Sunday, February 29, 2004

There's No Reason to Question My Patriotism Just Because I Hate My Country! 

Ex- Navy Lt. John Kerry is no brother of mine
John Regal
Amarillo Globe News

I am a Vietnam veteran and retired Marine. I served as a rifle company commander in Vietnam in 1966, 1967 and 1968, and I know I can speak for the majority of the Marines with whom I served.

Most of these guys are now in their 50s and well integrated into all walks of society. Most also spent complete 13-month tours in Vietnam unless they came home on stretchers or in caskets. And many did.

Presidential candidate John Kerry's service in Vietnam is not the issue. It is his anti-war activities after he came home that, to this day, sticks in the craw of most Vietnam vets - at least the ones I know. [...]

Recently, I heard a Democrat say, ". . . (P)ersonally, I don't much like Kerry, but I don't doubt what he did in Vietnam. . . ." He obviously was referring to Kerry's honorable and heroic service. I, too, do not doubt what Kerry did while in Vietnam. But can we separate John Kerry the war hero from John Kerry the Vietnam Veterans Against the War protester? In other words, can we mention one without mentioning the other?

Well, let's look at it this way. If we had a hero in our local fire department who left that service and became an arsonist, would we refer to this person as a hero or an arsonist or both?

Benedict Arnold was first a hero, then a traitor. How do we remember him now?

John Kerry's America
William F. Buckley Jr.
Commencement Address to United States Military Academy, West Point
June 8, 1971

I read ten days ago the full text of the quite remarkable address delivered by John Kerry before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It was an address, I am told, that paralyzed the committee by its eloquence and made Mr. Kerry — a veteran of the war in Vietnam, a pedigreed Bostonian, a graduate of Yale University — an instant hero.

After reading it I put it aside, deeply troubled as I was by the haunting resonance of its peroration, which so moved the audience. The words he spoke were these:

"[We are determined] to undertake one last mission, to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war, to pacify our hearts, to conquer the hate and fear that have driven this country these last ten years and more, so that when, thirty years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say 'Vietnam!' and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning."

"Where America finally turned." We need to wonder: where America finally turned from what?

Mr. Kerry, in introducing himself to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made it plain that he was there to speak not only for himself, but for what he called "a very much larger group of veterans in this country." He then proceeded to describe the America he knows, the America from which he enjoined us all to turn.

In Southeast Asia, he said, he saw "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."

A grave charge, but the sensitive listener will instantly assume that Mr. Kerry is using the word "crime" loosely, as in, "He was criminally thoughtless in not writing home more often to his mother." But Mr. Kerry quickly interdicted that line of retreat. He went on to enumerate precisely such crimes as are being committed "on a day-to-day basis, with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." He gave tales of torture, of rape, of Americans who "randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravages of war." [...]

Are there extenuating circumstances? Is there a reason for our being in Vietnam?

"To attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom . . . is . . . the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart." It is then, we reason retrospectively, not alone an act of hypocrisy that caused the joint chiefs of staff and the heads of the civilian departments engaged in strategic calculations to make the recommendations they made over the past ten years, to three Presidents of the United States: it was not merely hypocrisy, but criminal hypocrisy. The nature of that hypocrisy? "All," Mr. Kerry sums up, "that we were told about the mystical war against Communism."

The indictment is complete.

It is the indictment of an ignorant young man who is willing to condemn in words that would have been appropriately used in Nuremberg the governing class of America: the legislators, the generals, the statesmen. And, reaching beyond them, the people, who named the governors to their positions of responsibility and ratified their decisions in several elections.

The point I want to raise is this: If America is everything that John Kerry says it is, what is it appropriate for us to do? The wells of regeneration are infinitely deep, but the stain described by John Kerry goes too deep to be bleached out by conventional remorse or resolution: better the destruction of America, if, to see ourselves truly, we need to look into the mirror John Kerry holds up for us. If we are a nation of sadists, of kid-killers and torturers, of hypocrites and criminals, let us be done with it, and pray that a great flood or fire will destroy us, leaving John Kerry and maybe Mrs. Benjamin Spock to take the place of Lot, in reseeding a new order.

Gentleman, how many times, in the days ahead, you will need to ask yourselves the most searching question of all, the counterpart of the priest's most agonizing doubt: Is there a God? Yours will be: Is America worth it?

John Kerry's assault on this country did not rise fullblown in his mind, like Venus from the Cypriot Sea. It is the crystallization of an assault upon America which has been fostered over the years by an intellectual class given over to self-doubt and self-hatred, driven by a cultural disgust with the uses to which so many people put their freedom. The assault on the military, the many and subtle vibrations of which you feel as keenly as James Baldwin knows the inflections of racism, is an assault on the proposition that what we have, in America, is truly worth defending. The military is to be loved or despised according as it defends that which is beloved or perpetuates that which is despised. The root question has not risen to such a level of respectability as to work itself into the platform of a national political party, but it lurks in the rhetoric of the John Kerrys, such that a blind man, running his fingers over the features of the public rhetoric, can discern the meaning of it:

Is America worth it?

That is what they are saying to you. And that is what so many Americans reacted to in the case of Lieutenant Calley. Mistakenly, they interpreted the conviction of Calley as yet another effort to discredit the military. And though they will not say it in as many words, they know that if there is no military, it will quickly follow that there will be no America, of the kind that they know, that we know. The America that listens so patiently to its John Kerrys, the America that shouldered the great burden of preserving oases of freedom after the great curtain came down with that Bolshevik subtlety that finally expressed itself in a Wall, to block citizens of the socialist utopia from leaving, en route even to John Kerry's America; the America that all but sank under the general obloquy, in order to stand by, in Southeast Asia, a commitment it had soberly made, to the cause of Containment — I shall listen patiently, decades hence, to those who argue that our commitment in Vietnam and our attempt to redeem it were tragically misconceived. I shall not listen to those who say that it was less than the highest tribute to national motivation, to collective idealism, and to international rectitude. I say this with confidence because I have never met an American who takes pleasure from the Vietnam War or who desires to exploit the Vietnamese.

So during those moments when doubt will assail you, moments that will come as surely as the temptations of the flesh, I hope you will pause. I know, I know, at the most hectic moments of one's life it isn't easy — indeed, the argument can be made that neither is it seemly — to withdraw from the front line in order to consider the general situation philosophically. But what I hope you will consider, during these moments of doubt, is the essential professional point: Without organized force, and the threat of the use of it under certain circumstances, there is no freedom, anywhere. Without freedom, there is no true humanity. If America is the monster of John Kerry, burn your commissions tomorrow morning and take others, which will not bind you in the depraved conspiracy you have heard described. If it is otherwise, remember: the freedom John Kerry enjoys, and the freedom I enjoy, are, quite simply, the result of your dedication. Do you wonder that I accepted the opportunity to salute you?

Vets rally outside Kerry's city HQ
Wil Cruz
New York Newsday

With only three days to go before Tuesday's Democratic primary, Vietnam veterans rallied Saturday outside Sen. John Kerry's campaign headquarters in Manhattan — but a Band of Brothers they were not.

Side by side with a coalition of Vietnamese-Americans from across the country, members of the Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry chanted "Commander-in-Chief Kerry? No Way!" under banners and signs decrying the Democratic front-runner as a traitor.

"He betrayed us. He stabbed us in the back," Jerry Kiley, 57, co-founder of the ad hoc group, screamed to the crowd of about 400 people packed on Park Avenue South. "We will never allow him to be our commander-in-chief. Ever!"

Veteran after veteran passionately lambasted Kerry, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam war, for, among other things, his testimony to Congress in 1971 that detailed alleged atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. Kiley said his group, which was formed three weeks ago, plans to rally at the Democratic convention in Boston in July if Kerry wins the nomination.

Equally fervent in their disdain for Kerry were the Vietnamese-Americans, who hold the senator from Massachusetts responsible for thrice blocking a bill in 2001 and 2002 that would have tied U.S. aid to Vietnam to that country's human rights record.

"Sen. John Kerry has been working with the dictatorship in Vietnam," said Nam Pham, 48, a banker from Boston who is working with the Massachusetts Human Rights Commission for Vietnam. "He lost the moral authority to lead the free world."

A Vet Questions John Kerry's Military Service

I was in the Delta shortly after John Kerry left. I know that area well. I know the operations he was involved in well. I know the tactics and the doctrine used, and I know the equipment. Although I was attached to CTF-116 (PBRs) I spent a fair amount of time with CTF-115 (swift boats), Kerry's command.

