Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 9, 2005

Question Authority?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:42 pm

Clayton Cramer has a great example of poetic justice:

Remember Those “Question Authority” Bumper Stickers?

I guess the left really didn’t mean it:

Nearly 30 years of teaching evolution in Kansas has taught Brad Williamson to expect resistance, but even this veteran of the trenches now has his work cut out for him when students raise their hands.

That’s because critics of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection are equipping families with books, DVDs, and a list of “10 questions to ask your biology teacher.”

The intent is to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of students as to the veracity of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The result is a climate that makes biology class tougher to teach. Some teachers say class time is now wasted on questions that are not science-based. Others say the increasingly charged atmosphere has simply forced them to work harder to find ways to skirt controversy.

Hmmmm. Why did the left think this was a good idea in the 1960s, but isn’t happy with it now?

There are polite and appropriate ways to challenge orthodoxy in a classroom–my son told me about a biology class he had last year where the student was definitely not doing so–but the tone of this New York Times article suggests that it is precisely because the “strategic questioning” is being done so well that it has put the priests biology teachers in a difficult position.

Iraqi President Thanks Tony Blair

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:34 pm

Arthur Chrenkoff’s biweekly roundup of “good news from Iraq” (also available here and here.) excerpts a striking and eloquent letter from new Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. (The complete text of the letter is here.)

I cannot begin to explain my emotions, after over five decades of personally fighting for and promoting democracy and human rights, to witness a nation take its first steps towards a dream.

Five decades is a long time for one person to fight. What for us in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere is the current political issue and a debate over the WMD version of “Where’s Waldo?” is for people in Iraq an epoch-making event, something they have been waiting and hoping for, and in some cases fighting for, their whole lives.

Now the democratically elected parliament has honoured me, a Kurd, with the post of Presidency. This is a symbol of the promise, integration and unity of the new Iraq.

I haven’t been able to get over the fact that while the Western media were getting all bent out of shape over whether the new Iraqi government would be dominated by the Sunnis or the Shiites, and whether the Sunnis would be controlled by the Saudis or the Shiites by the Iranians, but sure that either would oppress the Kurds — the Sunnis and Shiites got together and elected a prominent Kurdish leader as President.

The Left in the United States have spent the last two years explaining how the Iraqis (and Afghans) are not capable of democracy (what, are they genetically inferior?), but now they have shown that they are capable of peaceful political compromise. This is critical in an ethnically, religiously, and ideologically divided country. We Americans forget that the United States started out this way, too. The original thirteen colonies were divided by religion (mostly Congregationalist in the north, mostly Anglican in the South, with Catholics in Maryland and Quakers in Pennsylvania) and by economic interests (slave-based large-scale farming in the south, owner-based small-scale farming and manufacturing in the north), among other issues. The First Continental Congress almost fell apart before it started, due to a controversy as to what sort of minister should deliver the opening prayer. A compromise was reached in which the prayer was delivered by an Anglican from Philadelphia, Rev. Jacob Duche.

The Iraqis have, in effect, done the same thing. Rather than fighting over whether the country properly should be dominated by Sunnis or Shiites, they made a Kurd the President — which also neatly deals with the question of whether the Kurdish autonomous region should be part of Iraq. It will be.

The letter from Talibani concludes:

Iraqis sometimes wonder in amazement what the debate abroad is about. Why do people continue to ask why no WMD was found? The truth is that Saddam had, in the past, used chemical and biological weapons against his own people, and we believed he would do so again. Of course Saddam himself was, in the view of those who opposed him, Iraq’s most dangerous WMD.

Instead of continually focussing on the negative, the British, who will soon commemorate the 60th anniversary of VE day, should know that in the eyes of the majority of Iraqis, it was you who brought us our own victory day.

Britain should be proud that the liberation of Iraq has in our eyes been one of your finest hours. History will judge Prime Minister Blair as a champion against tyranny. Of that I have no doubt.

We are not reticent about expressing our great thanks to the British people and paying homage to the tragic British losses. Every Iraqi family, in fact, has lost a loved one because of Saddam’s regime. Every Iraqi understands the pain of conflict, the grief that accompanies war.

We honour those who sacrificed their lives for our liberation. We are determined out of respect to create a tolerant and democratic Iraq, an Iraq for all the Iraqi people. It will take time and much patience, but I can assure you it will be worth while, not only for Iraq, but for the whole of the Middle East.

The complete text of the letter is here.

The entire “Good News from Iraqpost is quite long. There’s a lot of good stuff going on in Iraq, and it is mostly not reported prominently in the western media.

Humor and Wit in Supreme Court Decisions

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:35 pm

Yes, it exists. Surprisingly often, in fact.

