Ed Morrissey has blogged at Captain's Quarters since 2003, and has a daily radio show at BlogTalkRadio, where he serves as Political Director. Called "Captain Ed" by his readers, Ed is a father and grandfather living in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, a native Californian who moved to the North Star State because of the weather.
Northern Alliance Radio Today
Don't forget to tune in to the Northern Alliance Radio Network today from noon to 3 pm CDT. We have a full slate today, with the usual This Week In Review hour leading off with myself, John Hinderaker, and King Banaian joining Mitch Berg, and we'll be discussing Senate confirmations as well as Minnesota concealed-carry laws and possibly the recent Sgrena evidence, as well as other hot topics from the week. In hour 2, Joel Rosenberg joins us for a couple of segments, and in hour 3, former MST3K comedy genius Mike Nelson will be in-studio for the entire hour with Mitch and the Fraters gang.
If you're in the Twin Cities, be sure to listen on AM 1280 The Patriot. If you're outside our listening area, The Patriot's website has streaming audio of our show for the worldwide audience. Call in and join us at 651-289-4488!
Movie Review: Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
Last night, I went to a film opening for the first time in years to see the new version of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. The books have long been a favorite of mine; I've read and re-read the five-book trilogy enough times that the characters are easily recalled from memory, as well as my own personal characterizations of them. Unlike most books, however, a film version of HGG would necessarily mean making a more coherent narrative in order to be successfuly -- so I went to the cinema knowing that the film would take certain license with the original material.
I was not disappointed.
** SPOILERS BELOW! **
Now, fans must understand that the film version takes liberties with many elements of the books. In fact, when I say that the movie takes liberties, I mean that if the film version dated your sister, not only would you be tempted to take the film out behind the gym after school and beat the living hell out of it, but your father would almost certainly get his shotgun and arrange for some abrupt nuptials. These liberties bear some similarity to those which gave the Yanks such a naughty reputation in Britain during WWII.
However, keep in mind two important facts: Douglas Adams wrote this version himself, and it really does make for a better movie experience. For instance, the movie puts much more emphasis on the sexual tension between Trillian and Arthur Dent and provides a completely separate resolution for it. (It's actually the central point of the film, inasmuch as it has any point at all.) Elements of the first three books drift in and out of the movie, but only the truly initiated will notice it. Zaphod's mission only gets about halfway accomplished in the movie, while Arthur manages to save Earth much more quickly -- and deliberately -- than in Adams' series. Adams created a completely new character, Hamma Kavula, for the film, which John Malkovich chews delightfully as only he can.
Put aside all the changes. The characters remain as vivid and absurd as ever, especially Zaphod, as played by Sam Rockwell, and Marvin the Paranoid Android, voiced brilliantly by Alan Rickman. Zooey Deschanel would not have been my first choice for Trillian, but she does a terrific job, and Mos Def completely surprises me as Ford Prefect -- he's hilarious. The center of the movie, the Guide itself, provides plenty of absurd laughs not only from the narration of the entries (taken straight from Adams' book) but from the Star Trek: TNG style of animation used.
Even the First Mate, who doesn't find British humor and science fiction all that interesting, enjoyed the movie. She especially liked Marvin and his morose commentary, as well as the complete lack of objectionable material. My favorite parts involved the Vogons, which are fleshed out almost exactly as I'd imagined, and the Heart of Gold spaceship. Take a light heart and an open mind, and you'll be singing the theme song "So Long And Thanks For All The Fish" all the way home. Don't be afraid to take the entire family to this one.
UPDATE: Should have been Marvin the Paranoid Android; I should have known better. I've corrected it now.
Mass Grave Of Saddam Victims Found
For those who forget why Saddam presented such a unique threat to the region of Southwest Asia, the Washington Post carries this reminder today. American investigators exhumed the corpses of 113 Kurds, all but five women and children, in southern Iraq, and as many as 1400 may still be buried there -- victims of Hussein's genocide against the Kurds and his other ethnic enemies:
U.S. investigators have exhumed the remains of 113 people -- all but five of them women, children or teenagers -- from a mass grave in southern Iraq that may hold at least 1,500 victims of Saddam Hussein's campaign against the Kurdish minority in the 1980s, U.S. and Iraqi officials said this week. ...
The non-acidic soil at the grave site preserved layers and layers of distinctive Kurdish clothing worn by many of the victims, suggesting that they may have piled on their best clothes expecting to be relocated, investigators said.
Authorities showed reporters some of the remains, including the skull of an older woman with pink dentures and the skeleton of a teenage girl clutching a bag of possessions.
"These were not combatants," said Gregg Nivala, a member of a U.S. team investigating crimes committed by Hussein's government and assisting the tribunal. "These were women and children."
The Post reports that American investigators developing evidence for Saddam's trial now can establish that Saddam murdered over a half-million Kurds in retaliation for their opposition during the Iran-Iraq War, and perhaps millions of Shi'a, as National Geographic postulated late last year. The Marsh Arabs also died by the thousands, although perhaps not as directly, when Saddam dried up their habitat and imposed starvation on their population.
Clearly, Saddam made himself into one of the most successful practitioners of genocide in the past century. Not only did he manage to kill millions of people based on their ethnicity and religion, he also engaged the Western liberal elite to defend him and his sovereignty -- the same people who swore "Never again!" when genocide involved Caucasians, who bombed Belgrade when Bosnians became the victims but conveniently looked away from Arab genocides such as in Iraq and in Darfur.
