Tuesday, January 31, 2006
As with Joel Stein, you're always better off knowing what people honestly think. For decades, the Middle East's dictators justified themselves to Washington as a restraint on the baser urges of their citizens, but in the end they only incubated worse pathologies. Western subsidy of Arafatistan is merely the latest example. Democracy in the Middle East is not always pretty, but it's better than the West's sillier illusions.
I read stories like this, and the very first paragraph makes me tired.
A UNIVERSITY Christian Union has been suspended and had its bank account frozen after refusing to open its membership to people of all religions.
I could understand a University turning a cold narrow eye to a group that declared, in its charter, that nonbelievers and sodomites alike would be cast into the lake of fire on Judgment day - and to prepare them for that event they would be set alight should they attempt to attend a meeting of the Christian Union.
But:Members claim the actions have been taken against them after they refused on religious grounds to make “politically correct” changes to their charitable constitution, including explicitly mentioning people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.
Personally, I suspect that the organization would welcome anyone who showed up for services, and not inquire too closely about what they wish to do with whom. But the Union isn’t in trouble for excluding people. They’re in trouble for not rewriting their constitution to “explicitly mention” some noisy people who, one suspects, are less interested in access to this particular group than enforcing the use of a wide bland smear of magic words that somehow insulates them from exclusion. It gets richer:The Christian Union was advised that the use of the words “men” and “women” in the constitution were causing concern because they could be seen as excluding transsexual and transgendered people.
So apparently the “Men” and “Women” sign on lavatory doors will be the new “Whites” and “Coloreds.” It’s a parallel world, these places, but they’re also a preview of coming attractions. Not that Wal-Marts in Oklahoma will have bathrooms next year whose doors say “YOUR CALL.” But somewhere in Oklahoma they will have this same tired argument at some point, and the end result will a setback for gay rights, no matter how it goes, and a setback for those sympathetic to gay-rights issues. Including, if I may be presumptuous, many gays.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Just for Fun
"Karl Rove sank back wearlily into the passenger seat of the specially modified SR-71, his thoughts turn with resignation to the two hours that he would have to spend with the makeup artist in Budapest charged with transforming his appearance into that of his fictional alter ego, George Soros. What had begun as a political lark had been transformed into a dreary task that he dreaded almost as much as he had finally come to dread his other appearances as the Bob Schrum charactor....
As soon as he hung up Karl mobilized the troops. First he called Pinch.
"An editorial. We need an editorial demanding the Dems show some spine and filibuster Alito. Drag out the stuff we used on Bork and Souter..You know babies will starve, women will die..the usual. (Lots of full page ads coming your way baby.Thanks.)"
His staff needed no suggestions. Before he got off the phone with Pinch, they'd posted please on DU and Kos demanding all Dems fax, email and call every Dem to insist they get some spine.Full lists of contact information were added to make it easy. And people were encouraged to report back.
Even Senator Setevens and some Reps who hadn't said they were committed were there.
Drinks were passed and chips. "Imagine thousands of calls round the clock from these moonbats," they laughed as they clicnked glasses.
Bringing Moral Clarity to Blasphemy
where are our bold blasphemers of Islam? Were is DeDe LaRue’s image of Mohammad as a dog? Where is Serrano’s picture “Piss Islam?” Where are the images of Mohammad using elephant dung as the medium? I’ll tell you: they are hiding under their beds. The desperate little cowards are in deadly fear of offending a religion that takes blasphemy seriously.
In church last Sunday I was struck by the fact that I was arguing for the wrong end-result. Those who mock and blaspheme any religion are juvenile. If DeDe LaRue says "People don’t like their religion made fun of--so that’s why I do it." She is expressing a belief that is truly infantile.
Religion is an intensely personal and profound part of many people’s emotional and intellectual life. It is not a fit object for ridicule or blasphemy.
While it is true that moral horrors are being committed in the name of Islam. That is no reason to ridicule Moslems or to insult their religion.
It is perfectly true that those creatures who feel free to mock Christianity are afraid to mock Islam. The objective of our scorn is not to create a whole new category of artists who mock Islam; it is to shame those who mock Christianity into the realization that they are not brave, bold vanguards of humanity, but cringing cowards.
Perhaps the death of Theo Van Gogh will bring a little moral clarity to all the posturing we have seen.
There is an old story about two poor Russian peasants. Each one had a cow.
One of the cows died and that night, a genie appeared to the peasant who had lost his cow and said: “I’ll grant you one wish.”
The peasant replied: “Kill my neighbor’s cow.”
That is the all-too-human reaction when we are injured. We must think about what is the right thing to do, not what will make the situation worse.
In modern times, the Left has been wrong about everything important — with the one exception of Nazism. Wrong about Stalin, wrong about Mao and Castro, wrong to support North Vietnam and the Sandinistas and Milosevic, wrong, wrong, wrong. And now the Left comes out to say that Saddam Hussein should have been allowed to stay in power, and his overthrow is worse than a mistake, indeed a crime. The enthusiasm for dictators is really quite extraordinary, except that it is so absolutely ordinary.
Why does the ideology of the Left give priority to totalitarianism over straightforward human freedom? Why is the Left habitually blind to the real victims? Probably there is no fully satisfying explanation of these central political conundrums, but Paul Berman explores them with insights all his own, and what’s more, in prose of strength, subtlety, and even humor.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
In Victoria, two hellfire Christian preachers, Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot, are facing jail after preaching against Islam in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Ever since, they've been fighting an action brought by the Islamic Council of Victoria under the state's new Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.
