Saturday, March 26, 2005

Happy Easter, everyone
Sorry for the lack of posts this weekend. As you know, it's a pretty big weekend for the Christian faith, so in addition to the massive amounts of work I have to do, I'm spending a good portion of my free time in church. I hope you can forgive me—I promise I'll be back to a more typical posting regimen by Monday. I'll also try to get some things up throughout the day on Easter, but I'll have to play that by ear.

Friday, March 25, 2005

What I've been saying all along
Now the Wall Street Journal agrees: "At its heart, the public uproar demonstrates the need for a national discussion on the care of the severely disabled and, inevitably, on the 'right to die.' These are intensely personal questions, best left to individual families in consultation with their medical and religious advisers. But to the extent that government gets involved, the proper venue for settling debates is state legislatures, where the will of the people, as expressed through laws enacted by their elected representatives, can be heard. It is not the courts, where judges can be tempted to impose their own values, especially in the absence of specific guidance from the law."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

She writes so beautifully
I've purposely kept my remarks on the Terri Schiavo case brief. When the issue is resolved once and for all, either through the tube's reinsertion or her death, I'll have more comments on "right to death" issues generally, but I don't want to associate such things so directly with the specifics of this case. However, if you want a glimpse into what I'll have to say, take a look at Peggy Noonan's comments. She's pretty much spot-on as far as I'm concerned—not surprisingly.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The perfect mix of machine and... machine?
For someone who loves computers and recently found himself addicted to American Chopper on the Discovery Channel, this is the ideal. Seriously, that guy is a genius.

What a Connecticut Republican stands for
Last night, I went out for a few drinks with some Republicans from my home town, following a caucus vote (which my side lost, don't ask) on a rules change for our Republican Town Committee. Not surprisingly, the Schiavo case came up. Perhaps a little more surprisingly, everyone seemed to agree with me that they didn't want the woman to die, but that it is absolutely wrong of Congress to intervene. And then, today, I read this quote in the The New York Times, from our congressman: "'My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing,' said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. 'This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility.'"

One of my good friends who was at the bar last night pointed out, when Shays came up in discussion, that of course he voted against the intervention—he's a Connecticut Republican.

On another note, the article containing this quote comes under the headline "G.O.P. Right Is Splintered on Schiavo Intervention." Now, I ask you, have you ever seen a headline in the New York Times suggesting that the Dems were "splintered" on anything? The usual term is "split," but again we see the editors at the NYT delighting at a little disagreement within the Republican Party, and taking subconscious pot-shots at them all along.

Something out of a cartoon
I picture people adjusting their hospital beds until they fold up entirely and crush the person, like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon, when I see this headline from FDA orders killer hospital beds to be seized.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Sexist Scientists
Or at least, that's what the faculty of arts and sciences are Harvard would call the ones mentioned in this Weekly Standard piece: "An international team of 250 scientists, conducting research first reported last Thursday in the British journal Nature, has completed a full map of the X or 'female' chromosome which helps determine sex in human beings. The researchers found much greater genetic variation between the sexes than they had expected. All told, as the Los Angeles Times described the team's conclusions, 'men and women may differ by as much as 2 percent of their entire genetic inheritance, greater than the hereditary gap between humankind and its closest relative--the chimpanzee.' Huntington Willard of Duke University, one of the key researchers participating in this latest effort, told the Chicago Tribune that by now 'any of us over the age of two realizes there are plenty of differences between males and females that are characteristic of the two sexes.'
Alas, however, scientists have yet to discover an explanation for the inability of Harvard University faculty members to discuss this subject like grownups."

As I've said all along, I don't have broad hips, or female genitalia, and women don't have male genitalia. Isn't it just slightly possible that our brains have developed a little differently too?
(Apologies to the Weekly Standard for lifting such a large piece of text, but it's most powerful in full, I think.)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Who is Antonin Scalia?
Read and find out. (Note: just in case you don't know at least this much, he is an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court). I like Scalia a lot, which probably won't come as a shock to you, and I like him for precisely the reasons laid out in this interview. For example:

But Scalia is laying out his approach and telling you in no uncertain terms how dangerous it is for American democracy and the American Constitution if judges don't follow it. Also, his dissents, which are frequent, are notoriously caustic. He'll use words like "preposterous" and "irrational" to describe what he sees as the wrongheaded thinking of his colleagues.
Perhaps most respectable about the man is the way he sticks to what he sees in the texts in question, regardless of what he'd prefer to read into them.
He would emphasize, though, that he does not reach these conclusions because they are the ones he'd prefer as a matter of policy—what he would prefer as a policy matter is, he would say, entirely irrelevant—but because, after reading the words of the Constitution or of a statute, that was the conclusion he had to reach. And it's true that he sometimes comes to conclusions that don't seem to comport with his own political or social beliefs. He likes to cite his vote in a flag-burning case, for instance, when he voted with liberals on the Court to protect flag desecration as symbolic political speech. "Scalia did not like to vote that way," he said in a speech at the University of Michigan. "He does not like sandal-wearing, bearded weirdos who go around burning flags."
The interview has a lot of good points, and I don't want to just reprint it here, but there's one question and response I want to post in full.
How does [Scalia's] stance on abortion fit into [the "originalist"] philosophy?

He would say: I look at the Constitution and I don't see anywhere in there anything about a right to abortion. And, furthermore, I don't see anywhere in there the right to privacy or autonomy that some people extrapolate from the Constitution to support the right to abortion. If you want legalized abortion—or any other new right—he would argue, you need to convince your fellow-citizens and pass a law. Unelected judges have no particular ability to divine what the moral standards are out there, and it's anti-democratic for them to impose their views.
It's a pretty clear position, and that Scalia holds to one philosophy so consistently, no matter what you think of that philosophy, shows principles. Seriously, though, read the whole thing.

