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Sunday, July 31, 2005

First Russian Human Bird Flu Case

This one is awaiting confirmation by testing, which may take a few weeks:
A 20-year-old man showing bird flu symptoms has been hospitalized in Kazakhstan's Pavlodar region, where 600 domestic geese died between July 20 and July 30 as a result of an outbreak of the disease in the area.

The patient, a poultry farm worker from the village of Golubovka, was later diagnosed with double pneumonia and taken to the intensive care unit of Pavlodar's regional infectious diseases hospital in a critical condition, sources in the region's emergency medicine center told Interfax.
The infection hasn't been in Kazakhstan for long and clearly got there from China. It is becoming increasingly improbable that China has experienced no human bird flu cases as it maintains. Russia has instituted a quarantine and a culling program for the area.

China has, however, sent out 50,000 health care workers and blockaded all the roads to Beijing. This, they insist, have nothing to do with bird flu but a bacterial infection in pigs that has broken out in Sichuan (Sechuan). Currently there are 181 cases and 34 deaths. According to news reports from China, you can only get it from close contact with an infected pig. According to reports from Hong Kong, 11 people there have gotten it and there is no evidence that all of them came in close contact with an infected pig or pork:
Two cases were reported in Hong Kong this week, raising the city's total infections to 11 since May 2004, the territory's Health Department reported Saturday night. But officials have said the cause of the infections was unknown and that the cases don't appear to be linked with the Sichuan outbreak because the patients had not recently travelled outside Hong Kong and had no exposure to pig farms.

The first Hong Kong case this week, reported Thursday, involved a 26-year-old man who fell ill on July 5, the Health Department said.

Hong Kong reported another infection Saturday night: an 84-year-old man who got sick on June 16 and was now in stable condition, a Health Department statement said. The man had helped prepare meals at home but didn't recall handling raw pork before his illness, the statement said.
Confusing - is it the same disease or not? Are they including the other cases because it looks the same? If so, it might explain another report of deaths in Taiwan, cautiously attributed to Whitemore's disease. There is a ring of odd diseases spreading out around China, and as one commenter on this thread notes, there are unusual factors:
They're going on symptoms (so they say) and Melioidosis is one of those diseases that can cause purple patches of skin, so it's possible this could be Bird Flu.

Notice the strange pattern of dispersion: 16 people in 4 different places (birds?).

And again, as with Sichuan, we have this strange story of bacteria being untreatable by anti-bacterials.
I don't think I have any good answers. But I doubt that both Strep. Suis and Burkholderia both becamse resistant at the same time in two different places. It's not impossible, but unlikely.

It's much more likely that both diseases and the woman who "turned black" in Singapore were all caused by a virus. A pathogenic virus (like H5N1) causes a collapse of the immune system and the body is susceptible to myriad bacteria. The bacteria eventually overwhelm the body and lead to septic shock. These are bacterial infections which are "secondary" to the virus.
One thing that appears good is that right now there is little evidence of efficient human-to-human transmission. However, if all of these occurrences are linked to the extremely infectious and pathogenic H5N1 strain that showed up in Qinghai, all bets are off. I'll tell you what - I'm not eating any chicken or pork any more.

The Sichuan disease could be something else entirely which is being spread by infected birds or another vector. For example, one of the ricksettial diseases like typhus or ehrlichiosis, which often cause bleeding and immune system disfunction. There have been heavy rains in this area from a storm, and mosquitos might be passing it. Ricksettia are sort of halfway between bacteria and viruses, and they often infect the lymph glands and then bone marrow, causing a low platelet count. Furthermore a lot of cases of ehrlichiosis can be chronic, thus reducing the body's ability to fight infection generally. This could well be a lethal convergence of two different infections in both animals and humans, which would account for the odd distribution and the difficulty in diagnosis.

There were no reports of this type of bleeding in the southern Asia bird flu cases as far as I know.

Religious Wisdom And Unwisdom

This morning I would like to ask you to read two articles. One is by William Raspberry, discussing the plight of the black family in the US. The other is a post by The Quietist on his blog discussing the plight of families in the Brazilian favela. First, I would like to point out that both of these people CARE. They are not political praters. Anyone who reads William Raspberry knows that he has been working on the problems that affect black families, and Pedro the Quietist cared enough to go to Brazil and work in the favela in an attempt to help.

What is interesting about these two articles is that both focus on the role of moral culture in society and the church's role in generating that moral culture. Pedro writes:
It is important to remember that NOBODY in the favela has any money. If they had money, they wouldn't live in a favela; they would move to some of Brazil's small-yet-copious poor neighborhoods that actually have streets, plumbing, and aren't controlled by criminals and drug-traffickers. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that there existed a HUGE gap in the standards of living and quality of life even within the favela. You would go into one family's house and they would have a concrete floor, a water tank for "showering" (that is, pouring over yourself with a plastic pitcher), a small stove, and perhaps a few pieces of furniture. Everything would be spotless, and while it isn't like living in Malibu, one can live a healthy, happy existence within those walls.

Then you might walk next door, and be shocked at the sight. The floor would be spotty cardboard and ratty rugs scavenged from a trash heap on top of the mud. The place would be crawling with cockroaches and spiders. The kids would be running around without shoes on top of trash, and whatever furniture was there would be eaten through and unhealthy....

n contrast, those living in the nice homes ALWAYS were intact families, with a mother AND a father (and the kids all belonged to the same father). The home was SPOTLESS. In most of the US, we can be slobs in our homes and not really threaten our health; in many parts of Brazil, the INSTANT you drop food on the floor you are infested with ants and other vermin. If you aren't careful and dilligent with your trash, you inevitably get infected with dengue fever from the mosquitos that breed in trash-water. Therefore, cleanliness is ABSOLUTELY connected with health and the quality of life....

The main thing I found was that the families that functioned were ALWAYS religious, either committed to the Catholic Church or one of the newer Protestant churches that are becoming extremely successful in the favelas. I found that the sense of purpose and the community support received in a religious community gave one the will and the desire to, for example, sweep their homes even though it would just get dirty again later, or work for pennies even though these families, in Brazil's messed-up economic system, will NEVER "get rich." But there were very real and direct benefits to this religious spirit; your family was happier, intact, and healthier. These families, unlike the others I dealt with, were not the ones who would get stinking drunk and then complain to me that the "government" hadn't "given" them a job, as if government officials were supposed to walk through the favelas and entrust public money to any domino-playing drunk they happened to run across.
So, we have hope, a sense of purpose and the ability to direct that sense of purpose into action. I think everyone should read Pedro's post and contemplate his observations. Next, William Raspberry:
What is happening to the black family in America is the sociological equivalent of global warming: easier to document than to reverse, inconsistent in its near-term effect -- and disastrous in the long run.

Father absence is the bane of the black community, predisposing its children (boys especially, but increasingly girls as well) to school failure, criminal behavior and economic hardship, and to an intergenerational repetition of the grim cycle. The culprit, the ministers (led by the Rev. Eugene Rivers III of Boston, president of the Seymour Institute) agreed, is the decline of marriage....

