Friday, July 12, 2002

P.S. I'm basically still out -- I just wanted to add the post below.

update I'm having tremendous problems with the comments feature -- I played with it a little and ended up not even being able to post these last two items. I'm leaving comments out for now and may wipe it all clean and start over again. Or comments may reappear without my intent -- who knows.
Kass The Kass Council is out with it's report on cloning, as I'm sure everyone who's come here is aware.

In brief, the 10 member majority of the Council "recommend a ban on cloning-to-produce-children combined with a four-year moratorium on cloning-for-biomedical-research." On the other hand, the seven member minority supports permitting "cloning-for-biomedical-research now, while governing it through a prudent and sensible regulatory regime, is the most appropriate way to allow important research to proceed while insuring that abuses are prevented." The 10 member majority is made up of Rebecca S. Dresser, Francis Fukuyama, Robert P. George, Mary Ann Glendon, Alfonso Gómez-Lobo, William B. Hurlbut, Leon R. Kass, Charles Krauthammer, Paul McHugh, and Gilbert C. Meilaender. The seven member minority is made up of Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Daniel W. Foster, Michael S. Gazzaniga, William F. May, Janet D. Rowley, Michael J. Sandel, and James Q. Wilson.

By and large, the Council seems to have really struggled with the issues at hand, seeking both to understand and be understood. Yes, the members came in with many pre-conceived ideas, but these are ideas that comes from years of study and deliberation and do not reflect some sort of knee-jerk positions, whether they arrive at results favored by some or not. As Charles Murtaugh writes: ". . . the commission was proving more balanced than its early detractors had expected, myself included. It is to Kass's credit that he is publishing the dissenting report alongside the majority opinion, rather than trying to create a false sense of unanimity." Personnally, I think the Council members have proved to be far more open-minded on these questions than their detractors (excepting Mr. Murtaugh).

I do find the Tapped search for commies, er, pro-lifers pretty humorous. we were shocked to discover at least one section that seems to imply that human embryos are morally equivalent to persons. To quote:
As much as we wish to alleviate suffering now and to leave our children a world where suffering can be more effectively relieved, we also want to leave them a world in which we and they want to live -- a world that honors moral limits, that respects all life whether strong or weak, and that refuses to secure the good of some human beings by sacrificing the lives of others.

I have been reading the personal statements in the Appendix and have found several to be very interesting and thought-provoking. (At 196 pages, I have not read all the statements yet.) In particular, I was impressed by the joint statement of Robert George and Alfonso Gómez-Lobo (p. 168), focusing on the status of the embryo (I confess a particular interest in the discussion of miscarriage as I have a family member grieving over a very recent miscarriage, as well as another friend who experienced her fourth miscarriage in the past month) and the statement of James Q. Wilson (p. 194) who favors "Regulated Cloning-for-Biomedical-Research." Next up for me is the statement of Dr. Hurlbut (page 176)

One last note, Professor James Q. Wilson, of UCLA, shows that he may have been reading UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh's upcoming article on slippery slopes:
There is always some risk that allowing even strongly regulated research will create conditions that lead some scientists to ask for access to fertilized eggs beyond the blastocyst stage. But I do not believe we can object to this by making a generalized slippery slope argument, since virtually every medical procedure that involves entering or affecting the human body would also be liable to such an argument, a conclusion that would leave us (for example) without surgery. The slippery slope argument, stated baldly, would lead us to oppose allow-ing doctors to remove an inflamed appendix because they might later decide to remove a kidney, and after that a heart, and to oppose as well doctors prescribing a drug that will harm 0.5 percent of its recipients because we suspect that, once they do this, they will later insist on prescribing drugs that harm 1 percent, and then 10 percent, and possibly 50 percent of their patients. There may be good slippery slope arguments, but they cannot rest simply on the phrase “slippery slope”; they must also point clearly to a serious moral hazard and contain some reason for thinking that this hazard will become much more likely if we take the first step.
You can find this section all the way at the end of the appendix.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Off line. It looks like another 12+ hour day today at work, so not much in the way of blogging. I'm probably going to take the comments boxes off-line for a little while, as well. It appears that I'm not able to update my links and some other things while that code is lurking behind the scenes. Check back with me in a week or two and I should be back to 'normal' (heh).

