26 December 2005

George Lakoff’s Nightmarish Vision

Drawn to the local Borders by the lure of a 50%-off second item coupon, I stumbled into a quite enlightening, if frightful, book. I left the bookstore, not unexpectedly, without cashing in the coupon for I am not quite ready to spend money on such spying expeditions into the mind of the hard, if not, atrified Left. And though in some sense I consider the 45 minutes I spent perusing the book and reading excerpts from it lost, I have gained a valuable insight into the true state of the nation. The book in question is George Lakoff’s Moral Politics (second edition, 2002).

Although Lakoff—a noted linguist at Berkeley in the sense of “noted” which generally detracts from the value of the noun it modifies—claims to give an unbiased look at both sides of the political aisle, his openly professed liberalism has clearly caused him to have a view of the world that I cannot agree with. Not only that, it is one which I am convinced is, to use a term he would expect from a conservative Christian, and abhor, wrong.

Lakoff describes politics in the early twenty-first century as building on two completely different understandings of morality. So far so good. Unfortunately, his way of defining these different moralities is skewed by his own preconceptions of right and wrong. This is ironic because as the expert socio- and psycholinguist, the main purport of his book is to uncover a ‘hidden’ mechanism of the human mind by showing how our preconceived notions, informed by our moral frameworks, causes us to frame debates in our choice of topics, viewpoints, and even vocabulary.

For Lakoff the US consists entirely of people who subscribe to either one or the other of two mutually contradictory moralities: Strict Father morality and Nurturing Parent morality. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which of these two in Lakoff’s binary, I daresay, dualist universe is the yin and which the yang, which the good and which the evil. His caveat that there may be variations on the general pattern he describes does nothing to diminish his absolutist statement. Lakoff ordains ex excelsis.

In a lengthy treatment this expert then applies the two moralities to all the contentious political issues of our time and ‘proves’ that Liberalism is far superior to Conservatism. He shows the inner inconsistency of Strict Father morality, in that it does not apply to parenting. Conservatives are bad parents as scientific studies have shown, Lakoff claims. Liberals, who subscribe to the Nurturing Parent morality, which foreswears punishment of all kinds, churn out far superior offspring, much better prepared for a society in which all problems can be solved, even prevented, by just loving (nurturing) everyone, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual preference or criminal record or inclination.

That is, if they churn out any offspring at all and refrain from exercising their perfectly moral decision to abort their “clusters of cells” or “embryos,” who, Lakoff claims, are not identifiable and individually existing members of the species. In a ridiculously off-hand and short chapter, Lakoff deals with abortion, possibly the number one contentious moral issue of our age. Instead of dealing with actually used arguments or referring to any medical evidence, our linguist merely notes that there are two different vocabularies employed by our two main choruses.

There is the factual, scientific vocabulary of the medical world, used by the cowboys in the white hats, which includes words such as “embryos” and “fetus.” Use of these words indicates, our linguist notes, that one is engaging the situation in a rational way. Conservatives never use these medically correct terms but instead use the emotional—and factually incorrect—term “baby” to refer to all stages of pregnancy. Lakoff then proceeds (one almost imagines him doing some casual cartwheels as he treats this topic) to explain why it makes sense for conservatives to reason in such a way about abortion.

After all, Lakoff claims, conservatives see it from the Strict Father’s perspective: the unwanted pregnancy is the result of the woman’s stupidity or disobedience of well-rehearsed rules (beaten into her). Thus, the knee-jerk response of any consistent conservative must be to enforce the appropriate rule (punish). The much preferred liberal’s approach is, naturally, to sit down calmly with the distressed woman who is “in trouble” (this is the actual term Lakoff uses), and come to a rational conclusion. Any liberal will want to nurture this woman and do for her whatever she needs. Getting rid of a “cluster of cells” or “embryo” is, of course, a viable option, if not doing so would stand in the way of the woman’s full potential.

Yada, yada, yada. Lakoff goes on like this for a good many pages on many topics. His second edition includes an “afterword” in which he ‘explains’ to the poor befuddled liberal intellectual why the Republicans were after Clinton in the Lewinsky affair and why George W. Bush, the illegitimate president, used all means, fair and foul, much better to his advantage to beat the wooden Al Gore. The latter includes profiting from the five Strict Father worshipers on the Supreme Court who “arbitrarily” chose to elect him president regardless of the perfectly legal recount ordered by the Nurturing Florida Supreme Court that would have put Gore in the White House.

Perhaps his most jaw-dropping chapter is on Christianity. Of course, being the academic intellectual that he is, Lakoff has to show his respect for the diverse religions in the country and rescue the Bible from the clutches of the Strict Fathers in order not to upset influentual liberal Christian elites. Thus, conservative Christianity is merely the natural result of a Strict Father morality imposed on the Bible. The Bible alone, he argues, endorses neither morality—it is completely and utterly neutral morally.

Yes, that is what Lakoff actually writes.

If you happen to be a poor befuddled conservative picking up your jaw from the floor right about now, let this be a wake-up call. This truly is the extent of the lunacy of the Left and this is how influentual it is on American campuses. This reasoning is completely in line with what is preached in all the mainline denominations, except possibly Southern Baptists (who are not considered “mainline” by Lakoff), and in academia. After all, the deconstructionist movement in literature of the latter half of the twentieth century has pushed to the extreme the idea that texts only “come to be” in the interaction with the reader. Thus, the Bible, like any text, has no internal meaning. Only every individual reader can impose this on the text by means of his ideas, biases and preconceived notions.

I do not know whether Lakoff, being the trained linguist that he is, actually believes this ridiculous philosophy, but it is clear that he has no intelligent relationship with certain key passages in the Bible, such as, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal.” Sound morally neutral to you?

In short, Lakoff’s book is probably a must-read reference book, and I may have to go back and buy it after all (though my wallet groans at the idea of being used for this purpose). Lakoff is clearly completely loopy. He makes fun of conservatives who hold to such ridiculous notions as exclusive truth claims, yet his entire book is a neon sign testifying to his own belief that only liberalism is true and conservatives are just plain wrong. The book is a tissue of such undigested logical contradictions.

But then, the deconstructivists and post-rationalists who now populate America’s universities (no, these are not made-up names, there are real groups of academics who hold to philosophies by those names), have taken leave of sense: their senses, to be exact.

Movie Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I do not venture into a movie theater very often, especially now that we have an infant in the house. Nevertheless, my wife and I joined a friend today to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I can heartily recommend the movie.

Some Puritan hotheads have already vented their complaints about the supposed blasphemous nature of the movie and C.S. Lewis’s heretical Christianity, but I am not impressed by their arguments. If Lewis’s Narnia series cannot be considered wholesome Christian literature, then I do not think there is much to read beyond the Bible and the Nicene Creed. It is a view of culture that I do not think is warranted by the Bible, since it leads to cultural withdrawal and monasticism.

The movie—the cinematic portrayal of the first in the series—is a great success. It is a sound product on various levels. The special effects are wonderful (done by the same crew that worked on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings), the casting is spot-on, and the movie is very faithful to the book.

That is not to say that one could not split hairs about some things in the movie. I will not render a verdict on the question whether it is theologically sound to have Christ portrayed as a lion. This allegation, from the conservative quarters mentioned, hinges on the supposition that the Narnia series are a straightforward allegory of the gospel and that author wrote it as an evangelistic tool. Seeing as C.S. Lewis categorically denied the accusation of allegory, I do not think we need go any further into this argument.

Of course, for those who carefully pick their theater visits, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will be compared to Lord of the Rings. In that comparison, the latter is decidedly the better production. But it is important to realize that this is an unfair comparison. The Tolkien trilogy is a whopping one thousand pages, written primarily for adults, whereas Lewis’s Narnia series is a much lighter creation, aimed at children. If printed in comparable lettertype, all of Narnia is about a third the size of the Lord of the Rings.

Thus, it must be accepted that the Narnia series does not have the same realistic depth as Lord of the Rings. Indeed, the characters in the movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, are not as well-developed as those in the Ring movies. Others might also cavil at the looser relation between book and movie, but one really must make allowances for the ‘padding’ the producers had to employ to make a feature-length movie out of a 100-page children’s book.

The great compliment that can be made in view of these minor defects is that Narnia really comes alive. What we meet really is the Narnia of the books, the Narnia I was longing to see. The stern rules about faithfulness to the book imposed on the producers, and the intimate involvement of Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson, in the production, has paid off.

Anyone who, when seeing the film, does not have the feeling of meeting old friends and having come home, has been splitting too many hairs.

04 November 2005

Bringing Down the White House

With the indictment of Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby, many opponents of the Bush government are now hopeful that a dramatic political shift could come soon.

Already a majority of Americans thinks the president is doing a bad job on all fronts, and that includes the War in Iraq. The anti-war protests on campus last Wednesday were part of a growing discontentment with the president’s insistence on staying the course. After the media reports about the White House leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent, most people have become convinced that the current administration has more than just a few drops of blood on its hands when it comes to Iraq and the reasons for going to war.

