Published by David French -- Harvard Law grad, former lecturer at Cornell Law School, author of books no one reads, master of the three point shot, constant critic of Duke Basketball, Playstation2 addict, owner of a cool new
Sony DCRTRV25 MiniDV Digital Handycam, father of two and husband of one extremely hot wife
Saturday, May 25, 2002
A PROFILE. If you want to learn more about the publisher of this site, read this article from the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader. The article also includes a nice bio.
Friday, May 24, 2002
GOING SOFT ON IRAQ? According to the Washington Post, America's leading generals (our generals?!?) are arguing that we should either postpone an attack on Iraq or cancel it entirely. If Bush listens to this defeatism and spares Saddam, the results could be truly catastrophic. I'm withholding judgment until I hear from sources more definitive than the unnamed military and administration officials quoted in the article, but if these sources are perceiving the situation correctly, I'm gravely concerned.
As long as we're discussing the War on Terror . . . I've always said that the Washington Post covers the war better than anyone. Here's more proof -- part 1 of an outstanding (and lengthy) description of a bloody ridgetop rescue operation during Operation Anaconda.
If you have any doubt that our troops are brave enough -- or fierce enough -- to take on Saddam's Iraq, read that article.
MORE ON THE CHRISTIAN/JEWISH ALLIANCE. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal explored the history and meaning of the increasing spiritual and political bond between evangelical Christians and Jews. Today, Salon.com gives the story extended treatment (article available for subscribers only). Predictably, the Salon article -- coming from a liberal newspaper -- provides all the standard scare tactics. From the title ("Antichrist Politics") to the conclusion, the Salon writer -- while claiming to understand evangelicals more than her other East Coast colleagues -- paints Christian support for Israel as almost entirely a product of dispensationalist theology. Then she goes on to describe dispensationalism as something so wild that East Coasters would view it as "akin to UFO cults."
While dispensationalism -- which includes a belief in the rapture, a tribulation period and Christ's Second Coming -- is undoubtedly supernatural, it does not lead to the sort of wild-eyed fanaticism that the Salon writer implies. American Christian support of Jews is not at all contingent on their willingness to play a "designated role" (whatever that may be) in various end-times scenarios. Instead, it is based on what I perceive as a Christian re-awakening to not only the immense spiritual debt we owe Judaism and Jews but also to the regard and love that God has for His people. To the extent that dispensationalism plays a role in this massive, grass-roots support for the Jewish state, it is only to remind Christians, once again, that God has never -- and will never -- forsake the people that gave us the Messiah.
Here's the concluding paragraph of the Salon article: "For now, as Jews and evangelicals work together, those [theological] differences might not matter. Yet as American government support of the mujahedin shows, realpolitik partnerships against metaphysical evil can turn rancid. When people believe their politics are endorsed by God, today's ally can be tomorrow's Satan."
A chilling warning . . . that has no basis in fact. If there is one group of Americans whose support Israel does not have to be concerned about, it is American evangelicals. Instead, Israel is in much more danger of being undermined by its traditional ally -- the Democratic Party.
American liberals -- desperate to retain millions of Jewish votes --- are resorting to religious bigotry and scare tactics. American Jews should not be deceived. If American evangelicals could give one message to American Jews, it would be this: Whether you vote Republican or Democratic, conservative or liberal, America's evangelicals stand with you and stand with Israel in the struggle to live safely and securely in the Holy Land.
WHEN A CULTURE EMBRACES ABORTION . . . we will read stories like this one from New Jersey. The family of a child born with a disabling chromosomal defect sued their OB-GYN for wrongful birth. Even worse, this lawsuit was successful. The doctor (and undoubtedly his malpractice insurance company) surrendered to the litigious family and wrote them a settlement check for $1.65 million.
The family, of course, professed their love for their terribly handicapped little girl, but here's the truly horrifying quote -- from the girl's mother: "The doctor took away my rights,'' she said, referring to her right to an abortion. "If I had known she had a birth defect like this, in the blink of an eye I would never have had her.'' Translation: Had she known her daughter would be handicapped, her mom would have killed her while she was still in the womb. And mom wouldn't have thought twice about it.
