Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Vocabulary of Victory

     In his original address to Congress and the American people, after the attacks of September 11th, President George W. Bush stated, “Our ‘war on terror’ begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” Bush exhorted Americans to find the best in themselves and rise to the challenge of their time. “Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom, the great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us. Our nation, this generation, will lift the dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail.” Bush promised it would be a long war that would test our patience and determination. “It is my hope that in the months and years ahead life will return almost to normal. We’ll go back to our lives and routines and that is good. Even grief recedes with time and grace. But our resolve must not pass.” Essentially, the president challenged us Americans. With the announcement this week that our military withdrawal from Iraq will be virtually total, and our continuing commitment to withdraw from Afghanistan with the Taliban undefeated, it is not clear how well we have met that challenge.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Abortion Logic

     Herman Cain’s recent kerfuffle on whether abortion should be a matter of private conscience or government prohibition brings to light an interesting fact: The public dislikes abortion more and more. Almost alone among core conservative principles, the right-wing position on abortion seems to be making converts. Where agenda items like women in combat and special privileges for homosexuals are winning adherents, abortion is actually less popular than it used to be. At least in polling. At least in some polling. Still, there is some evidence that the absolute number of abortions in the United States is declining. In the context of the Leftist cultural hegemony, such equivocal statistics are a veritable benison for conservatives. The question naturally arises, to what do we owe such a blessing? For once, the answer may very well be logic.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Occupation of Wall Street

     For almost a month now, a fluctuating group of demonstrators has been camping out in a park in New York. Calling themselves “Occupy Wall Street,” the group has made assorted demands, including free college and cancellation of debts. The group has been nonviolent, as far as has been reported, but the reportage has been predictably problematic. For instance, American media outlets have generally avoided mention of the more disreputable conduct of the occupiers, including an alleged act of public defecation on a police car. I say alleged, but the Daily Mail obtained a photograph. While overseas media seem to capture more of the facts, domestic outlets are playing true to form. Since the occupiers are evidently Left wing, American media have largely adopted them as perhaps misguided but worthy youth. In any event, the demonstrators’ behavior brings to mind the prescience of an insightful observer of the American Republic: Robert Bork.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wanted: Climate Change Argument, Not Advocacy

Major Suspect in Global Warming Case Hides His Face.
Photo by the author.
     Global climate change seems to be of great interest to readers of RESPVBLICA. Not having studied meteorology or climate science, I cannot say much one way or the other about lots of what is presented on either side of the debate. Just when it seems clear that the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide is probably responsible for rising global average temperature, another study purports to document a stronger link to sunspot activity. At first blush, either theory appears plausible to laymen like me. Moreover, knowing how people not trained in a specialty make basic errors—such as misunderstanding the burden of proof in a civil case—should make any specialist wary of hasty conclusions about matters outside his own expertise. This is especially so since we all tend to evaluate the global warming arguments as partisan positions. It is altogether too tempting to accept the arguments made by our side and reject the arguments made by the other side, whether or not we are really qualified to judge the science. But we laymen can do more than try to evaluate the science directly.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Citizen Awlaki

MQ-9 Reaper.
Photo  from U.S. Air Force.
     Our amended Constitution grants automatic citizenship to anyone born in the territory of the United States, apart from a few exceptions like children of diplomats. This was not an original provision of the Constitution, but came about after the Civil War to account for freed slaves. At the time, it was a necessary measure. Today, it is understood to make citizens of illegal aliens’ children born in the U.S., their parents’ status notwithstanding. Last week, Anwar al-Awlaki, the terrorist recruiter, was escorted off this mortal coil by a Hellfire missile fired from a remotely piloted aircraft—a drone. Awlaki’s parents were Yemeni, but his father was in the United States on a Fullbright scholarship when little Anwar was born. This made young Awlaki a citizen by birth in the United States. And his status as citizen has raised questions about the legality of President Obama’s decision to approve the strike. While that is an interesting question in its own right (see this link at the Originalism Blog for a good discussion), the strike also raises a question about the Constitution. What if we revised the Fourteenth Amendment and changed the criteria for citizenship?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Global Warming Litmus Test

     Recently, over at The Atheist Conservative, the conversation turned to global warming. I have frankly avoided writing on climate change. This has not been from delicacy about controversy, as regular readers know. It has been instead from simple doubt. There seemed to be clarity on global warming some years ago. The basic effect of greenhouse gasses is indisputable, and carbon dioxide is demonstrably the culprit for why Venus is hotter than Mercury even though it is twice as far from the Sun. Human civilization clearly produces a lot of carbon dioxide, and there certainly seems to be an impressive correlation between recent (100 years or so) rises in carbon dioxide and average global temperature. I am not a climate scientist and do not pretend to be able to sort out what is going on with the weather. As in many other areas (medicine, astrophysics, plate tectonics), I was initially prepared to trust the experts. But...