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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Jesus + crucifixion = New Passover

By: Ed


I have to admit that I didn't, and still don't completely, understand the whole meaning of Christs need to be murdered so cruelly. This however, is due in no small part to, as well as Michael, not being a theologian. I can provide some reasons though and I hope they will be satisfactory for now.

First, try this ESSAY on Christ's redemptive death. It is from the Franciscans I believe and can be found along with many other useful theological works on Catholic Encyclopedia.

As Michael pointed out, Jesus was an example; a perfect one. His perfection lies with His divine nature and the abundance of grace in his soul. We must be careful though not to lesson His suffering or rejection of sin because of His divine nature. It is true that He was sinless, but so was Adam when he turned away. It was also true that Satan was once possibly the closest being to God when He rejected truth for lies. Sin, evil, is in any form and for anyone tempting. We see the good in it because God made it that way. The sin of gluttony for example may be brought on by our seeing the good in the taste of something. Gluttony is a sin because it is in excess. Remember, sin in its most basic nature is putting creation before the creator. Living in moderation is a large part of being able to deny the world when commanded for God.

Now granted, humans, due to our nature, have imperfections. We get cold and hungary. We don't always understand the world around us. Christ embraced this imperfection, but He was perfect in spirit and love, which is the whole point. Being both human and divine, Christ both knew everything, but still had everything to learn. This is important in understanding Jesus.

Now, Christs whole life was an example. Everything He did was for the Father and out of love for Him who is and us. Scripture and tradition though clearly state that His sacrifice was what redeemed us, so His life without the final death would not have completed our salvation.

One quick thing before I go on, I noticed that Michael said Christ's ressurection was more important than His death. My opinion on that has always been that they were both just as important; and not just because one couldn't be done without the other. I've always thought that, with the power of God, coming back to life would be comparatively easy compared to humbling yourself before the creatures you made to suffer and die for them. That is just my own view and indeed both death and resurrection are linked and necessary to each other.

It is common in the Catholic Church to hear "we accept Christ's crucifixion in our own lives so that He may accept our resurrection with Him in the world to come". An important part of Christ's becoming a man is that we are united to Him. The past law, however imperfect, provided for the remission of sins, but did not unite God and man. (I will get more into this in a second)

One man and one woman caused our initial fall. They were sinless and chose to leave the grace of God. Is not it fitting that one man and one woman, both made sinless by the intercession of God, be the ones to start our redemption. Now don't get me wrong, Mary is sinless, but she is not our redeemer, Christ is. His divine nature is the extra ingredient no creature could provide in a sacrifice, but Mary, by her acceptance of the task of being mother to our Lord fulfilled the role Eve cast aside. (Just a bit of typology that I find interesting)

Now comes the reason and explanation of the title of my post. Jesus' sacrifice is the new Passover sacrifice. The Passover sacrifice was a covenant; a family bond. It brought the people of God to the table with Him to affirm their commitment and His in being loyal to each other. He would be their God and they would be His people.

You will notice in the reading of the Passion from your bible that God says "It is finished" after asking for a drink. He can't possibly mean our salvation because all tradition and scripture state that our salvation was complete AFTER the resurrection of our Lord. He is talking about the transference of the Passover sacrifice (an imperfect one) into His sacrifice. Going back a bit, we see that Jesus skipped part of the Passover sacrifice. He said the cup of blessing, which is where He says "This is the cup of my blood". He leaves out the last cup though. He just gets up and leaves. After He is tortured and near death, he ask for a drink "so that scripture might be fulfilled". This drink is the final cup of the Passover celebration. Then He says "It is finished".

The sacrifice of Passover is only fulfilled when you eat the flesh of the lamb and drink of the (I think 4) cups. It is essential. This is why the Church celebrates the Eucharist. It is the REAL sacrifice of Jesus and, in eating the bread and drinking of the cup, we unite ourselves to Him; not just as part of His family, but with Him actually in us and us in Him. We are for the first time united with God to share in His rule, His life and His Glory.

