembly from correcting the mistakes of its predecessors. The republic may be only a memory.

But there may be hope. Chuck Hagel, a Republican Senator from Nebraska, seems to have stumbled upon something akin to bravery. In an address to his Senatorial compatriots for the purpose of, as Peggy Noonan writes, “essentially, an announcement of no confidence in the administration's leadership in Iraq”, Hagel noted:

[W]e have a constitutional responsibility as well as a moral responsibility to this country, to the young men and women we ask to go fight and die and their families... I will not sit here in this Congress of the United States at this important time for our country and in the world and not have something to say about this... I don't ever want to look back and have the regret that I didn't have the courage and I didn't do what I could. I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators, to look in that camera, and you tell your people back home what you think. Don't hide anymore; none of us... That is the essence of our responsibility. And if we're not willing to do it, we're not worthy to be seated right here. We fail our country. If we don't debate this... we are not worthy of our country.

This comes four years too late for the three thousand American troops who have already died in Iraq; four years too late for the untold thousands of Iraqi dead. And speeches, however profound and sincere, do not end wars—especially when they are made from the safety of another country. It remains to be seen whether Hagel will stand alone, if he will stand at all, or whether Congress will once again perform her sworn duty to defend the Constitution and what's left of the republic.

Meanwhile, back in Virginia, our lonely prophet has written column after column explaining why we need not go to war with Iran, despite not so subtle statements from the administration suggesting that we extend the War on Terror to include Iraq's larger and ostensibly belligerent neighbor. If Buchanan is right—again—Congress may just get another crack at avoiding war. Here's hoping they don't blow things this time around.

President Hillary

Today's article is old hat, but it's my first mention of Hillary in the newspaper and I couldn't think of anything else to write about:

I've been trying, without much luck, to summon all of my passion to write about the upcoming presidential election. Several things are holding me back.

First, it is really far too early to deal with this sort of thing. Mr. Bush still has two more years to pray for a miracle in Iraq, and miracle or no, we still have two more years to deal with him. A lame duck is not quite the same thing as no duck.

Second, the aforesaid notwithstanding, we live in an age inundated with what might be called, somewhat erroneously, information. Twenty-four hour cable news channels, talk radio hosts, and bloggers incessantly offer predictions. Occasionally the prophet is not wholly ignorant concerning the subject of his prophesy.

I think making political predictions akin to forecasting the results of a prospective sporting match. There is no harm in speculating, but no one ultimately has any idea about any of these sort of things. This year, ESPN's “The Sports Guy” has been making weekly football predictions, as has his wife, “The Sports Gal”. The Sports Guy has a degree in Sports Erudition, while his wife, though nominally familiar with them, is not as obsessed as her husband. Of course this means that they're deadlocked heading into the Super Bowl. Presidential elections are like sports. Though less enjoyable and exciting, they are, like sporting contests, ultimately unpredictable.

Third, I don't have a horse in the metaphorical race. None of the major party candidates interest me in the least—sort of like the WNBA.

This said, I still have half a column to fill. Thus I will offer my prediction: Hillary Clinton will be the President in 2008. It is not so much that she is the best candidate as that every one of the other candidates is wholly unelectable. Let us examine the competition to see why Hillary will emerge victorious. On the Republican side we have:

Rudy Guiliani. Currently on his third wife, Guiliani is pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, pro-gun-control and pro-immigration. That's five strikes too many. While the especially imbecilic members of the religious right will vote for any guy with the R, a nominally respectable social conservative cannot vote for Guiliani. Consider his goose cooked.

John McCain. Currently on his second wife, while he is, at least ostensibly, pro-life, he believes Global Warming to be a problem, something his base does not. Conversely, he has no qualms with illegal immigration, though the very concept makes his base livid. Additionally, McCain was rejected by Republicans in 2000 for the “more conservative” George W. Bush. His prospect: dubious.

Mitt Romney. On the plus side he's still with his first wife. Unfortunately, his stance on abortion is almost as hard to detect as was Kerry's 2004 stance on Iraq. His view on gay marriage is likewise hard to pin down. He's also a Mormon with little to no support in the polls, a most unlikely candidate for the Presidency.

On the Democratic side, there is first and foremost Barack Obama. Extremely likable, he is possibly even more charismatic than Bill Clinton was. And when your party's affinity for rational ideas is non-existent, charisma can go far. But he's a palpable buffoon who can spout off platitudinal soundbites, but cannot delineate a position. Further, despite an early lead, he's now trailing Hillary by nineteen points in at least one poll. He's peaked, but only this time around. Still a political baby, Obama could one day become president. But not in 2008.

Kerry has withdrawn his bid, and although Edwards and Gore may threaten, even the Democrats are smart enough to pass on a lousy lawyer and someone who couldn't beat Bush the first time around. Gore did oppose the War in Iraq from the get-go, a solid plus, but he's still a loser, and the Democrats, and the American people, will be hesitant to trust him.

If Hillary wants it, she's in. The field for '08 shows resemblance to Monty Python's skit, The Upper Class Twit of the Year. She simply needs to stand back and let the twits shoot themselves in the head. The candidate who brings the least negatives to the table is going to win. Surprisingly, that could be Hillary “my husband is the king of scandals” Clinton. This is just a silly prediction of course, but I for one am looking forward to at least four years with First Lady Bill.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Al to the Rescue

Al Franken eyes a U.S. Senate seat from my home state:

Comedian Al Franken is having trouble competing with Rush Limbaugh on the radio. Now he’s trying to figure out how he’d fare against a conservative at the ballot box. He’s reached out to Democrats in recent days for advice on a possible Senate run against Republican Sen. Norm Coleman next year.

“It’s unknown how people will respond to a comedian running for the Senate,” Franken said. “I need to figure out a way to let people know I’m extremely serious about Minnesotans and their lives.”

I don't know why he thinks it's imperative to be "extremely serious". Norm Coleman is a loathsome figure, a "moderate" Republican with a few too many ties to Democratic idealogy he once claimed as his own. Though it could be merely my distaste, I think Norm is prime for an upset. Of course I don't plan on contributing either way, but that goes without saying.