That's not too surprising. Everyone knows Oriana Fallaci is facing charges before an Italian magistrate for her criticisms of Islam. What about this: a French member of parliament has been convicted in court of making derogatory remarks about homosexuality.
For those Americans who take comfort in our constitutional guarantee of free speech, please keep in mind that "speech codes" can get you expelled from school if you say, do or even think the wrong thing.
WHY ARE WE AFRAID OF ISLAM?
The Catholic League published a report of insults to Christians during 1996. One example:
The Cherry Creek Arts Festival featured the work of DeDe LaRue, who habitually abuses religious images. In her work, "Rin Tin Tin Jesus," a sculpted dog has a stigmata, a crown of thorns, and a dog tag which reads, "Rin Tin Tin Jesus--If found return to heaven." It was part of her Dogma series and she was quoted in the Rocky Mountain News as saying, "People don’t like their religion made fun of--so that’s why I do it."
“People don’t like their religion made fun of – so that’s why I do it.”
Doing something because people don’t like it strikes me as juvenile, not artistic. But let that go. Why does DeDe LaRue boldly depict Jesus as a dog? Because she can, with not a hint of feeling intimidated. In fact, as we pointed out in a previous post, she may even write a letter to the editor (under a fake name) denouncing her exhibit to insure getting civil libertarian support for blasphemy – against Christians.
Since 9/11 we have been made painfully aware of another major religion: Islam. Adherents of that faith don’t like their faith ridiculed. But unlike Christians, they go a little further than writing letters to the editor. Everyone knows what happened to Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh after he made a film that depicted the way that Islam mistreats women. Not satisfied with shooting him to death, his faithful Muslim attacker also stabbed him and left a manifesto pinned to his chest with a knife to the heart.
Which brings me to the question: where are our bold blasphemers of Islam? Were is DeDe LaRue’s image of Mohammad as a dog? Where is Serrano’s picture “Piss Islam?” Where are the images of Mohammad using elephant dung as the medium?
I’ll tell you: they are hiding under their beds. The desperate little cowards are in deadly fear of offending a religion that takes blasphemy seriously.
Here is something that civil libertarians could protest, if they had the guts:
The Saudi Arabians have withdrawn their ambassador to Denmark. Not much of a loss, you may think, but those free-spirited open-minded 21st Century Saudis have been influential in getting other Middle Eastern countries to boycott Danish products. Again, as the main Danish exports are bacon, Danish ham and lager, not much of a loss, you may think. But Arla products (including Lurpak butter) are a big export earner and at least one Saudi supermarket has cleared its shelves of their products.
This is in response to the Jyllands-Posten having published 12 cartoons of Mohammad after a Danish writer complained that he couldn’t find anyone to illustrate a book he’d written about him. The cultural editor of the newspaper put out a call to illustrators, twelve responded and the paper published the cartoons. They were pretty tame stuff, but have rocked the Muslim world because under Islamic law – which they now seek to apply in the West – renderings of Mohammad are illegal.
The cultural editor of the Jyllands-Posen has remained unapologetic, saying he put out the call in response to a worrying trend he had observed in the Western media: self-censorship. The paper has received bomb threats and the editors and the cartoonists have received death threats from adherents of the Religion of Peace but all have stood their ground.
With great bravery, so has Denmark’s prime minister, Anders Rasmussen, who declined a requested meeting with the ambassadors from 11 Muslim countries, saying he has no control over Denmark’s press “and nor do I want such”.
This was last September and the Muslims aren’t letting this issue go away. They’ve already lodged a somewhat florid protest at the UN, where they got the sympathy of a tranzi ear or two. But their aim is an abject apology from Denmark for breaking an Islamic taboo - or else. They grow more threatening and the courageous Anders Rasmussen calmly declines to change his mind, saying publishing cartoons is not against Danish law, which is the law that applies in Denmark.
Why are our cowardly leaders letting the steadfast Mr Rasmussen and the newspaper’s editors take the heat alone? Why has not one American Congressman raised the issue in Congress? No one would expect an unequivocal response from the British prime minister, but is there not one British MP brave enough to support Mr Rasmussen and the Danish people who are, after all, defending the liberty of all of us? Is there not one newspaper editor – even a tabloid – with the strength of conviction to support the Danes? Now Danish livelihoods are being threatened for failing to condemn this infraction against Islamic law, with boycotts of their products.
Is there not one damn’ politician in the entire Anglosphere who will take a stand with Mr Rasmussen? What about John Howard, then? The newly elected Harper? God help us, where is Jesse Jackson?
We don’t have to guess where the craven cowards of the Left are on this, do we? They are too busy kissing up to Islamofascism. They have an agenda, and freedom of expression really is not on it, except as a tool to criticize Western Civilization.
Friday, January 27, 2006
"Worldviews are more a mental security blanket than a serious effort to understand the world."
Do conservatives make mistakes? Yes. Do liberals always get things wrong? No. But if I were still a liberal, I would want to be aware of -- and correct for -- a number of biases in thinking.
One bias is what Caplan terms in his book "pessimistic bias." People (not just liberals) tend to underestimate recent economic progress and future prospects. Pessimistic bias can be seen in doomsday environmental scenarios, claims that middle-class incomes are stagnating, and other liberal tropes.
Another bias is what Caplan calls anti-market bias. Liberals are excessively distrustful of markets and overly confident about the use of government power. The assumption is that government power will always be administered with wisdom and benevolence. I would be the first to admit that markets are not perfect. And government programs are not always failures. But liberals exaggerate market failures and overstate government successes. Anti-market bias leads people to concede government too much power, with liberals actively cheering government expansion.
