Friday, July 29, 2005

Open Letter to "Grand Theft Hillary"

From the LA Times.

And really, I couldn't have said it better myself.

My favorite passage:
Of course, I admit that there's one charge against video games that is a slam dunk. Kids don't get physical exercise when they play a video game, and indeed the rise in obesity among younger people is a serious issue. But, of course, you don't get exercise from doing homework either.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

VG Cats on Violent/Sexual Games

VG Cats is one of the funniest webcomics about video games you can find today. Absolutely hilarious. Anyhow, the artist recently took notice of the sudden surge of "controversy" surrounding violence and sex in video games. His take on it is crazy:

Warning: Much naughtiness in this one. Bad words and suggestive (but not blatant) sexuality.

You've been warned.

On John Roberts

Well, really, there's not much I can say about him. Of course, the invaluable Bench Memos at NRO is a much better resource than I could ever claim to be, both in news gathering and in punditry.

The buzz is, he's a conservative, a constructionist, and confirmable. All good things, I suppose, although everyone is secretly worrying that he might turn out like O'Connor or (worst scenario) Souter. Some people say they aren't, but others aren't so sure. Me? I don't know what to think. I guess I'll just have to trust Bush's judgement on this one for now.

The big question on my mind, as with many other pro-lifers, is where Roberts will land on abortion. Would he reverse Roe v. Wade? Would he outlaw partial-birth abortion? This seems to be a big mystery.

NARAL and other pro-choice organizations ar sounding the battle cry, letting everyone know that the most fundamental rights they hold dear are in extreme danger because Bush is putting a lunatic on the court. A lot of pro-life organizations are complaining that Bush dropped the ball on this one, because he nominated someone who won't reverse Roe, given the chance. And a few center-right people I've read say that he'll be a constructionist: He'll call Roe the bad jurisprudence that it is and repeal it, but will leave abortion in the hands of the states and won't work to make it illegal.

I have no idea who to believe. I imagine that NARAL would react as they are to any nominee Bush were to appoint, short of that person actually performing an abortion during their confirmation hearings. Same with the pro-life groups; unless they have pictures of him attending "March for Life" rallies, they won't believe he's a conservative they want to see.

I understand that it's important to put a conservative on the bench who will legislate properly in many areas (for example, eminent domain cases). But I also must admit that the abortion issue is incredibly important to me. How will this all play out? Time will tell. For now, I plead ignorance.

Video games need more girls?

Blah blah blah. More complaints that the sexist video game industry drives away female players and programmers. Tired old complaints dredged up by tired but recent controversy.

Yeah, the video game industry is largely sexist. A great number females in games are scantily clad, and if you ever go to E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), the largest video game show in the country, you'd even see that real scantily clad women are used en masse to sell these games.

Sell? Oh yeah, that's right . . . sex sells.

It's not new news. People have understood that sex sells for a very, very long time. And yet we see that many of the industries where sex appeal (mainly from sexy/sensual/seductive/scantily clad females) is used to push things, such as movies, magazines, advertising, television, etc., there is a great number of women attempting to be a part of that field. And yet there is a scarcity of women in video games, both as employees and as customers.

Have they considered that maybe the medium is important here?

I mean, seriously, let's find out how many women work, comparatively, in the computer industry in general. I'll bet you discover that it's painfully low there, too. Women, for sociological reasons I probably don't understand, shy away from the computer industry. They don't avoid making or playing video games because they're sexist . . . they avoid these things because they are video games.

At least, that's the explanation that makes the most sense to me. The evidence seems to suggest it. And when sex stops selling, or more women are involved in the industry, then maybe the video game industry will clean up its act a bit more. Until then . . .

Monday, July 25, 2005

Hillary v. Grand Theft Auto

As an avid video game fan, I get frustrated when politicians think its chic to attack my hobby. My "illustrious" gov., Rob Blagojevich, has found an interest in doing this lately. Apparently the junior senator from New York has decided to jump on the bandwagon.

Look, I'm not a huge fan of games like GTA or Postal with such strong sexual or violent content. Well, these games are over the top in terms of violence. Sexuality? They don't even scratch the surface. But that's another story.

The point is that the video game industry already has a very good rating system. The problem is not the industry! The problem is that the retailers don't enforce policies strictly enough that utilize the rating system. And while we're at it, let's not take any blame away from the parents, who allow their kids to play these games.

Are there 16 year olds who are mature enough for ultra-violent games? Sure, but I'd still be incredibly leery of purchasing such games for them. But younger than that? That's just irresponsible parenting. Parents, watch what your kids take in! TV, movies, video games, even books and magazines need to be monitored. Take responsibility!