But what if Al did run, not as a "serious" Democrat, but as the comedian who people, or at least liberals, really like? Franken has made his mark by being "funny"; it doesn't make any sense to throw that all away in order to play pretend--though I guess that is what politicians do best.

It's way too early to be concerned with this Senate election, still two years away, but, unlike almost every other election in the country, this one holds the prospect of entertainment. Not that I find Franken funny, understand, but watching Normy squirm will be mildy enjoyable.

"I do not believe in democracy, but I am perfectly willing to admit that it provides the only really amusing form of government ever endured by mankind." - H. L. Mencken

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Reductio ad Abortion

Awhile back, a long while back actually, I went on a date. The girl was nice and we got along well enough, but near as I can figure we didn’t have a thing in common. She was an art history major at one of the liberal arts colleges in St. Paul; I was, and am, a computer engineering student. Paula Abdul notwithstanding, opposites do not always attract.

Fortunately, as my previous girlfriends can attest, I’m a genius when it comes to dating. At some point, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how, we hit upon the topic of abortion. Now, were we on the same side of the metaphorical fence, my faux pas would have proved benevolent. But of course we weren’t, and the awkwardness level climbed even higher, as I set a new personal record which is no small feat.

After assuring her that I was pro-life, she brought up the fact that, according to Freakonomics, abortion has led to a decrease in crime. I replied that while this may be true, this is hardly a good reason to allow for abortion. She expressed an interest in changing the subject, so we did; but she staunchly recommended that I read the book.

Well, I have finally read the book—which I in turn staunchly recommend. I quote from chapter 4, Where Have All the Criminals Gone?:

There are even more correlations, positive and negative, that shore up the abortion-crime link. In states with high abortion rates, the entire decline in crime was among the post-Roe cohort as opposed to older criminals. Also, studies in Australia and Canada have since established a similar link between abortion and legalized crime…

The crime drop was, in the language of economists, an “unintended benefit” of legalized abortion. But one not need oppose abortion on moral or religious grounds to feel shaken by the notion of a private sadness being converted into a public good.

But is there really a need for a pro-choicer to be shaken by this notion? I don’t think so. There are three stances one could take on the abortion issue, two of which are consistent.

First, one could be pro-life. Pro-lifers believe that life begins at conception and that no human life is worth more than another is. A fetus is, morally speaking, worthy of the same respect as a president or the Pope.

Second, one could be pro-choice. Pro-choicers believe that the choice of the mother always trumps the existence of the fetus. Personhood is not recognized until birth, and one million fetuses are worth less than the life of one potential mother. Abortion should be legal irrespective of any tangible economic benefit, but the fact that abortion has produced unintended benefits has been insufficiently lauded by pro-choicers. Abortion was legalized, in part, to ensure that every child is a wanted child. So much the better that unwanted children are not murdering those of us lucky enough to have been wanted.

Third, one could inhabit the mushy middle of moral cowardice. Either the fetus is a human life worthy of respect and honor, or it is not worth its weight in plastic. If one is agnostic on the matter, prudence demands that what may be human not be casually discarded.

This last group can be ignored, but the second group needs to defend their position more readily. Since abortion has been “one of the greatest crime-lowering factors in American history” pro-choicers should enact federal legislation to encourage parents of potential criminals to abort. The slightest hint of doubt dare not enter the pro-choicers mind. Fetuses are only globs of tissue, and eliminating some of them renders a real benefit to the republic. If enough good pro-choicers write their congresspersons, we can ensure that crime rates continue to fall. Go get ‘em Nancy Pelosi!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

End The Modern Inquisition

Today's column:

Given the frequency in which opponents of organized religion point to the Spanish Inquisition as evidence of the dangers presented by those of us who believe in such out-dated things as God, I took the opportunity to brush up on the topic over break. Henry Kamen's book, titled The Spanish Inquisition, aided me in my task.

Without condescending to offer apologetics, Kamen carefully traces the Inquisition from its almost innocuous beginnings through its growth into eventual obscurity, irrelevance, and, finally, out of existence. Though “heretics” were burned, such “relaxations” were extremely rare; the punishments of similar institutions in other realms were actually more severe than Spain's were. In brief, the Spanish Inquisition was, given the history of the human race, a relatively banal example of the fallen nature of man.

But the reason one studies history is not simply to analyze it, but to learn from it so as to avoid playing the victim in its repetition. In the closing paragraph of his book, Kamen writes: “Even today... other nations have had and continue to have their Inquisitions: the human condition is subject to frailties that are not limited to any one people of faith and that regularly reverse the gains made in previous generations by 'civilization' and 'progress'.” With this in mind, let's examine another of Kamen's statements in order to see what I will argue is an inquisitorial parallel in modern day America.

“[T]he system of secrecy was an open invitation to perjury and malicious testimony. This objection might not have been valid but for the fact that all accusations were taken seriously, and even if a man were later exonerated, the evil brought on him by a slight and secret accusation was immense.”

The Spanish Inquisition punished many innocent persons. One reason for this was the way in which the institution dealt with secret testimony. Those who were not burnt, a sizable majority, were nonetheless defamed. A common punishment required penitents to wear a sanbenito, a visible reminder of their guilt, an anachronistic scarlet letter. Tragically, even those spared and deemed innocent would fall under suspicion.

By subtle revision, Kamen's statement could be used to show what is wrong with the way we in this country deal with rape. Consider the case of the Duke lacrosse players. It quickly became obvious, to anyone with brains, that the woman who claimed rape was lying. Not only did she change her story with astounding frequency; not only did she have sex with someone else immediately after the alleged rape, something a traumatized victim would be reluctant to do; not only did the DNA tests exonerate the men; not only does she did she have a history of lying about rape; she also failed to pick out any Duke lacrosse players from a police line-up until the DA packed the lineup with all lacrosse players, ensuring that she picked the “right” men. Her case is beyond flimsy.