Here are my problems and suspicions:

(1) Kerry was in-country less than four months and collected a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. I never heard of anybody with any outfit I worked with (including SEAL One, the Sea Wolves, Riverines and the River Patrol Force) collecting that much hardware that fast, and for such pedestrian actions. [...]

2) He collected three Purple Hearts but has no limp. All his injuries were so minor that he lost no time from duty. Amazing luck. Or he was putting himself in for medals every time he bumped his head on the wheel house hatch? Combat on, the boats were almost always at close range. You didn't have minor wounds, at least not often. Not three times in a row. Then he used the three Purple Hearts to request a trip home eight months before the end of his tour. Fishy.

(3) The details of the event for which he was given the Silver Star make no sense at all. Supposedly, a B-40 was fired at the boat and missed. Charlie jumps up with the launcher in his hand, the bow gunner knocks him down with the twin .50, Kerry beaches the boat, jumps off, shoots Charlie, and retreives the launcher. If true, he did everything wrong.
(a) Standard procedure when you took rocket fire was to put your stern to the action and go balls to the wall. A B-40 has the ballistic integrity of a frisbie after about 25 yards, so you put 50 yards or so between you and the beach and begin raking it with your .50's.
(b) Did you ever see anybody get knocked down with a .50 caliber round and get up? The guy was dead or dying. The rocket launcher was empty. There was no reason to go after him (except if you knew he was no danger to you just flopping around in the dust during his last few seconds on earth, and you wanted some derring-do in your after-action report). And we didn't shoot wounded people. We had rules against that, too.
(c) Kerry got off the boat. This was a major breach of standing procedures. Nobody on a boat crew ever got off a boat in a hot area. EVER! The reason was simple: If you had somebody on the beach, your boat was defenseless. It coudn't run and it couldn' t return fire. It was stupid and it put his crew in danger. He should have been relieved and reprimanded. I never heard of any boat crewman ever leaving a boat during or after a firefight.

Something is fishy.

Here we have a JFK wannabe (the guy Halsey wanted to court martial for carelessly losing his boat and getting a couple people killed by running across the bow of a Japanese destroyer) who is hardly in Vietnam long enough to get good tan, collects medals faster than Audie Murphy in a job where lots of medals weren't common, gets sent home eight months early and requests separation from active duty a few months after that so he can run for Congress. In that election, he finds out war heroes don't sell well in Massachsetts in 1970, so he reinvents himself as Jane Fonda, throws his ribbons in the dirt with the cameras running to jump start his political career, gets Stillborn Pell to invite him to address Congress and has Bobby Kennedy's speechwriter to do the heavy lifting. A few years later he winds up in the Senate himself, where he votes against every major defense bill and says the CIA is irrelevant after the Berlin Wall came down. He votes against the Gulf War (a big political mistake since that turned out well), then decides not to make the same mistake twice so votes for invading Iraq -- but that didn't fare as well with the Democrats, so he now says he really didn't mean for Bush to go to war when he voted to allow him to go to war.

I'm real glad you or I never had this guy covering out flanks in Vietnam. I sure don't want him as Commander-in-Chief. I hope that somebody from CTF-115 shows up with some facts challenging Kerry's Vietnam record. I know in my gut it's wildy inflated.
Mackubin Thomas Owens wrote an article for National Review about three weeks ago in which he related an Email he received from a man whose father watched Kerry give a speech: "The look on [my father's] face was one I hadn't seen since he picked me up from the Boston police station ten years ago."

If the RNC actually has the spine to ask Vietnam vets to go on record with their feelings towards John Kerry (doubtful), then a situation may arise where Kerry's Vietnam War one-upmanship on President Bush is neutralized, or even becomes a liability. The best way to fight John Kerry is simply to quote him, and to remind people of all the disgraceful things he has said about both America and the military which guarantees our freedoms.


Sophisticated Delusions 

Chicken Hawke Celebrities
James Bowman
American Spectator Online

Not long ago I read that Ethan Hawke -- who is a movie actor, for those of you fortunate enough not to have had to witness, as I have had to do, any of his characteristically hang-dog appearances on the silver screen -- said that President Bush was "probably the least prepared person to be president of the United States that's been elected in a long time, if not ever." The quotation speaks for itself. As does the fact that the Washington Post reported it with a straight face, demonstrating no apparent shame for citing as an authority on the President's preparedness for office a man who has never in his life done anything but impersonate other people in front of a camera.

Well sure, you may say, but we ought to be used to it by now. If we can suffer Barbra Streisand or Richard Dreyfuss or Janeane Garofalo or any of dozens of other "stars" to pronounce on matters of state, why not Mr. Hawke? He may be a self-important little nincompoop, but no more of one than most of those in a profession for which both self-importance and nincompoopery are positive qualifications. At least he's well-prepared to do his job! All true, of course, but the problem isn't so much that the Hollywood airheads are piping up, it's what they are piping up to say. It's one thing to assert that, say, the Prescription Drug bill is too favorable to the pharmaceutical industry; it's quite another to say, as Ms. Garofalo did recently, that the Prescription Drug bill was effectively a "you-can-go-f***-yourself-Grandma bill." The one is a political argument, however defective; the other is -- well, to call it wrong would be to dignify it as at least making sense. It is not attached to the world of reasonable discourse at any point. [...]

A couple of months ago, I noticed something [...] in a review by Ben Brantley in the New York Times of a new production Pirandello's Right You Are -- which, by the way, leaves off what in the circumstances would seem to be the significant subtitle: If You Think You Are. "This," wrote Mr. Brantley, "is the Italy of Benito Mussolini, a time in which civil liberties were, to put it mildly, under siege. Draw whatever parallels you like with contemporary life in the United States." As it happens, I don't like to draw any parallels with contemporary life in the United States. Nor, I would think, would anybody else with a modicum of respect for either history or civility. But it occurred to me that a comment like this tossed off in the middle of a theater review -- or an architecture review -- can hardly be intended as serious analysis. It is, rather, a kind of marker of the author's solidarity with his imagined audience, a kind of secret handshake to be understood within the fraternity that identifies itself by Bush-hating -- just as it used to identify itself by Reagan- or Nixon-hating.
The amusing thing is that most of these people -- snotty book-reviewers, Hollywood celebs, and New Class denizens -- like to think of themselves as separate and thus virtuously distinct from the general American scene: they define themselves by how different they are from ordinary people. They take pride in appealing to a "higher discourse": listening to NPR, disdaining conservative talk radio, reading avant-garde books. They are contemptuous towards capitalism and bourgeois values while enjoying the fruits of a free society they disdain.

These individuals may strive to attain an Olympian outlook, and their overweening intellectual hubris may cause them to look with neutrality on the vicious war now being played out between civilization and its enemies, but they are hilariously unaware of a single, simple truth that Ann Coulter spelled out in her book Treason: If America is attacked again by terrorists, these people "are in it with the rabble this time."


Coming Soon To a Bargain Bin Near You 

Barrage of Bush Books
Katrina vanden Heuvel
The Nation -- Editor's Cut
(scroll down)

When White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked recently about The Price of Loyalty, the best-seller about former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill's disillusionment with the Bush Administration, he replied, "I don't do book reviews."

If he did, it would be a new full-time job, as a recent survey of anti-Bush books by Bob Minzesheimer in USA Today makes clear. The Price of Loyalty is just one in a wave of new titles, including Nation columnist Eric Alterman and Mark Green's The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America, Nation Washington Editor David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush and The Bush-Haters' Handbook, published by Nation Books.
Andrew Ferguson has already written the definitive article on hatchet jobs such as these, and it pays to read it again.

I can hardly wait for the schizophrenic, five-alarm meltdown that will ensue when these authors realize -- sometime in early November -- that all their efforts have been for naught.


Next Stop After Gay Marriage 

Here's an old ACLU press release we all ought to pay attention to:

SALT LAKE CITY -- In hopes of vanquishing what they consider a 64-year-old injustice, a small but vocal group of polygamous wives and their supporters demonstrated in front of The Salt Lake Tribune, the paper reported today.

The Women's Religious Liberties Union, established in 1998, gathered to protest newspaper and television depictions they say paint all polygamists as incestuous, misogynous and abusive to women and children.