Shame on those parents for bringing the lawsuit, and shame on the doctor's insurance company for settling the case. Some things have to be fought . . . to the bitter end.
Thursday, May 23, 2002
MORE NEWS FROM THE SUBCONTINENT: The Indian Navy is now deploying several missile-carrying warships directly off the coast of Pakistan. Additionally, the Indian Air Force almost fully mobilized and is deploying its Jaguar fighter-bombers to "forward locations." The Jaguar is a French and British-built aircraft that has been in the NATO inventory for years. According to authoritative sources, it is also one of India's primary nuclear weapon delivery platforms.
While I still agree with the prevailing opinion that nuclear war between India and Pakistan is unlikely, I think the chances of a full-scale nuclear exchange are much greater than most pundits realize or understand. The reason? Political pundits tend to think in terms of the Soviet/American nuclear confrontation where nuclear war truly was a "crazy" option. Since neither India or Pakistan are led by irrational, unhinged individuals -- so goes the thinking -- this crisis most likely will not lead to nuclear war.
I think this analysis misses military reality. There's at least two circumstances where rational leaders would face serious temptation to use nuclear weapons. The first scenario is outlined here (don't be deterred by the amusing facade of this weblog, Steven Den Beste is a remarkably astute observer of world events). Under the Den Beste scenario, Pakistan may use nuclear weapons on its own soil to attack Indian army units that had broken through Pakistani defenses. Such an attack would almost certainly halt the Indian advance (thereby saving the Pakistani nation, at least temporarily) and would place India in a difficult position. They would feel the need to respond with their own nuclear strike, but with the Pakistani military already shattered, the military targets would be unappealing. Their only logical escalation would be a city-strike against Islamabad or some other Pakistani population center, and the international pressure against such a move would be overwhelming. Pakistani leaders may (rationally) believe that a first strike against Indian army units would buy them enough time to save their country. I think they would be wrong, and India would escalate, but Pakistan may take the gamble.
The second scenario -- which I haven't heard anyone explore in any great detail -- is what I call "use 'em or lose 'em." One of the factors (in fact, the primary factor) that made the American/Soviet nuclear confrontation relatively stable is that neither side believed it could completely destroy the other's nuclear capability. No matter how complete the surprise -- or how devastating the first strike -- both America and the Soviet Union had enough warheads in enough places (in the air, in missile silos, and under the sea) that they could completely obliterate their attacker with whatever warheads were leftover. Hence the term: "Mutually Assured Destruction." (MAD).
MAD is not a reality on the subcontinent. Pakistan has only a few nuclear weapons (approximately 25) and few reliable methods of delivery. In fact, some commentators believe that Pakistan has not yet successfully attached a warhead to a missile, so their sole method of delivering a nuclear strike would be through a fighter-bomber attack. Even if Pakistan has nuclear-tipped missiles, they have very few. In other words, it is entirely plausible that -- in the first few days of full-scale war -- India could completely destroy Pakistan's nuclear strike capability. As Pakistani fighters are shot down (they hardly have a limitless supply) and missile units are destroyed, Pakistan may be faced with the choice of using its nuclear weapons or losing them entirely. If they lose the weapons, they lose their only chance at stopping Indian army advances (see above). If they use the weapons, they may at least save a semblance of Pakistan.
No nuclear power has ever faced a true "use 'em or lose 'em" scenario. We simply do not know how an embattled national leadership would respond to such a crisis. We do know this: in the late 1970s, American war planners became concerned that the Soviets were a few years away from constructing a nuclear force that could wipe out American nuclear assets with a single, massive first strike. Our response was two-fold: a massive nuclear buildup (featuring the Stealth Bomber, Trident submarines and the MX missile) and very public pronouncements that we would not promise "no first use" of nuclear weapons. In other words, we sent a clear signal to the Soviets that, in response to a major attack with conventional forces, we may very well respond with a nuclear first strike.