Another bias is the view that other people cannot be trusted to make their own decisions. Liberals who send their own children to private school believe that poor families should not be allowed to make the same choice. Liberals make their own choices regarding health care, but they believe that others should have their health care decisions made for them by government.
I admit to having the opposite inclination. I do not believe that government can be trusted to make better decisions for individuals than individuals can make for themselves. It seems to me that if liberals had paid attention since 1968 rather than remaining in an ideological deep freeze, they would have seen the evidence that took me along the path to libertarianism.
James Frey has just been exposed as peddling a hoax ("A Million Little Pieces") on Oprah. Now we have a middle-class white guy who also writes gay porn passing himself off as a Navaho Indian and writing three "non-fiction" books about his life on the reservation and fathering children who died of AIDS and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Oh, he also wrote a book about gay soldiers in Viet Nam which fitted perfectly since he was neither gay, had never been a soldier and was certainly never in Viet Nam.
From Newsobserver.com :
Former Chapel Hill author Nasdijj won national acclaim writing memoirs about his brutal childhood as a Navajo Indian in the Southwest and as a father to two adopted sons who died of AIDS and fetal alcohol syndrome.
In truth, he was Timothy P. Barrus, a man of Scandinavian descent who grew up in a solidly middle-class neighborhood of Lansing, Mich., and had a career writing gay pornography, according to public records and several people who know Barrus.
The likelihood that Barrus had fabricated his past -- and parlayed the fiction into three successful nonfiction books -- was first raised Wednesday in a lengthy article in a Los Angeles newspaper that outlined similarities between Barrus and Nasdijj.
From the LA Weekly we get much greater detail. We also get a recipe for turning a ho-hum performance into one that attracts a crowd: create controversy, even if you have to send fake letters to the editor:
Bowers remembers collaborating with Barrus on an erotic photo exhibit called Sadomasochism: True Confessions. After the opening night of the show drew lukewarm interest, Barrus assumed the fake name John Hammond and wrote an open letter to The Weekly News attacking the exhibit.
“Sadomasochism is a disease,” the letter read “and gay men who are into that scene are wrong.” He then had Bowers write a response to their mythical antagonist Hammond, inviting him to “take a Valium, take a douche,” and published it in The Weekly News. “The next time Mr. Hammond wants to show his ignorance he should do some heavy research before he rejects his very own brothers.” The ensuing controversy rallied the gay community around the artists and propelled the exhibit to a successful run.
This is a good lesson to remember the next time exhibits covered with elephant dung, or photo exhibits of homo-erotica get to your home town. Are the outraged letters-to-the-editor really from the "artist" looking to get headlines?
The exposure of imposters is made possible thanks to the internet and search engines. How many of our cherished myths are frauds because they were perpetrated before we had the fact-checking ability we now have?
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Those who allow our protesters to act out their adolescent tantrums deserve our thanks, but too many Liberals offer them opprobrium instead. And where does that take us?
We now have a CIA which is incapable of acting, and a military that is constrained from conducting conventional war if it lasts longer than a few weeks and causes collateral damage that will show up on al Jazeera and CBS the next day. Our options are becoming quite limited.
Think about it: If conventional war if off the table and covert war is off the table, what is left? Our choices now seem to have devolved, if I may paraphrase Wretchard, to writing a diplomatic note or annihilating our enemies.
One by one, the Democratic Party keeps having to abandon all the insane positions that have made it the funny, silly party we've come to know and love.
The gun control fanatics were thrown overboard after President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress passed the 1994 crime bill that banned so-called "assault weapons" — i.e., otherwise completely legal semiautomatic weapons that looked scary to Dianne Feinstein. As a result, the Democrats lost Congress for the first time in 40 years and lost the South forever.
When is the last time you heard a Democrat use the words "gun control"?
In 1995, the new Republican Congress sent a welfare reform bill to Clinton, a man who had campaigned on "mend it, don't end it" and then refused to do anything about it. Not one Democrat resigned from the Clinton administration when Clinton turned out to be molesting the help and committing lots of felonies. But a whole slew of them resigned to protest Clinton's signing the Republicans' welfare reform bill. You never hear a peep out of Democrats anymore about restoring government welfare programs to their former glory.
Now it's the abortion ladies' turn. As Saletan informed feminists in his Times column: "You can tell yourself that the pro-choice majority stayed home in the last election, or that they voted on other issues, or that Democrats botched the debate. But those excuses are getting tired. Sixteen years ago, as the behavior of voters and politicians showed, abortion was clearly a winning issue for you. Now it isn't. You have a problem."
It's finally happened: Abortion stopped a bleeding heart.
I guess Sandra Day O'Connor's demand that "the contending sides" on abortion "end their national division" and accept the court's diktat in Roe didn't work out for her.
You know, a lot of us grew up thinking that oceans would protect us; that if there was a threat overseas, it really didn't concern us because we were safe. That's what history had basically told us -- yes, there was an attack on Pearl Harbor, obviously, but it was a kind of hit-and-run and then we pursued the enemy. A lot of folks -- at least, my age, when I was going to college, I never dreamed that the United States of America could be attacked. And in that we got attacked, I vowed then, like I'm vowing to you today, that I understand my most important priority. My most important job is to protect the security of the American people.
I knew right after September the 11th, though, that the attacks would begin to fade in people's memory. I mean, who wants to constantly go through life thinking that you're going to get hit again? Who wants to kind of re-live those days in your memory? As a matter of fact, I asked the American people to go on about your life. But given the fact that it's human nature to forget, or try to put in the past, put the pain in the past, I want to assure you and our fellow Americans I'm not going to put it in the past. The threat to the United States is forefront in my mind. I knew that at times people would say, you know, it may be an isolated incident, let's just don't worry about it. Well, for me it's not an isolated incident. I understand there is still an enemy which lurks out there.
