Welcome to Liberty Just in Case

Glad you stopped by. Take a look around, and let me know what you think, either through a comment or by email.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The New and Improved SETI

I'm back from my self imposed blogging vacation with an update on the SETI program from Space.com. This will be the year for space, with probes reaching Mars, and Huygens scheduled to land on Titan. What a great time to be alive, barring a few World Wars and tsunamis...well, you can't have everything.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Taking Time Off

I won't be blogging for the next week or so. Taking some time off to do repairs on the computer, and enjoy the Christmas season. Will be back sometime after New Year.

Coming Attractions: Huygens lands on Titan

January 14th marks another turning point in our exploration of the Solar System. Huygens lands on Titan, possibly discovering an ocean of hydrocarbons. Should be fun.

Monday, December 20, 2004

White Christmas

I've probably seen White Christmas 20 times. Every Christmas, my wife and I gather the munchkins together, and watch Bing, Danny, Rosemary and Vera dance and sing their way to helping the General.

And, yes. I have to admit it. I still have a crush on Vera Ellen. I've never seen her in another movie, and only while researching this post discovered she died in 1981. A small part of me very saddened by that. Fortunately, she lives on every Christmas at our house, and every Christmas there's a happy ending, and always snow.... Merry Christmas.

Born-Again President -- White House Hanukkah

Dennis Prager on celebrating Hanukkah at the White House.

Only in America does a president light a menorah while a Jewish choral group sings Hebrew songs and the Marine band plays American songs. Only in America do Jews feel so honored as Jews and yet so completely part of the larger culture, fully Jewish and fully part of the greater nationality. Non-American Jews (including even Canadians) are often amazed at how completely American Jews in the U.S. feel. We take it for granted, but as a former college lecturer in Jewish history, I know that this is unique.
It is quite remarkable, and a celebration of our unique heritage that such a thing can happen, and not even make the news.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Theme is Freedom

I've linked one of my favorite works on Liberty, The Theme is Freedom in Liberty Recommends. Very much worth reading to understand what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they established this nation, and the freedoms we take for granted.

About the separation of Church and State, the wall was never meant to work both ways. Government should indeed stay out of religion. This does not mean the values of faith are to stay out of government. The Founding Fathers, including Jefferson, believed Judeo-Christian tradition and values were a cornerstone of government. Their fear was of government intrusion into religion, not the reverse. It remains the great threat to religious freedom today.

The link is to the Williamsburg Charter, a forthright re-evaluation of the 1st Amendment's religion clause. Government intrusion into religious matters is indeed to be feared, and fought at every turn. The Williamsburg Charter presents a well-balanced approach to the debate, and places responsibility for civil debate on both sides. Liberty Just in Case is a fine example of that ongoing tension.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bye, Bye O'Keefe. So, What's Next for Nasa?

O'Keefe's resignation presents and opportunity for NASA. O'Keefe was a steady hand, but was far to conservative to hold the post. What's needed is a bold spokesman, not a bureaucrat. Rather NASA will find such a person remains to be seen.

The Reason for the Season: Mark's Response

Many of the traditions that have grown up around this day have nothing to do with the story itself. I think it's important to read the document:
The Birth of Jesus
an excerpt from:
Luke 2:1-20 NIV

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Most Evangelical Biblical scholars believe Luke wrote this around 80 AD. His goal was to write a history of Jesus. Most scholars believe he used the book of Mark extensively, but also relied on eyewitnesses of the events. There is far more evidence, both internally and externally for the historical accuracy of the New Testament than any other ancient document. Lee Strobel's book The Case for Christ is an readable and balanced look at the New Testament version of Jesus. Well worth reading at this time of year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The New Library of Alexandria: Google Powered

This is a huge story, only to build in the coming years:
Google, the operator of the world's most popular Internet search service, plans to announce an agreement today with some of the nation's leading research libraries and Oxford University to begin converting their holdings into digital files that would be freely searchable over the Web.

It may be only a step on a long road toward the long-predicted global virtual library. But the collaboration of Google and research institutions that also include Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the New York Public Library is a major stride in an ambitious Internet effort by various parties. The goal is to expand the Web beyond its current valuable, if eclectic, body of material and create a digital card catalog and searchable library for the world's books, scholarly papers and special collections.

Someday, we may be able to access all human knowledge through our desktops. A true Encyclopedia Galactica.

Monday, December 13, 2004

An AOL Nightmare

I told the AOL support tech, located somewhere in India, Pakistan, or Hell, that this would be my first post once I woke up from this nightmare. Ummm, I told him this as I was slamming down the phone. Not my usual style, but the conditions certainly warranted it.

Last Friday night, sitting in front of my old 850 mhz AMD Duron, Windows 98SE computer (insert laughter here) I decided to see what was going on with AOL these days. I had a nifty AOL for Broadband disc courtesy of the US Postal Service, and a fifty day free trial. I mean, why not?