Monday, July 08, 2002

Overruled. More on Judge Stephen Reinhardt.
And speaking of correspondence... I actually had a telephone call from Fritz Schranck this morning -- how cool -- this world is shrinking.
Rambing about the Pledge and walls and so on. I received a nice note from a person in C' ville, VA (when I lived in the Valley, we referred to Charlottesville as 'hookville' because the C looked like a hook when abbreviated.) disagreeing with me on the Newdow (pledge) decision. The reader writes "Church and state should be separate and 'under God' clearly violates this this supposed separation."

I agree that the church and state occupy different spheres (see Augustine, City of God), nevertheless, these spheres cross over from time-to-time (especially in an expanisve state like we live in now.*). Accordingly, strict separation is both impossible and unwise, not to mention, not a constitutional doctrine.

The framers, whether by happy accident or shrewd foresight barred the establishment of religion by law of Congress. The framers did not mandate a total separtion of religion and state. I believe that the framers recognized that religion was necessary to government (see, for example, the Northwest Ordinance: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind. . ." therefore would not seek to exclude it.

Moreover, it should be noted that the national charter is not the U.S. Constitution, it is rather the Declaration of Independence. (The Constitution, of course, replaced the Article of Confederation. The second self-evident truth set forth in the Declaration is that all are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. . ." The "representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appeal[ed] to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of [their] intentions . . ." Finally, their pledge was issued "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence. . ." Accordingly, I believe, the phrase "under God" as used in the Pledge of Allegiance is fully consistent with the national charter and is a statement of fact and not a matter of religion.

The phrase "under God" was used by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address (". . .that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.") which itself references not the Constitution as the charter of the U.S., but the Declaration (calculate the fourscore and seven years). Therefore, there is all a poetic symmetry that weaves its way throughout.

Now, one may object to the use of the phrase in the Pledge. If so, the proper thing to do is to seek to amend it. However, this is not what Mr. Newdow tried to do, rather he is attempting to impose his views of the constitution and his religion on the people of the United States. Moreover, there is nothing in the Constitution which supports this view. Rather it is a series of Supreme Court decisions that have gone seriously off-kilter from the words and intent of the framers (not to mention the national charter).

And I understand those of you who are devoutly religious or non-religious who object to this phrase in the pledge. I almost agree with you, for the reasons stated in James Madion's Memorial and Remonstrance:
. . . for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.
Based on this essay by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., it appears that President Theodore Roosevelt had similar doubts:
T. R. expressed his "very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins . . . not only does no good but does positive harm." His objection to "In God We Trust" was not constitutional; it was aesthetic. He felt that the motto cheapened and trivialized the trust in God it was intended to promote. "In all my life I have never heard any human being speak reverently of this motto on the coins or show any sign of its having appealed to any high emotion in him," he wrote. Indeed, he added, "the existence of this motto on the coins was a constant source of jest and ridicule." (my emphasis added)
Okay, I know I've gone on too long (I've got to to my share of 'blithering' to keep my title -- the idiocy comes effortlessly), but I did want to thank Jason Steffens for his link to the essay in the NYTime this past weekend on the 'wall of separation' phrase. When reading this last night, I recalled that Roger Williams was the souce of the metaphor and made a note on Steffans blog to that effect. I went looking through my books and didn't find the reference I recollect, but did come across this quote that rings true in my memory, but I don't have a source:
When they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the Church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the candlestick, and made his garden a wilderness, as at this day. And that therefore if He will e'er please to restore His garden and paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world...
Since I don't have the source of that, consider it dubious for now, until I can back it up (or if someone else has it). In addition, consider Rich Hailey's comments and quotes on the Jeffersonian correspondence.

See also, this Rehnquist dissent for a critique of the the Court's use of the "wall" metaphor. From Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985).

Last, here's a piece on how the phrase got into the pledge.
endnote (for a blog, of all places):
*Justice Rehnquist accurately notes in his Thomas v. Review Board dissent: "First, the growth of social welfare legislation during the latter part of the 20th century has greatly magnified the potential for conflict between the two Clauses, since such legislation touches the individual at so many points in his life."

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Cover Watch. Newsweek sleeps. Time disses meat. US News doesn't even publish (it did a double issue on American Music last week). Let's give thanks for a slow news week.

Update. Sasha Volokh reading the world news in Latin out of Finland also finds it was a slow news week.