As the ministers were at pains to say last week, it isn't the incompetence of mothers that is at issue but the absence of half of the adult support needed for families to be most effective.

Interestingly, they blamed the black church for abetting the decline of the black family -- by moderating virtually out of existence its once stern sanctions against extramarital sex and childbirth and by accepting the present trends as more or less inevitable.

They didn't say -- but might have -- that black America's almost reflexive search for outside explanations for our internal problems delayed the introspective examination that might have slowed the trend. What we have now is a changed culture -- a culture whose worst aspects are reinforced by oversexualized popular entertainment and that places a reduced value on the things that produced nearly a century of socioeconomic improvement. For the first time since slavery, it is no longer possible to say with assurance that things are getting better.
So William Raspberry's comments reinforce Pedro's observations about the importance of a strong and self-denying value system for those who live on the margin:
In the US, we live in such a wealthy society that one can lead a nihilistic, cynical, angry life, rejecting "socially-constructed" standards of behavior and cleanliness and still be somewhat comfortable and not starve to death or die of malaria. But in the favela, they are living at the margins of survivability, and nobody has any room to act that way without consequences. Though I am not very religious (yet), my experience volunteering in the favela taught me that religious wisdom is infinitely superior to trendy theories recently dreamed up in an air-conditioned academic department somewhere when it comes to prescriptions for social and public policy.
But not forever. We can't live a nihilistic life that rejects all social standards forever and not see the results of our failure to take care of what is within our control slowly accumulate into a mountain of despair. Note the role and the blame that the gathering of ministers in the US placed upon the failures of the teaching in their churches. In other words, they had not taught that sin has consequences, and it does.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition "sin" means an act or practice forbidden by God. If you read the Old and the New Testament, you understand that sins are identified as sins because they are naturally attractive actions that cause future damage. In other words, what seems good at the time you do it turns out to be extremely damaging. All societies form rules that are designed to deal with the reality that sin has consequences extending beyond one's own lifetime, as stated in the Ten Commandments:
5. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
God doesn't create these consequences; life does. But God can only negate the consequences of sin for those who will ask for mercy and join that with action. Nor is this concept restricted to the Judeo-Christian religion; in one form or another, every religion demands that the individual deny his own impulses to serve a greater good, or, to put this in another form, to stop the promulgation of evil.

Can you imagine a functional society that doesn't require self-restriction and self-denial from its members? I can't. This is the "religious wisdom" of which Pedro writes.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


You have got to read Howard's post at Oraculations regarding media coverage of our soldiers and the abuse of them. It will fill you with shame and anger, as it should, because our journalists are:
Good at smearing the Military at every opportunity, making it undesirable in the eyes of future recruits so that the Army and Marines will be down to nothing. So that the Imperial aims of our filthy government will not be attainable. And after all they did have the facts. Some of them, anyway. And this story could be made to look great. To make it even better, they have great “cover” because their target, a Los Angeles based National Guard unit called 1st Infantry Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division had some guys do some bad stuff. Bad stuff they could expose.
No human institution can be perfect. The story that the traditional media will not tell is how incredibly focused, disciplined, humane and controlled our soldiers have been in a terribly difficult situation. They will, at every opportunity, announce that the US military is deliberately killing journalists. They will tell you in great detail of the abuses an incredibly small minority have committed and darkly insinuate that much more of the same is probably happening - but they will never tell you about the circumstances on the ground, and what these people are enduring, and their unbelievable achievements.

We have an exceptionally disciplined military that is routinely performing better than anyone has a right to expect, better than anyone who knows a little history could possibly expect, better than any other military force in the world could be expected to perform, better than the UN peacekeeping forces the journalists so love. But the public doesn't know of their awesome accomplishments.

Howard is justifiably angry. Why aren't we all? Why aren't we holding these "journalists" accountable for any lies and distortions? Why aren't we writing letters to protest? Please do read this military blog Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum to which Howard linked:
Yesterday I was angry and ashamed of the behavior of some in this battalion, in this Brigade, in this Division, in this Army. Ironically; John was right, “Yesterday all my troubles seem so far away.” I wanted to detach myself as fast a possible and as far as possible from this unit. I have to say that was yesterday, today I was again in awe of the men here. We were supposed to receive yet another briefing on the “rules”, yet another briefing, on security, yet another briefing on...well you get the idea. Emasculation by power point (the most vile invention ever!) The NCO who was supposed to give said Power Point briefing didn't show up. The soldiers were sitting in the conference room, waiting to patiently sit through yet another brief. As the assistant intelligence officer I said I'd give it. I figured I'd go in spill a few buzz words, and let them go on their way. When I walked into the room I saw a group of soldiers who have had a rough time, they have endured the pains of separation, some have lost the jobs that they thought would be there when they got home. Some have lost friends here, others have lost their girlfriends or wives. The men in that room weren't infantrymen, they were cooks and mechanics, medics, personnel clerks, and drivers. They were admin soldiers. I started the briefing but about half way through mid sentence, I hopped up on a table and looked into their eyes. I just had to smile, and here is why, despite all of the grief that has come our way, and there has been plenty, and more will come. They sat there waiting, some had been up for 2 days with little rest, yet they just sat there solid, like soldiers.
Please also read this post from the 19th of July, which begins with a quote from T.S. Elliot:
“Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still.” T.S Elliot

I don't know much, I haven't been alive long enough to be wise. I have seen more of the world than most, but am not worldly. What I do know it this. Chamberlain was right (more than one hundred years ago, near Gettysburg, we are fighting a new kind of war, with a new Army. We are fighting for an ideal. Freedom, such an intangible notion, such a simple thing, such a complex thing. We can quantify the price in blood, we can quantify the price in dollars. What is so simple here in B'dad, is so lost on so much of America... Freedom.
And he's right, the public voice of America has lost the ability to grapple with ugly and inevitable reality. Are we a nation of snivelling ungrateful fantasists who demand more of the impossible from those already doing the impossible? The question must be asked. Perhaps it is simply that we can't look at our military personnel and stand to face the truth that these are, on the whole, better human beings than their untiring critics.

Cisco V Michael Lynn

Michael Lynn lost the battle (BBC):
Mr Lynn found out about the Cisco bugs while working at computer security consultants, Internet Security Systems - a job he left only hours before he presented the information to the conference.

He said it was important to get information about the bugs in to the public domain.

Cisco did not agree and won an injunction that bars Mr Lynn and organisers of the Black Hat conference from ever talking about what they know.
More details at the PC World blog:
At the conclusion of the Black Hat Briefings yesterday, embattled security researcher Michael Lynn diclosed the agreement he and the conference made with Cisco Systems and Internet Security Systems concerning his presentation on Cisco software vulnerabilities....

