Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.—Churchill

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I Like the Way This Guy Thinks

Matt Huisman has a few profound thoughts in comment world:

The tricky thing about moral condemnations is that you actually have to reference an agreed upon moral that has been violated. And the truth is that we’re not really capable of telling anyone that extra-marital sex is immoral anymore. We have developed the means to eliminate the physical harm - and why be upset with someone who has done no harm? What’s that? You say that some of us still slip up and make a mess? What a shame, but who can really blame someone for getting caught up in the moment and forgetting to take the necessary precautions – there but for the grace of God go I. Better make a note to redouble our appeals before the god of education, who is no doubt merciful and good, and able to save us from our current condition.

So where does this leave us as Christians? Should we be spitting fire and brimstone at those who scoff at their creator? Or do we simply need to recognize that the world has passed us (and God) by, and we’ve become irrelevant?

Neither. For while our compassion dictates that the church be useful to its fellow man as counselor, insurance policy and all-around handy man – it was never our central purpose.

General revelation is a good thing, and the world’s ever amassing competence and ability to overcome the obstacles that used to turn them to the divine will soon expose the hard reality of loneliness (or meaninglessness) that lurks behind every would-be panacea. Perhaps it is here where our efforts are best spent – where the real love of Jesus can best be understood.

We may be getting close to the time where ‘I told you so’ is no longer relevant as an introduction to the eternal – and that too is a good thing.

The Imminent Threat

Republicans and Democrats shouted, hurled insults and in the end gave new and ferocious meaning to partisanship. A debate over withdrawal from Iraq has descended into rancorous accusations that exemplify a nation divided.

As some noted, this is a replay of Vietnam, a war decided in the corridors of Congress rather than the Southeast Asian battlefield. Surely, the lessons of the past are not lost on al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. They cannot defeat us in Iraq, but they can certainly test American fortitude.

Yet the ugly exchanges in the House of Representatives overlook critical dimensions of this war on terror, matters that have potentially catastrophic implications for the nation.

On November 5 the Global Islamic Media Front, a propaganda creation that disseminates al Zarqawi’s positions, announced a prize for the best proposed logo at its new website. The winner of the contest will be “privileged” to launch “three long range rockets against an American military base in Iraq (…the pressing of a button by a blessed hand.”

The announcement went on to note that Jaysh Al-Ta’ifa Al–Mansura, a radical Sunni Islamic organization composed of former military officers who served Saddam Hussein, has developed “a rocket, effective and precise, as we had promised you, using the highest level of technology …capable of launch from long range via remote control from anywhere in the world.” As these radicals note, they have the means – or claim to have the means – “to destroy the fortresses of polytheism and the infidels… .”

Whether this is merely an empty threat designed to appeal to adherents remains to be seen. However, it should be noted that this website has received more than 50,000 “hits.”

This website proposal is not unique. The Sunday Times of London reports that another al Qaeda website contains detailed instructions in Arabic on how to make nuclear, “dirty” and biological bombs. This site has 80 pages of instructions and pictures of kitchen bomb-making techniques.

Under the heading of the Nuclear Bomb of Jihad are instructions on ways to enrich uranium as a gift to the commander of jihad fighters, Osama bin Laden. Readers are encouraged to look for materials such as radium, which it claims is an “effective alternative to uranium and available on the market.”

Quoting the Koran, the anonymous architect of the site notes, “Fight them so that Allah will punish them at your hands and will put them to shame and will give you victory over them.”

John Hassard, a physicist at Imperial College London, maintains that this website offers “a proper instruction manual” for would-be terrorists. “It is a very real threat and one we can’t afford to ignore,” he said.

If this website is to be taken seriously, al Qaeda is striving to move directly from a stage where weapons of mass destruction are obtained to one in which they are deployed. Moreover, these threats serve as a propaganda vehicle and a recruitment device.

While the Congress dithers over whether we should leave Iraq precipitously or remain, our enemy is building or attempting to build weapons of mass destruction. There can be little doubt that if fissionsable material is obtained and converted into a weapon, it will be used.

This threat must be taken seriously. If it requires preemption, then preemption we must have. If it requires enhanced counter intelligence, then we must put that in place. If it means draining the Middle East swamp of fanatical jihadists, then we must be prepared to do so.

The websites that call for attacks against the United States and its allies cannot be dismissed as sheer hyperbole. We are at war and our survival is at stake. Those in the Congress who cannot recognize that do not deserve to represent the American people.

The appeasers in our midst believe that if we keep on feeding the carnivores red meat, they will become vegetarians. But history teaches a very different lesson. Those who refuse to fight are likely to die with their hands in the air. History can be merciless to those who won’t defend themselves. That is a point that must be shouted on the House of Representatives floor.

Charm City Offensive

I'm going to have to stop making fun of Maryland politics. There's no sport in it anymore.

Earlier this week, Baltimore was honored with a top ten spot in Morgan Quitno's annual Most Dangerous City award, snagging the coveted number six from Washington DC, which fell to 13th this year. So of course the Baltimore City Council took swift action. Faced with evidence that their city continues to be plagued with failing schools, corrupt and incompetent police, and drug dealer turf wars, they suspended all regular business to....pass a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. One council member, Keiffer Mitchell, said he had been moved by "the deaths of soldiers from Baltimore and Maryland" to vote in favor of the motion.

Hold on there, Mr. Mitchell. If you want to protect the young men of the Old Line State, maybe you should leave them where they are. Since March 2003, there have been 1,647 US fatalities attributable to hostile action in the entire country of Iraq. During the same time, there have been 885 murders in Baltimore, a city with a total population of about 650,000.

I can understand if Baltimore wants some military assistance in dealing with the war-torn streets of Park Heights and Canton, but I think we could spare a few from Quantico or AP Hill; there's no need to bring them all the way back from Iraq.

Yes, I Do His Evil Bidding, Too!

TRC's founder, S.T. Karnick has a dizzying rapid-fire survey of the new fall shows out at NRO. For those who need to catch up on what used to be a little box and is now a rather large screen, check it out.

Happy 10th Birthday, Dayton Accords

Yes, as of this week, it's been 10 years since President Bill Clinton assured peace in our time by settling the Yugoslavian question with diplomacy and sealing it with a treaty signed in the Versailles of Ohio, Dayton. Sure, war and a bunch of death followed, but making peace stick is a bitch, ain't it? The original Treaty of Versailles wasn't realized all that smoothly, either.

Ah, we remember it all so clearly, n'est-ce pas? Clinton lied (exaggerated? misled? made an honest mistake?) about 100,000 "missing" victims of Milosevic, et al. But it was a good war, because Milo was unmistakably bad. The actual bodies were never actually found, although I'm sure we looked hard. Where were the Women & Men Deceased (WMDs) we were promised?

Now, although he lacked UN authorization (or even an act of his own Congress), Bill Clinton did what he thought was right, and I'm cool with that because the bad guys had it coming and no innocent dictators were framed. Even though by reliable accounts the NATO bombing got a bit too indiscriminate, some felt the price, to quote Madeleine Albright, was "worth it."

What's done was done. As Stan from South Park might say, what have we learned from all this?

"Julian Lindley-French of the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Switzerland says
that Dayton offered a two-phased approach to resolving the Bosnia conflict."

"It recognizes that conflicts of this variety have a short-term and a longer-term component," Lindley-French says. "The short-term is simply to end the hostilities and to end the threat with the threat of credible external coercion. But in the longer term, what it said was, 'Look, we are here, we are here to stay, and we are going to invest in you, and we are going to invest in you to help you reach a regional political settlement in which all parties who have influence or interest in this conflict feel that there is something to invest in.' That was the very strong message of Dayton 10 years ago."

Yah, that's about it, and we should trust anybody with "French" in his name, especially if he's in Switzerland. One does not create peace from whole cloth. One invests in it and holds on, even when its stock price goes up and down.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Shame, Shame

The idea that the irresponsible use of sex should carry some moral condemnation has been kicked around here lately. But how? Shunning?

Well, that might have been OK for the Bad Olde Days, but who can deny that there are no illegitimate children, only parents? Surely we wouldn't visit the sins of the parents on an innocent child. That happens all by itself.

And the pro-life crowd, to its credit, has realized that shaming unmarried mothers will only engender the Gordian Knot solution of abortion.