And if I ever had the chance to talk to a grandstanding politician about this, I'd ask them, "Oh, you're worried about children playing violent video games? How do you know this is a problem? What games are they playing? What children? How old?" It seems to be just a given that if violent video games exist, children must be playing them.

I'm not sure what statistics exist out there, but I'm willing to bet that the incidence of kids under age 16 playing M-rated games is much lower than critics would lead us to believe.

Science is awesome

So, apparently, some scientists have reservations about a crowd-control microwave ray gun developed by the military for use in Iraq. It's described as "less lethal" than standard arms. The idea is that when the beam hits a person, it doesn't start as lethal, but quickly causes painful heat on a person. Since a person will move away from this, it would cause a crowd to disperse.

I like the way Ace puts it. Some people are whining about this thing, and the permanent damage it could cause, or people being unable to get out of the path of the beam. Gee, ya know, I think bullets cause much the same problem. At least with this, people have a chance at not being terribly damaged on first hit.

Let's not be wet blankets here. I grew up desperately wanting a Star Trek phaser. Could we all just agree that ray guns are freaking cool and move on?

God's Love and Terrorism

Another thought sprang up while reading The Ragamuffin Gospel. It's a ten year old book, but his thoughts are very poignant in the current world.

He wrote a bit about war, and how easy it is to not love "the enemy" because we make them simply "the other." When they are faceless, less than human, we can justify dropping bombs on them and destroying them, because they aren't made in God's image, and His love doesn't extend to them.

My pastor here at home has remarked to me before than there are three things the Evangelical church in America ought to re-examine in itself, and one of which is its militarism. We're awfully fond of using America's vast military might to exert "God's will" on the world.

I've been a sold-out supporter of the GWOT since its inception. And I still don't think that it's a proper course of action for a nation to simply kowtow to the sadistic demands of the evil men who have attained power in various places throughout the world.

But I think we often forget to love our enemies.

It's such a blindingly simple phrase . . . "Love your enemies." God still loves them. God still wants them to find Him. So many of the radical muslims we're fighting seem beyond our reach, but nobody is beyond God's reach. Nobody.

So, what does this mean? Not that we should seek "understanding" with those who preach our deaths simply for being Christians or Americans. But we should pray for them, and seek to change hearts. God has called for us to be salt and light in this world, and there are some people who desperately need it, and we should be loathe to simply give up on them and label them "the other" . . . "unreachable" . . . "unlovable."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Ragamuffin Love

You may recall that I began reading The Ragamuffin Gospel about 2 weeks ago. I finished it while I was at camp. The book has given me much to think about.

The entire concept of the book is the focus on God's overwhelming, radical love. As strange as it sounds, that is often a foreign concept to us. We trivialize God's love, ignore it, downsize it, marginalize it, stick it in a box and make constricting rules for it. But the fact remains that God's love is far more than we can really fathom. Whatever rules we make for it, it shatters them. And as much as we say to ourselves, "We can't earn God's love, it is freely given" we still seem to live as though God will take His love away if we don't meet some set of criteria.

Think about it for just a second. In the beginning, it was a scandalous concept enough that Jesus died not only for the Jew, but also for the Gentile. Gentiles were not God's people. They were unclean and unworthy simply because of who they were! And yet God broke through that and said, "My love is larger than you can ever realize." God's love isn't just bold, it's revolutionary.

Do we find ourselves in the same place today? We only hear fringes of the church claim that God doesn't love certain sets of people. But how do we live? Do we talk about people like God has abandoned them, like they don't deserve God's love? Do we talk big about God's love and then live like God doesn't love those people, and we hold onto his love by a thread? When we talk about criminals, homosexuals, abortionists, people who have had abortions, Democrats, Republicans, racists . . . do we talk about them in a way which belies the fact that the God of this universe loves them with a love so awesome? Do we love them? Do we tell them about this mind-blowing, rule-breaking love, or do we bloody them with tirades about rules and morals? Do we force them to conform to our standard of acceptability in order to make them "acceptible" to God?

Manning is right. Something is fundamentally wrong. I think, in too many ways, we've forgotten about the radicalness of Christ's love and replaced it with a salvation of works. All God asks is that we say "Yes" to His love. He doesn't expect us to clean ourselves up before groveling at his feet, or to pull ourselves up by the boot-straps in order to be worthy or His love and attention. He just wants us to accept His love . . . and He works with us from there.

Manning ran into the unfortunate trouble of being accused of downplaying repentence and works. But let's be completely honest with ourselves here. Works? Those don't happen unless the love of God has worked its way into our hearts and transformed us. Works done apart from God are less than worthless. Repentence? It doesn't even occur to us to repent until the love of God has touched us, revealed to us our state before Him, and tinged our hearts with sorrow for the crime with have committed against such a great affection.