Under the terms of a permanent injunction, sought by both Cisco and Lynn's former employer, ISS, Lynn must give the companies all of his research materials, including the presentation slides, his notes, and proof-of-concept software Lynn wrote that he used during his presentation. Black Hat must give Cisco the videotape of the presentation made by the conference's audio-visual contractor. Parts of the presentation have already been posted on security Web sites.
A prior WP blog post explaining the lead up:
According to people who heard the presentation today, Lynn demonstrated how the flaw could be exploited but obscured much of the technical details that an attacker would need to know to pull it off. The injunctions filed against him state that ISS and Cisco had been working together on the flaw for the past four months, and that up until earlier this week, a Cisco executive was slated to co-present the findings with Lynn at Black Hat. But on Monday, Cisco asked conference organizers to pull Lynn's presentation from the conference materials handed out to attendees.
Not very reassuring. But the information escaped, and Cisco did publish a security alert with one problem and the patches available. Presentation slides (pdf) are up at InfoWarrier.

Nat Hentoff On A Free Press

I really enjoyed this column by Nat Hentoff. He points out the problems with Kenneth Tomlinson's attempts to ensure that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting doesn't have a liberal bias while maintaining that the only way to have a free press is for it not to be funded by the government:
Long ago, during my unformed youth, I was speaking on a panel as an anti-Communist (having read Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon" when I was 15) but wondering about the possibilities of "democratic socialism." A libertarian on the panel asked me how long I thought a free press would flourish under any kind of socialist government. Like a clap of thunder, I was awakened from my fantasy.

Now, under a Republican administration,"public" broadcasting is being investigated as if we were subject to so statist a government that we must be insulated from insufficient appreciation of this administration's virtues. This would be farcical if it weren't actually happening. But I am grateful to Mr. Tomlinson for illuminating the sticky strings that come with government financial support of the press, which must be free to be free.
He's right. There is not a firm dividing line between right or left, conservative or liberal, etc. Free inquiry and a multiplicity of viewpoints is what NPR and PBS need, not some balance imposed from the top down.

On the other hand, I really like NPR and PBS. I just think they should warn me before putting Jane Fonda on. Perfect balance is not achievable in practice. The question is whether on balance Public Broadcasting offers more good than bad. Since it does rely on contributions for some of its operating costs, there is probably a natural corrective in there somewhere.

Why not allow people to designate the programs to which they wish to donate?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Heads Up!

A gift from a dear friend (.wmv file).

Okay. Now, if that didn't shake you up a little, here's today's bird flu (H5N1) update. The reports of H5N1 in Novosibirsk, Russia prompted a massive quarantine. However, the virus was almost certainly spread by migrating wild birds, so the quarantine may delay but can't prevent further spread. Newsday/AP:
Investigators have determined that a strain of bird flu virus infecting fowl in Russia is the type that can infect humans, the Agriculture Ministry said Friday.

The virus caused the deaths of hundreds of birds in a section of Siberia this month, but no human infections have been reported.

In a brief statement, the ministry identified the virus as avian flu type A H5N1.
Worse yet, earlier there were three human deaths in Jakarta from the virus. It was three members of one family who lived in the suburbs (two children and their father). The only evidence they have found is that pigs around the area seem to have been infected - however, the only local source of infection that has been found was a pet bird across the street. (Recombinomics) (WHO):
Extensive epidemiological and environmental studies are ongoing around this family cluster. The Minister of Agriculture stated that laboratory results detected H5-infected bird faeces in a bird cage opposite side of the road of the family's house; cloacal and throat swabs of the pet bird inside the cage were negative for H5. This is the first, and, thus far, the only, indication of a possible source of exposure. Other environmental sampling was negative.

The Ministry of Health is continuing to monitor over 300 contacts. None of the contacts have shown any symptoms to date. Seroprevalence results are still pending. Surveillance has been intensified in affected areas and throughout the country. Forty-four referral hospitals have been identified and are being prepared to receive possible cases. Health education campaigns are being conducted nationwide.
Again, this appears to be a very contagious virus. Earlier Boxun reports from China also commented on strains of the virus that were infecting entire ponds through virus-laden feces. Last year over 100 tigers died from the virus.

Debt Collectors Taken To Cleaners

This is good, very good. The FTC won its case against abusive debt collectors. Press Release:
The Federal Trade Commission has won a $10.2 million judgment against a debt- collection operation, National Check Control, and its principals – the estimated amount of consumer injury they caused. The amount represents the largest judgment in FTC history for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In addition, a federal district court judge has permanently banned the defendants from engaging in debt collection in the future.

In a complaint filed in May 2003, the FTC alleged that the defendants violated the FDCPA by harassing and threatening consumers with claims that they owed money for checks returned for insufficient funds. The defendants made repeated phone calls, sent threatening letters, and falsely threatened that consumers could face civil or criminal charges if they did not pay the debts. The FTC alleged that, in many cases, the consumers did not owe the money, or owed far less than the defendants claimed. At that time, the court entered a temporary restraining order freezing the defendants’ assets.
The money that is collected is supposed to be used to refund the defrauded. The judgment is here, and it has teeth. Sometimes the guys in the white hats do win!

If you have paid money to CHECK INVESTORS, INC., CHECK ENFORCEMENT, INC., JAREDCO, INC., BARRY SUSSMAN, AND CHARLES HUTCHINS you may have some money coming. The judgment lists the code sections and counts against the defendents, so if you or anyone else you know is being harassed by any other debt collectors, print a copy of the judgment itself. It is an excellent weapon. Filing a complaint with the FTC does work and even the threat will often produce excellent results.

C.S. Lewis And Leslie Burke

The High Court in England ruled that Leslie Burke did not have a right to receive artificial nutrition and hydration (food and water):
Mr Burke suffers from cerebellar ataxia, a progressively degenerative brain condition that follows a similar course to multiple sclerosis. (actually, it destroys the brain's motor control centers.)

In an unusual move, Lord Phillips, the Master of the Rolls, issued a press release saying that "the fact that the appeal has been allowed does not mean that Mr Burke has lost".

Mr Burke will need artificial nutrition and hydration - known as ANH - when he loses the ability to swallow.

Lord Phillips explained that Mr Burke appeared to fear that ANH would be withdrawn before the final stages of his disease, when it would not be capable of prolonging his life. "If this is Mr Burke's fear, there is no reason for him to have it," Lord Phillips said.

"There are no grounds for thinking that those caring for such a patient would be entitled to or would take a decision to withdraw ANH in such circumstances."
The judges added that, "where a competent patient indicates his or her wish to be kept alive by the provision of ANH, any doctor who deliberately brings that patient's life to an end by discontinuing the supply of ANH will not merely be in breach of duty but guilty of murder"....

Mr Justice Munby ruled in the High Court that the patient had the right to insist on ANH but the Court of Appeal disagreed.

"A patient cannot demand that a doctor administer a treatment which the doctor considers is adverse to the patient's clinical needs. That said, we consider the scenario that we have just described is extremely unlikely to arise."
What a farce. See this article about a coroner asking for an investigation into men being starved to death in an English hospital.
A CORONER is demanding a public inquiry into claims that 11 hospital patients were deliberately starved to death. He believes that it could be Britain’s first case of forced “mass euthanasia”.

Peter Ashworth, the coroner for Derby, will open an inquest later this year into the suspicious deaths at the city’s Kingsway hospital....