Not surprisingly, the Libby indictment is considered evidence of a White House cover-up of the government’s lies about pre-war intelligence. Many media present it as the first step toward bringing down the White House. The Minneapolis Star Tribune exhorted senators on Thursday to refuse debate on the Alito nomination until the White House comes clean on the leak scandal. The secret session forced upon the Senate by Democratic leaders this past week was interpreted by some as a reminder to the Republicans that the Democrats are not impressed by threats of the “nuclear option” in case Judge Alito is filibustered. But minority leader Harry Reid used the Iraq War as the grounds for his request.

However, what is perhaps even more troubling than the indictment of a White House official on felony charges is the fact that Americans are now listening to only one side of the media. Ever more Americans are digging into partisan trenches and accuse the media of being biased, yet are astonishingly willing to believe those media that play tunes to their political liking.

Many Americans believe that, in the media, there are only sources of Truth and sources of the Lie, yet the opposing political sides identify these sources differently, of course. This simplistic representation of the media and their role in politics is doing little for a critical engagement with the news. It is important we get our heads out of the partisan sand.

Take the CIA leak scandal. Joe Wilson’s repeated appearances on national TV recently are quite sickening. Just because it was the right-wing Weekly Standard that revealed a number of disconcerting inconsistencies in Mr Wilson’s version of his trip to Niger and subsequent government actions, does not mean we have further justification to hail him as a whistle-blower against White House corruption.

Nobody has to get a subscription to the Weekly Standard, but their arguments in this case are compelling and they suggest that the former ambassador and his wife are more than up to a very dirty game of bluff poker with the White House. Right now, they have already won several hands, thanks to the mainstream media’s gullibility and disinterest. On this topic, American media has its fingers in its ears, shouting, “Bush is a liar! Bush is a liar!”

Indeed, I believe that the Bush administration has been wrong on many things concerning Iraq. But the a Senate Intelligence Report from July 2004 also drove a small truck through Mr Wilson’s tearjerker op-ed piece. Nobody takes any notice of it because it is politically more convenient to enlist Mr Wilson in the all-important cause of bringing down the Bush White House.

I cannot help but protest that it does matter whom you enlist. The political left hailed the indictment of Lewis “Liar” Libby as a victory of justice. The reason: it is the first step toward cleaning out White House corruption. Joe Wilson can hardly be an advocate for truth and accountability, considering his shady part in the affair.

Mr Wilson and his ilk are not going to convince moderate conservatives like myself to join the campaign to hold the Bush administration accountable. As long as this campaign is dominated by people who can only shout mindless choruses against the current president, we are not making any progress, and you will not see me outside Coffmann Union to protest the war.

Call me crazy, but I would like a little more substance and intelligence in politics. The idea that demonstrations and revolutions are the only way to effect political change is a rather quaint Bolshevik fantasy.

As for Iraq, let’s put our thinking caps on and think of a way to bring back America’s soldiers without leaving the terrorists dancing and singing in Iraq. And as for the current administration, continue the protests, naturally. I would also advocate regular visits to factcheck.org, a non-partisan media watchdog project at the University of Pennsylvania, to get a reality check on the media bias that permeates all news in this country.

For one thing, they show that the famous “16 words” in the 2003 State of the Union were certainly factually incorrect but, fair is fair, that at the time President Bush had good reason to believe his claim about WMD in Iraq was accurate. There is a huge difference between being wrong and consciously lying.

There is no point in replacing one lie with another. If we want real change, let’s first do our homework. Don’t just rely on the Cliff’s Notes to current politics. You’ll miss the all-important details.

28 October 2005

Miers Withdrawal a Good, If Ungraceful Thing

Harriet Miers and President Bush have to be applauded for finally doing the right thing. Although conservative commentator and Law professor Hugh Hewitt complains in today’s New York Times that Miers’ withdrawal of her nomination for the Supreme Court was an outrageous act of sabotage by other conservative commentators—he specifically accuses National Review—there was little doubt left that Ms. Miers was not the right choice for this seat.

One can come up with many reasons to reject Ms. Miers. Some right-wing Christians have complained about her unknown stance on abortion but we should ask whether that would be a fair reason to reject her. I have advocated that a nominee’s stance on abortion should be an important litmus test and I will stand by it. Abortion is abominable and should be recriminalized. However, this discussion should be embedded in a thorough view of constitutional law. After all, if we want a safe anti-abortion activist on the court we might as well nominate James Dobson. We have no doubts about his position.

Thus, the complaint that Ms. Miers was fuzzy on abortion is not good enough. What we really need to know is a nominee’s views on the way US law, and especially the Consitution, works. Mere opposition to abortion is not good enough. What we need to see is a developed legal opinion about the Supreme Court precedents that caused the legalization of a practice that kills unborn people. Abortion is an outrage, but there is a second, separate outrage that should teach us something about the anti-child forces that advocate special rights for women to kill their babies. This outrage is that pro-choice activists and politicians are willing to ignore the plain words of the Constitution in order to invent these special rights. In other words, I am charging that you can only support legal abortion if you are willing to throw out US law and make the Constitution inferior to special rights for women.

Thus, what we need in a new nominee is a candidate who can see through these legal implications. That means that we should not expect any candidate, to mix some metaphors, to put his or her head in the noose before the pack of wolves known as the US Senate and proclaim to be anti-abortion. But it does mean that we have a good compass to navigate on, with plenty of leeway to find out where the nominee stands on abortion without asking him or her. It also means, however, that the nominee should be comfortable operating on the knife-edge between politics and sound judicial practice.

Ms. Miers was not that candidate. She is undoubtedly a smart women with many credentials but not the judicial credentials she would have needed as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. I agree with Hewitt about the disgraceful and ungraceful way she was brought down by another pack of wolves, the (religious) right. No Christian has a right to use slander and lies to destroy a person’s reputation (Ninth Commandment, Sixth Commandment) and the agents in question should understand their reprehensible, anti-Christian, and hence sinful, behavior. The process should have been allowed to run its course. The Senate Judiciary Committee would have rendered their verdict on the resubmitted questionnaire, there would have been hearings and—if the senators had retained any logic and dignity—Ms. Miers would have been soundly voted down by a majority.

Mr. Bush should never have nominated Harriet Miers and Mr. Hewitt points out the most important objection to this month-long excursion into nowhere: it delays the replacement of pro-choice Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. No-one would have expected her to be still on the Supreme Court in November, least of all O’Connor herself, who resigned after the previous Supreme Court Session last summer. But because she promised to remain on duty until her replacement is confirmed, she will likely be around to cast her vote against New Hampshire’s parental notification law in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood to be argued next month. With the way the votes are lined up on the present Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor will likely cast the 5th and deciding vote against the constitutionality of parental notification. That will be the real tragedy in the Miers debacle.

17 September 2005

Pledge of Allegiance Thrown Out Again

A federal court in California has—again—ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional. According to judge Lawrence Karlton, the words “under God” in the Pledge are a violation of the First Amendment. Reciting the Pledge would mean forcing a “coercive requirement to affirm God” on all students, according to the judge.

Christians and conservatives have not unexpectedly condemned the ruling. Legally, they say, this ruling is suspect at the very least since the judge claimed that he was bound by precedent. The precedent in question was the ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled on this same question in 2002. However, conservatives claim that this precedent was overturned when the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiff in that case—the atheist Michael Newdow who is now representing two other plaintiffs in this case—had no legal standing to bring the case.

But quite apart from the legal squibbling, Christians are outraged that the judge has now declared affirming God in public an offense. It is seen as another step on the increasingly slipperly slope toward official prohibition of visible religion. Although the term “God” can be taken as a very non-descript title of the Divine in general, there is hardly any doubt that in a Christian country like the US, Christians are the main victims of this ruling.

So, what are we to think of this ruling? The first observation that needs to be made is that the ruling is hardly a surprise. All the same actors were on the scene and the California courts are hardly known for their conservative leanings. Whether or not the 2002 ruling was rendered inoperable by the Supreme Court ruling, the same facts were presented to substantially the same court by the same people. One could hardly have expected the same liberal court to suddenly take a shine to affirming God.

Yet we need to look a bit deeper than that because the outrage vented by the conservative critics is virtually the same as the very shallow objections raised by Democrats this week against Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Just as the Democratic senators continued asking the judicial nominee Roberts questions about his political views, so the critics of judge Karlton’s ruling have complained about its ethical and moral insufficiency rather than its legal value. Regardless of whether judge Karlton is Christian or anti-Christian, he had to decide this case based on the laws available to him. And like it or not, the notion that the First Amendment prohibits reciting the words “under God” in a public school is legally quite compelling.

After all, the relevant words in the First Amendment are as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It can certainly be argued that at the basis of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance there is no act of Congress so that there is no legal coercion. But such an argument would be restricted entirely to a very legalistic, quite frankly pharisaical view of law. In actual fact, Congress has passed many laws regulating the mandatory school attendance of America’s youth and regulates the public—and even private—schools with numerous laws and rules. American children who find themselves in a public school classroom where the Pledge of Allegiance is recited are not there of their own accord and cannot effectively influence the school system that arranged for the Pledge of Allegiance.