The book is powerful. I'm readily convinced it is something I ought to re-read every so often, as a reminder of the powerful, radical, awesome grace and love of God.

Re: The "Catholic" Church

I do have to agree with Ryan on this point: Truth is not a subjective matter. There is one truth regardless of who is giving the answer.

But the answer you actually receive is going to be different depending on who you ask, and the truth ends up being hard to discern in those situations.

Ryan wrote in his comment below:
For example, if "Catholic Church" is defined as "the Church that Christ founded," then we'd likely agree that St. Paul is a Catholic. However, if "Catholic Church" is defined as "a man-made institution of apostasy which has abandoned true Christianity," then we'd likely agree that St. Paul is not a Catholic. And, we'd likely agree that one of these definitions of the "Catholic Church" is right, and the other is wrong, or else both are wrong, but that both cannot be right simultaneously.
There is a major problem in all of this. We can't even get the beginning right. There are lots of relevant questions to ask here, and you will get two different answers if you ask a Protestant historian and a Catholic historian.

Did Christ establish an organizational church, or a mystical church? (Catholic: Organizational; Protestant: Mystical)

Did the church of the first several centuries resemble the Catholic Church of today? (Catholic: Yes; Protestant: No)

And this is just trying to figure things out from the beginning. The quagmire thickens as the middle centuries leading up to the Reformation are interpretted. Sometimes the two groups don't agree on interpretation of the facts; sometimes, they can't even agree on the basic facts.

This issue was never central to the question of "Was St. Paul a Catholic mystic?" But I think it's an interesting question to ask, "Was XXXXX a Catholic?" where XXXXX can be any saint of the New Testament. It is not an easily answerable question.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Return

I wasn't even at camp a week. Monday through Saturday. Six days I was gone. But good golly am I tired. I've lots of stuff to post on, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow. I'm so badly in need of a shower. But Christ was good to us this week, protecting us from the heat, and we saw Him work in powerful ways.

On a different note, I'll answer the questions you raised in your massive comment (man, you sure can write) in the coming days, Ryan. But I'm hesitant to discuss the eucharist on here with you because it is a very powerful, divisive issue.

You know I'm not Catholic, so you know I won't see eye to eye with the Catholic Church on this issue. But I've studied the issue long, and spent many nights reading debates on this issue between people whose qualifications far outweigh mine in speaking intelligibly on the subject. I won't subject you to my criticism without your permission. I do this because I would not risk offending haphazardly. I won't shy from the truth with you nor anyone, but neither shall I brandish it like a weapon.

From the looks of this post, Mr. Herr (if I were a German teacher, I'd be having a fit over that one) is out of town, doing nearly the same thing I was last week. I guess most of this issue will be put on hold until his return.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Re: St. Paul

Ryan asked a question in the post below, and I thought it deserved a full post answer. He asked if St. Paul himself was not a Catholic mystic.

First, it really depends on who you're asking. Myself, I wouldn't use the word Catholic, though I might say catholic. But that really isn't the important part there.

Yes, Paul was a mystic. He had spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues, speaking, and had more visions than you could shake a stick at.

But that's not really what modern mysticism is all about. Very few people talk about having visions these days. Even fewer talk about prophecy, healing, and so forth. Most modern mysticism is about "hearing" God, "feeling" God, "experiencing" God.

And that is the part I have problems with. Nobody talks about literally hearing God. It's never an audible voice. And when they talk about feeling God, it's never through one of the other 4 physical senses. So what, then, are they talking about?

Is it mental? Emotional? It would seem to be, given how some people talk about it, but there is also the possibility of a "sixth sense" type of experience here. But even talking about that is akin to nailing jello to the wall. Imagine trying to explain color to a person blind from birth. You can't. They just don't have the sensory experience to grasp the most basic concept. The same would be for a "sixth sense"; you can't explain it to someone who has never experienced it.

Was Paul a mystic? Of course. But certainly not in the sense of today's mystics. When the Bible discusses the mystical experience of the faith, communing with God, people actually communed with God; they talked verbally with him, they received dreams or visions, they were in the very presence of the Lord of Hosts.

And it is modern mysticism's severe distinction from that which explains my problems with it.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Hm, looks like I haven't updated in almost a week. Well, that's okay. The news has been filled with non-news for a while now anyhow.

Next week, I'll be off to Beulah Camp again, this time for a Jr. High camp. I leave Monday and return Saturday, so don't expect to hear from me in that time.

In other news, I've been reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. Apparently, Manning is a Catholic mystic. I'm not big on either part of that, but the book really is interesting. His biggest theme for the book is God's persistent, aggressive love for man. It's worth a read for anyone who thinks there might be something wrong with the way Christianity looks these days.

