"Go not for every grief to the physician, nor for every quarrel to the lawyer, nor for every thirst to the pot." —George Herbert (1593-1633)

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Jena Six: This Tangled Web We've Weaved

I'm not much for reblogging, but the mainstream media has done a crap job of putting forth the full facts about the current goings-on in Jena, Louisiana, and this gentlewoman of the left has done a conscientious job of trying to suss it all out for us.

Look, this is the sort of Jim Crow town where the white barbershop discourages black customers because the white regulars don't want their hair cut using the same tools. True story, according to Newsweek.

There are no good guys here: the Jena Six kicked the pus out of some white boy with their Adidas (not jackboots). But they were charged with attempted murder even though said Caucasian attended a school function that very night.

And I'm not an advocate of "hate crimes" legislation, but leading up to this, the new black kid in Jena sat himself one day under the tree where the white kids usually hung out. The next day, three nooses dangled from the tree.

Now, it's largely unknown by American Caucasoids, but as a result of the thousands of lynchings in the Bad Old Days, especially in the bad Old South, the symbolism of the noose drives black folk more nuts than even a burning cross. Let us not forget Clarence Thomas's dissent in the Virginia cross-burning case of Virginia v. Black, where the majority allowed it under "freedom of speech." Thomas saw it differently, that the symbol was “intended to cause fear and terrorize a population.”

The kids who hung the nooses received a slap on the wrist---high spirits, a prank---and it was this that led to the escalation of racial tensions in Jena, Louisiana.

Now maybe some stupid kids somewhere could spraypaint a swastika on a synagogue as a relatively brainless and harmless prank because they don't fully understand what that means, but it defies the imagination that kids in a town where they don't cut black people's hair in a white barbershop are equally ignorant of the meaning of the noose. It just doesn't figure.

Now, the GOP has been MIA on this one, and I think they (we) are missing our own Sister Souljah moment in this. The facts are complicated, but something surely stinks in Jena that cannot just be explained away. The GOP---the Party of Lincoln---is now popularly known, and not unfairly, as the party of racism, because it took the Dixiecrats in, the 1960s Democrats who fought tooth and nail against integration and civil rights.

Now mebbe if the GOP stood up against the stink in Jena, some of its noose-hanging voters might stay home in 2008. Perhaps it might cost the next election. But this is a Wilberforce moment, and a missed opportunity to stand up for the principle of human dignity, from which all the rest of our principles flow.

____________________

Editor's Note: TVD will be on leave for the next few weeks, recording the album he's been threatening to inflict on the world for quite some time now. In the meantime, his co-contributors will continue to pick up his considerable slack.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Will the Real Fred Thompson Please Stand Up

I asked the question a couple days ago if Fred Thompson could really be as pathetic as Dick Morris claims he is. As I said I take whatever Morris says with a large grain of salt, so it comes with some satisfaction that I see Morris purposefully distorted numerous issues he took Thompson to ask for.

R
ay Robison at The American Thinker has a completely different take on the issues that were the focus of Morris’ attack. I would hope that conservatives would be more careful in their assessments, but it seems that some aren’t. We have plenty of time before we have to vote, so let’s let the real Fred Thompson emerge and cast our votes accordingly.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Civil Rights and Religious Liberty

To my mind, the most important question to be faced in thinking about the contours of religious liberty is not whether the Tallapoosa County Commission can put up a photocopy of the Ten Commandments in the courthouse breezeway, or whether little Johnny can say "Jesus" in his valedictory speech, but the degree to which religious organizations (churches, parachurch groups, service centers, etc.) will have their institutional autonomy protected or whether federal, staet, and local authorities will be given free reign to impose non-discrimination standards and force those organizations to hire and keep people whose views or lives do not match the organization's. Earlier this week, New Jersey revoked the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-run pavilion because it refused to allow same-sex "weddings" there. Yesterday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that a Jewish Community Center was exempt from civil rights laws on the basis of Title VII exemptions. I suspect, alas, that this will be the pattern for things to come. Courts will grant exemptions for a wide range of religious organizations from civil rights laws, but state and local authorities will use their tax and regulatory powers to try and coerce those same organizations into conforming nonetheless, especially with respect to homosexuality.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Belichk as Nixon?