There is now increasing concern across Britain about the way hospitals appear to be hastening the deaths of elderly patients. Police in Leeds and Hampshire are also looking into similar cases.

The 11 patients, all men aged between 65 and 93, died in the Rowsley ward for the elderly at Kingsway. A review of the cases, ordered by the coroner, found evidence that their deaths may have been speeded up by withholding sufficient food.
See this argument that the British government made against the lower court's ruling in Leslie Burke's favor:
This is the first time that the Department of Health has admitted what has long been obvious: that it stops feeding and hydrating patients, not because it is in their "best interests", but because it believes that it costs too much. The idea that it must be in a patient's "best interests" to be starved to death has always been nonsense. That, however, has not stopped health ministers and NHS officials from resolutely maintaining that particular fiction.

The Department of Health and the BMA refuse to recognise Mr Burke's right not to be starved and dehydrated to death because they fear it will create a generalised "right to treatment" - which in turn will mean that doctors will be obliged to provide medical treatment to terminally ill patients who want it, regardless of whether it will have any beneficial effect, and regardless of the cost.

Feeding and providing liquids to a patient too damaged to feed himself is not, however, medical treatment - any more than feeding a baby is medical treatment. It was categorised as such by the Law Lords in 1993, and for the sole purpose of allowing the judges to conclude that, in withdrawing food and liquids from Tony Bland (the Hillsborough victim then in a persistent vegetative state), doctors were not unlawfully killing him: they were merely not treating him. If doctors were not to be seen as licensed killers, those two activities had to be kept separate....
And "clinically appropriate" in the language of the NHS doesn't just mean treatment that will be beneficial to the patient:
THE National Health Service should not have to give life- prolonging treatment to every patient who demands it because that would mean a crippling waste of resources, the Government said yesterday.

A lawyer for Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, said that a ruling granting a patient the right to request life-prolonging care had serious implications for the NHS.
Under current GMC guidelines, a competent patient could decide between treatment options offered by a doctor. “But the patient cannot require his doctor to offer him any treatment option which, in the doctor’s view, is not clinically appropriate or which cannot be offered for other reasons — having regard to the efficient allocation of resources.”
Doctors’ leaders said the precedent won by Mr Burke had created a minefield of unresolved issues over appropriate treatment and use of NHS resources. The GMC’s arguments — that the ruling is unclear and puts doctors in an “impossibly difficult position” of having to pursue treatments of no clinical benefit — has widespread support within healthcare.

Intensive care beds, where patients can receive lifesaving care such as ANH, cost £1,500 a day to run while high-dependency beds for patients who require close monitoring cost up to £800 a day.
In other words, it would be expensive to care for Leslie Burke, so Leslie Burke will be starved to death when he can no longer speak. He will be conscious and aware of his suffering. He now has several choices. If he goes to the hospital for treatment of an illness (pneumonia, kidney infection, etc) he risks being starved to death while he is conscious. If you doubt me, google "David Glass".

Finally, see this blog entry by a Catholic physician about N.I.C.E. and C.S. Lewis:
In C.S. Lewis’ novel That Hideous Strength an organization known as “N.I.C.E.” (National Institute for Coordinated Experiments) is empowered in Britain to solve various social problems without the bother of red tape. Unfortunately, N.I.C.E. is a demonic organization, engaged in social engineering, including euthanasia of the disabled, criminals, or simple “trouble makers” that will eventually take the input of beings (angels) from a “non-fallen” world to put right.

I wonder what Lewis would think of the modern day British institute that bears the same acronym (N.I.C.E.) of his fictitious organization?
I believe we all know what God thinks. Give to Catholic hospitals - that's my advice.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Helen Thomas Clinically Insane?

I'm not sure that this can be true, but if Drudge has it right, Helen Thomas needs psychiatric help:
The newspaper HILL first reported the startling claim on Thursday.

"The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself," she told the HILL. "All we need is one more liar."
Does she think this stand is going to cause nationwide demonstrations for Cheney not to run? What next - is she going to do a national tour a la Michael Moore and give away bras? Have these people been drinking too much Perrier or spending too much time in hot tubs? I'm beginning to believe that there really is something in the water:
A new analysis based on animal studies suggests that showering in manganese-contaminated water for a decade or more could have permanent effects on the nervous system. The damage may occur even at levels of manganese considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine....

The study is the first to show the potential for permanent brain damage from breathing vaporized manganese during a shower. It was conducted by reviewing the medical literature and calculating, based on animal studies, the amount of manganese people would absorb by showering 10 minutes a day.
There must be some explanation. Brain damage is as good as any. See Tran Sient's Watch for another demonstration of odd, odd thinking.

CAFTA Article

Hat Tip to Polipundit.
This is an interesting Investor's Business Daily article about the effect of CAFTA:
Take, for instance, Transportes Guzman in Los Angeles' Pico-Union district. There, boxes pile nearly to the ceiling. For $190, a Guatemalan can ship all sorts of things — clothes, medicines, household supplies and foods — back home. Items that can't be bought there, only here. With CAFTA — which creates duty-free trade with previously high-tariff countries — such businesses will boom.

"CAFTA is a larger U.S. export market than Russia, India and Indonesia, combined," said Ayse Oge, trade consultant with Los Angeles-based Ultimate Trade, who notes that Central American consumers are desperate for U.S. goods.
According to recent estimates, the jobs and incomes CAFTA creates will boost purchasing power by $15 billion in the U.S. and $5 billion in Central America.
Interesting, but only time will tell.

Van Wert, Ohio

One of my coworkers is moving back to Van Wert, OH, where she grew up. It is hot here, so we looked up the temperature in Van Wert. 76 degrees. In the high 60's tonight.

So then we went to www.weather.com, and clicked on averages, and selected daily. The average high for July is 85, the average low for July is 63!

Employment opportunities in the general area don't look half bad either.

See the havoc that the internet can wreak upon your business?

Carl On Private Spaceflight

I have begun to believe that we do need to move to the era of private spaceflight. I'm not sure whether Carl at NOFP is right about eliminating the space shuttle program. I am way too anxious to think rationally on the subject. If I had the habit of chewing my nails I'd be down to the first joint by now. Yes, I am praying over this one.

Carl's post has great photos, btw. And links! Always lots of links.

On the brighter side, Branson and Rutan are forming a new company to build spacecraft:
Called The Spaceship Company, the new entity will manufacture launch aircraft, various spacecraft and support equipment and market those products to spaceliner operators. Clients include launch customer, Virgin Galactic—formed by Branson to handle space tourist flights.

The Spaceship Company is jointly owned by Branson’s Virgin Group and Scaled Composites of Mojave, California. Scaled will be contracted for research and development testing and certification of a 9-person SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, and a White Knight Two (WK2) mothership to be called Eve. Rutan will head up the technical development team for the SS2/WK2 combination.
The government of today is bureaucratic and rarely does anything superbly. When NASA was dominated by scientists and engineers it performed astonishingly well. However, given current political realities I don't think that will ever recur, so perhaps Carl is right.