But their real target, said the Tribune, is a 1935 Utah law that turned bigamy into a felony instead of a misdemeanor, and a clause that makes an outlaw of any person who "cohabits with another person."

They are not alone. The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah told the paper that it plans to back the group's challenge to Utah's bigamy law.

"Living arrangements are really the most intimate kinds of decisions people make," said ACLU of Utah Legal Director Stephen Clark. "Talking to Utah's polygamists is like talking to gays and lesbians who really want the right to live their lives, and not live in fear because of whom they love. So certainly that kind of privacy expectation is something the ACLU is committed to protecting."
Don't tell me you weren't warned.


Truth Is Forever, But Nonsense Is Now 

Thomas Sowell is on the warpath again, thankfully:

Some years ago, the distinguished international-trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati was visiting Cornell University, giving a lecture to graduate students during the day and debating Ralph Nader on free trade that evening. During his lecture, Prof. Bhagwati asked how many of the graduate students would be attending that evening's debate. Not one hand went up.

Amazed, he asked why. The answer was that the economics students considered it to be a waste of time. The kind of silly stuff that Ralph Nader was saying had been refuted by economists ages ago. The net result was that the audience for the debate consisted of people largely illiterate in economics and they cheered for Mr. Nader.

Prof. Bhagwati was exceptional among leading economists in understanding the need to confront gross misconceptions of economics in the general public, including the so-called educated public. Nobel Laureates Milton Friedman and Gary Becker are other such exceptions in addressing a wider general audience, rather than confining what they say to technical analysis addressed to fellow economists and their students. By and large, the economics profession fails to educate the public on the basics, while devoting much time and effort to narrower and even esoteric research.
There a funny passage from Milton Friedman's memoirs which relates the story of a journalist who spent some time talking to a group of M.I.T. economists. When he asked them what they thought of minimum wage legislation, he was astonished to find almost all of them agreeing with the notion that minimum wages did more harm than good. When he asked them why they hadn't spoken up about this issue, however, they looked stricken. One of them piped up: "We don't want to sound like Milton Friedman."

Sowell goes on to elaborate on what detailed government regulation of the economy actually means:

Many economic issues are complex, but sometimes a single fact will tell you all you need to know. When you know that central planners in the Soviet Union had to set 24 million prices--and keep adjusting them, relative to one another, as conditions changed--you realize that central planning did not just happen to fail. It had no chance of succeeding from the outset. It is a wholly different ball game when hundreds of millions of people individually keep track of the relatively few prices they need to know for their own decision-making in a market economy.
When the matter is posed in the way Dr. Sowell just presented it, it seems utterly incredible that some people honestly believe they know enough to make these kinds of decisions for us. A humble sense of human limitation is clearly not an attribute that most liberals possess.


We Want Your Face to Continue Looking Like a Map of Mars -- For Your Own Good! 

The New York Times prints an article on the decision of a federal advisory panel to tighten regulations on Accutane, an anti-acne drug. The major charges against the drug are twofold: it is said to lead to depression and stands accused of causing birth defects in women.

Here's what I can tell you about the drug, having taken it for six months during my teenage years: the damn thing works; it clears up acne like a sponge soaks up water. I can't speak for everybody who used it, obviously, but I don't recall experiencing any depressive episodes while taking it -- and as for the charge that it leads to birth defects, there are any number of warnings on the packaging quite clearly delineating the consequences of taking it while engaging in sexual activity without using birth control. This is only applicable to women, of course, but I think most women are more than capable of following instructions.

You wouldn't know it from listening to the blistering armada of "consumer" groups who presume to speak for us, of course:

The panel recommended mandatory enrollment in a single central registry for patients who take the drug and doctors who prescribe it. [...]

The recommendation, approved 16 to 8, stopped short of a proposal by the Health Research Group of Public Citizen, a consumer organization, that Accutane be restricted to people with severe acne that does not respond to other treatments.
I wonder how Public Citizen planned to ascertain cases of "severe" acne: perhaps by sending a bureaucrat to tabulate the number of zits on a person's face? In any event, this probably would have made it impossible for me to take the drug, since my acne was only moderately devastating.

By the way, if you think this drug ought to be restricted because it leads to depression, you've obviously never been a teenager: acne like this can cause serious depression all by itself -- and isn't it at least conceivable that some already-depressed teenagers take the drug and continue to be depressed regardless?

By the way, let's parse an amusing sentence in this article:

The registry would allow the drug's makers to ensure that women taking Accutane or a generic equivalent receive regular pregnancy tests and use two forms of birth control.
When I took this medicine, there were warnings on the package advising that women taking the drug utilize at least two forms of birth control, and a list was printed listing some suggestions. One of them was sexual abstinence.

So, I wondered, if a woman remained sexually abstinent, would she be required to utilize another form of birth control?


Too Funny For Comment 

Common Cause and Brennan Center file comments with FEC regarding 527 advisory opinion
Press release

Common Cause and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law on Tuesday urged the Federal Election Commission to reject an overbroad advisory opinion regarding 527 groups that could significantly expand the scope of political speech subject to regulation by the FEC.

The Brennan Center and Common Cause, both longtime supporters of campaign finance reform and key players in the fight to pass the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), fear that Jan. 29 draft Advisory Opinion 2003-37 could chill the First Amendment rights of activists and non-profit organizations that seek to influence public policy.


Father, Forgive THEM, Too? 

Taming the Vindictive Passions
Daniel P. Maloney
First Things
February 2004

In 1995, at ceremonies marking the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the liberation of Auschwitz, Elie Wiesel made the following prayer: “God of forgiveness, do not forgive those who created this place. God of mercy, have no mercy on those who killed here Jewish children.” Such a prayer makes many people uncomfortable and provokes some thorny theoretical and practical questions: Are there any unforgivable acts? Isn’t there some point after which Germany and the German people can be forgiven? Is hate ever a virtue?

The tensions between justice and compassion, forgiveness and order provide deep conceptual puzzles of the sort that analytic philosophers usually like to tackle, though surprisingly few do so in any depth. Fortunately, among those few is Jeffrie G. Murphy, Regents Professor of Law and Philosophy at Arizona State University, whose Getting Even: Forgiveness and Its Limits is a well-written and accessible yet deeply serious examination of the costs of forgiveness and the dangers of cheap grace. [...]

As the subtitle of the new book suggests, Murphy [...] thinks there ought to be limits to forgiveness, even for Christians. His main argument relies on the idea that too-hasty forgiveness can show a lack of respect for oneself, as in the S. J. Perelman quip, “To err is human; to forgive, supine.” When we are the victims of evil, it is natural and even likely that we will resent, be angry with, and even hate the person or persons responsible. Murphy calls these “the vindictive passions,” and in the first part of the book, he argues that they play a morally valuable role in our laws, our personal relations, and our psyches.

We are usually vindictive when someone fails to grant us the respect or regard that we are due. We are angry at the injustice that their actions represent, and so our vindictiveness reflects an appropriate sense of justice. Aristotle made a similar point in the Nicomachean Ethics: there is a certain sort of anger that, if our passions and desires are correctly ordered, we ought to have towards violations of the good. When someone unjustly attacks our person or our society, we ought not to like it; indeed, not to have these emotions shows an inadequate love of the good.

The vindictive passions go further, though, by demanding vengeance, the infliction of suffering on the offender. A vindictive person is not satisfied until he knows that the person who wronged him has suffered appropriately. Punishment, on this view, is not about deterrence or the chance to rehabilitate the person punished. It’s about making that guy suffer for what he did to me and mine, as in Wiesel’s prayer for divine vengeance.

If we forgive too easily or grow too lenient in our criminal justice system, we may ignore the genuine harm done. Psychotherapists frequently encourage victims of abuse to forgive their abusers rather than hate them, believing that hatred will only eat away at their fragile psyches. Murphy warns that this advice can be dangerous if it encourages such people to lower their guards and allow themselves to be victimized again. Hate and anger can also get out of hand, of course, but they can strengthen us and help us muster the emotional energy to resist evil, thereby recovering our sense of dignity when we are humiliated or treated without respect. And if the vindictive emotions help us to hold on to our innate dignity, then it makes a certain sense to think that the vengeful behavior following on those emotions would also be in the service of justice and human dignity.