I believe, therefore, that as a legal ruling, based on current American law and the Constitution, judge Karlton’s ruling is correct and will be upheld if it is appealed. If it should reach the Supreme Court, newly appointed Chief Justice Roberts would almost certainly uphold the ruling. Probably not because he agrees with the sentiment of the ruling, but because he would be bound to do so based on the laws as they are on the books now.

One may wonder why the Pledge of Allegiance has ‘suddenly’ become unconstitutional when it has been recited for decades. Of course, speaking from a very principled point of view, the Pledge has always been unconstitutional. But no judge in the 1950s would ever have ruled it so. Before the rampant outbreak of postmodernism, which rejects all authority and truth, including relgious truth, it has probably not occurred to anyone that the words “under God” might be in violation of any law or right. America, even liberal America, simply had not become allergic to religion yet. The Pledge flew under the radar until Michael Newdow went into his now infamous anaphylactic shock over the word “God” and decided to do what he believed was the American thing to do: sue.

Thus the tragedy in this case is not so much the ruling. Judge Karlton probably had no choice. The tragedy here is the fact that American culture has degraded to such a level of rabid secularism that religion offends some people to such an extent that it excites them to acts of anti-religious vengeance. Mr. Newdow could not let the Pledge slide. In his view, it is so odious and dangerous that it needed to be eradicated from society.

It is a tragedy that America has let society get to this point. More than likely, we are paying the price for a number of very unrighteous acts performed in the name of Christ in the past that religion is so hated by a large chunk of the general public. But then again, it is in man’s nature to rebel against God and so perhaps it is merely the decadence of twenty-first century luxury that allows some of the most ardent rebels to elevate their wickedness to higher levels. After all, as Agur said in Proverbs 30: 8-9,

Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God. (NKJV)

Perhaps America, which is getting obese on whopping amounts of unhealthy food, is getting full.

05 September 2005

Robert Daniel van der Hoek

Today at 7:49am (CET) my son Robert Daniel was born. He was 19.5 in and 7 lbs 2 oz at birth.

17 August 2005

Tell Cindy Sheehan to Go Home

While soldiers in Iraq are putting their lives at risk, terrorists plan attacks against soldiers and civilians alike, and Iraqi politicians work hard to put the finishing touches on an Iraqi constitution, one woman from California has decided to camp outside president Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. She wants to meet with the president. Never mind that the federal government employs a number of well-trained individuals—known as the Secret Service—to keep uninvited guests away from the president and arrest them if necessary.

You would think that for all the media attention that has been diverted away from real news and instead focused on Cindy Sheehan, 48, that this woman has something very important to say to the president. The righteous anger in the tone of both Mrs. Sheehan and the media who cover her ill-advised camp out in the blazing Texas heat suggests that Mr. Bush’s refusal to talk to her amounts to a major diplomatic snub that will cause World War III to break out. A sickeningly biased article in the New York Times on Saturday (August 13, 2005) suggested as much. The president’s refusal to talk to Mrs. Sheeehan was presented as an inexplicable and callous neglect of duty.

So, why should Mr. Bush find time during his busy schedule to talk to Mrs. Sheehan? What important information that he has not received from his advisers—you know, people who run such quaint institutions as the Department of Defense and Homeland Security—does Mrs. Sheehan have that is so important for the country’s Iraq policy?

The answer is, of course, nothing.

Let’s not mince any words. Cindy Sheehan is just a crazy 48-year old, Left Coast woman who lost it mentally when her son got killed in Iraq. She has my sympathies. I hope she will soon give up this insane idea that the universe revolves around her and her grief. The same New York Times article by Anne Kornblut also mentioned that her marriage and her family are falling apart—not because of the death of her son, for which she blames the president, but because she has gone nuts and is stalking the president of the United States.

The scary thing is that the way this situation has been handled is symptomatic of the left’s view of Bush policy. While I make no secret out of the fact that I, too, disagree with Mr. Bush on many policy decisions, there is one important difference between my disagreement and that of the leftist politicians and media outlets. I disagree with Mr. Bush because I think he has made wrong decisions. They disagree with Mr. Bush because they think he is mentally deranged. It must be a frightening experience to wake up in their America every day, knowing that a man who talks to God has the nuclear button in his possession.

How else can you explain the enormous media attention for Cindy Sheehan’s crazy camp out? She could not be any crazier if she were wearing her underwear on her head and insisted on being addressed as ‘the emperor Napoleon.’ If this had not been about a war—and if we had had a different president, I suspect—there would be no cameras, no journalists, no attention. At some point, there would have been a few marked cars, an ambulance, and a few men in white coats. Mrs. Sheehan would have been quietly carted away to the nearest looney bin. But, hey, this is great Bush-bashing material, so let’s put some cameras and some lights on this woman!

It’s sickening and it’s pathetic. Mr. Bush should not, under any circumstances, meet with this woman. The president has appointed professionals to advise him on policy, who may or may not make mistakes. But he certainly does not need to have weekly town hall meetings to take pointers from Mrs. Baker, housewife, from Centerville, East Dakota, Mr. Kurtz, plumber, from Average City, North Virginia and the retired Easterman twins from Knowitall Rapids in North Florida, on everything ranging from the running of the National Reserve to military strategy in the greater Kirkuk conglomeration. Hello, wake up! He is the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. He doesn’t meet with just anyone who rings the doorbell. He is, like, kinda busy running the country right now!

Get over it, already and tell Cindy Sheehan to go home. There are elections in three years. Feel free to vote for Hilary. Until then, George W. Bush will be president. Thank you, and good riddance.

01 August 2005

The Troubling Adoration of The Second Amendment

Another last-minute decision by the Senate was to pass a bill that essentially gives immunity from law suits to gun sellers and gun manufacturers (Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S.397)). Conservatives would add “frivolous” before the term “law suits” since they argue that those who legally and innocently sell a product that is protected under the Second Amendment should not be held accountable for what wicked, evil people do with their products.

Well, I agree. There is nothing inherently immoral about producing guns. In this fallen world there will be violence and people have a right to defend themselves. What is more, John Jay, writing in The Federalist, argued that “[a]mong the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention, that of providing for their safety seems to be the first” (essay no. 3). His essay included both foreign and domestic violence as threats to this safety and argues that it ought to be the prime responsibility of a unified state to guards its citizens against them. Thus, weapons are a necessary tool in defending the safety of the state.

It would be easy to laugh off the red-faced tirade of the senior senator from Massachussetts against Republican plans to pass this legislation as another looney liberal, anti-gun craze. But unfortunately, Mr. Kennedy is right on this issue. The legislation that was passed does “lock the courthouse doors to gun violence victims,” as president of the anti-gun Brady Campaign warned. Perhaps not all doors, but many are now locked.

So, how do we reconcile these two viewpoints? How can one hold that self-defense and defense of innocent citizens is a valid right while at the same time holding that it is unconscionable to exempt gun makers and sellers from lawsuits?

But look at the reasoning there. The allegation that such reasoning is contradictory is based on the premise that gun makers and sellers are somehow not a normal industry but are immune to all kinds of corruption and deviousness. The legislation the Senate passed declares not so much—as Republicans wanted us to believe—that this protects good and honest businesses from “politically motivated predatory lawsuits,” as the NRA put it, but rather that gun makers and sellers are canonized as saints and cannot be touched by almost any lawsuit. It preempts nearly all judgments by judges and juries by declaring the entire industry innocent of any charges that could possibly be lodged against them.

Now it is true, that lawsuits can stil be brought against gun manufacturers and gun sellers, but the burden of proof has now become so onerous that hardly any civilian will be able to avail himself of the legal expertise to meet that burden. In other words, the game is now rigged to such an extent that the gun industry is almost certain to win. Even if the actual words of the legislation allow for an escape hatch, that escape hatch only leads into a blind wall.

For that reason, we must agree—as much as it annoys me—with Senator Kennedy. He alleged that this legislation is nothing but a huge pay-off to the NRA. In essence, he claimed, the NRA are in control of the country. He is probably right. While no-one should ever dare to claim that citizens do not have the right to defend themselves, America’s religious adoration of the Second Amendment has made the country complacent about gun safety and responsible use of guns.

If the Founders had only seen fit to phrase the Second Amendment in terms of “the right to defend oneself” rather than a blanket approval to “bear arms,” we would still have had reasonable legislation defending the rights of good and innocent citizens while there could not have been a gun crazy NRA. Surely, you do not believe the NRA backs this kind of legislation for any reason except that it rakes in the cash from the sale and manufacture of guns, do you?

30 July 2005

Bill Frist’s Immoral Flip-Flop on Stem Cells

On the last day before the Senate went on summer break, Bill Frist ended a good pro-life record by endorsing more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. One can only imagine his decision to have come as a result of the intense pressure of the pro-choice lobby and its allies. The conclusion drawn by Eric Cohen and William Kristol in the Weekly Standard is correct: “Senate majority leader Bill Frist did the wrong thing at the wrong time.”