More About Ahmed Ressam

My Way News has some pretty good information. This is the man who was nabbed by the alert Customs agent as he drove off a ferry. A search of his car turned up explosives and maps; his intent was to bomb LAX. He could be out of jail in 14 years (he's getting credit for the five years he has already spent imprisoned):
U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said the successful prosecution of Ahmed Ressam should serve not only as a warning to terrorists, but as a statement to the Bush administration about its terrorism-fighting tactics.

"We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel," he said Wednesday. "The message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart."

He added that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have made Americans realize they are vulnerable to terrorism and that some believe "this threat renders our Constitution obsolete ... If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won."
Sympathetic as I am to the judge's views here, not everyone is captured in the same way or on American soil. I think the judge might be talking about the "enemy combatant" rule as applied to arrests on American soil. What are your thoughts?


Betsy Newmark of Betsy's Page wrote a long post regarding how American history is taught and why students often aren't interested in the current version:
I'll add in that political correctness has transformed most textbooks into a catalogue of sins of rich white men against everyone else. Why would any kid want to go read about any more of this history? And there's a full curriculum there so teachers are still rushed. Unless, you're willing to throw out some of the tedious curriculum, teachers don't have time to spend on the subjects that will excite kids. I found that middle school kids, both boys and girls, loved learning stories from our nation's military history. My recommendation to any middle school American history teacher is - don't speed through that military history. Start with the French and Indian War and how George Washington as a young man sparked a world war. Tell them about General Wolfe's troops scaling the cliffs to the Plains of Abraham and both Generals Wolfe and Montcalm dying in this climatic battle that changed the history of the continent. Kids will be on the edge of their chairs and then you've gotten them and they're ready to learn the elements of the 1763 Treaty of Paris.
As you might imagine, this is the sort of thing that fries a moonbat soul. One comment:
Let's bring some focus to this: The students in your classes are bored with Social Studies because the curriculum emphasizes topics and activities that either (a) fail to line-up with your perceptions of what's important, or (b) fail to excite you, personally. So, naturally, your students' lack of enthusiasm for Social Studies is a problem of the curriculum and not your ability, commitment and enthusiasm to teach.

What I'm detecting in your post are the musings of a teacher who's burned out and needs to exit from the classroom.
What's so hysterically funny about this is that Betsy's enthusiasm and love of American history and civics is blatantly obvious if you read her blog, and she does also occasionally and modestly write about her students' successes. She's a great teacher; anyone who knows anything about teaching would understand that. But what she has written above goes so against the grain of the politically correct educational groupthink that it must just be like a slap in the face to some people.

When we dumbed down our curriculum it did get less interesting. She's right. And she's also right about the lack of depth and context making it all seem random to the kids.

As The Geese Fly

The jig has pretty much been up regarding bird flu dispersing rapidly ever since the die-off of bar-headed geese and other birds in Qinghai. As the survivors moved on, it was a given that this extremely virulent subtype would move beyond China. Recombinomics notes that Altai has now instituted a poultry quarantine after bird flu made it to Novosibirsk:
The territory is in southern Siberia adjacent to Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China. Thus, it has a bird outbreak to the northwest, around the Chany Lake area, and three outbreaks to the south in Xinjiang and Qinghai provinces in China. All outbreaks have been linked to migratory birds, which is consitent with sequence data from H5N1 isolates in Qinghai Lake.

The sequences in these birds have regions in common with isolates in Europe, including H5N2 from birds and various mammalian isolates. One change in particular is striking. The PB2 mutation E627K has never been detected previously in an H5N1 isolate from a bird. However, it is present in all human isolates. This strict species barrier was broken at Qinghai Lake, where all bird isolates have E627E. It has appeared previously in humans infected with bird serotypes H5N1 and H7N7 and in almost all cases the infection has been fatal....

In August and September birds will leave Russia and head for Europe, India, and eastern Asia, raising concerns that the highly lethal H5N1 will spread throughout Asia, much of Europe, and beyond.
One would hope that the US would institute a bird and wildlife tracking and testing program. Once it makes it to Siberia one can expect an imminent appearance in North America. H5N1 seems to infect pigs, domestic fowl and other animals that may eat dead and dying birds. Tigers, for example, have died of H5N1 in India.

CAFTA Passes House Narrowly

This one is going to be an issue in the 2006 elections. CAFTA passed the house 217-215 and now awaits President Bush's signature. The bill will eventually eliminate tariffs for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic:
The president took some political risk placing the relatively small trade pact at the top of his economic agenda. He and numerous administration officials advertised the agreement as a tool to give fragile Latin American democracies the opportunity for stability and prosperity.

The House vote, supposed to take 15 minutes, dragged on for an hour as negotiations swirled around the floor among GOP leaders and rank-and-file members reluctant to vote for the agreement. In the end, 27 Republicans voted against CAFTA, while 15 Democrats supported it.
Democrats aren't happy:
"I don't see any benefits for workers, for sugar people," said Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon, who said his family owed everything to 225 years of sugar production in his home state of Louisiana.

"We've given away textiles. We've given away steel. We've given away fruits and vegetables," Melancon said. "Now let's just go ahead and give away everything and be dependent on every other country for our food and our defense."
In theory at least, if we become dependent for all our manufacturing on foreign countries it is a security problem. However, it would be better to be dependent on a bunch of countries rather than just a few Asian countries. I think that it would be better for the US to foster strong trade relationships with the rest of the Americas and India. Still, this is a bitter pill for workers who continue to see their earning power erode.

Three Feet Of Rain In A Day

The official figure is 37.1 inches of rainfall in Bombay in one day. The current count is over 450 dead around the area:
Rescuers searched for survivors buried under debris Thursday and rushed aid to villages cut off by record-breaking rains that paralyzed Bombay and its surrounding state, leaving more than 450 dead.

At least 267 people died in Bombay, India's financial hub after being crushed by falling walls, trapped in cars or electrocuted when the heaviest rains on record swept through the city late Tuesday. Phone networks collapsed, highways were blocked and the city's airports, among the nation's busiest, were closed.
The residents of Bombay are trying to help each other:
Bombay's residents responded by opening up their homes and distributing food to motorists stuck in traffic and people wading through water.

"They were just angels. Women and children were giving food, biscuits to people on the road and even assuring us that it was homecooked," said G. Sawant, a manager at a private infrastructure company.

Residents tied ropes across flooded roads to help people wade through waist-deep water as workers repaired communication networks and towed away abandoned cars and buses to clear the city's gridlocked highways. Train services had resumed and flights were to begin later in the day.
I can't even imagine 3 feet of rain in a day. I have seen 8 inches personally. Americus, GA got 21 inches in a day in 1994 from Hurricane Alberto. There was a massive flood in 1994 in Georgia.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Evening Eyeball

The news seems to be awfully ominous lately. First, NASA is grounding the shuttles because a big chunk of foam broke off during launch today. They are saying that they don't believe it caused damage to the Discovery. As far as I'm concerned, I'll feel a lot better when that thing is back on the ground in one piece.