Pakistan doesn't have the resources to build the kind of multi-layered nuclear deterrent developed by the United States. Therefore, they're left only with the first strike deterrence option -- and that places the region on the brink of nuclear war.
WEB ADDRESS UPDATE. After receiving complaints that the Curve's web address (http://culturecurve.blogspot.com) was difficult to remember, too long and too strange, I've taken steps to correct the problem. I have purchased the domain name www.culturecurve.org, and you can now access the Curve either by typing the old blogspot address or by typing www.culturecurve.org. Side benefit: with a more simple address, it is also easier for you to tell your friends, family, acquaintances, enemies and just about anyone you meet about the Curve.
Wednesday, May 22, 2002
FOOD FOR THOUGHT. In the midst of war and political infighting, U.S. News and World Report devoted its cover story to . . . teen sex. According to U.S. News, while overall rates of teenage sexual activity are declining slightly (very slightly), those teens who are having sex are starting at younger ages and catching more sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, there has been an apparent increase in the number of teens who are stopping short of intercourse but still engaging in a wide variety of sexual behavior (from oral sex to even anal sex).
Side note: Many of the teens who regularly engage in oral and/or anal sex adamantly insist that they are still "virgins." Wonder where they'd get the idea that oral sex is not actually sex?
The article devotes considerable time to the debate over whether abstinence education, contraceptive education or some combination of the two is the best method for preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. Predictably, the article doesn't come to any conclusions -- nor does it point to any comprehensive studies that really even begin to answer the relevant questions. However, the article does mention an interesting fact regarding the effectiveness of abstinence pledges like True Love Waits:
"Today, as many as 1 in 6 teens nationwide is estimated to have taken a virginity pledge through rapidly growing programs like True Love Waits. One widely publicized joint study from Columbia and Yale universities had good and bad news for pledgers. The teens in the study who made pledges were found to delay the age of "sexual debut" by an average of 18 months–no small feat. When the kids did have sex, however, they were less likely to use contraception."
While this is hardly news (I remember the study when it was originally published), it did re-trigger some thoughts that I've been mulling for some time. Though it is certainly encouraging that virginity pledges are at least somewhat effective, it is discouraging that the primary effect appears to be a delay in sex rather than true abstinence before marriage. After working extensively with teens in various youth ministries -- and after speaking at multiple teen meetings and youth rallies -- I am increasingly concerned that sex is delayed (rather than abstained from) in part because aspects of our own contemporary evangelical culture work against teenage sexual purity.
Children are developing sexually at earlier and earlier ages, and these same children are exposed -- almost from infancy -- to relentless sexual imagery and temptation. Yet we evangelicals are increasingly sending the message to our kids that marriage should be delayed until they complete their education, attain financial independence, etc. In other words, while our national culture introduces kids to sex at very young ages, our evangelical culture (following trends set by the more sexually permissive national culture) tells our kids that we need to delay any consummation of their powerful sexual desires longer than their parents or grandparents ever even contemplated.
Certainly, our admonition to our kids to abstain from sex until marriage is biblical. However, our endorsement of delayed marriage is not. There is no biblical principle that dictates no marriage until at least one spouse has a good salary. There is no biblical principal that dictates that a young married couple cannot rely a great deal on the financial, emotional and spiritual support of parents and grandparents. If we are going to ask our kids to forsake the culture of sex, we need to re-examine our unthinking commitment to the culture of delayed marriage. Fifteen-year-olds with professional ambitions should not be told that they will have to bite the bullet -- regardless of the Godly individuals they may meet and fall for -- for no less than a decade. I just can't see the biblical justification for such a stance.
I realize that these thoughts are controversial and offensive to some (particularly parents of teens), but I think it's worth questioning adherence to any cultural norm that is not rooted in the Word.