By coincidence, or perhaps not, my colleague Jay Homnick mentioned abstinence counselling below. Songs are (unfortunately) better at conveying emotions than ideas, even in the lyrics, but I haven't forgotten a word of this since I first heard it, perhaps the greatest lyric of the entire Motown era:

You think that I don’t feel love
But what I feel for you is real love
In other’s eyes I see reflected
A hurt, scorned, rejected

Love child, never meant to be
Love child, born in poverty
Love child, never meant to be
Love child, take a look at me

I started my life in an old, cold run down tenement slum
My father left, he never even married mom
I shared the guilt my mama knew
So afraid that others knew I had no name

This love we’re contemplating
Is worth the pain of waiting
We’ll only end up hating
The child we may be creating

Love child, never meant to be
Love child, (scorned by) society
Love child, always second best
Love child, different from the rest

Mm, baby (hold on, hold on, just a little bit)
Mm, baby (hold on, hold on, just a little bit)

I started school, in a worn, torn, dress that somebody threw out
I knew the way it felt to always live in doubt
To be without the simple things
So afraid my friends would see the guilt in me

Don’t think that I don’t need you
Don’t think I don’t wanna please you
But no child of mine’ll be bearing
The name of shame I’ve been wearing

Love child, love child, never quite as good
Afraid, ashamed, misunderstood

But I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you...

(Pam Sawyer/R. Dean Taylor/Frank Wilson/Deke Richards)

Even without any of us taking it upon ourselves to cast shame, the sins of the fathers visit themselves on their children, not just for the lack of his strong right arm, but for lack of what he alone can teach them.

In No Sense

The Sunday Miami Herald featured the following headline: Innocence Lost is Not Easily Restored.

I was curious to see what had suddenly led the Herald to take an interest in abstinence counseling. However, closer scrutiny revealed that this was an article about young Iraqi kids who have lost their innocence about violent death by being in a war zone.

In theory, such an article could have been sensible. But predictably, it was not.

Two examples:
1) One four year old has been affected by seeing beheadings on the Internet. Presumably, we are meant to sympathize. Hello-o?! That has nothing to do with being in a war zone. That has to do with having imbeciles for parents. Creepy imbeciles, too.

2) An example of the terribly traumatized children is cited: two kids are playing a game in which they pretend to shoot each other. Whoever kills the other, wins. Hello-o?! I grew up in Brooklyn and I played that game, too. Sometimes it was called Cowboys and Indians; sometimes Cops and Robbers.

Then again, maybe 1960s Brooklyn was a war zone.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Advancing the Discussion on Prostitution: Another Comment Promotion

M.J. Watson offered something particularly interesting to our conversation about prostitution. So here it is:

At the root of the view that prostitution is harmful to women, and men, is (the idea) that there is something intrinsically valuable about our sexuality that should not be commodified. To engage in prostitution is to treat oneself as a means rather than an end. Connie's view seems to rely only on the criterion of consent. Whatever one consents to is legitimate.

My view is that one can consent to an activity that nonetheless is demeaning and immoral. I don't know that there is a prior principle to appeal to that would prove either of us right or wrong, but let me give two illustrations of why sex is intrinsic to us in a special way, even at the risk of making this too long of a comment.

1. Imagine Fred says to Steve, "Hey Steve, Betty and I are playing tennis on Thursday night. But I can't make it, would you be willing to fill in?"

Now imagine Fred says, "Hey Steve, Betty and I are having sex on Thursday night, but something has come up and I can't make it. Would you be willing to fill in?"

We may laugh at this, but our laughter reveals that we know there is something not quite right about this scenario. Sex is not just another activity.

2. On a more serious note, consider why we think rape is wrong. Leon Kass has an amazing article about the rape of Dinah in Genesis. He notes that today rape is seen as wrong merely because it violates a women's consent and because of the physical harm. But on the older view rape is also considered wrong because it also violates her "womanliness", or, to really use antiquated language, her virtue (her specifically sexual virtue).

But on the consent-only view it's hard to understand what makes rape the specifically awful crime that it is. It is a violation unlike any other because of the special nature of our sexuality, and thus the act of rape is intrinsically different from a punch in the nose or another violent assault.

I grant these examples don't prove that the consent-only view is wrong. As I said, I'm not sure what would do that. But I hope they illustrate why we have good reason to think there is something intrinsically valuable about our sexuality and that it thus should not be treated like a widget to be commodified.

Friday, November 18, 2005

St. Thomas and the Ho's

I'm a feminist more than a moralist on prostitution. It hurts women.

My friend and colleague Mr. Homnick writes:
However, we must also recognize the right of polities to place transactions of that nature outside the law. The vast majority of localities have exercised that right and most of them enforce those laws to some degree.

I think the right of a society, namely ours, to uphold its mores and sensibilities is under great scrutiny these days, if not outright attack.

Although the philosophical father of our constitution John Locke pays homage to "natural law," which asserts that one doesn't require a Bible to believe that prostitution should be proscribed because it is intrinsically harmful, I wonder if he meant it. I'm tempted to think he would view it as a question of the property rights of a vulva's legal owner.

Thomas Aquinas, the champion of natural law, holds that prostitution is a violation of natural law because it's a misuse of the teleology of sex, that is, the purpose of marital act, to engender intimacy and love. The Catholic obsession with procreation is in there too, but not even a Darwinist could argue that procreation is anything but a natural function. Interestingly and compassionately, Thomas' objection is mostly that the unintentional products of such unions will grow up without fathers, which he sees as indispensible to the proper development of a human being.

The repercussions of prostitution are harmful on the personal level in a number of ways then, and we religionists maintain that natural law does not descend from revelation (i.e., the Bible, etc.), but that the two cannot help but be in harmony as they are both functions of a moral order that supercedes man's will and desires. There's a vibe to things. Prostitution hurts women, and everybody else involved, too.

But Aquinas, as political philosopher, is pretty pragmatic: the open toleration of prostitution would be harmful to the social order, but a jihad, if you will, against it would create even greater social ills. Political philosophers are good that way--even the best of a society's laws, constitutions or aspirations should not be suicide pacts.

Thomas (scholastic types call him "Thomas"), as any good philosopher should, defers to practical wisdom but recommends that we gear the law to the highest, not the lowest or easily achievable in man, because the latter is incapable of fostering what Aristotle saw as the true end of a society, to enable and inspire civic (and individual) virtue, virtue being a positive thing, not an absence of "sin."

I myself am very uncomfortable with discussions of hypocrisy. It's a word thrown around far too loosely these days, and has become a rhetorical weapon instead of an tool for understanding things. Yet I seem to be defending it. I find our drug laws ridiculous, yet here in Los Angeles, we saw firsthand the carnage of the crack epidemic, which was mostly not the result of crack being illegal but of the overwhelming hunger for it that addiction creates. It strips the individual of every shred of his or her human dignity. We cannot legalize drugs.

But I can also say that consideration of these things led me to change my mind and disagree with the administration about its opposition to proposed laws banning torture of terror suspects. The law must be morally directed toward the best in us, not to accommodating the worst, toward moral progress rather than regression to the slime we rose from. There are circumstances where some of us would break anti-torture laws to save innocent life, but the law should not make such moral courage easily achievable.

To requote Mr. Homnick, "we must also recognize the right of polities to place transactions of that nature outside the law." If we can proscribe the soul-numbing effects of prostitution and drugs (and I believe we must), then surely torture should be one of those transactions that our polity places outside the law as well. If it's true of an addict or a whore (or a drug dealer, or a pimp, or a john, or the john's poor bastard), how could being a torturer (or the tortured) not numb one's soul?

A Bit of Biblical Archaeology

I wouldn't suggest making too much of this at present, but it is an interesting tidbit: archaeologists recently discovered that there was indeed at least one person named Goliath living in Gath during the time that the Bible says David slew a Philistine giant of that name from that village.

According to the UPI story on the subject, the archaelogist responsible for the find, Prof. Aren Maeir, thinks it very unlikely that the Goliath referred to on the tiny ceramic shard mentioning the name is the Goliath mentioned in the Bible. However, as noted in the Yahoo! story on the matter, Maeir "said finding the scraps lends historical credence to the biblical story."

Many scholars have argued that the story of David and Goliath is a myth made up hundreds of years after the reign of the Jewish king. The scrap indicates that, at the very least, there was indeed at least one person named Goliath in the region during the time the encounter is supposed to have taken place.

WFB's Birthday Tribute

NRO is celebrating Bill Buckley's birthday party today, even though it's really on Nov. 24. I'm wistful in hearing about it because while I've been blessed to meet many of my heroes and even become friends with some of them, I've never managed to meet Buckley. I've read about him, written about him, carefully followed his career, and heard him speak. The recurring thought is that few persons have lived a more interesting life or worked more tirelessly for what they believed.