If these people had been in charge in 2003, Saddam would still run Iraq with an iron fist and he would still be killing his enemies by the thousands to this day. He would still be filling these trenches with bodies of women and children, slaughtered by the hundreds in sprays of machine-gun fire and dropped into landfills like the trash Saddam considered them to be. That would have been a fine legacy for Western liberalism: the unnecessary deaths of millions of more Iraqis and others simply because too many of democracy's leaders made money off of Saddam's kickbacks. Shameful.
CBS: Satellites Show Sgrena Lied
CBS News reports that the American and Italian investigators looking into the death of Italian commando Nicola Calipari and wounding of hostage/journalist Giuliana Sgrena have evidence that Sgrena lied about the incident from the beginning. Sgrena has long insisted that the Italian driver slowed down to under 30 MPH before approaching the checkpoint, whereupon American soldiers opened fire without warning. However, CBS now claims that data from military satellites clearly showed the car traveling towards the checkpoint at over 60 MPH without slowing down at all, triggering the defensive response from the American soldiers:
A US satellite reportedly recorded a checkpoint shooting in Iraq last month, enabling investigators to reconstruct how fast a car carrying a top Italian intelligence official and a freed hostage was traveling when US troops opened fire.
The report, which aired Thursday on CBS News, said US investigators concluded from the recording that the car was traveling at a speed of more than 60 miles (96 km) per hour.
Giuliana Sgrena has said the car was traveling at a normal speed of about 30 miles an hour when the soldiers opened fired, wounding her and killing Nicola Calipari, the Italian agent who had just secured her release from a month's captivity.
US soldiers said at the time of the March 4 incident that the car approached at a high rate of speed and that they fired only after it failed to respond to hand signals, flashing bright lights and warning shots. ...
CBS, citing Pentagon officials, said the satellite recording enabled investigators to reconstruct the event without having to rely on the eyewitness accounts.
It said the soldiers manning the checkpoint first spotted the Italian car when it was 137 yards (meters) away. By the time they opened fire and brought the car to a halt, it was 46 yards (meters) away. CBS said that happened in less than three seconds, which meant the car had to be going over 60 miles an hour.
The Italian position, therefore, has changed. Now instead of arguing that the Americans wanted to kill Sgrena for some kind of secrecy -- but then inexplicably allowed her to get medical attention once wounded -- they now claim that the checkpoint wasn't marked well enough for their driver to identify it. Going 60 MPH on a darkened road that had been widely identified as a terrorist trap, towards the airport that the Italians knew to be highly defended by American soldiers, apparently fits within Italian security parameters.
Sgrena lied, and the driver and Calipari should have known better than to try to speed their way into a fortified airport access. With the attacks on American soldiers taking place by terrorists with vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, military personnel with any experience and competence should understand the foolishness of approaching any checkpoint at a mile a minute, and should damned well be looking out for any security barriers, especially on a highway that contentious. The Italians only make themselves look foolish by continuing to highlight this as an issue.
Abduction Faked In Georgia Bride Case
The attention-grabbing case of the missing Georgia bride, Jennifer Wilbanks of Duluth, came to a grubby end this morning when she turned up safe in Albuquerque. At first she told police that she'd been kidnapped by a couple who got scared off by the national attention of her disappearance. However, after more questioning, she finally admitted that she'd run off and hadn't bothered to tell anyone:
A Georgia bride-to-be who vanished just days before her wedding turned up in New Mexico and fabricated a tale of abduction before admitting Saturday that she had gotten cold feet and "needed some time alone," police said. ...
Wilbanks, whose disappearance set off a nationwide hunt, called her fiance, John Mason, from a pay phone late Friday and told him that she had been kidnapped while jogging three days before, authorities said. Her family rejoiced that she was safe, telling reporters that the media coverage apparently got to the kidnappers.
But Wilbanks soon recanted, according to police.
Ray Schultz, chief of police in Albuquerque, said Wilbanks "had become scared and concerned about her impending marriage and decided she needed some time alone." He said she traveled to Las Vegas by bus before going to Albuquerque.
"She's obviously very concerned about the stress that she's been through, the stress that's been placed on her family," he said. "She is very upset."
Well, pardon me for my callousness, but her feelings should be the least of anyone's concerns at the moment. Wilbanks walked off without telling anyone where she was going, leaving behind 600 friends and family to panic, her parents to worry that she had been murdered, and the man who loved her as a suspect in her disappearance. Does that just about cover it? Oh, wait -- she also wasted hundreds of man-hours of the Duluth Police Department, the Georgia state police, the FBI, missing-persons organizations, and the media, time that could have been spent looking for missing children.
I'm sure that her family has focused mostly on her safe return and look forward to talking with her soon. However, her thoughtlessness and cruelty don't make her sympathetic in my eyes. She appears more to have a selfish streak a mile wide, and anyone involved with Ms. Wilbanks in the future should keep that in mind.
Chrétien Plays The Gay Card In Adscam
Former Canadian PM Jean Chrétien made an appearance in Philadelphia to accept an award as an "international role model" while his political cronies and aides face ruinous testimony tying his administration to widespread corruption and graft in the Sponsorship Program. Chrétien refused to acknowledge the damage, insisting that the $250 million program which his Liberal Party and close aides turned into an electoral-fraud and money-laundering scheme was good for Canada:
Former prime minister Jean Chrétien defended his handling of the sponsorship scandal last night, as he made his first public appearance since testifying at the Gomery inquiry. ...