And yet, in incidents of rape, "all accusations [are] taken seriously", and "even if [three men are] later exonerated the evil brought on [them]... [is] immense." Because rape is rightfully thought to be horrific, rape charges are taken seriously, irrespective of their foundation in fact. To be sure, the privileged white-boys versus poor-black-woman angle was too delicious for media whores to ignore, but in an age of intellectual honesty, this case would never have seen the light of day.

No one would ever rationally defend rape. But cases of she-made-up-the-existence-of-a-non-rape deserve no such defense. Women may cry rape just as the proverbial boy cried wolf. Undue attention to ridiculous rape charges undermine genuine cases of rape and destroy the reputations—and more—of the men who are ignominiously slandered. They merely serve the self-interests of lying wenches, soulless DAs priming for re-election, and media mongrels starved for ratings-attention.

It's high time the way in which we handle rape testimony goes the way of the Spanish Inquisition.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Necessity of Religion and Science

Today's column:

“I should not be astonished, though I am too frequently, by the studied ignorance that pervades every serious debate in American life. Every night on television, professional Christians, ignorant of biology, philosophy, archeology, history, and theology, pretend to debunk the theory of evolution—a theory they completely misrepresent—while their enemies, the public Darwinists... think they have answered all the great of existence, when, in fact, they do not know what the questions are, much less how to go about searching for the answers.” - Thomas Fleming

I would compare the supposed conflict between religion and science—faith and reason—to disagreements over the designated hitter; but this would do an injustice to the latter debate, which is at the very least a real conflict between two mutually exclusive principles. That it is insignificant in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant; its inherent dichotomous nature is readily obvious.

In a word, one cannot both support and oppose the designated hitter, as one may support both science and religion. A belief in God does not preclude a belief in the findings of the men in lab coats. It is not a question, say, between belief in the First Cause and the Law of Gravity. It is not a matter of choosing between Biology and God. There is simply no division, and one may readily accept—or reject—both.

Hilaire Belloc grasps the point: “[T]he word “Science” simply means “That which is so firmly established by proof from observation or deduction that the opposite cannot be entertained... “Science”, used in this sense, cannot be the opponent of any scheme of transcendental doctrine [religion]; it can have no relation to a theology and therefore cannot be the enemy of that theology. The one word relates to research for the establishment of truths by experience in the physical world; the other to a philosophy.”

Christianity has never been in outright conflict with reason. Anyone who suggests as much has never read Chesterton or Lewis, to say nothing of Augustine or Aquinas. That said, Christianity does recognize the limits of human reason, and the necessity of faith. But faith is not the opposite of reason; it is, Paul tells us, “The realization of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Faith supersedes reason, but it does not run counter to it. It is the only means to accept mysteries which lie beyond human understanding, such as the existence of God. But it never asks us to believe that which is in conflict with reason, say that the grass is purple or that the sun is unbearably cold, that is, the claims of science.

All of this is best epitomized in the Divine Comedy. Beatrice, a complicated symbol who may roughly be taken to represent Divine Revelation, sends Virgil, that is, human reason, to accompany Dante in his pilgrimage, first through Hell, then through Purgatory, and finally into Heaven. But Virgil, an exquisitely noble pagan yet a pagan nonetheless, is not allowed to enter into Heaven; he must return to Limbo after escorting Dante through Purgatory, thus symbolizing the limits of even the most enlightened of human beings sans Divine Revelation. Beatrice guides Dante in Virgil's stead, and the pilgrim journeys onward, guided by God and in a spirit of faith.

Personally, I have the utmost respect for those who have problems with the necessity of faith. Having studied Christianity somewhat extensively, though by no means exhaustively, there are, as I see it, two main objections to the faith. First, one could disbelieve in God. Second, one could disbelieve that Jesus is the Son of God; one could accept the existence of a higher deity and yet remain doubtful as to whether that deity is good, or even concerned with humans at all. There are a series of “proofs” for both, but ultimately, both require acts of faith. Suffice it to say that the subject is complicated enough to require more than a mere column.

What does any of this have to do with science? Quite simply, Christianity is a very complex organism, and one to which any number of intelligent men have objected throughout history. But the modern man seldom takes the time to either accept or reject Christianity; instead, he views it as simplistic, and probably even irrelevant, and thus he dismisses it. Yet anyone who does so is behaving foolishly. Mankind has long been plagued with doubts as to the existence and the benevolence of the gods, but I cannot recall a time in which the gods, real or not, benevolent or not, have been so spectacularly ignored.

One reason for this, I think, has to do with the perceived conflict between religion and science. Imbecilic fundamentalists—pardon the redundancy—that insist on a belief in a Young Earth or dismiss evolution without even bothering to study it, do a tremendous disservice to the faith which they ostensibly hold. It takes a considerable amount of faith to accept Christianity—though its very absurdity has been offered as a proof, see Tertullian—but it is acting for a miracle to expect intelligent people to believe in something they know to be false, such as the notion that the earth is only several thousands of years old.

Those who reject Christianity must realize that science is inadequate to the task of forming man's conscience. This is not a blemish, but merely a characteristic. It is irrational to expect science to offer guidance in a realm over which it has no jurisdiction. In short, while it has its place, defenders of science must realize its intrinsic insufficiency and seek out allies. Unguided, science will likely lead us straight back to Nazi Germany with its horrific experiment in eugenics, or the Communism of Russia and China. The crimes of Mao and Stalin make Hitler appear to be a dictatorial lightweight.

Similarily religion, divorced from reason, can readily lead to barbarism. Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus felt that violence was incompatible with the nature of God as well as that of the human soul. Thus, spreading a religion through violence was inconsistent with the higher truths for which that religion stood. He writes:

“God is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...”

Divorced from reason, religion would degenerate quite readily into violence. If a member of a faith felt wholly unable to use reason to convince an antagonist of the validity of his particular religious faith, he may readily resort to the sword. This would be disastrous perversion.

Science and religion have always needed each other. Presently, the need is especially great.
If the perceived divide between religion and science grows as more and more people swallow the canard whole, civilization will draw ever closer to peril. God—and science—help us all.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Atheist Smugness

A couple of weeks ago I finished Crimes Against Logic. Overall, I found the book fairly enjoyable. The author, Jaime Whyte, highlighted many logical fallacies, and though most were fairly obvious, it was worthwhile to review some of them, especially for one, such as myself, who depends on logic, at least theoretically, in writing these little essays.