The website has an interesting page of tributes. This one jumped out at me:

James Piereson

I recall an event from the 1970s, a debate on a midwestern college campus between Bill Buckley and a liberal or left-wing speaker whose name I have justly forgotten. I had never met Mr. Buckley at that time, though (as the saying goes) I had seen him on television and was taken by what he had to say, though not yet persuaded on all counts. That would come later. Of course, having spent time on that campus, I had become accustomed to the boorish and juvenile manners of academic leftists, who were not beneath screaming insults at those with whom they disagreed or, more politely, stalking out of the lecture room in disgust at the thought that another person should be allowed to advance views that they did not endorse. During the course of the exchange, Mr. Buckley presented his views articulately, as he always did, and in good humor, which was something I had not expected and which left a deeper mark on me than anything he actually said. He made his case amid hisses and boos from some members of the audience, and some less than dignified remarks from his opponent on stage. I was astonished, when the debate was over, to see Mr. Buckley walk across the stage with his wide smile to extend a hand to his adversary in debate, who was surprised as well, not being accustomed to gentlemanly conduct of any kind. Indeed, that is precisely the kind of conduct one never expected to see on a campus at that time.

Mr. Buckley thus impressed upon me the enduring truth that there is a connection between the way leftists think and the manners by which they conduct themselves, and also between his own gentlemanly conduct and his conservative ideals. Mr. Buckley is a powerful debater, but that night he went a long way to making a convert through his own exemplary character.

I have met Bill Buckley on many occasions since, and on every occasion I have walked away with one over-riding thought: What a wonderful man this is!

My own thought upon reading this reflection is that it's not so difficult to be gracious in victory. And Buckley experienced a great deal of that.

Wanna See the New Zorro Flick?

S.T. Karnick, the greatest living film critic in the English language™, has a new review of the latest Banderas/Zeta-Jones bash over at Tech Central Station.

As usual, you will emerge refreshed, edified, and just a little bit smarter than you were going in.

For instance, did you know this?

First, a little history. McCulley began publishing his Zorro tales in pulp magazines in 1919, with the serialization of The Curse of Capistrano, which was published in book form as The Mark of Zorro after being adapted for a highly successful Douglas Fairbanks movie of the same name in 1920. McCulley published his last Zorro tales in 1951. Although the series evolved over time, especially the film adaptations, the central premise remained constant: an unprepossessing young nobleman assumes a disguise as Zorro ("the fox") and uses his wits, sword, and whip to fight an unjust and oppressive political order. (The concept is obviously based on Baroness Orczy's hugely successful "Scarlet Pimpernel" series.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

For Love Or Money

A friend of mine who has a political role in a country other than our own was describing to me her battle on behalf of free government health care for prostitutes. She maintains that she is doing this on a moral as wall as a pragmatic basis. The efforts of the Catholic Church to thwart her initiative were viewed by her with disdain.

I made the following points in my response.

1) I am not convinced that prostitution should be illegal, but I think it should be against public policy so that we don't get absurd anomalies like the German government denying a woman unemployment benefits because she had a job offer - as a prostitute - that she was not accepting. I would be perfectly content to live in Nevada where the populace has deigned to allow prostitution as a legal enterprise subject to licensing and registration requirements.

2) However, we must also recognize the right of polities to place transactions of that nature outside the law. The vast majority of localities have exercised that right and most of them enforce those laws to some degree.

3) Inasmuch as this is an illegal activity in these venues, it is inappropriate to attach any special rewards to this activity. The conferring of a free health-care program is a sizeable financial award.

4) Furthermore, this constitutes a benefit attached to this field that is not present in waitressing or house-cleaning or other things that unskilled people do to scrape by until they can better themselves. So besides for the reward for those already engaged, we are now offering an incentive for those who are considering.

5) The same set of inferences that are drawn from illegality as a profession (contrasting prostitutes to waitresses) can be drawn from the conflict with social mores (pitting prostitution against marriage). We cannot give advantages to a prostitute that we are not giving a wife.

6) In general, there is no such thing as "free" health-care. This is a euphemism for taking money from taxpayers to give to others. This means that we are making those waitresses and wives pay taxes so the prostitutes can receive a benefit that they do not. This is a palpable absurdity.

There are more details that could be added to this, but for now this should suffice to the case.

Europe: Revitalization Or Decline?

The question that any analyst of Europe asks is whether the E.U. can be revitalized or whether it is fated to continue an incremental downward spiral to marginality. While pundits on both sides of this political equation have opinions, answers aren’t readily available.

All one can look at are signs, but these are available in abundance.

The French who often tell rude jokes about Boring Belgians are now seeing rich French figures who have found their next door neighbor an escape from draconian French taxes. The Halley’s of the Carrefour supermarket chain have settled in Belgium as has Philippe Jaffre former head of Elf Aquitaine, the state oil company.

Fiscal exiles include singers Charles Aznavour and Patrica Kaas; the actress Emmanuelle Beart and Isabelle Adjani, among others.

For those who are obliged to pay at the highest income bracket (80 percent) as well as a “solidarity tax on wealth,” it often means an annual tax bill greater than their income. In order to conceal the effect of onerous taxes, the French government estimates that the flight of capital accounts for a loss of about $2 billion a year while unofficial estimates have it closer to $30 billion.

France obviously needs this tax revenue to support the generous compensation for the unemployed. All an out-of-work person has to do to maintain generous benefits is call in every six months to confirm that no new job has been secured. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has proposed giving the unemployed a bonus of $1200 for taking a job, even as the government weighs a three strikes rule - a loss of payments if three job offers are turned down.

When the government tried to make it easier for small companies to lay off workers, thousands of strikes took to the Paris. Apparently French workers don’t realize the easiest place to lose a job is also the easiest place to find a job.

Whenever enlightened French officials discuss the value of privatization, they are obliged to retreat from that position because union leaders refuse to give ground from the commanding heights of the state guided economy.

According to one study the average French pay stub lists more than 40 deductions, compared to two in Britain and four in the United States. The government says it doesn’t want anyone’s tax bill to exceed 60 percent of household income, but as long as it refuses to eliminate the anomalous wealth tax, the proposal is little more than an empty wish.

France, of course, is not alone on the socialist scale. Germany has a minimum wage almost twice as high as the one in France and it also suffers from an unemployment rate of over eleven percent.

Mrs. Merkle’s lead during the recently completed campaign virtually evaporated when she discussed the need for social welfare retrenchment. A dose of the medicine needed to put a charge in the lackluster German economy is still not politically acceptable. As a consequence, the near tie in the election has left Germany without a policy direction and close to political paralysis.

Clearly if things get worse, change might be more readily accepted. Yet the downward slope in Germany with the precarious status of the banks and the intractable high unemployment rate might well have served as a catalyst for reform. But a mandate for change did not emerge from the election.

This analysis, of course, is a snapshot. History, on the other hand, is a montage. Yet a montage is composed of snapshots. What one sees is ominous. Decline is palpable. In fact, the axis of the world’s economy has already shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. World shaking events surround us and for most Europeans the news cannot be good.

Alito Bit Of This, Alito Bit Of That

Although they were written without knowledge of the other, R. Emmett Tyrrell's essay and the one penned by yours truly form a perfect complementary tandem in today's American Spectator. Both are responses to the Alito job application which was discussed below by the estimable Mr. Karnick, who astutely assayed its radioactivity.

Tyrrell focuses on the fact that liberals have been pretending for at least a quarter-century that Reaganite ideas do not exist, and to the extent that they do exist they are outside the "mainstream" - this despite these ideas being in the political ascendancy since 1980.

I concentrate more on the need within the conservative camp for a pact of total loyalty, not to abandon Alito come Hell or high water. Here's a teeny excerpt:

All the gung-ho movement types were itching to volunteer for the battlefield. Okay, here it is. They had better be as good as their word. Because there will not be another chance. If Alito ends up twisting in the wind, with conservatives suddenly finding some taint in an obscure ruling of his and leaving his carrion in the open field for the vultures, then it's over for them. They won't get another chance. Not now, not ever. Not with this President. Not with any future Republican President.

It's very nice that everyone thinks of himself or herself as a person of principle. Not a sell-out. Motivated by morality. Informed by reason. Modified by experience. Calibrated by individuality. Guided by the spirit of the past. Animated by the spirit of the present. Inspired by the spirit of the future. We know all the lines, pal, but now is not the time: now it's time to put up or shut up. To, er... do your business or get off the pot. Push, as we have noted, has in fact come to shove.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My Other Favorite Blog . . .

Is The American Scene, written primarily by Ross Douthat of The Atlantic Monthly. Ross just has an endlessly interesting grab bag of topics that typically hit my sweet spot of Christianity, politics, law, etc.

His latest entry is a very good discussion of whether the Narnia stories are actually allegory, which they are typically assumed to be. If you like Narnia or discussions of literary genre, you should check it out.

Crime Doesn't Spay

A wonderful headline from today's news: San Francisco Passes Sweeping Dog Laws.

I'm against it. I say that we should let sweeping dogs lie.

(Great line from the article. Attorney Dawn Capp, a lib, hits this one out of the park: "Bad legislation far outnumbers dog bites in the history of humanity.")