However, Cohen and Kristol do not go far enough in their disapproval of Mr. Frist’s decision. Their article sets out further policy moves Mr. Frist should employ to make sure that this will not lead down the slippery slope toward a completely utilitarian medical philosophy that will include human cloning. They are profoundly naive in their assessment of the situation. Mr. Frist’s speech in the Senate sent the nation hurtling toward that situation and we are already approaching the end station rapidly. The New York Times bewailed the fact that the current bill as proposed does not allow “therapeutic cloning” yet, but is confident that Frist’s flip-flop will lead there eventually. This is the true horror of Mr. Frist’s decision.

Thus, Mr. Frist’s decision to endorse embryonic stem cell research is more than merely a “wrong decision.” It is a catastrophic decision for which he should be held accountable. Not only should President Bush hold good on his promise to veto the bill—it would be the first veto of his entire presidency—conscientious voters should remember to cross him off the list.

The decision shows that he does not understand what is truly at stake in opposing embryonic stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research is murder because it kills unborn babies. Compromise is not possible on this issue. By compromising on the issue, Mr. Frist showed that he is not worthy of a vote and that voters’ trust up till now was not justified.

Yes, this issue is that important. It’s a matter of life and death for millions of unborn babies who are currently in suspended animation in special freezers. Liberal media talk of “destroying” embryos or “cells” or “zygotes” or such like. They also talk about the “enormous hope” afforded by this new technology and then try to emotionally blackmail you into having compassion with the many peole that could be cured by therapies discovered through embryonic stem cell research.

Hogwash. That’s the argument used by Joseph Mengele and his Nazi henchmen: we can sacrifice these Untermenschen (‘inferior people’, with which the Nazis meant Jews, Roma, homosexuals, handicapped people) because their lives are not worth anything. They are expendable. Well, embryos are people too and we have as little right to sacrifice them for the greater good as we have to sacrifice any group of people deemed ‘inferior.’ Life begins at conception. Embryos are past that stage, ergo, they are people. Don’t fall for the liberal, utilitarian and tear-jerking arguments. And see Mr. Frist’s action for what it is: a sell-out to sin and to a crime against humanity. This is way more important than some will make you believe. Mr. Frist is unfit to be elected to any office until he confesses his sin and repents of it. This is very troubling indeed.

26 July 2005

German Court Takes Custody Rights for Homeschooling

A court in the German city of Paderborn has temporarily taken away custody rights from two sets of parents. The parents refuse to send their children to public schools for religious reasons. The families are immigrants from Russia and members of a conservative Baptist church.

They belong to a group of eight families of whom 16 children do not attend school. The parents especially object to the manner in which public schools teach Biology (including comprehensive sex education and Darwinism) as well as to the very liberal Religion classes.

The court contends that the parents are hindering the children from “developing a personality appropriate for their age afforded by attending school.”

The parents homeschool their children until about age 10, but refuse to send to public school after that. Despite fines levied on them, they persist in their position. Custody of the children of two families has now been awarded to Childrens’ Services which have been charged by the court to make sure the children attend school in fall.

A spokesperson for the district of Detmold has confirmed that the parents have filed a request to start a private school. This request has been denied since the district judged that it was merely a thinly disguised form of homeschooling. “A living room is not a class room,” according to the spokesperson.

Homeschooling was outlawed in Germany in 1938 during Hitler’s Nazi regime but this prohibition has never been repealed. Nevertheless, approximately 500 children are currently being homeschooled in Germany.

Non-German Christians from around the world are encouraged to sign a petition online at www.solidrockfaith.com and send it to the German embassy in Washington D.C.

Source: Nederlands Dagblad / Christenkurier.de / www.solidrockfaith.com
translated and edited by : Michel van der Hoek

25 July 2005

Bush's Smart Supreme Court Pick

Confirmation hearings are still more than a month away, but the country is already abuzz with talk about Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court. In the days after Justice O’Connor’s resignation, commentators rejected the possibility of an early nomination. They believed that the administration was afraid of a repeat of the Bork nomination when a long wait until confirmation gave liberals plenty of time to rake up the dirt against the nominee.

The question for conservatives (and for liberals no less, of course) is whether John Roberts, currently a federal judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, is the right pick. Wary of all the supposedly conservative judges appointed by Republican presidents over the past couple of decades, conservative politicians and columnists have warned that no chances can be taken. We do not want another Justice Souter, their warning is. Souter looked like a conservative, walked like a conservative, talked like a conservative, but unfortunately rules according to the desires of the lunatic left-wing.

Thus, some wariness is appropriate. Some on both sides of the political spectrum have already declared Roberts the wrong pick. NARAL Pro Choice has—not surprisingly—sounded the alarm about Roberts in view of his well-documented pro-life views. Ann Coulter recently rejected Roberts as an other “Souter in Roberts’ Clothing” because of his lack of documented views. So, which of the two is it?

Strictly speaking, Coulter is probably right. On the particular question of abortion, Roberts has no personal view on the books (though there is a document from when he was defending Reagan policy, which does not reflect his personal views). But I do not think we need to follow the vitriol of Ms. Coulter; partly because she does not look at the evidence properly.

Shannen Coffin of the National Review has a better perspective. He realizes that, unless a foolproof crystal ball is invented before September, the best way to predict Roberts’ rulings is to assess his character and method on the bench. In his article, Coffin points out that Mr. Roberts’ record indicates more than a mere inclination to follow the clear letter of the law. In interpreting the law as it relates to cases before him, he is certainly not devoid of emotion or even humor. But when it comes to deciding the case, he has only one standard: what does common sense tell us about the interpretation and meaning of the law?

That means that he does not invent meaning on the spot. He looks only at what the law says in the visible ink, not the invisible ink seen only by left-wing loonies. Roberts’ most illustrative decision was issued only last week. In this case, he dissented from the majority which ruled a search of a car’s trunk unconstitutional, since they followed the driver’s reasoning that the police should first have investigated his claim that the car belonged to his girlfriend, rather than assume the car was stolen.

Roberts was sharply sarcastic of the majority in his opinion: “Sometimes a car being driven by an unlicensed driver, with no registration and stolen tags, really does belong to the driver’s friend, and sometimes dogs do eat homework, but in neither case is it reasonable to insist on checking out the story before taking other appropriate action.” In other words, there was nothing unreasonable about the police officers’ assumption that the man was up to no good and that the trunk of the car needed to be searched.

This bodes well for Mr. Roberts. We will not be able to find out his exact stance on all topics. If he is smart—as he has proven himself to be—he won’t answer the question Ted Kennedy is certain to ask: “Will you reverse Roe v. Wade?” Senator Kennedy will grit his squirrel teeth, knowing that Roberts’ wife is an active pro-life lawyer (who works for Feminists for Life). But even though Kennedy is on the record of saying that for judges’ wives to be pro-life “ought to be out of bounds”, he is not allowed to use it against Mr. Roberts. Stick that where the sun don’t shine, Kennedy!

I am confident that President Bush has picked the right guy and it is an astonishingly smart pick. No-one in his right mind can help but like the man and his record. There are no certainties in this life and Justice Roberts may well, on occasion, rule with the liberals. But his record shows that he will only do so when the Republicans are plainly wrong in the matter. (Let’s not declare the Republicans infallible, please.) As for the rest, he promises to interpret the law by looking at what it says, not what the cross-dressing, gender-bending, neo-Marxist academics of the elite left believe it ought to have said. That’s good enough for me.

21 July 2005

Again Bombs in London

And again London is rocked by terrorist attacks. During the afternoon, three bombs exploded on subway trains and one on a bus, paralleling the attacks on July 7. But the similarity did not go all the way because all four bombs failed to explode fully. Police say that only the detonators exploded without igniting any possible explosives. Yet all the signs seem to point to a link to the same organization that carried out the attacks on July 7, since even the backpacks used to carry the bombs are identical to those of the earlier attack. Let us hope that British law enforcement will be able to act as quickly on these attacks as on the previous ones and nab the terrorists who are responsible.

Rove-Gate and the Scrambling Media

The case surrounding Karl Rove and the CIA leak has all the appearances of a storm in a tea cup. When word first started to trickle into the news media that the secret source of Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller was none other than White House Advisor Karl Rove, the feeding frenzy soon began.

What was most disheartening about the whole affair was that it was (and is) all so predictable. Leftist media outlets, the New York Times leading the way, accused Karl Rove of breaking the law and called for his resignation. Conservative commentators defended Mr. Rove merely on principle without going into the case at all.

The New York Times had it right when they wrote, “[T]his isn’t just about Mr. Rove” (July 15). And yet, would that the New York Times had been able to show the same kind of wisdom as professed by the National Review, which declared openly that the jury is still out on the question whether Karl Rove broke the law (July 14). Instead, the Times complained that the whole affair was about Bush and his broken policies.