Now, I'm much more of a college football fan, but I've been pretty interested in the cheating scandal surrounding the NE Patriots. People may differ on how serious this is, but Greg Easterbrook, writing over at ESPN's TMQ, has to take the cake when he makes Belichik out to be a "Nixon," throwing all sorts of wild (and entirely unsubstantiated in the column) claims about "secret" information and spying and so on. And then suggesting that the Patriots' coach might not last the season because he has raised the specter of "cheating" in the NFL.

Well, excuse me if I remain unpersuaded. It's quite true that the Patriots cheated by filming the Jets' signs and it's likely they've been doing it for a while. What's more, it's likely that they have in the past tried to pump former players for information and engaged in all sorts of skullduggery. Can we ask: so what? What team doesn't try to figure out what plays their opponent will run? Is there really a difference between peering over to the their sideline to see what kooky arm signals are being used versus looking at their player packages? It's only an unfair advantage to the degree that no one else can do it? Besides, *of course* teams cheat in the NFL. Teams teach their linemen to go as far as they can (and a bit over the line) in using their hands illegally. Defensive backs grab, pull and bump so long as they think they won't get called for a penalty. C'mon, if stealing signs is going to bring down a league, then it's not much worth defending in the first place...

Is Thompson Really This Bad?

Dick Morris is annoying and clearly not a conservative or a friend of conservatives, so I take everything he says with a large grain of salt. Yet sometimes he is right on. I read his article “Thompson is Clearly in Over His Head” and wasn’t quite sure how to take it. Which Dick Morris wrote this, the one who has decent political instincts, or the one who is clearly not on the right side of the political spectrum? He makes Thompson appear completely incompetent.

I’ve read stuff like this about Thompson, and I’m wondering how much truth there is to it all. Either way, if it gets said enough, long enough, it will gain a critical mass and he’ll have no chance at the nomination. What think ye?

25 Skills Every Man Should Know

From Popular Mechanics. For the record, I'm good on all but one, bleeding brakes. But I bet I can figure it out.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Is Giuliani the Hillary Slayer?

What is it that makes Rudy Giuliani so attractive to so many conservatives despite his less than conservative stands on social issues? Last week gives us a perfect example of why. While the Democrats and their left-wing allies were slandering a four star general, Republicans and conservatives, including those on the campaign trail for president, were strongly voicing their condemnation, many in writing and on the air. But only one person took action and actually did something about it. That would be Rudy.

Philip Klein in the American Spectator has a wonderful article that nicely captures why so many conservatives love the guy, and why he just might be the only one that can take down the Clinton machine. Not only did Giuliani challenge the New York Times to give him the same ad space for the same price, he also created a Web ad slamming Clinton for her flip-flops on the war (you can find links to these in the article). Klein believes that because of his background and who he is that he has a much better chance of defeating Hillary than do the other candidates in the race.

As demoralized conservatives begin to fear that another Clinton presidency is inevitable, this episode demonstrates that Giuliani may represent the Republicans' best shot at defeating Hillary in next year's election.

Throughout his career, Giuliani has excelled at relentlessly pursuing opponents, whether in the courtroom or political arena. . . .

Giuliani's background as a prosecutor and gift for speaking plainly and with clarity makes him ideally suited to cut through the type of word parsing for which the Clintons are legendary.

While it is popular for conservatives to lament the existence of the liberal media, Giuliani understands that it is a reality. Rather than belly-ache about it, or, as the Bush administration often has done, ignore attacks by assuming people aren't paying attention and they will go away, Giuliani understands that conservatives need to simply be better at using the media to their advantage, as he did when he fought entrenched liberal interest groups as mayor.

"If I run against Hillary Clinton, I'm perfectly prepared to carry this battle, not expecting that the New York Times or the major networks…are going to give us anywhere the same kind of favorable coverage they will give her," Giuliani told Hugh Hewitt last week. "I'm a realist, I'm not saying that in any way where I have a chip on my shoulder. I've lived with this all during the time I was mayor of New York City. The reality is we just have to be better at communicating."