But there was a fundamental flaw to the book which brought into question the whole of Whyte's credibility. Throughout the book, Whyte uses various examples to poke holes in logical fallacies. While most of his examples were sound, most of his theological insights were laughably bad. In one instance, he concludes, smugly and simply, that God cannot be a tangled Trinity because three does not equal one. All of Christendom crumbles! Neither Augustine nor Aquinas ever thought of something so profound. Elsewhere he states that there is no such thing as paradox, a dubious assertion which he doesn't even begin to back up.

Whyte is not alone in his crimes against theology. Most of the new atheists, more than just rejecting Christianity (and other theological systems of thought) , dismiss it far too readily as simplistic and probably idiotic. They seem to have absolutely no grasp of what theology is, or why some might find it, not only comforting, but true.

Fraters Libertas
linked to an article from the Wall Street Journal by Sam Schulman. (Note: an account is required to view the entire article.) I quote therefrom:

For the new atheists, believing in God is a form of stupidity, which sets off their own intelligence. They write as if they were the first to discover that biblical miracles are improbable, that Parson Weems was a fabulist, that religion is full of superstition. They write as if great minds had never before wrestled with the big questions of creation, moral law and the contending versions of revealed truth. They argue as if these questions are easily answered by their own blunt materialism. Most of all, they assume that no intelligent, reflective person could ever defend religion rather than dismiss it. The reviewer of Dr. Dawkins's volume in a recent New York Review of Books noted his unwillingness to take theology seriously, a starting point for any considered debate over religion...

But to pass over this deeper faith -- the kind that engaged the great minds of Western history -- is to diminish the loss of faith too. The new atheists are separated from the old by their shallowness.

Sometime ago, Sloan interviewed Richard Dawkins, one of the new fangled atheist types.

Sloan: But it seems to me the big "why" questions are, why are we here? And what is our purpose in life?

Dawkins: It's not a question that deserves an answer.

Is he serious? Socrates once famously intoned, shortly before being condemned to death, that "the unexamined life was not worth living". The Last Days of Socrates makes clear that he was well short of finding all the answers to his questions, but that didn't stop him from continuing to search for them.

Sloan: Well, I think most people would say those questions are central to the way we think about our lives. Those are the big existential questions, but they are also questions that go beyond science.

Dawkins: If you mean, what is the purpose of the existence of the universe, then I'm saying that is quite simply begging the question. If you happen to be religious, you think that's a meaningful question. But the mere fact that you can phrase it as an English sentence doesn't mean it deserves an answer. Those of us who don't believe in a god will say that is as illegitimate as the question, why are unicorns hollow? It just shouldn't be put. It's not a proper question to put. It doesn't deserve an answer.

Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote that "Life begins on the other side of despair." If he was write about his premises, namely, that there is no God and existence precedes essence, he was right in his conclusion. But what a harsh conclusion! It is very difficult to get to the other side of despair. Dawkins seems unconcerned with, or unaware of this point. He says, essentially, "Life has no purpose, but neither does it require one. It is stupid to look for a purpose, and there is no reason one cannot simply live, quite happily, pursposelessly."

Of course, with such an outlook, one is not sure whether life is good at all. Being mere accident, it simply is. Morality goes the wayside; as Dostoyevksy noted, "Without God, all is permitted". It is difficult to formulate any sort of moral code when existence itself cannot be deemed good or bad. Murder is clearly wrong if life is valuable. Without this value, murder is only the cessation of cell replication, the atrophy or muscles, the breakdown in the function of organs, and so on and so forth. It is dull, but it is not really ghastly or immoral.

Yet in a sense Dostoyevsky was wrong. There seems to be things that are not permitted in an atheistic universe, except in some of the more extraordinary individuals. If science can explain all, wonder ceases; if there is no higher power, pride quickly ensues. A world without humility and wonder is somehow less humane. This alone points to the utility of reason. Since so many atheists seem to grasp even this, it is worth wondering whether or not they are missing other attributes as well.

The Mathematical Gender Gap

Following the link from Fred, I ended up at La Griffe du Lion. I'm surpressing an attempt at a Dave Barry-esque translation. Anyway, Monsieur Lion runs a series of statistical analyses on some data which suggests that women are not as good at math as men. Fairly obvious stuff actually. He then goes on to explain why Harvard, and other elite Universities, especially those heavy into research, have a tough time recruiting women faculty in areas such as math, physics and engineering.

At the end, he answers some questions.

Q: If, as you claim, 71% of the 99th percentile is male, that still leaves 29% who are female. What have you done to bring senior female faculty up to this level in Mathematics, Engineering and Physical Sciences?

LS: Full professors in Mathematics at Harvard represent ability in the top 0.0001% of the population, not the top 1%. We could therefore reasonably expect to find no more than one or two women at that rank, with two being extremely unlikely. I haven't done an analysis of Engineering and Physical Sciences, but I suspect prospects for women there are similar but less stark.

I go to a school which is much less prestigious than Harvard, but it is worthwhile to note that in my three years of classes, I've only had one female engineering professor. Moreover, such classes are hardly fraught with women pining to be professors themselves.

Q: OK, so we can't expect gender equity in Mathematics, Engineering and Physical Sciences at Harvard, but can we at least expect 29% of the workforce in these fields to be women?

LS: Not likely. Men and women exhibit other behavioral differences which are apparent almost from birth... Girls lean more toward fields like psychology, while similarly talented men incline toward engineering or physical science. A study... by Lubinski and Benbow followed the careers of mathematically precocious youth from age 13 to 23. All were in the top 1% of mathematical ability. At age 23 less than 1% of the girls were pursuing doctorates in mathematics, engineering, or physical science, while almost 8% of the boys were. Equal aptitude not withstanding, girls pursued doctorates in biology at more than twice the rate of boys, and in the humanities at almost three times the rate of boys. For all these reasons, we should regard 29% as an upper bound to the percentage of women in the technological work force. In practice, their numbers will be significantly less.