Runaway Bride

(Hopefully not a poem about the Alito nomination.)

Ah, once the joy seemed nigh
And the ecstasy quite soon
The valiant knight rode high
The jaybird sang his tune.
Midnight heard love's sigh
And its ardor roared at noon
Stars twinkled in the sky
In the merry month of June.

Oh, who loving tongue did tie?
Who trampled poetry to ruin?
Thrust the valiant knight awry
Jaybird whimpering like a loon?
Darkling vultures overhead fly
Casting shadows on the moon.
Who dared Love's truth deny
In the teary month of June?

Can the tears those lovers cry
Bring the heart back its boon?
May the new respect they try
Refresh joy from the jejune?
Or was it just a seductive lie
As Fate drew a grim cartoon?
That's for you to say, not I
In the weary month of June.

(Or would you prefer some Byron?)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Judge Found in Hot Tub with Dead, Underage Male Prostitute

No, it's even worse than that, as regards the prospects for Judge Alito to be confirmed for the Supreme Court: a document that suggests he has opposed Roe v. Wade has been found, the Chicago Tribune reports:

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in 1985 that he "very strongly" believed the Constitution "does not protect a right to an abortion," and he said he was proud of his work as a lawyer in the Reagan administration arguing against the position enshrined in the landmark decision Roe vs. Wade.

Alito made the comments in an application for a job as deputy assistant attorney general, when asked about his "philosophical commitment" to the Reagan administration's policies. He also staked out conservative positions opposing racial and ethnic quotas and said he disagreed with Supreme Court decisions that kept a high wall between church and state, as well as those that gave criminal defendants greater procedural protections from police.

The story did not say exactly how the document came to light, which is an interesting side question. In any case, the revelation suggests that Democrats will question Alito even more aggressively on this issue during the confirmationg hearings:

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats said Monday that in light of the revelations in the newly revealed document, they expect Alito to be more open about his current views than previous nominees.

Perhaps Judge Alito will be able to survive by parsing his words carefully, as Judge Roberts did during his confirmation hearings, seeming to endorse Roe while leaving room to vote to overturn it later, but it is a certainty that the War over Judicial Philosophy conservative Republicans have hoped for is about to begin in earnest—with Alito right in the center of the crossfire.

Promoting a Comment on Science: Evolution and I.D.

I'm going to do something I think will make our blog even more interesting. We had a commenter on the thread about evolution and intelligent design that Jay started who put in some serious effort to moving the conversation forward. So, I'm moving the comment up to the main page for the edification of any who would like to read it.

The identity of the commenter is a secret. We know him only as . . . Bubba.

Here it is:

Ok, since I WAS a Science major, not a Literature or a PolySci major as it appears most of those who post are, please let me ramble on for a minute.

The "Scientific Method" starts with a hypothesis, and tries to systematically go about to prove or disprove the hypothesis. “Science” is publishing your conclusions, along with your methods and materials, so that other “scientists” may review and prove or disprove your work with their own work, thus creating an open debate.

“Science” relies upon “laws” (e.g., Gravity, Thermodynamics, Motion) which have come to be relied upon as fact after multitudes of experiments and an innumerable number of blackboards of mathematical equations seem to be able to describe and predict the outcome of experiments relative to these “laws”.

OK, where am I headed? The statement was made “Scientifically there is no debate about evolution”. Balderdash. Go read some scientific journals. Open up a “Chemistry (or Physics) For Dummies” book. Use some intellectual integrity to subject your beliefs and theories to serious scrutiny.

Evolution is a theory that has been propounded, promulgated, and legislated without the accompaniment of hard scientific experimentation and data. In fact, the theory of Evolution is believable only after one has blinded one’s self to laws of Science which have been overwhelmingly proven and been accepted as fact for hundreds of years, such as Newton’s laws of thermodynamics, and the definitions of Entropy and Enthalpy.

Alternatively, there is no debate about the veracity of Evolution only if debate has been outlawed in the public forum, or the debaters are shouted down or called “religious extremists” by those who are afraid that open, honest SCIENTIFIC debate would not substantiate their pet theory.

Q: Where did the large molecules come from?

A: They were put together from small molecules after having been zapped with solar radiation.

Q: Where did the small molecules come from?

A: Energy fused micro-molecules together.

Q: Where did the micro-molecules come from?

A: Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.

Q: Where did the Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms come from (since “Matter is neither created nor destroyed”)?

A: (no answer)

Q: Where did the solar radiation or the energy required to overcome the laws of Entropy come from?

A: (no answer)

The statement was made: “…I have no problem debating it and even reconciling it, but as tbm says, ID is not science, it's religion…”

It is clear that to believe in the theory of Evolution as though it had been proven factually has become such a matter of complete 'faith', and is no less 'a religion' for its believers than the Evolutionists accuse those who believe in Intelligent Design, or “Heaven” forbid, those who believe in the Bibical account of Creation of having.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Terrell, Jesse, Jesus and Steve

Jesse Jackson has come out in support of Terrell Owens' Right As A Black Man to act like a total buttface.

Presumably because Mr. Owens has been oppressed for like 400 years.

For you Wal-Mart shoppers who gravitate to the books, CDs, major appliances or frozen foods aisles instead of the toy department, Terrell Owens is a fabulously talented wide receiver. (For our overseas friends, that's a job in American football.) He recently, majorly and publicly, disrespected his corporate employer, the Philadelphia Eagles; his boss, coach Andy Reid, a solid/stolid walrus-like fellow in both girth and facial hair; and his team leader, quarterback Donovan McNabb, he of Rush Limbaugh fame.

Consequentially, Terrell has been suspended indefinitely, meaning that according to the terms of his contract he will continue to collect $200K a game to sit on his butt instead of aiding/torturing his team.

Now I've seen Terrell's life story, and folks, it actually is heartbreaking. He was raised by a strict if not psychotic grandmother, and his mother was a substance abuser who could not tell Terrell who his father was.

Until the day the older man from across the street came over, warning Terrell to keep away from his daughter because she was Terrell's half-sister.

So one might think that Terrell was jealous of gruff but fatherly Andy's affection for Donovan, who is one of the classiest and cuddly guys in all of football, and is the ultimate company man. He's the spokesman for Campbell's Chunky Soup. (Although his mom has become the star of the commercials, it just makes Donovan all the more cuddly.) Donovan throws the ball at a receiver's feet instead of forcing it in there and risking an interception, playing his coach's game instead of his own. Donovan is also Black, and I mention this only because I have not known Jesse Jackson to stand up for a White Man's Right to be a buttface.

I don't want to get into Terrell's head, but he reminds me of Steve Christ: "Dad, you always loved Jesus best. Jesus this, Jesus that..."

Steve's brother had a story they call The Prodigal Son, where the disenchanted son took all of his inheritance contract up front in cash, and promptly went forth and blew it all. He saw the error of his ways and resolved to go back to the family home, not to get his old place back, but just to get a job cleaning the stables or something. Home was good.

Terrell has apologized to the Eagles, to Andy, and even to Donovan. He wants to play football, and he wants to play it for the Philadelphia Eagles, whom he considers family.

Fair enough, Terrell. Tear up your contract and the $200K per game it pays, and offer to work for your Eagle family on the suicide squad, the guys who ram full speed into each other on kickoffs. For whatever the union-mandated league minimum is.

Andy Reid is known as a very religious person, and I bet he's familiar with the tale. Donovan McNabb seems to be a well-grounded man, too, and even though his counterpart in the story is the Faithful Son who gets aggravated at the welcome return of the Prodigal, I think he would welcome Terrell back, too.

Jesse Jackson is reputed to be a Reverend, which implies some familiarity with the Bible. It would be good if he passed Steve's brother's story on to the newest member of his congregation.

Late Disclosure: I'm a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and Terrell's criticism of his quarterback is not unwarranted, making this all the more tragic. Whoda thunk that a Proud Black Man and Rush Limbaugh might end up with the same conclusion? Mr. Chunky Soup just threw a game-losing interception on Monday Night Football, for lack of a reliable receiver. (Terrell's replacement zigged when he shoulda zagged.)

Hurry back, Terrell. We can work this out. Read some scripture, eat a little crow, overlook your quarterback's inadequacies, and get us to Super Bowl XL. All will be forgiven, I assure you.

Welcome to Hell, aka American Culture

Journeyman professional basketball player Paul Shirley writes in his latest column of his visit to a rock music show in which a band he likes, Stellastarr* [sic], opened for the Bloodhound Gang. Shirley and his brother enjoyed the opening act greatly, though the sound quality was poor, and they stayed to check out the first three songs by the headliner, expecting "some semi-funny rap/rock by some guys from Philadelphia."