And as he did at Mr. Justice John Gomery's inquiry, he said that he accepts responsibility for any mistakes that were made under the sponsorship program, even though he continued to insist it was a good initiative.
"I said I was sorry if mistakes were made. And I said that I have to take the full responsibility of what's good and what's bad when you're the prime minister," he said.
The American gay-rights group Equality Forum has to win an award itself for the worst political timing in years in choosing to honor Chrétien. With even his own party's leadership abandoning his legacy as the chain of corruption creeps ever further towards his office, holding Chrétien up as a role model for gay rights would have its American equivalent in making Richard Nixon the poster boy for environmental activism in government for his creation of the EPA and support of the Endangered Species Act. Both may have solid bases in the historical record, and neither man will be remembered for it. Chrétien will be fortunate indeed if he escapes prosecution for Adscam, hardly a qualification for an international role model.
However, the Equality Forum did give Chrétien a chance to trot out a new defense for the Liberal Party against an expected no-confidence vote by Stephen Harper and the Tories. The former PM used the occasion to turn the election issue away from rampant Liberal corruption and graft into a gay-rights issue instead:
Mr. Chrétien was in Philadelphia to be honoured for his defence of gay and lesbian rights, particularly his introduction of same-sex marriage legislation, which may now die on the order paper if the Conservative Party and Bloc succeed in bringing down the government.
Toronto lawyer Douglas Elliott, who argued the 2003 Court of Appeal case that validated same-sex marriages in Ontario, praised Mr. Chrétien yesterday for his support of the same-sex bill and for his role in including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution.
Gays in the United States have long praised Canada for its tolerance and have flocked to the country to become legally married. But during an afternoon panel discussion, Mr. Elliott warned his U.S. colleagues to prepare for setbacks in the Canadian same-sex battle.
The federal law would extend the right of homosexual couples to marry to all provinces, notably Alberta, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island where courts have not legitimized such unions. Mr. Elliott noted, however, that if Mr. Martin's government falls, the legislation will be left dead in the House of Commons.
If gay marriage enjoys the kind of broad-based support that the Liberals claim, the measure will likely survive the fall of Martin's government, although it may face tougher procedural hurdles in the unlikely event that the Tories win a clear majority. If not, then it wouldn't have passed anyway. Nevertheless, that's hardly the reason that Harper will call for new elections, and it certainly isn't the issue foremost on the minds of Canadian voters. The ongoing testimony showing how the Liberals picked Canadian pockets for years in order to keep themselves in power and pay off supporters gives plenty of reason to get rid of the Grits.
This attempt to spin Adscam into a gay-rights issue is not only desperate, it's laughable. It shows that Chrétien and his former party may have reached a point where the only defense left to them is an American-style smear campaign against their accusers on baseless and irrelevant grounds of bigotry.
Janice Rogers Brown, In Her Own Words
One of the most significant travesties of the judicial confirmation war that the Democrats launched after losing the Senate majority in 2003 has been the damage done to the reputations of those jurists nominated to the federal appellate bench by George Bush. Ten of the thirty-four nominations sent to the Senate by Bush have not only been blocked by the minority through the unprecedented use of the filibuster, but they have been vilified by Democrats as "Neanderthals" (Ted Kennedy), "extremists", "theocrats", and worse. Three of these nominees have declined to pursue their nominations, effectively curtailing their careers in public service, in order to restore their reputations and spare their families any further degradation at the hands of rabid Democrats insistent on pursuing strategies of personal destruction. Seven have valiantly decided to fight for their rightful place on the appellate bench.
One of the latter is Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who currently serves on California's State Supreme Court. Brown received her appointment from Governor Pete Wilson in 1996 and has served almost nine years on the bench as an associate justice. Prior to that assignment, Brown served two years as a state appellate justice, and has also held senior staff assignments for Governor Wilson in multiple roles. She also spent eight years in the Attorney General's office, handling criminal and civil cases. In her last election, California voters approved her continuance as a Supreme Court Justice with 76% of the vote -- in a state where Bush only received 45% and Barbara Boxer could only muster 58% of a reliably liberal electorate.
Without a doubt, Brown's experience not only qualifies her for the federal appellate bench, it makes her one of the nation's leading candidates for the position. Her judicial temperament raised no eyebrows in California, belying the notion that she has operated as some sort of covert radical. In fact, her speeches and her writings reflect the type of intellectual independence and philosophical broadness that one would strongly desire for the appellate bench. And yet, Senate Democrats rail against Brown as some sort of judicial rube or rabble-rouser intent on dismantling freedom and liberty.
These Democrats should read the speech that Brown herself wrote and delivered to graduates of Catholic University's Columbus School of Law shortly after her nomination to the federal bench. Brown spoke to the defense of freedom and the choices that one must make to uphold liberty. Brown used an amazingly broad number of influences to urge CU students to choose liberty and freedom by the pursuit of truth:
The question for you will be whether the regime of freedom which they founded can survive the relentless enmity of the slave mentality. It will really be whether you want freedom to survive. The answer may be no. There are many reasons to forsake freedom.