NUCLEAR WAR IN ASIA? There are disturbing reports today that the Prime Minister of India is telling his army that the time has come for a "decisive fight" against Pakistan. As you may recall from sporadic news coverage since January, India has mobilized much of its armed forces in response to a series of terrorist attacks by Pakistani-supported Islamic militants. Though Pakistan claims to have cracked down on these militants, attacks continue. More than a million men are on hair-trigger alert along the India-Pakistan border, and the Indian public is clamoring for action.
The general consensus among military experts is that India's enormous military would overwhelm Pakistan's army within days -- forcing the Pakistanis to choose between total defeat and nuclear war. Some Indian military experts are convinced that Pakistan has already decided to launch a nuclear first strike in the event of war.
While I don't yet see war as inevitable, India and Pakistan are on the brink of a truly massive confrontation; one that would dwarf in scale any war fought in the last 50 years. Sometimes I wonder if this how the world looked in the 1930s -- synagogues burning in Europe, immense armies massed in Asia, and fascist (Islamic, in this case) ideologies embraced by millions. If there was ever a time to pray that our leaders act with wisdom and courage, it is now.
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
CATCHING ON? Could some of America's most prominent liberals be waking up the reality that America's evangelical Christians care about more than simply battling the left over abortion, school prayer and gay rights? Read this remarkable New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof, a prominent liberal pundit. In his column, Kristof describes Christians' efforts overseas to, among other things, support Israel, end the Sudanese slave trade, combat sexual trafficking and fight AIDS in Africa.
Although Kristof does get in his shots (like commenting on our "simple-minded moralistic streak"), he seems to actually understand the loving motive behind Christian intervention. My favorite passage:
"I've lost my cynicism about evangelical groups partly because I've seen them at work abroad. Earlier this year, for example, I visited the Philippine island of Basilan, home base of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group. Aid groups have mostly pulled out because of killings and kidnappings, but I found one still busy providing food and medicine even in the most dangerous areas. It's the Christian Children's Fund."
Thanks, Nicholas, for for having at least a partially open mind.
A VICTORY FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. Last Thursday, the California Supreme Court ruled that a Catholic religious organization had a right to fire an evangelical Christian for proselytizing at work. The Court found, quite sensibly, that a religious organization had a right to limit or define the religious activities of is workers, and if workers violated the religious organization's policies, they could be terminated. In other words, a Catholic organization is not required to give a paycheck to someone who is actively working to convert his co-workers away from their Catholic faith.
Rulings like this are fundamental to protecting religious freedom. Allegations of discrimination are common methods of forcing Christian organizations to alter or water down their religious message. Atheist individuals want to work for Christian ministries, practicing gays and lesbians want to lead campus Christian organizations and (occasionally) even want to pastor evangelical churches or lead evangelical ministries. Christian organizations must be able to "discriminate" (make choices), if they want to remain distinctively Christian.
Usually, the charge against religious freedom is led by those who are hostile to religious institutions. They want to promote a secular orthodoxy of "tolerance" and "diversity" at all costs. They believe -- with religious zeal -- that the alleged right of the individual to live as he/she pleases trumps the right of Christian or other religious people to practice their faith and associate together as a community of believers. Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted constitutional law scholar, summed up this view perfectly: "We should be limiting -- not expanding -- churches' ability to discriminate against individuals." I would doubt that Mr. Chemerinsky would have a similar view about, say, the right of a gay/lesbian legal organization to prohibit an evangelical Christian who was opposed to the group's message from working for -- or speaking for -- the group. In that case, he would doubtless trumpet the right of the liberal advocacy organization to speak and preserve its essential function.
Fortunately, the general legal trend is running against Professor Chemerinsky's anti-religious bias. Courts have repeatedly upheld the rights of religious employers to impose religious requirements on their employees. We Christians need to be vigilant, however, and work mightily to preserve those rights.
I am profoundly disappointed that an evangelical Christian would sue his Catholic employer and seek to restrict his Catholic employer's religious freedom. I am also profoundly disappointed in his lawyer -- if his lawyer is a Christian. A moment's thought would reveal that this lawsuit works for the enemies of Christian freedom in this country. It is absolutely mind-boggling to me that a Christian who is allegedly mature enough to become a pastor would believe that he should have the legal right to not only undermine the teachings of the religious organization he voluntarily works for but also to be paid while doing it.