And so part of my decision-making process, part of it as you see when I begin to protect you, to do my number one priority, rests upon this fact: that there is an enemy which is relentless and desirous to bring harm to the American people, because of what we believe in. See, we're in an ideological struggle. It's very important for the students here to understand that there is an enemy which has an ideology, and they're driven by an ideology. They make decisions based upon their view of the world, which is the exact opposite of our view of the world.
Perhaps the best way to describe their political vision is to remind you what life was like for people living in Afghanistan when the Taliban was running that country with al Qaeda as the parasite. If you were a young girl in that society, you had no chance to get educated. If you spoke out against the view of these folks, their religious view, you could be taken to the public square and whipped. In other words, there was not freedom. There wasn't freedom to worship the way you want to, just like we believe here in the United States of America. You can worship, you can not worship in our country, and you're equally American. You can be a Christian, Jew or Muslim, and you're equally American. It's the greatness of the United States of America which -- (applause) -- which stands in stark contrast to what these ideologues believe.
Their vision of the world is dark and dim. They have got desires to spread a totalitarian empire. How do we know? Because they told us. Mr. Zawahiri, the number two in the al Qaeda network, told the world such. He might not have wanted us to read that particular thing he was sending, but nevertheless we did. And he said that, here's our designs and our desires. In other words, these people have got an ideology, and strategy to implement the ideology. They've got a -- they have no heart, no conscience. They kill innocent men, women and children to achieve their objective. These folks cannot be appeased. We can't hope that nice words will change their point of view.
And so the decision I made right off the bat is we will find them, and we will hunt them down, and we will bring them to justice before they hurt America again. (Applause.)
But that requires a different kind of response than the old days of nations fighting nations. First of all, I want to step back and just tell you -- I probably -- I hope I say this more than once, but committing U.S. troops into harm's way is the last option of the President. It's the hardest decision a President can make. And so when I'm telling you I made the decision, you all have got to understand, I did not take that decision lightly. I knew the consequences, but I also believed that the consequences of not acting against this enemy would mean I wasn't doing my job of working with others to protect the United States of America. (Applause.)
So we sent our men and women into harm's way -- all volunteers. It is really important for the United States of America to have an all-volunteer Army. The best way to keep people volunteering in the Army is to make sure they got good pay, good training, good equipment and good housing for their loved ones. (Applause.)
But since we're not able to track vast battalions or armadas, we've got to have intelligence, good intelligence, to help us locate the dark corners of the world where these people hide. A lot of the decisions I make, and decisions future Presidents make, will be based upon the capacity of our intelligence services to find the enemy and to understand the intentions of the enemy and to share information with our allies. This is a different kind of struggle and requires the best intelligence possible. That's why we're reevaluating, constantly reevaluating, how best to use our intelligence services to be able to protect the American people.
Friday, January 20, 2006
The problem of what to do with chaos in the Third World is the one thing to which the pop doctrines of multiculturalism and transnationalism had no answer. The system of double-accounting, where Washington news was highlighted while events resulting in hundreds of thousands of Third World deaths was relegated to the back pages was the outcome of a system which knew how to the critique the one but not the other.
Oprah Winfrey has thrown her support behind memoirist James Frey, whose Number One bestseller, "A Million Little Pieces" -- a vivid recollection of his drug and alcohol addictions, crimes against humanity and recovery -- turns out on a sliding scale to run from false to faulty. Mr. Frey's literally incredible life was exposed recently by a Web site, the Smoking Gun. Respondeth Oprah, and legions of Mr. Frey's readers: Who cares?
Ms. Winfrey said, "The underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me." Many of the some 1,900 Frey messengers to Oprah's Web site also voted for redemption over factual accuracy.
In an age when controversies are a dime a dozen, this one is worth thinking about. Some have said the publisher should have made clear the memoir was fictionalized. But people don't want that. As with reality TV shows, people now enter into these new kinds of experiences with the conceit that it's somehow true or real, and when they find out later the truth was staged, they don't care. If you think this doesn't compute, tough. That, so to speak, is current reality.
Still, criticism has rained down on Mr. Frey, publisher Doubleday and Oprah for choosing falsity over fact. Most of this comes from authors or teachers of writing defending what they think are utilitarian distinctions between fiction and nonfiction. One might expect that most people would similarly support the primacy of facts in a book making claims to factuality, as Mr. Frey's did. The recent, wide denunciation of Korean stem-cell faker Hwang Woo Suk derives from the centuries-old belief that improving the human condition works better in a world run on facts rather than tall tales.
But maybe that's changing. Maybe the power of personal opinion and personal experience are becoming more valued than facts. As Oprah said, "I believe in James." But for now, the fact people aren't conceding victory to the factoid people without a fight.
Smoking Gun's editor, Bill Bastone, a former Village Voice reporter, told the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Frey is "dishonest and unethical." Author Mary Karr cites "the venerable standards of journalism and history" and the damage done to writers "who don't break the ethical code."
But this is old school. The new school poses a competing value called "emotional truth." And right now "A Million Little Pieces" is exhibit A. This tension is clear in the world of Mr. Frey's subject -- drug and alcohol abusers.