And, I'm still looking for an apartment in Evanston. If you have any tips you can give me, please share!

On the reality of God

This excerpt is from the first volume of Thomas Oden's systematic theology, The Living God:

If purpose exists there must be a Purposer, if order, an Orderer. If we see design in the world, we must hypothesize a Designer of sufficient intelligence to produce an intelligible world. If mind exists in evolving history, some incomparable Mind must have enabled and created the possibility of our minds. If it is so difficult to be a human being without knowing something of God, then there must be a sufficient reason for this awareness being so persistent in human cultures and societies, even when supressed. If such wide consent exists in history to the existence of God, that fact must be accounted for with a sufficient reason. If the idea of God is intrinsic to human consciousness, then God must exist. from the fact of change we must hypothesize a change agent. If anything moves, something must have first moved everything. There must be a being that causes all causes and that moves all movement. If contingent beings exist, there must be a necessary being. If we experience moral obligation as relentlessly as we do, even against parents, against society, against superego constraints, then we must hypothesize a ground of moral obligation calling us to the highest good and possessed of weightiest moral authority. In addition to all this, it appears to be the case that the very idea of perfect being requires the existence of perfect being, otherwise that idea is less than the idea of perfect being.

From this we conclude that God, to whose existence these arguments point, exists more fully than we who are reasoning and arguing exist and that there is nothing so proper to God as to be. We have ample grounds upon which to say: God exists. In this way reason begins to confirm that to which Scripture attests, that God incomparably is.

Still another voice for the loonies

In my continuing series on the crazies who write in to the Belleville News-Democrat's editorial page, I'll feature 3 letters today (though not all in completed form).

The first letter is about the so-called "torture" at Guantanamo Bay. The letter writer defends Durbin (D-Not Reality) and his remarks comparing interrogation practices at Camp X-Ray to the habits of the Nazis (Sidenote: Godwin's Law is infinitely applicable).

Let's remember how the Nazis handled such things. They killed 10 million people through their torture and detainment practices. How many people have died at Camp X-Ray? Zero. Either we have the most incompetant and uncapable torturers in the world, or what we are doing cannot be defined as torture. The question is rhetorical.

The next letter starts out on Durbin, but moves into other arenas.
Much has been spoken on television, as well as in the written press, of comparisons made by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, for which he has publicly apologized. Many mean-spirited conservatives have vilified the senator for these remarks, but have shown very little concern for the president's poor economic performance domestically.

I don't think "I'm sorry you became upset by my remarks" is an apology. And really, what do these issues have to do with each other? Nothing. Just an excuse to excoriate the president. Fine, let's hear what his "poor economic performance" means. I mean, the economy is in the best shape we've seen in many years, but anyhow . . .
When Bush came into office, there was a $500 billion projected surplus, which was wiped out in six months. He also managed to take us to war on a flawed basis in spite of having one of the finest military minds of our time in his cabinet, Secretary of State Colin Powell.

I can't defend all of Bush's spending practices. He just doesn't say "no" to enough budgetary issues. But if you think for a moment that there were no congressional democrats foaming at the mouth to spend some of that projected surplus, then you are badly mistaken. But this isn't the end of the world anyhow. It seems that Bush may be on track to achieving his goal of cutting the national deficit in half. Despite the tax cuts, despite the war, despite all of the other spending, Bush may actually cut the deficit in half. Hey, that seems like a success to me.

And as far as the jab on the war goes, I don't think Colin Powell could have anticipated that much of our intelligence on Saddam's WMD programs would be faulty. The problems which led to that occurrence were far too complicated and varied to blame on one person, or even this one administration. But there were many other reasons for going to war in Iraq, and all of them sufficient.
Bush pledged to work for congressional unity. Instead, his White House has foisted an attitude of alienation and disrespect of ranking Democratic members or viewpoints.

That might be because the ranking Democrats have been some of Bush's shrillest critics. Why would you want unity with someone who called you a liar and a loser, among other things (Reid)? Such a silly charge.

The final letter talks about Jesus and politics.
Contrary to what letter writer xxxxx wrote about Jesus being a conservative, I suggest Jesus was a liberal.

A conservative is a traditionalist who hangs on to old-fashioned ways to maintain the status quo. It was the liberal Jesus who whipped the corporate money lenders from the temple.

It was the puritanical conservatives who burned women as witches. Had Jesus been a conservative, he would have given the 5,000 pieces of fish to a few and saved the scraps for the masses.

Yes, Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, but he would not have been in cahoots with the insurance companies that would starve the sick due to the unreasonable and unnecessary costs of drugs, nor would he have tried to merge funeral homes for the purpose of monopolizing and placing wealth in the hands of a few, as in one world order.

xxxxx seems to blame the liberals for illegal immigration. Please, all thinking people know that illegal immigration exists because it is the conservative corporations' desire to reap all the harvest and pay workers literally nothing.