But then again, they are right: this isn’t just about Mr. Rove. It’s also about Judith Miller and the Times’s thirst for revenge. Because when Judith Miller was sentenced to a stint in prison for contempt of court, her employer immediately turned around and went for the jugular. According to the New York Times, it was Mr. Rove’s evil genius who plotted the whole affair. Mr. Rove leaked to Ms. Miller something to leak for which she could then be forced into an awkward position.

Now they want Rove’s job. Paul Krugman, never short of venom, avowed that Karl Rove is a criminal and belongs in jail. In an editorial on July 13, the newspaper put out a complicated argument in which they tried to reconcile the irreconcileable. The first is that Judith Miller, their jailed reporter, did the right thing to protect her source’s identity (presumably Karl Rove). The second that Karl Rove did not have the right to leak this kind of things to the press because, well, no reason really, except that they can’t stand Karl Rove having any rights, because, well, he’s a conservative toad, and, well, you get the picture.

But Mr. Rove has not broken any laws and morally he also seems to be in the clear. All the accusations that claimed he had somehow engineered the affair as part of a political plot seem now, with the hindsight of a few weeks, to have been dreamed up at the New York Times headquarters, with many of the major news media jumping on the bandwagon. “Didn’t the president promise to fire leakers?” they all asked, implying that the president was breaking his word by not axing Rove. In fact, the president remained resolved to display a close relationship with Rove. The special prosecutor who is investigating the CIA leak also announced explicitly that Karl Rove is not being investigated. Thus, even the cautious statements by conservative news outlets such as the National Review are unnecessary because, I repeat: Rove is not being investigated.

Let us not pretend that Karl Rove is not a slippery guy. As an advisor to the president, he has not exactly succeeded in making Bush seem wise. A host of policies, especially in the war on Iraq, policies that conservative Christians could not in their right minds subscribe to, are frequently being endorsed by the president. Rove ought to have given better advice. But that is hardly a cause for dismissal. But one can hope.

08 July 2005

Bombs in London

After the terror attacks in the US in 2001 and the Madrid bombs in 2004, now London, too has its 9/11. Who could do such a thing? But we know that: Osama bin Laden and his thugs. The sooner they are found, judged and executed, the better. But, of course, there’s more to be done than find individual terrorists. We also need to educate, both at home and abroad, so that we can show our determination to remain true to good and to reject evil. That in itself won’t solve the problem, but it should be the basis for sending troops to catch those whose faces are on our wanted posters.

In the meantime, London is not frightened by these attacks. Stiff upper lip and all that.

06 July 2005

When Clinton Lied...

You do not have to be a Bush hater to be against the Iraq War. But it does seem to help, judging from the bumper stickers. One in particular springs to mind: ‘When Clinton lied, no-one died.’ It’s a cute little rhyme that must give no end of satisfaction to the Bush hating crowd. It’s so smart-alecky that it must contain a deeper, more profound truth.

President Bush did lie. The Downing Street Memo proves that he did, though many conservative commentators dismiss the memo as a left-wing conspiracy that has no validity. Unfortunately, it is an authentic British government document and it proves a lot (see my log entry for 17 May). Congress should investigate the extent and the nature of the president’s lies and act accordingly.

But that is only one part of the equation. People almost certainly died as a result of Bush’s lies, the notion that nobody died when Clinton lied is decidedly an unproven statement. Such a statement can only come from the mouth of someone who has crossed “sexual morality” off his list of priorities. After all, the claim is that Clinton’s sexual misconduct in the White House did not hinder him in his job as president. Perhaps not, though one wonders. However, a comment made on CNN this week highlighted the enormous damage Mr Clinton caused the nation.

When discussing teen culture and their supposedly improving sexual mores, Atoosa Rubenstein, the editor of Seventeen magazine, remarked that the encouraging statistics are accompanied by a growing stoic attitude to sexual adventures. After all, Rubenstein reminded the CNN interviewer, this is the generation of teenagers who had in the president of the United States a powerful role model teaching them that some sex isn’t sex, that it doesn’t matter anyway, that you can always try to lie your way out and when you get caught nothing bad happens anyway.

Presented to us in this light, the failure to remove Clinton from power appears a much greater error than it did at the time. At the time, the excuse was, of course, that the affair was private and did not impact the country. Now it seems that many more teens have become much more hardened in their immature stubbornness to defy adult wisdom. As a result, though the statsistics appear to show improvement in awareness of sexual morality, at the same time, they show the clear effects of a moral change in the minds of the next generation of Americans.

Suddenly, that little rhyme is no longer funny because we can see that it is not true. But for any Bush hating, Clinton worshiping liberal there is always the satisfaction of knowing that no-one will ever be able to prove how many teenagers were led by Clinton’s example to engage in unsafe or unwanted sex, or how many of them contracted venereal diseases, had abortions or were driven into potentially deadly despair as a result of the “unintended consequences” of Clinton’s lies.

So, don’t give me that “When Clinton lied, nobody died” nonsense. It ain’t true, and it ain’t funny.

05 July 2005

The Legacy of Justice O’Connor and What Comes Next

The feeding frenzy has started. Although it is a different justice than the one everyone had been expecting to resign, the clouds are nevertheless gathering as predicted. With Sandra Day O’Connor’s announcement that she will be retiring from the United States Supreme Court, the whole country shudders at what will come next, because president Bush will have to nominate a successor. No candidate will be acceptable to everyone and loud protests, both in Congress and on the streets, are a certainty.

Sandra Day O’Connor’s legacy is a mottled one. No conservative liked her, since she often ruled against clear constitutional principles. Her support of Roe v. Wade, reaffirmed in a 1992 ruling, marked her off as a key disappointment to the conservatives who supported her. Appointed in 1981 by Ronald Reagan, and the first woman on the Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor was expected to infuse some conservative soundness into the court. Instead, she proved to be the continuous swing vote. Lawyers soon realized that the key to winning a case in front of that panel, was ignoring the other eight justices and instead winning over Sandra Day O’Connor.

In that sense, the comment in the New York Times, that Sandra Day O’Connor was sometimes called the most powerful person in America, is spot on. Since the Supreme Court has become the final arbiter in all of the hotly contested cultural issues, its rulings have attained enormous influence in the country. Justice O’Connor’s deciding vote on nearly all these issues has hugely magnified her importance in shaping the political climate of the country.

Considering the current make-up of the Supreme Court, it is imperative that president Bush nominate a sound conservative judge to replace Justice O’Connor. At the moment, the court is more or less balanced between a number of irresponsibly liberal judges and some conservatives of varying degrees of rationality, with O’Connor tipping the balance on all important issues. Her replacement will upon inauguration tip that balance one way or the other.

It is quite true that potential justices should not be asked questions about potential future rulings. That is not fair to anyone, since without a crystal ball they cannot predict the exact legal parameters of any future case. However, there should definitely be a number of litmus tests: pro-life issues and church-state relations are the two prime areas of concern. The Senate should only approve justices who not only disagree with but are fervently critical of the travesty known as Roe v. Wade. In the same way, only those justices should be confirmed who are willing to stop the erosion of the rights of Christians (the only religion against which the courts are issuing discriminatory rulings).

I am thus unabashedly calling for a conservative judge. This country does not need liberal judges. They have already imposed their tyranny in many places, illegally imposing same sex ‘marriage’ on the citizens of Massachussetts and striking down perfectly constitutional laws that would have protected the unborn from barbaric abortion techniques.

Nor do we need another swing vote like Sandra Day O’Connor, turning this way and that just as the wind blows. When she was once asked what her tombstone should read, she answered, “I hope it will just say, ‘Here lies a good judge.’” Unfortunately, she was a decidedly bad judge, with a brilliant mind she chose not to employ. Instead, she was often swayed by the emotions of a case, ignoring the legal arguments completely. We do not need that again.

The president should not bow to Ted Kennedy’s blackmail remarks which all but promised to take the country down the path to filibusters and the nuclear option. The chess game has started and the clock is ticking. Let’s not make any foolish moves or lose sight of the long-term effects.

30 June 2005

Spain and Canada legalize Gay 'Marriage'

In what almost seems like a coordinated attack, both Spain and Canada have given the final legal push in overhauling their respective countries’ marriage laws. Canada’s House of Commons approved Bill C-38 on June 28, a decision that is still subject to approval by the Canadian Senate. And though the Senate is widely expected to confirm the bill, making gay marriage in Canada a virtual certainty, Spain by-passed the Canadians in a surprisingly easy vote a day later. Since Spain’s parliamentary vote is not subject to further political scrutiny, gay marriage became a reality as soon as the official vote was recorded. The Spanish law comes into effect on the day the parliamentary bulletin is published, by the beginning of next week.

These are troubling developments. We must be clear about the fact that gay people should not have the right to marry. The very word “marriage” means “life-long, monogamous union of one man and one woman.” No two men or two women can enter into such a union since they are lacking some of the prerequisites. The state has legitimate reasons to support the institution of marriage with special financial and social privileges, since only such relationships can produce and protect the foundation of society: the traditional family.