He also points out that he has more of the kind of experience that gets presidents elected than anybody else in the race, including Clinton and Obama, who have very weak resumes. The same goes for the two Senators in the primaries who are his closest rivals and another who was governor, Mr. Romney.

As much as I’m conflicted about Giuliani I have to say Klein is very persuasive. I have until the Illinois primary to make up my mind, but the only other candidate I would vote for is Thompson, although I could live with Romney. He’s made the right changes, be they for the wrong reasons or not. But I must say that hearing about these episodes last week and reading this piece got me all pumped up. The Clinton machine is a powerful and deceptive force, and it’s going to take a real fighter to bring it down.

While there are certainly many factors that conservatives will have to consider when choosing the Republican nominee, all they have to do is look at the reincarnated HillaryCare plan that is being unveiled today to recognize that the ability of a Republican candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton should be a major consideration.

It’s hard to argue with Giuliani’s track record in combat with elitist leftist culture, and that he relishes the battle. That is certainly something to consider.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Is the Liberal or Conservative Mind Better?

I know it’s hard to believe, but according to a recent study liberal and conservative brains actually work differently. To most people with a bit of common sense this is axiomatic, but to academics this needs a “study.” And surprise, surprise, according to these academics:

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.
Isn’t this amazing that liberals are, well, just so liberal! And not only this, “liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas.” Gosh if it wasn’t for liberals we’d all be stuck in the benighted dark ages of conservatism. And this must all be true because “scientists” tell us it’s true.

Now if these studies were talking about the classical liberalism of the 18th and 19th Centuries, then I could buy into the conclusions. But all those classical liberals are dead, and the new classical liberals of today are called conservatives. If one were to objectively observe American political discourse over the last 30 years it would be very clear that modern liberals are far less open to new ideas. In fact, they haven’t had one since the Great Society!

And if we use words like reactionary and rigid we see that the modern left embodies such terms. It is striking that the Democrat Party has been completely co-opted by the loony moveon.org left. Of course that all started with the left’s favorite American humiliation, Vietnam, and as the debate over Iraq in the last few days has shown us as well they are still invested in American humiliation. How liberal of them.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Is it wrong for me to hold a grudge against the French for this long?

The question is, "What is it that orbits around the earth?"



My six year old just asked me what I was doing. I asked her if she knew the answer to the question. She did. Then she asked me again what I was doing.

"Mocking the French," I said.

"OK, Daddy. When you're done, can you read me a story?"

No tantrum. No PLEEAASE NOWWWW DADDY.

At some level, she understands.

I don't care what the standardized tests say; American kids are alright.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Pigs, Iraqi-Style

CNN reports that the Iraqi Police Dept. is toejam, "dysfunctional and sectarian." Well, duh.

The headline trumpets the failure of the Iraqi police, but the article goes on to indicate that the reformation of the Iraqi army is somewhat less than a disaster. The problem of the police has been noted by any number of journalists on the ground for months and months now---the people trust the army somewhat as even-handed and pan-Iraqi; the police are no more than local militias, and often allied with the Shi'a radical Moqtada al-Sadr.

If we withdrew, would the army collapse? I think so---they only cohere when US troops fight alongside them.

If we withdrew, then, what of the police? Likely, these militias would move against their enemies even more openly than they do. Right now, they fulfill some police function by safeguarding their own. In their spare time, they function as death squads, eradicating their counterparts on the other side.

Now, we see "civilian" bodies pile up, but how many of them are bad guys killing each other? This is a question I don't hear asked.

(Based on the news coverage, I have absolutely no idea as to how much of the murder in Iraq is bad guys killing bad guys. But I confess such murders wouldn't upset me. Sorry.)

What we do know is that it's al-Qaeda in Iraq that targets civilians almost exclusively and indiscriminately---the real civilians, woman and children. If the Iraqi army dissolves with a US withdrawal, and it likely would IMO, only the tribes would battle al-Qaeda, but only piecemeal, and only if they thought they might win. Afghanistan is a nation of proud and courageous tribes, but the greater organization of the Taliban left them only with the option of living under their boot to perhaps fight another day. Piecemeal can't get it done against an organized oppressor, as much as we admire the French Resistance, such as it was.