Jesus was crucified because he spoke the truth. If Jesus were to judge U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, he would say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant, for having the courage to speak the truth about our own acts of terrorism in the name of war." Jesus was a liberal.

Part of the problem is that the definitions of "conservative" and "liberal" are really screwed up in this country. But let's ignore his misguided political jabs for the moment.

There's a fundamental dishonesty, on both sides of the aisle, when one tries to attribute a political leaning to Jesus, for no other reason than that Jesus did not come to deal with politics. Jesus came to call the lost sheep of Israel to repentence, and to die for the sins of the world. Moral and religious issues were important to him. Politics were not.

Remember, Israel was occupied by the Romans at the time. Politics was a concern to the Jews of the time, as many argued that obedience to Rome was ungodly. Some attempted to drag Jesus into the argument, by asking him whether it was right to pay taxes to Rome. If Jesus had cared about politics, he could very easily have given an "yes" or "no" answer, but he dodged it completely. In doing so, he made his purpose clear: He wasn't here to redefine the political order; he was here to turn the hearts of his people back to God.

So let's not pretend that Jesus would have been overly concerned with the politics of the time. Politics take place between people of power and influence, and Jesus spent most of his time with people who had neither of those.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tony Blair's Reaction to London Terror

I am just going to make a short statement to you on the terrible events that have happened in London earlier today, and I hope you understand that at the present time we are still trying to establish exactly what has happened, and there is a limit to what information I can give you, and I will simply try and tell you the information as best I can at the moment.

It is reasonably clear that there have been a series of terrorist attacks in London. There are obviously casualties, both people that have died and people seriously injured, and our thoughts and prayers of course are with the victims and their families.

It is my intention to leave the G8 within the next couple of hours and go down to London and get a report, face-to-face, with the police, and the emergency services and the Ministers that have been dealing with this, and then to return later this

It is the will of all the leaders at the G8 however that the meeting should continue in my absence, that we should continue to discuss the issues that we were going to discuss, and reach the conclusions which we were going to reach. Each of the countries round that table have some experience of the effects of terrorism and all the leaders, as they will indicate a little bit later, share our complete resolution to defeat this terrorism.

It is particularly barbaric that this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa, and the long term problems of climate change and the environment. Just as it is reasonably clear that this is a terrorist attack, or a series of terrorist attacks, it is also reasonably clear that it is designed and aimed to coincide with the opening of the G8. There will be time to talk later about this.

It is important however that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world. Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world.

President Bush's Reaction to London Terror

I spent some time recently with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and had an opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to the people of London, people who lost lives. I appreciate Prime Minister Blair's steadfast determination and his strength. He's on his way now to London here from the G8 to speak directly to the people of London. He'll carry a message of solidarity with him.

This morning I have been in contact with our Homeland Security folks. I instructed them to be in touch with local and state officials about the facts of what took place here and in London, and to be extra vigilant, as our folks start heading to work.

The contrast between what we've seen on the TV screens here, what's taken place in London and what's taking place here is incredibly vivid to me. On the one hand, we have people here who are working to alleviate poverty, to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS, working on ways to have a clean environment. And on the other hand, you've got people killing innocent people. And the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill — those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks.

The war on terror goes on. I was most impressed by the resolve of all the leaders in the room. Their resolve is as strong as my resolve. And that is we will not yield to these people, will not yield to the terrorists. We will find them, we will bring them
to justice, and at the same time, we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate.

Thank you very much.

Terror Attack in London

LONDON, England (CNN) -- At least 33 are dead and scores wounded after a series of four "callous" and coordinated bombings in London's transport system, Scotland Yard said.

U.S. law enforcement sources say the British government has told them the death toll is at least 40.

Witnesses described the horror of seeing victims dying and with serious injuries. There were scenes of panic as power failed on crowded underground trains, and tunnels filled with smoke.

"We were all trapped like sardines waiting to die," said Angelo Power. "I honestly thought I was going to die, as did everyone else."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was a "barbaric" terrorist attack as he flew back to London from the G8 summit in Scotland, which he said would go on in defiance of the bombers.

A group, the "Secret Organization group of al Qaeda Organization in Europe," claimed responsibility in a Web site posting. The authenticity of the claim could not immediately be verified.

Full story here.
Full MSNBC coverage here.
Ongoing linkfest/discussion in NRO's The Corner.
A series of posts and stories about the attacks at National Review.