Such statements are not mere homophobia, though gay rights activists do not tire of accusing conservatives of it. In their eyes, gay people can only be loved if they are supported in all that they do. That is a ridiculous notion. The secular state should not have any laws that disadvantages private citizens—be they gay or straight—in what I would call “neutral situations.” These neutral situations include legal and financial affairs related to private property and medical next-of-kin rights. Even coercive legislation—such as the anti-sodomy laws struck down by the Supreme Court last year —has no legitimate basis in law or any Christian doctrine of the state.

Legislating morality can only go so far and should always be written in terms of general rights and common sense. The current attacks on traditional morality does not come from individual sexual or non-sexual practices by gay people, but rather from infiltrations and intimidation by organized groups of gays of public institutes, such as public schools, political parties and the court system. In this way, what in Christian terms are private sins and aberrances become public dangers. It is, therefore, on that level that politicians should engage the threat, by legislating common sense morality to protect those who are vulnerable, e.g. by keeping gay rights activism out of schools and setting general decency standards. After all, gay groups charge that they are unfairly singled out for discrimination, an allegation that would be bolstered by special anti-gay laws, such as anti-sodomy laws.

In the same way, the state does not have a duty to codify special rights for gays in non-neutral situations. Christians should have the right under secular law and do have the duty under God’s Law to tell gays that we disapprove of their lifestyle and that we believe it is harmful to them and those around them, without showing disrespect to individual gays. Since gay people, as a result of their confusion over their own sexual identity, cannot pattern healthy sexual identities to children, it should be clear that they should not be allowed to adopt children.

But that is exactly the kind of right now awarded in Spain and Canada. The Netherlands restricted adoption rights for gay couples from abroad, fearing that international adoption agencies would blacklist the country and so deprive also heterosexual couples of adoption from abroad. However, Spain has no such restrictions. It will be interesting to see whether gay rights activists in the Netherlands will now also push for lifting of the restrictions there.

One final note on the Spanish and Canadian votes is that both countries approved gay ‘marriage’ with rather large opposition. The Canadians voted 158 against 133, while the Spanish vote was 187 to 147. Both votes indicate that conservatives in both countries—including a strong Roman Catholic opposition in Spain—have enough clout to remain hopeful, unlike the Netherlands, where opposition to gay ‘marriage’ is minimal. Let us take lessons from these examples.

13 June 2005

Rounding Up Marijuana Users

The recent Supreme Court decision on the use of medical marijuana was hailed as a great triumph in the war against drugs. Many conservatives have warned about the slippery slope of allowing marijuana in because we will end up with a Ralph Nader program that simply leaves drug use to the individual pothead. The Supreme Court sharply asserted the federal government’s power to prohibit illegal drugs, essentially overruling laws in 11 states that have allowed the medical use of marijuana.

I agree with the New York Times editorial (8 June) that one can only approach this ruling with mixed emotions but I do so for almost completely opposite reasons.

As a born Dutchman and conservative Christian I will be the last to advocate letting marijuana slip by. I have lived in a society where innocent children can walk down the street breathing in the fumes of marijuana smoke that wafts out of coffeeshops and downtown appartments. I have also seen up close what smoking marijuana does to the brain and the body—it’s not pretty. Marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug and should always remain a controlled substance.

The claims by the opponents of medical marijuana are, however, completely ludicrous. They assert that state laws that allow the use of marijuana as a medication is the same as turning a blind eye to illegal drug dealers and would inevitably lead to the corruption of children and other innocents in society. This is complete nonsense. Also, the idea that there is no scientific evidence for the benefit of marijuana as a medical drug is wrong. The most one can claim is that the jury is still out on the possibility of positive effects of marijuana. British scientists are researching the idea that certain active ingredients in hemp plants could be extracted and prescribed in pill form.

The problem in this debate is that emotions ran so high that reason went out the window. No government should allow marijuana to be scrapped from the list of controlled substances and no-one should smoke marijuana—especially not mixed with regular tobacco, as is the custom among many drug addicts. But under the supervision of a doctor, marijuana may well have positive effects in addition to the negative effects. I believe that there may well be a class of citizens who, as a result of some grave illness, may need the freedom to weigh these positive and negative effects and request marijuana.

Of course, the Supreme Court decision was not about the question whether medical marijuana should be allowed. Instead, it was a dry legal argument about whether Congress had constitutional authority to trump state governments. The case was even restricted to a few specific arguments brought forward by two California plaintiffs. Thus, the decision speaks more about the court’s view of states’ rights and federal authority than about its view of drug laws.

This explains the response of liberal media like the New York Times which hailed the decision as a triumph for strong federal control, but deplored it at the same time because they see the danger of conservative judges abusing that federal control to “turn back the clock” and strip Americans of hard-won civil rights. At the same time, conservative responses are equally deplorable because they unfairly use the decision to claim that it is an important victory in the war against drugs. It is not. It adds no protection against illegal drugs and only disadvantages a number of people who are so ill that cannabis represents the same kind of relief that morphine does for others. Christians should have compassion for them and at least have the decency to give them the benefit of the doubt. Not an inch needs to be sacrificed in the war on drugs to accomplish that.

Bad show, I say.

02 June 2005

The Legacy of “Deep Throat”

Although Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein vowed not to divulge the identity of their inside source in what would become the Watergate scandal until that person had died, the man in question has gone public himself. What is particularly unseemly about the situation is that the man, former FBI deputy director Mark Felt, is in his nineties and has failing health and, apparently, diminished mental capacities. As a result, society’s discussion of his original motives in the Watergate scandal, is taking place while the man in question is not fully able to defend himself, though unfortunately still around to hear other people’s confused accounts.

This week Charles Colson, a former Nixon advisor who pleaded guilty in a case related to the Watergate scandal, issued a statement that there is no justification for any government official to leak classified information. Colson implied that the standards he himself failed to adhere to, for which he has done penance, applied equally to Mr Felt. In other words, if Mr Colson had to admit he broke the law, so should Mr Felt. On the whole, Christian and conservative commentators tend to be negative of Mr Felt’s actions. Many think that instead of the hero many in the liberal media have made him out to be, Mr Felt is nothing but a traitor and a criminal.

I do not agree with this assessment. Naturally, it is true to maintain that laws are there to be upheld and there is no arguing that Mr Felt broke the law when he talked to reporters about matters he was not allowed to share with the media. But at the same time we cannot dismiss the comments by Mr Woodward and Mr Bernstein that, at the time, corruption within the various government agencies was running amok. Mr Colson sternly reproved Mark Felt for not taking the evidence of the president’s wrongdoings to his boss or even to the president himself. Other commentators have suggested that the proper course of action would have led him to a grand jury where charges could have been filed against those involved in Watergate.

But in effect, these routes were not available. Mr Felt’s critics fail to appreciate the fact that he chose to inform the media because he considered the proper channels unsafe and unworkable. The whole reason for Mr Felt’s comparatively minor nudging of Woodward and Bernstein in the right direction was that the Nixon administration was corrupt.

We do not need to beatify Mr Felt. He himself was involved in certain improper FBI actions and was even convicted of authorizing unlawful searches—a crime for which president Reagan pardoned him. It is simplistic to hammer on moral absolutes in a case where there were only shades of evil. Mr Felt realized that the greater evil was the administration’s attempts to keep the matter under wraps. This secrecy was doing harm to the country. In my view, it would have done more harm than any actions by Mr Felt.

30 May 2005

The Unconscionable Act of Donating Embryos

The radical left wing that dominates US media is crying blue murder over president Bush's announcement that he will veto any bill that would allow for federal money to go into embryonic stem cell research. Eleanor Clift of Newsweek on May 28 blasted the “Christian right” for imposing their wrongheaded religious views on perfectly reasonable science. Another case of the church persecuting those who stand for reason.

And yet, her article abounds with nothing but utilitarian arguments about why it would be a shame to let all those useful embryos go to waste. They’re just lying around. If we don’t use them now, they’ll get thrown away when they get past their “best before” date. Or how about this one: adopting embryos is way too difficult because the bureaucracy is huge.

Sound like convincing arguments to just go ahead and use these embryos where they can be useful? Heck no! If we had been talking about nothing but a piece of technology, some plant material or minerals, that would be a different matter. But we are talking about human babies here. That’s right: embryos = human being. No amount of twisting words and fudging the terms will get away from the SCIENTIFIC FACT that embryos are human beings. Every last one of these embryos is a baby.

“So why is there such a low success rate in turning these embryos into babies?” opponents may ask. When they ask this question they want us to believe that this ‘proves’ that embryos are in fact NOT human beings or babies. But that is completely faulty logic. Aren’t there other reasons for this high rate of failure? Such as the deplorable conditions under which the embryos are being stored?

After all, the loony liberals are complaining that if conservative Christians were consistent, they would be against in vitro fertilization. Apparently, Christians are not, they reason. Aaaaaargh! But Christians ARE against in vitro and always have been. In vitro fertilization is a wicked technology because it creates so many excess babies that are left to rot and die in cryo-vats. How about this outrage of the century! First they assert a lie and then use the lie to prove the inconsistency of their opponents. Please!