Apparently, the good pastor has bought into our culture of entitlement. With allies like that in the culture war, we'll shortly have little need for actual enemies.
TECHNICAL PROBLEMS. The Curve was down for most of the morning, and I have no idea why. Since I am using a web server (Blogger Pro) that receives an immense amount of traffic, I fully expect occasional glitches. Thanks for your patience.
CRISIS PASSING? Sometimes the American people have some sense. From today's Washington Post:
"Despite last week's pointed exchanges between the White House and congressional Democrats over the revelations, Bush's approval rating remained essentially unchanged, with 76 percent saying they approve of the job he is doing, down from 78 percent in mid-April. Eight in 10 continue to say they approve of the way Bush is handling the war against terrorism.
The reaffirmation of support for Bush's leadership comes at a time when both sides have toned down their rhetoric and Democrats have concluded there is little to be gained politically by continuing a public fight with the White House over what happened with last summer's intelligence warnings of possible terrorist attacks."
GREAT PARENTING. I have been following with mild interest the story out of California of the kindergartner expelled from an Assemblies of God preschool because her mother was working as a stripper at a local Gold Club. Although I have mixed feelings about the expulsion and generally feel that children should not be punished for the sins of their parents, I do want to make a note about the parent's false outrage at the school's decision.
According to this CNN story, all school parents were required to a "sign a document stating they agree with the church's 'Christian Commitment/Philosophy,' which requires weekly church attendance and stipulates 'a Christian learning structure that involves the entire family.'" In other words, the stripper (Christina Silvas) pitched a public fit after suffering the consequences of violating an agreement she voluntarily signed.
The article notes that Ms. Silvas had quit her stripping job, and Capital Christian Center was allowing her daughter to return to finish the school year. Ms. Silvas was not, however, going to send her daughter back to the school for first grade. The story ends with this priceless quote: "I want to find a school less concerned with image and more concerned with the welfare of children," [Ms. Silvas]said.
Question for Ms. Silvas: Since you are so concerned with the "welfare of children," why were you stripping for a living?
Monday, May 20, 2002
DAVID HOROWITZ, Salon.com's token conservative columnist, makes the argument that the Democrats are as much to blame for any failures as Bush. He points out that all the previous warnings regarding the use of airplanes as weapons came to Clinton intelligence officials, not to Bush's defense team. Here's the heart of Horowitz's allegation:
"If, on the other hand, Bush had known what the Clinton administration knew -- that al-Qaida had plans to use commercial airliners as bombs and fly them into buildings, specifically the CIA headquarters -- this would be a serious charge. But they did not know it, because the Clinton team never told them. (The fact that Bush didn't know about plans to hijack planes and run them into tall buildings was confirmed by Condoleezza Rice at her Thursday press conference.)
Although the Clinton security team knew that Operation Bojinka [an Al Qaida plot to attack American airliners] included blowing up the CIA building in Langley, Va., it kept this information from the rest of the government. When Dale Watson, chief of the FBI's international terrorism operations section, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 1998, he withheld this vital information. He identified Operation Bojinka only as a plot to blow up U.S. air carriers, and assured the senators that the FBI had the situation under control."
In the off-hand chance you subscribe to Salon premium, you can read the entire article here.
Horowitz also gets straight to the heart of the Democrat's ridiculous calls for a fresh round of investigations:
". . . hijackings occur and have occurred for 40 years. On most occasions they are stopped. Nine of the 9/11 hijackers were hauled out of airport security lines as they were boarding the fatal flights that September. But because airport security had not been tightened -- and could not be tightened without a battle royal with Democrats over "racial profiling" -- the al-Qaida hijackers were allowed to continue and carry out their sinister plot. Shutting down the U.S. airline industry on the basis of a vague report that a hijacking was possible is something no administration has ever done in decades of hijacking incidents. Yet this is the logic behind the Democrats' present "investigation."