Murphy suggests that this account of vengeance explains the otherwise puzzling fact that it seems just for us to punish murder more severely than we punish attempted murder. If our goal in punishing were simply to deter future crimes, it would seem that we should discourage people from attempting crimes, and not just from accomplishing crimes. So it ought to be irrelevant to the sentence that, say, the bullet accidentally missed its target. That we do regard it as relevant suggests that behind our laws there is a spirit of vindictiveness, a desire to pay back the criminal for the damage he actually causes. It is easier to forgive someone if there is no serious harm done.
This is a stellar article on the nature of forgiveness and is well worth reading, but one point in these discussions always seems paramount in my mind: People have to ask for forgiveness first. There is a peculiar tendency in the modern era for people -- especially people not directly harmed by some destructive action -- to offer forgiveness to a transgressor almost immediately after his crime is committed (I remember reading about how a group of students hung up a sign at their school that indicated their forgiveness of a fellow student after he opened fire in a classroom).

I think it is wise for people to keep in mind Christ's axiom about forgiving your brother for seven wrongs if he asks your forgiveness seven times -- while paying plenty of attention to the fact that this proverb enjoins forgiveness for a man who directly asks for forgiveness in the first place. And while forgiveness can indeed be granted, it is entirely appropriate for a person to take steps to ensure that he will not be snookered -- after all, what normal person would not take certain precautions in reaction to someone who repeatedly sins after requesting forgiveness? Like the old Arab proverb says: "Trust in God, but tie your camel."


'A Doll's House' Collapses 

'I am victim'
Anne Applebaum
Washington Post

Sometimes in the course of a great American debate there comes a moment when the big battle guns fall silent, the pundits run out of breath, and -- unexpectedly -- the long, bitter argument suddenly turns into farce. In the past two decades, this nation has lived through the spectacle of Anita Hill accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment; the destruction of the career of Sen. Bob Packwood; the ugly drama of Paula Jones, her lawyers and the president; and, as a result, the creation of multiple university and workplace "codes of sexual conduct," which no one dares defy. But now it's as if none of that ever happened: In an extraordinary, several-thousand-word article in New York magazine, Naomi Wolf, the celebrated feminist writer, has just accused Harold Bloom, the celebrated literary scholar, of having put his hand on her thigh at Yale University 20 years ago.

But Wolf's article is not merely about that event (a secret that she "can't bear to carry around anymore"). The article is also about the lasting damage that this single experience has wrought on a woman who has since written a number of bestsellers, given hundreds of lectures, been featured on dozens of talk shows and photographed in various glamorous poses, including a smiling, self-confident head shot on New York magazine's Web site this week. [...]

[I]n the end, what is most extraordinary about Wolf is the way in which she has voluntarily stripped herself of her achievements and her status, and reduced herself to a victim, nothing more. The implication here is that women are psychologically weak: One hand on the thigh, and they never get over it. The implication is also that women are naive, and powerless as well: Even Yale undergraduates are not savvy enough to avoid late-night encounters with male professors whose romantic intentions don't interest them.

The larger implications are for the movement that used to be called "feminism." Twenty years of fame, money, success, happy marriage and the children she has described in her books -- and Naomi Wolf, one of my generation's leading feminists, is still obsessed with her own exaggerated victimhood? It's not an ideology I'd want younger women to follow.
Feminism long ago degenerated into a silly buzzword that most people, including females, find ridiculous -- indeed, it has become something of a pastime to ridicule the ashen-faced seriousness of its adherents. You can read more on this nonstory here.


Let's Rename the Blue States "Kerrystan" 

Ion Mihai Pacepa, former Soviet operative and brilliant scourge of leftist bunk, has just left a delightfully smelly bag of burning dog crap at John Kerry's front door. To be sure, most of the waste deposited therein came directly (okay, metaphorically) from Kerry's own mouth; Pacepa simply re-excavates his words and asks just where the hell they came from:

Part of Senator John Kerry's appeal to a certain segment of Americans is his Vietnam-veteran status coupled with his antiwar activism during that period. On April 12, 1971, Kerry told the U.S. Congress that American soldiers claimed to him that they had, "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned on the power, cut off limbs, blew up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan." [...]

To me, this assertion sounds exactly like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era. KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and "news reports" about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. Often enough, they would be picked up. News organizations are notoriously sloppy about verifying their sources. All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world. [...]

The KGB organized a vitriolic conference in Stockholm to condemn America's aggression, on March 8, 1965, as the first American troops arrived in south Vietnam. On Andropov's orders, one of the KGB's paid agents, Romesh Chandra, the chairman of the KGB-financed World Peace Council, created the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam as a permanent international organization to aid or to conduct operations to help Americans dodge the draft or defect, to demoralize its army with anti-American propaganda, to conduct protests, demonstrations, and boycotts, and to sanction anyone connected with the war. It was staffed by Soviet-bloc undercover intelligence officers and received about $15 million annually from the Communist Party's international department — on top of the WPC's $50 million a year, all delivered in laundered cash dollars. Both groups had Soviet-style secretariats to manage their general activities, Soviet-style working committees to conduct their day-to-day operations, and Soviet-style bureaucratic paperwork. The quote from Senator Kerry is unmistakable Soviet-style sloganeering from this period. I believe it is very like a direct quote from one of these organizations' propaganda sheets. [...]

The Stockholm conference held annual international meetings up to 1972. In its five years of existence it created thousands of "documentary" materials printed in all the major Western languages describing the "abominable crimes" committed by American soldiers against civilians in Vietnam, along with counterfeited pictures. All these materials were manufactured by the KGB's disinformation department. I would print up these materials in hundreds of thousands of copies each.

The Romanian DIE (Ceausescu's secret police) was tasked to distribute these KGB-concocted "incriminating documents" all over Western Europe. And ordinary people often bought it hook, line, and sinker. "Even Attila the Hun looks like an angel when compared to these Americans," a West German businessman reprovingly told me after reading one such report. [...]

Many "Ban-the-Bomb" and anti-nuclear movements were KGB-funded operations, too. I can no longer look at a petition for world peace or other supposedly noble cause, particularly of the anti-American variety, without thinking to myself, "KGB." [...]

As far as I'm concerned, the KGB gave birth to the antiwar movement in America. In 1976, Andropov gave my own Romanian DIE credit for helping his KGB do so.
Now, Pacepa is hardly the first person to note that the Commies were propping up the American antiwar movement from the 1960s onward -- Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky made the same argument in a 1982 essay -- but it's still nice to hear it directly from a man who knows that of which he speaks.

So here's a challenge for the folks at the RNC: A former Romanian official believes that Kerry probably cribbed his words directly from a Soviet propaganda sheet. Surely it can't be that hard to track down an original copy of this thing, right?


Saturday, February 28, 2004

Problems Ahead 

David Frum, fresh off reading Andrew Sullivan's opinion that each state can decide for itself whether or not to allow homosexual marriages, asks a few questions worth considering:

1) A Massachusetts man buys a condo in Miami. He marries another Massachusetts man. The condo purchaser dies before he can write a new will. Who inherits the condo?

2) Two Massachusetts women marry. One of them becomes pregnant. The couple split up, and the woman who bore the child moves to Connecticut. The other woman sues for visitation rights. What should the Connecticut courts do?

3) A Massachusetts man is accused of stock fraud. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenas his spouse. The spouse claims marital privilege and refuses to answer the SEC’s questions. May the SEC compel him to answer anyway?

4) A Massachusetts woman marries another Massachusetts woman. The relationship sours. Without obtaining a divorce, she moves to Texas and marries a man. Has she committed bigamy? [...]

I ask these questions to drive home this point: Americans may live in states, but they conduct their financial and legal lives in a united country bound by interstate institutions.

If a couple gets married in Massachusetts and that marriage goes truly unrecognized by any entity outside the state – well then the Massachusetts wedding ceremony is just a form of words, as meaningless as the illegal weddings now being performed in San Francisco. If you’re not married outside Massachusetts, then you are not really married inside Massachusetts either.
Brilliant. And a little bit further down, Frum subjects Grumpy and Happy (thank God Doc is no longer with us) to a well-deserved pounding:

It might also be wondered where the Democratic candidates' respect for the rights of states to settle controversial social issues goes when the controversial social issue is abortion. And yet the case for state-by-state determination of abortion rights is far stronger than for state-by-state determination of marital status. It’s perfectly possible to imagine how the country would work if abortion were legal in New York and illegal in New Jersey – in fact, that’s the country did work in the early 1970s. But it’s obviously impossible to imagine how the country would work if a couple were regarded as married in some states and not others, or if they were considered married at a state level and not at the federal level. [...]