This fits nicely with my experience at an engineering university, Michigan Tech. The school offers other majors than engineering and it's a good thing they do. For some reason the women really seem to enjoy biology. Last fall, a biology class was taught in the same classroom as my electronics course. I've never seen a class so dominated by women, at least at Tech. In electronics, despite having at least forty students, only two or three were females.

Q: If all this is so, why are we meeting here today?

A: Good question. We are meeting here today because feminists, in order to support their androgynous fantasies, encourage able young women to enter technological fields even when their interests lie elsewhere.

La Griffe draws blood. There is no other reason for the complete disregard for the readily obvious and scientifically proven evidence he presents.

I can't speak for Monsieur Lion, but I do not think he writes this to prove men are better than women. Such is certainly not my aim. Moreover, despite the fact that I am seeking an engineering degree, I am in no way brilliant at math. It is something I am good at, to be sure, but the odds of me getting a professorship at Harvard, assuming I would get my PhD and then apply for the position, are a statistical zero. There are undoubtedly many women who are better at math than I am.

So why even mention any of this? Two reasons come to mind. First, feminists who disregard the facts give powerful evidence as to the poisonous nature of their idealogy. I recently started reading Warren Carroll's The Rise and Fall of the Communist Revolution. Therein he explains how the early Communists refused to accept that capitalist countries could improve the conditions of the worker, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. If capitalism was not wholly evil, revolution was unneccessary. Such a stance would of course be untenable to the faith of a True Believer.

Similarily, feminism posits, without a lick of proof, that men and women are equal, not in the sense that they should be treated with the same respect, but that they are essentially the same. Any discrepancies are temporary, and merely the result of culture. To a feminist, biological differences in areas such as mathematical aptitude are held to be chimerical, Camille Paglia notwithstanding.

Second, personal experience, though anecdotal, has led me to readily accept the Griffe's conclusions. Each year, someone runs a column in the Lode, explaining the newest plans on behalf of the administration to increase female enrollment. It remains to be seen whether anything can be done to close the gender gap. Yet I hardly think excellence in mathematics to be the indicator of superiority some feminists seem to think it to be. If Mother Nature is content to endow her some of her sons with certain algebraic attributes, I find little reason to object. Feminists would do well to remember that there are a number of things women do better than men.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Preparing to Lose in '08

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann grasp the obvious, though they manage to stumble along the way.

In the field taking shape before our eyes, none of the top four contenders is likely to satisfy their [conservatives'] delicate palates - made more arrogant and discerning by decades of victories.

This is the aforesaid stumble. Palates have gotten less, not more discernible as each Republican candidate has been less conservative than his predecessor. Twenty years ago, Bush would never have won the nomination. Heck, people who dismissed McCain as too liberal eight years ago are seeing him in an altogether different light when he stand next to uber-liberal Rudi Guiliani. Speaking of which...

Rudy Guiliani? Pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-gay rights, pro-immigration, pro-gun control Rudy? Righties will vote for him only if they have lobotomies first. Remember how the New York City Council prohibited the Boy Scouts from meeting on city property because they wouldn't let in gay scoutmasters? Rudy let it happen.

I'm not so secretly hoping for a Guiliani nomination as nothing could expose the party as a complete charade more quickly. I am especially going to enjoy watching the soulless among the Evangelical commentariat tell their flock to vote for someone who opposes them on every single important issue.

Sen. John McCain? The McCain of the Kennedy-McCain bill to let illegal immigrants become citizens? Of the "anti-torture" bill to handcuff our agents when they question terrorists? Of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill that the right wing hates? Of the Lieberman-McCain anti-global-warming bill that addresses a problem the right doesn't believe in? That John McCain for president? The right wing can't tolerate his apostasy even if he is the pro-life candidate that Rudy isn't.

I like McCain infinitely more than Guiliani. The latter is a political whore, through and through, and possesses a very despicable character, whereas the former and I could probably enjoy a beer together. I'd never vote for the man of course, but I think him fairly respectable, for a politician. In the end, I think McCain is simply too honest and genuine to win the nomination. He's also very old.

Mitt Romney, who was pro-life and then switched to pro-choice when he ran to become Massachusetts governor and now is switching back again as he runs for president? The Mitt Romney who said "I will protect and defend the right of Massachusetts women to choose?" The Romney who has flip-flopped on gay issues? Will the right wing back him? No way.

There is also his Mormonism. I'm not sure why this matters, but the pundits keep saying that it does. All of which may mean nothing. Regardless, his wishy-washy stance on abortion should sink him.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? A man who has never valued the right-wing social agenda?

When did this guy come back into play? His relative obscurity may be enough to vault him to the nomination, as Gingrich took on the antichrist of American conservative politics, Bill Clinton, back in the 90's.

And then there are the personal lives - the only one of these guys who hasn't had multiple wives is the Mormon - a church that's viewed dimly by lots of conservative Christians.

See, the pundits know. That said, divorce is viewed more favorably by conservative Christians than one would expect given Christ's take on the matter. Many conservative Christians are divorced and remarried themselves, so this might hurt them less than one would expect.

I think we'll all be a little surprised at how many conservative Christians turn out to vote Republican in 2008, but I also think the number who defect to third parties or refuse to vote outright will be large enough to sway the election to the Democrats.

People who say Hillary is too divisive to win are forgetting one very important point. She doesn't need to be as charming as Bill was; she merely needs to be more likeable than the Republican stooge who runs against her. Judging from the field, this task hardly seems Herculean.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Saving the Republicans

This bit from National Review called to mind a Chesterton essay I read recently. First, Ramesh Ponnuru:

Yesterday, I spoke to a smart, well-connected Republican strategist who has been out of step with his party for the last few years. I agree with most of what he had to say, and thought you might find it interesting...

“There is no consensus on why we lost.”...

He adds, “There is little trust [on the part of congressmen] in President Bush. There is zero trust in Karl Rove.” The congressmen feel that the White House is looking backward—trying to come up with a plan for the next two years that redeems the previous six...