Some will do so because they are ambitious and can only make their mark by setting out upon a new path. Abraham Lincoln described this dynamic many years before he became president. He said there will always be people among us (from the family of the Lion or the tribe of the Eagle) who “scorn to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor,” who thirst and burn for distinction, and who will obtain it “whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving free men.”3
Some may reject freedom because security has always been more comfortable than freedom and infinitely more comforting to the “herd of independent minds.”4
Perhaps the most likely reason for a negative response is the fatigue engendered by the “accumulated decisions of so many revolutions.”5 Freedom requires certitude and we are now so enlightened that, in Pascal's phrase, “we know too much to be ignorant and too little to be wise.”
I, of course, hope that this generation will rise to the challenge; that our present great necessities will call forth great virtues. Perhaps that is why, when I tried to think about what I might say to you as you commence your life in the law, only one word, one image, surfaced. The word, the image, was “Light.” Sometimes sharp and white, like the flash of a lighthouse beacon. Sometimes the soft, full radiance of sunrise. But, always, light. How odd, I thought. But then the brochure for the Columbus School of Law arrived with the motto of the Catholic University of America emblazoned across its cover. Deus lux mea est. God is my light. And then there was the Cardinal's dinner, held in San Francisco this year. The program began with a wonderful film about the university which was entitled — are you ready — “Sharing the Light.” Aha! At this point, even the dull witted must begin to see ... the light. And finally, leafing through a book of essays seeking inspiration, these words leapt out at me: “The night is for spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13:12)
Brown makes clear that having faith does not mean establishing a theocracy or a Christian Taliban. It means defending freedom:
In some ways, it seems we have been moving backward: bringing chaos out of order instead of the other way around. At least that is how things stood until quite recently when, in one instant of anguish, pity, grief, and rage, we had a moment of awful moral clarity. All perspectives are not equal. Evil is not merely a matter of opinion. Suddenly and undeniably, we understood that there are ideas worth defending to the death. There are lies that must be defeated at all costs. Freedom is not free. And it will never be the lasting legacy of the lazy or the indifferent. For what we ultimately pursue is a true “vision of justice and ordered liberty, respectful of human dignity and the authority of God.”15 What we need is to revive our passion for freedom and our determination to defend vigorously, rationally, and without apology, our way of life, which is unique and deserves not scorn nor diffidence, but devotion.
By accepting the beguiling proposition that all perspectives are equal, we left Western Civilization, the God of Light, and light itself, undefended. We left the very spirit of truth desolate and abandoned on its high hill. Indeed, we deemed them unworthy of defense. But, there may have been a reason why Truth, Justice and the American Way are seamlessly conjoined in the phrase with which I began today's exam. There can be no discussion about the nature of justice and the essence of law when human will is made the supreme arbiter of all human values.16 Without truth, there is neither justice nor freedom. “Once truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try to set them free. Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.”17
If our commitment to truth and justice was, in fact, the foundation of the vision that made America, then moral and cu1tural relativism is more than an educational anomaly, it is a calamity. That is why the lawyer classifieds need a new ad. Wanted: Keepers of the faith; Defenders of light.
That faith to which she refers is the faith that freedom and truth inevitably remain intertwined. Efforts to render truth as relative eventually result in the quashing of freedom. The essence of American ideals of freedom were based in natural law -- that the Creator endowed Man with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution further extrapolated these as the right to select one's own rulers, the right to free speech, the right to self-defense, and the right to worship or not worship as one pleased. When the Creator is removed from this equation, then rights become a purely human construct, subject to relativism, and undoubtably mutable to the whims of the moment.
The great secular movements of the twentieth century -- communism and fascism -- left millions of deliberate deaths in their wake as the Creator-designated sanctity of life gave way to utilitarianism. Liberty was sacrificed for the common good, and eventually calcified into the tyranny of the State above all. Dissent, the natural state of human beings and the natural right given by a Creator through free will, became intolerable, and those who practiced it were banished from public life.
If you read what Janice Rogers Brown wrote two years ago, you cannot come away with the conclusion that she represents a threat to freedom. Instead, she is demonstrably one of freedom's greatest defenders, all the more remarkable for a woman who descended from slaves and grew up under the oppression of discrimination in Alabama during the 1950s and 1960s. Her ascension to the judiciary should inspire everyone who has the opportunity to study her and her speeches and writings. That she inspires such vitriol, hatred, and hysteria from the likes of Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer says much about them and their Democratic colleagues, and nothing about Janice Rogers Brown.
It's far past time for the GOP caucus to start defending Brown and their other nominees. To do otherwise is to add more insult to the unacceptable slander she has already received.
Stanley Kurtz Understands The Left's Attack On Faith
I wrote two essays today regarding the attack on religious belief by the secular Left in today's politics. From judicial nominees to citizens speaking their minds, the Left has gone on the offensive to portray religious belief as a kind of fascism, with citizens espousing traditional values as proponents of an American theocracy. Stanley Kurtz writes at length about this same phenomenon in National Review Online, specifically taking on Chris Hedges' article in Harper's about how Christians have supposedly declared war on America:
Hedges is worried about extreme Christian theocrats called “Dominionists.” He’s got little to say about who these Dominionists are, and he qualifies his vague characterizations by noting in passing that not all Dominionists would accept the label or admit their views publicly. That little move allows Hedges to paint a highly questionable picture of a virtually faceless and nameless “Dominionist” Christian mass. Hedges seems to be worried that the United States is just a few short steps away from having apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy, and witchcraft declared capital crimes. Compare this liberal fantasy of imminent theocracy to the reality of Lawrence v. Texas and Roper v. Simmons (the Supreme Court decision that appealed to European precedents to overturn capital punishment for juveniles).