With marriage, to adapt Lincoln’s words, the country will soon be all one thing or all the other. “Letting the states decide” is code for submitting to a process whereby a few unelected, hyper-liberal judges force their personal preferences upon an entire continental nation. In that one sense, I suppose, Edwards and Kerry are consistent. They are for the rule of judges. With abortion, the most effective way to ensure that the judges rule is to federalize the issue. With same-sex marriage, the most effective way to achieve that same end is to “let the states decide.” In both cases, however, the Democrats’ true allegiance is to the snobbish values of an unelected few – and the unvarying target of their hostility is the democratic many.
Well, that's the way these things usually go, don't they?


Keep Them Away From Sharp Objects 

Words That Don’t Matter
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

’Preemption" is supposed to be the new slur. Its use now conjures up all sorts of Dr. Strangelove images to denigrate the present "trigger-happy" Bush administration. Partly the hysteria is due to the invasion of Iraq. Or perhaps the venom of the Left comes from recent disclosures that, in the post-9/11 era, the United States has publicly proclaimed it may strike terrorists and their sponsors — or indeed rogue nations who have the history, capability, and desire to obtain frightening weapons — before they strike us.

But instead of a rational discussion about the wisdom and feasibility of that logical policy, we have had two years now of national frenzy over a purported new "dangerous departure" in American foreign policy, one that "threatens" to "destabilize" the world order.

Rubbish. Preemption is a concept as old as the Greeks. It perhaps was first articulated in the fourth book of Thucydides's history. There the veteran Theban general Pagondas explained why his Boeotians should hit the Athenians at the border near Delium, even though they were already retreating and posed no immediate threat. The Boeotians did, and won — and were never attacked by the Athenians again. On a more immediate level, preemption was how many of us stayed alive in a rather tough grade school: Confront the bully first, openly, and in daylight — our Texan principal warned us — before he could jump you as planned in the dark on the way home.

Despite the current vogue of questionable and therapeutic ideas like "zero tolerance" and "moral equivalence" that punish all who use force — whether in kindergarten or in the Middle East — striking first is a morally neutral concept. It takes on its ethical character from the landscape in which it takes place — the Israelis bombing the Iraqi reactor to avoid being blackmailed by a soon-to-be nuclear Saddam Hussein, or the French going into the Ivory Coast last year, despite the fact that that chaotic country posed no immediate danger to Paris. The thing to keep in mind is that the real aggressor, by his past acts, has already invited war and will do so again — should he be allowed to choose his own time and place of assault. [...]

The Left's problem is not our embrace of the concept of "unilateralism" per se — or it would have attacked Clinton's U.N.-be-damned use of force in Iraq, Kosovo, and Haiti. No, the rub is something altogether different. A Christian, southern-accented, conservative Republican president, coming off a disputed election, has chosen to preempt. And when you hit first in a therapeutic America, you are at least supposed to bite your lip and squeeze Hillary's hand on national television. You do not dare say, "Bring 'em on" and "Smoke 'em out" — much less fly a jet out to an aircraft carrier.
There are any number of factors that explain President Bush's popularity among American conservatives, but one of the most powerful reasons is normally overlooked: He drives liberals absolutely, irrevocably, delightfully bonkers.


Don't Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out 

Get a load of this.


Karl Rove Has THIS to Work With?  

Here are a couple of interesting paragraphs from Richard Cohen's recent article on Kerry and Edwards from the National Journal. To steal a phrase from George Will, Kerry is "to the left of the salad fork":

Judging by National Journal's congressional vote ratings [...] Kerry and Edwards aren't all that different, at least not when it comes to how they voted on key issues before the Senate last year. The results of the vote ratings show that Kerry was the most liberal senator in 2003, with a composite liberal score of 96.5. But Edwards wasn't far behind: He had a 2003 composite liberal score of 94.5, making him the fourth-most-liberal senator. [...]

Kerry has compiled a generally more liberal voting record. After winning election to the Senate in 1984, he ranked among the most-liberal senators during three years of his first term, according to National Journal's vote ratings. In those years -- 1986, 1988, and 1990 -- Kerry did not vote with Senate conservatives a single time out of the total of 138 votes used to prepare those ratings. [...]

To be sure, Kerry's ranking as the No. 1 Senate liberal in 2003 -- and his earning of similar honors three times during his first term, from 1985 to 1990 -- will probably have opposition researchers licking their chops.
Ya' think? Here's something to ponder: few people get elected to any national office by openly running as liberals -- Bill Clinton, for example, had to run as a moderate, and even then only got elected because Ivan wasn't threatening to bang our doors down anymore. With terrorists openly plotting to kill us all these days, presidential candidates like John Kerry have to at least pretend to care about American national security, even though the Democratic base would rather focus on more pressing issues -- like promoting gay marriages for endangered dolphins.

Thomas Sowell, in one of his most brilliant columns last year, made some stinging points about the general unpopularity of liberalism among Americans:

Conservative politicians may run on their conservative ideas, but liberal politicians do not get elected by running on liberalism. Indeed, a major part of most liberal election campaigns usually consist of trying to appear to be something other than liberals. Then, when their liberal past is exposed, there is great complaint in the media about "negative advertising." [...]

The last Democrat to get elected president on an openly liberal platform was Lyndon B. Johnson, nearly 40 years ago. Since then, both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have won with a pretense of moderation. Walter Mondale lost in a landslide in 1984, when he tried to run as an openly liberal politician -- out of the closet, as it were.

The typical liberal politician is soft on criminals, weak on defense, and ready to tax the daylights out of those who produce, in order to dispense largesse to parasites, rich and poor alike. The public isn't buying it. Indeed, liberal politicians aren't trying to sell it very much.

Instead, they rely on promoting fears and resentments among the elderly, blacks, gays, and others. If they can convince senior citizens that conservatives are going to take away their Social Security or Medicare, they have got a lot of votes.

If they can promote paranoia and resentment among blacks by crying "racism" at every turn, they have the inside track. And if they can keep black voters' attention focused on symbolic issues like confederate flags -- instead of how their children are trapped in failing schools, for the greater glory of the teachers' unions -- then the Democrats can continue to get nine out of 10 black votes.
Meanwhile, in a strange twist of fate that has been repeated roughly a gazillion times before, liberals like John Kerry interpret criticisms of their voting records as attacks on their patriotism. I'm not sure if Kerry genuinely believes this tripe or not, but I do know that Kerry is smart to use this to deflect criticism. There is a name for a politician who runs on an openly liberal platform: Ralph Nader.


Somewhere, Duvalier is Smiling... 

Bush Believes Aristide Should Resign
George Geida
The Guardian

The Bush administration believes the best way to avoid an armed rebel takeover in Haiti is for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign and transfer power to his constitutional successor, a senior U.S. official said Friday.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps indicated that it is preparing a possible mission to waters off the coast of Haiti. Any such deployment would be aimed at deterring a potential refugee crisis and to protect the estimated 20,000 American citizens in Haiti.
Thanks, Bill.


Friday, February 27, 2004

It's True -- I Looked It Up 

Michael Barone's latest column is worth reading in its entirety, but a line he quotes from one of Bush's speeches deserves special attention:

"Our opponents are against the personal retirement accounts; against putting patients in charge of Medicare; against tax relief. They seem to be against every idea that gives Americans more authority and more choices and more control over their own lives.
Make a few structural changes to that last sentence, and you would have almost a dictionary definition of liberalism.


If He Listened to the Democrats, He Would Know He's Supposed to Hate Us  

Georgia leader plans close ties with U.S.
Sharon Behn
Washington Times

The Republic of Georgia plans to be a close ally of the United States and its giant neighbor Russia will have to live with that fact, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in an interview yesterday.

The newly elected president, who engineered the ouster of former President Eduard Shevardnadze last fall, was in a buoyant mood after what aides described as a "very warm" meeting with President Bush yesterday in the Oval Office.

"The relationship is based on shared values," said the hulking U.S.-trained lawyer, who emphasized the "kinship" and "chemistry" between Georgia and the United States during a meeting at Blair House with editors and reporters from The Washington Times.[...]

Almost every member of the new Georgian government has been trained in the United States, making the new leadership a natural ally of the West and the United States. Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili, for example, is a graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

"Basically we speak the same language," Mr. Saakashvili said.
American liberals may claim to be "multilateralists," but the only nation whose opinion really matters to them is France.