No lightning or thunder rolled as I hit INSTALL. No smoke appeared from my processor, though considering it's age, it was due for some smoke, even a flame or two. But no. It just whirred along like it has since Mary Lynne upgraded it in her garage 3 years ago.

I restarted my geriatric, but still fully functional computer.

Then I clicked the very stylish AOL icon
And my virus software died.
And my spam software began flashing error messages.
And then IE, Mozilla and Opera wouldn't start.
After that, things began to get really bad.

I unistalled the demonic AOL,carefully using the Control Panel, and then restarted.

My virus software was still DOA

My spam software was complaining it couldn't use Port 110, and was therefore offically resigning until the idiot that caused the mess found the offending program.

Not even Opera would get me back on the Internet, though the DSL connection was working, and seemed to function fine.

That's when I called the 7 Eleven, er, AOL tech support.

After firmly establishing that I DID NOT HAVE A MEMBERSHIP, did not WANT a membership, and only wanted an exorcism for my possessed computer, he asked me what the problem was.

I told him.

Calmly. Without expletives.

And then I said the evil word.


Yep, browser. I told him I had unistalled Beelzebub, but his spirit remained, and therefore my browsers no longer functioned.

He said, "Oh, we do not handle browsers. This is not our problem."

Even though he agreed with me that AOL had possessed my computer, he could not FIX IT!!!! Even though it was obvious the evil came from his particular region of Hell, it was not his problem.

And his supervisor was not available, and, no, the supervisor could not call me back. Apparently the phone lines run one way in India, or Pakistan, or Hell.

That's when I told him about this post.

And slammed the phone down.


I'm back up and running now, thanks to May at SBCYahoo tech support. Took 3 days to do it.

I'm very tired.

And could care less about a made up holiday like Kwanzaa.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Journalism or Activism or Rathering with the Embeds

When reporters engineer events in order to create news, they are pushing their own agenda. They are no longer journalists, reporting the news. They are now activists, pushing their own agenda. This time, using a National Guard soldier to do it.

Volcanic Activity Beyond Neptune?

Isn't this interesting? Something is happening out there. Makes you want to go see what it is, doesn't it?

Degrees of Separation: Religion in the Public Square

Back in my graduate student days at Wheaton College, my professors told me to "think deeply." I honestly didn't know what they meant fourteen years ago. Through this website I've learned the meaning of thinking things through, then going beyond my initial gut instincts to thinking deeply about various issues.
From gay rights, to tax policies, to the ongoing World War, I've been forced to explore my own ideas and opinions, and sometimes, change those opinions.
Of the First Amendment and religion. I've been thinking about it, especially the Separation of church and state. It's caused a real slow down in posting on other topics this week. Hopefully, I can correct that.

I'm still pondering, and now realize there will likely be no single post from me on this topic, at least not yet.

While I'm pondering, I would point you to a book on Liberty Recommends on the right.
The Twilight of Atheism by Alistair McGrath. He traces the rise and fall of a philosophy that had such a profound impact on the 20th Century, but who's influence has faded in the 21st.
Also, read this link to a history of Jefferson's phrase that has caused so much change over the past century. Here's the end of the article:
If, as I have argued, the wall is a profoundly flawed metaphor for First Amendment doctrine, then should we search for a better, alternative metaphor, such as James Madison’s “line of separation”? I think not. Although other tropes may yield interesting insights, we are best served by returning to the First Amendment itself.

Jefferson’s figurative language has not produced the practical solutions to real-world controversies that its apparent clarity and directness led its proponents to expect. Indeed, this wall has done what walls frequently do: It has obstructed the view. It has obfuscated our understanding of constitutional principles governing Church-State relationships.
The repetitious, uncritical use of felicitous phrases, Justice Felix Frankfurter observed, bedevils the law: “A phrase begins life as a literary expression; its felicity leads to its lazy repetition; and repetition soon establishes it as a legal formula, undiscriminatingly used to express different and sometimes contradictory ideas.” Figures of speech designed to simplify and liberate thought end often by trivializing or enslaving it. Therefore, as Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo counseled, “[m]etaphors in law are to be narrowly watched.” This is advice that courts would do well to heed.

A wall restricts influence on both sides, and presupposes the influence of religion, particularly Christianity, is always a negative. There are many who believe, as the author of the above article does, that the metaphor of the wall of separation has done great damage to our national discourse, and is at best extra-constitutional:
The judiciary’s reliance on an extraconstitutional metaphor as a substitute for the text of the First Amendment almost inevitably distorts constitutional principles governing Church-State relations. Although the “wall of separation” may felicitously express some aspects of First Amendment law, it seriously misrepresents or obscures others. In Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State, I contend that the wall metaphor mischievously misrepresents constitutional principles in at least two important ways.
Read those two important ways. Then, joining me in some deep thinking. My Wheaton College professors would be proud of you...and proud of me.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The New Standard in Election Fraud

Hard to top Ukraine for fraud and corruption. Chicago elections of the past don't even hold a candle to this:
MEDICAL experts have confirmed that Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s opposition leader, was poisoned in an attempt on his life during election campaigning, the doctor who supervised his treatment at an Austrian clinic said yesterday.