Horowitz is exactly right. I hope the American people have enough sense to look beyond the breathless headlines and to the substance of the actual charges. I hope . . . but I'm not optimistic.
A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. Before we move on to other topics, I want to ask a final, sensible, question about the warnings Bush received in the now-legendary August 6, 2001, memo. What if he had made the memo's contents public? What if he had issued specific alerts based on the memo's contents? Here's one man's opinion as to how it would have played out:
-As Time magazine points out, the August 6 memo was not based on any specific threats and mentioned not only hijackings but also boat bombs, truck bombs and bioweapons. Alarmed at the prospect of a possible attack, on August 7, 2001, Bush supplements the hijacking warnings that the airlines had already received (see post below) with a series of warnings to the truck rental industry, various biological laboratories and to seaports. He can't tell them what specifically to guard against, so the various industries are merely asked to "stay alert."
-Not content with simply notifying law enforcement and industry officials, Bush orders several aides onto Sunday Morning talk shows, where they explain that they believe Al Qaeda (a name that meant very little to Americans before September 11) is intending to strike America, and though we don't have any specific intelligence, we believe that they may try hijackings, truck bombs, boat bombs or bioweapons.
-There is, for a brief time, a sense of heightened alarm. The media presses for more specific information, and the administration responds by stating that they believe Al Qaeda may try to hijack aircraft for the purpose of negotiating a prisoner exchange to free terrorists held in American prisons. Administration officials stress that -- if a hijacking occurs -- that passengers and crew should not resist. Hostage negotiations, while dangerous, are manageable.
-Bush puts Delta Force on alert to rescue any potential airline hostages.
-In the immediate aftermath of the warning, there is a slight dip in airline traffic. At the same time, several Middle Eastern individuals complain that they were hassled in security lines. CAIR and other Arab-American and Muslim advocacy groups complain about "racial profiling." The media picks up the racial profiling accusations, and several liberal advocacy organizations (and their congressional allies) remind Americans that they cannot judge their fellow citizens on the basis of their religion or ancestry.
-Airline security officials, leery of racial profiling accusations, go out of their way to avoid singling out Middle Eastern passengers for special scrutiny.
-Weeks pass. The warnings are forgotten (how many of us remember the terror warning just two weeks ago regarding nuclear power plants? Or the warning approximately a month ago regarding banks in the Northeast? And this is after September 11).
-On September 11 itself, the 19 hijackers approach security checkpoints. Airline security, complacent after literally months of warnings and no hijackings -- and skittish after recent accusations of racial profiling -- does no more than pull a few of the hijackers out of line and give them a brief frisking (exactly what happened on September 11). Because none of the previous warnings mentioned unconventional hijacking tools like boxcutters and plastic knives, security officials look for guns or mace. No guns are found, and the hijackers board the planes.
-Once the hijackings commence, the passengers -- recently reminded by their own government of what to do in the event of a hijacking -- do not resist. A plane hits the World Trade Center, then another. A plane hits the Pentagon. On Flight 93 over Pennsylvania, frantic family members tell hijacked passengers that hostages aren't being taken -- that the hijackers are really suicide bombers. The passengers, after a brief caucus, decide to resist, and Flight 93 dives headfirst into a field in Southeast Pennsylvania -- moments before it was to be intercepted by a flight of F-16s, screaming over Maryland at Mach 2 with orders to defend the capital at all costs.
When have we or our allies ever correctly predicted a major surprise attack? Britain was shocked by Germany's blitzkrieg into France in 1940, we were stunned by Pearl Harbor, and -- as Dick Cheney pointed out on Meet the Press yesterday -- virtually no one predicted Saddam would actually invade Kuwait, even after we spotted more than 100,000 troops massing on Kuwait's border. Absent specific intelligence, stopping terrorism -- or any other military attack -- is pure guesswork. And it is much easier to guess wrong than it is to guess right.