They were treated to a bit more than that, in an experience the likes of which we have all had, where a fairly dubious but essentially trivial cultural product suddenly turns perfectly putrid:

The fact that their first tune was perhaps the worst song I have ever seen performed live did not help their case. Their fate was sealed when, between songs, one of the members of the band had the tank top he was wearing torn off by the lead singer in order that we in the paying audience could be treated to a viewing of his naked torso. The now-shirtless troubadour played along, in that staged-funny way, and acted as if he were surprised by the action. He then gathered up his shirt, rubbed it into his already-sweaty armpit and faked a toss into the crowd -- which probably would have been enough to convince my brother and me to leave the scene. But he took it to another level. Seeing the madness in the eyes of the crowd, he jammed the shirt down the front of his pants and pulled it, through his crotch, out the back. And then threw it into the crowd, where people actively clamored to catch it. If I had been in possession of a hand grenade at the time, I would be writing this from prison.

Any reasonably civilized American today knows exactly how he feels.

Goodbye, Genius: Peter Drucker Dies

I'm a history/law/religion type guy, but I didn't know myself as a younger person and studied social sciences like economics/political science/public administration. One author who stands out to me from that period and whom I still enjoy reading is Peter Drucker. Here was an individual who wrote penetratingly about management and organizations and who launched no fads. There was no "Theory X" or "Re-engineering" with Drucker. He simply had an awesome sense of effectiveness and strategy. Accordingly, he was paid astronomical sums for his advice. Tom Peters, for instance, is fun, but he's just a cheerleader compared with Drucker.

Fortune magazine has a good obit/homage to Drucker available:

He had a brilliant line that skewered both groups: “The reason reporters call these people gurus is that they’re not sure how to spell ‘charlatan.’”


Drucker simply didn’t care about the conventional view on any management topic, since he had thought them all through and knew where he stood. Yet I was still surprised by the vehemence with which he disdained the modern vogue for exalting leadership, as distinct from paltry old management. It infuriated him, though he was too polite to say so unless you asked him about it, which I did. His reasoning was extremely simple: “The three greatest leaders of the 20th century were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. If that’s leadership, I want no part of it.”


There were many things Drucker wanted no part of. Big universities, for instance. He scorned them all to remain at tiny Claremont College—payback, perhaps, for the scorn they’d heaped on him early in his career. Economists dismissed his work as cheap sociology. Sociologists had no use for business. And Drucker was dismissive of them all. “No economists were interested in organizations,” he explained in a 2001 interview with my colleague, Jerry Useem. The field “was based on the asinine assumption that organizations act like individuals. They don’t.” Here, Drucker had sensed a huge opportunity. Like any great entrepreneur—“somebody who creates something new,” as he once defined the term—he was raiding these older disciplines to create one that didn’t yet exist. Physics sprang from Newton, economics from Adam Smith. And Peter Drucker became the undisputed father of management—the discipline devoted to the study of organizations.

Last time I went on a really good vacation, I took two books with me. One was David Brooks' Bobos in Paradise. The other was Drucker's The Effective Executive. He'll be missed, but some of his predictions are still probably good for twenty more years or so. Start reading.

Debate And Switch

What is a small club like this for if not to have a convivial place in which to let off some steam?

In this context, I would like to comment about the debate in the Kansas school board about whether Intelligent Design should be afforded some diminutive mention in the science curriculum. The strategy of those who would deny the right to mention that "some believe that only intelligent design can explain such a high level of systematization" is to say that there are no serious scientists who believe such a thing. They say that one cannot legitimately make reference to the debate between random evolution and intelligent design because no such debate exists. We all recall Ted Koppel's breathless report that his staff had polled ten heads of Biology departments in universities and not one acknowledged that such a debate exists among legitimate scientists.

After a telephone conversation today with a friend who was parroting that position - a conversation in which I uncharacteristically blew a gasket - it occurred to me that I could vent in this venue my true thoughts and feelings. So, if the members of the Reform Club will forgive me, I will address my next remarks to these activists:

You f***ing liars. You outright frauds. You miserable creeps. To stand up there and pretend that the only legitimate scientific position in positing the origin of staggeringly complex organisms with trillions of interactive components is random non-systematic mutations modified only by the fact that the flawed ones are likely to burn themselves out?

It's one thing to pick that as the better choice in the debate. My side says that you can't create a thing with trillions of components and geometrically compounded amounts of possible permutations. And if you could get one with all the parts just right, there would still be plenty of intermediate ones that could survive. Your side says that it is reasonable to assume that all the guys without eyebrows died out, the ones without armpit hair, the ones with one eye, the ones with one nostril, the ones with one testicle, the ones without male nipples; none of them could endure the grueling survival-of-the-fittest reality show. (Survivor MMDDCCLLXXVIII was especially exciting, when they voted the males without nipples off the island into the sea.)

If the audience determines that you have the better argument, you win. If mine prevails, then I win.

But to say there is no f***ing debate? To say that no sane person can make a scientific argument for the existence of design, system, structure, plan? What total garbage! What absolute tommyrot, bilge and poppycock! Shame on you for your lack of elemental academic integrity.


Thanks. I feel better now.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

On The Commission of Lies

2 out of every 3 top lefty bloggers agree:

What this country will end up needing is something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission because what the country needs is not so much for particular people to go to jail but for the lies and the lies to cover up earlier lies to stop. The country can't get past what has happened or move forward until we can get the truth on the table, deal with it and move on.

Not really making a partisan point here, but I myself don't think people are ever satisfied with commissions. There's usually a minority dissent, and folks go on believing the side they came to dance with.

I've been interested in the investigations into the Pearl Harbor attack, which might be the closest historical analogue to this, and with parties reversed. Surely someone had blundered. This article seems to be a fair recap.

Seems right after Pearl Harbor, the Roberts Commission found the Hawaii commanders culpable, and FDR and Washington in the clear. Then as the war was winding down in '44, a court-martial was held, and one of the commanders was vindicated.

In November '45, after the war had ended, there was yet another commission which voted along party lines, and with an election coming up, the majority Democrats once again vindicated FDR, even though he was already dead.

In 1995, the Democratic administration's Undersec of Defense killed another inquiry. Finally, in 1999, the Republicans passed a Senate resolution vindicating the naval officers.

Almost sixty years later, and still they were voting along party lines. There will be no reconciliation.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


There has been a good bit of well-deserved media scrutiny of the UC Irvine Medical Center's troubled liver transplant program in the wake of this LA Times story exposing the deaths of over thirty patients who waited in vain for organs that the center was silently declining. However, the last paragraph of the story, which I have seen no one else comment upon, is what caught my eye:

"[I]n 1999, UC Irvine fired Christopher Brown, the director of its donated cadaver program, amid suspicion that he had improperly sold spines to an Arizona research program. The buyers paid $5,000 to a company owned by a business associate of Brown. Brown was not prosecuted."

The market price of a spine is $5000?!? Igor, order me four dozen and have them delivered to Capitol Hill. STAT. Less than a quarter of a million for a GOP that might actually pass some spending cuts and stand firm on tax reductions? What a flippin' bargain that would be.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Original Sin, Mea Culpas, and the GOP

I'm a Republican, and it's my fault. My most grievous fault. Mea maxima culpa. Now, then, and in advance.

Picking through the MSMspeak auspices of my LA Times (one must learn how to read the entrails of his newspaper), I discover/divine that budget cuts are being thwarted by the smaller number of GOP "wobblies" and those from heavily Democratic districts. And, it should be needless to say, every single Democrat.

Of course the GOP as a whole is blamed. Even in the Times' headline and in the lede itself. (Duh.) Some things will never change. Perhaps it's original sin or the Mark of Cain, but it's not exactly media bias (altho every little bit helps):

When the Democrats shut down the government in 1990, demanding more taxes to maintain spending, it was the GOP's fault. GHWBush gave in, and read my lips on this, it cost him the 1992 election.

When Newt Gingrich shut down the government in 1995 over spending, it was the GOP's fault. Bill Clinton hung tough, and that helped him toward his 1996 re-election victory.

Spending wins, but even more precisely, opposing spending cuts is a winner.

Fact is, if the Democrats wanted spending tamed (or illegal immigration for that matter), it would already be so. The threat of their demagoguery hangs like a veritable Sword of Damocles over the GOP pols, who are learning to like being the majority party.

But there's a structural weakness in being an anti-government party that finds itself in charge of the government: The GOP gets credit neither for cutting spending nor for increasing it.

Now, the Democrats have the same problem on foreign policy, where they are the anti-government party. The impotence of the Carter and Clinton administrations was palpable and near-disastrous, and each time ushered in a Republican. But Democrats enjoy a structural advantage: when (and if, ever again) they are remotely credible on national security, their home field advantage on domestic policy will take home all the marbles.