After re-reading Michael's post, there are a few other things I need to clarify. It is true that Christ descended into hell, but you must realize what is meant. In Jewish theology, there were two hells, though not as we might know them (or think we know them). Hell was, basically, not heaven. Heaven was closed to all souls until Jesus fulfilled the Father's will by sacrificing himself. So all good, or at least semi-good souls went to a type of hell that was really like a waiting room. All damned souls that rejected God and did evil went to hell hell. This second hell wasn't a waiting room, it was permanent and the hell we know of today. Jesus descended into hell, but it was the first hell. He delivered the souls of the Jewish patriarchs and good people from this waiting room and into heaven. That is the meaning of Jesus' descent into hell.

Hope this helps,

Ed

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easterish Thoughts

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


Happy Easter! For Christians this is the most important day of the year. The resurrection of Jesus was not only more important than his death, his resurrection necessitated his death. Jesus died so that he could rise again after three days.

I'm no theologian. The standard way Jesus's death and resurrection has always been explained to me makes little sense. Ok, Jesus died to save us from our sins. We hear it all the time, but what exactly does that mean? Does that mean God couldn't forgive sins before Jesus died? Well, no. God forgave the many sins of David, remember. Jesus himself forgave sins before he died (the woman at the well; the convicted felon on the adjacent cross who repented and to whom Jesus said, "Today, you will walk with me in Paradise.").

Here's another one that is repeated so often with nary a thought of what it means: "Jesus died for your sins." Yes, that's right, right up there on that cross, Jesus didn't die for the sins of mankind in general, he died for each person's individual sins, all those people who came before and after him. Even you. Even on that cross, while he was enduring that unimaginable, excruciating pain, between being nailed up there and having a spear thrust into his side to make sure he was dead, he somehow was able to think, "Aaaron Aaaronson, I forgive you your sins. Allison Abernathy, I forgive you your sins. Amanda Abazaid, etc." Not that such a thing is not possible, it just doesn't seem all that likely, given the circumstances.

Of all the parts of the standard telling of the "Last Weekend" story (hey, I like that!), the one that I have always had the strongest objections to was the part where Our Lord and Savior goes to Hell. This appalling conclusion is based on the belief that, on the cross, Jesus somehow took upon himself all the sins of every person who had ever, and would ever, live. These sins "stuck" onto Jesus like Post-It Notes. Because, as Paul says, "The wages of sin are death," Jesus went to Hell. From his death till his resurrection, the Son of God, part-and-parcel of God himself, languished in Hell, subject to all the torments of Satan. I'm sorry, that just doesnt seem to based on the Gospels at all, or at least my understanding of them. After his death, Jesus must have gone back up to Heaven to be in "my father's house."

I think the true significance of Jesus' death was as an example. God sent His Son to die on a cross as a demonstration. What is the one thing people fear most? Death. By sacrificing his son, God showed his love for us. By allowing him to be resurrected, God demonstrated that death is nothing to be afraid of. It is God, not Satan, who has all the aces.

Satan surely rejoiced at that dark hour on Calvary. He had stirred up the passions of the crowd to kill the Son of God. Yet, in his time of triumph, a mighty earthquake rocked the Earth to its very foundations and the rock was rolled away from the tomb. God proved that Life is stronger than Death, Hope is stronger than Fear, Love is stronger than Hate, and Good is stronger than Evil. If God's love for us, despite our abominable sins, can conquer death itself, then we have nothing to be afraid of. That is the message of Easter, brought to us by the angel of God on that Easter morn so long ago: "Be not afraid!" Since God has conquered death, he can bridge the great divide that separates him from us mere mortals and grant us forgiveness from our sins. That bridge is Jesus.

Our sins were not magically washed away when Jesus died on the cross. We have to earnestly repent of our sins and strive to do better. Again, let me repeat that I am not a theologian. These are just my opinions. Yours is as good as mine. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

ANWR are you thinking?

By: Ed


Too be honest, I wouldn't know anything about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if I had not had to write a paper about it for my Wildlife class. Now, of course, the points brought up by Michael were important, but they fail to provide a substantial reason not to drill. If anything, drilling produces minimal risks with plenty of gains for the democrats. A smart liberal politician would make this concession with the Republicans for some other legislation.

What Michael forgot to point out was that the "ecological and biological jewel of the American Arctic" is tundra. For those of you unaware of this ecosystem let me explain. The tundra, in its grandest form is dirt; cold dirt. Also there are some grasses and perhaps a bush here and there scattered about the cold, cold dirt. Now don't get me wrong, this type of ecosystem should still be preserved as it is distinct. Even though this environment is plentiful in Russia, America should have one too. So lets get to the environmental problems...