Much support for the book on Ms. Winfrey's Web site comes from persons recovering from addiction or from family members; all found solace in "Pieces." Drug and alcohol hells are bad places to be, with no common solution. The road out is often arduous, and one is hard put to gainsay what works for these folks. That said, Oprah's site also carries many unforgiving comments from these same people. "What good would a book of lies do," one of them asks, "for someone who's trying to learn to live without them -- who's trying to be honest and stand up for maybe the first time in their lives?" Another said it contradicted Oprah's "essential message: to live in truth of ourselves." Oprah's loyalists are a lot more interesting than they are often given credit for. One woman, the wife of an alcoholic, cut to the chase: "James Frey lied. He is accountable for his actions." Or used to be.
The reaction among writers has been as intense, with most of their criticism hammering at the publishing industry's greater willingness to erase the line between fiction and fact. Doubleday issued what one might call a businesslike "net-net" version of the new, saleable world of false facts; it referred to the power of the book's "overall reading experience." The publishers argue, and some writers support them, that the consuming public's changing tastes are forcing these category changes. Publishers are simply following the market.
In this view, fiction or even traditional nonfiction isn't providing the hyper-real narrative many people now crave from an assembled memoir like "A Million Little Pieces," no matter that it has been proven a fraud, or at least a fraud as formerly understood. But perhaps this suggests some people can't handle the truth anymore, so they'd just as soon be lied to so long as the lies fit their belief system, such as belief in the power of personal "redemption."
What's a fraud now -- and what's something else -- has become a question worth pondering. We live in a world of reality TV shows, of newspaper photographs and fashion photos routinely "improved" by the computer program Photoshop, of nightly news that pumps more emotion than fact into its version of public events such as Hurricane Katrina, hyper-real TV commercials manipulated with computers, the rise of "interpretive" news, fake singers, fake breasts, fake memoirs. Morris Dickstein of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York described this world as "always at the edge of falsehood" and so people come to tolerate it "as part of the overall media buzz of their lives."
He's right. But there is a political dimension to this, which many of what are no doubt politically liberal writers upset at James Frey and Doubleday ought to consider. Before all this, most people operated from a common personal standard, a broadly held superstructure of right and wrong, integrity and dishonesty, which they probably learned in Sunday school. You can see and hear it in hundreds of old Hollywood movies. "The Maltese Falcon," written by Dashiell Hammett, a Communist, is full of this moral tension and resolving clarity.
We all know those widely shared categories were broken and blurred the past 38 years, leading to terrible political fights between social conservatives and liberal liberators over disintegrating standards of personal behavior. Welcome to what it has wrought: The mass marketers and their accepting publics are skipping past the politics and simply pocketing the value added in the new controlling value -- whatever "works" for us personally, no matter how meretricious. It's hardly James Frey's fault that the culture really is in a million little pieces.
Eleven years ago the Democrats lost control of Congress. Then they lost the presidency. But just as important, maybe more enduringly important, they lost their monopoly on the means of information in America. They lost control of the pipeline. Or rather there are now many pipelines, and many ways to use the information they carry. The other day, Dana Milbank, an important reporter for the Washington Post, the most important newspaper in the capital, wrote a piece deriding Judge Alito. Once such a piece would have been important. Men in the White House would have fretted over its implications. But within hours of filing, Mr. Milbank found his thinking analyzed and dismissed on the Internet; National Review Online called him a "policy bimbo."
Could Democratic senators today torture Clarence Thomas with tales of Coke cans and porn films? Not likely. Could Ted Kennedy have gotten away with his "Robert Bork's America" speech unanswered? No.
"You don't like it, change the channel," network executives used to say. But that, as they knew, meant nothing: There were only three channels. Now there are 500. And more coming.
You know who else experienced, up close and personal, the end of the information monopoly this week? Walter Cronkite. Once, he said America should leave Vietnam and the president of the United States said if we've lost him we've lost middle America. Now, Walter calls for withdrawal from Iraq and it occasions only one thing: stories about how once such a thing mattered.
But where does this leave us? With our mass media busy with reluctant reformation . . . with the old network monopoly over and done . . . with something new, we know not what, about to take its place . . . with the Democratic Party adjusting to the loss of its megaphone . . . Where does that leave us? I think it leaves us knowing that, more than ever, the Republican Party--the party ultimately helped by the end of the old monopoly and the reformation of news media--must be a good party, a decent one, and help our country.
Read the whole thing.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
It's hard not to listen to the reviews of the Democrats' performance in the Alito hearings and come away thinking that much of our party is living in a parallel universe.
Most of the political establishment has concluded that the Democrats were: (a) ineffectual; (b) egomaniacal; (c) desperately grasping at straws; (d) downright offensive; or (e) some combination of the above. The American people, outside of those living in deep-blue enclaves, either were not paying attention or concluded that Sam Alito seemed like a pretty decent guy who was more than qualified. And if they saw anything about it on TV, they couldn't figure out why those pompous Democratic senators were trying to slam Judge Alito for being racist (and making his wife cry).
Yet the liberal blogosphere is agog at the way the Democrats let Judge Alito off the hook. And they're stupefied as to why the Senate Democrats are signaling that they won't risk triggering a nuclear confrontation with a filibuster. Postings on Daily Kos were typical. First, this comment from Georgia10: "Don't tell me a filibuster isn't warranted when 56% of this nation says Alito SHOULD be blocked if he'll overturn Roe. . . . I keep hearing . . . [t]hat we need 'angry' Dems, we need Dems with courage. We need Dems with courage. Well guess what -- we HAVE angry Dems, we HAVE courageous Dems. Look in the damn mirror, people. WE are the party. WE are the Democrats. We're angry, we spit fire, and our time has come."
Then there was this response from one DHinMI: "Alito is a judicial radical and far from the national mainstream on numerous issues. . . And with his anemic numbers, [Bush] wouldn't be able to count on much support from the country in ramming through the nomination."