Both of these decisions relied on the existence of a supposed national consensus on behalf of social liberalism. In conjuring up that false consensus, the Court treated conservative Christians as effectively nonexistent. That is the reality of where the law is, and where it is headed. It is completely unsurprising that after a long train of such decisions, conservative Christians have decided they’re tired of being trampled on by the courts. The reality we face is judicially imposed same-sex marriage in opposition to the clearly expressed wishes of the American people. Yet to cover its imperial judicial agenda, the Left is now concocting nonsensical fantasies of theocratically imposed capital punishment for witchcraft. Yes, witchcraft is back. Only now traditional Christians have been cast in the role of devious enemies who need to be ferreted out by society’s defenders.
I had not read Kurtz's piece before I wrote my posts earlier today, but Kurtz picks up the same thread and runs with it at length. He points out a proposed speech restriction in California that would make "anti-gay" arguments in an election campaign illegal. While I don't share the same viewpoint on gay marriage as many on the Christian right, the topic certainly should remain open for debate, and several elections have shown that the Christian viewpoint overwhelmingly represents the mainstream of American thinking on the topic. However, the Left wants to make it impossible for Christians to argue their case to the American electorate -- and Hedges thinks that it's the Christians who are acting like fascists?
I surmise that the Left has seen its power slipping away, and they're getting desperate and radical in their attempts to get it back. One pundit said that the illusion that history was on the side of secular socialism has faded in the last twenty-five years, and the emergence of viable media access for conservatives has frustrated their decades-long grip on information dissemination. Whatever the cause, the result has been an open assault on faith, such as that offered by Hedges and the hysterical ranting in the Senate and elsewhere whenever the faithful engage in political debate. Make sure to read all of Kurtz' fine article. (via Shot In The Dark)
Democrats Embrace Faith As A Strategy
In a dramatic shift of rhetoric, the Senate Minority Leader has indicated that Democrats will embrace faith as an electoral strategy for the 2006 electoral cycle ... as long as God coughs up a supernatural event or six:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid raised a few eyebrows yesterday on the Senate floor when he said it would take a "miracle" for Democrats to win enough races next year to take back the Senate.
"I would like to think a miracle would happen and we would pick up five seats this time," he said during a floor debate over the filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees. "I guess miracles never cease."
How hypocritical can the Democrats get? For the past two and a half years, they have blocked executive nominations involving people of faith as "extremists" and "out of the mainstream". Senators thunder about the impending theocracy of the GOP majority, conveniently forgetting that the people elected these same Senators through the same democratic processes by which they gained their own seats. Senator Kennedy talks about fellow Catholics as "Neanderthals" because they actually follow the precepts of their faith rather than treat it as a campaign gimmick.
Now Reid feels that the Almighty can be called upon to deliver a majority of seats to the Democrats via a suspension of natural law. Certainly that will be necessary, given their hostility to religious believers, but it hardly amounts to an electoral strategy. Calling upon God to save the Democrats from their own hostility, even in jest, points out just how clueless the Democratic leadership has become.
Republicans, of course, reveled in Reid's conversion:
Republicans were delighted by what they called an "admission" from the highest-ranking elected Democrat in the country.
"After listening to Senator Reid's political spin about judicial nominees for the last several weeks, it is good to hear him come back to reality -- if even for a brief moment," said Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Senator Reid can do the math: A Democratic Party, plus no ideas, plus obstruction, plus over-the-top partisan rhetoric equals continued minority."
If having Ken Salazar call prominent clerics Anti-Christs and Harry Reid demand miracles from God comprises the new Democratic outreach to the religious communities, then Reid is right ... miracles never cease.
I'm Sorry You Paid Attention To Me
Coloradans who elected Ken Salazar thinking that he portrayed himself honestly as a moderate must have been shocked when he donned the mantle of theological expert this week and declared Dr. James Dobson the Anti-Christ. After waiting a couple of days for a miracle to deliver him unto the Lord, the Right Reverend Salazar finally figured out that his days as a prophet were numbered and offered perhaps this year's lamest apology in politics:
Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar said Wednesday that he regretted calling Focus on the Family "the anti-Christ," saying he had misspoken.
Salazar uttered the theological term, popularized in the 1970s movie "The Omen," in an interview with a Colorado Springs television station about his war of words with the conservative Christian group.
"From my point of view, they are the anti-Christ of the world," Salazar told the station.
Salazar, a first-term Democrat, said he was intending to call the Colorado Springs group "un-Christian," a term he began applying last week after Focus attacked his stance on judicial nominations in the Senate.
"I spoke about Jim Dobson and his efforts and used the term 'the anti-Christ,"' Salazar said in a written statement from his office. "I regret having used that term. I meant to say this approach was un-Christian, meaning self-serving and selfish."
As anyone with any Christian training understands, there is a cast difference between being un-Christian and being the Anti-Christ. The former relates to the commitment, or lack thereof, to the teachings of Jesus as expressed through the Gospel, with connotations ranging from simple identification -- one would not expect a Hindu to act "Christian", after all -- to a derogatory judgement about the state of another's faith. Judging another's faith and standing with God usurps God's role in judging the soul, which specifically is what was meant by Jesus' teaching of "Judge not, lest ye be judged," one of the least understood of His commands.