The drilling will be about 2,000 acres which is, as Michael correctly pointed out, the size of an airport. However, this is 2,000 acres out of the 18 million acres that the ANWR is composed of. Also, there will be only the drills on this site. All roads, as the oil companies have promised (and done before) if allowed to drill, will be frozen. You see, the advantage of cold dirt is that frozen roads are not totally out of the question, especially in winter when the temperature goes to -50 degrees fahrenheit. This is also useful as the oil companies are willing to agree to drill only in the winter when extreme temperatures force all the cute, and thus worthy of saving, animals into other parts of the ANWR. During the summer months, as the oil companies have done before, ramps for the animals migrating will be constructed where the pipeline itself cannot be raised. There has been no evidence of decreased populations due to inability to get past pipes. So, now after returning, the animals come back to their dirt, sans human drilling. They simply eat the grass around the drills where necessary.

It is also worth noting that the native tribes where drilling would take place want the oil companies there to provide jobs. They now live in sub-standard conditions. The only tribe against the drilling lives about one hundred miles away. It is also a bit amusing that this particular tribe let the oil companies pay for exploratory drilling in their own land and only came out against drilling after none was found. It appears they are a bit spiteful in their "if we can't have it you can't" attitude.

So, I maintain that there is little harm in letting oil companies seek there 6 months of oil, especially for a skilled politician willing to bargain. I do believe, and agree with Michael, that other sources of fuel need to be attained and harnessed.. Oil won't last forever..

Ed

Friday, March 18, 2005

In Lieu of a Poem

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


Well, I was going to present here a poem entitled "The Ides of March", but as my muse has deserted me (Do let me know if you happen to come across that faithless woman. Tell her I didn't mean those things I said and that she always inspires me.) I shall have to make do with prose in lieu of a poem. Not to worry. I'll likely post another poem when my muse returns. Also, following Akerman's example, I will soon launch a short story of my own in serial installments. Stay tuned....



To What Do I Owe the ANWR?

Ah, spring. The time when the thoughts of crotchety old Republican politicians and the oil barons that own their souls turn to.... DRILLING! ("Quick, Horace, the permafrost is starting to thaw! Hurry with the ice picks, there be oil in this here glacial wilderness!")

That's right, the ExxonMobileShellBPAmocoChevronTexaco cartel is once again launching its annual "Drill in ANWR" campaign. This time, it looks like the oil industry has purchased enough Republican senators to finally acquire their Holy Grail.

Why should we care? ANWR (pronounced "Ann-whar" or perhaps "On-whar") stands for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It was originally set aside by Dwight Eisenhower and given its current name by Jimmy Carter with the intent of setting aside some small part of the vast land area of America to remain forever untouched by human hands(except for the natives who live there; forcing them out would be wrong). That's actually the strongest argument for letting the ANWR be--is it so much to ask that at least one relatively small area be left aside, primitive, the way God made it? Nature for nature's sake?

It is a major wildlife sanctuary, after all, known as "America's Serengeti." According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the area of ANWR they propose to drill on has the greatest diversity of wildlife of any area the government protects above the Arctic Circle. The proponents of drilling point out that they don't want to drill on all of the ANWR, just the small part that is the coastal plain. But is that very coastal plain that is the ecological and biological jewel in the crown of the American Arctic. 45 mammal species, including polar bears, grizzly bears, wolverines, wolves, muskoxen, caribou and 180 species of bird all inhabit this narrow strip. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that the only thing worth protecting in the ANWR is the very coastal plain they would despoil. And make no mistake: the USGS and other governmental organizations and scientists assert that drilling, no matter how "environmentally-friendly" it may be, in this extremely sensitive ecosystem will have major detrimental effects on wildlife.

Also, the claims proponents make about how the drilling is "non-invasive" and will only take up the size of a small airport are the arguments the oil companies spout to justify it. (Since they would benefit from it, I'm naturally suspicious of their claims. I'd rather trust the claims of disintersted scientists over oil industry scientists whose financial future is staked to drilling. A wee bit of a conflict of interest.) Besides, the way you get such a small figure is by not factoring in the land the pipelines will pass over but only factoring in the land where it touches the ground.

Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey and Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimated that "The distribution of potential oil and gas of the Arctic Refuge is likely to be scattered in numerous discrete deposits across the coastal plain. This would require a large number of well pads, connected by pipelines, roads, airports, housing facilities, processing plants, and other infrastructure with effects that would radiate across the entire coastal plain. Other industrial operations, such as seismic exploration, water withdrawals, gravel mines, noise from operations, air pollution, and exploratory drilling would have effects over a much larger area. Since the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, the NRC found that the North Slope oil fields, which sprawl across 1,000 square miles of Arctic habitats, have been transformed into one of the world's largest industrial complexes. Spills of toxic substances, contaminated waste, and other sources of pollution have chronically occurred, in spite of strict environmental regulations." (According to a letter from more than 1000 eminent American and Canadian scientists, including world-famous biologist E. O. Wilson, at http://www.savearcticrefuge.org/scientist.pdf)

In addition, the USGS has estimated that the amount of oil in ANWR is negligible, the mean estimate being 10.4 billion barrels, a 6-month supply. Given that, is it really worth it to despoil the last bit of protected Arctic wilderness in America for a mere 6 months worth of oil? Oil that won't even be on the market for at least 10 years?
http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-0028-01/fs-0028-01.pdf

Ironically, most oil companies are no longer interested in ANWR's oil. "BP, ConocoPhillips and ChevronTexaco have withdrawn from Arctic Power, the business coalition formed to lobby for drilling in ANWR. Among big oil companies, only ExxonMobil Corp. remains." http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/216352_anwr17.html

I guess they realize 10.4 billion barrels isn't really worth the effort.

If, as the drilling enthusiasts claim, America desperately needs more oil from at home, may I point you to the even larger National Petroleum Reserve? (http://aurora.ak.blm.gov/npra/) Its 23.5 million acres (the area of ANWR that proponents want to drill on is only 1.5 million acres) was specially set aside for drilling for oil in the event of a petroleum shortage (which is, mind you, not what we are currently experiencing). So, here's a radical idea: before we start drilling in a federally-protected wildlife refuge, why not first at least attempt drilling in an area set aside for the express purpose of future drilling?

The pro-drillers would have more credibility in calling for energy independence, if their efforts to acheive didn't stop and end with ANWR. Simple conservation measures could save America far more oil than we'd ever get from ANWR. Rather than supporting experimentation to find new sources of energy, which is really the only way to acheive energy independence, the drillers are addicted to crude.

Make-or-break Moment for the Environmental Movement

Of course, the environmental movement doesn't have too much credibility on the issue, either. Exhibit A: nuclear power. I know why many environmentalists oppose it, because, when the occasional complete nuclear meltdown occurs it kills a lot of spotted owls or something, right? Seriously, a lot of people die or get cancer in the vacinity of a nuclear power plant experiencing a meltdown. But these are rare due to the safety features in place. Plus, the number that would be killed by a single nuclear meltdown, say as many as 100,000, is far less than the number of people killed each and every year as a result of air pollution from old coal-firing plants and car exhaust.

This kind of knee-jerk environmentalism is counterproductive. It is one of the major reasons why the movement lacks the power now to protect places like ANWR. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times concurs: "The U.S. environmental movement is unable to win on even its very top priorities, even though it has the advantage of mostly being right." He points out that while banning the spraying of DDT saved wildlife it also allowed thousands of Africans to die of malaria. What kind of tradeoff is that? And what does it say about the environmental movement that at least some within it are willing to make that tradeoff? http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/12/opinion/12kristof.html

The heads of all the environmental organizations need to come together to come up with a list of priorities (number one being global warming) instead of fighting disparate crusades, and pool their resources. They need to find smart symbolic fights they can win (things that directly impact people's lives, such as air and water pollution). Most people are environmentalists, but many have become alienated by the "Greenpeace" fringe of the movement, with its constant irresponsible alarmism, all too often adopted by mainstream environmentalists to scare people into action. When, as Kristof reports, "41 percent of Americans considered environmental activists to be 'extremists'", the environmental movement has a serious problem.