Embryonic stem cell research is equally wicked science. It is a crime against humanity and I really don’t know why it has not been declared a felony yet. As long as we keep talking about human beings as mere “tissue,” we cannot call ourselves civilized.

25 May 2005

Dutch Education Secretary Ridiculed by Evolutionists

It is heartening to see that my home country, generally considered to be the cesspool of liberal thought, can produce politicians like Mrs. Van der Hoeven, the Dutch Education Secretary. She suggested recently that public schools look at the errors and inconsistencies of Evolutionary Theory. She mentioned Intelligent Design (ID) as an interesting alternative.

Immediately, scientists and politicians from all parties—except conservative Christians—started ridiculing her. It is interesting to note that, whereas in America there would have been calls to sack and sue the secretary for incompetence, abuse of power and violation of the First Amendment, in the Netherlands there is only derision. The substance of the disapproval is the same, though: proponents of Darwin's theory, both in parliament and in academia, dismissed any debate as irrelevant and unnecessary, indeed, as non-existent.

The majority of scientists believe that Evolutionary Theory has been conclusively proved and that, therefore, there is no debate. Intelligent Design is rejected as a thinly veiled version of Christian theology. Parliamentarians complained that Secretary Van der Hoeven was trying to include material fit for a Religion classroom into a Science classroom. The two are mutually exclusive, they contend. Mrs. Van der Hoeven responded that her opponents ruled out debate a priori without giving proof of their reasoning. Only a handful of Christian MPs were willing to stand up and defend the secretary. One member said, “I believe that a greater leap of faith is required to accept [Evolutionary Theory] than to believe in God.”

Do we need more evidence that liberal atheists have stacked the deck in favor of junk science? Do they even have any shred of a capacity to logical thought left, since they argue that God is irrelevant simply because they do not believe in Him?

Senate Should Tolerate the Filibuster

Both sides in the filibuster debate have done nothing but spout misinformation. That includes telling only that part of the truth that furthers their argument.

The Star Tribune’s editorial on Sunday, May 22, is equally one-sided in its defence of the filibuster as a “right.” That is Democratic partisan nonsense and also plain wrong. There is no “right” to filibuster. Senators have simply used this and other sabotage tactics when it seemed expedient to them. Now they put a feather in its cap and call it a “right.”

Yet the Republicans have engaged in no smaller sins. When they make it seem that only Democrats have used the filibuster to block judicial nominees, they are, well, lying. Of course, they are technically correct when they say that the Republicans were never successful in filibustering judicial nominees. But let’s not mince words: both parties have tried every sabotage tactic on the book to frustrate the hopes of judicial nominees.

From a purely democratic point of view, the filibuster is a hateful monster. It allows the minority to frustrate the plans of the majority, in clear violation of the voters’ will. None of the current minority’s reasons to justify the filibuster have any philosophical merit. It is undemocratic and no legal document grants anyone the right to filibuster. It merely exists by the coincidence of tradition.

Nevertheless, Republican senators would do well to let the filibuster stand, even if they have to do it while grinding their teeth. The fact that voters are limited to only two parties--parties that are both getting more and more extreme--is a serious hindrance to true democracy. Despite the many shades of gray in voters’ opinions, only these two parties matter politically. Thus, any majority in Congress will almost necessarily be slim and the minority sizeable. Unless the political system were reformed to include more checks and balances and water down the power of the majority party, ending the filibuster will cause a de facto one-party dictatorship.

It is a catch 22 because both keeping and scrapping the filibuster are undemocratic. But Republicans should not gloat over the short-term benefits of the “constitutional option.” The Democrats will take their revenge when next they are in the majority and, using the same strategy, impose on the country a host of life-time judges who, in their turn, will rule against each and every issue conservatives stand for.

I agree that there are serious cracks in the system, but I had rather hang around for a better plan to fix them because the “nuclear option” will at the very least deepen the partisan rift and at worst start a dangerous meltdown of the federal government. Faced with that prospect, I’ll be content to grind my teeth at Democratic incivility.

Yes, this is a reversal of an earlier standpoint. But I'd rather have wisdom late, than not at all.

17 May 2005

British Memo on Iraq Changes Everything

When it comes to the Iraq War I have always been clear: nobody likes war but pacifism is not an option because there will always be bad guys who do not believe in peace. Turning the other cheek only goes so far. At some point, you run out of cheeks. Thus, I have been giving president George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt, knowing that Sadam Hussain had a track record. And while it is good to have a healthy interest in politics, so that politicians remain accountable, it is impossible in any indirect democracy like the United States to demand to be involved in every step of every policy decision. To some extent you have to trust the government as the appointed experts doing things for the common good.

However, politicians remain accountable and when enough information becomes available, you are entitled, in fact, obligated to judge their work. The recently published “Downing Street Memo,” a document leaked from the British government, changes my stance on the Iraq War and my opinion about the Bush government. In this posting, I will not only explain how a religious conservative, who endorsed Bush’ reelection in November, can come to be an opponent of the president, but also why it is a moral imperative for a conscientious, Bible-believing Christian to condemn the president’s handling of the matter.

The case for war on Iraq was never a great one and yet I never made a secret of it that I was cautiously in favor of taking Sadam out. The risks that regime posed, according to the evidence presented by the Bush government, were too great to be ignored. The problems I had with the anti-War crowd were mainly the following two:

First, they argued that the matter should be handled through the UN. I have no inherent dislike of the UN or international bodies. In fact, I am fairly critical of the disdain many Republicans have shown toward the UN. The nomination of John Bolton, an outspoken UN hater, troubles me greatly and I deeply disapprove of it. It is a sign that the anti-UN wing within the Republican party has a lot of leverage in the White House.

However, when the Iraq crisis was building, we already knew that the UN was itself embroiled in various internal crises. The track record of the UN in dealing with international situations was not merely imperfect, it was downright unbelievable. The UN are in a state of disorganization without any clear leadership and beset by many corruption scandals, including a case of bribery related to the Iraq Oil-for-Food program. All the UN do is talk. The Iraq matter had already been discussed ad nauseam. Thus, the demand, at the time, to insist on more UN involvement was little more than a demand to wait for the verdict of the high school debating club to render its verdict. And then to demand to wait for a rematch. I still think that the president’s claim, that the UN showed itself to be irrelevant by its lack of action is not an unfair characterization of the problems within the UN.

Second, the anti-War protesters argued that there was no legal basis for war. This is a more meaty problem, since the government is bound by the Constitution and other national and international regulations regarding the declaration of war. No government should declare war lightly. But the opponents of the war were never able to convince me that the supposed offences against the legal precepts were grave enough to warrant ignoring the evil of Sadam’s regime. In fact, they made themselves ridiculous by insisting that war is always the wrong choice. By claiming such a patently non-sensical point, they ceased to be taken seriously by me and many other moderates.

In a sense, the Republican silence on the recent “Downing Street Memo” shows the depth of the partisan perversion within that party. Conservatives are pretending that the memo does not exist, and few US media have even commented on it. Indeed, what few comments have been elicited from officials in London and Washington were mere mumbles to the effect that it had no significance.

In my opinion, that memo changes everything. I ran into news about the memo in a New York Times article by Paul Krugman, a columnist I consider to be thoroughly detestible and hateful. I still would not give a dime for his article because he cannot write two sentences without spewing hate and contempt for conservatives, but the link he provided to the memo was more important.

The memo, dated to July 23, 2002, proves that the Bush government was already decided on going to war against Iraq and was merely debating how to arrange it. It flatly contradicts a number of claims by Bush and White House officials that all avenues of approach were still open. Furthermore, the memo also proves that the Bush government already had preliminary plans for the attack on Iraq. The memo also shows that the head of British Intelligence at the very least was suspicious of the quality of pre-war intelligence on Iraq. The man, Sir Richard Dearlove, believed that the US government was manufacturing evidence to favor the war policy. Finally, it also proves that the post-war situation was not a great priority with the Bush administration. And it also seems to prove that Mr Blair is indeed what his opponents in Britain have always labeled him: George Bush’ lapdog because what little input the British Prime Minister provided during the recorded meeting was limited to making suggestions as to how the weaknesses in Mr Bush’ approach might be fixed.

The issues resulting from the publication of the Downing Street Memo are too important to be ignored by Congress. I support Congressman Conyers (D-MI) in his attempt to convince the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the matter. Congress must investigate. I also think that, if proved accurate, the allegations of the memo are serious enough to impeach and convict president Bush and his advisors Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell on charges of fraud, conducting an illegal war and abuse of executive power.

This is a tough claim to make since I am thoroughly opposed to the liberal agenda of the Democratic Party. Right now national politics are taken up by the filibuster issue and you know where I stand on that matter. However, I have come to believe that George W. Bush has broken the law and does not have the right to be president of the United States. If we as orthodox Christians want to take the idea of moral absolutes seriously, we have to consider God’s judgment of this matter. I do not think we can afford to find excuses for the president’s behavior and make strategic arguments about the importance of a conservative force to counteract the so-called ungodly policies of liberals. Wrong is wrong, whether it wears an elephant or a donkey button on its lapel. We must insist on this standard or the standard has no meaning.