"'They' Are Being Divisive; 'I' Am Just Being Right" 

A Move to Satisfy Conservative Base
Dana Milbank
Washington Post

With President Bush's embrace yesterday of a marriage amendment, the compassionate conservative of 2000 has shown he is willing, if necessary, to rekindle the culture wars in 2004.

Bush's plan was to run for a second term on the basis of his performance as a war leader and as a tax cutter, eschewing divisive social issues as he did in 2000 while campaigning as "a uniter, not a divider." But in the end, Republican strategists said, Bush had no choice but to change course and add a highly charged cultural issue to the center of the campaign.

Bush's conservative base of support, despite three years of cultivation, had grown restless over the budget deficit, government spending and his plan to liberalize immigration. At the same time, he was on the defensive over the economy and the Iraq war, and facing an uncharacteristically unified Democratic Party.

So when gay marriages advanced in Massachusetts and San Francisco, Bush felt a need to respond to the cries of social conservatives -- even if it meant losing some swing voters he needs in November.
How odd to see people like Milbank acknowledge that this issue has been forced on the White House due to flagrantly illegal acts (San Francisco) or morally-preening judicial activists (Massachusetts), and yet turn around and blame the president for being "divisive."

Meanwhile, University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, whose recent book Republic.com called for flat-out government regulation of political websites (so as to ensure that we stupid sheep aren't led astray by those prophets of hate called "conservatives," don't you know), writes the following:

In declaring his support for a constitutional amendment that would forbid same-sex marriage, President Bush is repudiating more than 200 years of American theory and practice. His proposal is radically inconsistent with the nation's traditions. Whatever it is, there is one thing that it is not: conservative.
Orrin Judd, who is as good as anybody at constructing sharp, pithy responses that demolish the claims of his opponents, rebuts Sunstein's silly premise with the following gem:

The two most hilarious arguments made by gay marriage advocates: (1) Conservatism requires that we stand by while a key social institution of Western civilization is destroyed; (2) It is divisive for the 70% who oppose destroying the institution to try and stop the 30% from exploiting court rulings to do so.


Pro and Con 

Although I have not yet seen The Passion of the Christ, I deeply suspect that Leon Wieseltier's condemnation of the film is fundamentally wrongheaded, and I think Ramesh Ponnuru's review of the movie presents an excellent rundown of the case for the defense. Since I've not yet seen the film, I'll refrain from comment. I report. You decide. For now.


Thursday, February 26, 2004

Please Pick, Choose a Better Headline 

The AP reports, and the San Francisco Chronicle naturally picks up on, this story that will surely send the "BUSH LIED!!!" crowd into holy raptures. Basically, David Kay is quoted as saying that Bush may have emphasized those facts that supported his conclusions and downplayed those that did not. It's hard to see how this can be equated with lying, since all of us do this every day in our private affairs, but that surely won't stop the peace goons and assorted Sandalistas from bitching loudly about White House mendacity.

One can get a flavor of what Kay meant with his statements by examining them closely -- i.e., actually reading them, rather than skimming the headlines:

"Politicians don't go around picking their weakest arguments," Kay said. "The real charge that deserves careful scrutiny is not whether you picked the best argument out, but whether you actually manipulated and were dishonest about the data."

He added that he's seen no evidence that the Bush administration mischaracterized intelligence from Iraq, "but it is such a serious charge that it deserves investigation."
Kay has been the soul of moderation in all of this, and what he just said here is hardly different from what he's been saying all along. We've got a big nonstory here with a lame-o premise and barely a smidgen of news value. Naturally, the Chronicle picked the following headline for its article: Former U.S. weapons inspector says Bush may have picked, chosen facts in justifying war

Just one more reason to make Chronwatch part of your day.


Bovine Scatology 101 

‘Kingdom Has No Plans to Develop N-Technology’
M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan
Arab News

RIYADH, 26 February 2004 — A senior Saudi scientist said yesterday that the Kingdom has no plans to develop nuclear energy or to become a nuclear power. It is, however, working to expand its radiation monitoring capabilities.

Dr. Khaled Al-Eissa, deputy director of the Institute of Atomic Energy Research (IAER) at King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), said that fossil fuel will remain the cornerstone of the country’s energy policy for the time being.

He said that peace-loving Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, had never sought to possess nuclear weapons. The Kingdom, he said, had been mainly focusing on applied nuclear research for industrial and health purposes.
Yeah, sure, uh-huh.


I'd Say It Tastes More Like Weasel 

Well, it tastes like chicken -- sort of
Arthur Hirsch
Baltimore Sun

If you didn't know better you'd swear you were eating ... something.

Something resembling a creature that once walked the Earth, scratched ground, occasionally clucked. Something like a chicken breast patty in a seasoned bread-crumb coating baked in an oven and served hot.

It's close, really very close. Closer than a veggie burger is to a beef burger. Closer than soy ice cream is to dairy ice cream.

Yet, after a few bites you suspect you have crossed into a parallel, approximate universe. Maybe it's the lack of meaty juice and distinct poultry flavor. The most candid broker might have called the product "Sort of ... "

Instead its British manufacturers called it "Quorn" (pronounced "kworn"), which is also the shortened name of the village of Quorndon in North Leicestershire, England. Today Quorn - made from a fungus originally found in soil and cultivated through fermentation - is the best-selling meat substitute in Europe and is fast gaining on its U.S. competition.[...]

The consumer advocacy group has criticized the FDA for allowing the misleading Quorn label and for not being more rigorous in investigating the safety of the product.

Some people who have eaten Quorn have had adverse reactions ranging from diarrhea to violent vomiting to anaphylaxis, or difficulty breathing. Some folks have rushed to hospital emergency rooms, according to CSPI.

No large-scale study of the effects of Quorn-eating has been done, but CSPI did commission a British agency to conduct a phone survey of 1,000 people, about 400 of whom had eaten Quorn. Of these Quorn eaters, CSPI says, 4.5 percent experienced some adverse reaction.

To put that 4.5 percent in perspective, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network says roughly 2.5 percent of Americans have some sort of food allergy, about half of those reporting peanut allergies. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says the number rises to a bit more than 4 percent when the calculation includes children.

Marlow Foods, the British manufacturer of Quorn, disputes CSPI's numbers, saying its inquiries show that 1 person in 143,000 reports some adverse effects from Quorn. CSPI's executive director, Michael F. Jacobson, calls that figure "total malarkey." He says Marlow's number is based only on those people who took the initiative to contact the company when they became sick after eating Quorn.
I hold no brief for fungus-foods -- I'll give up my T-bone when they rip it from my cold, dead hands -- but anybody who bothers to learn more about this battle between Quorn and one of the nation's most irritating "scold" groups has got to be rooting for the fungus.


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Freaky Friday 

The New Dixiecrats
Best of the Web Today -- Opinion Journal
James Taranto

If only Strom Thurmond had lived one more year. In 1948 Thurmond ran for president as a "States' Rights Democrat." The concept of "states' rights" was discredited for generations, linked as it was to the defense of segregation and Jim Crow.

Not anymore. The issue of same-sex marriage has Democrats and liberals talking like Dixiecrats of yore. "For 200 years, this has been a state issue," Democratic front-runner John Kerry said in a statement yesterday, responding to President Bush's endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment. "I believe the issue of marriage should be left to the states." In an editorial today, the New York Times takes the same position: "The president, who believes so strongly in states' rights in other contexts, should let the states do their jobs and work out their marriage laws before resorting to a constitutional amendment."
Main Entry: iro·ny
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -nies [...]

(1) : incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2) : an event or result marked by such incongruity


Better Inside Pissing Out, Than Outside Pissing In 

Tailgunner Ann
by William F. Buckley Jr.
The Claremont Review of Books
Winter 2003

Arrived in montreal, I put aside Ann Coulter's book, and descended the gangway. At the baggage claim area I spotted a newsstand. I was drawn to the headline featuring--Ann Coulter.

That day's copy of the National Post boasted Coulter at the top of the page in full color, her long blond hair southbound, interrupted only by a news headline. Alongside her picture the text was, "ANN COULTER: New York Times publisher is a traitor to U.S. Comment. A10." [...]

She wasted no time passing sentence.