Progressivism in domestic policy is enticing; things can always get better. Wi-fi for the disadvantaged, geez, why not? Anyone who can promise cost-effective dental care for stray dogs has our complete attention. Or if anyone can promise to ease the plight of the poor, boy, we feel good about voting for that, too. We see poor people everyday, and not just on TV. Somebody ought to do something, even if it only requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part. Everybody knows that it's the Democrats who are just the guys to do it.

The Revolution Be Dead, Man.

And we didn't line up any fat, prosperous programs against the wall when we had the chance.

Friends at the cool blog Rock, Paper, Dynamite, noted that we know the revolution is over when Republicans are happily killing budget cuts.

To quote the guys at RPD, "I think it’s safe to say, 1994 – 2005 RIP."

Newt, you philandering scoundrel, we miss you.

What's Good For General Mac Is Good For America

In honor of Veterans' Day, the words of General MacArthur at West Point:

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death.

They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory.

Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in His own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

Call Me Ishmael (While I Burn Your Car)

Is Ilana Mercer an absolute genius or what? What does it say about the conservative movement in America to have this level of passion and talent?

Her article today eclipsed my understanding of the media France coverage, left me feeling like a rank amateur in understanding the depth of the kulturkampf. I had contented myself with the lazy observation that the media was disposed to "excuse" criminality when it wore a liberal-political fig leaf.

Ilana digs much deeper. She explains that the miscreancy is itself cited as "proof of virtue".

Her brilliant insight hit me like an epiphany. I felt like I could actually hear Isaiah (5:20): Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who assert that darkness is light and light is darkness; who assert that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. (My translation.)

Will Europe Return from Post-Capitalism?

Daniel Henninger of the Wall St. Journal thinks a major part of the problem with Muslim rioters in France is lack of economic opportunity. This is an additional consideration to go with theories about the lack of religious freedom in the public square, too cuddly multi-culturalism, and plain ole Muslim cussedness. Henninger terms the last "the young Muslim solution," which is "to burn down the house and rule the embers." The columnist doesn't dwell on these other notions, though, because he is more interested in the economic question. And in that area, he thinks the problem is Europe-wide and applies to more than Muslim immigrants.

Henninger's contention is that Europe is a museum, economically speaking, trapped in the period when Marxism was a putatively serious option. The result, in Western Europe at least, is that unemployment is high and economic opportunity is artificially restricted. In the end, a nation like France, which translates worker demands into law as though wishing makes it so, strangles its own economic future and expedites the process of transforming France into Franceland, an interesting place for tourism, but not for starting businesses or trying to maintain a payroll.

What of Eastern Europe which has experienced the less diluted form of state socialism? Those nations have taken a different course, choosing low, flat tax rates on both corporate and personal income. Result? Businesses, instead of Muslims, are moving east toward greater economic freedom.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Paris Plastered

A colleague wrote a piece today in which he used the phrase: "Paris is burning."

I dropped him a quick e-mail, saying that "if my boyfriend just smashed my Bentley into a delivery truck, I'd be burning too".

More Lyrics from Bob Roberts

Tom brought up Tim Robbins and I commented on the film Bob Roberts that Robbins made as a parody/paranoid comedy about right-wingers. I decided to look for the lyrics and found that Robbins refused to make a soundtrack because he didn't want to hear the songs outside the context of the film. I suspect that's the case because the songs are great conservative humor and would be heard for years to come.

Here are the lyrics of the song I mentioned in the comments to Tom's post:


Some people will work
Some simply will not
But they'll complain and complain and complain and complain and complain

Some people must have
Some never will
But they'll complain and complain and complain and complain and complain

Like this:
It's society's fault I don't have a job
It's society's fault I am a slob
I got potential no one can see
Give me welfare
Let me be me

Hey bud, you're living in the land of the free
No one's going to hand you opportunity

I spend all my time drunk in a bar
I want to be rich
I don't have a brain
So give me a handout while I complain

Some people must have
Some never will
But they'll complain and complain and complain and complain and complain

If anybody knows where I can get the lyrics to the rest of the songs short of getting a copy of the film and transcribing them, let me know.

Another Deserving Loser

Kathy Hutchins writes on the Virginia gubernatorial race:

Jerry Kilgore comes along and runs a campaign that makes Mayor Quimby look like Albert Einstein. The only thing it was a referendum on was opposition to egregious stupidity.

The Kilgore campaign ran an attack on now Governor-elect Tim Kaine's personal opposition to capital punishment, saying he wouldn't even execute Hitler.

C'mon, man.

Capital punishment is a serious and difficult issue on which persons of good conscience can disagree, and it should trouble all persons of good conscience, regardless of where they eventually end up on the issue.

First, Kaine stated that he would not defy the law or frustrate the will of the people by refusing to carry out lawfully decided death sentences. It was no longer a real political issue. But OK, for the sake of argument...

Kilgore's using Hitler in commercials diminishes the scope and gravity of Hitler's crimes. If the Kilgore campaign had any sense of proportion or honesty, it would have brought home the horror of murder with the example of an already-executed Virginia murderer, a real crime with real victims. Perhaps they'd have made a point.

Even Tim Robbins, as director and author of the screenplay of the painful yet elegant Dead Man Walking, by showing both the execution and the crime simultaneously, had the honesty to do that. And Robbins is opposed to capital punishment.

Turning everything into grist for the mill insults not just our intelligence, but our very humanity.

No lousy political office is worth the price you tried to pay, Mr. Kilgore, or the price you tried to extract from another man's conscience. People who do that should be shunned, and enough Virginia voters shunned you on Tuesday. Good on them.

(And I've always wanted to express my admiration for Tim Robbins' professionalism and the purity of his art in Dead Man Walking. I see you ranting on politics at a podium now and then on TV and my eyes glaze over, Tim, but regardless, you'll always get a fair hearing from me.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Those Lazy, Crazy, Hazy Days of The Cindy Sheehan Summer

Yeah, the polls are clear. Pick a poll, any poll. Toppling Saddam was a mistake, and Iraq is a quagmire. Not a surprising public sentiment. The Pew poll asked (11/3-6/05):

"A few weeks ago, Iraq held a nationwide vote on the country's constitution. How much have you heard about this: a lot, a little, or nothing at all?"

A Lot 22%
A Little 52%
Nothing At All 25%
Unsure 1%

Well, duh. That explains it. Terrell Owens' numbers are probably pretty close. Opinions are like...well, you know the rest.

Like Cindy Sheehan? Nah, I wouldn't compare her to one of those. She suffered, not only from the loss of her brave son, but apparently from a pre-existing psychological/political condition. But her effect was felt.

A tour of the lefty blogosphere (I do it, so you don't have to) tells us that since new darling Gen. Wesley Clark calls for pretty much Bush's status quo, more or less , the Cindy Sheehan summer (I shall always think of it as "The Cindy Sheehan Summer"---we should print T-shirts) revival of the glory days of Vietnam withdrawal protests are pretty much dead. Don't blame me, blame Wes Clark, OK?

(The music sucked anyway. Steve Earle played Camp Casey, but Woodstock had The Who and Jimi. Everyone, both then and now, was subjected to Joan Baez, tho. There is no protest without pain.)

Polls always lag, so I expect they'll catch up to Wes Clark soon and leave Cindy as just another fond memory, like Country Joe & The Fish or Al Gore.

So pretty much all that's left is "Bush lied."

John Podhoretz dutifully and nobly took it all on, once again, ad infinitum, ad nauseum in a well-researched article, with lots of quotes.

Not surprising that lefty mainstay Kevin Drum (he's considered the reasonable one) gets up in arms and unloads on it, although more with a snarl than a scalpel.

If the left loses "Bush lied," it's Game Over. Iraq will make its way somehow to a self-governing system, because without murderous tyrants, history is teaching us that that's what human beings tend to do.

And these al-Qaeda maniacs and their Ba'athist collaborators have shown themselves as the enemies of all humanity, just like their patrons bin Laden and Hussein, all smoked out for the world to see by the occupant of the White House for the next 3+ years.

(Personal Note: Our regular and welcome guests from the left do not harangue TRC with Iraq 24/7, and I for damn one appreciate it. I've opened the door here, so it's all fair game. I just had to write this essay, even knowing what might follow. If at least the initial salvo had something to do with Cindy, Wes, John, or Kevin, that would be cool. Cheers.)

GOP Woes and What the Dems Will Do about Samuel Alito

S.T. does a nice job of giving us the "what it all means" review of Tuesday's events and I'd like to build on it. The Republican Party has fully lost its fashionable insurgency quality and is stuck with the unatractive prospect of just plain governing. Since Newt left, the GOP has not seemed much like the party of big ideas and the war has, in fact, gone on a lot longer than most expected (certainly at the popular level). Fact is, the GOP is on its heels. There is one saving grace. Unlike the GOP of the 80's and early 90's, the Democratic Party is not flush with exciting policy prescriptions. Nevertheless, the GOP doesn't have much positive force right now. They haven't proven the ability to deliver any of the basic agenda beyond some modest tax cuts. No cut in the size of government, no revolution in social security, no market-driven healthcare reforms, no school choice to speak of . . . just a lot of military action with a steady drip-drip of casualties blown into a flood by an unsympathetic press.