“I don’t know what we stand for,” he concludes. "I know we're for big business, and I know we like spending." He’s glad the party lost.

I too am glad the GOP lost, although I am disappointed that the Democrats didn't lose, too. Actually, the loss was inevitable for two reasons:

First, the thinking members of the conservative base had forgotten why they voted for Republicans in the first place. There will always be people, we call them sheep, who will follow the advice of their shepherd of choice, but docile cretins convert no one, and, though their votes matter, these are ultimately of little value. Kierkegaard comes to mind; he said something along the lines that the capability to convert was dependent on the ability to seduce.

Alienation of the better part of one's base is a mortal mistake for two reasons. First, some of these people stay home and do not vote at all; at the risk of slipping into vainglory I offer myself as Exhibit A. Some do vote, but this leads me to my second point. The "thinking members of the conservative base" are worth much more than the votes they bring to the table. Comprising a comparitively small segment of the population, their votes are actually fairly insignificant. However, intelligent people talk, and do so, surprisingly enough, in an intelligent manner. They are capable of convincing people, both idiots and otherwise; thus they play an important role in each election cycle. In 2006 the aforesaid thinking members kept mum. No conservative defended Bush, and those that did immediately exposed their incredible lack of intelligence.

The other reason that the GOP lost power in 2006 is far easier to explain, being of a simpler nature. The American public trusts politicians more than I think wise; but when one party holds too much power and fails to delight the expectations of the idyllic public, a certain segment of the population empowers the other party, with the hope that they will more readily fulfill their senseless dreams. Put plainly, it is perfectly normal for a party to lose power in an offyear election wherein the President is in his second term and the House and/or Senate are controlled by his party.

The loss of power then, though lamentable, should also have been expected. More regrettable was the inability of the Republicans to enact anything which could be even vaguely construed as a conservative reform. Six years of power begat two dubious votes on the High Court, a decent tax cut--though no significant tax reform--a doozie of a mess in both Afghanistan and Iraq, No Child Left Behind, and the largest budget deficits in the history of the republic. Even if the Democrats do nothing to further increase the size of the leviathan government beast, an unlikely scenario, the last eight years will have been disastrous for conservatives. Without question, George W. Bush has been and will go down as an ignominous failure.

But the failure is not Bush's alone. Nor would an improvement in leadership be liable to bring about significant reform. Many in the Republican crowd are looking for the next Reagan, the high priest and demi-god of American conservatism. Tangentially, the more I look at Reagan, the less I like him, and the less I find him to be genuinely conservative, though Reagan apologists are quick to point to the Senate, controlled by Democrats, for frustrating most of the Gipper's noble intentions. Still, suffice it to say I'd trade him for Bush in a heartbeat.

Anyway, not only is Reagan not coming back, but his ressurrection, aside from being a messy affair, wouldn't do a bit of good. He'd still have to deal with a House and Senate idealogically Democratic, even if he had a chance to start anew with Republican control. All of which brings me to Mr. GKC. I received seven more volumes of Chesterton's collected works--Santa still comes to my house; it's glorious. Each of the volumes I received contains essays written for the Illustrated London News. I quote from November 27, 1915, entitled The Weaknesses of Our Leaders:

Strength is the great weakness of politicians. They are haunted by the decayed Carlylean fantasy that a nation in peril must be saved by a Great Man; and each of them is always trying to prove that he was the Great Man and all his colleagues were impiously blind to the fact. They are wrong from the very root. A great nation in peril is saved by a great nation, or else it is not saved at all.

Chesterton speaks of England, that is, a nation; this applied to his fair home, and it probably applies to America as well. I do not speak of the threat posed by terrorism. Such a threat is comparitively miniscule compared with that posed by the ever-growing government. Should we ever be in need of saving, it will almost assuredly be because of the stooges in Washington.

But on a less pessimistic note, the aforesaid quote applies to the Republican party as well. And while I would never wager so much as a penny on the GOP coming to the aid of the republic, therein lies, at present, our best hope, short of the miraculous. If the Republican Party is to be saved, it must be saved by its rank-and-file; Romney, McCain, Gingrich, Guiliani: these will not save the party. Neither will the second coming of Reagan. He wouldn't even make it past the primaries.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Cowardly Dems, Redundancy Pardoned

I got this from Drudge:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi today sent the following letter to President Bush urging him to reject his reported plan to escalate the war in Iraq by increasing troop levels and delaying the ability of the Iraqi government to take control of their own future.

Quotes from the letter:

"We want to do everything we can to help Iraq succeed in the future but, like many of our senior military leaders, we do not believe that adding more U.S. combat troops contributes to success. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution."

"Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain."

Someone needs to ask Reid and Pelosi a very simple question: can we acheieve victory in Iraq?
If the answer is no, we need to get our troops out. Immediately if not sooner, as the saying goes. If victory is no longer an option--it's not--we need to stop the bleeding. Anything else is moral cowardice of the highest degree. Like the President in Clear and Present Danger, the Democrats are willing to let the troops die like flies. This way Bush looks like an idiot and they save face. If a few farm boys from Texas have to die, sobeit. At least Pelosi has control.

If the answer is yes, then they need to offer a plan instead of hoisting endless platitudes. I don't think Pelosi knows a thing about the military, but she must have someone on her staff who has a little free time and can read up on the war. Alternatively, she could talk to some of the military brass, many of whom are increasingly disinterested in watching their men die for naught.

Back in high school I used to wrestle. My dad, himself a wrestler, used to have saying that he borrowed from one of his old coaches. Quote approximate: You need to have a plan A and a plan B, and plan B can't be trying plan A harder. If my fireman's carry wasn't proving effective against an opponent, I needed to try another move. If our troops aren't winning in Iraq, we can't shuffle paperwork somewhere in Washington, implicitly suggesting that if only our troops tried harder they'd emerge victorious.

Buchanan had another interesting column today, wherein he highlights neo-conservative backstabbing of Bush, the likes of which would be liable to land one in Dante's lowest circle of Hell. The reason the war in Iraq is failing, and will continue to fail has nothing to do with Bush, except insofar as he sent the troops there. Put more plainly, Clinton, Carter, Roosevelt or Eisenhower would have flubbed up Iraq, too. Except that I don't think Ike would have let himself be sold on the war in the first place.