This episode shows we don't have any leader in power who will tell our base that we're not going to become a majority party again by telling the majority they're out of the mainstream.
Monday, January 16, 2006
The late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of cultural conflict, a battle between what I have called the beautiful people and the dutiful people. While Manhattan glitterati thronged Leonard Bernstein's apartment to celebrate the murderous Black Panthers, ordinary people in the outer boroughs and the far-flung suburbs of New Jersey like Hamilton Township were going to work, raising their families, and teaching their children to obey lawful authority and work their way up in the world.
The glitterati in the 1970s seized and still hold the cultural commanding heights of our society -- the universities, the media, the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the Westside of Los Angeles. But, as the success of Sam Alito shows, they have not entirely won the hearts and the minds of the people.
I recently traveled through both Hamilton Township and Princeton. The contrast between the million-dollar-plus homes and fancy shops of Princeton and the modest-to-downright- depressing neighborhoods and strip malls of Hamilton Township was stunning. So, too, are the voting figures. Princeton voted 76 percent for John Kerry in 2004. Hamilton Township voted 49.3 percent for George W. Bush and 49.8 percent for Kerry.
Our universities today have become our most intellectually corrupt institutions. University administrators must lie and deny that they use racial quotas and preferences in admissions, when they devote much of their energy to doing just that. They must pledge allegiance to diversity, when their campuses are among the least politically diverse parts of our society, with speech codes that penalize dissent and sometimes violent suppression of conservative opinion. You can go door-to-door in Hamilton Township and find people feeling free to voice every opinion across the political spectrum. At Princeton, you will not find many feeling free to dissent from the Bush-equals-Hitler orthodoxy.
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The two Pakistani officials told The Associated Press that this could explain why Friday's predawn attack missed its apparent target, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Usama bin Laden's top lieutenant.
Al-Zawahiri sent some aides to the dinner instead and investigators were trying to determine whether they had been in any of the three houses that were destroyed in the missile strike that killed at least 17 people, one of the officials said.
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It seems unfair that only Sam Alito should get to play this game. Couldn't somebody develop some software you could stick in your DVD and play "Senate Confirmation" at home? You'd sit on the sofa and a hologram of Joe Biden with eerily lifelike adjustable hair would hector you for hours on end for being uncooperative -- ''C'mon, old buddy, throw me a bone here, willya?" -- while your spouse bursts into tears and flees in terror.
Even smear tactics require a certain plausibility. When you damn someone as a big scary mega-troubling racist misogynist homophobe and he seems to any rational observer perfectly non-scary and non-troubling, eventually you make yourself ridiculous. The boy who cried "Wolf!" at least took the precaution of doing so when there was no alleged predator in view. If he'd stood there crying "Wolf!" while pointing at a hamster, he'd have been led away for counseling. That's the stage the Senate Democrats are at.
More "troubling" for the party, the whole scarified routine is over something of ever more doubtful political value. Throughout last week's hearings, the Democrats had five key concerns: abortion, warrantless wiretaps, abortion, abortion and abortion. Neither abortion absolutism nor constitutional protection for terrorists resonates with the broader public -- and, indeed, going on cable TV round the clock for a week to flaunt such peculiar fixations only makes them look ever more disconnected from reality. When Ted Kennedy & Co. were demanding that the ancient records of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton be subpoenaed, I received a fluttering of e-mails comparing the Dems to Sen. McCarthy. But Red-baiting, unlike partial-birth abortion, had the advantage of public support.
Is a fake staged photo fit to print? What if it staged in a way that makes the US forces fighting the War on Terror look cruel and ineffective? The evidence argues that yes, it can run, and in a prominent position - at least in the case of the New York Times website.
It appears that the Times, once-upon-a-time regarded as the last word in reliability when it comes to checking before publishing (which makes them so much better than blogs, of course), has run a fake photo on the home page of its website. The photo has since been removed from the home page, but still can be seen here.
The picture shows a sad little boy, with a turbaned man next to him, a little bit further from the camera, amid the ruins of a house. Other men and boys peer in from the background. The photo is captioned
“Pakistani men with the remains of a missile fired at a house in the Bajur tribal zone near the Afghan border.”
The story it accompanies is about the apparently failed attempt to take out al Qaeda’s #2 man al Zawahiri, with a missile attack from a Predator drone.
“How sad!” readers are encouraged to think. “These poor people are on the receiving end of awful weapons used by the clumsy minions of Bush. And all to no avail. Isn’t it terrible? Why must America do such horrible misdeeds? Bush must go!”
The only problem is that the long cylindrical item with a conical tip pictured with the boy and the man is not a missile at all. It is an old artillery shell. Not something that would have been fired from a Predator. Indeed, something that must have been found elsewhere and posed with the ruins and the little boy as a means at pulling of the heartstrings of the gullible readers of the New York Times.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
In my career as a psychiatrist I have encountered many psychotic individuals with religious delusions.
One study suggests that those patients with religious delusions are suffering from a particularly virulent form of schizophrenia, where the potential for self-harm or harm to others is significantly increased. The study concluded that "religious delusions are commonly found in schizophrenia and that by comparison with other patients who have schizophrenia, those patients with religious delusions appear to be more severely ill.
"Such delusions may even occur in people who were never religious prior to their illness. And in the sickest individuals, they may be combined with delusions of grandeur, where the person believes they are some figure of religious and historical import. I, myself, have personally met Jesus Christ (several times), St. Theresa, the Pope, Lucifer, and a variety of other assorted religious icons.