They need to look at common-sense solutions, such as nuclear power, hydrogen fuel cells, and cleaner-burning coal. There is no panacea for energy independence, for weaning a nation off dirty non-renewable energy sources. All reasonable options should be on the table, if the environmental movement does not want to become completely irrelevant, helplessly unable to corral the majority of the American public that supports its goals to protect the incredible biological diversity of this country and ensure a decent quality of life for future generations.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Never Bought That Bandwagon, Judicial judgment for Juvenile Justice, and Bear 3

By: Michael Akerman


A bit of personal-life info., not because I want to, but as set-up for the post:

Tomorrow, I've got this Eagle Banquet thing (to celebrate the Eagle Scout rank I earned about a year ago). Of course, I was living in Greensboro at the time I earned Eagle, so that's where the ceremony will be (Old North State Council, to be precise).

My dad, being the Scout Executive of the Occoneechee Council (that's Raleigh), goes to a lot of these things. Indeed, he went to one last week with my mom. Which brings me to my point.

My mom's been joking about the generally disheveled state of the Eagle award recipients at this event. These lackadaisical honorees have a general malaise about them, slouched back as they shuffle forward, generally disinterested in their surroundings, recognitions, or personal hygiene. These boys, all receiving the highest honor of a trusted institution, all trained in the morals and skills necessary for a successful life, seemed to view this event as a plague to be avoided.

This is, I should point out, by no means an issue limited to the Scouts. Rather, this slipshod attitude toward life seems nearly epidemic in my generation. Maybe I have been misinformed, but I rarely see photos of children prior to the 60s receiving prestigious awards with anything less than bursting pride on their faces.

It occurs to me that this may be due to the general disrespect of authority in my generation (as well as the generation immediately previous). My peers seem to bear the foolish outlook that their parents, teachers, grandparents, and any other person who is not wearing their pants at the time has no idea how the world works: their opinions and experiences are not applicable to them, no sir. Sure, drug use, rampant sex, and idiotic motoring practices have ruined countless lives over the years, but that has nothing to do with my generation, because, well... it just doesn't, okay?

I think these Scouts see their award as inconsequential. Even though dozens of people have expressed the monumental nature of this, though they have heard dozens of stories about people who felt their life was changed by either getting or not getting this, these Scouts decide that the Eagle rank is simply an obstacle that they removed to stop getting flack from their parents.

I've never quite understood this, frankly. I can't remember a time when I haven't taken the lessons of experience or age, song or story, remembrance or philosophy to heart and modified myself due to them. I don't mean to toot my own horn (I only due that in my room at night, with the lights off), but I'm going to be frank: I have a record of being successful at most all of the important things in life: academics, philosophy, morality, et al. I have no doubt that this is because I take the lessons around me to heart

So I exhort my peers, and those younger than me, to learn from others. For God's sake, listen to your elders; consider their experiences; avoid things that routinely have caused pain to others; use the abundant resources of adults to follow the right path in your own life. And please, take pride when you achieve something great. People may call you a fool for being proud, but those are the true fools. It is a dangerous world where pride falls prey to sensitivity.




The recent ruling by the Supreme Court that youngsters can't be killed off is causing me more than a bit of academic discomfort. Don't get me wrong: the ruling was philosophically correct. However, it falls far outside the bounds of what power a judicial system is allowed to execute.

The majority opinion in Roper v. Simmons (pdf) declared that it was against the 8th amendment limitation against cruel and unusual punishment to execute criminals who were minors when they committed murder. However, they based this decision (which is the reverse of a decision only 16 years old) on the "changing opinions" toward this issue. The barometer for these opinions: the existence of several laws in several states and several countries barring this practice.

Besides the pragmatic fact that these states and countries have very low execution rates anyways (California, et al. Banning something uncommon is not difficult), I have doubts about the constitutionality of the decision itself. Consider: the Supreme Courts ultimate duty is to be above popular opinion (hence, appointments, rather than elections) to determine the constitutionality of laws and statutes. The implication is that popular opinion should not be used as a yardstick for constitutionality.

I firmly believe this to be correct. Opinion is fickle. The Constitution, while flexible, cannot turn as the tides if we hope to maintain a healthy republic. Therein lies the problem: Roper v. Simmons sets a dangerous precedent for judicial activism.