Modern Day Inquisition

More concerning the Inquisition from the book I'm reading on the topic:

[T]he system of secrecy was an open invitation to perjury and malicious testimony. This objection might not have been valid but for the fact that all accusations were taken seriously, and even if a man were later exonerated, the evil brought on him by a slight and secret accusation was immense.

I'm not sure if Henry Kamen is referring to the Inquistion or rape shield laws. The parallel is stunningly accuarate. I'm not going to add further comment concerning the Duke case; as I pointed out months ago, the charges were obviously fallacious. Yet, in incidents of rape, "all accusations [are] taken seriously", and "even if [three men are] later exonerated the evil brought on [them]... was immense."

If the medieval instituion was damnable, why are laws which provide for the same abuses considered laudable? Are feminists Inquisition apologists, or is this merely further evidence confirming their inability to think? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Man as More Than Animals, Even Feminists

When the news bores me, and I'm feeling a bit like ramming my head straight into a wall, metaphorically speaking of course, I visit Amanda over at Pandagon.

She's taking on creationists again. There are two truly interesting things about her post.

First, just because idiot fundamentalists believe the Grand Canyon is only 6000 years old doesn't mean that either creationism itself or Genesis in particular is pure bunk. I am not a scientist, but scientists tell me that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. I am wont to believe them. The obvious corollary is that the Creation story must not be read literally. It is preposterous to conclude that a whole book is nonsensical simply because a few wayward cretins read it incorrectly. Thus, when she notes:

We are just another species of animal.

She couldn't be more incorrect. Strictly speaking, of course we are another species of animal; I know of no creationist, however infantile, who would be so bold as to suggest that we another species of plants. But the stark reality is that humans are unique; if we are not made in the image of God, then we are, at the very least, an extraordinary accident of evolution. And the most obvious proof of this is Amanda's own writing. Quite simply: apes do not blog. Art, even bad art, is the mark of but one species: man.

When she writes:

For millenia, religious and philosophical thinkers have tried to demonstrate that we are significantly different from animals in such a way that it proves that god made us in his image, and they’ve not done the best job of it, because people keep, in ways big and small, accepting the truth of their own eyes, which is that animals are not different from us in any major way.

I can only conclude that her art is bad art because her prose is poor and her thought is marred with fallacy. But it is art. And even the brightest monkey cannot concoct a sentence as she just did. Genesis is not necessary to conclude that man is different from the beasts. One's eyes or ears, coupled with something approaching rational thought should suffice spendidly.

Second, she seems to forget completely what she wrote above. Alternatively, she is wholly unable to flesh out the fullness of her thoughts. If we consider her previous point, and accept that man is just like the animals, man, like the animals, hasn't any free will. If humans have free will, we have found a detectable difference, and man is no longer just like the animals. But once we have dismissed free will we can no longer hold man responsible for his actions. A rapist, like a cow, is only doing what his instincts tell him to do. And, as this conclusion is unacceptable to an enlightened feminist, as Amanda undoubtedly is, she never discusses it. Instead she proceeds to the opposite conclusion, and, in typical feminist fashion, brings up her little pet peeve, the damnable patriarchy, even though it doesn't have a thing to do with the topic at hand:

As a feminist, the big implication that jumps out at me is that the story of Genesis that justifies the gender hierarchy is out the door. Because men have traditionally had power over women only matters if you think that change is not possible. But we grew big brains, we started walking upright, we invented agriculture—surely we can make women’s equality possible. If you think about it, it’s no coincidence at all that creationists also tend to be socially conservative, which means of course that they are pro-patriarchy. It all fits together.

There are several points to be made. First, creationists, being Christian for the most part, recognize the equality of women because they recognize the equality of all mankind. Christ came to die for the sins of all "gentile or Jew, servant of free, woman or man"; so much for the notion that Paul was a chauvinist. Further, this equality is intrinsic. Whether or not women can vote or abort their babies doesn't make a lick of difference in terms of real equality. Certainly political equality and social equality matter to some extent, in that a lack of them can be unpleasant, but if one infers that without the right to vote women are unequal would cause one to believe that all who haven't got democracy are unequal to us. I'm not proud enough for such folly.

As for the notion of improvement, I will let Chesterton handle the rebuttal:

Without the doctrine of the Fall all idea of progress is unmeaning. Mr. Blatchford [an atheist with whom Chesterton engaged frequently] says that there was not a Fall but a gradual rise. But the very word "rise" implies that you know toward what you are rising. Unless there is a standard you cannot tell whether you are rising or falling. But the main point is that the Fall like every other large path of Christianity is embodied in the common language talked on the top of an omnibus. Anybody might say, "Very few men are really Manly." Nobody would say, "Very few whales are really whaley." If you wanted to dissuade a man from drinking his tenth whisky you would slap him on the back and say, "Be a man." No one who wished to dissuade a crocodile from eating his tenth explorer would slap it on the back and say, "Be a crocodile." For we have no notion of a perfect crocodile; no allegory of a whale expelled from his whaley Eden.

Anyway, I take particular note of her second to last sentence because it is so bizarre. The reason creationists are socially conservative is not because they are pro-patriarchy, which is, I believe, what she suggests. It is hard to tell what she suggests actually, but I think I have inferred correctly. The reason creationists are socially conservative is that they are Christians, which means, interestingly enough, that they draw from the Bible for intellectual and spiritual support. What all this has to do with the patriarchy I haven't the slightest clue.

In a strange sense, feminists are their own worst enemies. Morally speaking, I have no qualms with women voting. Personally, I think the whole affair of voting a terrible sham, and thinking men and women would be wise to forget the whole charade; but that they have a right to participate I will not deny.