However, calling Dobson the Anti-Christ equates to calling him the spawn of Satan, a rather damning accusation, one for which Salazar presents no evidence whatsoever. It's a vile thing to say about anyone, especially when the target of the accusation has done nothing but speak about his faith and his views on public policy in open forums of debate. The insult was meant to deliberately humiliate Dr. Dobson and to marginalize him in the political arena -- an arena which he has every right to engage, as a citizen of the United States.
This crude, malicious, and essentially idiotic attack by Salazar mirrors a more subtle campaign by the Left to marginalize all people of faith from political debate. Faith, after all, informs the values of people in all areas of their life and as such influences their politics as well. What Salazar and the rest of the Left want is to drive anyone of faith out of the public arena, leaving the field open only to secular humanists whose moral relativism can be manipulated towards any end desired. Faith requires belief not just in God or a higher Power (depending on your faith), but also in certain immutable Truth. Relativism and secular humanism rely on the mutable Truth of whatever everyone likes at the moment, which sounds very attractive but inevitably leads to disaster.
Salazar's rant blows the cover off of the attacks on Bush, Dobson, and anyone who professes their faith as an important component of their lives. Judicial nominees like William Pryor and Janice Rogers Brown (who won 76% of Californian votes in her last election to the State Supreme Court) have been called "extremists" and "Neanderthals" for their "deeply held personal beliefs", as Chuck Schumer put it, which has become code for "Catholicism" and opposition to abortion. Instead of honestly debating the real issues, the Democrats have chosen to smear people of faith in the hope of driving them underground, to steal their voices and to scare them away from the public square. They want the overwhelming majority of Americans who profess faith in God to shut the Hell up, and leave government to the atheists.
No thank you. We are all Americans, and our government should reflect the values held by the mainstream, not just the faithless.
ADDENDUM: In response to an e-mail I received, let me clarify my position. I believe that secular humanists and atheists also should have their views respected by the political process, and join the debate over public policy. However, what Chuck Schumer, Ted Kennedy, and Harry Reid demand is that all other voices except for secular humanists be excluded from politics due to a major and deliberate misinterpretation of the First Amendment.
The Democrats refuse to consider nominees to important positions that decline to recant religious faith, in a modern-day retelling of the tale of Galileo. They marginalize those who work in the ministry by declaring them theocrats and compare them to the Taliban. They have assumed the Puritanical mantle of Cotton Mather in reverse, burning reputations of honorable and qualified people at the stake for not professing allegiance to the abandonment of religious doctrine. It amounts to nothing less than an unconstitutional religious test for office, only in this case it is a negative test rather than a positive one.
One other point should be made clear: moral relativism isn't necessarily equivalent to atheism or secular humanism. Not all religion teaches absolute truth. However, the underlying philosophy of the two that Man occupies the center of consciousness and morality makes moral absolutes much harder to establish, and the monotheistic traditions on which Western civilization was founded teaches that certain hard truths exist regardless of popularity or social evolution.
Has Harper Missed His Chance Already?
After the testimony of Jean Brault blew open the Adscam scandal and demonstrated the extent of Liberal Party corruption, Stephen Harper had an opening to call new elections and topple the Martin government. He chose to wait until an overwhelming mandate developed to ride it to as close to a majority win as he could get. New polling numbers published in today's Globe and Mail show, however, that Harper may have been too slow on the trigger:
Liberals have clawed their way back into the lead in a tight race for public support as Prime Minister Paul Martin's all-out public-relations campaign appears to have caused the Conservatives to slip, a new poll shows.
The poll, conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail and CTV, found the Liberals with the support of 30 per cent of Canadians, compared with 28 per cent for the Conservatives and 18 per cent for the New Democrats.
The results strike a blow at Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's hopes for victory just one day after he vowed to force an election "at the earliest possible opportunity."
Harper has allowed Martin to take back the momentum that just a week ago appeared unstoppable for the Tories. Martin's performance in his unprecedented national address had been widely panned, but appears to have been more effective than first thought. His focus on budget bills and his promise to hold January elections has allowed his Liberals to recover their standing among Canadian voters, who now favor delayed elections by almost a 2-1 margin. (Note for American readers: Canadian PMs usually only have televised addresses in times of national emergency; they answer to Parliament and normally address issues directly to the MPs.)
Martin still has a lot of work to do to recover any of his personal popularity, of course; most Canadians still don't trust him to run the government. The grubby deal he cut with Jack Layton had not yet been announced when this poll was taken. However, clearly the Tories have not capitalized on the anger and frustration of the Canadian electorate, and just as clearly Harper may not be the right man to do so.
Frist Stands Firm, Sets No Timetable
Senator Bill Frist reiterated today that the Republicans would accept no compromise that allowed Democrats to filibuster judicial nominees that have received approval from the Judiciary Committee. He told Minority Leader Harry Reid that he would offer up to 100 hours of debate, but in the end all nominees clearing the committee must receive an up-or-down vote:
With a showdown looming, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist refused to budge Thursday on his demand that Democrats forgo filibusters against all of President Bush's past or present nominees to federal appellate court benches or the Supreme Court.
"Throughout this debate, we have held firm to a simple principle, judicial nominees deserve up-or-down votes," Frist said.
But Frist offered to retain the right to filibuster district court nominees in exchange for 100 hours of debate and guaranteed confirmation votes on the nation's highest judgeships. The Senate's top Republican also said that under his plan, senators would no longer be able to block nominees in the Judiciary Committee.