ABC is reporting that a car used by the July 7th bombers contains 16 extra bombs. Not reassuring at all, and it was a rental car. Did some people not show up at the rendezvous? BBC reports that the London police did nab Yasin Hassan Omar who is suspected of being one of the dud bombers. Also three women have been arrested.

I have been unable to secure an interview with Martha Burke over this report, but the Japanese are working on female androids. Truthfully, we women always suspected it would come to this. They never gain weight, they don't nag, and they don't talk back. The end is nigh. If you think I am being alarmist, read Tommy at Striving for Average's posts on what women want here and here. The Japanese have also been working on child androids. Word has it that they are quite obedient and don't need to get their teeth fixed.

There is a pending quarrel over whether the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will get access to John Roberts' memos written during his stint as a government lawyer. See Tommy's analysis. He's right in my view. Also in Beldar's, who doesn't even feel the need to be polite about it, although Tommy, always the gentleman, was. Now the Democrats also want Roberts' tax returns. Frankly, I think they should demand he get publicly strip searched just so everyone knows about any identifying marks. After all, an impeachment may be necessary should he vote to overturn Roe V Wade. Word has it the NOW is already recruiting the, ah, womyn's warriors for the cause.

A sample of Beldar's hatchet:
As for the MSM mouthpieces that have been repeating Sen. Leahy's comment as if it weren't drivel, I'm pretty sure they all have lawyers available to them. Any lawyer with Westlaw or Lexis/Nexis could have found the Lindsey case in about 30 seconds (which is how long it took me). I'd say "For shame!" but they're obviously shameless, as is Sen. Leahy.

A sample of Tommy's polite reason:
Now I'm not a lawyer, I don't play one on TV and I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn last night so I guess it's possible I've misread the argument but as I understand it... the issue in the Clinton case was the use of government executive branch attorneys in a personal case (it was Clinton that was being investigated not the office of the President), therefore there was no privilege since those in question were not the attorneys for Bill Clinton. The documents in question here are a result of then deputy solicitor general Roberts role with his then client the executive branch of the government. Like I said I'm not an expert or perhaps even well informed on these issues but to me it seems to be a different argument.

Left Mobilizes Against Common Enemy

The only problem is that it's not Islamic terrorists or even the Republican party. Instead it's the DLC.
See QandO:
Who knew that Hillary Clinton's call yesterday for party unity within the Democrat party would fracture it even more?

Come on, tell me? Who knew?

It would seem, given the party's almost total ineffectiveness (except in an obstructionist sense) that such a call would be welcomed and considered earnestly.
Naaah. See this Common Dreams article on the dire threat the DLC poses to peace, justice and the American way ("Bowing Down To Those Who Undermine"):
More food for thought about the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and the future of the Democratic Party...Can you imagine if an organization existed that purported to speak for Republicans, yet whose entire premise undermining the conservative base of the Republican Party? Do you think GOP presidential candidates would be flocking to address that organization's meetings? The answer, of course, is no, they wouldn't - and you can bet the GOP leadership would crush that organization before it ever got off the ground. But on the Democratic side, the story is far different.

Democratic presidential contenders go suck up to the DLC, an organization whose for the last two decades has done everything it can to undermine the Democratic Party - even going to great lengths to attack Democratic presidential candidates it doesn't like.
The Washington Post seems a little dazed:
Long a revered figure by many in the party's liberal wing, Clinton (D-N.Y.) unexpectedly found herself under attack after calling Monday for a cease-fire among the party's quarreling factions and for agreeing to assume the leadership of a DLC-sponsored initiative aimed at developing a more positive policy agenda for the party.

The reaction highlighted the dilemma Democratic politicians face trying to satisfy energized activists on the left -- many of whom are hungering for party leaders to advance a more full-throated agenda and more aggressively confront President Bush -- while also cultivating the moderate Democrats and independents whose support is crucial to winning elections. The challenge has become more acute because of the power and importance grass-roots activists, symbolized by groups such as MoveOn.org and liberal bloggers, have assumed since the 2004 election.
Is it me or did the Washington Post just write that the problem was barking moonbats? Anyway, DU has its own opinions about the article. Here's one:
The reason she is losing support (Yes, what you see on this board is she is LOSING support she previously had!) is because people are paying attention to her record and the company she keeps.

Wining and dining with WIPRO (Indian Outsourcers) is *not* populist. Supporting CAFTA (someone here mentioned she did not vote for it, how convenient as everything else she does shows she is big on "Free Trade" repub ideas.

It has become obvious to many that she has a "blood lust" for the presidency. I don't want people who are so intent on their own power. Her actions indicate to me she will sell out to corporate power. Heck she pretty much already is!
and another:
I love Hillary
She is very fair, and it's a mistake for the democratic party to move as left as it has.
In response to the above:
The Democratic party has not "moved to the left"
So many talking points! The Republicans have been so successful at framing and ostracising words.
and another response:
The DLC dems are trying to move us to the right the party has NOT moved to the left.
It does seem to be getting hot.

Splodeydopes In The News

Did the British police manage to nab one of the dud bombers?
Authorities would not confirm BBC and Sky News reports that the Tasered man was Yasin Hassan Omar, a 24-year-old Somali suspected of trying to blow up a subway train near Warren Street station.

At least one witness said the man resembled Omar....

He said the suspect looked like Omar but could not confirm it.

"After 10 or 15 minutes, they brought a guy out. He looked like the darkest-skinned one in the photos of the four suspects released by the police — the one with the curly hair," Wilkinson said. "They had him dressed in one of those white suits. He had plastic cuffs on the front."
And this gave me pause. Ahmed Ressam, the "Milennium Bomber", only got 22 years. We don't know the judge's reasoning:
A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced Ahmed Ressam, the "millennium bomber" convicted of plotting to blow up Los Angeles' airport, to 22 years in prison for conspiracy to commit an international terrorist act, explosives smuggling and other criminal counts.

U.S. Western District Judge John Coughenour had been expected to sentence Ressam, who stopped cooperating with federal authorities in 2003, to 35 years behind bars. Prosecutors say his failure to work with them further jeopardized cases they were building against other terror suspects.

Ressam, who will get credit for the more than five years he already has spent in jail, did not speak at the hearing but offered a slight smile as he shook hands with his attorneys and interpreter after the sentencing.
Sigh. I wonder what the parole policy is.... Could this guy be out in 12 years or so? What kind of term should the dud bombers get? Questions, questions.

The Crux Of The Argument

Carl at No Oil For Pacifists has done a superb job of summarizing the issues involved in an activist judiciary that is inclined to set its own interpretation of the Constitution above the very words of the Constitution itself.

Now Sigmund, Carl and Alfred present a more philosophical view of the way our system was designed to work:
To disagree is not to be intolerant. To wave off or dismiss those with differing views is intolerant. It is a sad day when we dismiss those for being different from us. It is even a sadder day when civil discourse is eschewed, because one side or the other characterizes the other as 'less than' or 'evil,' etc.

A wise man once shrewdly observed that at times, we shared very different views than our grandparents. Somehow, we never saw our grandparents as 'evil.' The point was well taken. People can have different views and ideas and not be less than, or 'evil.' With time, we have even found that some of our views, ones we thought inviolate, have been modified. Maybe there was some wisdom there, after all.