This is exactly why there can be no retreat in the GWOT. Our targets are the terrorists, but theirs are civilians. Absolutely horrific. I pray for the victims of this tragedy, and can only hope that the deaths there will not be cheapened by those seeking to use it for political fodder.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

On Replacing O'Connor

I have thought more about a new nominee for the SCOTUS, and my conclusion is that Bush is in a tricky situation.

I hate to look at this from a single issue, but abortion is going to play the biggest role in all of this. If Bush nominates a pro-life judge (someone who thought Roe was bad jurisprudence and would reverse it), then the liberals and Democrats will label this person an "extremist" and will probably move to filibuster them.

On the other hand, if Bush nominates someone even in the center (whether they are pro-life or not, they would not move to reverse Roe), much of the conservative base will be angered and alienated. Many conservatives have been waiting years, decades even, for Republican administrators to nominate judges to the bench who would try to undo the damage that Roe did. If Bush blows this chance, it will make the elections in 2006 and 2008 very difficult for the Republicans.

On Torture and the Geneva Conventions

The buzz of the liberals in my local paper continues. One of today's letters regards US "torture" at Guantanamo Bay. I'd like to address this issue.

The letter in question is about the "dangers" of American policy on "torture." Apparently, the US is treating prisoners differently than the Geneva Conventions require. Has this person actually read the Geneva Conventions? First, many of these captured fighters do not qualify as POWs because they do not wear identifying uniforms and they break the rules of war (i.e. purposeful targetting of civilians). Thus, defined as "unlawful combatants," the Geneva Conventions have little else to say about this. In any regards, even if they were POWs, the Geneva Conventions do not define torture (so any argument that the US is "redifining" torture is absurd).

Additionally, the Geneva Conventions deny dentention authorities the right to use any form of coercion to get information from a POW. This is why it is so important that these people be defined as "unlawful combatants." Many are members of international terrorist agencies. How else does one prevent their next attack?

In any case, the relevant article one might wish to reference is the UN Convention Against Torture. In this case, article I states:

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from,
inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Do current US interrogation methods inflict "severe pain or suffering"? From what I've heard about methods at Camp X-ray, it does not. But others may see it differently. That's why such definitions are often unsuitable.

In fact, the US does right be "redifining" torture, because this Convention calls for parties to "keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture."

Now, this convention does deny states the right to ship a person off to another nation where "there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." On this note, the US is in error, as I've been hearing in the news that we've been capturing suspects and sending them for "interrogation" in countries with less than reputable records. The US is in the wrong on this note and should cease such action immediately.

From what I can gather, unfortunately, the US is not a member to this convention. But let's not split hairs. If you compare the treatment of US prisoners to some other countries who are also not signatories of this convention, then you understand that there is simply no comparison.

Life Is Good

Why? Because I just finished ordering my graduation present (well, I'm paying for half, but that's okay). I'm getting a new computer.

And why is life good? Here are the specs: AMD 64 4000+ processor, 2 GB Ram, a GeForce 7800 GTX (the newest, fastest card available!) . . . this puppy is gonna fly!

I finally get to play Half-Life 2, Doom 3, and all of those other new games that my old rig was just too slow to handle. Sweet!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Re: Media's Brazen Image

In light of Megan's comments on the previous post, I've thought about this issue a little bit more.

On the one hand, I should probably give some benefit of the doubt to Time. I don't know for certain that they were not alerting authorities in Iraq of their contact with this man and his cohorts. Yes, they did not indicate such in their article, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. After all, it wouldn't be in their interests to narc on their sources and then write about it.

On the other hand, Time has already gotten itself into trouble for protecting its sources when journalistic ethics, common sense, and the law told them not to. A continuation of that trend would not be a terrible surprise.

What is there to be gained from telling "this side of the story"? We already know how utterly corrupt the religious fanaticism is from these "insurgents." Do we need another look into their minds to know how truly terrible their thoughts are?

Megan asked whether there was ever a right reason to kill. The man Time interviewed answered that question in a way that should disturb anyone. I think my anger comes so strongly from the fact that Time would so willingly associate with such a character. Their story came with no condemnation, no judgement, no indication that they disapproved at all. Guilty by silence? By association? I think, in some degree, yes.

Would Time so willingly interview a mass murderer? How about a serial rapist? Maybe the next time a disillusioned, nihilistic teen feels like shooting all of his classmates, Time can interview him beforehand, just to get the "other side of the story."

I maintain my stance. While I should give Time some benefit of doubt (though they hardly deserve it, given the record), the nature of the material and the very act of associating with such characters is reprehensible. I would not call it responsible journalism.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

More On Replacing O'Connor

John and Paul of Powerline have a few excellent posts on the matter. Read this one first, and then this one.