And so, the police problem of right now as a constant in the equation, stay or go. As always, I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

Ecce Homo

I've never had a problem with those who question the decision to topple Saddam, or those who question the Bush Administration's competence, whether in Iraq or New Orleans.

But those who have questioned what's in the president's heart, his very humanity, as if it were all about oil or a disdain for black people, they've crossed the line of their own humanity by anointing themselves worthy to judge him as a human being.

Bush tells biographer: 'I do tears'
By CALVIN WOODWARD
Associated Press Writer
Bush Biography


A tear runs down President Bush's cheek as he takes part in a Medal of Honor Ceremony for Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Bush granted journalist Robert Draper several extended interviews in late 2006 and early 2007, as well as unusual access to his aides, for the book "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush," which went on sale Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007.

Under that famously self-confident exterior is a president who weeps---a lot.

President Bush told the author of a new book on his presidency that "I try not to wear my worries on my sleeve" or show anything less than steadfastness in public, especially in a time of war.

"I fully understand that the enemy watches me, the Iraqis are watching me, the troops watch me, and the people watch me," he said. Yet, he said, "I do tears."

"I've got God's shoulder to cry on. And I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job. I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count, as president. I'll shed some tomorrow."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Deus In Machina

Recently an odd sort of duel was fought in the American Spectator; not with pistols, but epistolary.

The combatants were that Derbyshire fellow who writes for National Review with a sort of weighty weary wisdom that recalls pre-20th Century intellectualism, and Tom Bethell, perhaps the most courageously open-minded magazine writer of our time, thirty years and counting on the front lines of the culture wars from his trench at the aforementioned Spectator.

Mr. D was grunting through a barely suppressed yawn (think Nero Wolfe) that anyone with an evolved mind knows that the "irreducible complexity" of small cells is a bogus argument against evolution, one only advanced by that killjoy cabal of clerical types who would twist any premise to confirm their preconceived conclusion of Creation.

Mr. B countered - with vivacity - that even the most minute constituent cell of a living organism was equipped with complex circuitry like a computer, and the idea that such an "active ingredient" could have evolved from simple undesigned matter is the sort of absurdity only a pompous pseudo-intellectual could sell himself and try to sell the world.

It won't surprise anyone, I hope, that Bethell's approach impassions me while Derbyshire's draws an answering yawn.

But what I find most fascinating in all skirmishes of this type is how both miss a key point. Let's skip for a moment the question of whether the cell's being like a computer proves design. Computers themselves prove the world is designed; why get locked into cells?

The idea is simple. The theory of evolution says there is no mechanism to create right things in the world, there is only a way of eliminating wrong things. There is no trial and error, there is only error, with the result that a trial occurs by default only. Bad things can't survive, what remains is the self-sustaining, which we then define as good. Fine. Such a system could exist but it could not have within itself potential creative systems. If anything it naturally tends to spawn spontaneous and arbitrary properties, more likely to be troublesome by a factor of zillions to one.

The fact that the forces and properties existing in the world can be rearranged via human intervention to form a computer indicate a designer who anticipated that arrangement. To assume that all the parts for something so amazing were present for no purpose at all and a human mind could discover that possibility as a coincidental reconfiguration of reality is monstrously absurd.

The Larry Craig Affair (and not much of one---he didn't even get any)

In this day of live-and-let-live---which, mind you, is largely a good thing---we still prohibit things like sex on the sidewalk. We all draw our lines, the only question is where.

Former US Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) attempted something like having sex on the sidewalk in the restroom of a major metropolitan airport, and has paid for it with his career. That should be the end of it, but it's not.

Because there is an aspect of homosexuality to all this, and necessarily so: if heterosexually-inclined men could get some action simply by tapping a foot in a public toilet, even the Super Bowl would play in front of a helluva lot of empty seats. Most of the guys would be in line outside the crapper.


Now, experts in gaydom have opined that cruising public men's rooms is largely amateur hour for the bi-curious or almost-fully repressed, and that seems logical; gay bars are usually far more tastefully appointed than the airport loo, although you still have to listen to disco either way. Still, if a person wants to be closeted, most people are willing to honor that, including most gay folk.

It's a fact that there are many people in the closet who hold ranking posts in the GOP, and even the straight people they're surrounded by have some functioning level of gaydar. They're dimly aware of it, and that's how they like it, with the emphasis on "dim," not "aware."