At least, that was what they told me at the time.
The schizophrenic patients I have seen with religious delusions were often the hardest to treat and least responsive to medication. Most of them had such severely impaired thinking processes that they could hardly function on a day-to-day basis; let alone would they have been able to rise to a position of influence or power in any culture. But there were a few who were notable for their single-minded and persistent incorporation of everything they came in contact with into their delusional system; and who had only contempt for anyone who didn't subscribe to their psychotic ideas. These latter patients exhibited a psychopathically clever and manipulative intelligence that was completely immune to any insight into their illness. These patients' were chillingly and frighteningly serious about their delusion, and to them you were nothing.
Ahmadinejad can conclude all he wants that the West is living in the "dark ages" because they are reluctant to agree to his desire to possess nuclear weapons, but all you have to do is listen to what the man is saying to comprehend the enormous danger he represents to humanity with his mind consumed with dark and apocalyptic visions; and his hands controlling a nuclear button.
And if you think you can't believe what you are hearing... think again. Believe it.
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Saturday, January 14, 2006
The War On Terror - Gamble and Payoff
OIF is a bomb that has detonated deep within the social structure of Iraq. Unlike air strikes which affect only physical structures, ground involvement creates immense changes in the political and social relationships of the country occupied. Embargos, sanctions and even limited attacks send strong signals to an enemy state, but they leave its inner core untouched. At most they can provide encouragement to a regime's enemies but they cannot directly overthrow it. OIF disturbed international diplomats precisely because it violated the primary rule of the postwar world: that states should remain inviolable. OIF wasn't about sending a signal. It was about destroying and remaking an established state.
That process was tantamount to a huge roll of the dice, for once a state is taken apart there is no telling how it will come together again. Especially a state as critically situated as Iraq: it lay along the Sunni-Shi'ite, Arab-Kurd and Arab-Persian faultlines -- not to mention its place in a key oil-producing region, besides being a stew of tribal politics. Iraq was a kind of geopolitical tentpole supporting a roof under tension. Little wonder that Europe whitened in apprehension as US forces gathered at the Kuwaiti border.
The challenge for Americans is to make sure that the sacrifices thus far are repaid by us, who must carry on the fight for the sake of our civilization.
It is almost an article of religious faith among opponents of the Iraq War that Iraq became a terrorist destination only after the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein. But what if that's false, and documents from Saddam's own regime show that his government trained thousands of Islamic terrorists at camps inside Iraq before the war?
Sounds like news to us, and that's exactly what is reported this week by Stephen Hayes in the Weekly Standard magazine. Yet the rest of the press has ignored the story, and for that matter the Bush Administration has also been dumb. The explanation for the latter may be that Mr. Hayes also scores the Administration for failing to do more to translate and analyze the trove of documents it's collected from the Saddam era.
Well, Well, Well. I predict before this is over we will also find out that there were WMDs and where they went.
But despite that fact that committee members dominated the proceedings – some took most of the time allotted to them for questions in long winded diatribes – there were a few moments for the Alitos that are memorable.
The most famous was Mrs. Alito leaving the room in tears as a result of the insulting and humiliating accusations hurled at her husband.
But judge Alito himself made a comment that was very revealing. Alito spoke warmly about the New Jersey community in which he grew up. There were few college graduates, and he went to public schools. But then he went 12 miles down the road to Princeton, where, he said, "I saw some very smart people and very privileged people behaving irresponsibly. And I couldn't help making a contrast between some of the worst of what I saw on the campus and the good sense and the decency of the people back in my own community."
The link is to an article by Terry Eastland of the Weekly Standard. He went on to say that “And then there was Alito's testimony about ROTC at Princeton. He well remembered that his ROTC unit was expelled from campus during his junior year and that he had to go to Trenton State College to finish his ROTC classes. And he commented as to how that was "a very bad thing for Princeton to do." Not bad, but very bad.”
Read the whole thing.
Glenn Reynolds thinks it’s a bad thing.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Golly. Maybe laying pipe is something that particularly appeals to boys, and maybe girls would rather be the hotshot lawyers who sue the contractor for not hiring enough female plumbers: in America, after all, 60 per cent of college graduates are now women. Both sets of statistics come from Kate O'Beirne's rollicking polemic Women Who Make the World Worse, and, whether or not you agree with the title, it's hard to argue that feminism hasn't won pretty much every battle in every sphere of modern Western life -- not least the academy. It's not just that 60 per cent of graduates are female but that the 40 per cent who aren't exist in a thoroughly feminized culture.
Thus, every December 6, our own unmanned Dominion lowers its flags to half-mast and tries to saddle Canadian manhood in general with the blame for the Montreal massacre -- the 14 women murdered by Marc Lepine, born Gamil Gharbi, the son of an Algerian Muslim wife-beater, though you wouldn't know that from the press coverage. Yet the defining image of contemporary Canadian maleness is not M Lepine/Gharbi but the professors and the men in that classroom, who, ordered to leave by the lone gunman, meekly did so, and abandoned their female classmates to their fate -- an act of abdication that would have been unthinkable in almost any other culture throughout human history. The "men" stood outside in the corridor and, even as they heard the first shots, they did nothing. And, when it was over and Gharbi walked out of the room and past them, they still did nothing. Whatever its other defects, Canadian manhood does not suffer from an excess of testosterone.
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Mining fatalities have dropped every year President Bush has been in the White House, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Since 2001, mining deaths averaged 63 a year, which is 30% lower than during the Clinton administration. The fatality rate has dropped as well -- it was 31% lower in 2004 than it was in the last year of the Clinton administration.