It's mainly talk about strategy in confirmation, why Gonzales will/will not be Bush's choice, the likelihood of getting the "moderates" to stick to their recent deal on judicial nominations, and so forth. Both excellent reading.

That's one of the major problems at the moment. There's so much excellent conservative commentary on the issue right now, and so little time in which to digest it all.

How could I talk about this without referring to the blog-daddy of them all, Hugh Hewitt? He has several posts on this, and will be one of the blogs to watch regarding this issue over the next several weeks.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Sandra Day O'Connor Announces Retirement

The countdown to armageddon has finally begun.

Sandra Day O'Connor, one of the "moderate" voices of the court, who often voted unpredictably to either the right or the left, has announced her retirement from the SCOTUS. This is big, big news. As Captain Ed put it, many of those on the left are clamoring that this will be a battle to uphold Roe v. Wade, and maintain a delicate Liberal/Conservative/Centrist balance on the Court. He also surmised that with a Rehnquist withdrawal, nobody would be worried about another conservative being nominated to the court, but the replacement of O'Connor will be a huge deal to those on the left. He expects the Democrats to lock arms right down the party line.

Bench Memos, an NRO blog, has already written scores of posts about this. Too much for me to link any one or two posts (well, this one starts it all off). And the NRO editors already dealt with the idea of Alberto Gonzales as the next Supreme Court Justice.

What should we expect in the upcoming political battles? Whether it is Gonzales or someone else, President Bush will nominate a conservative to the court. Democrats in Congress, especially some of the usual suspects, will cry about needing only a simple majority to elect someone to a lifetime position, Bush electing "polarizing" figures to the court that won't respect American jurisprudence, and the value of the filibuster.

Though I don't know if all of the Republicans will vote to confirm Bush's nominee (given the presence of so many RINOs), the Democrats will threaten to filibuster the nominee. Will this cause Frist and the rest of the Senate Republicans to finally bring down the axe that is the "nuclear option"? Will they eliminate the 60 vote requirement for moving a nominee to a floor vote? That I cannot predict. I'd like to think so. I'd like to think that the Senate Republicans would show some leadership and mettle where it really counts, but there's no way to be sure.

In fact, this battle could potentially last into the beginnings of the 2006 races, and there's no telling what kind of impact that will have. Will Republicans vote along party lines in order to appease their constituents? Will conservative voters react negatively to Republican floundering on the issue? Will the public, in general, vote in more Republicans in retaliation for Democrat obstructionism?

Like I said, only time will tell. But this I do know: What happens in the next few weeks, even months, will change the dynamics of politics for many years to come (and I really wish I was putting it that way just for dramatic effect).

The Media's Brazen Image

I have never read an article in Time Magazine which made me as angry as this one from their most recent issue (July 4, 2005).

The story is a "profile" of an Iraqi suicide bomber. Yes, you read correctly. It is a complete interview with a man whose greatest desire in life, as of printing, was to strap bombs to his chest and kill Americans. Time might refer to it as news, but I call it the purest of propaganda.

Because certain MSM outlets, like Time, hide their true meaning and intentions behind "media friendly" terms and phrases, allow me to translate some relevant portions of this article for you:
While some suicide bombers in Iraq have left behind videotaped testimony, Marwan is the first to tell his story before carrying out such a mission. He spoke to TIME in Baghdad on orders from his commander. The interview was the result of weeks of reporting on such insurgents in the hope of learning more about the identities and motivations of those behind the scourge of terrorism in Iraq. A jihadist group passed word that it would send one of its recruits to meet with us. Marwan was unaccompanied; we were not provided with any information about where he lives, works or trains. And out of concern for the safety of TIME's staff, no attempt was made to track his whereabouts after he left. During a three-hour interview, he talked freely of his motivations but did not divulge any specifics about a prospective strike. He seemed articulate and candid, though he insisted on being photographed wearing a mask over his face to conceal his identity and chose a pseudonym, using the common Iraqi name Marwan and a historical one, that of Abu Ubeida al-Jarrah, a 7th century general who conquered Syria for Islam. The sincerity of his desire to make himself a "martyr" was attested to by several figures-- a member of his organization, al-Qaeda in Iraq; a Baghdad-area commander of an insurgent unit that provides logistical support for al-Qaeda bombers; and a Sunni imam who is sometimes brought in to counsel bombers during their premission spiritual "purification"--whom TIME consulted through Iraqis with contacts inside the insurgency. His account provides a rare glimpse into the mind-set and preparation of one aspiring suicide bomber.

Translation: We really only care about getting the "scoop." We don't care that this man is obviously a blood-thirsty killer. We don't care that he wants to kill our men and women in uniform. And we really don't care that he's on the loose and ready to strike the men and women protecting us over here dead. We're just looking out for our own hides, and wanted something to print that would let these butchers tell "their side of the story."