Filibuster Flip-Floppers

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:31 am

Most of you reading this probably already know that the Democrats in the Senate have been filibustering many of President Bush’s judicial nominees. That is, even though the Constitution only requires a simple majority of the Senate to confirm judges, the Democratic minority is using a parliamentary maneuver to in effect require a 60% majority to even vote on the nominees. They have used this maneuver on 10 of Bush’s 24 appeals-court nominees so far. (And that’s counting Clinton appointees confirmed after Clinton left office as part of the 24.)

What’s less well known is that the nominees who have been confirmed are generally white male Protestants. Five of the 10 blocked nomiees are, as Steven Calbresi notes,

The eminently qualified conservatives Democrats have quashed include Miguel Estrada, who is Hispanic, Janice Rogers Brown, who is African American, Bill Pryor, a brilliant young Catholic, and two white women, Priscilla Owen and Carolyn Kuhl [also Catholic --DR]. By keeping these five nominees off the federal courts of appeals, Democrats seem to have blocked Bush from considering them for the Supreme Court.

When George W. Bush became president in 2001, the legal left and the Democratic party rallied around the slogan “No more Clarence Thomases.” By that they meant that they would not allow any more conservative African Americans, Hispanics, women, or Catholics to be groomed for nomination to the High Court with court of appeals appointments. The Democrats have done such a good job of this that, today, the only names being floated as serious Supreme Court nominees are those of white men.

It seems that after 30 years of making political hay by accusing Republicans of not appointing enough women and ethnic minorities, the Democrats are determined to prevent Republicans from appointing women and ethnic minorities, so as to continue to make that accusation. Of course, one could object that Democrats are mostly liberals and these nominees are conservatives. And one could respond that after 30 years of making political hay from the claim that conservatism is a racist and sexist political philosophy, liberals are determined to keep non-white and non-female conservatives out of public view (“in the closet”?) so they can continue to make that claim. And, one could also point out that by allowing white males to chose liberalism or conservatism while simultaneously shunning non-whites and non-females who choose conservatism, they are essentially denying that non-whites and non-females have the right and the ability to think for themselves and choose their own political views.

(Lest you object to the inclusion of Catholics as a group for this purpose, some Democratic Senators, notably Charles Schumer, Patrick Leahy and Dianne Feinstein, have explicitly mentioned their “deeply held religious beliefs” as a reason for opposing them. Note that not only Pryor, Kuhl, and Estrada, as well as Robert Conrad and J. Leon Holmes — that is, five of the ten blocked nominees — are Catholic. )

Of course, the Democrats are not saying these things out loud. They are dressing their defense of the filibuster in the trappings of high principle — no matter how silly it sounds to claim that the principle of democracy would be subverted by the allowing the representatives of the people to actually vote on something.

But one thing you cannot claim is that Democrats have been consistent in their principled defense of the filibuster. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that some of the most prominent Democratic Senators were making precisely the opposite arguments than they are making now. Consider these examples from Tom Winters, Editor-in-Chief of Human Events:

Sen. Barbara Boxer Then: Sen. Barbara Boxer Now:
"According to the U.S. Constitution, the President nominates, and the Senate shall provide advice and consent. It is not the role of the Senate to obstruct the process and prevent numbers of highly qualified nominees from even being given the opportunity for a vote on the Senate floor." (Congressional Record, May 14, 1997) "So we’re saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn’t too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don’t you think so?" (Remarks at MoveOn.org rally in Washington, March 16, 2005)
Sen. Ted Kennedy Then: Sen. Ted Kennedy Now:
"The Constitution is clear that only individuals acceptable to both the President and the Senate should be confirmed. The President and the Senate do not always agree. But we should resolve these disagreements by voting on these nominees–yes or no." (Congressional Record, Jan. 28, 1998) "But what has not ended is the resolution and the determination of the members of the United States Senate to continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this President of the United States for any . . . federal court in the United States." (CNN’s "Inside Politics," Nov. 14, 2003)
Sen. Chuck Schumer Then: Sen. Chuck Schumer Now:
"I also plead with my colleagues to move judges with alacrity–vote them up or down. But this delay makes a mockery of the Constitution, makes a mockery of the fact that we are here working, and makes a mockery of the lives of very sincere people who have put themselves forward to be judges and then they hang out there in limbo." (Congressional Record, March 7, 2000) "We will invoke every rule in the Senate that we can, without standing in the way of vitally needed programs, to show the people who put it in power that they cannot just by fiat undo 200 years of American history." (Fox News’ "Special Report," April 21, 2005)

ADDENDA (5/9/05, 12:11pm):

More on the flip-flop phenomenon:

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