Doctors at Vienna’s exclusive Rudolfinerhaus clinic are within days of identifying the substance that left Mr Yushchenko’s face disfigured with cysts and lesions, Nikolai Korpan told The Times in a telephone interview.

Let's hope they get it right this time.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Dowd Who Hates Christmas...and Conservatives and Apparently Men in General

No further comment necessary. Read her column for today.
It's hard to know rather to laugh or cry.
One think is certain.
This poor woman really needs some therapy, or a husband.
Preferably a husband with a conservative, even Evangelical Christian, world view.

A Health Update

Periodically, I've stepped out from behind the curtain to update folks on my ongoing health issues. For those dropping in from Blog Explosion, and hate the personal blogs as much as I do, my apologies. These posts are the primary way I communicate with friends, coworkers and family members around the world.

The asthma continues to be a severe problem.
I'm still off work, on disability, but am much more functional than in the early stages of this ordeal.
I'll be having allergy testing tomorrow, as its obvious something continues to trigger the attacks. I'm having more good days than bad ones, but still struggling at times.
I may be referred to Rush in Chicago if things don't improve in the next few days.
The sleep apnea is much improved, thanks to the CPAP machine. I no longer have to periodically replace broken windows due to loud snoring, and it has helped the asthma immensely.

Thanks for the prayers, comments and emails. They are much appreciated. Still hanging in there, and still have hopes of getting back to work soon.

In the meantime, enjoy this next post.
It is increasingly obvious that Miss Dowd is in dire need of a Conservative boy friend, or better yet husband. Her continued meltdown is a sight to behold.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Death By Committee: The Groningen Protocol Part II

Hugh Hewitt has done yeoman's work on this topic. The link is to his article from The Weekly Standard.

The protocol was already in effect, and at least four babies had been deemed disposable, and killed.

This is either a low point, or a point of no return. The establishment of "independent committees" to dispatch non-consenting humans is nothing but a death penalty committee for innocents. Once begun, it is impossible--simply impossible--to limit the concept with any bright line. Abortion, of course, has always been limited by the physical act of birth, and once out of the womb, only the most extreme "reproductive rights" advocates have argued that the baby's natural right to live can be compromised by the mother. But now the Netherlands has gone farther--much, much farther. If the "severely retarded" may be killed upon appropriate motion, second, debate, and majority vote, why not the moderately retarded? Why not the mildly retarded? Why not, in fact, anyone the "independent committee" deems as usefully dispatched.

As Hugh notes, the MSM has yet to see this as worthy of their attention, and this would have been buried immediately if not for the bloggers. It remains an important, and sad, story.

Christians: A Tutorial for The Liberal Elite

From the Boston Globe, of all places. Hat tip to Laura Ingraham and her new site for this:

IN A recent speech at Tufts University, Andy Rooney reflected on the election and said, according to The Tufts Daily, that Christian fundamentalism is a result of "a lack of education. They haven't been exposed to what the world has to offer."

Those comments as well as the identification of the "bigoted Christian redneck" after Election Day in various editorials left me wondering: Where do these "liberal elites" get this fictional image of Christians? When did this distorted perspective begin in our cultural history? How can I work to bridge this gap?

Rooney is reflective of the "liberal elite" in America that suffers from an odd disconnect with much of America and those who voted for President Bush. With respect to Isaac Asimov, I have decided to create "The Three Political Laws of Christian Fundamentalists" for the confused "liberal elite":

* A Christian is a human being capable of independent, logical reasoning to the highest order.

* A Christian is not a mindless entity seeking to obey public religious leaders, such as Pat Robertson, John Paul II, or Ralph Reed, when voting on the future of America.

* A Christian must protect his own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the Bible.

These laws might serve a good base as these elites attempt to reach out to those in "Jesusland" over the next four years and work to correct their lenses that only allows them to see "homophobic knuckle-draggers."

The rest of the article is just as timely and profound.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Methodist Jury Convicts Gay Minister

In a secular society, I support Civil Unions for homosexuals, the same cannot be said for The Church. I've read the arguments supporting homosexuality from a Christian perspective, and simply find them lacking. From an Evangelical Christian standpoint, this ruling is a good thing. It pulls the United Methodist Church from the brink of heresy, and will prevent schism. The same cannot be said for the Episcopal Church USA. Another crisis point is fast approaching with a meeting of African Bishops scheduled for February.