"During my recent book tour, I resisted the persistent, illiterate request that I name traitors. With a great deal of charity—and suspension of disbelief—I was willing to concede that many liberals were merely fatuous idiots. But after the New York Times's despicable editorial on the two-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack, I am prepared—just this once—to name a traitor: Pinch Sulzberger, publisher of the Times."

What followed was two ad hominem references to Sulzberger (he allegedly hadn't made it into Columbia University) embedded in a boiling-mad 600-word account of the offending New York Times editorial. She paraphrased its meaning: "When General Pinochet staged his coup against a Marxist strong man [in 1973], the U.S. did not stop him—as if Latin American generals were incapable of doing coups on their own. And—I quote [the editorial]—'It was September 11.' Parsed to its essentials, the Times's position is: We deserved it." [...]

What she wrote was that 1) the publisher of the newspaper that 2) printed an editorial that 3) reiterated the old historical argument that denounced U.S. acquiescence in the removal of Allende, was 4) engaging moral equivalence and therefore, 5) a traitor. We don't need to come up with the weaknesses, or even the depravities, in the Times's reasoning. But even as Ms. Coulter clearly intends to shock, why shouldn't her reader register that shock? By wondering whether she is out of her mind, or has simply lost her grip on language.
Ms. Coulter may be a nut, but she's our nut.


Those Clever Jews...They Must Have Bought Off George Will 

The Anti-Semitism of the Intellectuals
George Will

WASHINGTON -- It used to be said that anti-Catholicism was the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals. Today, anti-Semitism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals.

Not all intellectuals, of course. And the seepage of this ancient poison into the intelligentsia -- always so militantly modern -- is much more pronounced in Europe than here. But as anti-Semitism migrates across the political spectrum from right to left, it infects the intelligentsia, which has leaned left for two centuries. [...]

Like traditional anti-Semitism, but with secular sources and motives, the political version, which condemns Jews as a social element, is becoming mainstream, and chic among political and cultural elites, mostly in Europe. Consider:

-- A cartoon in a mainstream Italian newspaper depicts the infant Jesus in a manger, menaced by an Israeli tank and saying ``Don't tell me they want to kill me again.'' This expresses animus against Israel rather than twisted Christian zeal.

-- The European Union has suppressed a study it commissioned, because the study blamed the upsurge in anti-Jewish acts on European Muslims -- and the European left.

-- An EU poll reveals that a European majority believes the greatest threat to world peace is Israel.

-- Nineteen percent of Germans believe what a best-selling German book asserts: the CIA and Israel's Mossad organized the Sept. 11 attacks.

-- On French television, a comedian wearing a Jewish skullcap gives a Nazi salute while yelling ``Isra-Heil!''

-- If Israel is not the Great Satan, it is allied with him -- America. European anti-American demonstrations often include Israel's blue and while flag with a swastika replacing the star of David, and signs perpetuating the myth, concocted by Palestinians and cooperative Western journalists, of an Israeli massacre in Jenin: ``1943: Warsaw / 2002: Jenin.''

-- Omer Bartov, historian at Brown University, writes in The New Republic that much of what Hitler said ``can be found today in innumerable places: on Internet sites, propaganda brochures, political speeches, protest placards, academic publications, religious sermons, you name it.''
There is nothing -- nothing -- that intellectuals will not support when they are clutched in the grip of an Idea. That a snotty intellectual elite currently rules Europe is as good a reason as any for the United States to turn its gaze elsewhere.


Logic-Free Zone 

Syndicated columnist Crispin Sartwell's latest column supporting gay marriage is almost astonishingly wrong in all major details, but my favorite part is the headline: 'Marriage amendment' a threat to Constitution. In other words, changing the Constitution is a threat to the Constitution. There are plenty of other locutions Sartwell could have substituted for this, such as a declamation that a marriage amendment threatens "fundamental rights," or "the essence of American privacy," or "the American way" -- but he chose the most circular argument imaginable to make his case.

And then there's this:

More frightening, [the proposed amendment] asserts an absurdly intrusive power over the private lives of each of us, whether we are gay or not. Arguments parallel to those for the marriage amendment would justify government control over every aspect of our lives together - our friendships, our sexuality, our religious lives, our voluntary contracts.
Followed by this:

A constitutional amendment can "define" marriage any way it likes, but it can't keep people from making whatever commitments to one another they please.
That is, of course, exactly the point. Nobody is going to be stopped from engaging in any type of sexual behavior -- in fact, gay and lesbians already have the same rights to marry as anybody else: the right to marry a person of the opposite sex. That most of them do not avail themselves of this right is surely not the state's concern.

What they are asking for, rather, is for society to redefine what marriage means in order to suit their wishes.

I really don't understand why it is difficult for so many people to grasp this point, which is as fundamental as they come. The other "threatened" relationships that Sartwell lists are matters that the government normally does not intrude upon, just as it does not regulate the private sexual lives of gays. Nobody has to get a license to have a friend, or to engage in sexual activity with a partner -- and I can absolutely assure you that nobody will if this amendment passes. But the state does grant official recognition to marriage, wisely recognizing that the family is the root of our normal social relationships. Most other societies do exactly the same thing. We would be wise not to tinker with this oldest of human institutions.


Let Them Eat Cake 

France Baffled by U.S. Decision to Suspend Imports of Foie Gras, Other Meat Products
Emmanuel Georges-Picot
Associated Press

PARIS (AP) - France is trying to persuade the United States to reverse its suspension on imports of French meat and poultry products, including delicacies like foie gras, the agricultural minister said Wednesday.

Minister Herve Gaymard spoke a day after the suspension was announced, with officials on both sides of the Atlantic citing food safety issues but declining to say exactly what they were.

Gaymard said he was baffled by the move, especially because he believes France has stricter safety standards on food exports than the United States. He is working with the European Commission to try to persuade the United States to back down.

"It's a unilateral decision on the part of the United States," Gaymard told reporters at a French agriculture fair.


This Is, Like, a Bummer... 

Roto-Reuters, the British so-called "news" agency, has decided to go for Bork in the propaganda sweepstakes:

Half of all young Americans will get a sexually transmitted disease by the age of 25, perhaps because they are ignorant about protection or embarrassed to ask for it, according to several reports issued on Tuesday.[...]

They said the U.S. government's policy of preferring abstinence-only education would only increase those rates.

"For the 27 million young Americans under the age of 25 who have had sex, the stakes are simply too high to talk only about abstinence," James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, said in a statement.

"Given the prevalence of STDs, young people need all the facts -- including medically accurate information on condoms."
Yadda, yadda, yadda. Basically, the article cribs a few articles from an Alan Guttmacher press release, cobbles them together, finds a couple of nodding-heads to reflect their rhetoric, and ends with a warning about how we desperately need more sex education.

Ah, education -- the great shibboleth of the Left. Education as the cure for the world's ills has been a regnant intellectual concept since at least the age of Rousseau, and it's always amusing to watch people repeat it. They think they're being "new" and "exciting," but in reality they are merely voicing very old, recycled ideas dressed up in fresh raiment.

Problems arise, of course, when the values of middle-class parents conflict with the values of progressive educators, and when that happens liberals call for the open imposition of the values they cook up in their intellectual fashion-factories. Most liberals are smart enough to avoid saying this out loud, but sometimes they slip up.

And when things go wrong? Liberals just move on to their next great Idea, leaving devastation and sometimes bloodshed in their wake. After all, as Thomas Sowell never tires of pointing out, they aren't the people paying for it.


"Suicide is Painless" 

Where Diversity Meets Debauchery
by Peter Wood
National Review Online

A few weeks ago I visited Colorado University Boulder to give a talk on "diversity." CU Boulder is saturated with diversity chatter; it has its full complement of diversiphile administrators; and the campus culture has elevated the ideal of "diversity" into a principle that trumps everything else: intellectual freedom, fairness in distribution of financial aid, and a cogent curriculum. In other words, Boulder was a good place to bring my message that "diversity" is really a doctrine that divides and stultifies.

But the timing wasn't great: The football scandal that was about to engulf CU Boulder had just broken. The district attorney was taking depositions in a lawsuit that, among other things, alleged that the CU football program had recruited players by taking them to wild parties and arranging for them to have sex with teenage girls. CU president Elizabeth Hoffman was busy assuring everyone in sight that she would get to the bottom of the complaints.