All too often, we find ourselves in environments and social milieus that reinforce certain points of view. Sometimes, those environments and relationships make it very difficult to grow and evolve. We may come to understand nuance more clearly or realize that simplistic ideologies and slogans do not fully address an issue. Nevertheless, because we have constructed for ourselves these bullet-proof and cloistered environments, we cannot adapt and evolve without fear of losing our status and relationships within our group.
The virtue of the basic system established within our Constitution is that it recognizes that each individual has a right both to follow his or her conscience and to speak and be politically active with regard to those dictates. The only limiting factor is that I can't elevate the dictates of my conscience over the dictates of yours. If the general population accepts part or all of my arguments, law and/or social mores may evolve to my satisfaction. If the general population accepts part or all of your arguments, law and/or social mores may evolve to your satisfaction. But general public debate and conviction are necessary for either of us to win the day, and in most cases, any such victory will be partial.

There is a fundamental decency and moderation to this scheme of human social life. If we debate honestly and openly, our differing arguments and positions enrich rather than devaluing each other. Points of agreement become the basis for shared action. Both our victories and our losses are partial and contingent in nature, because all of must subject not our consciences, but our activities, to the judgement of the public. And because the public's judgement is formed on the basis of both idealism and practical results, foolishness and excess has a natural tendency to correct itself.

However, if we short-circuit this correction mechanism by shifting more and more power to the judiciary, our public dialogue will naturally tend to absolutist positions and more extreme polarization. Each judical appointment becomes a victory for one side or another that will extend for decades into the future. Under this system, both our losses and our victories are far less pinned to practical results and are not subject to the public's correction.

The first system of government is like a person driving down the road making small corrections in steering as the road itself curves to the right or the left. The second is like a person putting on makeup while staring in the mirror, and only occasionally making corrections in steering as the person glances at the road. Necessarily, those correction will be more significant each time. It's not a safe way to drive or govern.

The Durbin Drama And Its Implications

Hat tip Betsy's Page. For a stage setting for this drama, see Carl at No Oil For Pacifists. According to a Washington Times article, Durbin did admit that he discussed the conversation with Turley:
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin acknowledged yesterday that he was the source for a newspaper column that reported earlier this week that Judge John G. Roberts Jr. said he could not rule in a Supreme Court case where U.S. law might conflict with Catholic teaching.

But the Illinois Democrat maintains that the column by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley incorrectly captured the private conversation that the senator had with Judge Roberts in his Capitol office Friday.
But according to Turley, he confirmed the account of Durbin's conversation by reading it over the phone to Shoemaker. And Shoemaker has been changing his story:
Spokesman Joe Shoemaker also said he did not know who Mr. Turley's source was, although only a handful of people were in the room at the time.
"Whoever the source was either got it wrong or Jonathan Turley got it wrong," Mr. Shoemaker said Monday.
Yesterday, Mr. Shoemaker said the source was Mr. Durbin.
"He and Turley were in the green room of the NBC studios," he said. "Turley was getting makeup put on, and Durbin was taking it off.
What on earth were Durbin and Shoemaker thinking? Durbin now insists that Roberts repeatedly affirmed that he would follow the rule of law. Well, that doesn't directly contradict Turley's account, does it?

This particular drama has to be seen against the overall debate about the role of the judiciary in this country and under the constitution, because it probably represents a politician's derisive remarks in an attempt to influence press coverage - remarks that he is not willing to confess in the broader public eye. No Oil For Pacifists has just posted a very complete overview of the controversy. It's particularly apt in that he points out some of the ironies inherent in our current position:
For a half-century, the left's key victories were gifts from an interventionist Supreme Court. This promoted alarming misunderstandings of the judiciary and fostered dangerous myths about our country and Constitution, many of which have been displayed since the President nominated Judge Roberts. At issue is the democratic process and the meaning of judicial independence.
An independent judiciary ruling on democratically agreed-upon laws are the necessary counterweights to maintaining our system of law. As Carl lays it out, the problem here is that the judiciary has assumed too much weight in our national life. Victories under our system are supposed to be limited and temporary. Those who push the idea of a living constitution that can mean whatever the conscience of an individual judge thinks it ought to mean have inadvertently created a situation in which conservatism could now sweep the day if it chose to.

Their fear is real, but they don't recognize their own responsibility. To maintain the system they have constructed they will indeed be forced to demand that only people with certain opinions be appointed to the federal bench. And after Kelo, the American people fears the Supreme Court. There is nothing noble about Kelo. There is no great moral goal to be won. There is no expansion of individual freedom that emerges from Kelo. There is only the cold doctrine that since the judges don't see how to make the text of the Constitution consistent with their prior rulings, words written in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution itself must be held to mean nothing.

In Kelo, the theory that judges ARE the Constitution reached its logical fruition in terms the American people can understand - and the people don't like it.

Contemplating The News

The London authorities say that the dud bombers went back to their explosives cache to get more fuel. Not reassuring. They have arrested four more people but I gather it's not the ones who attempted the attack.

The shuttle astronauts are using a robotic arm equipped with a laser to check for damage to the shuttle's exterior
But this is good news - the New London homeowners have a reprieve, and Connecticut is considering limiting emininent domain. And here is an excellent post by Betsy Newmark about Dean's attempt to blame Republicans for Kelo. But there's a catch, it turns out that out of the Democrats in the house, 157 of them voted against the bill to deny federal funds to the use of emininent domain for the benefit of private interests, and only 39 of them voted for the bill.

This may be because their fearless leader, Nancy Pelosi, believes that God (a.k.a. the Supreme Court) has spoken and that Congress must therefore immediately provide funds to the states so that they can seize the property of the old minority members in the inner city and give it to wealthy white developers. This is the Democratic party? I'm having some trouble believing it.

Beldar looks at Turley's concerns as expressed in the LA Times articles and points out that this is not a unique situation affecting Roman Catholics:
Without mocking Prof. Turley's concerns, nor his or Judge Roberts' faith, I think this op-ed considerably overstates the potential problem, both in general and specifically with respect to Judge Roberts.

There are certainly non-Roman Catholic judges who are also deeply religious and deeply moral; the Roman Catholic Church does indeed have high profile public positions on some religious/moral issues that also have legal implications, but the sort of potential conflict that Prof. Turley describes could always arise with any potential nominee to any position on any judicial bench.
Patterico takes a whack as well, citing Judge Noonan's refusal to recuse himself from an abortion case (he was asked to do so by those favoring abortion). Go over there to get the link to the opinion and read all of Patterico's comments. Judge Noonan referred to Article VI, and pointed out that complying with the request would institute the religious test forbidden by Article VI of the Constitution.

I strongly recommend reading Patterico's post, because while Turley may be sincere, the way all this is playing out is getting deeply dishonest. Pro-abortion factions are trying to either institute the idea that religious people must not be appointed to the court or that they must not be allowed to judge cases in which their faith may have definite teachings.