In fact, it was during the Clinton years that the long-term decline in mining deaths stalled out, only to return to its historic downward trend after he left for private life.
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Sunday, January 08, 2006
Saturday, January 07, 2006
So you have Swedish clothing designers putting a tag on hot jeans with a skull and an inverted cross, with the express intention of pointing out the “evil” of Christianity. "It is an active statement against Christianity," Bjorn Atldax told The Associated Press. "I'm not a Satanist myself, but I have a great dislike for organized religion."Atldax insists he has a purpose beyond selling denim: to make young people question Christianity, which he called a "force of evil" that had sparked wars throughout history.
It goes without saying that selling anti-Christian iconography to European fashionistas is a brave an act as reducing the food pellet allotment to your pet hamster; a true act of bravery would be yanking the dead wildebeest out of a lion’s mouth. Or selling jeans that have the international cross-and-bar NO symbol over the crescent of Islam. They don’t dare do that – partly because they are deeply suffused in the very racism they decry, and regard the inhabitants of their tall dead Corbu-inspired concrete ghettos as brown rabble beneath contempt and therefore irrelevant to relevant discussion, and partly because they have a nagging fear of editorials, hate-speech laws, tut-tuts from the thinking class, and the occasional unhinged fellow with a knife. But Christianity? Didn’t that die in a muddy hole in Ypres?
Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds and the blogosphere’s Bigfoot comments that “This thinking betrays a certain lack of perspective.” To which I reply … HUH? What does THAT mean? Realizing that Reynolds leans Libertarian, I’m still puzzled by the phrase “lack of perspective.” Lileks perspective is that of a Christian in modern society. Reynolds may disagree with Lileks and is free to make his own argument, but to dismiss him with “lack of perspective” is juvenile.
The marriage of convenience between Libertarians and Conservatives is exposed by comments like Glenn’s. Regarding Christianity, Libertarians appear to be on the Liberals’ side. For reasons which I do not fully understand, Libertarians somehow believe that Christians have the ultimate goal of establishing a theocracy. Perhaps it’s an age thing. For centuries after this nation’s founding Christianity was the dominant creed, freely expressed and honored. Yet we were not a theocracy. As late as the 1950s most stores were closed on Sundays, schools began the day with prayer, and Christmas displays were found in public parks. Yet we were not a theocracy. From what dark recesses of the mind do these fears of a Christian theocracy spring; or, if they are not fears, why this antipathy? I wish Glenn Reynolds, who is one of the most articulate and sane adherents of Libertarianism would address this issue.
Glenn Reynolds has replied via e-mail. He was referring to the perspectives of the people Lileks was describing, not to Lileks thinking. OK, he's back on my good side.
One of the reasons for my sensitivity is that there exists in the Libertarian camp a strain of aggressive atheism. This is very likely natural since followers of a religion, like Christianity, place themselves in subjection to a higher being. Libertarians reject being subjects as much as possible and, when they are subject to something they prefer to subject themselves to their own creations - like laws.
Thanks for your reply, Glenn.
Friday, January 06, 2006
The United States remains the most open nation in the world. Since 9/11, scores of millions of sealed trailer-size containers have entered U.S. ports, and 6 million legal international immigrants have joined the American population. But no terrorist attacks.
Is this just good luck, or is it the result of good policy?
In other words, has George W. Bush succeeded -- at least, so far -- at the number-one task that Americans have assigned him, which is to keep them safe? Or should we make him change his strategy and tactics?
These questions are especially relevant today. Congress has passed a bill that restricts the ways terrorists can be interrogated; there’s outrage in the press at revelations that the National Security Agency has intercepted, without warrants, international phone calls and e-mails that originate or end in the U.S.; and, a popular new movie by America’s most esteemed director takes a skeptical view of aggressive retaliation against terrorists.
In early 2002, nine Americans out of ten approved of the way Bush was handling the war against terror; today, barely one in two. Recent polls show respondents believe that the parties can handle terrorism equally well.
Much of the recent criticism may be rooted in dissatisfaction, not with the protection we’ve been afforded against terrorists, but with the apparent lack of progress in Iraq. Many Americans are war-weary and frustrated, and their unhappiness with the war in Iraq is reflected in Bush’s poor approval ratings on the economy and terrorism -- even though, by any objective standard, these have been areas of great success.
The danger is that the farther 9/11 recedes in memory, the less we appreciate that it hasn’t happened again. When it comes to the war on terror, many Americans have become short-sighted, ungrateful and decadent.
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Thursday, January 05, 2006
Americans sometimes don't understand how far gone most of the rest of the developed world is down this path: In the Canadian and most Continental cabinets, the defense ministry is somewhere an ambitious politician passes through on his way up to important jobs like the health department. I don't think Don Rumsfeld would regard it as a promotion if he were moved to Health and Human Services.
See also the Katrina "tragedy."
Looking at this list I can't help but get the impression that journalists tend to die at the hands of those who may be expected to dislike them. I had gotten the impression from the newspapers that most journalists died at the hands of US or Iraqi forces. But in fact US forces were involved in 4 deaths and they were not obviously "hits" but shootings in ambiguous situations. On the other hand, at least 14 pro-US journalists were clearly murdered; perhaps more, but the motives are not always clear. Steven Vincent was apparently the only foreign journalist to die in Iraq, unless some of the others had foreign passports.
The Washington Post recently wrote a somewhat disparaging article of bloggers on the battlefield, mentioning Bill Roggio in particular. I hadn't realized that a blogger -- and not a regular Western professional correspondent -- was the only foreign journalist to die in Iraq in 2005.
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