Let me give an example especially for liberals: we all recall our schooling on slavery, institutionalized segregation, and the Supreme Court decisions that ended both. Consider Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas had Roper v. Simmons taken place prior to the decision. Under the faulty logic of this ruling, because several states already allowed the reprehensible practice of governmental segregation, it should be allowed.

This is, of course, part of a growing trend of activist judges in the past decades. Let legislation be left to the legislators.

Laying aside constitutional arguments, I think this decision will open a new can of worms. How will this decision apply to minors tried "as adults," or granted legal consideration as an adult? I predict we will see court cases about this, and more minors tried as adults, which is, frankly, an all too common occurrence already. If they are minors, they cannot be adults. If they are not considered adults by the societal standard (18 years old, here), then they must be minors.




Finally, I present "The Bear of Wolf Creek, Installment 3" (which is still not the last installment. By the way, I'm going to post the entire, unbroken story when I finish it).

Installment 2

Installment 1




"Now that bear didn' even make as if it were goin' to attack Big Sue. As fate may be, it just sat down about as far from Sue as you are from me, and it just stared her down, right in the eye. Now, normally, Sue would of jumped at the chance to take a bear down: that's a lot of meat to eat, and plenty of hide an' stuff to trade. But, asit were, Big Sue didn' have her gun nearby. She didn' figger when she left her camp that she'd be facin' down a bear.

"She decided that that bear didn' pose her no harm, though, so she walked, nice and slow, on up to get a better look. Right then, she decided that bear was special. As she came up to that big bear's face, she could see settin' on that bear's black back were white markings lookin' just like compass directions!"

"So it's a bear that bears bearings?" grinned Likkle Pete. Ol' Pete grinned in spite of himself.

"Watch your tongue, boy," he said. "As I was sayin', that bear done had a compass on it's back, and Sue knew that that bear was a safe critter to be aroun'. As she put her hand on that bear's head, the bear turned its eyes on up to look at her. Then, the bear done nudged Big Sue an' walked back to the woods.

"Now Sue didn' know where the bear was goin', but when it looked at her, moved for'ard, stopped, and looked at her again, she figgered it wanted her to follow. So she tailed that bear, bein' led deep in the woods. Sue started to hear likkle pained cries comin' from up ahead. The cries kept gettin' louder until she done come up on a clearin' in which she could see a likkle baby bear, whose foot had done gotten stuck in a bear trap!"

"Was the cub alright, Ol' Pete?" one of the older kids asked.

"Of course it was alright," said Ol' Pete. "Wouldn't be much of a story if it weren't!"

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

It's Only Common Sense, People!

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


Sick of all the partisan spin on the airwaves? Want a common sense analysis of the day's events? Well, you've come to the right place!



Common Sense Legislative Analysis

Having seen so many crack-brained ideas come out of the past several Republican congresses, I thought I'd seen it all. Then I heard about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's proposal (threat?) to effectively abolish the filibuster.
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/7046570/

The filibuster requires a vote of 60 senators to override. It is almost as old as the Senate itself. The effect of it is to increase compromise. Unless a party has 60 seats, it cannot force its will on a determined minority. So, the two sides meet and work out a compromise. Compromises are the cornerstone on which success in politics depends.

What has Republicans so incensed is that for the past several years, Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush's judicial nominees and allowed the confirmation of about 200 other nominees. Republicans blocked far more of Clinton's nominees for petty political reasons and you didn't hear Democrats talking about abolishing the filibuster.

Anyway, Frist, the almost certain Bush-backed Republican Presidential nominee for 2008, wants the number of votes it takes to override a filibuster to decrease from 50 to 51, a bare majority. They could accomplish this the next time the Democrats try to filibuster. A Republican Senator can appeal to the President of the Senate or the Presiding Officer (a Republican) that filibustering a judicial nominee is delitory and out of order. The President of the Senate will then agree and set a new precedent for a simple up-or-down majority vote on every nomination. Not so coincidentally, Republicans have a 55 seat majority in the Senate.

This is extremely shortsighted. The Republicans were in the minority in the Senate for about 50 years and in the majority only for the last 10. So, obviously, Republicans will likely be in the minority again at some point in the future. At which point, they will have effectively no power.