But perhaps the purpose of this article was to cast a better light on this man and those like him. Maybe I read it wrong. Maybe there was supposed to be something noble about him and his religious zeal. Hm, let's see how this section translates:
But there is at least one aspect of the immediate future that Marwan does not want to contemplate: the collateral damage he may cause to fellow Iraqis. In the recent spate of bombings, many of the victims have been harmless bystanders. "I pray no innocent people are killed in my mission," he says. "But if some are, I know when they arrive in heaven, Allah will ask them to forgive me."

If he could choose, Marwan would like his operation to be a car bombing targeting U.S. soldiers or Iraqi security forces far from any civilians. But if he is ordered to strap on explosives and walk to his target on a downtown street, he will do so. "We don't get to choose the mission," he says. "That is up to Allah." In fact, the decision will be made by a field commander of al-Zarqawi's group. Marwan hopes he will be chosen for a high-profile hit, the dramatic, headline-grabbing kind that al-Zarqawi is said to direct personally. Although Marwan has never met the terrorist mastermind, he reveres him as a great Islamic hero.

Translation: No, I don't want to kill any innocents, and by innocents I mean only those who haven't been tainted by the Satanic Americans. But if killing Americans means killing innocents, and Allah commands me to do it through my leaders, then by-golly, who am I to question that? I don't really care if innocents are killed with Americans, but it makes me feel a little bit better to think that I do on some level.

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. Time Magazine, you have completely crossed the line with this. How totally irresponsible. Does this count as offering "comfort and aid" to the enemy? I'm willing to say so.

As a concluding note, many people talk about fostering understanding in these situations. They want to distinguish between the political attackers, the foreigners, and the religious zealots. Even though Time wants to portray this man as a "concerned Iraqi" fighting for his independence, his words clearly show him to be another Islamic radical. And let's be mindful of the god these people worship. Does this sound like a god whose worship we want to understand?
"It doesn't matter whether people know what I did," he says. "The only person who matters is Allah--and the only question he will ask me is 'How many infidels did you kill?'"

It doesn't sound that way to me. Not at all. Shame on you, Time Magazine.

Spain Legalizes Gay Marriage

Sometimes I question CNN's decision of what is "frontpage worthy" news. I had to go hunting for this article, whose existence I only knew of because it appeared in my local paper.

So, as you can gather from the title, Spain's Congress has voted to legalize gay unions 187-147. The article contains the usual drama any "news" article should contain, with stories about conservatives screaming about the shame of the situation and activists dropping to their knees and sobbing in joy.

Ahem. The article is simply another footnote in the continuing downhill journey of ethics and morals in Europe, where the moral landscape continues to morph into a "Every man does as he sees fit" kind of place.

An interesting excerpt from the article:
The Roman Catholic Church, which held much sway over the government just a generation ago when Gen. Francisco Franco was in power, had adamantly opposed gay marriage. In its first display of anti-government activism in 20 years, it endorsed a June 18 rally in which hundreds of thousands marched through Madrid in opposition to the bill. Some 20 bishops took part in the June 18 rally.

On Wednesday, a Catholic lay group called the Spanish Family Forum presented lawmakers with a petition bearing 600,000 signatures as a last-minute protest.

Late last year, a spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference, Antonio Martinez Camino, said that allowing gay marriage was like "imposing a virus on society -- something false that will have negative consequences for social life."

However, polls suggest Spaniards supported gay marriage. A survey released in May by pollster Instituto Opina said 62 percent of Spaniards support the government's action on gay marriage, and 30 percent oppose it. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

I'm guessing the AP released different versions of this story, because the CNN version is not the same as the article in my local paper (both are AP). Here is a relevant section from the other article:
"Marriage, understood as the union of a man and a woman, is no longer provided for in our laws," the Spanish Bishops Conference said after the vote, referring both to the gay marriage law and a bill passed Wednesday making it easier for Spaniards to divorce.

Some 80 percent of Spaniards consider themselves Catholic. However, polls say nearly half the country's Catholics rarely go to Mass, and a third say they are simply not religious.

I suppose I don't have to point out the irony, or the utter sadness here. Half of the country's Catholics don't attend the church they identify themselves with, and a third of them don't consider themselves religious? They why identify wtih the religion at all? I can't even imagine the way these polls turned out . . .

"What religion do you consider yourself?"


"Do you attend mass?"

"No, never."

"Would you consider yourself a religious person?"

"No, I'm simply not religious."

" . . . m'kay. So, what makes you Catholic again?"

I suppose that when we figure out the answer to this, the dreadful decline of churches into the abyss of liberalism will be fully understood as well. Lord, hasten the day.