Here's where Alito comes in. The only thing that saved Bill Clinton and the Dems, perhaps, was that they gained sympathy when conservatives appeared overzealous to crush him. A filibuster against Alito would constitute similar overreach and would give people a reason to rally around Bush and the GOP again. The Dems want to keep W. in the uncomfortable place he's been stuck in for a while. They won't offer him the easy way out of emerging as the gallant knight riding to the rescue of the well-qualified and dignified Samuel Alito. He'll be confirmed with just a little more sturm and drang than John Roberts got.

"Stinging Defeats for G.O.P." Yesterday

The New York Times characterized the Democrat candidates' victories in the New Jersey and Virginia governors' races as "stinging defeats" for the Republicans nationwide, and suggested that the losses portend further losses in next year's midterm congressional elections.

In California, ballot initiatives supported by Gov. Schwarzenegger met defeat, but so did three initiatives brought by the political Left. In Ohio, four initiatives "backed by labor unions, government reform organizations and the Internet-fueled activist group," in the NY Times's words, were likewise defeated. In New York state, the voters soundly rejected a ballot initiative for a state constitutional amendment, dubbed by taxpayer advocacy groups as the "Runaway Spending Amendment," which would have sharply curbed the governor's ability to veto spending bills.

The Times painted a basically gloomy picture regarding Republicans's prospects, but suggested that the Democrats still have some work to do in convincing voters that they are a better alternative:

The elections capped a season of political turmoil for the Republican governing majority, which has been buffeted by Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, soaring energy prices, scandal on Capitol Hill and, most recently, the indictment of I. Lewis Libby Jr., who was chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney.

The national mood remains dark. A new poll by the Pew Research Center, released on Tuesday, showed Mr. Bush with an approval rating of 36 percent, the lowest of his presidency; his approval rating among independents had dropped to 29 percent, from 47 percent in January, and he was also losing support among Republican moderates and liberals.

But Republicans note that voters have yet to turn to Congressional Democrats as a compelling alternative. The Pew survey found that voters were unhappy with both Republican and Democratic leaders.

Still, the results are likely to feed the Republican anxiety on Capitol Hill and exacerbate the sense among Republican lawmakers that after years of having Mr. Bush as an advantage at the top of the ticket, they are increasingly on their own.

Certainly the two gubernatorial defeats must sting. (Update: Jay Homnick makes a good point in the comments section, observing that the Democrats already held both of these governorships.) However, the record on the ballot initiatives suggests that although voters are not overly excited by Republican candidates and sitting political figures (such as Bush and Schwarzenegger) at this time, they are not ready to move strongly to either the Left or Right in policy terms.

The ballot initiative defeats in all three states mentioned earlier, especially the two in California that would have given greater power to the governor and the one in New York that would have favored the state legislature, suggest that voters in these big states were highly wary of making any serious changes at this time. That is to say, the voters were conservative in rejecting overt movements to the Right or Left in all three states.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Oh, That... That's Tomorrow's News

Being a Reform Club member has to count for something, especially after the novelty of the secret decoder ring wears off.

So now we are offering a prepublication glimpse at an article whose other millions of readers have to contain themselves until tomorrow.

Yes, it's just what you have been waiting for: an omnibus article cataloguing some of the distinctive features of the modern-day Democrat and Republican.

And if I must offer a little teaser of a taste to get you to chew on our links, here is a mere morsel:

IF YOU'RE too dumb to figure out a butterfly ballot, then you're probably trying to vote for that smart Democrat Presidential candidate. If you are smart enough to handle the ballot, you are probably voting for that dumb Republican.

If you're afraid to take a magnetic resonance image because your nose ring might stick to the magnet, you're a Democrat. If you're afraid to bob for apples at the church carnival because your tie might fall into the water, you're a Republican.

Happy Belated Blogiversary to Us

On Oct. 18, 2004, The Reform Club launched into the roiling blogwaters of the Bush-Kerry 2004 conflict. S.T. Karnick (founding editor of American Outlook, contributor to everything) conceived it. Hunter Baker (Religion/Politics Ph.D. seeker, former public policy professional, contributor to lots of online mags, -- mainly TAS) filled out the blogwork and made the first post. And, oh yeah, this guy named Alan Reynolds (minor deity of supply-side economics, Cato Institute) was on board POSTING (kidding, Alan, I kid because I love).

I kept thinking that I would remember to commemorate the occasion, but I didn't and neither did anybody else. We're sentimental fools here, aren't we?

If memory serves, Alan told us we should invite Ben Zycher, which we did. With a stroke, we became multi-faith and added our second well-known economist. Next, we invited this fellow Jay Homnick (Jewish World Review, TAS, ghostwriter), whose articles I used to link because I was in wonderment at his facility with wordplay. Then came Kathy Hutchins, who knew S.T. from the Hudson Institute days and whose comments were begging for a more prominent placement. Ditto Tom Van Dyke, whose achievements I mentioned recently (hint, he wrote the quote that got us in Newsweek and everywhere else). And finally, Herb London (NYU Prof. and Hudson Institute president) joined up and brought us full circle because he co-founded American Outlook with S.T. Karnick.

I suppose you could say American Outlook folded its tent and experienced reincarnation as The Reform Club.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Tale of Two Counties

Apparently, the subject of fundraisers and outings at "all-white" country clubs will continue to be raised in political campaigns. I, frankly, think that this is lazy politics. It's shorthand for racial intolerance and insensitivity, but the chain of causation is never spelled out, it's assumed. If a country club has no black members, it's because of conscious policy by the club. If you set foot in an all-white club, you are not only aware of the club's history and policy, you condone every aspect of it. QED.

I find all this silly (although not as silly as similar charges levelled against males who frequent all-male clubs). Is there a policy goal anywhere within shouting distance of meaningful? Is there a human being in the state of Maryland who really honestly thinks that if only Vernon Jordon or Michael Powell were members of the Elkridge Club that the plight of underclass blacks in Baltimore or Seat Pleasant would improve one tenth of an iota? Of course not. Yet refusing to host fundraisers at Elkridge is a necessary proxy marker for sufficient sensitivity to racial issues? Apparently people do think this. Why is that so?

I don't know where Mr. Trippi lives, or how much he knows about Maryland. I've lived here for three years, and I've learned a lot about race issues by doing something I was warned not to do by a lot of people, including some liberals. I bought a house in Prince Georges County, and starting paying attention.

It is staggering to me how segregated Maryland -- a state which never had Jim Crow laws -- remains in the 21st century. What is even more staggering is that this segregation seems to be almost entirely voluntary, and continues even where black socioeconomic status is higher than anywhere else in the country. Despite forty years of civil rights legislation, despite fifty years of integrated public schools, despite enough haranguing about tolerance to choke a stableful of elephants and donkeys, and despite almost identical voting patterns, middle class and affluent whites buy houses in Montgomery County and middle class and affluent blacks buy houses in Prince Georges County, operating in sufficient lockstep that Montgomery County is 27% black and Prince Georges County is 27% white.

Baltimore County, the location of the Elkridge Country Club, is even whiter than Montgomery. Yet I doubt very much that Elkridge has even a tacit rule against admitting blacks. There are simply too many well-connected, powerful, influential African-Americans in the greater DC area to make this plausible. Blacks just haven't done so, any more than they've moved into the very white liberal neighborhoods that tend to vote for the kind of candidates Joe Trippi works for. If blacks are banned at Elkridge, then it is in the same sense they are banned from the bluest-of-blue census tracts in Chevy Chase, Kensington, and Bethesda, which is to say in no sense at all, other than the sense that comes of their own comfort level.

I don't know why this is so, but I have my guesses. Why do blacks who have, beyond question, "made it" -- nailed down educations and careers and salaries that enable them to build seven figure custom homes on five acre lots in one of the hottest real estate markets in the country -- flock to rural Prince Georges County, where their grandparents sharecropped tobacco and soybeans, to do so? Just maybe it's because, having achieved material success, they don't feel any need to put up with the infernal honky bores that infest places like Montgomery County and the Elkridge Country Club.

This Stinks All the Way From New Jersey

Hold your noses:

At one point the moderator, Gabe Pressman, asked [GOP gubernatorial candidate Douglas] Forrester about his decision to use a critical quote from [opponent Jon] Corzine's ex-wife, Joanne, in one TV spot.