Are you now or have you ever...? Ehh. Been there, done that.


So we might say Larry Craig's sin was in getting caught, which makes it a legal/prudential issue, not a moral one. Stupid. Sex on the sidewalk. Geez, get some self-control, man. At least hire a professional, who's paid not for the sex but for the confidentiality. Don't chase your bliss on the cheap. What do we pay you people so much for?

Republicans stand on their heads to avoid sexual-preference McCarthyism. They'd heard the rumors about Larry Craig. He was on the downlow, but it hardly seems proper that the party should gather rumors, investigate, and kick out anyone who's suspected of being on it. Mark Foley's closet was half-open, but what would have been the hue and cry if the GOP had made an issue of his improper advances?

We know the answer to that: "anti-gay," heads or tails. You lose.

So they let the Foley rumors slide, and it might have cost the control of Congress in the 2006 election. But what can ya do? To be seen as persecuting him as a gay man would have been even worse, nor was there any genuine enthusiasm for it. (His real sin against the republic and the polity was in trying to diddle the help, but outrage at sexual harassment seldom leads to anyone being removed from office, as we discovered a decade or so ago. It's a perk, not a crime.)



No, what's clearly disgusting about this whole (non-)affair is that in some circles, it's not being gay, but being "anti-gay" that justifies taking the gloves off. But what is "anti-gay?"

I can't find much that Craig said or did politically except his opposition to gay marriage (with an apparent openness to civil unions) and objections to entering sexual preference into hate crimes legislation. This brings down the pejorative "anti-gay," a hideous term of art, on the order of "baby-killer."

If one is "anti-gay," then, is he fair game for "outing," by opposition activists and even "journalists?" Apparently some people think that's A-OK, including the Idaho Statesman, a newspaper that admitted investigating if not stalking him.

That's the disgusting part, folks.

They might have had a point if Larry Craig had been an advocate of overturning Lawrence v. Texas and restoring anti-sodomy laws, which do indeed extend to the private bedroom. But the issues of gay marriage and of hate crimes legislation are entirely ones of public policy.

Larry Craig may have stepped over the line between public and private, but if there was ever any line between public and private, it was they who obliterated it.


Now, it turns out that some of the Democratic presidential candidates don't support gay marriage either. And at least one has been the subject of, um, rumors which do not bear repeating.

What shall be done with them? Has the Idaho Statesman assigned a reporter to the beat?

More questions to which we already know the answers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Smokers of the World Unite!

Now this is my kind of gal: an unapologetic smoker for 93 years! No PC health fetish for her, no sir. Five a day will keep the doctor away.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Waiting for Fred-ot

Well, it works better if you say it. As in Godot.

In the Oscar-winning movie Tootsie, Jessica Lange confesses to Dustin Hoffman in his female disguise that all she wants from a man is for him to play it straight, no games, and tell the truth that he simply wants to make love to her.

When Hoffman actually tries the tactic as his real-life male self, the comely Jessica throws her drink in his face. Such impertinence.

The GOP has been putting on the hair shirt. Not only has the perhaps last of its flirtations with idealism (Iraq---the other two being Reagan vs. communism and the Civil War) gone not-that-well, but domestically, it proved that once entrusted with actual governing power, it would cynically loot the public treasury to buy votes just like any other ruling party, and without the moral confidence. (Or acclaim.)

After they punted congress in the 2006 elections, there was barely a Republican, and not a single conservative, who didn't see it as justice.

Enter Fred-ot.

By most accounts, so far Fred Thompson's trip down the 2008 rhetorical runway has a lot of honesty, a lot of hair shirt. Truth, you might call it. The GOP has abandoned its principles, the Democrats don't take anything seriously. But will it fly?

His tone is a bit mournful, a bit stumbling, not passionate. (May I recommend as background here the exquisite Harvey Mansfield on thumos, on political passion. It's what makes things go.)

No, you don't court Jessica Lange or the American electorate with brutal honesty and the offer of a hair shirt. You'll make a lot of sense to the wallflowers of America like me, but the rest, friend and foe alike, will throw their drinks in your face.

Word up, Fred.