22 April 2005

In the Nuclear Winter of the Filibuster

The Republicans have put the nomination of two judges on the agenda again, even though the previous Congress filibustered their nomination. It is the first move in a complicated chess game that Republicans have warned will lead them to change Senate rules, unless Democrats back down on the filibuster.

Naturally, Democrats are outraged. They argue that it is the dictatorship of the biggest bully, When the game does not go their way, Republicans change the rules, Democrats say. The underlying argument is that the filibuster is not illegal, in fact, that it is a purposely designed part of the system of checks and balances, intended to prevent the majority party to rule by decree. Every senator has the constitutional right to speak, even if it be ad nauseam to the rest of the Senate. Tough toenails, is the Democratic response to that objection. The law is the law.

Technically speaking, the Democrats are right. Limiting debate without the required sixty senators to end it is a violation of the rules as they stand. But ethically and morally, Republicans have every right to be outraged at the Democratic use of the filibuster. The concept of “filibustering” in the Senate was not designed by the Founding Fathers, nor any other statesman. The filibuster came into being when political debate degenerated into political sabotage. To talk of the filibuster as a constitutional device is nothing but propaganda. I have written about this before.

The question is, will the Republicans have the guts to change Senate rules? Vice-president Dick Cheney has already indicated he will cast the tie-breaking vote if the Senate votes 50-50 on the question. But Democrats have already warned that they will shut down government if the rules are changed. That would mean, no legislation of any kind would get passed, with severe consequences for all branches of public service. No salaries of federal employees would get paid and federal services and agencies such as US Mail would shut down.

The Democrats are banking on the likelihood that the Republicans will find that perspective too worrying. A handful of Republican senators have already said that the “nuclear option” as the Democrats disparagingly call the proposal to end the filibuster is too much for them, and they will vote against it. The Democrats are probably right. Their assessment, that the voters will hold Republicans—and not Democrats—responsible for the mess that would ensue, is probably correct. It is an illusion to think that the Republican electorate is made up largely of highly-principled conservative Christians. In the chaos, it will probably become clear that business interests and lobbyists’ money do most of the talking.

Thus, I believe that, even though I support ending the filibuster, it will not come to that. Nevertheless, the dispute has highlighted how wide the fallout would reach if the partisan Civil War did come to a head. New York Times columnist David Brooks yesterday analyzed the situation correctly, when he noted the main wedge separating red from blue America: Roe v. Wade. Until the liberal tyranny from the judicial benches is undone, there can be no normality in US politics.

21 April 2005

Spain to Legalize Gay Marriage

After the Netherlands and Belgium, Spain is set to become the third country in the world where gays and lesbians will be allowed to marry (source: BBC News). The Lower Chamber in Spain’s parliament approved a bill today that would make this happen. The Upper Chamber is not likely to block it. An unprecedented roar erupted from the public balcony when the bill was approved. “A historic day for Spain,” the numerous gay activists exclaimed.

A historic day indeed. But it will be a black page in Spain’s history books. Gay activists had campaigned hard to get this bill approved. The main reason for passing it? According to the gay activists, Spain needs to award gay people these special rights in order to move Spain from a conservative Mediterranean culture to a progressive European society, that is, to make it more in line with the rest of Europe.

But there are only two other countries in Europe where gay marriage is legal and they are not exactly the most important ones either. It is just another example of gay activists giving phoney reasons for claiming special rights and being just a little bit more equal than other people.

There are rumblings in other countries, too. Sweden is already notoriously pro-gay, as is Denmark, which recognizes gay partnerships. And last year, Great Britain worked on passing a bill on civil unions as well. Pro Family groups in that country have been campaigning hard to explain to the British public that the civil union bill would create gay marriage in all but name. It would award, like the Spanish bill, special privileges to a group of people, solely on the basis of their sexual preferences.

In other words, two non-gay men or non-lesbian women who share property or a house together for other reasons—because they are long-time elderly friends sharing rent, or a disabled mother and her daughter who takes care of her—would not get any of the privileges and benefits that gays and lesbians do get. Despite the fact that there are only a few gay couples who would benefit. If you are not gay, you just don’t qualify.

20 April 2005

A Protestant’s Response to the Election of Benedict XVI

It would be easy to say, as a protestant, that the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to be the next pope, leaves me completely disinterested. It would also be a complete lie. And for all those protestants who scoff at the media hype about it, here’s news for you: it matters for protestants who is pope.

The sad thing is that in the dechristianized West, your average heathen neighbor cannot tell the difference between Christians and Mormons, or Christians and Muslims, and certainly not between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Read the liberal media and you should realize that everyone who talks about Jesus is automatically labeled an evangelical and if you ever mention anything contrary to one of the New Age creeds

—“We believe in a woman’s right to abort her baby because she cannot face changing diapers. We believe in the right of any human to marry any other creature regardless of race, religion, gender, species or number. We believe in creating life for spare parts and ending it for spare parts. So help us the Universal Energy into which we hope to be dissolved when our bodies die.”—

you are sure to be called a right wing extremist or be compared to a member of Al Qaeda.

In other words, most ignorant liberals (not necessarily a tautology) will consider the pope the universal representative of Christianity. What the pope says or does, reflects on all Christians, even protestants. It is the weakness of the schismatic nature of protestantism that there is no unified ambassador on earth. But then I guess, protestants believe in that one Ambassador, Jesus Christ, Someone the RC church has sort of lost sight of when Mary and the saints (please do not start a rockband with that name) started crowding Him out.

So, what is a protestant to make of Pope Benedict XVI? As far as I can tell, he is a clone of John Paul II. He has somewhat less charisma and more of a German accent but, apart from that, it seems John Paul II is ruling from beyond the grave. That means a strong conservative voice on social issues but also, unfortunately, unflinching on the RC superstitions, i.e. Mary as a fourth person in the Trinity, purgatory and indulgences, praying to a pantheon of saints and worshiping the bread-god in the eucharist. Another toughy. Let’s just pray that the new pope will focus on the former and down-play the latter, at least in the public arena. Because if he is seen as a strong, principled Christian, his example may yet be a PR opportunity for the gospel. After all, the Holy Spirit does not need human perfection to effect grace and faith. Even the pope can be saved.

15 April 2005

Dutch Secretary Labels Prostitution ‘Fitting Employment’

Dutch parliamentarians are struggling with some unforeseen consequences of the legalization of prostitution in their country. The lower chamber debated on Wednesday, April 13 with Labor Secretary Mr. De Geus about his assessment that prostitution cannot be dismissed as unfitting employment in all circumstances.

Under the Dutch welfare system, the unemployed can only continue receiving benefits if they are registered with a government employment agency and actively participate in finding a job. The government also has guidelines to link vacancies to jobseekers’ qualifications. Under those guidelines, refusing a job considered a fitting match to one’s qualifications results in a benefit cut.

However, with the legalization of prostitution, the government employment agencies were forced to start registering vacancies in this branch. In a letter to parliament last month, Mr. De Geus reported his department’s assessment that there is no basis under current Dutch law to exempt prostitution from the government guidelines regarding fitting employment. While he remarked that the agencies are not actively recruiting jobless women for these vacancies, and are in fact encouraged to leave them “dormant” in their databases, the enforcement branch of the Department of Welfare and Labor is compelled to consider the question whether a job as prostitute may be fitting employment for certain people. The secretary suggested that “women who were formerly employed as prostitutes” might well fall into that category.

Even the Dutch parliament is unhappy with this situation but is faced with the consequences of its own actions. Many secular representatives are scrambling to find a compromise but legally there can be no exemption for prostitution as long as it is legal.

Meanwhile, Christian representatives are warning of worse situations in the future. Rep. Tineke Huizinga and Ms. Yvette Lont, both members of the Christian party ChristenUnie, write in the Nederlands Dagblad that the legislation creates a trap for women who are currently trying to get out of prostitution. Registering with the government employment agency would only cause the agency to make the observation that they are qualified for their vacancies in prostitution. While no-one has as yet had their benefits cut under the Dutch rules, Rep. Huizinga and Ms. Lont note that authorities in Germany, where similar legislation was enacted, have done so with a 25 year-old schooled IT worker who refused to accept a job as prostitute. The fact that Mr. De Geus is ignorant of the true state of affairs in the world of prostitution is commendable in him as a private person, Huizinga and Lont write, but as Secretary he should know better.

While it is important not to engage in superficial assessments of the climate in liberal Holland, there is no denying that ignorance and a sharp decline in Christian values have made the country into a showcase for what happens when utilitarian pragmatism becomes the basis for morality. Perhaps the most difficult for conscientious Christians in the Netherlands is the fact that their battle for traditional values is somewhat invisible in the absence of active persecution of Christians and in a place where Satan does not fight openly under the banner of outright evil but deludes good but ignorant citizens in the disguise of New Morality. Let us remember to pray for those who are fighting and for those who are being deluded.

Sources: (for those who read Dutch)