The Four American Stories
Robert Reich coaches the Democrats to stop worrying about specific words and phrases (Death Tax, Ownership Society, Pro-Life, etc.) and realize that they have to construct a deeper narrative.

His theory is that they need to learn how to address the three uniquely American narratives:

The Triumphant Individual. This is the familiar tale of the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself, and eventually gains wealth, fame, and honor. It's the story of the self-made man (or, more recently, woman) who bucks the odds, spurns the naysayers, and shows what can be done with enough gumption and guts. He's instantly recognizable: plainspoken, self-reliant, and uncompromising in his ideals--the underdog who makes it through hard work and faith in himself[...]

The Benevolent Community. This is the story of neighbors and friends who roll up their sleeves and pitch in for the common good[...]

The Mob at the Gates. In this story, the United States is a beacon light of virtue in a world of darkness, uniquely blessed but continuously endangered by foreign menaces. Hence our endless efforts to contain the barbarism and tyranny beyond our borders[...]

The Rot at the Top. The last story concerns the malevolence of powerful elites. It's a tale of corruption, decadence, and irresponsibility in high places--of conspiracy against the common citizen.
I don't know how he expects the Democrats to do this, or how effective they'll be at trying (they, as a party, don't get the parable aspect of American culture, in my opinion) but I like these classifications of the traditional American narratives.

UPDATE [3/21/2005 - 22:02]: More on the way Democrats don't seem to get that uniquely American perspective, from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, with the amusing title War, bugs & Democrats. The author, Ralph Reiland, quotes Rick Perlstein from the Village Voice: "We talk about Southern culture, blue-collar culture, NASCAR culture -- which overlaps, in complicated ways, with evangelical culture. Certainly one tenet they all share is this: When somebody punches you in the gut, you don't smile, stride halfway between his point and yours, and say that maybe the guy has a point."

So why the funny title? He ties this difference between the Dems and the culture described above into the intrusiveness of the state overall, with an example about flies:
With the flies, California taxpayers in San Bernardino County were forced to spend $10 million for a 10-acre Delhi Sands fly 'preserve.' Another plan called for slowing traffic on the San Bernardino Freeway in order to reduce the number of deaths-by-windshield.

Imagine handing over the tax money for the 'preserve' and the bureaucrats' salaries and then getting up each morning an hour early for work and chugging down the freeway at half-speed in order to keep some bugs out of harm's way.

Any normal guy would stop at the first hardware and load up on bug bombs and flypaper.
So, to conclude (for now at least) I think Reich has a point, but he misses something too. He says the Democrats have "failed to realize that the rhetorical challenge they face is deeper than simply finding the right words and phrases," but he still asserts that it's a rhetorical challenge. I think it's an ideological difference, not a rhetorical one—and that's something that it'll take a long time to overcome.

UPDATE [16:28 - 3/22/2005]: Rick Perlstein (I can only assume it's actually him) commented on this post, in response to the misuse of a quote of his. The quote in question was: "We talk about Southern culture, blue-collar culture, NASCAR culture -- which overlaps, in complicated ways, with evangelical culture. Certainly one tenet they all share is this: When somebody punches you in the gut, you don't smile, stride halfway between his point and yours, and say that maybe the guy has a point."

Perlstein responds:
The author missed my point in a rather mentally retarded way. If you read the original piece--'ll see I was referring to the kind of compromises Republicans demand Democrats make: on economic justice.

In fact those who meet those who punch us in the gut on security matters half way most consistently are in the Bush administration: the people who suck up to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
I appreciate Mr. Perlstein's correction, and I think it's too bad that his quote was misused by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. However, I think Ralph Reiland's point in using this quote is still accurate. He should have found a quote whose context better supported his point, instead of abusing Perlstein's work, but the conclusion he draws from the quote could easily stand without this particular framing.

The difference between news and improv
From Mudville Gazette, this is the text of a CENTCOM news release:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - At approximately noon today, 24 terrorists were killed and seven wounded when they attacked coalition forces on the outskirts of Baghdad. Six soldiers were injured during the attack.
And this is the New York Times version:
Details about the Salman Pak ambush were vague, but the audacity of the insurgents, on the second anniversary of the start of the American military campaign that toppled Saddam Hussein, showed that the guerrilla war still burns fiercely here, long after President Bush proclaimed major combat operations over and despite a high turnout among Iraqis in the Jan. 30 elections. As the violence persists and as the winners of those elections continue to haggle over a new government, the optimism from the vote is quickly fading among ordinary Iraqis.
Noticeable difference, eh? Read the rest of the post—it's amazing.

UPDATE [20:57 - 3/21/2005]: More from The Man.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The leader of my Church
Rowan Williams, the Archibishop of Canterbury (the leader of the Anglican Church, and by proxy the Episcopal Church) says People are starting to realise we can't go on as we are: "For a large majority of Christians — not only Roman Catholics, and including this writer — it is impossible to regard abortion as anything other than the deliberate termination of a human life. Whatever other issues enter into the often anguished decisions concerning particular cases, they want this dimension to be taken seriously.
Equally, though, for a large majority of Christians this is a view which they know they have to persuade others about, and recognise is not taken for granted in our society. The idea that raising the issues here is the first step towards a theocratic tyranny or a capitulation to some neanderthal Christian right is alarmist nonsense."

Read the whole thing. The focus is on Britain, but his thougths about handling the abortion issue are universally applicable.

From "John DeLorean, developer of a futuristic sportscar that captured the country's attention in the 1980s, has died. He was 80."

Back to the Future fans everywhere are in mourning.

That is all.