Reid, of course, turned this offer down, describing it as a "big wet kiss to the far right," proving that Jack Layton isn't the only North American politician with a tin ear for phrasing. He demands that Democrats retain the right to deny votes to any nominee they choose, insisting that minority rights would get "extinguished" at the end of 100 hours of debate. "This has never been about the lengths of the debate. This is about checks and balances."
Au contraire, Senator. All along during this battle, we have heard from Democrats that the GOP's rule change was an attack on free speech. Senator Byrd exclaimed on the Senate floor that free speech and debate would be "dead, dead, dead!" if Frist and the GOP put the Constitutional option in play. The Democrats have claimed this as an attack on the First Amendment as well as those "checks and balances" that they claim hinge on the use of the filibuster.
However, this offer by Frist cleverly flushes out the Democrats, although the Exempt Media will certainly miss this nuance. 100 hours of debate equals at least three weeks of Senate floor time, perhaps more, during a normal work schedule. It allows for every member to spend an hour discussing a nominee's shortcomings as well as their strengths. If the Democrats have evidence of unfitness for the nominees, they will have plenty of time to present it.
Why, then, don't they take the offer? Because they would have nothing specific to say, and 50 hours in which to say it. Reid and his caucus would look pretty foolish, repeating the same old tired clichés over and over again for hours on end. They aren't fighting for debate or free speech -- they want to avoid having to defend their opposition at all costs. The Democrats want to limit the debate to sound-bite sniping in the sympathetic press, not be granted scads of time that will ultimately expose the lack of evidence they have of any unfitness or impropriety on any of these nominees.
One cheer for Bill Frist, who finally has engaged in some public relations on behalf of the filibuster limitation. However, 100 hours of debate means that it will take seven months to get the seven nominees currently stalled by the Democrats into a position to get confirmed. That would push one or two off until 2006, and even that might change when a Supreme Court position opens up. Now that we've wasted almost four months of the new session, Frist's offer has a pretty severe limitation as to the number of appellate nominations that Bush can get through this Congress. Perhaps Frist's office needs a calculator before making these offers.
Layton Suffering From Projection
Jack Layton, the leader of Canada's New Democrat Party (NDP), accused Tory leader Stephen Harper of cuddling up to separatists in his quest to topple the Liberal government. Layton also played into fears of Nova Scotians that any government collapse prior to a budget vote will steal their Atlantic Accord money away from them, bringing hot retorts from the Conservative leader:
NDP Leader Jack Layton struck back at Stephen Harper on Thursday, saying the Conservative Leader will be "getting into bed with the separatists" if the Tories and Bloc Québécois work together to defeat the Liberal budget.
He also warned that if the budget is defeated, it could endanger accords recently signed between the federal government and Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. The Atlantic accords protect equalization payments from cuts because of increased energy revenue.
"[The accords are] at risk if Mr. Harper calls an election, because Mr. Harper will be getting into bed with the separatists, who didn't support the Atlantic Accord," Mr. Layton said in Halifax. "... So I think the people of Nova Scotia should be calling on all parliamentarians to make sure this budget is adopted before there's any election."
Harper, who yesterday told the press that he would no longer hesitate to table a no-confidence motion after Layton cut his deal with Martin, scoffed at the notion that Layton had the best interests of Nova Scotia in mind when he allied with Paul Martin:
"If the NDP supports the Atlantic Accord as it professes, why did they miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to insist the accord be separated from the budget and passed immediately? Did the prospect of power make it okay for them to join the Liberals in selling out Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador?," Mr. Harper asked.
Layton could not have chosen his words less carefully. Harper may well play into the strategy of separatists by allying with BQ on a no-confidence vote. However, Liberal corruption in the Sponsorship program demands some action, and the attempt to take away this session's Opposition Days earlier this month shows that the Liberals cannot be trusted to do anything except hang onto power any way they can. Allying with BQ to stop rampant corruption and restore some credibilty to government does not sound unreasonable.
However, Layton's accusation of whoring one's self for political purposes becomes outrageous when one considers the deal he cut with Paul Martin just to scoop up more tax money for the NDP's pet programs. The Gomery testimony has shown that the Liberals won their last few elections with stolen government money and influence peddling. Now Layton has (perhaps) enabled them to hang onto power for a few more months, instead of facing the voters to accept their judgment. Why? To pick the pockets of the same Canadians who got fleeced by Adscam, by the same players, only on a much grander scale -- so the same people can spend the increased money.
If anyone should feel sheepish about their political bedfellows, it's Jack Layton and the NDP.
Finally, An Energy Policy Worth Pursuing
George Bush spoke out yesterday about energy policy for a new push to get a comprehensive energy bill passed for the first time since his first election to the White House. Bush made an attempt yesterday to take his case directly to the people in order to press Congress to get past the gridlock and get some basic work accomplished to address the pressing needs for energy production in the US:
President Bush presented a plan on Wednesday to offer federal risk insurance to companies that build nuclear power plants and to encourage the construction of oil refineries on closed military bases in the United States.
Mr. Bush also proposed giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority to choose sites for new terminals to receive liquid natural gas from overseas. ...
"This problem did not develop overnight, and it's not going to be fixed overnight," Mr. Bush said in his speech at the Hilton. "But it's now time to fix it. See, we got a fundamental question we got to face here in America: Do we want to continue to grow more dependent on other nations to meet our energy needs, or do we want what is necessary to achieve greater control of our economic destiny?" Most of Mr. Bush's speech was a restatement of White House energy policy, but the plan to build refineries on closed military bases startled energy experts outside the administration. Administration officials said that bases could either be leased or sold to private companies in open bidding. At present, there are about 100 closed bases in the United States, but some have already been redeveloped as commercial airports or economic free zones for businesses.