The Education of Dan Rather: Peggy Noonan

A very compassionate, yet hard hitting look at the career of Dan Rather. No one else could have written this peice.

The UN Oil For Food Scandal: Reaching Critical Mass

We must wait for the full report.
We must not rush to judgement.
We must not judge these esteemed leaders too harshly until all the facts are in.
Never heard those statements from the MSM when Enron broke....
Didn't hear those statements linked to Haliburton, and still don't.
Wonder why?

The Place to Go For Avocados!

Supporting U.S. Avocado Growers

Mexico has won an important importation victory. From now on, many if not most of the avocadoes you will be seeing will come from there. If you want to support a California grower, go to Avohead.com. He's got some Christmas specials running right now. Support US growers.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Groningen Protocols: Murdering Children by Committee

I'm keeping this the top post for some time. There is no more important story than this from the Netherlands:

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - A hospital in the Netherlands - the first nation to permit euthanasia - recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives.

The announcement by the Groningen Academic Hospital came amid a growing discussion in Holland on whether to legalize euthanasia on people incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives - a prospect viewed with horror by euthanasia opponents and as a natural evolution by advocates.

In August, the main Dutch doctors' association KNMG urged the Health Ministry to create an independent board to review euthanasia cases for terminally ill people "with no free will," including children, the severely mentally retarded and people left in an irreversible coma after an accident.

The story ends with this:

"Measures that might marginally extend a child's life by minutes or hours or days or weeks are stopped. This happens routinely, namely, every day," said Lance Stell, professor of medical ethics at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., and staff ethicist at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. "Everybody knows that it happens, but there's a lot of hypocrisy. Instead, people talk about things they're not going to do."

More than half of all deaths occur under medical supervision, so it's really about management and method of death, Stell said.

The "management and method of death" occurring under "medical supervision" and all under the direction of an independent committee. Nice and sanitary. As the story says, the slippery slope becomes a vertical cliff. This is about more than euthanasia, as bad as this sounds. It's about who chooses life and death, parents or a committee? Who decides who has free will, and who has lost that will? And who would you want on your committee, should you need it? A frightening, frightening story.

Update: 06:30 PM 11/30/04
Hugh Hewitt has spent most of his 3 hour radio show on this story, and posted to the story as well.
He draws significant parallels to the Wansee Conference. The comparison is relevant, and incredibly scary:

The Wannsee Conference, as it became known to history, did not mark the beginning of the "Final Solution." The mobile killing squads were already slaughtering Jews in the occupied Soviet Union. Rather, the Wannsee Conference was the place where the "final solution" was formally revealed to non-Nazi leaders who would help arrange for Jews to be transported from all over German-occupied Europe to SS-operated "extermination" camps in Poland. Not one of the men present at Wannsee objected to the announced policy. Never before had a modern state committed itself to the murder of an entire people.
The release today of this story on the Groningen Protocols may rank with the Wannsee Conference as the date the Culture of Death openly declared war on the Culture of Life.

Update: 09:30 PM 12/1/04
The story is beginning to percolate through the news cycle. Here's a google search of news stories as of 9:30 tonight. Sounds like Dennis Miller will spend some time on the story tomorrow night. Some bloggers are gettting into the story. Hugh Hewitt has again devoted alot of time to this story today. Mark D. Roberts has an extensive collection of links on this story. One is by a Vatican bio ethicist, who asks some pointed questions:

Some scholars have noted the existence of a great contradiction in contemporary society, a sort of schiz-ophrenic split: on the one hand, the proclamation of "human rights" and the search for the definition of "crimes against humanity", and on the other, the inability to define who the human person is, and consequently, what action should be deemed human or inhuman (cf. J.C. Guillebaud, Le principe d'humanité, Chap. I).

What it seems we are losing in our culture is the "principle of humanity".

Is it human to treat pain and to provide hospices for the sick afflicted with tumours or is it more humane to make available to those afflicted by incurable illnesses lethal drugs, whether they ask for them personally or their doctors presume that they would seek them if they could?

Who has the authority to decide whether a concept is "humane or inhumane", when human nature, the ontology of the person and an adequate concept of human dignity have been denied?

Does the person who is dying retain his or her human dignity so that no one can impose a despotism of life and death on one suffering and about to die?

This is the point: rediscovering human dignity, the dignity of every person who has value as such, a value that transcends earthly reality and is the source and purpose of social life, a good on which the universe converges (St Thomas Aquinas describes the person "quod est perfectissimum in rerum natura"), a good that cannot be exploited for any other interest by anyone (as the best of the secular moral traditions recalls, starting with Kant)

What does it mean to be human? Who has the right to end that human life? And who decides the answers to those questions? These are fundamental questions facing Western Civilization in the 21st century. How we answer the questions will determine much about how history will see this time.