The 15-second ad features Joanne Corzine's quoted remarks, including her statement that "Jon did let his family down and he'll probably let New Jersey down, too."

The Republican businessman defended the comment as fair game.

"We took a quote off the front page of the New York Times," he said, explaining that it highlighted Corzine's "abandonment of principle for political purposes. It has to do with governance and letting New Jersey down."

This is what I was getting at when Joe Trippi came to visit us, and this incident is far worse, well past gamesmanship. Mr. Corzine's private life is not a political issue, and to use it as a symbol for his faithfulness to political principles is heinously dishonest. And Mr. Forrester's defense of this slime is laughably sophistic.

I seldom want a Republican to lose an election, but I do in this case. I find Doug Forrester unfit for office. He is a man without honor.

(And for the record, the Joanne Corzine ad is an echo of a much earlier one featuring Forrester's wife, Andrea, touting that Doug Forrester had never let his family down. Fair enough. But had the rumors over the weekend of some Forrester hanky-panky turned out to be true, his opponent would have been fully entitled to use them. It was Forrester who dragged his marriage into his campaign. Fair game.)

The Plame Game Continues

I was very shocked to receive a letter today from a friend who posits that Scooter Libby is taking a fall for the Administration and will be pardoned later by Bush. Reform Club readers will recall that I made a joke to that effect in an earlier post, where I said: "When I heard that Scooter might be going to jail to protect George, I was surprised to hear that Rizzuto was still that loyal to Steinbrenner."

But beyond the joke, to offer this as a serious contention is trumped by logic in every relevant detail.

1) Libby did not admit to being the leaker of Plame's name. On the contrary, he is being prosecuted for denying that fact.

2) If Libby was taking the fall and hoping for a pardon, he would have plea-bargained and pleaded guilty. Coming to court and loudly proclaiming his innocence is not being helpful to the Administration.

3) If Libby believes that this Administration operates by this type of corrupt loyalty system, then he must know that by pleading Not Guilty he is THROWING AWAY ANY CHANCE OF A PARDON.

4) Since Libby is not admitting being the leaker, he is leaving OPEN the possibility that somebody else is, exposing the Administration to further suspicion and investigation.

Bottom line, you do not deflect blame from anybody by denying blame, only by accepting blame.

I grew up around conspiracy thinking; it is a pandemic among Jews. I never liked the whole approach or the attitude of cynicism that it engenders. And, furthermore, it is almost never right.

Calling All Californians

California voters will be confronted tomorrow with two ballot initiatives on pharmaceutical pricing: Proposition 78, promoted mainly by the pharmaceutical industry, and Proposition 79, promoted mainly by the public employee unions.

The bottom line: Prop. 78 will increase drug access and reduce drug prices for those in need precisely because it will enable the drug producers to make more money, by discounting drugs for those less fortunate without being forced to offer the same discounts to the federal government. Prop. 79 explicitly would reduce drug access for the needy in an effort to subsidize the middle class, and would engender a tidal wave of litigation.

Consider a drug that costs, say, 20 cents per pill to produce after the enormous investments in research and development have been made. A wealthy patient might be willing to pay, say, $1 for each pill; but someone less fortunate might be able to afford, say, only 25 cents. Is it profitable for the drug producer to sell the drug to the poorer patient for 21 cents? The answer is yes, as long as the producer does not have to give the same price break to the wealthier patient.

Beginning in 1990, federal law in effect made it illegal to offer that price break to the poorer patient, because then the drug producers would have been required to give that same price to the feds. And so the need to cover large research and development costs prevented the drug producers from using such differential pricing to increase access to medicines for the poor.

The Bush Administration has changed the rules so that the producers now may give such discounts to those less fortunate through Patient Assistance Programs, without being forced to offer those same low prices to federal drug programs. Prop. 78 enables the producers to engage in such discounting in California by creating a legal gateway to the producers’ Patient Assistance Programs. Therefore, as counterintuitive as it may seem, the voluntary approach underlying Prop. 78 yields far greater benefits for those in need precisely because it allows the pharmaceutical producers to make more money.

Prop. 79 attempts to force sharp price discounts for over half the California population by threatening to remove from the Medi-Cal preferred drug list the drugs produced by those pharmaceutical firms not agreeing to the discounts demanded by a new California Prescription Drug Advisory Board. In other words, Medi-Cal patients would be denied the newest and most effective medicines if a given drug producer refused to offer sharp discounts to the middle class, unless a new state bureaucracy granted prior authorization for a given prescription.

That is why Prop. 79 almost certainly would never be implemented: The federal government has made it clear (in a 2002 letter to the state Medicaid directors) that it will not approve state programs that threaten the benefits of Medicaid patients in efforts to reduce drug prices for those not poor. And that is why the original program in Maine---quite similar to Prop. 79---was never implemented; after years of litigation, the state promised not to put drug access for poor patients under the Maine Medicaid program at risk. And so the actual program implemented in Maine is a voluntary one, as is the more successful program in Ohio, similar to Prop. 78.

Under Prop. 79, “profiteering” would be a civil offense, “defined” as “unconscionable prices” or “unjust or unreasonable profits.” This is a blatant attempt to conduct “negotiations” with a gun held to the heads of the drug producers. Any attorney could file a lawsuit, with damages of $100,000 plus costs per prescription. It entirely accurate to say that Prop. 79 would take from the poor and give to the lawyers.

Why is it that the political Left in California is supporting something as preposterous as Proposition 79, a blatant attempt first to politicize pharmaceutical pricing not only in California, but nationwide, second to create a litigation lottery that only the lawyers can win, and third to use political and regulatory processes to confiscate private property? The answer simultaneously is both subtle and crude: Proposition 79 would have the effect of making not only the poor but the broad middle class as well dependent upon government, and that is the overriding central goal of the Left. That is something that all freedom-loving individuals should fear and oppose.

Putin, Russia and American Interests

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s fall and dismemberment, it was widely believed that democratic reforms would be ushered in. Gorbachev had his perestroika which was designed to save as much of communism as possible; Yeltsin, however, claimed communism was dead, a relic of a bygone past.

But the Yeltsin era ended not as tragedy but as farce. Yeltsin was besotted more often than not, acted as a buffoon and was susceptible to corruption. He was replaced by Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative, who was discharged with putting the Russian humpty-dumpty together again.

For Yeltsin, liberation from economic oppression took the form of a Wild West land grab. Oligarchs gobbled up key sectors of the economy protected by their own private armies as Yetsin averted his gaze or was complicit in the public looting.

Putin restored order in precisely the manner one would expect from a KGB agent. He was ruthless and relentless. He didn’t challenge all the oligarchs only those who used their wealth to compete against his political dominance. When Khordokovsky supported Putin’s democratic rivals, he soon found himself in trouble with the law and now spends his time hammering stones in a labor camp, a broken and forgotten figure.

Putin is the embodiment of the Russian Brumaire, a Napoleon there to restore order, but who violates all of the democratic principles that brought him to power in the first place. His government is organized to promote stability. After all, he has argued the Russian people respect a strong leader.

While he is unquestionably a political figure different from Stalin and his Soviet successors, he is by no means either a democratic proponent or a benevolent autocrat. He presides over a still vast nation with seemingly intractable problems. Russian citizens, for example, have a life expectancy that is in continual decline, the only western nation in this predicament.

American foreign policy analysts are inclined to give Putin the benefit of the doubt suggesting it is better to have his brand of dictatorship than instability. Alas, there is some truth to this contention. Russian intelligence services, eager to ferret out Chechnyan Muslim terrorists, have also worked closely with their counterparts in the U.S. on actions against international terrorism.

But that is only part of a complex story. Putin realizes that the only way to forestall democratic impulses already evident in nearby Ukraine and counter American influence in Asia is to sign a mutual defense pact with China and, this year, engage in joint military exercises. Dictators tend to find like-minded conditions in fellow dictators.

There are many reasons to believe this relationship is unsustainable including border disputes, competition for resources and the growing Chinese population in Siberia. At the moment, however, it is a dangerous challenge to American interests and poses a threat to a U.S. defense of Taiwan should an attack be launched from the mainland.

This China card is an insurance policy for Putin which gives him credibility at home and influence abroad. For the U.S. it is a danger sign that must be thwarted.

At this juncture, the U.S. has some leverage over the Russians because of trade, foreign investment and the development of the still immature oil industry. It is incumbent on President Bush to speak plainly and directly to the man he claims to understand. Russian interests, needless to say, may not be consonant with those of the Bush administration, but when they are in conflict, diplomatic pressure must be exerted.

It is time for Bush to address Putin the way Reagan spoke to Gorbachev in Reykjavik. Just as there must be a “stick” for challenging U.S. interests, there should also be a “carrot” for embracing political openness and liberalization. In the long run, Russian’s future as a European entrant is dependent on democratization.