Yet practically speaking, if a fraction of women are like Amanda, I can see why Adams wanted to avoid the "tyranny of the petticoat". Amanda uses big enough words that I know she must be nominally educated, but one should never suppose that education implies intelligence. For, simply put, she cannot think. Everything boils down to the patriarchy, which is simply a substitution for whatver she currently dislikes in society. Fundamentalists Christians are frequently foolish. But so are the feminists.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Crisis Calls Bring Inquisitorial Parallels

Civil liberties continue to slowly go the way of the buffalo:

Britons flying to America could have their credit card and email accounts inspected by the United States authorities following a deal struck by Brussels and Washington.

By using a credit card to book a flight, passengers face having other transactions on the card inspected by the American authorities. Providing an email address to an airline could also lead to scrutiny of other messages sent or received on that account.

Meanwhile, Mexicans continue to migrate across the southern border, having to furnish no paperwork of any sort. I suppose the fellows haven't got email. That must be it.

Anyway, I've been reading a book on the Inquisition. Many parallels between the provisions of the Patriot Act and the institution of the Inquisition have emerged. The author of the aforesaid book, Henry Kamen notes:

[The sixteenth-century Jesuit Juan de] Mariana admitted that the new harsh measures [inquisitorial procedures] were a deviation from the normal charitable procedure of the Church; but, he says, it was held 'that at times the ancient customs of the Church should be changed in conformity with the needs of the times'...

Crisis times required crisis measure: the message was implicit in every major directive issued by Ferdinand in these years, and helps to explain the unusual cooperation he obtained throughout Spain...

The unprecedented activities of the Holy Office were deemed acceptable only as an emergency measure, until the crisis has passed.

I would apologize for the redundancy, except that I think it imperative. The crimes of the Inquisition were inexcusable; that they paled in comparison to modern day atrocities, at least in terms of scale is beside the point. The Holy Office was not, ipso facto, immoral. Stamping out heresy was important to the Church. She had a duty, a duty that still remains, of watching out for her flock and leading souls to salvation. I can’t help but pause to note the importance of this point. There were many such inquisitions in Europe; there was one in France for example. But the institution itself was not intrinsically evil, even if it was slightly abhorrent. The Church has battled heresy almost from the get-go; the first anti-pope emerged less than a century and a half after John wrote his Revelation, and heretics had reared their ugly heads years prior to that. I pronounce no judgment on the efficacy of the early Inquisition, due to my ignorance of its details, but I will readily defend the right of the Church to stand up for truth. Only an age such as ours, which is so apathetic to truth, could fail to notice the importance of right thinking. Whether or not the Church was right, indeed is right, is a question for the ages. But right or not, She would be absolutely useless if She didn’t fight for truth. If there is anything more worth fighting for, I cannot quite think of what it could be. Even the defense of innocent life is wrapped up in truth, namely the truth that innocent life should be preserved.

Now then, the crimes of the Inquisition were due to its abuse of power, its break from the "normal charitable procedure of the Church". This occurred, and only could have occurred, by the docility of the "Old Christians" who allowed calls of crisis to trump their Christian concern and charity.

We see much the same thing happening today. Ordinary measures are insufficient to fight terrorism. The terrorist is a new creature who posits a new set of rules with which to fight him. In other words, truth is mutable, which is simply an admission that is not truth at all. There is little that bothers me more than such blatant intellectual dishonesty. It is one thing to believe that the heroes of yesteryear inhabited a different world, that is, that their culture and customs were different. It is an altogether different thing to pretend that the men of yesteryear were not men at all, that we have no more in common with them then we do with the common swallow. If murder was immoral for the first cave men, and it most certainly was, it is just as immoral for the enlightened modern. If it was immoral for the Inquisition to burn "heretics" because of obviously false testimony, it is just as immoral for the Republic of the United States to do whatever it will with terrorists on the same cheap charges.

I do not profess to know whether or not the secret courts of President Bush have been abused like the Inquisition was, though it helps to remember that the latter institution was relatively benign or even inactive for long periods of time. The secret courts, if not dissolved, could very likely become even more corrupt than was the feared Inquisition. I have no proof of this, of course, save for that of historical parallel; and while the slippery slope is a "logical fallacy", it is nonetheless one which shows a very reliable rate of recurrence. If Presidents and Congressmen came of the mold and character of Washington or Cincinnatus I might have hope that the provisions of the wretched Patriot Act would be abolished once the "crisis" had abated, but the dubious nature of the assertion, coupled with the dubious nature of our enemy, and thus the perpetuity of the crisis, leads me to feel quite the contrary. If anyone feels otherwise I would be forced to conclude that his Christian charity has trumped his common sense.

This may seem a bit off topic. After all, what do email addresses and credit card information have to do with a benighted institution from antiquity? Yet the connection is readily made. Liberties, once surrendered, always tossed away in the midst of a crisis, are seldom returned. The Spaniards of yore realized this far too late. Complaints were made, but fell upon deaf ears.

Kamen explains:

By the mid-sixteenth century, the tribunal was constitutionally invulnerable…

Its impact and duration was to be much longer than anyone could have imagined in the beginning.

It is not necessarily too late to protest, but the longer the crisis measures are accepted, the harder they will be to uproot when they begin to become abusive. History shows that those that do not learn therefrom will suffer in its repetition.


Bill Amend puts away the pen, at least for the daily comics.

Bill Amend’s popular FoxTrot comic strip will go to a Sunday-only publication schedule as of Dec. 31, 2006, announced Universal Press Syndicate today. The last daily will be Saturday, Dec. 30. Reruns of dailies will be available for Web usage.

As I joked at last night's party, I now have one less reason to live. Don't worry, I still have sufficient impetus--how does one pluralize that?--to continue my existence. Still, Foxtrot will be missed.

My favorite character was, of course, super-nerd Jason Fox. He and his friend Marcus, fellow super-nerd, proved, at least to me, that there was nothing wrong with letting one's dorkiness show. I don't wish to overstate the importance of Foxtrot; I am a flaming dork, and would hesitate to hide this fact with or without Jason's shining example. But Foxtrot was important because it illustrated the secret charm of nerds, a charm which isn't secret to every self-professing nerd who isn't entirely lacking in social skills.

Let your inner nerd show! Hoist a glass--even if it's only filled with energy drink--to Mr. Amend on this fine day. And remember, there are always the Sunday comics.