I also really like the fact that Patterico linked to Professor Bainbridge, who disagrees with him and Judge Noonan's decision. Professor Bainbridge is wrong, IMO, because he somehow distinguishes between the mandates of faith acting upon an individual's conscience and whether that may or may not influence a person's judgement of what the law means, versus the dictates of a person's conscience, and whether that may or may not influence a person's judgement of the what the law means. Everyone has a conscience, and under our system it is rather irrelevant to attempt to distinguish between different sources of the tenets and principles that have formed a person's conscience.

This seems to me to be an obvious error. If the Catholic church were an institution which could control its adherents under our system, the issue would be different. However it is not; the only control any tenet of the Catholic church can have upon a Catholic judge would be that the Catholic judge in fact agreed with the moral principle in question. Furthermore, judges don't decide interpretations of law based on whether they personally believe the law is right or wrong, but rather upon their interpretation of what the law actually means.

Professor Bainbridge comments about the death penalty - well, what of the court's recent reference to international law in connection with the court's decision on the constitutionality of the death penalty for minors? Is international law not a codified expression of conscience external to our legal system? How is that codification different from the Catholic church's codification? Should it be a requirement that judges nominated for a seat on the federal bench should have to swear that they have no faith in or regard for trends in international law?

A judge is required to take an oath to uphold the constitution and laws of the United States. It seems to me that this is the only test of conscience we can properly apply under our system without dooming ourselves to a constant squabble over petty shades of meaning.

I believe that we are seeing an attempt to institutionalize anti-Catholic bigotry, and that this must not happen. If you don't agree, ask yourself if this question would ever have arisen if Judge Roberts were an Episcopalian? A Jew? A Buddhist? I think not. The AMA develops a list of ethical guidelines for doctors. Suppose a doctor had become a lawyer, should that person be debarred from judging any cases in which the AMA's ethical guidelines might be applicable?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Chinese Connection

Courtesy Oraculations, this is an interesting Ynetnews article about the Mossad's conclusion that the explosive used in the 7/7 attack was likely the same as that used in the Mikes Place bombing in Tel Aviv last year and that it came from China (who has denied this). Read the whole Ynetnews article.

Howard writes:
...phony baloney stories abound regarding a chemical mastermind. EU papers are reporting once again that the explosive used was a highly sophisticated Chineses military type used to blow up Mikes Place in Tel Aviv last year. Don't know why the western press is cooling this one.
I would say that the American and British press are relying on official statements, and that the UK doesn't want to publicize any connection with the Mossad. I mean, it's bad enough that DU's first assumption was that the CIA, MI5 or the Mossad did it (although now they've got it all figured out). However, if it was the type of explosive the Mossad describes it should have blown up the second attempt, I think. Not that I'm any expert on explosives.

Also I suggest reading Oraculation's speculations on the nature of the WOT.

And just in case you actually read the DU thread, and get far enough to read the apocalypse now quote attributed to Julian Robertson, Mover Mike has debunked it.

Opinion Times On Byrd

Here's an extremely interesting post at Opinion Times on Senator Byrd's position, prospects for reelection and the effect it may be having on his support of President Bush's judicial nominee. Excerpt:
Mr. Byrd is up for re-election next year in a state that Mr. Bush won last year by 13 percentage points despite heavy campaigning by Democrats.

A poll conducted in May shows Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Republican, three points behind Mr. Byrd even though Mrs. Capito hasn’t announced that she will run against the old-guard senator.
It makes me think about Clinton soldiering out and trying to form a centrist message for the Democrats, which in my more cynical moments I take to mean that he isn't going to allow Vilsack to take that position.

Durbin, Turley, Roberts And The NY Times

Update: See Betsy's Page and The Anchoress on the same issue. It's not just me. Betsy writes "Whom are we to disbelieve: Dick Durbin or Dick Durbin?"
Also see Stones Cry Out. Also see Mover Mike (and click on the antecedent posts)
End Update.

A storm is building over the Durbin question. It started with Turley's article in the LA Times, and the fires are being fanned in this article in the NY Times:
The subject came up after reports about a meeting on Friday at which Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, is said to have asked Judge Roberts whether he had thought about potential conflicts between the imperatives of their shared Catholic faith and of the civil law. The discussion was described by two officials who spoke anonymously because the meeting was confidential and by a Republican senator who was briefed on their conversation.

Judge Roberts responded that his personal views would not color his judicial thinking, all three said, just as he has testified in the past.
You can get up to speed in this prior post on the LA Times article and this one about Cornyn's contradiction and Durbin quasi denial. Now the NY Times article states that Turley claimed that he got his information straight from Durbin:
A spokesman for Mr. Durbin and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, who spoke to Judge Roberts on Monday about the meeting, said Professor Turley's account of a recusal statement was inaccurate.

But in an interview last night, Professor Turley said Mr. Durbin himself had described the conversation to him on Sunday morning, including the statement about recusal.
So some one's lying. Worse, the NY Times appears to be inaccurately characterizing Turley's account of the conversation, which was:
According to two people who attended the meeting, Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion. (Pope Benedict XVI is often cited as holding this strict view of the merging of a person's faith and public duties).

Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.
But this is what appears in the NY Times article:
An opinion-page article in The Los Angeles Times on Monday by Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor, included an account of Mr. Durbin's question. Professor Turley cited unnamed sources saying that Judge Roberts had told Mr. Durbin he would recuse himself from cases involving abortion, the death penalty or other subjects where Catholic teaching and civil law can clash.
I think any objective person would agree that this is a distortion of what Turley wrote and what he had been told about what Roberts said. Furthermore, the NY Times article contains this:
Whatever the conversation in the senator's office on Friday, Mr. Durbin's question hit the fault line between liberal anxiety about theocratic intolerance and conservative fears about hostility to religion....

On Monday, Republicans seized the opportunity for a pre-emptive strike. Mr. Cornyn called Professor Turley's account of the discussion "troubling, if true." In his own meeting with Judge Roberts on Monday, Mr. Cornyn recounted, "I said, 'I hate to see somebody going down this road because it really smacks of a religious test for public service.'
And the "paper of record" goes on to discuss various advertising campaigns from the left and the right. I don't think parts of this article are fair or objective reporting. I think it was crafted to fan the flames.

So Many Uses!

BBC News carries a story about a pre-historic phallus that was used to knapp flint. For some reason they seem to regard the flint-knapping as a secondary function:
A sculpted and polished phallus found in a German cave is among the earliest representations of male sexuality ever uncovered, researchers say.

The 20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28,000 years old, was buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura.

"In addition to being a symbolic representation of male genitalia, it was also at times used for knapping flints," explained Professor Nicholas Conard, from the department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, at Tübingen University.

Yeah, most cultures used their "sympolic representations of male genitalia" to pound nails or dig coal or the like. Frankly I think it was both a bawdy joke and an expression of the idea that it was a male function to make "tools". Repressing a very unladylike and almost irrestible impulse to make a series of extremely risque jokes, I'll merely observe that it is wonderful that our modern culture has overcome its mystical impulses and is now based on science and medical understandings. Or maybe not?

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