The scandal has, of course, now blown up into something even more serious. Katie Hnida, a 22-year-old former CU student who had been a place kicker for the football team, says she was raped by a teammate. Coach Gary Barnett, confronted with the allegation, responded by saying she a lousy place kicker: "Katie was awful. You know what guys do, they respect your ability...Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible." Five other women have now come forward to say they were also raped by CU football players. President Hoffman has put Coach Barnett on paid leave.
A lot of people have expressed surprise at the recent events that have transpired in Boulder, and I would be remiss in my duties as a Nebraska fan if I did not comment on them in as harsh a manner as possible.

What exactly did people expect? This is a program well-versed in thuggery and violence; whatever virtues people may ascribe to Bill McCartney, he clearly ran an outlaw program during his years at CU, which were punctuated by criminal charges and bench-clearing brawls (most odiously versus the equally obnoxious Miami Hurricanes in 1993). McCartney's daughter was impregnated by a CU football player, and this "humble man of God" once told an assistant coach to start looking for a new job if he drove to work the next day in his Cornhusker-red vehicle.

McCartney was followed by Rick "Don't ask me about the rules -- I'm just a lawyer" Neuheisel, and then by Gary Barnett, who repeatedly rolled his eyes and sighed like Al Gore during a split-screen national television appearance with Frank Solich after Nebraska was picked to go to the Rose Bowl over the Buffaloes.

During this time, Colorado athletes continued to excel in the trash-talking department, a skill they perhaps learned from their fans, whose behavior towards opponents was infamously execrable (when my dad attended a game in Boulder during the late 60s, Colorado fans heaved urine-filled balloons at the Nebraska faithful).

The answer to all those who ask how Colorado can be redeemed is to repeat the obvious: it can't be redeemed, because this program is simply too far gone. No wonder even Coloradans are starting to talk about shutting the team down. As it stands, this looks like one time when experience should triumph over hope.


Nix Prix: Kix Blix To Styx 

It looks as if a certain someone has used up waaaaaaaay more than his alloted fifteen minutes:

Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix argued Tuesday Saddam Hussein had not been an immediate threat, making the justification for the war against Iraq unfounded.

The U.S.-led invasion nearly a year ago damaged the authority of the United Nations Security Council and the credibility of the nations that went to war, Blix told an audience of 1,000 at the University of Edinburgh.

"The justification for the war -- the existence of weapons of mass destruction -- was without foundation," Blix said. "The military operation was successful, but the diagnosis was wrong.
"Shut up," I explained.


I Sure Wouldn't Choose to be Alec Baldwin 

The New York Post has caught Alec Baldwin in another of his legendary outbreaks of verbal diarrhea. Let's sit back and enjoy this:

ALEC Baldwin isn't suffering from any lack of self-esteem. In A&E's "Biography: Alec Baldwin," premiering tonight, the bombastic actor compares himself to Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, who wrote "Soul on Ice." Baldwin recalls that when he was younger, "My dad said to me, 'If you were black . . . with your personality,' he said, 'Do you think you would be Martin Luther King, or would you be Eldridge Cleaver? Would you be patient and wise, and kind, and peaceful?' He said, 'Or do you think you'd really, really get out there and . . . exert yourself a little more in order to leverage change in our society?' And I knew the answer . . .
Oh, the suspense!


France, Meet the Enola Gay 

The New Criterion's blog Arma Virumque links to the following delightful item from a denizen of Surrender Nation (scroll down). I'd like to note that polls indicate this man's views reflected in about one-third of the French population:

I was in my home office writing a pen-named freelance psy-sex piece for a womens' magazine in order to put some food on the table, the phone rang and it was an old friend who I had a falling out with a few years ago, an old friend who was doing the same debilitating work under a pen-name for a different magazine. He screamed into the telephone: "switch on your TV, this is great!". I turned the TV on and it was so beautful that we put our differences aside. I then called an other friend who I had had a falling out with over some political nonsense. . . . On the backdrop of the same images we experienced the same communion . . . Guys the world over who share the same feelings with those who are humilated, felt the same sense of euphoria while watching these biblical images of justice and punishment! For me, 9-11 represents the reconciliation . . . with all those that this mediocre life has forced me to hate because of insignificant differences . . . Truthfully, it was a beautiful moment of love.
The question of what to do with France brings to mind P.J. O'Rourke's old comment on how to deal with instransigent Middle Eastern countries: "Raze buildings, burn crops, plow the earth with salt, and sell the population into bondage."


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Kerry's fishy war record. 

You know how sometimes a political story lurks below the surface, in the realm of rumor and innuendo, before suddenly jumping out into the open? I've seen it happen before: an uncle told me months before the Juanita Broaddrick story broke that Clinton had allegedly raped a woman and that Congress was keeping mute on it until the Clinton impeachment trial ended (don't ask me how he knew this).

Something similar may very well be happening to John Kerry and his Vietnam war record. I've heard rumors about how his commendations for service (three Purple Hearts, one Silver Star) were suspicious. Now it looks like a team of Boston Globe political reporters are set to release a biography of Kerry that calls his Vietnam service into serious question.

A couple of points are in order here: first of all, Kerry is an infamous phony and his arrogant aloofness has made him seriously unpopular with even the liberal New England media, who are surely not paragons of humility themselves. I have heard that there are hardly any reporters who like the man, and he has made his share of enemies with his bad attitude (although he has occasionally had his comeuppance: When he reportedly demanded to be put at the front of a line while shopping at a Boston Barnes & Noble, his request was refused -- and when he shouted out "Do you know who I am?" the clerk responded with something like this: "Yeah, you're a jackass who belongs at the back of the line.").

Now, there are plenty of politicians who aren't popular, and this leads me to my second point: When an imbecilic politician runs for president, media pooh-bahs are given the opportunity to meet up and exchange notes. A coherent picture of a candidate starts to emerge from scattered information, and there's no way to keep this stuff secret -- particularly not when a popular president has a famously-gifted adviser just salivating at the prospect of painting the opposition in the worst imaginable light.

Basically, this is going to consist of two things, one of which will be highlighting the paper trail Kerry has left behind -- there's a good reason why senators don't normally win the presidency -- and pointing out that between him and Ted Kennedy, he is the more liberal of the two. He's voted against nearly every up-and-coming weapons system, has stated that the threat from terrorism is overrated, and has said he'd rather be known as a "jobs president" than a "war president." Yeah, that'll go over well in the Midwest and South.

Bluntly speaking, the other GOP prong in this attack will be to point out that Kerry is a silhouette of a man, a lightweight who has left no political footprints, and an unctuous creep. Two months of free political advertising for Kerry in the press have eroded the president's standings in the polls: now we're about to see what nine months of Karl Rove are capable of doing.

Oh, and Kerry is out of money: Bush reportedly has 100 times what Kerry has right now in terms of political cash. The fundraising gap will shrink in time, of course (particularly when federal funding kicks in after the Democrats hold their 2004 lefto-palooza in Boston), but Bush has a good six months to get his licks in. The Democrats will say that doesn't matter, and they are right: an incumbent doesn't really gain anything by negative advertising against an insolvent opponent in the months before a party convention. Just ask President Bob Dole.

In other words, I fully expect John Kerry to have a long face come November. And not just in the literal sense.

Bottoms up!


Friday, February 20, 2004

Attention Must Be Paid 

Gee, where to begin? My name is Matt Murphy, I'm currently doing postgraduate work in history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and I am, like most college students, poor. I'm 5'8'', 22 years old, about 150 pounds, and I have a bald spot in the back of my head -- a birthmark that seems to grow bigger with each passing year. I am interested in all sorts of subjects and I spend a lot of time reading -- a good habit to have if you are conducting postgraduate work. As a native Nebraskan, I am naturally a big Nebraska Cornhuskers fan, and I believe that the University of Colorado's football program needs to be broken up for the good of all terrestrial sentient life. If during future visits to this blog you are unable to divine my political opinions, I suggest you check yourself into a reputable hospital and get your eyes uncrossed.

As it says above, all opinions expressed by me are, in fact, mine. Mine! ALL MINE!!!

Not that you asked, but here are a few things the world could use: More common sense, fewer regulations, a stronger U.S. military, a weaker Democratic party, a truer moral compass, a "more efficient allocation" of individual freedom (that would be more of it, all around), and a kind of groovy interdimensional FedEx truck that could transport Hillary Clinton straight to the gates of Hades. If all zero of you reading this blog right now as I post this could just go out and work on accomplishing these things...well, nothing would get done, and how could that possibly be worse than our current scenario?


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