Building more nuclear power plants has long been a part of Mr. Bush's energy policy, but offering federal risk insurance to companies or investors willing to try to get approval for them is new. In his speech, Mr. Bush said that his goal was to reduce uncertainty in the building and regulatory process, and to protect companies from construction delays beyond their control.
Bush concentrated on building facilities for power generation, and for good reason. We have not built a nuclear reactor in the US since the early 70s, and we have also not built a gasoline refinery for almost the same amount of time. Meanwhile, our power consumption has increased over 30% in the past twenty years without adding any extra generating capacity on line. That means we increasingly have relied on our reserve capacity for generation, until we have finally reached the point where it no longer exists. Any incidents resulting in significant down times at existing refineries creates emergency supply issues, as the Midwest saw two years ago when a refinery fire caused a massive increase in consumer fuel prices, as supplies had to be shipped in from other parts of the country.
The proposed use of closed military bases for refineries makes perfect sense. Most of these bases require a massive clean-up effort to transform them into civilian use, due to the chemical residue of decades of military use. Refineries don't require that kind of initial investment, and they serve American security needs as well as consumer needs. Moreover, since the land belongs to the federal government, the environmental analysis process can be streamlined, allowing these to come on line much quicker than on commercial land, where environmentalists have held up refinery production for decades.
Nuclear power and LNG imports will play an important role in energy production, especially nuclear power, as more and more of our transportation starts relying on electrical power rather than fossil fuel for energy. But to start making an impact in the short term, we need the expanded refinery capacity to come on line as soon as possible. Congress should endorse and protect the expansion of refining capability now.
NAACP Internal Report Concludes Mfume Cronyism Allegation 'Difficult To Defend'
Kweisi Mfume, former NAACP president, faces a scandal just as his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Maryland's open Senate seat gets launched. Mfume, who wants to replace Democrat Paul Sarbanes, has been accused of misusing his position at the civil-rights organization to assist women he reportedly either had inappropriate relationships or harassed in a sexual manner. According to the Washington Post, an internal NAACP report says that such allegations will be "difficult to defend" given the evidence presented:
Members of the NAACP executive committee first saw the report detailing the allegations against Mfume at an October meeting in Washington, about a month before Mfume announced his decision to step down. The document has been a closely guarded secret -- one board member said the copies that were distributed were numbered and collected after the meeting. Most members reached this week declined to discuss it.
The document was intended as an assessment of the allegations as the organization's leaders evaluated how to handle the claims of the mid-level employee, Michele Speaks.
Speaks hired an attorney and asked for $140,000, two years' salary, in exchange for agreeing not to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or pursuing a lawsuit, according to the report. Speaks could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Kathleen Cahill, declined to comment.
The NAACP hired Marcia E. Goodman, a Chicago employment lawyer, to analyze Speaks's allegations. In the memo, Goodman concluded that some of Speaks's claims -- including an assertion that Mfume "touched her on the hip" -- largely amounted to a "he said-she said" dispute. But Goodman wrote that others were more problematic.
Speaks could mount a credible claim of workplace harassment because of "the impression [that was] created that a woman must provide sexual favors to Mr. Mfume or his associates in order to receive favorable treatment in the workplace," the lawyer wrote in the memo.
In an interview yesterday, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond would not say whether the organization's board ultimately decided to pay Speaks.
The NAACP has been through this before Mfume. Mfume's predecessor, Benjamin Chavis, cost the NAACP over $300,000 to settle sexual discrimination claims after he got booted out of his leadership post. The board appears to have learned a lesson from that embarassment: don't go public. Except for the member who leaked the report to the press, those board members contacted by the Post have all stonewalled on the reasons for Mfume's abrupt and surprising departure last year, when the rumor was that Mfume and Bond had a falling out over the tone and direction of the NAACP's politics.
That now looks like an excuse, a spin which allowed Mfume to leave his post by looking too moderate for Bond. Another memo given to the Post appears to confirm that these allegations against Mfume are part of a track record going back to at least 1998, when two of his female subordinates got into an argument in the offices over Mfume and his dating habits. One of the women got disciplined, and one of them got promoted shortly afterward -- and the Post's description of the memo strongly implies that Mfume's girlfriend is the one who got the promotion. The attorney who wrote the memo also alleged that Mfume tampered with witnesses to block the NAACP's internal inquiry into the incident.
None of this will look good in a Senate campaign that undoubtedly will be hard fought, first in the primaries and then in the general election. The Republicans want to pick up Sarbanes' seat badly, and have a good shot at it in moderate Maryland. They have an excellent candidate who has proven himself ready for the national stage in Michael Steele, the current Lieutenant Governor. Mfume looked like a strong selection, especially after the spin coming from Mfume's camp about how his moderate intentions for outreach to the Bush administration caused him to be forced out of the NAACP leadership post by the hard-liner Bond. However, now that this story has fallen apart in favor of a more sordid explanation, Mfume can expect a hard primary challenge from Democrats who cannot afford to give away another Senate seat.
Expect Mfume to back out of the race, probably by this summer, if this report gets substantiation. If true, we'll see a string of women who will eventually go public with the information, and apparently the NAACP found it credible enough to warrant an expensive legal analaysis just before Mfume's departure.
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