It is also extremely damaging to the tradtions and very nature of the Senate. Remember Mr. Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The filibuster is really the only weapon the minority have to allow them to be heard. The filibuster also helps our entire nation. The entire nation is served best by a vigorous debate in the national legislature. Also, one party can't nominate an extremist for fear of the other party using the filibuster and bringing the whole legislative process to a standstill. So, the two parties (three, if you count the president) consult and confirm a compromise candidate. The filibuster tempers the extremism of the majority, which is generally best for the nation.

The Senate was set up to be removed from the people. The House of Representatives has two year terms, so every member is constantly running for reelection and pandering to constituents rather than doing the business of the nation (hence all the pork barrel spending). The national interest is subordinated in favor of the local interest. The Senate has staggered six year terms, so that at any given time, 2/3 of the Senators are not running for reelection and can concentrate on the business of the nation. Thus removed from the ever-changing whims of their constituents, they can, at least for a time, feel free to ignore the local and state interest and make decisions based on the national interest. This makes the Senate far more of a deliberative body than the House.

Every school-kid knows the story of how Washington compared the Senate to a saucer into which you pour coffee to cool it down. The Senate is, or was until recently, a place where senators deliberated and debated what was best for the nation. Recently, however, Republicans have increasingly used the Senate to try to cram through their right-wing agenda, as they do in the House, without any regard for the opinions of the minority, the traditions of the Senate, or the best interests of the nation as a whole.

So, the Republicans have the votes to abolish the filibuster and get their way for a time. But they will have sacrificed the venerable traditions and deliberative quality of the Senate and the best interests of the nation upon the altar of political expediency.


Common Sense Foreign Commentary

In other news, Lebanon's prime minister has resigned after massive street protests calling for the resignation of the government and the withdrawal of all Syrian troops in Lebanon. The neocons and administration apologists are already spinning this as a triumph and complete vindication of the President's "bold vision" to spread democracy around the Middle East by first starting one up in Iraq.

Let's take a deep breath and look at the available evidence. The Iraqi election was on January 30. Between January 3o and February 14, nothing significant happened in Lebanon in terms of sparking a mass movement to get the Syrians out of Lebanon. The Christian minority had for years wanted Syrian troops out, but the Muslim majority of Lebanese didn't seem to care. Withdrawal was thus a factional issue. From February 14 on, it has become a national issue, as both Shiite and Sunni Muslims have joined the Christian opposition in large numbers. Simple logic dictates that something of significance must have happened on February 14.

As I'm sure all of you know, on February 14, a massive bomb exploded in Beirut, killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The whole premise of Syrian troops remaining in Lebanon was to maintain stability during and immediately after Lebanon's 15 year civil war. Even though the civil war ended in 1990, most Lebanese were content to have the Syrians remain to provide security. The bombing, the first since the war ended, immediately put the lie to the claim that the continuing presence of the Syrian troops was preventing violence. Plus, national crises tend to increase nationalism (remember 9/11?). And if there's one thing nationalists can't stand, it's an occupation. If that were not enough, Hariri was not only becoming an important figure in the pro-withdrawal camp, he had also been prime minister for most Lebanon's post-war history. He was a living symbol of the Lebanese people's unity and their bright hopes for their nation's future. His assassination was like John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859. It represented a tipping point between ignoring an obvious problem and confronting it, using whatever means necessary.

That is what is going on in Lebanon now. I hope that the democracy in Iraq succeeds and that all nations will soon enjoy the benefits of democracy. Iraq may yet initiate a wave of democratic change in the reason. But let's not kid ourselves: That's not what this is about. This is not about Iraq. It would be inappropriate and opportunistic to take credit.


Common Sense Jurisprudence

In other news, the Supreme Court has ruled that executing minors (people under the age of 18) constitutes "cruel and unusual" punishment.
http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/03/01/scotus.death.penalty/

Not only is it cruel, it is very unusual. In fact it is unheard of in developed democratic nations. Of course, it isn't unusual in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea and other bastions of tyrranny. Glad we're no longer in their company!

And a federal judge has ruled that, contrary to what the Bush Administration would have you beleive, it is unconstutional to lock up an American citizen and not try him.
The government has been trying to claim that American citizen Jose Padilla did not have these rights for the past two and a half years. Heck, give me just one minute and a pocket constitution and I could tell you it was unconstutional. Them Bush boys, they aren't too bright, are they?